Monthly Archives: December 2011

What Age Are You Living For?

I am still grieving the deaths of these young people the news has been telling us about.  I am mourning for them, hurting with their hurting families.  When this kind of thing happens you can hear very loudly the travail pains of a groaning creation.  And it causes a groaning in me as well.  How long, Lord?  I remember the dark ages of my own life, and now it grieves me deeply that so many spend their lives in such peril… and for such emptiness.  Yet where is the Light that would enable them to see this?  I remember when the Light rescued me… and now, in an hour when the darkness is far more intense, where is the Light of the world?  I feel like our churches are failing this present generation.  I feel like I am failing this generation.  Multitudes around us—like these young people who died so young and so tragically—they live their lives in this world as though this present world with all its pleasures and pastimes, with all its joys and toys, is all there is to live for.

And that is not so!  The Bible speaks much of two ages: this age—and the age to come.  The Greek word is aion, usually translated age, meaning, simply, an era or period of time.

Sometimes aion is used interchangeably with the word kosmos, the Greek for worldKosmos means order or arrangement.  We get our English words cosmos and cosmetics from it, both of which speak of an order, an adorning, an arrangement.

And so we read in Eph. 2.2 of “the age of this world,” where the two words are used together.  The aion of this kosmos.  “And you being dead in offences and sins, in which once ye walked according to the age of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the sons of the disobedience…”

So we see that this present order—this arrangement of things in the world as we know it—is an age.  It is not going to be here forever, it is just an age: it’s called “this present evil age” (Gal. 1.4).  It is ruled over by a spirit, and its dominant feature is evil.  Or as we read in another place, darkness.  The primary characteristic of this age is darkness.  We read of “the world rulers (the cosmocrats) of the darkness of this age” (Eph. 6.12).

And we read of “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4.4).  And we read of “the wisdom of this age” which God hath made foolishness, and we read of “the princes of this age,” and of another Wisdom which if the princes of this age had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2.6).

And, intertwined through all this, we read of another age to come—with another world, another order.  In fact we read of ages to come (Eph. 2.7), but in the main we see these two ages — the present one, and the age to come.

And we see also—and this ought to encourage you and me, while at the same time challenging us—God is not just stoically waiting for this coming new order, the age to come.  He is not just passively waiting for things to run their natural course.  He is deeply pained with the evil of this present age beyond our ability to comprehend.  And so even now in this present age He plants the seeds of the coming one.  In this present age He births children who actually pertain to the age to come.  They are here now in this present age… but living for another age.  And it is actually through these children of light that the present age of evil and darkness will be completely shut down, the colossal defeat it suffered at the Cross of Christ being fully and finally executed.

When God brought His first begotten Son into the world the demons cried out in surprise, “Have you come to torment us before the time?”  They knew their time, their doom, would come some inevitable day away down the ages somewhere… or so they thought.  Here it was right in their face!  Here suddenly in a very early hour is this Man saying, “NOW is the judgment of this world (this kosmos); now is the prince of this world cast out” (Jn. 12.31).  Like the morning star before the dawning of the day, here is this Man who pertains to an entirely different age; here He is on the scene, revealing in this age the Life of that age, even eternal life.  And the demons cringed in fear.

A Man from Another Age entered this present evil age some two thousand years ago, inaugurating a new age—the age of the Kingdom of God.  By this Man falling into the ground and dying, God planted the Seed of that coming age in this age, and ever since it has been growing, growing, growing to fullness.  That kingdom will yet come to fruition, will come in fullness.  It has seen great resistance over the centuries, and at times great setbacks.  But the inevitable harvest will come.

The harvest,” we read, “is the end of the age” (Mt. 13.39).  I believe we are there now.  In the end of the age the reapers come forth, and there is a great separation of wheat from tares, and on the threshing floor of God, much wind, and fire, and sifting of the wheat.  Oh, how we need this just now!  I find great comfort in this, and, in a very dark hour, great hope.  “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.”

Hasten this great work of Yours, dear Lord Jesus Christ, this separating, purifying work—that the Light might shine purely in the darkness again!

