Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Lutheran Church, Toowoomba – Date: 1 January 2017

For more sermons and other writings, please check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org

 

The 1st Day of the 4th Season

 

I have been waiting for this Sunday to come for a long time – (I have been counting down the last few years. I have been counting down the months, the weeks and the sleeps) – and finally it is here – the 1st of January 2017. God has a prophetic calendar for this church which I did not recognize for a long time but when I did, I became excited and I knew – this is my discernment and conviction (and you are free to make up your own mind about this) – that 1st of January 2017 (today!) was the date, the beginning of a brand-new season which would be so much better than the last (as joy is better than tears).

What am I talking about? Today marks the beginning of a new season in my own ministry and the history of this church. I cannot remember when the significance of these seven-year seasons dawned on me – maybe a book or colleague in town made me have a look at some of the significant dates of our history (only a few years ago), and initially I only recognized one seven-year period when in fact two stand out and today is the third transition point – but here they are. I put them before you [show slide]:

 

1st 7-year Season:       1 January 1996 (Edgar’s start of ministry)                                  – 31 December 2002

2nd 7-year Season:       1 January 2003 (Baptism with the Spirit @ Gemechis’ visit)       – 26 December 2009

3rd 7-year Season:       27 December 2009 (Glory of God @ LG with glory-sparkles)     – 31 December 2016

4th Season:                 1 January 2017 (Expectation of harvest)                                     – the future

 

Before I unpack our prophetic calendar in greater detail, I want to show you from the Bible how God does work with specific and symbolic time frames and seasons. He can be quite deliberate in sticking to dates. Sometimes the Holy Spirit insists on freedom from human planning and control so much that Holy Spirit meetings can look a little too messyfor our liking but, on the other hand, God is not against structure and is following his own neat plans. For instance, we read in the Bible that God was precise in numbering the generations from key dates and persons to key dates and persons, until the birth of Jesus, the Messiah – Matthew 1:17: “Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.” There were three times fourteen generations (and fourteen is two times seven). God is into this kind of planning and structure. It was also no accident that the Holy Spirit was being poured at the harvest festival of God’s people – Pentecost – for the first time (this was full of symbolism) because the Holy Spirit would empower the harvest of souls coming to faith which happened on the very first day with three thousand people being saved.

From the beginning, the number seven in the Bible represents something that is finished and complete – holy in its perfection. God created the world in seven days and, ever since, all of our lives are patterned according to this first week – complete seven-day cycles. [Exodus 20:8-11: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”]

Then, the number seven can signify repeatedly that a season is finished and complete – perfect in God’s design:

 

Exodus 22:30: Do the same with your cattle and your sheep. Let them stay with their mothers for seven days, but give them to me on the eighth day.

 

Genesis 41:17-32: Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds.  After them, seven other cows came up—scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt.  The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first.  But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.

In my dream, I saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads sprouted—withered and thin and scorched by the east wind.  The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told this to the magicians, but none of them could explain it to me.”

Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.  The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream.  The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.

It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land.  The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe.  The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.”

 

2 Kings 5:10: Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

 

Joshua 6:2-5: Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days.  Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”

 

[https://gotquestions.org/number-7-seven.html: Multiples of 7 also figure into the biblical narrative: the “seventy weeks” prophecy in Daniel 9:24 concerns 490 years (7 times 7 times 10). Jeremiah 29:10 predicted the Babylonian Captivity would last for seventy years (7 times 10). According to Leviticus 25:8, the Year of Jubilee was to begin after the passing of every forty-ninth year (7 times 7).]

Daniel 9:24-27: [An angel said to Daniel:] “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.

Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.  After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.  He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”

 

http://www.aheartforgod.org/2013/01/11/the-number-7-and-the-book-of-revelation/: We have the 7 seals written on the scroll … symbolic of the complete program of [judgement]… (Revelation 5:5) / We have the 7 trumpets (contained within the 7th seal) symbolic of the entirety of the judgments of God intended to break the power of evil. (Revelation 8:2-11:16) / We have the 7 vials or bowls (which are contained in the 7th trumpet) symbolic of the fullness of the wrath of God rendered against godless people. (Revelation 15:5-8; 16:1-21)

 

God can also use other numbers (such as forty or ten or twelve) or he may follow no pattern. He is God (and we are not) but we must not be too surprised if God has been following a plan with us and seven-year seasons played a part in this.

What were our seasons about? I put them before you again [show slide]:

 

1st 7-year Season:       1 January 1996 (Edgar’s start of ministry)                                  – 31 December 2002

2nd 7-year Season:       1 January 2003 (Baptism with the Spirit @ Gemechis’ visit)       – 26 December 2009

3rd 7-year Season:       27 December 2009 (Glory of God @ LG with glory-sparkles)     – 31 December 2016

4th Season:                 1 January 2017 (Expectation of harvest)                                     – the future

 

The first season was about being a pastor onP-plates” – finding my feet in ministry – and catching a wave of traditional Lutherans across the Darling Downs becoming hungry for more of God and seeking him.

The second season was about the baptism with the Holy Spirit. It began with the unexpected visit of Pastor Gemechis Desta Buba and the unexpected pouring out of God’s Spirit on three hundred people (mostly Lutherans from the Downs), with more than a hundred beingslainin the Spirit (many for the first time in their lives). This outpouring marked the beginning of the second seven-year period which was then all about unpacking this experience and slowly transitioning into understanding and embracing the whole Bible teaching on being baptized with the Holy Spirit. (See appendix.)

 

Edgar Mayer: Surprised by the Holy Spirit, San Giovanni Teatino: Evangelista Media 2012, p20-21: Apart from me, God was also prodding and processing other members of our congregation. He was stirring us and increasing our hunger for a deeper relationship with him. Then came his biggest surprise. A Lutheran pastor from Ethiopia was scheduled to tour our denomination in Australia. His name was Gemechis Desta Buba. I had not heard of him and knew nothing about the tour but received a phone call from the District Church Office asking me whether I would host him on the 1st of January 2003 because they still had a vacant time-slot for this Sunday.

Thus, we prepared for his visit scheduling a Sunday night service and expecting a few worship songs and his preaching. About three hundred people came from across our region. Most of them were traditional Lutherans. We sang about three songs before Pastor Gemechis began his sermon on the Lord’s Prayer. It was a solid exposition but when he began to expound that God was giving us our daily bread fresh each day, he stopped in the middle of his preaching and announced that he felt God prompting him to call us forward for prayer. This was not our usual practice.

However, to my surprise, most people in attendance that night made their way forward to receive prayer with the laying on of hands. I was even more surprised when about two-thirds of those receiving prayer proceeded to fall down under the power of the Holy Spirit. What was happening? I ended up trying to catch our church members as they were falling backwards onto the floor and I was thinking to myself, “What is this? Am I going to be in trouble with the church authorities?” Yet, on the night, no one objected to what was happening. Everyone sensed the presence of God in the worship building. I had never been in a service like this.

There was no hype. The music was not loud and Pastor Gemechis did not raise his voice or become emotional in other ways. Thus, the prayer time was very accessible to traditional Lutherans. Yet, there was a new level of power. Some experienced the Spirit flooding their bodies with the peace of God. Others were simply wondering what pushed them to the floor. When Pastor Gemechis prayed for me, I made sure that my feet were solidly planted on the floor. God had permission to make me fall backwards but I would not be nimble on my feet. This would not have been the German way of my upbringing. As it happened, I stayed upright but was touched nevertheless. I received healing in my heart. All the hurt and rejection which came with planting a new church were washed away. This was an incredible gift and quite unexpected.

