Thursday, November 29, 2007

Could Ern Baxter Have Gone Further?

As I go on transcribing one Rob Rufus sermon after another, I am continually amazed at the continuity between Rob's kingdom preaching and Ern Baxter's kingdom preaching. But my friend Pete asked a vital question in a comment on a previous post of mine;

"I wonder, however, whether Ern Baxter could have gone further".

It made me reflect on this whole concept of progressive revelation. As evangelicals we are very good at looking back at the past (I think) and appreciating and valuing the servants of church history that God has given us. Let me comment on a few. John Owen is one of my favourite Puritans. I brought his Works from my favourite Christian Bookshop on the advice of my senior pastor and love them. But can we claim he had ultimate revelation on all the glories that God has to show us until Jesus Christ returns again?

I fell in love with the teachings of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones when his definitive teaching on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit settled a confusing time in my previous church - and went on to get his Works on Romans and Ephesians and love them. But can we claim that the Doctor had ultimate revelation on Church life for example? Would we want our churches to mirror Westminster Chapel in his day?

The day I fell in love with C H Spurgeon's teaching will be forever remembered in my mind. I had just been blown away by being baptised in the Spirit and read his sermons on Revival. I loved finding a staunch evangelical who was so open to the Holy Spirit. It's my birthday on the 8th December and I hit the grand old age of 30. I've asked for the final few volumes to complete my set of the Metropolitan Tabernacle sermons from my family and hope I get them! I think they will be an absolutely invaluable resource for Bible study but furthermore I hope I will catch something of his zeal and passion for the Holy Spirit. Yet I don't think he is the final authority on fellowship and intimacy and relationship with the Spirit of God.

My point?

I wonder whether there is a difference between pastor/teachers (no matter how famous and renowned they become) and prophetic teachers. I haven't done much research or Bible study on this - these are purely my thoughts and ideas and speculations.

What would I see a prophetic teacher as being? I think it is a man or a woman who is obviously gifted to teach from the Word of God but goes a step further and walks in such close relationship with God through the Holy Spirit that their teaching contains a remarkable prophetic element to it that begins to sketch out the climax of the consumation of the ages.

Isn't that just a glorified fortune teller you ask? No, the Bible uses the word "Seer". That means in essence; "It is not just, however, to speak of the "seers" or "prophets" of Samuel's time as on the level of mere fortune-tellers. What insight or vision they possessed is traced to God's Spirit". I do not profess to be experienced in meeting or hearing many great "Seers" or prophets but I don't think that such prophetic teaching would be about details or events. Before He left the earth Jesus warned His disciples that it was not for them to know the times or the ephochs.

I think prophetic preaching and teaching is more about revealing God's heart and God's passion for seeing the Great Commission to which He has called us to be fulfilled - namely how are we going to see the ends of the earth covered with His glory?

When I was in Hong Kong there was a powerful time of ministry during City Church International's Sunday meeting and while they were praying a lady began to cry out and groan very loudly and very deeply. A trusted prophet interpreted that as an expression of God's heart for China. The lady who was crying and groaning was born in China and her heart is there and through her the Holy Spirit was speaking powerfully. The eyes and heart of God are on China! I know this because I began to react in a strange way whenever someone mentioned "China". I found tears rolling down my face for no apparant reason - and this was every time! I don't think I received any particular call to China physically but a definite sense that China is high on heaven's agenda.

So back to Pete's original question - could Ern Baxter have gone any further? I am sure he could but I want to present some quotes from his series on the "King and His Army" that he preached at the Lakes Bible Week in the UK in 1975. It is probably the most talked-of series particularly in the United Kingdom by men such as Terry Virgo. My friend George Kouri was gracious enough to post it on his website here. But I hope these quotes demonstrate the extraordinary insight that the Holy Spirit granted Ern which I am sure those sitting and listening didn't realise at the time. I wonder whether even Ern realised it! Here they are;

Spiritual Authority Forseen

"God is restoring spiritual authority. Men are rising up across the earth with a dimension of delegated authority imparted to them by the Sovereign Christ of apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic and shepherding power and anointing that is unmistakable for God is bringing in His Kingdom which is not a kingdom run by democratic appointments but run by King Jesus who is Lord of all".

Apostolic Fatherhood Forseen

"I feel that the Spirit of God is saying to me tonight that there are in this tent young people who have that kind of a heart. I’ve already said it to the leaders of this convention that I believe that there are young people here who will be apostles and prophets and evangelists and shepherds in the days that are ahead. There’s openness in some of your countenance. There’s something that comes to me – I feel Kingdom vibrations coming from some of you young people. I believe they are material for the Kingdom. I believe they are material for what God is doing in this hour".

The People of the Anointing Vision

"But they were all over the globe. I said, “Lord, what’s this?”. He said, “I am going to have in every place a people that are known for the anointing and when you travel from place to place you will not ask for My people by this name or that but you will say, ‘Where are the People of the Anointing?’”. Now I was frightened by this and I thought, “I’ve had enough!”. I can understand how some of the Old Testament men felt when they saw an angel. I thought that’s enough – I’m going to sit up. But as I sat up in the pew, it kept coming; “They went out from us because they were not of us. Had they been of us they would have remained with us. But you have an unction from the Holy One. And the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch".

Inevitable Growth Forseen

“Day by day they came to David”. I want to encourage your hearts by saying this. Even now in Ziklag when we are kicked out, lied about, berated and mocked – even now the growth of God is among us and across the earth men are coming into the reality of relationships of the redeemed community. But remember! Don’t stop at Ziklag. Don’t let the better become the enemy of the best".

