Thursday, December 31, 2009

Farewell 2009 .... Hey 2010!!

Another end of year is upon us! I really do wish each and every one the very best for 2010! Some bloggers find it customary to review 2009 and mention blogs - I don't want to do that. 2009 hasn't been the greatest year for me - and subsequently my blog has suffered. For this I do apologise!

The thing I have struggled with the most is holding onto hope. 2006/07/08 had so many promises! Rob Rufus came to "Together on a Mission" in 2006 and 2007 and the Presence of God at those conferences was like nothing I have ever experienced before. Add into that Rob's revolutionary teaching on grace - I truly learnt what "grace" meant for the very first time in my 20 years of Christian life! Then of course 2008 saw the Lakeland Outpouring. I make no apology for re-stating how much this excited and moved me. It probably was the closest I got to seeing refreshing and corporate outpourings of healing and miracles and signs and wonders. And yet that too sadly faded away.

Will I adjust my theology to match my experience - as so many have done? NEVER! This New Year's Eve sees me as full of hope as ever - if not more desperate, more hungry, more passionate to see God manifest His glory. So rather than review what was hard and difficult about 2009 - I want to look ahead to 2010 and mention some of my hoped-for plans.

1. "Together on a Mission" 2010 in Brighton!

Scott and I will be going to Brighton this year (after two years away) to the Brighton Conference on 6th to the 9th July. I can't wait - I've missed it so much and it will be so great to catch up with friends like Luke Wood. As well as longing for heaven on earth during the worship with Kate Simmonds and Lou Fellingham - it is in my favourite city in the UK!

2. "Grace and Glory Conference" in Hong Kong.

Rob and Glenda Rufus will be hosting the "Grace and Glory Conference" at City Church International in Hong Kong from Tuesday 26th to Friday 29th October 2010! I can't say definately we will be going because of cash flow problems - but for the first time we have some prior warning of this awesome time so we both certainly have every intention of going. I can't wait to show Scott around Hong Kong - I remember sending him daily emails when I was there last!

3. A Visit to the USA.

This is another "hope" based on cash flow issues. But a visit to the USA is LONG overdue for me! There are so many places that I really want to visit while there;

a. The Ern Baxter Memorial Library in Mobile, Alabama.

b. Florida and the sun-soaked beaches (and hopefully get to see my friend Janelle Phillips!)

c. New York (and my wonderful friends Lydia and Julie ... well it's kind of the same area!).

Now I don't know if these hopes will come to pass (particularly the more expensive ones!). But I know from experience that people who suffer with depression that lead to suicide are those people who have lost hope. I have experienced temptations to commit suicide myself personally - so I know what "no hope" feels like. Hope is a vital thing! Hope in the goodness of God cannot be more vital. Why else did God attribute Abraham's belief and hope in His goodness as righteousness?

It is my prayer that each and everyone of us knows the abundant, lavish and outstanding goodness of God in manifest touch this coming year.

A very happy 2010!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Thoughts - Sweet and Sour!

I really hope that all had a blessed safe and happy Christmas 2009!

I have had a lovely time down in Bristol and Newport with my family. Christmas always is a special time for spending it with family and friends - and mine was great. Especially celebrating the recent birth of my baby nephew. It was lovely sitting around the table looking at my large and extended family and feeling incredibly grateful for each and every one of them. One of my presents from my Mum and Dad was the latest John Piper book I requested; "Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ" - the 5th volume in his biographical series that Piper gives at the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors - which I duly read on Christmas Day afternoon and was challenged by.

One of his biographical chapters was on William Tyndale and Piper had some insightful comments. Piper was talking about William Tyndale and why his translation of Scripture attracted so much persecution - particularly from Thomas Moore. Why was this? Piper wrote;

"There were deeper reasons why the church opposed the English Bible; one doctrinal (justification) and the other ecclesiastical (the papal, sacremental structure of the Roman Catholic Church).

The church realised that they would not be able to sustain certain doctrines biblically because the people would see that they are not in the Bible.

And the church realized that their power and control over the people, and even the state would be lost if certain doctrines were exposed as unbiblical - especially the priesthood and purgatory and penance".

Is the modern church so different? Why does a church write on it's website; "... although we would ask that any convictions that would differ from those of the pastoral team be held to privately and not espoused publicly"? What is so wrong with discussion and debate? Of course I agree that trouble making and gossip can never be right, but I don't see in the New Testament where Paul the apostle (for example) EVER commanded that differing convictions be "held privately and not espoused publicly". On the contrary - Paul was aware of the Corinthian's differing views to him and wrote eloquently arguing his case as to why they were mistaken.

I find similar themes in a blog post that Jeff Purswell wrote called; "They Stand in the Very Stead of God". Purswell said;

"No. You are not sharing thoughts. You are not Jay Leno. You are not a talking head. You are standing in the very stead of God. Oh, that is a frightening thing. It’s not only a divine message you are bringing but you are meant to be a suitable vessel for that message".

I must admit I'm still undecided about this (although pretty nervous about Purswell's statement). I was raised to deeply honour preaching. My former pastor Dr Stanley Jebb spoiled us with two hour-long sermons on a Sunday and one mid-week where he would week by week faithfully expound the Scriptures to us. I passionately believe in the Ephesians 4 Ministries of apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers. But to assign them this level of standing for God? I'm not sure.

What happens simply when pastors get it "wrong"? And they do. I've sat and watched two men do 180 degree turns in theology and declare they got it wrong. One is documented here; "Why I left the Charismatic Movement". So if Purswell was correct - when was that preacher in particular standing; "In the very stead of God"? Before the change in theology and practice or after? Or can one get it wrong standing in the very stead of God and being a "suitable vessel"?

But all those are just a few thoughts that I will take into the New Year. The slightly sad and painful part of Christmas for me was that for the first time this year - we were not together as a family. I went down on Christmas Eve and left Boxing Day but one of my siblings was not able to be there until the Sunday 27th December. I needed to be back in Birmingham for work commitments but was very keen to see my entire family as we rarely manage to get together these days now my sisters have their own families. However my parent's church scheduled a meeting on the Sunday 27th - which of course I would not have been welcome at.

My sibling was arriving in time for church and of course the family would have then been away at church until at least 13:00. It seemed pointless to me staying in Bristol alone waiting for them to return from church. So I had to leave Saturday night. And as I was driving back - I must admit to getting pretty upset. I've always been close to my family and have loved them dearly. It's not always easy being single particularly in a Christian environment where marriage is pretty much expected. Having a large and thriving family makes up for that - or did - until SGM. I'm sad. I wonder what SG leadership would feel about family unity.

Family/church? Shouldn't it be both? Anyhow - there are some Christmas thoughts.

All in all it's been an absolutely horrid year. BUT! I earnestly believe that the devil brings trials and temptations to try and wreck our faith in the God of Abraham - the God who blesses lavishly and in abundance. The devil doesn't really care about the manner of the trials - to him I suspect as long as the end is achieved, the means are whatever works. If he can drain a Christian to stop believing that God is good and He loves His children then the job is done. That Christian will stop praying, stop worshipping, stop witnessing to the goodness of God and generally stop being "salt and light".

Have I stopped believing in the goodness of God? NEVER! I won't pretend there has been manifest Presence of God where there hasn't. I won't pretend I've been blessed financially or socially where I haven't. But I have a home to live in. A bed to sleep on. Food to eat (mostly!). Clothes to wear. A job to go to. And for that - I give total and pure thanks to God!

Roll on 2010!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Disobeying Commands?

Something occured to me yesterday. Traditionally in the charismatic/cessationist debate, we charismatics are always accused of being "frothy" and "experience-obsessed" while cessationists pride themselves on honouring and being committed to "the Word". And in the debate is often based around; "I experienced this" and the response; "It doesn't matter - your experience is irrelevant - they've ceased".

However there ARE a number of Scriptures that cessationists have never answered. If these Scriptures are to be read as they appear then many so-called "men and women of the Book" are being disobedient to the very Word of God that they claim to honour and revere. Here's two that spring to my mind;

1. 1 Thessalonians 5:20; "Do not despise prophetic utterances".

So does not Stanley Jebb's statement; "Calling silly remarks prophecy" come dangerously close to despising what actually may be prophetic utterances? That does not mean of course that "silly remarks" never happen - of course they do. But I would not like to put myself in the position of being guilty of despising this gift of the Holy Spirit and thus quenching Him.

2. 1 Timothy 1:18; "This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight".

Again to cite Stanley Jebb (only because he is the cessationist I probably most know and most read) - he writes; "So, since the final word has been spoken, such signs are neither necessary nor possible". Necessary? Possible? So how does this take into account this clear instruction from Paul the apostle (and writer of most of the New Testament) that there is a degree to which the gift of prophecy is ESSENTIAL for fighting a good Christian fight? Is this not a clear reason as to why the Word of God tells us not to despise prophecy?

And finally - a verse that a former friend of mine and former blogger - Jesse Phillips - used to base a lot of his writing on;

3. 1 Corinthians 14:1: "Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy".

Of course love is our primary calling (lest cessationists accuse me of ignoring the context of 1 Corinthians 13) but what of this command - clear command - of Scripture to "desire earnestly" spirituals but ESPECIALLY that we may prophecy? When did you or I last hear from the pulpit a sermon exhorting us to eagerly desire the bestowing of spiritual gifts but especially prophecy?

Just a few Christmas thoughts of mine. For me personally I want to ensure that 2010 is a year of heeding these commands of Scripture - that I honour prophecy and use them as a God-given grace gift to fight a good fight and thereby eagerly desiring especially prophecy.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Terry Virgo - Session 1 - Together on a Mission 2009

One of the hardships about this year has been my complete on-going struggle to fit transcribing into my new regime. I loved working nights because it meant I could work through almost a sermon a night. 8am-6:30pm Monday to Friday doesn't really lend itself to transcribing! And I miss it. I miss receiving from God through the preached word of grace and glory. I so want 2010 to see a resurgence of that.

So to get started now (I don't believe in New Years resolutions anymore) - I transcribed Terry Virgo's 1st session at the Together on a Mission 2009 conference. It was an outstanding message and wonderfully encapsulates Word and Spirit - a theme we forget at our peril. Terry makes the most balanced case I have heard for some time for not abandoning charismatic life (as so many have done in the name of respectability) for Reformed doctrine and vice versa.

