Tag Archives: Mending Feast

God Will Yet Glorify His Name… Again

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We have been talking about the increase in momentum in our world, and how there has been a great casting off of restraint that began in the 1960s.  It has reached the point where now they are redefining marriage.   Redefining the family.  What is next?  Christians who cry against it are considered a menace to society.  They are a threat to the new social order.  Why don’t those Christians get with the momentum and recognize that Christianity is antiquated and belongs in the museum of history?

Many Christians, of course, are doing just that.  The problem is those stubborn Christians who will not go with the flow.  So right here in North America we are beginning to see Christians being persecuted, and it will come to the place where to be a Christian in North America will cost you your job—and your liberty, and your life.  The enemies of Christ and his followers will not stop till they have eradicated His name—and and those who bear His name—from the earth.

What is God’s response to this?

 He that sitteth [enthroned] in the heavens shall laugh.  The Lord shall have them   in derision…. Yet have I set my king upon My holy hill of Zion (Ps. 2:6).

God has set His king upon His holy hill of Zion, and no forces in the universe can remove Him from there.  He is seated there ruling in the midst of His enemies, and will yet see all His enemies put under His feet.  In the meanwhile, things may look very bleak, but we must lean hard on the knowledge that Christ is on the throne, and that God will yet glorify His great and holy Name.

We must lean hard in this hour on the knowledge that God is a God of integrity.  God is a God of His word.  He has not forgotten His word.  What He begins He will finish.  He has begun a great eternal purpose “ which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11).  In fact the word purposed there is better translated, accomplished.  It is that certain.  And so the eternal purpose He accomplished in Christ will yet be fully wrought out in the Heavens and in the earth.  God will have things His way.  He will glorify His great and mighty Name.

BUT, do we not realize that it is through the Church that God glorifies His Name?

 Unto Him be glory in the church in Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end (Eph. 3:21).

That would include this present generation, then.  This is very encouraging in a day when the glory of the Lord is not on the agenda of most churches here in the West.  Churches without number are preoccupied with their own programs.  They are content with the status quo—the way things are.  The glory of the Lord?  Who is burdened for that?

God is, and He will yet glorify His great and holy Name.  He has done it before.

When God’s people Israel for the most part would not receive His glory—His Son—and thus, as Paul put it, judged themselves unworthy of eternal life, God opened the door to the Gentiles—and in doing so enlarged His purposes exponentially.  This was in accordance with His promise to Abraham, and also the result of an oath He had sworn to Moses long ago. When Israel of old refused to enter the promised land in the days of Moses, God threatened that He would wipe them out and start afresh with another people out of the loins of Moses.  That humble man would have none of it and pled with God to forgive His people.  “Okay,” God said, “I have pardoned according to your word.  But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” (See Num. 14:11-21).  This began in the day when He turned to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46).  And what an hour that was!

However, only a blind man could say that this has come to any degree of fullness.  In fact the churches of the Gentiles, at least in the West, are now largely in a state of apostasy.  In this hour it is not the Jews, but Christians who have settled for less than the glory of the Lord.  And so the parable of the marriage supper holds as true today as it did when Jesus used it to provoke the Jews.  A great king had made a marriage supper for his son, and those who were bidden spurned the invitation.  What was his reaction?  He commanded his servants to go quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and into the highways and hedges, “and compel them to come in that my house may be filled.  For I say unto you that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper” (Lk. 14:16-14; Mt. 22:1-14).

No, you say, that’s already fulfilled, that applied only to the Jews.  Really?  What about Paul’s warning concerning  “the goodness and severity of God”?  He warned that Gentiles who had been grafted into the olive tree of Israel could yet find themselves cut off if they do not continue in His goodness (Rom. 11:17-22).

And so there comes an hour when God, who has stood all the day long with open arms calling to His people to come to this supper, only to be slighted again and again… suddenly He turns and brings to Himself multitudes who were not even looking for Him—the despised, the rejected, the forsaken… and also in this hour—mark my words—multitudes from among the newly “liberated” LGBT world—multitudes, mark my words—who will discover in Christ a salvation and liberty that transforms them to the depths of their being, and satisfies their greatest longings far beyond anything they thought possible.  And He will give them all He offered those who would not come to Him when He called.  And more.

I Will Raise It Up

God has promised His Son that of all He has given Him He should lose nothing, but “raise it up in the last day” (Jn. 6:39).  What is this about?

