I am constantly on the look out for prophetic voices that help define the state of the age in which we live. Such defining and insight from God helps focus our prayers and our corporate activity in the Church. Many will remember Don Baker who brought some very helpful insights and history to this website as he was a member of Covenant Life Church in Washington from 1976 to 2000. He has become a hugely respected friend and although I don't get to speak to him as often as I'd like (due to his huge pressures of home teaching!), I value his emails greatly. In a recent discussion, he said the following and it stuck with me.
"We're definately in Lord of the Rings time not Hobbit time. I think it's far more important for us to be out DOING "the stuff" of God rather than debating about it on the Net. The unsaved, and the saved-but-ignorant-of-God's-powerful-love-and-wisdom, need to be guided into authentic experiences with God in real life. This is far more important than our winning Internet debates with a small band of adversarial believers. To paraphrase James, we can write about our faith (on the Net) for fellow believers, or we can demonstrate our faith by actual preaching and living the power-filled Christian life in real life, among both believers and pre-believers".
What then can we learn from the Lord of the Rings, if we are indeed in "Lord of the Rings time?".
1. "I Come Back to You Now At the Turn of the Tide".
For those who are not as avid a fan of Tolkien as I, a word of explanation. This quote was said by Gandalf the wizard after he was re-birthed following his battle with the Balrog. "Turn of the Tide". It sounds remarkably similar to Terry Virgo's words doesn't it? I have already tried to begin addressing the question, "If the Tide is Turning, What should be our response?" here and here. When Terry first brought out his book, the idea of surfers obviously sprang to mind as they are a key group who depend on the tide turning. I read a few websites that give advice to them and was very struck at how like the prophets they are. A great deal of their time is spent watching and waiting and the prophets in the Bible are often called "Watchmen".
Those who do not watch and are resigned to a negative pessimistic eschatology will not even notice the spiritual tide turning, much like those who sunbath on the beach and can often get caught by the tide creeping on them. Let us not be caught unawares! If God is going to move and the tide is going to turn, let us be poised to catch the mighty wave and go!
2. "For Frodo".
This was shouted by Aragorn, the king of Gondor right at the end. The scene was hopeless. He had led the small army to the black gates of Mordor which had opened showing an 100, 000 strong army of Orcs and behind them, the forbidding tower of Barad-dur. In Peter Jackson's film, the scene is gripping. It seems that Sauron is speaking to Aragorn maybe tempting him and those watching Aragorn seem fearful. Aragorn turns his head and smiles with tears in his eyes and says simply, "For Frodo" and then charges alone into the Orcs - prepared to die for his small friend who is currently attempting to climb Mount Doom to destroy the Ring.
I mentioned recently Greg Haslam's definition of vision; "Until you find something to die for - you are not really living". Do we have something to die for? And I mean really die for? What was it that enabled Jim Elliot and his friends to walk fearlessly to their certain deaths as documented by the book, "Through Gates of Splendour". If Greg is right then I fear that many of us are not really living. Once again I passionately believe that it is a positive eschatology that could potentially fire many of us to be ready to die. If we see no end for the Church other than it is going to go out with a whimper and Jesus Christ will return to save us from the advancing hordes of hell, then why bother dying a martyrs death? On the other hand, if we believe that as Revelation states, the blood of the martyrs actually cry out to the Enthroned Lamb for Him to arise and act - what a difference! Do you have something you would die for?
3. "End? No the Journey Doesn't End Here. Death is Just Another Path ... One that We Must All Take".
This scene is where again all looks hopeless. Gandalf and Pippin are with the besieged Gondorians in Minas Tirith. Pippin says, "Is this the end Gandalf" and Gandalf began to speak of the beauty and glory of the white shores of Tolkien's description of heaven. It encouraged Pippin enough to fight again once the Trolls broke through the gates of the second level of the city.
Richard Baxter's, "The Saint's Everlasting Rest" is one of the most precious books that I own in my library. Furthermore it is one of the most unique for incredibly enough there are very few books about heaven and the eternal life that awaits us. I said in my last point that it is a vision of an advancing Church that could inspire us to be prepared to die, but surely we must have a clear vision of what happens after death, if our martyrdom is to be fearless. Consider this quote from Richard Baxter;
"It cannot but be comfortable to think of that day, when we shall join with Moses in his song, with David in his psalms of praise, and with all the redeemed in the song of the Lamb for ever; when we shall see Enoch walking with God; Noah enjoying the end of his singularity; Joseph of his integrity; Job of his patience; Hezekiah of his uprightness and all the saints the end of their faith. Not only our old acquaintance, but all the saints of all ages, whose faces in the flesh we never saw, we shall there both know and comfortably enjoy. Yea, angels as well as saints will be our blessed acquaintance. Those who now are willingly our ministering spirits, will willingly then be our companions in joy. They who had such joy in heaven for our conversion, will gladly rejoice with us in our glorification.
Then we shall truly say, as David, I am a companion of all them that fear thee; when “we are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels; to the general assembly and church of the first-born, who are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.” It is a singular excellence of heavenly rest, that we are “fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.”
How utterly awesome!! The fact that we shall join the "great cloud of witnesses" is just one small aspect of heaven. Time does not even permit me to ponder on meeting God Himself. But imagine mingling with the greats of history and what they have to say to us. I cannot wait to meet some of my more contemporary church heroes! Will Ern Baxter berate me for this website and for reproducing his ministry I wonder? Or will he have much to say that I missed out? How will it be to meet Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones and to probe into his amazing mind and to learn more of his insights into God?
I am so grateful to Don Baker for this insight into our present day situation and I feel that it fits in perfectly with Terry Virgo's insights in "The Tide is Turning" as well as Rob Rufus's feeling that God is on the move. Don concluded his email to me; "I think rather it will be the signs-and-wonders/intimacy with God/prophetic word/24-7 prayer people whose aggressive prayer and Spirit-led actions bring down enemy strongholds and reap a worldwide harvest". If we truly are in a "Lord of the Rings time" then we cannot and dare not spend exclusive time in our libraries debating the finer points of theology that will not work to save the lost. People are dying! They need a real Church that is truly "the dwelling place for God in the Spirit". Let's go build His house and get out and bring people in to fill it!
Thank you Don!