A Burden of Light

I have been feeling very heavy hearted and pained the last couple of days as a result of the multiple murder that took place over our way.  I’m sure many of you have heard about this—it’s been headline news all across Canada—the two young baseball players from Prince Edward Island playing for a team in Lethbridge, Alberta.  I don’t want to go into the details, but apparently they were celebrating a birthday out in a bar with their friends… having a wonderful time, enjoying life to the max the way young people just love to do.  A jealous ex-boyfriend of one of the girls comes along.  There is an ugly incident in the bar… and then later on the horror story on the highway at three in the morning as these young people leave their fun and rush to Calgary to catch a plane to Prince Edward Island for the Christmas break.  The ex-boyfriend has tailed them.  And he has a gun.

And now four young people are dead, this young man included.  He turned his gun on himself after he wreaked his vengeance.  The whole country is horrified.  How could this happen?

…Four young people in their early twenties, in the flower of life, and living life to the max.  Their whole lives were before them.  So much to live for.  Now they are dead.  Their friends are in tears:  they were such fun-loving people…  why could this happen to such wonderful people?

And so… my burden.  How long, Lord, how long?  How long till there shines a Light in the darkness that reveals to a whole generation of lost young people that this is not what life is for!  Sitting down to eat and to drink, and rising up to play… this is not what life is for!  This is not why God gave us a life—to consume upon ourselves!

The darkness “out there” is very thick in this hour.  The only reason people don’t flee from it as from atomic radiation is that… they don’t see how dark it is!  It’s only when you have a measure of light that you become aware of the darkness around you.

And so… the darkness that envelops this whole generation of young people like a burial shroud… who is responsible for that?

Fellow Christian, it is you and I who are to be the Light of the world.  And so, if the world is in darkness, where is the Light?

At times I feel a resentment toward the churches of our day.  I wonder if it isn’t a divine resentment.  For, in spite of the fact that there is so very little light in the churches of our day, we carry on, carry on, carry on… with our many programs and our nice activities… when, out of love for a lost generation we should be calling a halt to it all and crying out to God for mercy!

…But, never mind the churches.  What about me, Lord?  One of the things being carried by the priests through the wilderness was the lampstand.  It was veiled in blue with a covering of badger skins over top.  Lord, I cannot rest till you bring me to the place where this lampstand under the badger skin is set up in Your Tabernacle, and the Light shines in the darkness again… the Light of the Knowledge of the Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ!

Christian, is Jesus the light of your life, and mine?  Is Jesus the light we have in our heart?  Is Jesus Christ our righteousness in our hearts, and our salvation?  Then let this be our cry:

“For Zion’s sake I will not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the Righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the Salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth” (Isaiah 62.1).

A Burden Under Badger Skins

The apostle Paul exhorts us, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6.2).  The Greek word used here is baros, meaning, heavy burden, from which we get our English wheel barrow.  This is an exhortation to us all to put into practice the beautiful law of the love of Christ—everyone carrying the burdens of others instead of their own, and thus fulfilling what Christ did when, as He carried His own Cross, it was our burdens He was bearing.  If only we could see more of that.  When the law of Christ – the love of God – is working in the body of Christ, we do not to have to carry the heavy burdens of life in this world – at least not our own heavy burdens.

But there is a burden that God intends each of us to carry, and which we shrug off only to our great loss.  This burden is in fact a gift to us.

Let’s read that whole passage in Galatians.

“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.  For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.  But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.  For every man shall bear his own burden” (Gal. 6.2-5).

The Greek word for burden in this last sentence is phortion, or load.  We get our English portion from it.  In other words, each of us has a God-given burden to carry.  Each of us has been given a portion to carry in our Christian walk, and it is our responsibility, and privilege, to carry it.

This reminds me of the priests of old as they travelled from place to place through the wilderness.  It was the responsibility of the Levites, the priestly tribe, to carry the tabernacle—all of which was relative, of course, to the ark.

“At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD…” (Deut. 10.8)

The various pieces with which the tabernacle was furnished—the ark itself; the table of showbread with all its dishes and utensils; the lampstand, its tongs and snuffers, and its vessels of oil; the golden altar and its incense—“all the instruments of ministry wherewith they minister in the sanctuary” (Num. 4.12)—these were all covered with a veil of blue, and then over that veil of blue was placed a covering of “badger’s skins,” as the King James has it.  Other translations call it goatskins or sealskins or some other kind of hide—a rough exterior that would protect these things from the elements en route.  The brazen altar was covered with a veil of purple in which the vessels of the altar had first been placed, and then it also was covered with a veil of badger’s skins.

Then all these things were carried along by their staves upon the shoulders of the priests.  They were not to touch these things with their hands.