“Of all that the Father has given Me I should lose nothing…”  Why does He prophesy that?  It’s because the truths that were vibrant, alive, in the days of the early church apparently died, were lost, throughout what are called the Dark Ages.  Then we saw the beginnings of the resurrection of truth in the days of the Reformation (although even through the Dark Ages there was always a small remnant that walked in revealed truth).  However, the reformers built denominations around the truth God had revealed to them, as did their contemporaries the Anabaptists.  The same thing has happened again and again through the history of the Church.  When God wanted to continue the reviving, the resurrection, of truth, His people chronically failed Him, would not move forward with Him into further truth.  And so God had to raise up a new people who would embrace the further truth, till they, in turn, would build a new denomination around this truth instead of going even further with God when He wanted to lead them further.  This has happened chronically throughout the history of the church.  This is what accounts for the system of denominations the world knows as Christianity.  It is a testimony of the failure of God’s people to flow in the river of God, and instead set up their denominational cisterns to contain their little puddle of truth, and further truth was lost to them—along with the glory of the Lord.  Truth is a river, not a puddle.  God’s desire is that we get into His river, and continue to flow all the way back to where the river came from—God Himself.

What does God do, then, with all this lost truth?  He gathers it all up in a last day, and raises it up from the dead, and gives it to a people who are not a people.  I pray with all my heart, and tears in my eyes, that I may be one of them.

God shall yet gather up all that seems to have been lost by previous generations—and truths that are yet hidden in Him that none have ever walked in—and shall give it all together to a generation that shall glorify His name.  A people despised, the scum of the earth, a people who in and of themselves are nothing, a people who were not a people, a people brought in from the highways and hedges and compelled to come in to God’s feast… these are the ones who shall fill the places of those who first invited had spurned the invitation.  They shall see, and reveal, the glory of the Lord.  He shall pour out such grace upon them that they shall glorify His Name as fully as God glorified His Name in His Son.

 And it shall come to pass that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not My people, there shall they be called the sons of the living God (Rom. 9:26,   Hos. 1:10).

I tremble at this.  I want to be numbered among them.  I want my seat at the Kings’s table along with them…

…And I am encouraged to remember that, along with these, there are those throughout all generations who have responded to the King’s invitation in their day.  These too shall He raise up along with the truth He is raising up, and they shall enjoy it in the last day with that generation (Jn. 6:39-40).

Know this.  God’s word shall be fulfilled. All the failures of former days have only intensified what is about to break forth like the waters a dam backed up, backed up, backed up, till the pressure can no longer be contained, and suddenly it bursts.

God will yet again glorify His great and mighty name.

 

 

 

 

The Life That Killeth Death

The last few days I have been mourning the death of a friend.  Our friend Amanda, after a long fight with cancer, died a few days ago.

This was all the harder for many of us because we had been praying earnestly for Amanda, hoping she would be healed.  Yet our Lord did not heal her.  She died, leaving behind her a husband and twelve children… some so young they will never have known their mother.

I know few people who had the depth of faith this woman had.  On one occasion she made Job’s words her own:  “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”  So let me repeat what I said, this time more accurately.  Our friend lost a battle with cancer.  But she won the victory of faith.  For, she held her faith in Jesus to the end.  She died in faith.

In fact (again more accurately) Amanda didn’t actually die.  She fell asleep in Jesus.  This is not just a euphemism.  This is the way the apostles referred to believers who had passed on (1 Cor. 15.6,18).

For, to those who believe in Jesus, the power of death has been broken.  Jesus Christ has “abolished death” (2 Tim. 1.10).  The word translated abolished is a very strong word in the Greek.  It is katargeo, which is made up of three parts: kata-a-ergeo.  Kata is a prefix which is often used as an intensifier.  This is followed by a, which in the Greek is the negative (as in a-theist).  And then the stem ergeo, which means to work.  And so Paul proclaims that what Jesus Christ did on Calvary’s cross resulted in death being made totally unable to work.  For those who believe in Jesus, death totally does not work; death absolutely does not work anymore, is of no effect anymore… for those who believe in Jesus.

And Paul goes on to say that this is something that the Gospel is supposed to make manifest—not just tell us about, but actually make manifest.  Christ has “abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (2 Tim.1.10).

So… this is the shape my mourning has taken the last few days.  Yes, I mourn for my sister, but more than that, I am mourning for the reality of this powerful Gospel—the Good News that manifests, that shines forth as light, the victory of Christ at Calvary.  Those who know the Good News ought to be walking in a Life that is totally triumphant over the whole kingdom of sin and death.  Is that the case with you?  With me?

Just today the lines of the poem that inspired the title for my blog came again to mind:

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a way as gives us breath;
Such a truth as ends all strife,
Such a life as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a light as shows a feast,
Such a feast as mends in length,
Such a strength as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
Such a joy as none can move,
Such a love as none can part,
Such a heart as joys in love.

