by T. Austin-Sparks
Lord Jesus Christ, we seek Thy face... it is written, "The light
of the glory of God is in the face of Jesus Christ." Oh, Thou Who didst forfeit, for that one terrible moment, the countenance
of Thy Father in order that we might never come there... that we
might be received and abide in the light of the countenance of
God, do this morning bring us into that very blessed inheritance
through Thy Cross: the Face, the Countenance, the Towardness,
the Unforsakingness of God. May this indeed be a time within the
veil when we dwell in the light of the countenance, the face of
the Lord, Lord Jesus Christ, in all that great and wonderful
meaning, we now seek Thy face. As we wait on Thee, show us Thy
face Lord, for Thy Name's sake, amen.
In this final hour of this particular ministry, it is necessary to seek special grace to gather up and concentrate all that has been said throughout this week. And I think, perhaps I should say I feel that the leading of the Lord is to do this with one part of this letter to the Hebrews before us. As the letter is drawing to a close, and we reach that part of it which is marked as chapter twelve; and it is in verses 25 to 28, it is in those verses, not all of them: "See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh." Remember the beginning is: "God hath spoken in His Son."
"See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh. For if they escaped not when they refused Him that warned them on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from Him that warneth from heaven: Whose Voice then shook the earth: but now He hath promised, saying, 'Yet once more will I make to tremble not the earth only, but also the heaven.' And this word, 'Yet once more', signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain. Wherefore, receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace, whereby we may offer service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe."
A kingdom which cannot be shaken. The significance then, as we have been trying to see and show, the significance of this letter, so called to Hebrews, for the present time the "yet once more"; that is, in this dispensation which has come in with Christ, the shaking firstly of the earth side of things and then the shaking of the heaven side of things. The earth side, I think, had a special reference to what was just about to happen in old, traditional, historic Judaism. This letter was probably (I cannot be positive about it because all the expositors and scholars are divided about who wrote it and when it was written, to whom it was written exactly, you need not worry about that) but I am fairly sure that it was related to what the Holy Spirit knew was about to take place in the historic Judaism and earthly Israel.
The probability is that this letter was written in the year 69, and you know what happened in the year 70. If that is true, it was a very short distance from the writing of this letter, to the destruction of Jerusalem which was so utter, so terrible. Some of you, pastors especially, will have read Josephus; and if you have, the section on the invasion and destruction of Jerusalem is one of the most terrible things you can read in history. It took place in the year 70, when everything in that Jerusalem was devastated and desolated and the Jews scattered, as Peter says, "throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia" and everywhere else. The earth side was certainly shaken, not only shaken but brought down and devastated; and from that, it has not yet recovered. There is no temple. There is no integrated Israel on the earth.
Well, that is the earth side, and this is the prophecy, as you know, taken out of the Old Testament that this would happen and it is interesting, very interesting, significant, and instructive, to go back to the setting of that prophecy (which we are not going to do) to see the setting of it in the history of Israel, and just the conditions that were arising in the time of Haggai. The prophecy is taken up, brought right over here, so many, many years later, and applied to the situation which is reached in this letter to the Hebrews at that crisis time: the shaking of the earth.
Shaking of the earth... of course it applies particularly to the shaking of the earth Jerusalem, the earth Israel. We say that and leave it, but that is only half of the statement: "Yet once more will I shake not only the earth (and the earth side), but the heaven also." And in the light of what we have been saying this week in the mornings and in the evenings, or what the Lord has been saying (may I say that at any rate of the evenings) in the light of all this and of this letter in its full content, we are surely right in saying that Christianity, which is the other side (if you like, the heaven side) is going to be subjected also to such a shaking; to such a shaking. Maybe we will not be far wrong if we say it has begun. It is on, it is proceeding, it is spreading. And however you may feel it has not reached your country yet, well, if you are talking of merely material things, of outward economies, there may be symptoms of it; but spiritually, it is world-wide. The shaking of Christianity, the shaking of what we may call the heaven side of things, as different from the historic, earthly Israel; but the point is that there is a universal shaking to take place in the economy of God, in the sovereign ordering of God.
A Universal Shaking
What for? Here it says, "in order that there shall be nothing left
but what God Himself has established." Note the little phrase: "As
of things which have been made." Who made them? Who made
them? Things made. The things which God made, has made, and
established, are the things and the only things which will
ultimately remain, and the shaking is for that.
