“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, May 25, 2006

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. It’s 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 manipulation. 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 it 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, kinda. 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. 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. 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 does something wrong, like make a car stop or swerve, he doesn’t take the heat, I do. The policemen don’t call the dog-catcher, they stop me and warn me or whatever needs to happen. I’m the reason he isn’t safe. My training is up for judgment, not his wildness. He has an owner, a caretaker. I take the blame, I am accountable. And I allow all this because he loves me and I love him. 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 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, May 22, 2006

The Conscience

The soul is the seat of the mind. All our faculties for learning and reasoning are controlled by the soul because there is where happiness is determined and generated. The pursuit of happiness is so key to man’s makeup that no law of man’s devising can successfully war against happiness without causing upheaval at the citizen’s core and the eventual dissolution of that law.

We do what we do because we love to do it. We do the things we do because they make us happy. They may even be self-destructive, but if they make us happy, we invariably do them. They may be foolish and illogical, but if they bring peace to the soul, if they bring pleasure, no amount of logic or wisdom or training will change our thoughts or drives or behavior.

The seat of the mind is the soul; the seat of the soul is the conscience. Some have taught that the seat of the soul is the “6th sense,” a mystical power to channel the spirits and bodiless personalities of “the ethers.” That is simply a trap by the devil and his angels to get first dibs on our conscience. The conscience is the very helm of the whole human being, the deepest of all that controls us; thus Satan’s determination to subdue and control it. The scriptures says, “Behold also the ships, which though they be so great and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.” Jas. 3:4. Here James is likening our tongue to the steerage of a ship, but isn’t it true what Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Matt. 12:34). So our words are not only the expression of our tongues, but of the conscience, and if the conscience is first guarded, then the tongue will be guarded automatically. “Cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” (Matt. 23:26).

The conscience is that faculty through which the Holy Spirit speaks to us if we can hear Him. As Jesus often affirmed, “He that hath an ear, let him hear.” “Let these sayings sink down into your ears.” (Rev. 2:7;Lk. 9:44). As we are in God’s image, we have the unique natural ability to recognize Christ’s voice to the soul. But that perfect communication Adam was created with has been well-nigh obliterated because of rebellion. By loyalty to another, Adam’s ability to hear God and commune with Him became hampered. By the tempter’s enslavement and control, and by Adam’s new propensity to serve self, and that same propensity in his children, the voice of conscience died away from the human race, blocked by the deafening chatter of self-interest and the rage cause by all of his powers in chaos under the masterful abilities of demon puppeteers. Satan knew man better than man knew himself, and the devils would create such havoc in the beliefs and thoughts, the desires and the appetites and passions, that it would be impossible for the human alone to withstand the power of the adversary and to respond to the non-stop work of God in reclaiming him.

But God has His ways. His methods may require time, but He lays His foundation very wisely. His methods may or may not take generations to execute, but against all the power Hell can muster, Christ will raise up a people who stand faithfully for His Father’s government and steadfastly refuse the ownership of Satan.

Satan claims to be God. To the infinite Creator, he says, My claim to Earth is proven by my going to and from it, and by walking up and down in it. (Job 1:7). To creation he is, “the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; that made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof: that opened not the house of his prisoners,” and dared God to do anything to stop him. (Is. 14:17). From his earthly headquarters he has shaken his fist at all heaven and “opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.” (Rev. 13:6).

If Satan can inhibit the activity of the conscience, he will. Thus idolatry, his favorite tool. By the self-pleasing practices of idolatry, he can so clutter the soul with greed, ambition, revenge, appetite, fashion, and pretense, he can so bombard the senses with stimuli, that the influence of the Holy Spirit on the conscience becomes buried by the noise of the conflicting voices.

Another enemy of the conscience is ignorance to God’s will. If we haven’t united with Christ’s yoke and learned of Him, we are easy targets to the devil’s suggestions. He loves to befriend the unsuspecting agnostic or Christian, taking him under his wing, and lead him off the path of righteousness. Usually in the name of righteousness! (His brand, of course). Then when God hasn’t prospered that person’s so-called “moral” efforts, because He can’t, then the devils whisper, “Oh well, I guess strict obedience to righteousness isn’t the best path after all. But no one can blame you for not trying.”

In great sorrow Christ sees multitudes turn away from Him because they choose not to examine their motives and correct them, but give up the struggle to find the beautiful life with God. They are like the seed that fell upon rocky soil in Christ’s parable, who hear the Word, and rejoice to receive it; yet they grow no root in themselves, but endure for a little while. Then when perplexities make the path of life a difficult one, instead of realizing his need of patience, “that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the the saving of the soul,” instead, “by and by he is offended,” and draws away from Christ and casts away any confidence he had in Him. (Matt. 13:20,21;Heb. 10:36-39).

Thus it is vital that the conscience be educated. We need to know what God expects. We need to recognize Satan’s devices long before they are upon us. Many have thought to worship God yet be content to remain in ignorance of His character, and turn out to worship His arch enemy instead. (Ex. 32:5,6). Such a slap in God’s face brings Satan his sweetest revenge. He couldn’t personally blaspheme God nearly so well as do God’s own children whom God looks upon with distraught longing for their response to His loving care. God is holy, thus we must worship Him in the spirit of holiness and truth. The spirit of the world, the practices of the world must be drawn from our grip. We must accept the God of holiness. Then our conscience will be tuned to the correct frequency, and learning of Him will become possible.

When the conscience is properly educated and unhampered by all fear except for the fear born of divine love, it becomes an indomitable power for good. Righteousness is not “Bible ethics.” Righteousness is love. But love is not only a feeling, it is primarily a principle, the principle of righteousness. When God’s love rules the conscience, then love and conscientiousness will characterize the life.

The journey with God will begin as a mustard seed and flourish into a tree big enough for birds to sit and sing to the wind. The Lord will drench His children’s roots with His mercy and cleanse their conscience with “the washing of water by the Word,” “that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” (Eph. 5:26;Is. 61:3).

