Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Ern Baxter Sermons Online!

I want to draw attention to this amazing service that my friend Mark Heath is offering - as some might not be aware of it. He has managed to put about 20 or so sermons of Dr Ern Baxter on a website in MP3 format!
I have just downloaded all of them onto one CD and so am thrilled with what he has managed to do. It could be helpful for anyone who wants sermons and as yet I haven't managed to get them to in CD format. There are some absolute classics there including the awesome "Thy Kingdom Come" and the "Priestly Clothing series" that I transcribed and Mark kindly hosted for me.
Do go and make use of it. Many thanks for this Mark!

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Happy Christmas to One and All!!

I do pray God's richest and most awesome blessings on anyone who reads this website. Thanks so much to my closest friends who come back regularly - to Jul, Don, Luke Wood, Gavin, Mark Heath and Pete Day. I am so grateful for your friendship (Pete wrote an excellent blog on the power of fellowship. Read it!), care and stimulating comments! I am overwhealmed this year at God's absolute lavish grace to me and am so grateful for all the blessings He has poured out on me! I am so grateful for a church that truly welcomes the Holy Spirit yet honours the Word of God - but most of all desires more of God and seeks to see more of Him come down! He is truly awesome.
As a Christmas gift, I was delighted to receive the following New Wine interview with Dr Ern Baxter. It was from the New Wine magazine - December 1978 and contains material that will be fascinating to my fellow Ern fans particularly some awesome accounts from Ern's time with William Branham that I haven't read of before. My friend also sent it to me in Acrobat form as a direct scan with some interesting pictures so if anyone would like it as a copy in that format do email me and I will be happy to send it on. Many thanks to my friend. Here it is. Enjoy!

New Wine Interviews Ern Baxter – New Wine Magazine – December 1978

During the years immediately after World War II, the United States and the world in general witnessed a widespread move of God that came to be known as the ‘healing’ revival,” in which the ministries of such men as William Branham, Oral Roberts. Gordon Lindsay, and T. L. Osborn became prominent.

When the healing revival broke out, Ern Baxter was pastoring a large evangelical church in western Canada. At William Branham’s invitation, he traveled extensively with the Branham team, although he maintained his position at his home church.

At a time when denominational divisions were clearly defined along strict theological lines, Ern was not actually a pentecostal minister. However, he was not a traditional evangelical either because he had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. In Ern ‘s own words, “I was a kind of ‘pre-charismatic charismatic.’”

Significant historical events preceded the present charismatic renewal. Most people are unaware of those events. In this interview, Ern describes the spiritual climate of those clays. From an insider’s viewpoint he describes the healing revival. As a man with an appreciation of history he reveals the lessons we in the charismatic renewal today can learn from the experiences of that movement.

Q: In his book All Things Are Possible, which is a historical look at the healing and charismatic revivals in modern America, David Harrell makes this statement: “Few learned observers recognized the significance of the huge healing campaigns of the 1950’s - not many of those enthralled by the charismatic movement today understand its origins.” Can you tell us what kind of religious “climate’’ there was in the post-World War II years, and what circumstances made the era of the healing revivals possible?

A: The atmosphere and religious “climate” at that time was one of low spirituality. All supernatural happenings around the world were reported on as being quite significant.
In my opinion, the whole supernatural element in pentecostalism generally was very low. There were pockets of blessing, but there was no widespread revival. One of the reasons for the impact which the healings accompanying the healing movement made, was that there had not been a wave of healings for a long time. In 1933 at a big pentecostal conference, much of the delegates’ time was spent discussing reasons why people weren’t getting the baptism in the Holy Spirit anymore and the lack, of healings and conversions. Consequently, I would have to say that the spiritual climate was very low. This provided a backdrop, then, for the advent of the healing revival.

When William Branham[1] came on the scene, he was the only one who had a genuine healing ministry at that time. Even the Jeffreys brothers from Great Britain had passed the peak of their ministry which was in the late 1930’s.

So the “religious” climate was one in which the supernatural had seemed to cease.
Then when Branham broke in on the scene with the quality of supernaturalism that he demonstrated, it was newsworthy because of its relative novelty.

Q: What led up to your joining his team? Did he ask you, or did you just have contact with him and then a relationship developed?

A: I was going on a vacation and read about him in Time Magazine on the airplane. I was on my way with my wife to Winnipeg, Canada, to visit friends there. During dinner with them, my host, a prominent businessman in Winnipeg, said, “There’s an unusual minister down at Zion Church. His name is William Branham.”

I said, “I just read about him in the airplane.” So we decided to attend. After dinner, we left for the meeting and arrived around nine o’clock at this rather large church, (I think it seated about two thousand.) The sight I saw was, for those days, very impressive. There was a crowd of people outside, listening to Branham by loudspeakers because they couldn’t get in. I stood there in the darkness and listened to him.

What I heard was unique, unusual! I had never heard anything like it before. It was simple and direct. He was talking about demons and God’s power to heal. Though it was basic, there was something very attractive about it.
As I stood in the darkness, I said to my host, “I have a sense that I am going to have something to do with this man.” We went on home and made no attempt to contact him. Shortly after I returned to Vancouver. Later, Branham came to Calgary, Alberta. By then, of course, his reputation was well known, and I decided to take some of my people to Calgary.

At that time Branham had one or two men traveling with him, whose responsibility centered in arranging the meetings. Branham was doing the bulk of the ministry. He would pray for several thousand people each night. Because his load was so heavy, other ministers who could handle large crowds were invited to share the afternoon meetings. Because I was known in Calgary, I was invited to take one afternoon service. I recall the theme I spoke on: “This is the day that the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” I pointed out that this was the gospel day and the day in which we should be enjoying all the blessings of God’s grace. Presumably, the men that heard me took word back to him.