Non-exclusive Love Forseen

"Beloved have big hearts. If you see some truths you are going to have to stand for them and be driven to Ziklag, but don’t let it touch your spirit. Don’t let it make you bitter. Don’t let it make you retaliate or become exclusive. Don’t let it make you turn people off. All kinds of people around you are hungry – never go by what a man is saying. Many a time when a man is maddest – he is the weakest".

Ultimate Triumph Forseen

"Brothers and sisters I feel that in my spirit tonight that the Spirit of God is saying that the earth is the Lords and the fullness thereof, the world and all that dwell therein and He is not going to let this thing wind up with a lot of moral poppers. He is going to have Kings and Princes, men and women whose lives have been changed, whose personalities have been blended into the glorious community of the Redeemer into the very Body of Christ for He has predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son. I believe in miracles".

Zion - the Glory of the Earth - Forseen

"We are not marching to Ziklag. We are not marching to Hebron. We’re marching to Zion. Have you noticed that throughout the Bible, Zion is God’s ultimate name for His corporate people? We’re on our way to ultimate unity. This is God’s world. This is God’s age. This is God’s plan and purpose. You and I can’t see it now but bless God we are getting a foretaste of it. This stirring in the earth is just the beginning. It’s the committed vanguard coming to the Lordship of Christ at Ziklag and we’re going on to Hebron and then all Israel will come and make covenant with our Lord and then we are going to go on and take the heights of Zion and Jesus Christ will be Lord in very deed and the rod of His strength will go out of Zion and this world will know what it means to have Jesus Christ in lordship over the earth!"

So could Ern Baxter have gone further? I am sure he could but I do believe he faithfully reported what the Spirit revealed to him. I am so excited to see that the same message and theme is coming out through Rob Rufus and through Terry Virgo and Newfrontiers and others like Tyrone Daniel and NCMI - but there is MORE being revealed from heaven. We are dreaming of nations like China which would never have been possible in Ern Baxter's day. The Kingdom of God is marching onwards.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Further New Wine Magazines Available!!

I was excited to note that the Charles Simpson Ministries have made another 2 years of New Wine Magazines available in their archives on their website - from January 1981 to December 1982. These magazines covered the span of several decades and contained prophetic content that wasn't seen before and still isn't seen very much since. While the five men involved - Charles Simpson, Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Don Basham and Ern Baxter - were known for more controversial reasons surrounding the Shepherding Movement, they were primarily five extraordinary men with apostolic/prophetic giftings and above all a passion for the glorious Church. That alone makes the New Wine Magazines worth preserving and reading.

New Wine Magazine was a charismatic magazine - in that they believed in the Presence and power of the Holy Spirit for today in church and to be welcomed as manifest - but they did not focus on the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit to the exclusivity of other aspects of church life. Even more theologian S David Moore - the only man to so far objectively chart the Shepherding Movement's history - wrote;

"...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 my hope to build up a catalogue of the huge amount of magazines so that the articles and authors can be accessed more easily and quickly. For now here is a number of magazine articles which Ern Baxter wrote and the topics they deal with as well as the links.

"Discipling the Nations - God will use His prophetic community to speak to the nations" - by Dr Ern Baxter (p4).

"Kingdom Culture - Rediscovering Our Mandate" by Dr Ern Baxter (p14).

"King of Glory - The Cross was only the beginning of Jesus conquest" by Dr Ern Baxter (p28).

"The Holy Spirit" by Dr Ern Baxter (p10).

"50 Year of Ministry - A tribute to Dr Ern Baxter" (p15).

"Before the Throne - An interview with Dr Ern Baxter on Worship" (p20).

So most importantly get to the New Wine Magazine Archive and start reading! Or if your time is limited, then keep your eyes open for the New Wine Magazine catalogue that I will be publishing as soon as possible.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Holy Spirit as Divine Power!!

Following on from a few posts recently - notably my video post of Ern's testimony of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit and also Pete Day's latest post; "Gathering the Church God's Way" - I was very interested to come to the following point in Gordon Fee's magisterial "God's Empowering Presence" that I am re-reading for the umpteemth time. What was that point? Namely concerning one of the Holy Spirit's attributes. We are very familiar with discussion of the attributes of God the Father and Son thanks to A W Pink and Stephen Charnock - but I wonder how familiar we are with thinking about the attributes of the Holy Spirit?

Gordon Fee writes (pp906-907);

"The single most notable characteristic of the Spirit of God is His power.

The Spirit is seen as responsible for creation as well as the eschatological renewal of the earth (Isaiah 32:15). The Spirit of God endows mere humans with extraordinary powers, sometimes with physical strength (Judges 14:6), sometimes with skill for working (Exodus 31:4-5, 35:31), sometimes with insight and wisdom (Daniel 5:14) and sometimes for ecstasy (1 Samuel 10:10; 'And the Spirit of God came upon him in power and he joined in their prophesying' - cf. Numbers 11:25, 29, 1 Samuel 19:20, 23-24).

Likewise the Spirit causes the cherubim to move (Ezekiel 1:12, 20), sets Ezekiel on his feet (2:2), lifts him up (3:12, 8:3) or snatches him away (3:14, 1 Kings 18:12, 2 Kings 2:16).

The Spirit of God therefore meant the effective working power of God.

It is probably fair to say that even though the two words (spirit and power) are not coterminous, the presence of the one (spirit) always implies the presence of the other (power)".