(The Call by George Herbert, 1593-1633)

What’s this—a life that killeth death?  It’s ingrained in our thinking that death always triumphs over life, that death kills life.  And so we fear death.  But no, there is a Life that kills death, a Life that triumphs over death…

…Because it is a Life that leads in the Pathway of the Cross.  Jesus, walking in the Pathway of Life… this Pathway led Him to the Cross, where He accomplished the greatest thing that has ever happened in the universe.

He Hell in hell laid low;
Made sin, He sin o’erthrew;
Bowed to the grave, destroyed it so,
And death by dying slew.

Samuel Whitlock Gandy, 1780-1851

What paradoxes.  The Lord Jesus Christ manifested the Life “that killeth death.”  This Life led Him to the Cross, where He “death by dying slew.”  Eternal paradoxes.  And entirely scriptural.  By dying, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ destroyed (there’s that same word again, katargeo) him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil (Heb. 2.14).  He slew the Devil with His own weapon (as David did Goliath), and delivered those who “through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

For, He became sin for us—He who knew no sin.  And that is what causes death—sin. It’s there in the whole family of Adam, from the tiny baby to the ancient man.  Sin.  The poison of sin is at work in the whole family of Adam.  It’s the sting of death.  “The sting of death is sin” (1 Cor. 15.56).  In other words, when somebody sins they have been stung by death.  Sin is the sting of death.  But Jesus took the sting out of death.  He became sin for us—your sin and mine—and died, taking sin down into the grave with Him.  He died unto sin.  He died for our sins.  He died for our sins—and rose again for our justification.  What a revelation!  Paul says that if Christ has not risen from the dead, “your faith is vain (futile), ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15.17).  The implication is that if Christ is risen from the dead (and He is), we are not in our sins.  If Christ is risen from the dead, this is evidence that the sting of death (sin) has been removed, and so we who believe in Him are no more in our sins.  And, therefore, what hold can death have on us?  And so Paul concludes:

Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15.57).

What is that victory?  Yes, it’s the triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary.  But thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  That’s what the Gospel is all about—or ought to be.  It ought to be a shining forth in our lives of the truth and victory that Christ wrought at Calvary, and which enables us to walk in Life even as He Himself walked.

I have to say that this is all too often not the case among us Christians, and so, as I said, I have been mourning for this.  I believe that if the Life of Jesus were more the reality we are walking in, my friend Amanda would still be with us.  I simply cannot accept that the present state of worldliness and weakness and sickness that is plaguing the churches is the will of God.

However, I know that my friend Amanda died in faith, and so, regardless what death seems still able to accomplish, it is faith that triumphs.  Death may be boasting over yet another of its victims, but faith has the last word.  For even though we see not yet the final victory over this the last enemy, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” (Heb. 11.1).  Yes, the world is full of sin and sickness and death.  But faith is the victory.

…This is the victory that overcame the world, our faith (1 Jn. 5.4).

And this is why Amanda is not dead.  She is asleep… and waiting to be awakened.

See you later, Amanda.

Here is George Herbert’s The Call set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Keep The Feast Of Tabernacles

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A few days ago I had not spent the necessary time waiting, seeking, praying, till I had the assurance of the Presence of the Lord in my heart before venturing into my day. And so I suffered most of the day with a troubled heart.  Yes, I know, foolish me.  At the same time I know it’s not always foolishness; these are increasingly difficult days; we are up against Egypt and Babylon—a world system built from the ground up to shut God out.  But when I could endure it no longer I finally found a quiet place and bowed my head and opened my heart to my Lord.  I am so thankful for His mercy.  It was not long before His Presence seeped into my heart and washed out the troubles.  And He began to speak to me.  Oh, the preciousness of hearing His Voice again!  I am sure He could hear mine—the troubled bleating of one of His sheep who had temporarily lost his way.  But as soon as I heard the Voice of my Shepherd I had my bearings again; I knew where I was, and where I was going—that is, where I was being led.

Oh the assurance, the comfort, of His Voice!  And instead of the troubles I found these words in my heart—“Keep the feast of tabernacles.”  I knew immediately this was a reminder, for it was a word He had spoken into my heart many years ago.

When the children of Israel returned from their Babylonian captivity in the days of Nehemiah they discovered in the book of the law that they were to keep the feast of tabernacles—Succoth, or Booths—in the seventh month.  This is something they could not do in the land of their captivity; it was to be kept in their own land in the place God designated.

Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty (Dt. 16:16).

That’s a promise—that they would not appear before Him empty—and the place was of course Jerusalem, the city God had chosen for His temple, His dwelling place.  And so here in Nehemiah we find the children of Israel who have returned from the Babylonian captivity gathering together in Jerusalem in the seventh month.

