“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

That Robe of Righteousness

I enjoy jogging. Especially in the early morning. I have a small dog, named Pingo. He loves to go running with me. We run on back streets where Pingo can run loose and free like the wind. He doesn’t mind a leash, but if he can run free, well that just tickles him pink! When he knows I’m going running he starts speeding around the house, to the front door, to me, back and forth! If I’m ever a little tired he perks me right up. I love Pingo and Pingo loves me. “My beloved is mine and I am his.” When he looks up at me I feel I can read his mind. He loves to play-fight with a towel or the blanket when I’m making my bed. He sleeps right next to me, curled up at my back. That’s his spot. The kitty better not trespass.

We go out in the wee hours of the morning when the traffic is negligible and the dew is still on the roses. Even still Pingo must wear a reflective vest. I call it his coat of many colors, or his robe of righteousness. Mine is a breastplate of righteousness. His is like mine, with a little adjustment made by tying the shoulder straps into a knot to make it fit his conformation. Pingo can’t put it on himself. That’s just impossible and ridiculous to imagine. He neither has the know-how nor the dexterity. I must do it for him. He even struggles to not have it put on. He dodges his head away from the hole, this way and that, because he doesn’t understand its vital importance. He’s got a lot of wildness in him, which I don’t ever see going way, not in this lifetime. He is not used to putting his head into a hole, even if its a coat of many colors. But patiently, with some finesse and good timing, I get it over his head and Velcro the straps on. Maybe the vest is a little uncomfortable, maybe a tad restrictive, but once its on, he doesn’t even notice it. Our vests are identical─bright orange with a yellow-green reflective stripe around the middle. We kind of look like father and son, kind of. I stand much taller than Pingo and he is small, furry, perpetually smelly no matter when he got a bath, and runs on all fours. While I jog in straight lines, he is very undisciplined, darting here and there, chasing a bird or some sound, checking out a place to mark, and doing his “duties,” sometimes running next to me. I often look down at him. He’s so funny to watch while he runs with his tail wagging like an American flag on the 4th of July, and his ears flapping like he’s taxiing to take off. Sometimes his tongue hangs out, but always his eyes are wide open and looking to live life to the fullest! So we go along in the dark, our breaths the only sound.

But why do I make Him wear that vest? Because its best; its for his protection. Because it reflects light, it makes him really stand out. He shines and drivers can see him better if one comes along. Usually by the end of our circuit, people start leaving for work. Drivers can pose a real danger because Pingo isn’t trained yet to stay right beside me. Because of the robe of righteousness, drivers know not to hurt him or they and I will feel sorry for a long time.

Another reason for the robe of righteousness is so drivers will understand that he is mine. “They must be together,” is the immediate message called to mind, a response by concerned drivers and police patrollers. If Pingo were to do something wrong, like make a car stop or swerve, he wouldn’t take the heat, I would. The policemen wouldn’t call the dog-catcher, they would stop me and warn me or whatever needs to happen. I’m the reason he isn’t safe. My training would be up for judgment, not his wildness. He has an owner, a caretaker. I take the blame, I am accountable. I will take the ticket and pay the fine, if need be. So, I watch him closely, always alert to prevent trouble.

And I allow all this because he loves me and I love him, and because he is only a dog. If he doesn’t listen to my commands and warnings, then that is an issue to be dealt with. Pingo and I will have to do some “IT,” an acronym they used on us in Navy boot camp for “Intensive Training”─not real fun. But my justice is always mingled with mercy and Pingo never stops trusting me. Maybe some sterner corrections will be necessary in the future, but I will always wait until he can take it and still be able to trust in me. As with humans, even so with the animals, trust is earned.

So as long as Pingo will be my friend and dog, and submit to that restrictive coat of many colors, we will go running, and talking, and eating, and sleeping together. And he shows me no intimation that he desires to ever have it any differently.