After staying for two or three days, I went back home, again making no attempt to contact Branham personally. When I arrived back in Vancouver, a number of ministers came together and said, “We must bring William Branham here.” I was asked to lead the meetings, which I did.

Later, Branham asked to see me personally. He said that he had been in prayer and the angel of the Lord had spoken to him and told him that I was to be his companion in ministry. He invited me to join him.

At the time, I was pastor of a large church, and obtained leave from them, joining Branham in Ashland, Oregon. I started to travel with him as often as I could be away from my church. One year I was away eight months.

When he would speak, especially in those early days, he would say some things that were terribly provocative. To me, unnecessarily so. So when we talked together, we agreed that apart from his giving testimonies and relating his life story, I would do all of the speaking, and he would do all of the ministering to the sick. That was the way it was when we were together.
I was with Branham from 1947 until I had to leave him, in about 1953 or 1954. F. F. Bosworth joined up later than I did and shared in some of the meetings.

Q: Could you briefly describe Branham’s ministry and some of its high points? What caused him to break in on the national scene?

A: Well, Branham had a tremendous word of knowledge. Before praying for a person, he would give accurate details concerning the person’s ailments, and also details of their lives - their home town, activities, actions - even way back in their childhood. Branham never once made a mistake with the word of knowledge in all the years I was with him. That covers, in my case, thousands of instances.

Branham’s use of the word of knowledge actually started out as a phenomenon in his hand. He would take the hand of the person in his. Immediately at the base of his thumb, in the thick part of his hand, there would be a specific manifestation according to the sickness or need. From seeing the phenomenon so often, I began to pick up what these were and became adept at reading them. Tuberculosis was a light pink flush. Cancer was an angry red appearance in which the ball of his thumb just seemed to surge like a wave.

Q: It was actually visible?

A: Yes, you could see it. Then this gave way to the straight oral word where he would give accurate details concerning the person. He never missed, and this made a tremendous impact.
Branham also probably introduced deliverance in its form at that time. He cast out spirits. This made the large congregations very sensitive to the presence of demonic powers. There was a lot of primitiveness about it. For instance, he would insist the audience bow their heads during exorcism lest the spirits get in another person! The whole ministry was so new and so powerful that, when I met him in 1947, his mail was enormous.

Many of the subsequent healers received their initiative from him. He was really the fountainhead of the healing revival of the 50’s and 60’s. Many of the men who began to hold healing meetings subsequent to Branham’s had short-lived ministries. Many of them couldn’t handle what the ministry and its consequent recognition did to them personally.

The prominence and visibility it created was unbelievable. Many people did not know healing or anything supernatural existed. The ministry reached out and touched people in the denominations. It was very effective that way. People, of course, care about their bodies, so they came - some hundreds and others thousands of miles. It was hard to handle the adulation and the praise. It was almost like Barnabas and Paul’s experience when they were considered “gods from heaven.”

Q: Can you recount some of the most memorable times with him and some of the events you vividy remember from your time together with him?

A: Well, to try to remember or to pick out a few outstanding supernatural occurrences with Branham is somewhat difficult because it was just a parade of the supernatural. On one occasion, we were down in the southern states, in a big auditorium meeting. The find or second night there, Brother Branham came to a certain man in the healing line. He looked at him and said, “Sir, I see you have come into this line tonight to trick me. In fact, I see you last night in a room sitting around a table with four other ministers. You are a minister of such and such a denomination.” He pointed up to the balcony and said, “Those four men sitting up there are your friends, and you plotted last night how to trick me. I was going to tell you what was wrong with you, and you were going to deny it.” They just turned around and fled the building.
I was with him in South Africa at a time when a large number of religious people rejected the ministry of healing, creating real pressures. There was a man in the meeting who was interested. He was of a denomination that was coming down on us very heavily. On the way home from the meeting, this man felt a hand on the back of his shirt. He turned around and there was no one there. But when he got home, he took off his shirt and found a handprint there - just as if a hot iron had left its imprint on his shirt. The shirt was shown in the next day’s newspaper.

Once in Des Moines, Iowa, a missionary from the South Seas who had just flown home because of a very serious ailment was standing in front of him. Branham started out by saying, “Oh, you’re a missionary. You just flew in today,” and then he named the place the man had come from. At that, the entire crowd went into jubilation.

Q: Had Branham had any contact with any of the earlier men, like Smith Wigglesworth or the Jeffreys? Would that have been the inspiration for his ministry?

A: I was very careful to check that out at the time. Branham had no direct link with pentecostalism in terms of his gift. In his home there had been no deep spiritual life, but he told me stories that indicated this gift was with him as a child. (He made some very significant prophecies, for instance, concerning the collapse of a bridge in his area of Ohio.) He once said to me, “If anybody ever writes my biography, you’re the only one I’ve ever told everything to.” He and I had many sessions that were hours long. During one of these, he told me he didn’t believe that tongues was the evidence of the baptism. So I asked him about speaking in tongues, and he said that he had gone to a pentecostal mission and had told God, “These are apparently the only people that will accept my gift - let me talk in tongues so I’ll be acceptable.” And he said God let him talk in tongues, but he never talked in tongues again. That seemed to be his introduction to the pentecostals, and they apparently accepted him because of it. Few people would know that story, but I mention it because as his gift became more apparent as he grew older, he saw that the pentecostal people were probably the only ones who would receive it.

He was a relatively illiterate man, and so had not read widely. He was a great hunter. His abilities were in the realm of natural and intuitive abilities, I questioned him about many people. He didn’t know Dr. Charles Price, who had had quite a healing ministry back in the 1920’s - 30’s, or any others whom I mentioned.