There are so many awesome themes throughout the message that lifted my spirit awesomely. The absolute commitment to the Presence of God. The honouring of the Word of God. The relentless focus on world mission. The refusal to conform!

Here it is (the audio version is here);

"I am just going to read a short section from Ephesians chapter 2:1-10.

“ 1And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
2in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
3Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
4But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together [a]with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them”.

My approach this year is going to be a little different to previous years in that I want to be response to some of the things that were said here last year and particularly by Mark Driscoll in connection with our considering our future. I really do thank God for his contribution particularly in that theme – much that he said was hugely helpful but that was especially helpful. Last year as I was pondering the conference this year I actually wondered as he was talking about future and founder – I wondered if I should just host the event and let some of these incredible young guys that are surging through our ranks, carry the conference. I felt that while I was away in Australia I heard God speak to me clearly and say;

“I want you to speak three times and I want you to speak about Newfrontiers – its past, its present and its future”.

That is the approach I am bringing and I am not going to expound a particular passage of Scripture though I want to look briefly at the passage I’ve just read to you. I want us to look at who we are and what God has done with us and help us to look forward as a result of that.
Churchill said the further you look back the clearer you can look forward. That is helpful for us to remember how God has led us and what God has made valuable to us. It is not my intention to tell a story of Newfrontiers as I once did at Stoneleigh Bible Week which some of you may remember. I don’t intend taking that course. I want to highlight what I believe are foundational values tonight and then tomorrow night we will press on with some more and then project into the future on Thursday.

1. First of all I want to remind us that we are fundamentally a Word and Spirit Movement.
I believe that and want to treasure that and regard that as hugely important. We don’t want to drift either way but we do want to value both. We want to treasure the Word of God – it is our compass, it is our map, it is our guide, it is our food! And also to have the Presence of the Spirit Who excites and ignites and motivates and shows us that God is literally amongst us!

We want to treasure both themes – we are happy to be called “Word and Spirit”. Sometimes we are called “Reformed and charismatic” – I am happy having those two things together.

In this first passage we read together I want to see where we started. You could say we didn’t get off because Paul began the reading and said; “We were dead”. That is not a very exciting place to start but God said; “You started as dead men and women”. We didn’t come together as massive entrepreneurial wiz-kids that said; “Let’s start something that will go around the world” – the Bible’s assessment of us was that we were dead in trespasses and sin. That is really why I am a Reformed believer, why I believe the Gospel tells me it is because of God that I am saved. We were dead. Dead people don’t really have a lot of choice. Dead people don’t have a lot of ideas – they are not thirsty for God – they don’t have longings for God. Dead people don’t contribute a great deal. Dead people need God to take action! And in this passage we saw “BUT God”. God spoke, God interrupted, God acted.

So this death we were living in – it describes in some detail and goes through three perspectives. It says that we were living “according to the course of this world” – the prevailing culture dictated the way we evaluated things. We took our guide from those around us and let the world shape our thinking. That was where we came from. As Eugene Peterson said in the Message; “You let the world which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live”. The world dictated the shape of our thinking and this passing age – there is a sense that the Bible speaks about this age being a passing thing. Paul said “That used to captivate you – you were bound by the prince of the power of the air” – yes the devil, dark principalities and powers. We were under the influence of satanic power. Sometimes we were aware of another power or force that overtakes the children of disobedience. God created in Christ however a new creation! We are part of that! If anyone is in Christ then they are a new creation. It is breathtaking! We are new people – radically changed by the gospel of God! We are a new creation and we are His workmanship!

We have quickly rushed through those verses picking up a few phrases – we are “His workmanship”. The Greek word speaks of “poem”. The Jerusalem Bible translates it; “We are His work of art”. Again you can take it as the individual – God is changing and working on you and shaping you. From the beginning He makes you sanctified once and for all but He also goes on changing your character and putting you through setbacks, delays, heartaches and heartbreaks. I was worshipping God a few weeks ago and thanking Him for breaking my heart when I was 20. Really thanking Him that He did a devastating work on my heart. It needed a heartbreak to get through this arrogant selfish person and start something new. He takes us through all sorts of things because He has ambition for you. You are His work of art! He wants to be able to trust you and build things on you and know that you won’t build off at an angle because He has dealt with you. He makes you holy as a gift and then works on you and makes you into His work of art.

One of our pastors in the States – Ian Ashby – his wife is an artist and she was doing it privately for her own entertainment really. She built up a studio and a while ago she began to put her work on display and to her amazement, people really loved it. Her work is beginning to attract serious attention. When we were together in the States at our Leaders event earlier this year, Ian was leading a prayer time and he gave an extraordinary prophecy. And I wrote to him last week and I said; “Can I have that prophecy? It stirred me at the time very strongly and I thought I would like it in word”. Let me read to you what he wrote;

“My wife Emma is an artist and she has her own studio and has just started exhibiting and displaying her work in galleries. The response to her work has been quite amazing – it is different to anything else, very textual, intense colours, and layers. People are drawn to it. One woman said it created an atmosphere that attracted her”. Then he prophesied and all of us who were together there felt so gripped by the prophecy he brought;

“I felt God wants to say to us as a family of churches – this is how it will be with you. You are My workmanship, My work of art, you are surprisingly different from what people are used to seeing for I have worked into you intense colours of grace, different textures of diversity and layers of relationship. I want you to know that I have put My heart into this work – there is an atmosphere to you that is tangible to others that will draw people in. Don’t try and copy other works, don’t look at what you perceive to be successful and what you think other people may like, the techniques produced by others – for they just produce uniformity that people will grow tired of.
What I am creating with you is Spirit-breathed. My workmanship, My delight and the result is infectious! It will attract so learn from techniques, experiment, apply helpful principles – but don’t copy another work. Be who you are for I have uniquely created you to be. It is different from other works and you are going to be surprised by the response for although you have been hidden away as I have worked on you layer by layer – now it is time to be brought out and made public. I am going to put you on display – you will become very visible and many will be drawn by your atmosphere and captivated by your beauty”.

The word is – “You are My workmanship” and as I say that could be taken on board by a local church/an Ephesian church. It could be taken on board by the individual or the church at large – but I don’t see any reason why a people who have been providentially woven into God’s purpose and plan in the way that God has with us, why we couldn’t take such a verse for ourselves. I feel very happy with this prophetic utterance – I really believe it with all my heart – I believe it! We are God’s workmanship in Christ Jesus – what a wonderful place to be! In Him – who keeps providing grace and the gift of righteousness and guidance and shepherding! We are part of the workmanship of God – something He has brought to birth. “Layers of relationship” – that phrase really stirred me. “Colours of grace”. God is creating something for His delight! We have benefited massively over the years from people coming amongst us with tremendous contribution – we learn and keep on being developed and helped and God has done this.

But here it says “We are created in Christ Jesus for good works which God has prepared beforehand that you should walk in them”. So we who were walking in death and blindness and sin, now we walk in these works that He prepared beforehand! That certainty of a sovereign God gives you such courage – it is one of the reasons I am so glad we have a training track on Calvin’s phenomenal contribution to the development of church planting across Europe. Hundreds and hundreds of churches were planted with that sense; “We are God’s workmanship – God has called us and God has taken us – we have a sovereign God behind us!”. It swept up into Scotland and John Knox.

Works for-ordained that we should walk in them. As I was thinking on that and pondering that from a Newfrontiers perspective, I thought; “What are the works that God prepared for us to walk in?”. It is not difficult to remember some of the words given over the years that say quite explicitly what God has raised us up for. If you are a guest here – forgive me for being a bit “in-house” this year. You are most welcome and I hope there is enough common stuff for us to enjoy, but I want to speak to the family this year. Right from the beginning when God spoke to us through we had a prophetic word through John Groves and he said; “I see a herd of elephants and they are charging and there is jungle terrain ahead and no road but they run through it and make a road where there is no road.

Others will follow and together you can accomplish more together than you could alone”. Now that was so formative to us decades ago when a handful of pastors were beginning to get filled with the Spirit and enjoy a bit of fellowship. I think maybe we had started Downs Bible Week which gathered a couple of thousand people. But God spoke to us prophetically. Well in that prophecy you have got works prepared beforehand – what are they? Well first of all there is no road – you will make a road where there is no road. It is quite hard now looking back and when you see the videos and gather in from all over the world thousands of people who love one another. But when we started there was no road. No one was doing this stuff. No one was making the steps we are making. No one was saying; “We are on a church planting mission” – no one hardly used that language! You stayed at home or sent someone to be a missionary.

You didn’t plant churches and go together and say; “Let’s do this thing together”. You didn’t say; “Let’s have a Bible Week that gets bigger and bigger” and have something like Stoneleigh and have clout in this nation. You said; “Well okay charismatic may be okay but it is private and if you want your little prayer language that is fine but don’t mess with church”. We said; “No! We are coming through and coming through because God is about a great thing!”. We are not going to have a private aspect to our Christianity! God said; “Together you can make a road where there is no road!”. Praise God we are and have been doing it – making road where there was no road!

It is almost impossible for me to think back to what church life was like when I first got filled with the Spirit and thought; “Wow! The demands of this are phenomenal”. We have got to change church completely! The response was; “How dare you – you arrogant! What are you doing?”. It was tough! We can’t just go home and speak in tongues! We have got to see church life radically changed and we can do it together. Let’s pool our resources and do this! Together we had great steps and could train leaders together! We could send teams overseas and plant churches and run Stoneleigh and run Newday together with thousands of your children and a generation behind us that wants to go to the nations! That get fired up – 6000 in a few weeks time! There was nothing like that! Together we can accomplish what we couldn’t before.

“Works foreordained of God that you should walk in them”. We have been walking in them doing more together than we could alone. We have raised finance together to resource this and send to Zimbabwe – as a group from 14 different nations we could raise half a million to send to Zim. There have been all sorts of ways – now we can send people out and God told us we would do these things. God said as we planted churches back through the UK, we would send people out and now we are out! Doesn’t it make your heart thrill when you hear big cities? Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbourne – we are there! We are there! We are going to be there! We are nobodies but God bound us together in His work of art and He promised that if we would plant into the UK and get more resources and plant more churches and release more finance – then they would go and they are still going! Workmen – we are His work of art and these things are happening! He promised us that we would join old bricks into a new wall – as someone saw in a prophetic vision a wall crumbling and sad, and an exciting new wall going up. They saw that the new wall needed the occasional old brick with wisdom and ability to gather those young bricks around them.