Much of the contemporary attempt to marginalise the Holy Spirit involves a lot of teaching and emphasis on the more "quieter" and "non-miraculous" aspects of the Spirit's work. Many former charismatics who are now slightly ashamed of what they call "charismaniacs" also join in the campaign to downplay the power aspects to the Spirit's work and you will hear them speak of the "quieter works of the Spirit". Indeed even Rob Rufus reminded us at Hong Kong that the Spirit of God "hides His power in His Presence" - and of course he is right! But I am intrigued by Gordon Fee's reminder - something that I freely confess I have not thought of completely and totally.

"The single most notable characteristic of the Spirit of God is His power".

Do you need a new ear drum? Or a new eye? Or a new limb? Or a new baby? Or a new lease of life? Or anything else that requires creation? Gordon Fee says;

"The Spirit is seen as responsible for creation".

Are you a lonely senior pastor working endless hours trying to prepare sermons that just won't come together? Facing demands of endless home visits that never seem to end? Dealing with moaning, criticising back-benchers in your church who never seem to be happy?

"The Spirit of God endows mere humans with extraordinary powers, sometimes with physical strength".

Are you in a particular career that requires unusual demands such as a nurse or a doctor or a teacher ... or a mother? Have you just planted into an area of your nation that doesn't seem to be ever capable of producing fruit or seeing conversions?

"The Spirit of God endows ... sometimes with skill for working".

I ask again ... are you a pastor or an apostle or a prophet or evangelist and you feel you are operating out of the sphere of your anointing? Maybe you even feel like a fraud? Did God really call you at all or was it just your imagination? Maybe you see yourself as a "lay-person" and you wonder whether it was all real and whether God did really do what you thought He did? Maybe your dreams and visions never seem like they are going to bear fruit and come to pass? Or maybe you wonder about your church. You called yourself a "charismatic church" but when was the last time you truly heard a prophecy that made you exclaim "God is TRULY among us"?!

"The Holy Spirit endows ... sometimes with skill for working (Exodus 31:4-5, 35:31), sometimes with insight and wisdom (Daniel 5:14) and sometimes for ecstasy".

Yet the wonderous power workings of the Holy Spirit don't even end there! There was so much talk about angels in Hong Kong and yet here Gordon Fee writes;

"Likewise the Spirit causes the cherubim to move (Ezekiel 1:12, 20)".

Let me emphasise again that I do believe Rob Rufus is absolutely right - He "hides His power in His Presence". Our quest is His Presence and His unveiled lovely face. But we cannot deny that when the Holy Spirit comes upon us as people - we WILL receive power "when the Holy Spirit comes upon you". And that power will cause the miraculous to happen in whatever ways that He so desires and so chooses.

Do you need power at the start of another week? Then seek Him. Seek the Holy Spirit - the Promised Paraclete who has been given so freely and so lavishly by the Risen Jesus Christ! For you can guarantee that if He comes upon you today to bless you and to make His Presence known to you then power - supernatural power - will accompany Him.

Gordon Fee said;

"It is probably fair to say that even though the two words (spirit and power) are not coterminous, the presence of the one (spirit) always implies the presence of the other (power)".

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ern Baxter baptized in the Holy Spirit!!

One of the most important aspects to the "Life on Wings" interviews with Dr Ern Baxter that Mark Heath so kindly hosted for me was the very personal insights into one of the greatest prophetic preachers of the last century. The first video covered aspects of Ern's testimony and this video clip that I am posting was his testimony as to how he first received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. May this video clip cause many to ask "have I received?". This inheritance is a birthright of every believer as promised in the Word of God! Furthermore it is something to be SEEN and HEARD. If you've received the Holy Spirit in power then people will know.

The transcript of the interview clip is below;

In context he said just previously;

"And it was in that conference that I met God in the dimension of the Holy Spirit and had a dynamic experience on July 2nd at twenty minutes to 4 in the morning and I just had a visitation of God and in the process I clearly heard the Lord speaking in my consciousness which I have always considered to be my call and it was simply this: “I want you to preach My Word”. And that has stood me through 60 years. Because time and again when I had been tempted to go this way or that way or do something I hadn’t been called to do – I remembered the word of this calling: “I want you to preach My Word”.

Then the actual video clip;

"I don’t know maybe 200 or 300 people gathered, but people began to filter off and go off to their cottages and so on because this was a big conference complex. And I was hungry now – I had sort of a desperation because I saw that I was the odd man out. About midnight I thought; “Well I guess this wasn’t for me”.

I’d been in this prayer meeting and so I went to my cabin and it wasn’t far from the auditorium. I threw myself on the top of my bed and as I lay there I heard the sounds of joy coming from the tabernacle. I don’t know how long I lay there but I got up again and went back. There was a young man deeply involved with the Spirit some distance from me and suddenly God put a faith in my heart to get up and go and identify with him. So I got up and went and identified with him. The minute I put my arm around him, God visited me.

And I was filled with holy laughter and this may sound strange to some people but how God acts on people is different. I laughed with a laughter I had never laughed with before. It was holy – it was deep. And then I began to speak with an unknown tongue and I couldn’t stop.

That was at twenty minutes to four in the morning. And for 3 days I lived in the Presence of this life-changing, career-changing moment. I go back to it again and again in especially in times of discouragement. I go back to it and realise the sovereignty of God and the sovereignty of His actions. There I was a few months before facing probable death from tuberculosis and now here I am wrapped up in the might and power of God and not knowing where I’m going but excited and full of joy in the Holy Ghost".

