Wednesday, January 31, 2007
While I was booking this sentence on the Newfrontiers website caught my eye. "Brighton is ... where Hudson Taylor resolved to pioneer into inland China". There is something about Brighton. It is incredibly exciting to consider this! Did Hudson Taylor ever dream that when he left the walk on Brighton beach he would be heading resolutely on a one-way trip to China? When the Holy Spirit is allowed to do what He will - then who can tell what will result from this potentially world-changing conference?
Thursday, January 25, 2007
But I must confess that I finished the two books and found myself wondering what Grudem has achieved by writing and publishing the amount of books he has on this topic and whether I understand the topic any better for spending money and time on reading all his books (and they aren't cheap or short). Would we spend our time and money better by focusing on what Jul perceives to be the greatest threat to the church? That of "pharisaical arrogance and legalism"? What I am trying to establish in my mind is what exactly has been accomplished (other than more royalties for Dr Grudem) in the publishing of yet more books on evangelical feminism into what Puritan Thomas Brookes called an already saturated Christian market?
I think some useful things have been achieved (although not resolved by any means).
1. Wayne Grudem Brings the Subject of Homosexuality To the Table of Discussion.
Traditionally evangelicals have avoided this subject like the plague. "The sin which must not be named". I think Mark Heath might be right although perhaps a little over-generous in saying; "Personally I have never come across an evangelical church that does not claim to want to be welcoming or loving to the homosexual" but is indeed accurate in writing; "they will all make clear that they do not believe practising a homosexual lifestyle is compatible with a Christian confession". In my experience most church leaders tend to turn pale and sweaty at best, and will react with homophobic control at worst when confronted with an individual who confesses they are struggling with homosexuality. Surely here is the attractive nature of the Emerging Church who; "are determined not to be homophobic, which they view evangelicals as being".
But what does Wayne Grudem have to say on this issue in his two books?
Unfortunately not much. To be fair it is not his topic of discussion in the main but it most definately plays a part in his thinking for; "The approval of homosexuality is the final step along the path to liberalism." What does trouble me however is how Grudem links the incident of Judy Brown with egalitarianism. For an academic who's logic and brilliant mind is famous, this seems bizarre at best. Grudem wrote;
"What happened to Judy Brown? I expect that she probably had a deep love for God and a strong spiritual gift of Bible teaching. If she had continued to use this gift within the bounds of Scripture and decided she would teach the Bible only to women, she likely would have had a remarkable fruitful ministry with much blessing from God ... But she stepped outside the bounds of appropriate women's ministry as described in Scripture ... and then it appears that God simply withdrew His blessing and withdrew His hand of protection from her life. She tragically lost the ability to make wise judgements and disastrous consequences followed".
Then Grudem seems to realise that the obvious question poses itself - what then of the hundreds of male pastor spiritual casualities? Again his explanation begs examination;
"I agree that many male pastors have also fallen into serious sin ... but in their cases the reason cannot be that the Bible forbids men to become pastors! Surely nobody would argue that".
Erm ... maybe evangelical feminists would?
Grudem does nothing to use his considerable skills in influencing the many churches who admire him to become more adept at dealing with honestly struggling homosexual people within their ranks. He simply presents it as "the end of the road of liberalism". I fear that the attitude to homosexual people will continue to diversify with worsening negative attitudes in complimentarian evangelical churches and more liberal, welcoming attitudes in emerging egalitarian churches. Are there no churches who will truly "love the sinner but hate the sin"?
It is interesting that God asked Rob Rufus why He should pour out blessing upon his church when their attitude was so poor to "the unlovely". The Lord then told Rob and his church to go out and bring in the prostitutes, the drug addicts and the homosexuals and welcome them - then the blessing would come. They did - and It did. Maybe we should consider doing the same for fear we miss whatever "new thing" God may be doing.
2. Wayne Grudem Brings Respectful Debate to the Table of Discussion.
I did appreciate and learn from the fact that Grudem is clearly aware he is waging theological war and yet remains polite throughout. Al Mohler wrote;
"In considering the arguments put forth by evangelical feminists, Grudem is careful to avoid ad hominem attacks on egalitarian scholars and spokespersons. Instead, he considers each of their arguments with considerable scholarly care and attention, drawing the logical conclusions from the methodological assumptions the egalitarian scholars embrace".
While I do wonder what has been achieved by yet two more books on this subject, I do deeply appreciate the desire to "exhaust" theological issues. This was something that I adored in the great Puritan John Owen. John Piper wrote;
"We cannot properly estimate the blessing of soaking our minds in the Bible-saturated thinking of the likes of John Owen. What he was able to see in the Bible and preserve for us in writing is simply magnificent. It is so sad - a traversty I want to say - how many Christian leaders of our day do not strive to penetrate the wisdom of John Owen but instead read books and magazines that are superficial in their grasp of the Bible".
I have little doubt that Wayne Grudem will still be remembered centuries on as a similar Bible-saturated thinker. These men are just men but we surely do not wish to "dishonour God by not gladly receiving and appropriating the gifts He has given us".
3. Finally Wayne Grudem Brings the Question as to What Is and Is Not of Primary Importance to the Table of Discussion.
In "Countering the Claims of Evangelical Feminism: Biblical Responses to the Key Questions" Grudem makes reference to the issue of water baptism and admitted it is an important issue in Christian life. Yet in the Together for the Gospel statement it is ommitted presumably due to the presence of paedobaptists within their "discussion". Whether it is or whether it is not will never be decided here but it does seem that again and again debates rise and fall around whether it is "central to the gospel".
Grudem leaves us with no doubt whatsoever that he believes the issue of manhood and womanhood is vitally central. At the end of "Evangelical Feminism" he writes persuasively;
"Which will we choose? Will we follow faithfully in the path of life-long obedience to all the teachings of the Word of God, believing that is the only path to true blessing? Or will we turn aside to evangelical feminism and be led step by step down the path to liberalism and to an ever-increasing denial of the authority of the Word of God?".
Once again no middle ground is allowed. Grudem rules out various "moderate complimentarian" positions that I have heard of such as women preaching "under the authority of male pastors" (he asks "Does a pastor's authority trump Scripture?), women preaching at seminars and he rejects modern prophecies that are proclaiming a release of women preaching ministry.
Wayne Grudem - a Bridge-Builder?
I must admit to finishing these two books and not enjoying them particularly. They left me feeling unsettled and worried about the fact that I am not quite as radical a complementarian as Grudem would have us, and concerned about why that is so. Will Grudem's prolific writings on this matter change the minds of egalitarian feminists? I doubt it. Will his writings harden the views of his supporters? Most probably.
Suzanne McCarthy makes two statements that deserve thought; "My purpose is to show that Dr. Grudem makes public statements without any conscience about whether they are true or not. If authority is about being male rather than about telling the truth, I am simply not interested". I am not totally convinced about the first statement but Grudem did write a concerning passage about Aimee Semple McPherson where he seemed to follow the newspaper lines about her life. I have heard Dr Jack Hayford, the President of Foursquare, lecture on Mrs McPherson and he proved to my mind that the rumours against her were false. I would have thought that a scholar of Dr Grudem's stature would not take serious rumours like this without investigating them and certainly not state them in print simply because she was a woman preacher.
Secondly the statement about authority because of gender was an issue that I was affected by in "Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy". Does the Bible give us permission to bestow authority simply because of gender? Gordon Fee argues definately not but rather anointing of the Spirit. These issues have to be discussed partly because Wayne Grudem insists that they be discussed. I'd rather write about revival, the Holy Spirit or worship anyday. I guess we will wait and see what comes of the fall out of the publishing of these two books. I remain "open but cautious" and I never thought I'd say that.
Anyway so here they are ... you SGM fans ... drop me an email who's interested and first come first served. "Freely you have received - freely give". Well I didn't get them for free. I just brought them all in a fit of zealous passion when I first came to Bristol, but I'm giving them away for free. Just cover postage for me. Enjoy! (PS: There are a few odd Joshua Harris ones thrown in as well so they are all Mr Mahaney unless otherwise marked).
