Monday, July 31, 2006
I’m not trying to verbally abuse you, I am trying to underscore that our altar calls are all Cross-orientated. He died for men. He died for you. Paul said that if He hadn’t been raised from the dead you’d still be in your sin. You know we come out with such things as, “He raised both hands at Calvary – can’t you raise one for Him?”. What in God’s Name has that got to do with the Gospel? (*laughter*). “He walked all the way to Calvary for you – can’t you come down the aisle for Him?”. Can you imagine Peter on the Day of Pentecost saying how many are going to hit the aisle? (*laughter*). Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the martyr in criticising the liberalism of his day, said “It underscores the fact that it does not deal with the Resurrection but only with Jesus up to the Cross. The historical Jesus. This is the dead Christ who can be thought of like Socrates. Only the Risen One makes possible the Presence of the Living Person and gives the presupposition for Christology no longer dissipated into historical energy or an intuitive sense of Christ”. You see liberalism said Christ only rose in the thoughts of His disciples. It was a thought thing – they were inspired by the thought of His ongoing influence. Rubbish, balderdash! Jesus Christ rose physically from the dead and said, "Check me out. A spirit doesn't have a body like I've got. Come on Thomas - stick your finger in the wound".
Christ is risen! Let's say it! If you can handle it - that's where it all begins. Richard Gaffin again, "Christianity, at least the Christianity of the New Testament, is a religion of Resurrection". George Elton Ladd; "The important point at the moment is that the Ressurection of Jesus was the central proclamation of the early church. It is clear that not the life of Jesus, not His teaching, not even His sacrificial death was the central emphasis in the earliest Christian proclamation. It was the Resurrection of Christ. Yet Paul proclaims an impossible truth - the whole Gospel is encapsulated in the proclamation of the Resurrection of Jesus. The entire New Testament was written from the perspective of the Resurrection. Indeed the Resurrection may be called the major premise of the early Christian faith".
Whether you agree with me or not, are you hearing what I am saying? How many of you will agree, and don't be bamboozled by me - be honest, how many of you will agree that as you think of your Christian evangelicalism, the Cross has been the major thing? How many will agree with that? Yes.
Now someone says, you're against the Cross. Of course I'm not against the Cross! I am not against the Incarnation, I'm not against the the impeccable life, I'm not against the miracles, I'm not against the Cross, I'm not against the Resurrection, I'm not against anything - I'm just saying to you that you can't stop half way on the journey and say this is it! You haven't got a complete story, until you have a complete story.
Again George Elton Ladd; "In fact the Resurrection stands as the heart of the early Christian message. The first recorded Christian sermon was a proclamation of the fact and significance of the Resurrection. Peter said almost nothing about the life and earthly career of Jesus". In fact all he said was, "Jesus of Nazareth, a Man". That covered the whole pre-Cross thing. Jesus of Nazareth - a man. "You did with wicked hands take and crucify but God raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand and He has shed forth this". Why are you going to stop at His death? It's just not intellectually defensible! You can't read the Bible and do that! Somehow someone has scuttled our reading of the Bible! We preachers have scuttled it - we have stopped at the Cross. The whole appeal to men is that Jesus died for you. Try to find that in the Acts of the Apostles. The Acts of the Apostles is the only inspired definition of post-Pentecostal evanglism that we have.
And every reference to the preaching of the Gospel gravitates around the Resurrection. The Cross is an accepted fact! There had to be a Cross to be a Resurrection! But the Resurrection is the positive side of the Cross! The Cross is negative. It made an end of sin, it made an end of the old Adamic nature, it made an end of our debts, it made an end of the whole old thing. He made an end of it and went down into death. And if He was not an adequate sacrifice for all that and if He had not been able to wipe it out, He would have stayed there. But the fact that the Lord Jesus so adequately met all the demands of God was the fact that He rose from the dead! Christ is alive today! O'er death and hell holds sway! Risen, ascended, glorious! Christ is alive today!
I don't worship the historical Jesus! I worship the contemporary Jesus! I don't sing "Jesus keep me near the Cross!". I sing, "I see Jesus crowned with glory and honour!". (*applause*).
I'm not a teacher. I'm a preacher/teacher. Let me quote my good friend H M Ridderboss. "Everything that Jesus spoke and did on earth is now determined to the Church by and through His Resurrection. It is not the figure of Jesus who once wandered through the fields of Galilee nor is it the historical picture of the Nazarene which formed content of Paul's preaching". Now for you ministers and I am addressing you primarily who labour in your study and the Word and doctrine, you must have come to the same bewilderment that many Pauline schoalrs have come to and that is why Paul said so very little about Jesus earthly life and ministry. Very little! People said why doesn't Paul say more about it? Because Paul sees that the significance of Christ now is not the Christ of Galilee, it is the Christ who is alive at the right hand of God to oversee the Government of God as the King and Prince exalted at God's right hand!
If you are going to do it - do it! (*applause*). D G Dunn, a very exciting New Testament scholar and very current, says, "The experience of Jesus as risen has such compelling power that henceforth He and it became the driving force in their lives - the touchstone in their hermaneutic, the norm for their Gospel". You can't write the biography of Jesus and stop at the Cross.
Tomorrow: Part 4.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
The Scholars Neglect the Resurrection.
Now I am going to plunge into this and you do what you have to. I am going to blame a few scholars but I agree with it perfectly. Richard B Gaffin Jr (a professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia) published a book in 1987 entitled, “Resurrection and Redemption – A Study in Paul’s soteriology”. It was a book that got a lot of attention as it rightly should. His contention in the introduction is that reformed theology is inclined to feature the Cross to the neglect of Christ’s resurrection. And I quote from his introduction; “Reformed theology has always thought itself to be distinctively Pauline”.
Now when I am talking about Reformed theology I am talking about the theology of the magisterial reformers, Luther, Swingli, Calvin and also of the radical reformers. The theology that we consider Protestant, we consider reformed – that covers a lot. It is a theology that dates from the time when Luther broke with Rome. And the subsequent theology definitions that have developed. And so Gaffin writes; “More sensitive than other traditions to the deeper motives and trends of the apostle’s teaching and more consistent in it’s expression of them. In the course of it’s development however it has not found particular dogmatic significance in Paul’s statements regarding Jesus’ resurrection. Dogmatic reflection has tended to concentrate almost exclusively on the sufferings and death of Christ understood as an atonement for sin”.Now stay with me because this is important. That’s the end of the quote. Now in a footnote he substantiates his position by showing the limited amount of space given to the Resurrection as compared to the Cross in the theological works of some well known reformed writers. Charles Hodge, the Princetonian theologian in his Systematic Theology, devotes four pages to the Resurrection in contrast to a lengthy treatment of the Atonement – 120 pages. 120 pages on the Cross! Four pages on the Resurrection! Now I need to warn you that I am going to quote some others and that is virtually the ratio. Now these are shocking. By the time I get through I hope that my material will show that we have by a faulty emphasis deprived ourselves of the dynamic of Christianity. W G T Shedd, another outstanding reformed theologian in his Dogmatic Theology – Volume 2, passes directly from a discussion of Vicarious Atonement to regeneration. He doesn’t even fuss with the Resurrection! He has no section on the Resurrection! B B Warfield, the great scholar in this area concentrates exclusively on the death of Christ understood as atonement. 112 pages. Lewis Berkof in his Systematic Theology is similar to Hodge. After a brief discussion of the Resurrection (4 pages) he moves on to a lengthy treatment of the Atonement (38 pages). The approaches of Abraham Kyper and Herman Bavinck, who are also outstanding theologians, provide no significant exception to this pattern. This virtual equation of the accomplishment of redemption with atonement which characterizes tradition Reformed dogmatics is nowhere made clearer, or presented more programmatically than in the opening sentences of John Murray. John Murray is a more contemporary and outstanding theologian whose excellent work on Romans is well known to scholars. But in his work entitled, “Redemption Accomplished and Applied” he says the accomplishment of redemption is concerned with what has been called the Atonement. Full stop. No Resurrection.
