Preparing For a Feast

It’s getting close to the end of the week, and I’m starving! Not physically starving, of course, but spiritually! I need the Bread of Life and the sincere milk of the Word. I want to drink from the fountain of the water of life and never thirst again! I look forward to the day that is foretold in Revelation 7, which says, “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more … For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (vs. 16-17).  What a marvelous day that will be!

Tomorrow, on the Lord’s Day, we will have a small foretaste of this great wedding feast. Are you looking forward to it? Hungry for it? Maybe throughout the whole week you’ve had quick “bites to eat” that you sneaked into your day when you could find the time, maybe when you read some devotions in the morning before starting your day, or before meals, or at night before going to bed. But tomorrow is a feast! A whole day set aside to be fed with the only thing that will truly satisfy the hunger of your soul:  the Word of God. A whole day!  A day where you are given the opportunity to gather together with brothers and sisters in Christ and dine at the Lord’s table not once, but twice.  What an amazing blessing!

Imagine that someone has invited you to a huge feast. You get there and the food looks amazing and tastes even better– it must have costed a fortune! Obviously, you would be filled with joy and thanksgiving, right?

Now think about when you enter the Lord’s house on Sundays, where God feeds you with the Bread of Life, paid for with a price far greater than any earthly feast – the blood of His only begotten Son. No other meal on this earth could ever compare to it! So why we aren’t we always filled with joy on the Lord’s Day? Why do we sometimes go to church not with thankful hearts, but grudgingly or just out of habit?

We become like sheep who stray from the path of the Good Shepherd, who leads us in the pastures where we can be fed with the greenest grass and drink from the clearest of streams. Sinfully, we turn from His ways and find ourselves lost in a barren desert, a wasteland where we would die of starvation if not for our loving Shepherd, who takes us in His arms and carries us back to the green pasture.

Today, as you prepare to enter God’s house, hunger for the Lord! Don’t “spoil your meal” by filling yourselves with sinful pleasures and the things of this earth. Prepare your hearts to be filled with the Word of God, the only thing that truly satisfies.  And when you enter the Lord’s house tomorrow, be filled with joy and thanksgiving, excited to be fed by His Word, and looking forward to that day when our souls will be forever satisfied.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.  – Matthew 5:6

For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. – Psalm 107:9

Amy Kaiser

 

 

 

Blessings

We live blessed lives. This might not be at the forefront of our thoughts as our car breaks down, we’re cramming for a hard test, or a family member falls seriously ill. But yet, even in our troubles and stresses we know that God does all things for the good of His children. His love for His own is unfathomable.

He has given us so many gifts for which to give thanks. He has given them to us, who were depraved sinners and really deserve nothing but the worst for our sin. Of course the greatest and most obvious blessing is that of salvation and eternal life and glory with Him. Everything that we have, though, is a blessing. It is all a gift from His hand. The breath in our lungs, the relationships that we have, the skills and abilities we may possess, the food on our tables, and the cars we take to work…all of these are things that have been placed in our lives by the grace of God. He did not have to give us these things, and indeed, sometimes He in His goodness chooses also to take them away. As much as we may be dependent on things, or believe that we somehow have a right to all of these things, we deserve none of it.

We can find blessings too, even in “bad things.” That test that you just failed? Well, for one thing it means that you have been given the opportunity to attend school and get an education in the first place. Also, odds are now that you have learned a lesson and will budget time better and be more attentive in the future. That difficult teacher that frustrated you so much? Because of him you learned in one semester what someone else might not learn in four. Because of him you have learned dedication and respect. Because of him you have a step up in your studies to come. That furnace that just broke? It means you have a place to call home. What about when your 21 year-old sister dies when you are only in the fifth grade? Your only sister? The one who was your role-model growing up, who wore all of the jewelry you made her, hung up your smudgy drawings on her refrigerator, and, while she was still at home, did your hair every week for church? What about then?

 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11).

God love us, and nothing can separate us from Him. He is love and goodness, and “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). God uses even the “bad things” to make us exactly who we are today, to teach us lessons, and to draw us closer to Him. His ways may not be our ways, but He works all things righteously, and blesses us in ways that we cannot imagine, and in the end we may say, as Job did, “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:25,26). It is as Augustine prayed: “Give what Thou dost ask, and ask what Thou wilt.”

Truly we are a blessed people.

This blessedness has a few implications though. First, it implies that we are to be a thankful people, and not as the nine ungrateful lepers of Luke 17. We are to give thanks always (Ephesians 5:20)!  In our accomplishments and possessions we must remember the words of Deuteronomy: “Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:11,17,18a). In remembering God’s holiness and promises may we as the Psalmist say, “To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever” (Psalm 30:11-12).