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Gift of God

“If thou knewest the gift of God….” The gift of God. Many things in the Bible have been called this. Jesus here was speaking of a friendship with God, conversion. (Jn. 4:10). But other gifts of God are referred to: Faith (Eph 2:8), the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), and in whose train comes the gifts of Love against which there is no law, quiet Joy, Peace that passes all comprehension, Longsuffering that is kind, Gentleness that makes us great, Goodness which forgives and forgets, Meekness which shall inherit the earth (Gal. 5:22,23), and other varied gifts (Rom. 1:11).

Isaac was a gift to Abraham. A conception way out of the ordinary, not the product of any rationalization of normal causes. He is called a child of the promise. (Rom. 9:8). Not 99.99999999999% a gift, but completely 100% a gift, Isaac was, and an object lesson showing Abraham that he could do nothing to assist in that gift’s creation and delivery.

Such is every gift of God. A turnabout in the life, a change in the thoughts and intents of the heart are either 100% from God, or they aren’t a gift at all; they are of human construction. If they are gifts then they must have come about not because of us and any of our labor or exercise of willpower. By definition, it is a gift if we received it without being able to provide it for ourselves. If they are all from God, if we can never produce them, if they are beyond our wildest imagination to ever possess without God’s personal intervention for our benefit, then all we can do toward having them is to ask and wait to receive them. Ask and wait, two of the hardest endeavors for us sinners to ever accomplish.

So there is a work for us. First ask. “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, ‘Give Me to drink;’ thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.” (Jn. 4:10). Ask. And anyone can do this; we are naturals at it. It is the perfect “do-able,” the easiest do-able. No discrimination here. I’ve heard that the steps for the gift of God are: ask, believe, receive. In other words, Ask, then Believe. But it only seems logical to me that we must have believed before we had asked or we wouldn’t have asked in the first place. Asking, being the first step, assumes that faith was already present. “He that cometh to God must believe...that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Heb. 11:6. More people have faith than know it. More would ask if they didn’t think they have to muster up some amount of faith before they seek God, when the act of considering asking means they already have faith. Thus many delay, procrastinate, or just plain turn down a gift that is free for the taking because they believe God requires a kind of faith that we must manufacture, when natural faith is all He desires, and we all have some of that kind of faith simply by being born (Rom. 12:3). Jesus honored simple faith so many times during His earthly ministry. The demoniacs of Gergessa on the “bad side” of the Sea of Galilee, the Canaanite woman for whom Jesus had to walk 40 miles to help her deepen her faith, the woman with a long-term issuing blood disease, were only a few of the times Jesus inconvienced His disciples and went far out of His way to draw near to excluded outsiders and untouchables, because they had wistfully called out to “Somebody up there.” And these are only the recorded displays of His compassion; He did this hundreds of times that weren’t recorded (Jn. 21:25). We all have inherited a minimum of faith, and even the weakest person in willpower, even the furthest individual from God, can be saved if they will bring their mustard seed of faith to Jesus in prayer for Him to strengthen and mature. That can be a big “IF” because the temptation of the old life often draws the attention away from Jesus and His love, and then that minimum faith is easily dominated and intimidated by the satanic hosts because it is not yoked up with Christ, but it’s also a little “IF” and becomes a gigantic do-able faith, once we have sought out Jesus and our mustard seed is allied with Him.

More people have faith than know it. If we have a desire for something better and then go in search of it, doesn’t that indicate faith? If I am looking even only wistfully to heaven and asking “Somebody up there” for help, isn’t that the requisite faith to receive a gift from God? Yes, by all means. “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Rom. 11:29. And God acts on that mustard seed of faith, you can be sure of it!! It may take a little time for the help to manifest itself, but God immediately responds!!!! Everyone on this planet has all the stuff built into them that it takes to be drawn to God. No one is excluded from His calling. There is no excuse for a single soul to be lost. The millions of the wicked that are lost on judgment day are an utter travesty of nature and mercy.

Let’s not, however, make the mistake of thinking that a lighthearted asking is all that is required in our request. In every prayer to God, we must work our prayers. God is a “rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Heb. 11:6. Does this mean the gift is not 100% of God, but partly by our own efforts? Not at all. When a person receives the gift which they have needed so badly for so long, they will know that it came absolutely not because of their own will or of any power they possess. Typical of us, a period of time ensues, during which we attempt to manufacture the gift, or imagine having done so. But we experience repeated failure and disillusionment, ultimately the realization dawning upon us that we just don’t have the resources. Usually it’s the constant failure that convinces us to renounce any temptation to take any credit for the gift. At that point, and no sooner, does the Holy Spirit give His gift, and create in us a clean heart.

But we do have a work to do. Do we truly desire the gift? Do we really expect it? If so, then we make plans for it, we anticipate it and prepare for it when it should come. We draw near to Christ, who alone will do this impossible thing for us in us; we serve others and, in our expectant confidence in Him, tell them of a God who loves us and promises so much; we strengthen our bond to Him, lest His Spirit should draw near to bring the gift and we not be in the right frame of mind to be prepared when He comes.

“Covet earnestly the best gifts.” We aren’t speaking of material gifts. “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” (1Cor. 12:31; Ezek. 36:26). Conversion, when we are no longer fighting God, when He is no longer the enemy; when the scales fall off our eyes and we see that His righteousness is exquisitely good, and His justice, mixed with mercy toward our blindness and ignorance, was just and fair in all the pain and agony we experienced while waiting for the gift to arrive. Conversion, “like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments: as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” (Ps. 130:2, 3). Conversion: “The grace of our Lord...exceeding abundant with faith and love.” (1Tim. 1:14).

Yes, there is a work to do; not in the creation of the gift, but in the being prepared to receive it. God is holy, His gift is holy and just and good. Am I holy—wholly His? Am I looking to His justness and goodness in holy anticipation? Am I searching and digging for them as for hid treasures? Am I serious about getting that new heart, serious enough to pay all that it costs? Yes, there is a work for us to do, but it is a doable because it involves the elements of strengthening a relationship, companionship, a friendship with God, which comes natural to us.