God said to us that we would gather old bricks and that has happened and I believe it will happen a lot more. We have had the joy and privilege of meeting some wonderful godly men over these last few years. So often in sad lonely independent works – if only they could be in a galvanised world mission movement with their pastoral, godly skills and biblical knowledge! I believe we have got to keep praying for that to happen more and more!

He told us that we would walk in them! Finally and most excitingly He said we would change the expression of Christianity around the world. Someone once heard us say that and said; “Why? Does it need to be changed?”. What does it mean to change the expression? Here are a few;

a. Change from legalistic to grace-shaped.

It is so sad – only God knows the percentage of nations and churches who are riddled with legalism. How the apostle Paul would have fought to liberate them to the gospel of grace. Much that is called Christianity is high-bound in condemnation and there is no joy. Just driven. I had the privilege of speaking at quite a big conference recently and preached grace in four sessions. There was a real buzz and one lady came to me and said; “I’ve been on the staff here for seven years and I didn’t realise I am a legalist!”. It is going to be my privilidge to go to Japan and they are translating “God’s Lavish Grace” into Japanese to go right across a national pastor’s conference. To “change the expression” of Christianity from legalism to the wonderful freedom that grace provides. From rules and regulations religion to freedom. From interdependence to independence. Churches that say they are autonomous but are actually just living for themselves. No – we must change the expression of Christianity!

It was never the biblical purpose or apostolic concept for a church to be planted and then have nothing to do with world mission. Churches are planted to get caught up!

We have got to see they are part of a world mission. From being self-centred to being sacrificial, from individualistic to being corporate, from being democratic to honouring the anointing and gifted leadership! How many good churches are totally ensnared by democracy? That has got to change! We are to keep on planting new churches or help churches make the radical change so the life of God can flow through those churches.

b. Change from cessationist to charismatic.

From old wineskin to new wineskin! Changing the expression of Christianity! See God do a new thing! It is so great when a church alive in the Spirit gets visibility – it is great our friends from Peterborough were visible recently and I know many of you will have looked at the site and seen the DJ saying “That is amazing” – just at a church that is full of life with baptisms and so on – just like this! They don’t know it is there. The world hardly knows! So we must keep planting more and more churches and help churches that are a bit frightened to say; “No this is okay”. Let’s change! God has made us an instrument for change globally and not just in the UK!

From cessationist to charismatic. This brings me to my 2nd main point – I didn’t read the verse I want to read now. Ephesians 1 where he says in verse 13; “In Him you also after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of salvation, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise”.

2. Life in the Spirit.

We want to be theologically truly biblical but we want to know the explosive power of the Presence of the Holy Spirit. Paul says; “Having believed, you were SEALED”. What does that mean; “Sealed?”. It is interesting to study that – a seal is something stamped in wax. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones says it is;

“A stamp of authenticity, authority, ownership, security”.

It is something you know about, something visible that adds authority and authenticity. Interestingly the English Standard study Bible says this;

“The Holy Spirit certifies the authenticity of their acceptance by God as being genuine. They bear the royal seal”.

Sealed with the Spirit – they bear the royal seal! That is the way the ESV comments on it and cross-references Acts 10:44,47 when Peter goes to Cornelius’s house and preaches to these Gentiles having to overcome his Jewishness and reluctance and as he preaches, you remember that Peter has a vision and sees a sheet coming down from heaven and is told; “What I call clean – don’t call unclean”. Cornelius’s messenger asks him to a Gentile home and Peter feels uncomfortable but begins to talk about Jesus because Cornelius told him an angel appeared to us! And as he begins to speak; “The Spirit falls upon them”. Peter says; “Oh my word! God has given the same gift to them as He did to us! You better get baptised now”.

The whole reason Peter knows these Gentiles are now authentic people of God is the Spirit coming UPON them as a seal, proof, demonstration!

You need to know Peter that this is authentic!

The coming of the Spirit is an authentic seal! We must get hold of that because in our day so many will teach that the baptism (which is the same thing as a seal) of the Spirit is non-experiential. You just become a Christian and don’t necessarily feel anything. That is being baptised in the Spirit you will be told. But the Bible says that when the Spirit came upon them – for Peter, that was PROOF that God is working on the Gentiles! A seal can be SEEN! It is EVIDENCE – it AUTHENTICATES! The coming of the Spirit authenticates and gives another dimension!

When you get to the counsel in Jerusalem in Acts 15 again they were discussing what people should become Christians and whether they should circumstances and Peter gave his account of what happened when he went to Cornelius’s house and he said in Acts 15; “He cleansed their heart by faith” – that is “I am saved”. Then he said; “And God who knows the heart bore witness to them gave them the Holy Spirit”.

The new birth cleanses the heart by faith but the seal of the Spirit demonstrates that God is here! They are authentic and are the real thing! The coming upon of the Spirit is huge! It is vital! It is not something we should dismiss or miss the point! It was the argument point that made the Gentiles acceptable.

The seal – it says of Jesus that “on Him, God the Father has set His seal”. God set His seal on Him – what is that referring to? Dr Lloyd-Jones and C K Barrett say; “John the Baptist was told on Him you see the Spirit coming upon – He is the one”. When John saw the Spirit coming upon Him, he knew. It was evident! Whom I “seal”. The coming of the Spirit is huge! Sometimes people say it happens gradually – you become a Christian gradually and get filled with the Spirit gradually. Paul says “Did you receive the Spirit?” and they said; “No”. Paul said; “What were you baptised into?”. “John’s”. “Oh I see – you are disciples of John, I thought you were disciples of Jesus – oh okay!”. Then he baptised them and then with the water still dripping off them, the Spirit came on them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied! It is plain Biblical truth!

It is so important.

The Gospels promise the Spirit is coming. The Epistles write as though the Spirit has come. The Book of Acts tell us HOW it happened.

It is no good saying; “We don’t take teaching from the book of Acts – it is narrative”. You get doctrine from Scripture – the Bible says so. ALL Scripture is God-breathed and given by inspiration and profitable for teaching. 1 Corinthians 10 – “All these things happened to them as examples and written down for our instruction”. What is our instruction? Narrative. Stories. How it happened. Narrative guides us! You cannot say that the book of Acts is just stories. It is how it happened! So for us, we must re-discover the Spirit’s coming.

We will never understand how the New Testament church grew without the dynamic of the Spirit.

It is vital – absolutely vital!

Paul says in Galatians 3; “Did you receive the Spirit by works of law or by hearing with faith?”. Some may say; “Well we don’t know – we didn’t feel anything anyway”. It makes Paul’s question utter folly! He expected them to know what he was speaking about!

He asked them; “Have you received?” and after he had prayed for them, he said; “Have you received now?” – I don’t think they said; “Well we’re moving into that”! They said; “Yes! We have received!”. Maybe you have not received. It is so thrilling to mingle leadership and Mobilise. You could receive tonight! We had the word; “Jesus said if anyone is thirsty come to Me and drink!”.

Are you thirsty? It doesn’t say “Anyone who is holy”. Or “anyone who is special”. “Anyone who is mature now”. It says; “Anyone who is thirsty”.

The coming upon of the Spirit, the seal or baptism of the Spirit – we CANNOT say it is non-experiential. It is utter foolishness!

Douglas Moo says in his commentary on Romans 8; “The Spirit in our hearts crying “Abba Father!” – it is a truth deeply felt and intensely experienced”. Intensely felt! It is not non-experiential! It is intense! It says “Shouting out or crying out!”. Lloyd-Jones makes the same point of this word; “Crying out” – he says; “It is a very extravagant kind of word”. It is not just a reflection on a few thoughts – it is something impulsive! It cries out!

Remember this – Paul says “Did you receive by works of the law?” or in other words did you work up some kind of merit? Or by hearing with faith? I want to invite you in a moment if you have never experienced the baptism with the Spirit – I want to invite you come and drink! Come and receive! Did you receive by the works of the law – or in other words gaining merit by being a “good person” or by hearing with faith? You have to hear with faith! That is the whole point! It is not something you get from merit – it is a gift! That is why it happens to people so early in their Christian lives! The promise is for everyone that the Lord our God shall call! It is not for special people!

“It is not whether you are worthy – it is whether I am glorified”.

On the Day of Pentecost Peter virtually preached that sermon and said; “He being exalted – glorified – has shed forth this which you can SEE and HEAR”. It is NOW available! After that day no one was ever told to wait! When Ananias came to Paul who was saved 3 days, Ananias (a nobody) laid hands on Paul and he was filled with the Spirit. No one was ever told to wait! The Holy Spirit believes in justification by faith – He owns and seals people justified by faith! He puts His seal on them! The promise is for everyone that the Lord our God shall call.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Reference Request .... !

Hey up people! I'm sure I should be doing something festive because this is the weekend before Christmas. But without wanting to sound grinch-like - I'm not actually feeling very festive! Plus my take is that while of course we can celebrate the Incarnation and think of the Lord Jesus coming into the world to take on humanity, I don't like the retail drive that demands we virtually bankrupt ourselves to show "love" to our nearest and dearest.

Maybe the Christmas spirit will sneak up on me sometime this week .... but anyhow this post is a very short request to the C J Mahaney/SGM fans out there. I read this quote by himself this week and can't track down where/when he said it.

Could anyone help? Many thanks!

"Even on our best day - we are shot full of sin".

I found it on the "Spiritual Tyranny" blog - that takes a somewhat satirical look at authority in general.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Signs of an Unwell Christian?

I got a email this morning in response to my post of yesterday entitled; "Don't you know there's a war on?". In SGM-speak you could call it an "observational" email. In short the emailer was suggesting that I am proud for appearing unsatisfied and unhappy with the Christian life and my current experience of God and should "calm down" and "grow up". I'm rather used to this so-called "mature" advice - I was told that by an elder in Dunstable just after I was baptised in the Holy Spirit in 1997 and kindly rejected that advice also.

But I was walking home thinking about how Christians strike the balance between bitterness and disappointment at the silence of God - compared to a holy and righteous persistance in the throne room of God. Dr Lloyd-Jones was fonding of quoting Thomas Goodwin - a great Puritan - who would say;

"Sue Him for it! Sue Him for it! Do not let Him go until He give the Spirit to you!".