Now I’m not saying that these men didn’t believe it. I’m just saying that somehow they got hooked on the Cross and failed to realise that the total picture was not being presented until most of evangelicalism became Cross-orientated. In calling attention to this preoccupation with the atonement, my purpose is not at all to challenge the validity and necessity of this development, far less to call into question the conclusions reached, rather I wish only to point out that this dominating interest in the death of Christ has been associated with a relative neglect of the Resurrection. Here again it is not as if Reformed theology has had no insight into the matter – for example Berkhof writes, “What is still more important, the Resurrection enters as a constitutive element into the very essence of the work of redemption and therefore of the Gospel”. But this observation is not developed! Nor is the Resurrection effectively related to the structure of redemption.
Now these are Reformed, paedo-baptist writers. Let me turn to the Baptists. A A Strong’s Systematic Theology. He is a Baptist. You’d think he would know better. But he seems to reveal the same weakness. The Resurrection is directly treated in 4 pages while 60 pages are given to atonement. Now I didn’t want to leave the Methodists out – W B Pope, the Methodist theologian in his 3 volume work, gives 53 pages to the atonement and 10 pages to Resurrection but not the Resurrection of Christ but the eschatological general resurrection! He does nothing on the Resurrection of Christ! Is there something wrong here? I submit that there is something drastically wrong!
Four Types of Christians.
This is just an interesting sideline that I wasn’t sure whether to put in. There are four Scriptures that indicate four kinds of Christians and see if this doesn’t echo something in you. Those Christians who consider only Christ’s death are death-orientated. They never get past the Cross. These dear people have been dying daily for 50 years and they look like it – you wish they’d get it over with. (*laughter*). Luke 24:17. Jesus is on the road to Emmaus and He is talking to the crest-fallen Christians – you remember? – and He says to them; “What manner of communication are these that ye have one with another as ye walk, and are sad?”. They thought the Cross was the end of everything and they were sad. Cross-orientated people are sad people. “He died” He died. You’d think He never rose! (*laughter*). “He died and I’m dying daily”. You may think that caricature is ill timed but I had to make the emphasis. The second group – those who go onto the Resurrection! Luke 24:41 tells us that “they were filled with joy and wonder”. Ah, now we’re getting there. Those who appreciate the Ascension – Luke 24:52; “And they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy”. We saw Him die, but we Him raised and we saw Him go up! Glory! And we are going back to Jerusalem because He said He was going to send Something.
Did you ever think how ludicrous the disciples appeared in the Temple? The Bible said they were daily in the Temple praising and glorifying God. “Glory to God”. Now that wasn’t unusual because there were many kinds of groups in the Temple. There were Sadducees and Pharisees and Herodians and Zealots and every little guru had his thing going on – so this wasn’t unusual. There were about 120 people there and they were praising God someone came and said, “Who are you people?”. “Well” they said, “We’re followers of the Nazarene Jesus”. “Oh yes poor man. Had an untimely end”. “Oh no, He isn’t ended!”. “Excuse me?”. “He isn’t ended! He rose from the dead!”. “He did what?”. “He rose from the dead”. “Ah I see – okay have it your way! And where is He now?”. “He’s in heaven!”. “Excuse me? So what are you doing if He’s in heaven?”. “Well before He left He said if we wait He would send something back”. (*laughter*). “Ah I see. And what’s He going to send?”. “Well He said He would send us the promise of the Father”. “Well what’s that?”. “Well we don’t really know”. (*laughter*). “Well – lots of luck!”. You and I must be prepared to face up to the ludicroisity of our position and not try to constantly be rationalising it to the unregenerate, that’s why we play down the Resurrection, that’s why we play down the Holy Ghost – because we want to convert men intellectually. Men are not converted intellectually - not that intellect isn’t involved. But they are not converted intellectually! God the Holy Ghost dynamites His way into their lives! (*applause*). Hallelujah!
Acts 13:52 now is the fourth kind of a Christian. “And they were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost”. You go from sadness to joy and wonder, to great joy to fullness of joy and then for us those who go on believing 1 Peter 1:8; “Not having seen Jesus Christ, you love Him and in whom ye do not see yet believe and rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory”. That’s where we are.
Embracing the Totality.
Now comparisons are odious but I have got to do this – because am talking about Christianity and I have to talk about all of it, and I have a right to talk about all of it. And I have earned my right to speak. Now I have been talking in tongues since 1932 and I have never been ashamed of it. I am a holy roller charismatic and that’s what I am. But you know very well that there that there is a whole large area of Christianity that is primarily intellectual and theological. And I am not against that! What I am against is partialism. A failure to embrace the totality. There is no reason why I have to be a Pentecostal numbskull. I ought to have an intellectual awareness because I’ve got a renewed mind and I need to expand my mind with the holy Word of God and I need to be a thinker – I need to fill my mind with the Word of God. “Let the mind of Christ become my mind”.
But I must never make that purely intellectual – it must be the product of a supernatural walk with God in a charismatic dimension! If I don’t walk in the tension of the Spirit and the Word I have no right to the title Christian. I must walk in the tension of the Spirit and the Word. Right from the beginning God established that tension in the book of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form or void and darkness covered the face of the deep and the Spirit of God brooded over the waters”. What was He brooding over? A mess. He still broods over a lot of messes today. He is brooding. You say, well He is the executive agent of the Trinity – why doesn’t He do something about that mess? He can’t. What do you mean He can’t? Well He can’t without His companion. Who’s His companion? Hang around and you will find out. I don’t know how long He brooded over that mess. Geological ages? Minutes? Doesn’t matter. What was He waited for? Suddenly the cosmos is ripped! With what? A word! “Let there be!”. That’s what He was waiting for! And when that word came suddenly the Holy Spirit leapt into activity. He put the whole mess together and ran His finger down and makes places for the streams. Moulds the mountains. Screws in the sun and the moon and hangs out the stars. (*applause*).
Now let me plunge right into this. I am wrestling with my material this morning. I wonder if that thing will work Bob. I would like to show you something here to make my point and the overhead wasn’t particularly good last night. I am going to put on here a transparency from last Easter season. It is a page out of one of the prominent religious publishers in America and these are the books that are featured for Easter. Here are the books that this publishing company is publishing for Easter. What does Easter celebrate? Pardon me? The Resurrection! Now listen to the books and this is the entire advertisement for Easter. “The Seven Words from the Cross … When God was at Calvary … The Seven Sayings of the Saviour at the Cross … Christ’s Words from the Cross”. That’s it. What is Easter about? The Resurrection! Doesn’t this then strike you as a bit odd? All this does is underline the fact that we have become so Cross-orientated that we have lost the dynamic of the Resurrection. You say, “What has this got to do with the Holy Spirit?”. Be patient – we will get there.
Let me plunge in and indulge your patience because I don’t want you thinking I’m riding a hobby horse. I am going to quote men that are great sound scholars and we have a deep debt to the devotion of men who give their lives to providing us with Strong’s Concordance and Young’s Concordance and Cruden’s Concordance and the Hebrew Dictionaries and that vast apparatus that you and I would be lost without. I pay them homage this morning. I don’t treat them with disdain. I Howard Marshall, who is an outstanding New Testament scholar, says “According to the theology expressed in the Acts of the Apostles the fundamental place in salvation history is to be assigned to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ”. H B Sweet, wrote 100 years ago (a great Irish theologian) wrote; “It is certainly not through any want of apostolic guidance, if the glorified life of our Lord fills the relationally small place in modern preaching and thought. The creeds of Christendom, it may be said, do not encourage thought in this direction. Of the life He now lives there in heaven or the work in which He is occupied, they have nothing to say". Did Jesus stop existing at the Cross? At the Resurrection? At the Ascension? Is He dead now? What’s He doing? His biography goes on! We never got past Chapter Cross!
Let me the repeat the quote of I Howard Marshall: "According to the theology expressed in the Acts of the Apostles the fundamental place in salvation history is to be assigned to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ”.
Tomorrow: "The Serious Neglect - Part 3".
Saturday, July 29, 2006
“A Serious Neglect” - Part 1 - by Dr Ern Baxter.
Christ is risen! In the early days of communism in Russia, they sent out organisers and indoctrinators all over the nations and one of these clever chaps came to a large area where a huge crowd was mandated by order that they might listen to this indoctrinator and he very cleverly started to brainwash them and sow the Marxist philosophy into these humble folk. When he got all through he was so confident that he had accomplished his task and must have thoroughly convinced them of the rightness of his position that he said, “Now is there anyone who would like to ask a question?”. And as you know Russia is religiously Eastern Orthodox and a little old country lady with her babushka came slowly up to the front and turned around to the huge crowd and said, “Christ is risen!”. And the crowd echoed back, “He is risen indeed!”. That was their answer to the communists and it is still the answer.