I do not see any inspiration for his ministry coming from any of these earlier men, certainly not in the realm of his word of knowledge. Concerning whatever God may have done in the Spirit, I have no knowledge. But in the realm of his word of knowledge, there were no apparent human models he could have patterned himself on. He just seemed to break from a whole new source. He was missionary Baptist, so his tradition would not link him into historic pentecostalism.

Q: How was he received by the people in the 50’s?

A: He was received gladly by the common people because of the manifestation of God in his ministry. But to most ministers he was an enigma from the very beginning. First of all, he was theologically, as well as academically, illiterate. When he would speak. his English grammar was bad, and his theology worse. A lot of ministers gnashed their teeth and wrung their hands when he preached. One of the reasons I joined him was to try to articulate and provide an apologetic for his ministry.

Q: What were some of the personal experiences that you had with him as his friend and companion in ministry?

A: We had a great personal friendship. We hunted together and walked a great deal. Branham was a very simple man. He had maintained and checked the lines for the power company in his area and walking in the outdoors was his life. So we walked and talked together. We were real friends.

Q: Who were some of the other men with whom you had contact at the same time as your time with Branham? What were some of the things God was doing and saying through them at that general period?

A: This is an important question. Before Branham came on the scene, I was finding that there was a group of men that were sensitive to a need for more of God experientially. The pentecostal churches were opting for religious education and music. The supernatural, as I’ve already said, seemed to be absent. In the forties, I was bumping into certain men - men like Rufus Moseley and others who were opening supernatural horizons yet in their traditional Christian forms.

Rufus Moseley had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. He wrote the books Manifest Victory and Perfect Everything. Rufus Jones was a unique person. E. Stanley Jones, of course, was very controversial, but to my mind he was a man who knew and loved God. In my view with his preaching and writing he made a significant contribution. I found these men very refreshing for the pioneering spirit they showed. I was criticized by my fundamentalist friends, both evangelical and pentecostal, for having anything to do with them.
But these men were really significant. They were a type of bridge.

Q: Were other things that these men were involved in laying a ground-work for the present-day charismatic renewal?

A: In my judgment there was as much connection between the Camps Farthest Out element and the charismatic as there was between the healing revival and the charismatic. I think the healing movement was a supernatural, prophetic call to the world to say, “God is alive and He’s here.” Healing in the ministry of our Lord was the introductory act that opened people up to the totality of the Kingdom of God. I believe the healing movement alerted the people, in a very real sense, to the renewal of the supernatural.

Q: What brought about the end of that era of the healing revival and what prompted the decline of William Branham’s ministry and others like him?

A: Well, the healing movement began with such a spectacular display that the men involved in it faced major unprecedented problems. Men were suddenly ushered into very prominent, eye-catching, supernatural ministries. Many of them couldn’t handle it personally. One of the sad aspects of the healing movement is the personal shipwrecks and breakdowns. I think the healing movement began to subside because of the way it was mishandled.

Men could not handle the pressures and personal temptations. In addition a number of extraneous elements came in, such as exaggeration, false reports, misrepresentation. Right at the beginning of the healing movement, I saw this starting to emerge. The healers could not meet together in any meaningful way. They would have a conference together, but it was not meaningful. They began to publish competitive exaggerated statistics on tent size, numbers, results and other things.

At that time Gordon Lindsay, who was still relating to Branham, started the Voice of Healing Magazine. Because I was prominently involved with Branham, I was asked to contribute. I wrote an article out of my conviction and concern entitled, “The Curse of Carnal Comparisons,” in which I pointed out that there was a good deal of Corinthianism already in the healing movement. And that if something was not done by the healers to remedy it, this movement would self-destruct.

As a result of that article I was persona non grata from there on as far as the healers were concerned, so I confined myself to Branham. Tragically, as these men violated the principles of plurality, each of them had his turn at the pinnacle of fame, but most of them were easily picked off by the enemy. Satan’s aim is good.

I remember in the beginning of the healing movement, simply to report a healing would produce great jubilation and praise from congregations. However, the cynicism became so deep that the people’s confidence was diminished. Even to this day, people are affected. People began to circulate healing testimonies which, when they were checked out by reputable journalists and reporters, even those who were friendly to the movement, were found to be false. The percentage of healings that stood up after investigation was embarrassingly low. As a result, disillusionment set in, and the healing movement as it was known in the beginning declined in momentum until today you can’t say it really amounts to anything as a movement.

Q: Aren’t there still a few “healers” in ministry today?

A: That’s right. As I watch what’s going on, I see that people are still trying to promote the same kind of activity that was so prominent back there. But from my position as one who witnessed the quality, depth and effectiveness of that great wave of the early 50’s, this is a far cry from that wave. Yet a new generation of Christians has risen up who know not those days arid therefore know nothing better.

Q: What brought William Branham’s ministry to a close?

A: I believe there’s a Bible principle involved. No matter who we are, if we don’t relate to the principles of truth, we pay for it. We either fall on it and break in repentance, or it falls on us and breaks us in judgment.

The measure of faith Paul talks about in Romans 12 where he says, “to each man is given a measure of faith . . . he that prophesieth, let him prophecy according to the measure of faith,” indicates that we all have been given a grace gift. But we must walk within the confines of our gift. For instance, if a miracle worker, who may be used mightily in working miiracles, steps over the boundaries of that gift and presumes, to be a teacher when God has not called him to teach, then he is violating the rule of walking within his grace.

Branham saw himself as a teacher of some kind of “in” truth. To me, some of it was quite esoteric. I became aware early in his ministry that there was a mixture. I urged him not to say some things in public. As long as we worked together he refrained. One of the reasons for my leaving him was that he was starting to say some seriously wrong things. When that, coupled with other circumstances, eventually became unbearable, I resigned.

I think there can be a lesson in this. Branham, as a miracle worker, had a real place. Branham as a teacher was outside of his calling. The fruits of his teaching ministry are not good.

