“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.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Stones Shall Cry Out

I’ve been accused of being a rock. I didn’t like the insult to my intelligence. It was supposed to spur me on to great intellectual heights. I don’t know that it has or ever will do that.

But when the Bible speaks of people as rocks, it isn’t speaking of intellectual stones, but of spiritual. “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” Jer. 9:23, 24.

God doesn’t deal with men as intellectuals. Although He has intelligence in abundance and meets with our intelligence, He approaches us with faith and love. He desires to reason together with us, not in an intellectual way, but to let us see that His ways are best and that having our way only spells ruin for us in every respect.

Rather than intellectuals, He wants children. The things that make a child, faith and love, will be His tools in remaking us and mending our broken lives. Being children will make us the happiest and most teachable, for Him to train us to be obedient to His laws and to reap the prosperity that always results from obedience. Then once our spirit is mollified and healed, automatically our intelligence awakens and is restored. Like the devil-possessed man of Gergesa, after Jesus healed him from control by Satan, the disciples returned to find the man “in his right mind.” Mk 5:15. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, or love, and of a sound mind.” 2Tim. 1:7.

And so it has gone from the very beginning. God has been in the business of healing fallen souls who looked to Him for help out of their desperate situations. “They cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He saveth them out of their distresses. He sent His word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” Ps. 107:19, 20. Thus, up pops a man or woman or child from out of obscurity, and begins to work for God. Repentance paving the way, out of a life of rebellion they begin the work of righteousness, a great work for the uplifting of humanity and the redemption of many souls.

So we see people, inside the church and out of it, awakening to new life. A Samson here, in the camp of Dan, beginning to move at the promptings of the Spirit of God (Ju. 13:25); a half-breed son of a prostitute, Jephthah, over there, rescuing God’s people, self-righteous people who have snubbed Jephthah until, to their surprise, they see that God can work with him better than them(Ju. 11:1). A non-Israelite Job, yonder, becomes a more righteous and greater man than the Israelites, and David, the unlikely runt of the family, becomes a mighty king. Peter, plagued with foot-in-mouth disease, awakens to seriousness, settled in self-possession; and murderous Saul, begins to preach the faith he had once destroyed. Like a master of the steeldrums gets a sound when he touches this or that place on the surface of his drum, so the Holy Spirit touches this person or that and gets a response at the right time, and there is a heavenly calypso heard as the least expected hearts awaken to sing the praises of their Lord.

“The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His.” 2Tim. 2:19. Long before His champions of faith pop up to proclaim His name and character, while faith is yet only a germinated egg, Christ sees it all. We don’t see the nascent faith or the desire for righteousness growing in the misbehaving ones destined to be heroes for God, but He declares them His. Like a lion, He roars over these lambs as His own, warning off anyone who offends them, and threatening anyone who cooperates with Satan to destroy the nurturing and development He is doing in His little ones.

“God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” Matt. 3:9;Lk. 19:40. “For He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Lk. 20:38. They may not look like much, but they are His, and He will transform them into beautiful gems.

Frogs invariably begin to peep and croak every evening, raising a grand chorus to their Creator. Why do they? They don’t know; they just do it. It’s in their nature; “God hath put it in their hearts to fulfill His will.” (Rev. 17:17). Even so, God creates in us a clean heart through the difficulties of life. He makes us pure while living among impurity, by introducing a drop of His grace. It is always a small beginning; we won’t even recognize His work in our own heart. Yet if we keep pressing into His presence for a better and better acquaintance with Him and a knowledge of His grace toward sinners, He will give us our desire, a life in subjection to His righteousness, the life of faith and love.

And as the dusk of this enlightened age continues to move into the darkness and troublous times of approaching religious intolerance (Is. 60:1, 2; 2Tim. 3:1-5; Rev. 13:11, 12), one by one the stones will start making noises, the frogs will begin to sing, the stars will come out, until the midnight of the earth will be full of the glory of the Lord. Then He will come to receive His stones. “And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels.” Mal. 3:17.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Alarming Times

We live in alarming times. The world is given to idolatry. Providence raised up America as a bulwark against the tide of rank rebellion. We had been the product of the Protestant Reformation, where liberty obtained from God’s grace and acceptance translated into the civil goal of freedom from tyranny in all it’s forms.

Falling from grace is so imperceptible. This is not the case only with the layity. When even religious leaders have fallen away, God raises up a prophet, if there is hope. The Reformation fought its way into the Promised Land of Christendom and established a fortress in America. But as has happened so often in the past, the fall from grace has gone unnoticed, and the great grandchildren ten generations removed know nothing of their forefather’s faith, courage in the face of death, and experience with divine help and His work in the heart.