This was speaking of praying for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

My mind then went to my nursing career. I have been a critical care paediatric nurse for almost 9 years now so venture to say I know a little about child health. One of the most basic things that a child does is to cry. Children cry instinctively. And their tears speak of a need - it is usually either food or care or a nappy change. But their tears presuppose a need - that someone will come and meet that need if they cry.

One of the MOST worrying things for any health care professional - doctor, nurse or other - is a child who doesn't cry and has stopped crying. A child who is sickly and pale and malnourished and mistreated and is deathly silent. That child needs instant medical attention. The child has stopped crying possibly because their needs were consistently never met by a loving parent or possibly no longer have the strength to show their need anymore.

It struck me that empassioned prayer is somewhat like a crying child. We are telling a loving Father of our need and of our most basic desires. I wonder - does a Christian who is sickly and pale and disappointed and disillusioned somewhat resemble that desperately ill child? Surely we must never, ever give up crying to God and pleading with Him for our deepest hearts desire.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Don't You Know There's a War On?

I got angry today! Really angry! My day started off with me waking up crying and shaking because I had a very vivid nightmare that I was back working at Acorn's Children's Hospice and being bullied by the staff that drove me out earlier this year. It was one of "those" dreams that was so real that I just woke up feeling upset and depressed and hopeless. I went out to work - my mood not improved by the rain and the cold - and just felt like I wanted to end it all. I have experienced depression earlier this year and knew the cold tentacles of it creeping back. But then rather than sucuumbing to it, "something" just made me get MAD!

I don't know what it was but I am so grateful for it! I started speaking to the powers of darkness and said something like this;

"Do you think I am stupid? I have seen your schemes and you are neither clever nor subtle. You don't care whether I am rich or poor, in a relationship or single, with child or without child, in a job or jobless. Your sole ambition is to remove my faith in a good and abundant God and you will try and do this WHATEVER the cost and however long it takes. As long as I have faith burning in me that God loves me and is for me - then you are losing.

And at times this year - I give you credit - you have won some battles. I ended up taking anti-depressants and considering committing suicide because life seemed hopeless and I despised myself. But you haven't and never will win the war. God is STILL for me and He STILL loves me. I admit - I can't feel His manifest Presence right now. I admit I can't hear His voice speaking to me right now. But I declare to you - principalities and powers - that does NOT mean that He isn't here and He isn't speaking!

I may feel like I am holding on to my faith and my vision with a fingernail - but the Word of God tells me; "Underneath are the Everlasting Arms!". So even if I let go and give up - even if I have no fight within me - He is still there and He will never give up on me! He is for me! So you lose! And may I remind you of your ultimate future? The Word of God tells me that your destiny is a firey pit that will never go out. But the Word of God tells me that the future of the people of God is a glorious one - the nations will come because it is so glorious!".

And I went on in that vein all the way into work. And then I remembered from my history the famous motto; "Don't you know there is a war on?". The people of God seem to get so easily battered around by the powers of darkness and life in general. We get so easily depressed! At least I do. Finances - or lack of - are the key in getting me down. But work has got me down this year. The lack of spiritual life and power that I enjoyed in 2006/07 has got me down. But does that mean God has changed?

The devil would seek to use this to say He has and His love is not as great as it was! But Jesus Christ Himself called the devil; "The father of lies". Are we really so stupid that we will believe his lies that God does not love us and is not for us? The louder the shouts in our head tell us that God has given up on us or God does not really love us - the greater the suggestion that the devil is launching a campaign.

We are at war! Let's not forget it! The war is not for territory or for geography ... yet. Because the devil doesn't need to fight for geography or territory! The war is for our faith and our hearts and our vision. When he has got a defeated, miserable and negative church - then the geography and territory is his anyway! We need to "stir up the gift that is within us"! We need to set our hearts ablaze! We need to fight and NEVER surrender!

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Vital Principle To Live By

I was thrilled to get a seven volume present from my parents for my birthday - "Tracts and Letters of John Calvin - 7 Volume Set". In the introduction there is a fascinating comment about Calvin himself;

"The leading principle of Protestantism - the paramount authority and perfect sufficiency of Scripture - he (Calvin) undoubtedly did hold and strenuously inculcate, but he also venerated the early Fathers of the Church and scarcely ever omitted an opportunity of strengthening his views by showing how well they accorded with theirs".

Many people often ask why I quote so much from heroes. It's for this simple reason. I love and appreciate the Word of God. It is indeed perfectly sufficient. But we who are at the climax of the consummation of the ages have an awesome gift in church history - the "cloud of witnesses" - who have gone before us and who have written down their words and still speak even though dead.

We ignore them surely at our peril.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Maintenance Notice!

Please note that the Rob Rufus "Grace and Glory" blog and the Ryan Rufus blog will be unavailable this weekend due to maintenance. They have both been hacked during the week so I need to investigate and sort what was done to them.

Thanks for your patience - hopefully will be back online soon!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

SUDDENLY from Heaven!!

Rob Rufus received a word from God a couple of years back that has resonated with me since I heard it. He mentioned it during the monumental "Invading the Impossible" series;

"Please Rob, tell My people to stop trying to impress Me with human effort and holiness and obedience. Let Me impress them".

I think years of inbuilt pride and legalistic traditions of men have kept me from doing that even when I have thought I was trying. Without trying to conjour sympathy (because I know others are going through the same thing) this year has been AWFUL! Just - horrendous and I won't go too much into detail. I was driven out of my job at Acorns Children's Hospice by homophobic bullies at the beginning of the year and then have gone from one crisis to another. Even personal events - such as my car catching on fire on the motorway - all just seemed to come altogether!

I think I am beginning to understand why. I am now running on empty. I am pretty upset, bitter, sad and exhausted. I don't have much energy to even muster any faith in God - other than the prayer; "Lord I believe - help my unbelief". I don't have any money to be able to give away and bless other people or enable me to work towards what I feel is my calling. It's just all ... gone!

I realised tonight when I was walking home from work that is a pretty good place to be actually. Because I am out of ideas to try and "impress" God. All I can do is sit back and wait and watch for Him to act. For Him to prove His Word - to Rob Rufus. For Him to impress! For Him to be God! Throughout the Word of God - the worst thing that He could do was to remain silent.

Ern Baxter preached a sermon in my home church in Dunstable called; "Sovereign Surprises". Ern was talking about the burning bush and said;

"A lot of Christian life is very plebeian and ordinary and mundane and unexciting and uninteresting and it shouldn’t be so. There should be an area of valid excitement that comes from having faith ... Are you ready for a bush? If God suddenly breaks into your life and you see a phenomenon like that, are you ready for it? Is it in your thoughts at all, this whole process of divine intervention? Or is tomorrow going to be like today? Are we just going to go in a kind of hum-drum existence, or do we have the biblical right to expect that God has historically engaged in a process of divine intervention that gives us hope?".

It seems that religion reacts to God not seeming to be very active by responding with a theology that He has withdrawn into heaven, given us the Word of God in a book and our next expectation of Him intervening is at the 2nd Coming. But that isn't building a theology on the Word of God! It is building a theology on our experience or lack of experience of the manifest Presence of God!

I must admit candidly that I don't have a personal testimony of many awesome manifestations of the Presence of God. But I have striven through my life so far to let my faith be fired by reading of encounters - and hungering after it. Of continually hoping for "MORE" rather than settling for "less". During the sermon Ern Baxter gave a real-life account of a time when he was with William Branham - here it is;

"I remember when I was in South Africa many years ago travelling with William Branham. We were going through a time of bitter persecution by the Dutch Reformed Church plus the press. Thousands of people were coming to the meetings in South Africa and it was stirring. And he and I were alone one night holding our case before God. Suddenly I was aware of a Presence. Now I know the Presence of the Holy Spirit and I wasn’t getting the same registration. Brother Branham said in his very quiet way, “Brother Ern – don’t be frightened. The angel of the Lord is in the room”.

Well he didn’t have to tell me. The next night, still under persecution, a Dutch Reformed minister who was bitterly opposed to us, was on his way home and he felt a hand on his shoulder. There was no one around him and he couldn’t understand it so he hurried home. It was a warm night and he had just been wearing a white shirt. He took his shirt off and looked at the back of it and a print of a hand was burned into the back of it".

Wow! This makes me so hungry - not for experience. The Charismatic Movement was roundly criticised by critic cessationists for chasing after "experiences". That may have been true in cases. But I would say in my experience - most are hungry just for the Presence of God! For God Himself! For the glory! Ern Baxter went on;

"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".

Surely that is why church is having relatively little impact upon the lost. Because we have no expectation - no hunger for divine activity. Before I close with a prayer by Dr Ern Baxter, let me quote from Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his monumental; "Joy Unspeakable";

"Certain men you will find become concerned and disturbed and unhappy and they say; "What we need is another baptism with the Holy Spirit, we must seek the face of God". They do everything they can; they repent and render obedience, they try to go on walking a life of faith, a life of surrender to the Spirit and they do so genuinely. But nothing happens. And they go on and on like that and are almost at the point of despair, when SUDDENLY something HAPPENS! Often when they least expect it. When they are on the verge of utter despair, suddenly on the assembled company, the Holy Spirit falls again".

It is not just Ern Baxter or the charismatics who believed and taught in a "suddenly from heaven!". Dr Lloyd-Jones saw it clearly in the book of Acts also. Here is Ern Baxter's closing prayer and it is the cry of my heart;

"God I’m a candidate for a surprise! I can’t make it happen. God I deplore the pornography, the sexual perversion, the permissiveness in society! I deplore it God! But unless you rend the heavens and come down and I’m saying to you this morning, God I’m not going to lift a carnal finger to make a good meeting – I will worship you and keep my spirit open but I won’t simulate a prophecy and I won’t manufacture a healing. But God – here we stand. Our eyes are upon you! God this morning our eyes are on you! We’re not match for international problems – we’re no match for this thing or that. As far as the world is concerned they walk right past our door. They don’t hate us! We don’t even deserve their hatred. They ignore us. If they hated us it would mean that we drew their attention but they don’t hate us because they don’t even know we’re here.

And God there is no way we are going to try and make it happen. We’re not going to go out and confront them on the street – no we don’t want that Lord! 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!"

