Thursday, August 31, 2006
Learning the Lessons from "The Shepherding Movement" by S David Moore.
While this is partly a book review, it may turn out to be somewhat of a more extended reflection on the vitality of recognising leadership. "The Shepherding Movement" by S David Moore is an excellent book that will appeal on many fronts.
It is a scholarly work (the author is a Professor in California), it is a sympathetic work (the author used to be personally involved in the Shepherding Movement), it is a systematic work (the author has taken great pains to ensure historical fact and the bibliography is 20 pages long!) and it is a significant work (the author was granted interviews with Charles Simpson, Bob Mumford and many of the key players in the Shepherding Movement).
I have now read it a number of times and read it firstly for a learning experience, secondly to absorb Ern Baxter's contribution to the Shepherding Movement but thirdly to learn the lessons from history and see where these outstanding men fell short, and by learning we can go further. Regular readers of this website may be forgiven sometimes for thinking that I see Ern Baxter is almost infallible! On many fronts, I have argued that Ern Baxter was incredibly prophetic for his time and his teaching has gone beyond our experience today as charismatics. Yet there are areas where we can benefit from his foundational work and yet go further in our vision of the Kingdom of God. He would expect nothing less.
A. An Outline of the Book.
The author takes a largely chronological format beginning with some time in the foreward to establish his credentials. Why is the book important? "The story of the Shepherding movement provides the contemporary church ... with a highly relevant chronicle of the challenges and problems that involve the renewal and revitalization of church structures" (p4). There should be personal benefits too to reading this book; "Studying the Shepherding movement's successes and problems in its attempts to provide an environment for practical discipleship and spiritual formation may help today's church do a better job in producing devoted followers of Jesus" (p5). Surely that should interest any reader - charismatic or not!
In terms of sources, the author wrote that; "essential for an accurate history of the Shepherding movement is a complete collection of New Wine. The magazine published from 1969 through to 1986 was the principal publishing voice of the five teachers and the movement". It is exciting therefore to note that Terry Virgo wrote that it is the intention of the Charles Simpson Ministry to put articles from the New Wine magazine onto their website. The other key source from this era is of course the audiotape. He wrote; "The Shepherding movement blazed a trail in the use of audiotaped Bible teaching. Millions of tapes were distributed over the years. I was able to secure more than a thousand relevant tapes".
He then begins with the fascinating historical facts as to how Charles Simpson, Ern Baxter, Bob Mumford, Don Basham and Derek Prince came together. Somewhat like Newfrontiers, they came together because of the dramatic experiences of the Holy Spirit that were sweeping the United States in the 1960's. They saw a need to bring Bible teaching into the charismatic experience that was happening. Their desire for accountability and relationship occured out of a tragic moral fall by a Bible teaching they were working with who's secret sin was previously unknown to that point. They covenanted together that; "Not one of us is immune from the deception that trapped Eldon ... when ministries are submitted to no one, answerable to no one, they too often stumble".
Moore then went on to speak of each of the Five's personalities and giftings. Don Basham's gifting was in editoral writing and journalistic skills. "He was the force behind New Wine Magazine" (p35). His ministry included an emphasis on deliverance from demonic power. Ern Baxter was the "oldest and more experienced of the five leaders ... Baxter was the most theologically orientated of the five men, using his extensive library to root himself in the Reformed tradition, along with his classical Pentecostal background" (p36). Moore wrote that Ern Baxter was an orator who used words as artistic tools and in the pulpit painted magnificent pictures. He had an extensive library where he would spend hours and often entire days in study. Bob Mumford was "the catalyst and celebrity of the Shepherding movement". He was seen commonly as a gifted and enthusiastic teacher. Derek Prince was "a Bible teacher of precision and skill". Like Basham he had an emphasis on deliverance from demonic power but also held a passion for Israel. Finally Charles Simpson became the primary administrator and manager of the Five. He was accepted as the most "influential shaper of the Shepherding Movement" and the leader of the Five.
Much of the book is obviously devoted to the controversies that arose due to the excesses that some of the Five's followers fell into. The inital controversies began because of Basham and Prince's empasis on demonic deliverance. This was small however and localised. The heights of the Shepherding Movement were the two conferences firstly at Montreat in 1974 and then Kansas City in 1975 where Ern Baxter preached the unforgettable sermon; "Thy Kingdom Come". Moore wrote; "Kansas City ... was a powerful expression of unity among Charismatics ... the evening meetings had more than 45, 000 in attendance ... The movement's 1977 success in the face of two years of controversy had helped create the triumphalistic tone ... It was a heady time for the Shepherding Movement".
So to the controversies. Moore suggested that it was fear that led to the controversies becoming open discussion and debate with the leaders. After the Montreat Conference 1974, many national church leaders "felt threatened ... they were afraid that these guys were running away and getting a lockhold on the leadership of the whole Charismatic movement". It was the famous TV figure Pat Robertson who first decided to take the Five and their doctrines on. One point to note is that Pat Robertson did not follow the principles of Scripture in confronting the Five. Matthew 18:15-17 makes it quite clear that it is appropriate first to approach the brother you have a problem with privately first. A public approach is of last resort. Robertson on the other hand; "wrote an open letter to Bob Mumford ... copies of which were sent to many prominent Charismatic leaders".
There is much detail in the book about meetings between the Five brothers and other Charismatic leaders and it is evident that there was much heat to the meetings. Moore cited Ern Baxter as writing; "These were painful things to here since we felt that none of them (the accusations of error) were true ... I felt more grieved at the manner in which we were attacked than hurt by the attack itself ... I was not prepared for the kind of hostile and prosecutional attitudes demonstrated by some of our opponents" (p103). The meetings often reached stalemates because the charges and accusations were levelled at the Five brothers, who replied as best as they could in all honesty, but were told that they were not believed. It is difficult to see how anyone could respond to such hostility.
It is sad that the historical events make it clear that the controversies were of such heat that Simpson, Baxer, Basham and Mumford (Prince had taken an independent road a few years earlier) felt unable to continue to put into practice much of what they believed. It is clear that they felt hugely responsible for the excesses and errors put into practice under their oversight and bore that responsibility heavily. It seems to me that Moore made it clear that the closing of the New Wine magazine in 1986 was a key moment for each of the brothers taking a more independent line in their ministries although they remained close friends. It is thrilling that so many years on after this, the Charles Simpson Leadership Conference saw Bob Mumford and Charles Simpson ministering together for the first time in 20 years.
B. Lessons Learnt from the Book.
Prof Moore does have a number of reflections for the reader to learn from the Shepherding Movement and it is these that I would like to add some commentary to.
"1. The movement grew too fast and exceeded it's ability to produce trained and qualified leaders for the task".
It seems to me that history teaches us again and again that movements of God have caught the church off-guard and when the Spirit has moved, the wineskins simply are not adequate enough to cope with the new wine that is coming from heaven. It is essential that due care and attention is given to the principles and values that we hold and hence why books such as John Hosier's "Christ's Radiant Church" are so important for structuring our beliefs on leadership and church life.
"2. The movement's leaders failed to recognise the downside of an authoritarian approach .. Human carnality got the best of some leaders who used their authority in self-serving ways without sufficient or timely redress".
While there is authority, there will always be abuse of it. This doesn't allow for an ignoring of church authority - it is biblical! But it demonstrates to me the vitality of a true apostolic movement that will ensure that checks are in place for leaders to not be able to abuse their authority without someone asking questions. We should get nervous if we see a leader who has such a personality cult that we suspect he considers himself immune from accountability.
"3. The movement's ideology forced the five teachers into apostolic and pastoral roles for which they were not called or prepared".
This, to me, is the major area where the five teachers fell short of their calling. Ern Baxter had an apostolic calling - of that there is no doubt. Throughout his life church leaders flocked to him looking for oversight and covering. His ministry was mobile and he was constantly looking to "regions beyond". In short he fulfilled all of the five criteria of an apostle that David Holden identified. Yet he (and the other brothers) seemed very reluctant to acccept that mantle. Maybe it was humility. Maybe they didn't believe they really had that gifting. But Paul says, "By the grace of God I am what I am". Humility aside, there is a place for recognising that the ascended Christ has given gifts of leadership to His church and if a leader has that gifting, it is not because of any human achievement. It is rather a calling to serve God's church and the parable of the talents makes it quite clear that God doesn't look kindly on men who hide their talents in the ground because of "humility".