Paul, looking back and marking the past decisions of Israel that led to the dissolute empire of Rome, saw a cause and effect scenario, “When they knew God, they didn’t….” The slow but sure descent from righteousness to degeneracy shows the natural bent of fallen human nature and an evil personality behind it all, working for the demise of God’s more precious of all creations.

When the character of God is not kept foremost in our thinking, when He isn’t given first place in our priorities, when man becomes his own standard of morality, we fall deeper and deeper into corruption.

This principle was shown through the captivity of Israel in Egypt. Even though given an area in which to live, separated from the rest of the Egyptians, the sights and smells and sounds of debauching idolatry had its influence on the austere lifestyle bequeathed from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Therefore, after hundreds of years of living so close to all of that dissipated environment, when Moses came to return them to holiness, they were perfect strangers to it and treated purity of heart as weird and Moses as a crazed man.

Sin’s most obvious trait is it’s tendency to justify itself, and, because of this, Moses had great difficulty training the nation to remember the Creator as their fathers had in former ages. Eventually, some of the younger, teachable and trusting, generation learned to substitute the new innocent frame of mind for the old self-indulgence of idolatrous Egypt; however, none but a handful of the adults learned it.

So what can we say about today? Didn’t God bring up Protestantism from a decayed Christendom that was ready to vanish away? Wasn’t God in the Reformation, giving bravery to lay down life for the cause of truth? Certainly He was. But what has happened to the love of truth and the courage to maintain it? Where do we see the character of Christ being searched out and lived by the children of the reformers?

Once settled into the land of promise, Israel continued to struggle with the idolatrous practices of the surrounding nations. But God faithfully raised up judges, priests, and prophets to bring the people, called by Jehovah, back to revival and reformation. But following the second half of Solomon’s reign, in which he institutionalized Egyptian paganism, the ten tribes of Israel to the north of Jerusalem seceded from the two southern tribes. Being separate from the temple and located closer to the worldly nations of the Fertile Crescent, the ten tribes, while retaining the holy name of Israel, quickly fell away from consecration to the God of their fathers.

They had religion, a brand of ceremony copied after the Gentile nations around them, fully to please the senses and never to appeal to the heart. The human heart yearns for access to goodness and purity, as the Holy Spirit broods over the whole race and calls and woos it toward the peace that comes only from being right and living rightly before God. But a contrary influence attracts away to the indulgence of self and an attempted peace which is fretful and shallow. The deeper lack cannot be denied and convulses to the surface, like the body attempting to reject a poison. Thus, the grisly scene on Mt. Carmel in the presence of Elijah; the public display of a normally private ceremony, gasping for imagined happiness and self-manufactured joy like drowning men, crying and cutting their own flesh because their religion of forced sentiment had made real peace of mind impossible to attain, and which finally took them past feeling like an addict in wretched pain and teetering on insanity. False religion, the human attempt to supply the yearnings of the heart, leaves a deeper and deeper spiritual deficit, and acts as an addictive drug torturing its victims while promising paradise, until at long last they are completely bankrupt in spirit and controlled by devils.

Only truth and love from pure religion can properly keep an individual clean of self-directed religion and a society from idolatry. Only the power of the Holy Spirit in collusion with truth and wisdom keeps the interests of this present life subject to the principles of the eternal kingdom of heaven. The examples from the past, as found in the Bible, provide for honest and upright merchant trading, and protects against materialism and the weakening of an empire. But, when the purity of true religion is subterfuged by idolatry, materialism then replaces the buying of simple necessities of life, the race for wealth displaces honest commerce, and the institutions of industry and labor descend into slavery.

The markets and bazaars of apostatized Israel began to fill the senses of their customers with the message that this world as the only hope for happiness. Music appealed to the lower nature, soothing the conscience that this life was the only concern, leading the people to forget the heaven to win. The people who had known prosperity through faith left the high plane of life God gave them to enjoy.

The Assyrian empire grew rapidly, extending its power across the Fertile Crescent. Quietly, imperceptible to Israel, did it loom higher and higher on their horizon. Because of Israel’s disobedience, the Lord raised up the power of Assyria, and then had them come down to Israel to take them captive. The ten northern tribes were taken away and scattered to the four winds. By then, they were so much like the rest of the idolatrous world that they blended right in and were never heard from again in sacred history.