 

Edgar Mayer: Surprised by the Holy Spirit, San Giovanni Teatino: Evangelista Media 2012, p23-24: When I was first reflecting on the Gemechis visit [I went home and said to God: “You can do anything in church but you have to show me where this is in Scripture.”], I discovered that I had been misreading 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 which is a favourite Bible passage for Lutherans:

 

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NIV, emphasis added): “… For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

 

I was stunned. How could I get this familiar Bible passage so wrong? We Lutherans agree with the initial thrust of the reading. The central message of the Christian faith is “Jesus Christ and him crucified” and we make the further correct observation that the cross of Jesus is hiding God’s power. God, in general, seems to work with the principle of being powerful in apparent weakness (1 Corinthians 1:25-31). This worked on the cross as Jesus died but saved the world and this seems to work in our preaching as we speak “foolish” words about a crucified Saviour (1 Corinthians 1:18) but offer eternal life. There is encouragement in our weakness because this seems to be God’s way of working salvation.

This has been my Lutheran understanding but it was incomplete as far as 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 is concerned. The preaching may be “in weakness” and there may not be any “wise and persuasive words” but God purposed to back up the message of Jesus and him crucified “with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power”. Faith would not come through the preaching alone but would rest on a demonstration of “God’s power” and this is what happened on the night that Pastor Gemechis ministered to us in Toowoomba.

On further investigation, the Apostle Paul summed up his entire ministry by explaining that preaching and demonstrations of power belonged together.

 

Romans 15:18-19 (NIV, emphasis added): “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.”

 

Edgar Mayer: Surprised by the Holy Spirit, San Giovanni Teatino: Evangelista Media 2012, p21-22: We had a memorable night. It was the night that God surprised our congregation with an experience which would take us years to understand in all of its dimensions but it set us on our way. For the next seven years, we would debrief what had happened and how the Spirit might want to work among us. This would be a slow journey because I remember that, immediately after the service with Gemechis, two of our key leaders said, ‘We don’t need to have this every Sunday.’ On the night I agreed but later I began wondering, “Why would we not want more of this?”

The greater importance of this service only began to emerge slowly because God had a broader agenda for us than just teaching on the Spirit. We had to learn so much more about prayer, forgiveness, inner healing, discipleship, church unity and obedience. The night with Gemechis was only one seed among many that needed to grow among us. However, it was an important seed.

I discovered that the freedom of the night with Gemechis was not easily regained in normal church life. For years we were doing it hard in prayer ministry because our members were reluctant to leave the safety of the pews and come forward. This was not our traditional culture. We were also not used to being emotional or expressive in worship. It took me years before I felt comfortable to raise my hands in worship and reach out to God with greater passion. Even though I knew that this kind of worship was in the Bible and that Jesus himself had raised his hands in worship, I felt bound by my church upbringing.

The phenomenon of falling down under the Spirit’s power also caused tensions among us a long time after Gemechis’ visit…

 

At the end of this seven-year period, we had conflict in the church, because (in my understanding) some did not want as much of the Holy Spirit as was preached and increasingly experienced (with so many people receiving the gift of tongues, people falling under the Spirit’s power, and other manifestations) but, on Sunday 12 October 2008, we deliberatelycrossed the Jordan” (and we did this in a prophetic action which involved the whole congregation, including Pastor Herman & Val Ruyters as visitors on that day) and saidyesto God and were moving into the promised land where the Holy Spirit would operate in power. At the close of my message I said:

 

Wounded as we are, can we get on board with the Bible and exercise faith so that the following Bible verses also come true for us – 1 Corinthians 2:4-5: “My message and my preaching were not wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” Romans 15:18-19: “…Christ has accomplished through me in leading the non-Jews to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit…” Matthew 10:7-8: “Jesus said: ‘As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons…’”

 

[“Crossing the Jordan” was sparked by the confirmation of the prophecy of being the church in Revelation 3:14-22 on Thursday 6 March 2008.)  => On Tuesday 3 November 15, we receive the prophecy of being the church in Revelation 3:7-13.]

 

The third seven-year season was about the glory of God:

 

Edgar Mayer: Surprised by the Holy Spirit, San Giovanni Teatino: Evangelista Media 2012, p24-25: Then, in 2009 we came to the last Sunday of the year and we were all in need of rest. The past twelve months had been packed with new developments, not least the purchase of our first worship home. We needed an uplifting service; therefore, I decided to preach on the glory of God. I enjoyed dwelling on the glory of God that shone around the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth.

At some point in the sermon, I announced that God’s glory had come to our Living Grace congregation, and then I provided some evidence. Three months earlier, I had been preaching a series on healing for six consecutive nights at another Toowoomba church. At the conclusion of one service, we discovered that two of our older members had gold flakes on their faces. What was that? We never had that before. It was a manifestation that came out of the glory presence of God. I had only become aware of such miracles two years previous.

Then I shared that at our regular prayer meeting on a Friday night, six weeks earlier, we saw a kind of mist under the ceiling. It was as if there was a small smoke machine in the church. I thought that it must have come from the outside. Everyone could see the mist, but others assured me that it had not come in through the window. It was the glory cloud of God that stayed for about one and a half hours. Previously, we only knew the Bible accounts of this phenomenon and testimonies from church history, but now it was in our own church.

Finally, two weeks before the sermon I was praying for a woman who ended up on the floor weeping and repenting to God. Suddenly I could see something sparkling on her. The black skin on the back of her hand was covered with fine gold glitter. I turned her hand but there was nothing on her palms. Two minutes later I checked again and now her palms were also covered in fine gold glitter. I tapped her on the shoulder and said, “Stop crying. Look, what God is doing for you. He loves you. He makes you look beautiful. You are His princess.”

I kept preaching about the glory of God at Living Grace on the last Sunday of 2009; and at the conclusion of the service, invited the entire congregation to check their hands to see if they had received gold dust as well. This was not planned; and everyone who checked their hands that morning had the miracle. I rejoiced in God—and ever since, the gold dust has been manifesting at Living Grace…

 

Edgar Mayer: Surprised by Miracles, San Giovanni Teatino: Evangelista Media 2015, p17: On the last Sunday of 2009, I preached on the glory of God and spontaneously announced to the congregation that His glory had come to our church community. I reminded them of what had happened three months earlier when I preached on healing for six consecutive nights in another church: after one of those nights, two of our older church members had gold flakes on their faces.

This was an amazing miracle which we had not seen before. The same miracle occurred again at one of our morning services some time later. We also had a manifestation of the glory cloud in one of our prayer meetings (see 2 Chron. 5:14; Luke 9:34).

I was happy sharing these testimonies, glorifying God, and announcing that the glory of God had come to Living Grace. After I finished, I—also spontaneously—asked the congregation to come forward and check their skin, especially their hands, under the bright lights of the preaching platform, thinking that maybe they also had gold sparkles on their skin.

Every single person who came forward to check did indeed find gold sparkles on them. Whether the sparkles were made of real gold, I do not know; but they were golden in color and they were from God. On occasion now, they have different colors (mostly silvery) and sometimes the whole skin area can take on a golden or silvery sheen.

God granted us this miracle as a church. Ever since that Sunday, these miraculous gold sparkles (which most of the time look like fine body glitter) have always been in our church meetings and also at home. The miracle does not always manifest on every person, but it is always on some people. Moreover, it has always come when I’ve prayed for it in other places, away from home. Many a time, the gold dust appears at the mere mention of the miracle.