"4. The movement's emphasis on authority, submission and servanthood had a way of silencing dissent. The highly personal, hierarchial, pastoral relationships made it difficult to disagree and challenge one's pastor without appearing disloyal".
Can a pastor make a mistake? Can a church leader get it wrong? Surely if what he says is contravening the Word of God then it clearly is evidence that he can. But the question remains how can the tension be held in a church member disagreeing respectfully with a pastor and yet remaining loyal and under authority to him? It is an incredibly difficult situation that I have experienced personally. This surely is where humility does have a part to play, and church leaders should be careful of exerting their authority into areas where the Word of God is not clearly addressing an issue.
"5. It simply was impossible to keep five strong independently successful leaders together".
I am so grateful to God for a movement of churches like Newfrontiers that demonstrate that this actually is possible. While Terry Virgo fathers the movement, he is not a classic personality cult. He doesn't shout or cry or cackle in preaching like some preachers, yet the authority in his style is undeniable. The other leaders on the apostolic team seem quite able to work together because there is a common goal and vision. I wonder if the problem with the Shepherding Movement was not that they were five strong independent leaders but rather that they did not have a clear, concise vision of where the churches they were leading were going? Hence each leader would lay his own style on the men who related to him? This is pure speculation as I have not had the opportunity to ask whether this is so.
And so ...
Moore concludes, "History tells us that people and movements once rejected are sometimes only appreciated generations later. For the Shepherding Movement only time will tell". This book is an excellent tool for any who are interested in getting a clearer understanding of how Ern Baxter and his brothers worked. I highly recommend it. It is a scholarly work but incredibly easy to understand and very readible. It is my hope that time is already healing the wounds of those abused by heavy shepherding and that we will begin to be able to address this again in churches - this is why I was so thrilled with Terry Virgo's closing address to the Brighton conference. If the end-time glorious church is truly to arise and let her light shine, then we desperately need Christ's Ascension Gifts of Leadership everywhere and in every place.
Monday, August 28, 2006
I thought I'd use the general bank holiday quietness to wander around the blogs, gather thoughts and have a think about what area of Ern Baxter's ministry to next embark upon (while of course continuing my project on the "King and His Army"). So what's caught my eye?
There are two excellent posts at the Jonathan Edwards Center blog - the first is a videoblog concerning the interest surrounding the release of the Edwards "Blank Bible". It's only about six minutes and contains some very interesting information for those of us who can't wait to get their hands on the volume!
The second is a free PDF download of some 14 pages of a sample from the "Blank Bible" - Jonathan Edwards notes on Galatians. Again an amazing insight into the richness of the man and his relationship with the Word of God.
If anyone thinks that Luke Wood has gone quiet on his blog, then think again! He's started up a new project called "NewGen Books" with an accompanying blog. It is essentially an online Christian bookshop with reviews, and profiles of the various authors. I find this incredibly encouraging because it demonstrates to me that not all charismatics are "Charismatic Headcases" and some of us do take the Word of God seriously and desire to know more of it in our ongoing life in the Spirit.
Scotty takes a plunge into the world of reviewing and begins with a favourite album of us both - Lou Fellingham's beautiful debut - "Treasure". He reviews each song individually and gives a great insight for those who might be tempted by the singer with a voice of an angel!
There are now four prophecies transcribed on my "Spirit of God!" website from Together on a Mission 2006! Terry Virgo, Ginny Burgin, John Groves and Terry Virgo again. They all greatly impacted me at the conference. All are deeply rooted in the Word of God yet are so stirring and truly will be prophecies "by which we fight the good fight".
And finally just a thought on an evangelical shibboleth - the use of the term "Saviour" for the Lord Jesus Christ. Many do it. But is it actually the best term to use? I remember once at my home church, my pastor Dr Stanley Jebb got people to stand up after his sermon and confess Jesus Christ as "Lord". One lady got slightly caught up in the emotion of the moment and said, "Jesus Christ is my Saviour". Dr Jebb stopped her and said, "Ah but is He your Lord?". I transcribed this today from Ern Baxter on the "King and His Army".
"You see we have preached Christ as Saviour for so long that we don’t realise that you can receive Christ as Saviour and not receive Him as Lord and then it’s questionable whether you have received Him at all. For any time the Bible speaks of Him as Saviour, it speaks of Him 29 times as Lord. The ratio is 29:1! And yet you go into evangelistic meetings and we urge people, won’t you please accept Christ as your Saviour – fiddlesticks! That’s not what it’s all about. The whole tendency is that Jesus will be your buddy – come just as you are with all your sin and He will give you a little card with your name on it and you will put it in your pocket next to your heart and then when you get up there, you will flick it out and say, “There St Peter, one night in a meeting I raised my hand and there’s my card”. That’s not what it’s all about. Paul says that salvation begins when you confess Jesus Christ as Lord".
I'm not saying this to be petty nor do I think was Dr Jebb. The point is our commitment to the Word of God and exactly how the Gospel transforms our lives. It doesn't end with salvation - although salvation is an ongoing process. But when we come through the waters of baptism, we enter into a life where Jesus Christ is the Lord of ALL our lives. Surely that is a step in the right direction away from being a charismatic headcase?!
Sunday, August 27, 2006
The final section of "Discourse 3" is particuarly interesting and in need of reading. Paulk and Ern Baxter begin by continuing their discussion on water baptism from Part 1 and move on to touch on the vital subject of authority.
Spiritual authority was taken by Ern Baxter and his brothers including Charles Simpson and Bob Mumford and taught and well received. Unfortunately that teaching was taken to excess by those to whom they taught and it became badly publicised. But as I have experienced in my own life, abuse of authority doesn't excuse no use. The Scriptural principles still stand and this interview is an excellent expounding of those correct principles. Ern Baxter closes by talking about the need for older Christian leaders. Note particularly Earl Paulk's acknowledgment of Ern Baxter's ministry as an apostle.
Thanks again to my friend Hugh for his help I can offer, for those who are interested, the entire collated "Discourses" document in Word format, it can be found here.
The final part of the 3rd Discourse follows:
Earl Paulk: I hope you understand that because more and more I am totally convinced about the responsibility of setting apart our children for purposes of God. That comes out a mile though and I make no bones about it – I want them to be in the Kingdom of God, I want them to be claimed. I don’t know that this analogy is right on but maybe it will help a little. The Bible talks about a woman being married to an unbeliever – it said the bed is sanctified. In other words it didn’t save the husband – the unbeliever – but there’s a sanctity about it. Now it does not save the child but the child certainly while it’s in the covenantal part you have is set apart, will not lost so far as they come to their own knowledge of Christ. They come to that and then is the time for their own baptism and the other part that we have been sharing today. So I am a strong believer – I can hardly wait to bring my children to the altar, to let the community (even before I understood it as I do today) to let the community help me in responsibility. If we understood this we would have less rebellious children among us. We would have more of them coming to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ with personal experience so I think that this is critical in your pastoral responsibility – to bring those children and then to put them in places where they learn about things of the Lord so I am strong with that. Are you in a good mood this morning Brother Ern?
Ern Baxter: Yes.
Earl Paulk: Good then I am going to press you a bit. (*laughter*).
Ern Baxter: I may lose it! (*laughter*).
Earl Paulk: Somebody gets baptised and they didn’t have the knowledge of what we are teaching here today of the full provisions up to and including the enthroned Christ’s promise to us of the Holy Spirit. Is there a place to bring folk back into baptism? When they got up to Ephesus they said, “Well we were baptised in John into repentance”. But he didn’t say “Well let me come over and lay hands on you to receive the Holy Ghost”. He said he would baptise them in the Name of Jesus. Is there a place to be baptised, if there is not how we should deal with folk that didn’t get what we preach and believe because they didn’t know. They said at Ephesus – that we didn’t know. We were baptised to the knowledge. Are we leaving some folk in a place that is susceptible to Satan?
Ern Baxter: Of course we are dealing with great historical issues as you well know Bishop. And we are dealing with even the Reformation and the Anabaptists insisted on believer’s baptism while the magisterial Reformers continued to baptise babies. Personally I was baptised as an infant in the Presbyterian Church. Now when in my teen years I came into a dynamic experience of Christ and the Holy Spirit, I forgot that I had been baptised as an infant – it didn’t even enter my mind. And I headed for the waters of baptism … man, I had an experience in the waters of baptism, it just didn’t go through a ritual. I was baptised in a Canadian river and as I came up and out of the water and was wading to the shore, I was sure that there was a brick wall between me and my past. I was so sure that brick wall was there that I stopped in the river and turned around expecting to see it.
