Friday, March 31, 2006
So here it is - the fifth and final part of my series from the "Chief Shepherd and His Sheep" and Ern's autobiographical sketches. It is sufficient, I believe, to stand alone without being sullied and diluted by commentary or thoughts from myself so I have transcribed it and left it at that.
The Charismatic Movement - A Time to Grow Up.
"I returned to Vancouver and began teaching and preaching again at my church with a reduced emphasis in the area of supernatural manifestations. Then one day I picked up a magazine and read about an Episcopaelian priest named Dennis Bennett who had started speaking in tongues. Even some of his curates were doing so. My first thought was, "Here we go again". Later I learned that he had been sent off to a city in the northwest to minister at a small church, where I was sure he was meant to be forgotten. I discovered though that I myself could not forget about him, because his small church happened to be two blocks from a Bible college at which I regularly taught. We soon met.
As it turned out, God blessed his church with health and growth and Dennis himself developed a fine and growing ministry. He was full of vision and became a voice in the Charismatic Movement which had now begun. It was to be another exciting time of the visitation of the Holy Spirit. Ministers were coming together and hugging the necks of men to whom they had not spoken in years. Lutherans, Catholics, Presbyterians, Baptists - all on the same platform rejoicing in the "Unity of the Spirit".
Then as had happened too many times before the movement began to experience the problems that arise when the Spirit and the Word are not held in proper tension. The gifts of praise and worship seemed to become like parlour games that people enjoyed while sound doctrine seemed a drudgery that people avoided.
The Early 1970s
In the early 1970's when the Charismatic Renewal was in the midst of its birth-celebration period, a number of God's servants who had callings to teach became concerned about the need to begin considering the next step - maturing. Some of these people simultaneously began to teach on growth, discipleship, shepherding, order, relationship, order, covenant and other themes related to the whole process of growing up.
I began to express within my sphere of activity my concern for this growth process. In the church with which I was associated in Western Canada, I began to develop a series of teachings designed to encourage growth and development, both personal and corporate. I also shared these teachings in my travels. I began publishing a monthly magazine called New Covenant Times which featured my particular teaching concerns.
The "growth" emphasis led to a number of hopeful developments, one of which was the first Shepherds Conference in Leesburg, Florida. I was out of the country and unable to join the approximately 500 men who attended; but I did accept an invitation to address the more than 1, 700 men who attended the second conference held in Montreat, North Carolina in 1974, While at this conference I became associated with a group of brothers who were involved with "Christian Growth Ministries" and New Wine Magazine. As the name "Christian Growht" implies, we were concerned about the maturation of God's people.
My need for a relationship that was more brotherly that ministerial drew me to these brothers. I had been involved with ministerial relationships for years, but they had an unwritten definition of boundaries which shut out the candour and brotherly confrontation, the therapeutic openness that allows the exercise of healing love and support.
I was also drawn to the emphasis on shepherding. As pastor of a sizable congregation I had for years realised my inadequacy to care for so many people in the manner that the word "Shepherd" indicated. The new emphasis on quality pastoral care struck an immediatre note of response in my spirit.
Judging from the Shepherds Conference and subsequent developments, it seemed that a real need was being met in charismatic circles, bringing a widespread enthusiastic response. However there also developed an opposition which was to become painful and divisive. I have no desire in this writing to attempt an account of the confrontation other than to say that the whole matter, like other similar matters considered historically, could have been handled much more Christianly than it was.
I continue to see as Biblically true the principles that I came to understand in the 1970s that in the context of the "Faith" need to be taught. Despite the opposition I must continue to teach them. Any truth is liable to abuse and those truths associated with growth, discipleship, submission, order, authority and the like are no exception. The abuse of a truth however does not excuse us from embracing it and obeying it as it stands free of abuses. No truth held dear by sound-minded Christians has completely escaped distortion and misrepresentation that at times have made it unattractive, if not repulsive.
My intention here has been to help the people of God. We need to learn that no leader or individual can handle the supernatural without the balance of the Word. The result of such an attempt is Corinthianism, in which the gifts are functioning while the gifted are living carnally. On the other hand, we must understand that the Word of God without the supernatural becomes pedantic and lifeless. God never intended Christianity to be an either-or situation. The Spirit and the Word belong together. Each is tied to the other. It was that way at the creation - the Spirit moved in concert with the spoken Word and it remains that way today".
A Few Ern Baxter Bits and Pieces.
This is just a short note before I go home from work. I haven't forgotten my series that have been inspired from Ern's "Autobiographical Sketches". We looked at the Trossachs Experience and saw the importance of small groups and conferences. We then moved on to the tension between "Word and Spirit" or Reformed Doctrine and Charismatic Experience, and saw quite a conversation develop from that. We then touched on the "Healing Movement and the Latter Rain Movement" and the tremendous degree of anointing and power that was present in those unique times. But regretfully had to ask "Why the Ebb?" and again a very profitable conversation developed as to learning from the mistakes of Nadab and Abihu and ensuring that should God visit our land again in revival, we do not abandon the Word of God and His laws!
There is one more post that I have to come - it will be exciting and should not be missed! Ern Baxter on the Charismatic Movement.
I wanted to thank Gavin White again for putting me onto the glorious riches of the internet. I got hold of this unique book from Abebooks. It is the best of the New Wine articles from 1969 to 1979. Regretfully Ern Baxter only contributed 2 chapters but the other chapters more than make up for it. Don Basham, Charles Simpson and Bob Mumford are unsurprisingly the other main contributors and a huge rich area of subjects are discussed. I will be reading it as from today and will definately post anything worthy of a hearing. Charles Simpson said in the introduction that the articles and material are "timeless". That is still my conviction and just because the book has gone out of print and is rare, the material is still timeless and needs to be heard!
Thursday, March 30, 2006
I realised this morning that it has been some time since I have written about Dr Sam Storms. He makes the short list of living heroes that I have and there is strict criteria that enables entry to that list! I have only heard Dr Storms once at the Life in the Spirit conference last year. He was absolutely superb - speaking three times on "Divine Election" and once on the Gift of Prophecy. He will be speaking again at Life in the Spirit next year and I cannot recommend him enough! While he has a high profile in the USA, recently lecturing at Wheaton College, Illinois, he still does not have (to my mind) a significantly high enough profile in the United Kingdom - so this is a plea from me. This man is solid gold! Hear him! Why so? Aside from Terry Virgo, I have not seen a servant of God (since Ern Baxter) who absolutely encapsulates the passions of Reformed Doctrine and Charismatic Experience.
To give a taster of his outstanding minstry I want to present a Spurgeon-esque "Smooth Stones from Ancient Brooks" method of what Sam Storms has to say on various key issues. I hope that this stirs an interest in the ministry of this extrodinary man of God. These quotes are all taken from his excellent website, "Enjoying God Ministries".
"Does Scripture teach that apostleship was restricted to the first century church? No. Are there apostles today? I certainly believe that it is the agenda of the Holy Spirit to bring them forth before the coming of the Lord".
"Paul anticipated that every time Christians gathered for worship that, at least potentially, "each" believer would come with or contribute, among other things, a "revelation" (1 Cor. 14:26). He anticipated that a normal part of Christian experience was receiving revelatory data or insight from God.
It is difficult to read his instruction for corporate worship and conclude that he viewed all revelatory, and thus prophetic, ministry as foundational for the universal church. There must have been thousands upon thousands of revelations and prophetic utterances throughout the hundreds of churches over the course of the years between Pentecost and the close of the NT canon. Are we to believe that this multitude of people and their even greater multitude of prophetic words constituted the once-for-all foundation of the church?"
"The fact remains that the principal concern of the Son after his resurrection is the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church for the perpetuation of the divine mission He initiated ... The Spirit who was once given and now indwells each believer is continually given to enhance and intensify our relationship with Christ and to empower our efforts in ministry".
"To be filled with the Spirit is to come under progressively more intense and intimate influence of the Spirit. Results:
"As much as I respect the giants of the Reformation and of other periods in church history, I intend to emulate the giants of the NT who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I admire John Calvin, but I obey the apostle Paul.
In sum, neither the failure nor success of Christians in days past is the ultimate standard by which we determine what God wants for us today. We can learn from their mistakes as well as their achievements. But the only question of ultimate relevance for us and for this issue is: “What saith the Scripture?”
"There are people, professing Christian people, who are determined to bring you under their religious thumb. They are bent on making you a slave of their conscience. They have built a tidy religious box, without biblical justification, and strive to stuff you inside and make you conform to its dimensions. They are legalists, and their tools are guilt, fear, intimidation, and self-righteousness. They proclaim God’s unconditional love for you, but insist on certain conditions before including you among the accepted, among the approved elite, among God’s favored few.
