“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.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Scarred For Life

We see the harshness of unloving parents indelibly left on their children’s faces, and we say they are scarred for life. Maybe time can heal some of the wounds, or maybe they can find a life mate whose brightness and positive outlook can overshadow the past pain, then while in the presence of their beloved one they can forget the past memories and enjoy life. Yet if separated, the natural disposition brings the scarred individuals back to their habits of morose thinking and sadness, their natural response to life is a phlegmatic somberness.

Meeting Christ, Jacob experienced this also, but in a good way. “Because He touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank,” (Gen. 32:32) and for the remainder of Jacob’s years, the damaged tendon and gluteus muscle never returned to full life. It was the spanking from God that he would never forget. From that day forward Jacob walked with a limp. From that terrible wrestling match between Christ and self, Jacob came forth a victor and a cripple. “And as he passed over Penuel, the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.” Gen. 32:31. Yet in spite of the pain, he was content. The clouds of sinful unbelief that had hid God from his awareness swept away, the sun of righteousness had finally arisen in his heart, long tortured by pride and love of self. Jacob finally had what he had longed for all his life, a heart surrendered to God.

If we ever have victory over sin, and God declares us “Israel,” which means, “overcomer,” (Gen. 32:28) then we must expect pain and permanent damage. The eye that is plucked out and the hand that is cut off, which allegory Christ used to attempt to represent the surrender of self (Matt. 5:29, 30), are the result of tremendous struggle and the cause of horrific hurt. No one ever surrenders self and bows to the will of God without many difficult lessons in life and tough consequences of their weaknesses and faultiness. That surrender requires an admission; not a flippant admission, but a heartfelt, tearing of the heart and rending of the mind, accepting the full responsibility and the blame and the guilt,despising the very thought of the aloofness from our heavenly Friend, loathing the sinful self-sufficiency, that had been the scourge of life. This is following Christ. Jesus could not have endured the cross without hating the sin that encased this world in rebellion. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.” Heb. 12:2.

Christ didn’t require us to cut off the evil hand or pluck out the wretched eye, without Himself having done so, treading the same path ahead of us. “I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the people, there was none with Me.” Is. 63:3. He didn’t sit back with His sinless nature and enjoy a life of ease. If He had not spent His entire life pressing upward, higher and higher into the perfect character of His Father, He knew that He would arrive unprepared for that day in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, when He would come under the fiercest attacks by Satan, and when He should feel His Father’s full wrath against the effects of sin and taste eternal death for every man.

Preparation for that day was His whole life’s burden. When led out into the wilderness, driven by the compelling will of the Spirit, He furiously determined to not overstep His liberty as the only Son of God, until He received permission from His Father, even if it would kill Him. Finally, at long last, the war cry against Satan declared and the battle initiated, He would eat, but only fed by what angels would bring to Him from His God. Out of the desert He came, disfigured and permanently scarred. “Many were astonied at Thee: His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.” Is. 52:14. Speaking to the serpent of His own work and woe in fighting this usurper of His Father’s throne, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her Seed; It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.” Gen. 3:15.

We cannot expect our war against sin and the tempter to be waged without leaving us permanent damaged. Thus, before we even begin the eternal venture, Christ says that we must “count the cost.” (Lk. 14:28). And His warning is, “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve Me let him follow Me.” Jn. 12:25, 26. “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath,” “yea, and his own life also,” “he cannot be My disciple.” Lk. 9:33; 14:26. “Let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily.” Lk. 9:23.

But we are not saved by our works, not saved by stuff-denial. The power of God’s grace doesn’t happen because of the things we have given up, but rather in the surrender of self, of our willfulness and rebellion. Self-denial is where the real test of discipleship is found, here is where the real battle is begun. Its in the surrender of the control of the will to the power of divine love; the bowing before the sweet influence of Gods grace as revealed in His Word, in nature, and in the experiences in life. And then a miracle happens, once self is conquered by God, all of our stuff doesn’t belong to us anymore. We are conquered, subjugated by love. It is mutually agreed upon that everything is on loan to us for our stewardship, all we have is a gift from a God of love, all are objects to call forth our thanksgiving, and to promote the life of service. Our heart is new again, selfishness cannot be harbored, and the life is all for Him.

And we bear the marks of the struggle over sin. It wasn’t easy. Like the casting out of the devil from the young boy, “The spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.” Mk. 9:26. After our Gethsemane, after the Holy Spirit of God casts out the devils that torture and tempt us, we will have a memory of our true condition and tendency. Our pride has been called out, and weve seen it in all its exceeding ugliness; we have humiliated self before God and all heaven, inspired by grace with the determined oath to ever afterward avoid that display of our nakedness before the eyes of heaven. Out of our intense humbling is born a natural and permanent revulsion for those items of temptation that promoted our life of diffidence and pride. If it was overeating, we will choose the mellow tasting food, we will avoid the large helpings, and fasting suddenly becomes easy. If it was vanity, we will hate the magazines and the jewelry and the mirrors that had us trapped in a love/hate relationship with our appearance and reputation. If it was greed, we will sell all that we have and give to the poor; we will happily return our tithes and dispense offerings; we will restore all that we stole or took by force. If it was a certain sport, we will deny all sports and competitiveness in any facet of life, for fear that that sin return and separate us from Jesus, and our last state be worse than before Christ freed us. While some of these forsaken items may have been enjoyed in the right relation to Jesus, because of our weakness to them, they are summarily discarded. The bad memory of the enslavement to self-pleasing and self-sufficiency will never go away and we will avoid, at all cost, the things that made us separate from God. The peace with Jesus will be too much to sacrifice to temptation. The past life of pride will always brood over our thoughts and shout its faithful warnings. The justice and mercy of God perfectly blended, the sole components of divine love in all Their work to bring us out of our perversity, provide for us a trust and love as nothing on Earth can create. We are scarred for life by our Father’s justice, and happy to be so.