In all our interest (and quite correct interest) in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and our desire to see them flood the Church today, let's not forget this promise of the Risen Christ that He is the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit and stands ready and willing to give us this joy unspeakable and full of glory - this encounter with Him!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Preaching that MUST produce Encounters

I recently posted a clip of Rob Rufus speaking to the Mobilise thousands at Brighton in July about the absolute necessity to DAILY encounter God. I am finding that everything I read, everything I hear and everything I look at seems to be pointing towards this need. I must be encountering God! Daily! Therefore I was encouraged to read this quote on Terry Virgo's latest blog post;

"Holy Spirit-inspired preaching brings about an encounter with God that demands a verdict and produces a changed life based on revelation, faith and love, not cold obedience to external rules".

Can we assume then that preaching that doesn't bring about an encounter with God, that doesn't demand a verdict or produce a changed life based on revelation, faith and love ISN'T then Holy-Spirit inspired preaching? I find that quite sobering because then much of the preaching I have heard in my life doesn't really fit that criteria and clearly then hasn't been Holy-Spirit inspired.

Terry goes on to address pastor/teachers and bring them wise fatherly counsel;

"Ultimately, we also are sheep. We need to stay very close to the great shepherd, enjoying His smile, drinking in His lavish grace and being diligent to embrace His disciplines and training and follow His guidance".

I'm not a pastor/teacher but I have heard enough from wise teachers such as Ern Baxter, Terry himself and Rob Rufus to know that personal encounters with God is a priority for any servant of God seeking to serve the people of God. Are you spending more time in prayer and intimacy with God over reading books (as helpful and important as that is)? Are home visits taking priority over times of solitary with God? Even Jesus Himself left the crowds and walked alone with His Father in the mountains.

"No under-shepherd is an end in himself, or has intrinsic superior wisdom".

This reminded me of a key quote of C H Spurgeon's that led me to set up the "Pentecostal/Charismatic Post-it Notes Blog". Spurgeon said;

"The man who never reads will never be read. He who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains proves that he has no brains of his own ... You need to read".

It always intrigues me to look round at conferences and see some sitting with a bored expression on their faces and closed notebooks on their laps. Our God has not only poured out the most lavish expression of grace possible by ripping the veil and making intimacy with Himself possible, but He has provided ascension gifts - apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers to learn from and be provoked by their relationships with God. None of us have "intrinsic superior wisdom"! Let's always be prepared to be students our entire lives.

I must admit one of the main character traits that make me admire and love men like Ern, Terry and Rob Rufus so much isn't so much their preaching oratory skills (although I do love that) but more their obsessive passion and desire to hunger and seek after the face of God. It is their longing for His Presence that provokes me and stirs me more than anything else.

"Once you hear God’s audible voice in your heart and experience His Presence you will want it again and again. Every day I stand in the Presence of God. There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t feel the Presence of God go through me and the glory and tangible Presence go through me like electrical currents. Once you experience it once you know the address of the glory. If I went ONE day without Him I would get so lonely! And I am looking for other addicts!".

Are you prepared to become an addict? Does your preaching fit the criteria of Terry's quote? Does the preaching you hear week by week make you long to encounter God and hungry all week to seek after Him? Does the preaching that you are exposed to week by week bring about a changed life not based on external cold rules but revelation of God's grace and faith in the fact that He loves us so much?

If not ... why not?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Larry Tomczak – from New Wine Magazine – September 1986

I am so incredibly grateful to God for the service that the Charles Simpson Ministries are doing in preserving the New Wine Magazine and ensuring that it doesn't get lost in the dusty archives of history but is available here on their website for everyone to see and read. There is much awesome, anointed material that is in these pages! The collection isn't quite complete yet and I am waiting in anticipation for them to make the magazines after 1980 available. I read this one article by Larry Tomczak in the September 1986 edition and was so blessed by it and by the grace of God in which he writes. My dear friend Don Baker has always spoken so highly of Larry Tomczak and his apostolic gifting and in reading this article - I can see why. It is my hope to eventually track down audio tapes by Larry and articles - a project which Don and I are working together on.

For now - here is the article which I have typed up - you can sense the same "grace" and "vision" tones in which both Ern Baxter and Rob Rufus (my other heroes) speak and write;

“It’s Time to Fly – Practical Help for Achieving Your Calling”

God has a unique call and purpose for each of our lives. He wants us to break out of mediocrity, out of a dull and aimless existence, in order to step into a life of purpose and vision, fulfilling the assigned task He has set before us. He wants us to play a part in the restoration of His Church so He can effectively reach this world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Well and good, you say. But how do we go about it? What can we actually do, in concrete, practical terms that will help us keep our divine appointment with destiny?

1. Appreciate Your Acceptance.

Each of us, all day every day, is fed a steady diet of lies about what it means to be an acceptable person. Our culture, especially through the media, bombards us continually with subtle and not-so-subtle messages that tear down our self-esteem. “You’ve got to be cool to be accepted”. “You’ve got to produce”. “You’ve got to measure up”. “You’ve got to use this product to be a real man (or woman)”. “Your skin is aging and your teeth are dingy. You don’t wear the right clothes, have the right car, or use the right cologne. You’re not thin enough either, and your hair is drab”.

The situation is compounded by the fact that our enemy, Satan, uses accusations as his number one weapon against us (see Revelation 12:10). He wants us to feel unworthy as individuals and especially as Christians. “Who are you trying to kid? You really expect God to forgive you, after all you’ve done?”. God wants us to be free from the lies of our culture and from the slanders of Satan. He wants to shatter worldly counterfeits and the bondage of legalism and to empower us to rise above Satan’s fiery darts.