The second implication of our blessedness is the accountability we have as a result. To whom much is given, much is expected. Remember the parable of the talents, wherein the traveling man gave talents to his servants (Matthew 25)? There are three things to note about this parable. First, the talents were given to the servants to use. The talents were not inherently the servants’. The servants recognized what they were given as belonging to their master. Secondly, the servants were expected to use the talents wisely as good stewards of what they were given. The servants who were given two and five talents were rewarded, because they used the talents they had been given and had through their labors made increase. The servant who had squandered his talent and buried it was unfaithful and slothful, and his only talent was as a result taken from him and given to the servant who had originally been given five talents. Third, the talents were meant to profit the master, not the servants. The good servants worked for the good of their lord, who in the end rewarded them for their faithfulness.

We have been given many things. Because we have been given such things, we have the responsibility to use these blessings with the knowledge that they are the Lord’s and not our own. We have the responsibility to be good stewards of what we are given, working wisely and diligently and not wastefully or slothfully. Finally, we are to use what we have been given not for wealth, for social status, or even for simple comfort. We aren’t to use our skills or possessions to look good in front of others or to find happiness or stability in this crazy world. We are to use what we have been given for the glory and favor of our merciful Savior, and in that we may find true reward.

There is a warning here too, lest we fail to use these things rightly, and become as the unfaithful servant. The servant that loved not his lord and failed to use his talents rightly was cast into “outer darkness” where there was “weeping” and “gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).

One of the weightiest gifts we have been given is the knowledge of God. It bears huge responsibility. As the elect it is above all other blessings, for in God alone we have life, hope, and peace! But woe to the man who knows of God, but buries that “talent” in the ground, rejecting Him!  Indeed, it would be better for him if he had never known, for because of his knowledge he is all the more guilty and left without excuse! Woe indeed to any reprobate who follows after His own vain imaginations, for he shall find eternal judgment as his reward. “But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48).

God’s elect, though, are comforted with the knowledge that though we are no better ourselves, we through Christ’s redemption have the blessedness of salvation. We have endless reasons to give thanks…and the great, amazing, and striking fact is…we have eternity to do so! How amazing that is and how honored and blessed we are, who deserve none of it! It is with great humbleness and joy that we celebrate this Thanksgiving day and thank and praise God for all that He has done for us!

“For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:15-18).

ADV

Peace through the Blood of the cross

At the close of this week we will gather for worship in order to commemorate the death of our Lord Jesus Christ on “Good Friday.”  This activity of course is not unique to that particular day, as if the commemoration of Christ’s death was not a daily occurrence in our Christian walk. We consider Christ’s death every Lord’s Day whenever we sit under the Word and listen to the preaching of Christ crucified, or whenever the confessing members of our churches partake of the Lord’s Supper, and indeed even when we witness the baptism of young child. Likewise in our personal devotions and prayers we constantly recall the work of Christ. As Reformed Christians we are, after all, Christ-centered people. This is not simply a characteristic of our theology or worship; it is what defines our very worldview. For us Christ is the purpose of all of history. Christ alone gives meaning and significance to every event in our lives, indeed, every event in the history of this world. Therefore when we gather together on Friday in commemoration of the real, historical death of Christ, we remember an event of cosmic significance.

Good Friday affords us an opportunity to take some extra time and reflect upon some of the deepest and most sacred aspects of our faith: the meaning of Christ’s death and its implications for us.  But what is the nature of this commemoration? What ought our attitude to be towards the death of our Lord? Consider the beautiful words of Colossians 1:12-22:

Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciledin the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight…

So much meaning is packed into these God-breathed words, one would do well to ruminate on them for a while so as to absorb fully their teachings. This man Jesus Christ: He is the dear Son of heaven, the very image of God. He is before all things, and through Him all things were created, and still, by His sustaining power all things continue to exist. Yet he took on the flesh of His own creation in order to die in the place of his own fallen creatures. This death, which occurred some two thousand years ago on a hill called Golgotha, is the greatest life-giving event which has ever been wrought in human history. And you and I, Christian brothers and sisters, are beneficiaries of that work. He who is very God, willingly submitted to death for the sake of sinners such as you and me, in order that we may be unreproveable in the sight of God. Let that sink in. We are unreproveable in the sight of God, it is truly a wonder. Moreover through the death of Christ we have been given, together with our fellow saints, an incorruptible inheritance. Our darkness has been turned to light, and we have been transferred from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God. We who were once aliens and enemies of God have been made His covenant friends, even adopted sons and daughters, and therefore heirs to all the riches of His grace. In this regard, Good Friday, far from being a cause for grief, ought to fill us with inextinguishable joy and prompt us to unceasing thanksgiving.

And as a result of all of this we have peace, peace through the blood of the cross! This peace is all-encompassing. The guilt of our sin has been removed, and with it the penalty that was rightfully ours. Our eternal destiny is secure in the hands of God, whose own hands bear the engraved names of his people. Our every pain and sorrow in this life is infused with meaning and purpose, and we can rest in the confidence that all things are orchestrated by our loving Father for our good. What better response is there than to gather with fellow believers this coming Friday at the house of the Lord in order to render praise and thanksgiving to God for His indescribable gift in Christ: Peace with Him through the blood of the cross, peace which indeed passes all understanding.

JS