I've deliberately held off posting the 600th post on this blog for a very deliberate reason. I wasn't sure what to write about and wanted it to reflect what is a significant landmark. What is the point of this blog? What am I writing for? I therefore want to sketch out a few things in the Christian world that reflect something of my vision. Greg Haslam once said;
"Until you find something worth dying for - you aren't really living".
The problem with much of Christian evangelicalism these days is that many of us don't really have much that we would die for. That may be fine at the moment but should God lift His hand and allow persecution to come back into the Western world, I wonder how many of us would be willing and able to walk to our deaths and our martyrdoms knowing what our deaths will accomplish. So if that is the case then it seems vital to explore what VISION is and what kind of vision I have or rather should be having to change my life. That vision has been affected and shaped by 3 encounters.
Until I first came across the life and teaching of Ern Baxter some 6 years ago just after I was baptised in the Holy Spirit, I don't think I really considered the prospect of my relationship with Jesus Christ having much more to do with anything outside the context of my local church. It would not be an understatement to say I was RIVETED sitting and listening to sermon tape after sermon tape where Ern sketched out the awesome and glorious vision of the Kingdom of God - and what it should be. And then I came to hear "Thy Kingdom Come" ... never before had I heard in one single sermon such a glorious portrayal of how the world should be. Covered with the glory of the Lord. The more and more I learnt of Ern Baxter, the more and more I loved. This was no "light-weight" charismatic. Ern Baxter had a bigger theological library than many Reformed evangelical pastors around today. Yet his passionate belief in the Holy Spirit as a felt experience today kept that theological teaching and knowledge alive.
Despite absolutely loving the vision that Ern Baxter had painted of Kingdom life, I thought that such a tension between Reformed doctrine and Charismatic Experience wasn't even possible in church life. Especially since my home church had resolutely marched towards cessationist life and doctrine. As Mark Heath put it; "But it was clear that the ghost of charismatic past had been decisively exorcised".
However a chance purchase of the "Stoneleigh 1998 Worship Video" by myself and Mark Heath made us realise that Newfrontiers was a family of churches worth investigating! Mark and a few friends went to Stoneleigh Bible Week 1999 and although I couldn't go due to my nursing degree, I visited for a day and was thrilled to hear Terry Virgo teach the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as an inheritance for saved believers here and now today. I loved the worship led by Kate Simmonds and was just in heaven worshipping with thousands. I was able to come to the whole week of Stoneleigh Bible Week 2000 and was able to absorb and take in the fact that the Newfrontiers view of Kingdom life was very similar to what Ern Baxter had taught those years ago.
Again as Mark Heath wrote; "After hearing Dave Holden, Terry Virgo, John Hosier, Greg Haslam, and Simon Pettit, I no longer believed that it was impossible to be a charismatic and retain an evangelical loyalty to the Bible".
Since Stoneleigh Bible Week closed I have been fortunate enough to observe and experience the increasing weight of glory and the real Presence of God that has been occuring at the Brighton Leadership Conference - and the now Together on a Mission 2006 and 2007. The last two conferences introduced me to a man called Rob Rufus. I had never heard of him prior to TOAM 06 but was fascinated and intrigued by the promise God had given him that the United Kingdom was not abandoned.
The anointing on Rob Rufus is enough to make anyone who hears him preach and minister stop and listen. But what excited me immeasurably was the similarity to Ern Baxter. In his sermons Rob Rufus would refer frequently to his vision that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In particular Rob shared Ern Baxter's view that the type of Israel going into the land carries something for us to be aware of today. For example;
"We have crossed the Jordan and we are going in! If you are legalistic and stay on the wrong side of the Jordan, your manna is drying up and it's tough! We are no longer wandering in the wilderness eating manna, going around and around mountains! We have replaced desert with vineyards we never sowed, houses we didn't build, land we didn't buy - and milk and honey is ours now!".
"If we were going in to the land with Joshua and Caleb we should have been asking them everything we could that their generation did wrong so that we don’t make the same mistakes. Don’t get arrogant. Our generation is no better. We are just privileged to see with hindsight".
I think that Rob Rufus's teaching differs only slightly from Ern Baxter's in that Rob has emphasised a greater insight into the wonderful transforming grace of God. As I have said before in listening to Rob I am learning things that I have never heard of or learnt before in my 15 or so years as a Christian! The grace of God isn't something that we use to balance out the law. The grace of God is something that sets us free to become radically dangerous in advancing the Kingdom of God. Even moreso it is ONLY the grace of God that will allow us to truly experience the cloud of glory;
"All over the world true New Covenant churches with a foundation of grace are moving into the glory. You can never see the cloud of glory while you are in the land of slavery".
With those 3 encounters in mind - and with the possibilities they present - there is a choice to be made. Leaving a discussion of eschatological positions aside, we cannot go through life without considering the future. And the past. Those considerations help us live in the present. Firstly the past. Let me be frank. Considering Jesus Christ hanging broken and dying on the Cross does not make me want to die for my faith. Considering Jesus Christ walking as a man across the earth does not make me want to die for my faith. BUT! Considering Jesus Christ seated, exalted, glorified and reigning on high as the Supreme King of the Universe would make me ready to die for my faith because if He is the Supreme King then everything (including my death) is under His control! Secondly the future. Thinking of the Church ending up a remnant surrounded by hosts of principalities and powers doesn't really make me ready to die for my faith never mind even evangelise. BUT! Dreaming of the Church visited by the glory and Presence of the Lord changing nation after nation with millions streaming into the Kingdom of God certainly does make me ready to die for my faith especially considering what the Bible says about the blood of martyrs!
So 600 posts? Shall I keep on writing? Is it accomplishing anything? I was stirred by this quote from Joel Beeke's book; "Meet the Puritans" (p9).
"Although Puritans were barred from the pulpits and universities, the repressive measures could not silence their pens".
We in the Western world are extremely fortunate to have our freedom of speech and that just may be removed at some point especially if David Pawson's prophecy is to come true. I suspect and wonder whether the internet could prove to be crucial in continuing to get the Word of truth out. Repressive measures can silence pulpits but the internet could be crucial in years to come! Let us continue to publish what God lays on our hearts to write about! And above all let's not take blogging for granted. We just may have to give account for it before the Throne of God one day!