 

People give different interpretations for the possible symbolic significance of the glory-sparkles (angels dancing on the streets of gold in heaven and the flakes falling down to us, Jesus beautifying his church “bride”, the glory-sparkles expressing God’s expanding reign as he is extending the glory-gold of the Holy of Holies, etc.), but the most straight-forward explanation is that God confirmed what I had preached: “The glory of God has come to Living Grace.” Yes, it has.

 

Message on Sunday 27 December 2009: I think, and that’s why I like talking about it this morning, I think that this year 2009 the glory presence has come into our church like I’ve never experienced before. Sometimes I say: I live my dream now, because I am in a church where the glory presence of God is actually present. And I don’t know whether you sense it. It’s in the air all year. It’s just such a different experience being in worship right now than it used to be before. [Then, I gave more examples and testimonies.]

 

I absolutely loved the gold-sparkles. I loved God’s confirmation of his glory among us. But then I got confused and eventually depressed (Tatjana claims for two years). This is why:

 

Edgar Mayer: Surprised by Miracles, San Giovanni Teatino: Evangelista Media 2015, p133: When the miracle of gold sparkles first came to Living Grace on the last Sunday of 2009, I was overjoyed because God had displayed His glory among us. I also rejoiced believing that such a beautiful and visible miracle would result in increased church attendance and greater interest in Jesus.

I was wrong. Our church attendance did not increase but decrease. We were losing members. Why? According to all outward appearances and even the National Church Life Survey (2011), we seemed to tick all of the boxes that make for a good church. In the survey, 83 percent of our church members said that they always or usually experienced inspiration during worship services. In addition, 71 percent experienced a strong and growing sense of belonging, and 91 percent said that the church’s leadership kept them strongly focused on connecting with the wider community.

The survey listed nine core qualities of churches. In our case, every single quality surveyed better in 2011 than in the past. Yet, we kept losing numbers. I was confused. What was going on?

 

Edgar Mayer: Surprised by Miracles, San Giovanni Teatino: Evangelista Media 2015, p142-144: Much happened indeed but God also blessed us. When He gave us ownership of our first church plant (in 2009) and miracles began to appear, I thought that surely there would be more of an upswing. However, in 2011, six men from the Solomon Islands came to Toowoomba on a prayer assignment. None of the local pastors knew them. They had made no prior arrangements, but I crossed paths with them at the Christian Leaders Network and invited them to join us at our Friday Prayer Watch.

Since they wanted to pray at the high places of our city, we drove them around and then ended up in our church building. When they entered the auditorium, two of them recognized the layout and furniture from a dream which they had had back home. They told me that they had come to Toowoomba with prophetic words for two churches and this was one of them.

Their leader prophesied before everyone at the prayer meeting that God was going to use our church for His purposes and that revival was going to happen. However, he also gave me a private word and told me that witchcraft was coming against our church from outside the church and also from inside our own community. He said that our numbers and church attendance would decline, but later our church would fill up and overflow. I sighed and referred to past events, trying to convince myself that the troublesome part of the prophecy had already happened.

Two days later, before the Sunday service, one of our young mothers came up to me and asked whether a few men from the Solomon Islands would be at our service. I told her that this was the case. She had not met them but had had a dream about them handing us a white baby. She gave me permission to share the dream with the congregation. When I did so, she called out from her pew that she recognized two of the brothers. They looked exactly like the men in her dream.

God was talking to us. One year later, the prophetic message had not yet changed. One of our church members had a longer dream whose core message was that God had great intentions for everyone but only very few people took up the offer. It was both surprising and sad. In 2013, sixteen months after this particular dream, a minister friend prophesied again that there would be decline before a tsunami wave of God’s Spirit.

I did hear all of these prophetic messages but, to be honest, I did not take them on board. Hope springs eternal. I was convinced that we were meant to grow because God commissioned us to make disciples of all nations. In my planning, there was no room for delays or decline. Therefore, when the growth did not happen, I became discouraged and, according to my wife and daughters, stopped joking around at home for two years. I should have been forewarned and prepared for the issues that were coming up but I could not understand how we could have so much of God’s presence in the church and still go backward in numbers.

It is of some comfort to me that the disciples around Jesus reacted similarly. They had heard Jesus warn them about betrayal and they had heard Jesus repeatedly prophesy to them that He would die in Jerusalem but then rise again after three days (see Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:32-34). Yet, they did not seem to take any notice. Their hope was their hope and none of Jesus’ prophecies changed their expectations. Feeling down after Jesus’ death, they mourned their fate: “…He [Jesus] was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel…” (Luke 24:19-21).

When Jesus is powerful in word and deed and great crowds become excited about great miracles, it is not easy to witness everything ending up on the cross in apparent failure. Yet, there was purpose in the suffering on the cross. Jesus foretold the decline and He keeps foretelling the stalling of momentum “so that when it does happen you will believe” (John 13:19).

God knows what He is doing.

 

Edgar Mayer: Surprised by Miracles, San Giovanni Teatino: Evangelista Media 2015, p152-157: According to Graham Cooke, a church consultant with decades of experience, God is still working the same way of building character before picking up on any positive momentum and bringing it to the moment of breakthrough. This is what he writes after working with many churches:

 

When the Lord seeks to move us into a new realm, He looks for us to have an increase of vision, anointing, and power. Along with that, there needs to come an increase of commitment and character.[1]

 

We may be happy to boldly go where no church has gone before in our lifetime. Expectation searches out the horizon and seeks to get to the high point of anointing and power as quickly as possible.

However, with God, at this stage the quality of the launching pad is more important than the actual rockets.…

In expectation, we are thinking horizon, but God is thinking about foundation. When revelation comes, we want to get there as quickly as possible.…However, there is a contradiction…that declares to us, “You cannot get there (horizon) from here.”[2]

 

Contradiction is the journey from revelation to manifestation—the process of transition. Joseph received a prophetic dream that he would one day have authority above his father and brothers (see Gen. 37). The dream concerned them all bowing down before him. This prophecy was fulfilled eventually in Genesis 47, but not before the opposite had occurred. After relating the dreams to his family, instead of them looking up at him, Joseph found himself in a pit looking up at them!

He was sold as a slave and sent in chains to a distant country. His life had gone in the opposite direction to what he perhaps was expecting. Plainly, the Lord was not going to fulfill the prophecy over some empty-headed young man who did not have the sense to keep his mouth shut around some very irate brethren! After the calling comes the training. Once we have received serious prophetic input into our lives, we then need particular development before the word can be moved to a place of fulfillment.

David found a similar set of circumstances at work in his own life. He was anointed to be king by the prophet Samuel (see 1 Sam. 16), but nothing said or done at that time disclosed to David that he would be discredited and have to live in caves in the wilderness before the prophet’s words came true.

Israel received a strong prophetic word from Moses (see Exod. 6:6-8) that contained seven “I will” declarations from the Lord regarding their future and their destiny. The words, however, never mentioned their journey into the wilderness or their subsequent testing by God as part of the means of fulfillment.

This is the major part of the transitional and prophetic process. Before our destiny can be fulfilled, we must conform to all the character requirements that are a priority if we are to represent the God of Heaven.…

After the prophecy, we are often immediately starstruck with our destiny; however, the Lord is looking at something different! He is looking at our character and gauging the work and development we will need in order to develop us to that place of high calling. This development will include a testing of our humility; our servant heart; our reliability under pressure; our truthfulness and purity; our leadership or ministry ability; our capacity to endure stress in warfare; our ability to learn from our mistakes; and above all, our conformity to His love, grace, mercy, and kindness. All these will come under intense scrutiny in the most difficult and trying circumstances. It is almost as though, while we are still stargazing after the prophetic word, the Lord trips us up, throws us into a dark room, and beats the living daylights out of us! At least, that is what it feels like.