1. "The Main Thing" - Part 1 - Audiotape.
2. "The Main Thing" - Part 2 - Audiotape.
Celebration Mid-South 2004. (If you're wondering why this seems a bit short Terry Virgo was the guest speaker at this conference but I've kept those CD's).
3. "Filled with the Holy Spirit and Power" - Brent Detweiler - CD.
4. "The Suffering Servant" - CD.
5. "Sovereign Grace" - CD.
6. "Mission Presentation" - CD.
7. "Another Gospel?" - Part 1 - Audiotape.
8. "Another Gospel?" - Part 2- Audiotape.
9. "Another Gospel?" - Part 3 - Audiotape.
10. "Another Gospel?" - Part 4 - Audiotape.
A Passion for the Church.
11. "Loving the Church" - Audiotape.
12. "Living for that Final Day" - Audiotape.
13. "Maintaining the Unity of the Spirit" - Audiotape.
14. "All for the glory of God" - Audiotape.
15. "Purpose of Spiritual Gifts" - Audiotape.
16. "Our Most Urgent Need" - Audiotape.
17. "Why We Gather Corporately" - Audiotape.
18. "Growing Together in Small Groups" - Audiotape.
19. "Transcending Our Differences" - Audiotape.
20. "What Fellowship Is ... And Isn't" - Audiotape.
21. "Committed to Making a Difference" - Audiotape.
Stoneleigh Bible Week 2000 (Newfrontiers).
22. "All Gifts from God" - (main session) - Audiotape.
23. "In light of the Lord's Return" - (main session) - Audiotape.
24. "Grace vs Legalism" - (seminar) - Audiotape.
25. "Unity" - (seminar) - Audiotape.
Suffering and Sovereignity Series.
26. "Part 1".
27. "Part 2".
28. "Part 3".
29. "Part 4".
Individual Messages - All Audiotapes.
30. "A Call to Prayer".
31. "A Passion for Unity".
32. "How Often Do I Forgive?".
33. "All Gifts from God" - Celebration 2000.
34. "Mortifying Pride - Growing in Humility".
35. "Easter Message".
36. "Forgiven Much".
37. "Mark 5:1-20".
38. "Daniel in Babylon" - at New Attitude 2000.
39. "Mother's Day Message".
40. "Worship and the Cross" - Worship Conference 1999.
41. "Celebrating the Gospel" - Celebration 2000.
42. "Cross: Legalism to Grace" - New Attitude 1999.
43. "Worship in Spirit and in Truth" - Worship Conference 1999.
44. "A Day in the life of Jesus Christ".
45. "Husband's Responsibilities".
46. "Grace and the Adventure of Leadership" - at Bethlehem Conference for Pastors 1999.
47. "Panel Discussion" - J M Boice, John Piper, C J Mahaney and David Bryant.
48. "The Cross: Irresistably Drawn".
Joshua Harris Messages.
49. "Free to Be Holy".
50. "Passion for the Church" - at New Attitude 1999.
51. "Passioned Orthodoxy" - at New Attitude 1999.
Celebration UK 2000.
Box set containing eight messages including C J Mahaney, Bob Kauflin, Dave Harvey and Peter Greasey.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
"Ditch Diggers Revival" MUST be read! It simply is essential preparation for the People of God in hoping and waiting that He will come down! I have therefore posted the whole transcript here. You have no excuses now!
In the same vein, I am so grateful that Luke Wood made mention of Terry Virgo's latest sermon that he preached at Church of Christ the King in Brighton. Terry's text was from Exodus 4 and it was about the vital place of "leaving the past behind". I was so utterly challenged by the following quote that Luke made available for us:
"Sometimes people carry a lot of pain, and I want to encourage you... will you let go of it? Don't carry pain; don't carry unforgiveness. Because sometimes we feel we've got the upper hand; if we won't forgive we feel like we've got power over people. You say "no I won't forgive them, I'm not going to let them off, I'm not going to let go."You [should] say, "No, I freely forgive."Will you do it? It's a choice, you know. The Godly life has a lot to do with making good choices, not only in places you go and what you do with your money, but choices about attitude, forgiving people, letting them off the hook, not carrying it with you through your life... are you still carrying unforgiveness towards anybody? Are you going to carry it through this year as well? I want to appeal to you... let's deal with it."
The sermon I heard by John Hosier recently strongly condemned the error of waiting passively for revival. Here from Terry and from Ern are key ways in which the People of God can ensure that we do not simply wait in hope "gazing into heaven" but are about our Mission - constantly in prayer!
Next Blog Post!: In line with my "Get Your House in Order" resolve, I am getting rid of a lot of audiotapes that could be of more use to others than to me. I have a box full of C J Mahaney tapes that I will catalogue and post so keep your eyes peeled. First come - first served!
Friday, January 19, 2007
"Unless we are favoured with frequent revivals and a strong powerful work of the Spirit of God, we shall in great degree degenerate, and have only a name to live; religion will soon lose it's vigour; the ministry will hardly retain it's lustre and iniquity will consequently about" - Thomas Charles, Bala, North Wales - December 1791.
When have we ever experienced anything like this account of the revival under Duncan Campbell in Lewis (1949)?
"At midnight Campbell turned to the local blacksmith ... the man prayed for about half an hour and drew his prayer to a close with a bold challenge; "God do You not know that Your honour is at stake? You promised to pour floods on dry ground and You are not doing it ... God, Your honour is at stake and I challenge You to keep Your covenant engagements". At that moment ... the whole granite house shook like a leaf ... they went outside. It was about two o'clock in the morning and they found the whole village alive, 'ablaze with God'. Men and women were carrying chairs and asking if there was room in the church for them!".
It is about time that we reconciled in our minds that while God is omnipresent and promised that He "would never leave you or forsake you" in revival the Spirit of God "comes down" in an unusual but desperately needed fashion.
My friend Pete shared with me that he felt strongly that part of the call to publish Ern Baxter's ministry would include appropriate "re-publishing". I have posted this sermon; "Sovereign Surprises" before but I feel I must re-highlight it. Ern Baxter preached it at my home church - New Covenant Church in Dunstable after one of the Bible Weeks he came to speak at. It was an awesome sermon packed full of accounts in the Word of God where God "came down" again and again. Here are the links. I have split it into 3 parts so it is not too much to read in one sitting. I put a few "taster" quotes to get your mouth watering;
- Part 1 - "We are the People of God! We are the new nation! We are the leavening agent! We are the light of the world – the salt of the earth! We are the people! Now in the light of that – look at yourself in the mirror and drop dead!".
- Part 2 - "I will suggest this morning that you and I are much more bound by circumstances than we are by revelation. We determine our tomorrows in terms on what’s going on rather than what God has said".
- Part 3 - "All I’m asking you this morning to do is open your heart to expect God to do something else that is going to be of such a nature as you hadn’t thought about before. How many would have believed the Pentecostal visitation at the turn of the century? How many would have believed the Charismatic visitation? In our own century we have had such divine manifestation that is unprecedented and exciting. God is not dead! He’s alive! If there’s any charge of death, it belongs here. We are dull of hearing. We are unexciting! We are unresponsive to the divine activity".
But oh! Rend the heavens and come down! Visit this vine which Thou hast planted! This is Your people Lord! You said you’d prune and visit and water them! You said you’d make them flourish and make them grow! And God we want to open our hearts to that element of surprise that has characterised You from that moment when You spoke worlds into existence right down to the time when you incarnated Yourself in the virgin womb of a peasant girl! Right down to that time when You came into our lives with such an impact of Your glory that we didn’t expect. Do it again Lord! Do it again!