Now this letter is a comprehensive comparison and contrast (or discrimination) between the passing and the permanent; between the temporal and the spiritual; between the earthly and the heavenly. That's the Letter to the Hebrews. That is what we have been emphasizing all the way through, the "not" any longer. A comprehensive "not": "Ye are not come..." and the "but": "But ye are come." Two great comprehensive orders, economies, sovereignties - whatever you may call them - this whole letter has to do on the one side with the things which are transient and not abiding, and on the other side, the things which are permanent and which remain that, that the things which cannot be shaken... (here is your "that" again) that, the things which cannot be shaken shall remain. This is the comparison and contrast, or discrimination that is made by this letter as a whole.
And here, as a kind of parenthesis, let me put this. You see, it is important for us to remember that this letter was written to a people who for a long period had held the position of a people whom God had taken out of the world to Himself, showing that it is possible for such a people to miss the way. It is possible for such a people to make their position an earthly one, just an earthly one, or make that position earth-bound. And that is the force of this letter, not to Israel only, but to Christians. This is the "on-high calling" letter, isn't it? This is the heavenly side. This is the New Israel which God has taken out of the world to Himself and for Himself. But through and through this letter runs this reminder that a people who were like that for so long, taken out for God, to God, did in the end miss the object, miss the way, did not arrive. Chapter three is all on that, they did not enter in, they "perished in the wilderness."
Oh, this terrible battle between what ought to be said and what time allows to be said.... Oh, dismiss your chapters again and see chapter three (I must put it in, enemy or no enemy) dismiss chapter three. There you have the people who failed to enter in, who perished in the wilderness, you see," They could not enter in" is the word, "because of unbelief." That is chapter three, but chapter four opens... and you are not far into chapter four before you have this: "the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit." I am not going out on that! But the point is, that in the wilderness where they perished, it was because they did not discriminate between soul and spirit; in effect (they didn't understand the doctrine, of course) but they lived in their souls. That is the self-life, the self-direction of everything: how this affects us, what are we going to get out of this, what this means in our interests. The self-life is the soul-life. The spirit is not that. The spirit is unto God; is the God-life.
But this cleavage was not made in the wilderness; and although they had come out by such a mighty work of God, and become God's people, and were separated unto Him, because they persisted in what we now call in New Testament terms "soul-life," soul- life, as the people of God, and there was no discrimination, no clear cut between, as of a "two-edged sword," see, cutting both ways, up and down, because there was no clear cut between the self-life and the Life of the spirit, they perished in the wilderness. And do you tell me that that is not a possibility for Christians? That is the point of the letter, you see. Dismiss chapter three and four as simply mechanical divisions, and pass right on and say, "Why did they perish in the wilderness? Why did they not enter in?" Why? Well, here we are: there was not this clean cut between self and the Lord, between soul and spirit.
It's a large matter about which you have heard too much, I think, there is too much talk about that just now. It has become a very fascinating subject. You will never capture people more quickly and mentally than when you begin to talk about soul and spirit. It is a very interesting mental subject, isn't it? Most fascinating. I am coming to the place where I want to talk about the things and not the names, the meaning and not the language or the terminology; however, that is by the way.
Now, you see, what I am saying is this letter was addressed to a people who for a long time had held the position of a people separated unto God, but who eventually missed the way and lost the inheritance; lost the meaning of their separation, because, well, we come back again: the earth-bound, the earth-bound Judaism - earth-bound. And God says, "I will shake that, I will shake that earth-boundness, and I'll shake it so devastatingly that there will be no temple and no Jerusalem and no headquarters for the nation at all, the whole thing will be smashed. I will shake that earth side." And He did, and has done, and it has gone on all these centuries.
But He doesn't stop there. Then He goes over to the other side: "I am going to shake this other thing too - this Christianity." It came in from heaven, the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, but what have men done with Christianity? Brought it down to earth, made it earth-bound, made it something. The Lord, foreseeing that, prophesies: "I will shake that also, I will shake that also", and Christianity as a merely earthly system, will go into the melting pot, it will go into the fire, and only that which is really truly heavenly, of the Spirit of God, will survive and come out.
