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Convocations, they used to call them. A Trumpet blast, rallying call to the whole nation to assemble together in submission to God and his will. Old Israel had lots of them; their weekly convocation was the Sabbath, but their annual convocations started with Passover, which was just about this time of the year!
The Wesley Version
In 1755 John Wesley created a form of service adapted from the works of Joseph and Richard Alleine. These works came from the Puritan tradition of pastoral and spiritual guidance. Wesley therefore insisted that the Covenant Service be located in a framework of pastoral care, preaching and guidance.
There would be a series of meetings relating to the Covenant involving sermons, explanations and exhortations. An invitation would then be issued for “those as will” to come to the Covenant Service. After a day’s “Retreat” for people to prepare themselves in prayer, fasting, reflection and self-examination there would be the Covenant Service itself. This would be held in the context of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Many Methodists and others still hold this service year by year.
The ‘biblebase focus event’ version!
We have planned our own version of this for this coming Saturday. April 9th 2016.
The venue will be Bracknell New Covenant Church and we will start with welcome and a cup of something at 9.30 am.
The rest of the day is scheduled thus…
9:30 am Tea /Coffee
10:00 – 11:00 New Exodus – New Covenant – Wayne Crossley
11:00 – 11:30 Tea/Coffee
11:30 – 12:30 Preparing for the Covenant – Ron Bailey
12:45 – 1:45 Light Lunch Soup etc.
2:30 – 4:30 Renewing the Covenant – Ron Bailey
4:30 – 5:00 Snack & Scatter
The afternoon session will be in the context of a celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
The day is without charge but an opportunity to share in the costs will be available.
The First Passover
The first of the annual ‘convocations’ was the feast of Passover, or as Leviticus expresses it “Jehovah’s Passover”. It marked the people’s last day in Egypt and the beginning of their freedom. The event is a new start of such dimensions that God reset the clocks and made this the beginning of their year.
Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,“This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Ex 12:1–2 NKJV.
How desperately men and women need a new start. “In the beginning God…” We need a God who can give us a new beginning by effecting a decisive break with the past.
It began with a forward look to what God was beginning but all of the subsequent Passovers were a backwards look to the historic event that culminated in them becoming “God’s people”, “a holy (set apart) nation”. We know the story so well or, at least, we think we do…
The lambs were slaughtered and the blood was to be splashed upon the doorposts and lintels of the house where they were actually eating the meal.
And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Ex 12:7 NKJV.
It’s easy to miss but the main feature of the Passover was that they would ‘feed on the lamb’. In the moment when God’s judgments were falling upon the nation of Egypt and the power of their oppressor was being broken the people of Israel were feasting on God’s provision for their journey. Not that they were taking their ease. They were instructed to be on their sandalled feet, their few belongings on their backs, their staffs in their hands. Ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Their bread was to be without leaven/yeast signifying that there was no time to wait, but the absence of the leaven was to hold another significance. Jehovah’s Passover was to be the culmination of 7 days when leaven was banished from their homes. It became a time of great fun for the children as they scoured their homes looking for bits of leaven that Mother had hidden as part of a game but its deeper significance was that the leaven was to be hunted down and eliminated. It signified the removal of sin from the lives of God’s people.
The Last Passover
The first Passover was in Egypt; the second was in the Promised Land. The first looked forward, all the others looked backwards. They kept the annual feast sporadically but new moves of God among the people often found expression in super Passovers as the nation remembered its birth and its destiny.
When the time was full Christ invited his disciples to join him in the Passover celebration. They gathered together in an upper room and followed the prescribed tradition with its various elements and cups of wine. He declared that with ‘great passion’ he had desired to share Passover with them “before I suffer”. And that he would not celebrate the Passover again “until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God”. Mysterious words. Everyone spent Passover looking backwards but he was looking forwards to its “fulfilment”. They had all thought that the Passover was a commemoration of the past. It was, but it was also a prophetic glimpse into the future.
When the Passover was complete Christ introduced an innovation. He took a piece of unleavened bread, gave thanks and broke it. As he distributed it among the disciples he spoke those wonderful words;
And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. Luke 22:19–20 NKJV.
The first Passover heralded the Sinai Covenant; the Last Passover heralded its fulfilment in the death of “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”.
A new Passover
Paul took the symbolism of the Passover and transposed it into another key; that of the New Covenant;
Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Cor 5:6–8 NKJV.
As the biblebase focus day gets nearer we have our opportunity to allow God to search our hearts and lives and to deal with any ‘leaven’ that might have worked its way into our lives. The early Methodists, of Wesley’s time, would spend several days under the ministry of the word of God and set aside time to pray and to search their hearts.
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Cor 13:5 NKJV.