Now let me tell you where I think I’m going. We talked last night about the kingdom, and this morning I want to talk about a serious neglect which is the Resurrection. Then later in this conference I want to speak about the Holy Spirit as a co-relative of Resurrection, then I want to speak about the King, the Kingdom and the Holy Spirit, then I want to speak about the King and the Holy Spirit and then the Kingdom of the Holy Spirit ideally and the Administration of the Holy Spirit and if we have time the Holy Spirit and ethics. But this morning I want to talk about the serious neglect in our theology.
Our overall title is the “King, the Kingdom and the Holy Spirit” and my bottom line desire is to try to define for you what I believe to be a definition of the Holy Spirit that somehow seems to have escaped us. In spite of the fact that this century has been marked by more charismatic/pneumatological activity that any century since the days of the apostles, we seem to resemble the man in the Book of Proverbs who went out and hunted the animals but was too lazy to skin it. And we have enjoyed the Holy Spirit for this century but have been too lazy to exploit and explore and develop and define. And it is just a fact that in the theological world among scholars, it is just a fact and not a guess, that the Holy Spirit has been seriously neglected in theology. That pneumatology (a branch of theology) has been under dealt with.
Now if that were just a purely intellectual problem it would be bad enough. But it is all tied up with the nature of knowledgeable experience. Because the first Person of the Trinity that confronts you on behalf of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. And it has been the nature of evangelicalism to jump over the Holy Spirit and come directly to Christ. You can’t come to Christ without coming through the Holy Spirit. That is the Trinitarian approach. If you are talking about God coming to man, it is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But one of the unique texts about the Holy Spirit written earlier this century is a bit entitled “Spirit, Son and Father”. Because if you are coming to God from down up, you come to the Spirit, Son and Father. The Spirit introduces you to the Son, the Son introduces you to the Father. If you are coming from God down, it is the Father, Son and Spirit. And his book was very challenging and it pointed up the problem. That we need to recognise that God has structured His Word in terms of the mystery of His Trinitarian being.
Now last night we talked about the ‘Kingdom Cosmic and Providential Limited and Redemptive’. We talked about Israel as the redemptive kingdom in the Old Covenant and the Kingdom/Church as the redemptive kingdom in the New Covenant and that God’s programme for this age is that the redemptive kingdom should by the preaching of the Gospel draw in all the subjects of the cosmic kingdom until the overall kingdom of God’s sovereign reign which includes the nations not yet subject to God (who think they have a kingdom), it includes that climatic moment when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ. This is our eschatological goal. This is where we are heading. That too has been tampered with in the last 150 years as a whole novel theology has been foisted on us which says that the world is a lost cause and our hope is to get out of here and let it go to hell because that’s what it deserves. This is almost a blasphemous disregard for the work of Christ’s redemption. For God so loved the world! God has not given up on the world, God will not give up on the world and God ultimately intends to have a new heaven and a new earth where indwelleth righteousness and I am with Him! (*applause*).
Now I don’t know how much news you listen to this morning. I am a bit of a newshound. But I was struck again this morning as I turned on CNN and NBC. There was one word that seemed to cover the whole business and that was “squalor”. Squalor. Man in his lost ness is a pitiful, blundering idiot. In the area of behaviour he is a total failure. He can’t handle money. He can’t handle relationships. He can’t handle sex. He just can’t handle anything. He sure can’t handle money! And he can’t handle sex. And it is a squalid mess out there – until you daily have to battle the temptation to ultimately be cynical. And your only hope to handle cynicism is to bathe your heart in the hope of the Gospel and know what the bottom line of the historical event is. “The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ”.
Now we have hurt ourselves in this area because of a neglect of emphasis. I am wrestling with how to approach this, but if you pray with me God will help us. In my library I have a lot of books and I have a section of books on Christology which includes all of the classic lives of Christ. I will not bore you with the titles but when you read a book on the life of Christ it reads very much like the life of anyone else. He was born – and He lived – and He died. Now a lot of those lives of Christ finish where the life of any man finishes in a biography – at death. Some of them manage to make some reference to the Resurrection but that’s about it. And this is a serious failure because there is One Man in the universe that is approximately 2000 years old. And I deliberately use the word “Man”. I am not neglecting His godhead but lets set that aside for a moment.
On the day of Pentecost when Peter was referring to the dramatic events that were taking place, he said, “These are not drunk as ye think but this is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel”. Like any good preacher he anchors the existential event in the Scriptures and the only Scriptures they had were the Old Testament. And so he anchors this event in the Old Testament Scriptures and then he contemporises it. He said, “That’s where it came from, this is the present fact. Jesus of Nazareth – a Man”. He didn’t say, “Jesus of Nazareth, God of very God”. That is not pertinent for what he is doing. Let God say in the Scripture what God wants to say and don’t try to fix it up. Peter said, “Jesus of Nazareth a Man approved of God among us by signs and wonders which God did by Him, you did with wicked hands take and crucify. But God raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand and He has shed forth this which ye know see and hear”. Jesus of Nazareth, a Man! Now I am not trying to abuse your orthodoxy, I just want you to think in the compartmentalisations that the Bible provides us. See God has got a communication problem. God holds all knowledge simultaneously. God never has to remember anything because He never forgets it. He never has to learn anything because He knows everything. So when God is thinking He never has to have a sequence of thoughts. He holds it all simultaneously. Everything is known to Him at one moment. And even our English language is inadequate. We use time/space language for a transcendental situation.
Now He wants to get that knowledge to His creature and His creature is not omniscient. So Hebrews says, “God who at sundry times and in diverse manners in time past spake unto our fathers by the prophets, spake in these last days by His Son”. There is a whole sequence. 1500 years of prophetic utterance – little pieces of His mind coming down and then a great gush of His mind in the Incarnate Word and then more of His mind through the apostles and a continuing unfolding of His mind by the Holy Spirit to us this morning. God is trying to get it to us this morning and it is hard for us to get it simultaneously like He has it. We have to put it together in pieces. And so He is very accommodating and when we are talking about Christology we have got to talk about the sheer humanity of Jesus of Nazareth and don’t play games with it. The creed protects us – He is “Man of very Man”. Jesus of Nazareth. Why did they call Him ‘Jesus of Nazareth’? Well there was a Jesus of Bethany and a couple of Jesus’ lived in Jerusalem and a few Jesus’ lived over here in Caperneum. A lot of Jesus in Cuba! The absolute humanity of the Son of God – Jesus of Nazareth, Mary’s boy.
God the Word was of no value to us until God the Word became incarnate and laid hold upon the seed of Abraham and became Man of very Man. Now when we are talking about the history of Jesus and we are going to write His biography, you don’t stop at His death. This is one unique biography! You don’t stop at His death, you don’t stop at His resurrection, you don’t stop at His ascension, you don’t stop at the effusion of the Holy Spirit, you don’t stop at AD 100-200-300 – you talk about Jesus of Nazareth. He alone who has immortality and is 2, 000 years old and if we could see Him this morning, is living in a glorified 33 and a half year old body. Won’t that be great? My bald-headed friends? (*laughter*). That when we are glorified we will all revert to 33. I hope that is more than a guess. (*laughter*).
Tomorrow: Ern Baxter moves into the crux of his material and concerns. He calls on Reformed theologian Richard B Gaffin. Ern Baxter said; "My material will show that we have by a faulty emphasis deprived ourselves of the dynamic of Christianity".
Friday, July 28, 2006
I do this every now and then, but there have been a few things that have been worth noting that are happening around the globe. Some things I like. And some I don't (but haven't mentioned because I'm being good). Of course!
Firstly, Desiring God have followed the trend of certain others to begin a blog leading up to the National Conference in a few months time. Do you remember this conference? John Piper has a mighty posse of speakers including D A Carson, Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll as well as of course Prof David Wells. There are some video clips, some bits of news and my favourite part of all Desiring God conferences - the Question and Answer Session! Justin Taylor will be hosting them.
Gavin White has been away to their Bible Week - going and come back. This was the dynamic sounding, "Without Borders 06: See Above and Beyond". It really did sound an incredible time and it's so exciting to read of partners in the Gospel who have just as big visions of God and of the Church as Newfrontiers! Don't believe me? How's this for a soundbite: "Keri Jones sharing on reaching into the 193 nations in the world over the next two years with the gospel and good news of Jesus Christ". 193 nations! In the next two years!