He wants us to lay hold of this simple but revolutionary truth; that He loves us or accepts us, not because of what we do or don’t do but because of who we are – His children, saved by His grace, forgiven by His mercy, adopted into His family, being transformed into the image and likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

2. Celebrate Your Value.

We are constantly underselling ourselves because of imagined or self-imposed limitations. Sometimes we even blame God for our supposed shortcomings. “Why did you make me like this God? Is this really the best that you could do?”. God has a sobering word for us on that score:

“Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker … Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ … Do you question me about my children or give me orders about the work of my hands?” – Isaiah 45:9, 11.

The Lord is the Master Potter and we are the clay, moulded and formed by Him exactly the way He wants us to be. “We are God’s workmanship”, Paul declares (see Ephesians 2:10). The original language of Scripture implies that “we are continually his workmanship” – not a finished product but a magnificent work in progress. The word translated “workmanship” carries the sense of “creative masterpiece”. Did you realise that you are a masterpiece of the God of heaven?

3. Embrace Discipline.

In my Bible I have written the words, “Go for it!” above a passage that has inspired me for years.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” – (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

The Greek word for “competes” is agonizomai from which we get our word “agonize”. It calls to mind the kind of training and discipline a champion athlete goes through in preparation for the Olympics. The point of the passage is that we must likewise embrace discipline in our spiritual life – learning to regulate our conduct by principle rather than by impulse. Of course by discipline I do not mean mere self-effort or willpower but rather the act of humbling ourselves to admit our inadequacy and to receive God’s grace so that we can go forward in “the strength of His might”. The passage also says “Run in such a way as to get the prize”, and points out that in an athletic competition there is only one prize and therefore only one winner. In our case, the emphasis is not so much on the singularity of the prize but on the attitude of the competitor. Launch out, not half-heartedly or with a loser’s mentality but as a winner, determined to please the Lord and accomplish God-given tasks for His glory.

4. Break Out of the Routine.

God is a God of newness. Scripture speaks of the new covenant, of new wine, of a new and living way, of a new song and so on and so on. “Forget the former things” God tells us through the prophet Isaiah. “Do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing!” – (Isaiah 43:18-19). What about you? If you are going to rise above mediocrity and be used by God, you must not be content to drift through life on the river of a routine. For a start ask God to instil in you a pioneering spirit. Then look for opportunity to get “out of the rut” you may have inadvertently slipped into.

By books, tapes or conferences expose yourself to the exciting things God is doing in the world today. Resist sitting in the same seat all the time or travelling the same familiar path. Reach out in love to some new people. Pray and then involve yourself in a sphere of service you have thought about but never done. Rather than ordering “the usual” for lunch, try something you have never eaten before. Doing new and different things – or even doing familiar things in a new and different way – can give fresh perspective and help you cultivate a more adventurous and flexible way of life. Wait on God and then open your eyes to the vast world of opportunity surrounding you.

5. Learn How to Fail.

It may be obvious that if we are going to try new things, we are occasionally going to experience failures. “The righteous man falls seven times”, the Scripture promises, “yet he rises again” – (Proverbs 24:16).

I am convinced that God is more pleased with those who step out and fail than those who sit back and do nothing out of fear of failure.

God can vindicate our mistakes and bring good out of our failure. The ability to handle failure in a positive, productive way is crucial if we are to make progress in pursuing our divine appointment. Remember the stories of Peter, David, Moses and other heroes of our Christian faith. They had enough faith to risk failure.

Don’t let failure make you fearful of trying again. Turn your trials into triumphs, your stumbling blocks into stepping stones, your tests into testimonies. Follow Paul’s example;

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heaven-ward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things” – (Phil 3:13-15).

6. Draw Inspiration from Others.

“Iron sharpens iron”, Scripture teaches, “and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). And again, “He who walks with wise men becomes wise” (Proverbs 13:20). Putting ourselves in touch with wise, stimulating, faith-building people who help us move ahead in our own Christian life. Some of the people who can inspire us most are those zealous Christians in our sphere of life whose examples of character, not personality, we are to emulate. We need to make it a point to follow their example in Christ so that their faith and zeal can “rub off” on us. Scripture warns us that bad company corrupts good morals so we must carefully chose the company we keep. Fortunately this principle also works the other way around; good company strengthens us in our walk with the Lord.

7. Discover Your Gifts.

The value of your life as a Christian will be determined by the degree to which you use what God has given you. Stated differently; “What you are is God’s gift to you. What you make of yourself is your gift back to God”. How are we to discover our unique God-given gifts? Of course the first step is to seek God for His will. But we also need the confirmation and assistance of others in exercising the gifts. This is why we need to be a vital part of a body of Christians who believe in, teach on, and give opportunities for meaningful development and expression of spiritual gifts.

Moreover though we know that intellectual or academic achievement is not the same as holiness, we also know that God gave us our intelligence as a powerful tool to be used in his service. As good stewards it is right for us to keep our minds sharp and alert, able to process new information and make decisions and form value judgements crisply and clearly. Maintaining a program of inspirational and devotional reading is one way to do this. Another is to enhance our abilities in evangelizing, child-rearing, counselling and other areas through seminars, conferences and tapes. Interestingly enough, one thing that brings many people a greater self-confidence is learning how to speak in front of an audience. You don’t need to become an electrifying orator but learning how to express your ideas and speak on your feet can be a tremendous boost to your self-confidence. How are we going to preach the gospel to all nations if we can’t explain it to our next-door neighbour or make a simple presentation to our class? Nervousness is natural. But we can overcome it with practice and with faith in the enabling power of God.