Because in that baptism I realised that I had been cut off entirely from my past. But I had been cut off – that when I went down in those waters, my history in the old Adam was dead and when I came up out of those waters my history in the New Adam began. And it was dynamic. Now I think that anyone who has had their process tampered with either by infant baptism (and this is dangerous talk) – I think they have a perfect right to get their foundations straightened around. I’m not going to fuss about formulas and all that – I think too much has been made of that. I believe in one baptism – and if you’ve got a baptism you can build upon, then build on it. But if you have got an infant baptism like I had, I didn’t even sit and intellectually controvert on it, I forgot I had even done it! My dad afterwards smiled and said, “Son did you know that you were baptised as a baby?”. I said, “I’m sorry dad – I didn’t remember that – I wasn’t there!”. You see – baptism requires rationality. You have to repent and be baptised. People say well God gives the baby faith. Well that’s extra-biblical. That’s where you bring a system to the Bible and make the Bible fit your system instead of bringing your system to the Bible and letting the Bible revise your system.
Earl Paulk: Well I had an experience somewhat similar to that in a way. I was not baptised as an infant as an act of my family’s will but I started kindergarten in Detroit, Michigan when I was about five years old and before there we were in Logan, West Virginia so I must have been about four. And some of you have heard me relay the experience – that as Daddy was baptising even that early age, I sense a tremendous need as a little child (you’ve got to know how a four year old child thinks) and Mother was at home with my sister.
So when I saw what was taking place and Daddy got through baptising I am standing on the shore waiting for Daddy and I cannot remember now because that was 60 years ago exactly what happened in me but I know I had a need. I said “Daddy I want to be baptised”. He said, “Son do you understand what you’re asking about?”. And I said, “Yessir”. He said, “Why do you want to be baptised?”. I said, “I just need to be baptised – I just want to be baptised”. Now what sins does a four year old kid have to repent of? Except being born in sin? But in my little childish way I felt the great need. So Daddy said, “Alright” and he took me out and called everybody’s attention. They were all walking away. I remember this part as if it were five minutes ago. Daddy started weeping and holding me in his arms. And he said, “The delight of my life is to baptise Earl Jr here today. My namesake. My oldest son. He said he knows what he’s doing”.
And he preached a little sermon about baptism and I remember how cold it was. He was holding me and he was wet because he had been baptising. Daddy was holding onto me – I remember that. Then he said these words, “I would rather this boy preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ than to be President of the United States”. Now there’s not a good chance that I was going to be President so I became a preacher but anyhow that was his words. And I remember that he baptised me, took me home and wrapped his overcoat around me, walked in the front door and Mamma said, “Earl I knew you would let that child fall in the water – I told you when you left he would fall in”. Now that was a valid experience Ern. But when I was a thirteen-fourteen year old boy we had a great revival in Greenville and I was moved like never before. I remember being baptised but I wanted to be baptised again because the Holy Spirit had taken on a meaning that He hadn’t before. And I was baptised again and it was very meaningful. So I think what you said is very meaningful and it’s an apostolic teacher among us to say it. If you can build on your baptism – do it. But if you feel you need to do the first works over, then don’t be embarrassed to do that either. Does that make sense?
Ern Baxter: Yes and one more thing because I know as pastors you are going to face this. When there are children who are still subject to their parents and there is a desire on the part of a child for baptism, I won’t baptise the child on the basis of it’s own desires. And I was interested – I was listening carefully to how the Bishop’s father dealt with him. “Do you understand this son?”. I have had parents come to me and say, “My seven year old Johnny understands it”. And I say, “That’s fine but I will baptise your Johnny under your authority. If there’s any mistakes made here, it’s not mine. I am not going to be the one responsible for that child. You are the divine agent for that child. Now if you tell me that you want me to baptise that child under the authority of your parental edict I will do it. But I won’t do it on my own”. In that way the child remains under the oversight of it’s parents and it’s parents have to be able to tell me that they are satisfied that the child is ready for baptism and then I will baptise the child on the authority of the divine agent in the child’s life.
Earl Paulk: And this is consistent when you talk about authority. I am convinced that one of the greatest voids in the last few years has been understanding what we mean by authority. When Jesus said, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” and then how as Brother Baxter has taught us, the Trinity is an example and it moves right on down to the family – we may be equal but there is a function that differs in authority. There’s a mother, a father, pastors, elders – all these say authority. They say structure. And I am a strong believer that if you understand that covering then God respects that covering – He respects that authority. And I thought his message on Eve listening to Satan – all she had to do was say “I will check in with my husband on that”. And knowing that he doubtless would have said, “Well the Father God will be here in a few minutes, we’ll check” and there would never have been the problems we’re in today. Now that happens every day in family life and church life. I want to tell you that nobody in their right mind wants to be in authority in your life. But if God puts them there they are in authority.
One of the reasons why I brought Ern Baxter here was to submit to him. I wanted him to see this ministry from a different place than he has seen it before – just visiting. I wanted to hear him talk about the Eucharistic approach. In a lot of ways his teaching has been an act of mine to submit. My church can tell you that I said, “Bring an Ern Baxter here is preparation to go into the Cathedral”. Because we’re not just going into a bigger building, we are coming to a new comprehension and understanding – even at this place in my life – I am still learning. And I want to know that the future of the church is safe and secure in not only a good theological basis, but also the practice. In the light of that this was an act of submitting because I have listened more intently that anyone else in this place because if I make a mistake and I am your covering then you make a mistake in me. And I have got to be sure and to bring an apostle among us – and I say not only by being a fact but I say that by revelation, the Lord has spoken to me a long time before I ever met Ern Baxter, who the apostles were who I should relate to. And when he comes among us, I give him full and complete liberty because I know the authority that he brings with him is my protection. It is the protection of what we are doing here. Because we could very easily get off on a tangent and go back into formalism that in ten or fifteen years is just another ritual.
Or you can go the other extreme and become so congregational and empirical and experience orientated in what you are doing that the twain will never meet and we stay in total derision the rest of our lives. Somewhere there comes a meeting of that form and power. Of that Word and Spirit and so I hope you understand that when I talk about authority it is not just me talking and saying “Ern Baxter I submit to you”. When I bring him to the church that I am responsible to and to the pastors that I cover it is an act of submission. And for that reason I am comfortable with it and when you talk about facing God and the ongoing eternal life that we live, you can’t play games with that. A little flesh here and there. You can handle that and come to the table and God will deal with it. You are talking about eternal truth! Know the truth and the truth will make you free! You go back to your church and take the truth that will set them free when you teach them properly. When you teach them what the things of the Lord are about. We have had such cheap approaches. You can go into arenas and there is cry to make a decision for Jesus but we leave them there. I have been the chairman of Billy Graham crusades and Oral Roberts crusades. I know what it is. The church is a redeemed community that can no longer afford just a cheap way in and out. If they do that that may be God’s economy but we have got to take it and go somewhere with it. Does that make sense Ern?
Ern Baxter: Oh yes that is so right. Let me just say a word about authority Bishop. I adopted a slogan years ago that any man who wants authority is not qualified to have it. If a man lusts after authority he is not qualified to have it. A man who takes authority must be reluctant. He realises what he’s got. When Paul talked about his authority he wanted to protect it. He said “My authority is not to tear you down but to build you up”. One of the dangers of the ministry is that when Peter said the elders were not to lord it over the flock – why did he say that if it were not possible for the elders to lord it over the flock? You have authority. I am talking to you now as servants of God. You have authority! You didn’t just get it in your ordination. If you are called servants of God, then God has given you an authority. That authority is not to be abused and if your lust is for authority then you don’t qualify to have authority. You have got to be willing to hold that authority in the tension of humility and to exercise it to build up and not to tear down. Don’t lord it over the flock of God. You have the ability to do it. God has given you the gift and the placing to do it. But authority is a powerful thing – it’s like fire. You have got to keep in the grate and you let it loose and it will burn everything up.