Monday, December 26, 2005

A Christmas Theme

There are several prophecies pointing to the first coming of Christ (can they apply to the people waiting for His second coming?). The ones most often quoted are from Isaiah chapter 53, “He was a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. All we like sheep have gone astray and turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquities of us all….” Or Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?...” Or maybe the very first prophecy, far into the distant past in the Garden of Eden, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed. It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heal.” Gen. 3:15, 16. The one I would like to cover now is found in Daniel chapter 9. This one is not referred to very often, yet it is the one and only reference in the Old Testament of the term “Messiah,” which is the Hebrew word for the promised anointed Seed of Eve, “Christ” being the translation in the Greek language.

The backdrop to this amazing chapter is that Daniel is very disturbed by the subjugation of Israel by Babylon, which occurred 70 years previous when Daniel was just in his teens. Now he is an old man and there is no end in sight to the captivity. Maybe he was praying to know the purpose of God in removing their freedom for so long, we don’t know. But we do know that at that point he stumbles over a part of the book of Jeremiah, the prophet whom Jehovah sent to warn Judah of the approaching Babylonian decimation because of their stubborn hard-heartedness and disobedience to Jehovah. Hadn’t Daniel read this before? Maybe he had, but this time the Holy Spirit made it stand out in blazing letters. The captivity would only last 70 years. 70 years?! That time was up! Now Daniel had cause to pray like he had never had before. Now he had an argument to take to his Lord. So far from presumption, all-powerful faith rising up and responding to a precious promise, Daniel became an intercessor for the holy nation. Faith was plucking up a mountain and throwing it into the sea. This shows how the scriptures become so necessary in giving us power in prayer.

Over and over, in this chapter, in taking up their case, Daniel recalls Israel’s and his own failures, and also Jehovah’s longsuffering and tender mercy. Nowhere in that long prayer is the claim that God had been too tough on them. Nowhere does he begin to justify or defend their actions since being established as a nation. Rather we hear a brokenness and repeated confession of their iniquity, their departing and transgressions, their wickedness, and rebellion, and utterly incredible lack of appreciation of all that heaven had done for them and the resultant confusion of face, but also to please remember “Thy city Jerusalem,” “Thy holy mountain” and “Thy people” in their destitution. “Incline Thine ear and hear, open Thine eyes and behold our desolations.” “Hear,” “forgive,” “hearken and do,” “defer not,” not “[because of] our righteousnesses, but [because of] Thy great mercies.” At length, an angel appears. Gabriel was dispatched, but not because Daniel had groveled long enough before God. Rather, the covering cherub was sent,  just as soon as Daniel began to lift up his voice in prayer. However, there was the time factor involved in traveling at lightening speed from God’s throne to planet Earth.

Gabriel’s message: 70 weeks of years were determined upon Israel and upon the system of worship which had been in place for a thousand years. Following a probation of 490 literal years they would be judged─judged by Messiah, the holy One, as the prophecy said, “He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears: but with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins.” Isa. 11: 3-5. Would they come to their God and conclude their continuous transgressions? Would they choose to make an end of their rebellion by anointing the Most Holy? The clock would begin to count down at the command to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, with a 49 year period for its actual construction. Then a 7 year block of time was separated at the very end of the prophecy, for the actual judgment of the descendants of Abraham, beginning at the 483rd year. By all indications from Gabriel’s words, the end didn’t look good for Israel. An investigative judgment, a probation, was in effect. God has been holding back retribution for a long time. But if it finally comes, it will be very harsh. God is as full of mercy as ever, but their hearts are in no way prepared to appreciate it. This is no time for presumption.

In spite Israel’s history of backsliding and shaking their daring fists at the God of their fathers, providentially the command to rebuild came in 457 B.C. Four hundred eighty-three years later, in 27 A.D., Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River. From that time He began to preach, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” Mk 1:15. Three and on half years afterward, 31 A.D., “in the midst of the [prophetic, final] week,” Messiah was cut off, and the sacrifices and oblations ceased (Dan. 9:26, 27). Then, in 34 A.D., after a final 3 ½ years was given to the Jews to accept the Messiah’s judgment and to repent, instead they stoned Stephen, one of God’s closest friends. That finalized Christ’s judgment that was determined upon them, and their rejection by heaven as God’s representatives and His favored people. Not long afterwards, Paul was converted and, with power, the word of God’s covenant of mercy that “endureth forever,” (Ps. 136) taken from the Jews, was given to the Gentiles, the new Israel, for them to protect and to take to the world, with fear and trembling. (Rom. 11:20, 21).