Q: What do you think is one of the main things that we can learn from the healing revival and the ministry of Branham and others?

A: That’s an excellent question. I think we need to learn out of it the absolutely mandatory nature of the principle of plurality. No man, no matter how gifted, can afford to violate plurality and walk alone.

Number two, I would say it points up the great necessity of staying in your calling or gift, and not making use of whatever accrues to you from that gift to get into other areas.
I think it also points up the need of having responsible community to receive the fruits of this kind of evangelistic ministry. If the converts are not brought into a New Testament biblical community or church, they become followers of a man who cannot develop them into maturity.
I believe these principles are very basic. In addition, man does not live by miracles alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Miracles and signs arid wonders are not food. They are signs to tell you where the food is. If you try to live on the signs, you get unbalanced nutrition.

Q: By your definition has the charismatic movement learned some of those things from the healing revival and is it thus prepared for the next step? Or, do you think we still have along way to go?

A: I think the charismatic renewal is an advance on the healing movement. But I see in the charismatic renewal a tendency to fall back into the same philosophy of the healers and not make use of what God has given supernaturally to launch out into His purposes. I believe God is saying that we have to incorporate the supernatural into the normal life of the supernatural community. I believe that the healing revival touched men personally in their bodies. I believe that the charismatic renewal was a real quickening in the realm of the spirit.
In the healing revivals quite a few received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but healing was the feature. In the charismatic renewal, the baptism in the Spirit is a feature. Healings were to attract attention. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was to empower and initiate into a dimension of supernaturalism. Now we have to find the intention of God for the corporate. God intends to equip a people corporately. So I think our next step is for maturity and the corporate expression of Christ to the world.

Q: Through your years with the healing revival, and then with the charismatic renewal, do you see God’s people moving toward that end?

A: Yes, I do. While the renewal has a lot of problems that are more interpersonal than having to do with truth, the emphasis on the Body of Christ, unity and maturity is present. It is prominent. It is being spoken. You are hearing a great deal about the need for unity. I think people are recognizing that you can have all of the charismatic gifts - healing and tongues and prophecy - but that there will be no real impact on the world - quite apart from not really getting our own lives together - until we can do something about our divisions and can come into a mature unity.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to say in summary that we haven’t touched on?

A: Well, I think we have to recognize that God’s servants and God’s people, when they are healthy, have always been prophetic. They have always been stating and asserting and affirming God’s purpose in the earth. Charismatics today need to realize that God has visited us for more than just a personal experience. What God has done has a corporate dimension. He did not just touch one or two in isolation. He has touched men and women all over the world. His prophetic purpose is to bring together in one all things in Christ. (See Eph. 1:10.)
If we, as a people, don’t hold that position, we’ll have to go through the same judgmental processes that have been experienced by rebellious people for centuries. Israel came up to times of awareness of their prophetic place in the earth, and they missed it. The Church has done it from time to time. Now, I think the charismatic movement is in serious danger of ebbing again, and God is going to have to do something else. But the something else will always be moving toward the Lord’s intention as expressed in John 17:21 - that we may be one, so that the world might believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

[1] William Branham (1900—1965) was an ordained Baptist minister who had a significant international healing ministry from May 1946 until around 1955.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A New Reformed/Charismatic Blog!

I have missed an abundance of good, truly Reformed/Charismatic websites that hold the tension between Word and Spirit in balance so I am thrilled to report that after much persuading, bullying and prayer - my best friend Pete Day has joined the blogsphere!

His site; "The Best is Yet to Come" - was launched yesterday.

Ever since I began my blog, I have been accountable to him for much of what I wrote and published and has been very much a behind-the-scenes partner in what I have been trying to do. He has never been keen to begin to write his own blog due to true humility but I have been convinced that his ministry is so anointed that it deserves a wider audience that the church he pastors in West Norwood, South London.

I had a prophecy for him from Numbers 10 where Moses speaks to his father-in-law and says the famous plea, "Come with us and we will do you good". Terry Virgo mentioned at CCK, Brighton that the father-in-law wasn't just a bystander. He was to be "their eyes" as they went through the wilderness. I felt that God wants Pete to take much of a leading role in helping to keep Ern Baxter's unique ministry alive while I carry on my simple scribing work.

I urge everyone to keep an eye on his blog. There will be some excellent material coming out that cannot be found elsewhere!

By the way ... In my previous post, "Ern Baxter Correcting the Balance", I spoke of three heroes - men of God who had impact on my life. One of these was Peter Cockrell, the pastor of Grace Community Church in Worthing. Peter is also on the "Life in the Spirit" Committee. Yesterday I discovered that he has a blog that he began in May called "Already but Not Yet". He has only posted twice so it may be that it is a dead link and he doesn't have time to carry on but what he has written is worthy of a read. He says; "This blog site is dedicated to the convergence of Reformed theology and charismatic experience". Like Peter Day, he is another gifted anointed preacher who I hoped would preserve his ministry in the written word for future generations to benefit from.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Westminster Conference 2006

For those who think that the Puritans have nothing to say to modern day - think again. One of the few times that I have disagreed with something Terry Virgo said concerned this conference. He made a joking comment about "conferences regarding what colour socks the Puritans wore". While I agree that one must not take church history too seriously, there is awesome power locked up in the Puritan era. These men really knew God and had deep communion with Him and I am convinced that this conference is doing an invaluable job in not allowing the memories of these awesome men of God to be forgotten.