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Some of the more up to date writing of my own has been put there and I have removed links that I feel are less than godly. Looking back and reviewing gives you the opportunity to reflect in objectivity and quite honestly I have been horrified at some of the things I wrote in anger. I've deleted what I thought God just wasn't pleased with. If revival is indeed coming like a cloud on the horizon then I can't allow myself to hold on to any bitterness for any reason. I wrote publicly and I ask forgiveness publicly. David Devenish wrote that anger is a deceitful stronghold. It makes you think that you are strong ... and it lies. Far better to admit you are hurt and be honest.
1. Regarding yesterdays post, I found a quote of Terry Virgo's again on the vital importance of Apostles and Prophets; "That is what the Church needs. It needs ordinary church members flooded with prophetic vision about the vital role of the church of God in the modern world, apostolically inspired, prophetically invisioned, grabbed and captivated by their understanding of what the church of God is... It takes apostolic and prophetic ministry to release people from regarding the church as a static pastoral community and to transform it into those who are charged with world mission". Amen! And "we don't need them" John MacArthur?
2. On the back of that, a prophet from CCK, Brighton writes of the power of the prophetic word spoken in season; "It would have taken months of counselling to do what God just did in a few moments!’ God is amazing! A few words, at the right time said in the right way can alter a destiny in God!". It's so awesomely true!
3. Community Church, Southampton leader Billy Kennedy writes; "Next Tuesday, I'm spending a couple of days with Terry Virgo. Terry pulls together a group of leaders from the UK once a year for fellowship and prayer. He asked if I would like to be included". Those leaders seem to be THE charismatic church leaders in the UK. They include Nicky Gumbel, Stuart Bell, David Carr, Dave Devenish, Greg Haslam, John Mumford, Dave Richards, Mark Stibbe and David Stroud. I'm so utterly thrilled to know that this is happening. Once again Greg Haslam's prophecy seems to be coming true and other filings are being added into the crucible with us. It would be so easy for Terry to remain devoted inside the Newfrontiers circles spending all his time exclusively with Newfrontiers leaders around the world. Yet Terry shows again and again that his heart is so welcoming and wide to the broader Christian church. I'd love to be a fly on the wall and hear what goes on! May God use this unity and truly pour out His blessing upon it.
4. "A Gospel Primer For Christians" by Milton Vincent. This is a 40 page booklet recommended by Mrs Mahaney. "All Christians should become expert in their knowledge and use of the gospel ... so they can speak it to themselves every day and experience it's benefits".
5. Bluefish writes; "God's people gathered by the cross are a scattered people. We have no 'land' ... and the land we seek is eternal rest". While we do indeed look forward to eternal rest, I am not sure that "the land" is the correct word to use for it.
C H Spurgeon wrote; "It has been generally considered ... that Canaan is a fitting representation of heaven ... but we do think that the allegory does not hold, and that Jordan is not a fair exhibition of death, nor the land of Canaan a fair picture of the sweet land beyond the swelling flood which the Christian gains after death. For mark you, after the children of Israel had entered into Canaan, they had to fight with their enemies. It was a land filled with foes. Every city they entered they had to take by storm, unless a miracle dismantled it ... Heaven is a place already prepared for us; out of it the evil ones have long ago been driven; there brethren shall await us with pleasing faces, kind hands shall clasp ours, and loving words shall alone be heard."
6. And finally Joel Gill begins 2007 in a similar vein but verbally more proficient than I; "The Kingdom of God is a place of excellence, it is not a place of second best, of half measures, or of incomplete promises. Let's refuse to settle for anything other than the fullness of all that God's promised us, let's be continually overflowing with His Spirit. Let's raise our faith, raise our sight, raise our expectancy and dream big dreams". Amen!
Terry Virgo wrote; "This is what makes God's people unique - His presence goes with us".
The title of this blog was taken from a conference that Mark Stibbe arranged and invited Terry Virgo to. Terry admitted that of course there is nothing admirable in being purpose-less and drifting without intent but he asked are we in too great a hurry to wait for His Presence to fall upon us by the Holy Spirit? Terry wrote;
"Let's not simply believe in the great objective truth of God's omnipresence, let's also take advantage of the fact with a sense of wonder that when we gather in His name, the Holy Spirit wants to make manifest the reality of His presence. How much more would happen in our gatherings if we did! Not just purpose, but presence! Not just music, but presence. Not just routine or rush, but presence. Get an appetite for the presence of God! When we plant a church and gather in His name, His presence comes with us. Because you gather in His name, God's presence comes to town in a unique way".
I wrote a few days ago that in revival the one universal thing that is restored to the Church is the manifest Presence of God. But do we have to wait for revival to come to enjoy once again the Presence of God? Look at just a few of the wondrous benefits of God's Presence being with us!
(Exodus 33:14 NKJV) And He said, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."
(Psalms 16:11 NKJV) - "In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore".
I have been extremely interested in two comments made over the last few days concerning the vital place of the Ephesians 4 Ministries especially the Apostle and Prophet. A comment was left on this blog and the gentleman voiced the concern that we should not be seeing academics becoming the guiding forces in our churches but rather the Ephesians 4 Ministries. In his powerful prophecy Greg Haslam saw the Ephesians 4 Ministries as being a "catalytic agent" to the Church moving forward into a new era of treasuring the Presence of God and truly seeing Ephesians 2:20 come to pass.
So why are Apostles and Prophets better placed to guide the Church of Jesus Christ into receptiveness to the Presence of God, rather than academic theologians?
1. Immediate Revelation Rather Than Studied Concepts.
I actually have John MacArthur to thank for this thought although I am sure he would not thank me for it. After all in the same sermon he said, "We don't need Apostles today because we already have doctrine". Don't need? Don't need??! MacArthur's bolder than I am. I'm not sure I would like to be in the position of telling the ascended Christ that we "don't need" His gifts! But much thanks to him anyhow for helping me with this.
In the sermon MacArthur spoke of the root meaning to the word "Apostle" - it means "Sent One". The suggestion is that there is a direct anointing for a direct task. Just as similarly with prophets, MacArthur emphasises that they had three functions; they remained in a local ministry, they spoke revelation from God and they taught apostle's doctrine. The emphasis is on the immediate, the "Now" and it is clear that the apostles and prophets called to the ministry must depend on God. They cannot depend on scholarship or degrees.
Please understand I am not against scholarship or degrees. My friend Pete and I are soon to embark on Masters Degrees in theology! What I am trying to examine is the fact that scholarship and degrees are worthless if they do not lead us into a deeper communion with the risen Lord whom is the object and desire of our studies and while there are many theologians such as D A Carson, Gordon Fee and John Piper who would do exactly that, I think it is the apostles and prophets who are best placed to guide the Church into openness to the Presence of God because they have been anointed for exactly that task.
2. Mission to the Nations Rather Than Studying Orthodoxy.
Once again let me make it clear that I am not trying to dispatch with studying orthodoxy! It is a vital call that the Bible makes clear we are all called to do. Paul said we must "prove all things" in one case. David Holden wrote; "Doctrine ... vital though they are, will not of themselves produce mobility". But this question remains to be answered: is it academic theologians or Ephesians 4 Ministries who are best placed to lead the Church into being "Presence Shaped" and thus mission orientated? Before I answer this, how can I presume the immediate link between the Presence of God and mission. To begin with the restoration of the baptism of the Holy Spirit during the Charismatic Movement was a very personal thing for personal blessing. But with men like Arthur Wallis, Bryn Jones and Ern Baxter about it became evident that the coming of the Holy Spirit was for a purpose - to enable us and empower us to go to the ends of the earth. David Holden wrote; "From Pentecost to the return of Jesus, the church is never called to slow down, to become static or settled in this age". And I think it is clear that it is the Ephesians 4 Ministries rather than academics who are best placed to do this.
On Apostles, David Holden wrote; "Apostles ask questions and challenge you as a local eldership about expansion and making a greater impact on your locality, catching you and your church up on a mission to reach the nations. They are not there just to meet your church needs but also to provoke you to ask ‘where next?'".