I’m talking about Christian legalists whose goal is to enforce conformity among other Christians in accordance with their personal preferences. These are life-style legalists. They threaten to rob you of joy and to squeeze the intimacy out of your relationship with Jesus. They may even lead you to doubt your salvation. They heap condemnation and contempt on your head so that your life is controlled and energized by fear rather than freedom and joy and delight in God".
"The gospel will also sustain a positive influence in every sphere of society: the economic, political, and cultural life of mankind will be vastly improved. Therefore, this triumph or victory of the Church in the present age is not simply the spiritual/invisible victories in the Christian’s heart or the internal blessings privately experienced by the Church. The prosperity is such as will be visibly and publicly acknowledged. Every domain of human activity will be renewed according to Christian principles and thus brought into service for the glory of Jesus Christ".
"1. True revival is a sovereign work of God (Zech. 4:6). In other words, revival is always a miracle. Revival is not "in our pocket." We can neither command revival nor predict it.
2. True revival is a surprising work of God. This is because revival is a gracious work of God. No one deserves revival. One may never expect what one does not deserve.
2. True revival is a sudden work of God. It frequently comes without preparation or planning. Revival is like the sudden spring thunderstorm that bursts from the sky when only moments before the sun shown brightly".
"The ultimate goal of theology is not knowledge, but worship. If our learning and knowledge of God do not lead to the joyful praise of God, we have failed. We learn only that we might laud. Another way of putting it is to say that theology without doxology is idolatry. The only theology worth studying is a theology that can be sung".
"We are eternally secure because God is eternally committed to keeping and sustaining us in that faith in Jesus apart from which there is no hope for life. My ultimate confidence is not in the power of my will to believe but in the promise of God to graciously cause me to persevere in faith in Jesus.
Do I believe in the “eternal security” of the elect? I most certainly do".
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Can I say again how grateful I am to the comments I have received regarding the transcripts I recently completed on the "Priestly Clothing". It really means a lot to me to know that Ern Baxter's teaching is being appreciated and soaked up and heard again - I can't express how it thrills me. A big thank you too to Gavin White for sending his readers to the transcripts and also of course to my friend Hugh for making the transcripts available in PDF format. I value you guys so much!
I have been asked by a number of people to say a little bit more about a comment I made as to learning from Nadab and Abihu. There has been a great discussion going on about learning from the ebbs in the Healing Movement and the Latter Rain Movement that Ern Baxter saw in his lifetime. This came through in the autobiographical sketches that I have been posted for the last couple of days and I felt that we can learn much from the sermon at the end of his series of the "Priestly Clothing" called "Strange Fire". I do appreciate that not everyone has the time to read the entire manuscript so for that purpose I am going to try and highlight what we can learn from these two sons of Aaron in light of the movements of the Holy Spirit.
1. "As the Lord commanded Moses".
Ern began his sermon on "Strange Fire" by reading his text: Leviticus 8 and he noted that the phrase, "As the Lord commanded Moses" appeared numerous amounts of times. He read the text in quite a dramatic fashion - all monotone apart from the phrase, "As the Lord commanded Moses" - which he read slowly and loudly. It had quite an effect on the audience at the Bible Week! He then said this:
"Now you may not like me reading that chapter – you say that’s so dull and boring. Why doesn’t he sing a snappy chorus and bless us? Well I’m trying to tell you something – that many of us are in trouble today even as Christians because we have not consulted our authority on how to handle some aspect of our life. And it’s all in the Word! That’s why God went to trouble of giving us an inscripturated Word which He has supernaturally perpetuated down through the centuries and preserved to us in the face of the devil and all his demons and all the lost ness of men who’ve tried to destroy it because it’s a constant rebuke to them. You and I owe to ourselves to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that we will know how to handle our lives in a godly way. Okay?
So you read Leviticus and Exodus and Deuteronomy and all those other books because in them you will find that God is a God of detail and He didn’t waste all that paper and ink just to confuse us. I’m dead serious. I appreciate your jovial response – but I am dead serious. I think I would have been a much better Christian if I’d given more attention to this Word and I’ve attended to it fairly well. But I think I could have attended to it better. This is a tremendous Book! Man this has got everything in here. This holy almanac – it’s tremendous!"
So the clear message is that the Word of God is ESSENTIAL to God manifesting His glory. Absolutely essential!
2. Three Essentials to the Manifestation of God's Glory.
"i. The Word. Moses said when you have followed the Lord’s instructions; His glory will appear to you. Now that’s very simple. Do you think that’s still a valid recipe? Does that make you suspicious like it does me that there may be some areas where we are not following His Word?
ii. The Blood. You know I’m tempted tonight to get off on everyone of these points and do an hour. The importance of the blood! The basic importance of redemption! Don’t ever forget that the blood is basically important! You and I are here tonight because of the blood. You and I have the Holy Ghost tonight because of the blood. You and I have a Bible in our hands because of the blood – we have pastors because of the blood. We have ongoing blessing because of the blood. We have heaven because of the blood, everything we have – we have because of the blood. The Word and the blood are basic to the manifestation of the glory.
iii. Obedience. The Word, the Blood and obedience. Christianity is not the consensus viewpoint of a lot of professional religious leaders. Christianity is a divine supernatural revelation of the holy requirements of the holy requirements of a holy God imposed on unholy creatures which they can respond to or not respond to or not respond but will not be changed".
3. Nadab and Abihu's Sin.
This is the essence of what I believe we must learn if we are to experience another move of the Holy Spirit and behave properly. I think it is absolutely essential the more and more I meditate on these things. Charisma does not negate the need for character! Ern Baxter saw two aspects to Nadab and Abihu's sin:
i. They usurped their office. It was not enough that they were ordinary priests; they tried to fill dad’s shoes. Can I pause there and make an observation and I do this with considerable pain. I travelled with William Branham and he was probably the most gifted of all the healers. His supernatural gift was absolutely astounding and astonishing and 100% accurate within its boundaries. But William Branham always fancied himself as being some kind of a Bible teacher, and he left a bad legacy of error. The Bible says you are to remain in your calling. God has given you a calling and He has given you a measure of grace. When you find out what your measure is, you stay in that measure. When a miracle worker tries to be a Bible teacher or a Bible teacher tries to be a miracle worker you’ve got problems because God didn’t call a miracle worker to be a Bible teacher and vice versa. When they cross over the boundaries of their calling, they’ve got to deal with the God of their calling.
How many understand what I’m saying now? This is solemn business. When I travelled with William Branham, well meaning friends of mine would says; “Oh brother Ern wouldn’t it be terrific if God gave you brother Branham’s gift?”. “No” I said, “I don’t want brother Branham’s gift! I don’t think I could handle it. I like my own gift. I know what I am, I’m happy with what I am. I’m just a Bible explainer and exhorter and I’m just happy with it. I don’t want his gift”. But you see they were already baiting me! The suggestion was, well have you tried it? You don’t try a gift – you exercise a gift! A lot of people try gifts – you’ve got to have one, before you can use it. You don’t get the same effect by simulating. Now Nadab and Abihu were not Aaron. Well why do you want to be Aaron if you’ve already got an obvious gifting? Already they’d be anointed – their earlobe, their big thumb and their big toe. They were anointed to walk with God in their calling. That’s the meaning of the blood on their earlobe, thumb and their large toe of the right foot. To hear His voice, to do what He says and to go where He wants you to go because the blood is on you! And the anointing oil! Not only the blood brought to do it, but the anointing to enable you to do it. And that’s all you’re to do! Stay in your calling.
That wasn’t all. When they were going to do what they shouldn’t do and that is to go in and offer incense on this altar which was the prerogative of their father and not their prerogative. Instead of taking the supernatural fire off this burnt altar which was part of the divinely ordained liturgy, they went over here and got some fire probably from one of the big boiling pots used for boiling the sacrificial meat. They got ordinary fire that man had kindled. And they brought that incense in, usurped father Aaron’s place and brought in strange fire. As they were about to offer it on this altar – fire came out from God and consumed them. Now here’s an interesting thing dear people.
ii. They had the right incense but the wrong fire and they were the wrong people. What is the right incense? Well the right incense is the content of our worship. You can read about that incense in Exodus chapter 30 verse 34 to the end of the chapter and I haven’t time to talk to you about it other than to say that God told Moses that this incense was to be made from God’s recipe and that it wasn’t to be used for man. It was specifically for God. Now I talked to you a little last night about prayer. I simply need to say to you that the content of our worship and approach to God must come from the Word of God. It must be divinely ordained incense. I can’t develop this other than to say I shudder as I hear what some people bring into the Presence of God in the name of worship, in the name of prayer – yes and in the name of praise. Some of the carnal, ungodly shenanigans that are done presumably in the Presence of God to worship God are not the incense of God’s divine recipe.
