Enjoying our God!
Written by Heidi & Rolland Baker
IS REVIVAL NORMAL?
The Westminster Shorter Catechism, written in the 1640s by English and Scottish divines to educate lay persons in matters of belief, is part of the grandest doctrinal statements to come out of the English Reformation. It is composed of 107 questions and answers, and the most famous is the first:
Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
After thirty years of missionary work, Heidi and I understand more than ever that God wants to be our greatest pleasure. He is most pleased with us when we are most pleased with Him! And when He is pleased with us, He grants us the desires of our heart (Ps. 37:4).
Our whole aim as Christians, and as Iris missionaries, is to glorify God by everything we think, feel, say and do. For us this finds expression particularly through ministry to the poor, and to “the least of these.” By giving the cup of cold water, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, inviting the stranger in, healing the sick and visiting those in prison we love and serve Jesus Himself (Matt. 25).
But there is more. We do this through the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. And here begins the controversy. There is an attitude that sees fiery revival and a life of miracles as the rare exception, not to be expected in normal Christian living. The idea is that most of what God does in the world is done in a natural way through the holy virtues of dedication, hard work, faithful endurance, sacrifice, generosity and compassion, etc. We should learn to live most of the time without the miraculous, overpowering intervention of God, and prove our love for God by our quality of character.
We understand that our foundation is the righteousness of God, freely given to us in Christ. But then we learn that to love God and appreciate Him is to long for His presence. Here we make a decision. As in any love affair, we love everything about God, and we choose to treasure any way in which He manifests Himself. We continually desire more of God, and will never settle for distance from Him. The great outpourings of the Holy Spirit in history are beacons to us, always giving us hope for an even more abundant life in Him. They are not meant to be hopelessly out of reach for the rest of us, but to spur us on to all that is possible in God.
So we enjoy the full spectrum of God’s dealings with us, and are always pressing forward to what lies ahead: even more of God. Jesus died so that our relationship with God could become natural. All that He is capable of supernaturally should become natural and normal for His people.
Our point is that all the good work we have been able to do in this movement in Africa has been sparked, fueled and sustained by the fire of revival and the supernatural. We never could have gotten to this point — 10,000 churches and 10,000 children — without miracles all the way. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes (Luke 12:23). The Holy Spirit gives us rivers of living water that flow out of our innermost being. We love and enjoy all the manifestations of God’s presence, and find that as we take more and more pleasure in God, we are filled with all the more strength and motivation to do His will through good works.
We do what we do because of visitations, visions and heavy doses of His Spirit. We are excited and keep going because the dead are being raised and the blind and deaf are being healed. The poor come to Jesus whole villages at a time because they see the power of God’s love. We are financed because God grants supernatural generosity to thousands of people without appeals from us. We are awed and thrilled that God would tangibly enter our meetings, touch our bodies and fill us to overflowing with love and joy — inexpressible and full of glory. We are on fire because He does more than we ask or think.
It’s very simple. We desperately need revival, all the time. Heidi and I would both be dead now without miraculous healing. We face need, pain and suffering every day that cry out for more than any human can give. Our own hearts pant for the living God like the deer pants for streams of water (Ps. 42:1). We are made for God. We are made for revival. We are made for the glory of His Presence. We must encounter Him.
So we say, More revival! More fire! More signs and wonders! More gifts of the Spirit! More intimacy! More love and joy! More fruit! Let’s find every lost sheep! Let’s take in every orphan! Let’s share the Kingdom! And never settle for average, mundane “normal!”
In short, let’s totally enjoy our God!
ON THE GROUND IN PEMBA
The work before us is huge. We can do nothing without Jesus, and without the Body of Christ. We invite you to labor with us in every way possible. Revival has fruit. It brings transformation of a complete kind, and God uses people to bring it.
We are not just soul winners, and not just social workers. We are after the Kingdom. For us revival includes relief and development, with a difference. We trust God and aim for His glory in everything. He is utterly practical. In nearby Mieze we are establishing a model community as an example for the rest of our movement. We are emphasizing micro-investment and entrepreneurship. We are drilling all the water wells we can in bush villages. We have housing projects. We want to expand agriculture. We have a vision for a university offering the poor an education that provides job skills in tourism, business and information technology. We are opening a child sponsorship program to greatly increase the number of children in our care. We are planning a relief arm of Iris that can respond to disasters around the world. Every kind of initiative and help is needed. We welcome inquiries from all who have an interest in getting involved. You may e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Our photo gallery this time illustrates our daily life and work around Pemba. Happy children celebrating their birthdays. The poor in their bare mud huts. Our beautiful surroundings. The glorious faces of our youth. Preaching at village outreaches. Praying for the sick. Teaching a girl to speak who was healed after being deaf and dumb since birth. Villagers lining up for bread and tea with a visiting team. Children playing. Weddings in a typical Iris bush church, one among thousands. Children in our church-based orphan care program. The exciting dedication of another Iris water well, changing the lives of an entire village. River baptisms in the African wild. Deep worship at Bible school graduation.
But there is so much more to describe, show and discuss! That’s for future newsletters… A new web site will soon allow us to better present periodic, detailed input from our many Iris bases around the world. Our missionaries and national leaders all deserve recognition and exposure.
Once again we thank our amazing family of Iris supporters who without pressure continue to fund our work with faithful, sensitive generosity from God. As always we are looking for what may be credited to your account (Phil. 4:17)! And so we are all blessed…
Much love in Jesus,
Rolland and Heidi