Another little thing that I have observed about the Democratics Presidential candidate – it’s an interesting thing, I watched it on the news. One after another of these potential candidates with young families are opting out because of their families and I said to Ruth, “I wonder if a man is fit to be President of the United States until he has raised his family”. Just a thought. But there is something about the word “elder” that is not talking about a beardless youth! Just because I’m old, I don’t want to put a premium on age but at the same time I would to God in my young days that I had been able to snuggle up to older men much more than I was. We retire ministers and there is gold in their hills! We stick them out with a hot plate and a room overlooking a slum somewhere and give them 25 dollars a month! We have thrown out our wisdom! And I look at the Bishop and I look at his age and I don’t treat that lightly! And I think that some of you younger men that are coming up – handle your authority carefully and as you handle it carefully, it will grow and it will be salutary and sanctifying but if you – I’ve watched young ministers go off half cooked and they are “Reverend So-and-so” and look … you are a servant of Jesus Christ and when God wanted to describe His servants, He used the most demeaning term in the Greek language. He called us “Diakonos”. The lowest menial task both in Grecian culture and Hebrew culture was to serve tables. And that is the meaning of deacon. Find out what your table is and serve it! Let the other man serve his table! I know my table and just want to serve it. That’s all! And after I have done the best I can and when you feel you have done everything you feel you should do, you still have to humbly admit I am yet an unprofitable servant. Jesus said that! That isn’t mock humility – that is just facing the facts! I sometimes shudder when men introduce me with the kind of epithets they use. I know in the grace of God that has its place but I know me so well! I know that as I read the newspaper and as I read about crime and what people have done that those people are my Adamite brothers and sisters and that everything they have done, I have the human potential to do the same thing and if it wasn’t for the grace of God I would be languishing in the same jails that they are in. This humility will help you to handle authority.
Earl Paulk: Let me give you one final word that I feel the Spirit of the Lord would have me share with you. It’s a word that I gave here and I really shared in community. It is an explosive expectation. I believe the proper truths about the habitation of God and what we are sharing about the Holy Ghost that when we walk into the house of God to the table of the Lord properly understood that there should be such expectation that there would be healings without having great displays of it. That normally the functioning of the body of Christ in its proper understanding of koinonea should develop such a habitation of God that when we come in it releases the Word and it releases the anointing and it releases the mystery of the sacraments. All of that becomes a part. There are some key words! It says “When they were come together”. There is something powerful in that coming together. Your hurts are dealt with. All of a sudden you transcend the Adamic devastation and the Spirit comes alive and begins to minister one to the other. Healings take place. Things begin to be accomplished and then we go out into the world after we have washed one another’s feet cleansed and purged that through the strength of God we touch the systems of the world. But until we’ve come and understand the washing of feet properly – cleansing ourselves and coming away from that society and then going back out. But we have to keep coming that’s why Jesus taught on a daily basis. “Forgive us this day our daily sins – give us today the daily bread”. And that’s why I believe what we are doing here is so important.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
"God is Not a Fire Escape!" - An Interview with Ern Baxter on Seeking God.
Question: How can people be motivated to seek the Lord?
Ern Baxter: Two things motivate us to seek the Lord: crises that come into our lives and also what I call process, which is our growing, maturing relationship with the Lord. When we talk about seeking the Lord, it’s difficult to completely separate the two. A person must have some kind of rapport with God to begin with. Most of the men in the Bible who came into times of crisis did so out of the process of their relationship with God. The crisis was an interruption, a confrontation or course change in the flow of their lives. Seeking God is more than a matter of prayer or intercession. It’s a combination of watching and praying to heighten our sensitivity to what’s going on. Hidden in whatever is going on is a clue to whatever the crisis is about. Prayer without watching is only half the solution and watching without prayer gives you a nervous breakdown.
When we seek the Lord, we also need a good dose of patience. On one occasion I experienced a crisis that indicated a significant change was about to take place in my life; one of the many course corrections that have taken place because of the nature of my calling. I was convinced that God was in the change, yet the circumstances surrounding it seemed to drag on and I got impatient. One morning as I was driving to church, I blurted out, “God why don’t You listen to me here? Let me get this change over with”. He just shot back like lightening, “Why don’t you listen to Me?”.
Question: Does the Lord allow situations to come into our lives to intensify our fellowship with Him?
Ern Baxter: Yes and the Lord Himself is the best example of that. The Bible tells us He did always those things that pleased the Father. But He was constantly facing crises; the greatest were the betrayal, the trial and the Cross. In all of those, He was very much in the Father’s Presence in prayer. Hebrews 5:7 says, “In the days of His flesh when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying”. In several crises He cried out to the Father out of His humanity. Crises were simply part of the process of His relationship to the Father.
Life consists of process and a crisis. A marriage relationship is a good example. A couple will go along for a time and then they encounter a crisis, large or small. Eventually that crisis passes and they settle down, go along for a time and then hit another crisis. They probably won’t handle the crisis well if they’re not handling the relational process well.
Question: Do some people go from crisis to crisis without a sense of the process always in or out of a panic?
Ern Baxter: Yes that’s true. Once I was close to a young man in my church, but he was weak. He’d walk with God enthusiastically but then he’d start to wane and he’d lose his job or experience some other disturbing reversal. It was a pattern. Each time he’d come to me and say, “Well Pastor, I guess I blew it again. I lost my job”. I’d say, “Okay lets pray and get this straightened out”. He would get fixed up, find another job and be fine, ready to go to the ends of the earth. But it was as if he used God in crises and forgot Him in the process. One evening he came to see me to say good-bye. He was leaving his wife for another woman and there was nothing I could say to dissuade him. We wept together and he was gone; it was obvious he had made up his mind.
I never did hear from him again but about three years later I was listening to my car radio and I heard that this man had been found dead in the water alongside his boat. I immediately pulled off the road, found the nearest pay phone and called his ex-wife. “Is he the man they found?” I asked. Sadly he was. Here was a man who used God in crisis. I’m not pronouncing judgement on his spiritual condition but rather pointing out a principle. God is not a fire escape. He’s someone you learn to live with. Romans 7:4; “Ye also are dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another … that we should bring forth fruit”. Again our relationship to God is like a marriage which is both crisis and process. But it’s a relationship that you either handle or mishandle.
Question: Does God allow the crisis to come into the process to strengthen our relationship with Him?
Ern Baxter: Yes and Job is a great illustration of this principle. God tested his faith and God tests our faith as well. But how He tests it is up to Him. That’s one of His prerogatives. If He didn’t test us, we would never grow. Remember the first step you saw your child take? If there wasn’t a first one, he’d never walk.
Question: Do you think that many times God allows crises in our lives to sharpen our hearing?
Ern Baxter: That’s right. Often when we’re praying we rush in and tell God a list of things, walk out and slam the door. We don’t even have the courtesy to find out if He would like to say something. Our amen may not be God’s amen.
Question: How do you handle the crises that come?
Ern Baxter: The circumstances in which you are directly or indirectly involved are always changing. In my life, for example, the death of my first wife was a severe jolt. That’s not a daily crisis; something like that only happens maybe once in a lifetime. But whether it’s a death, a financial reverse or an accident we can handle it if our relationship with God is based on a process rather than a crisis.
Question: It might be helpful to hear how you faced the change in your relationship with William Branham, whom you ministered with for some time?
Ern Baxter: In the ministry with William Branham, I saw a dimension of the supernatural that had In it such seeds of Christian unity and other good fruits that my excitement was hard to contain. But when I saw carnality start to invade the movement – exaggeration, misrepresentation, metaphysics and eventually the breakdown of many of the healers in critical areas of their lives because they couldn’t handle the crowds, the popularity or the money – I had to withdraw from it. That was probably one of the most traumatic times in my life. I did a lot of praying at that time, a lot of groaning. In fact I did a lot of screaming because I was close to an emotional breakdown. A tremendous move of God had been sold out so cheaply; it was difficult to handle. If I hadn’t had an experience with God, if I hadn’t had a consciousness of His sovereignty, if I hadn’t had some kind of relationship with God based on process, I don’t know what I would have done.
I had maintained the pastoral oversight of my church while working with Branham and I went back and gave myself totally to that. I was now pasturing a church whereas before I had been with thousands of people in city-shaking meetings. It was quite a shock. I would go to my study, get down on the floor and just groan. I’d talk to God and just wait. I couldn’t do anything else. If it were not for my relationship with God, I could have taken the extreme position that Christianity was a “bunch of bunk”. But I couldn’t do that because it wasn’t a matter of Christianity, it wasn’t a matter of the healers; it was a matter of who was the most important person in this, and that was God. God wasn’t bunk to me. I knew that. I knew God and I knew where God was.
Question: What did that experience work in your life?