“Whosoever shall fall on this Stone shall be broken.” Matt. 22:44. Before falling on the Angel’s breast in humiliation and surrender, Jacob had been all about saving himself. Now his soul hoped in God in full faith. Complete in Him, any loss sustained to self was well worth the prize obtained.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Judgment Day and a God of Sorrows

I awaken out of deep sleep. It is midnight and booming thunder just rattled my open window and also my dead eardrums; a powerful storm approaches. I am transported to another place and time: the bar of God, Judgment Day.

Another peal of thunder with lightning mixed, directly overhead like the detonation of a Mega bomb. I cringe and duck wondering if the roof might cave in. Another thunder, and another. Some close, some distant. The Judge of all the earth arrives on the wings of the wind to preside over an event that is so very abnormal from One forever known for endless patience and mercy. “The Lord shall rise up in Mount Perazim, He shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that He may do His work, His strange work; and bring to pass His act, His strange act.” Is. 28:21.

As another lightning bolt smashes down with its incumbent unearthly volume of noise, God speaks and I see a guilty sinner receiving an irreversible sentence, each case reviewed in fearfully graphic detail. The meanness, the stifled stabs of the conscience, the Holy Spirit’s ongoing daily work for 70 years spurned, the selfish revenge, the arrogance, the haughty attitude toward the thought of a Judgment Day: all insults toward the Comforter when He brought conviction to save them, and toward His earnest entreaties which were turned down for something an incredibly short lifetime had to offer, instead. Bright flashes, thunder, Mega bomb thunder. Our Father loves the rebels, but He hates rebellion; a concept difficult for us to comprehend. But now the guilty sinner sees it all, the awakened conscience now is blinded by light and the fear of God’s fiery indignation and certain justice upon the enemy, and by His determination to bring closure to sin and sorrow. All during the controversy of sin, played out on Earth, each individual was given a lifetime, a sufficient period of probation abounding in opportunities to turn away from sin, to turn to Someone for righteousness, to glorify their great Father-Friend on the throne.

All those who did fear God and accepted His mercy and grace, do not take part in the second death. They already went there as they had daily relived that day at Golgotha, the day the Lamb tasted Judgment Day for every man. They saw the exceeding pain that sin brought to the Father, and His exceeding love for rebellious sinners. They beheld Christ’s arms pinned back as widely as possible, permanently nailed wide open by the Father, forever the image of His yearning heart’s appeal to a world of unreconciled, abused, and dissevered children. But the vast majority rejected it all. Through one way or another, most of them found reasons to ignore God’s greatest work to save their hearts.

Now the day has come. The condemnation that Christ could have borne for them all, they must bear themselves. A flash of lightning and cracking, booming thunder. Again God speaks in wrath to the condemned one for all the suffering his sins have caused all those who ever knew him, all the temptation he caused, even the slightest influence for evil. Lightning and thunder slam my roof and shatter my attention. How much longer for the Judgment? How much more from the Judge? A whole lifetime of mercy for the guilty is now counterbalanced with equally full, but sudden justice. In peals of wrath God opens the willfully deaf ears and a deafer conscience. The mutually agreed upon sentence of eternal death is spelled out in the hearing of the guilty, which reaches down, like electricity, to the depths of the speechless degenerate, frozen in obstinate hatred and terrified haughtiness. —Consumed. Forever gone. Forever nonexistent. The beauty and innocence of heaven seen clearly for a wonderful moment, never to be enjoyed; never ever to enjoy the abundant love and grace of God so beautifully revealed during the divine sentencing; the songs of thankful rejoicing forever to miss. The echoes of the execution of justice travel out in all directions until silent. Righteousness is vindicated. The painful presence of rebellion is removed. Justice is done.

Rain. Rain, pouring down. God weeping and yearning for the sinner who refused all that was brought to help him out of rebellion. Torrents and torrents of rain.

More fearful thunder and lightning as another sinner is ushered into the presence of the great Judge. Then another bright flash and overpowering noise. And another sentence carried out against an unyielding soul. My house shakes under the condemning crack and roar of the lightning storm. Another crash, another sentence, and the execution. Another, and then another. And in between each cataclysm I hear rain, much rain, like “lamentations, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” Jer. 31:15; Matt. 2:18. More showers, burning hot tears falling from a torn and distraught Father.

Incomprehensible to created beings, the Almighty expresses all the frustration, all the horror, all the sorrow that sin has caused and that He has borne; all the anger for the searing memories of contempt for righteousness and fairness and intimate love. He who is infinite in that love, but who can never divide His mercy and His justice, can only communicate justice and mercy with soul shattering volume. Thus, no sinner can endure the pronouncement of their just sentence or the intensity of infinite divine love. Some go in a moment, some must continue until the end of a lengthy case. All agree that they don’t deserve a moment of heaven’s perfection. Blinding lightning, crashing thunder, a sin-ruined soul destroyed, floods of rain.

Flashes. Crashes. Torrents of sorrow. More flashes, crashes, more torrents and torrents. Last of all in judgment is His most bitterly prejudiced enemy. No good reason could ever explain Lucifer’s discontent; no good justification for the destruction and misery of so many billions. Eons have separated the two; now eternity will. Justice is executed upon him. Yet, invisible to everyone, there returns a flush of ancient good memories and a flood of sadness for an old servant and friend turned utterly ruthless and murderous. A long finale of angry lightnings and din.

The thunder finally quells but the rain continues pouring down. Downpours and more downpours, day after day. The unutterable throes of sorrow from a God of love. Sin made the Ancient of Days cry with excruciating pathos. We made Him writhe in mourning; not once, not millions of times, but millions of times for thousands of years; indeed, throughout eternity.