The next step after asking is the waiting. “Here is the patience of the saints.” (Rev. 14:12). In waiting for the gift of God is demonstrated the patience of the saints, and anything else is torment (Rev. 14:9-11). Did you ever wonder how some people have never-ending patience with others? It came by having patience with God first, and realizing His patience toward them. It came by having to wait for the gift of peace, then wading through all the prerequisite trials; and then finally obtaining the treasured gift of the faith of Jesus and peace with God. And after the victory is won, impatience evaporates. A God found, the gift received, a lesson of waiting and perseverance learned, blessed rest, makes any inconvenience or mistreatment by people or by this mortal life, pale into insignificance by comparison to the gift of God. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ....Not only so, but we glory in tribulation.” Rom. 5:1-5.

By the way, why must we wait? The Bible gives two reasons that I am aware of: 1) because we haven’t quite learned that the gift is not of our own devising. We frustrate the grace of God, by fighting and struggling to get a free gift. “For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest shall ye be saved: in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not. But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that persue you be swift. One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one; at the rebuke of five shall ye flee (notice, this is the reverse from when God is in control [Lev. 26:7,8; Josh. 23:10]): till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on an hill. And therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious to you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him.” Is. 30:15-18.

Jesus’ hands are tied until we are finished trying to be the hero, fending off all our dragons and enemies, and are backed into a corner or left waving the rags of truce over our heads. And until we get to the point of retreat and truce with God and give up the struggle to do the work which God has promised to do for us and which He alone can accomplish, to wage a war that we must admit we have no competence in or strength to fight; not until we admit we can’t have any part in our redemption, except for just being there and following orders, does God finally step in and give us the victory. In short, God waits because of us, and obviously so must we wait. We are our own worst enemy. If we have to wait long for the gift of God, we cannot blame God; we have ourselves to thank. Amazingly, God is very patient with our obstreperousness and slowness to learn our lessons.

And 2) the second reason we must wait: while we are our own worst enemy, we have an accomplice. The devil is the other factor involved in our waiting. Even Daniel, a very consecrated man, once had to wait 3 whole weeks. Why? Says Gabriel, who came to bring Daniel assurance for the future of his people, “From the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael...came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days….” Dan. 10:12-14.

From this we gain a behind-the-scenes view of why we must wait sometimes for the gift that Christ has already promised us. After we have fasted and prayed and chastened ourselves before the Lord and our request is as unselfishly oriented as we can make it, there is yet a supernatural force preventing God’s work for us. At that time, we must persevere in our hope and faith, as Daniel did.

Other examples of persevering prayer come from Elijah who prayed 7 times before rain followed the repentance of Israel; he fasted and prayed 3 times before the widow’s son revived from death, and Elisha and Gehazi together also prayed 3 times before the Shunamite’s son revived from death; Naaman hoped against hopelessness through 7 baptisms before his leprosy was healed.

The gift of God will come. That peace that passes all understanding, that new heart of submission to God, it will come and will not tarry. Blessed are all they that wait for Him. “The just shall live by faith: but, if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Heb. 10:38.

“For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” Gal. 5:5.
“Make no tarrying, O my God.” Ps. 40:17.
“Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.” (2Cor. 9:15.)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Presumption, Unbelief, and Faith

“Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known My ways. So I sware in My wrath, They shall not enter into My rest…. So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” Heb. 3:10,11,19.

Presumption and unbelief work hand in glove. Presumption is the first step away from faith, unbelief the last step. Presumption is the acting agent of the substitution for faith; unbelief is the resultant state of mind. But, since unbelief is so far from faith, how does presumption so successfully effect the condition of unbelief in people who have joined up with God and faith and religion?

Christ accepts anyone who desires something better than this world. He always makes room for them in His household, if they will be humble and learn of Him. In that connection, He reveals Himself to each student in His home-school. In the union with Christ, the student sees that real faith not only trusts in Christ’s mercy, but also fears His discipline. While presumption refuses to bow before infinite power, faith is content to stand in humble deference to the mighty, horrendous throne of GOD. Without fear, there is no true respect, there is no true appreciation for God’s love, no true humility. But this fear is not a product of human devising. It is wholly a gift of God, and is thus able to stand simultaneously in awe and simple trust. Rules and the expectation of obedience to them bring the greatest happiness to the surrendered human heart, because it trusts that God’s rules are united with patient understanding.

Trust, the boon of physical and mental health, without a healthy respect for law and truth, becomes loose and presumptuous towards God, and then it cannot comprehend His love. Revulsion toward God’s laws and His requirements creates a lazy, sloppy religious and secular life. No mechanic will accept sloppy parts in any engine, because that condition can destroy the motor, his reputation with his customers, and possibly his own life. A loud banging engine will make any smart mechanic quickly shut it down, or run and get clear before the “whiplash” action happening with the internal moving parts creates a missile that penetrates the heavily armored block, and kills him. The athlete cannot allow for loose, sloppy methods of exercise or uncontrolled bodily movements or practices, knowing that that condition is what causes damage to muscles, bones, and tendons. The commander of a military outfit never loses his control on his people, nor allows any part of his chain of command to get sloppy. Loose and lax control would assuredly expose his unit to danger, either from without or from within. Good order and discipline is the only thing that prevents disaster and destruction. Therefore good order and discipline are vital and good. If man has found them to be essential and good, God knew it first. Self-control and self-possession form the foundation of His throne, and no one can come into His presence while presuming to ignore the fear of God and His firm control.

“Hear another parable: there was a certain householder, which planted vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far county.” Matt. 21:33. Christ’s parable depicts the experience of Israel during the previous 1500 years. On Sinai He had given them His laws, statutes which, if surrendered to and followed, would have exalted their nation to the top of the world. Those laws could have built a hedge of protection around each Israelite heart, friendship, family, and tribe. Blessed with love and virtue, they would have filled the earth with the glory of the Lord, and every family of the earth would have been uplifted. But they continuously said, “We will not have this Man reign over us.” Lk. 19:14.

For forty years in the desert, Christ labored to teach them the rules that were the only antidote for the idolatrous lifestyles the Israelites had learned in Egypt. How could He show them His love without showing them His mercy? But how could He reveal His mercy apart from law and truth, which alone could give them cause to need mercy? They needed to unlearn any notion that they could bypass the mercy and the statutes, and bribe God with a smile or a tease or a gift of any kind in exchange for getting what they wanted. What they wanted was to please themselves, taking it upon themselves to feel good, rather than waiting on God to do that for them through His mercy and statutes, the principles of His character that bring Him so much joy. They needed a new principle to replace the old methods of life demonstrated in the world; to respect righteousness and to love it; to make fairness and impartiality and strict adherence to equity always to be the rule of life. They needed His Law of love. A noble, holy nation was His aim in all His discipline and mercy toward them.

