Saturday, September 30, 2006
This is Everywhere!
So said David Holden at the Brighton Leaders Conference 2000. I've been thinking a lot about this quote over the past few days. In a sense, the truth of it lingers behind almost everything that the Christian bloggers and authors have been writing or prophesying about!
For example, it lingers behind Mark's meditations on the rightness or wrongness of the mega-church. Why bother trying to build a mega-church if your eschatology is pessimistic (you might call it realistic) and you don't expect much to improve for the Church before Jesus Christ returns again? In fact never mind mega, why bother to build church?
The truth of this quote definately drives the prophecy that I have just transcribed of Terry Virgo's on my "Spirit of God!" website. He brought it at the Brighton Leaders Conference 2003 and it is possibly one of the most Gospel-orientated prophecies I have ever heard. The essence of it is this: "The great work is done! ... Resurrection is established ... A victorious Saviour sends His Spirit among you ... Now I have chosen you. Go and build it! ... Go and proclaim!". Can you sum up the Gospel any better? The finished work of Christ is done! The Spirit has been sent among us! Now go! There is a world to be won!
The truth of this quote is most definately behind the heart of John Piper. In one of his latest books, "What Jesus Demands From the World", Piper wrote; "The universal authority of Jesus issues in a mission that lasts as long as history and extends as far as humanity ... the words, "to the end of the age" show that the mission should last till Jesus comes back. The demand is not given only to the first generation of disciples. The mission lasts as long as the mission-sustaining promise lasts. And that promise is; the all-authoritative Jesus will be with us to the end of the age. As long as there is time and as long as there are nations to reach, Jesus' demand to go and make disciples is valid".
This isn't New!
A mistake that Restorationists such as myself often make is to think that we are the first to hold fast to this positive indeed optimistic eschatology of how things will shape up for the Church. This is a grevious mistake. The first transcript I ever completed was of a Panel Discussion from the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors 1999. The participants were Dr James M Boice, Dr John Piper, C J Mahaney and David Bryant. During the panel discussion the participants were asked to recommend books that particularly had impacted their ministry. I was not alone in finding their commendations note-worthy.
Dr Piper unsurprisingly recommended Jonathan Edwards, Mahaney unsurprisingly recommended books on the Cross, Dr Boice recommended a variety of books ranging from C H Spurgeon to George Whitfield but David Bryant recommended a series of books that I hadn't heard of before. Kenneth Scott Latourette's "A History of Christianity". I took more serious interest in them when I saw them on the library shelves of my pastor Dr Stanley Jebb, but found them to be a little beyond my price range.
I was therefore thrilled today to visit the local S.P.C.K bookshop in Bristol and I found the volumes for £2 each! I duly brought them and am deep into them and finding them just as thrilling as David Bryant promised they would be at the Bethlehem Conference in 1999. Why so? Here are a number of "smooth stones from ancient brooks" from Volume 3 - '3 Centuries of Advance' by Latourette that may sound familiar to our present day situation.
"In the fifteenth century and in the first half of the sixteenth century Christianity faced a major crisis ... The first flush of enthusiasm, characteristic of a new religion was presumably long past. A younger rival, Islam was continuing to supplant it in wide regions and was threatening it's remaining strongholds".
"Much ... was indifferent or even antagonistic to Christianity or sort to control it for it's own purposes. In Western Europe where Christianity had seemed most vigorous, decay had fastened itself on the Church. Ecclesiastical leaders disregarded Christian ethics in their programmes and practices and used their positions to advance their private interests".
"Under these circumstances could Christianity continue to spread? Could it even survive? Had it sufficient vigour to enable it to permeate the new culture of Europe ... to win the nations ... in AD 1500 the outlook was far from promising".
"Yet Christianity not only survived. It also displayed new life. In Western and Northern Europe, it revived, showed more vigour than ever before and made an even deeper impress upon the culture of Europe that it had previously been able to do ... Never had any religion spread so widely. Never had any faith had so great an effect upon so large a proportion of mankind".
"Protestantism was so engrossed in making a place for itself against Roman Catholicism, in working out its own theological positions, in controversies among it's various leaders, and in effecting an organization, that it's members had little leisure for concern for non-Christians outside of Western Europe".
"The ... chief reason why in general Protestants were not active in propogating the faith among non-Christians was that until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries they had relatively little touch with non-Christian people".
Does the Future Have a Church?