Ern Baxter: Romans 5:3-4 says, “Tribulation worketh patience and patience experience, and experience hope”. Tribulation means “pressure”. God lets pressure come into our lives so that we get experience. There’s nothing like experience. I once heard a story about a man who lived on a hog farm all his life, raising hogs and doing a good job of it. He learned from his dad. But one day he decided that his boy wasn’t going to learn hog farming by trial and error as he did; he was going to go to an agricultural college and learn how to be a smart farmer. So off his son went and after graduation he came back to the farm and his dad told him to go ahead and make some improvements. He did and the pigs began to die.
His father realised that his son had built a fancy new operation, but forgot to put proper ventilation in it. So the old man tore it all down and built what he had done before. It takes a lot more than a degree in college to learn the facts of life. Because of his experience, the old man really ought to have been a lecturer at that college.
Question: Without your experience, you wouldn’t have the relationship with the Lord that you have now would you?
Ern Baxter: Right. A word that is missing from our vocabulary today is endurance. Hebrews 12:6 says, “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth”. If you endure chastening then He deals with you as a son – if you endure chastening. It’s not necessarily punishment; it can be instruction. To endure means to wade through until it’s done. That’s where patience comes in .
A lot of Christians live from crisis to crisis and wonder why their crises are so hard. It’s because they don’t develop a process. All God is saying in a crisis is that if you move in close to Him and develop a process then you might not need all those crises.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
As my notes continue from this such vital sermon, I noted a strong parallel with Ginny Burgin's amazing prophecy to the church that I have just transcribed. The call to the church from the world is "Wake up! Prophecy! Call on your God!". Once again Terry Virgo has got it spot on when he said, "This is no age to advocate restraint". The church's sin is lethargy not excess.
2. The vital need for the prophetic word.
The prophet is overwhelmed but commissioned. Into this scene of devastation hope is birthed. Hope is birthed through the agency of a prophetic preacher but of course the major initiative is God’s. Ezekiel didn’t start anything. We are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Walter Bruggeman defines prophecy in this way; “The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us”. In other words it’s to get us to think differently from the way the world would have us think about ourselves. We must rediscover our divine identity. God’s solution in hopeless situations is always to raise up human agents to remedy the disaster in partnership with Himself.
Can God do it again like He used Martin Luther, John Calvin, and George Whitfield? In every case the experience of these men and women is not dissimilar from Ezekiel’s here. How does it happen? It is a journey of six steps.
a. God put’s His hand upon you.
“The hand of the Lord was upon me”. There is a sense of the immediate Presence of God that comes. It is tangible, arresting. You must make the resolution, “I will do whatever you tell me to do Lord – I am ruined – I can’t go back to what we had – I can’t live with what we are presently learning to live with”.
b. A burden in the Spirit.
Prophets spoke regularly with a message that needs to be conveyed until it is discharged. You start to feel with God’s heart – aghast at what is being tolerated. “In the Spirit and set me down in a valley”.
c. Your eyes are opened to examine a scene of great distress.
“A valley full of bones”. There is no life in this valley. You feel yourself in a situation of strangeness. You begin to care, maybe wanting to go away but compelled to stay. 600 babies are killed every working day. We have the highest divorce statistics in the world. It’s an atmosphere of hopelessness in love with death. This is abnormal! You know that there is nothing man can do to remedy this.
d. You are asked questions by God.
Questions designed to engage you fully spiritually, emotionally and psychologically. “Can these bones live?”. Faith is beginning to stir and you open to the possibility of change, renewal and resurrection. “Oh Lord you alone know”. He is asking for positive confession from us. What comes out of your mouth is what you really believe. Things can change! You may never be the same again.
e. You are told what to do about it.
“Prophesy to these bones and say to them”. That’s a rather odd thing to do! We have to preach. P T Forsyth said; “The church rises or falls by her preaching”. In church life, you get what you preach for – and if you don’t preach it, you won’t get it. God begins to specifically commission His servants to engage in this clear direction of preaching. The prophet is called a seer and a sayer in the Old Testament – a visionary and a spokesman. It means both visual and verbal date come to the mind of the prophet and they say what they see in the Holy Spirit. You can’t hold it in even if you try. You have to speak! We have to recover a spirit of no compromise. Thousands of church leaders have settled for compromise.
What is compromise? Settling what less than you hoped for and learning to live with what you don’t like and doing what you don’t really believe in because you lack the courage to do what you really do believe in.
It is time for a spirit of no compromise! We are too silent. We dare not speak in case we are accused of political incorrectness, or intolerance. We are the only voice this nation needs to hear and we are the silent voice of the people of God. So we must do whatever the Lord commands us.
f. You begin to speak out what you have seen and heard.
“So I prophesied as I was commanded to do. And as I prophesied there was a sound”. How do we begin? It doesn’t matter – just begin! A hopeless mess of a graveyard won’t do anything – yet we are seeing what others dare not see, and saying what others dare not say. Prophetic ministry is a kind of shotgun ministry. There is so much content in prophetic ministry. Have you spoken to any dry bones recently? The Spirit longs to flood in and bring life. The most important agent for change is the Holy Spirit acting on His own prophetic word. Preaching the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit will not only turn bones into skeletal frameworks, but it will turn skeletal frameworks into corpses and corpses into people and people into armies!
3. Our dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit.
Notice the way God goes to work –
a. He began on individuals.
He assembled the skeletal remains of individual slain soldiers. God knows each of our identities and make ups and He will begin revivals in us. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. God starts from the inside out – a shocking sight! God often does things to shock and offend – He offends the mind to expose the heart. God changes our attitude first before anything else. “Don’t despise the day of small things”. Inner changes take far longer than outer changes. Proper foundations take a while to build.
b. And then finally puts power into them and they became alive.
(v9-10) Amazing things happened. “Prophesy to the breath”. We expect things to happen where we didn’t before. We are praying like never before! We are giving like never before. Funds are released! God joins us together in true unity. We must cease being loners and find friends and family in God’s glorious worldwide church. God’s Spirit is moving all other the earth to foster relationships and armies. The devil isn’t scared of us at the moment as we are scattered. Yet when unity – vitality – militancy and power then he will fear.
Unanimity rather than uniformity and it is certainly not just of man’s organisation. It is unanimity of truth because the prophets have spoken the truth and we have all believed it. And we are all fully alive with the Holy Spirit’s power. From a bone yard to a battalion by an amazing move of the Holy Spirit.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
One of the CD's that arrived in my package this morning from Newfrontiers was the "Prophetic Words" CD. The presence of the prophetic was unusually powerful at the conference and I am so blessed and stirred to be able to revisit and hear what God said to us as a people.
I am therefore transcribing some of the words that spoke unusually powerfully to me over at my "Spirit of God!" blog. I have put the first prophecy on there from Terry Virgo. It was an incredibly powerful call to face up to the different value systems of the coming Kingdom as opposed to the world in which we live.
I should add that it was been proven true and is already having effect in my life. Terry said at one point that: "I am making decisions about finance and all kinds of issues that are perfectly lined up with this Kingdom". God is taking me through a very difficult time regarding finances but it is clear to me from this prophetic word that He wants me to be debt free from the world so that I can devote my time and my finances to His Kingdom and His mission.
Praise God for the prophetic! Don't miss some of the words that are going to be written here in the coming days.
Part 1 of my notes from this outstanding seminar from the Brighton Leadership Conference 2006
What you believe about the future will dramatically affect how you choose to live in the present.
This is what this marvellous prophecy is about. It draws our attention to:
1. The state of the church
2. The vital need for the prophetic word
3. Our dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit.
1. The State of the Church.
Described as a “slain army”. We in Europe have become an irrelevance to Western culture since the First World War. A relic of a former age. We have been uprooted and exiled – exile is a condition where at best you are regarded as marginalised and barely tolerated or at worst you are violently persecuted for being out of step with the rest of the world. This passage has great prophetic importance not only for his time but for all time. God gives us visions like this in order that we may see a situation like He Himself sees it. God does four things with the prophet:
a. He takes us to a place where we don’t want to go.
“In the middle of a valley”. A valley is a low shaded place with echoes and haunting memories that we would rather leave behind. God often takes us back in our personal history, back in our church history and back in our denominations history to where it all went wrong. Few people willingly visit such valleys because they tell themselves we are to live for the future and no point dwelling on the past. It is sometimes very healthy to review the past, see what wrong turns we have made, go back to where you began to experience decay. Something has been lost, even died on the way! It would be good to go back to some of the major conferences that have been held. God sometimes takes us to these places to give us a fright.
b. He causes us to see what we don’t actually want to see.