Now they had the right incense but the wrong fire. What is the right fire? Well the right fire is the supernaturally once-for-all kindled fire that shall never go out. For us in the New Testament it’s having access to God by the Holy Spirit. God is seeking those to worship Him who will worship him in spirit (that’s the right fire) and in truth (that’s the right incense). One more thing they did and then we’ll talk about it and close. When they took that incense – the right incense, but the wrong fire – they came in father Aaron’s place. Do you know what they were doing? They were coming in their own name. Aaron was the only one who had a right to come. Now what does this mean? Why is the Bible so insistent that we come to God through Jesus Christ? Why is that? Because I cannot come to God apart from Jesus Christ. They tried to come to God apart from Aaron. The only way incense on the altar had any meaning to Nadab and Abihu and Ithemar and all the rest of them – the only way that had value to them was through their high priest. When they tried to bypass their high priest they were killed. You and I only can come to the Father by Jesus Christ – there is no other way".
iii. They were under the influence of 'strong drink'. It is clear that the Lord knew that strong drink would be a temptation to His people because in verse 9 of Ern's text, it says; "Now the Lord instructed Aaron; ‘Never drink wine or strong drink when you go into the Tabernacle lest you die!". If it was true then, then it must be true now - and that doesn't mean necessarily literal alcohol. Ern defined 'strong drink' as:
"I think strong drink stands for any stimuli that you and I permit in replacement for the Spirit of God".
He then went on:
"I am saying to you that when you’re coming to the Presence of God just like this – you’re coming into assembly. You’re coming in with the community of God’s people and you better come in prepared and then live in the light of the supernatural Spirit of God, feed upon the anointed Word and offer your supernatural praise to a supernatural God. You don’t need false stimulus for that! There’s enough light from the menorah and there’s enough energy from the Word to give you all that you need to raise holy hands and magnify God. You don’t need to be stimulated by false stimuli – certainly not strong drink or anything else".
This whole aspect of "simulating the Spirit" is something that Ern Baxter touched on again in his outstanding message that he preached in Dunstable called "Sovereign Surprises". It is incredible but I have seen it happen in churches and I am amazed at how easily it can happen. The temptation seems to occur in churches who call themselves "charismatic" or claim to have a "charismatic dimension". I have stood in times of worship when the Spirit of God was clearly not moving and the piano player was deliberately encouraged by the pastor to carry on playing ... waiting for something. Nothing happened apart from the continued piano playing and I was puzzled when the pastor stood up with water-filled eyes and said how wonderful "it" was. What was "it"? Nothing happened! Most of the congregation - like myself - were looking around.
Now there is a careful balance here. I am absolutely in favour of "lingering in the Presence of God". That is not disputable. But the question in my mind as I consider Nadab and Abihu is this: when does lingering become simulating? I remember Dr R T Kendall said he believed that God once spoke to him and said, "I'm not speaking much these days but everybody thinks I am". I think that we must allow God the Holy Spirit His right not to do anything or speak if He isn't speaking or doing anything. It is hard! Especially if we call ourselves charismatic! But simulating the Spirit is a sin - and Nadab and Abihu died for it. What is abundantly clear to me from the "Priestly Clothing" series is that God is eager to demonstrate His glory and manifest Himself to us. "I will be their God and they will be My People". We are nothing without His Presence! As I have quoted many times before, Terry Virgo said: "I hate church that isn't church!". What did he mean by that? I suspect he meant that he hated church where the Presence of God was little known!
Let us never EVER be satisfied with anything less than the genuine manifest Presence of God! But if God chooses in His sovereignity not to manifest Himself then let us NEVER EVER try and simulate Him. Let me close with Ern Baxter's prayer from the sermon, "Sovereign Surprises". It sums up beautifully what I have been trying to say:
"God I’m a candidate for a surprise! I can’t make it happen. God I deplore the pornography, the sexual perversion, the permissiveness in society! I deplore it God! But unless you rend the heavens and come down and I’m saying to you this morning, God I’m not going to lift a carnal finger to make a good meeting – I will worship you and keep my spirit open but I won’t simulate a prophecy and I won’t manufacture a healing. But God, like the ancient king with the women and children when our enemies are so vast that they intimate and appal us – here we stand. Our eyes are upon you! God this morning our eyes are on you! We’re not match for international problems – we’re no match for this thing or that. We’re Abraham in Ur – we’re a little boy in a manger! We’re a child in a carpenters shop! As far as the world is concerned they walk right past our door. They don’t hate us! We don’t even deserve their hatred. They ignore us. If they hated us it would mean that we drew their attention but they don’t hate us because they don’t even know we’re here.
And God there is no way we are going to try and make it happen. We’re not going to go out and confront them on the street – no we don’t want that Lord! But oh! Rend the heavens and come down! Visit this vine which Thou hast planted! This is Your people Lord! You said you’d prune and visit and water them! You said you’d make them flourish and make them grow! And God we want to open our hearts to that element of surprise that has characterised You from that moment when You spoke worlds into existence right down to the time when you incarnated Yourself in the virgin womb of a peasant girl! Right down to that time when You came into our lives with such an impact of Your glory that we didn’t expect. Do it again Lord! Do it again!"
Monday, March 27, 2006
I am really glad that this series of sketches seem to be useful and are raising important discussions about God and His glory. It has reminded me that we cannot take this issue of "Word and Spirit" for granted, that again, like grace, it is a constant that we have to pursue and not just rest on our laurels. We must constantly strive to be people of the Word but welcoming the Spirit with all our hearts. Today's extract considers why movements of such power and anointing as the Healing and Latter Rain movements could ebb. It's negative - but needs to be heard and learnt so we do not make the same mistakes again.
Why the Ebb?
"At the height of the excitement, a couple of questions becamne the whispered fear of many who had joyfully experienced the Pentecostal Movement. Why did there seem to be a decline in the charismatic activity of the Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal Movement? Would the same happen again in the Healing and the Latter Rain Movements? Many people hungering for more of the pie wanted to keep this piece. No one who has known such moves of God wants to lose the exciting times when God manifests His Presence in such a vivid manner.
My own fears were realised as I saw both of these movements begin to experience problems. In my view, they had not become grounded in the great objective principles of the Bible and were falling prey to the error of those who practice subjective Christianity that is not disciplined by the Word. My concern led me to challenge one leader to get the movement back under the disciplines of the Word before the movement became dissapated by error. He indulged me my comments but obviously considered them an intrusion. Who could think God would insist on biblical disciplines when He was visiting His people with such magnificent signs and wonders? Certainly these disciplines were important but not all that important. What mattered was that God was moving and His moving was an obvious endorsement of the way things were. Doctrines could be worried about later.
Two years later, as I lunched with the same leader, he lamented that both movements had skyrocketed and were now plummeting. A variety of behavioural and operational irregularities were surfacing, and when those involved were confronted, the following attitude appeared, "Who could question men whom God had so anointed?". It is sad to see the ebb of a movement of God but I believe that until we learn the lessons that God is teaching us and has taught us through past moves of the Spirit, we will continue to grieve the Holy Spirit and see movements suffer the same fate. The gifts of the Spirit must not be divorced from the Word or the Spirit!
The Healing Movement quietened down and I left the Branham ministry in disillusionment, questioning everything to do with the supernatural. Undoubtedly I had seen the supernatural and it was real, but I had at the same time seen uncorrected sin, corruption and unsound doctrine. It seemed like a modern replay of Corinthianism, which like other errors perenially plagues the church. The existence together of spiritual gifts and sin can cause great disillusionment for the naive in Christ. I had seen numerous supernatural manifestations, not the maudlin push-em-down-if-they-don't fall ones but real manifestations that I was convinced were absolutely authentic. However I had also seen gross irregularites in the midst of these impressive charismatic events".
1. Strange Fire. As I typed Ern's words about his fears of error in both movements, my mind kept going back again and again to his final sermon in the "Priestly Clothing" series - "Strange Fire". "Who could think God would insist on biblical disciplines when He was visiting His people with such magnificent signs and wonders?" Even if your heart fails you at reading the complete transcript of the entire series, I urge you to go to Mark's website and read that sermon. Because to me, that is exactly the error that Nadab and Abihu (Aaron's sons) made. God had come down! He was visiting His people in unprecedented power and glory! They hadn't seen anything like this in Egypt! And so the disciplines of God seemed somewhat unimportant and they (according to the Scriptures) consumed wine and went into the Presence of God with strange fire and died for their troubles.
If it could happen to two priests in Exodus, then it is my conviction that it has happened down again and again through the ages - that there is some tendency within us, that when God starts to move - we think that He has let His laws drop. He hasn't! And He never will! We are His People! The People of God! And we are His trophy - a display to the principalities and powers, and if we break His commands, He will not 'wink at our errors'. He will have to move because He is primarily God and He is holy.
