Saturday, December 31, 2005
Yes as many have written quite rightly that today and tonight is a time for looking back and hopefully seeing the grace and mercy and love of God in much of what has transpired. I've written previously that 2005 has quite possibly been my worst year to date. I'm quite bad at hiding reality and I'm sure that it is not hard to put 2 and 2 together and work out that much of the bad things have been in relation to SGM. Some have asked for details and I'm sure that there will come a time when I will write my testimony and tell - not to "slag off" or to bad mouth, but I trust to see how God has been working through what happened. At the moment, I am still somewhat at a loss to see why God allowed what happened with that church to happen, so I think it's best if I keep my silence - for now.
So rather than get hung up on the bad things of 2005, I am going to take a different approach and look at the highlights of "Life on Wings". The good blogs that I have written - and maybe some of the blogs I blush at and wish I had thought before I typed!
1. Beginnings. The 19th June saw me enter the blogging world for the first time and commend my good friend Mark's website as well as Justin Taylor's site.
2. My Bookmarks. Inspired by Phil Johnson's bookmarks , I attempted a few of my own putting down my favourites and my not-so-favourites. Perhaps unsurprisingly Newfrontiers topped my favourites and SGM topped my not-so's.
3. The Brighton Leaders Conference 2005! This was my review of the heavenly and most glorious Brighton Leaders Conference 2005! Quite a high point in my year, mainly because it saw my best friend Scott become a Christian and get awesomely baptised in the Holy Spirit at the same time. My other best friend Myth also came down for a day and was really touched by the prayer meeting (I know, what a meeting to bring non-Christians along to!). Scott has now joined the blogging world and his views will be well worth checking out - being far more "balanced" than I - don't miss it!
4. 50 Most Influential Churches in the UK. I researched and posted a list of the 50 most influential churches in the United Kingdom in my opinion. This was inspired by the list that Time magazine wrote up in the United States. Unsurprisingly again, Church of Christ the King in Brighton made Number 1. Every sermon on every Sunday seems like a Stoneleigh Bible Week address.
5. Ern Baxter Reports on the Dales Bible Week 1977. I began getting to what my blog is really about and posted my first transcript online of Dr Ern Baxter. It was his report to the brothers in the USA concerning his time in the United Kingdom in 1977 at the Dales Bible Week. Part 2 and Part 3 are also posted. It is exciting and rewarding to get the inside view from the man himself.
6. C J Mahaney Goes to MacArthur. One of my most controversial posts to date maybe. I reported that C J Mahaney had gone to John MacArthur's church in California to preach. While most seemed very excited by such a visit, I was not so. We were assured by Ligon Duncan that by no means was MacArthur going soft on his vehement anti-charismatic views. So I took the thread of logic one step further and questioned rhetorically whether that meant Mahaney was going soft on his charismatic views, seeing as I could not imagine John MacArthur giving his pulpit to any charismatic willingly.
7. Terry Virgo Is Spotted! I was VERY excited to see that Terry Virgo spoke at "Relay" - the UCCF conference this year and got a mention on the Godfather's website - how chuffed was I?!
8. The Problem With the Christian Church is Identified and Named. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones diagnosed what is wrong with the Christian church today - namely that people are muddled and confused over their teaching and belief on the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Interestingly enough in his keynote address at the Brighton Leaders Conference, Terry Virgo also similarly pleaded that we do not become "muddled" or apologetic in our clarity concerning our theology of the Holy Spirit.
9. Ern Baxter on the Charismatic Movement. Another transcript from Dr Ern Baxter - taken from the New Wine magazine that they used to run. This was his assessment of where the Charismatic Movement went wrong, and should be going. Biblical Manhood and Womanhood - What about the Men? Through a random comment made about a book I was reading against Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, I got to meet the awesome Luke Wood and we had a number of great conversations. We are fellow Newfrontiers fans and are both so looking forward to Brighton next year and what God may do.
11. Aren't Sovereign Grace Worth Bothering About? This ranks as my most controversial post to date - attracting 18 comments and quite a debate! I innocently reminded readers of C J Mahaney's visit to John MacArthur's church and noticed a comment made by MacArthur's right hand man - the Pyromaniac. Have you forgotten? Well alright, I'll remind you. He said;
"That's not to say I approve of any kind of charismatic mysticism, but if no one ever went any further than, say, the typical guy from Sovereign Grace Ministries, I don't think I would spend much energy arguing against them".
I wondered where SGM are going especially in light of their reticence to tell any of their churches what to believe about receiving the Spirit. The commentators made some of their own assumptions, one gentleman in particuar got upset about C J Mahaney's claim to "apostleship". He said;
"I am not so amazed that gifted teachers are accepting C.J. as a charismatic as I am that they are accepting him as a self proclaimed "apostle." I was heavily involved with SG and I left very disapointed by C.J.'s false humility; always claiming to be proud so everyone can call him humble for doing so".
12. Jealous of Josh Harris? I noticed that one famous blogger was jealous of Josh Harris for having a mentor such as Mahaney and this sparked off quite a few thoughts about spiritual mentors. However later on, I was not so excited when the desire for mentors seemed to be leading to stagnation and I think I stand as the only guy in blogdom who doesn't particularly care if Mahaney starts up his own blog!
13. Richard Cunningham Likes Terry Virgo! I found an outstanding interview with Richard Cunningham, the head of UCCF on Adrian Warnock's blog and made a few comments on it. And then an early Christmas present - got another link from the King of Blogdom!
15. I Hate Christmas! But SGM kinda helped. Yes, another landmark - I was actually inspired BY SGM! Well more in particular the outstanding lady Carolyn McCulley. Her post forced me to be honest about being single over Christmas and inspired me to look to the grace and mercy of God and give thanks for the abundance that I have. And actually I did have the best Christmas ever!
16. Friends Onboard. - my old friends Dave and Jonathan Skipper joined the blogging world!
And finally ...
This post deserved a special mention because of the fascinating debates and thoughts it sparked - and I think it is my longest blog of date! I was stimulated by Mark Heath's postings about the need to be "open but cautious" or more particularly "Cautious but open" and got very het-up about it. Inspired by my hero Terry Virgo - I wrote; "This is NO age to advocate restraint!". This blog entry got 11 comments so obviously hit home with some! Mark to his credit came back and gave as good as he got and clarified his position really well.
A Special Mention for Celebrity Commentator ...
And I couldn't close 2005 without mentioning this post - I had heard rumours from SGM that they were getting twitchy with intimate songs of love for God such as "Draw Me Close to You" - that was sung to powerfully on the Stoneleigh Bible Week 1998 video. The phrase; "God isn't your boyfriend" was voiced too. I went on a search and found Bob Kauflin's new blog. Initially I thought I was wrong and read some very positive comments about intimacy in worship by Kauflin - but then found the offending post in question. Bob Kauflin had the grace to comment on what I had written and was truly gracious about the whole issue.
So much for 2005 - onto 2006!
That's my looking back done with for now. As Dave Holden reminded us at Stoneleigh 2000 - it isn't good to look back to the past in the wrong way. I don't have much desire to look back to 2005 actually! There are a number of people I want to forget. But God has been moving and speaking. There are prophetic promises about what may be in 2006 - and I can't wait!!
So ... HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
So What IS This Gospel?
See unlike some over at http://www.wordandspirit.co.uk my thoughts are on far more loftier things. To think ... that back in my immaturity I used to leap around and indulge in such postmodern excesses ... anyway enough of that!
Tonight I want to ask - what IS the gospel? I got the amazing present of John Piper's latest book for Christmas from my brother and have begun diving in. I adore John Piper - he doesn't waste any of our time in 'warming up' but dives right in with weighty theology. I got to chapter 2 on the bus coming into work and was absolutely overwhelmed with Piper's excellent outline of the "Gospel". I feel that the word, "Gospel" somewhat like the word, "Cross" has become something of a catchphrase among some evangelical streams today and is bandied around in sermons, in notices and dare I say it - even in songs; (http://wordandspirit.co.uk/blog/index.php?/archives/152-Awesome-God-CD-Review.html) - yet I wonder if some newer Christians were pinned down and asked - so what IS the gospel? - whether a clear and concise answer could be given? Piper has done just that.