On Prophets, he wrote; "The prophetic never sits comfortably with something that is static ... Prophets exercising their ministry into something static can become very frustrated. We may lack the prophetic in the church today because we are static, but when the church gets more mobile the prophetic will come to the fore".
Let me say again how vital academics are and how grateful I am for the books they have written and researched that sit in our libraries. But what concerns me is that their writings do not replace the call of the Holy Spirit communicated through Ephesians 4 Ministries to lead us and guide us into 2007. Jonathan Edwards the great Puritan wrote that it is the job of all to find out which direction the Holy Spirit is moving in and move with Him. Let us allow academics to do their job and defend the orthodoxy of aspects of the whole counsel of God to serve us. But let us pray for those in authority over us that they may lead us truly hearing from the Holy Spirit and opening us up and making us receptive to His "coming upon" us as we meet to worship God.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
The whole matter of prayer and revival are unquestionably linked. I have been listening to a seminar by John Hosier from Stoneleigh 2001 on "God's Passion for Revival" and have been so challenged by the concept of "giving God no rest". What do we know of true intercession, of fasting 40 days and 40 nights, of weeping like Praying Hyde before God until the ground before us is soaked? I found the following article in the Ern Baxter Archive - it is taken from "Tabernacle Tidings" - the magazine that Ern's church (the Evangelistic Tabernacle) produced in Vancouver, Canada. He wrote it on November 25th 1956. It may even be offensive to some but I pray that we will open our hearts to be challenged by it. The Church is nothing if we are not a praying church and we need more than anything else to pray.
I particularly like the slogan of Ern's church; "Where the Word of God is Not Bound!".
Before I post the transcript, be sure to visit "The Spirit of God!" blog - I have just typed up Greg Haslam's awesome prophecy that he brought to the Brighton Leadership Conference 2003. It is another prophecy that truly is coming to pass in these exciting days!
Corner Tenth Avenue and Quebec Street
Dr W J Ern Baxter, Pastor.
“Where the Word of God is Not Bound”.
November 25th - 1956
“Our Great Lack”.
Last Tuesday evening in the prayer meeting, Bro. Len Hearn read a prayer letter from Dr Gurney, Director of the Red Sea Mission Team. It was a splendid article and we had hoped to put it in the bulletin but Bro. Hearn took it with him on his trip. We feel constrained however, to speak of prayer, as this article only confirmed what many of us are feeling and what all of us should subscribe to.
Let us start by saying that many of us are almost altogether prayerless. Apart from saying grace at our meals, we spend very little time, if any, before God in private prayer. Many of us, furthermore, not only neglect private prayer but do not take our place in any of the church meetings called for prayer. Prayer is an indication of Christian genuineness or a “token of election” as the old divines would refer to it. To be prayerless is to raise serious doubts as to genuine Christian conversion. Actually a prayerless Christian is a spiritual freak.
In reading the Scriptures, it is evident from beginning to end that prayer is the medium of contact and fellowship with God. It arises out of man’s awareness of God’s existence and God’s availability. Not to pray is, in substance, either to indulge a practical atheism or what is maybe worse, to ignore the Presence of God in His own universe.
Our Lord made it clear in His own words to the disciples in the Upper Room that prayer was to be, along with faith and love and the Holy Spirit one of the great characteristics of the new age. By it, the will of God was to be accomplished. Men would ask the Father for things in the Name of Jesus and the things for which they would ask would be “according to His will” and so God’s will would be done – through prayer!
Coming into the new day, we find a people in the attitude of prayer and praise being the first recipients of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14). Of the first body of spirit-filled believers it is said that “they continued …steadfastly … in prayers” (Acts 2:42). The first persecution of the Christians precipitated a great Church-wide prayer meeting where the company of believers “lifted up their voice to God with one accord” (Acts 4:24). Prayer was partially responsible for the formation of the first deacon’s board, as the apostles, finding that they could not take care of all the church work, urged the choosing of seven men to take care of the business, that they might “give themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4). Nor were these first deacons committed to their job in any secular spirit but were considered as part of a spiritual economy, for they were “set before the apostles and when they had prayer, they laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:6). All through the Acts of the Apostles, which is the only authentic history of the early Church which we have, we can trace the preminent place and the great importance of prayer.
Coming into the Epistles, which were letters from the apostles to churches composed of born-again and established believers, we find the same emphasis on prayer. Prayer is not the practice of spiritual immaturity but it is the very life attitude of a committed believer. A Christian, according to Paul, is “praying always with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18).
In light of this very sketchy and incomplete picture of the importance of prayer as seen in the New Testament, I think it must be admitted that we can quickly identify the “Great Lack” in our individual lives and in our corporate church life. If prayer is important as even these few Scriptures indicate, and I am doing so little of it, then it is not necessary to look further for the cause of spiritual powerlessness, law standards of Christian life and the many other evident deficiencies of our present-day Christian community.
What shall we do about this matter? The answer is simple. Let us set aside regular times for prayer. Then let us form the habit about praying for everything. We will not be able to affect prayer posture at all times, but the posture is not always important. Let us become interested in the need of prayer in the church. Let us find time for the prayer meeting. Let us be prepared to “labour fervently in prayer”. To stay away from the prayer meeting because of its demands on the flesh is an indication that we have not seen prayer as a work to be done. By this, we do not mean that prayer is not a joy. It is. But there are times when it is labour. If we are only going to interest ourselves in these aspects of the Christian life which are easy on the flesh, and bring a certain amount of sense-joy, it will soon disintegrate into a chronic carnality.
Let us pray more – privately, with our families, in fellowship groups and church prayer meetings realising that prayer is a vital force ordained by God to be the medium for the accomplishment of His will on earth. God forbid that we should hinder the doing of the will of God because of our personal prayerlessness.
W J E B.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
"Battling Belief: Defeating Sin with Superior Pleasure" by Dr John Piper.
To be released February 2007!
The book description is as follows; "Conquer Life's Greatest Struggle - You have the faith that first saved you. But now you struggle to apply that faith in everyday circumstances. You are battling unbelief , fighting lies with the purifying power of God's truth. Popular pastor and bestselling author John Piper will equip you to live by faith in future grace and demolish the struggles that stem from anxiety, pride, impatience, bitterness, lust, and more".
"Pauline Christology - An Exegetical-Theological Study" by Professor Gordon Fee.
To be released January 2007!
The description of this book contains a word that makes my mouth water; "Exhaust". It says this; "An exhaustive study of Pauline Christology by noted Pauline scholar, Gordon Fee. The author provides a detailed analysis of the letters of Paul (including those whose authorship is questioned) individually, exploring the Christology of each one, and then attempts a synthesis of the exegetical work into a biblical Christology of Paul".
Here is an extract from Prof Fee's introduction: "Anyone who has read even a smattering of Paul's writings recognizes early on that his devotion to Christ was the foremost reality and passion of his life. What he said in one of his later letters serves as a kind of motto for his entire Christian life: 'For me to live is Christ; to die is [to] gain [Christ]' (Phil. 1:21). Christ is the beginning and goal of everything for Paul, and thus is the single great reality along the way".
"Believer's Baptism: The Covenant Sign of the New Age in Christ" by Thomas R Schreiner.
The release of this book is particularly encouraging and interesting for me as I have been slightly confused at the intense discussion about the role of women in the Church seeming to be placed as higher importance than the issue of baptism which has been relegated to non-discussion "for the sake of unity". I am glad that this scholarly book is out and look forward to reading it.
The book description is as follows: "Believer's Baptism begins with the belief that believer's baptism (as opposed to infant baptism or other faith proclaiming methods) is the clear teaching of the New Testament. Along the way, the argument is supported by written contributions from Andreas Kostenberger, Robert Stein, Thomas Schreiner, Stephen Wellum, Steve McKinion, Jonathan Rainbow, Shawn Wright, and Mark Dever".