2. The Manifestations Were Real. Note Ern Baxter's complete disillusionment with the Movements - this is understandable. In my meagre experience, I have seen two men of God that I hugely respect turn their backs completely on anything charismatic because of error. I don't understand their pragmatic changes in theology, but I do understand the disillusionment. I am heartened that throughout his ministry, Ern never once called the signs and wonders that he saw with Branham diabolical. They were genuine. But the character was lacking to go along with the charismata. I can do no better than finish with Ern's own words;
"It is sad to see the ebb of a movement of God but I believe that until we learn the lessons that God is teaching us and has taught us through past moves of the Spirit, we will continue to grieve the Holy Spirit and see movements suffer the same fate. The gifts of the Spirit must not be divorced from the Word or the Spirit!"
Saturday, March 25, 2006
I am really enjoying the conversation that has been stirred from my post yesterday on Ern's reflections on the concept of "Word and Spirit". There's a lot there to chew over. I started a transcript that I hope will help this conversation - just before Ern Baxter died, he spoke at New Covenant Church in Dunstable (my home church) on precisely this subject, "The Spirit and the Word" - and obviously had the freedom to go into it in more detail. I will post this as soon as possible. While I don't want the discussion to stop - this next section of Ern's autobiography could add something to the discussion. It is a reflection of his involvement in the Healing Movement with William Branham and then the Latter Rain Movement. Potential for controversy warning here!
The Healing Movement.
"I received a call from a church in Vancouver, B.C which was the fruit of a Methodist minister. I arrived to find a congregation of about 60 people who met in a rented facility that included 100 straight backed chairs. I began to preach the whole counsel of God and the people and the church began to grow. Soon by God's grace the place was packed so we relocated to a rollerskaing rink which we refurbished. Subsequent growth required larger facilities and we finally purchased a former Presbyterian building.
Almost from the beginning of my stay in Vancouver, I began to receive invitations to travel; and it was during these travels in 1947, that I picked up a magazine while on a plane and read about a man named William Branham. He had a unique supernatural gift of healing and was attracting large audiences throughout the USA and Canada (and eventually abroad). He was to become the focal point of a the great Healing Movement of that time and it was at his meetings, that many would receive the call into the healing ministry. As it turned out, Mr Branham happened to be ministering in the city to which I was flying. As I got off the plane, I was immediately asked by my friends if I would be interested in hearing him.
We went that evening. We could approach no closer than half a block from the church because the building was filled to capacity and the overflow had gathered outside around loudspeakers that were relaying the service. My host asked if I wanted to meet with Mr Branham. I declined. I felt God impressed me that if such a meeting were His will, He would arrrange it with no striving from me. I later left for Vancouver.
Upon my arrival in Vancouver, I discovered that Mr Branham's fame had preceded me. My congregation was excited. Some planned to travel over the mountains to Calgary where he was to minister next, and I decided to accompany them. The meeting was dynamic and we returned home excited. Later a group of Vancouver ministers decided to bring him to the city. It was during his visit that I met him and we became friends.
Not long after he had returned home to Jeffersonville, Indiana, he phoned me to say that while he was at his prayer place down by the Ohio River, an angel of the Lord had spoken to him, telling him that he should invite Ern Baxter to be his travelling companion in ministry.
The Latter Rain.
At that time another significant move of the Spirit called the Latter Rain was occuring. It had begun in my home town of Saskatoon, in Saskatchewan, Canada, among men who had seen the Pentecostal Movement lose much of its power and who were hungry anew for God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As they had fasted and prayed, God had sovereignly visited them. I attended their second convention in Edmonton Canada and witnessed a concentration of the power of God such as I had not seen before. During my involvement with this movement and with the Branham ministry, I saw not only a tremendous manifestation of God's power but also unbelievably huge crowds of as many as 200, 000 people responding to God. What a remarkable time it was!".
There are a number of key points that I see here:
1. Wait for the Timing of the Lord.
I am impressed that when offered a chance to meet William Branham, Ern Baxter turned it down. His reason? He felt that if such was of the Lord, then the Lord would see it happen - which of course He did. I read that C H Spurgeon urged his pastoral students to resist marriage and the ministry for as long as they could. If they ended up in it - then it was obviously of God's will. Yet I do think this attitude is very rare. I have seen many men desperate for position and recognition in the church get up to the most nauseous antics so that they may get some chance to be given recognition in the church. Mostly they achieved their goal and were given offices as elders, home group leaders, worship leaders. But I wonder - how did it fit in with the timing of the Lord? It's very tempting to resort to worldly methods when you feel that God has passed you by (i.e Abraham going into Hagar). How many of us have the patience to wait on God for HIS timing?
2. The Latter Rain blossomed out of Hunger.
The Latter Rain is more infamous now because of the doctrinal error that evolved from it, yet it is interesting to read that Ern Baxter saw it happen through people who were tired of the Pentecostal Movement dying and losing it's power. What did they do? They met and they prayed and they fasted and God visited them! I realise we only have Ern's testimony to go on - but this sounds to me like the Latter Rain Movement started off as a genuine move of the Spirit of God. But as Dave said so rightly in the comment section of the last post, it isn't the Holy Spirit who requires stewarding - it is us. Quite how the Latter Rain and the Healing Movement fell into error and lost the anointing of God is something for tomorrow. Yes ... I WILL be writing again tomorrow - but for the sake of our angry anonymous visitor I WILL also be going to church - and I cannot WAIT! ;)
3. We have much to go in our experience of God.
I read such calm words in this book, "An angel of the Lord told him that Ern Baxter should be his companion ... I witnessed a concentration of the Spirit like never seen before" and I realise again that I am so SO hungry and so SO unsatisfied. We haven't even begun in our experience of what could be in God. I realise that we are not to seek after these things soley - because of the danger of error, but I question why God is so quiet in His divine intervention today. Do we need to follow the example of those in Canada - to meet and pray and fast and call on God till He come? I long to see angels again! My dad never grows tired to telling me of the angelic manifestations that happened at the Dales Bible Week 1976. These things happened! Even Ern himself wrote that non-Christians in neighbouring villages in Harrowgate complained at the sound of singing coming from the cowsheds at dead of night! I think we can be permitted to allow ourselves a degree of hungering after more of heaven's life intervening on earth.
Friday, March 24, 2006
Yesterday I began sharing some extracts from Ern's autobiographical sketch that he includes in his superb book on shepherding called, "The Chief Shepherd and His Sheep". It was very stirring for me to re-transcribe the material from his "Trossachs Experience" where a man came to his house, and commissioned him and they went together to a large conference where he received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I saw the importance of small groups and remembered the concept of "Sovereign Surprises" - how we never know when God may "break out" into our lives and change the course of our stories. Today I wanted to move on and address the dilemma that Ern's Trossachs Experience put him in. It was a dilemma that was to keep him for the rest of his life.
Word and Spirit.
"My desire to walk in this balance put me in a dilemma. I was eager to embrace both sound Biblical teaching and the gift and gifts of the Holy Spirit. However the doctrinal side of me was unacceptable to the Pentecostals, and the pentecostal side of me was unacceptable to the Evangelicals. Most churches were seperated from one another according to emphasis and this segregation was dramatic and complete, a divorce that allowed for no toleration of one by the other. To try and embrace both emphases was to forfeit one's acceptance by either. In retrospect I realise that many good men involved in maintaining this tension faced the same dilemma. Consequently some chose to play down their pentecostal experiences in order to be acceptable to evangelical Christians, and some who made this choice became prominent in evangelical circles. (I would question whether or not this is still going on today).
As I was experiencing the ministry of the Holy Spirit, my call to serve God became very clear. I "knew" God wanted me to preach, and considering my providential circumstances - my exposure to two emphases that were mutually exclusive to much of the body of Christ - the working out of this call was to prove difficult. Unlike those who were yielding to the pressure to choose one or the other, I foudn myself compelled by conviction to embrace what I saw to be the whole counsel of God.
For a time I was able to move in a relatively small circle of like-minded men who discipled me in the Scriptures and the Spirit. All was well. But as my abilities in God's service developed it became apparant that I was being called to a larger sphere of activity. Some Pentecostal leaders approached me about ministering among them and I candidly shared my doctrinal convictions, affirming that these might hinder my usefulness and could eventually precipitate problems. The leaders felt certain that my views would not hinder me, but that on the contrary my contribution would be a blessing. I would also be able to broaden my sphere of usefulness. I relented, accepting their offer and became the pastor of a country church. Indeed I did experience blessing, and the church grew, however my original protestations proved prophetic. An unpleasant confrontation developed and my associations with the Pentecostal denominations were severed.
