Sunday, January 31, 2010

Past, Present, Future ... !!

I read an interesting quote by Marcel Pagnol:

The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be

I was very interested to watch Songs of Praises tonight (the only remnant really of Christianity on UK terrestrial TV). Normally I find that programme cringe-worthy but tonight they were showing the large charismatic church in Peterbrough - Kingsgate Community Church - led by Dave Smith (who incidentally I heard at Life in the Spirit Conference). The church is large enough that it attracts famous national speakers such as Terry Virgo, Greg Haslam and Stuart Bell. And I noticed that the Songs of Praise event was led by Noel Richards. The congregation were dressed in brightly coloured clothing (some were indeed wearing ties which Stanley Jebb would note).

Did I enjoy it? I did mainly. I can't help but find some aspects to the church's attempts to show a "contemporary but real" image to the watching world. Sometimes it seems that the church tries so hard to be contemporary that it just looks cheesy. So on the one hand you have dry and dull and dusty tie-wearing Christians (advocated by Stanley Jebb) and on the other a church full of people who frankly look like they have swept the entire collection of the United Colours of Benetton off the shelf. Which is worse? Or which is better?!

But that aside - my heart rejoiced greatly that there is a BIG church not far from me which is unafraid to proclaim the gospel set on fire by the life of the Spirit. I am one of those who believe passionately that BIG attracts attention. After all - Chris Moyles took interest in this church and I have yet to hear him go to some small chapel of tie-wearing conservative evangelicals. This evening's "Songs of Praise" got me thinking about words that I love;

"Hope! - Vision! - Anticipation! - Excitement!".

Is anyone else fed up of the depression and formalism that much of life brings? Everyone finds their own excitement and anticipation in their own favourite things. Such as booking a summer holiday (which I've done!). But - call me odd - I find holy convocations of tremendous excitement. Something about seeing a massive group of God's people together worshipping in one - reminds me of what we have to look forward to in heaven. So I've put together a string of Restoration Magazine posters advertising the rapidly approaching Dales Bible Weeks with my very own Ern Baxter as keynote speaker. Here they are:

So that quote again:

"The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be”.

The past wasn't perfect (but we thank God for it). The present isn't so bad (because Jesus said He would never leave us or forsake us). And the future is resolved actually (because He promised that as surely as He lives ALL the earth WILL be filled with the glory of the Lord!).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Prophecy-Inspired Facebook?!

Or Facebook-inspiring prophecy?!

Whichever - I decided to walk home from work tonight to clear the cobwebs after one of "those" days. However unfortunately I didn't have my IPOD with me and I get bored easily during an hour walk so decided to read my Facebook status updates on my mobile phone and my attention was grabbed by a wonderful C H Spurgeon quote that my firebrand friend Janelle Phillips posted;

"So, when you feel any inclination to put the crown of glory on your head, just fancy that you hear God saying to you 'Wait til I am dead before you put on my crown.' As that will never be, you had better leave the crown alone and let Him to whom it rightfully belongs wear it." - Charles Spurgeon, "The Soul Winner"

Anyone who knows me well know that I love C H Spurgeon and so was reading the quote with interest when I felt the Holy Spirit speaking and saying something to the effect of;

"And you will find that when you cast that crown before Me in worshipful surrender then I will give you a crown and a royal robe as an expression of My abundant love for you and the crown I give far exceeds the one you would keep".

Crowns! That thought/prophecy/whatever came from the wonderful verse in 1 Peter 2:9; "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation". We are royalty! Crowns are part of our inheritance that God and God alone will bestow (not for any other reason that His lavish grace) like He crowned His beloved Son in Hebrews 2:7.

I remembered a childhood awesome hymn that we used to thunder out in my home church in Dunstable - "Love Divine, all love's excelling". As a child I was always amazed that when the hymn reached the climax - "Changed from glory into glory ...", all the elders on the platform and most of the adults would lift their hands in worship. That never left me seeing that. It was a tragedy that progressively the worship in our church became more and more formal and outwardly more and more miserable.

Here's the lyrics for those who don't know them;

"Love Divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven, to earth come down,
Fix in us thy humble dwelling,
All thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love thou art;
Visit us with thy salvation,
Enter every trembling heart.

Come, almighty to deliver,
Let us all thy grace receive;
Suddenly return, and never,
Never more thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve thee as thy hosts above,
Pray, and praise thee, without ceasing,
Glory in thy perfect love.