The storm subsides. Silence, but for rain. Lightning flashes in the distance with muffled booms. The storm finally subsides.

The wrath is past, the Great Controversy is finalized, but the tears from heaven never stop flowing. A God of sorrows and acquainted with much grief, weeping in silence for His children and never to be comforted, because they are not.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Surrender, A Beautiful Word

I bow before God. I surrender.

How did I get here in this so unlikely condition of submission, the sinner that I am. How did I get from an “I-deserve-better-than-all-this” style of arrogance to the peaceful, relaxed, giving up of my rights, my worries, my life-draining self-preservation? What I can say is that the lack of peace has bothered me recently and I did ask “Somebody up there” about it. I knew there was more to this Christian experience. I had had better and knew this just did not cut it. And that “Somebody up there” came through for me.

But how? How did it happen? I’m not about to say, “How did I do it?” No one can bring himself to surrender to God. Then how did it happen? It just happened. By accident? Apparently. Except that God does nothing for us without our consent. So we do have a part to play in our own salvation. But where is our part?

I have discovered that our part is in responding. God does all the initiating, we have the small part to respond; but we must respond. If we believe otherwise, it makes for much frustration and pain on both our part and God’s. He is God and not we ourselves. (Ps. 100:3) He is in charge. He is our boss (our lord). He is our provider, the author and finisher of our faith. We are His beloved creations, the sheep of His pasture. And I dont know about you, but after all the mistakes Ive made, Im glad to know I dont have to be in ultimate charge of my life any more.

“It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure,” (Phil. 2:13) but I must consent. Is that consent a willful act of my volition? Or is it a subtle, subconscious act that God sees but goes unnoticed by me? Or is it both? Is my surrender to His will by my work or His? Not by my work. I’ve already tried that for decades. My efforts to be an obedient child of God have all ended in pure frustration and hopelessness, and more anger.

But my choice to give God the reins must be an ongoing, conscious decision on my part. After that it’s all up to Him. Just because I choose to give up the reins to God, doesn’t mean it becomes a reality immediately. Yet as with every prayer, when we ask for something, we must go forward in the faith that God hears us and will give us what is best. Likewise, if I need to be an obedient child of God, if I need repentance and conversion and surrender, for the sake of my family, my coworkers, or even to be a good citizen, then I must ask God for it all, and then go on, knowing that those are His favorite gifts to bestow. “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.” Lk. 11:13. I must ask, then continue hoping and asking. And as life unfolds, and I keep reminding God I need surrender and peace with Him, seeking to know Him in His word, in the daily life acting in accordance with my desire to discover Him better, my subconscious choices that lead to God get made, through the supervision of Him who is “wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.” Is. 28:29.

For us to try to manage our salvation from sin is to attempt an impossibility. “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin.” Gal. 3:21, 22. Our efforts to obtain righteousness are empty of willpower. God must work in us. “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by (observing) the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Gal. 2:16, 21. Our work in being good must always fail; we need to “cease from our own works,” (Heb. 4:10) and thus the Holy Spirit will bring us off “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Rom. 8:38.

How does conversion happen? We will never be able to point to God’s mysterious hand of power at work in every instance leading to our surrender, but we will know that surrender happened, and that it was not our doing that brought us salvation.

Satan, like a roaring lion, is on the ground guarding the entrance to this issue. He is doing his utmost to prevent us from having the experience of surrender to God and His righteousness. The devil’s work is ceaseless, for he knows that his manipulation over even the weakest, sin-ruined soul completely evaporates for that individual who experiences surrender to Christ. We must not catch even a glimpse of God’s love, or Satan has lost a victim. One genuine incidence of surrender, one conversion, one heartfelt repentance in response to Gods love, greatly compromises the devil’s plan to keep every sinner spellbound and in his clutches, a loss that he jealously and furiously protects with eternal ramifications.

The submarine service is forever reminded that silence is their greatest ally and their only hope. If ever another country’s sensors were to counterdetect one of their boats, then that sub’s whole mission would be compromised and ended. That one data point of our presence destroys any element of surprise we had had before our counterdetection. Just one sound from us changed the whole scene for the potential enemy, from “Ho, hum, nothing is out there” to “Hey everybody, we’ve got a submarine on sonar, bearing to the west!!!”

In like manner, Satan cannot afford for us to encounter God, not even once; for if once we know God is availablemore than just the doctrine of it—, if we just once taste of His goodness, simply one moment of faith in His love, that moment of resting in Him will spell the beginning of the end for the wily old serpent. And it will mean the beginning of a lifelong search for the yearning child of God, because now there is no longer any doubt in the existence of God’s mercy and care.

Two points make a line. Two lines make a plane. But what does one point make? Compared to no points, one point makes everything! As in math and as in submarining, in the spiritual life, one data point of the Unknown God creates a great beginning. It is like the moment life begins of in the germinated seed that, once started, cannot stop growing until it develops into the reality of it’s mysterious design.

With one detection of God, we all but have Him cornered. Eventually we will stumble upon another detection of Him, and then another. Once we’ve tasted that the Lord is good, we will not, we cannot, rest until we have all the love and grace that He has to offer. Each “bump in the night” gives us one more feature of His person. Each interaction, each response to His offer of friendship, each step that builds a relationship of faith in His love for us, creates for us a stronger and safer net to keep God from getting away from us! We’ve got Him in our sights, and He likes it that way! It’s like the boy that chased the girl until she caught him! God works His miracles, somehow gets our attention, watches with expectant joy as we respond the first time, and that begins a life together of getting to know each other—and which slowly but surely nudges Satan and his influences completely out of the picture.

Now you know why Satan keeps us so busy with life and tempts us to desire the cheap thrills and trinkets of this world.