Let’s quickly review the events.  On the first day of the month—the day of the sounding of trumpets that initiates the feast of tabernacles (Lev. 23:24)—Nehemiah read from the book of the law, and the Levites with him “gave the sense” (Neh. 8:8).  That is, they caused the people to understand what was written.  This is the true significance of the feast of trumpets—the sounding forth of the word of the Lord in a way that opens the understanding to what is hidden in the letter of precept and prophecy.

It’s interesting to note, by the way, that when Nehemiah gives the names of the Levites who are standing with him, six are on his right and seven on his left, making fourteen altogether.  In other words, as a friend pointed out to me once, Nehemiah himself was not in the centre here.  Who was in the centre, then?  It’s a beautiful picture of corporate leadership in the church, in which no one man, but Christ Himself, is always to be in the centre.

There is much in this passage and we can’t cover it all here.  For one thing, there is no mention of the Day of Atonement, which is the very heart of the feast of tabernacles.  Not that they bypassed this day—as many have done in our day.  This is what accounts for the great uncleanness in much of the present-day feasting in the Charismatic realm.  People have wanted to keep the Feast without keeping the Fast (as the Day of Atonement was called.)  But to celebrate the feast of tabernacles without first keeping the fast of the Day of Atonement is a recipe for deception.  Without being broken before the Lord in great repentance and sorrow at the foot of the Cross…  without apprehending His atonement for sin… without His cleansing… no wonder the feasting of our day is so unholy and shallow and full of all manner of uncleanness and carnality. “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep,” cries James.  “Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to heaviness” (Jas. 4:9).

This is what happened in Nehemiah’s day; there was great repentance when the people discovered what God called for in His Law.  The people mourned.  God’s reaction to their mourning?  He rejoiced to see it!  (In our day the reverse is true: the carnal rejoicing fills Him with sorrow.)  But then God in turn told the people to dry their tears and make His joy their own.  Don’t weep any further, He told them, “For the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).

And so in accordance with the newly-discovered Law, the people now went forth “unto the mount,” and gathered branches:

…olive branches, and pine (wild olive) branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.
So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim.
And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so.  And there was very great gladness (Neh. 8:15-17).

I believe we have here a beautiful prophetic picture that is fulfilled in the city of God, the bride of Christ, the church.  With the help of the Holy Spirit we lift up our eyes from this Old Testament passage and see in the day of Christ the people of God gathered together as one.  They have come together from all places where they have been scattered among the denominations, have come together in the new Jerusalem the city of God to keep the longed-for feast, the great feast, the feast of tabernacles.  They are one in the Spirit with no doctrinal or denominational divisions.  They are dwelling together in unity, and their Lord is dwelling with them.  Not that they are all together in one huge building; they are dwelling in booths—little arbours of branches entwined together.  Succoth in fact comes from a root meaning “to entwine.”  It is a beautiful picture of the humble little fellowships the Lord has in mind for His people in the City of God.  A few “branches” are knit together in love, their lives are intertwined with one another… and with the life of the Man “whose name is The Branch” (Zech. 6:12).  He Himself is dwelling with them.  He is their tabernacle, and they are His tabernacle.

Israel was to commemorate this feast annually as a reminder of the day they came out of Egypt.

Ye shall dwell in booths seven days… that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God (Lev. 23:42,43).

When they came out of Egypt this was actually the name of their first encampment in the wilderness—Succoth, or Booths (Ex. 12:37, Num. 33.5).  They had left all behind; the little booth of branches was all they had now.  In the same breath, nothing else had a hold on them either!  They were no longer slaves, they were free!  Their God had liberated them from the iron furnace, from Egyptian bondage, from the servitude of building Pharaoh’s treasure cities.  They had left all the security of Egypt behind them for a flimsy booth of branches… and their God!

And so here in the days of Nehemiah the people are keeping the feast of tabernacles once again.  Do you see them—multitudes of rejoicing people camping in these little arbours of branches?  Wherever you look, there they are—in the streets of Jerusalem and in the courts of the house of the Lord and on the rooftops of their houses…  They are detached from it all—from their homes, their possessions, their jobs, their troubles, their cares, their fears….  Oh, but what about this, Lord?  What about that?  No, He says, you just keep the feast of tabernacles.  I’ll look after all that.