“It was full of a great many bones that were very dry”. This speaks of humiliation, depression and inconsolable grief. It is a seemingly irreversible loss. This is a portrayal of the people of God. “The whole house of Israel”. These are the only remains of a once powerful people that put the frighteners on the enemies of the people of God. This is the evidence of a large scale cataclysmic disaster that took place. People are staying away in their millions from our churches! What’s there to see except this overwhelming evidence of mass extinction? Rampant democracy has even outvoted Christ from the headship of His churches and He is outside knocking. God hasn’t spoken in some of these places for a very long time.
c. He asks us tough questions that we may not want to answer.
“Son of man, can these bones live?”. This is a tough question but a good one. You may want to despise the bones and say, “Well we are into Restoration – we are doing fine” then run in shock and horror from the bones. You may have a worship conference or a retreat or simply go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Could it be possible to realise that God has plans to reverse all of this? How do you see the future? The answer to that question will determine how you being to think and plan and pray and work for the Lord right now. “Some men see things as they are and ask why? Others see them as they can be and ask, “Why not?” – John F Kennedy. Humanly speaking, the answer to this question is obviously – no! But we aren’t humanly speaking. We are meant to be a prophetic company of people who can see things from the divine perspective. “Oh Sovereign Lord – you alone know!”. That is a start. He knows God has the solution. Faith does more than sit on the fence. Faith believes in advance what will ultimately only make sense in reverse. You will then see how God works.
d. He commands us to do what we are very reluctant to do.
“Prophesy to these bones and say to them”. “The task of prophetic ministry is to hold together both criticism and energising. We are not ready for the latter task of energising until we have absorbed the former of criticism and begun the repentance that is the forerunner of revival” - Walter Bruggeman (OT scholar USA). Revival is nothing less than the commencement of a new obedience to God on the part of all of our lives. We have to face the fact that we are a valley of dry bones and we must face our call to action - prophesy. Because words are the most powerful things in the universe. Resolve to speak whatever words God wants said in that situation. Perhaps the greatest chapters of church history are yet to be written. If Jesus first miracle was to turn water into wine, it’s certainly true that the church has been turning wine into water ever since. The goal for each of our lives at this time is in verse 7: “So I prophesied as I was commanded”. The mighty wind of God – His breath, His Spirit, His Presence, His manifest glory.
More and more I am coming to see that the primary function of prophetic ministry is two-fold. It is to remove all the obstacles to an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and secondly to promote the conditions essential for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
That’s why prophetic ministry is so vital today. Ezekiel “saw” and we need to “see” too. What Ezekiel did, we need to do. What is important to see is that God uses the twin agencies of Word and His Spirit to bring the desired changes.
We tend to polarize to the Reformed and the Charismatics. But the word here includes all forms of teaching, evangelism proclamation and prophetic ministry as well as wise biblical counselling or of vision building and teaching and instruction. Of conferences, seminar teaching and training tracks. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. The Spirit entails our complete reliance on and longing for the anointing of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. It is the anointing that breaks the yoke as the prophet Isaiah says and this means there will be a release of all of His gifts and the expectation of His manifest Presence not just occasionally but regularly. Characteristically of our churches – God is there! We must have room for unusual affects on our minds, our bodies, our worship and our emotions. Are we ready for this?
Walter Bruggeman put it this way; “Prophetic ministry penetrates the despair all around us so that new futures can be believed in and embraced by us. It is the Word that summons new forms into being but it is the Spirit that infuses life into those forms. It is the Word that conveys visions to our minds but it is the Spirit that makes vision a reality. It is the Word that imparts faith but it is the Spirit that leads us to faith actions to follow up our faith. It is the Word that clarifies the means to the end but it is the Spirit that excites us about the end in themselves. The Word enlightens us to our resources but it is the Spirit alone who can give us the results”.
It is a manifestation of a religious spirit even in charismatic churches that has caused the death and decay all around us. A religious spirit is an evil demonic spirit that seeks to substitute religious activity for the power of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. It is a form of godliness that denies the power thereof and that’s why we become a slain army. The landscape of Britain is strewn with the corpses of live churches. God help us if we become “very dry” because our number one need is for more of God’s Holy Spirit.
Next: 2. The Vital Need for the Prophetic Word.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Earl Paulk: Let Brother Baxter drink a sip of water then we will get right down to a question or two. I hope that all of us have followed the sequence of the messages that Brother Baxter has been bringing us on how we have stopped so many times on the elevator before we have got to the top. And the enthroned Christ is made known among us by the works of the Holy Spirit. How many of you really believe before the Lord that you really understand that? Let me see your hands? Some of the questions that may relate to that may be some questions that we may deal with this afternoon. One of the questions that keeps coming back is the relationship between water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit which I believe Brother Baxter adequately addressed this morning. Paul was at Ephesus and after he baptised them he said he laid hands on them, and the laying on of hands seemed to bring forth the evidence. What I want to do is sort of tie up here, Brother Baxter if I can, why we receive the baptism in water in covenant in our hearts – so far as there is evidence as the classical Pentecostals have claimed, it interests me at Ephesus that they said “We did not know”. So obviously the way we preach is the way people receive baptism. If we preach the understanding of the Kingdom as a part of that or the baptism of the Holy Spirit, then they receive it. And of course it is a matter of faith and what we receive in our hearts. The question is if you are talking about any kind of evidence – of course they heard things and they rushed to what they heard – but in relationship to water baptism itself should we expect some sort of outward evidence or is that received in their hands? Either or? Both and?
Ern Baxter: In my attempt to practice what I preach, I believe that the laying on of hands is an expression that the writer to the Hebrews uses for the receiving of the Holy Spirit. As I understand it the residence of the Holy Spirit is the bodies of believers. My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. But as an individual temple of the Holy Spirit I am part of a corporate community which in turn is also a temple of the Holy Spirit. And He dwells among us as a people. When people receive the Holy Spirit the question is where does He come from? Does He come out of the sky? Does He come out of the air? Where does He reside? Where’s the Holy Spirit’s residence? Does He live in the Vatican? Does He live in St Pauls Cathedral? He lives in the corporate community and if we only understood this. When this body of believers comes together on a Sunday morning to celebrate Eucharist, that is the Holy Spirit celebrating His residence. Now if I am a member of that community and the Holy Spirit is going to come out of His residence to own new members in the family, then as I lay hands upon him we are imparting to him out of His residence the Holy Spirit. And if you understand that, I lay great stock on the laying on of hands. Number 1. I don’t want everyone laying hands on me.
To me the laying on of hands means impartation. And the Bible says lay hands on no man suddenly. And I don’t want any man laying hands on me suddenly because I’m not sure I want what he’s got to give me! But if I understand the laying on of hands and I understand the residence of Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit resides in the redeemed community and as we lay hands upon people at the time of baptism, we are communicating the Holy Spirit out of the redeemed community to incorporate them into the redeemed community. Now this is a matter of reaping what you preach. I went up into the backside of the Canadian North as a young man and I got up there and never saw such total ignorance. These were remittance men, these were criminals, these were people who run away from society and we were twenty miles beyond the end of the steel. These people didn’t know anything and I went in there and I preached the Peter package. They didn’t know any different and had never heard anything else and they said “Well how do we get into this?”. I said, “Repent and be baptised and receive the Holy Ghost” so they said, “Okay” so I baptised them in the lake and they came up and out of it and received the Holy Ghost and that was normal to them!
It wasn’t until I got back into civilisation that they wanted to take it all apart. That’s why I will not address the question of “irreducible minimum”. We are living today on irreducible minimum. I think he’s saved. I think I received the Spirit. I haven’t been baptised – oh does one get baptised? What in God’s Name are we presenting? Now if you present it people will come in and you are responsible for telling them what to do to come in! What must I do? Repent, be baptised and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Okay – and you get what you sow. Now if you haven’t got the guts to sow it, then don’t have the expectation to sow it. You have got to sow it. Now I don’t want to come off hear that all my life long I have been doctrinally pure in terms of what I’m saying because I can remember the transition that I made. Well I transitioned from the emotional dramatised altar call where I begged men to come out of their human spirit to propositional response and I remember the trauma. I said, “God I can give an altar call – I’m good at that! Lower the lights and I can do a job on that. But if I have to get in that baptistery and expect those people to have a supernatural experience – that takes faith!”.