“God that made the world and all things therein…hath determined…that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being.” Acts. 17:24-28.

Love of Pleasure or Love for God, Take Your Pick

This generation may not completely fulfill Paul’s description of the very last generation, but it is looking more and more so, as we move down the corridor of time to the consummation of Earth’s history. This day and the condition of a world advanced in technology, with the centralization of power and wealth in America, the Bible has compared to the capitol city of Babylon, the child of Nebuchadnezzar, the great. That splendid pearl in the desert which no empire except Rome has been able to rival, is being repeated in the splendor provided by the United States. Spain, France, or Britain, even in their glory, did not have what we have in the way of convenience, free time, entertainment, hedonism, the most sophisticated form of idolatry ever seen throughout the history of man, due to technology.

These creature comforts had all been depressed during the reign of the previous European empires because the Bible had been anathematized by the church. But with a supernatural determination, the Protestant Reformers brought back the light of that Book, along with the restoration of the knowledge of the amazing grace of God, and His justification of mans guilt and His acceptance of sinners. This, in place when the foundation for the American nation was laid, wove into it the principle of faith in God to sanctify His children—the great legacy of separation of church and state— and that the state shouldn’t, cannot, and better not defile its hands with sacred things.

Thus it was that America was destined for world dominion. Not through military conquest, but through peace with God and obedience to Him, the citizens would have peace and love toward their government and be obedient to ordinances, federal, state, and local. But there lie in that young nation of Protestants already a shortcoming that would unravel their whole privileged position. The Protestant denominations were satisfied with a theory of redemption rather than to the actual experience of redemption and finding peace with God. While they clung to their ticket to freedom, the Bible, they weren’t fulfilling the requirements of its dispensation of freedom. The Protestant religion, at the founding of our nation, wasn’t what it had been during the Great Reformation; the children were reaping the fruits of their parents’ labors but not carrying forward the reforms. They became satisfied with the progress already made by their forefathers and settled back into a lackadaisical attitude, and religion died.

Yet Christ wasn’t through with us. His temporal blessings promised to the spiritual obedience of the parents, a cause and effect that is natural yet providential, Christ did not bring to an immediate close for the children.

Today we see how far in an abundant life God is willing to bring each one of us if we will be obedient to Him. The heights of temporal happiness may have a delay, but they will arrive because “He is faithful who promised.” (Heb. 11:11).

Our abundance of temporal blessing have come through the freedoms of God-given creativity and invention, blessings that God gave out of His generosity and compassion, to keep our affections centered in Him or to turn us back to Him if we depart. As our Reformation forefathers knew, “The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance,” (Rom. 2:4). Yet the children of the Reformation, now spoiled by the abundance of God’s goodness without continuing to carry forward His torch of truth, feel no accountability to the God of their fathers and actually have completely written Him off.

But they pay a heavy price for their insolence. Notwithstanding God’s personal intervention and guidance for them, this generation receives the following indictment: “In the last days, perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” 2Tim. 3:1-4.

As we continue to watch America’s “good life” influence the rest of the world to play with idolatry and death, and as we witness the American empire crumble and take down the rest of the world which America has tempted into greater idolatry, let us fear God and give Him glory lest we also fall in the general overthrow.

But Bible prophecy teaches that a worldwide movement will be made to arrest the collapsing of American and world societies. What we are to see is an attempt to save our nation and world with a solution that is a turn for the worse. Appearing to fix the social ills threatening the dissolution of world order, a new force will come into action, one of a religious nature. This is plainly seen in the statement of Paul, “Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” vs. 4, 5.

Old, dead religion, a conglomeration of dead Christianity and every other world religion will return in the same form as Christianity had been in Europe during the Dark Ages. The move is already begun in the return to world popularity of Roman Catholicism by John Paul II. United with that work is that of the Protestants in America. Chopping away at their own nation’s guaranteed right of religious freedom, they foment, “There never was a separation of church and state in the U.S. Constitution.” In hyperbole, the effort to salvage America finds itself frantically pulling back on the unresponsive controls of a massive Space Shuttle, to keep it from grounding in a flaming mushroom cloud. Thus the declaration of religious martial law will surely result.

But reconciliation with God, which alone saves and provides the peace and circumspect life that society needs to stay solvent, cannot be legislated or forced by a police state. Spirituality and lasting hope lies outside the realm of human jurisdictions. The final attempt by man to save himself will be simply an empty, incarcerating bondage, which Satanic hosts will take full advantage of to control the consciences of the billions in humanity.

“The wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.” Dan. 12:10. “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever.” Dan. 12:3.

So, the picture is not all bleak. Although “darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people,” yet “the Lord shall arise upon thee; and His glory shall be seen upon thee.” Is. 60:2. I’ve heard it said, “As the night grows darker, the stars shine brighter.” The last great crisis will cause a well defined polarization between those that are really good, especially on the inside, and those that are really, really bad. In Revelation symbolic language, “I saw as it were a sea of glass, mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are Thy works, Lord God almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints. Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before Thee; for Thy judgments are made manifest.” (Rev. 15:2, 3).

Which group do you want to be in? I choose the latter; but the preparation for that must begin now, for “Today is the day of salvation.” Just being religious, just going to church, just going through the motions, is not enough. No one will stand out in the end by just being religious, because the whole wicked world will be religious. No, the standard to come up to is that experience of Christ and His first followers: full of faith, powerful in love, abounding in hope. They knew Christ had come, that the scriptures were true and could be trusted, and that Jesus was their friend and advocate at the throne of God, there for them. They had victory after victory over selfishness and sin.

That’s what we must have. That is what Christ has promised us. And it is reserved for all those who, in the end, joined the right side.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

In God's Image

“But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and striving about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.” Tit. 3:9.
“Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith.” 1Tim. 1:4.