Finish then thy new creation
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see thy great salvation,
Perfectly restored in thee,
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise

I remember being in Hong Kong at the "Glory and Grace Conference" and actually having a vision of something as to what it would be like to cast our crowns before Him. Crowns of tears shed in loneliness but resolute faith. Crowns of simple belief in the New Covenant that God is good and His love for us is real!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Bible Week Phenomenon

Is reminiscing a sign of age?!
Ah well - I was excited to find this small advert in one of the many Restoration Magazines I am reading tonight (that is scanned and at the bottom of this post). The Bible Weeks were a key part of the 1970's to 90s and some indeed have carried on (such as Grapevine) whereas others such as Stoneleigh Bible Week have closed down. Why were they such a part of the Charismatic Movement? William K Kay comments in his academic thesis; "Apostolic Networks in Britain - New Ways of Doing Church" - that;
"The big public events of the Dales and Downs Bible Weeks brought restorationism to public notice in the 1970's. Before then it's following had been small and invisible. The big Bible weeks made a resounding declaration and established a trend".

In terms of statistics William Kay stated;

"By 1987 it was estimated that restorationist numbers in the UK as a whole had grown from 20,000 to 75,000; indeed by 1987 there were some 20 Bible Weeks a year in the UK catering for 100,000 people ... the cry that God had finished with denominations seemed all too obviously confirmed".

Those who are familiar with UK charismatic history will know that as the Dales Bible Week reached it's heights in the early 1980's and Bryn Jones encouraged other Bible Weeks to begin in different locations of the UK. This generous and pioneering spirit demonstrates that Bryn was far from trying to build his own empire - but his spirit was for God to be famous throughout the nations.
The Downs Bible Week began under Terry Virgo and Coastlands down on the south coast of England which then became the famous Stoneleigh Bible Week near Coventry.

The South and West Bible Week began near Bristol in south-west England under Tony Morton - which has now become New Wine and Soul Survivor .

And my home church - New Covenant Church in Dunstable - began the Anglia Bible Week first held at Chadacre and then the Royal Norfolk Showground. Ern Baxter was our main visiting speaker in 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985 saw Bob Mumford visiting - with Peter Parris and Peter Lewis also contributing to ministry alongside Stanley himself.

So here is the advert for the first Anglia Bible Week below. The logo of the tree was famous among us as kids. Each year we were given badges with the logo on and each year the colour would change.

Restoration Magazine - 1975 to 1992

I have been very excited to have received a CD through the post with the ENTIRE collection of Restoration Magazines in PDF format from the Revival Library! It has been a continued source of frustration to me trying to hunt down and find these key foundational magazines to much of my charismatic heritage.

I've got a massive collection of New Wine and Restoration Magazines from my home church in Dunstable when much of the charismatic past was being erased. However there were large gaps in both magazines. David Moore has written possibly the most academic review of the Shepherding Movement in particular and said;

"...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 commonly understood in academic study in general that journals are an essential part of any research - even more useful than many books. Books are written and are often out of date as soon as they are published whereas the journal can tend to keep up to date with the rapidly changing scene of life. I think the same is true for church life and was definately so in the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement.

The spiritual scene was changing so rapidly as God poured out His Spirit on the church that in our experience it was the New Wine Magazine (Ern Baxter, Charles Simpson, Bob Mumford, Don Basham and Derek Prince) and of course Restoration Magazine that was key. For those who don't know - Restoration Magazine was started by Bryn Jones and Harvestime Publications but was unique in that for some years it united other apostles and prophets in the United Kingdom such as Bryn, Keri Jones, Terry Virgo, Tony Morton, Arthur Wallis and my senior pastor Dr Stanley Jebb.

There are 106 magazines on the CD that will keep me busy reading for a while. I have already printed off some articles that caught my attention already - here's a few;

1. Report from the Lakes Bible Week 1975 - from Restoration Magazine - September/October 1975.

2. Report from the Dales Bible Week 1977 - from Restoration Magazine - September/October 1977.

3. "Taking the Nations" by Ern Baxter - from Restoration Magazine - November/December 1977.

4. "How to Interpret the Scriptures" by Stanley Jebb - from Restoration Magazine - November/December 1979.

5. "Growing Churches - Clarendon Church Hove" (now Church of Christ the King in Brighton) - from Restoration Magazine - July/August 1981.