"The Blank Bible" by Jonathan Edwards.
Well I didn't get it for Christmas or my birthday so it remains on my must-have list. A cool 1472 pages of Edwards. How can anyone resist? You never know - I remain in hope that my good friend Luke Wood might get hold of a few copies and offer it at bargain prices over at Newgen Books!I'm always interested in new books so if anyone knows any that should be added to this list then do contact me!
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Monday, January 08, 2007
“Ditch Diggers Revival” by Dr Ern Baxter
at Covenant Church, Mobile Alabama.
New Wine Tape of the Month – March 1981.
“Anything I may say tonight is not intended for a moment to cast any reflection on you as a people but rather it is born in a deep desire to see you move into dimensions of spiritual fulfilment that will only enlarge the goodness of God amongst you. So with the use of a chapter in 2nd Kings I am going to try and bare my heart. 2nd Kings chapter 3;
“Now Jehoram the son of Ahab became king over Israel at Samaria in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah and reigned twelve years. He did evil in the sight of the Lord though not like his father and his mother; for he put away the sacred pillars of Baal which his father had made. Nevertheless he clung to the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin; he did not depart from them. Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheep breeder and used to pay the king of Israel 100, 000 lambs and the wool of 100, 000 rams. But when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. And King Jehoram went out of Samaria at that time and mustered Israel. Then he went and sent word to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah saying, “The king of Moab rebelled against me. Will you go with me to fight against Moab?”. And he said, “I will go up; I am as you are my people as your people, my horses as your horses”.
He said, “Which way shall we go up?”. And he answered, “The way of the wilderness of Edom”. So the king of Israel went with the king of Judah and the king of Edom and they made a circuit of seven days journey and there was no water for the army or for the cattle that followed them. Then the king of Israel said, “Alas! For the Lord has called these three kings to give them into the hands of Moab”. But Jehosaphat said, “Is there not a prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of the Lord by him?”. And one of the kings of Israel’s servants answered and said, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who used to pour water on the hands of Elijah”. Jehosaphat said, “The word of the Lord is with him”. So the king of Israel and Jehosaphat and the king of Edom went down to him. Now Elisha said to the king of Israel, “What do I have to do with you? Go to the prophets of your father and to the prophets of your mother”. And the king of Israel said to him, “No, for the Lord has called these three kings together to give them into the hands of Moab”. Elisha said, “As the Lord of hosts lives before whom I stand, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehosaphat the king of Judah, I would not look at you nor see you. But now bring me a minstrel”. And it came about; when the minstrel played that the hand of the Lord came upon him.
He said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Make this valley full of trenches’. For thus says the Lord, ‘You shall not see not see wind nor shall you see rain yet that valley shall be filled with water so that you shall drink, both you and your cattle and your beasts. This is but a slight thing in the sight of the Lord. He shall also give the Moabites into your hand. Then you shall strike every fortified city and every choice city and fell every good tree and stop all springs of water and mar every good piece of land with stones”.
And it happened in the morning about the time of the offering the sacrifice that behold water came by the way of Edom and the country was filled with water. Now all the Moabites heard that the kings had come up to fight against them. And all who were able to put on armour and older were summoned and stood on the border. They rose early in the morning and the sun shone on the water and the Moabites saw the water opposite them as red as blood. Then they said, “This is blood; the kings have surely fought together, and they have slain one another. Now therefore Moab, to the spoil!”. But when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose and struck the Moabites so that they fled before them; and they went forward into the land, slaughtering the Moabites. Thus they destroyed the cities; and each one threw a stone on every piece of good land and filled it. So they stopped all the springs of water and felled all the good trees until in Kir-hareseth only they left its stones; however the slingers went about it and struck it. When the king of Moab saw that the battle was too fierce for him, he took with him 700 men who drew swords to break through to the king of Edom but he could not. Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place and offered him as a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel and they departed from him and returned to their own land”.
I suppose it’s proper to give a title so I am going to call what I am going to say to you tonight, “The Ditch-Diggers Revival”. I believe that there is something in here that God wants to say to us. I would like us to look together at
1. The Condition of God's People; as we see them in the opening verses of this chapter. Jehoram and Jehosapahat. Both of these names start with “Jeh” which ties them in with the covenant God Jehovah. Jehoram means “Jehovah is high”. Jehosaphat means “Jehovah is Judge”. Jehoram was the son of the notorious Ahab and Jezebel. Jehoram was a little better than his parents but not good enough to please God. He was the king not of the Parasites or the Hittites or the Jebsites – he was the king of the Israelites and it is important to note that. Jehoram was a man who in his background and tradition had Jehovah as his God and he had turned from Jehovah with his parents to Baal and to other idolatrous deities. But he was a man with a Jehovistic background. Jehosaphat was the king of Judah. He was a better man that Jehoram – much better man. He was a man who had set his face to seek the Lord but he was still a man with some glaring weaknesses. He had certain political ambitions that led him to compromise his righteous position by entering into a marriage relationship with Ahab – marrying his son to Ahab’s daughter which eventually he would regret and the whole nation would regret. So Jehoram was the king of Israel – an outright idolater and Jehosaphat while he was a man who owned Jehovah was a man who compromised. The king of Edom who made up this threesome was a satellite kingdom to Judah.
Jehoram had a problem. After the death of his father, the king of Moab who had paid a yearly tax in the form of 100, 000 lambs and the wool of 100, 000 rams rebelled and said he was paying no more taxes. Jehoram upon hearing that went to Samaria – the capital of Israel – and mustered all the men who could bear arms. He sent a message to Jehosaphat the king of Judah and said, ‘Will you go and fight with me against Moab so that I can get my taxes paid’. Jehosaphat responded readily as he had to Jehoram’s father Ahab. He said, “I will. My horses are as your horses; my men are with your men. We will go”. Jehoram then said to Jehosaphat, “Which way shall we go?”. Now the first evidence we have of trouble here is that two men who both know about Jehovah, who have Jehovah in their tradition, in their culture, in their family, in their background are about to launch a military expedition and take it upon themselves to determine how they shall go about it. This is highly improper for men who know God. It is highly improper because no man who knows God ever undertakes any mission but that he first seeks the Lord. It is very highly improper for these kings on top of that because their own Scriptures in the book of Deuteronomy tells them that when they are going to war, a priest must rise up and address the soldiers and encourage them and send them in the Name of Jehovah. Instead of that Jehosaphat who should know better responds to Jehoram’s question about which way they should go and says, ‘Well let’s go up by the wilderness of Edom’. Self-confidence versus God dependence. I imagine they figured it out like most of us do in our moments of carnality. There are three of us and there is only one king of Moab. Three against one – that’s pretty good odds. We ought to be able to handle him. Then I imagine they looked around in satisfaction at the mustered soldiers with their swords and their spears and they looked at their steeds and their regalia and their kingly getup and their underlings and their courtiers and all their attendants. They felt very secure that the three of them taking off to take care of the king of Moab had the whole matter well in hand. No question about it.
So they started out on a project as men who know Jehovah and are covenantally bound to Jehovah without consulting Jehovah. The consequence? The King James has a quaint verse. It says they travelled for seven days and fetched a compass. Now ‘fetched a compass’ is old English for ‘they went in a circle’. I can imagine these three kings starting out on this preordained successful military exploit congratulating one another as they jog along on their white steeds. Their crowns are all shiny and their swords are gleaming and it’s great. They look at the armies behind them and they are off to do in the king of Moab. About the third day Jehoram says to Jehosaphat, “There is something familiar about the terrain”. (*laughter*). Jehosaphat says, “Now that they mention it there is. By George we have been here before”. You see there is a maxim that lost men go in circles. Did you know that? Lost men go in circles. The whole humanist philosophy of history is circular. The Biblical philosophy of history is linear. Humanism goes in circles – they can trace their circles of lostness. They can trace their own cycles of repetition. The people of God are not going in circles – they are going straight ahead for the path of the just growth brighter unto the perfect day. These three kings went in a circle. Their spirits began to flag and their crowns were at rather a strange tilt. The army behind them was starting to drag its feet because they had another problem. They had run out of water. Now I don’t care how big a king you are – if you have got no water you are in trouble. I don’t care how big an army you have got – if you have no water you are in trouble. And especially if you are lost! A lost thirsty man is a tragic picture and can you imagine three illustrious kings lost and thirsty? Their armies dragging along behind them like a multitude of stray dogs?