They were all veiled.  No outside observer would be able to tell what was hidden underneath that ordinary leather hide. The badger skin or goat skin veiled what was beneath.

There was one difference.  All these things were covered with a covering of blue or purple, then over top the badger skins were placed.  But the ark itself was covered first with the veil of the tabernacle behind which it was always hidden, then came the covering of badger skins, and finally over top of the badger skins was “a cloth wholly of blue” (Num. 4.6).  With the ark, the veil of blue was on the exterior.

When in transit from place to place through the wilderness, the ark could always be distinguished by this veil “wholly of blue.”

Many of the Levites were permitted to use carts to carry the burdens they had been designated to carry—posts, frames, bases, hangings, tent pegs, and so on.  But the articles of ministry, and the ark itself, were to be carried upon the shoulders of the priests. (See Numbers Ch. 7.6-9.)

And so, here is Israel walking along through the wilderness, the cloud of glory protecting them from the blazing desert sun (Num. 10.34).  They are a people on the move.  Where are they going?  They are not quite sure what the next stop will be.  But ultimately they have been promised “a land.”  They are not there yet.  That’s all right.  They trust their God to be faithful to His promise.  And the ark goes before them “to search out a resting place for them” (Num. 10.33).

And each of the priests is carrying a burden, each is carrying his own portion.  How long will he have to carry that burden?  As long as the cloud is on the move.  Till the next resting place.  He will have to carry it till the tabernacle is set up again in the “resting place” God has in mind.  Then every man’s portion will be called for, and the priests will lay their burden down.  What each one has carried will be set in its proper place, will be fitted together with all that the others have been carrying in the journey.

What each one has been carrying is all relative to the ark of the glory of the Lord.  That glory cannot rest till it finds its rest in the tabernacle in the midst of His people, and all is in place and fitted together according to His design.

Now… as we travel through the wilderness, others around us may not know what is hidden beneath that goatskin they know as you or me.  And as a result, we may often be misunderstood.  That’s all right.  The Lord knoweth them that are His, and we are content with that.  Let us be faithful to carry our burden, our portion, as we walk along through the wilderness of life—some burden that is forming in us, some beautiful facet of Truth God is causing us to rejoice in, and which we long to see fulfilled in His people.   Perhaps, while it is forming, we do not recognize that it is God Himself who has seeded our burden, and we wish He would relieve us of it.  But light dawns, and we recognize our burden for what it is—the glory of the Lord… veiled.  And we embrace it, and carry it faithfully.  Is our portion heavy at times?  Yes.  At times it is very heavy.  But we recognize it as God’s gift to us, and we will not part with it for worlds.  For, the time comes when the wraps are removed, the coverings are taken away, the tabernacle is set up, and the glory of the Lord is unveiled.  The glory of the Lord finds its home in His tabernacle and is revealed there—in you and me and others He has fitted us together with.

One thing more. What about that cloth “wholly of blue” over the ark itself?  We long to see the glory of the Lord. But… that precious burden He has granted us to carry.  Do we recognize that burden for what it is—the glory of the Lord… veiled? The inevitable time will come when the glory of the Lord is unveiled. But all along our wilderness way, difficult at times though it is… the blue of heaven is always over the badger skin, the goatskin, that others know as you and me.

Thyself

Many years ago I came across a poem, which I wrote into the flyleaf of my Bible.  I’ve read it so often that it’s etched in memory now.

I thought I’d share it here.  You will recognize one of its lines as the title I used for an earlier post.

                Thyself

I read Thy word, O Lord, each passing day,
And in the sacred page find glad employ.
But this I pray:
Save from the killing letter; teach my heart,
Set free from human forms, the holy art
Of reading Thee in every line,
In precept, prophecy and sign,
Till all my vision filled with Thee,
Thy likeness shall reflect in me:
Not knowledge, but Thyself my joy!
For this I pray.

J.C. Macaulay

 

   

New Covenant Knowledge

As you can see by the last few blog entries, I carry a burden.  I know it is the burden of the Spirit of God. And over the course of the years it has become my own burden as well.  I want to see our daily Christian walk and experience corresponding to our great store of Christian knowledge.  To put that another way, it’s a burden to see a kind of knowledge that is indistinguishable from our experience.  This is the kind of knowledge the apostles had in mind when they talked of the knowledge of God (Col 1.9, 2 Pt. 1.8, 1 Jn. 4.7).