1. There is a Living and Imperial God.
Piper is careful to begin with God - as we must. What is the point of beginning at the Cross and the death of God's Son if the non-believer doesn't even believe in God? (Acts 14:15) "A living God who made heaven and earth". Piper wrote; "No cherished aspect of the Christian gospel would have any redemptive meaning if there were no living God who created heaven and earth".
But we must insist that not only is God alive and present, He is not just a disinterested bystander. This is His earth and He rules it. (Isaiah 52:7) "Your God reigns". Piper goes on and writes; "God's sovereign rule is essential to the gospel ... In other words the reign of God has broken into this world to set things right for the sake of His people".
2. Jesus, A Saviour Who Died.
Paul makes the explicit link between the gospel and the death of the Son of God by writing; "I would remind you, brothers of the gospel .. that Christ died for our sins". Piper wrote; "The coming of the ... Messiah was the coming of a Saviour because He died to bear our sins". Here is the dichotomy - that the triumphant ruling and reigning Messiah expected actually had come - to die. He must die.
And it is hear that some stop - even unconciously. Yet Ern Baxter reminded his hearers that there is "nothing positive about the Cross on its own". Hence I got goosebumps as Piper continued in his defining the gospel.
3. Jesus, Risen from the Dead!
Piper puts it as bluntly and simply as possible; "There would be no gospel if Jesus had stayed dead". Many who seem to stop at the Cross in their thinking, singing and preaching would protest that they do indeed believe in the resurrection and I am sure that they do. But what message does it convey to the non-believers among the church when on Easter Sunday morning, the message of Calvary is preached? Much care and attention must be given, I think, to ensuring that the gospel that we preach is balanced and whole and no undue attention is given to one particuar part to the exclusion of others.
Rant over and back to Piper ...
(1 Corinthians 15:17) "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins". Hmm ... it seems the Word of God is even more blunt that Piper! That is why it was so glorious to sing Kate Simmonds wonderful anthem at Brighton; "In Him I have believed, on this my hope now rests - that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead!".
4. The Promised Holy Spirit.
Piper writes; "The Spirit will be for us the Presence and the power of Christ Himself. The fellowship of Christ, promised in the gospel, happens by the Spirit's Presence in us". And then he goes on and gets even more detailed; "What makes the gospel good news in the end is the enjoyment of the glory of God in Christ. The Holy Spirit provides the present experience of that enjoyment. Therefore the promise of the Spirit in the gospel is what makes it good news".
If the rest of this book turns out to be as such rich quality as this chapter I have just summarised, (and according to Dr Sam Storms it is; (http://samstorms.com/article2.asp?id=644) then I am in for a real treat. And the most exciting thing about this book is that common to Piper, it is absolutely mission orientated. He doesn't write merely to inform. He writes to stir, to waken. Here is a quote from the introduction to close:
"The world needs nothing more than to see the worth of Christ in the work and words of His God-besotted people. This will come to pass when the church awakens to the truth that the saving love of God is the gift of Himself, and that God Himself is the gospel".
Thursday, December 29, 2005
This is just a very short note ... I am hugely excited to find that two of my childhood friends have joined the blogworld. Dave and Jonathan Skipper - these brothers have the most incredible minds imaginable and their blogs will testify to their logic patterns. Both well worth a visit - though I would guide music fans towards Dave. Why is the circle complete? Because they, and myself and Mark (http://www.wordandspirit.co.uk) used to have the best theological discussions and post-mortems of the sermons at our home church in Dunstable ever. We are proud to be informally Dr Stanley Jebb's spiritual grandsons!
http://hartlib.blogspot.com/ - Jonathan's site named in honour of and after the great 17th century 'intelligencer' and philosopher. It was said of Hartlib that; "only through the dissemination of knowledge would the millenium be achieved".
In Particular ...
I am greatly interested in a comment made by Jonathan (http://hartlib.blogspot.com/2005/12/brief-reflections-on-blogging-and.html) - in light of the discussion concerning mentors (http://ern-baxter.blogspot.com/2005/11/jealous-of-josh-harris.html) - he suggests that books can and should be in some respect our mentors. I like that and am going to consider that more. Because it has been a suspicion of mine for some time that books - the written word - has an incredible impact on us. Therefore as Jonathan quite rightly notes, we should be extremely selective with what we read and what sits in our libraries.And ...
http://fretboarder.blogspot.com/ - Dave's site.
Some Reflections on "The Interpretation of Experience" from Iain Murray's 'Pentecost Today?'.
This post is the second part of my book review of Iain Murray's excellent book. The particular chapter under review caused me some trouble when I first read it, as it was obvious to me that Murray's view on the baptism of the Holy Spirit would not agree with my own, and this is primarily what the chapter is addressing, although Murray takes a broader view.
So in re-reading the book prior to 2006 and the New Year, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I have actually a great deal more in common with Iain Murray than I first thought although having a few points of disagreement or discussion. So firstly here are the points of common ground:
1. Murray insists we begin with the Bible first and with the Work of Christ.
He makes the point quite rightly that if one is to begin arguing for a point of theology from their experience, then this is opening the arguer up to serious error. Both the flesh and the devil are also capable of causing and giving experiences. We must start with the Scriptures. I found Murray's comments on the Work of Christ particularly encouraging, as it bolsters a real concern of mine. He said;
"We are liable to suppose that Christ's work for us ended with his death (that certainly was my experience in SGM) and resurrection, and that now it remains for the Holy Spirit to do all that we need. This is certainly not the New Testament perspective. There we are directed to not only what Christ HAS done but to what He IS DOING".
Murray then brings an outstanding quote from John Owen and his awesome commentaries on Hebrews;
"That Christ died for us, all who own the gospel profess in words; that He lived for us here in this world ... all men will grant ... but that Christ now lives a life of glory in heaven, THAT most men think is for Himself alone".
2. Murray argues that no one experience is to be seen as a standard for all - no stereotypes and no formulas!
He noted that the older evangelicals to whom we owe so much knew nothing of "how to obtain the baptism of the Holy Spirit". They did indeed believe in it, and in sudden and extraordinary manifestations of the Spirit's power - but attributed them solely to God's sovereign hand.
He quotes William Guthrie in referring to experiences of a glorious manifestation of God unto the soul;
"This is the thing that doth best deserve the title of sensible presence and is NOT GIVEN UNTO ALL BELIEVERS ... this is so absolutely let out upon the Master's pleasure and is so transient or passing or quickly gone that when it is, no man may bring his gracious state into debate for want of it".
3. Murray insists that the view that argues that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit must occur simultaneously with regeneration is "prone to minimise the experiential dimension of His work in the Christian".
This has most certainly been my experience and I can testify to this. Murray writes of those who believe this:
"In their anxiety to counter Pentecostalism, (they) leave no room for larger communications of the Spirit. These authors too often write as though they were unaware of the older evangelical position".
Ern Baxter would call them; "Men who should know better".
"But in so far as they leave out or give little space to the experimental dimension found in authors from the Puritans down to George Smeaton, they are unlikely to win those whom they are concerned to help".
Once again this has been proved so accurate and so true, hence leading to the polarisation of views that we see today.
4. Murray pleads that "those who serve ... in the public teaching of the church have the most urgent obligations to be filled with the Spirit".
Finally on common ground with Murray:
5. He writes that the New Testament shows not two levels but many degrees of Christian experience and operations of the Spirit.
To quote Robert Haldane:
"This testimony (Romans 8:16) although it cannot be explained, is nevertheless felt by the believer; it is felt by him too in its variations, as sometimes stronger and more palpable and at other times more feeble and less discernable".
I would hesitate to even calls these points of disgreement, but rather areas where I feel there are certain gaps in Murray's logic. I wanted him to write more to explain himself!
1. He writes: "We cannot suppose that everything which marked the church at Pentecost is a permament part of all Christian experience" (p113).
I do agree, but surely he should have clarified that argument by saying it is not permament but should be ideal? Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones also agreed that we are far from where the church was at Pentecost but when the Spirit was poured out in revival, we attain to that degree of life and glory.
2. He writes: "One would assume that the conditions necessary (to obtain the baptism of the Holy Spirit) would be clear (p115).
I find it difficult to understand why a scholar and teacher of Murray's stature would not deal with Christ's words clearly concerning the impartation of the Holy Spirit; "If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink". The condition it seems is therefore ... thirst!
3. Concerning the laying on of hands, he writes: "Teaching which requires the laying on of hands for the baptism of the Spirit is contradicted by all the testimonies from Christian biography" (p115).