8. Give Yourself to Others.

We must be careful not to focus so intently on “what I can do to pursue my unique calling in life” that we forget that the whole point of the Christian life is serving others. We live in a self, materialistic culture which emphasizes the importance of “looking out for number one”. But Jesus declared, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). He also said, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

John D Rockefeller Sr, drove himself hard to be a success. He became a millionaire by age twenty three and in twenty years was the richest man on earth. One night as he fell asleep he came to his senses as he realised his “house of cards” was tumbling down around him. He realised he could take nothing with him beyond the grave. The next day he embarked on a new way of living. Rather than hoarding money and possessions he began to give them away to those in need. Establishing the Rockefeller Foundation, he channelled his fortune into hospitals, research and missions work and gave away a portion of his riches to scores. His contributions eventually led to the discovery of penicillin. Cures for malaria, tuberculosis and diphtheria also resulted from his giving. At the age of 53 John D Rockefeller seemed destined for imminent death. The resolution to “give rather than get” altered his life so dramatically that he eventually lived to the ripe old age of ninety eight! Jesus put it this way, “Give and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38).

9. One Step at a Time.

God tells us in His Word not to “despise the day of small beginnings” (Zechariah 4:10). Many times people set goals that are unrealistically ambitious and their enthusiasm quickly fades. An old saying goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”. As you seek the Lord concerning some of the challenges that lie before you, remember to move forward one step at a time. As you make steady progress, your confidence will be bolstered and you will be able to pick up the pace. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you set appropriate goals and then to help you meet them.

An old story tells of a young boy who thought he had found a way to trick the village wise man. He caught a bird and held it in his cupped hands. Then he asked the village wise man, “Is the bird alive or dead?”. The old man realised that if he answered, “It is alive”, the boy would crush the bird between his hands and kill it and if he answered, “It is dead”, the boy would simply open his hands and let the bird fly away. So he looked the young man in the face and said, “My son, the answer to that question is in your hands”.

As we seek to fulfil our divine appointment in life, we too need to recognise the extent of what God has placed in our hands. He has given us His Holy Spirit, His Word, His Call, and His Power. He says to us this day, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life” (Deut 30:19). “He is at work in us for His good pleasure” and He challenges us today by saying, “In your hands you hold the seeds of failure or the potential for greatness”. It is my conviction that in this hour of church restoration to reach a lost and hurting world, we can rise up and claim our divine appointment and so fulfil our unique destiny as the people of God.

How about it? Will you “go for it”?

The Glory-Cloud

Rob Rufus talks about the "Glory-Cloud" ... a lot! Anyone who listens to him and his wonderful preaching will know that the vision and reality of where he is trying to take his listeners is no less than into the very manifest Presence of God. I think Dr Lloyd-Jones saw this reality dimly through a glass when he made his comment from my previous post. But God is drawing back the veil of revelation. I was excited therefore to find the following document in my files of Ern Baxter's sermon notes. Once again there is a close paralell between Ern and Rob Rufus in what they speak about and what they look to. I've typed up the notes here:

The Cloud of Glory - Notes from the Ern Baxter Archive.

Exodus 40:1-38 and Numbers 9:15-23.

In this final section we consider the crowning glory of the finished work which God gave Moses to do. When the Tabernacle and all its furnishings were completed the builders brought it all to Moses for him to inspect to see that it had all been made according to the pattern. In the closing chapters of Exodus (Exodus 39-40) we are told 17 times that everything had been made “according as the Lord commanded Moses”. Moses then set up the Tabernacle positioning the furniture in its Divinely appointed place, sprinkling it all with blood and anointing it all with the holy oil. Thus “Moses finished the work” (Exodus 40:33). All of this was done on the Day of Dedication of the Tabernacle in the wilderness.

What was the end result? The Scriptures tells us that “A CLOUD covered the Tent of the Congregation and THE GLORY of the Lord filled the Tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34). Not even Moses could stand to minister in the Presence of that Glory-Cloud. This was the seal of God upon that which originated in Himself and that which had been built by the wisdom and Spirit of God through chosen vessels, according to that pattern shown to Moses in the Mount of God.

From that time on, the whole of the pilgrimage of the nation was governed by the Glory-Cloud.

The Glory-Cloud speaks of the Presence of the Holy Spirit. He is the Cloud of God’s Presence who fulfils in His Ministry and Operation all that the typical Glory-Cloud shadowed forth in Israel. The following is a brief outline tracing the history, function and ministry of the “The Cloud” as it relates to the Children of Israel and the Tabernacle both of which constitute the “Church in the Wilderness” (Acts 7:38).

The Lord led Israel by a cloudy pillar of fire out of Egypt to the Promised Land. This is the first mention of the Cloud (Exodus 13:21-22). Note the blessings of the Presence of this cloud.

(a) – The Lord went before them. He goes before the Church.

(b) – The Lord led them. So the Holy Spirit leads the Church.

(c) – The Cloud gave them light by night. Light in the surrounding darkness.

(d) – The Cloud was a pillar of Fire, giving them warmth.

(e) – The Cloud was a Shade for them from the heat of the day.

All that the Cloud was to Israel, the Holy Spirit is to the Church.