6. "The Best is Yet to Come" by Arthur Wallis - from Restoration Magazine - March/April 1983.

And there are just a few! I am sure there will many Pentecostal/Charismatic quotes (I have already posted one amazing quote from Larry Tomczak) to come from these amazing articles. But already I am finding they are feeding my ache for a new flood of renewal and revival from God. The 1970's and 80's were indeed a unique and amazing time and an extrordinary blessing and demonstration of the grace of God. Do I wish that I had been born a little earlier? Sometimes. I'd have loved to have followed Ern Baxter's ministry in person.

But I do believe without a shadow of doubt that the best is yet to come!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Earth is the Lord's!!

The Bible - the very Word of God - is so full of declarations of TRUTH that it staggers me how Christians, the church and I struggle with disbelief, doubt and fear. There is no ambiguity in the Word of God. It just states it. Such as;

"The earth is the Lord's and all it contains, the world and all that dwell in it".

Another favourite Scripture of mine is Numbers 14:21;

" ... but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD".

Pete Day and I have been communicating lots this week - mainly getting excited my discoveries on the "Revival Library" - the Restoration Magazine collection and the Arthur Wallis conference notes. Pete commented on something very interesting - he said;

"I keep getting the sense that there is going to be a wonderful marriage of grace with restoration. Until we heard of Rob we were passionate about restoration, and then restoration took a back seat while I began to hear of grace. And now restoration is coming back into my thinking... but in the context of grace. When the two go together it is divine combustion!!".

This was such a vital comment for me. What is the point of grace unless the object is that the farthest reaches of Planet Earth hear of the glory and wonder of what Christ achieved on the Cross for us? Surely if we keep grace to ourselves then we will become as bad as the early Charismatic Movement days when they saw the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a "personal experience" to be kept private along with their "private prayer language - tongues". Rubbish! This is something to be shouted from the rooftops!

So this article from Ern Baxter is key to be read. It is from the New Wine Magazine - January 1985 and is entitled; "The Earth is the Lords". Read it here!

Here are some quotes from the articles;

"The gospel is destined to be victorious in time, space and history. Jesus Christ will remain in heaven until all things spoken of by the prophets have come to pass".

Victorious! That is a phrase that we don't hear often these days in Christianity and I'm not sure why. It's back to my first statement in this blog - that the Word of God makes statements that have yet to be believed and acted upon. For example the Word of God stated that when Jesus died on the Cross He completely and finally defeated principalities and powers and put them under His feet! Another statement from the Word of God that Ern Baxter actually quoted in his article;

"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth".

Ern commented on that verse;

"That means in the United States of America, Jesus Christ has all authority. In the (now ex) Soviet Union, Jesus Christ has all authority. In China Jesus Christ has all authority. It means that there isn't a better gospel coming. There isn't a better Jesus yet to be revealed. It's done! It's finished!".

So as Pete Day said - let's not neglect the glorious array of truths that the Word of God has promised. Grace has come to us in glorious abundance for a reason - that the lost may hear and believe!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Arthur Wallis on Apostles and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

I spent last night sorting through my collection of New Wine and Restoration Magazines and was incredibly stirred to read two articles by Arthur Wallis. It seemed to me from my understanding that Arthur Wallis was seen as the elder and respectable statesman of the Charismatic Movement. Leaders such as Bryn Jones or Terry Virgo often came under criticism for various theological or ecclesiastical stands that they took. Arthur Wallis never seemed to - that I could read.

I know in my home church - New Covenant Church in Dunstable - Wallis was held in high esteem by Stanley Jebb and the leadership and indeed he came to speak at several of our "All Saints Nights" - celebration evenings of worship and preaching. So to find these articles on issues that are so important to me was an exciting find.

1. "Apostles" - from Restoration Magazine - November/December 1981.

A few key quotes to encourage you to read the article;

"We need to see these men as primarily those who brought the word of revelation and direction into the living situations where God was building His church ... the view that apostles and prophets have passed away, and that spiritual gifts have ceased both rest on the faulty premise that the completion of Scripture rendered them obsolete".

Arthur Wallis answers this faulty premise;

"Though we have inspired writings, we still need inspired utterances and having the Word of revelation, we still need men (and women) of revelation".

He concludes this excellent article;

"The Ephesians 4 Ministries of today are concerned primarily with an experiential foundation, one that has to be freshly laid for every redeemed community that comes into being ... for many 'Apostles today?' is nothing more than a hypothetical question. If, as we believe, the end-time shakings are upon us then the ministry of the apostles will become increasingly crucial".