But they didn’t want rules or correction, they didn’t want that kind of love. They preferred to indulge their appetites and selfishness and pride, during everyday life, and even in religion. They would accept a dead look-alike in exchange for the living truth, which demonstrates the very root of idolatry. Idolatry takes the good things God gives, forgets God, and consumes His gifts upon its lusts; it pleases itself with the bounty from God, without accepting the obligations that go with receiving a gift, and without gaining the benefits God intends in continuously dispensing of His abundance. Then when the heart and mind are intoxicated with sensory overload, when self is satiated, then it attempts to make a minimal effort to simulate appreciation to God; but its profession is empty of love, and presumptuously full of self. It is strange fire that is presented to God, and He will have none of it.

Understanding this principle, Paul saw the wonderful blessing and advantage to carrying the cross, being crucified with Christ and enduring the rigors of establishing the church upon a strong foundation, mortifying the deeds of the flesh and spirit, and allowing God’s providence to purify him in the furnace of affliction. For this reason, he kept his own desires beneath the true needs of his heart, mind, and body, lest he should be led into Satan’s snare to presume upon God, and himself become a cast-off. Paul kept himself in God’s hands, thus was able to keep the members of his body under a very taut leash.

But no other champion of truth ever came close to Christ for keeping his own will in abeyance to the will of God. No one else carried so heavy a burden as did Jesus. Those forty days in the wilderness, without food or water, but dimly show us not only the depth of His peace, but the utter despite and hatred He had for satisfying Himself. No one else so staunchly detested sin in even its remotest sense. In Him was no sin (1Jn. 3:5); presumption so brought grief to Christ, that He resisted it, even until blood seeped from His pores. No microscopic root-hair of sin stained His soul and it was His steadfast determination to never presume upon His Father, ever.

“And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And He took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto Him, saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles: and they shall mock Him, and shall scourge Him, and shall spit upon Him, and shall kill Him.” Mk. 10:32.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Earth, a Miniature of Heaven

“Is it not written in your law, I said, ‘Ye are gods?’” Jn. 10:34.

If God made man in His image, if He made male and female in His likeness, if He wanted humanity to be like Him in a special way, wouldn’t He have given us a home that was like His? He has.

What do angels do all around Him? It is heaven to be in His presence, and they love to fly around Him, smothering Him in a cloud. (Ezek. 1:14;Matt. 24:30;Acts 1:9;Rev. 1:7). What do birds and flying insects do all around us? They fly “in the open firmament of heaven.” (Gen. 1:20). Angles sing praise to God. (Lk. 2:14). Birds and insects glorify God in their song-filled happiness. There is a plethora of different bird and flying insect species; there are, no doubt, millions of different orders that make up the angelic host: cherubim, seraphim, etc.

God has created beings that surround His throne that look like the animals that roam our planet. In wonderfully gentle and lowly tones those animals around His throne cannot rest from saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” (Rev. 4:4-8). We can imagine something of heaven from what we see around us on our abundantly teeming planet.

We see the physical strength of the whole animal kingdom. They amaze us with their power and agility. But our superior intelligence make us ruler over all their physical ability. As Christ rules His universe, Adam had the wonderful power and wisdom to maintain control and to communicate with all the animals, which has been lost to his children. Before sin, the animals were able to co-exist and maybe able to communicate between species. Man is larger than many species of mammals and birds and fish, and also smaller than many. So Christ, the great Commander, is larger than many of His creations in heaven, but also smaller than some, maybe some angels. Maybe Lucifer.

Lucifer may have been larger and more elaborately garnished with colorful beauty than Christ. As general of the whole hosts of heaven, upon him high honor was conferred out of Christ’s great heart of beneficence. Though it caused him to rebel, it is ever the desire of our Maker to embellish us with glory and honor, and, in return, to receive our love in return for our beloved Benefactor.

When we look up, what do we see? A great blue expanse. Isn’t this the description of Ezekiel’s vision of heaven? “The likeness of the firmament above the heads of the living creatures was like the color of an awesome crystal, stretched out over their heads. And under the firmament their wings spread out straight, one toward another…. And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a Man high above it. Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and of the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, as the appearance of fire with brightness all around. Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” Ezek. 1:22-28.

As we look up to our wide blue yonder, we see what the angelic hosts see above their heads, a sapphire cosmic sky, with nebular clouds breaking up the cosmic blue firmament. And just like the amber color of the Ancient of Days sitting high atop His throne above all those surrounding Him down below, our Creator gave us our amber Sun to rule the day, and our Moon to rule the night. It was never God’s will that night should come into heaven, but it came. That one, never-to-be forgotten event when the Father must forever seal the existence of sin, by placing His Son into the darkness of separation from His Father. Throughout all eternity, that event will live in the memories of His redeemed children, from the fallen human race to the unfallen worlds and angelic hosts─the day sin killed Father and Son together, by forcing them apart. But, all in all, there will be much rejoicing; the sin dilemma past and extinguished, God and His entire kingdom will be relieved and happy beyond imagining. As the glory of God will be greater after sin is completely vanquished, even so, the sun will rule the day 7 times brighter than ever. (Is. 30:26). The moon will shine as brightly as the sun, and there will be no night there. (Rev. 21:25).

“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven...; and let them be for signs.” Gen. 1:14. When we look up in the sky we see that our sun and moon are the same size. This is another lesson of heaven, and it is a phenomenon with two aspects. One) Earth is the only planet where the sun and moon appear the same size. The sun is about 400 times larger and averages about 400 times more distant than our moon. They appear so similar in size that we can have a perfect eclipse. No other planet in our solar system has this relationship between our sun and that planet’s moon(s). So there is no autonomic law of gravity responsible for Earth’s unique sun/moon, size/distance relationship; God made it so to be an object lesson for us to learn about Him. Two) Our sun has the same amber color as the Bible describes the Ancient of Days (Rev. 4:2), and our moon shines by reflected light of the sun, just as our Lord’s character shines by reflected glory of His Father. (Jn. 5:17;17:5,22,24). The Bible describes our sun’s appearance as “clear,” or gleaming and brilliant (Song of Solomon 6:10), but we see our moon as ugly and cratered; likewise, our Father in heaven is too pure to behold, but Christ’s “visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the Sons of men.” “He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty in Him that we should desire Him.” Is. 52:14; 53:2.