And as if in confirmation as I was writing this post - a personal prophecy has come to me from a respected Newfrontiers prophet. He didn't know my personal circumstances and couldn't know. The "secrets of my heart" have been revealed. I think the surprise may be coming! And it can't come soon enough.

Monday, December 07, 2009

A Respected Intolerance

I had two posts in mind stemming from today - one is about fathers. I find it difficult - to be frank - relating to God as my Father. I don't quite know why that is. Maybe it's partly because I found it difficult to get on with my earthly dad. We are very different people emotionally. He is a man's man. I am an emotionally unstable soul - up or down but never in-between. I thank God that I have a measure of friendship with him now but childhood and teenage years were not easy. So does that disqualify me from ever enjoying God as heavenly perfect Father? Of course not - no earthly father is perfect. The key is to realise that any poor or bad relationships don't set the model for God - we have to be prepared to learn again and learn from new.

So I turned to the Song of Solomon today! I did so deliberately and without really much thought. It just seemed natural to me that if I wanted to learn what God is like as a heavenly Father. I'm in good company - C H Spurgeon's solid gold sermons on the Song of Solomon (gathered together masterfully in; "The Most Holy Place"). Who better than Spurgeon to teach about this book?!

However I was distracted by C H Spurgeon's rather "un-P.C" discussion of those who would hold views of the Song of Solomon that he would not agree with. I like that fresh approach! In this day and age I notice that the Christian church has become affected by the community. Disagreeing with someone isn't acceptable and it doesn't go down well. One of the things I liked about Spurgeon and the Puritans was that they were not afraid to state boldly their views and disagree carefully and thoughtfully where they felt someone was wrong.

So here is C H Spurgeon's statements on the Song of Solomon and those he would not agree with. He starts the sermon by discussing the view that men such as Mark Driscoll and C J Mahaney would hold - namely that the book discusses Solomon's marriage to Pharoh's daughter (as is thought). Spurgeon states;

"Now as I am sure as I am of my own existance, that this is one of the grossest mistakes (the Driscoll/Mahaney view) that was ever committed ... If you look all through the song you will find that this is so; in the very beginning she is compared to a shepherdess. Now all shepherds are abominations to the Egyptians; do you think therefore that Solomon would compare an Egyptian princess to the very thing which she abominated? In one place Solomon compares her to a company of horses in Pharoh's chariot. Now horses were among the Israelites, common things; and what would Pharoh's daughter have said if Solomon compared her to a company of horses?".

So there are a couple of excellent Spurgeon rebuttals to obvious glaring problems in "humanising" the Song of Solomon. It just doesn't quite make sense. Spurgeon then goes on;

"The fact is that this book is a puzzle to many men for the simple reason it was not written for them at all. Learned men and wise men find this a stone which they are broken to powder just because it was not written for them. Men who are disposed to laugh at Scripture find here an opportunity to exercise their profane wit, just because the book is not written for them".

One cannot help but think of Mark Driscoll's "jokes" about the Song of Solomon.

"The true believer who has lived near to his Master will find this book to be a mass, not of gold merely, for all God's Word is this, but a mass of diamonds sparkling with brightness ... If I must prefer one book above another, I would prefer some books of the Bible for doctrine, some for experience, some for example, but let me prefer this book above all others for fellowship and communion. When the Christian is nearest to heaven, this is the book he takes with him.

There are times when he would leave even the Psalms behind, when standing on the borders of Canaan, when he is in the land of Beulah and he is just crossing the stream, and can almost see his Beloved through the rifts of the storm-cloud, then it is he can begin to sing Solomon's song. This is about the only book he can sing in heaven".

I state all this again not to take one jot away from Driscoll or Mahaney's ministries. I know many people receive much from them. But for me - I feel more comfortable taking a hallowed approach to the Song of Solomon - it isn't funny. And it shouldn't have jokes made about it. I come to this book as a hungry learner - desperate to learn how a son should relate to his Father.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Where Are We Going? - Dales 1976 - Session 1

I am going to publish Ern Baxter's monumental series from the Dales Bible Week 1976 - "Where Are We Going?". This is all thanks to a Dunstable friend Andrew Norman and his hard work in transcribing this. I find that his series at the Lakes Bible Week 1975 on "The King and His Army" is more well-known but it was this series that impacted me more. The content was more developed and in depth and presented the greatest challenge to the Charismatic Movement in the United Kingdom. A challenge sadly that was ignored by pastors and teachers.

In his latest book of Christian biographies, John Piper wrote;

"When I first read that years ago, I said, No, Eraclius, the swans are not silent. They go on speaking. That is, they continue speaking, if someone tells their story and gives them a voice. That is what I am trying to do with these stories".

That is what I am trying to do here - ensure that Ern Baxter continues speaking by giving him a voice. So here is Session 1 from the Dales Bible Week 1976.

Message 1: Introduction

I suppose I could give several titles to the things I want to say to you during this week, but I’m going to entitle this series very simply, ‘Where are we going?’ Most of us know where we’ve come from; we’ve a pretty good idea where we are; but I’m afraid that we don’t have in the main a corporate concept as to where we are going, and how we get there. And it is about this I want to speak.

Does the Bible give clear teaching about what God intends his people to be, to do, and to become? I believe so, and I believe that the Word teaches it clearly, and I believe that in giving this teaching in the New Testament, the writers put forth God’s ideal for the nation of Israel as a type of his intention for his new Israel, or his New Covenant people. Now the validity of all that we are going to say this week rests upon the premise that Israel’s history was divinely intended and significant. It has divinely intended significance – this we’ll see.

Now we’re just going to expose our hearts to some scriptures for the next few minutes, and ask the Holy Spirit to impress them upon us, and I’m going to ask you from the start – I’m sure that many of you have individual needs, and I pray God they will be met - I pray that there will be physical healings this week; I pray there will be people who will become soundly converted to Christ; I pray that there will be people who will receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit; I pray that there will be impartation of special charismata, that the gifts of the Spirit will be loved and coveted and enjoyed and manifested; but I’m going to ask you to get into a ‘we’ mentality, as opposed to an ‘I’ mentality. I want us to talk about us, and I want you to let your personal needs this week, if you will, merge into the larger purposes of God for us as a people.

For let me parenthetically say that I believe that many of our personal problems and needs will be met when our corporate relationships are worked out. I believe that many of us are in physical and emotional and social and interpersonal problems tonight, for the simple reason that the redeemed community is not a community. It’s a pile of stones that hasn’t yet been made into a building. And there are many lonely stones that know they were never destined to be a lonely stone. And that the fulfilment of their destiny as a stone lies in their being knit together with other stones. And while they haven’t been able to articulate it, they have a deep sense that there is something missing.

They’re saved and baptised and sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost, and talk in tongues and prophesy, and have dreams and revelations and visions, and get goosebumps and get blessed, and everything else, but somehow they just know there is something missing.

Now if you don’t want to make that confession, I’ll make it for myself: there is something missing in my Christianity that doesn’t have entirely to do with me. There is something missing because I am not yet rightly related in God’s collective purpose. Every analogy that the Bible uses concerning his people is a corporate analogy. A nation, a congregation, a physical body, a building – all of these require that each individual part finds its fulfilled destiny in relationship to all of its related parts, and no matter how delightful a stone I am, all nicely prepared and polished, I have not found my destiny until I feel the touch of the stone next to me, and the stone under me, and know the responsibility of holding the stone above me. I just somehow know I was meant to be surrounded by other stones.

So we’re going to turn first to Romans 15. I think we should start from verse 1, and please notice the plural pronouns. ‘We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves,’ - ‘not to insist on having our own way,’ is Knox’s translation. ‘Let every one of us please his neighbour, for his good to edification,’ or, ‘let each of us give way to his neighbour where it serves a good purpose by building up his faith.’ Verse 3: ‘For even Christ pleased not himself, but as it is written, the reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.’ Now, here it is, verse 4: ‘For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,’ or instruction, ‘that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another, according to Jesus Christ, that ye may with one mind, and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

One great European commentator of a hundred years ago says that, ‘this is common adoration like pure harmony from a concert of well-tuned instruments.’ Look at that verse 6: ‘That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another.’ Now that word ‘receive’ is rather cold. In the original it means, ‘take to yourself’ or ‘welcome’. Don’t just say, ‘I receive you brother, bless you.’ ‘I receive you brother!’ There’s a warmth here. ‘Receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.’ Or, ‘just as Christ has welcomed you to promote the glory of God.’ What is the end issue here? The glory of God. Brothers and sisters, I wonder if you and I are really hearing the heart cry of God tonight? We think he wants to save me, and he wants to heal me, and he wants to bless me. Ah, but all of that is with a view of bringing you back into such a relationship with him, that his invisible attributes will be manifest in his earth.

Now when they went to the moon, and landed on the moon, and couldn’t find a microscopic cell of life, I got blessed. I did, I just got blessed. I looked at the pictures of that barren wasteland, and there wasn’t a thing there, not a thing. They couldn’t find a thing. Now the other day we landed on Mars, and it’s just as desolate. Hallelujah! [Laughter.] Now I’m saying that, to say this, that this little orb, this insignificant little blob of matter, in the infinity of our universe as we know it, has an abundance of forms of life that would require several lifetimes to catalogue, biologically, geologically, every way, just life everywhere, it’s just moving with life, trees and flowers and unicellular creatures, microscopic creatures, great large animals. It’s a…ooh, it’s tremendous!

Because God has decreed, as someone has said, that the earth is the arena of the universe, and here on this little planet, where God-like creatures like you and me are moving in an environment that he made, and intended and designed to be a homeland for creatures who bear his image, he is now working out a purpose whereby he will transmit the life of heaven into earth, until in the ultimate, earth and heaven will coalesce, and the curtain that comes between us and them, the curtain that comes between here and there, will dissolve, and heaven and earth will become one, and it will become the great site of the universe, as principalities and powers see the government and glory of God manifest in the corporeity of moral human beings that have come under the reign of God, through Jesus Christ his Son.

The thing we’re serving is the glory of God. We’ve prayed it. I wonder if we’ve known what we’ve been praying? ‘Our Father which art in heaven’ – wherever that is; ‘Hallowed be thy name’ – whatever that means; ‘Thy kingdom come’ – whatever that is. We may have been in the dark up until then, but the next clause leaves us without excuse. I don’t know as I could satisfy you about heaven – what it is, or where it is, you know it might be just – there. I don’t know. ‘Hallowed be thy name’ – that takes on tremendous dimensions, that’s discussing the whole character of the Almighty, that’s unscrewing the inscrutable, that’s a big one too.