Sounds familiar! It seems to me that many of us are so busy trying to actually believe that the Church can survive against the flood of Islam (not helped by utterances from David Pawson) or survive against the flood of post-modernism or of secularism, that there is little room left for faith that the Gospel is destined for success! Ern Baxter was fond of quoting the verse, "I will build My Church and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it". He said that verse is often misused by the nervous who huddle together and declare that hell's gates will not prevail. They are safe. Hell's gates can't get at them. But Ern asked since when has anyone been chased by gates jumping off their hinges and running down the road?! That verse meant that Hell's gates cannot prevail in keeping the Church OUT!
Jesus Christ will build His Church to such a degree that the gates of Hell themselves will be battered in from the relentless advance of the Church of Jesus Christ! Rather than taking our theology from the world and the newspapers, we need to reclaim a vision from the Bible itself - our authority - about what it promises for the end-time Church. I am so grateful for these quotes from Greg Haslam (preached at Brighton 2003) that make it clear how powerful such a vision can be.
"People won't even cross the road for a little vision - but they will go to the ends of the earth for a big one".
"Vision is sanctified dreaming".
"Until you find something to die for - you are not really living".
"Visionless people view all change as a threat because they are wedded to the past".
"Visionary people need to seek out other people - preferably with a bigger vision who will fire what they believe".
Let's start believing that He must reign UNTIL He has made all His enemies His footstool! We are in good company - Church history demonstrates that the Church has not only survived before but has flourished before and it will do so again! For as surely as He lives, ALL the earth SHALL be filled with the glory of the Lord!
Saturday, September 23, 2006
This post is dedicated to my friend Pete, a faithful servant of God and pastor in London. May the Spirit of God inspire faith, vision and passion in you through these words and remember what you have been anointed to be.
I think the perfect holiday is one in which you can enjoy the rest and relaxation God has granted, yet at it's end you are eager to come back and get back to work. That has been my experience! We landed in Bristol Airport at half past four this morning (*shudder*). It was fine until we got to baggage claim where the handlers were obviously asleep too. But I got back in my car with my friends and turned the engine on and Lou Fellingham burst out singing "Before the Throne of God Above" from the Stoneleigh 1998 album. I have to admit that tears came to my eyes. For two weeks I have missed those touches of live worship that speak of the moving of the Holy Spirit. I can't WAIT to go to church tomorrow!
Life isn't a holiday. Trials will come and did (letters waiting for me on the doorstep). But we have a certain and true foundation. God's promises stand - however we feel and despite how much or little we experience. Bask in this extract from Ern Baxter's book, "The King, the Kingdom and the Holy Spirit" with me for a moment.
"Why do we find it so hard to believe God's promises to us? We have been fed a diet of denigration and humiliation. We've been told that we are nobodies, that we're just a bunch of people waiting to go home to Heaven , that we really have no place down here and that the world belongs to the devil. The world does NOT belong to the devil. "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness therefore, the world and all that dwell therein!" (Psalm 24:1). When Jesus Christ ascended on high and sat down at the right hand of God, God established His kingship forever. He made Him King over the whole earth. Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords and we are His earthly representatives
The Bible says, "The Lord will stretch forth Thy strong scepter from Zion" (Psalm 110:2). Many people wonder, where is Zion? During a visit to Israel several years ago, I stood on the rooftop and asked a learned friend next to me, "Where is Zion?". He pointed in the direction of a knobbly little hill and he said, "That's Zion". I responded, "That's Zion? You mean that's where I've been marching to for 60 years?".
Zion as a piece of real estate is strategically localted. In the days of David it was obviously a strategic military stronghold for the Jebusites. There's no question about that, but it's no Rock of Gibraltar either. It's just a rather ordinary looking little hill, well placed for a certain job. Then I began to think of it from a different perspective. Zion was the place where David put the Ark of the Covenant. There the Holy Ghost began to make Zion the name for the people. Zion stopped being just a mountain and became the people of God. God said in the Psalms, "I have set My King upon Zion, My Holy Mountain" (Psalm 2:6). He was saying, "My people are the place of My Presence. Just as David put the ark on Mount Zion, I have put My Presence in the middle of My people and they are now Zion. They are the people of My Presence and I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion".
Through your praise and worship you make a throne in your midst, and as you continue to praise and worship, you experience the sweeping Presence of the regal Son of God and His angelic escort. He dispenses royal gifts. He comes to remind you that you are the people of His power in this world and that from you will rise a scepter of authority that will prepare the Kingdom to be presented to the Father".