Friday, December 23, 2005

An Innocent Supplanter of Truth

“Have a blessed day!” “Be blessed.” “What a blessing!” “What would Jesus do?” Although nice and religious sounding, what is the message here? What is the purpose? I’ve been around the Christian culture just about all my life, and it’s been part of me. I’ve seen just about every gimmick in the book, and I’ve done them myself. Shouldn’t we rather be armed with the power of the Word?

Conviction: the reception of a realization that God is and will do no less than reward me according to obedience to His mountain of righteousness.
Justification: the acceptance of a right understanding of God and His wondrous merciful kindness, that puts me in my place, fells my pride, and makes me a slave of His love and a servant to everyone.
Sanctification: the acceptance of God’s work in me, the work of a lifetime; it’s the washing of my mind by the water of His Word by the Holy Spirit. (Brainwashing? If that’s what it takes to remake my stubborn heart, I’m for having my brain washed.)
Redemption: the final product of conviction, justification, and sanctification; complete and utter surrender to God’s love and His will.
A gimmick: a trick to force something that’s just not there. A look-a-like, the tool of bait-and-switch. A cheap imitation and too often a substitute which appears innocent and worthy, but that God desperately hates.

The 3rd commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.” Ex. 20:7. Why does God so utterly despise the gimmick? Because it is destitute of the power to change the rebellious sinful heart. It is empty of God, His power and His love. The Lord Jesus is missing, out of whose mouth goes a sharp sword to smite the nations (Rev. 19:15). Conviction is not present, sin is never touched upon. The results are h
ollow chaff, clouds without rain, trees without fruit, promising life but only mocking the sin-sick soul. The trite religious front is the devil’s favorite tool. Artfully designed, the searcher for deliverance from Satan’s grip does not discern that the religious gimmick is not the real gift of God. But after trying as much counterfeit religion as the soul can take, too often, with hope broken, the new seeker for the Unknown God concludes that He is beyond discovery or just refuses to condescend to worthless sinners. No wonder Jesus threatened that it would be better to have a millstone tied about the neck and be cast into the sea than to offend His little ones! And, again, how did this travesty occur? The church trying to help God in the work of the Gospel, but ignorant of the true work of God on the heart, and opting for the cheap imitation, the gimmicks, the clichés. Oh, how Satan must exult! He is rewarded daily for his cunning!

It will take a millennium in heaven for the redeemed to get over the fact that their loved ones aren’t there and never will be there. But what about God? He will never get over the loss of billions of the children of His care. Eternity will never erase the Great Controversy-sized hole in His heart. While our tears will be wiped away and the spirit of heaviness will give way to the garment of praise in the presence of His glorious love, and, as eternity rolls, the only reminders to the damage of the Controversy are the scars on Jesus’ hands and head and side, 
yet the Ancient of Days will be what He has always been from eternity pastthe great Burden-bearer, the lone sustainer and maintainer of the universe, ever surrounded by His loving creation, yet never completely understood and never completely forgetting the past.

Pretense forever banished, gimmicks and empty façades cast into an oblivion of God’s fierce hatred of it, likened to a lake of fire that smolders through eternity, only earnest longing after righteousness and love, and being the abundant recipients of the same, will bring long enjoyment to our work. “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain.” Is. 11:9. “And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped Him that liveth for ever and ever,” and ever and ever… Rev. 5:13, 14.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

God's Business in the Government

The issue of church and state is becoming a big issue, which I believe will grow louder and louder until everyone has to take a stand on it. It won’t be swept under a carpet much longer. In fact, I wager that it will become the number one issue, higher than the economy or war issues. I am looking at it from a different view than you perhaps. First, let me say, I am not for undermining Christianity or the Bible or faith or Christ. I’m sure I didn’t have to say that to you, because you know me better than that, based on my profile.