I remember the first time I ever got into a baptistery and there were 17 candidates and I was trembling because I had promised them. I had preached and taught and promised them that if they obeyed God then He would give them the full results of that thing. I remember I put the first one down and pulled him up and boy we didn’t just have immersion we had sprinkling. He came up and splattered water all over the congregation. But he came up with a manifestation of a reception of the Holy Spirit. Now someone said – what if?! I don’t know what if. I don’t want to deal in irreducible minimums, I just know that every child of God has a right to the full thing and I am not going to encourage him to settle for something else.
Earl Paulk: Let me absorb that and read it out in terms of a pastoral experience. The new birth or entering into covenant that puts you into relationship that gives you the opportunity to receive what God has provided. When a baby is born, innate within that child was going to be the ability to speak, to walk, to do many other things that at the moment he does not manifest. But by covenant and by birth he has entered into that relationship where it is available. Some demands a time of growth and movement in that direction in order to see the fulfilment. That is why we talk about maturing – the Bible talks about babes in Christ. Now if we teach them properly about water baptism and the covenantal graces of God and the full provisions then we would expect them when they enter into this dimension to receive not just the coming forth and the newness of life but all that goes with it. They might not be the fluent speakers in a heavenly language like they may learn to be or become to be in the knowledge of that gift that is within them. It seems to me though that we have been remiss in water baptism and assuming that it is just some sort of symbolic thing and they go down and come up and say that they are new now. It seems to me that coming out of the water baptismal pool there should be provided an ongoing expectation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit that to that degree that there are ministers waiting to assist, to share and carry them on. Just as you teach a child, a child has to be taught and to learn. There must be expectation that it is now theirs. They are every bit a child when they are born into a natural realm. They every bit a child of God with total supernatural attributes – the possibility that all is there when they come into this covenant. So because of that expectation and proper teaching they come out with at least the glowing expectation, whether at that moment they see the manifestation or whatever happens. As Ern said, it’s my judgement. That’s the what if. We are not to deal with that. We are simply to say – this is who you are now, this is what the provisions are. And then press them on into that where they can receive the fullness of God. Amen?
Well we’ll deal with that as time goes along. The second thing I’d like to hear Brother Baxter speak on and this has come also as a question from you has to do with the carrying over the concept of the circumcision of the Old Testament with the little boys of eight days old and coming into the New Testament where we know that there is a personal need for entering into covenant. What place does the covenant of the family and the infant and the time of dedication – we do not practice infant baptism here, what we do is bring the children into our covenants – it seems to me that while there is the need for the child himself to enter into baptism for themselves. What validity is there for praying over a child and bringing them into the covenants and fellowship? Is there any value to that? Is it just a practice that looks good or is it worth the public notation?
Ern Baxter: I think it is worth the public act. Circumcision in the Old Testament was the circumcision, as Paul says, in the flesh. It was the fleshly sealing of the eight day old child based on his birth into a proper genetic stream. He was born into the seed and at eight days he was circumcised. Now the Reformed paedo-baptists – those who practice infant baptism – who have a wooden hermeneutic where sometimes you wonder if they really understood the New Covenant because they say it is one covenant with two administrations! But it is not. Jeremiah says that this covenant is not like that covenant. This is a different covenant; this is a better covenant with better promises and better everything. Now when you are born again into the Kingdom of God, you need (if you are going to use circumcision at all in terms of baptism) it is as a new born babe in Christ that you receive water baptism. You may be forty years of age but what was natural in the Old is now spiritual in the New. The Bible says that which is natural was first, then that which is spiritual. So that when one is born into the Kingdom of God now, now he bears the mark of belonging to the redeemed community – at whatever age he comes in. So that’s the parallel of circumcision from the Old Testament to the New Testament if you want to make circumcision have something to do with baptism.
Now when it comes to children and I might say Bishop that there are a number of outstanding reformed scholars (and I was surprised when I read it) who said that they were unsatisfied with infant baptism and there was no New Testament Scripture to support it and that they would like to suggest to their Reformed brothers that adopt some form of dedication and then let the people be baptised when they come to a rational response. I believe that there is a difference, and it’s not an elective difference, but it is an opportunistic difference between the child of Christian parents and a child of non-Christian parents. That a Christian parent sanctifies the child. It doesn’t say it regenerates the child – it doesn’t say it saves it.
The basic etymological meaning of “sanctify” is “to set apart”. A child raised under godly parents is set apart to an environment of godliness – just like Timothy was. Paul said, “Timothy you had a good grandmother and a good mother and they taught you the Scriptures from childhood. They sanctified you. They set you apart”. So that when we bring our children – we are members of community. The Bishop is using so many words here that I wish we had time. “Covenant”. You see that’s a word that you don’t hear much about in evangelical Christianity. But when people come into proper community, they come into covenant. They come into covenant relationship! Now as members of the covenant, I am interested in you – I am interested in your business. I want to know how many kids you have got – whether they go to school because they belong to me too – we are in covenant! And you get a new baby and I want you to bring him into the community. So Sunday morning we get up and say, “The Browns have got a new baby and he’s going to be around here – you’d better look out for him – because he’s ours now!”.
I remember up in Dick Iverson’s church there is a little girl there and I knew her grandparents and parents and I saw her grow up as a little child and she got married to a magnificent musician and leader of a choir and was such a godly girl. During her pregnancy her life was threatened from the pregnancy and the church went to prayer for her as if it was their child and she came through. I happened to be there on the platform on the Sunday morning when she brought her baby for dedication and she said the most beautiful thing – I will never forget it. She said, “You know when I was in danger of my life and the baby’s life and you prayed for me – God brought me through. I’ve brought my son this morning for you to see and I brought my son to see you. Because he is going to grow up here”. And I sat there unashamedly the tears running down my face. And I said, “That’s it!”. It’s the covenantal members bringing their children. Last Sunday I preached on “Compromises”. You don’t go into covenant and leave your herds behind and you sure don’t leave your kids behind. You bring them. We don’t save them – we are sanctifying them – we are setting them apart to our own godly home. We are setting them apart to the godly community – to the ministry and oversight. They are getting the best chance covenantally that they can have. The danger with paedobaptism is that you make the mistake of saying that all Christian babies born to Christians are automatically elect. What are you going to do with billions of babies that are not born? Are they all elect? It’s not apples and oranges.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
It seems that many theological topics go through seasons of entering the discussion/debate field and at present, it looks to me like the gift of prophecy is under the microscope at present. I noted on the "Spirit of God!" blog that I was concerned to see something of a downgrade on the importance of the prophetic along with Greg Haslam's call from Brighton to restore the vital place of this gift. Haslam said;
"The primary function of the prophetic ministry is two-fold. It is to remove all the obstacles to an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And secondly it is to promote the conditions essential for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit".
This is by no means meant to be criticism of a person or a group of churches and most certainly not charismatics. But I do think that if Greg Haslam is right, as is 1 Timothy 1:18, then the gift of prophecy is more important than a mere 'secondary issue' to ignore for the sake of the acceptance that we desire. A great deal more is at stake, especially if Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones is right - that our greatest need of the hour is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in revival.
I want to draw attention to Terry Virgo's Firstline in the Newfrontiers magazine - June/August 2004- as an excellent defence of prophecy and a statement of the place that the prophetic should have among us as a people of God. Here are some of the sections that caught my eye.
"What the Bible actually teaches is that the degree of prophecy experienced in the Old Testament is to be surpassed and superseded by what happens in these last days in the church age. Joel prophesied that in the last days God would pour out His Spirit very liberally. Old and young, male and female would prophesy, see visions, dream dreams and be flooded by God’s empowering presence.
Paul seems to regard prophecy as similarly commonplace as prayer, as he refers to ‘prayer and prophecy’ in the same breath (see 1 Cor. 11:4,5). He says, ‘You can all prophesy one by one’ (1 Cor. 14:31). ‘If all prophesy and an unbeliever or ungifted man enters he is convicted by all … the secrets of his heart are disclosed; so he will fall on his face and worship God declaring that God is certainly among you’ (1 Cor. 14:24,25)
This says several things about Paul’s expectation. First, he expects church gatherings to include prophecies. Second, he welcomes them even when the unsaved are present. Third, he also expects prophecies to have penetrating content that cut to the heart. Nebulous generalisations really don’t cut it, so though we must not dismiss people’s early attempts to prophesy, we do need to keep asking God to develop our gifts".
How does that compare to "no mates, dates, correction or direction"?
Terry goes on: "Surely it’s not God’s purpose that most prophecies should be mundane and only rarely extraordinary. Paul’s expectation, as stated in Corinthians, seems to be the very opposite. He anticipates visitors coming to a gathered church only to be undone by the things that are said. So let’s not settle for our present experience but continue to press on, asking for ever greater development of our gifts.