At that time, God put into my heart the Scripture that says, "If thou wilt walk in My ways and if thou wilt keep My charge ... I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by" (Zech 3:7 KJV). This assurance helped me to handle the pain of what I felt to be a severe and unfair handling of my life and service for God by the Pentecostal leaders. (Since then I have had fruitful and pleasant relationships with many "official" Pentecostal leaders).
I realised that God was challenging me to make a choice. Since the Pentecostals no longer desired my service, I could surpress my charismatic experience as others had done and go into other denominations or I could stay true to my convictions and trust God for the outcome. I came close to yielding to the temptation to hide my charismatic light under a bushel and going into the denominations where I would find "respectability" and "security". Yet the challenge persisted: could I trust God and embrace His whole counsel? I considered the possible isolation and loneliness that such a course could produce. However it quickly became clear that such possibilities were no argument for evading the will of God. Loneliness and isolation were a small price to pay for a clear conscience.
The whole counsel of God as I saw it, was like a whole pie cut into sections. One section was water baptism, one was the baptism of the Holy Spirit, one the authority of the Word, one the deity of Christ and so on. Unfortunately the body of Christ was so divided that Christians were being forced to choose certain pieces of the pie and by default, to lose the rest of the pie in the process. I did not want to be forced into taking just a piece and missing all the other good things. I therefore decided to trust God and preach to whomever would have me. I chose the whole counsel of God".
I think again we can learn some relevent truths from Ern's account.
1. Hiding charismatic light will still provide "respectability" and "security". Despite the century we have had of Pentecostal and charismatic experience, I believe that there is still a certain "respectability" and "security" that one can gain by downgrading charismatic life and seeking solace in the Reformed Evangelical circles. The tendancy of the Charismatic Movement to not provide careful scholarship and theology for what we believe is valid Christian biblical experience has often forced this temptation and Christian leaders, pastors and churches are still being tempted to make this choice. Yet as Ern said, what price for a clear conscience? It is interesting that at the end of his life in 1991 when he stood in the pulpit of New Covenant Church, Dunstable he could say (somewhat like Paul) with a clear conscience, "For sixty years I have enjoyed and relished charismatic life and I wouldn't change that for ... anything".
2. The divorce between Word and Spirit is still as strong and difficult.
While we have many groups of churches and leaders to be grateful for in attempting to re-marry these two dimensions, I still see time after time the choice between Word and Spirit made - and sometimes it is quite unconsious! Sometimes it is just a "drift" due to theological preferences. We have much to be grateful for to Ern Baxter himself, to Dr R T Kendall, to Dr Sam Storms and to Newfrontiers as well as Ministries without Borders (formerly CMI) for being just some key people to stand as fast as they can in marrying these two - Reformed Doctrine and Charismatic Experience.
3. Obedience to God often entails Loneliness.
I am profoundly challenged by this truth. At what price do we seek friendship with all, unity with all? While unity around the gospel when it happens genuinely is a marvellous thing, church history often shows that obedience to God and true commitment to His Word entails being forced to walk alone for a time. Ern Baxter made that decision even though it meant leaving a large successful Pentecostal ministry. Yet he did it because he had a vision for his life - and that vision grasped and consumed him. I wonder - do we have a vision that will carry us through the loneliness and the solitude? Jesus Christ Himself had a vision that carried Him through Gethsemane and Calvary; "For the joy set before Him ... He endured". I suppose one could argue that Jesus Himself was a Christian hedonist!
Thursday, March 23, 2006
A number of people have emailed me asking me a little bit more about Ern Baxter's life history - with special interest in how he developed such a passion for Word and Spirit. There is a great need for a biography of Ern I think, especially now one is available for Derek Prince (which I highly recommend by the way). The best source for Ern's history came from Ern himself. This is largely available in the book, "Life on Wings" that I transcribed - a series of interviews with Ern. His calling and conversion formed the first part of the interviews. They are available here - kindly hosted by my friend Mark. Ern wrote another book before his death entitled "The Chief Shepherd and His Sheep" which is largely to do with shepherding. But it does have a short autobiography at the beginning. It is available on Amazon used books every now and then. Here is a short extract concerning a powerful experience he had at a conference (yes ... a CONFERENCE!)
"The Trossachs Experience.
Not long after, a man who was to have a lifelong experience on me came into our city. He was a well to do farmer who had sold all of his possessions and had begun pouring the proceeds into the gospel by travelling around and planting churches. I had become deeply involved in music and my father embarressed me one night by suggesting that I play the piano and sing for this man. Such a request was uncharacteristic of my father, yet God used it to begin a new phase in my life. When the minister heard my performance he invited me to travel with him in his ministry. Having already dedicated myself to the Lord's service, I found the decision easy to make. I left with him immediately.
We soon arrived in Western Canada at Trossachs, a small country town named after a beautiful area in Scotland. Every year, a large Bible conference was held near Troassachs and this conference had become a vital place of ministry. Here, at 3:40am in the morning on July 2nd 1932 I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. While I did not understand this experience doctrinally, I did know that it was real like nothing I had ever before experienced.
The conference was a unique combination of excellent classical Bible teaching and the fulness of the Holy Spirit. The people who attended had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and sang with enthusiastic joy. They were indeed pentecostal but not in the denominational sense or doctrinal sense. At the same time, they were devoted to the Word. This emphasis on the Word balanced with an emphasis on the charismatic experience was a rare combination in those days".
If this interest in Ern's history continues, I can continue to transribe some more of that detail. I find that history HUGELY exciting for several reasons.
1. Small groups are key in the purposes of God. Sometimes our expectation of God's "breaking out" into our history is often based on larger meetings - say the Sunday meetings of our churches or even bigger conferences. Ern's call into this first form of ministry was based on him playing for a visitor. "We entertain angels unawares". I went to my church cell group last night and was blessed beyond words. The cell leader's wife who doesn't know me deeply brought a picture from the Spirit for me that was spot on. She took a step of faith and encouraged me deeply in where I am going at present. Let's never despise the small group! We never know what may happen!
2. Even then, Ern was ready for a "Sovereign Surprise". I don't think you can ever be too old or too young for God to break into your life with a "Now" word. Youth must not be despised neither must maturity. The question is not how old you are - but are you ready for God? Furthermore we see here how key it was that Ern Baxter carried a "Pioneering" spirit. This man could have invited him - and he could have come up with all kinds of questions. I find that statement, "I left immediately" somewhat remincent of the apostles being called. They laid down their nets and went with the Lord.
3. Conferences are absolutely vital. I have been criticised recently by our angry anonymous questioner for being a "conference hopper" - for bounding from one conference to the next and despising the local church. While he or she is vastly wrong, I can understand why they have made this mistake. I love conferences hence I talk about them a lot. Conferences - especially the Anglia Bible Week and Stoneleigh Bible Week - have played a hugely important role in my life, and I know others. I don't actually think that there is anything wrong with this whatsoever. God speaks of "Holy Convocations" in the Bible - times where His people come away for times of special blessing and comission. And here we see it in the life of Ern. He has talked in other places of his baptism of the Spirit and it is amazing to hear. It was the fact that he was at the Trossachs conference that enabled him to be up till 3:40am seeking God. I will never stop loving conferences. But indeed they happen for a reason and they are not the local expression of God's glorious church - yep I said it again. What number is that?!
Monday, March 20, 2006
I am thrilled to report that, thanks to the kindness of my friend Mark, the transcripts of the "Priestly Clothing" are now available to read online here.
This is the result of a couple of years work, so I am so pleased that others can now benefit from the pure richness of the material that I have been benefiting from! The series has a prophetic mantle over it that I have included in the first few pages. It was a vision that Ern was given in 1964 called, "The People of the Anointing". Do make every effort to read it! It will be WELL worth your time!
I am so grateful to Mark for agreeing and being willing to post it on his website. Mark is the IT-genius that I can never hope to be. But I value his friendship because he shares my love and appreciation for Ern Baxter. While the times we spend together are limited, I value greatly reading his blog, his insights and his thoughts. I hope this post also helps to make it clear that this website was never intended to be my personal thoughts and reflections on my life and my church (in response to some angry anonymous individual). The website is dedicated to Ern Baxter and in tribute to him. If I do write personally or share something, it is intended to be unusual.
So - get off this website! And go read Ern Baxter - and above all enjoy it and bask in it! And thanks Mark again - so much!
David's Three Anointings: Bethlehem, Hebron and Zion!
Ern Baxter preached a series called "The King and His Army" at the Lakes Bible Week 1975. It is probably the one series that has been cited the most in connection with him. It so impressed Terry Virgo that he mentioned it in his editorial in the Newfrontiers magazine (Sept-Nov 04) and it inspired his outstanding two messages at the Brighton Leaders Conference 2004.