Castle Sands has the best views on blogging I have yet to read. How's this for a challenge to any open-minded blogger? "My point is that we do not need any more average Christian books. Similarly, we do not need any more average Christian blogs. Am I merely adding to the pile of average Christian blogs? Are you?". There are indeed a lot of Christian blogs around - surely we should all be asking ourselves is what we are writing worthwhile? Or could we be using our time better? Because after all, one day we are going to have to give account to the Lord Jesus Christ for what we typed.
CCK worship leader Simon Brading has got an interesting way to relax. But I think you need to be on Brighton beach to do it ...while other CCK worship leader Stuart Townend is in Northern Ireland next week leading worship while John Piper and R T Kendall preach. How is it that I never get to hear of these AMAZING conferences until they are happening?!
Scotty is thinking of heaven!
And Sven brings pure music to my heart. He expressed exactly what I felt on the whole "Who killed Jesus" thing (caused by a bit of emotional rhetoric). And he stated the one thing that noone else seems to be saying; "One of my problems with Adrian's summary of the Gospel is that apart from anything else, it does not mention the resurrection of Jesus. Take the resurrection out of the Gospel, and not only does it cease to make sense, but there is no Gospel at all". Amen!
So having mentioned that, during the next few days I am going to be posting a transcript of a message of Ern Baxter's that I have just listened to (and recently acquired from the USA). It is called; "A Serious Neglect" and it is the most powerfully argued message on why Ern Baxter felt that the Resurrection keeps on (and urgently must not keep) being neglected and left out of the Gospel message. Agree with it or disagree - he must be heard.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
One of my greatest blogging friends, Jul - has just got back from a Newfrontiers conference across the sea! Her very honest and stimulating account is found here.
Terry Virgo preached twice and it seems the Spirit of God is pleased to carry on the supernatural healings that He is doing. Praise God!
I remember when Stoneleigh Bible Week was being closed down, someone prophesied a field of dandelions and the seeds spreading and planting here there and everywhere. At the time I found it hard to comprehend anything that could surpass Stoneleigh so it is tremendously exciting to see the prophecy coming to pass and celebrations like these being held all over the world.
Go read her account and moreso the blog of a faithful, passionate servant of God who has taught me so much.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Apologies for a slightly more technical blog, but I've just installed "Site Meter" on the blog. I'm sure the more advanced among you will sneer with derision but to an IT dumbie like me - it's a big deal! I don't really know why I did it. I saw it on Challies dot com and followed the links and here we are. I have to admit some of the statistics that it shows are quite interesting! I have never really felt that numbers of visitors or number of commentators are important as long as people are reading Ern Baxter's material. I suppose according to some that won't make me an influential blogger, but quite frankly I don't really want to be an influential blogger! For starters I'm not good enough at I.T and secondly I'm far too controversial to ever win any kind of award. Who wants one of them anyway!?
So because I have never installed any of this stuff on the website, I always live under the impression that noone visits the website apart from the few friends I've linked to, and maybe a few others. I know my family don't visit - they're far too busy reading Girl Talk.
What then does Site Meter have to show?!
Firstly my claim to fame ...
I found out that my little rant on the "Colson vs Draw Me Close" sage has been named and shamed on the Christianity Today site linked to the original article! They wrote: "Colson's article has already provoked discussion on several blogs". My rant is linked from the word "Discussion". Sounds appropriate! As long as Colson doesn't appear in my church on Sunday shouting and stamping. I don't think he'll like the songs we sing either ...
An odd Google link ...
Some poor person entered "Paul's lettr to the Corinthians" into Google. The Catholic Enyclopaedia came first and then my website came second. What a disappointment if they were hoping for some sound research into the Corinthian epistle. Yes ... I do believe in spiritual gifts I'm afraid and no I don't think 1 Corinthians 12:13 has got anything to with the baptism of the Spirit.
Another Rob Rufus fan ...
Hurray! Someone else was searching on Google for "Rob Rufus the Elijah anointing". He's fab. You will love him. My blog came first on that one!
Another Kate Simmonds fan ...
Even better - someone else was searching on Google for "In Him I have believed Kate Simmonds". That still remains my favourite song of the moment. The truth! The doctrine! Just fab.
And a Restorationist?
Someone did a Google search for "Restorationism Terry Virgo". Horray! My blog came first and second in that result - even in front of the official Newfrontiers site! I suppose the Word Cloud searcher did give that one away - they are both words I like and use quite frequently.
This was quite interesting. 55% of the last 2 days viewers came from the United Kingdom. 37% from the United States. 1.45% from Singapore. 1.45% from Saudi Arabia. 1.45% from Poland. 1.45% from Jamaica and from Canada ... also 1.45%! Welcome to you all.
Well forgive me again you I.T-wonder bloggers. I'm still not quite sure what I'm meant to do with all that information. It's very interesting but all it did was distract me for about an hour and a half while I was meant to be transcribing the "King and His Army". Grr ...
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
A quote from "The King and His Army" - Lakes Bible Week 1975 by Dr Ern Baxter.
"I remember reading the 'British Weekly' years ago and it said that the Pentecostal people were the fantatical fringe of Protestantism. Well I've got news for you - the Pentecostal people are now the controversial centre of Christianity because God sent His Spirit not to be laughed at. God sent His Spirit not to be shoved out onto the peripheries of the Christian thing. He sent His Spirit to replace the Lord Jesus Christ at the very heart of the redeemed community.
Jesus said; "It is expedient for you that I go for I am God localised. When I go away, the Father and I are going to send the Holy Spirit and He is going to be the Trinity universalised and when He comes back, He is going to spread all over the earth and He is going to bring men and women into the redeemed community. He is going to establish the Kingdom of God among the sons of men He is going to display the glory of God! God will not allow the Holy Spirit to be shouted, shoved and pulled.
Have you thought about the sufferings of the Holy Spirit? We preachers dramatically point out the sufferings of Christ on the Cross. For 3 and a half years He suffered, and then that awful agony on Calvary. All of which is true - but have you thought that for 2, 000 years the Holy Spirit has been down here being blasphemed, neglected, rejected, confounded with para-psychology, extra-sensory perception, He has been called nasty names, denied, grieved and quenched for 2, 000 years He has suffered! But it's His hour now to come into the supremacy and prominence and the Spirit is at the heart of the thing now! He is not out there knocking to come in! He is in here directing all things! Hallelujah!".
One thing that greatly impressed me at the Brighton conference during the Rob Rufus sessions, was how powerfully the Holy Spirit's Presence would come just by fixing our gaze on Christ. Rob did not do anything weird or hard to lead us into God's Presence, but simply to remind us of Christ and where He is NOW and what He did for us and what He does for us NOW. I realised that it has been a while since I quoted that Preacher of Preachers, and found the most wonderful sermon to do just what Rob taught us to do. Spurgeon's text is from Song of Solomon 2:1 - "I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys". I am aware of course that C J Mahaney would apply this rather to the Christian husband, I suppose, addressing his wife. Still ... I found Spurgeon's application a little more Christ-exalting. Enjoy ...
"The Best of the Best".
A Sermon - (No. 2472) - Intended for Reading on Lord's-Day, July 5th, 1896, Delivered byC. H. SPURGEON, At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. On Thursday Evening, May 19th, 1881.
Be it always remembered that human self-praise is evil because of the motive which underlies it. We praise ourselves,—and, alas! that we should be so foolish as to do so,—we do it out of pride; but when Christ praises himself, he does it out of humility. "Oh!" say you, "how can you prove that to be true?" Why, thus; he praises himself that he may win our love; but what condescension it is on his part that he should care about the love of such insignificant and undeserving persons as we are!
It is also an instance of the Master's wisdom, for as it is his design to win hearts to himself, he uses the best means of winning them. How are hearts won? Very often, by the exhibition of beauty. Love at first sight has been begotten by the vision of a lovely countenance. Men and women, too, are struck with affection through the eye when they perceive some beauty which charms and pleases them; so, the Savior lifts the corner of the veil that conceals his glories, and lets us see some glimpse of his beauty, in order that he may win our hearts. There are some who seem to think that they can bully men to Christ; but that is a great mistake. It is very seldom that sinners can be driven to the Savior; his way is to draw them. He himself said, "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die." And the drawings of Christ are not, as it were, with a cart rope, but with silken bonds, ay, with invisible chains, for his beauty is of such a character that it creates love, his beauty is so attractive that it draws the heart.