The Cloud led Israel through the Red Sea. The Cloud was darkness to the Egyptians but it was light to the Israelites, God’s people (Exodus 14:19-31 compare 2 Corinthians 2:15-16). The Lord was in that Cloud. God was in the type. It was a visible manifestation of the Presence of the Lord to the nation. Paul tells us that the nation was “baptized in the Cloud and in the Sea” (2 Corinthians 10:1-4).

The Glory of the Lord appeared in the Cloud (Exodus 16:10).

The Cloud eventually brought Israel to Mount Sinai and settled on the Mount. The voice of God spoke to the nation out of this Cloud at the Feast of Pentecost (Exodus 19:9-19, Deuteronomy 5:22).

Moses went up onto Mount Sinai into the Glory of the Cloud and was there for 40 days and 40 nights. There in the Presence of that Cloud Moses received the 10 Commandments and the revelation for the construction of the Tabernacle (Exodus 24:15-18, 34:5-7).

At the Dedication of the Tabernacle the Cloud of the Glory (The Hebrews refer to it as ‘The Shekinah’) left Mount Sinai and came and dwelt over the Tabernacle upon a Blood-stained Mercy Seat, in the midst of God’s people Israel (Exodus 40:34-38).

The Lord appeared in that Cloud upon the Mercy Seat and there the audible voice of God spoke to Moses, the Divine Communication (Leviticus 16:1-2, Numbers 7:89).

The Glory-Cloud governed all the journeyings of Israel in the Wilderness finally leading them to the Land of Canaan. When the cloud moved, they moved. When the Cloud stayed, they encamped. The eyes of the Priesthood had to be continually on the Cloud day and night. The Priests could blow the trumpets in order for the Camp of Israel to move on with God, whether it was by day or night whether it was in a day, a month or a year. (Numbers 9:15-23; 10:1-36; Deuteronomy 1:33, Nehemiah 9:9, Psalm 78:14). The message for all Israel was; “Follow the Cloud”.

When Solomon’s Temple was built, the Cloud of Glory came to it, dwelling upon the Ark of the Covenant which had been previously taken out of the Tabernacle of Moses, and the Tabernacle of David (1 Kings 8:10-11, 2 Chronicles 5:13-14).

The tragic end of the history of the Cloud in the Old Testament, relative to the Nation of Israel, is seen in the fact that the Glory-Cloud eventually departed from the Temple which had become polluted with filthy abominations. God allowed this Temple to be destroyed because of these defilements. Read Ezekiel 10:1-22 and compare with 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:19-20.

The Glory-Cloud could never again return to a material Temple.

However this is not the final revelation of the Bible of that which pertains to the Cloud. The New Testament gives to us the glorious climax of this truth. When Jesus Christ the TRUE Tabernacle and the TRUE Temple went up into the Mount of Transfiguration, the record tells us that a bright cloud overshadowed them and a Voice out of the cloud said “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”.

That Glory-Cloud which left the defiled material Temple under the Old Covenant (Old Testament) now descended upon the New Testament Temple or Tabernacle; the Lord Jesus Christ. Once more God’s voice was heard out of the Cloud pointing to His Son.

In relation to Christ we see;

The Bright Cloud of Glory overshadowed Him on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5).

A Cloud is seen in His Ascension back to the Father (Acts 1:9).

He is clothed with a Cloud (Revelation 10:1).

He is seated upon a White Cloud (Revelation 14:14-16).

He will come in a Cloud of Glory (Luke 21:17).

He will also come in the Clouds of Glory with His saints who are in Clouds of Glory. That is the Glory-Cloud (Mark 14:62, Matthew 26:64, 1 Thessalonians 4:1, Hebrews 12:1).

The Glory that was in that Cloud will be the eternal joy of the redeemed in the City of God, the New Jerusalem. Until that time let us follow the Cloud of the Holy Spirit whose ministry it is to lead us to the City of Eternal Rest and to the Glory of God.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A New Quote from a New Book

I didn't buy much when I was in Hong Kong at the "Grace and Glory!" Conference but I did buy one highly recommended book called "Freedom from the Religious Spirit" edited by C Peter Wagner. I've been reading and feeling quite undone by it but one quote in particular caught my eye. I've posted it on the quotes blog here, but it must be read again and again so here it is;

"For some people it seems easier to "die for the Lord" than to live for Him. Those who have a perverted understanding of the Cross glory more in death than they do in life. They fail to see that the point of the Cross is resurrection, not the grave".

I am very familiar with this understanding of the Cross that is so perverted. I remember when talk in church used to be of vision and hope for the future and then we began to speak of struggling through this weary life and looking to cross the old River Jordan and reach our eternal rest. "Pilgrims in this barren land". This barren land?! This world which God created for our pleasure and has an oath over it that one day it will be covered with the glory of the Lord! I've said it before - let's not allow our experience to shape how we read the Word of God. Let the Word of God shape our experience and our vision.

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it much better;

"I feel that the message that God is giving to us in this conference is in the words of Malachi. I believe He is saying this to us: 'Prove me now' - 'Prove Me. I am there; you prove Me.' This has become a tremendous conviction with me ... We must not be content until we have had some manifestation of the activity of God. We must concentrate on this. This is my plea, that we concentrate on this, because it is the great message of the Bible, so substantiated by the lessons of history. That is obviously today the only thing that gives us any hope as we face the future. And God seems to be saying that to us. 'Prove Me now. Try Me. Risk your everything on Me. Be fools for My sake. Cast yourselves utterly upon this belief.' Let us put it like this: Do we really believe that God can still act?