It’s interesting that Paul would so diverge from the scriptures on this issue, when the scriptures, which was the Old Testament in Paul’s day, were full of genealogies as confirmation to the promises of God for Israel. But herein lies the reason to discount them. Israel’s birthright was transferred to the followers of Christ. So although a genealogy had been used as one evidence of Christ’s messiahship (Matt. 1:1-16), once Christ came in the flesh, there existed no future need for genealogical documentation and research, their purpose in scripture having concluded. Their objective had found its goal. As a shadow of good things to come, they were then nailed to the cross with the rest of the ceremonial law. They might continue, but they were divested of divine purpose and promises.

My father became interested in his roots. But just as he began to look into his heritage, he discovered someone had already done the research and published a large volume. All the hard work had been done for him, beginning with Robert Burdick who arrived in the New World in 1651 and ending in 1937 with my father’s family, among hundreds of other families, Dad being listed as 7 years of age. That book is how Dad learned his true middle name. All his life he had thought his middle name was “Ace” when it had really been “Asa.” So, there the book was in his lap, like a gift from the sky, 3 ½ inches thick and full of Burdicks! It’s from that book that I found out that I am a 10th generation Sabbatarian, having come from a long line of Seventh-Day Baptists. What a discovery for me! Not too many people know they are the 10th generation of anything. I take this mantle as the sign of a pretty high pedigree. :)

Yet, be that as it may, I also began to see a trend. Someone is born, lives a lifetime, dies and is buried somewhere, and that’s it. Nothing really spectacular about that, is there? Case after case I found the same thing. No matter how far back into antiquity you go, it’s no different. What is the curiosity to dig deeper into the misty past? It will be just the same thing again and again. “That which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there anything wherein it may be said, See this is new? It hath been already of old time, which was before us.” Ecc. 1:9, 10.

So what’s the purpose of this endless carousel of life cycles? Am I special because of my father, Edward Burdick? Is he special because of his father Asa Burdick? What’s so special about Asa? Or his father Curtis? Do they all make their sons special? Does the name Burdick have any special merit? Not really.

I like what the Bible says, “Cainan, which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.” Lk. 3:37, 38. It wasn’t being the son of Enos, Seth or Adam that held any significance or attained any merit. It was the attachment to the Creator that made all the difference. Christ was the beginning and the end of Luke’s geneology. All of our geneologies begin and end with Jesus. Once we meet Him, that’s the beginning of life. If we must die before He comes, He keeps us in loving memory until the day He can call us back to life. So, if we’ve met, Jesus becomes the starting and ending point of our existence.

It isn’t really significant that I am the son of Edward or that he is the son of Asa; what is really important is that we are the sons of God, made by Him. He does the creating; the human parents are only the vehicle for His creations.

“Thou hast possessed my reins: Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb....marvelous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought…. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” Ps. 139:13-16.

Christ “was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” Jn. 1:9, 4. Being made by Him, made in His image, a living testimony of His character, a witness to His power, which Satan cannot dismiss nor controvert, is why Adam had Seth, and Seth had Enos, and thus billions in His image, all the way down to our day.

All things were made by Him: and without Him was not anything made that was made.” Jn. 1:3.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

He has arrested my attention and rested my heart.

Monday, June 12, 2006


This acronym has been used for the purpose of alcohol awareness, but today I’d like to use it for something different. From the world of psychology, ADDAttention Deficit Disorder, has caught the attention of the academicians and parents. They see in some children a difficulty to focus on a task or several tasks, to be able to accomplish them without jumping from one task to another, never finishing any of them, thus potentially unable to accomplish great things in future life. This is all due to a constant distraction and confusion inside the mind. This condition remains all through life and on into old age. Some parents of young ones have difficulty in calling this condition a “disorder,” but, being a victim of it myself, I can attest that it is truly abnormal and disabling, and, in my opinion, unfortunately but correctly, labeled a disorder.

But what I want to write about today is a similar disorder, and one that we are all plagued with. SADD—Spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder. We all are born sinners, separated from God, and spiritually deficit in attending to Him. We naturally attend to only our surroundings in this world, to only the physical. We have lost the ability to focus beyond our immediate world, and our faculty of looking to God in faith is completely atrofied. Thus our relationship with our Creator and Redeemer is gravely hampered; our love is reduced to only the love for the beauty of nature and to the appreciation for nature’s mysteries and mechanisms, unless a deeper filial love for another person can take root. Nevertheless, the infinitely deep love of God for us still usually goes unnoticed and creates a God-sized hole in our hearts.

But there have been some who were healed of SADD . Their drifting, listless lack of spirituality was arrested. Their focus got trained. Their shifting eyes calmed and riveted on the divine One of heaven. We read of Noah and of Enoch, that they “walked with God.” That doesn’t give much detail, but those few words do say that they learned to hold continuous communion with Christ. That settled hold on God stayed with them all through the day, every day. Wonderful, wonderful thought! Their walk led them into exciting ventures. Noah was able to invest his lifework into the apparently foolhardy construction of a gigantic ship, framed and armored using wood that was nearly as hard as stone, built in the middle of the highlands, many miles from the nearest sea. He was enabled to speak out against the popular lifestyles and to stand alone against a world of wickedness without fear of rejection or contempt. Enoch, Noah’s great-grandfather, also fearlessly and in love, spoke out against the prevailing corruption of the antediluvian world, and prophesied of Christ’s second coming in power and judgment on wickedness. He drew so close to heaven over the course of 300 years, he so walked above the distractions of a world of sin, that Christ said, “Go get him, I want him right next to Me.”