I have revisited them and listened to the entire series again as I haven't heard them for a while and can indeed see why the "King and His Army" caused such a stir among those who heard it. It is incredible to consider that there was only about 2, 000 people there at that original conference held in a marquee!
One point in particular that grabbed my attention was the way Ern mentioned and expounded the reason for King David's three anointings. I am sure I knew that David had three anointings. But such is Ern's giftings that he sees truth and revelation where I do not! For those who don't remember, David was anointing:
1. In Bethlehem (by Samuel).
2. In Hebron.
3. In Zion.
On these three anointings, Ern said this:
"He was anointed by Samuel in Bethlehem - that anointing carried him through to the death of Saul. Now he is going to move into a new dimension with added demands upon him. Hence he is anointed the second time at Hebron. This suggests that there is an increased intensity in responding to the demands which these crises put upon him.
If we see ourselves in David as God's heart men, we must look for an increased activity of the Holy Spirit! As we move on in God, there will come new empowerments and new anointings to accomodate the new demands and confrontations that are made upon us! This should thrill us and we shouldn't be able to stay in our skin!
David's second anointing at Hebron enabled him to reign over the house of Judah. We must note that there is crisis and process in this thing. Some of us are too impatient - we want crisis! The Bible says that visions will be seen by the young and dreams will be dreamed by the old. If an old man's dream isn't inspired by a young man's vision, he will rot on the vine. Nevertheless if a young man's vision isn't tempered by an old man's dream, he will blow his head off!
The third anointing finally came to take David to Zion and he was king over all Israel. If our analogy of the Charismatic Movement is correct at this time, then we have two more big jobs coming - to Hebron and to Zion. But! We have two anointings coming that will take us there! Hallelujah! The visitation of this renewal will be nothing to what's ahead. The devil knows what he's doing in keeping us apart because if the tribes get together and we stand as one in Zion, then we are going to blow him clean off God's earth!
Don't think denominations. Think tribes. We owe a tremendous debt to almost every sector of the Christian thing - each has a contribution that is invaluable to make to the whole counsel of God. We are not marching to Ziklag! We are not marching to Hebron! We're marching to Zion! Throughout the Bible, Zion is referred to as God's ultimate place for His people. THEN the whole world will know that Jesus Christ is Lord over the earth!"
Ern Baxter didn't just speak on these three anointings of David here in the UK but he mentioned it at the Kansas City Shepherds Conference in 1975 in his message, "Thy Kingdom Come". So it was obviously something that rested powerfully with him. I love this picture. Even if you don't seize and hold Ern's restorationist views, we can surely rightly ask is it a biblical principle - that God gives an anointing for a job? Corrie Ten Boom was speaking to her father once about her concerns about the upcoming war and the potential trials that it would bring. Her father asked her when she picked up her train ticket if she was catching the train. "Why right before I board the train of course!" she replied. "That's right" her father said. "You get the ticket just before you board the train. God won't equip you for something until you're going to go through it. You can trust Him that He is faithful".
It's very telling that in his invitation to the Brighton Conference, Terry Virgo speaks of promises of anointing and blessing. He said; "Rob Rufus has been to the UK where his ministry was endorsed by remarkable outpourings of the Holy Spirit. When I wrote to him to invite him to this conference he was delighted and told me that God had spoken to him and communicated that it was His intention to visit the UK in power and blessing. He also felt that God told him that he would soon be invited back to the UK and this would be a further sign of God’s desire to bless in this way". So Terry writes: "We, therefore, come full of anticipation of outstanding Bible teaching and the potential for glorious encounters with the Holy Spirit’s power". Oh yes indeed! But ... in light of this picture from Ern, the imperative is that we realise that those "glorious encounters with the Holy Spirit's power" come for reason! So that we go back to our churches, towns, cities and nations to tell! I still remember Bryn Jones quote from Restoration magazine - we are outnumbered!
What an awesome God! The anointings come - and then the Army of God marches out. Are we on the lookout for the anointing that may be coming? It's interesting as well that when the risen Lord Jesus commissioned His disciples, He didn't say, "Go to the world". He said, "Go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth". And note that the anointing was there too! "Surely I am with you". His Presence is assured! As someone commented recently, our souls can rejoice because we gaze into heaven with Stephen the martyr at an enthroned and exalted and ruling King Jesus!
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Enter the word "Grace" into Google and it will discover around 289, 000, 000 sites for you. The first site is Channel 4's popular show, 'Will and Grace' closely followed around 9th in the list by John MacArthur's 'Grace to You' Ministries. Oh sure. Grace is a popular word. You can't move in Christian circles without bumping into it. "By His grace .. Grace church ... grace and peace to you ... may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God ... Grace Ministries" and so on and so on.
I have been reading Galatians with the help of Prof Gordon Fee and I've been amazed at how utterly angry Paul was with the legalists that he met. Paul really hated legalism! Small wonder that Terry Virgo can marvel in the lavish grace of God and say, "How powerful grace is that it can take an embittered legalist, a murderer and set him free to say, 'By the grace of God I am what I am!" (p91). Clearly it takes something as powerful as grace to deliver one from something as evil as legalism! So this morning on this glorious Sunday, I want to join Paul in a bit of hating legalism and enjoying grace.
1. Galatians is an EXPERIENTIAL not POSITIONAL book.
So says Fee. "Thus the argument is not basically along positional lines that one has right standing with God ("is justified") by faith alone, rather it is especially along experiential lines, that by faith one has received the Spirit and that the Spirit and Torah observance (= 'works of law') are absolutely incompatible" (GEP, p369). So in other words, Spirit = Freedom. Torah or Law = Slavery. Fee says again, "For Paul, the gift of the Spirit along with the death and resurrection of Christ meant the end of the time of Torah" (p369 - emphases mine).
For Paul then, Spirit-life is absolutely essential to Christian living, and I think Fee would not be mad at me for deriving that Spirit-life is just as essential for banishing legalism and enjoying and basking in the grace of God. Why else would Terry Virgo write, "Paul wants you to appreciate that not only Christ's great work of crushing condemnation through His Cross, but also His life-imparting power that comes to you by the indwelling Spirit who, by His power, fulfills in you what the outward law could not fufill" (GLL, p133 - emphases mine).
Surely therefore, those who call themselves charismatics should be especially in interested in this book! What a poor testimony to the power of the Spirit to meet a legalistic charismatic! Gordon Fee wrote that Paul's whole argument in Galatians, "runs aground if this appeal is not also to a reception of the Spirit that was dynamically experienced" (GEP, p383).
2. Grace is an ONGOING not AUTOMATIC experience.
Fee said, "For Paul all is not automatic. One must sow to the Spirit (6:8) and be led by the Spirit (5:18) ... thus the Spirit not only stands at the beginning of Christian existence, but is the key ingredient to Paul's understanding of the whole of that existence" (GEP, p370). I do appreciate that there is much talk abroad of unity around the gospel and therefore much talk indeed of the gospel. This is a good thing. We are indeed 'all one' in Christ. However my concern is that we do not get caught up in the latest fad and spend our time with Bunyan standing gazing at the wicket gate ... or the Cross. Or wherever.
Christian life doesn't know much of standing and "gazing" to me. Bunyan was so right to make it clear that we are on a journey and these truths must run with us. Therefore the dynamic of the Spirit to Paul, and to Fee is not just for the beginnings of Christian life. But for "the WHOLE" of that existance and our existance. Small wonder then that Gordon Fee calls "being filled with the Spirit" - the ULTIMATE imperative.
To quote Terry Virgo again, "Grace should never lead to passivity but to outrageous adventure, a lifestyle that baffles those who play safe. It threatens the status quo not only of tentative religion but also of cynical unbelief" (GLL, p185). Terry said earlier that grace sets us FREE from the fear of condemnation! Grace assures us that God has FULLY accepted us! But again unsurprisingly for Terry Virgo - he too sees our mobility as essential. "He calls you to go with good news for the nations".
3. Legalism therefore is a MALIGNANT CANCER not a BENIGN FAULT!
Terry Virgo said of the legalists in Philippi, "Paul's dismissive attitude is amazing, regarding them as he does as "dogs" and "evil workers" (Phil 3:2). Why else would Paul be so disturbed with the Galatians? He found something good to say about, even the Corinthians! Michael Eaton wrote, "Law produces a judgemental atmosphere. It tends to condemn you and you condemn everyone else. Law tends to produce a guilt-laden atmosphere. Paul has one word for all of this; DEATH! The law kills!". Terry Virgo said in a sermon, "Condemnation is a WORK OF DARKNESS! It doesn't work! It has no power to change!".
It is interesting that Paul has some very practical instruction for the Galatians near the end of the letter, that I am not now suprised is included. (Galatians 6:1-3). "Restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness". Fee wrote, "You should restore a fallen brother or sister remembering your own susceptibility to temptation". John Calvin is a little more forward about it.