You need not, therefore, be afraid that he will refuse you when you come to him. If a man praises his wares, it is that he may sell them. If a doctor advertises his cures, it is that other sick folk may be induced to try his medicine; and when our Lord Jesus Christ praises himself, it is a kind of holy advertisement by which he would tempt us to "come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." If he praises himself, it is that we may fall in love with him; and we need not be afraid to come and lay our poor hearts at his feet, and ask him to accept us, for he would not have wooed us by unveiling his beauties if he had meant, after all, to trample on our hearts, and say, "I care nothing for such poor love as yours."
I. First, then, the text sets forth THE EXCEEDING DELIGHTFULNESS OF OUR LORD.
He compares himself here, not as in other places to needful bread and refreshing water, but to lovely flowers, to roses and lilies. What is the use of roses and lilies? I know what the use of corn is; I must eat it, it is necessary to me for food. I know why barley and rye and all sorts of roots and fruits are created; they are the necessary food of man or beast. But what do we want with roses? What do we want with lilies? They are of no use at all except for joy and delight. With their sweet form, their charming color, and their delicious fragrance, we are comforted and pleased and delighted; but they are not necessaries of life.
There is a spiritual way of perceiving the savor of Christ; I cannot explain it to you, but there is an ineffable mysterious sweetness that proceeds from him which touches the spiritual senses, and affords supreme delight; and as the body has its nose, and its tender nerves that can appreciate sweet odours, so the soul has its spiritual nostril by which, though Christ be at a distance, it yet can perceive the fragrant emanations that come from him, and is delighted therewith.What is there that comes from Christ, from day to day, but his truth, his Spirit, his influence, his promises, his doctrines, his words of cheer?
II. I must pass on, next, to notice THE SWEET VARIETY OF CHRIST'S DELIGHTFULNESS.
The rose is not enough, you must have the lily also, and the two together fall far short of the glories of Christ, the true "Plant of renown.""I am the rose." That is the emblem of majesty. The rose is the very queen of flowers; in the judgment of all who know what to admire it is enthroned above all the rest of the beauties of the garden. But the lily—what is that? That is the emblem of love.
The combination of these sweet flowers also suggests our Lord's suffering and purity.
III. I must now very briefly take up the last head of my discourse, which is, THE EXCEEDING FREENESS OF OUR LORD'S DELIGHTFULNESS.
I have been talking about my Master, and I want to show you that he is accessible, he is meant to be plucked and enjoyed as roses and lilies are. He says in the text, "I am the rose of Sharon." What was Sharon? It was an open plain where anybody might wander, and where even cattle roamed at their own sweet will. Jesus is not like a rose in Solomon's garden, shut up within high walls, with broken glass all along the top. Oh, no! he says, "I am the rose of Sharon," everybody's rose, the flower for the common people to come and gather. "I am the lily." What lily? The lily of the palace of Shushan, enclosed and guarded from all approach? No; but, "I am the lily of the valleys," found in this glen, or the other ravine, growing here, there, and everywhere: "I am the lily of the valleys."
If you find Christ, and if you have to sell the coat off your back in order to get him, if you have to give up everything you have that you may find him, you will have such a treasure in him that, for the joy of finding him, you would count all the riches of Egypt to be less than nothing and vanity; but you need not sell the coat off your back, Christ is to be had for nothing, only you must give him yourself. If he gives himself to you, and he becomes your Savior, you must give yourself to him, and become his servant. Trust him, I beseech you, the Lord help you so to do, for Jesus' sake! Amen.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
I have been listening to John Hosier's seminar; "The Church Needs Pastors and Teachers". Terry Virgo said at the end of Rob Rufus's Training Tracks that the entire range of seminars had been one veritable feast of wealth and he wasn't wrong! This seminar is extremely interesting, stimulating, motivating and touches on much of what I was considering some time ago - in terms of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. For those who are not familiar with John Hosier, he is a recognised teacher based at Church of Christ the King in Brighton and travels quite widely.
John began the seminar by talking of his dislike for the term; "Ephesians 4 Ministries". I found this particularly interesting because as I noted in my post, I had spotted this in his excellent book; "Christ's Radiant Church". In the seminar he went on to explain why. He was concerned that naming someone as an "Ephesians 4 Teacher" or "Ephesians 4 Ministry" set them up on a pedestal that the New Testament simply didn't give them. ALL leadership gifts are from the ascended Christ and should be seen and received as such.
I was glad that he spent his introduction dealing with some technical aspects of all the ministries before moving onto talking about his subject - that of pastors and teachers. He noted that all of the ministries mentioned can be on eldership teams leading churches. An elder can be an apostle. An elder can be a prophet. An elder can be an evangelist and an elder can obviously be a pastor and teacher. He then went on to recognise that each eldership team of course needed a team leader. However a church may be affected in different ways depending on what ministry the team leader is. For example if the team leader is an apostle, the church may tend to become neglected after a while because the apostle is looking to the horizons. If the team leader is a prophet, the danger is that the church may blow up (Hosier's words!) from the revelation that the prophet brings. If the team leader is an evangelist, the church may become worn out from constantly being exhorted to seek the lost. And if the leader is a pastor/teacher, the church may become too inward looking.
That being said, he then moved on to to look at the desperate need for pastors and teachers. A lot of what he said fitted in with the two posts I wrote on the pastor/teacher. The first post I wrote argued that it was the pastor/teachers who caused the flow of the Charismatic Movement to stall after the heights of the Dales Bible Weeks 1976-77. The second post argued that the pastor/teachers are most in danger of stagnation as their ministry are local and not as mobile. The solution I suggested was to ensure they are constantly making way for younger men.
Both Ern Baxter and Terry Virgo had visions that confirmed very much the need for this to happen. Ern said; "I thought of a number of men who were apostolic and prophetic in their ministries who were sitting on top of church works (some of which were sizable) and were really keeping eldership from emerging. And they needed to come off the top of those things and do their apostolic/prophetic/ evangelistic work - because those ministries are mobile". Terry Virgo received a prophecy from Robyn Lowe when he was considering a wider work that said; "You will not be forsaking them by going forward, rather you will be helping, as it is important that you clear more ground so that in turn, all can move forward".
The obvious first question he dealt with is - are the two names one ministry or two seperate? John felt that they are two aspects to one ministry. This seemed to make very good sense to me. In experience I would have always argued that I have seen the ministry as very much seperate. I grew up under an outstanding teacher of God's Word, who was succeeded by a pastor. In Birmingham I again benefited from a teacher who did not strike one as a pastor. Then in Bristol, I consider myself very blessed to finally be in a church lead by a team of elders with many different giftings and ministries. Nick, the lead elder is a very gifted prophet as well as being an awesome teacher.
John Hosier then moved on to consider three different "styles" of being a pastor/teacher. I again found this very helpful because it served to explain what I have seen but never quite understood in my church experience. They were as follows:
1. A Discipleship/Empowering Style. This is reflected by Richard Baxter - author of the "Reformed Pastor". Hosier gave an interesting quote from the book where Richard Baxter argued that the Gospel is preached most effectively - NOT from a pulpit - but in individual people's homes in pastoral situations. I know a few churches who wouldn't agree with that style whatsoever! But I found it very worthy of a hearing.
2. Strong Teaching Style. Others argue that pastoring is most effectively given through the strong teaching of the Word of God and do not give much room to one-to-one counselling.
3. Available Style. This style mirrors that of the strong teaching ministry but they will make themselves available should anyone wish to speak with them, but they will by and large concentrate on the preaching of the Word. Hosier quoted Jonathan Edwards and Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones as most reflective of this. I would add my formative pastor Dr Stanley Jebb in this category.
I will continue this when I have finished the CD! But the material John Hosier has covered so far was absolutely excellent and I do highly recommend it along with his book "Christ's Radiant Church".
Go buy it now!
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Back in March, I wrote a piece entitled; "Grace - the most overused yet abused word in the Christian dictionary". It was inspired by my hatred of legalism. I read that piece on grace and still stand by it. Our doctrines must adorn our name as Terry Virgo once prayed. Do we lay claim to grace? Well let's live worthy of our name. Dr John Piper preached that; "Legalism is a greater menace to the church than alcoholism". Controversial? Well Piper at least deserves a serious hearing.