Thus as Adam and Eve looked up into the heavens each day and night, they had a feel for what it is like being in the very presence of Him of whom the visiting angels had spoken so much. And we, when we are finally escorted into the vast throne area of the Father’s presence when Christ receives His kingdom, will find it strangely familiar to our Earthly sojourn during this great controversy between Christ and Satan.

And we will feel right at home.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Saul, the Son of Kish

This biography is one of frightful consequences. It concerns a man not unlike the average Christian. In Saul’s youth, his connection to the God of Israel resembles that of many in the church today. Throughout his life, with exception of a brief period, he neglected personal religion and his great need of Christ. In the end, he placed his will wholly against the winning, drawing Spirit of God.

There has ever been in human nature a lackadaisical attitude of spirituality with God. At the fall of Adam, we lost that ardor for God which unites the soul with the Almighty. A relationship with God has always required effort, and it always will. Even in the perfect garden before sin, much effort was required to commune with God, but because of the strength of love and innocence, that effort was always naturally springing up like a geyser. Sin, the indulgence of self, and its resulting guilt, have debilitated that yearning for God’s friendship, along with the effort needed for making that connection with the God of purity, the God of infinite love.

But upon finding Adam and Eve in their fig leaves, even while still in their fear of destruction and in a rebellious frame of mind, Christ made it clear to the devil, that He would implant an animosity in their hearts against His enemy, which was His lawful right. After rebuking the unholy couple, He had them perform the first animal sacrifices and then He clothed them with the skins of those animals. Now, they must find that original holiness through difficulty and suffering. Never again would life be as nice as they had had it, and never again would communion and purity be so easily accessible.

Their weakness in spirituality, their propensity to let go their hold on God, would ever be a menace to themselves, to each other, and to their family, immediate or distant. They would see their progeny, from one generation to another, lose the lessons taught by those first parents, who had been taught by God Himself. They would see hatred, prejudice, suspicion, arrogance, bloodshed, until they finally laid their tired heads down for the last time.

The world into which Saul, the son of Kish, was born had endured many ages of sin and ignorance of heaven. Although Israel had been given great light and wonderful laws, these advantages were often not meditated upon or appreciated; the religious exercises expected of the Israelites, especially of the men, were often shallow and ineffective in growing faith and love for their Creator and Redeemer, the specific purpose for which God gave the feasts and laws.

Samuel had begun a great revival and reformation in Israel. This became the foundation for Israel’s soon exaltation in the world, when they would be free from all enemies. That revival of spirituality created, among the people, a renewed will to obey God’s commandments, thus preparing the way for His torrent of blessings. Yet many remained on the outskirts of this great event. Though it was known far and wide that there was a prophet in Israel, many did not respond in the fear of God. Their lives continued to be focused only around the mundane life. As glorious as physical activity and action and work are; as good as it is to have a land and a home to call your own; personal union with our heavenly Father makes all these bounties much more precious; and the gratitude of His children and their looking to Him, is His chief motivation for all His blessings toward them.

Saul was among those who remained on the outskirts of the revival. He had inherited an unassuming and even easily intimidated personality, traits which could have provided a beautiful tool in the hands of God. Yet faith had not grown with stature, and in his adolescence, the most easily influenced period of life, a friendship with Yahweh was passed by, and soon the confirmation of that neglect would produce its unwanted fruit of willfulness in his adulthood. He physically towered over all those around him, but his intimidating form was empty of the strong character that could and should have filled it.

Through providence, he found himself in the presence of Samuel. With respectful deference Saul joined with the famous man of God in a feast to the Lord. Far from comprehending what Samuel was telling him, Saul determined to obey. And just as Samuel had promised, “Thou shalt be turned into another man,” that very hour, “God gave him another heart.” (1Sam. 10:6,9). Saul received the New Testament experience of the new birth, he was privileged to be honored by The gift of God. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” The Edenic condition, “I will put enmity” against selfishness, was accomplished in Saul. (Ez. 36:26;Gen. 3:15). In the Old Testament, as well as the New, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” Jn. 1:12.

By another providence, just happening to cross paths with a group who knew the grace of God and were rejoicing and reveling in God’s mercy, Saul found it perfectly natural to unite with them. Never before had he experienced conversion, and now he rejoiced in God his Saviour. “How could I have avoided the Spirit of God for so long?!” “Why had I kept God at arm’s length all my life?” we might hear him berating himself.

Others, who also had never known conversion, immediately commenced the subtle work of the Accuser of the brethren. “What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” was their way of demeaning Saul’s unusual behavior (vs. 11). This is the exact same one-upmanship tactic Satan used to preemptorily get people to exalt themselves over Christ, undermine Christ's credibility, and attack His spirit, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” “Whose father and mother we know?” (Matt. 13:55;Jn. 6:42).

Saul traveled back, arriving home after several days. This most special experience he should have treasured up as his fondest of memories. In that one event, he gained the strength and courage of a bear, the wisdom of a serpent, and the harmlessness and self-deprecation of a dove. But treasure it up he failed to do, because he had never developed that immensely important habit in his youth, and the counter force of his old habit of living in unbelief would haunt him again and again. At home, again met with the old nominal religious environment and carelessness toward God and faith, Saul’s uncle desired to know of his whereabouts for so long a time. Saul’s answer betrays the first indication that he had not continued to dwell on the memorable experience, and had already lost the precious effects of his conversion. When he should have given his uncle a testimony regarding the wonderful work of God on his heart, his explanation encompassed the work animals he had left in search of, and nothing more. He had just been baptized with the Holy Spirit, he had been justified and had a holy standing before God! Now, being God’s beloved son, in whom He was well pleased, the Holy Spirit had performed for Saul what he could not do for himself, a 180 degree about-face. It was a new heart, truly 100% the work of God, and 0% the work of Saul. But he had nothing to speak of to his uncle about that life-altering event.