"Ambition is a serious and alarming evil. But hardly less injury is frequently done by unseasonable and excessive severity which, under the plausible name of zeal, springs in many instances from pride and from dislike and contempt of the brethren. Most men seize on the faults of brethren as an occasion of insulting them, and using reproachful and cruel language. Were the pleasure they take in upbraiding equalled by their desire to produce amendment they would act in a different manner. We must not shrink from a testimony against sin, neither must we omit to mix oil with the vinegar" (Commentaries, p171).
Fee says again, "It is exactly our common vulnerability that causes people of the Spirit to restore the fallen rather than kick them while they are down, as many of us are so prone to do" (GEP, p462).
I wonder if any preacher would say about legalism, "Be ever killing it or it will be killing you" - just as John Owen said about sin. Because legalism IS sin. And it is all the more hateful to God because it is fuelled by pride. Or it is as a preacher I heard once said not so long ago, "The height of self-arrogance".
Conclusion: So what?
1. Fee said, "The coming of the Spirit was a dynamic, experienced reality ... For the ongoing life that Christ has afforded through His death and resurrection, the Spirit is the key to everything; conversion, ethics, community life, miracles, revelations, eschatology. Without the Spirit there simply is no genuinely Christian life" therefore our pursuit of Him and His indwelling and filling of us must be far far more than simply "acknowledging" His empowering work.
2. I think we must be very careful what names we adopt for ourselves. Terry Virgo once prayed at the Brighton Leaders Conference, "Let our doctrines adorn our name". Do we attach the word "Grace" to ourselves? Well then let us be extremely careful how we live. Because the world is watching - and doesn't particularly care initially about our name. They are watching our actions. It is incredible however how quickly they notice if a hint of legalism, or judgementalism appears among people who wear the name "Grace" as their banner.
I think there was more understanding among non-Christians for the shutting down of Stoneleigh Bible Week than there was among Christians! I told a number of my non-Christian friends about it when it happened and I was amazed by how many said, "Well - you call yourself 'New Frontiers' don't you?!".
3. Grace is an ongoing adventure but a daily quest. "Keep yourself in the love of God". I have come to realise that being as prone to this hated legalism as I am, I must avail myself of every means of grace that God has made possible! It's not enough to sing a beautiful "grace" chorus such as "The Grace of God upon my life" and then hope for the best! Terry Virgo said, "This liberty has not only to be celebrated but fought for, as the letter to the Galatians demonstrates" (GLL, p106).
Saturday, March 18, 2006
You will notice that finally I have masterminded how to get a links column at the side of the webpage - where my nearest and dearest are now listed. I've put the Archive page at the top and have kept that updated as I have added articles and other bits and pieces by Ern Baxter. I hope that proves useful. Thanks for hanging in there with an IT-nerd like me! Please don't be offended if you're not on there. I thought I wouldn't chance it with too long a list of links to begin with!
Videos to DVD's ... Ern on TV!:
The other exciting thing to report, is that I have just brought some software for my laptop to start transferring videos onto DVD's. Once I have got the hang of it, and editing, I will be making all my video footage of Ern Baxter available for whoever is interested. Ern is someone who has to be seen often to enjoy the full power of his preaching rather than just heard, so I do strongly recommend these. I will put a list of what I have also then.
It's been a relatively quiet week with not much to stimulate my interest, or raise my blood pressure. I guess the latter is a good thing! Chris H-H posted a marvellous piece on "The Bells and the Pomegranates". I mentioned to him that this is something Ern Baxter deals with in the forth-coming newly transcribed series, "The Priestly Clothing". I questioned recently how sports really plays a part in true restorationism - it seems that avid-sports fan C J Mahaney is so convinced that it does play a significant part in Christian life, that he appeared on Al Mohler's radio show to talk about it ... download here. I can't even bring myself to comment. Ms Whitacre asks whether one's soul is happy. If not ... the answer is to go with her to the cross "and gaze a while" ...
There are an AMAZING selection of sermons from Church of Christ the King, Brighton back online - including some material from their Leadership Weekend away. Terry has preached four times since the beginning of the year! I must highly recommend as well the Kensington Temple website - they have an incredibly impressive media centre with videoed sermons of Dr R T Kendall and Tommy Tenney - both worthy of a listen and a watch!
Smooth Stone of the Weekend:
"There are three possibilities with the Great Commission. You can go. Or you can send. Or you can be disobedient. Ignoring the cause is not a Christian option" - Dr John Piper - "Brothers, We are Not Professionals".
Friday, March 17, 2006
This extract from the interview was given in January 1985. I believe it is an interview that is heavy with significance particularly in light of my posts on Pioneers vs settlers and the "Red Pill Syndrome". As my friend Don remembered, "Constant change is here to stay!".
Question: Ern, you have been through significant seasons in your fifty years of ministry. Has transition from one season to another been difficult?
Ern Baxter: In a sense it has beeen easy, because I've been carried along by the inspiration of the ascending revelation. On the other hand it has been very difficult because as we attempt to move on in God, we always leave something behind.
Question: What impact do geographical changes have in your relationships? Do they affect the level of commitment? (At the time of the interview, a number of the brothers were moving across the USA - Ern Baxter in particular was moving from Mobile, Alabama to San Diego in California).
Charles Simpson: Geographical changes are not destructive to personal relationships when God is the author of these changes. We see in the experiences of New Testament leaders that maintaining overall relationships while changing geographical focus is biblical.
Don Basham: Ever since the four of us - Charles, Derek, Bob and I - joined together in 1970, there has been a lot of speculation anytime any of us moved. Commitment isn't based on geography. Commitments are personal. We made a covenant and it remains.
Ern Baxter: I see all of the changes coming out of relationship, not threatening relationship. My move, for example, was not an arbitrary decision on my part, it was done with considerable counsel from the men I'm in covenant with, as was Bob's. Given the nature of our callings, I don't see my relationship to the brothers requiring geographical closeness.
Question: Do you think it's a human tendancy to resist change?
Don Basham: Human nature makes us want to settle down, build security around us and eliminate risk. That's not altogether bad but at times it can thwart the purposes of God.
Ern Baxter: Unless we have a strong confidence in god, change will always threaten us because we won't be sure where we're going. When God said to Abraham, "I want you to leave your kindred and your country and go to a land that I will show you". He didn't tell him where the land was. He said, "You start out and I'll tell you about the land later". That kind of change is always threatening.
We always tend to resist change because it is inconvinient. Many times I've packed up for yet another move and thought, "I hope this is the last time I have to do this". Change is hard to handle. We don't like to be disturbed or moved. The little eaglet, if I may refer to one of my favourite themes, doesn't like to be thrown out of the nest even though that's how he will learn to fly.
I don't remember a change that didn't cause me some inconvinence or pain. But usually knowing that God was in it and anticipating what was coming compensated for the inconvinience.
Charles Simpson: We must see God's will as our ultimate goal, stay sensitive to His voice and realise that our lives are His, not our own.
Bob Mumford: There are two categories of people. Some people are afraid that God will inconvinience them and others are afraid that He won't. That's the watershed.
Question: What are some of the early indicators that let us know God wants us to change?
Don Basham: God has an eternity to work in and sometimes He won't let up. I've noticed in my own life that He puts up with certain problem areas for a while. But when the pressure is on, we might as well give up. Sooner or later God is going to have His way and we'll be miserable until we give in.
Question: Are there ways to prepare for change?
Charles Simpson: We should ask God to confirm what we're sensing spiritually, to confirm it scripturally and to confirm it through responsible leaders who are going to stand with us through the change.
Change is not the exception. Change is the rule.
Question: What about the positive side of change?
Bob Mumford: Winemakers let a vessel of wine sit on a shelf until all the sediment settles to the bottom. They then carefully pour the wine into a new vessel leaving the sediment behind. The result is a clear pure liquid.
Scientists tell us that every seven years each cell in our body is replaced. And because the Church is a body not an organisation, the dynamics of change apply to it.
Don Basham: Not to change is to risk stagnation. We either slide back or go forward. In God there is no such thing as standing still.
Article Reference List of this website available here.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Before the Throne - An interview on worship with Ern Baxter.
It was noted before commencing this article that "Ern Baxter recently celebrated his fiftieth year as a pastor and teacher. During those years his ministry has been characterised by a deep insight into worship and an ability to lead others into the Presence of God". You will find a great deal of similarity between what Ern Baxter had to say on worship and what Terry Virgo wrote in his article - this is something I have come to see again and again in my reading.
Questioner: How would you define worship?