You touch the beauty of it and suddenly your breath catches in your throat.  There is a secret here.  A shelter of branches, so insecure, so weak… yet you are touching immeasurable strength and provision.  A flimsy shelter of branches…  and you are canopied under the eternal God.  The branches intertwined with one another speak of the corporate relationship, the individual branches themselves of the abiding relationship.  It’s a picture of the Christ-life, really, which we are to know both individually and corporately, the beautiful life of Christ Himself, the Life of the ages, which was with the Father and was manifested to us, the Life that is more than meat and raiment, the life that is free from the bondage of sin… and from the shackles of this present evil world, the life that is free from all the things that the Gentiles seek, “free from corroding care,” free to walk with God and worship Him in Spirit and in truth—at all times and in all circumstances.

It is the life free from the troubles and entanglements and cares of this world even while we are yet in the midst of them, the Life into which we ourselves have been immersed because of the Holy Spirit.  We become mingled with one another, and with the Son of God Himself.  Jesus promised this would be the result of the sending forth of His Spirit, saying, “At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you” (Jn. 14:20).  (Note well the plural here: “at that day ye shall know… ye in me, and I in you…”  If Christ is in me and in my brother as well, there can be no more division between us than there is between Father and Son.)

This, of course, is something that was inaugurated at Pentecost; Jesus had in mind the sending of the Spirit when He said this.  “At that day ye shall know…”  But Pentecost is “the earnest of the Spirit,” the pledge, the guarantee, that is given us assuring a redemption, a great fullness yet to come (Eph. 1:13,14; 4:30).  Pentecost is the feast of firstfruits (Ex. 23:16).  There is a greater harvest yet to come—“the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year.”  The feast of tabernacles.  So Paul (I believe referring to the pentecostal baptism) speaks of having “the firstfruits of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:23).  This is the guarantee of a great harvest yet to come, a festival of unbridled joy when the purposes of God in Christ and the church have come to ultimate fullness.

Nehemiah says that this feast had not been celebrated with such joy since the days when the Israelites first took the land in the days of Joshua—an interval of something like nine hundred years.  There were times in the days of the kings when it was observed, but apparently nothing like this.  I wonder if this, too, isn’t prophetic of the church.  Passover we know, and Pentecost we know.  Where is the feast of Tabernacles?  Yes I agree, the truths of the feast of tabernacles have been applicable to the whole church age; all through the history of the church there have been those who kept aspects of this feast… in a measure.  But I believe that now we are entering a time of fullness, and we are going to see a mighty outpouring of the Spirit, and we are going to see our Great Shepherd move His mighty arm and gather His lambs to His bosom and deliver them from all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.  I believe we are going to see these little “booths” of the feast of tabernacles springing up all over the land.  It is the City of God coming down out of Heaven from God.  The New Jerusalem.  And a great Voice says:

Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them… (Rev. 21:3).

He will tabernacle with them, the original says.  It’s the same word John used when he said, “The word was made flesh, and dwelt (tabernacled) among us…” (Jn. 1:14).   But God dwelling in His Son… this was in anticipation of the day when He would tabernacle not just in the one Man, but in a whole City of men—the bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem, the church.  Oh, the wonder of it all!  How our God has longed with great longings to keep this feast!

This is why some Christians these days are feeling they have outgrown their clothes, as it were.  The way they have done church for so long just doesn’t fit anymore.  Something in their heart is longing for more room.  It’s causing great alarm among those who consider this a threat to the old order and want it preserved.  But what is happening is of God.  He has something so much larger for His people—and for Himself.  That’s why some are being drawn to become intertwined with a few others in these little “booths.”  Didn’t I just say, larger?  How is this larger—little booths?  Gathering in a little booth like this seems very small when most are flocking to the mega-churches of our day.

But mark my words; these little booths are going to multiply.  These little booths by the thousands in the streets of the City of God all over the land—this is the only vessel large enough, compatible enough, to contain the glory of the Lord.

I’ve Found Gold!

Back in the 1600s when modern science was still in the cradle, alchemists devoted themselves to the pursuit of something they called the philosopher’s stone.  They were sure there was such a thing, and if they could just discover it, they would be able to transform base metals into gold.  Alchemists also experimented attempting to find the elixir, which to drink (they just knew) would keep them eternally young.

We who are arguably wiser now know that this is impossible, but it was exciting science back in those days.  If only they could discover how to turn a more common metal, say iron or lead, into gold.  Suddenly the rocks around them would make them rich!  Or this fleeting little life locked in to decay… if only they could discover the magic potion that reverses the inevitable.

And so everyone was talking about this back in the 1600s.  Would one of these alchemists actually find the philosopher’s stone or the elixir of life?  It was exciting to think so in a time when very few people lived into their 60s.  However, an Anglican rector by the name of George Herbert who knew and loved the Lord realized he had already found this stone, this elixir.  Herbert made it the subject of one of his poems, which were published after he died at age 40.  (Some might remember that a line from one of Herbert’s poems, The Call, inspired the title for this blog—A Mending Feast.)