I was amazed that he wrote this article in 1981 - he is addressing a perspective on apostles that is only really being preached and taught maturely recently. Proof of his unique gifting as a teacher.

2. "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" - from Restoration Magazine - March/April 1979

Once again I found this article amazingly advanced in revelatory teaching for the time in which it was written. Arthur Wallis drew on the typological teaching from Exodus - baptism in the Red Sea and in the cloud - to apply it to New Covenant life today. We need to be baptised in water just as we need to be baptised in the Holy Spirit. He said;

"God's people under the New Covenant need to be initiated into Christ as His Old Covenant people were initiated into Moses, that is by a baptism in cloud and sea. Neither water baptism nor Spirit baptism is an optional extra for the committed Christian".

One of the key words that the Word of God applies to the receiving of the Spirit is the word "upon". It seems that a lot of the more conservative church get confused with this and believe that if one has not received the Holy Spirit then it is an issue of "holiness". Arthur Wallis writes;

"The word that is used consistently and repeatedly to describe what happens in the Baptism in the Spirit but is never used simply of conversion is "upon". Th Old Testament prepares us for this. Anointing oil was poured "upon" the head of prophet, priest and king, not to make them God's people (for they were already that) but to fit them for their special service. God put the Spirit that was "upon" Moses "upon" the elders of Israel to equip them for leadership.

The Spirit coming "upon" the Lord Jesus at the Jordan was not to make Him more holy than He was - an impossibility - but that the works and words of God ... might be manifested in Him ... Later in the Acts we read how the Spirit came "upon", fell "upon" and was poured "upon" different groups of disciples. Paul reminds Titus of the "Holy Spirit that was poured upon us richly".

And Wallis asks;

"Have you had an "upon" experience of the Holy Spirit?".

I do hope both articles are of considerable interest! We dare not forget either of these two vital subjects - Apostles and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Speaking of Arthur Wallis - if anyone is interested in reading more early Charismatic material by him - I do strongly recommend looking at the "Revival Library" website - they have preserved some of the early conference notes which he hosted! Even more exciting (to me anyway!) - the "Revival Library" have carefully made available a complete collection of the Restoration Magazine - from which I have made these links available here. Only £19.99!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Don't Stop Believing!!

It won't come as a surprise to most that I'm not overly fond or keen on C J Mahaney or many of his approaches to church and Christian life. That being said I think there are some remarkable and fascinating features to the man's ministry that has been solely responsible for gathering an incredibly loyal fan-base around him. Mahaney had some valuable advice drawn from Ken Sande and the Peacemaker Ministries on a recent blog of his;

"Ken writes that churches can under-protect their leaders by “allowing gossip and rumors to spread unchecked, jumping to conclusions about a leader’s guilt, or failing to give him a meaningful opportunity to defend himself.” On the other hand, churches can wrongly over-protect their leaders. “They develop a self-confidence and blind loyalty that compels them to become defensive and automatically ‘circle the wagons’ when a leader is questioned or accused of wrongdoing.” Both approaches are wrong".

Timely advice and not a coincidence I am sure. Let me say that I have read accounts of what has gone on at Metro - but only those in the church really know what's going on. There are dear people at that church who I respect and love and so all I will say is that they are deeply in my prayers and thoughts. However I did read some sermon notes that really bother me. I was on the Metro church website and read senior pastor Danny Jones's sermon from last Sunday and he said this;

"The emphasis on sin makes grace all the more glorious!"

I must confess I haven't listened to the sermon - just read the notes - so maybe my friend Janelle or someone can shed some more light on this. But it seems to me to be a one-step progression from C J Mahaney's usual encouragements to "emphasise the Cross". An emphasis on SIN? How on earth can an emphasis on SIN make grace more glorious? I'm not sure at all. As a person with a masters degree in sin in my past, I can state unequivocably that thinking about my sin and emphasising my sin does nothing but make me depressed.

However Danny Jones closed his sermon on the other hand by quoted from Ephesians 1:3-10 and what a glorious statement from the Word of God!

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us".

Meditating on that verse does indeed make grace more glorious! So could an alternative to that statement be - rather than an emphasis on sin makes grace more glorious, can we say an emphasis on GRACE makes grace more glorious? Thoughts?