You see the force of this letter? Hence (and here, dear friends, another week is required) if you go through this letter, you will find that it is divided along two lines: the line of precaution, of warning; and the line of resolution. Now, a little Bible study for you (not here) you go through and mark the nine times in which the word "lest" occurs.
"Let us..." first, "Let us fear, lest a
promise being left us of entering in... any one of you should seem
to come short...." "Lest." Nine times that word "lest" is
used through the letter. Trace it and see its context. "Lest..." for
this reason; "lest..." for that reason.
Perhaps, I'll touch on just an illustrative piece in each
section. Then ten times, ten times (nine times "lest"
- precaution and warning) ten times you have "let us..."; let
us... let us... ten times. And connected with that phrase "let us",
it's an admonition to resolution: be resolved! It's no use, you can't
take anything for granted about this, you aren't going to get
there by drift, and that is the first "lest" you see. "Lest
by any means you drift past." That's the real language.
You drift... and the picture behind is a picture which is a very
simple one but very, very clear in its implication.
I used to be a yachtsman in Scotland, and we would go out on our day's sail, but the most anxious moment, the most (should I say anxious?) tense moment, was when we came back to pick up our moorings. If the tide was flowing strongly, the current, the wind, there were our moorings. You have got to take off your power, take down your sails, get your head toward the mooring; and then everybody one with the boat hook-up in the bow, someone lying down flat on the deck with outstretched hands to get hold of that mooring and to grab it and hold it, because the tide or the current flowing would even pull you into the sea if you didn't hold tight. But, the tenseness, the peril was you would miss it and drift past it; and there were the rocks over there. Drift past... miss, and drift, carried by the tide or the current or the wind. Oh, it was a tense moment. You got it and held on and were able to pull the boat up on the moorings and make fast. The tension is gone. We've reached home. It is alright now, everything is alright. Now that is the picture here which is actually used. "Lest we drift past." Drift... drift... drift. "Lest!" Caution, warning!
All this is presented (and, oh, what an all it is!) this fulness and finality in Christ brought in with verses one and two and all that is in this letter, the great inheritance, a tremendous "all"; and the first warning is: "You could drift, you could drift; you could be carried past and carried away by the current, by the present breeze." Now, Paul puts it in other words in another way: "carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight and cunning craftiness of men..." - same thing.
That's an illustration of the "lests," and I say there are nine of them. That's why I say we want another week! But there: "Lest, lest we drift," and over and alongside of that is the exhortation, "Let us", let us! "Let us hold fast... let us lay hold... let us go on." And I am just going to put another fragment in because I think it is illuminating, it may have a point of application: "Lest because of the deceitfulness of sin, we are subverted."
The Deceitfulness of Sin
Have you ever thought about that? What is the deceitfulness of
sin, if the word "sin" is a comprehensive word? Now don't
you narrow it down to one of its meanings. Sin has many aspects.
It works in many ways. You can call this sin and that sin and
something else and a thousand things "sin". Yes, but they are only
aspects of the one thing. What is the meaning of the word "sin"
in the Bible? Missing the mark, missing the mark. You may miss it
because of this or that or of many things, but in the end it
amounts to this: you've missed the mark. Sin, comprehensively, is
"missing the mark." The deceitfulness of sin to subvert
you from the mark, what Paul calls "the prize of the mark of
the on-high calling."
"Missing the mark," the deceitfulness to subvert. "How? What do you mean by that deceitfulness?" Well, for me, at the moment, for this purpose this morning, it is policy in the place of principle. There is nothing more subverting, more spiritually injurious, than policy - being politic.
Oh, how I have seen tragedies in the life of godly men, servants
of the Lord, on this thing. You know, men brought face to face,
(more than one, I have one or two in mind) face to face with God's
full purpose, full purpose, but... they had a
position in the Christian world. And this full purpose requires a
lot of things: adjustment as to position, adjustment as to
position... as to relationships. "If I do that, my large door of
opportunity for the Lord will be closed. If I do that, I will lose
my influence for the Lord... if I take that way, maybe I shall be
involved in, well, so much that, you know, will mean loss for the
Lord." Someone responsible for an organization; somehow or other
it has got to get support: "Now, now, if I take such and such a
line as has been indicated, I will lose my clientele. I will lose
my financial support!" That's policy, politic, alongside of what
God has indicated; and the issue is, "Will I trust the Lord to
look after what is of Him? I am no longer interested in anything
that is not of the Lord, but if it is, can I trust the Lord to
look after that while I obey Him and go His indicated way? Or shall I
hold on to my place of opportunity, open doors, and influences for
the Lord... See? And take this other course."