Here is the poem, The Elixir.  It’s a little difficult for the modern ear; if you’re like me, it’ll take a few readings to mine out the riches in it.  But first, a few definitions that will bring Herbert’s use of the English language up to date.

Rude:  primitive, coarse, unthinking, like a brute beast

Prepossessed:  to be preoccupied with, to make something of exclusive concern

Tincture:  dye, stain

Mean:  ignoble, base

Now the poem.

The Elixir

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see;
And what I do in any thing,
To do it as for Thee;

Not rudely, as a beast,
To run into an action;
But still to make Thee prepossess’d
And give it his perfection.

A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye;
Or, if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heav’n espy.

All may of Thee partake:
Nothing can be so mean,
Which with his tincture—“For Thy sake”—
Will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room, as for Thy laws,
Makes that, and th’ action, fine.

This is the famous stone,
That turneth all to gold;
For that, which God doth touch and own,
Cannot for less be told.

Is this not a wondrous find?  To borrow a favourite phrase of our Lord’s, He that hath ears, let him hear. There is an elixir that transforms drudgery into the divine.  It is found in doing all things as unto the Lord.  Let me not be rushing through life preoccupied with its needs and chores, harnessed to them like an unthinking beast that knows nothing beyond earthly things.  Let me be preoccupied with God in it all, and give my best to Him.

Yes, we can focus our attention on the window pane of life taking note of the streaks in it, and the smudges.  But it’s a bit strange that someone stands before a window looking no further than the pane.  We can look through that and see the heavens revealed.  The base things, the mean things of life, the “servant” things… we need not chafe at these.  I know, we’d all like to leave that to others while we ourselves get on with what we know we were cut out for in this life—being kings and queens.  But—what does God know that I don’t?—inevitably there is something before me that means I must stoop to being a servant.  I am not free to do my own thing, I must obey… someone else.  But God adds a clause in that law—Do it unto the Lord—that makes the doing of it something royal, something refined.

When our lot in life is “mean” things, base things, this is the transforming elixir that makes those very things heavenly.  This tincture, this dye—“For Thy sake”—causes all that is colourless to shine with new luster.  This is the stone that, since God is now involved, the most humbling things can only rightly be told (accounted) as gold.

I like that very much.  This transforms not only the disagreeable duties of life, but the whole of life itself.  Take my own life, for example.  What a plain, ordinary, bland, boring life I live. If I ever wrote my autobiography it would be a bargain-bin book for sure.

Except for one thing… and oh for eyes to see this always!  I’ve found a Stone… and He’s turned my life to gold!  Yes, all the troubles and afflictions, too!  It’s all gold!

Are You Still Saved?

Last time we talked about holding fast the title deed of our salvation—which is faith.  “Faith is the title deed of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.”

Back in the old days when I lived in Calgary—yes I know, I am going back a long way—I used to know an old saint named Andy Svensen.  He was an amiable old man with a permanent twinkle in his eye—and a permanent question on his lips whenever he greeted me.

“Are you still saved?” he would smile, eyes twinkling, as he shook my hand.  I had no idea how long Andy had been saved—a long time.  I had only been saved a few months.

“Yes,” I would smile back confidently, “I’m still saved.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but I realize now that Andy was making a doctrinal statement by asking that question.  Once-saved-always-saved.

It’s good doctrine… as long as it’s held in tension with the many ifs in the Bible.

And you that were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled
In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight:
IF ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel… (Col. 1.21-23).

For we are made partakers of Christ IF we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end (Heb. 3.14).

Today, IF ye will hear His Voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness, when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work forty years (Heb. 3.8).

The writer of Hebrews applies the whole story of Israel failing to enter their promised land to us in our day.  For we too have a promised heritage—and that’s what salvation is all about.  God’s purpose is to bring us into our inheritance, the fullness of the salvation Christ purchased for us on Calvary with His own blood.

The implication is that it is possible for us to fall short of this salvation as they of old fell short… if we do not continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel.  Instead of overcoming in the wilderness, they were overthrown in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10.5).  The same with us… if we believe not, as they believed not—that is, disobey as they disobeyed (Heb. Ch. 3).  It is possible to fall short of the Promise if we cast away our confidence, which hath great recompense of reward (Heb. 10.35).  It is possible to fall short in the trial of faith if we don’t continue to come to the Throne of grace for the provision we need in every trial.  The provision is there at the Throne of grace—no matter how great the trial.  The greater the trial the greater the grace, and the greater the provision.  But neglect or disobedience on our part—call it lack of faith—could sever us from our promised salvation.