Whether we agree or disagree, legalism is Public Enemy Number 1 and must be killed so I was encouraged therefore to find this detailed piece in Ern Baxter's exposition of Galatians.
Galatians 1:9: "If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed".
1. Legalism Denies the New Life in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 2:20: "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me".
- Legalism expects a man to be good of himself.
- Christian life is not a life of mere ethical righteousness, of human goodness or strict morality.
- It is Christ living in the believer!
a) Note Paul. Phil 3:4-6: "If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more; circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, as touching the law, a Pharisee, concerning zeal, persecuting the church, touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless".
- BUT after meeting Christ there came a change!
Phil 3:7-9: "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. That I may be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith".
2. Legalism Denies the Sufficiency of the Death of Christ.
Gal 2:21: "I do not frustrate the grace of God; for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain".
- If a sinner can become righteous before God by his own good deeds then Christ died in vain.
- Why die to save those who can save themselves?
- Legalism sets aside the grace of God.
3. Legalism Denies the Relationship with and Nearness to God that the Believer Possesses.
Gal 3:25-26: "But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus".
- The law brought a distance.
- Shtus God in and shuts man out.
- Man must work himself into the Presence of God.
- Faith is the only way of drawing near to God.
Hebrews 10:19, 22: "Having therefore brethren, boldness to enter into the holiness by the blood of Jesus ... let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith".
4. Legalism Denies the New Creation in Christ Jesus.
Gal 6:14, 15: But God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Chrst, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision but a new creation".
- Nothing else avails with God but "a new creation".
- Legalism says fix up the old fellow and you will be okay.
a) The New Life in Christ Jesus is begun in the Spirit.
Gal 3:3: "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith? Having begun in the Spirit are ye now made perfect by the flesh?".
- Received the Spirit by believing God.
- The work was begun by faith.
- Can the ambitious flesh finish it? No!
b) The Spirit is the Secret of Victory over the Flesh.
Gal 5:16: "Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh".
- Not a case of pampering the flesh but of walking in the Spirit.
- The "flesh lusteth against the Spirit".
- The Law is not for the New Creation.
- By recognising the Law as a rule for living one falls from grace and comes under the law.
Gal 5:18: "If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law".
c) Spirit is the Power of the Believers Hope of Righteousness.
Gal 5:5: "For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness".
- Flesh gives no confidence.
- Indwelling Spirit gives and brings assurance.
- Legalist can have no certainity or assurance.
- The Law has no power to compel the flesh to obey and abstain from evil.
- No power in man to make the flesh obey the Law of God.
- The new life in Christ loves to obey.
- Legality is a deadly foe and hateful to God.
Friday, July 21, 2006
I have found a hugely exciting series of 22 study sheets on "The Gift of Prophecy" in the Ern Baxter Archive. Each study is quite short (just one page) and has some hugely stimulating study questions that would be a fantastic resource for any cell group leader who was interested in getting into this most desirable of spiritual gifts!
I couldn't quite decide where to post it, as it does concern the Spirit and His gifts but is by Ern Baxter - so in the end I decided, I am posting it over at my other website - "The Spirit of God!". It follows on nicely from the previous post by Bryn Jones on prophecy.
As I have said - there are 22 study sheets so I will try to post one each day or as often as I can manage it. I really do hope and pray that it raises the profile of this spiritual gift - that we are urged to seek most eagerly!
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Since coming back from the Brighton Leaders Conference I have found that I am obsessing nearly on two things: Mission and Worship. I have never before felt such a desire "to go"! Yet John Piper's famous quote in his book, "Let the Nations Be Glad" is arresting:
"Mission is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Mission exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate, not missions because God is ultimate not man. When this age is over and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.
Worship therefore is the fuel and goal in missions. It's the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white hot enjoyment of God's glory. The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God ... When the flame of worship burns with the heat of God's true worth, the light of missions will shine to the most remote peoples of the earth. And I long for that day to come!".
As do we Dr Piper! An unfortunate comment was once made by a pastor I was talking to. He said; "Worship is really the cup of water before the main course - the sermon". After reading "Let the Nations be Glad" I couldn't disagree more vehemently and so would John Piper. Surely rather the sermon explains what the worship is. Or rather the object and goal of the worship.
However as I read a chapter later in the book, I was arrested by a comment that John Piper quoted regarding martydom. It was regarding a man called Raymond Lull - an 80 year old.
"His ambition was to die as a missionary and not as a teacher of philosophy ... His love had not grown cold but burned the brighter "with the failure of natural warmth and the weakness of old age". He longed not only for the martyrs crown but also to see his little band of believers (in Africa) ... At length weary of seclusion and longing for martyrdom he came forth into the open ... he was stoned on the 30th of June 1315".
His ambition was to die as a missionary! He longed for the martyrs crown!? Longing for martydom?! Who is this man? As I read this, part of my heart burnt with a desire to have his same longing - but the other part of my heart ached with fear that I simply did not have this man's faith or vision. Could I walk willingly to my certain death for the sake of the relentless advance of the Gospel? I'm not sure at the moment I must confess.
So I began reading Terry Virgo's excellent article in a previous Newfrontiers magazine on "Worship in Spirit and in Truth". As I understand John Piper, these great men of the faith - these martyrs - could go with their heads held high because they had seen Something or Some One worth dying for. My reasoning is that it is in worship that my vision will increase and I pray my faith will grow to attempt daring exploits for the spread of the Gospel. So I went through his article with my own comments. I must become a better worshipper! It was said that Albert Einstein, "must have looked at what the preachers said about God and felt they were blaspheming. He had seen much more majesty than they had ever imagined and they were just not talking about the real thing".
I believe that Terry's article is so helpful in increasing our knowledge of worship because he identifies steps or stages in worship. This is a totally biblical concept. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote; "Do we know anything about these advancing steps or stages? As we look back acros our Christian experience, do we know what it is to rise, like this, from step to step and from platform to platform? Do we know this increasing boldness in the Presence of God, this increasing assurance and the desire for yet more and more?".
So Terry wrote:
"Worship is our highest calling. God is seeking worshippers, so converts must become worshippers ... Perhaps our worship reaches full expression when we gather corporately in our churches. It should be the climax of our week".
This sounds very similar to John Piper's argument. And how vastly different. Corporate worship should be the climax of our week compared to a "cup of water before the main meal"?
"We don’t want to be bound hard and fast with rules, but if you have no guidelines you can lose direction. 1. THANKSGIVING. Enter His gates with thanksgiving; a simple thing but genuinely helpful".
I remember for many years at my home church in Dunstable there was a huge sign in the entrance foyer. It said; "Enter His gates with thanksgiving". As children it became very normal to us, but the worship used to model that generally in church. We would always begin with thanksgiving. It was so useful because thanksgiving would enable us to focus on God whatever baggage we had entered the church with. He is God! And He is worthy to be praised! As Terry said;
"Thanksgiving is appropriate in every circumstance. People face huge problems; mortgage difficulties, family disputes, parent/child tensions. People often come in pain. It’s helpful for them to be able to say ‘in every circumstance of life I’ll praise you’ and then start adding content to declare why He is worthy of praise. So come thanking Him, honouring Him, expressing our appreciation to Him. Thanksgiving is our threshold, our doorway in".
"2. PRAISE GOD WITH UNDERSTANDING. You praise what impresses you! Don’t keep singing songs that have no content. Sing songs that absorb your mind and expand your understanding of God.".
I thought about the many times that I had come to churchs past and simply not had any desire to worship or praise God at all. This made me think - does God really impress me? Hymns and songs are so helpful when they are full of doctrinal content. Because they express some aspect of God that should impress us! Some of my favourite songs contain lines that sometimes I can hardly sing without getting emotional. The beautiful hymn, "Before the Throne of God" (sang at Stoneleigh Bible Week 1998) contains the line, "For God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me". Wow! Or as another hymn says, "Amazing Love! How can it be?".
Terry then takes us up another step or stage in worship;
"3. IDENTIFICATION. Worship is enriched by identification ... we are not moved only by the objective beauty of God, but by our identification with Him; He’s my God, my Saviour. So my praise takes on an even deeper feeling and meaning ... Praise takes on greater intensity the more we appreciate our identification with this God, with what He has done for us in His Son".