Finally I want to close this medley of SG-related thoughts by sharing a song that I was running to on the treadmill at my gym today. The song is from the new-ish musical called "Glee" (which I must confess I haven't really taken to - but like the soundtrack) and it's called; "Don't stop believing!". The X-Factor winner Joe sang it and I prefer his version;

I really felt the Holy Spirit speaking tenderly to me as He is doing to all Christians who have suffered through "religion". The one thing that the devil wants is to take away the faith of Christians - the ability to keep beliving in a good and loving and gracious God! So this year - 2010 - I want to promise as far as I can;
  • Keep on believing in a good God despite SGM UK and the past!
  • Keep on believing in a good God despite anything the devil may chuck - including horrendous disasters like the recent earthquake!
  • Keep on believing in a good God's plans for His church despite what we see at present!
  • Keep on believing in a good God's love for the world despite sin, suffering and all we see!
  • Keep on believing in the glory and wonder of grace despite the condemning lies of legalism and the devil that try and tell us to remember and not forget our sin.
  • Keep on believing the truth of God's Word that our sin died at the Cross and He "remembers it NO MORE!".

The more we can keep believing - the more I think we will become a people who shine like salt and light! And the world will take notice!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ern Baxter's Dales Bible Week 1977 Session Notes

I think if there was a short-list of historic Bible Weeks that I could attend - the Dales Bible Weeks 1976 and 1977 would be definately on them! Followed closely by Stoneleigh Bible Week 1994 and 1995. So far God hasn't granted me the power to travel back in time and experience these historic Bible Weeks (I'm guessing that the best is yet to come!) - so I mark my time by remembering and not allowing these times to be forgotten.

Tonight I made a historic discovery! I have these eight massive box files of Ern Baxter's sermon notes that I have had for years. They are so large and comprehensive that I've never had the time to sit down and work through the files page by page. As I mentioned in a previous post - I am undertaking a project to scan and upload PDF files of Ern Baxter's notes for universal enjoyment and information.


Regular readers will forgive me excitement knowing my fan membership of Ern Baxter! So I am thrilled to be able to make them available here thanks to Google Reader. It is really interesting to see the notes that Ern made for this Bible Week. You may note from the small annotations at the bottom of some pages that Ern re-preached this series at other Bible Weeks - some in the UK and some in the USA:

More notes to follow!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ern Baxter Archives

I've been busy tonight and early into this morning scanning and making PDF files of the Ern Baxter archives. Here are some further files uploaded onto Google;

1. "The Holy Spirit in the Book of Galatians".

This file in particular is of interest. It was two monthly magazine articles from the "Evangelical Tabernacle" - a church that Dr Ern Baxter pastored in Vancouver, Canada. The articles were written in June and July 1957.

I hope that this is a project that will be on-going and I can build on throughout the year. Dr Ern Baxter and his ministry is one that should not be silent or forgotten!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ern Baxter on the "Laying on of Hands"

I've been thinking so much about this New Year - the hopes and passions I have for it. So much of it involves being "touched". I am always staggered by the refusal of much of the evangelical church to talk about "laying on of hands". It is mentioned as one of the basic doctrines in the book of Hebrews and why? For a reason!

Ern Baxter summed up the laying on of hands as signifying;

"Transference, transmission, impartation and identification".

Each word carries such tremendous power! There can be no greater touch than that of God Himself by His Holy Spirit - closely followed by servants - men and women who care and love you enough to lay their hands on you and impart something. I published the transcript a while back of Rob Rufus's session at "Together on a Mission 2006" - Terry Virgo called that session of particular value and significance to him.

I want to start something new this year. This website was set up in loving memory of Dr Ern Baxter and I am still pursuing ways to keep his memory alive. Thanks to Microsoft Word giving me the ability to create PDF files and I want to start making available the massive eight box folders of Ern's sermon notes I have in my library.

Here's the first - "Ern Baxter - Laying on of Hands".

May this year be one marked by encounters with God!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Why Stand Ye Gazing?

This post is very interesting - it occured to me over Christmas. Then last night at work I had a few quiet moments so I got to reading C J Mahaney's blog which he writes standing in the very stead of God although from the cheap seats. Quite how God can speak from the cheap seats ... I don't know. Maybe it's a sports thing I don't get! Mahaney had a take on Christmas that I guess would tie in with his theology of the Cross. He writes;

"The purpose of his birth was his death. Or to put it more personally: Christmas is necessary because I am a sinner. The incarnation reminds us of our desperate condition before a holy God".