Our lives run in the opposite direction for a time as God begins to work with our character. It is here that most people let go of their vision and call.[3]

 

The next thing that will happen at some point is that all hell will break loose from inside the church.…We will find levels of immaturity that we did not believe could exist among senior Christians in our midst. We will find childishness, petulance, flesh, strife, envy, and hunger for position, as the pride and ambition of people begin to surface.[4]

 

We can get into the place where God wants us to be only when we actually go via the cross.…The enemy will be active all around the church, but we need to know that God is going to use him to get rid of the flesh. The blessing of God may continue to fall because the Lord will not leave us comfortless.[5]

 

This is not a time to dwell on projects, begin new initiatives, or commit ourselves to new ventures of faith.…God is dealing with something that should not be there. Depending on where the church is in the process, we do not know how many people will leave the work during this period of testing.…

Most churches going through transition will suffer a contraction in their resources. Finances, personnel, key people in ministry, and leadership may flow out of the church initially.[6]

 

God will always reduce us to that which is precious.[7]

 

We are encountering nothing new; we are dealing with nothing that has not been the experience of countless churches. Out of this period of suffering will come the approval of God to take us into his plan and purpose.[8]

 

It is always incredibly difficult to see other churches being blessed when we are under trial and testing. People would rather believe that there is a problem in the leadership; there is sin in the camp; that we have the wrong vision; or that we are out of the will of God. They want to write “Ichabod” (no glory) over the door of the church and withdraw to a more blessed place. They do not understand the purposes of God. The same process will come to every church in some way as God cleanses the temple of the church.[9]

 

Out of every ten churches that have entered transition, approximately half have not made it. The flesh was too strong.…They could not endure the contraction.

In the violence of the confrontation and transformation process, they could not stay on the cross. It hurt too much.…We do not enter and endure contraction and then pass through transformation. If they followed after each other, none of us would make it. They are a combined work of God. The devil is loose, but Jesus is present! The flesh is dying, but the new nature is rising. We are losing our friends in the natural but growing in friendship with God in the Spirit. We are shedding our old wineskin and forming a new one.[10]

 

The first thing we have to do is humble ourselves before God. If we humble ourselves, he will exalt us in due time.[11][E1] [S2] [E3] 

 

These are sobering words but I am feeling encouraged and wish that I had come across this kind of wisdom years ago. As I shared in the beginning of this chapter, I could not understand why, after the miracle of gold sparkles in our church and the realization that we had the qualities of a good church, we were not increasing in numbers but declining. What was happening?

I knew the Bible stories, but while reading the words of Graham Cooke in 2014, the penny finally dropped. God was serious in processing us like He did everyone else in the Bible, including Jesus’ first disciples.

So many times over the past few years, I would say: “I don’t understand what is going on. God so obviously moves here. We have amazing testimonies every week, healings, miracles, converts, the Jesus Tent, demons coming out of people, and even outrageous blessings on our finances. Love and a calling are in the place; but at the same time, there is also a contraction in numbers and irritations.”

I did not understand what was going on but now I think that Graham Cooke is right.

After some of the best times, we as a church community (as opposed to a ministry) were on the agenda of God. God was processing us and He did. Without going into details, we had our own bag of issues. Then, suddenly, in 2013 there was a shift and, among our church members, there was a new commitment to community. I did not initiate this shift because I did not know how to make it happen. But it happened.

One of our long-term members expressed what was typical for many of us. She said, “I love our church. It took me five years but now I really love our church.”

Another long-term member said: “We finally feel that we belong to this place.” God was getting us to a place where we learned to be together, love one another, and look out for one another.

God’s agenda was becoming reality.

 

If I had understood the nature of this season better, I would have saved myself a lot of frustration. But I could not comprehend how you could have gold-sparkles and have the church decline. I neither listened to the prophetic words nor trusted with unwavering faith nor picked up on the fact that God was doing in this season exactly what he did in the last. The previous season began with a breakthrough – the baptism with the Holy Spirit at the visit of Pastor Gemechis Desta Buba – and we took seven years to unpack and appropriate the meaning and reality of it. Now the breakthrough was the glory of God, with the miracle of glory-sparkles confirming God’s glory presence, and we needed another seven years to unpack and appropriate the meaning and reality of stewarding the glory of God among us. God even made me preach on this on the Sunday when the glory-sparkles came:

 

Message on Sunday 27 December 2009: Now, how and when is this glory presence with God’s people? If we enjoy what we have, how can we keep enjoying what we have, how can we make sure that the glory is not lost? I think that it is in the words of Jesus that I read before: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven [no matter whether you are prophesying in his name or drive out demons in his name], but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven.” So, by all means, you can operate in power as a church, it will be of tantamount importance for us that we discern the will of God, that we are in a continuing habit of repenting and turning away from selfishness and pride and just make sure that our character is holy and that we are living holy according to the will of God…

… And God just loves that when there is love. The greatest commandment is love God and love each other and so as long as we have that love, and don’t start infighting, and don’t start jockeying for positions or gossipping about each other, if we can cut all of that out and keep that outside of our church, I reckon the glory presence of God will stay, because he loves that environment where there is love, that’s where God is.

I give you one more – 1 Peter 4:12-14: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” And I think that’s significant as well. If persecution, rejection, negative words, if difficulties are coming because we are following Jesus Christ, then the Spirit of glory rests on us, because in persecution, maybe that’s a little advantage of persecution, you have nowhere else to go but to God, you know you can’t handle it by yourself. You become so needy, so dependent on God that you really humble yourself, you just cry out to God: “God, help, help. If you don’t do it, we are lost.” And God, that’s a good position to be in in God, because then the Spirit of glory rests on us, and the glory shine is on us. And we are not even going too badly with that, because David and Sonja they are in the habit of even getting death-threats for the ministry they are doing. So you bring the glory in, hey, atmosphere. [The College of Bishops had made me a pastor that was not eligible for a call in the LCA from 10 August 2009 – 8 December 2015 (date of letter notifying me).]

So again, can I say that my heart is full of gratitude. I have never experienced anything like what I have experienced this year at Living Grace – never. And I am overjoyed about that. But I am probably also amazed at two things… [1. Easily miss and dismiss the testimonies (disinterest in miracles); 2. Bored with miracles, grace and testimonies.]

 

So, the third seven-year period was about the glory of God and learning to steward God’s glory. God was busy pruning, testing, building up our character, “beating the living day-lights out of us”, mortifying theflesh”, and – in general – nullifying usso that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:29), so that his glory can safely rest on us. The season, like the previous one, began with a highlight which was not the launching pad for the next step, but a glimpse of what was going to be attained, unpacked or stewarded in this season.

I summarize the dynamics of first three seasons that we have identified [show slide]:

 

1st 7-year Season:       1 January 1996 (Edgar’s start of ministry)                                  – 31 December 2002

 

Stage of Development: Traditional Lutherans, with a pastor on “P-plates”, are becoming desperate and hungry for more of God, and are catching a wave of moving forward in seeking God. There is a transition from formal and scripted worship to greater informality and flexibility, and the establishment of a new congregation that is “contemporary” in nature. [In 2002, the move from St John’s Lutheran Church in Wilsonton to Concordia College is finalized and Living Grace becomes a congregation in its own right.]