Many others also have walked with God by faith. We have a list drawn up in Hebrews chapter 11 of a great cloud of examples with whom God was able to get the attention and keep it to the very end of their life. Moses overcame the pull of sin, even among the promiscuous life of the Egyptian slaveholding elite, and remained immune to the badgering, insulting, and complaining people he saved from slavery, all of which he did while “seeing Him who is invisible.” Heb. 11:27. While barren landscape and the draining heat surrounded the multitudes of Israel and closed them in, Moses lived as if in heaven. He knew where that cloud came from that always overshadowed the camp; he remembered the mighty deliverance from Egypt and lived in those memories. He saw the hand of God working daily for their protection and development. He dwelled in wonderment at the symbolism woven into all the ceremonial system, which was constantly falling from God’s lips. Moses wasn’t in a desolate desert; he was in the land of promise that flowed with milk and honey.

Abraham’s SADD was slowly healed by uprooting and going on a lifelong search. He moved and moved, ever listening for that still small voice, a voice so slight that it forced him to block out every other stimulus, in order to make out what that voice was saying; a sensory deprivation that obviously had forced him to leave the din of Babylon’s suburb. Over time he was able to discern God’s voice better and better, and conversation began. Ultimately his powers of faith and love were trained to look beyond his immediate environs and mundane existence. “He looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Heb. 11:10. He learned to accept God’s promises, “not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly.” Heb. 11:13-16.

The prophets, privileged with visions and dreams from heaven, not only David who loved to remain in the heavenly sanctuary,“in the house of the Lord forever,” but other men and women from all walks of life, learned to walk in the very atmosphere of heaven, people “who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions...others were tortured, not accepting deliverance.” Heb. 11:33-38. And why endure torture? Why die for faith? Because they had been healed of their spiritual attention malady and the new world upon which they could now focus was so full of grace, that nothing in this physical world could substitute for it. The trust and calm that God developed in them provided an escape from this world of sin and selfishness; and a profound desire to forget self and serve others, nature and human relationships could not compete with.

But none of the Bible heroes knew faith like Jesus did. Born God from God, He had the Spirit without measure. His relationship with His Father was continuous and deep from the very dawning of His childish intelligence. Communion wasn’t trained in Him, it came naturally. There was no struggle, no rebellious repulsion before accepting God. He was born perfectly suited to live in the light of His Fathers love.

I like the very brief, yet deep, description of His dual-coherent communion, in the book, The Desire of Ages. The setting is at the Pool of Bethesda. “Jesus was again at Jerusalem. Walking alone, in apparent meditation and prayer, He came to the pool.” p. 201. It was that walk in meditation and prayer, moment by moment, which enabled Jesus to accomplish the demanding physical drain of constantly healing multitudes, and provided the source for teaching them the deep things of God with a confidence and authority that instilled His faith in them. That deeply rooted communion allowed Christ to walk above the foray of conniving and treacherous men. All the trials and hardships of this life were only the clouds that are the dust of His feet.” Nah. 1:3.

When He walked on the water of the stormy Sea of Tiberias, He was communicating this very lesson to the disciples He loved. He not only loved them, but He wanted them to know Him better and the life of faith that He was enjoying, but which they couldn’t see nor imagine. Peter wanted to get out of the boat and to be able to do the impossible like Jesus. Jesus allowed him to walk on the water with Him in order to open Peter’s eyes to the lesson of spirituality that Christ desired to convey in this acted out parable, that a life of communion with God is a life of incomprehensible peace above the storms of life.

Of the Son of God and His communion with His loving Father, it was written, “Who is blind, but My Servant? Or deaf, as My Messenger that I sent? Who is blind as He that is perfect, and blind as the Lord’s Servant? Seeing many things, but Thou observest not; opening the ears, but He heareth not. The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake; He will magnify the law, and make it honourable.” “He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in the earth.” Is. 42:19-21, 4. Locked in love with His Father, nothing could disturb His peace. All who lived before and after His incarnation have known something of surrender to God, but the Son of God knew God as Him who is all that there is. Christ lived in a world that displayed His Father at every turn. His ceiling or sky was always filled by His Father’s presence and righteousness; He was always encircled by His Father. Jesus alone gave to God perfect 100% surrender; with absolute trust and full love He gave Himself to His Father without reservation. This is why the Father was so well pleased with His beloved Son. “He that cometh from above is above all...for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him.” (Jn. 3:31,34).

When we, too, have set our “affections on things above, not on things on the earth,” and are “hid with Christ in God”(Col. 3:2,3); when “our conversation is in heaven,” (Phil. 3:20), and God “hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Eph. 2:6), “to ride upon the high places of the earth,” (Is. 58:14) and to be “fixed” on Christ and His righteousness, “trusting in the Lord,” (Ps. 57:7; 108:1; 112:7); when we have passed the test of Jacob’s trouble—then Christ can come to claim His people as His own.

To those whose heart has finally been settled and fixed on Christ, when they are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,” (Eph. 1:13) and the wrestling is over and all behind them, when the final conflagration of Christ’s coming in power and great glory is upon them; then the invitation will be repeated which they have experienced many times before, “Come, My people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.” Is. 26:20.

Then translation will happen for us as it did for Enoch. Our faith unbroken, our characters like Christ’s, we will keep our eyes trained on Him while we but step from earth to heaven. By faith our spiritual ADD has been suspended during our earthly sojourn and now the propensity to distraction will vanish away. And believe it or not, God will say, “They shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy.” Rev. 2:4. “And His name shall be in their foreheads.” Rev. 22:4.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Gathering Fruit

My mother bought my daughter a little primary reader. It begins with Ellen announcing to a group of children, “Let’s go berry picking!” Of course, they all jumped with glee. So they went home, changed, and made a sack lunch. Then they packed up the wagon and climbed in. They all rode in the back of James’ horse-drawn wagon down the dirt road out to the woods. Ellen informed the children, “You will find berries on both the high and low bushes. Pick the best, but don’t pick the green berries. They can be picked later.” They got their pales and all split up.