How strange this language is to most of us. We are saturated with the language of God wanting to restore a ‘healthy self-image’. Are we ready to let God search our hearts and to ask ourselves the searching question “am I in the faith”? O, I can hear the protests. “It will unsettle people and bring them into condemnation, they cry.
So here is our convocation, our call to “Renew the Covenant”. To reset the clock and make a new start. Will you join us?
So what does that mean? What is a covenant and why do they need to be renewed? It’s a long story…
What is a covenant?
A covenant is a legally binding agreement between two or more people. Perhaps the covenant we are most familiar with is the one we call a marriage. It sometimes creates a new legal entity, as in marriage. Each person in a covenant has privileges… and obligations.
God has always worked in covenants. Although he brings many one-off blessings into our lives his intention is always relationship and that can usually best be described in terms of a covenant. There is a cryptic verse in the prophecy of Hosea that seems to suggest that God entered into a covenant with Adam right back at the beginning. (more…)
Preparing for Series Three in our Romans Project
I am in the lead-in to our third season of Bible studies in Paul’s epistle to the Romans. We have completed
- Series One – Introduction and ‘Guilty’
- Series Two – ‘From Death to Life’
and now we have in prospect Series Three, Romans 9-11 that I have entitled ‘What about Israel?’ I have to admit a certain nervousness in contemplating some of the issues involved in this section. Although I don’t propose to do an in-depth study of the truths of the Return of Christ (or Parousia) it is inevitable that we shall touch on some aspects of these controversial topics. Christians, Good, godly Christians have very different views on these matters and where Christians vary so widely we do well to tread with a little humility.
The unknown unknowns
Some time ago Donald Rumsfeld avoided a question with a famous few sentences. It became famous for a while; ‘the Unknown Unknowns‘. He quoted a well-known adage that there are three areas of knowledge and ignorance.
- There are ‘known’ knowns
- There are ‘known’ unknowns. That is to say ‘there are things we do not know and we know that we do not know them’.
- There are also ‘unknown unknowns’. ‘Things that we don’t know that we don’t know.’
It caused a few moments of amusement among the news gatherers but it was not an original comment but a well known comment among project managers.
The Millennium Bug
For a few years I worked with an international bank on the Y2K issue, the Millennium Bug. Millions of pounds/dollars were spent in readying the financial world for the moment when the numbers ‘2000’ appeared in financial calculations. I won’t bore you with the details but Rumsfeld’s saying was constantly in our minds. The real danger was not the ‘known unknowns’. We had comprehensive inventories, impact analyses and ways of testing that would systematically cover the area of the ‘known unknowns’. The area that caused the greatest anxieties was that area of the ‘unknown unknown’ and more particularly how things that we didn’t know that we didn’t know would impact national and international finance.
Cosmologists and Students of Prophecy
The phrase comes to mind when considering the Biblical revelation of the Return of Christ. Some are convinced that they have sufficient data to declare watertight schedules for the Return. Some are more cautious. They are more aware of the ‘unknown unknowns’. They know that any of those unknowns may skew their precise schedules. I used to be an expert on this area. I had the charts to prove it. I have read the writings of godly Bible expositors who have boldly declared what would happen next and what would follow that. Some spent the latter years of their lives writing books to recant their earlier predictions. There is a phrase once used by a cosmologist that comes strongly to mind. “cosmologists; often in error, never in doubt.” For ‘cosmologists’ substitute the words ‘students of prophecy’ and you have another well established truth. The predictions of those I have trusted most have all unravelled. The sobering thing is the way in which those proved to be in error calmly move on to their next best-seller with a revised schedule but no apologies. ‘Often in error, but never in doubt’.
We know in part…
Some years ago I was asked to speak at the Oxford University Christian Union on 1 Thessalonians 4 and was required to sign a disclaimer that said ‘all speakers are to be aware that a wide spectrum of opinion is held among Christian students’ and requested that I undertake ‘not to offend the opinions of such’. I promised I would ‘do my best not to offend the Pre-Millennialists, or the Post-Millennielists or the Amillennielists. I would also keep in mind the Pre-Tribulationist, the Mid-Tribulationalists, the Post Tribulationalists or even the Partial Rapturists’. I suggested that if I succeeded I might consider a career among the diplomats of the United Nations. The committee was happy with the spirit of the answer and we had a good time together declaring the certainties of the Return and reminding ourselves of the ‘gaps in our data’.
I am often asked questions for which I have no answer. I try my best but frequently my sign-off contains a few initials from a statement of Paul. WKIP – we know in part…
What is the most-shared ‘encouragment’ verse in the Bible? The verse from Jeremiah 29 must be a strong contender…
Jer 29:11″For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
It is a classic case of taking a verse out of its context and changing its original meaning.