I think that really touches what I experienced at Church of Christ the King on the Sunday evening before the Brighton conference. I spent two years every Sunday singing of the Cross of Christ and feeling very little. The teaching aspect to those songs was second to none. But when John Hosier said that one sentence in his prayer; "It was love that constrained the Son of God to go to Calvary" - I think I identified it! For the first time it felt I realised that the Cross is the greatest expression of love that the Son of God can possibly give. To ask for further expressions of love as though the Cross wasn't enough is nigh on blasphemy.
The next steph or stage:
"4. SHOUT TO THE LORD. Praise has to be expressed. It is not fulfilled until it’s articulated ... When I was baptised in the Holy Spirit ... I was expected to keep this new experience to myself. Ultimately I could not settle for that because praise reaches its zenith in being expressed ... When I was a young Christian, clapping in church was almost like blasphemy! Now I frequently find myself applauding God and shouting His praise alongside a ‘dancing and shouting generation’. He is worthy of praise in the way that praise is often articulated in other normal human settings, namely with wholehearted enthusiasm!".
One of the things that stirred me the most last year at Newfrontier "Let the Nations Be Glad" conference was to see Terry left alone on the platform during the lively offering dancing and clapping to the African beat and watching the masses of Mobilise that were packed around the front of the platform. It moved me because my experience has been often that as men get older their tolerance for noise and sound diminishes. Not this man! How awesome to have a father of our movement who loves to shout His praise alongside the young!
"5. ADMIRATION AND REFLECTION. That brings us to expressions of love and devotion that take us into another sphere ... I am reminded of Graham Kendrick’s song, ‘Knowing you Jesus, knowing you, there is no greater thing…’, a song that is probably often sung in private prayer as well as in meetings. I imagine that, if you were a song writer, it would be your greatest desire to help serve the saints to get close to Him alone so that their longings for God can grow! If we don’t reach genuine encounter we are missing out".
I feel that we are getting close to the kind of worship that stimulates martyrs. Genuine encounter - really being able to sing, "There is no greater thing! You're my all - you're the best!".
"6. ENCOUNTER. ‘I long for you O Lord’, ‘As the deer pants’, ‘Show me your glory’ – we are looking for moments of discovery, and carefully selected songs can help us on our way. I think sometimes we start singing in the Spirit too early in meetings. Corporate singing in the Spirit can not only sound beautiful but also lead into a dynamic spiritual experience of God’s presence. But sometimes we jump in too quickly before people are ready. That, in turn, often results in quite brief times of singing in the Spirit which don’t go anywhere.
Consequently, we can get used to periods of singing in the Spirit that are not very dynamic. Times of corporate 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. I love that old Wimber song ‘Just like you promised you’ve come…’ I remember in the early Wimber meetings there were times when you wondered what would happen next! How often is it like that for you at a Sunday meeting?".
Yet I was amazed to find that there is one final stage - that I am sure many will not like. Yet Terry writes;
"7. INTOXICATION. There is one more step: delight and even drunkenness! The Bible says, ‘These men are not drunk as you suppose’, they were full of the Spirit. ‘Don’t get drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit’ (Eph. 5:18). We are talking about encounters that affect you powerfully. The nearest description is this very irresponsible one of being drunk! Who would have dreamed up such a comparison? It seems outrageous! But the Bible offers the comparison. When we come together we want to taste God; His love is better than wine".
Some may argue that this is not very seeker-friendly. Non Christians may be in our midst and may be put off. Dave Holden dealt with this issue excellently at Brighton, and Terry dealt with it too in his article. He wrote;
"We must not worry that this kind of worship is not ‘seeker friendly’. I have non-Christian friends who have come to our Sunday morning worship and have said to me, ‘We just cried. What did we touch? What was that?’ When we worship we want the unsaved to feel the impact and know that God is there".
And so in conclusion;
"8. TRANSFORMATION. As we behold His glory we are being changed. That’s the power of worship. So we go from encounter to delight, to transformation as we behold His glory. We are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another. If you experience God enough you are going to be changed. So we are being changed more and more from glory to glory as we worship and behold Him.
Don’t settle for anything less. Don’t simply sing a few songs. Worship is your highest calling. Let your mind be informed; let your will be motivated; let your heart be inflamed; let the Holy Spirit draw near for heartfelt fellowship; and let God be greatly glorified.
How thankful I am to be at a church where the elders are not prepared to settle for anything less! I began this blog by writing of the 80 year old gentleman who longed for martydom. Who wearied of safe seclusion and walked into Africa seeking out those who would kill him yet needed to hear the Gospel. Could I do that? I fear not at the moment. Yet God is so unbelievably gracious! His call for me is not yet to die a martyrs death but to worship Him in Spirit and in truth - to seek encounters with Him that will transform me forever.
Monday, July 17, 2006
There are some more pictures uploaded of this outstanding looking conference - at which Terry Virgo, Bob Mumford and Charles Simpson were ministering. Terry Virgo said that "Ern Baxter's name was mentioned quite frequently". How I would have loved to be a fly on the wall! Charles Simpson wrote the following:
"The Gatlinburg 2006 Leadership Conference was a great success. Approximately 440 leaders attended. Bob Mumford, Terry Virgo, and Ken Sumrall did a terrific job in delivering the Word of the Lord to us. And, the spirit of reconciliation was evident; long term separation was overcome by the grace of God ... Terry Virgo brought two messages to the conference. He leads a network of approximately 500 churches and is a very respected leader among other networks. His leadership reaches several continents; he resides in England. His second message dealt with Ephesians chapter 4. I was struck by the importance of these verses once again".
History was made I think!
I am always on the hunt for tapes of Dr Ern Baxter that I don't have so it was an absolute joy to come across the "Broken Bread Tape Library". I got the address and recomendation from the outstanding Charles Simpson Ministries. Their address is:
"Broken Bread" Tape Library
12138 Arrowwood Avenue
Baton Rouge, LA 70818
I got about 160 tapes altogether including one conference set called "The King, Kingdom and Holy Spirit Conference". Ern was the keynote speaker at this conference hosted by Bishop Earl Paulk. I have heard the first message called "Calamitous Compromises" and it is absolutely superb. The anointing of God was clearly upon him and the teaching feels somewhat like a heat-seeking Exocet. I will post more reports as I finish the series or maybe even a transcript if I feel so led!
Sunday, July 16, 2006
One of the prophecies at the Brighton Leadership Conference was about the need to "move up a gear". That when the clutch is pressed down, there is a split second of freewheeling then the gear engages and the car is equipped to go faster. However the prophecy reminded us that it isn't the gear box that makes the car go faster but the accelarator pedal being depressed! The car is simply equipped to go faster. The prophecy said that the conference had moved our church lives up a gear, but now we had to "go" and accelerate.
Since the Brighton conference, Terry Virgo spoke of the privilidge of being at the Rob Rufus Training Tracks and the need to "go on experiencing life-changing impact from them". That statement really echoed the cries of many hearts I think.
I am absolutely thrilled coming back from church today feeling that the prophecy in part is coming true. There were two prophecies in church which were awesome in weight and implication. The first was very specific - that God has a strategy for us. That the Church is His Number One Plan to go to the nations and bring them in. The second prophecy was linked to that - the lady had a picture of some stones similar to the ones that David used from the brook to kill Goliath. She said that God had similar stones for us. Words that would kill the powers of darkness holding our friends, family and neighbours in. Stones to hit targets and bring down giants.
Traditionally prophecy today has been somewhat laughed at by cessationists. In their desire to get "it right", many who prophesy today keep their words somewhat vague and etherial. "I see a picture of a waterfall". "The Lord says, I love you" and so on. There is maybe absolute validity in those words and pictures, but I have always felt that as charismatics we have yet to see the text in 1 Corinthians fulfilled that says; "But if all prophesy and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you" (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).
It is my hope and prayer therefore that one of the results of the Brighton conference, and the "moving up of a gear" is that we will see prophecy grow and develop and that more and more of our church will step out in faith and speak what they feel the Spirit has to say to the churches. With that in mind, there are two websites that I must note.
The first is called "Prophetic Reformation" and it is by a great guy called Jon who I have met. He is a friend of Luke Wood's and goes to his church in Sheffield. The website has some awesome material on there including his Reformed/Charismatic version of the Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards.