And then again;

"Properly understood, the message of Christmas confronts before it comforts, it disturbs before it delights".

This is nothing new - when I was a member of Sovereign Grace Ministries church I got progressively disturbed about the seeming obsession with the Cross (as opposed to the Christ). Sure it sounded plaudible at first. But is it? Is a "gazing" at the Cross - the object on which Jesus Christ died - the right place to fix our focus? Did Jesus really only go through the Incarnation and 33 years purely to die? Or have we stopped short?

I was doing some research on the place of the Cross in the entire Gospel picture and found an amazing sermon by C H Spurgeon (someone Mahaney calls his 'historical hero'). Spurgeon was preaching at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1884 on Acts 1:10, 11 - the disciples were standing watching Jesus go up into heaven at the great ascension and when the clouds hid Him from them. Two angels appeared and in great Biblical irony, two angels appeared in white and said to them;

"Why stand ye gazing?".

I could think of a few answers to that. "Why?! Er .. we've just seen our Master levitate ...". But moving on. Spurgeon took Acts 1:10 and 11 as his text and said the following comments;

"Four great events shine out brightly in our Saviour's story. All Christian minds delight to dwell upon his birth, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension. These make four rounds in that ladder of light, the foot of which is upon the earth, but the top whereof reacheth to heaven. We could not afford to dispense with any one of those four events, nor would it be profitable for us to forget, or to under-estimate the value of any one of them".

I think Spurgeon sums up excellently my problem. I DO NOT have an issue with thinking about the Cross at Calvary. Growing up in a reformed charismatic church, we duly celebrated Easter and had services on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I didn't really enjoy Good Friday - I always found it quite depressing and sad, but loved Easter Sunday and the thought of Jesus Christ rising gloriously from the dead. I watched "The Passion of the Christ" and found it incredibly painful to watch - but got goosebumps in the final scene when the face of Christ appeared and He stepped forth risen.

My question is - why have two wooden planks been singled out for sole focus of our gaze? Before we get into that - let Spurgeon continue having his say. He made a comment during his sermon about what both the Cross and Christ's death - and the resurrection and Christ's triumph bring us;

"That Jesus once suffered unto the death for our sins, and thereby made a full atonement for us, is the rest and life of our spirits. The manger and the cross together are divine seals of love. That the Lord Jesus rose again from the dead is the warrant of our justification, and also a transcendently delightful assurance of the resurrection of all his people, and of their eternal life in him ... The resurrection of Christ is the morning star of our future glory".

I love that so much. His birth and the Cross are divine seals of love. John Hosier once prayed when we were at CCK; "Love constrained the Son of God to go to Calvary". But the resurrection - the glorious resurrection - where He conquered death is the "warrant of our justification". Without Him rising from the dead - "our faith is in vain". Or as Spurgeon so eloquently put it;

"The resurrection of Christ is the morning star of our future glory".

So we may argue this is just semantics. The fact is Christ isn't in a manager, He isn't hanging bleeding and dying on a Cross - He is risen, ascended and glorified in heaven preparing a place for us and interceding for us at the right hand of the Father! But surely it does matter how we imagine the Lord Jesus Christ - because where we fix our vision will affect our faith and how we live our lives.

After all - why else would the angels appear to move the disciples on from where they stood gazing? If I was one of the disciples I would have built a church right there on the Mount as the place where Jesus Christ was last seen. Maybe framed the plot of land where His feet had last been before they lifted off! But no - the angels appeared and told them to move along. Why? Spurgeon explains;

"The truth is, there was nothing wrong in their looking up into heaven; but they went a little further than looking; they stood "gazing." A little excess in right may be faulty. It may be wise to look, but foolish to gaze. There is a gazing which is not commendable, when the look becomes not that of reverent worship, but of an overweening curiosity; when there mingles with the desire to know what should be known, a prying into that which it is for God's glory to conceal.

We had better abstain from acts which serve no practical purpose; for in this life we have neither time nor strength to waste in fruitless action. The disciples would be wise to cease gazing, for nobody would be benefitted by it, and they would not themselves be blessed. What is the use of gazing when there is nothing to see?".

And there is my point. Can it be possible to gaze a little too much at the empty Cross where Christ died? While in Sovereign Grace Ministries I heard frequently; "We will never move on from the Cross" and other similar semantic statements. But something occured to me only today - is it necessary to look at the Cross to remember His sacrificial death for us? I don't believe it is. Revelation 5:6 shows us a divine vision;

"And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain".