Do you see what I mean? The deceitfulness of missing the mark, and I have seen more than one tragedy, that after years (it is so manifest to everybody) that man has missed the way. That man was meant for something more, something other. The Lord meant something for that man, but policy came in and he argued for his policy that it was in the interests of the Lord! The deceitfulness of sin, and this letter says, "You can be subverted by the deceitfulness of sin: policy instead of principle." Does that fit in anywhere? Well, it is necessary, you see, to pinpoint all this teaching. But there it is.
So here we come back. Hebrews, the Letter to the Hebrews, is a statement of what is abiding and permanent as over against what is passing and transient; and does not that matter? Surely it does supremely matter!
The Shakeable and the Unshakeable
The New Testament is comprised of twenty-six books, if you'd like to have twenty-seven, you can; say twenty-six books, and most of them, most of them, were written to combat some form of a universality of effort to destroy what had come in with Jesus Christ. Would you like me to repeat that? It's a big mouthful, I know. Most of the New Testament was written to combat some form of a universal effort to destroy what had come in with Jesus Christ. Got it now? That's the statement; very comprehensive, and you've got to break it up and apply it to each book of the New Testament, see?
Oh! Oh, what then? Matthew and Mark and Luke and John
and Acts and on... this is written to combat something! And when you
take that as the key, my word, are we not in a combat in Matthew?
Isn't the Lord Jesus in a combat in Matthew and Mark and Luke and
John? It's an atmosphere of combativeness, of conflict, of
antagonisms. In Acts... is that true? And so you go on with the
letters. Here is some form in each one, some form of this
universality of effort to destroy what had come in with Jesus
Christ. It's a comprehensive... the New Testament is a comprehensive
countering of a many-sided attempt to subvert the Church and
pervert the meaning of God's Son. In that statement, you have got
your New Testament in its real meaning; do try to get hold of it
in that way.
Now, the chief point of attack in this comprehensive or universal effort, the chief point of the attack has always been, and still is, the measure of Jesus Christ, the measure of Christ: "We must, in the first place, keep Him out altogether, give Him no foothold." That's the battle of the ages and of the nations. As soon as you bring Jesus Christ into a vicinity, trouble arises, conflict begins. "You must keep Him out!" Oh, look how it was with Paul as he went from city to city. He was hardly there, hardly there, hardly said anything - I don't know how much he had said in Philippi - what he had said he said to just a little handful. We don't know exactly how many were by the riverside, outside the city, and he went into the city, not preaching as far as we know, not raising issues as far as we know, but the devil knew. The devil had possession of that damsel, that priesthood, the priest-woman of the temple; and how subtle: "These men are the servants of the Most High God, which show unto us the way of salvation." Why, the devil is preaching the Gospel! It looks as though the very devil himself is glorifying the Lord Jesus! Ah, there is something very subtle here, as the issue shows. But the point is, from the unseen world where the real intelligence of the significance of Christ is recognized, is possessed, there is this combativeness coming in wherever that which is representative of Christ, or that which is Christ in effect, arrives. Trouble arises at once. "Keep Him out, keep Him out; and if He's got in, drive Him out! Do everything to drive out what is of Jesus Christ if He has got anywhere at all."
But then that is not all to drive Him out. To subvert those who are His embodiment there, to subvert, to deceive, to turn aside, to bring in false teaching, false Christian ideologies, that which is "other" in its essence, not essentially Christ, something put on to Christ - Christ plus... Christ plus - put on. There are many things which are being imposed upon Christianity with all good meaning, but they are not the essence of Christ. That is the, the point of attack: in some way either to prevent, to force out, or to limit, in some way or other, the measure of Christ. And you know, dear friends, or you ought to know, that it is the measure of Christ which is the governing thing. Not only that Christ has got in, no, but the measure of Christ. That is Ephesians, isn't it? The ultimate thing is the measure of Christ.