The second is called "Spirit of God!" and it is by the son of my mother. I started the new blog as a direct result of the Brighton conference. Anyone who follows this website will know that I do tend to go on about the Holy Spirit quite a bit - this blog aims to raise the profile of the Spirit and life in the Spirit. Hopefully it will also mean that I can devote more time on this website to Ern Baxter's ministry. So far on there I have posted one of my favourite prophecy's of Terry Virgo's that he gave at Stoneleigh 2000, I have posted a helpful article from Bob Mumford on prophecy and an interview by Arthur Wallis on revival.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Piper and Taylor are at it again ...
I think the Bible approves of partnerships in the Gospel. You see it everywhere - Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Paul and Timothy. And I'm starting to notice partnerships par excellence about today as well where men and women develop friendships but extend that into working together for the glory of God. Terry Virgo seems particularly good at it. You have Terry Virgo and Nigel Ring, Terry Virgo and Stuart Townend, Terry Virgo and David Holden. Who else? Oh yes - Gerald Coates and Noel Richards.
But one partnership in the theological world that I am particularly grateful for is that of John Piper and Justin Taylor. They have brought us outstanding books such as "A God Entranced Vision of All Things", "Beyond the Bounds" and "Sex and the Supremacy of Christ". And now I see from the Crossway website that we can soon look forward to this adaptation of Dr John Owen's classic - "Overcoming Sin and Temptation".
Volume 6 of the Works on "Overcoming Sin and Temptation" was probably the first volume of Owen's that I really got my teeth into. I got the 16 volumes on an amazing deal at my favourite Christian bookshop where I used to live in Dunstable. They were the only Christian bookshop that I knew of outside London who used to stock Puritan works. My pastor Dr Stanley Jebb urged me to get the Works - and I never ignore him! But no question - John Owen is the hardest of the Puritans.
This volume however is very pastoral and stirring. Owen makes it his ambition for every reader to see sin for what it truly is. Here are a few of my favourite quotes:
"All other ways of mortification are vain, all helps leave us helpless; it must by done by the Spirit" (p7).
"The vigour and power and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh" (p9).
"Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you" (p9).
"Let a soul exercise itself to a communion with Christ in the good things of the gospel - pardon of sin, fruits of holiness, hope of glory, peace with God, joy in the Holy Ghost, dominion over sin - and he shall have a mighty preservative against all temptations. As the full soul loatheth the honeycomb - as a soul filled with carnal, earthly, sensual contentments finds no relish nor savour in the sweetest spiritual things; so he that is satisfied with the kindness of God as with marrow and fatness - that is every day entertained at the banquet of wine, wine upon the lees and well refined - hath a holy contempt of the baits and allurements that lie in prevailing temptations and is safe" (p144).
So that all being said, I am glad that this volume is coming out. I would still recommend the "proper" version but for those who simply don't have the time to sit down with Dr John Owen in full, then this is a must have! I have no doubt that Justin Taylor and Kelly Kapic will have done an excellent job.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Thursday, July 13, 2006
How do you continue to write after such a week? It's quite hard! The lasting fruit from the 'Together on a Mission' conference continues to amaze me. If you want to see some excellent photos from the event, my church has has posted some here. There is also a link to the hugely exciting church plant that we are embarking on - in the Malverns.
Secondly I am running up our electricity bill by having both the DVD machine and the audiotape copier runnning almost permamently! If anyone isn't aware, I am now able to copy videotape messages of Dr Ern Baxter onto DVD (I've got about 20). I am so excited about this! It preserves the message and makes it possible to send them out to whoever is interested. Please do either email me or leave a comment if you would like copies.
While I was copying one message from Ern Baxter's series on "Salvation Words", I heard the following quote. It is excellent yet maybe provocative. Here is the transcript:
"The power of my salvation experientially is in the Holy Spirit. The power of my salvation legally is in the blood. The blood was shed that provided the legal basis on which God could come by His active power and deliver the people out of Egypt. So that when we are speaking about the blood, we are speaking about legal authority. When we are speaking about bringing them out, we are speaking about vital power.
That is the difference I think between the Cross and the Resurrection. Personally I don't think the Cross is the symbol of Christianity. I think that using the Cross as the symbol of Christianity has accounted for us being bogged down by lifeless Christianity. To me the symbol of Christianity is a crown!
The writer to the Hebrews said, "For we see Jesus crowned". Now the Cross is a very vital part of the whole redemptive process. The whole Gospel runs like this; "How that Christ died, and was buried and rose again and how He ascended to the right hand of the Father and poured forth this which you now see and hear". So that the power of Christianity in it's vitality is in the Holy Spirit. What about the Cross? The Cross and what happened on the Cross was validated by the Holy Spirit declaring Jesus to be the Son of God by the Ressurection from the dead.
There is nowhere in Acts where they finished their gospel service by appealing to people to come to the Cross. The Cross is the basis on which God redeems men. But everything about the Cross is negative. When He rose from the dead He brought a new life, a new community, a new future, a new hope. So the blood had to be shed to enable God to bring them out. But resurrection is the emphasis of the Gospel. Christ is risen to bring His people into the Presence of God".
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Like my friend Luke Wood said, writing these reviews has been enormously helpful for me however much of a blessing it has been to the readers! I hope it has been - but for me it has been like living the conference again and re-learning and re-visiting the awesome material learnt but moreever remembering the encounter with God Himself by His Spirit. It's something I never want to forget and like Luke said, I am constantly amazed that although much of what was said was a restatement of the vision and values of Newfrontiers - this year was the greatest revelation of those visions and values that I have ever experienced or been to. I am so grateful!
If I was asked to sum up what Brighton meant to me, I would say in a sentence; "Jesus and the Spirit". The empty Cross and the empty tomb mean that the Holy Spirit has been poured out on the Church today and that He has given ascension gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists and the pastor/teachers. Church will and should never be the same again!
Here are the sessions with their respective links and a short sentence summary of each.
Stephen Van Rhyn - Session 1 - Day 1.
Stephen taught us on the significant ingrediants for an apostolic advance. 1. God. 2. Courage. 3. Diversity of Gifts. 4. Multi-Coloured Expression. 5. Pressure and Hardship. 6. Grace.
David Stroud - Session 2 - Day 1.
David taught with great skill on the four names of the coming King who will change everything. 1. Wonderful Counsellor. 2. Mighty King. 3. Everlasting Father. 4. Prince of Peace.
"Draw Me Close to You".
We sung it - unashamed and unafraid.
Terry Virgo - Session 3 - Day 1.
Terry taught us in his opening address to the conference as the father of our movement - that our refusals however small can make a world of difference.
Rob Rufus - Training Track 1 - Day 2.
The first of a trinity with this incredible man of God. Sometimes to do the miraculous, you must do the ridiculous. I ended up on the floor of the Hewson Hall. Ridiculous enough?
Rob Rufus - Session 2 - Day 2.
Round two with Rob. Disappointment and Calvinists are prone to limiting theology and therefore experience. We need an encounter with God through the Holy Spirit as a living Person. We must remember the Cross is empty and the object of it all is the lost.
David Holden - Session 3 - Day 2.
The highlight for me in terms of speaking (and excluding Terry). The most amazing, empassioned teaching on ministering in the Spirit. "The reason Newfrontiers exists is because of an experience of the Holy Spirit".
Wayne Grudem - Session 4 - Day 2.
Grudem teaches with crystal clarity that Jesus Christ was and is both God and Man and therefore worthy of our worship and praise.
Rob Rufus - Training Track 2 - Day 3.
The man of the Spirit teaches on the laying on of hands.
David Devenish - Session 2 - Day 3.
'The' missional message of the conference from this mission-obsessed apostle/prophet. There are 6, 000 unreached people groups. Don't ever say Newfrontiers isn't working somewhere. We should be, we might be or we will be!
The Prayer Meeting - Day 3.
Multi-cultural celebration and prayer as we raise a million pounds for apostolic mission!
Rob Rufus - Training Track 3 - Day 4.
The final session of this conference with Rob. I got a vision of heaven and a man got exorcised of a demonic spirit of suicide! This is Kingdom life!
Terry Virgo - Final Session - Day 4.
Terry closed the conference with the most stirring, fatherly compassionate but challenging address I have yet to hear from him. Despite pressures, despite challenges let us never forget that the arm of the Lord is mighty to save! We have been brought out of Egpyt for a purpose - and we are heading towards the Promised Land - a land flowing with milk and honey. Vintage Ern Baxter if ever.