Lately I see more clearly how the 1st Amendment was written with regard to religion and government. “Congress shall make no law” for or against religion. The churches are accusing the U.S. Supreme Court of undermining the place of Congress in passing down decisions that apparently limit the freedom of religion allowed by the Constitution. A pronouncement by the U.S. Supreme Court can overthrow a particular law passed by Congress and an executive decree by the President. In the phrase of the above Amendment, the Constitution speaks to Congress and to a law specifically, not to the Supreme Court. Does the absence of Constitutional direction toward the highest court give it the freedom to wage war against the church in the place of the legislature?— I believe these to be some of the issues the churches are questioning.

Then there is the phrases “separation of church and state” or “wall of separation” which were coined by Thomas Jefferson, but which are not in the Constitution. As I read the Amendment, a “non-relationship” is to effect religion and government. The two were to be neither friendly nor enemies. This was for the benefit of both─benefiting both includes for the benefit of religion, the church. So why is the church bringing up this issue to the government at all today?─ There seems to be an underlying issue by the church in view here.

This is not a new situation. Thomas Jefferson had to deal with an upset clergy in his day over the hands-off position of the government. They wanted the government to recognize religion out of fear that the public would perceive the government as atheistic and antagonistic to religion, and thus encourage irreligion. Some of the Federalists genuinely didn’t want to receive the frown of God who had so graciously helped establish their nation. This may be the stance of many in the churches today, albeit it is “not according to knowledge.” (Rom. 10:2). I say that because the Bible separates church and state. Nevertheless, they want to see some evidence of religion in government history, whether federal, state, or local. They feel that it adds credence to the advancement of faith in America. The religious leaders need all the help they can get. “After all, too many people seem to think religion is defunct; but look at our past,” say they, “see how religious our forefathers were!”

But does this describe true American history? Does it correctly describe our nation’s forefathers? No, it doesn’t. Do our forefathers really describe true religion? Not at all. Is true religion helped by their religious examples? Is religion helped by government aid or endorsement? Is it hurt by government laws and decisions against it? Does the presence or absence of religious icons posted on government property or in public schools affect anyone’s faith in the eternal purposes of God? I say, Definitely not.

Most Americans are Protestants, if not in faith, in background, by inheritance. The original Protestant protest was against the need for the involvement of non-spiritual organizations in the church. They said the sinner and God have direct communication. Government involvement in the dealings of God and man is neither required nor desired. Unless any approaching party is under conviction of sin and repentant, it needs to vacate this holy precinct.

In other words, the Spirit of God is in no way hampered from His work by the lack of symbols and relics and governmental assistance. It “is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.” John 6:63. I don’t mean to sound dogmatic. Please don’t take me wrong. But what we all truly want is genuine Christianity. And I believe that you, the reader, want this, even if you have no religious affiliation. I believe that even atheists today want to see a Christianity with real self-sacrifice.

Christianity should endure difficulty, harassment, persecution, and hardship; and accept them without complaint because those Christians carry all their problems to Jesus in prayer and leave them at His feet. What the world needs today is a Christianity which carries a cross that doesn’t turn back; it needs Christians with the faith of John the Baptist who went to his beheading with the simple words of power from Christ, “Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.” Matt. 11:6.

The offense of Christ’s cross, His furnace of affliction has always been God’s method for cleansing us. The church of today needs cleansing, right? All throughout sacred history God’s people have almost every time ended up in trouble─(and here might be a sticky subject)─because they had walked away from their God. And until they owned up to it and genuinely repented, a period of trouble ensued. “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. and they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them.... And they were greatly distressed.” Judg. 2:11-14.

Once they repented, then He would raise up a deliverer and save them. But He wouldn’t do it just because they cried. His children had to admit their disrespectful unfaithfulness to Him and turn their face toward Him again. These are His unchanging conditions.

“Have ye forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him.” Heb. 12:5.