 

2nd 7-year Season:       1 January 2003 (Baptism with the Spirit @ Gemechis’ visit)       – 26 December 2009

 

Stage of Development: Jesus makes available to the church the baptism with the Holy Spirit and, after spending years of unpacking the meaning of the Spirit baptism, the majority of Living Grace “crosses the Jordan” (12 October 2008) and steps into all that is promised about the Holy Spirit. The breakthrough on the first day – the baptism with the Spirit at the visit of Pastor Gemechis Desta Buba – sets the theme and purpose for the entire season. (On Thursday 6 March 2008, there is confirmation of the prophecy of being the church in Revelation 3:14-22.) [In 2009, there is a move from the Concordia College location to 90 Jellicoe St.] The book “Surprised by the Holy Spirit” takes up the story and teachings of this season.

 

3rd 7-year Season:       27 December 2009 (Glory of God @ LG with glory-sparkles)     – 31 December 2016

 

Stage of Development: The glory of God comes to Living Grace and God spends the next seven years on “nullifying” us (see 1 Corinthians 1:28) so that we may not boast before him but safely steward his glory. The breakthrough on the first day – the confirmation of God’s glory presence through the miracle of glory-sparkles – sets the theme and purpose for the entire season. (On Tuesday 3 November 15, we receive the prophecy of being the church in Revelation 3:7-13.) The book “Surprised by Miracles” takes up the story and teachings of this season.

 

4th Season:                 1 January 2017 (Expectation of harvest)                                     – the future

 

The book “An Open Door to Jesus” takes up the story of this season’s launch and God’s teaching agenda.

 

What will God have in store for us in the next season, the 4th season? Do you know? I think that, after preparing us for the last seven years, God will allow us to carry his glory out into the all the world for mission work.

 

Psalm 145:9-13: The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. All your works praise you, Lord; your faithful people extol you. They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.

 

Like in previous seasons, God has already begun what will come into greater maturity in the next season. In my case, God used one particular Bible passage to guide me in the journey. When I needed an explanation from the Bible why people were falling down under the power of the Holy Spirit (1 January 2003), God took me to 1 Corinthians 2:1-5: “… For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” And I quoted the same Bible verses when we latercrossed the Jordan” (12 October 2008).

But I never knew what else God had planned by making me latch onto this passage:

 

Edgar Mayer: Surprised by Miracles, San Giovanni Teatino: Evangelista Media 2015, p13-18: In 2012, I knew that God wanted us to do more mission work. Our evangelist had called me in January and said that he could not come back from holidays. He was exhausted mentally, physically, and spiritually.

This meant that the programs which he led could not continue because, as a former bikie[12] he knew how to reach out to the people on the streets. I did not and there was no one else who could step into his shoes.

What were we to do? I was busier than ever with my coworker dropping out with exhaustion but, surely, there had to be some new mission initiative in our congregation.

In the past, we had run Alpha courses, a popular resource from London, with great success. Doing so had renewed many of our own members but, looking at the videos again, I was unsure whether this was the program for now. I tried to delegate discernment to someone else and asked one of our members, the father of a young family, to watch the videos and then pray about leading new Alpha courses at Living Grace, our church.

He did what I asked of him but came back with a “no.” He did not feel led to do the program and I was not surprised. This was not what we were meant to do in 2012. But what was the alternative?

None of the available resources excited me. Finally, I prayed: “God, what do You want us to do? What is a mission initiative that fits us and comes out of who we are and what You have been doing with us over the past few years?”

For some reason, I was drawn back to the key Scripture passage that had been important to me in the ten years leading up to that moment:

 

I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.…My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power (1 Corinthians 2:2, 4-5).

 

A decade earlier, these Bible verses helped me accept a phenomenon that was confusing and surprising at the time. When a visiting pastor prayed for our church members, many of them fell to the floor. Where was this in the Bible? I had questions but relaxed when, rather quickly, God made me stumble across First Corinthians 2 and I took a closer look at verses 1 through 5.

This was a favorite passage for Lutherans like me because it magnified the cross of Jesus. But to my embarrassment, I discovered that I never knew what it said about a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. Preaching was not to happen “with wise and persuasive words” but “with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” so that faith “might not rest on human wisdom but on God’s power.”

Without digging deeper into the meaning of these Bible verses, I accepted them as answering my qualms about people falling down under the Spirit’s power in prayer. These kinds of happenings were OK because the Bible upheld power demonstrations of the Spirit.

For years, I combined the passage from First Corinthians 2 with a second passage from the same author, the apostle Paul:

 

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ (Romans 15:18-19).

 

Other verses mentioned Paul and summarized demonstrations of the Spirit:

 

So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders (Acts 14:3).

 

The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them (Acts 15:12).

 

The passages from First Corinthians 2 and Romans 15 were constantly before me but only in 2012 did it dawn on me that they could possibly be the answer to my problem of finding a new mission initiative.

In both Bible passages, the apostle Paul summarized his mission work and described his method. I never understood this before but, in the opening verses of First Corinthians 2, Paul looked back at his church-planting work in Corinth. In the verses from Romans 15 he looked back at his entire mission career as recorded in the Bible. He spelled out precisely how he did mission work! Reading all of the verses again, I wondered whether mission work could still happen in the same way:

 

I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.…My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power (1 Corinthians 2:2, 4-5).

 

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ (Romans 15:18-19).

 

I knew no other pastor who would or could summarize his ministry like Paul. As far as I knew, no local Christians proclaimed Jesus by reaching out with signs and wonders, which are demonstrations of the Spirit’s power.[13] However, I trusted the Bible and Paul’s report and began to wonder: “Can we possibly reach the people in our city by preaching a simple message about Jesus and Him crucified, and then expect God to back up the preaching with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power?”

It was risky. What if nothing happened? After years of preaching, I felt reasonably confident about the process of public speaking, and sermon notes on the lectern gave me a feeling of safety. But signs and wonders were absolutely beyond my control. I could invite people and announce that God would back up the preaching with miracles; but contrary to every other aspect of the service, I knew that I had no fall-back options in the event He did not come through. If the Spirit was not on the preaching, I could still go through my notes. If the Spirit was not on the worship, we could still sing the songs. But it would be impossible to do miracles in our own strength.

What were we to do? We had experienced healings before and outpourings of joy which manifested in holy laughter. We had seen God move in various ways but it happened mainly in church conferences among Christians, not among unbelievers. I could never predict what would happen or when.

Stepping out was an uncomfortable proposition. According to First Corinthians 2:1-5, an unbeliever would need to see a miracle during or after the preaching, in demonstration of the Spirit’s power. But I did not have a “miracle on demand” to offer.

Or did I? As I was deliberating and trying to find courage, I suddenly remembered that we did have one miracle that seemed very reliable.

On the last Sunday of 2009, I preached on the glory of God and spontaneously announced to the congregation that His glory had come to our church community. I reminded them of what had happened three months earlier when I preached on healing for six consecutive nights in another church: after one of those nights, two of our older church members had gold flakes on their faces.

This was an amazing miracle which we had not seen before. The same miracle occurred again at one of our morning services some time later. We also had a manifestation of the glory cloud in one of our prayer meetings (see 2 Chron. 5:14; Luke 9:34).

I was happy sharing these testimonies, glorifying God, and announcing that the glory of God had come to Living Grace. After I finished, I—also spontaneously—asked the congregation to come forward and check their skin, especially their hands, under the bright lights of the preaching platform, thinking that maybe they also had gold sparkles on their skin.

Every single person who came forward to check did indeed find gold sparkles on them. Whether the sparkles were made of real gold, I do not know; but they were golden in color and they were from God. On occasion now, they have different colors (mostly silvery) and sometimes the whole skin area can take on a golden or silvery sheen.

God granted us this miracle as a church. Ever since that Sunday, these miraculous gold sparkles (which most of the time look like fine body glitter) have always been in our church meetings and also at home. The miracle does not always manifest on every person, but it is always on some people. Moreover, it has always come when I’ve prayed for it in other places, away from home. Many a time, the gold dust appears at the mere mention of the miracle.