Some, who were with Ellen, gathered around her as she was looking down at some berries that were laying on the ground? She lamented, “Oh, look at the nice large berries that have already fallen! If only we had come sooner. Maybe some of them can still be saved.” Later, some kids had gone back and were sitting around the wagon. They said, “We couldn’t find any berries, and, besides, we were tired and hungry, so we came to the wagon to have lunch.” “But,” said Ellen “there is much fruit to be picked. Why don’t we pick it first, and then eat? If you didn’t find many berries, could it be because you didn’t look close enough? The berries do not hang on the outside of the bushes; you have to search for them. By looking high as well as low you will find some that are ripe.” One of the boys said, “To tell the truth, we didn’t expect to find any berries here because so many people have been here ahead of us. We came along mainly to enjoy the picnic.” “If you are more interested in playing than in berry picking,” asked Ellen, “how can you be interested in winning souls for Jesus?”

“The day will soon be over,” Ellen reminded the group. “Soon it will be night and we won’t be able to gather fruit. Come with me and let us work while we can.” Picking was going along nicely and Ellen was bringing in another pale of berries when she saw some of the kids playing around and not picking fruit. At another time they were gathered around a mother and her baby. When bringing in another bucket full of fruit at another time, she saw children chasing each other. Few seem interested in harvesting fruit.

On the way home Ellen said, “Next time we go berry picking, why don’t we pick berries first and enjoy our picnic lunches afterward? Remember, pick the berries nearest you; then search for those farther away. And don’t forget, after a while, the green berries will ripen. Who will pick them, will you?”

This morning I went out to an open area owned by the power company. Last year they cut down all the overgrowth, and now it is slowly coming back. Blackberry bushes are all over the place, and this is berry season! Picking berries is so enjoyable. There are so many lessons about soul-winning to contemplate while picking the fruit that will be enjoyed later, winning some from outside of the church and some already in the church.

The firstfruits are nice and good. But the ones that come later are good too, and much more abundant. Some are just barely hanging on when I pick them, but they are the juiciest of all! Some are so soft that I enjoy them on the spot. If I put them with the rest, they would get smashed under the pile of other berries and become inedible. (I’m glad to know that the laborer is worthy of his hire!)

All berries are not created equal; they come in different shapes and sizes. Some are long, some are short and stubby. Some have large “drupelets,” some small ones. Some berries are large, some are small. Nevertheless, all are there, asking to be taken. While all are sweet, some are sweeter than others.

Some are old and dried and look like prunes or raisins, but even though they don’t have the water, the same sweetness is still there; you just have to savor them longer to detect their joy. I noticed that often dry berries grow together in families. Evidently, the branch stopped drawing the liquid of life, so they all suffered. Some berries are dry and not sweet, because they didn’t have any sugar during their younger days.

Some ripened berries are solitary in a group, while some grow in groups that are all ready 3 or 4 at a time. But I can’t be greedy and hold too many in my hand before putting them in my bag, or a thorn will jump out and prick my hand and a berry or two will fall from my grasp. Some berries have worms or ants on them that just need to be washed off. Some have been previously pecked at by birds and some drupelets are damaged. That’s all right, they are still good enough to be harvested.

Wasps were building a nest in a bush 6 to 12 inches from some large ripe berries, but I just worked right alongside them anyway. They didn’t bother me at all.

A few years ago, a man saw my daughter and me picking berries, and told us that blackberries have a cancer-fighting substance higher than any other berry or fruit of any kind. An internet article says, “Blackberries and raspberries contain relatively high quantities of ellagic acid, which has a wide range of functions: Anti-carcinogen/anti-mutagen, inhibition of HIV binding to cells, inhibition of blood clotting, and free radical scavenging have been documented in humans.” Few pew-warmers know how important it is for the health of the church to be gathering in the “wild” souls for Jesus. They may be “wild,” but they bring with them a strength and vitality that awakens life in the dead.

Blackberries are a weed and are considered a bramble. They grow and take over other vegetation. Because they are so wild, they are very sturdy against cold and disease and contain the hardiest of qualities. So, despite their wildness, their fruit has much life in it and gives of its life to those who partake of them.

Some drop before I can get a good grasp on them, which is so disappointing. Some berries drop by the ever-so-slightest yet careless touch, others because one next to them was picked, and the shaking caused them to loose their attachment and fall. I’ve tried to go after the ones that fall, but it just caused them to fall deeper into the tangled undergrowth to which they gravitated until they were completely lost from sight. So, now if they fall I don’t try to get them again. I leave them to the Lord of the harvest and for the creepy crawlies. Why go after one that wants to fall, and lose time for others that have never had the opportunity for the harvest and are just waiting to be picked? But I do hope that although some do fall, as a result, others will come up later.

Some have a rather harsh taste. They still have the cancer fighting chemicals, but no sweetness. But I harvest them anyway and mix them with the others and then you can’t tell that they don’t taste good.

Finally, I bring them all home and wash them up and get all the nasty worms off of them.

Harvesting is tiring to my bad lower back, and my hands get shredded. No matter how sweet they are, all have thorns surrounding them and all are painful to get to. Isn’t it a shame that the specie of berry that is found almost everywhere in the world has the shrub with the most thorns? You want them so badly, that you’re willing to endure being pricked a hundred times in the process! But after a while I don’t even feel the pain. I breathe the fresh morning air, and then my blood flows, and my back muscles and discs are strengthened, and I realize that the thorns digging into my skin don’t really go very deep.