‘Thy kingdom come’ – we’re getting warm now. Because when the Bible speaks of the kingdom of God, it’s not speaking so much geographically as it is morally. What we’re saying is, ‘God, let your moral, spiritual rule come over your creatures until all of them are submitted to your highest desire for them. The next one is unquestionable. ‘Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.’ Can you imagine the angels all dividing up and fussing with one another? Over some unimportant matter? Ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands of these magnificent creatures, that came fresh and new and fully formed from the fingertips of God’s creative genius, all functioning in moral submission to Almighty God, ministering spirits running his errands.

Those magnificent creatures that hover around his throne night and day, chanting, ‘holy, holy, holy.’ ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ You say – ‘That’s too much.’ Ah, it’s not for me to choose whether it’s too much or not, that’s God’s purpose, that we as a people all so rise to the provisions and the demands of God, that we shall not only function vertically and individually in relationship to God in perfect obedience to his will, but we shall so relate to one another that we will function as a grand symphony, every instrument a little different, but every instrument blending with every other instrument to bring forth a majestic sound, that has the tones of eternity in it.
Now the Word of God says that we are to entertain this as a hope. In the New Testament, when the Holy Spirit uses the word ‘hope’ he doesn’t use it in the sense of ‘wish for’. ‘Hope’ in the New Testament is that which God has declared will be, and that toward which we move with certainty. My hope is to spend eternity in the presence of God, based on the revelation of his Word. That is not something that I wish would happen, that is something I know will happen, and it’s called my hope.

There’s no wishing in it. There’s no uncertainty in it. It’s a declared fact in the future to which I move. The reason it’s called a ‘hope’ is because it’s yet future. But it is as certain as anything that is present or anything that has been past. In fact it is so certain that Paul daringly says that ‘whom God called he justified, and whom he justified he glorified.’ Tonight I’m already in heaven, as much as I’ll be after I’ve been there ten thousand years with my new body. My spirit knows it’s in heaven, it’s my body that’s causing me embarrassment. [Laughter.] That’s why Paul speaks about our ‘body of our humiliation,’ - not ‘our vile body’ – that’s a vile translation! There’s nothing vile about your body. Your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost’s, and I can’t imagine the Holy Spirit living in a vile house. It’s the body of our humiliation. Now what’s humbling about it? My body just won’t go with my spirit. How many of you here at some high moment of blessing and anointing have somehow just known that you could fly? [Laughter.] How many have experienced that? Thank God! For a moment I thought I was the only strange one here.

For six months after I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I would dream I was flying. Of course I’d wake up and I’d be on the floor. [Laughter.] Now the point I’m making is that’s a very valid feeling. Paul said, ‘I long to depart and be with Christ’ – that word ‘depart’ in Greek means ‘pull up anchor’. He said, there’s only one thing anchoring me. You see, right now, tonight, in your spirit and mine, if we be children of God, the very Spirit that is going to effect our resurrection, or our glorification, is already living there. And when that Spirit becomes very active, and my spirit and the Holy Spirit are indissolubly joined together, and there’s this great, supernatural activity going on inside, sometimes my spirit says, ‘Why don’t we just take off!’ My body says, ‘Well, we’ll try!’ [Laughter.] But it humiliates me, and I don’t go no place. But one day, one day, it’s going to obey my spirit. And it won’t take nearly eight months to get to Mars. Alright.

I just wanted us to get verse 4 mainly. ‘For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.’ And verse 6, ‘That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And this is to be done by welcoming one another, as Christ also welcomed us.’ All for the purpose of bringing about a demonstration of the glory of God. You say, well, I’m with you up until now, what’s all the big hassle about? It’s all going to happen when Jesus comes. Aha, but there’s the point. I’m suggesting that there’s something which should happen before Jesus comes, that isn’t happening now, although I feel stirrings. I sense beginnings, and I think God is up to something. How many feel God is up to something? I think he’s up to something. [Laughter.] ‘Beloved now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be - doth not yet appear what we shall be.’ He’s changing us.

Alright, if you’ll come with me to 1 Corinthians 10, I just want us to expose ourselves to the ‘we’ aspect, as against the ‘I’ aspect. Paul is writing to the Corinthians. Paul is not writing to a person, Paul is writing to a people. Paul is writing to a community of people who have certain distinctive features that mark them out as a community different to all other communities. But the Corinthians, like us, not realising the significance and the distinctiveness, and really the purpose of God for them as a community, are a mess. The Corinthians were a mess. I’m sorry about that because the Corinthian epistle is the charismatic epistle, so if you like, they were a charismatic mess. I hope I don’t have to go through the whole thing to tell you they were a mess. I hope you’ve read the Corinthian epistle.

They were divided among preachers, there was open immorality among them, they were taking one another to law before pagan judges, they were getting drunk at the Lord ’s Table, they were debating with one another over the doctrine of the resurrection. They were a mess. And they were all full of the Holy Spirit, and had spiritual gifts. They came behind in no gift. The only thing was they mishandled them. Even their meetings were messy. They’d have several people prophesying at the same time. Paul had to speak into that thing. He said you must understand that when you belong to a redeemed community, you don’t do your own thing. You do that which is designed to make you a part of a whole, but not the whole part. And God’s whole purpose will only be realised as you are willing to be what he wants you to be in the community, in the body, in the building, in the nation, in the army, whatever analogy you choose. You will only find your personal fulfilment as you find your place in the corporate community.

If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? Imagine if your body was just one big eye. ‘E Y E’ lest some of you have a bad conscience. Or if the whole were an ear, where were the smelling? Imagine one big ear, to say nothing of one big nose. [Laughter.] I’m labouring this because I want you to think corporately, I want you to start realising from the lowest motivation, that you are only going to, and I am only going to, find personal fulfilment, as you find it in relationship. There is no such thing in the New Testament as a Christian out of community. I feel vibrations coming from Ruth, and I know what they are. She’s saying, ‘Ern, tell them what you mean by community.’ I know what I mean, and she knows what I mean, and many of you know what I mean, but some of you may think that I’m talking about three families living in one house, and that is not what I’m talking about. And because when I go back to the hotel, if I don’t say what I’m about to say, I’ll be told that I should have said what I’m about to say, I’m about to say what I’m about to say.

This week when I speak of community, I’m going to tell you simply I’m going to dip into the last chapter, and tell you simply what I’m talking about. I’m talking first of all about every one who calls Jesus Christ Lord in the geographical place where you live. That’s how Paul defines it in 1 Corinthians 1:2 ‘All those who in every place call upon the name of the Lord.’ That is the redeemed community in that place. Now all those in Judea, or Samaria, or Galatia, or Greece who call on the name of the Lord, that’s the redeemed community in a larger dimension, and you can extend that until you’ve embraced the earth. All those who call Jesus Christ ‘Lord’ the world over then become the worldwide redeemed community, and when all of those come together as they should, starting at the lowest level and working on out, then the earth will be covered with the glory of the Lord as the water covers the sea. So when I’m speaking about the redeemed community I’m not speaking about three families living in one house. That’s an aspect of community, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

The Corinthians did not understand the demand of God upon them and I’m going to lay this on you heavily now, this is not optional. In fact I feel very strongly in my spirit, and have done just the last few hours, that the time has come when I have to say, and say it categorically, you do not have the option to enjoy the questionable luxury of being an island unto yourself. Nor do I. It is not optional whether you move into the will of God or not. To refuse to move into the will of God is to come under the sanctions of the moral governor of the universe, and the moral governor of his church. There is one who walks among the candlesticks, and he trims the wicks, and if you don’t burn, you go out. You see, the things that I am going to say to you this week are not novel. I trust that they can claim to be the revelation of God for us. They carry teeth. When the risen Christ wrote to the seven churches in Asia in the book of Revelation, he said, ‘Repent, lest I come unto thee quickly and remove thy candlestick.’ I don’t think he was talking about taking away their salvation. I don’t think that’s the subject. He’s talking about witness, the candlestick the shining forth. Either you and I go on into God’s purposes, or we go out. It’s not optional. No longer can we say, ‘I believe what he said, but really it’s too demanding.’ I don’t care how demanding it is. If it’s what God requires, then it’s what we must do.

Some people came to visit us the other week, to take us out for dinner, and they came to our home, and we have a modest, comfortable home in Florida. Ruth has delightfully furnished it, and it’s most comfortable. I have my study, and it’s home. Our guest had not been there, and as he walked through the house he turned to me and he said, ‘Why in the world do you want to leave this, and travel all over the country?’ I said, ‘You’ll have to ask Jesus.’ When I hear Paul saying, ‘Woe unto me if I preach not the gospel,’ I hear the cry of a bone-weary, little, bow-legged, beetle-browed Jew who hasn’t got a spot in his body that isn’t marked with a scar. But he knows that he’s under the divine imperative. It’s not optional.

Alright, verse 1 of chapter 10: ‘Moreover, brethren’ – notice the plural - ‘Moreover, brethren I would not that ye should be ignorant’. Now when Paul says, ‘I would not that ye should be ignorant’, fasten your seat belts. He’s about to descend upon you. What he’s really saying is, ‘You’re ignorant!’ [Laughter.] You know it’s just a nice polite way of saying, ‘You’re a dumbo!’ Which obviously they were, and which obviously we are. Do you know that this summer I have come closer to discouragement than I have in many years, and it’s got nothing to do with you? It has to do with us. As I have sat on conference platforms with men, and I have felt the thrust of their egotistical desire for recognition, and the putting over of their point, and the proving of their position, I’ve said, ‘O great God, when will you ever bring this thing to pass? Are you going to have to destroy all your servants and raise up a whole new batch? How long, how long will we play on our one egotistical string? How long will we play holy pied pipers?’

And then I go to the scriptures and receive hope. ‘But as truly as I live, saith the Lord, all the earth shall be filled with my glory. If my prophets fail I’ll raise up new prophets, if one generation won’t go in, I’ll raise another generation. I don’t care how many generations it takes me. Generation after generation in this time-space world, I will one day have a generation that will respond to me as truly as I live.’ He said, ‘I base this on my own character. If it takes the processes of generations I will bring to pass in the mystery of divine pressure, and human moral response, I will bring to pass a generation of men and women that will manifest my glory around the globe.’