The Westminster Conference was started by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones and addressed something of the revival of interest in the Puritans alongside the awesome work of the Banner of Truth. I have been once in 2001 when my former pastor Dr Stanley Jebb was speaking on the subject, "Richard Greenham and the Counselling of Troubled Souls". I was unable to get to the Westminster Conference this year although I desperately wanted to, because Dr Jebb was speaking again.
I have found a blog run by Gary Brady from London who went and has summarised the sessions on his site. Here is the link to Dr Jebb's session.
Here is another man who attended and summarised briefly his reflections on the conference. Interestingly enough he said; "The most lively and thought-provoking discussion came after the paper by Stanley Jebb on “The Azusa Street Phenomenon.” This doesn't surprise me! Dr Jebb has the amazing capacity to stimulate much thought and debate on what he says on virtually any topic.

I am thrilled to note from the blog that this year the Westminster Conference will be making the sessions available on audiotape. Since the conference began they have published the papers - which are a valuable asset to any library and I enjoy collecting them. However I will be looking forward to hearing Dr Jebb on tape again and following the discussion.
I am sure that there will be more summaries of the conference in the Evangelical Times or similar newspapers and will comment more when I have got hold of this material.
Ern Baxter Correcting the Balance ...

I have been unable to get this whole manhood/womanhood issue off my mind for the last couple of days. For those who have just joined the discussion, the whole thing has been sparked off by the publishing of Dr Wayne Grudem's latest book. In it he seems to be drawing the line in the sand - no longer can we remain safely in the "radical middle ground". He claims that if you hold an egalitarian position then you are starting on a road that will end in accepting homosexuality as a lifestyle. My good friend Jul has written an excellent response to my thoughts called, "Feminism - the greatest threat to the church?". I am grateful for this. It seems to me that the loudest voices in this are on the one hand the egalitarian feminists and on the other the complementarian men (i.e Grudem). We need to hear from complementarian women!

For my part I said that I don't really have much to contribute to the debate. After all I am no Grudem. But what I do think we can do is to begin to fill the internet and the discussion forums with positive teaching on how men should really be men. Maybe if Christian men started behaving how God intended, then Christian egalitarian women might follow suit. Has anyone stopped to consider the fact that it seems women often rise up to do men's jobs when weak ineffectual men seem to fill the earth? That's how Deborah became a Judge in Israel. That's how Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in London.

So here's my contribution to beginning the positive drive for real Christian men. This is an extract from Dr Ern Baxter's book, "The Chief Shepherd and His Sheep".

"A Shepherd's Characteristics.

In 1 Timothy 3:2-7 God tells us specifically what a shepherd should be. (These characteristics also appear in the paralell passage of Titus 1:5-9).


A shepherd must be above reproach - irreprehensible, unassailable. He is a man whose life cannot be spoken against. Enemies may bring all manner of accusationss, but these charges are proved to be empty whenever fair methods of investigation are applied.

The Husband of One Wife.

This requirement is restrictive not imperative. It is not necessary that a shepherd be married but if he is, he should be married to only one woman. This requirement may have some special significance in Paul's day because the pagans to whom he preached were coming out of polygamy.


The lexical definition of this word is "temperate" or "circumspect" and it connotes that a shepherd be filled with spiritual and moral earnestness. He is not given to excess but is moderate, well-balanced, calm, careful and steady. This pertains to his physical, mental and moral habits.


This means "sound-minded". The self-controlled or sensible man is a man of sound mind. He is discreet and sane. As a result he is not swayed by sudden impulses over which he exercises no mastery. A shepherd must be an example to the flock. He must represent, as it were, Jesus Christ the Chief Shepherd. He must reflect the character of Jesus Christ in such a way that the sheep will see His character and in turn want to have the same kind of character. This is a high calling.

Of Good Behaviour.

A shepherd must have a disciplined life that consists of inner moral excellence and outwardly orderly behaviour.

Given to Hospitality.

At the time when Paul wrote this, Christians on a journey could not stay at public inns because these places were often ribald drinking houses and houses of ill fame. Nor could they resort to the houses of the heathen if they wanted to walk in holiness. Staying in the home of a pagan meant exposing himself to all the crudities of ungodliness. Therefore the home and help of any Christian was welcome. An overseer was thus to be an example of hospitality always keeping his place open in his home for visitors. The principle still holds. A shepherd, in his desire to care for people, must know the pleasurable inconvinience of showing much hospitality.

Apt to Teach.

A shepherd must be a capable and qualified teacher. He must have a gift for teaching. In the Amplified Bible, the paralell passage Titus 1:9 says that "he must hold fast to the sure and trustworthy Word of God as he was taught it, so that he may be able to give stimulating instruction and encouragement in sound (wholesome) doctrine and to refute and convict those who contradict and oppose it - showing the wayward their error". The implications of a shepherds office extend beyond giving practical advice and spending recreational time with those in his care to the serious business of maturing the people of God and withstanding the inroads of wickedness into the body of Christ, the ultimate goal being to disciple the nations. This can only be accomplished as the shepherds in the church are careful that they themselves are champions of the faith and that they are able to teach.

In the list of gifts in Ephesians 4:11, shepherds and teachers are placed together in a way that the other three are not, leading many scholars to believe that a shepherd-teacher is one ministry. It certainly seems that way considering that shepherds must be apt to teach. They must each feed the portion of the flock under their care.

As an aside the only difference between an elder and a deacon is that the elder is able to teach. Deaconing like shepherding is a high calling. While deacons do handle much of the material side of church activities, they are involved in more than sweeping floors or handing out the bulletins. They work with people too and are probably the ones who have the most involvement with the indigent and others who need such practical assistance. Deacons also attend to such essential and demanding services as finance, administration and other practical matters requiring specialised skills. Because of this they must be "full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit".

Not Given to Wine.