I would tend to agree, one does not often see it occuring in Puritan or Reformer biography, although it may be seen in Roman Catholic tradition - however it is somewhat ironic that Murray later argues on page 126 against the use of biography saying;
"By building on the experience of some Christians and making these normative for all, an unrealistic model of the Christian life is created".
Surely consistency should be expected! If biography can be used to argue against the laying on of hands, then it can also be used to argue for the intensity of experiencing the baptism of the Holy Spirit!!
That said, this chapter has been extremely useful to bringing another perspective to the debate concerning the giving of the Spirit and has opened my eyes once again to see that the void between charismatics and cessationists - who are both loyal to the Scriptures - is not quite as wide as first thought. My concerns are where the "open-but-cautious" camp stand as they seem reluctant to commit on anything.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Posted earlier today looking at Genesis 28:17 which asks the question, what is this place? The answer - it is the House of God! I tried to examine it in context and see that it is a place of the prophetic, a place of promise and a place of progression. Now I want to apply it to me - today - here. What is this place?
i) The Church – A Place Where God Must Speak.
The church HAS to be a place of the prophetic. 1 Corinthians 12 to 14 is full of the prophetic shout. Why else would the apostle urge that this gift must be earnestly desired? The key verse in my opinion concerning the prophetic gift is chapter 14:24 – 25
“If all prophesy and an unbeliever enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all and the secrets of his heart are disclosed, he will fall down on his face and worship God declaring ‘God is certainly among you’”.
So practically it is no good urging a resurgence of the prophetic gift without some indication of what we feel the Bible intends.
a) Prophecy grounded in the Word.
Some of the most awesome prophecies that have come from platforms today have been from men who are totally committed to the sufficiency of Scripture, but not only that – clearly live in the Word of God. Consider the following prophecy. It was given by Terry Virgo to the Church of Christ the King in Brighton on the 8th May 2001. It is reproduced to demonstrate the fact that God can speak apart from His Word, but He never speaks outside of it.
"I want you to feel the excitement of a page that is getting loosened up. I want you to feel the excitement of a page that is about to turn, I want you to feel excitement that what you have read and re-read, is about to be replaced by another page, that is going to turn. You are at a stage of page turning and what was solid, and what seemed dense in weight and like a block of paper, you’re to feel the breath that is coming under that page, its about to turn. I say to you, you are in the midst of transition and page turning says the Lord.
I want you to come with great anticipation even into this week. You are to turn and look with new excitement what is written on this new page. I want you to look like you have never looked before. I want you to drink in what I am going to show you. I want you to realise that I am moving on with you, and I want you to give attention to things you see and hear in these days. I want you to be ready to be at home on that page, so you don’t close it again, that you don’t return to familiar turf and territory, that you say I have got this down, I know this page. I want you to live in the excitement and vulnerability of a new page that I am turning.
I want you to know that I have not called you to a static path; I have not called you to be a defender only of what you have thus far. I don’t want you to have a fortress mentality. I want you to know the excitement of pressing on, experiencing more, and going on with me, that is my call to you. I call you to grow, this is not something that should frighten you or seem strange to you, and this is the great essence of life that you grow. Therefore I say to you, beware of the dangers of defending everything you know, standing only secure in what you have proved; I call you to the adventure of learning new things".
b) Prophecy Walking With the Spirit.
It is absolutely no good being a theologian par excellence who can quote Scripture, unless the prophet is a man of the anointing. There is a great mistrust among the evangelical world of “new” things – indeed a common ditty quoted goes something like: “If it’s new it isn’t true”. This is totally contrary to the Word of God. Indeed it would seem that God actually DELIGHTS in new things. New movements. New waves. New aspects to be discovered of His glorious character. Of course we strongly believe that the canon of Scripture is complete – nothing new will be ever added to it. Yet who is bold enough to assert that they understand the complete canon of Scripture and have plumbed it’s depths so they know God in His fullness? The great Jonathan Edwards addressed this matter most sternly in his thesis on dealing with great revivals. He wrote:
“If there be any thing extraordinary in the circumstances of this work, which was not observed in former times, theirs is a rule to reject this work which God has not give them and they limit God where He has not limited Himself … that it has all along been God’s manner to open new scenes and to bring forth to view things new and wonderful – such as eye had not seen nor ear heard, nor entered into the hearts of man or angels – to the astonishment of heaven and earth … we live in those latter days wherein we may be especially warranted to expect that things will be accomplished concerning which It will be said, who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things?”.
The prophetic gift was never intended to be a party piece for the church solely and for its enjoyment. For those of such opinion the words of the prophet Isaiah should shake: (Isaiah 41:1) “Coastlands listen to Me in silence”. (Isaiah 49:1) “Listen to Me O islands and pay attention you peoples from afar”. (Isaiah 60:3) “Nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising”. These glorious verses demonstrate that God envisages a church that will attract the attention of the world. This is a church that hears and speaks the powerful prophetic word of God! Not only that – we are most certainly led to believe that the world is waiting for that shout to resound forth out of Zion.
ii) The Church – A Place Where God Must Be Worshipped.
It is absolutely fascinating to note that the only place where Jacob actually spoke was in verse 17 when he awoke from the vision. “How awesome is this place!”. So often we speak far too often both individually and corporately. It is rare to find a church service where the congregation are allowed to linger in the Presence of God and hear Him speak. Because of this, we rarely hear the prophetic word of God resound forth. Yet Jacob’s example must be followed! “How awesome!”. He is not worshipping the church for itself – He is in awe of the fact that this is “the house of God”. For too long this aspect of church life has been neglected. Consider Ephesians 2:22: “You also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit”. This conscious awareness that the gathered community is the dwelling place of God should be the sole drive to worship. Not duty – not tradition but the response that comes from walking into the Presence of Majesty. Let the song and shout of our hearts resound forth: “Christ the Lord is risen today – Hallelujah!”. How can our song be so triumphant? Because the Spirit witness and ministers to our hearts that our High Priest has gone before us and is now reigning and ruling at the right hand of God the Father.
iii) The Church – A Place Where God Must Be Experienced.
“The Gate of Heaven”. We are not simply building a theology here on an isolated incident. The whole scope of Scripture is full of this “ascending and descending” principle. If we can effectively establish that then something of the passion of Gods heart to be “known and known by us” will be all the more powerful. Let us examine a few and allow the weight and glory of Scripture to speak for itself.
a) God Comes Down – Heaven Touches Earth.
(Genesis 3:8) “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day”. From the birth pangs of Creation itself God was not a removed Deity who left His handiwork to progress by itself but He was One who came down to His people – longing for fellowship with them. (Exodus 19:18) “Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended on it in fire”. Despite the continual sinning of His people, God again came down. His purpose was to draw the nation of Israel to Himself and to communicate His law to them. Yet we may see quite clearly that there is a method in how to approach God. Despite all, He is God! (Exodus 40:34) “The glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle”. From the mountain to the Tabernacle – God was drawing closer to His people. They had obeyed His commands; “just as the Lord commanded” - and His seal was His Presence.
As an aside it is vital to note the principle stated in Leviticus 6:13 concerning the fire on the Brazen Altar. “It must not go out”. While men can establish the Tabernacle and follow all instruction, while man can plant churches and make plans and visions, while man can write sermons or sing songs – the bottom line is that at the end of the day we can but wait for the fire to fall. Elijah built the altar – yet he had to wait and so do we. There is no guarantee it will fall, thus the urge is – when it does – keep it burning! One never knows whether it will fall again in a lifetime.
(2 Chronicles 7:1) “Fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and sacrifices and the glory of the Lord filled the house”. The temple was complete! Notice that these ‘heaven touching earth’ events occur less and less as God’s people continually grieved Him. The disturbing fact is that organized tradition and religion continued regardless. (Ezekiel 10:18-22, 11:23) detail a very deliberate and staged withdrawing of the glory and Presence of God, yet it seemed as if the prophet was the only one to notice that it was happening. Has anything changed today? Is God’s church listening to His prophets? Has He left?
God’s final word to His Old Covenant people is fearful and disturbing.
Malachi 1:10: “Oh that there were one among you who might shut the gates that you might not uselessly kindle fire on my altar”.