So I turn from the discouragement again, and take hope in the scriptures. ‘Brethren I would not have you to be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and did all eat of the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink, for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ, but..but…’ But what? The King James version is very gracious, it says ‘with many of them’ – the Amplified version says ‘the great majority of them’. ‘But with many of them God was not well pleased, for they were overthrown’ – where? Where were they overthrown? [Audience – ‘in the wilderness’.] So God didn’t take them all back to Egypt and drown them in the Nile, just remember that. They didn’t go back to Egypt, they were overthrown in the wilderness.

Verse 6: ‘Now these things were our examples,’ or, ‘these things were examples to us or warnings to us,’ ‘to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted, neither be idolaters as were some of them, as it is written, the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’ And that’s not a pretty picture when you know the in depth meaning of it. Verse 8: ‘Neither commit fornication,’ or sin sexually, ‘as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ.’ Dr Williams translates it, ‘Let us stop trying the Lord’s patience, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents, and stop grumbling as some of them also grumbled, and were destroyed of the destroyer.’ Now he reminds us again, ‘Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples,’ J.B Phillips says, ‘These things which happened to our ancestors are illustrations of the way in which God works.’ You say, ‘What’s that got to do with us?’ This is what Paul is saying. Those things that happened to them happened to them as examples and types and warnings, for us.

Verse 11: ‘Now these things happened unto them for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition,’ or our benefit, ‘as a warning.’ Here it is now: this is what makes it so important, precious people, this is what makes it so important: ‘Upon whom the ends of the world are come’. Let me give you two other translations that are clearer. Again Dr Williams: ‘In whose lives the climax of the ages has been reached.’ Or as J B Phillips says: ‘Who are the heirs of the ages which have gone before us’. Brothers and sisters, we are the end of Redemption Alley. We’re the end of Redemption Road. We are at the terminus of history, we are at the climax of the ages. God’s got no ace up his sleeve.

‘God who at sundry times and in divers manners in time past spake unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days,’ or at the end of the ages – in the last of the time-space world – ‘has spoken unto us by his Son.’ He gave prophets, he gave Moses, he gave Samuel, he gave Elijah, he gave Elisha, he gave Isaiah, he gave Jeremiah, he gave Ezekiel, he gave men, mighty men, that he clothed and equipped with his power. He gave them. Then as the ages came to an end, and the last great climactic age of the ages, the end of time arrived, when the fullness of time had come – and don’t water it down – God no longer sent an Isaiah, or a Jeremiah, but he reached into his bosom and in the mystery of incarnation he gave his Son! God can’t top his Son. God has nothing better to give. Prophets he gave. Eventually he said, ‘Here’s my Son.’

This is the end, this is the last. I don’t know if you’re hearing me.

What I’m saying to you tonight, I’m going to put it in large terms. I know Jesus Christ is the Saviour, and I know that his precious blood avails for sin. And I know that the Holy Spirit is come to convict men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. I know all of that, but that’s where most of us evangelically have stopped. What we don’t know is that the result of God’s redemptive act is to have a redeemed people who will in turn mediate God’s redemption to the world. And I go round saying, ‘I’m saved, I’m converted, I’m baptised with the Holy Ghost.’ Hurrah! That’s great! But now let me put it in large terms tonight. England is waiting for you.

You say, ‘Who me? I’m not Jesus.’ Oh yes you are! It’s Jesus that saves, that’s right. But, ‘How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of them.’ How shall they hear about Jesus without a preacher? You say, ‘Now you want me to go to the mission field.’ No, I want you to stay home and stay at your job, and be a good Christian and love your wife, and train up your kids in the way they should go, and be a member of the local community of God’s people, and be a child of God in relationship, until the little world that you live in at McGurkle’s Crossing, or Pumpkin Holler, or wherever you live, that that little world will see Jesus Christ mediated through you, and it will be such a beautiful picture that you won’t give an altar call to get people saved, they’ll be knocking on your door, saying, ‘Hey, I want what you’ve got!’ That’s worth applauding, go ahead! [Applause.]

How many here tonight have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in this renewal? Let me see. How many have received it at any time? How many have received the baptism? Well, that’s pretty unanimous. That’s just about everybody. But do you know that’s not the end? That’s the beginning. That’s the cement that creates community. ‘By one Spirit are we all baptised into one ecstatic convention’. [Laughter.] Into one what? Body. What’s a body for? A body is for manifesting life, and reproducing life, and functioning in health, each member relating to each other member so as to ensure the health of each.

Alright, let’s go to Hebrews. Remember the plural pronouns. Hebrews 3:1 ‘Holy brethren’ – not, ‘holy brother’. The word ‘brethren’ here includes the ‘sistern’. [Laughter.] It’s like the word ‘man’. Sometimes it’s used generically and it means ‘humanity’. When he says ‘holy brethren’, he’s saying ‘holy brothers and sisters; holy community; holy people of God; holy nation; holy army; holy body.’ ‘Wherefore holy brethren, partakers, or comrades of a heavenly calling, partners.’ The word partakers - words are so important – partaker of the heavenly calling. ‘Oh, alright, I’m a partaker.’ No, that’s not what it means. It means that together – the word ‘partakers’ means comrades, partners, joint participators;

Dr Weymouth says ‘sharers’ in the heavenly calling. I cannot realise the full meaning of what God has called me to if I am not experiencing it in relationship with you. I don’t want to be vulgar, but there is no sense in me saying to a man standing there alone, ‘I hope you have some nice children’. He said, ‘Who me?’ Or if I were to say it to some pleasant lady, ‘I hope you are blessed with a fine family.’ She says, ‘Well, I’m, er, I’m single.’ What’s she saying? Why was he perplexed? For the very same reason that the little virgin Mary was perplexed when the great archangel Gabriel said she was going to have a child. She asked a very simple question, she said, ‘How can this be since I have not known a man?’ She said, ‘I can’t have a child apart from relationship.’

And God’s will cannot be done in earth, brothers and sisters, apart from relationship. Revival is waiting tonight for relationship. The world is waiting for us to find one another in the redeemed community. It’s waiting for us. God is waiting for us. The angels are waiting with bated breath, leaning over the balustrades, saying, ‘Christians, get it together, like we’ve got it together up here. You’ll never know how good it is to get it – get it together!’ [Laughter.]

Does anybody here speak English? Some of you are looking at me as if I’m talking in tongues! ‘Wherefore holy brethren, comrades, sharers, fellow participators of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest of our profession, who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all’ – now we’re coming into it – ‘in all the household of God.’ Or, as one translation says, ‘in the management of God’s house’ – not talking about you and me, we’re talking about us. Verse 3: ‘For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, in as much as he who hath builded the house’ – or, the founder of the household, ‘hath more honour than the house itself,’ or the household.

I wonder if I can say this to you without breaking my spirit? Paul’s called himself a steward of God’s household. Now there’s another plural concept. We are members of God’s family, and God’s changing his housekeeping when Jesus came along. Moses looked after God’s house, but when Jesus came along God’s house took on new dimensions, and God changed his housekeeping. And then he gave his revelation to Paul about his house, and how he wants his house run. In the fourth chapter of Ephesians he tells us how he wants his house run. 1 Corinthians 12-14 tells us how we are to behave in the house. First Timothy, Paul said, ‘if I don’t get to you Timothy in Ephesus, I’m writing a letter to you so you’ll know how to behave in the house of God. God’s got a household with a bunch of naughty kids.

That’s why Hebrews 12 is so important: ‘Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.’ And if you be without chastening, then you’re not in the household. We’re talking about sanctions now. You say, ‘I hear what you’re saying, Baxter, and if you think I’m going to come under that kind of condemnation, you’re crazy. [Laughter.] I’m a Christian, and I’m on my way to heaven, hallelujah! And if you think you’re going to get me into some kind of corporate thing, and all that business about getting along with others, I want you to know, bless God, I’m independent.’ Oh really? I hope you’re not as independent as I’m thinking, because if you’re that independent, you may not even be in.

I tell you one thing, if you’re a real child of God, and you’re not flowing with God’s purposes, he’s a good parent. He’s not like one of us. We say, ‘Oh, I never spank my children, I love them too much.’ You tell lies! You don’t love them at all, you love yourself. You don’t want to run the risk of having them not like you, so you don’t spank them, and then rationalise by saying you love them. Oh no you don’t. If you loved them, you’d lay the rod on them. And leave a blue wound, the Bible says. Ohhh! [Laughter.] ‘I just couldn’t!’ Alright, don’t! But you’ll live to see the day when he’ll lay a blue wound on you. My Father practises what he preaches. My Father tells me as a father that I am to use the rod. And so my Father practises what he preaches. A lot of sob sister bleeding heart preachers come along with a sloppy message of the love of God, that God loves you too much and he won’t do this and…look, God loves you so much he won’t let you have your own way, that’s how much he loves you. And when you want to take your own way, he says, ‘Son, let’s take a walk.’ [Laughter.] And when you come back, he says, ‘Now, will you do what you’re told?’ ‘Yes, Daddy.’ Don’t know what I’m laughing at. Alright.

Verse 4: ‘For every house has a builder, but he that built all things,’ or the builder of all things, ‘is God. And Moses was faithful in the whole house of God,’ or as Dr Moffatt says, ‘in every department of God’s house as an attendant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after, but Christ as Son over his own household, whose house are’ – what’s the pronoun? ‘We.’ ‘We are his family,’ is one translation. Now there’s another one I didn’t even mention before – family, the family of God. ‘Whose house are we if… Whose house are we if… Whose house are we if…’ Everybody got an if in there? ‘Whose house are we if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope, firm unto the end, wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, today if…’ [Breaking into song] ‘The Holy Ghost saith today if…The Holy Ghost saith today if…’ Somebody ought to make a chorus out of that! [Laughter.] ‘The Holy Ghost saith, today if…’ Somebody says, ‘I don’t like that. It doesn’t inspire confidence.’ Isn’t it interesting how we choose all the scriptures we like, we make choruses out of them. Here’s another one I think would make a good chorus: ‘Our God is a consuming fire! Our God is…’ It’s in there. No, we would pick all the good ones – ‘All things work together for good, together for good…’ ‘My God shall supply all your needs..’ Isn’t it interesting? ‘Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth…’ [Laughter.] I wish some son of Asaph would write some of those choruses.