Shepherds must set an example for a sober community. The church of God does not need the false stimulus of alcoholic beverages, for the Bible instructs us to "be not drunk with wine wherein is excess but be filled with the Holy Spirit". Admittedly wine was and is a common beverage in Bible lands and it cannot be proven from the Bible that a man has no right to drink wine. Yet it can be proven that a man is not permitted to abuse wine so that the normalcy of his abilities and judgement is affected. How many people can drink much before this happens? There is certainly no place for the misuse of alcohol in the Kingdom of God - especially by elders. Furthermore in this day when alcohol and drugs are ravaging our nation, it is a tragedy for Christians to indulge at all; and for a person who may prove unable to handle alcohol to get his first drink at an elder's house is a double tragedy.

No Striker.

A shepherd must not be a violent man, one who is ever ready with his fists. "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal". We must understand that there is more than one way to strike someone; a vicious tongue can strike blow after blow. A shepherd cannot be a man who lashes out with his tongue as though it were a fist, nor with his fist itself.

Not Greedy of Filthy Lucre.

A shepherd cannot be a lover of money, one with an insatiable appetite for wealth, one who is even ready to obtain it by questionable means.


This quality is the opposite of a striker. It causes a person to be yielding, lenient and courteous. Though never compromising with respect to the truth of the gospel, a shepherd must yield when it comes to his own rights.

Not a Brawler.

A shepherd cannot be an obstreperous man who is quick to anger, contentious and quarrelsome. He must not always be wanting to fight, but on the contrary must be adverse to doing so. Even if he were not physically violent by being disputatious he would still be lacking one of the characteristics needed to be an overseer.

One that Ruleth Well His Own House.

A shepherd must rule his own household well, keeping his children under control with true dignity, commanding their respect in every way and making sure that they stay respectful. The father's firmness makes it advisable for a child to obey, his wisdom makes it natural for a child to obey and his love makes it a pleasure for a child to obey.

Not a Novice.

A shepherd is not one who is newly planted. He must not be, says one translation, "a beginner in the faith for fear of his becoming conceited and sharing the devil's downfall". Never put a new convert in a place of authority for he cannot handle it and was not meant to.

Must Have a Good Report with Them Which Are Without.

A shepherd must be known even to wordly people as a man of character, a man against whom it is not possible to level any just charges of moral turpitude. It must be said that he conducts himself properly with respect to outsiders.

We need a revival that will restore us to the essence of Christianity where God says, "Be ye holy for I am holy", a holiness that is not just external but that springs up from within. Godliness will not come about by preaching "Be godly" but people are going to want to be godly because they want to imitate the godliness that they see in their elders. What they see, not just what they hear will stimulate them to holiness. The greatest incentives are those that are seen in the examples of respected elders and those elders must take care to set a good example.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

What Do You See?

Scripture is quite clear on the importance of vision. "Without vision the people perish" or to put it another way, "Without vision the people grow stagnant". So I've been giving some thought over the last few days to looking foward and asking what exactly is my vision. Any regular reader will know that I speak much of a longing for revival or for a turning of the tide but what can our expectations be if God truly does move in power. Where is He taking His Bride - the Church?

I have always been profoundly stirred being in stadiums whenever that has happened and have always felt that they were destined for something more than football matches or pop concerts. Hence when I read Paul Cain's famous "Stadium Vision" - something within me said, "That's it!". Here is an extract;

"It is a vision of the last days when sports stadiums all over the United States are filled with thousands of people. In this vision, people are being healed and miracles are happening to thousands in the name of Jesus Christ. People are turning to the Lord in droves and the whole nation is in revival. It seemed the whole earth was turning to Christ.

Television news reporters are broadcasting stories of resurrections and miracle healings. None of the secular reporters could get near the men on the platform. They did not know who the men were. Paul described them as "almost faceless men." He hears a TV anchorman saying, "There are no sporting events to report tonight because all the stadiums, ball parks and arenas are being used for large revival meetings and are filled with people crying, ''Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Lord."

Surely the awesome work that Hillsongs are doing in filling stadiums in Australia is a precursor to this! But what about the worship that will be taking place in these stadiums? Do we really know what we are doing yet? Are we really worshipping God as fully as He deserves? Or to put it another way; "If the tide is turning what should our response be?".

A week or so ago I asked the unanswered question; "Is worship truly worship if your heart isn't stirred" - this came fresh from a stimulating coffee and chat time with a friend. My suspicion is that it isn't. But what I am utterly persuaded is that worship plays a huge role in what God has in store for the glorious end time Bride. It must do!

Revelation 5:11-12 (NASB) - "Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing." And take special note of verse 13: "And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever".

I worry that if worship isn't married closely to our vision of revival then we may be unpleasantly surprised when God does indeed come. But when I say "worship", I mean "worship" that flows like a living river out of a heart stirred with wonder and amazement for all that God has done through His Son.

"So when Jesus says that true worshippers worship the Father "in spirit" He means that true worship comes only from spirits made alive and sensative by the quickening of the Spirit of God. This "spirit" is essential in worship. Otherwise worship is dead. Or to use Jesus' phrase, it is "in vain" ... A heart (and spirit) alive and engaged with God is essential" ... What makes it authentic is not only that the worshipping mind grasps the truth of Jesus but also that the worshipping spirit experiences awakening and is moved by the truth that the mind knows" - Dr John Piper - "What Jesus Demands from the World".

Or to put it another way in one of his smaller books, Piper wrote; "Throughout Scripture we are commanded to feel not just to think or decide. We are commanded to experience dozens of emotions not just perform acts of willpower".

How on earth does that compare with something like this; "Should dance be permitted during the worship service? - This is an element. There is no place in Scripture where dance is permitted as an element of worship. Thus dance should not be permitted during the worship service" or "When church music directors lead congregations in singing contemporary Christian music, I often listen stoically with teeth clenched".