Mark will remember with me a favourite song that we used to sing back in Dunstable.
"Jesus, we enthrone You! We proclaim You our King!
Standing here in the midst of us, we raise You up with our praise!
And as we worship build a throne, and as we worship build a throne!
And as we worship build a throne - come Lord Jesus and take Your place!".
Imagine what a difference it would make if as we all worship tomorrow in our churches spread across the nations, we really began to believe that as we worshipped King Jesus was building His throne among us, and dispensing royal gifts of authority to send us out to present a counter culture to the world! We are the People of God!
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Yes still on holiday, but I logged on to check my emails and a few favourite sites and was absolutely thrilled to read that Rob Rufus will be back at the conference next year!! He had an outstanding impact in his ministry and I get a feeling that God isn´t through with us yet! A motivation to keep poised for when bookings open! If anyone isn´t familiar with him, here are the links to my reports from his sessions and exactly what happened when he stood up to speak. Wouldn´t it be amazing if this was the fastest selling out Brighton conference yet? I urge everyone who can - don´t miss this man of God if you can!
Rob´s Training Track Day 1.
Rob Main Session.
Rob´s Training Track Day 2.
Rob´s Training Track Day 3.
Here is the rest of the brief official resume from July´s amazing conference from the site.
Together on a Mission 07 with Mobilise 10 - 13 July 2007
Planning for Together on a Mission 2007 is well underway, come back and visit soon to see who will be joining Terry Virgo & Rob Rufus in Brighton in July 2007. 4,000 delegates attended this year’s Newfrontiers annual leader’s conference, making it the largest to date. This included the highly successive students and twenties stream, known as Mobilise. Over 50 different national groups were represented with some coming from Russia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Ghana and Japan.
The week consisted of optional seminars in the morning, followed by times of worship and main meetings which were hosted by Terry Virgo. Some of the morning seminars were themed into training tracks, led by speakers such as Wayne Grudem (USA) and Rob Rufus (Hong Kong). Others were led by such teachers as Greg Haslam (Westminster Chapel) and Philip Greenslade (CWR). Topics included church planting, engaging culture, kingdom mission, signs and wonders, the power of God and the authority of the Bible.
In one of the main sessions, Rob Rufus reminded delegates that there is onward momentum with God when empowered by the Holy Spirit – eloquently summed up using the imagery of an escalator! During a prayer session, Rob picked up the theme from the song This is the year and prophetically stated that a change was coming with the Church set to make a greater impact. This seemed to reflect the title of Terry Virgo’s new book, The Tide is Turning, which was published to coincide with the conference.
In other main sessions Terry Virgo, through the life of Moses, insightfully addressed the life and tensions of a church leader, from both internal and external perspectives.Wayne Grudem unpacked the theme of Jesus being both truly God and completely man, emphatically backing up each point with numerous scriptural references. It was a tour de force by a superb Bible expositor.
Stuart Townend, along with Phatfish and Kate Simmonds, were the main worship leaders. Evan Rogers, from South Africa brought an international flavour when he led worship at the Thursday evening prayer session – a firm favourite with all the delegates.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Having a fantastic time away here. God has been incredibly gracious with the most gorgeous weather and the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen in my life!
I have had plenty of time to transcribe too and am well into the fourth (of 5) message from "The King and His Army" by Dr Ern Baxter. It is such an incredibly important message for our day. I remember when I initially announced that this was the series of messages I was going to transcribe from the Lakes Bible Week 1975, someone rightly asked whether those messages were for "that day" and they are now irrelevant as the Charismatic Movement is not beginning to flourish. Ern Baxter dealt with that issue in depth in the 3rd Message that I have just finished - "A Time of Transition", so I hope that will become clear when I make it available.
I have also had plenty of time to read a lot. I brought a handful of my old Newfrontiers magazines from the past and have been really enjoying revisiting the outstanding material in them. I was struck by this quote by Terry Virgo from the Newfrontiers magazine - August/October 2002. He wrote in his Firstline:
"It has been my longing that the conference (the Brighton Leadership Conference just past) would welcome the Spirit and honour the Word. Why is it that we are so rarely privilidged to experience at the same time the manifestation of the Holy Spirit´s power and true respect for the Word of God? How sad that we so often have to put up with a lack of one or the other. Here was a glorious exception and it gave me appetite to know more! ... I feel like Nehemiah who said, "We are about a great work". He added, "The God of heaven will give us success, therefore we His servants will arise and build!".