America, what have you become? How much longer will God allow you to misrepresent Him? Where is the moral uprightness and dependence on Him and His love that characterized the Protestant Reformation? Don’t you see the idolatry that has swept you away and is about to sweep away all of the privileges and freedoms which you hold as eternally your right? America, America, if you had only known the peace God had reserved for you. But now it is hidden from your sight.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Conversation With a Fellow Blogger

“I don’t understand love for God.” How much more of an honest question can one ask?

This is an exchange with two fellow bloggers, Orange Cross and Inheritor of Heaven. Orange Cross wrote some real intense questions concerning love for God. And Inheritor gave some very personal insights. It was good to read such sincere thoughts. If you want to read the complete comments, go to my previous post. My answers went like this:

Orange Cross, you asked me, “Do you feel like you’ve made a choice, are you compelled (to love God)?”

Yes, I have made a choice, but it was only a response to God’s move on me. Yes, I am compelled; my faith is somewhat on autopilot. But I must keep coming to God by faith so that my choice and the natural compulsion to have faith will remain. In other words, I am possessed by the love of God; I am a prisoner to His love. But I am always free to leave, as Inheritor also said. All I need do to leave is to neglect to come to Him by faith in prayer before His open Bible, and His presence will slowly fade away. Then I will be back to the same miserable existence I had before I got acquainted with Him, and actually it will be worse because my pride will make it harder to go back and admit my mistake in leaving Him. I can’t afford that.

God does talk to me. Sometimes convicting words jump out of the Bible that answer a request I had for Him. Sometimes, and this is happening more and more, wonderful thoughts flow through my mind that I feel I couldn’t manufacture. And I am thankful for them.

Orange Cross, you also wrote, “Everything good in your life comes from God,” which I believe you mean to say that everything good that has come to me is what I translate into God—as you later wrote, “because of God’s omnipresence and ‘manifestation’ in everything good and one’s natural response to love such things.”

I agree with Inheritor, that beside the good, a lot of difficulties have come my way, and it was those difficult times that forced me to hope in God, like the good times couldn’t have done for me. And when I responded, He opened my thoughts and let me now He was present. This was no mental gymnastics. It was unplanned and I was in great need of His help. I was in no mood to dream up anything. It was, “God, if you’re there, do something! I need your help! (please). And I’m so sorry for blowing it again.” It was a deep sorrowful moment with genuine tears. I am not the crying type of person, so I wouldn’t have gone through the emotional upheaval just to satisfy myself. I was trapped and looking to “Somebody up there.” He is always waiting for us to get to that point of desperation and dependence on Him before He can get through to us. Then we have real faith in Him. Before that it’s all imitation faith. It’s faith wannabe.

You also said, “You distill the message of God with the aid of inspiration or a reliance on what naturally appeals to you.”

Inspiration is a strong word, which I liken to a prophet. I’m not a prophet, just a regular person, but the Bible says that regular people are usually the only ones God can commune with. Maybe inspiration is a good word, I guess, but it is more than just feeling good about whatever appeals to me. By the way, you use some very precise words, as if you want to know exactly what faith in God is all about. I can appreciate that, since I also spent many years looking at all this business called religion, because I didn’t want to be fooled by something imaginary. I’m with you, all the way, friend. I’ve been there and have the souvenir. Keep on searching up this thing called faith, and before you know it, you will have it. You will have Him.

You wrote, “All of the inspiration that leads you to understand God seems to be involuntary, you cannot help but love God.”

Yes and no. To love and appreciate Him is involuntary once you’ve gotten to know Him and trust in Him. Trust and love spring from the same fountain. But I can choose to make other things have the highest priority, and then He will slowly be crowded out by all the “more important” things/people. I don’t want that. I’ve been enough places to know every place is all the same, once the magic has worn off, and I’ve met enough people to know they are all basically self-centered, even the best of them. I need to see pure unselfishness, and then I can go on living with myself. Then I can go on accepting people for what they are, weak and beautiful.

You said, “It seems to me that this realization or compulsion would not be exclusive to those familiar with certain books.”

This is true, many people come to know God without any knowledge of the Bible. There are many books floating around that profess to steer people toward peace and prosperity. Bear in mind, though, that even many supposed good books don’t shine out in exposing our faults and weaknesses and sinfulness, our utter need of more than just human help and wisdom. Therefore, those self-help books or books that give us pleasure won’t be useful tools for God, and in fact they limit Him, if not completely silence Him in their presence. The Bible is the best book for showing us sinners what we really are. And we won’t be happy until we see ourselves as we honestly are, selfish to the core. Its not until we see our true selves that we will need a powerful and forgiving God.

Your last statement was, “Is it necessary to follow a religious practice that does not seem good or appealing to one? Is there something about the not quite pleasant communication with God that trumps the whole natural inclination towards good?”