It just isn't necessary to gaze at the Cross to remember the sacrificial atoning death of Jesus Christ. I don't exactly know what "as if slain" means - because I can't pretend to have seen the risen Christ in a vision. But I suspect He appears with maybe wounds in His hands and feet that are unhealed even in His glorious state. Whatever it may be - gazing at Him in His risen, ascended and glorious state does not mean that we are "moving on from the Cross".

I think C H Spurgeon sums up the issue perfectly for me;

"Again, put another question,—What precept were they obeying when they stood gazing up into heaven? If you have a command from God to do a certain thing, you need not inquire into the reason of the command, it is disobedient to begin to canvas God's will; but when there is no precept whatever, why persevere in an act which evidently does not promise to bring any blessing? Who bade them stand gazing up into heaven? For He had strictly charged them that they should tarry at Jerusalem till they were "endued with power from on high." So what they did was not justifiable".

So ... the question then is, is there anything particular about Calvary's Cross that demands our earnest gazing? Of course Paul said; "We preach Christ crucified". I know that. But Paul did not say; "We preach the crucifiction". He said; "We preach CHRIST ... crucified". The emphasis being (I believe) on why drove Christ to go through what He did for "the joy set before Him".

So there we have my thoughts - I am not saying that we should not fix our gaze on the events of Calvary and what Christ went through. Rather I think we should confess we will NEVER know the true horrors of Calvary - the agony of being seperated from His Father. But I propose that our gaze should be upon the full events of Jesus Christ's life, death and resurrection. As Spurgeon put it;

"Four great events shine out brightly in our Saviour's story. All Christian minds delight to dwell upon his birth, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension".

One of my favourite choruses back in the 1980's as I grew up (and still is) remains this;

"For we see Jesus enthroned on high
Clothed in His righteousness, we worship Him
Glory and honour we give unto You
We see You in Your holiness
And bow before Your throne
You are the Lord
Your name endures forever
Jesus the Name high over all".

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Nature Publications!

There's nothing more appropriate at the beginning of a New Year than reminding all of the availability of books on grace through City Church International's publishing arm - "New Nature Publications". And also a reminder - I have a stock of books here in the UK that can easily and freely posted to anyone interested! Just email me at

Here is a new advert from Hong Kong!

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Christian Experience

I wanted to begin the New Year with some concise quotes from Dr Lloyd-Jones on Christian experience. They are so challenging and tell us that our hope for more of God is not in vain. The most stupid thing that a Christian can do is to be so put off by excess and fanaticism that they adapt their theology to become one of pure intellect and fear of any experience "in case" it is false.

Here is the Doctor from his monumental sermons on the book of Ephesians;

"Christians are so much afraid of excesses and of enthusiasm that they are only satisfied they are Christians when they are really miserable. What a tragedy. What blindness, what misunderstanding of Christian doctrine!".

And from his book; "Enjoying the Presence of God";

"Actually another belief that is very common today is the tendancy to dismiss these high experiences as just ecstasy. People try to explain them psychologically as the enthusiasm of youth, or people being carried away by emotionalism. But that is to limit 'the Holy One of Israel', that is to quench the Spirit. That is to put a barrier between that which God has made possible for us and ourselves".

I think one of the lessons perhaps that the Lakeland Outpouring brought the church - was that while Christian experience is true and valid, we do not have to invent experiences or signs or wonders when there are none. What an awesome comfort the doctrine of the sovereignity of God brings! We simply have to believe that He is good and He is eager to touch and to bless and to move. If He hasn't touched or done something - then we do not have to invent or exaggerate. Dr Lloyd-Jones very much taught this too as balance;

"If my experience does not tally with the New Testament, it is not the Christian experience. It may be wonderful, it may be thrilling, I may have seen visions. But I say, it matters not at all if my experience does not tally with this, it is not Christian experience".

That being said - it must be noted that the New Testament has very few limits on Christian experience! I wrote a post inspired by one of my favourite films called "Only God should have that kind of power" - and considered the place of "teleporting" for the Christian. The fact is that teleporting of sorts seems to occur in the Word of God! So let's be very careful before swiftly claiming that is "non-Biblical". But alternatively let's not desperately seize on any experience - because the real, the genuine manifest Presence of God is more than worth the wait!