We do the same in our Bible reading. You all have a favourite verse. ‘He knoweth our frame, that we are but dust.’ ‘Be ye therefore perfect, for your Father in heaven is perfect.’ ‘Oh, I don’t like that one.’ Since when did we have a right to like and dislike God’s Word? You see we pick and choose. ‘Wherefore the Holy Ghost saith, today if you will hear...’ Who will hear? ‘He’s talking to sinners.’ Well, yes, he is. Sinning saints. Now some people are out saving sinners. My business is to go round saving saints. The voice of God that is being talked about here is the voice of God to a people who had already come through redemption. And he said, ‘Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your’ - plural – ‘hearts.’ I came over here, and I went to bed last night about 10:30, and I woke up at 2:00, and I didn’t go back to sleep, and so I read the prophets, in the quiet of the night. Try it sometime – reading the prophets in the quiet of the night.

You know what they did to prophets? You know how Jesus designated ethnic Israel? He designated them as the people who slew the prophets. The big thing today is not to put people under condemnation. ‘Don’t send them away with a heavy spirit. Send them home happy.’ Who said so? ‘Today if you will hear his voice,’ get up off your lazy seat and go do what you are told. Don’t talk to me about sending you home happy. God’s not Santa Claus, he’s God. Everybody thinks they got to come to a meeting, and good Saint Nick’s going to hand out presents. We’re all going to go home singing Christmas carols – you know, we’ve been to visit Santa Claus. God’s not Santa Claus, he’s your Father. He has begotten you and me unto a living hope, he has brought us into a family relationship, and he takes his kids sometimes, and he bats their heads together. Now he says, ‘Behave yourselves, I don’t want to hear any more of that fussing.’ Pow! Pow! Pow! Somebody says, ‘But brother, God is love.’ I know he is! Pow! Pow! Pow! And I’ve got the scars to prove it. How many here have scars to prove it, that God is love? Come on, be honest.

They killed prophets. You know it’s a most interesting thing. Pardon me for being autobiographical, but God worked me over – he’s done it several times – but on this occasion it was down in Arizona where we were living at the time, and I woke up one morning, and he was there. Have you ever had one of those kind of days? [Laughter.] He’s waiting for you when you wake up. And it runs something like this: ‘We’re going to make a day of it.’ [Laughter] We made a day of it. I mean it. I put it humorously, but it’s a day I’ll not soon forget. He took me into Isaiah. He stripped me clean. I remember I finished the day toward six o’clock in the evening, slumped by the side of my bed. My tear ducts were dry. I couldn’t generate a tear. I remember what he said to me. He said, ‘You’re going to be a divider.’ And I remember I felt free to very dryly respond, ‘Thanks a lot.’ What a commission! ‘You’re going to be a divider.’ He said, ‘My Son was a divider. He came not to bring peace but a sword.’ He said, ‘You’re going to be a divider, because as you proclaim the truth, you will demand that people make decisions. And those who don’t want to decide will draw back, and they will say, “Baxter brought division.”’ Dividing what? The ones who want to from the ones that don’t want to. Men and women will make decisions in this convention this week as we move into this series – and I’m just gently moving into it. [Laughter.] People are going to make decisions, because there are thousands tonight of God’s people in the valley of decision, who are standing at the point where they are either going to go in to what God is doing, or they’re going to retreat, never again to have an opportunity to go in. I’m not talking about going to heaven. I’m not talking about heaven tonight. I trust that this audience is sufficiently mature that you know I’m not talking about heaven and hell. I’m talking about whether you and I are going to do the perfect revealed will of God in this hour of visitation, or whether we’re going to draw back and die in the wilderness.

‘Harden not your hearts as in the provocation in the day of temptation in the wilderness.’ Verse 9: ‘When your fathers tried my patience and tested me, and saw my works forty years, wherefore I was grieved with that generation.’ He was grieved with that whole generation – plural. ‘And said they do always err in their heart. And they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, they shall not enter into my rest.’ They. ‘Take heed brothers and sisters, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.’ But have the moral courage, and the agape kind of love to confront one another daily, desiring for each other the highest best. Exhort one another. It’s not just encourage, it’s to lovingly confront. Are we up to that yet? Are we up to being lovingly confronted? There may be some of you here tonight who know what a Communist cell is like.

And if you do, if there’s anyone here who does, you know what I am saying, that one of the reasons that Communism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses if you like, have made such a dent on this world’s population in the last fifty years, is because they rediscovered among other things, the power of confronting one another in terms of the highest goals of their party and their religion. And if you’re in a Communist cell your comrades will confront you, if they know of any act or attitude on your part that is not in accord with the Communist purpose. They’ll confront you. And this country is not without its historical illustrations, for the Methodist class meeting in its most powerful day had confrontation. Incidentally, that’s where the Communists got their cell system, from the Methodist class meeting.

We don’t dare confront one another any more. I’m not talking about pointing the finger of criticism. This word ‘exhort’ is a rich word in the Greek. It doesn’t mean sloppy agape. It doesn’t mean maudlin sentiment. It does mean the arm around the shoulder, but it does mean the firm, courageous, straightforward, probing, loving word in the heart, so that you know with the strength of the arm and the word that you’ve got that man’s best love for you, not a love that will let you get off, but a love that will say, ‘I love you too much to not point out the flaw that is ruining you.’ ‘Exhort one another daily, while it is called today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, for we are made partakers,’ or, ‘we participate in Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence, steadfast unto the end…’ and on and on it goes.

Let me just take a few minutes and give you a few more scriptures. Did we get a board? We got a board. I’m not going to put that much on it, but I’m just going to put something on to stimulate you for the morning. Let’s take four scriptures quickly. Exodus 3:8. What I put on here’s going to be childishly simple. And I’m going to explain it for the sake of tape people. Have you ever listened to a tape, and a man’s using a chalkboard? [Laughter.] And you’re listening and you’ve got the whole argument up to this point, and now he says ‘I’m going to the chalkboard,’ and he writes, and the people laugh, and they say, ‘Wh-what did he say?’ [Laughter.] Now on the left side of the chalkboard, up on the left hand top corner, I’m going to put ‘Egypt’. I hope I’m going to get this all here on this postage stamp. [Laughter.] In here I’m going to put ‘wilderness’. Over here I’m going to put ‘land’.

Exodus 3:8. I want you to see three prepositions, then I’ll let you go home, because some of you are just freezing, bless your hearts. Lord, warm those souls! Did you ever hear of a cold prophet? Alright, Exodus 3:8 ‘I am come down to deliver them...’ What? ‘Out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them…’ What? ‘Up out of that land’, what else? ‘Unto a good land.’ Alright, let’s go to chapter 6, verses 6-8. ‘Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am Jehovah’ – that’s the divine signature – ‘and I will bring you…’ What? ‘Out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you…’ What? ‘Out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great judgments, and I will take you to me for a…’ What? What? Talk to me loudly. ‘People. People. People.’ Not one ‘poople’, ‘people’. Okay. ‘And I will be to you a God and ye shall know that I am Jehovah your God who bringeth you...’ What? ‘Out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will bring you…’ What? ‘In unto the land which I sware to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, and I will give it to you for a heritage. I am Jehovah.’

Now, what’s the word I put under ‘Egypt’ then? ‘Out’. And what is the word I put under ‘land’? ‘In’. How many know they’re out? How many know that we are not yet in? Come on, we are not yet in. Thank you for that. Some are not sure, which indicates they know they’re out, they’re not sure they’re in, so I know where they are. [Laughter.]

Two more scriptures. Deuteronomy 6:23, where we’ve got the two prepositions in one small verse. Deuteronomy. Matthew, Mark, Deuteronomy. [Laughter.] Okay, you got it, in the Old Testament, the front part of the Bible? ‘And he brought us…’ What? ‘Out from thence that he might bring us…’ What? ‘In.’ To give us what? ‘A land.’ To give who? ‘Us.’ Say it again. ‘Us.’ Again: ‘Us!’ Hallelujah! That’s the battle hymn of God’s republic. Now here’s the last scripture, Deuteronomy 8:15. I just want one small part of it to get the preposition. The very first sentence: ‘Who led thee...’ What? ‘Through.’ So what do I put down here under ‘wilderness’? ‘Through.’ That’s what I am, just about, right now! [Laughter.] Now you all have it. We come out of what? Egypt. We go through the what? Wilderness.

And we come into the what? The land. That’s God’s purpose for his people. Now let me ask you a question, because I didn’t for years, so don’t be embarrassed if you have to answer it negatively. I had preached again and again, on Egypt, the Exodus, the Red Sea, the whole bit. I’d preached on the wilderness, the manna, and everything. But I had not ever preached a sermon on the land. I’d talked about coming out of Egypt, and I’d talked about all the miracles in the wilderness, but somehow this… And I have a large library, so I thought I would consult it, and couldn’t find any sermons on the Land, and I said, isn’t that strange? We know what we’ve come out of, and we know what we’ve to go through, but we don’t seem to know what we’re to go into. What does the land stand for? It doesn’t stand for some place I am going, it stands for some place we are going. How many have heard a sermon on the land? About five.

Don’t be embarrassed. I had not ever heard one, and it wasn’t until God quickened this whole thing to me about five years’ ago, in a charismatic leadership group in Seattle, Washington, where charismatic leaders were gathered from all over the nation, and the question came up, ‘Where are we going?’ And God had just opened this up to me. And they said, ‘Where are we going? What is the meaning of this visitation?’ And I said, ‘Brethren, I think I know where we’re going.’ And they gave me time to take the chalkboard and point out that if this generation will hear the voice of God, I can tell you, before this week is over, where God wants us to go. And because this tape is going to be heard by a lot of people, I have no apologies for what I’m going to say this week about where we’re supposed to go. And if nobody wants to go where we’re supposed to go, you stay where you are, I want to go where I’m supposed to go. [Laughter and applause.]

Hallelujah! If you’re glad I’m finished, don’t say Hallelujah, but if you’re glad the Lord is risen, say Hallelujah! If you’re glad God’s got a purpose for us, say Hallelujah! Glory to God!"

Session 2 - to follow shortly!