I wonder if that lament still holds true today? It is incredible to me that time has flown by so quickly since the Together on a Mission Conference that we have just so enjoyed! The CD - "Praise is Rising!" - is coming out shortly and available here! Don´t miss it! I can´t wait to revisit the powerful times of worship that we enjoyed! But I think I can safely say that I have never seen the Word and Spirit come together so powerfully than at that conference. The outstanding ministry of Rob Rufus - imparting the Holy Spirit to us, combined with careful reverence for the Word of God from men like Terry, Dave Holden, Dave Devenish and of course Wayne Grudem. We are indeed about a great work! Let´s arise and build wherever we are!
Friday, September 08, 2006
I am HUGELY excited! Tonight myself and a group of friends leave on my first proper holiday for three years (Bible Weeks and conferences don't really count as holidays I think). We are going to a distant island in the Mediterranean so I am feeling slightly like C H Spurgeon escaping to Mentone.
I don't know whether there willl be cyber-cafes or internet access there so no promises as to blogs while I'm away. However if there is I will indeed post as to what God is thrilling me with! I do have a definate plan for not wasting this time as I believe it is a huge gift from God.
1. I am taking about ten books to read that have been staring at me from my library shelves.
2. I hope to finish the "King and His Army" transcripts (Ern Baxter at the Lakes Bible Week 1975) so that I can get back, edit and publish this awesome material and get it out to whoever desires it.
3. I want to have a think about where next to go in my desire to get Ern Baxter's ministry widely available so hopefully will have some definite plans when I return.
4. Above all I want to use this time away from distractions to deepen my relationship with God, hopefully seek for a powerful filling of His Spirit, spend as much time as possible in prayer and fellowship with Him and come back strengthened for the next phase of my life.
So if I can't get to a computer - much love and prayer to all who read this! I trust and hope that you have amazing experiences of God's lavish amazing grace and know a powerful experience of walking with His Spirit. See you when I get back!
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
It was an incredibly nice change to receive something exciting in the post today! My great new friend Jonathan Edwards, author of the new blog - "Global Awakenings" - is a fellow fan of Ern Baxter and had a document that I have never seen. It is a list that Ern put together of his recommended books for studying the Bible. It's going to be an amazing resource, but Ern's introductory letter caught my eye and touched on the use of books in a library that I have strongly felt before. This is what he wrote;
"The Great Depression made academic and theological training impossible for me. I partially compensated for this with books. Other sources were subseqently available to me, but I had established a program of personal reading, which I have pursued through the years.
Together with the use of public, institutional and private libraries, I began from my frugal funds to put together the beginnings of a personal library. These were more than books to me; they were the teachings of devout scholars. Since I was deprived access to classrooms and unable to come into direct contact with living teachers, I sought to find out about men whose books were providing information and blessing to me.
It wasn't long until the biographical and autobiographical part of my library began growing. This helped me imagine the presence of the person who wrote the books as my instructor. There are many books on my shelves today that date back to those days, to which I turn, not just in books, but as the writings of men I came to know through their biographies and autobiographies. I sat in their classrooms and in their lectures. I had front pew seats in their churches and I heard their sermons. I sometimes imagined I conversed with them.
I often grieved that I had not been able to pursue advanced formal training. And then I discovered that I was one of a great number of people whose circumstances were similar to mine. Many of their names were well known and their service in the Kingdom of God extensive and influential. Books, I discovered, were also their great instructors and friends. And so, through the years, I have sat at the feet of a great number of fine scholars and devout men of God as they sit on the shelves around me, a great faculty of informing, inspiring instructors.
As I took up pastoral duties, I discovered that there were many young people who for one reason or another were unable to participate in formal theological education. I began offering them such help and instruction as I could give them in classes I convened for that purpose, as well as introducing them to what I felt to be basic books, especially those that had been so helpful to me.
As time went on, I was asked to provide a bibliography of what I considered to be basic books, and this I gladly did. It is certainly not the only bibliography of it's kind, but is designed to help those who want to start to build their own personal library. A number of brothers have contributed to the preparation of the bibliography and the idea of updating it from time to time.
There are many more extensive bibliographies and for the tastes of some, this one may be too elementary. But for those to whom it is useful we are happy to make it available and trust that it will provide you with the kind of informative and inspiring material that will contribute to your desire to more effectively serve God".