Now I want to say in general that it has always been a temptation for God’s people to trade on their privileges. It has always been a temptation that because God blessed us with covenant and God blessed us with salvation and God blessed us the gifts of the Spirit and God blessed us with this that we can start to do things on our own. This isn’t a profound lesson but I want to say something to you – you are a people richly blessed. You are a people richly endowed. You are a people whose foundations and roots are in quality Christianity. You are a favoured people. But because you are a favoured people you could run the risk of running on a record and that is a risk we can’t afford. I have had a deep empathetic desire to see us move on into God and experience dimensions of God’s visitation and power and Presence which will fill us with an abundance of God’s wonderful water so that we will be equipped unto every good work so that not for a moment will we settle on our record or our accomplishments or settle on our illustrious foundations but that we will press on into God and not run the risk of calling a war council and saying to one another, “Which way shall we go up?”. I think if there is anything I have appreciated since I have come here it is the fact that there is clear cut leadership and clear cut definition of leadership but I have never since a more realistic relational plurality than I have seen here. I hold Brother Charles Simpson in high esteem. My esteem has only appreciated since I have watched him moving in the responsibility of his leadership but in the humility of council and I promise you that where that exists you have reduced the possibility of error to a minimum. Jehoram and Jehosaphat made the mistake of trading on their covenantal names and the fact that they were the kings of Judah and Israel respectively and somehow that released them from having to seek God as to how they should go up to Moab. God said, “Alright men if that’s the way you want it, I will withdraw My Presence and My guidance – you are on your own. That’s the way you wanted it. One of you said to the other, ‘Which way shall we go up?’ and the other said, ‘Well let’s go this way’ and the other agreed and away you went. Now away you go”. I say to you tonight God never let us say to each other, “Which way shall we go?”. God never allowed us the questionable luxury of determining our own future but may we in our leadership and in our pastoral oversight and in our counsels and our flocks and our associations – may we always be conscious that the word of the apostle James rests heavy upon us;
“Go to now ye that say today or tomorrow we shall go into such a city and buy and sell and get gain for you know not what a day shall bring forth. Rather you should say, God willing we shall do this or that”.
There is an abundance of God’s guidance! The one thing He has promised is wisdom! He said, “Ask largely – ask often! It doesn’t matter how often you come to ask – I will never scold you. Stand there and ask perennially – I don’t care! I will give you wisdom!”. What is wisdom? Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge and I want to know how to live and how to act, where to go and what to do. And God has promised that we don’t have to have a war counsel and depend on a consensus but that we can depend on a supernatural direction.
Well they were lost. They were out of water. And they did what so many of us have done and they blamed God. Jehoram said, “God has brought us here to deliver us into the hands of Moab”. Just a minute Jehoram! God didn’t bring you here. Getting lost was your idea. God didn’t bring you here. Running out of water was your idea! You never consulted God and now you want to blame Him. Don’t blame Him for something that happened when you didn’t consult Him about your direction. While Jehoram is full of despair and has nothing to say, Jehosaphat speaks up. Jehosaphat says, “Is there not a prophet of the Lord here somewhere?”. Now Jehosaphat had a hint of the right direction. Jehoram didn’t have a notion. He said, “Is there a prophet of the Lord around”. He was careful to qualify the kind of prophet he wanted. He didn’t want a prophet of Baal or Ashtoreth – he wanted a prophet of Jehovah. “Is there a prophet of the Lord around?”. You know all things are working together for good. God has got something arranged – there is always something ready. There just happened to be a soldier who just happened to know that Elijah just happened to be somewhere around. So he stepped up and said, “Yes there is a prophet – he isn’t too well known. In fact his reputation is that he poured water on the hands of another prophet. But he has succeeded him. He is just a young fellow just getting started in his ministry but he is here. His name is Elisha”. I believe that Elisha was providentially present and I want to tell you something else I believe. I believe that God’s mercy is so abundant that even when you and I pull boners like Jehoram and especially Jehosaphat I believe God has all kinds of gracious means around to meet our situations. I believe that there are prophets around and angels around – I believe that there are visitors of God around. I believe that there are situations that God is just waiting to be merciful in.
So they said, “Well send for him”. When the prophet showed up and took one look at Jehoram, he said, “You disgust me. If it weren’t for Jehosaphat I wouldn’t even speak to you. I wouldn’t even look at you”. Now I am not going to discuss here whether Elisha’s disgust was valid or normal. I just have to say I really identify with him. (*laughter*). It’s interesting the way Jehoram responded. Elisha had said “Go to your own idols and go to your own prophets”. And Jehoram came back and in the English Version he said, “No”. In the Hebrew that “No” is bigger than just “No”. What he said, “Oh please don’t send that to me. Please don’t say that. You are right to rebuke us but if you don’t help us the Moabites will kill us”. In that moment Jehoram faced truth and he realised that his idolatrous prophets could provide him with no help and this man alone could. I think probably Elisha’s disgust soured his soul a bit. When he looked at Jehosaphat and realised he was going to have to do something he said still half-disgustedly, “Bring me a minstrel”. Someone went out and got a harpist and in he came and Elisha looked at him and said, “Play a few choruses”. (*laughter*). Now at this moment dear people we enter into an inexplicable dimension called the Charismatic dimension. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand what happened here anymore than I understand what happened tonight when a burst of glory came in on the congregation and Brother Charles Simpson under the anointing began to say and do things that took us into a dimension of the Holy Spirit that none of us would know how to rationally document other than as I looked at you with your hands raised and your faces shining and your bodies jumping and your voices screaming, you had entered into an inexplicable, strange, wonderful but nevertheless very real dimension of the unseen. This incidentally is eternal.
So what we were involved in for a little while tonight is not something temporary and novel. What we were involved in was something permanent. For it is the things that are seen that are temporal, it is the things that are unseen that are eternal. And it was the eternal that we became involved in – and who understands that? I said to Brother Charles, “What happened to you?”. He could give me a certain answer and some idea of what it was like because any man of God who has ever been anointed to lead people in that kind of charismatic dimension knows that suddenly something happens. What is it? Well it’s God. Who’s God? Well you know who God is. But what happens? I don’t know what happened – it is a strange spiritual chemistry of some kind – I don’t know. But it is real! It is more real than hands or feet or breathing itself. It is ultimate reality – it is eternity breaking in through time – it is the permanent breaking into the temporary – it’s the real breaking into the unreal. I don’t know the relationship with music – I just know that there is a relationship. I know that I can grow discouraged and distressed and sit at the piano and start to sing my heart out and something happens. I know that in moments of exquisite joy when I have run out of words and my vocabulary is destitute of adjectives that I can start to sing in an unknown tongue and my spirit starts to ride on the high places. I don’t understand it but I believe it. “Bring me a minstrel”. Why does the Lord say that we are to come into His Presence with singing? He knows something. He knows something! How many will acknowledge that we have entered into experiences of the Holy Spirit in singing that you haven’t any other way? I don’t understand it – I just believe it.