We must ask seriously – is this His verdict on church life today? Do we dare to continue to meet regardless of whether He is present or not? Has anyone asked the question – are you here Lord? Are you pleased with what is going on? Where is the cry of the Lover from the Song of Solomon: “Have you seen Him?”.
We digress. The ultimate “Coming Down” event of course was the glorious outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Dr Jack Hayford, the great Pentecostal prophet and teacher had a powerful vision that connects the crowning of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Spirit. He:
“Related a vision in which he had seen Jesus seated on His throne at the right hand of the Father. In the vision Jesus began to lean forward and rise from His seat. As the anointing caught in the folds of His garments, it began to splash out and fall over the church. Jesus said; “I am beginning to rise now in preparation for My second coming. Those who will rise with Me will share in this double portion of anointing”.
This is a tremendously significant word further evidenced by a message given by Dr Ern Baxter on; “The Robe of the Ephod”. He drew a parallel between the golden bells that lined the bottom of the High Priest’s robe and the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, for when the people heard the bells ring from the Holy of Holies they knew that the blood had been accepted. Just as similarly – when we are baptised with the Holy Spirit and fire, the one predominant thing we know – is that our High Priest is accepted in the throne room of Heaven and the cry goes out from our spirits: “Abba! Father!”.
So we have seen that again and again God has come down – heaven has touched earth.
b) Access to Heaven – “Come Up Here”.
Remember also that the angels were ascending! We do not have the comfort of sitting in ease on earth waiting for heaven to come down. Heaven is no longer a closed door to us – because of Christ’s finished work, we can see with the apostle the following gloriously exciting vision: (Revelation 4:1) “I looked and behold a door standing open in heaven … Come up here”. What does this mean? Is it again a simple historical event for the purposes of completing the canon of Scripture? Or is God setting a tone for New Covenant life? Consider Hebrews 10:19: “Therefore brethren since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, let us draw near”. How then does that relate to our primary question of experiencing God in His House? We are more familiar with the concept of heaven coming to earth. Many have heard of revivals although we many not have experienced them. We are comfortable that from time to time God may pour out His Spirit. Yet what of “coming up”? We may dissect the divine invitation thus so:
1) Divine Providence: “Come Up”.
This is an invitation of grace – all purely and totally of grace. We have done nothing to contribute to this. We have done nothing to deserve this – and yet still He calls us “Come”. The crucifixion motif is solely designed to make peace with God – symbolised and dramatised by the splitting of the huge veil in the Temple. The way is open! The text already quoted from Hebrews makes it quite plain: that God in His sovereignty has done all necessary for us to experience Him in power and to know Him in the glories of His throne room. The Son has died – yet He rose again! And because He rose we may have faith! 1 Corinthians 15 tells us that had He not been raised our faith would be in vain. Let us never exalt the Crucification above any other aspects of Christ’s finished work. Without the resurrection Jesus Christ would have simply joined the throngs of martyrs and victims under the Roman rule. Yet the fact remains that today He is not hanging on the Cross, He is not lying in the tomb. He is not even walking around in the garden. He is seated and reigning at the right hand of the Father! It was that moment on Easter Day morning when He walked out of the tomb triumphant, that made it reality.
Because of this – the invitation from heaven comes - “Come Up Here”!
2) Divine Promise: “I Will Show You”.
This invitation to go up to the glories and heights of heaven is not without purpose or meaning. God has His divine plan to show us, to reveal to us. Why do we seek to experience Him? Why do we say, “This is not enough?”. Hearts that are truly won by God will desire to know His passion for the nations. So we come – to learn. Terry Virgo rightly said: “The whole object is that I might know Him”. He has things to show us, He has purposes for us His people. The Old Testament prophets wrote that the Lord does nothing except that He first reveals it to His prophets. This is a powerful revelation and one that should grab our attention. It seems that in the mystery of Divine Sovereignty God looks and watches for men and women who have a heart for Him – who hunger after Him – who long for Him, and to them He shows them the inner secrets of His heart. Is this favouritism? Let us not be so crass or indeed blasphemous as to suggest that He could stoop to our levels and have favourites. Eager evangelicals have taken the words of Colossians to extremes and suggested that we are all “one in Christ” therefore that means none are more spiritual or privy to deeper things than others. Such words are ridiculous. It is clear from the Bible that God does indeed allow some to “lean on His bosom”. Yet it was the people themselves who put themselves there.
The whole object of this brief paper has attempted to show that God desires relationship with us. He will not force revelation on those who are not listening or willing! He looks for those who walk after Him – who long to walk with Him. The question therefore is: Are we listening? Are we responding to heaven’s call? There is much to be seen from that glorious viewpoint!
3) Divine Purpose: “What Must Take Place”.
There can be no more fitting note to end this consideration of the House of God than on God’s divine purpose for His House. And that is quite simple: (v2) of the text in Revelation makes it quite clear: “A throne”. The purpose of God is the supremacy of His Son. That is what He would show His church from heaven’s viewpoint. His Son has risen from the dead – His Son is seated and glorified and reigning. “Sit down and reign until Thy enemies are made they footstool”. Such a word is a time word. Jesus Christ has sat down “until”. Therefore His mission for His people is quite clear – to take the life of heaven and the dominance of His Kingdom into a needy waiting world. The coastlands are waiting. Cities and towns are waiting. What they have seen so far is unimpressive. They look for a throne. They look to the church to see it. They wait for the shout to go forth: “Jesus Christ is Lord!”.
So What …
Can we, the readers of this text, honestly echo the Psalmist when he writes:
(Psalm 84:2) “How lovely is Your tabernacle O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes even faints for the courts of the Lord! My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God”.
What is this tabernacle? Clearly it was the meeting place of the community of the redeemed. So in present day, do our souls long – yes even faint for the courts of the Lord? The text is quite plain, that the ultimate thing we are longing for is not church in and of itself, but it is a recognition of the fact that God is peculiarly present at His house in a remarkable way. And that is what we should be longing for – that is what we should be seeing! If we see some distance between the Psalmist and ourselves, then the next question must be why. Could it be because God is not peculiarly present at our church gatherings as He was at those tabernacle gatherings that the Psalmist wrote of? And if He is not, then again we must ask why. Has He been welcomed? Has He been asked how He wants it to run? The late John Wimber showed a remarkable prophetic insight into the heart of God when he attended a church meeting before his conversion. He watched the worship. He listened to the sermon. And then asked:
“When are we going to do the ‘stuff’?”.
Maybe that is not quite the way that we would phrase it, but one may appreciate his heart. How alike is the similarity between the awesome accounts in the New Testament and our church meetings today? If there is a vast difference then again we must ask why? This is urgent – this is critically urgent. It is not merely a matter of taste! A waiting world is plummeting towards hell while we sort out our ecclesiastical issues! A waiting world longs for a people who will rise up and say God is here! God is present! I can do no better than reproduce a glorious anthem that was sung at the Stoneleigh Bible Week 2000. “You said … Ask and I’ll give the nations to you, O Lord. That’s the cry of my heart! Distant shores and the islands will see Your light as it rises on us”. The heart cry is that the nations are waiting. God is willing. What in the world are we up to?
 Jonathan Edwards (9th ed 1998) – Volume One – The Works of Jonathan Edwards – Banner of Truth Press.
 “Pentecostals Set Priorities” – Charisma magazine – January 1991.
 Terry Virgo – Stoneleigh Bible Week 2001 – "Here We Go!" - audiotape.