I too have enviously looked at men and women who have been able to attend seminaries like Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Phoenix Seminary or Regent College in Vancouver - although I had the privilidge of spending a month in Vancouver three years ago and was able to photocopy all Ern Baxter's articles that he wrote in New Wine Magazine. Like Ern I would love to sit at the feet of some of my heroes like Gordon Fee, Wayne Grudem or Don Carson but in a very real sense I actually have through their writing! God is so wise in communicating and preserving truth through the written word. There is such immeasurable richness in investing in books that fire ones spirit and passion for God. When I was at university I used to buy any book with a hardback cover - I have now begun to hone my wish list to purely those books that I know will do my spirit good by revealing more of God to me.
Build your libraries!
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
I only rarely review books and have never yet reviewed a DVD but I have just finished watching a film that I brought and viewed with great reluctance. "United 93" - the film that covered the fourth plane that was brought down in Shanksville rather than hitting it's target - either the White House or the Capitol.
I guess we all remember where we were on the day that Diana, Princess of Wales died and on September 11th 2001. I had just got into my house from my new job in Birmingham and turned the television when the news broke. I stayed rooted to the television for the rest of the day so it was a day that is rooted in my memory. Furthermore New York has always been a city that for some reason has been very close to my heart, as is the United States of America.
The film is extremely well made and does not seek in the slightest to hype the events of that tragic day. It was made with the agreement of the families of the people who were on board and starts with the passengers (and terrorists) getting ready then arriving at the airport. As the plane leaves Newark, the news begins to break that planes had hit the World Trade Centre in New York. The majority of the film covers the heartbreaking phone conversations between those on the plane and their loved ones. As the film draws to a close it touches on the point that the authorities were tracking the flight and were debating shooting down or crippling the plane if necessary. Finally it covers the outstanding act of bravery as the passengers overcame the terrorists and brought down the plane. The rest as they say is history.
I was amazed at how the pure evil of mankind could be portrayed (the callous desire to slaughter untold numbers of lives) alongside the amazing heroism of mankind (the brave willingness to sacrifice their lives for the sake of saving more). I remember on September 11th 2001, my angry attitude to God was "Why? Why didn't You intervene?". Today my feeling was slightly more in touch, I hope, with the heart of God. I felt His utter sorrow at that day. I do believe He wept as countless thousands of His creation lost their lives and will never again hear His Gospel of grace. Surely John Piper is right when he said; "Sin caused the collapse and sin caused the cross".
Yet the film did more for me than just a general reflection on God's sovereign design on that day. I have heard the prophets in the family of churches I am in speak with increasing regularity of the sure approach of persecution, suffering and martyrdom. John Piper said; "The cross of Christ calls us to suffer and secures our triumph. Suffering is certain. Salvation is sure. And the cross makes all the difference". I have often wondered what I would do if I ever had to face my own death and what factors would cause me to willingly lay down my life. Love? I have very close friends who I do love, and a family and a church. But love was present on United 93 - that was so evident. I hope and pray that I will increasingly gain a vision of God and His Kingdom that is worth laying ones life down for! What is that vision? The Gospel spreading across the world and the witness of that.
"When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the Word of God and for the witness they had bourne. They cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?". Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been" - (Revelation 6:9-11 ESV).
It seems to me that there is incredible eternal recognition for martyrs. There is rest. But it also seems that there is a set number of martyrs and when that number is complete then God will act and move to avenge their deaths. So rather than martyrdom being something to dread, fear and avoid - rather it is something to look for, long for. Can there be any greater honour than to die for the Gospel and in witness of it? I always longed to be married but I am beginning to believe that there could be some purpose in my living a single, celibate life. Paul wrote; "To the unmarried ... I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am" - (1 Corinthians 7:8 ESV).
I am so grateful for this marvellous documentary of the bravery of human beings. Unlike many films and the dreadful thing that is TV, it is actually made me think and consider what really matters in life - above all preparing for the life that is to come. My prayers have gone out to the families of those who were bereaved on that day - that the God of mercy would comfort them and indeed bring them to see the Gospel for what it truly is. Oh that there could be some eternal good come out from that awful day! Or as John Piper put it: "Oh, that every American would say, "Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14)". And I would add "human being".
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Part 2 of this classic sermon.
