Graham Snow - Mudgee Convention, New South Wales, Australia - 2017

Two years ago in Germany, I chose a certain hymn.  My companion said, "That is my favourite hymn."   Perhaps, the favourite hymn changes from time to time because of our experiences in life and we grow in the things of God.  Some may have a favourite portion of scripture that has been a big help to them through the years.  I appreciate greatly the Word of God, and the living Word of God inspires and corrects me, but there is a certain line of thought in the Old Testament and the New Testament that has been for me, a guideline, as things have to be done in serving God.

Isaiah (22:22) and Revelations (3:7) have been a help to me and I have counselled others when looking for help.  What shall we do, where shall we go, what is our place in life?

Revelations 3:7,  “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, 'These things saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth'”  He opens and no man shuts and He shuts and no man opens.  Verse 8, “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it, for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept My word, and hast not denied My name.”  Even so, in this church of Philadelphia, there were those not true and faithful.  There were things to do and they were told:  there is a door open to you, go through that door, shut it behind you.  

Looking back over the past years, we all can see things we have been ashamed of, where we have failed, where we have fallen and sinned in the past year.  At convention, God has set an open door to us, shutting the past behind you.  We are living in the present and will live in the future.  The past has had its victories and failures.  Good to leave convention, shut the past behind, live to be faithful today and tomorrow if tomorrow comes.  The thief on the cross received salvation.  We don’t know what his past was.  We do know he had committed some crime or crimes, very serious crime, to find himself hanging on the cross beside Jesus.  His past was a thing to be ashamed of.  What really mattered while hanging on the cross, wasn’t what his past had been, but what he was now.  Jesus is the hope for the future, for eternal life.  For all of us, what matters most of all isn’t last week or last year, it is just how we are right now, our spirit and attitude towards God and towards godly things.  We go through this open door and shut the past behind us.

The message to the Ephesians:  You have lost your first love.  We all love the way of God, we love the truth of God, love the fellowship, love the people of God and love the servants of God, but the question is:  is it our first love?  It is that we love God above everything else.  A man should love his wife and we are told to love our neighbours.  Is our first love loving God?  The love we die with is the love we will have for all eternity.  God is our first-love.  It is not wrong to love other legitimate things in the sight of God, but we must be very careful that God is our first love.

He opens and no man shuts, He shuts and no man opens.  What should I do with my life?  Just try the doors.  If the doors open, good!  Go through them, if they don’t open, don’t try and force them.  There are doors to be tried and you may not know which way to go.  Is it my place in the harvest field, or to find a partner, or to have a business?  Don’t try to force them.

One door in the New Testament that is very important.  The veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom.  The veil of the Holiest of all was torn in two.  It wasn’t opened by a man or someone down below.  It was rent in two from above.  This is very important, that when we look for open doors, that they open from above, that God does the opening.  There was the ark of the covenant, His commandments, the Word of God, the Truth of God.  Above the truth of God, there was the mercy seat.  The ark of the covenant was made from wood overlaid with gold.  The mercy seat was made of pure gold.  In the eyes of God, mercy is just pure gold, the most valuable, costly thing, the mercy of God, for which I am very, very grateful.  The ark of the covenant had a certain length, a certain breadth and height.  The mercy seat had the very same length and breadth as the ark of the covenant.  It covered the law of the covenant, nothing outside the covenant.  It was the same length and the same breadth, but there is no mention of how deep the mercy seat was.  This is immeasurable.  There are limits to the mercy of God in length and breadth, but there is no measure to the depth.  There is an immeasurable amount of mercy to be found with God through the gospel.  The mercy does not cover anything outside the Word, it is wide as the ark of the covenant and the word of God in it.  We have to accept the word of God, accept the truth of God, to be prepared to live by the word of God.  If we repent, there is an immeasurable amount of mercy.  Psalm 86:10, “Mercy and truth are met together..”  They are the very best friends, they understand each other.  They are friends.  We see the very same aspect with the ark of the covenant, with the word of God, there is immeasurable amount of mercy in the ark of God.  This veil was rent by God.

Over 50 years ago, my third year in the work, I was very concerned about offering my young life to go further in the harvest field.  In those years in New Zealand, every year someone went away.  I prayed about it, thought about it for long time.  It occupied my thoughts for a number of months and I wrote a letter to the older brother offering to go anywhere.  I put the letter in an envelope, sealed and put the stamp on it.   I can still see myself standing there at the post box … shall I, shall I not?  I tore it up.  I said to myself, "This has to come from above, it has to be opened from above.Strange to say, in just a matter of weeks, the phone rang.  I was sitting alongside my companion, it was our older brother in New Zealand wished to talk to my companion.  This curious young brother was sitting there and didn’t move away.  “Shall I tell him?”   … “No, don’t tell him.”  I was convinced it must concern me.  I had to wait until Monday to get that letter.   Along comes the postman … I ran out.  It was that they need help in Switzerland.  It didn’t just come from New Zealand, from further afield.  Why Switzerland?  My thoughts were somewhere in the Far East, somewhere there, and it was Switzerland.  Looking back over many years, it was the right choice.  He “opens and no man shuts.”