I feel strongly that as 2006 approaches, the thing that God is laying on my heart so strongly is a passion for His church. Every song I seem to hear has it in; "We are the people of God ... It is the church, the hope of all the world" etc etc. I suppose listening to Newfrontiers CD's all the time will make that happen!! But I was reading a great passage in Genesis and had a whole stream of thoughts. The text was Genesis 28:17; "How awesome is this place ... the House of God". As usual with most of my thoughts, it is lengthy so I will divide it into two which happens quite naturally. To keep in context, I firstly wondered what was "this place"?
i) It Was a Place of the Prophetic
(v12) “He had a dream”. We must be open to the fact that God will speak to His people in differing and various ways. We are entitled, I think, to ask why He chooses the methods He does? He is God of course and can do whatever He will; yet God rarely does anything without reason especially in communicating to His people. A dream is a visual message. Furthermore Dr Jack Deere wrote; “Dreams have always been an important means of divine communication”. God of course can speak in words, yet one can ask how could words communicate the glory of this vision shown to Jacob. A dream is a memorable message. Words come and go yet we all can testify to dreams that have affected us and stayed with us for some time. God had something to show His servant and it was glorious.
ii) It Was a Place of Promise
(v13) “I will give it to you”. Not only did he see the glorious ladder or stairway of which we will address in time, but above all and most importantly he saw the Lord God. And God spoke a promise. Too often the evangelical church sees the promises of God as complete along with the canon of Scripture. Yet quite rightly Simon Petit addressed the Stoneleigh Bible Week in 2000 and said: “Our hope is this: - that there are many prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled!”. The promises of God are a whole topic in and of itself yet what did God specifically state here? He firstly restated His sovereignty. “I am the Lord”. This was the foundation of His promise to Jacob indeed the foundation of all His promises. We can believe what He says because He is God. He restated His relationship to His people: “The God of your father”. And then secondly He restated His promise – that He would give “the land” to him and His descendants. What a glorious promise!
iii) A Place of Progression.
The one danger facing so much of church life today is stagnancy. God shows how much He hates stagnancy and lukewarmness by His comments in Revelation to the church at Laodaecia. “Would that you be hot or cold!”. Hence we are faced with a dramatic representation of heaven invading earth. This is a highly biblical concept and one that is laced throughout Old and New Testament. “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down!”. So what can we notice?
a) Heaven and Earth Are Connected.
This is an awesome revelation. Once sin occurred a split – a divide, shook the whole Bible. Man was driven out of the Garden of Eden and most importantly from relationship with God. God cannot tolerate sin and had to withdraw, yet Christ has gloriously paid the way – God the Just is satisfied. Therefore God has completed the process of reconciliation, and He alone could do that. Man tried to get to heaven and the most he could manage was the Tower of Babel. When God made peace we can see that its “top reaches to heaven” and the ladder reached to earth. Heaven and earth are connected! The Book of Revelation further suggests that at the climax of the ages after the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, that a new heavens and a new earth will be instituted and we can therefore presume that the connection will be complete and there will be much travel between the two – for example: (Revelation 21:2) “I saw the holy city the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven”.
b) Mobility is Two-Way.
(v12) “Angels of God were ascending and descending on it”. If we were only to read of descent, then the message would be affected – namely that heaven can come down but we are not worthy to ascend. The Psalmist asks a similar question; “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?”. Similarly if only ascent were mentioned, then we could assume that God was a formal, cold God who demanded that His subjects approach Him – but He could not really be bothered to come down to earth. Yet this is not the case. There is ascent and descent on this stairway. We can go up – and heaven will come down.
c) Those Who Travel Are Angelic.
When angels are mentioned in the Bible it is always a matter of keen interest to the reader. Theologians are content that angels are often seen as messengers and as employees in the service of heaven. So we may assume that the angels in this vision are not merely walking up and down the stairway for the sake of it – they are setting an example to those who are watching. We are meant to learn from them and follow their lead. They ascend and descend and therefore so should we.
It is clear therefore that we are strongly of the opinion that this dream is not only written for historical notoriety but for us today – for our example and for us to learn from. So in my next post I want to consider what this verse has to say to us today!
 Dr Jack Deere (1996) – “Surprised by the Voice of God”. – Kingsway Publishing, Eastbourne.
 Simon Petit – Stoneleigh Bible Week 2000 – audiotape.
Sunday, December 25, 2005
A Christmas Special: The Place of Humour in Sermons.
Well a lovely day, presents and food galore and I couldn't think of a more suitable extract than this. It sets the tone beautifully for this day.
"I would not dare to say that there is no place for humour in preaching but I do suggest that it should not be a very big place because of the nature of the work and the character of the Truth with which we are dealing. The preacher is dealing with and concerned about souls and their destiny. He is standing between God and men and acting as an ambassador for Christ. I would have thought that as that is the overriding consideration, the most one can say for the place of humour is that it is only allowable if it is natural.
The man who tries to be humorous is an abomination and should never be allowed to enter a pulpit. The same applies to a man who does it deliberately in order to intigrate himself with the people. That is the kind of thing that has been expected of so-called 'professional evangelists' and has always passed my comprehension.
A final word ... the length of the sermon. What determines the length of the sermon? First and foremost the preacher. Time is a very relative thing is it not? Ten minutes from some men seems like an age, while an hour from another passes like a few minutes".
Ref: taken from Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones - "Preaching and Preachers" - published by Hodders.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Terry Virgo Is Coming To Bristol!!
Sub-titled: The Barren Lands Shall Sing for Joy!
Wow!! Christmas has come early!! Terry Virgo has not abandoned us and is going on tour yet again!! For those who were able to get to a "Does the Future Have a Church?" tour will know that they were unforgettable times!!
Now he is going on worldwide tour; "God's Lavish Grace". http://www.newfrontiers.xtn.org/notice-board/GodsLavishGraceTour/module_index.php?id=11923
He comes to Bristol right after Mumbai on the 27th to the 28th January. Contact telephone: 0117 924 3322.
How excited am I!?!?!?!? Side-bar: I've just found out how to publish photos on my blog. Ain't I impressive?!
Wow ... pressure. I always get a feeling of panic whenever I get tagged by a chain letter or email - you have to send it to 10 people or eternal bad luck will be yours. And now I find my great friend Mark has done the same to me!!
So yes indeed a day conference to any of those heavenly churches would be great. Or a book voucher is just as good. I note that Mark didn't say any kind words about my blog though ... oh dear. I think his heresy siren is sounding. Still we agreed many years ago on the Isle of Wight that he was the fatherly Arthur Wallis of our friendship while I was the more radical Gerald Coates. Remember that Mark!?
By the way a Christmas present that Mark would appreciate I think - for any who are wondering is a years subscription to "Victory" magazine (available from: http://www.kcm.org.za/) ... go on. He'd love you forever.
So ... here's my Happy Christmas two for this year. Both of these guys are outstanding Christians and challenge me frequently and in different ways in faith and love and commitment to Christ and His Church:
1. To Luke: http://lukewood.blogspot.com/ - and the present I recommend for him is definately to send him to the Mobilise conference at Brighton in July next year.
2. To Jul: http://julnbde.blogspot.com/ - Well revival in Canada seems to be top of her list, but failing that, I think a great book would definately fit the bill! And maybe some warm clothes if the move from the USA to Canada is happening!!
I think it's fitting that as 2005 draws to a close our thoughts do drift ahead to the New Year. What does 2006 hold for us?? Will we be closer to God this time next year or will we stagnate and still be mulling over the same issues and longings and problems?? This website was named "Life on Wings" for a reason. It was the name of one of the two most unique sermons that Dr Ern Baxter ever preached. (The other was called "Thy Kingdom Come" preached at Kansas City in 1975). You can actually hear this sermon online at Mark Heath's website: http://www.wordandspirit.co.uk/blog/index.php?/archives/71-Ern-Baxter-Life-on-Wings.html - it is WELL worth the time to listen!! During the sermon, Baxter actually sang a song he had composed himself - centred around his aim during the sermon.
The whole sermon was centred around the theme that we are meant to represent eagles in our Christian lives, and in the sermon he examines the abilities and characteristics of the Lords of the Skies.
Here is the song and I reproduce it, because in it, are my aims and goals for 2006:
"Many baffled birds in vain will wave one wing.
Drooping prayers they pray but rarely shout and sing.
Round and round these earth-bound birds go, in a maze.
For they fail to stretch the other wing in praise.
Rise and soar into the sunlight rays.
Using both your wings of prayer and praise.
Mount like eagles, higher in the sky.
And you'll find things look so different when you fly.
Exercise your wings oh Christians, pray and praise.
We shall have the best revival these last days!
Glide aloft and spread the message glad and strong.
See ten thousand angels swarm and swell with song.
Rise and soar into the sunlight rays.
Using both your wings of prayer and praise.
Mount like eagles, higher in the sky.
And you'll find things look so different when you fly".
I can't resist giving just one extended quote from the sermon - it is the ultimate key (in my belief) to worship. I don't think some Christians really know where we are going in worship. Sure, we all know why we are worshipping - but where are we going in worship? Here's what Ern Baxter thought:
"A Christian is a man who is able to fly without trying. But he must know the secrets of the winds. There the eagle stands on a rock, batting his eyes and waiting. But as that eagle poises on the rock, he is waiting for something. He is waiting for the right breeze to come.