Mounting Up on Wings: The writer of Proverbs said that among those mysteries of the universe were too hard to understand, one was the "mystery of an eagle in the air". The symbolism of this passage is the Christian's inexplicable potential which is like the eagle's, which can fly higher than any other bird and never wiggle a wing. What do I mean by "wiggle a wing?". Did you notice that the psalmist said that eagles "mount up" and not "flap up"? Eagles were not made to go flapping about. They were created to soar high and free. Eagles learn to fly without struggling becasue they understand the air currents. An eagle will perch on a rock and wait, testing the winds. When the right wind is blowing, he lifts into the air with a royal scream. Herein is one of the eagles secrets in being able to mount up - waiting. Those who wait, says the scripture, will be the ones to mount up. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength".
High Flying: Something in an eagle demands that he fly higher than all the other birds. He often flies well beyond the view of the naked eye. He rises past the telephone wires, where the crows screech, "Caww, caww, stop and we'll give you the latest on the Sunday school superindendent, Caww, caww". But the eagle calls back, "I'm not interested! I'm going up beyond the clouds where I can look full into the face of the sun". Even though an eagle flies high into the blinding sun, he is equally adapted to dark mountain valleys. He has two sets of eyelids. With his earthly eyelids he can see perfectly well down at ground level, or he can roll down his heavenly ones and play in the glaring glory of the sun.
Christians must know how to walk on the earth as well as fly in the glory. It is possible to become so spiritual that we cannot see reality in our daily lives. As the eagle mount high above the clouds, he sails those great air currents into the very Presence of God. You and I are not fashioned for the dirt and pollution. We were not born to be dirty crows on a telephone line. We are appointed to the pure worship of God, to climb into the rare atmosphere of the holy of holies.
How High Can We Go?: Some ask, "How far can I go Baxter?". "Enoch walked with God and he was not: for God took him" (Genesis 5:24). That eagle flew high! One day he flew so high that God said, "Enoch, it is closer for you to come up than to go back". How high? George Mueller was once told by a captain of a ship on which he was a passenger that the ship could not make New York on schedule because of dense fog that had set in, "We'll see about that" said Mueller. As Mueller prayed, the fog lifted and the boat hastened in towards his waiting appointment in New York. People can say, "I don't believe that God lifts fog!". They will stay in a fog but God lifts fogs for people who have the faith to have fogs lifted.
God has made us eagles like Himself and He wants us to fly! All the experiences that we become so excited about - our conversion, our baptism in the Holy Spirit, the spiritual gifts - are but a part of the introduction to the supernatural life that demands us to become God-like, because we are partakers of the divine nature.
When Eagles Die: Every eagle will have his downtime. He may be sick or molting but he never panics. He finds a rock and sits there letting the healing power of the sun do it's work. If you find a low place in your life, do not start running around trying to find God - for the people will say to you, "Here is Christ, there is Christ" and it will bring you frustration. David said, "I waited patiently for the Lord" (Psalm 40:1). God often has a work to do and all we are asked to do is to wait. There will come again a time of mounting up on wings, but the waiting must come first. Every eagle knows when his time for death has come. He finds a high rock where he can watch the setting sun and settles down to wait and then dies watching the sun.
There is only one picture on my study wall and it is that of my saintly maternal grandmother. When I was a very young child, Grandma took over much of my rearing. My earliest memories are that of toddling up to the picturesque little picket fence in front of her home on a Saturday morning, looking forward to all the delicious smelling goodies that she took from the cavernous depths of her vast old-fashioned oven. How I loved her. Because of the religious confusion that was in our home, I walked in rebellion as a teenager, but Grandma never let go of me. She was living in our home by that time and I can remember well stumbling into the house at three or four o'clock in the morning and seeing her light shining under the door. I could hear her sobbing, "Oh God, oh God!". Even though I usually felt like kicking the door down I knew that it meant something.
Grandma's Answer: The time came when God got me. I had dissipated my life until I was a moral, physical and spiritual wreck before He found me. Using what musical talent I had, I set out in the Lord's work and soon found myself in the ministry. Grandma ended up moving with us to Vancouver, BC where I found had my first important charge. She came to every service and sat in the front row and just smiled at me. (I don't think she heard a word I said). She was saying, "You answered Lord, You answered". She was nearly eighty and had the most beautiful white hair that you ever saw. Every day for four hours Grandma would sit out in her old rocker and rock out an anthem of praise and supplication to God for me. Her prayers sustained me in a way that I was to realize only after she was gone. One day when I was with her she suddenly said, "I'm going home". "Home?" I asked, "Home where?". "I'm going home to be with the Lord" she replied as if it were something quite ordinary.