Lines are being drawn in the realm of biblical manhood and womanhood to be sure, but lines have been drawn in the sand about worship far before this. And I do believe that worship is an area where we simply cannot remain neutral, for in eternity the issue of whether or not we allow women to preach will be mute. Worship will go on in greater and wider and broader waves than we can ever dream of. Let's devote our attention to getting ready for eternity and something that will last forever. Let's learn how to truly worship in spirit and in truth. Hopefully this quote will make you realise how serious I am about this - because I rarely quote him agreeing with me. Yet I couldn't agree more with this tension. Bob Kauflin writes;

"May we all proclaim the beauty, authority, and truth of Jesus Christ with our lives, remembering that neither passion nor propositional truth is out of place when we worship God. They were meant to go together".

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Lines Are Being Drawn In The Sand ...

Before I begin writing what is on my mind, many thanks to the Tall Skinny Kiwi for this reflection on Christmas. No I'm not converting to Emerging. But what a great quote:

"We Protestants place a lot of importance on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Sometimes we neglect the other aspects of the finished work of Christ in order to keep the cross central, and we minimize the incarnation. Taken to the extreme, our theology might suggest it is always Easter and never Christmas ... If the work of Christ was only the cross, He could have done his job in 3 days. Without the incarnation, we would not understand what Jesus meant when he said "As the Father has sent Me, so I send you".

Does that explain why Christmas is such an unbearably nauseating time in relation to church? David Holden asked the excellent question why as so-called charismatics, the Presence of the Holy Spirit seems to go on standby over Christmas. To great laughter he described the unusual experience of finishing singing "Once in Royal David's City" at his home church in Sidcup and then hearing a tongue break out! Oh for more of the manifesting of the Spirit this Christmas!

I'm a fan of Wayne Grudem.

Let me get that out of the way first. I hugely admire his intellect, his fierce devotion to truth and his openness to the Holy Spirit in an theologically academic world that remains suspicious of anything subjective. Let me state also for the record that if put on a lie detector I would agree with his position on biblical manhood and womanhood - simply put that the role of a teaching elder is for men. So I will be buying his latest tome; "Evangelical Feminism - a New Path to Liberalism?" and look forward to reading what he has to argue.

But the whole issue is not one that I am particularly passionate about and it certainly isn't a "hill that I would die upon" (as I heard C J Mahaney once declare at an SGM Leadership Conference). I've read the response to Piper and Grudem's magisterial book that Gordon Fee helped co-edit - "Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy" - and was impressed by some of the arguments. By the way keep an eye open for Fee's new large book coming out called; "Pauline Christology - An Exegetical-Theological Study". Very exciting! I guess I would call myself a moderate complementarian.

However having read a recent interview that Wayne Grudem gave on the subject, I'm not sure that we will have the luxury of having feet on both sides of the fence. He seems to me to be arguing that to hold an egalitarian position will result in the denial of anything uniquely masculine then progressing to a call to address God as our Mother resulting in the gradual approval of homosexuality. In his own words; "The arguments of evangelical feminism are leading people to deny the authority of Scripture and to move to theological liberalism including the approval of homosexuality". He names and shames Dr Roy Clements as proof of his deductions.

What can we say and what can we do in such a concerning position as this? I guess we can most certainly buy Dr Grudem's books on this topic and reassure ourselves that we are doctrinally correct. Maybe we could pay out and go to conferences like Together for the Gospel 2008 where this doctrinal position is part of their statement of faith. We can argue about it - One bold lady called Suzanne from Vancouver has taken Grudem on and is debating with him and being persecuted for it by the complementarians. But is this achieving anything? Is it advancing the Kingdom of God? What does the world make of this - if they even care?

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones identified two problems with the evangelical church. Orthodox we are - but the two errors can be "Defective" and "Dead". Much concern is given, it seems to me, to the "Defective" aspect of our orthodoxy. A concern for the truth! Adherence to various statements of faith! And this is true and right and good. Dr Lloyd-Jones wrote of this concern:

"It is the condition of people who believe the truth and know that they believe the truth. There is no question about that. You question them, you catechise them and you will find that they are correct and orthodox. There is no fault to be found with their creed or their belief".

It's interesting to me that in the various sweeps of church history there is a glaring problem that we don't like to talk about very much. God, for some reason known only to Him, doesn't seem to always respect the fact that we have got our creeds and beliefs spot on. Annoyingly He has often brought revivals upon those who quite frankly might be liberals, Arminians or just those who we don't agree with. Is this an excuse for liberalism in our orthodoxy? Of course not. But I am just wondering whether in our passionate pursuit of truth - we are forgetting that we need life too. Dr Lloyd-Jones said;

"And therefore I come finally to this point. There is nothing vital in the religion and worship of such people. They expect nothing and they get nothing and nothing happens to them. They go to God's house, not with the idea of meeting with God, not with the idea of waiting on Him, it never crosses their minds or enters into their hearts that something might happen in a service".

"But the idea never even enters their imaginations that God may suddenly visit His people and descend upon them, the whole thrill of being in the Presence of God and sensing His nearness and His power . The whole thing is formal, it is this smug contentment".

"We must examine ourselves. Do we go to God's house expecting something to happen? Or do we go to just listen to another sermon and to sing our hymns and to meet with each other? How often does this vital idea enter our minds that we are in the Presence of the living God, that the Holy Spirit is in the Church, that we may feel the touch of His power?".

"The question is, are we giving the Holy Spirit an opportunity? Are we so tied down by our programmes that He is excluded? Why this formality? Why this tying down of everything? What if the Spirit should suddenly come? I do commend this matter to you very seriously".

"But in the name of God, quench not the Spirit, despise not prophesyings, and let us come to God's house in freedom, ever expecting the power to descend upon us and to have an experience of God and of Christ that will melt us and move us and break us and make us forget ourselves".