Did you know, if I may say so that this is the secret of worship? This is the secret of public worship ... There is a key to every meeting. When we seek total restoration, we will see a key in every meeting. I've found that the Holy Spirit knows how stupid we are. He very seldom touches on more than one subject in one meeting. He knows we can't handle more than one. I've have been in revivals that run for weeks. I have tapes of them that I sometimes listen to and once you have been in these sessions, you are spoiled.
Where for three and four hours, running through the prophecy, the tongues, the interpretation, the message, the singing - there will be a single beautiful prayer that the Holy Spirit is saying.
The eagle understands the air current. Suddenly he knows that this current is the one. And with a scream that they say is indescriabable, those mighty claws give one lift and up he catches that air current, mounting up and up. Up he goes never flapping a wing. Just riding the air current. Like the eagle we are built to soar on the currents and know the secrets of the Wind. It is in our bones".
Friday, December 23, 2005
Due to my previous post, "I Hate Christmas", it will come as no surprise to some that my thoughts are already at the New Year and what 2006 holds for us. I can't wait for 2006 and the New Year! I said that this year has been one of the worst of my life, and I'm eager for a new clean fresh slate. And with that constant reminder of that quote from C H Spurgeon by the left of my blog, I'm constantly hungering for a deeper, more powerful experience of the Holy Spirit. I don't think I have done more than dip my big toe in!
A number of previous blog entries have referred even subconciously to revival. I mentioned David Tomlinson's disappointment with the fact that the Charismatic Renewal didn't produce revival, also in the comments section of a post on "Unity", I mentioned hearing Terry Virgo announce at CCK, Brighton that he is inviting a man to the Brighton Leaders Conference next year from abroad who has already had amazing meetings in Reading, and whom God has promised that He WILL be coming to the UK - that He hasn't forgotten us. That excites me!!
I realised that not all believe in revival. It's been more than 100 years since we saw a revival in this country and it cannot be taken ad lib that all do. The pastor of the previous church I went to did not. As far as I can tell the whole SGM movement of churches don't really. I can understand that I think - their passion is the gospel. One could argue that a revival is one of those "disputable" matters that isn't central. However that view isn't inbred in me. My home church in Dunstable passionately believed and prayed for revival, even when it became cessationist.
So I am re-reading a book given to me by my pastor Dr Stanley Jebb by indeed a cessationist - Iain Murray called; "Pentecost Today?". It is an outstanding book that I have read carefully many times and while there are some key points I don't agree with - for instance his views on the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it's implications could be absolutely key if we are indeed to see revival come to the UK in 2006.
So here's a swift book review before I head off to work.
Murray's first chapter is cautious and well required. He begins by noting that the term itself is open to misunderstanding. For instance a "revival" in the USA could often be just a series of evangelistic meetings held through the week. He then outlines what he perceives to be the three major views on revival held today.
1) The whole concept of occasional revivals is not biblical at all. (The SGM view I would guess). He says of this view; "We should not speak of revivals as extraordinary, periodic events because the whole age in which we live is of Pentecost and the 'last days'. The danger with this view, Murray writes, is that this tends to leave Christians satisfied with the existing situation and anticipating nothing more that they presently see. "If we think only that the Holy Spirit is continuously resident in the church, as if necessarily present and inherent in the means of grace, we can easily begin to forget how urgently we stand in need of the supernatural". The church has too often settled down into a dull routine in whch more attention is given to human plans and gifts and scholarship than to prayer.
2) The presence or abscence of revival is conditional upon the obedience of the church and the behaviour of Christians. (Charles Finney's view also Duncan Campbell's view). The essential thing, they taught, was sanctification, clean hands and a pure heart. Murray notes quite rightly that the evidence of church history is against the view that revival is conditional upon our conduct. Many who have spent a lifetime in continued labours for the gospel have not seen the unique success that a revival can bring.
3) And "more biblical" (hence we can guess the view that Murray and therefore I hold!). Murray notes that it is an "old-school" view (held by the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards and C H Spurgeon). The third view agrees that the Spirit was given once for all at Pentecost but while the Spirit was given permamently, He was not given in the same measure and degree as witnessed at Pentecost.
It was not to be the "norm" that 3000 would be converted on one particular day. So from Pentecost onwards, the work of the Spirit can be viewed in two ways - the more normal and the extraordinary. These two differ not in essence or kind but only in degree. The evidence for this is 3-fold.
i) It is clear from the book of Acts that all Christians did not remain permamently filled with the Holy Spirit in the sense of Acts 2:4. Had that been so it would not have been necessary or possible to say of the same people again in Acts 4:31 that they were "filled with the Holy Spirit". This quote in particular is note-worthy seeing as I wrote an argument to this degree in my post; "This is No Age to Advocate Restraint" - a response to Open but Cautious-ites: http://ern-baxter.blogspot.com/2005/11/this-is-no-age-to-advocate-restraint1.html - Murray writes:
"What is indisputable is that there are differences in the manifest Presence of the Spirit of God".
Murray notes that the idea of variation in the 'measure' of the Spirit is commonplace in Puritan writing quoting Issac Ambroce and John Owen as proofs.
ii) The New Testament indicates that while the Spirit is always present in the church, the degrees of His power and influence remain subject to Christ Himself. "In other words the church is ever dependent upon Christ, her ever-living Head for the 'actual influence' of the Holy Spirit'. Murray notes that if there is no more of the Spirit to expect then the promise of our Lord in Luke 11:13 has no more relevance for us today.
iii) How can the view which sees no justification for occasional revivals offer any convincing explanation for such great and sudden turning points in history such as the Reformation? How are these extraordinary eras to be explained if the Spirit is always uniformly present?
To summarise: "A revival is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit brought about by the intercession of Christ, resulting in a new degree of life in the churches and a widespread movement of grace among the unconverted. It is an extraordinary communication of the Spirit of God, superabundance of the Spirit's operation, an enlargement of His manifest power." (I love that bit)
Oh dear ... well that was a review of chapter 1. Why can't I type faster?! I have to go to work - this clearly is going to turn into a series.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
It's quite ironic to watch those bloggers arguing about whether you should or shouldn't have a Christmas Day service. For me, the issue is can't whether we should or shouldn't have Christmas at all. Sacrilige! You cry. Blasphemy! Another cries. Hear me out. I think that Christmas touches at the heart of a desperate need in the church ... and that is fear of the single person. The last 3 years of my life have been the most painful and the most desperate in terms of the bitter reminder that church seems to be a place for couples and the family. And Christmas just is an intense time of a reminder of that fact - that yes - in the words of Cher - I DO sleep alone!!
And that troubles me, that Christmas has become a time to fear, rather than a time of remembering the original fact - the incarnation of Jesus Christ Himself. By and large the fact that I am single doesn't really bother me - in fact, I LOVE it!! I have the time to go and do exactly what I want, when I want. I can work as much as I want, I can play as much as I want. I can read as much as I like without being interupted to go wash up! And in that last sentance - I see the reason why God invented marriage - to prevent selfishness! Well one of them anyway. But seriously, with John Stott I do believe that being single gives you the opportunity to accomplish more for the Kingdom in some ways than if you were married.
It's not often that I quote positively from the world of SGM, but this blog by Carolyn McCulley really really blessed me and challenged me:
I first heard this remarkable lady at the conference John Piper held called; "Sex and the Supremacy of Christ". I was actually more ministered to by her message to single women, than I was by Mark Dever's for single men - he was a little harsh and blunt for me. She was much nicer but still challenging!
If you don't have time to go to her blog, here's a key quote;
"When you have a hope deferred, the holidays can be a bittersweet time. Unbidden emotions--grief, confusion, self-pity, sadness--can suddenly wash over you without warning. The holiday season can be like a landmark in time--"wasn't I here in exactly the same situation last year?"--commemorating the creep of time. That's the bitter part, but there is also the sweet part if we stand like a sentinel and look for it. The Lord has been faithful to each of us in so many ways, but they are easy to take for granted when our focus is the unfulfilled desire".