But Jesus is so patient with His erring mortals! Of course, Saul wasn’t cast off! Christ would yet call to Saul and allow him a singular experience as coworker with the Divine. The Ammonites became agitated and attacked Israel. When the word got to Saul, his response was very unlike his early behavior when, being chosen king, he had tried to hide behind things. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, like it had on Samson so many times, and he received the heart a lion. He grabbed a trumpet and blew it, and fearlessly commanded all Israel from every corner of the land, with the threat that they would be executed if they didn’t unite for the cause of the nation. Under the amazing generalship of Saul, the armies of Israel routed their enemies, and in short order the crisis was over.

But the next campaign didn’t turn out with the same wonderful manifestation of supernatural help. The Philistines almost won the war, and depending on his own capabilities, Saul began to make rash demands and the Israelite soldiers began to distrust him. Then God gave the command to attack and to completely destroy the Amalekites, who had attacked Israel in the wilderness in the days of Moses, and had been forewarned of vengeance, when “the iniquity of the Amorite” would be filled full. Now they had presumed on God’s mercy way beyond the limit, and the time had arrived for retribution.

But even though that campaign looked successful, something was wrong. Saul didn’t keep control of the people like he had under the guidance of the Spirit of God. Strict consecration to God as their true King disappeared, and following the slaughter, the Israelite people coveted the sheep and cattle so that they wouldn’t have to sacrifice their own herds to God. They even saved alive the king of the Amalekites when God had said nothing was to be left alive. In his own strength, Saul couldn’t seem to motivate the people to do what he knew they were supposed to do.

Why didn’t God come to the rescue and send the Spirit upon Saul so that he could do the job correctly? Why didn’t God give him a lion’s heart to make the people afraid to go against God’s will? God, where were You?

God doesn’t force our will. If we do not like to retain God in our thinking, if we don’t search His laws and counsels in our meditations, if we don’t hide His Law in our heart, we forfeit God’s help because we have not given Him permission to act in our behalf. According to the rules of the freedom of choice, God can only go as far as we let Him. He will never trespass our permission even for Him to do what He infinitely yearns to do for us. The holy God had worked with a man who had never exercised volition toward faith in Him. In all that God had done for Saul, he never responded of his own volition to seek God. So God backed off; He had to use hard-ball strategy to get through to Saul, now king and fully responsible for God’s children. The Bible is full of examples of this. When the ambassadors from Babylon came to see Hezekiah, “God left him, to try him, that He might know all that was in his heart.” (2Chron. 32:31). Similarly, the Lord “moved David against them [Israel] to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.” Really, God had to step out of the way, and immediately Satan stepped in to fill the vacuum, to do his work of temptation (2Sam. 24:1;1Chron. 21:1). But God took responsibility for it, as recorded in holy scripture. He must back off from David to let David see the consequences of walking apart from God, as He also needed to test Hezekiah, for evidently both had been departing from God for some time. And both failed the test. Christ tested His 11 disciples when He commanded them to cross the sea of Galilee at night without Him because they had chosen to follow Satan’s disciple. But He went to a mountain to pray, all the while as a watcher from the shore, He made sure that their little craft, with its precious cargo, didn’t capsize in the storm that He sent them. He tested Job under the same premise. “Hast thou considered my servant Job...? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” Job 2:3. Christ had to lift His protection, and He accepted the responsibility for doing so; Satan did the actual destruction and led the people to blame God; Job learned a good lesson of departing from God, the lesson on self-glorification that he had been subconsciously eluding. (Job 32:2).

We are tested the same way. If we don’t “examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith,” if we don’t put ourselves to the litmus test, God will take the liberty of testing us Himself, preempting our blindly placing of ourselves beyond His ability to help us, and also protecting the reputation of His Father since we profess to represent Him. Evidently David, Hezekiah, the disciples, and Job weren’t examining themselves, even though they had had wonderful careers in service to God, seeing His salvation in very marked ways. Yet a great past doesn’t excuse a present lack of trust or dependence on God. In perfect fairness, He is no respecter of persons. “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?” Is. 2:22.

We will be tested by heavier and heavier tests for our weakness at wandering away from God, until the very last great trial just before Jesus comes. We must be tried and prepared, or we will not be able to stand in the presence of the Son of the Holiest in His power and glory. When He leaves His heavenly sanctuary to return to Earth, we will stand before a holy God without Christ as our mediator. Some theologians have had a difficult time understanding this, because we’ve been promised to have Jesus’ constant help and presence to the very end of the age, and we’ve been commanded to maintain a constant dependence on our Saviour. “Why would He ever expect us to try to stand, without Him as our mediator?” is their struggling bepuzzlement. But we have Biblical precedents for Christ “leaving” His servants. Nevertheless, it is for the purpose of purifying them, while He keeps close watch over His precious children. There is no merit in us praying, but the Jacob’s Trouble experience that God’s people go through just prior to Christ’s appearing has some special significance in the struggling─seemingly alone, with all the faith they can muster as a result of the previous work of Christ in sealing them with the Early Rain of His Spirit before He left the heavenly sanctuary. And that struggling is looked upon by the great Judge as having its own worth since it is a response to the previous abundant bestowal of grace. That struggle brings out every smidgeon of faith and grace that God had been putting in them. Those 144,000 don’t hear it, but God says it: “As a prince hast thou power with God and with man, and hast prevailed.” “They shall walk with Me in white; for they are worthy.” (Gen. 32:28;Rev. 3:4). Only with God’s help, they have read those promises and internalized them. Now, by the Father’s help they must cling to them with unrelenting faith. Wise virgins, they woke up from the slumber with extra oil, and now they must use that emergency supply. And, as that final separation from Jesus extracts the deepest faith from them, in a simultaneously mutual exchange, they give the Father permission to protect them in the tumultous presence of His holy Son and His indignant angels. Their unflinching dependence on Jesus during that period of darkness proves God’s act of declaring them worthy of translation and of citizenship in the approaching kingdom, and their firmness of faith is an argument that satisfies the holy, never-having-fallen hosts of heaven.