So I think for now I will leave evangelical feminism to Wayne Grudem. God has gifted scholars who have the liberty to devote themselves dogmatically to their key concern and I'm grateful for them. For myself I would rather restrain myself from irritating and offending evangelical feminists by writing and instead seek to demonstrate the joy, power and life in truth by living as a truly Christ-obsessed man doing what Christ told me to do and loving as Christ told me to love. Maybe if we stopped talking and starting living then people might start taking notice.

After all I can't change people's minds - neither can Wayne Grudem for that matter. But what I can take notice of is my expectation of God and the Spirit when I come to church. And I can pray and plead for a "coming down" of the Spirit where I live. That will make people sit up and take notice! Life! Isn't it the Holy Spirit who can change people's minds?

So back to where I started: oh for a drenching of the Spirit! Let the tidal wave arrive soon! Dr Lloyd-Jones said once that revival was the only hope for the Christian church. I think it is still the only hope.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Possibly the Oldest Sermon Tape of Dr Ern Baxter Around?!

I am so blessed to have met another new friend - a guy called Jeff from Canada. We have begun emailing and share the same passion to not allow the ministry of Dr Ern Baxter to die. He has managed to obtain and has sent me a sermon of Ern Baxter's from October 1952! Ern was preaching on the William Branham crusade in Canada. I haven't yet heard it - but I intend to transcribe it and make it available in audio format as this to me is an exciting rare find! Watch this space ...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Is Worship Truly Worship If Your Heart Isn't Stirred? ...

Again apologies for the rare entries. This is due to the continued lack of internet connection at home - although this should be ending soon. I have recently signed a contract with Orange broadband and am moving into the realm of wireless! Blogs from the bath ... there's a new one. However this time has been useful to remind me that blogging on this site is something I do - it isn't who I am.

I had an incredibly interesting and stimulating coffee this morning with a friend. The question that was the object of our discussion was: "Is worship truly worship if your heart isn't stirred?". The context of this question was that we were asking questions as to why the church my friend attends doesn't see much in the way of spiritual gifts shared in the corporate body (although theoretically the gifts of the Spirit are welcome). Our discussion ranged back to the early charismatic days of the 1970's and we wondered why women generally took the lead in bringing tongues, interpretations, prophecies and words of knowledge and men hung back. We asked the question: "How do you know the Holy Spirit is truly actively present in the church if you don't see spiritual gifts being brought?". (By the way lest anyone think that I am of the opinion that the Holy Spirit only really came down to the church post-Azusa Street, I have been fascinated to read this paper by Sam Storms showing how spiritual gifts have never been truly absent from the church). Which is how we got onto the whole exhilarating topic of worship.
Dr Sam Storms wrote; "We must be careful lest we become so infatuated with the internal experience of nearness to God that we forget the external work of the cross on which it is ultimately based". I am not sure if that is the imminent danger in some of the churches that I am connected with. I fear that we have become so concerned with the eternal foundation of the Cross that we are in danger of despising the potential of the internal experience of nearness to God. Is this just as dangerous a situation in which to be in as the one that Sam Storms warns of? Is cerebral coldness (Dr Lloyd-Jones called it 'dead orthodoxy') just as dangerous a place to be as charismatic excess? I suspect it is. How much do even charismatics today know of the place in which the Psalmist could cry out; "As the deer pants for the water so my soul LONGS for you?".
Or do we leave the church semi-satisfied because even though the Presence of God was not tangibly evident during the worship - still the sermon was quite good and we filled another few notebook pages?
My friend and I didn't really answer the questions we posed ourselves. I could do no better than to recall the outstanding sermon on worship that Greg Haslam preached at Christchurch, London when Scott and I went to visit. He taught so powerfully that worship actually isn't really worship unless it costs something expensive. I asked myself then, "What has my worship ever really cost me?".
The thing to rejoice in however comes from Rob Rufus's reminder at "Together on a Mission 2006". He said; "The empty Cross and the empty Tomb are the generators of power today!". In other words the resurrection of Christ made the coming and residing of the Holy Spirit possible. Let's never ever take Him for granted! He is present where He is welcome and allowed to move. Are we ready for God to come down during our time together on Sunday? Are we ready to hear Him speak? To act? To move as He will? Are we ready for the turning of the tide? Are we prepared to turn our planned agenda for the worship over to Him? Are we prepared to relinquish control to Him (because after all it's His decent order we are commanded to ensure!)? I'm so impatient for God. I remember Terry Virgo saying: "I HATE CHURCH THAT ISN'T CHURCH!". In other words - if the Holy Spirit isn't tangibly present, is it really church we are doing? Or is it a social club with nice lunches and friendly chats?
I don't know when I will next be able to post a blog so here are some links to previous posts that are relevant to what's been on my mind today. Like my dear friend Sheila - you can do some catching up!
"Our Message is this: The Dead are Being Raised!" - in this post I argued that an exclusive focus on the Cross to the neglect of the Resurrection robs us of power in our Christian life. "If Christ had not been raised ... our faith would be in vain!".
"The Great Work is Done!" - this prophecy of Terry Virgo's at Brighton 2003 is the most all-encompassing definition of the Gospel that I have ever heard. Christ died - yes. But He has been raised! He has ascended on high and has been enthroned and crowned with glory and honour! Therefore ... we must go to the nations. Distant shores and the islands will see our light!
"A Discourse between Bishop Earl Paulk and Dr Ern Baxter" - a transcript I did of a discussion concerning the "Neglect of Resurrection". Ern Baxter argued that there is no "functional dynamic in the Cross ... the bottom line of Christianity ... is the outpoured Holy Spirit".
"What is wrong with the Christian Church today?" - Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones gave his answer as to what is still wrong with us as a body of believers. We have got our understanding of the baptism of the Holy Spirit wrong.
Until next time! xx