Baxter: Worship is really the occupation of our hearts with God Himself. It does not include prayer for needs and thanksgiving for blessings. In prayer, I'm taken up with my needs, in praise I'm taken up with my thanksgiving, but in worship I'm taken up with Him. Worship offers. Prayer asks.
Q: What kind of priority does the Bible give to worship?
Baxter: For a person who claims to be submitted to the Word of God, worship is not optional. Worship is a command or a demand. I see worship as a means of restoration. (1 Cor 3:18) As a person beholds God in worship with the enlightened enablement that comes from letting the Word dwell richly in him as he extolls God's virtues, His attributes, His excellence and His holiness as seen in the face of Jesus Christ, then that person is changed into God's image. That is true for the Church and for a nation.
The creative aim of worship is the total transfiguration of the created order, a process in whch the incarnation of the Word finds it's goal. I think that's the infinately practical value of worship.
Q: What adjustments do we need to make to fulfill what God watns from us in our worship?
Baxter: First of all, I think we need to have a good balance between the Word and the Spirit. We all have a tendancy to be partial to one or the other. We can talk about worship in terms that are probably accurate but if we don't enter into it in real, spiritual practice thne we're all Word and no Spirit and our worship is unbalanced.
God continues to be the God of majesty, might and glory and my understanding of God requires that when I approach Him I address Him with the spontaneity that the Spirit provides, but with the restraints that the Word prescribes.
Q: If we make worship a priority in our lives, what do you think will be God's response?
Baxter: The finest insights with which God has blessed me and to some degree others have come when I was worshipping. I believe that spiritual gifts, insights, revelations and illumination are all His response to a heart that maintains an attitude of worship. My experience has been that all worthwhile activity derives from worship.
In beholding God through worship we are attracted to Him and we desire to emulate Him and to move toward Him. I see in worship an encounter with God that is absolutely essential to finding His purposes for us and for experiencing the restoration that God intends for His people.
Article Reference List of this website available here.
A Dwelling Place for God in the Spirit.
I shared my holy dissatisfaction yesterday, a feeling of constantly looking to the horizon, and was tremendously encouraged to know that I wasn't alone - but further more, a valued reader and friend - Sheila from the USA, put her finger on it. We want to pray with Moses; "Show me Your glory!". That's it! And I can think of no where else, no where better, no where higher that we can potentially view the glory of God than in worship.
So this post is going to be a short compilation of thoughts, quotes and two songs that seem to me to intensely prove what I am hungering after. That if worship is our highest calling - then it just could be that through worship we stand the best chance of encountering "Him whom our souls desire". (And yes that comes from Song of Solomon!).
Terry Virgo said; "Worship is our highest calling. God is seeking worshippers, so converts must become worshippers". There are many articles and blogs and sermons on worship, but I've noticed few of them touch on the "Encounter" aspect that Terry achieved in his. That is what I am hungering after! He wrote; "Times of singing in the Spirit can be breathtaking and can be the prelude to the breakout of gifts, of sung prophecies, sung tongues, sung interpretations, all kinds of wealth of spiritual worship" but note this!
"As we behold His glory we are being changed. That's the power of worship. We go from encounter to delight, to transformation and as we behold His glory we are being changed into His likeness ... If you experience God enough youare going to be changed". And this plea - that is becoming quite characteristic of Terry, yet thrillingly fits in with my "Unsatisfied" cry - "Don't settle for anything less. Don't simply settle for a few songs. Worship is your highest calling ... let your heart be inflamed, let the Holy Spirit draw near for heartfelt fellowship".
Don't settle for anything less! I want to highlight a song that my friend Jul left in the comments section of my last post. It is beautiful and deserves to be read and used.
I am thirsty lifting up desperate hands
Only one thing I'm asking for
Let me touch your majesty
Even if it be the end of me
I must know you
Show me your glory
Even if I never breath again
I want to see your face
Even if I never live to see another day
I am failing falling down to my knees
Holy Spirit please meet me here
Nothing here has worth to me
I would leave it all to walk with you
I must know you
Show me your glory
Even if I never breath again
I want to see your face
Even if I never live to see another day
Until my face shines with the light of knowing you
I will not be satisfied...
There are many other songs of passion and intimacy that are simply beautiful and allow us through them to draw near to the Throne of Grace. One of my favourites was beautifully presented and led by Kate Simmonds at Stoneleigh Bible Week 1998 - "Draw Me Close to You".
Draw me close to You
Never let me go
I lay it all down again,
To hear You say that I'm your friend.
You are my desire,
Noone else will do,
cause nothing else can take Your place,
To feel the warmth of Your embrace,
Help me find the way - bring me back to You.
You're all I want.
You're all I've ever needed.
You're all I want.
Help me know You are near.
I realise in all of this that there is a danger of excess - of swinging too far and becoming chummy with God. But do you know what? I really don't think that is our greatest danger at present. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones said it too - if we were in danger of Corinthianism then yes, we should take careful notice of "Let everything be done decently and in order". But my heart's ache is that we haven't even begun to plumb the depths of intimacy and passion and encounter with God. And if worship, as Terry said, truly is our highest calling - then we had better start taking it seriously.
Article Reference List of this website available here.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
I would like to mention an incredible man who came up with a revelation that had a deep impact on my life some years ago. Ali McLachlan is ministering in Liverpool at Belvidere Road Church. We are even more blessed because a number of his sermons are online here. The man is even an accomplished songwriter - my friend Mark Heath has done some outstanding work with his music that is available here. Why did he impact me? He is a radical. He's a man who isn't afraid to believe what he believes and make his beliefs so clear. And he is passionate about what he believes! Even more rare. But the thing that "got" me most of all was that when I was back in Dunstable, he had time for me - this is the most rare thing of all in my experience. "I don't have the time" is a phrase I hate. Well Ali made time for me and some friends.
He wrote a couple of newsletters called "A Small Circle" and in it he shared something that I've never forgotten. He called it, "The Red Pill Syndrome" and said this:
"In the highly philosophical sci-fi film The Matrix, Neo is offered an unpleasant choice: take the blue pill and wake up as if nothing had happened (and continue with the splinter in his mind which drove him to Morpheus in the first place); or take the red pill and face the unknown. It's a matter of trust and desperation.
[If the red pill = seeking God until He uses me to glorify Him on earth.] Only trust in the Father and a desperation to make our lives count in His service will prompt us to take the red pill. True, we do not know where it will stop. We don't like the thought of how 'deep the rabbit hole really goes'. If we had the choice, we'd all opt to be Stephen instead of Paul. We can trust God to get us through a day's trial and execution but can we really trust Him for a life of dying?".
I believe that there is strength in companionship. I believe that God's men in the Bible needed other people for encouragement and accountability. Moses needed an Aaron. Joshua needed a Caleb. David needed Jonathan. Barnabus needed Saul. Even Jesus rejoiced at this and took strength in the light of His forerunner, John.
You have known the aching feeling that you get when you try to unburden your heart like this - only to find that people have glazed over and lost you early on. You know what it is to feel that noone seems half as stressed by living an excellent life for God as you. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Yet for all the possible avenues of risk (eg. pride, compromise and failure) in taking the red pill of seeking God until He blesses us we share something with Neo and his companions. We are an unusual grouping of serious, unsatisfied men".
I don't really know what I'm trying to say. But "unsatisfied" seems to be the character of my life at the moment. I feel like I'm constantly hungry for ... more. Constantly looking to the horizon. Constantly waiting for something that I'm not even sure is. And I sometimes wish that I wasn't like that. I wish I could be a pew member that is just happy to sit in church every Sunday, pay my tithe and smile beningly at the "precious" message of the pastor. But I can't. Because at the moment, Ern Baxter is bellowing upstairs about "marching from Hebron to Zion"! Unsatisfied? Yes! We sing "You are the Lord, the Famous One!" ... but He isn't! He isn't famous! They don't even care about Him! Unsatisfied? How can I not be with a hero like Terry Virgo saying that he HATES church that isn't church! Unsatisfied? Oh I am SO unsatisfied. And sports? How is sports going to satisfy? How is sports going to play a part in spreading and covering the earth with the glory of the Lord? How is sports going to make Him the Famous One?
Unsatisfied? When I read of accounts in the Bible when Moses saw the back of the Lord and came down from the mountain with his face burning and shining?! When I read accounts of Enoch walking with God and simply "was not"?! When I read accounts of Elijah being taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire??! When I read accounts of the glory of the Lord filling the temple so that the priests simply couldn't move!?!? When I remember standing in the halls at Stoneleigh Bible Week just motionless as the Spirit of God moved over the worshippers?!?
I remember a final quote from the Matrix when Neo realises just "what" the red pill entails. He said to Morpheus, "I can't go back can I?". Morpheus said, "No, but if you could - would you want to?". And when it's put like that - no. I wouldn't.