This unfinching dependence on Christ’s mercy Saul never knew. Due to his lack of personal religion, his lack of daily choosing to be a Christian, the few times the Spirit of God fell upon Saul was all Christ was allowed to do for him, without trespassing Saul’s freedom of choice. God more than exhausted His bank of grace for Saul, who had never cultivated holiness of heart, and now, as king, Saul would have great difficulty doing so. “For this shall every one that is godly pray unto Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they will not come to nigh unto Thee.” “If in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they have wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” (Ps. 32:6;Jer. 12:5). In the quiet of Saul’s pastoral home life, while Samuel was making the call to the hearts of the youth, Saul had the best opportunity to learn of Christ and become friends with Him. Now under the pressure of great responsibilities, on front stage, under the spot light of the world, with the threat of great worldly loss, and with ambition and prestige and every other temptation Satan could throw at him, it would be an impossible feat to learn conversion and godliness. At that point, his best chance for repentance and conversion would be to step down from the throne, turn it over to Jonathan or David, and go search out God if haply he might feel after Him and find Him. Christ had rejected Saul as highest leader of His people and foremost representative of His Father; He did not reject him as a potential subject of heaven. For that His mercy endureth forever. But pride, just another of Saul’s master’s myriad temptations, wouldn’t allow it. By his own unconfessed past and unsanctified present choices, Saul painted himself into a corner. God didn’t abandon Saul; for forty years Christ worked with the rebellion in this man. For forty years Saul banished God from ruling his heart and will, and during that time, Satan made his moves to ultimately checkmate the defenseless man.

When Saul had distanced himself from God, when Saul couldn’t hear God’s voice anymore and he refused to give back the throne to its Antitypical King in heaven, Saul was approaching the guilt of the unpardonable sin. Aggravated and more aggravated were his crimes against the son-in-law who so much loved and highly respected him, but whom Saul knew was his divinely chosen replacement, and whom he hated because David’s beautiful character constantly exposed his spiritual deficit. Extending the boundaries of grace once more, Christ again privileged Saul with another dispensation of repentance and joy in the Holy Spirit, similar to what will be experienced by the Gog and Magog billions on the day of judgment. Despite his grievous past, Christ reminded Saul, unmistakably, of that first conversion experience of his younger days. “And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was upon him also and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he stripped off his clothes also and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night.” 1Sam. 19:23,24. Yet, his predisposition to hateful jealousy, as of the wicked billions at the end, quickly destroyed that precious gift from heaven and insulted the Giver. Now nothing would penetrate the deadness of Saul’s soul. Now he was just a hollow spirit, reacting to what he could hardly comprehend. Satan had orchestrated so dense a darkness and confusion on this poor man, that when his desperation led him to what he well knew was a direct mark of contempt toward God, he threw off all hope in the mercy of the God of Israel, and went to the medium at Endor. In Saul was demonstrated the solemn exhortations, “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.” “If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” (Heb. 6:4-6;10:26,27)

Out of that meeting stumbled a spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically wrecked man. Satan had full control now; God had none. Later that day, as he looked out over the falling armies of Israel and the approaching army of the enemy, and his own armor bearer having refused to obey him, his blind soul saw no other option than to fall on his own sword. “The dead know not anything.” “Neither any that go down into silence.” (Ecc. 9:5;Ps. 115:17). That last horrific pain of the sword was all that he remembered before shock took him. He never knew the ignominious abuse of his body, which was decapitated, dragged, and strung up like an animal skin, nailed to a wall; alongside his naked and mutilated body was the bodies of his sons, including his eldest─faithful and honorable and loving, Jonathan.

What more could God do for Saul? He cannot go beyond our permission to give us help. What eternal sorrow pierces the great heart of the infinite God because of the billions of examples of stubborn rebellion, worldwide! Infinitely small humans will never know. Let’s not put God in that horrible position. Let’s seek the Lord while He may be found. Let’s seek after Him, because He is “not far from every one of us.” His promise is, “Ye shall seek Me, and ye shall find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.” (Acts 17:27;Deut. 4:29;Jer. 29:13).

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good

“They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.”─Christ.
“We do not present our supplications before Thee for our righteousnesses, but for Thy great mercies.”─Daniel.
“And this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” ─Jeremiah.
(Matt. 9:12; Dan. 9:18; Jer. 23:6)

The bad person thinks he is really pretty good; but the good people think badly of themselves. Their self-esteem is pretty shot. But they are close friends with a very friendly Person, and that makes all the difference for them. He accepts them like they are, and He fills their thoughts. They yearn to be more like He is, merciful, faithful in all things, holding up His Father’s high standard like He does, reaching for perfection like He does, treating everyone fairly and respectfully, irrespective of social status or personality, race or culture, creed or character. They want to be just like the Jesus they know.

Jesus has made them a most wonderful offer. They don’t have to satisfy the Law anymore. They need not serve two personless tables of stone (Gal. 3:25), even if they are the Law. They don’t have the work of fighting sin. Jesus says if they will just come to Him and spend time with Him, He will take it from there (Matt. 11:28;Heb. 7:25). So they can confide in Him over their horrid lack of goodness (1Thess. 5:23;1 Pet. 5:7). To them prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend (Heb. 10:19). And in the process of building a relationship, He slowly but surely weans them off self, and washes their life white as snow (Eph. 5:26,27). Away goes the past guilt, away the past weaknesses (Jn. 8:11;Lk. 7:37,38). Out goes the old life of sin and disease, in comes the new life of energy and holiness (Rom. 6:2,11;2Cor. 5:17). And they realize this is such a bargain (Is. 55:1;Ps. 19:10; Rev. 3:18), as only God could devise (Eph. 1:9-12), that they must pass it on, with loving discretion (Mk. 1:45), to everyone and anyone who will listen (Jn. 4:28,29;Eph. 4:15).

Righteousness truly is the good life! (Ps. 16:11)

The Bad

The results of setting aside the God of righteousness: “Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” Rom. 1:28-32.

Does this sound familiar in your corner of society?

After staying away from Washington, D.C. for 30 years, with exception to a few quick visits, and now having returned to work on my sister’s house in a D.C. suburb, I am taken aback by the rush and stress of traffic, the impersonal carelessness between citizens, the madness to make investments and reap wealth to the exclusion of anything more enduring, the pretense, and the fake or shallow love and companionship, the total forgetfulness of the Creator and all His abundant blessings to America, the nation He put on the map.