 It is one thing to know and be familiar with a lot of teaching of the word, quite another to be pregnant with that word, so that a living Seed is growing in us.

 I read something in T. Austin-Sparks recently, which I’ll quote.

 “We are in times when the build-up of Christian truth, teaching, and knowledge is immense; and yet the corresponding reality in life is by no means equal in measure.  There is a margin, a gap, between what is known and what is lived….

 “…One thing that you and I have come to or will come to is this: a dread of knowledge that does not lead to something more of Him.  I never in my life have shrank from speaking as I do today, lest it might resolve itself into words only, and so little that corresponds to it.  I do not say that it is all in vain, I do not believe that it is, but it is a wholesome fear to accumulate a kind of knowledge that does not lead to something.  And the one and only thing to which spiritual knowledge should lead is Christ-likeness.

 “Now then, what a knowledge we have of things concerning the Christian life and the purpose of God, and how greatly we fall short in that expression, the personal expression of Christ.  Is it not true that there is a gap between our knowledge and our life so often?”  (T. Austin-Sparks, God’s Supreme Interest In Man)

Then, again, I read the following from The Vision and The Appointment by George H. Warnock.  It’s under a section called, “For we know in part, and prophesy in part.”

 “This should disarm any of us who think we know a lot.  If we truly recognized that our knowledge is very limited, and falls short of real clarity and mature understanding, we would be less likely to argue about deep mysteries, thinking we have greater knowledge than our brother.  Even if we do, it is still just in part, just in small measure.

 “‘And if any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know’ (I Cor. 8:2).

 “…We know nothing yet, as we ought to know.  ‘But if any man love God, the same is known of Him’ (vs. 3).  He is not really saying that we need more knowledge.  He is saying, rather, that what we know falls short of the picture as it really is.  We need a greater understanding and clarity of the knowledge we now have.  But until we come to the fullness of Love, our knowledge of spiritual things will remain very, very minimal.  God has designed it that way, or pride would destroy us.

 “…But in what way does Love give us knowledge that ‘we ought to know?’  We will only discover that, as we come more and more into those realms of God’s abounding Love…

 “…With our natural mind not yet fully renewed by His Spirit, and with spiritual gifts that only function in part, we must acknowledge that many mysteries will remain beyond our understanding until ‘that which is perfect is come.’  And let us not think we must wait for Heaven to come to that.  Jesus came down to earth to manifest Perfect Love in this world of sin and pain and misery, for this is where it is needed.  And when He went away He made provision by His indwelling Spirit, for His people to walk as He walked when He was here.”  (end of quote)

 …Words from two watchmen whose ministries have meant a lot to me over the years.  T. Austin-Sparks warns we have a lot of knowledge these days, but there is a margin, a gap, between what is known and what is lived.  Add to that what George Warnock says, quoting as he does from the apostle Paul: actually, in all we know, thus far we know so very little.  We know “in part.”

 And so… this burden.  Oh, to see our participation with one another in the body of Christ becoming nothing less than a ministration of Christ Himself, a ministration of the Spirit, of the New Covenant.  There is a kind of knowledge — New Covenant knowledge — in which there is no gap between what is known and what is experienced, what is walked in.

 The encouraging thing is… well, two encouraging things.

 One: we have confidence that the mediator of the New Covenant will not lay His burden down till He has fulfilled it in the lives of His people.

       “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts… and all shall KNOW ME, from the least to the greatest” (Heb. 8.11).

 And, two: because of His faithfulness, we have confidence that we will see the day when we are able with joy to lay our burden down.

They That Handle The Law Knew Me Not

Last time, we quoted that verse from Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of the knowledge…” But we didn’t finish the verse. Let’s do that now, and notice what Hosea said about the priesthood of his day – those that God had made the custodians of His knowledge.

“My people are destroyed for lack of (the) knowledge. Because thou hast rejected (the) knowledge, I also will reject thee that thou shalt be no priest to Me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hosea 4.6).

Malachi said similar words in his day.

“For the priests lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth” (Malachi 2.7).

That was a reminder of what God had called His priesthood to back in the days of Moses:

“They shall teach Jacob Thy judgments, and Israel Thy law” (Deuteronomy 33.10).

This is what the priesthood was supposed to be all about – teaching the people the law of God in such a way as to cause them to know Him. Yet by the days of Hosea and Malachi, the priests had forgotten God’s law, with the result that the people were utterly cut off from Him.