This teaches us to take the bad with the good. The Lord must not have wanted us to get too spoiled. The rule I learn: All things by sacrifice; and its corollary: Nothing without sacrifice. That’s the law of creation. The gospel work is the most satisfying work in which man can be engaged. Yet we must count the cost. You want to win souls for Jesus? It’s going to hurt. You want love and faith? Expect to suffer. You want a little family like an oasis in this dry world? You will know pain. If we want to rescue the perishing, we must suffer in the process. But discomfort builds character, and its good for us. “He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.” 1Pet. 4:1.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

God's Word for Us

The Son has been called the “Word” of God. Before incarnating into humanity, He was God’s thoughts made audible to the heavenly hosts and to the worlds without number. Before the throne of the mysterious and infinite Ancient of Days, Christ presented the truth that flowed from His Father. The angelic hosts loved the Infinite One, but they could not relate to Him as they could to His Son. They loved to crowd the Son of God, who was in their form (Ex. 23:23; Hos.12:4,5). They loved to listen to His words of grace and truth. Like Solomon, who was a type of Christ, the prince whose name meant “peace,” and whose servants loved to stand before him and basked in the wisdom and messages of righteousness that poured from his mouth (1Ki. 10:4,5), so the angelic hosts loved to hear the beautiful expressions of the Creator’s will and commandments that flowed from the Prince of Peace. “They all bare Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth.” Lk. 4:22. As another symbol of Christ, Ezra, “a ready scribe in the law of Moses,” “the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven,” “after the wisdom of thy God,” (Ezra 7:6,21,25) taught the people the intracacies of the law and explained the meaning of it all (Neh. 8:8). Even so, Christ taught the hosts of heaven the deeper meaning behind His Father, “bringing forth out of His treasure things old and new.” Matt. 13:52. “The only Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” Jn. 1:18.

“No man hath seen God at any time,” (Jn. 1:18) could be said of the angels. Only the covering cherubs that formed a cloud around Him were allowed in the Father’s presence, yet even they looked away (Ex. 25:20). But the Son would come forth daily to help the angels understand His Father. “Who is like God,” Michael, was the name of the Son of the Highest before being given a human name at His incarnation. Michael was so beloved that when He stepped down from the throne of heaven to become a man, the angels felt the emptiness of His absence, and they came with Him. Earth became their new home away from home. Not that they didn’t love surrounding the Father, and not that He didn’t understand their desire to be with His Son; but this fallen planet, which the angels had spurned because of the pain it brought upon their caring Commander, now became the most highly prized place to be. Thus their outburst of praise and song at His birth (Lk. 2:13,14; Heb. 1:6). Thus their readiness to protect Him; for even Satan knew to admit, “In their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.” Matt. 4:6. Thus, Christ realized that if He were ever to command it, 12 legions of angels would immediately appear, ready to create massive desolation, and in the twinkling of an eye, rescue their Master from the hands of insolent sinners. They are “ministers of His, that do His pleasure,” “His angels, that excel in strength, that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word.” Ps. 103:21,20. And thus, a great cloud of His angels gathered to escort Him home again with great joy and victorious fanfare (Acts 1:9-11; Ps. 24:7-10).

As He “who is like God” walked the earth, He simply continued what always was and would again be His work in the heavenly courts. He went where the need was. “I will come and heal him,” (Matt. 8:6) answering to the simplest request for help, had been and is, today, the keynote of His every day life; “Son, be of good cheer: thy sins be forgiven thee,” (Matt. 9:2) anciently and still the keynote of His lifework. His sleep was always sweet and deep, because He knew He was constantly surrounded by His Father’s protection, and that of His heavenly friends. His Father even spoke directly to Him on several occasions: at His baptism, His transfiguration, and just before His crucifixion. This wasn’t as nice as it had been in His Father’s very presence; but Jesus loved to walk by faith, a walk which He was not a stranger to, even in the heavenly courts. His way of life here was simply a continuation of His existence in heaven, and all His idiosyncrasies here demonstrate His character and personality there.

His death for our sins was simply an expression of His ongoing death and open shame by those whom He claimed as His brethren and children. He was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8). His work as our intercessor did not begin after His ascension from Mount Olivet; it had been an ongoing situation since Adam switched loyalties to Christ’s adversary. And even long before the creation of man, He had been an intercessor for the angels, who are infinitely inferior to Him and in great need of His training (Job 15:15), but whom He also claims as His brethren; they, together with us being redeemed and uplifted by His sacrifice. (Rev.5:9,10). In all His training of His disciples we may see that for His angelic hosts. In Judas, the most talented and learned of that little band around Him in Palestine, we can understand the downfall of the greatest angel in heaven. In Christ’s patience and gentleness toward Judas we see His longsuffering toward Lucifer. Yet neither Judas nor Lucifer would accept correction, in spite of all of Christ’s loving attention.

“This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11. “This same Jesus,” will not have changed at all by the time He returns the second time. The angels said that those disciples could recognize Him at His return, and so can we. During the whole time He ministers as our High Priest, He hasn’t changed one iota from the loving disposition He displayed on earth. He “can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that He Himself also is compassed with infirmity.” He says, “Behold I and the children which God hath given Me.” (Heb. 5:2; 2:13). He is still just as dependent on His Father as the day in His earthly ministry when He said, “As many as the Father giveth Me shall come to Me.” And He is still just as welcoming as the day He emphatically spoke it on earth, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” Jn. 6:37. Our heavenly High Priest is not beyond our outstretched hands. The earliest church knew this, but it got lost in the falling away that happened after the apostles died. No, Jesus is the same─just as easily accessible, just as easily entreated. We have entry into the Holiest of Holies by His flesh, that is, through the record of His earthly life (Heb.10:19,20). His love for us hasn’t changed. As the Bible writer declared, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and for ever.” Heb. 13:8.

Since He promises to stay the same patient and loving Master today as always (Heb. 13:5), “then shall the Lord be my God.” Gen. 28:21.
“And again, I will put my trust in Him.” Heb. 2:13.