It’s quite the thing to discover that God charged those in the wilderness of not believing in Him.  “…They believed not in God, and trusted not in His salvation” (Ps. 78.22).  That’s quite the statement, but that’s what God said.  Whatever they held doctrinally, He said, “they believed not in God.”  They had been saved from destruction in Egypt by the blood of the lamb, and rejoiced as they crossed the Red Sea.  “There did we rejoice in Him” (Ps. 66.6).  But now in the wilderness… where did their faith go?  God was in the process of unfolding this great salvation, but “they trusted not in His salvation.”  They lost the joy.  This did not look like salvation—this huge trial they were in.  “They believed not in God.”  The true test of whether or not we believe in God is what happens in the fiery trial.  It may be affliction, or difficult circumstances, or unjust treatment, or persecution… or the furnace of time when God’s promise seems nowhere in sight.  “Manifold trials,” Peter calls them.  It’s all the fiery trial where our faith is assayed—whether it is genuine or not.  Do we continue to believe in God… or not?  Do we continue to come to the Throne of Grace for the provision God has for us in this trial, or like Israel of old in the wilderness, do we draw back?  They drew back.  Drew back unto what?

For we are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe unto the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10.19).

…So there are ifs in the Bible.  If we do not heed them there is no guarantee of salvation.

The beautiful thing about the New Covenant ifs is that they do not rest upon our own shoulders alone.  Yes, we have a part in it, we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.  But this work is working with God.

For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2.13).

What a wonder.  This is cause for great rejoicing and comfort.  We have an Advocate—the Holy Spirit—who is committed to securing our part in the New Covenant as much as God’s part.  If it were not so, the New Covenant could not rightly be called a better covenant (Heb. 8.6).  Why is it better?  Well, what was wrong with the old one?  It was the people.  God found fault with the Old Covenant because of the people.

For if the first had been faultless, then should no place have been found for the second.
For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come when I will make a New Covenant… (Heb. 8.8).

The New Covenant, then, is better because it contains provision for our complete success!  Jesus our great high priest is—not only on the Throne of Grace in Heaven, but also right here in our hearts by the Holy Spirit—“the surety of a better covenant” (Heb. 7.22).

So there is cause for much rejoicing.  We can have the joy of the Lord every step along the way as much as when we first crossed the Red Sea.  Yes, “there did we rejoice in Him.”  But let us “hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope steadfast unto the end” (Heb. 3.6).  We can do this step by step along the way—all along the way—as we continue to tap into the provision of the Throne of Grace.

Which brings me back to my old friend Andy Svenson.  He’s gone to his reward now.  But I recall once when I visited Andy in his little three-room house in Bowness—he was a bachelor, had never married.  He greeted me at the door with a handshake and a smile– and his favourite question– and invited me in.  I liked the little place: it was a bit cluttered, but clean.  The good, homey smell of coffee had long since percolated into everything in the house.  We visited for a bit—this old man with his wisps of white hair and this young man who had not yet parted ways with his hippy-style locks.  And then Andy asked me: “Do you like to sing?”

Without waiting for me to answer he got out a tattered old hymn book and started to, well, sing… holding the book so I could read the words too.

Sweeter as the years go by, sweeter as the years go by,
Richer, fuller, deeper, Jesus’ love is sweeter,
Sweeter as the years go by.

This is how it should be with us, beloved.  Yes, the ifs are there.   And we must heed them.  But as we heed them with the help of the Holy Spirit, this will be our song all along the way.

…Which, it just comes to me, is what A Mending Feast is all about.

The Ever Increasing Kingdom

There is a feast that “mends in length” — that grows greater, better, richer, fuller, deeper, the longer it continues.  This feast is, really, the table of the Kingdom of God, where we are sitting down with our King at His table, and in His kingdom.

It is a kingdom the increase of which shall know no end.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it, with judgment and with justice from henceforth forever” (Isaiah 9.6,7).

There shall be no end to the increase of this kingdom—its government, its peace.  This kingdom is an everlasting kingdom that cannot be destroyed.  In fact, as many as have sought to come against and destroy this kingdom have only caused it to increase.

Daniel saw “a Stone cut out without hands” (there’s your Rock that came down from Heaven, Cole) that smote a great image of gold and silver and bronze and iron and clay—smote it upon its feet.  And the whole thing came crashing down, “and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors, and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them.  And the Stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2.35).

This is what happened at Calvary.  The Son of God at Calvary, as they drove in the nails— it was God who was doing the smiting.