"Oh Grandma" I objected, "don't do that!". "Yes" she insisted, as though she and the Lord had talked it over and it was setlled. A little unsure of what to make of it, I asked, "What are you going to do?". Quite positively she answered, "I am giving notice on my room. I will go back to the prairies to spend Christmas with the children and then I am going home".
Looking Into the Sun: That is exactly what she did. With Christmas only three months away, she went back to the prairies for the holidays, wrote her Christmas cards and put everything in order. When she was ready, she called all the children together and did all the decent things that one does when one dies. She called for the pastor and had him read her favouite Psalm (she was two verses ahead of him by memory) and told everyone goodbye. When she had attented to everything she turned her face toward the sun and slipped into the Presence of God. Grandma was an eagle. She died as eagles die, looking into the sun. Somehow I think this is how saints were meant to step into eternity.
There is great reward in God for those who will dare to be eagles and learn to soar into what God had purposed us to be. God is calling us to press into Him and rise higher in Him. He is calling us to new heights of divine awareness, new decisions and a new set of priorities. He is calling us to be eagles.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Finally - the sermon that inspired the name of this website! I have had an increasing number of people request this classic sermon. Most notably a new friend that I am thrilled to meet - Jonathan Edwards, who has just started up a new blog "Global Awakenings". I think that we have much in common. He dedicates his blog to: "all who passionately long and live for spiritual awakening in our world today". Amen to that! So Jonathan, this transcript is dedicated to you.
"Since the beginning of man's record of himself, the challenge of flight has captured his imagination. The conquering of the air in our own generation has produced a wave of awe and romance unequaled in the annuals of man's existance. Somehow the ability to fly has epitomize the longing of man to rise above the natural limitations of earth-bound mortals and soar into the realm of the supernatural.
God has made provision in His Kingdom for man to have this spiritual need met, and yet few believers ever find the satisfaction of knowing fully what God has allotted to them. How can a man break into the realm of the supernatural in his walk with God? In one form or another this question seems to be one of the pressing concerns whereever I travel. Rather than embarking on a heavy dissertation, I want to look at a beautiful illustration used by the prophet Isaiah;
"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31).
King of the Birds: This passage speaks of the eagle. As the lion is the king of the beasts, so the eagle is the king of the birds. The Holy Spirit has likened us and our Godward aspirations to the aspiration of being like the eagle. As I watched the eagles in the Columbia Basin near Portland, Oregan, I began to understand why they have represented throughout time the Godward thrust of man; power, freedom, beauty, the lord of their environment through their ability to master the air. They move in regal splendour for they are born as kings. As the eagle is born with the divine right of kingship, so we come from the new birth with the inherent potential of soaring into the Presence of God Himself. The fact, however, that eagles are so equipped does not necessarily mean that they will never get off the ground.
Deuteronomy 32:11 has some interesting information about the eagles. "As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttering over her young, spreading abroad her wings, taketh them, bearth them on her wings". All eagles begin as eaglets and before these unseemly, squalling fledgings take their place with royalty, they must be trained in the ways of the king of birds. This little verse is the Flight Training Manual of student eagles and earthbound Christians.
The Eaglet's Lesson: Picture with me two little eaglets snuggled cosily in a down-filled nest, high on an eerie ledge on some remote mountainside. (Christians often find themselves born into equally precarious circumstances). Everything is just wonderful. Mother Eagle sallies forth daily and brings back choice titbits for those ravenous appetites. During the cold mountain nights, she snuggles over the nest and the eaglets snuggle securely under those warm, soft wings and look out at the stars not very far away. They are newly born and baptized in the Holy Spirit. Hallelujah! Life is wonderful and being a Christian sure makes life easy - no more problems! God knew what He was doing when He thought up this arrangement!
One day Mom begins to act very strangely. Rather than landing on the nest she hovers momentarily beating the air with those great wings. As Junior watches her, he thinks, 'Mom sure has powerful wings!'. That is exactly what Mrs Eagle wants Junior to know. Then she does something downright crazy. She graps a piece of the nest and drops it over the side of the cliff. Then she returns for another chunk and another and another. The eaglets are starting to think that Mom has lost her marbles! By now the framework of the nest is pretty shaky and that nice soft down that made Junior feel so secure is at the bottom of the canyon. Nest life is becoming a standing room only situation on what is left of their home.
Can you see what the mother eagle is doing? She is preparing her young for the first stage in the eagle training. After our Lord received the Holy Spirit and the declaration of His holy Sonship, the Scripture says that He was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. I have written in the margin of my Bible at this point, "Is this standard operating procedure?". I believe that God's modus operandi is to begin to confront us as soon as possible with the necessity of maturing into something other than nestbound believers.