It’s not right to force oneself to be involved with something bad or unappealing or unpleasant, if something better is offered. But God is a person of truth and He cannot come close to His sinful human children without exposing our faultiness, which is good for us, but which may not feel very appealing, and which some people, out of ignorance, have called His exposure of their fault, “bad.”

I spent many years going to church but not hearing of God’s love. It was a horrible experience, but I continued going because I felt that sooner or later I would have faith in Him and in His love for me. Now and then I would hear the good word of His love. Eventually I left religion all together for 13 years. But all the time I was away and ignoring any thought of God, He kept putting reminders in my way, things that I couldn’t just dismiss without having to make a conscious choice, which also registers a memory in the memory banks. Eventually, He cornered me and I’ve been following up on Him ever since. It’s been real exciting too. The more I learn, the more I see He is a reality, and His coming in person is drawing nearer with signs showing up all the time. Yes! This is the time to get acquainted with that “Somebody up there,” before it gets real crazy in this old world, and then it gets too hard to seek Him and bump into Him in the night.

Orange Cross, I hope this helps in your quest. Please come again with more of your probing questions.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Enemy of Peace

God loves peace, the byproduct of faith and love. Peace means rest from worry and surrender and calm trust. Pure joy, true development of all our powers, real love dwell in the peace God has prepared for those who love Him.

But there is a counterfeit of peace. It exists in a quasi state of carelessness and lack of consideration. In blissful irresponsibility, presumption cares only for itself. God abhors presumption because it seeks tranquility, without feeling any obligation to the Giver of peace and prosperity. It works just the opposite of real peace. Trust, love and peace find tremendous energy to honor the rights of another person and they always put self last. Presumption walks upon God’s grace and the graciousness of others and expects them to say, “Oh, that’s all right.” Therefore, presumption is the mutual enemy of principle and peace.

When presumption made its debut in heaven distant eons past, when through pity for Lucifer almost half of the angelic hosts bought into his brand of peaceful brotherhood, God just let it happen. Having known God and having learned of His faithfulness as well as they did, the fallen angels, once infected with Lucifer’s “better way of life,” could never return. As painful as was the civil war to the Father of them all, He refused to allow into His kingdom even the slightest hint of presumption, full knowing its horrible end later on planet Earth. He would rather let sin burden down His faithful angelic host and quarantine it to Earth, Lucifer’s sole possession, than jeopardize the eternal safety of the unfallen worlds throughout creation. He would rather let presumption kill Him through the millennia and later demonstrate its crushing load on the Infinite King by crushing the life out His Prince, than condone it for a moment.

God longs for peace in His kingdom; but He can’t accept it at the cost of principle. So when presumption threatens to take over His kingdom, God becomes a Man of war. Quickly does the jealous Lion of Judah watching over His lambs move to protect them.

Long before He would come in the flesh, the Spirit of God revealed the Messiah as a Prince of peace. (Is. 9:6). But not to all did Christ come in peace; to some He would wield a fiery sword of vengeance. “He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked.” Is. 11:4.

So Jesus came bearing the benediction of heaven. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 5:3;11:28. But not for everyone. “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword.” “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.” Matt. 10:34;Lk. 12:5. The first ended up last in His estimation; the most greatly adored He took least notice of. He loved all, lovingly and carefully dealing with Pharisee and publican, but He refused to countenance presumptuous sin.

We see a description of presumption in an obscure event that took place some time after the Israelite tribes moved into their Promised Land. A remnant of the tribe of Dan were still looking for an inheritance to claim and they stumbled upon an out of the way settlement. This description follows: “Then the five men [the Hebrew scouts] departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and there was no magistrate in the land, that might put them to shame in any thing.” Ju. 18:7. The Zidonians were very licentious worshippers of Baal, the voracious god of sexuality. Satan had led the wicked inhabitants of this place, by it’s social structure, to live to satisfy the flesh, and to pretend that God took no notice. It was a presumption extravaganza. Qué será, será. Live and let live. I can do what I want to do, and nobody better bother me. No law enforcement was put in place to police or prosecute the trampling of human rights. The people weren’t accountable to anybody. Everyone there could do as he pleased. No rules. The devil worked in them to shake their fist at God in their wickedness and to dare Him to do anything about it. So the Lord led the warlike Danites right to their door, and they were destroyed before their contaminating influence could spread further.

“The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: but chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, and self-willed.” 2Pet. 2:9,10. “We will not have this Man to reign over us,” (Lk. 19:14) they say to God or to anyone for that matter. They just cannot be told what to do.