Measure of Christ
And if you were to use that word "measure" you're always
transported to Ezekiel, aren't you? The end of Ezekiel, what is
it? It's the temple. Now I'm not putting any interpretation on
that, whether that is going to be literal and all the Old
Testament sacrifices restored. You can have your own
interpretation about that. I am not touching that; but what I have
there is that when that temple does come into view, it is
a Heavenly Temple, and the Heavenly Messenger has his measuring
line and taking the prophet round, round about, "he took me
around, he took me in; round, about, in and out..." how
detailed! How meticulously detailed that is with every point,
every fragment, every iota, is given a measurement. It's
according to this measure, this Heavenly measuring reed or line.
It is measured by that. Its place is only by reason of its
having that measure; and now, whether you like the interpretation
or not, I believe that stands right at the heart of the Letter to
the Ephesians and the New Testament, and to this Letter to the
Spiritually, we have come to a New Jerusalem, we have come to the dwelling of the Most High God. We are come to Zion. We are come to that which Ezekiel spiritually saw: a Spiritual Temple. We have come now to that which in every detail is measured "according to Christ." "Is this Christ? How much of Christ is here?"
"According to the measure of the stature of the fulness of
Christ" that's the beginning of Hebrews, isn't it, as well
as Ephesians. See? And so, the chief point of the attack is always
to take something of Christ away, divert from Christ, put
something in the place of the very essence, the essential: Christ.
Any how, any how, any how, any thing... so long as the end of it is less
of Christ, not so much of Christ, not more of Christ. It has to do
then, with the Lordship of Christ in everything.
The Lordship of Christ? We used to open with singing: "Crown Him, crown Him Lord of all." A lovely idea, beautiful thought, a wonderful thing! But do you see what it means? Not only the thing as a whole, this wonderful Temple, House, Sanctuary; but to the last detail in the whole heavenly order, the last detail: Christ. In your life, in mine, He is the decision! He is the controlling principle! This is the Kingdom.
Oh, our Christian phraseology does need redeeming and revising. We talk about the kingdom, the kingdom, "We are out in the work of the kingdom, for the spread of the kingdom." I say, these words, "kingdom," "church," and all the others, need redeeming. They need revision.
What is the kingdom? Well, in the original language it's quite clear, but we've missed it by some other mentality. The Kingdom of God is the sovereign rule of God. The sovereign rule of God, that's the meaning of it. And that here is brought down to a detail. It's not just some comprehensive conception of a king. No, it's where I go today, what I do today, what the Lord would have about me today. That's the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom which cannot be shaken is of that kind, where it's all Christ. Hence the necessity for making known the ground upon which security rests "cannot be shaken."
The Ground on which Security Rests
Security is, of course, a very huge thing today, a very lively
concern, isn't it, in this world? Security... security. Well, your
Metropolitan Insurance - an immense organization - and it's one word:
it's "security". See what I mean? In every realm this word,
"security" is governing. There is nothing secure, eternally
secure, but what is established by God and that is concerning His
Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
That is the positive side to the New Testament always, and so I am going to conclude by reminding you of the nine and the ten.
Why nine precautions? Why nine times: "beware, lest... beware, lest..."? How precautionary the Lord is, even with His best servants, His most used servants... if they are really under His sovereign government, what precautions He takes. Do you remember? Had He ever a greater servant than the apostle Paul? Was there ever a servant more used of God than he? I venture to say in the annals of eternity, that man stands very high in preciousness to the Lord. "Lest, lest by reason of the greatness of the revelations, I should be exalted above measure... a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan was given... I besought the Lord three times that He would take it away. And He said..." not "No," the Lord is always positive: "My grace is sufficient." But the precaution of the Lord is to keep a most used and valuable servant from deviating, from the awful snare of pride, even in holy things, the things of God and heaven, for spiritual pride is the worst kind of pride. And pride, pride... the devastation that pride works. "Lest I should be exalted..." God's precaution: "Lest... lest"; and here you have these nine "lests." Look at them, friends. Go through, not just as Bible study, interesting... but note the peril that is associated with each "lest". Take it to heart. And so this book has this running right through from beginning to end, "Lest..." "Lest..." "Lest..." "Be on your guard! Watch! Is this of that kind that abides forever, indestructible and unshakeable? Is it Christ?"