Now as the minstrel began to play Elisha’s spirit began to get calm and God-directed and wait for the word. Someone said, “What do you mean, wait for the word?”. I don’t know. I have read every passage in the Bible that tells how prophecy came and they are strange passages. Isaiah saw a word. Ezekiel saw a vision. Another prophet heard a voice behind him. I don’t know all of the modus operandi of the Holy Spirit but that doesn’t mean that it’s not real. It’s very real and Elisha is waiting for something. Why didn’t Elisha say, “Now look fellows let’s sit down and have a counsel?”. They had already had a counsel and they were lost and thirsty so having a counsel wasn’t the answer. Elisha knew that the answer for these men lay in a dimension of the supernatural and Elisha was a prophet, a man called to deal in those things and he knew that he had a responsibility to get a word from God. He was a man called to stand in the counsel of the Almighty. Blessed be the day when there is a restoration among the servants of God of an understanding that to be a servant of God and a leader is not to be theologically instructed or ministerially ordained. It’s not to have a charge or a parish but it is to stand in the counsel of God until you feel a burning of the Word of God in your spirit and until your mind is blanked out with a consciousness of the Almightiness of God and you come out of that counsel with the Word of the Lord burning in your spirit and you know that then and only then have you fulfilled your responsibility of being a prophetic voice to God’s people. (*applause*).
Would any of us sitting down to counsel on the conditions of those kings have thought of what the Holy Spirit told Elisha to say? Suddenly Elisha begins to quiver, throws back his head and begins to speak.
“Make this valley full of ditches for ye shall neither see rain nor wind but this valley shall be filled with water and this is but a light thing that the Lord did for in addition to this He shall deliver into your hands the Moabites. Make this valley full of ditches!”.
Jehoram said “Fancy that”. (*laughter*). Jehosaphat said, “That’s a strange one”. The king of Edom said, “Boy have I got in with a funny bunch”. (*laughter*). Now can you imagine when these three kings when they retired from the presence of the prophet and go back to their armies and their officers and they stand there and ask their officers that they are to send word throughout the armies that they are to dig ditches all night? Now there is no PA system – they had to send it by word of mouth, so you can imagine as this runs through the army. “Dig ditches … dig ditches … we’ve got to make this valley full … dig ditches … dig ditches? I didn’t come here to dig ditches! I came here to fight a war! I don’t use my sword to dig, I use it to kill! … You dig ditches”. That was the word of the Lord. “Dig ditches … dig ditches … dig ditches”. And you know what? I think that is the word of the Lord tonight. The Bible says in the morning about the time of sacrifice the miracle occurred. But all night long those soldiers mumbled and grumbled and dug ditches. Awkwardly with their swords and their hands removing the soil to make pits and trenches so that when the miracle water came it would be retained and their animals could drink and be refreshed. By faith they dug ditches. There was nothing in the lexicon of rationality that said if you fill that arid valley full of ditches then those ditches would be full of water. They moved on the sheer faith in the prophetic word. The prophet had said if you fill this valley full of ditches then God will send the water. The human side is dig ditches – the divine side is sending the water. No ditches – no water. Ditches – water.
Now take up your position. So all night long in the darkness they dug ditches. I can imagine some of them stopping and saying this is the craziest thing – here I am digging ditches because that crazy prophet said that there will be water. This is the driest valley and there is no moisture here! All night long they dug ditches. In the morning miracle water came and you can read the commentaries about this and they will say that it rained way up in the mountains somewhere and came rushing in. I don’t care if rained in the mountains or what happened. All I know is that the word of God said if you dig those ditches then God will send the water. And God sent the water. I don’t care where it came from – God sent it supernaturally and miraculously. It was miracle water. But that miracle water came and was retained to the degree that men dug ditches. Men made room for the retention of that water as it came miraculously. Now I want to generalise again before I finish up by being specific. I believe that Christianity worldwide is cursed with the councils of kings. I believe that Jehorams and Jehosaphats have met in counsel all over the world as leaders presumably of God’s church and have planned this and that. They have said to each other, “Which way shall we go up?”. And then they counselled about it and have decided to go this way. The record of historical Christianity is tragic. Someone says that he has an unhappy task who has been called upon to write church history. There is a sense in which that’s true. It is a horrendous record of kings going in circles and running out of water.
Every time there has been a visitation of God in history some man – some unofficial prophet who wasn’t even invited to be there – has come on the scene and got a word from God. I can’t take the time to tell you but let us start with the most illustrious prophet of all. One who was born in a manger and raised in semi-poverty. The Son of a peasant girl and the foster son of a carpenter – who never went to theological school and was never ordained but who broke upon the scene of time in association with another strange character who lived in a desert. This too is a strange man. No ecclesiastical hands were laid upon him! No theological seminary degree followed after his name. This was an odd one. He emerged every morning from somewhere in the desert and no one really knew where he lived. He was dressed rather strangely too. If you look closely you will see a grasshopper wing hanging on a bit of honey at the corner of his mouth. (*laughter*). But there was something about this strange fellow. He would make his way down to the muddy waters of the Jordan and wade in and he would take up his position there. He would send out no circulars or no radio advertisement. He hadn’t got on TV. He was just in the purposes of God and for some strange reason this man standing knee deep in the muddy waters of Jordan had an attractiveness in the supernatural realm that caused people to flood out of all the adjacent towns till the banks of the river became crowded with eager people coming to hear the word of this strange unofficial prophet.
At last the Pharisees and the Sadducees realising that something was going on thought that they had better go out and see what was happening because their congregations were dwindling. So out they went and they were amazed to find that there were their people. They said to one another, “Why there’s Joe. He’s our church treasurer – what’s he doing out here? There’s Mary our choir director!”. John the Baptist looked at them with eagle vision on these official functionaries and was full of love … (*laughter*). He said, “Your generation are snakes. Who told you to flee from the wrath to come? You go and bring forth fruit fit for repentance”. And they slunk away through the crowd to their toe-kissing officialism. One day a dignified man of poise and mean came walking down the side of the river and this prophet standing in his watery pulpit felt a strange vibration and he looked and realised that this was someone special. As this Man approached him he realised that it was the Messiah. Because the One who had sent him to baptise had told him in a private conversation that he would be preparing the way of Messiah. He wanted the people called to repentance so that it would be a straight road. He said the prophet would be sure because when he baptised Him. When our Lord presented Himself to John the Baptist for baptism, John said, “No you should baptise me”. He said, “Please go ahead and baptise Me. I must fulfil righteousness”. So John baptised Him and when He came up the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove settled upon Him and a voice from heaven said, “This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. The point I want to make is this that all of this was going on apart from the counsel of the Sanhedrin and apart from the Sadducees and the Pharisees. This was all going on para – this was all going on outside. My point is that these were not official prophets and as Jesus launched on His ministry and as the multitudes followed Him the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees and the Sadducees ground their teeth at Him because He wasn’t official. Listen I don’t want to be offensive but I have to say something. If it’s a matter of being official versus unofficialism and the issue is the Presence of God then it has to be unofficialism because the issue is the Presence of God. God was with John the Baptist! God was with His Son! One of the first converts our Lord had was with the same kind of unofficial people. Peter and John were ignorant, unlearned men. They didn’t have the hands of the Sanhedrin laid on them and yet they were the ones who turned whole towns upside down. So much for Bible times!
As you run through church history it is not the great official voices it is not the great official voices that make the spiritual impact. It is man who comes unofficially out of the womb of God’s purposes and suddenly emerges. The British Isles were filled with probably the most brilliant theological minds in the last century that had been there in all the centuries previous. Great definitive theological works had been written by names that were brilliant in the last century but these great men able as they were and capable in exegeting the sacred Scriptures didn’t have the ability to precipitate spiritual revival. God reached down into Boston and laid His hand on an illiterate show clerk by the name of Dwight L Moody. And D L Moody with his rough English and his strange idiom went across to the British Isles and sat on the same platform as all these brilliant, scintillating theological brains but it was on this unofficial show clerk that the anointing and charism of God rested. It was he who stood up and under such anointing at times became incoherent as the Spirit of God moved him and God shook Great Britain as a result of this.