Americans are in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. (Acts 8:23) The grinding internal pain and dissatisfaction has no reprieve, save for the short-lived entertainment or alcoholic, drug, or food binge induced sedation. They have no peace. “Great peace have they which love Thy Law,”─but Protestants have forgotten God’s Law. Like Israel of old, God says to His Protestants, “I have written to him the great things of My Law, but they were counted as a strange thing.” (Ps. 119:165;Hos. 8:12). The Lord’s warnings to Israel from the days of Moses were that if they forsook His laws and statutes, His judgments and His ordinances, He would give them up to the nations which they loved so much to copy. Once scattered, He promised, “The Lord shall smite thee with madness.” “Heaven that is over thy head shall be brass.” “They that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquities in your enemies’ lands; and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them.” (Deut. 28:28,23;Lev. 26:39).

An irremovable bitterness and impatience clings to the heart of so many who have banished from their thinking the God of mercy and justice. We cannot long endure the angst and unappeased torment that results from indulging in the gods of this world. (Rev. 14:10,11) “For lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwelling places that are not theirs.” (Hab. 1:6) Much sophistication bleeds away our simplicity and our emotional health. In our continuous round of study and research, we never arrive at solid truth. (Acts 26:24;2Tim. 3:7). It turns innocent laughter into mad hilarity; and of real joy it makes us say, “What good is it?” (Ecc. 2:2). The Lord “frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad,” He “turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish.” (Is. 44:24,25). When will we wake up to acknowledge the madness of this foolish nation? (2Pet. 2:16; Ps. 53:1)

“For thus saith the Lord God of Israel unto me; Take the wine cup of this fury at My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it… Therefore thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue, and fall, and rise no more…. And it shall be, if they refuse to take the cup at thine hand to drink, then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Ye shall certainly drink.” (Jer. 25:15-25, 27-28)

“Babylon,… O thou most proud…; for it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their images.” “The days of visitation are come, the days of recompense are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred.” “Every man is mad and maketh himself a prophet.” (Jer. 50:1, 31, 38;Hos. 9:7; Jer. 29:26)

Will Harry Potter magic or Wicca bring us the relief that is so illusive? No, the Occult will be the final move that binds people into a desperate possession of the devils, from which they will not escape.

Will it be a tattoo? Will it be like a bar code? Will it be a microchip under the skin? Theories abound concerning the Mark of the Beast, but they all overlook the warnings to the original Old Testament Babylon and the similar conditions of this modern Babylon in which we live, especially here in America, especially in the American big cities, and very much especially in the Capitol city of Washington D.C. Culture, wealth, luxury, convenience, fashion, appetites and passion being indulged in a furious, headlong dive into hedonism, the bold and daring promiscuity, all this─Satan’s mold on the character, is the Mark of the Beast. Because of the lack of appreciation to the great Giver of bounty to His modern day “Golden Cup” and boasting that the United States will never fall, Americans will find that the Day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night. We’re spoiled and ruined. We have had it too good for too long, and “the good life” is about to be all swept away. (Is. 28:15;33:14) Just as the ten northern tribes of Israelites copied Assyria, the Protestants have given up their Reformation roots and duplicated the practices of the world, and the Lord is about to bring swift judgment upon His land. “And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.” (Is. 3:24)

But, though the day of judgment comes as a thief in the night, and although “the Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness,” yet He is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2Pet. 3:10,9)

“Babylon hath been a golden cup in the Lord’s hand, that made all the earth drunken; the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad... We would have healed Babylon but she is not healed; forsake her, and let us go every one into his own country; for her judgment reacheth unto heaven, and is lifted up even to the skies.” “How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her; for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.” “I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities. Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.” (Jer. 51:7,8,9;Rev. 18: 7, 4-6)

There is yet hope for everyone in Babylon, if they heed the call when it comes.

The Ugly

Thus far we have described the Good and the Bad. Now we must describe the Ugly, who are really the Filthy (Rev. 22:11). They are the lukewarm: untouchable by conviction, too cool to be warmhearted with Jesus, and not feeling wicked enough to need any warming up. There is hope for the Good and the Bad, the hot and the cold. There is no hope for the ugly, filthy, lukewarm religious moralist who persists in ignoring the goodness of God that would lead to repentance. In their little world of religious make-believe, they say to all the threats and warnings that infinitely protective Love can wage against them, “‘I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart,’ to add drunkenness to thirst.” Deut. 29:19.

She is like the sow that justifies wallowing in hypocrisy. He is the unclean person who divides his hoof from the evil path of life, but refuses to chew on the cud of the Word of God. (2Pet. 2:22; Lev. 11:7.) They have the stubborn rebellion akin to witchcraft and to the idolatrous worship of self, and are the donkey that must either be redeemed or have its neck broken. (1 Sam. 15:23;Ex. 13:13;Ps. 32:9). They are the unclean and hateful birds caged up in the church. (Rev. 18:2). They look good on the outside, but inside is full of death and rottenness. (Matt 23:27,28) They don’t go into the kingdom of grace, and play it down and attract others who might have gone in. (Lk 11:52)

Yet even they can be redeemed. Listen to the entreaties of Jesus’ mercy/justice blend: “So then because thou art neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing: and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor and blind and naked: I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore and repent. Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with Me.” To the Filthy that overcome “will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne.” Rev. 3:17-21.

And the Good are God’s missionaries for the Bad and the Ugly. They are happy to be made use of. They identify with the Bad and Ugly so well, because they have been them. The struggle to get and stay with Jesus, and all their badness and ugliness, they remember all too well. It wasn’t by their own inherent righteousness that they were delivered from those two groups. They know how to reach them. They have the secret weapon; it was the mercy and justice of Christ all the way. The fullness of His love won them over, so they know Jesus loves Pharisees. His offer to look to Him instead of the Law, reconciled them to Him. Once reconciled, they were able to see His Father’s Law to be more palatable and made peace with it. And in obedience they found even more peace. So they can bring blessing to the Ugly and the Bad. And with the great heavenly High Priest behind them, they are assured success. (Ps. 1:1-3;Matt. 24:14)