Thus, when I struggled to have the courage to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified with demonstrations of the Spirit’s power (“by the power of signs and wonders”), I remembered the miracle of gold sparkles and reflected on its abiding and reliable nature. Maybe this could be our stopgap miracle if nothing else happened after the preaching. After two and a half years of enjoying this manifestation among ourselves, maybe we could do something daring and use it in mission work.

I was not exactly full of faith but I knew the theory. In the Bible, signs and wonders led people to repentance and confirmed the salvation message (see Heb. 2:3-4).[14] At our own church, we already had a few people who had become Christians because of the gold dust.

Finally, I was decided and suggested Saturday meetings with the title “Encounter the Supernatural.” The idea was to have one meeting before a free dinner and finish with another meeting after dinner. The word “supernatural” was not common among us but (so we reasoned), it had traction among the general public.

We had two such Saturdays with reasonable outcomes. Both times, approximately one hundred people attended. Most of them were Christians but we also had some unbelievers and a few converts. On both occasions, God came through with demonstrations of His power that confirmed the preaching. There were healings, gold dust, holy laughter, and a tangible sense of His presence.

After making a start with the “Encounter the Supernatural” meetings on Saturdays, another pastor from the Gold Coast approached me and asked whether I would be interested in doing a tent outreach…

 

God baptized us with the Spirit, and God used 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 to explain some of theside-effectsthat can happen at the Spirit baptism, and then God let his glory be among us and, while he was preparing us to steward his glory properly, he used 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 again to teach us the right use of his glory. Our preaching was not to be with wise and persuasive words – clever programs and compelling strategies – but a demonstration of the Spirit’s power – a revelation of his glory – so that people’s faith may not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God.

 

John 2:11: What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the [miraculous] signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

 

While the previous season was about preparing us to steward his glory – working mostly on our character and humility – God has begun setting up our ministry in his glory. We have had small beginnings and I want so much more but, on the other hand, it has already been amazing what God has made us do.

 

From the message at the relaunching of Lutheran Renewal on Sunday 29 March 2015: I will trace the more recent history which has brought us to this place. In 2013, I received an invitation to be one of the guest-speakers at a meeting of the NSW Lutheran District. This invitation came “out of the blue” because I was not really known to those that invited me and the meeting itself was unique in the sense that the Bishop, the pastors and leading church men and women (maybe 110 people in attendance) were acknowledging the pain of decline and problems in the church…

After years of closed doors – maybe an occasional one opened to keep me going (e.g.: ministry in PNG and Fiji in 2010, the Jesus Tent in 2012) – this was wonderful. With what happened to us, I felt like a person coming “from another planet” but the gathering received my teaching and ministry and, in a relaxed atmosphere, processed the paradigm shifts which I introduced to them (e.g.: the need for the word to be combined with the Spirit, the value of Christian experience, the promise of power by the Spirit of God).

As this door opened – at this strategic meeting which represented a new beginning in the NSW District but also (possibly) in the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA) – other doors began to open as well and suddenly I and we as a church were in a new season of reaching out and travelling.

The next stop were the German Lutherans in Melbourne (Springfield, 1-3 November) and then Rockhampton where Apostle John Alley invited me to be the speaker at their congregation’s family camp (Fri 28 – Sun 30 March) and, when the local Lutherans heard about my coming to Rockhampton, they invited me to minister to them in the days before the family camp (Tue 25 – Thu 27 March). In both congregations, the Spirit of God fell on the attenders. There were people on the floor and the miracle of gold sparkles brought much joy and, especially at the family camp, the intensity of people’s experiences under the power of the Spirit represented a breakthrough – in the words of John Alley “a new wave of revival”…

After Rockhampton (25-30 March), I – often with Tatjana or a team from Living Grace – ministered in revival type meetings among Lutherans and others:

 

·         Toowoomba, QLD (18-20 April): Jesus Tent @ Easterfest.

·         Canberra, ACT (9-11 May): Follow-up meeting after “The Gathering” (2013) @ Tuggeranong with Pastor Greg Fowler and his congregation and others that wanted to come. Many of the attenders ended up lying on the floor under the power of the Spirit and they were lying in a circle around the seats in the church.

·         Portland, VIC (16-18 May): The invitation came from the Lutheran woman that ran the Christian bookshop in Portland. The majority of attenders (maybe 150) were Lutherans but all the other clergy of the town also attended (except the Pentecostal pastor) and, if I am not mistaken, absolutely everyone that came forward for prayer went down under the power of God. There were healings, new spiritual gifts (e.g.: the gift of tongues), deliverance from unclean spirits, repentance, breakthroughs in faith and, late on Saturday night (with only a few people left in the auditorium), we saw again the glory cloud of God (a fine mist).

·         Warrambui Camp, NSW (6-9 June); I was invited to run an elective and preach at the Saturday Communion Service @ the Better Blokes Men’s camp. On Saturday night, the service began @ 7pm and I prayed for people until mid-night.

·         Victor Harbor, SA (8-10 August): Ten people from Living Grace, and further team support from Portland and Victor Harbor, ministered to about three hundred and twenty attenders – mostly Lutherans – many of whom had travelled to be at the Holy Spirit conference.

·         Warwick, QLD (23 August): Another team from Living Grace went to Warwick and ministered in the local Assemblies of God Church.

·         Indonesia (5-15 September): Six from Living Grace ministered in the Spirit at two conferences in Indonesia and also explored our support of mission among unreached people groups. A few in the team expelled demons from people for the first time in their lives.

·         Oakey, QLD (24-28 September): Jesus Tent @ Oakey.

·         Toowoomba, QLD (30 September – 3 October): YWAM (Youth With A Mission) invited me to teach the module on the Holy Spirit at their local Discipleship Training School.

·         Pittsworth, QLD (29 October – 2 November): Jesus Tent @ Pittsworth

 

All of this was last year and this year – 2015 – we have already ministered in Rockhampton (14 February), Adelaide (26 February – 1 March) and Murwillumbah (7-8 March) and are scheduled to go to Vietnam (7-12 July), Adelaide again and the Barossa Valley (10-13 September), New Zealand (1-4 October) and Pittsworth (28 October – 1 November) and who knows where else. In 2013, God suddenly opened doors for us and they have remained open…

 

On Sunday 29 March 2015, we launched a national renewal movement among Lutherans and others, and connect now with others across the nation. We publish a national renewal magazine, put on a yearly national renewal conference, and may plant churches next. The progress is still slow – in a sense. There is not yet a roaring revival fire and our own church is not yet boasting a huge wave of newcomers and additional staff, but we seem to be on the verge of something big, and today – the 1st of January 2017 – the first day of this new season – I expect that it will break open now, just as God announced in the prophetic words that have been coming to us:

 

From “Relaunching Lutheran Renewal” (29 March 2015): On the other hand, however, I was delighted because it put the General Bishop on alert (encouraging him to treat the conflict more seriously than he would have done otherwise) and I just knew that the “powers and principalities” (Ephesians 6:12) behind the opposition to me, and what was happening at Living Grace, had overplayed their hand … And – further adding to my delight – I knew the time had finally come to stand up and be counted … now I sensed that a change had come …

On Sunday, Herman preached and he didn’t preach what he had in mind earlier in the week. God had given him a new message and the message was “breakthrough” for Living Grace and our ministry. Herman said: “It was breakthrough not just for individuals but breakthrough also for Living Grace and the Lutheran Church of Australia.”