Jesus the Son of God had come on the scene pronouncing that the kingdom of the heavens was at hand.  He went about ministering this wonderful kingdom—preaching to the poor the Glad Tidings of this kingdom, healing the sick, casting out demons…  The kingdom of God was not something to come some distant day down the ages.  The king of the kingdom was present!  The kingdom of God had come nigh!

“But if I by the finger of God cast out demons, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you” (Luke 11.20).

Satan was not happy with all this.  If this One were allowed to continue on, it would be the utter demise of his own kingdom.  He had to do something about it.  And so he conspired to have the King of this kingdom crucified.

People get fascinated by conspiracy theories.  God had His own conspiracy par excellence in the works.  What happened at Calvary was a sting operation like none other.  For, when Satan sought to put a halt to this kingdom by conspiring to have the king of this kingdom crucified—and he succeeded in his evil design—much to his everlasting dismay, all he succeeded in doing was causing this kingdom to increase!

For, when the risen and ascended King sat down on the Throne of the Kingdom at the right hand of the Father and sent forth His Holy Spirit upon the waiting disciples, this was the increase of His kingdom!  And now they went forth in multiplied numbers proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom of God (Acts 8.12, 14.22, 19.8, 28.23,31) .

Oh, what a wonder.  Oh, the wisdom of God—“the wisdom of God in a mystery… which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory” (1 Corinthians 2.8).

In spite of all his knowledge—and he prides himself on his knowledge, we are told: Ezekiel 28.3,17—Satan (I say this respectfully) seems to be a slow learner.  He just never seems able to comprehend the wisdom of the Cross.  For he continues to assault this everlasting kingdom to this day.  What shall the end be of all his malice, I wonder?  For he is working overtime these days, intent on obliterating this kingdom from the earth.  At times it seems he has almost succeeded… as he did that day at Calvary.  (We are smiling at this now, aren’t we?)

…Beloved saints of the Most High—the ones Daniel in another of his visions saw taking the kingdom, Dan. 7,18—let us not be slow learners ourselves.  Let us walk in the wisdom of God.  Let us take up our own cross, and follow Jesus.  I confess… I myself have been such a slow learner in this area.  Even so, I continue to take my place as a disciple at the feet of Jesus.  For, wherever the saints of the Most High are taking up their cross and following Jesus, are standing true in their troubles, are fighting the good fight of faith, are fighting the Lamb’s war, are seeking to overcome evil with good, are walking in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit… this is the fellowship of the “kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ”—and the increase of His everlasting kingdom is inevitable.

And God has a surprise in store.  The hour is at hand when this kingdom shall “come”—shall be openly manifested in great fullness.  When, and where, shall it stop?  Never, apparently.

Daniel saw this mountain filling the whole earth.  Isaiah saw a day when its increase would cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11.9).

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The Ever Increasing Feast

There is a feast that forever mends in length – it grows greater, richer, fuller.  The longer it goes, the greater it grows.  The more this feast is partaken of, the more there is to partake of.

What a wonder.  How can this be?  How can there be more in the dish after I have taken from it?  Yet it is so.  Jesus began to feed the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes.  Yet after they had all eaten and were full, there was more left over than when they began.
“And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full” (Matthew 14.20).
How did this come about?  It happened because the five loaves and two fishes were broken in His hands.

“…And (He) took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, and brake…”

Wonderful mystery.  Christ’s hands break the loaves, and suddenly a great increase takes place.

This reminds us of His words to His disciples at the feast of the Passover before He suffered.  Here is Paul’s account of it.

“…The Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread;
And when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat, this is My body, which is broken for you…” (1 Corinthians 11.24).

What an amazing thing.  His body was broken on the Cross.  Yet this breaking was the very thing that caused that Body to increase!
…And it increases to this day – the many-membered body of Christ – and it grows greater in spite of all that comes against it.  In fact all attempts to break it – difficult circumstances, afflictions, persecutions – only cause it to grow and multiply.

How can this be?  It is the wondrous power of resurrection life at work.  Jesus said on the eve of the Cross, “Verily, verily I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12.24).

Let us remember this in the midst of our own trials and sufferings — our own breakings.  Let us be assured of the wondrous power of God in the mystery of the Cross of Christ.  The Cross of Christ is that wondrous way by which God, in His great wisdom, brought to naught the power of death.

For, what is falling into the ground and dying to a seed?

If that living Seed is in you and me, nothing that comes against us can hurt us.  In fact, all that comes against us only causes that Seed to grow, and multiply.
And… what is breaking to a loaf of bread?

When we keep our hearts aright — when we stay in the loving hands of our Lord — nothing can rob us of our place at this ever-increasing Table… where we are both guest, and, in His hands, the bread He breaks for others.

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