Be utterly committed. That's where the other side "let us,
let us" and the "let us" ten times. If you sum it
all up, it amounts to this: "Be unreservedly and utterly
committed." Committed! I think that means something more than
becoming a Christian, many, many who are still children of God,
yes, genuinely born-again, but they are not utterly committed. Not
utterly committed, there are some other interests. They have got
one foot, or even a toe, in the world - still something where
there are alternatives to utterness. But the exhortation here, ten
times mentioned: "Let us... let us... because, because,
because of this peril... let us!" The great "Let us" of chapter
6:1, isn't it? "Let us go on!" Don't drift, don't leave
yourself to the mercy of the present current, the tide, the wind.
There is nothing that will keep us safer than being positive.
I like that translation of the phrase, you know that our English is, "fervent in spirit, serving the Lord" and I think it is Moffatt who has translated it and I like it, "Maintain the spiritual glow!" Oh, it's a safeguard. There is nothing more safeguarding than being positive. Remember David on the housetop? The tragedy, catastrophe, calamity of David's life, which left its scar on him, was being on the housetop when he ought to have been in the battle; reclining when he ought to have been going.
Israel dilly-dallied in the wilderness of forty years instead of
getting on with it; going. "Let us go on to full growth; not
laying again the foundations... but, let us go on, go on."
So often weariness, tiredness, discouragement, despondency,
perplexity, disappointments make us sad, make us sad... takes the
initiative out of us, and we are inclined to sink down. And then,
again and again in our spiritual history, we have to gird up the
loins of our mind: "No, this won't do! This won't do. This is a
cul-de-sac. If I get down here, there is no way through, the only
way is to come out of it and go on." Beware of your cul-de-sacs,
your backwaters, your "no thoroughfares". Keep on the high road,
the main thoroughfare. In this sense, if you like, in this sense
you can be marching to Zion; whether the doctrine is right or not,
have the spirit of it. And you'll sing again in that hymn, "I'll
walk the golden streets." How we carried on that tune last week,
and the Bible says there are no streets in the New Jerusalem!
There is only one - a street of gold - all of God
is in the New Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem, only one, only
one thing: a golden street. You are not going to choose your
locality there! You are going to be put onto the Lord's highway.
You see the figurativeness? It is just that: all of God, a
golden street, and only one. We'll have to learn how to live
But the point, the integrating, uniting thing is: "Let us go on to full growth." If we are all of that mind, we will not be caught by these subverting things, these alternatives, these pluses, these impositions. We will not be caught. No! "Is this going to mean, really and truly, an increase of Christ, a greater fulness of Christ; or is it some interesting thing, some fascinating thing, something that is going to be for the moment, for the time being, and then presently it is going to fade out, and I am going to be left high and dry?" That is what happens with so many of these things. They are just for a time. You can see history strewn with the wreck of things which at one time seemed to be the thing, the ultimate thing. Well, the only thing that is the thing is the increase of Jesus Christ. The test of everything: the increase of Jesus Christ. And the universal challenge, contest, is on that.
I have said enough. I close there, praying, as I trust you will do, that this will not be a subject of a conference; a man's theme morning by morning. The Lord will make the challenge of it, "For yet, yet again, I will shake not the earth only, but the heavens"; and the shaking has begun. It has begun. Christianity has entered the great shaking. What is going to remain? Not the things that are made, not the earth-bound things of Christianity; but that Kingdom, that Sovereign Rule, which cannot be shaken. It is Zion, "as the mountains are round about Jerusalem," it cannot be shaken. That is the Old Testament idea, but here it is. It is what is really and truly Spiritual and Heavenly that is in us and that we are in. It is that (to use our first word these mornings) to which "we are come." The Lord help us.
Lord, with the indelible pen of the Spirit of the Living God, write the terms of the New Covenant on our hearts, on the fleshy tablets of our hearts. Write indelibly, so that it may not pass with the week, with the ministry, with the gathering of the people - however all this may be blessed and joyous - but that the Lord's own intention, revealed to us, may abide in our hearts. Continually check us up; arbitrate between the two courses; keep us from the options, the alternatives; and may we always come back to this: "Does this mean more of Christ?" Lord, so help us. We ask with thanksgiving, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, amen.