A young nineteen year old boy was laid upon by God – a boy who never saw a theological seminary who all his life long said, “You don’t call me Reverend – you call me Mr Spurgeon”. That nineteen year old boy shook the people of London as he packed the people into his Baptist church and his voice rang out with a sound they hadn’t heard in that great city for many a year. They moved from there until they were forced to build one of the most magnificent auditoriums in London and for 35 years this unofficial prophet thrilled the heart of 5, 000 to 6, 000 people every Lord’s Day. I could go on and on and on. God is not bound by the machinery of crowns and horses and spears and swords. God is bound by His own purposes and when He can’t break down the gates of officialism He will call out a John the Baptist. He will bring His own Son from the womb of a virgin and He will raise up a fisherman or a tax gatherer. One of things that has been levelled at us again and again is that we are not official. Well if forfeiting officialism will guarantee that I can be bathed in the Presence of God like I was tonight then forever and a day let officialism be banished! (*applause*). I think what I want to say to you is that you have no need to feel your second class citizens because you don’t carry great official names and titles. The badge of your validity is the Presence of God. I would rather have been here tonight than sit in the most illustrious official group of unregenerate theologians in the world.
But here’s what I want to say. I would like to suggest to us that battle scared bedevilled and bedamned by our enemies, harassed and persecuted, cussed and discussed that we don’t make the mistake of drawing into ourselves and licking our wounds. That I would like to say to you tonight in God’s Name make this valley full of ditches. I would like to say to you if I can interpret what is stirring in my bosom that there is supernatural water waiting to come flooding down this valley. I have felt it since I have come here – there is a visitation standing in the wings. There are angels standing in the doorways – heaven is waiting to break in upon us and I urge you in God’s Name – make this valley full of ditches. Be ready for it – by faith expect it. I would feel badly if I thought God did not have a divine intention to send us wave after wave of supernatural visitation. I would feel our time was wasted – my time here was a waste, your time was a waste. We are here tonight because we are divine receptacles for the glory of God. We are a valley where water can come. We are a place where ditches can be dug. We are a people of God whose hearts are open to the supernatural – God send Your water! It’s been a long night! We have dug our swords into the arid sand and we have sweat over the sand as we plunge our swords in to make the holes yet larger. Sometimes it seemed like morning would never come but the prophetic word said it will come and come it shall and I will dig on! I will dig pits and trenches and ditches because as sure as God is alive when morning breaks there shall be torrents of miracle water! (*applause*). Over almost 50 years now I have seen revivals come and go. I was in the world on time to touch the retreating end of the Welsh Revival. I came into the world almost coincident with the great Pentecostal Outpouring. I saw and shared in the great earthshaking visitations of the Healing Movement. I saw the astounding and amazing acts of God in the Latter Rain visitation. But with all of them there has been one thing missing if I may say so respectfully and sadly. They hadn’t dug ditches to keep the water. So the water came, looked for a place to stop and there was none, so the water went on. The water had been there alright. They saw it, got wet with it and tasted it but it didn’t stay. I hope I am not saying too much or too little. I believe God has brought us into a relationship of understanding. The manner in which we have been put together, the structure of valid biblical authority and I have to say this (this is my opinion and I don’t want to appear pontifical about it) but I believe that people have got the wherewithal to handle it without wasting it and without losing it.
Now as I was praying about coming to you tonight the Lord said to me, “Well that’s fine – you tell them all of that but you better tell them some practical ways in which you can all start to dig ditches”. So let me in closing give you some practical things. I hope you don’t feel I am laying something heavy on you because I don’t feel to do that. I don’t feel God wants me to do that. I want this to be exciting to you. I want this to be a word of encouragement to you. I want you to hear the voice of God’s prophets saying to you, “I will send you water but make your valley full of ditches”. Alright you Israelites – to your swords and your spears and lets dig some ditches. I would like to mention firstly that we;
1. Dig Ditches in Our Time.
‘Redeem the time’ Paul says. I don’t know what you do with your time and I’m sure that you probably are very responsible in your stewardship of time. But I remember the old hymn that said, “Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord”. In the last meeting (which was my first) I stood up here and I said, “Oh God say something to me of what you want me to do since I have moved to Mobile”. And I remember He spoke to me so clearly and He said, “Seek My face”. I remember as I walked off the platform after the service I said simply to God, “Thy Face Lord I will seek”. I didn’t know what I was saying and I still don’t know what all of that means. I just know from that time to this I have had a strange renewed desire to seek God by whatever means I understand. Pray more. Wait on the Lord more. Find more time to refresh my soul in spiritual singing and spiritual prayer. I haven’t arrived any place yet that I want to be but I am better than I was. All I am saying to you tonight is that the Lord is going to send miracle water. Will you have time to handle it? Lets dig some ditches in our time.
2. Dig Ditches in Things.
Brother Charles Simpson used this verse tonight, “Life consisteth not in the abundance of things which a man possetheth”. I am not saying you shouldn’t have things. I would like to quote a worldly philosopher who said, “The wise hold all earthly ties lightly – they are stripping for eternity”. All I am saying to you is that how many things you have can you hold them so lightly – can you dig ditches in them that so when the miracle water comes it will not be obstructed by love of things? I am not saying you should go out and have a garage sale. Not saying you should go and throw things in the incinerator. I am just saying should we sit down and evaluate things as to how our hearts are attached to things and maybe dig a few ditches in things? How many hear what I am saying? You know I am not saying go out and burn your house down – that’s not what I am saying. I am saying take a responsible look at what things are doing to you and say, “I am going to dig some holes here because when that visitation comes I don’t want things to hold me up”. The third thing I would like to suggest is:
3. Dig Ditches in Relationships.
Someone says, “Oh boy we are high on that! That’s one area where we have really got it together”. Well I’m sure you have. So this is just a little auxiliary suggestion. I would like to put it in the form of a beautiful verse from Malachi which goes like this;
“Then those that feared and loved the Lord spoke often of Him to each other and He had a book of remembrance drawn up in which He recorded the names of those that feared and loved Him and spoke about Him”.
Here’s what I want to say to you. I know you’ve got great relationships. So have I. God knows how thankful I am for them. But I am wondering if in my relationships – my relationship with Ruth, my relationship with my brethren – it may be that I don’t need to dig some ditches. Maybe in my relationships there should be a bigger God factor.
I remember when I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in 1932. My chum received the baptism in the Holy Spirit at the same time. And we were so excited about Jesus that I remember we hauled our cots out of the men’s dormitory where we were and we put them out under the apple trees and we couldn’t go to sleep at night and we would look up at the stars and talk about Jesus. Oh I know that was initial and that was early and I was young and crazy and fanatical – oh blessed fanaticism! (*laughter*). If I could only recapture some of that youthful romance! The first six months after I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit I kept a pad and pencil by my bed and wrote love poetry to Jesus. Now it wasn’t Shakespearean or Miltonian but it was the best that I could do and I knew that He appreciated it. I don’t write love poetry to Jesus now – I’m too grown up and too mature. (*laughter*). God restore my youth! God give me another poem to celebrate the majesty of Your Son.
4. Dig Ditches in Devotion.
This is probably the most difficult of all. Prayer and spiritual warfare. Getting before God. We need to dig some ditches there. Finally and far from least I think we need to:
5. Dig Ditches in Our Faith.
I want tonight to have right faith expectations. I do not believe we are going to die and shrivel on the vine. I do not believe that we are going to pass away – that we are going to sort of peter out. I don’t believe that! I believe that we are going to glory to glory. I believe that the next glory that is coming up for us will require that we have reservoirs to contain the visitation. How many here tonight would like to enter into a new dimension of God’s power? May I ask then very simply that we all start to dig ditches and make ready for the miracle water? I am not going to tell you my reasons for believing that it is coming. But I have some good ones! And I want to dig some ditches to make ready to hold the water when it comes.
 Ern Baxter used the New American Standard Version.