But if God was grieved that His priesthood of old had forgotten His law of the old covenant… what can He be feeling today? If there has ever been a forgotten covenant, it is the New Covenant of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The New Covenant is not just a matter of forever setting before the people more sermons, more teachings, more Bible knowledge, more understanding of what the Bible says. The New Covenant is a ministration of the Spirit such that the Law of God is written upon the hearts and minds of His people… with what result?

“And they shall all know Me from the least of them to the greatest of them…” (Jeremiah 31.34).

God complained to Jeremiah:

“The priests say not, Where is the LORD? And they that handle the law knew Me not” (Jer. 2.8).

This is, to me, a very provoking and very challenging verse; I dwell on it often. You mean, they handled the law, they were very familiar with the law, yet did not know the God who gave the law? What about me, then? I know my Bible well – certainly not as some do by any stretch, but quite well. I am familiar with the word of God, and its teachings, and from one point of view (a low one) it could be said that I have a substantial knowledge: I am one of those of whom it could be said, “He handles the law.”

But then I read John’s testimony:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of Life…” (1 Jn. 1.1).

And I am undone. How can I settle for any lesser Testimony? I must know this One… as John knew Him! I cannot settle for any lesser Testimony. And I need not settle for a lesser Testimony. For God has made provision for me to have the same Testimony. The Spirit of Truth has been sent from the Throne of God with a commission, and He cannot return till He has accomplished it — to make me familiar with the Word of Life Himself – and cause me to hear Him, to see Him, to gaze continually upon Him, to handle Him with my hands… and know Him!

That is the New Covenant!

How deeply I want to be part of this kind of New Covenant ministry. And how deeply this kind of ministry is needed in this hour! The need is so great. And so whatever we feel we may have attained to thus far in our Christian walk, let us all, in this late hour, open our hearts to a deeper ministration of the Spirit of Christ. Let us anticipate this. I believe our Lord Jesus Christ is preparing to release a new ministration of the Spirit that will bring into being “able ministers of a New Covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit…”

…And as a result of it, the “children” shall hear Him, and see Him, and come to know Him!

Not Knowledge But Thyself My Joy

As I said last time, the knowledge at our fingertips in our day — good Christian knowledge — is huge.  There are available on the Internet of our day the finest resources for Bible study the church has ever seen, with countless messages and teachings.  Yet I wonder if, in spite of all this knowledge, God isn’t mourning – as He was in Hosea’s day, when He said, “My people is destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4.6).

I notice in a study Bible I have that the article is there in the Hebrew: “My people is destroyed for lack of the knowledge…”

God says His people are being destroyed for lack of the knowledge?  What is He referring to?  What does God have in mind here?  We discover the answer in what Hosea has said just a few verses earlier:

“For the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land” (4.1).

This is what God means when he says, “My people is destroyed for lack of the knowledge…”  The knowledge of God.

This is what it is all about, family of God.  This is God’s great objective in our lives – that we come to know Him.  It is possible to listen to countless sermons and have much knowledge of the Bible and spiritual things… and yet be lacking in the knowledge of God Himself.  I believe this has happened in our generation.  Are we not all aware of the gross darkness in our world around us these days – and in many of our churches as well?  In spite of all our knowledge, in spite of all the Internet resources and Bible knowledge available to us, in spite of the proliferation of sermons and good messages available to us… we are still very short of the knowledge of God in our land.

I am talking about the kind of knowledge that means a shining forth of Christ Himself in our lives, a shining forth of Light in the darkness – the kind of light and knowledge of God that the Son of God Himself walked in.  Over and over again He said concerning the Father, “I know Him…”  “I know Him…” “I know Him…” (Jn. 7.29, 8.55, 10.15, 17.25).  How did Jesus do the things He did?  What enabled the powerful Testimony He had?  He just knew God!

That’s the kind of knowledge I am hungry for in this hour… and need! And the Lord helping me, I will not settle for less!  I know how important sound doctrine is.  I know how important good teaching is. I know how important knowing the Bible is… and I am thankful for all the resources that are available to us in our day.

But oh, family of God, how I wish there were more unrest in our midst – more discontent with all that – not unthankfulness, but discontent – and in this late hour a cry going up… “Lord Jesus… oh, to know You!  Thank you for all You have given us, we are grateful… but oh, to know You!  To know You in such a way that the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God shines forth in the darkness around us!”

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