Herman also sensed that God had wanted him to pray for breakthrough in people’s work situation but, not knowing what was on his heart, we had already done so straight after the worship. I led but then Letoya suggested that Brett had authority in this area and he should pray which he did. This was great confirmation that we were on the right track. God had put the same burden on all of us.

The whole church embraced the call to give shape to a national movement of Lutheran Renewal.

At the prayer meeting before the service [29 March 2015], Vicki was surprised at my excitement and peace in the face of the Qld Bishop’s actions. She thought that the black mark against me name had become blacker and it was true but I sensed a change of seasons and had joy and confidence. Vicki took it all in and when she heard Herman begin to preach on “breakthrough”, (in her words) her spirit jumped and she was connecting the dots:

 

Vicki Meagher’s testimony: Two weeks before Christmas 2014 we were discussing prayer and fasting for 7 days in the New Year (2015). As time went by, the Lord put on my heart He wanted the first fruits. It became clear He wanted the first day of the year, so I was led by the Holy Spirit into a 40 day fast from the 1st January to 9th of February.

We were going through difficult times in the church (Living Grace), difficult times personally. In general, everything was getting too hard. As always, God has perfect timing. It was such a relief that God took over, took control and set discipline in place. I laid everything down before Him that was weighing so heavy on my heart. He knew everything but I just wanted to make sure.

On Monday the 9th of February (40th day) I was reading and praying 5-5.30am and words came out of my mouth that had nothing to do with what I was doing. They were all out before I realized what had happened. I did not move or say anything – just sat. It had never happened like that before.

 

He said: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things thou knowest not.”

 

I was still for about an hour. Then I got angry because for so, so long I had been crying out begging, pleading with Him to do something and in the natural nothing seemed to be happening. So I let it go and walked away from what was said.

On Thursday 12th February (3 days later) – around the same time reading and praying – the exact same thing happened. Words came out of my mouth before I realized. I was in control of nothing.

 

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things thou knowest not.”

 

I didn’t get angry. I just cried, repented and meditated on what he had said – not once but twice. This fast was God’s plan. He ordered it. He planned it. All I did was obey. What was it for?

On Sunday 15th February, we all went into the 8am prayer meeting. We were talking. Pastor Edgar told us about his week. The Jesus Tent in Rockhampton had been cancelled. The black mark against him had become blacker. Turmoil was still around us but he said that he was excited. He was at peace. He spoke with confidence.

Church began and Pastor Herman was preaching and the word the Lord gave him was “BREAKTHROUGH”. My spirit jumped. God’s word was being confirmed all morning.

It is a new day – a new beginning. We will have warfare but God has promised:

 

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things thou knowest not.”

 

Amen.

 

+++

 

First recorded in the message “Laden with Prosperity” (15 November 2015): Vicki was very busy and only remembered late that our “Touching Base” meeting was coming up and she asked God for a word for the congregation. She continued with her work [Tue 3 Nov 2015] and was vacuuming when she heard God in a voice that was louder than the vacuum cleaner and he said: “Forcefully advancing.” She immediately went to the Bible and found the verse: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12).

Vicki went to bed early because she was very tired. Around midnight, God woke her up and said: “Church of Philadelphia”. She left the bedroom and looked up the church in Philadelphia in the Bible:

 

To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:7-13).

 

This is what we had been sensing all year. The time of waiting and closed doors is over and we are now in a breakthrough season. For years (since 2010), we have been praying about the “key” to the Lutheran Church and now God opened the door that no one can shut again. God is pleased with us – “I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” And there will be vindication.

 

[Compare this with the prophetic word in 2008 when God gave us the word of being like the church in Laodicea (also in Revelation 3).]

 

Last but not least, after seven years of decline (2008 – breakaway of a third of the congregation, 2009 – average Sunday attendance: 163, 2010 – average Sunday attendance: 163, 2011 – average Sunday attendance: 148, 2012 – average Sunday attendance: 141, 2013 – average Sunday attendance: 124, 2014 – average Sunday attendance: 118), our church has been growing over the last two years (2015 – average Sunday attendance: 135, 2016 – average Sunday attendance: 146). It’s time for me to finish preaching. Do you think that my discernment is right about God’s prophetic calendar for Living Grace? [Show slide.]

 

1st 7-year Season:       1 January 1996 (Edgar’s start of ministry)                                  – 31 December 2002

 

Stage of Development: Traditional Lutherans are catching a wave of moving forward in seeking God.

 

2nd 7-year Season:       1 January 2003 (Baptism with the Spirit @ Gemechis’ visit)       – 26 December 2009

 

Stage of Development: Jesus makes available to the church the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

 

3rd 7-year Season:       27 December 2009 (Glory of God @ LG with glory-sparkles)     – 31 December 2016

 

Stage of Development: The glory of God comes to Living Grace.

 

4th 7-year Season:       1 January 2017 (To be advised)                                     – the future

 

Stage of Development: We minister in the glory of God to all the world.

 

Throughout the Bible and throughout the history of the church, God works by faith – God is honoured by the faith of his people – and I choose to believe him (what I have discerned and the prophetic words that have come to us). Today is a day of excitement, a day of digging in with high expectations, a day of taking risks in bold declarations, and sticking our necks out in faith. We are in a new season now. Hallelujah! Amen.

 

Edgar Mayer – Toowoomba, February 2016

 

 

On Baptism and Being Baptized with the Spirit

 

One Baptism

 

There are no two baptisms. According to the Bible, there is only “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5) and, from ancient times, Christians have always confessed that there is only “one baptism for the remission of sins” (Nicene Creed). Jesus commanded us to baptize with water and there is no other baptism which he commanded us to perform or enact. Hence, in all of Scripture, there is only one baptism which consists of an external rite, sprinkling or immersing someone with water.

Baptism is the means of grace which makes people a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), a child of God (Gal. 3:26-27), born of the Spirit (John 3:5), and raised to live a new life (Rom. 6:4). In a nutshell, baptism “saves” (1 Peter 3:21) and belongs to one’s conversion. The question may be asked, “How can the external rite of baptism achieve such spiritual outcomes?” Martin Luther gave a compelling answer:

 

Martin Luther’s Small Catechism: How can water produce such great effects? Answer: It is not the water that produces these great effects, but the Word of God [Matthew 28:19] connected with the water, and our faith which relies on the Word of God connected with the water. For without the Word of God the water is merely water and no Baptism. But when connected with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit [Titus 3:5-8]…

 

There is only one baptism for the remission of sins. This is the only baptism which we are commanded to perform and the only baptism which uses an external substance and rite, sprinkling or immersing someone with water.

 

 

Jesus’ Use of the Word

 

There is no dispute about the one baptism but the word “baptism” simply means “immersion” or “submersion” and Jesus could use the word, not in the sense of instituting another rite or sacrament, but to describe the immersion in another aspect of the Christian life. For instance, Jesus talked about the “baptism” of suffering (Mark 10:38-39) and he announced to his disciples that they would soon be “baptized” with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-8). Neither the baptism of suffering nor being baptized with the Holy Spirit constitute a new baptism but Jesus used the word “baptism/immersion” to describe the thoroughgoing nature of the experience.

 

 

A Source of Confusion

 

Not surprisingly, Jesus’ use of the word “baptism” has become the source of confusion among Christians because, on the one hand, there is only one baptism but, on the other hand, there is also the experience of being baptized with suffering and being baptized with the Spirit. Especially, the language of baptism in connection with the Holy Spirit has generated much discussion. However, the Bible’s teaching on baptism may not be as complicated as it sounds.