The prophetic word gave us direction.
Prophecy can come as light and love to the individual or as direction to a movement. God leads us by His presence and His voice.
Local churches flooded with the presence of God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are the most potent weapons in God’s hands for world evangelism.
As we progress in our experience of hearing God’s voice and sensitively passing on what we hear, we can anticipate this powerful weapon being developed and also becoming more available in an evangelistic context, thereby taking God’s living word to the unsaved as well as to the saved".
I think that Terry's comments very much back up a comment left by Hobbes at my original post where he said; "Spiritual gifts are essential for the life and health of a Church". Of course we do not want to intentionally offend our cessationist brothers and sisters. But we can be so grateful for scholars like Gordon Fee who have devoted much work to proving that a belief in these gifts is no longer a wacky fundemental periphery but a view that demands respect. However I must point out that the same cessationist brothers and sisters feel no shame in stating their views very strongly - so why should we feel guilty at being just as forthright in our belief that indeed the spiritual gifts are indeed essential for the life and health of the Church?
Our views, positions and theologies on the spiritual gifts, the baptism of the Spirit, indeed any topic in any Systematic Theology must be wedded to the Word of God and not governed by our desire for acceptance among the wider body of Christ. Surely that acceptance and respect, if it is of God, will come from seeing a faithful body of believers grounding everything they believe in the Word of God and living it out in the power of His Spirit?
Let me close on the positive with an encouragement from Terry Virgo:
"He urges us to covet prophetic utterances that will increasingly make us a people enjoying His presence and captivated by His purposes!".
Friday, August 18, 2006
As many of you may know it has been my constant dream to be able to publish complete files of Ern Baxter's ministry on the net. While I do and will continue to publish the audio messages and interviews and articles in parts, I like the idea of having a complete accessible PDF file that can be accessed instantly, downloaded and printed. My friend Hugh Griffiths has helped me immeasurably to work through some ideas and has posted a trial on Google Base.
I am thrilled to report that the outstanding message "Thy Kingdom Come!" preached by Ern at the Kansas City Shepherds Conference is now available here.
*Update! - 19:30*
I've been experimenting and have gone on to make two files available on this Google Base resource.
The Ern Baxter Archive in Print which I posted about a few days ago can be found here.
Some selected photos of Ern Baxter that I put on this site from time to time can be found here.
If this seems popular and helpful then hopefully Hugh and I will make more material available this way.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Although this final part of "Discourse 2" is quite short, I have deliberately kept it seperate so full attention can be given to it. The Baptism of the Spirit is an issue that seems to have dwindled to a grumble in discussions and far more attention is being given to the gifts of the Spirit - such as tongues most recently. While the gifts are certainly important to discuss and establish where they stand in the light of Scripture, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones said;
"We are living, let us remind ourselves in an age hopelessly below the New Testament pattern - content with a neat little religion. We need the baptism with the Spirit. We have already seen that this is not something that takes place at conversion, it is something that happens to us and is clear and unmistakable ... Never was there a greater need of our being clear on the doctrine of the baptism with the Spirit than at this present time ... ".
But here is the key point to consider - the sovereignity of the Spirit and His gifts:
"We must not say that gifts cannot happen nor must we say that they should always happen. The scriptural position, substantiated by the history of the church is that they may or may not happen and therefore we must not lay down these dogmatic positions on the one side or on the other".
So with that in mind - over to Ern Baxter and Earl Paulk on this most important of subjects.
Earl Paulk: We are a little bit overtime for your workshops but you can rush into them after this question. This is almost a trite question here and I understand that but we are pastors here. We are people wanting to help people. And I want to ask Ern Baxter in the light of his emphasis on the Holy Spirit not only as a person but how we empirically experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is the question – is there a method that brings people to the experience of the Holy Spirit? I know there may be many. But is there something that you could pour into us that you can say what you have found and is the better method. Bringing people to this experience.
Ern Baxter: I think I have found that in my best experiences (and I am more a teacher than a methodologist) but I think what I have found is the simple rule of sowing and reaping. That I reap what I sow. What I preach is what I get. And if I address my congregations constantly out of a Trinitarian base and show the significant importance of the Holy Spirit, I have to first generate a hunger in men and women that makes them know that the Holy Spirit is not an optional Pentecostal bonus. That the Holy Spirit is mainline standard equipment for a New Testament Christian.
Then the question of them coming into the Holy Spirit becomes very existential because as you are dealing with each person, you are dealing with them as a person and God will direct you differently on how you bring them in and I’ve could tell you a whole load of stories about that. I’ve had them receive Him in my kitchen and in my living room and sitting in cafes and everything else. But the thing that gave them the hunger to press in was the fact that I made the Holy Spirit so absolutely essential to them that they knew that they couldn’t live another day without Him. We have made the Holy Spirit a Pentecostal luxury. And it’s not – it’s the heart of Christianity.
Earl Paulk: Praise God – it’s not the spare tyre – it’s the wheel we run on. Peter was preaching and as he was preaching the Word, the Holy Ghost fell. What we must do in essence is create such a hunger and a desire both by the Word that we preach and the demonstration then they come out and seek us out. “How can I receive this?”. Something begins to happen. So I think that is the answer – it is not the method necessarily but it is creating the hunger and that’s creative of the Word. It’s showing them the necessity like we did water baptism for so long. Because it was looked upon for so long as a symbolic thing and sort of like a spare tyre. Now we are learning that it’s not an option. If we are really going to be covenantal in our preaching and if we are really going to come to that point then we must really show the covenants of God to such degree that it cannot be left out. It cannot be left out!
Ern Baxter: Let the Church be Church!
Earl Paulk: And that’s what challenges Satan because then the Church has the authority that God intended us to have. Amen! Let it be so!
Monday, August 14, 2006
While I think the blog format has a great deal of use for circulating a ministry such as Ern Baxter's, the typed and printed word still remains my favourite. Furthermore I recently sent Greg Haslam, pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, copies of all the video ministry of Ern that I have on DVD. He wrote back and said; "I would urge you to try and transcribe more material in the format that you have ... I have always regretted the paucity of Ern Baxter's material in print". As I said once before, one does not lightly ignore Greg Haslam!
Since there is now a considerable amount that I have transcribed on this website, I have edited it and compiled it into a typed and bound book of about 140 pages. I would be delighted to send copies of it to whoever shares my love for the typed and printed word. If it would be easier, I can easily send it as an email attachment so that you can print it out and bind it at your leisure. Here is a table of contents of the sermons, interviews, articles that are in the book.
Part A: Sermons by Dr Ern Baxter.
“Thy Kingdom Come!”
“The Spirit and the Word”
“The Government of God”
“The Land – Located and Described”
“The Kadesh Crisis”
“Baking Cakes Without a Word”
“Laying Church Foundations”
“A Serious Neglect” – Forgetting Resurrection”
Part B: Interviews with Dr Ern Baxter.
“God of Surprises” – Dealing with Spirit and Word
An Interview with Ern Baxter – August 1986
“Before the Throne” – Ern Baxter on worship.
An Interview with Baxter, Simpson, Mumford and Basham.
“Declaring God’s Purposes” – Interview with Ern Baxter.
Part C: Articles by Dr Ern Baxter.
“A Demonstration of His Glory” – Ern Baxter reporting on his apostolic visit to the United Kingdom in 1977 including the Dales Bible Week.
“The Kingdom of God becomes reality through the Holy Spirit”
“The Gift of Prophecy”
“Sealed with the Holy Spirit”
“The Holy Spirit as Dew”
“The Holy Spirit as a Dove”
“The Holy Spirit as Holy Anointing Oil”
“The Holy Spirit as the Dynamic of the New Covenant”
“The Holy Spirit as Fire”
“The Charismatic Crisis – Is the Party Over?”
“The Earth is the Lord’s”.
“The Fear of the Lord”
Part D: Autobiographical and Biographical Material about Dr Ern Baxter.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I am deeply committed to not allowing the past movements of God to fade into history. I was thrilled therefore to find these photos when I was reading a past copy of the outstanding "Restoration" magazine. Terry Virgo is in the first photo in the dark jacket with both his hands raised. I think David Tomlinson is standing to the right of him. While we don't seek a return to those days of the seventies in a sentimental way, those years were remarkable in seeing God move in supernatural ways that were unheard of before. Remembering the past should be a springboard to deepening our hunger for greater and deeper moves of God.