Acts 16, Lydia and women there who loved to pray.  The Lord opened her heart.  Paul didn’t do it.  This able man, with all his knowledge of the scripture didn’t do it, it was the Lord opened her heart.  Some years ago, before a meeting I went for a walk and there were some gardens there.  I stopped and saw a particular shrub, some beautiful flowers, some buds, some partly open, others just opening up.  I had a good sharp knife … perhaps I can help this flower to open up.  I realized, “You can’t do it.”  A surgeon cannot open a bud that a flower would bloom.  It is opened from above.  It is the rays of the sun which come from above.  He opens and no man shuts.  The flower has come from a bud.  When it is completely open, could anyone put it back into the bud?  Impossible!  He opens and no man shuts, shuts and no man opens.  

A few years ago, looking for a tent site over there, there is not so much free land.  For the farmers, every blade of grass counts.  It is hard to find anyone to rent a site.  They were very sorry, with “nothing to offer you, you can’t put a tent up here.”  We depend so much on the kindness and goodness of people, to find an open door for the gospel.  Then I thought it does not depend on the kind or good as far as we are concerned.  He would give us the possibility of somewhere putting up our tent.

Over 20 years ago, there was a young couple, just married for just a year decided to go on a world tour, not just sightseeing.  They wanted to find somewhere they could be useful, very few open homes.  They went to South America and tried to find somewhere.  He had to find a job, found nothing, to Central America, and other countries.  No doors opened, nothing opened up.  They came to Australia and they met there, one of the workers, who had known the family for a number of years.  “Your place is at home.”  So they headed home and one year passed by, the first child was born.  They tried to find a house to buy there and found nothing suitable.  They looked for some time and nothing seemed to open up.  One day she phoned me,  “Graham, have you got a house for us?”  I said, “Well, strangely enough, I do have one.”  It was a convention grounds.  She put the phone down.  Folk on the grounds had said, "We are getting older.  In time, we would like to sell.  Is there someone here who would like to buy?"  Weeks later, this phone call came.  Next day, he phoned me, “Where is this convention ground?”  They have been there for over 10 years and we are so grateful for the spirit and attitude they have brought and the way they welcome friends and preparations.  It is not always easy, all have differences of opinion, all have their nature and character.   To see them so settled and realizing, "We have now found our open door."  He opens and no man shuts, He shuts and no man opens.

Many doors have been opened for me in Europe.  I am so glad it wasn’t my choosing, God opens and no man shuts, but there are also doors God shuts.

There was Moses, the meekest man on the earth, this man led God’s people through the wilderness and they came to the promised land and God told him, "For you, the door is shut.Can you understand why such a man, at the point of entering in and enjoying the promised land, “I am sorry Moses, the door for you is shut."   He opens doors, He also shuts doors. 

If we think of David, a king like no other king, a most wonderful man:  he wished to glorify God.  The prophet told him, the message came from God, "Go, shut the door on David."  The spirit he showed afterwards, helping Solomon preparing to build the temple.

Noah, who built the ark.  The door was open for 7 days before the rain came tumbling down, 7 days for any to enter in, for those who scoffed at it.  The day came when the waters rose.  I can imagine how people knocked on the door and said, "Noah, the waters are rising, you are right after all.  Open the door!"  “Sorry, I cannot, God shut the door.”   He had perfect control over the window, perfect control over how much light entered the ark.  Today, the door is open.  There is an open door set before you.  If we don’t go through this door, one day the door will be shut and shut forever.  Think of those foolish virgins going to the door and knocking, "Let us in!"  “I don’t know you, depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity, the door is shut.”  That is the oil in that parable:  knowing God.  Did they know God or not know God, did God know them?  “Depart from Me, I know you not.”

I spent a few days in a home in Christchurch, 37 Titoki Street.  Going to 37 Titoki Street, knocking on the door, it was opened wide.  “Bring your bags in, enjoy your time here.”  If I went to number 36 and said, “I have come to stay.  Where is my bedroom?”  “We don’t know you.  Who are you?  You are at the wrong address.”  “I am coming to stay!”  If I persisted, they would say, “If you don’t leave, we will call the police.”   At 37, I was known, but at 36, I wasn’t known.  “Depart from Me, I know you not.”  That is the crucial point, about knowing God.  Just to stand there and that door is shut, never opened again, would anything be more dreadful?

In a village in Switzerland, where there is a convention, it is at the end of the road.  There is one of the friends’ homes there and a few rooms on the second floor for the brother workers who wish to be there.  I have no family there.  I had no one, I was glad of this little corner in the village in that old farm house.  The key was usually on a little ledge.  I arrived at 11.30 pm on the last bus, snow on the ground.  I climbed the steps and tried to find the key.  It wasn’t there.  Other friends also lived there, but it was too late to wake them up.  I know where the key is to the barn and I knew there were some mattresses and blankets there and I spent the night there and it was cold.  To stand before a closed door and to be closed for all eternity:   He opens and no man shuts, He shuts and no man opens, my guideline for many years.  This is God’s Kingdom and God’s Way and He will guide us all through.