That is the question; that is the ultimate challenge. Or have we, for theological or some other reasons, excluded the very possibility? Here is the crucial matter. Do we individually and personally really believe that God still acts, can act and will act - in individuals, in groups of individuals, in churches, localities, perhaps even in countries? Do we believe that He is as capable of doing that today as He was in ancient times - the Old Testament, the New Testament times, the book of Acts, Protestant Reformation, Puritans, Methodist Awakening, 1859, 1904-5? Do we really believe that He can still do it?".

I'm about to leave now for work. What world-view will affect the way I face the day? Do I face it with confident assured hope that my God rules the universe and is progressively manifesting Himself in glory and power at the climax of the consummation of the ages? Or do I allow a warped view of the Cross to make me sigh and think "just another day nearer to heaven"!? God is saying "Prove Me now. Try Me. Risk your everything on Me. Be fools for My sake. Cast yourselves utterly upon this belief". God's alive! And He acts! And speaks! And moves! And intervenes!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Wanted: Apostles and Prophets!!

I love it when one of my heroes says something that I have been thinking and musing on for ages but says it far more eloquently and far more unapologetically than I ever could! Both Rob Rufus and Terry Virgo have spoken recently on the vital need for more apostles and prophets in the Church today. I fear that because of hyper-legalism and authoritarianism in some circles among some self-appointed apostles - that there is a backing off for the continued call for more of these vital Ascension gifts of the Risen Christ. The concept is as true in spiritual gifts and charismatic life as it is here: wrong use doesn't excuse no use - we need right use!

"An over-emphasis, therefore, on the pastoral role can result in pre-occupation with needs. We could become need-centred instead of apostolic and prophetic, thereby missing God’s intention and forgetting the bigger picture, building churches that gradually become foreign to the atmosphere of the New Testament".

Terry is by no means rubbishing the vital need for the pastor/teacher but in his post he goes on to historically document how the role of pastor/teacher has developed (maybe not for the best) in response to the changing culture in which we live. He wrote;

"We may have failed to bring adequate positive Biblical teaching about the vital role of pastors and teachers. They are, of course, the most visible ministers in the local church. They have the most ‘hands on’ role among the flock".

But that being said, Terry shows very ably how initially pre-Reformation the pastor/teacher was seen as a "holy man" and the "mediator between God and man". I think and suspect that many pastor/teachers are still seen as the "holy man" and the "mediator between God and man". It chills me when I hear Christians who are meant to be Spirit-baptised speaking with hyper-reverence about their pastor and pondering questions on the guidance of God that they are going to take to him to find out God's will. Then Terry went on to show how the Enlightenment brought in a generation of pastor/teachers who felt they needed to become academically trained and equipped and from that came the academic theologians to whom many of us now look.

But are we suffering as a result of this from lack of anointed spiritual ministries? Has theological training replaced spiritual anointing? Has books replaced the Presence of the Holy Spirit? Has the presence of the pastor replaced the need for the daily personal Presence of God?

Rob Rufus is absolutely clear that there is a direct link between the vacuum of grace in the Church today with the absence of apostles and prophets. He said;

"Pastor/teachers and evangelists do not have the grace anointing to protect the church from a grace-hating spirit - they just don't seem to see it! Whereas apostles and prophets sniff it out. They can smell the grace-hating spirit and have an aggression towards it that may frighten people but they WILL deal with the grace-hating spirit!"

Well some may argue that the Church has sort of flourished and continued to grow despite apostles and prophets not being very visible. That argument really doesn't stand up to logic or Scripture. We should never take God's natural grace and His promises ("I will build My Church") as an excuse to not live up to the promises and demands of Scripture ("He has given some"). If He has given some - then we should be asking where are they!? Are apostles and prophets rising up in our ranks of churches only to be squashed and snuffed out by controlling pastor/teachers and elders who feel threatened by them?

Rob Rufus too, like Terry, has a very good understanding of church history and said;

"In the Dark Ages the ministry of apostles and prophets were totally rejected, lost and hidden and the church went into darkness. When that happens secular society also goes into darkness. When the Church comes into restoration, a restoration comes on secular society with technological break through. In the Dark Ages the church came almost entirely under a grace hating spirit".

These things are all linked gloriously and wonderfully. We cannot continue to see apostles and prophets in isolation from the "grace revolution" that is sweeping the earth. Grace can so easily be snuffed out by legalism. Don't tell me it isn't true. I've seen it happen in my own life. I've seen it in my family's life. I've seen it in past churches life and it still happens. We must be avidly interested in ANY gifts from God that will serve to set His Church gloriously free into enjoying His grace and Presence - and that most definately includes apostles and prophets.

Let our prayer and cry be: Lord, give us more!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Life on Wings Videos

One of the first Ern Baxter documents that I transcribed was "Life on Wings" - a series of interviews that Ern conducted with Pastor Dewey Friedel shortly before he died. My friend Mark Heath kindly hosted the document for me and I have been so blessed to receive many emails speaking of the interest in it. I remember the first time my senior pastor sat me down and showed me the videos and I confess the tears flowed down my face as I watched the introduction to these videos - Ern Baxter, though dead, spoke again!

I thought it would be of interest to post those two video clips. The first contains snatches of an interview with Ern's administrator Ritch Carlton who spoke of the spiritual warfare involved in Ern's life.

The second is significant because it has "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes - a homage to Ern Baxter's Scottish roots but shows clips of photos from his life and ends with Ern concluding the interviews in prayer.

I trust and hope that they bless and stir mightily!