 

Baptism and Being Baptized with the Spirit

 

When a person is baptized, he is baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) and, receiving the Spirit, is “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). The Bible clearly states that everyone who believes and is baptized has the Spirit because “…no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). The Spirit is present for salvation.

However, when Jesus talked about being baptized with the Holy Spirit, he did not promise more of the Spirit for salvation but power. Jesus promised power for the Christian life and ministry:

 

Luke 24:49: … stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.

 

Acts 1:4-8: … Do not leave Jerusalem … John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit … But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you

 

At the beginning of the Christian life, there seems to be a threefold process of repentance, baptism (with water) and receiving the Holy Spirit (being baptized with the Holy Spirit). In the Bible, this became the focus of attention early on because, after the disciples had preached their very first sermon, the people responded and asked them, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). The disciples answered by encouraging the crowd to seize three distinct experiences that were available to everyone:

 

Acts 2:38: Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

The disciples asked the people 1) to repent, and 2) to be baptized (with water) for the forgiveness of their sins, so that 3) they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (meaning here the experience of being baptized with the Spirit). These three experiences were part of the process of becoming a believer and they all belonged together in the whole package of starting out as a Christian.

On the same day that someone repented, he or she could be baptized and receive the Spirit. Yet, there could also be time delays between repentance, baptism, and receiving the Spirit. For instance, in response to an encounter with Jesus, Saul repented but was not baptized before three days (see Acts 9:3-19).

 

The Bible book of Acts expresses the experience of being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5; 11:16) in various terms. Sometimes people simply “receive” the Spirit and, according to Acts, even people who are already Christians and baptized can “receive” the Holy Spirit in the sense of receiving more of him and being “baptized” with him: “When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:15-17; cf. Acts 2:38; 10:47; 19:2).

Then, according to Acts, the Spirit can “fall upon” (Acts 8:16; 10:44; 11:15) or “come upon” people (Acts 1:8; 19:6) and “fill” (Acts 2:4; 4:8,31; 6:3,5; 7:55; 9:17; 11:24; 13:9,52) them. The Spirit is being “poured out” (Acts 2:17-18,33; 10:45) and “given” (Acts 5:32; 8:18-20; 11:17; 15:8). All of these terms describe the same experience which Jesus promised to his disciples: “…in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5).

Lutherans are probably most comfortable with the word “fill” or “infilling” to describe the experience of being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” but all of these terms are biblical.

 

Baptism (with water) and receiving the Spirit in the sense of being baptized with the Spirit are meant to come together at the beginning of the Christian life, but – even in the Bible – this is not always the case. For instance, it took some time for the new Christians in Samaria to receive the Spirit after their baptism:

 

Acts 8:14-17: When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

 

In the case of the Samaritans, the delay between baptism and receiving the Spirit was unusual; therefore it was immediately rectified—but confirms the basic observation that baptism (with water) and the gift of the Spirit (being baptized with the Spirit) are not describing the same experience in the process of becoming a Christian. One is for salvation; the other is for power (faith assurance, victory over sin and mission – see Luke 3-4).

At one time, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the preaching of Jesus before anyone could baptize them with water (see Acts 10:44-48). And, in Acts 19:5-6, Christian baptism (with water) came with the promise of the Holy Spirit (receiving the Holy Spirit in the sense of being baptized with the Spirit) but the baptism with the Spirit did not come at the baptism (with water) but – subsequently – through the laying on of hands:

 

Acts 19:5-6: On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

 

Jesus’ own baptism (with water) and receiving the Spirit (being baptized with the Spirit) foreshadowed our experiences as we follow him. He was also baptized with water first (John’s baptism for the forgiveness of sins foreshadowing the later baptism in Jesus’ name) and then was baptized with the Spirit. As other people repented and were baptized, Jesus himself was also baptized, and when he emerged from the water, he was immediately immersed in the Holy Spirit as the Holy Spirit descended on him:

 

Luke 3:21-22: When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

 

To this day, numerous people emerge from the water of their baptism with the same experience of being also immersed in the Holy Spirit. In fact, not disputing possible time delays, this is to be expected because these two experiences, with the experience of repentance, belong together at the beginning of the Christian life, but they are distinct from each other (see also Hebrews 6:1-2).

 

 

Clarification

 

It is worth mentioning that baptism (with water) always occurs as one decisive act as the rite of baptism is acted out according to Jesus’ command. But being baptized with the Holy Spirit seems to be more dynamic in nature. While numerous people in the Bible received the Spirit in one dramatic encounter (Acts 2:1-4; 10:44-46; 19:6), this has not been the experience of every Christian. For some, the immersion with the Spirit seems to happen over a few months, a season in their lives, and the Bible further talks about a constant need for fresh immersions with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31; Ephesians 5:18). According to the Bible, there is always the invitation to grow and receive more of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:31; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Throughout our lives, we learn to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25), “not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

 

 

Receiving the Spirit through Baptism

 

Earlier, this paper affirmed that when a person is baptized, he is baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) and, receiving the Spirit, is “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). The Spirit is present for salvation because “…no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).

However, there is a further connection between baptism and the Holy Spirit which underlines the importance and uniqueness of baptism. According to the Bible, receiving the Spirit (in the sense of being baptized with the Spirit) is usually subsequent and dependent on baptism.

When Paul encountered Christians that had not been “baptized/immersed” with the Spirit, he immediately questioned the validity of their baptism (with water):

 

Acts 19:2-6: …They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

 

It was only when Paul set the right foundation of baptism in Jesus’ name for these disciples, that they immediately qualified for receiving the Spirit and being immersed with him. Baptism was first and only then Paul placed his hands on the disciples. Receiving the Spirit in whatever form or measure is dependent on the one foundational baptism which Jesus commanded us to enact with water (see also Acts 2:38).

On occasion, God could immerse people with the Holy Spirit before they were baptized, but this was unusual and led to the logical conclusion of baptizing them without further ado. Receiving the Holy Spirit proved their readiness for baptism because of the fundamental connection between baptism and the Spirit: “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” (Acts 10:47).

 

 

Conclusion

 

There is only one baptism for the remission of sins. This is the only baptism which we are commanded to perform and the only baptism which uses an external substance and rite, sprinkling or immersing someone with water. But the word “baptism” simply means “immersion” or “submersion” and Jesus could use the word, not in the sense of instituting another rite or sacrament, but to describe the immersion in another aspect of the Christian life, such as his promise to the disciples of baptizing them with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-8). While we receive the Spirit in baptism for salvation and this happens in the decisive act of performing the baptism in the rite of baptism, the experience of being “baptized/immersed” with the Spirit is more dynamic in nature and fluctuates throughout the Christian’s life.

 



[1] Graham Cooke and Gary Goodell, Permission Granted to Do Church Differently in the 21st Century (Shippensburg: Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., 2006), 173.

[2] Ibid., 177-178.

[3] Ibid., 178-179

[4] Ibid., 181.

[5] Ibid., 182.

[6] Ibid., 183.

[7] Ibid., 183.

[8] Ibid., 184.

[9] Ibid., 185.

[10] Ibid., 199.

[11] Ibid., 200.

[12] A bikie is a motorcycle gang member.

[13] Some clergy friends like Pastor Les Holmes operated in the power of the Spirit, but they did so more strongly overseas than in our hometown.

[14] Miracles not only lead unbelievers to repentance, but also help them to rethink Jesus and the Christian faith. Gold dust and other miracles can also open up new ways of understanding for Christians.


 [E1]Is it okay to quote this extensively? I hope so because I love the quotes.

The content is excellent, but you must seek permission from the author to quote at such length.

 [S2]The Publisher will take care of this issue.

 [E3]Thank you.