Growing Up: Paul told the Corinthians that he could not talk to them as mature men because they were as babes (see 1 Corinthians 3:1). He did not say they were babies. But that they were like babies. When a baby slobbers its pabulum down its little chin and milk runs into its little ears, we all laugh and think it is cute. But when a twenty-one year old man slobbers his food down his chin, then he is like a baby and this is sickening. God does not mind a Christian going through the pabulum stage; it is a part of growing up. But it is tragic in God's eyes when we never grow out of infancy.
Interestingly enough the discomfort of our bewildered eaglets has been deliberately caused by the one who loves them most. How often when we have a streak of trouble, do we cry out, "The Devil is attacking me?!". Are you positive it is the Devil? Maybe it is the One who loves you the most who is stirring up your nest. Like many believers, the little eagles conclude that standing on the windy ledge is at least tolerable and they can make the most of it. But dear old Mom has more in her mind than just a nest stirring. She catches one of the little fellows in her powerful beatk and nudges him toward the edge of the ledge. The poor little guy wonders what is happening now. His little heart is beating faster and faster and as he is pushed closer to the edge he thinks, 'No it can't be! Mother wouldn't do this to me!'. But she does.
Out of the Nest: With one final push he starts to plummet to the bottom of the canyon - he is sure this is the end. Then out of nowhere there is a swosh of Mom's mighty wings and Junior is heading back for the safety of the ledge on her powerful back, quite relieved. The first time God kicks us out of the nest and catches us before we hit bottom, we gasp, "Oh thank heavens! I was sure God had let me down that time". Back on the ledge our would-be king is just getting over being dizzy when Mom starts pushing again. "Not again" he moans as he starts his second tumble. "What if Mom doesn't make it this time?". But she does. Several trips later Junior begins to get the feeling that Mom is trying to get a point across. Between rides he suddenly remembers Mom's huge wings hovering over the nest and thinks, "I wonder if ... If she does that again, I'm going to give mine a try!". Rest assured he gets another chance. Mom will not stop until Junior finds the gumption to try his own wings.
Little eagles are gangly creatures, wobbling shakily on untested wings. But each desperate plunge brings a little more mastery of his wings. One day he spreads those wings and rather than falling, he finds himself rising up and up, riding the mighty air currents far above his ledge home and the nest that confined him. No longer a fledgling begging for tid-bits, he is learning to become one of the eagles - he will be a king. Ministers and evangelists often make becoming a Christian as being born on a satin pillow with a cordon of angels wafting us through life and depositing us at the foot of the celestial throne. Only are we are well settled in our nest, do we learn that God is more intent on the production of character than the provision of our comfort.
Living as a King: The Bible land knew two types of eagles; the golden eagle and the imperial eagle. The golden eagle speaks of us as partakers of the divine nature and the imperial eagle speaks of us as kings. In the Scripture, the two go hand in hand. Our divine right to reign as monarchs in our own lives! The circumstances that confound and befuddle the world become launching pads to new heights in God. Satan and his henchmen become the snakes, which an eagle bisects with a slash of his mighty talons or drops from a dizzy height to be crushed on the rocks below. This is our inheritance.
Some years ago I was managing a campaign in Cleveland. Upon departing the city for a few days, I told one of the committees, "Get a plot of ground where we can pitch a tent for about three thousand people and we will take care of the expenses later". When I got off the plane upon my return, the chairman met me and said, "We have a wonderful place for the tent". "Wonderful" I said, "How much did you have to pay for the land?". "Fifteen hundred dollars a day". "What?!" I gasped. (Back in those days fifteen hundred dollars was like fifteen thousand today). We had decided not to make a big thing of money so there was little we could do but trust God. After the first day and a half, we were five thousand dollars down - a rather awkward place to be.
That afternoon I preached on Romans 5:17 which says we reign in life by Christ. As I finished, I said, "Now as you meet one another for the next few days, address each other as 'King So-and-so'. You may address me as King Baxter". That night I was handed an envelope addressed to 'King Baxter'. I opened it and read a delightful note. "Dear King Baxter, my wife and I have a feeling that our fellow king has a need. Our of our royal treasury we wish you to accept the enclose cheque for five thousand dollars". I may not always have it, but there is money in the royal family tree.
Next: How to Mount Up, Flying High and How High Can We Go?