I became acutely aware when I biked home after I wrote the post; "With Signs Following" that one takes an awful risk as soon as one makes any statement about what God might do in the forthcoming year! The fear is - well what if He doesn't? And as I pondered this I reminded myself of the awesome luxury of Calvinism and a trust in God's complete and utter rule over time and space. If He doesn't ... then He doesn't! He is yet still God and He is worthy of our praise! That verse sets the tone so powerfully; "Though You slay me, yet I will praise you".
That aside, the fact remains that this New Year I have never been so aware of the hope, excitement and potential that awaits us. God seems (to me) to be giving encouragement after encouragement that He has not abandoned us or forgotten us.
So the question must be asked again; "If the tide is turning - what must our response be?". Dr Ern Baxter again provides one of the most profound answers in a sermon that he preached at Covenant Church, Mobile in Alabama in 1981 just after he moved there. It was the New Wine Tape of the Month and with good reason. I have almost completed transcribing it and will be making it available on my next blog entry.
I hope you will see how once again we can be amazed at the awesome prophetic nature of Ern Baxter's preaching and teaching. At the time it is possible that many didn't understand quite what he was getting at. Yet Wendy Virgo was surely right when she wrote of Ern Baxter; "Now with the passage of time we can see some of his prophetic predictions coming into being". I deeply feel that this sermon - "Ditch Diggers Revival" - is THE sermon that MUST be heard in 2007! If God is truly moving then we cannot wait passively for Him. There is a mission to be fulfilled! There is work to be done! Ern's text was 2 Kings 3. Here are some key quotes to wet your appetites;
"I have had a deep empathetic desire to see us move on into God and experience dimensions of God’s visitation and power and Presence which will fill us with an abundance of God’s wonderful water so that we will be equipped unto every good work so that not for a moment will we settle on our record or our accomplishments or settle on our illustrious foundations but that we will press on into God and not run the risk of calling a war council and saying to one another, “Which way shall we go up?” - Doesn't that sound familiar?
"Now at this moment dear people we enter into an inexplicable dimension called the Charismatic dimension. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand what happened here anymore than I understand what happened tonight when a burst of glory came in on the congregation and Brother Charles Simpson under the anointing began to say and do things that took us into a dimension of the Holy Spirit that none of us would know how to rationally document other than as I looked at you with your hands raised and your faces shining and your bodies jumping and your voices screaming, you had entered into an inexplicable, strange, wonderful but nevertheless very real dimension of the unseen".
"But what happens? I don’t know what happened – it is a strange spiritual chemistry of some kind – I don’t know. But it is real! It is more real than hands or feet or breathing itself. It is ultimate reality – it is eternity breaking in through time – it is the permanent breaking into the temporary – it’s the real breaking into the unreal. I don’t know the relationship with music – I just know that there is a relationship. I know that I can grow discouraged and distressed and sit at the piano and start to sing my heart out and something happens. I know that in moments of exquisite joy when I have run out of words and my vocabulary is destitute of adjectives that I can start to sing in an unknown tongue and my spirit starts to ride on the high places".
"One of things that has been levelled at us again and again is that we are not official. Well if forfeiting officialism will guarantee that I can be bathed in the Presence of God like I was tonight then forever and a day let officialism be banished! (*applause*). I think what I want to say to you is that you have no need to feel your second class citizens because you don’t carry great official names and titles. The badge of your validity is the Presence of God. I would rather have been here tonight than sit in the most illustrious official group of unregenerate theologians in the world".
And note this particularly because it is chilling yet highly motivating at the same time;
"I was in the world on time to touch the retreating end of the Welsh Revival. I came into the world almost coincident with the great Pentecostal Outpouring. I saw and shared in the great earthshaking visitations of the Healing Movement. I saw the astounding and amazing acts of God in the Latter Rain visitation. But with all of them there has been one thing missing if I may say so respectfully and sadly. They hadn’t dug ditches to keep the water. So the water came, looked for a place to stop and there was none, so the water went on. The water had been there alright. They saw it, got wet with it and tasted it but it didn’t stay".
At the end of his extrodinary life, Ritch Carlton - Ern Baxter's Administrator - wrote that he looked through church history and with disappointment cried out; "Where is the Church?". This comment puts such disappointment in perspective. Ern experienced the thrilling excitement of movement of God after movement of God erupt in power and yet dwindle so quickly because "the water came, looked for a place to stop and there was none".
Let that charge be not levelled at us! The thrilling thing about this amazing sermon is that Ern did not just preach an etherial general sermon but he concluded with some very practical remarks as to how we can "dig ditches" to contain and channel the water of the Spirit of God. I urge you - read this sermon! Let's hear his voice and make this movement of God (if and when it comes) one that changes and transforms our generation!