So yes, looking back - this time last year I was still single. But actually, and strangely this Christmas reminds me of how much God has worked in my life this year. It hasn't been a particuarly good year - in fact it's been one of the worst years of my life (if you think I'm being dramatic - post a comment. I'll email you a list of what's gone on!!) But despite that, God has been mightily at work. I can't blame God for the bad stuff. As McCulley so rightly says; "a merciful God should not stand accused by me". But I can and must give God thanks for His grace. Here's a few of the points that I'm thankful for that come to mind;
1. A family that love me for the black sheep that I am.
2. A Mum and Dad who I constantly seem to humiliate but who still welcome me home.
3. A wise and faithful older sister who has mentored me through this year and has been a shoulder to cry on as well as a rock to lean on.
4. The most gorgeous nephew in the world ... EVER!!
5. A warm and comfortable home - a roof over my head - and a shower that is powerful and hot and so great!
6. A series of best friends who have virtually replaced a wife. They have stood by me, they laugh at me, they laugh with me and I'm sure they laugh behind my back, they lended me money when I needed it, they hugged me when I needed it, they forced food down my throat when I was about 8 stone, they locked things away that I shouldn't touch, and above all are here at the end of the year with me! - I say again - my best friends - my family!! Who are the unsung?: Scott, Emma, Abi, Jude, Lou, Sarah, Christina, Myth, Steph, Jen and Rich, Pete.
7. The best job in the world that I love and adore!!
8. My health; mobility, thoughts, speech, hearing - all means of common grace that how often do I take for granted?!
9. My books - my heroes may be dead and in glory (apart from Terry Virgo - he still lives!! Glory!) but they still speak through the books they have penned. Therefore my home has become a somewhat nosy place, with them all speaking at once.
10. Above all - to the most gracious and loving and precious and wonderful Father that anyone could hope or dream to have. I can't sum up the way I feel about Him, better than the lines of one of my favourite songs; "You see the depths of my heart and you love me the same! You are amazing God!".
So yes ... Christmas will be tough I have no doubt. Like Jo from Little Women (I was raised up with 7 sisters - I HAD to watch it!) I will resent I'm sure some of my sister's partners being present at the table (I love you guys really!). But I am so grateful to Carolyn McCulley for raising my eyes from myself - and lifting them to a gracious God who still stands unchanging in His love for me through the passage of time.
Recently Terry Virgo was preaching on "Gathered Together As One Man" at his home church, CCK Brighton. I heard the tape of him giving this message at Stoneleigh in 1998 so I was really interested to hear how this message may have developed and matured. I was quite blown away really by one example of something that the Newfrontiers leadership are doing in the UK.
Terry is calling together a whole host of leaders from across the UK; Mark Stibbe, Nicky Gumbel, Stuart Bell, Steve Thomas (Salt and Light), Greg Haslam and others to pray and simply be together.
I think that every now and then Newfrontiers can come under attack for elitism and for individualism. This serves as a clear illustration to me of how Terry's heart is for the whole church of God. So exciting to hear!
Monday, December 19, 2005
Kate Simmonds has written this excellent article outlining clearly the values of that awesome church on her website: http://www.katesimmonds.com/index2.htm. With such biblically-based values you can see why the Spirit honours and blesses that church (my future church!) so much. Here they are:
THE VALUES OF OUR WORSHIP TEAM – by Kate Simmonds
My husband and I are based at Church of Christ the King in Brighton, England which is part of the New Frontiers network of churches, and we head up the large worship team there. These are our team values:
COMMON PURPOSE “being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” - Philippians 2:2
RELEASING AND FULFILLING POTENTIAL Your life, your gifts, expressed through, and rooted in, team and family. It’s also us all taking responsibility as ‘lead worshippers’, including in the gifts of the Spirit.
EXCELLENCE “Play skilfully” – Psalm 33:3. Whatever our gift, we want it to be continually improving to be the best it can be. We want to be as prepared as possible for our meetings, so our worship times can be as free as possible.
SERVANTHOOD “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” - Philippians 2:3. It’s not ‘what about me and my gift, my ministry’. We’re here to serve God, the church, the greater purpose of the whole team and the worship life of the whole church.
UNITY “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! For there the Lord bestows His blessing” – Psalm 133:1,3 “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” – Ephesians 4:3 “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” – Romans 15:5 Vineyard worship leader Andy Park talks about a football team with no numbers on their shirts – when one scores, the team scores!
RELATIONSHIP We want the people in this team to feel valued, that they belong, and that we can give and receive feedback and constructive advice through friendship, with each other and with church leadership.
SECURITY God is totally for us, and so is the leadership team. Our identity and self-worth are not in being on a platform or in our gifting, but in our knowledge of God and in who we are in God.
DISCIPLINE We work hard to be good at what we do (yes, we practise!). And our lives are centred in consistent spiritual disciplines.
COMMUNICATION We have clear purpose and direction, clear objectives to get there and everyone knows who should be doing what, when!
Sunday, December 18, 2005
It's interesting how and where a train of thought can lead. In one of my last blog entries I commented on David Tomlinson's disappointment and disillusionment with not seeing revival blossom out of the Charismatic Renewal and how it has clearly lead to a change in his theology becoming "post-evangelical". Pragmatic changes in theology is not a new thing in my experience unfortunately. "Hope deferred makes the heart sick". It clearly cannot ever be a bad thing to hope and desire and long for "more" of God. But surely this has got to me married with a contentment that "it is well with my soul" where we are at the moment. And the two must be held in tension. Too much "it is well" leads to idleness and laziness. Clearly too much dissatisfaction leads to disappointment and disillusionment.
But that aside, the question still stands; why? Ern Baxter told the thousands gathered at the Dales Bible Week in 1976 that they stood at Kadesh in crisis - and they faced a choice. Go into land or turn back into the wilderness. I suggest that generation turned back and here we are in the wilderness. It is the intention of this entry to hold a public investigation and consider why they turned back and why hence we are in the wilderness as a national church.
Those 3 years of Bible Weeks were unquestionably remarkable (1975-77). The Lakes Bible Week 1975 was mentioned by Terry Virgo in his addresses to Brighton 2004 - Ern preached on the "King and His Army". At the Dales 1976 preached on "Where Are We Going?" - and his final address was "The Kadesh Crisis" - where he challenged them as I have mentioned. At the Dales Bible Week 1977 - he dealt with spiritual warfare and the "Binding of the Strongman". At the end of that week corporately the thousands gathered bound the Strongman of Great Britain and apparantly signs and wonders abounded that week - including angels singing.
So what then? The next year Bob Mumford was the keynote speaker due to Ern being ill and I don't know what the theme was. I do know that it didn't follow on from 1977. What a high point! This corporate act of spiritual warfare happened and then the churches went back to their homes - to what exactly? I investigated this a bit in my home church in Dunstable, who of course were all there - and I asked what happened. A post-charismatic elder put it bluntly; "It didn't work". Didn't it?
There is a whole issue here with the role of Ephesians 4 Ministries and what each minstry should accomplish. It is my belief that Ern Baxter came to the Dales Bible Week as an apostle with a prophetic anointing. He addressed a gathering of leaders at High Leigh Conference centre before the Dales and told them in detail what he wanted to do. Bryn Jones made it quite clear that Ern was to be welcomed in this apostolic/prophetic role. His prophetic anointing was to "see" what was going on in the UK and where they should be going. His apostolic anointing was to lay a foundation for the Charismatic Renewal in the UK - which I believe he did progressively at each Bible Week. However I wonder if the failure of the 1970's generation to go into the land and seize this vision presented to them was less to do with the fact that it simply "didn't work" and more to do with the pastor/teachers present (the forgotten Ephesians 4 Minstry) and what they did and did not do.
We hear a lot about apostles and prophets especially as they have been restored in this last century. There is a lot of defining about what they do and don't do - and what their role entails - -and I think that everyone assumes that the pastor/teacher just "is". He is the safe one. He has been there from before and will be there throughout. Yet I am asserting that the role of pastor/teacher is vital because he has the ability to hinder this vision (and clearly did) as well has having the ability to carry this glorious vision through to completion.
Before hackles rise, let me make it clear that I am fervently pro-the pastor/teacher. They are essential and must be honoured as the often-unsung ministry! My interest is that all the Ephesians 4 Ministries work together in fluid unity, so that if God in His mercy were ever to be gracious and allow us as a church to come back to the Kadesh Crisis - we would seize the vision and go into the land and possess it - driving out the giants before us!!