A good question to ask: Has the church backslidden? Does the church need correction? It may be hard to see it because we are in the middle of the consequences of backsliding. But I say, if Protestantism is calling for aid from the state, she left her Husband and Provider a long time ago. We know by the testimony of the four gospels that a great display of religion is not necessarily evidence of consecration to God. Then the bombastic manner of today’s preachers, and specifically religious leaders’ irreverent treatment of the government, contrary to Bible injunctions, marks them as spiritual suspects.

Are we beginning to see similar characteristics today as were seen in the religious leaders who dogged Christ and His disciples for 3 ½ years? Is the church truly examining herself on a continuous basis, as the scriptures directs her to do, to know whether or not she is in the faith, so that when she preaches to others, she is not a castaway? Where is the reformation and renunciation of the world that accompanied conversion in the past? Where is the willingness to lose all for Christ? Where is the cross of Christ; the willingness to suffer quietly and endure as a good soldier of Jesus?

I’m not against a genuine fight of faith. I’m not against regaining lost ground for Christ. But I am against the political methods for Christianity that are used by the churches today. I am for a genuine, renewed spirituality among God’s people. We need true heart conversion and revival. We need a return to the Reformation, when men, women, and children laid down their rights, their possessions and livelihoods and even their lives for the truth. I am sad to say, at this point, that only tribulation can bring all this about. As it is written, “And it was said to them that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” Rev. 6:11.

This post is not for or against the ACLU or the ACLJ. It’s for a revival in the churches, one that has not been seen since apostolic times.

Our Motto

"Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name." Malachi 3:16.

My first Blog

Do you want to know truth? I do. The purpose of this blog is for sharing and comparing notes. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I love interaction of thoughts. Pilate asked Jesus a very pertinent question for his day and for ours, “What is truth?” But then he walked away, as if to say, “There is no such thing.” All the education and training he had had in Roman law and sociology left him a complete unbeliever in something more than situational ethics, a cynic of absolute truth. His private interview with Jesus should have given him an inkling that there was something true, and that this remarkable Person could have some answers.

Absolute truth to many seems a ridiculous notion! Not worth the time of day! “You must be an idiot.” “How gullible can a person get?”, they say or at least think. But really its not so difficult to imagine. If we put on our thinking caps, and boil life down to its basic concepts and priorities, then we have the core of absolute truth. There is a fundamental principle in life that everyone and everything must follow. If we find that principle, then we have our course set, and life soon becomes full of exploration and adventure, fellowship and satisfaction. So once we have the basic principle, then comes the task of branching off from there into all the different and varied categories of nature and life experiences. We can search out underlying motives and expose hidden intents that are only cover-ups. And then, Voila! We have a good handle on truth! It's not so impossible after all to know absolute truth! I don't have all the answers, but if we put our hearts and heads together, we can make some pretty good progress.

First, let me say that in our search for truth, there is no truth apart from the sole source of truth, our Creator. We are but a dust speck in His vast creation. “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of?” Is. 2:22. “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and stars which Thou hast ordained, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him?” Ps. 8:3, 4.

Since we are but a dust speck, and the great Creator is so mindful of us, we should avail ourselves of Him. “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding.” Prov. 9:10. There is no truth apart from the holy God. When we separate holiness from knowledge or wisdom, we enter Satan's ground. “God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Gen. 3:5. Satan loves to offer the prospects of wisdom and knowledge deep and unsurpassed, curiosity satisfied, and our personal recognition to go with it. But it all ends being ensnared by the devil, taken captive by him at his will.

“This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.” Jn 17:3. To know Jesus is to know God. Spiritualism often refers to God as the end all of wisdom and truth. Yet spiritualism and the new age Hinduism never point their adherents to Jesus, “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” 1Cor. 1:30. One thing I know, Jesus, the lowly One, is very high and exalted because He went so low. He is greatest because He became the very least. It is this concept that forms the foundation of truth. The cross, the mighty demonstration of self-sacrifice, is the essence of wisdom. Not until we know the cross experience can we ever enter into life, learning all that is possible to learn. And “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Is. 11:9.