Well meaning, false, prophets
At the time of Israel’s expatriation to Babylon there is an interesting division among the prophets. Daniel and Ezekiel, as young men, were taken captive to Babylon but Jeremiah was left behind in Jerusalem. This affects their perspective as they speak for God about the tragedy that was engulfing their nation. These three were not the only prophets. There were fake prophets too; some were left behind and some were taken captive. Some of the fake prophets set about the work of trying to raise the morale of their fellow captives. One line of their strategy was to declare that exile in Babylon was just a passing shower. Their prophecies were the equivalent of saying “don’t even unpack, you’re not staying around long enough to make it worth while.”
Back in Jerusalem Jeremiah heard the account of the false prophets and set himself to write a letter. Jeremiah 29 is the record of that letter; the first epistle of Jeremiah. His letter includes the famous verse 11, and its ‘words of comfort’. Time, I think, to take a closer look.
Time-locks and other preconditions
The previous verse sets part of the context.
For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the LORD. For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. Jer 29:9–10 NKJV.
These introductory verses show us that the promise of the next verse is actually time-locked. As a young man I worked in a national bank where the vaults were opened with two keys. Technically, the two key-holders could open the vault. However, the vault was on a time-lock as a security device and the vault needed both the key-holders and the correct time of day before we could swing open its great metal doors. Jeremiah’s promise is similar. It is not a verse that can be lifted from the scriptures and applied at will; it is time-locked. In Jeremiah’s case it required a further 70 years to pass before the time on the dials said ‘Now’.
And this was not the only precondition. Together with the designated time on the dial something else had to be in place. The key-holders had to do their unique work. Even the right time did not gain access; it needed the action of the key-holders. Jeremiah’s key-holders are in verse following the ‘word of comfort’.
Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. Jer 29:12–13 NKJV.
Jeremiah’s two key-holders were
- Prayer and
- a resolute Seeking for God himself.
Then, and only then, when all three conditions of designated time, prayer and heart resolution, were in place would the great doors swing back and the nation be set free.
Jeremiah’s promise is a promise certainly but it is not a promise to be ‘claimed by faith’. It is a long-range promise to be received by ‘patient endurance AND faith’. It is a promise to encourage ‘hope’. Hope is long-range faith; beyond our reach but just as certain.
Ready, steady… go!
There are promises which are to be grasped immediately by faith. They are plainly marked with today’s date.
For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Cor 6:2 NKJV.
Almost 70 years later Daniel read these words of Jeremiah and did some calculations;
In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. Dan 9:1–3 NKJV.
He checked the dates, set his face toward God and prayed earnestly. He held firm…
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. Ezra 1:1–3 NKJV.
When God says ‘now’ we must be careful to add no preconditions. But some promises are time-locked and nested within necessary conditions. For those we must determine the time, fulfil the promises and refuse the temptation to ‘snatch’ at a prize.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry. Hab 2:3 NKJV.
Even ‘if it tarries’ its time will come.
Just trying to touch all the bases and ensure that everyone hears this who ought to…
In February we conducted our first ‘focus event’ in Bracknell, Berkshire, England and many said how much they appreciated it and were blessed. Me too! Thank you for being part of it in prayer, support, presence! Now we want to ensure that others are blessed too so we are heading for Scotland. I’m sharing the coordination of the Scotland Focus Event with Ian Macmillan, and old and faithful friend. (not so old!)
A weekend conference in a Scottish castle.
Our venue will be a castle! Tulliallen Castle in Fife. We have accommodation for all who want to join us. You can come for the whole weekend with full bed and board, as we say in the UK. (bedrooms with en-suite, and full meals). There will be no formal charge but opportunity will be given for any to make a contribution to the costs of the weekend. We want to be sure that no one is missing due to lack of funds, so we look forward to seeing you all. More details on the website.
New Covenant Priesthood: His and Ours
Our topic for the ‘focus’ this time will be “New Covenant Priesthood: His and Ours.” And our speakers will include Ron Bailey and Robert Wurtz II from the Delaware Christian Fellowship in Independence, Missouri. Robert is another old and faithful friend (not so old!) who has been a constant support and encouragement to the work of biblebase for many years. Robert has authored several books and is a regular blogger and YouTube presence and well as being a contributor to various biblebase forums.
Come and join us… and book in today.
Over many years we have been blessed with visits to England from various brothers in Scotland. Their faithful presence at meetings in the ‘deep south’ (of England) have been a challenge and encouragement to many. Now we have an opportunity to ‘return the blessing’, so read the full details of the weekend under the Scotland Focus Event on the website and please sign up as soon as you can. We need to know numbers, particularly for catering, as soon as possible.
The purpose of the weekend is prayer, fellowship and an opportunity to give some time to appreciate our wonderful inheritance in the Better Covenant!
If you need more information please contact me. Looking forward to seeing you there.