1. Pastor/Teachers Are Vital For Judging the Vision Presented.
When a vision is imparted by an apostle or prophet, there is a clear and definite mandate from the New Testament that pastor/teachers must discern carefully and protect their flock from error. This vision must be weighed! Is it of God? If so - it must be seized and carried. If not - it must be discarded and the people protected.
I wonder how much discussion went on after the sessions and the worship had finished at the Dales around campfires and caravans. I would hope and imagine a scene where eager church members would gather around their pastor and question him on what Ern Baxter had taught - hungry to know more. Then the pastor would teach more into what had been spoken from the platform that night. And together they would discuss what to do as a local church to carry that vision. That's what I hope happened anyway - I know that's what I would have done, had I been a little older than I was (my mother was 3 months pregant with me when they were at the Dales 1977).
2. Pastor/Teachers Are Vital For Watering the Vision Planted.
"I planted - Apollos watered - another ...". It is clear that Apostles and Prophets are mobile ministries designed and comissioned by the ascended Christ to "go" to regions beyond - (see Dave Holden's excellent article in the Newfrontiers magazine; http://newfrontiers.xtn.org/magazine/vol2issue5/article_index.php?id=167). They were never meant to stay long in one place - but the pastor/teacher was and is! He is entrusted with a local church. While he absolutely must maintain a "mobile" state of mind - his remit is the local people under his care.
Ern Baxter was in the United Kingdom for a few months at most in 1977. He taught solidly while he was there but then he left to go on abroad. Few in the local church would have had the chance to get close to him and get to know him. The vision he planted was left to the mercy of the pastor/teachers to water.
Again I hope and imagine that pastor/teachers would have taken time in their sermons throughout the year to urge, teach, preach and raise faith for the vision presented at the Dales Bible Week. Remember the Dales!! The Strongman is bound!! Let's go and plunder his possessions! Did that scenario happen? Or did churches return to their gentle enjoyment of the new songs learnt at the Dales, and seeing ones and twos receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and getting excited when they there was an odd spiritual gift in worship? And the Dales was only remembered by audiotape and a fond memory and a longing for "next year"?
I got hugely encouraged when my parents would tell me of stories at my home church in Dunstable when amazing things were accomplished through prayer. At some point during those years, there was drought around the Dunstable area and the church gathered on the Downs that surrounded the town and they prayed for rain ... and rain came. They prayed against an immoral night-club in the town and it was closed down. They prayed for the capture of a local rapist and murderer called the "Fox" and he was captured and caught - by a Christian policeman who went to my church!
3. Pastor/Teachers Are Vital For Reaping the Vision Proclaimed.
It is interesting that Moses never entered the land. He died on a mountainside looking at it. Just as Ern Baxter never entered the land as he envisioned it on earth. I believe he died on a mountaintop looking at it. Ern was committed to pastor/teachers - he didn't praise the idea of exalting apostles and prophets above them because that is not how the Bible sees it. Ern knew that pastor/teachers were vital for reaping the vision that he saw.
How will they reap? Because if they truly do capture the vision and water it - it will be through them and their local church that we enter the land. The glorious end time church will spread through the planting of local churches as will the gospel. I can't really reflect on the reaping of the vision at the Dales because I don't think we are at that stage yet. But I hope that by God's mercy we come to that stage again at some point.
I long for it.
And I believe when we do, Ern Baxter will be cheering us on from heaven.
It was really exciting to read this interview by Richard Cunningham - Head and Director of UCCF: http://www.adrian.warnock.info/2005/12/adrian-interviews-richard-cunningham.htm - it's a very comprehensive interview and really informative. I heard Richard Cunningham speak a couple of times at Birmingham Christian Union when I was on the Exec there - he is a brilliant speaker with an outstanding mind and a complete passion for the Gospel. It is clear from this interview that his heart is for the local church which is also amazing.
In the interview we are reminded that Terry Virgo was the keynote speaker at Relay - taking a series on Romans (do you remember how amazed I was?! ;) http://www.uccf.org.uk/resources/general/forum2005/index.php)
Richard Cunningham obviously has a high view of Terry as well; "Terry is a world-renowned Bible teacher with a high view of Scripture and believes passionately in proclamation evangelism".
A great interview and well worth reading!
Saturday, December 17, 2005
I actually quoted this when I summarised Spurgeon's sermon on; "Have you received?" a few blog entries ago, but this quote is worthy of repeating because the point is vital;
"Now I come to notice that this question is assuredly answerable. 'Have ye received the Holy Ghost?'. The notion has sprung up, you cannot tell whether you have the Holy Ghost or not; but you can. Give a man an electric shock and I warrant you he will know it. But if he has the Holy Ghost, he will know it much more".
There is a school of thought going around that receiving the Holy Spirit can be unconcious and simply happens automatically at conversion. It seems that C H Spurgeon and Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones would both strongly disagree with that. Note this is not a question of "when" receiving the Holy Spirit happens - it's a question of "what". Theologian J D G Dunn argued strongly against the 'second blessing' theology of the Pentecostals but interestingly enough argued that receiving the Spirit however must be experiential just as Richard Gaffin wrote that we should "know" for sure these things.
One of my favourite sections in the book I have just transcribed on the "Priestly Clothing" is where Dr Ern Baxter begins to examine the golden bells that lined the bottom of the High Priest's robe. The typology he brings out is breathtaking. Here's a sample:
"What are the golden bells? Well when the high priest came in once a year – he came all the way in and came into the Holy of Holies. And he came in with blood for the entire nation, which on the Day of Atonement would be a symbol or any other time, when Aaron would come in. When Aaron came in, if his offering was not acceptable to God you’d hear no noise. And you had good reason to believe that God had not accepted the sacrifice for the nation and that the high priest was dead. But as the high priest moved around putting the incense on the altar and scattering the blood on the altar and so on, the people could hear the bells and they knew that their high priest was alive.
Do you remember before Jesus went away, He said to His disciples – I want you to go to Jerusalem and tarry there until I send the promise of the Father? And they went and they were daily in the Temple praising and glorifying God. And when the Day of Pentecost had come they were altogether with one accord in one place and there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind and it filled all the place where they were sitting and cloven tongues as of fire sat on each of them and they were filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. What happened? They heard the bells of the High Priest acceptable offering in the Presence of God."
Baxter then goes on to speak of the assurance that the baptism of the Holy Spirit brings:
"I believe that one of the reasons that the baptism of the Holy Spirit and indeed the whole matter of the Holy Spirit has been so bitterly fought and contested even by people who should know better is because the Holy Spirit is the communication of God to men concerning the work of Jesus Christ in God’s Presence. And when God baptises you with the Holy Ghost you’ve received a bell-like communication from the Holy of Holies that Jesus Christ our great High Priest has accomplished His high priestly work of presenting His blood to the Father on our behalf.
And I don’t believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is some kind of fanatical peripheral experience for a few … freaks. I believe it is the normal experience of every child of God. Every child of God has the right to the evidence of the golden bells of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in his life to give him experiential knowledge in his own experience that Jesus Christ is alive and well in the Presence of god and that He accomplished the work that He went to do and He sent us back the high priestly message – “The blood has been accepted – the blood has been accepted”.
And when I’m worshipping God in the Spirit and I’m speaking in an unknown tongue and I’m edifying myself and entering into the Person and work and ministry of the Holy Spirit for me personally I am not only celebrating that as a blessing but I’m celebrating that as a declaration of the great fact of Jesus Christ continuing work in the Presence of God for me on the basis of His precious blood that I have been accepted in Christ – I have been sealed with the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption and the Holy Spirit is sounding in my heart the happy bell-like sounds that my redemption has been accomplished and that my high priest is doing His work and that I am accepted before the Father! And that’s what the Holy Spirit means to you as well as to me".
 Could this indeed be the primary reason for receiving the Holy Spirit in this sense? Dr Lloyd-Jones certainly would agree according to his sermons on Romans 8 and “Assurance”. He would call it the highest form of assurance one can receive. Thomas Goodwin, the great Puritan called it; “The next step before heaven”. Even the famous cessationist scholar Dr Richard B Gaffin said; “Not to experience the Spirit in a vital, transforming and thus powerful way is not to have the Spirit at all”. He said this in a conference in Seoul, South Korea to a Conference of Reformed Churches on the “Challenge of the Charismatic Movement to Reformed Churches”.
 Again ringing the bells.