In the military, I discovered that this kind found it impossible to deal with authority or with a lawful order. They balked at the regimented structure and requirements for good order and conduct. It just grinded on them. They spent their time trying to figure out how to sidestep the military rules and the desires of their commander. If they had used their brain power for the efficient performance of command goals, they would have excelled among their ranks and their promotions could have come much sooner.

The great issue with presumption is pride. Deep down hates to be corrected; it hates to have its motives challenged and exposed. It lays low to avoid the spotlight of truth; it cometh not to the light lest its deeds be reproved. (Jn. 3:20).Thus it can carry on as it pleases without any disturbance. This it calls peace. Really, it is lazy morality, too lazy to wrestle with righteousness. The Holy Spirit works to awaken the conscience to righteousness, only to be continually refused. “They have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace; when there is no peace.” Jer. 6:14. The mysterious reaction of pleasing self, which deadens the soul to the desire for holiness.

Our only hope for salvation from the sin condition is a continuously deepening, intimate knowledge of God and His loving righteousness. Christ gives power to the weak, for anyone who will look for Him. Pride is endemic to the whole human race. Since the fall of man into sin we’ve been proud to the core. Our hearts are evil and we cannot change them. Only God has the power to do this; only He can recreate us and reclaim us from sin and selfishness. “He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth:...all [His]works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase.” Dan. 4:35,37. He has chosen to accomplish this through presentation of the truth—to reveal Himself and His character to us in a million ways through super-abundant creation, His Bible, in the everyday life experiences, and through a cross on Golgotha. God’s cure for darkness is light, lots of beautiful light.

So the only solution to presumption is truth as revealed in Christ, which is “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, to the churched person first, and also to the unchurched.” (Rom. 1:16). And when we’ve wrestled with it long and hard under the heavy hand of life in a world of sin, and finally bow to God’s authority and to His loving care during all of life’s troubles, then we will find a friend in God, and we will have peace, real, deep, lasting peace.

“Now no chastening seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised herby.” Heb. 12:11.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Surrender, Rest, Peace, and Love

The words of a tortured and dying Man, “‘Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit:’ and having said thus, He gave up the ghost.” Lk. 23:46.

These words weren’t canned. They expressed Jesus’ inmost thoughts. Through them we peer into the mind of Christ. Only when a soul is dying does all fear of censure and humiliation have no weight. All His life He “made Himself of no reputation.” Phil 2:7. Free and completely uninhibited was the Son of God. Now, at death the private communings of His whole life are made vocal for us.

What do we see in the workings of His mind? What is the foundation of His reasoning, from which flowed words and deeds of blessing and compassionate warnings to the world? What is His fundamental assumption?

Utmost surrender to His Father, His God. From birth and throughout life, all that graced His life and those around Him came out of the perfect acceptance He knew from the Father, a love to which He responded in exact kind. All that His Father stood for, He loved and stood for. His was a heart settled in the deepest peace. In that peace no blustering human threats ever disturbed, a peace in which even the most life-threatening storms on the Sea of Galilee could not awaken fear. “He that sent Me is with Me; the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him.” Jn. 8:29.

In that peace, the clamorings of a fallen human nature never rose; the voices of self-love and self-indulgence were never heard. Temptation banged and harangued louder than any other child of Adam ever knew, but no one was ever home. “The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do.” Jn. 14:30,31.

In that surrender and peace came a rest from all worry and care. His was a soul that never wearied, never a burdening spirit that drew from the vitality of His physical body. The second Adam, He was a quickening spirit, a living, walking, talking dynamo of energy because none of His strength was sapped by fears and stress. From that bottomless resource of His communion with His Father sprang ideas and methods for healing the minds and bodies diseased and plagued by the devil, which still marvel the world. So many refuse to accept His miracles because they don’t understand the makeup of His heart, mind and communion with God.

That fullness of love, that blissful rest, that depth of peace and constant surrender, we may have. All these form the gifts from heaven to fallen man to restore it into its former glory, the glorification and sealing promises of God. All the gold in the world is but chaff compared to the riches of Christ. One day our heavenly Intercessor will have folks on Earth who have found that divine love which endureth forever, the peace which passeth understanding, and the rest that remaineth for the people of God. And then He will come to claim them as His own.

See Him there on the cross, the Innocent suspended between heaven and earth, arms splayed wide open in complete vulnerability and helplessness. Recognize His utter hope in His Father in His very last moment of consciousness. And by beholding Him, become changed into the same image from glory to glory.

He has made Him to be surrender for us who knew no surrender; that we might be made to surrender to God, in Him.