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“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, February 28, 2006

Errin’ Aaron

The story of Aaron and Moses is a special one in the Old Testament. Here is demonstrated the disparate lives of two who were in many ways similar and in many other ways very dissimilar. Brothers and partners, Moses was the younger by 3 years. Yet after 80 years, their age difference was negligible. Experience-wise, Moses had the lead by a far stretch. Visible leadership-wise, Aaron had the lion’s share. Aaron had the demeanor and speaking ability that could catch the attention of most of the people. He was more comfortable out in front. Public speaking came natural. An expert in public affairs, he would have made the perfect union rep. Most of the people could identify with Aaron because he knew how to express himself with the perfect choice of words. He knew how to tell the people what they wanted to hear.

Moses, on the other hand, couldn’t do all that. But he had, under his belt, lessons that far exceeded Aaron’s in their depth and far-reaching results. He had had a close encounter with the God-kind. He had learned faith. He was being drawn by the cords of a Man, with the bands of love, which gave him that rock-steady character that become the true tool of leadership for the nation. When it came to the religious life, Aaron had learned the tricks of the trade, but Moses had come to know the Person behind the tricks; and it made all the difference. Aaron’s personal religion was only an unfinished framework, exposed to the elements of life. Moses had a finished and furnished dwelling place, which he inhabited and God in him. “If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up thence,” was his constant longing. And the gracious Lord God granted him his desire. “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” Ex. 33:15,14. Like David, Moses knew what it was like to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

This freedom of exchange Aaron was oblivious to. This experience was foreign to him. It went unrecognized. He thought he had what was needed to serve the God of power, even as next in command of a mighty movement. But Horeb showed how horrible Aaron really was at true leadership. His up-front abilities became useless without courage of conviction. While Moses was spending quality time with the infinite One amongst the splendor and deafening noise, Aaron, down in the dismal plain, was being tossed to and fro by every wind of passion and cunning craftiness of the people. Weak as water, he was learning a powerful lesson about himself, a lesson forced upon him, one that he was loathe to learn.

That experience with all its bad aftertaste, set a benchmark from which he would henceforth steer away toward a character molded and fashioned by God. Eventually, he too, after learning in the school of Christ, obtained that wisdom and faith which is far more precious than gold or silver or rubies. Over the years of serving God and the people, after so many visits into the Holy and Most Holy compartments of the Tabernacle, the long career next to his brother, enduring the rigors of administration together and caring for the needs of the people, facing the dangers of murderous belligerents over their depraved appetites, suffering affliction with the people of God, Aaron’s focus moved from pleasing himself to Him who “pleased not Himself.” Rom. 15:3. In the middle of another plague on the nation for their insolence, with people dying on the right and the left, forgetting himself, Aaron ran out with the only thing he thought might protect the people he had come to love. The plague stopped; “he stood between the dead and the living;” Aaron passed the final exam and graduated.

Like Peter for the people of the New Testament, Aaron served as an example to Israel of how far God can bring a person. It demonstrated the mercy and eternal patience of our Redeemer, the ever-present threat to disobedience especially for leaders, and the final fruit of love─one new man, complete, settled, happy, and beautiful to the core. A true shepherd of Israel, their intercessor, their father, now he could lead a transformed people.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Abraham, the Friend

Abraham is known as the father of faith. He was also called God’s friend (Is. 41:8; Jas 2:23). That means faith has everything to do with a friendship. Without a friendship, faith is not faith, but rather make-believe. Make-believe is a subtle, close substitute and the perfect counterfeit for faith. Unfortunately, it is anxiety-ridden and destitute of the elements of a relationship with a person.

I once heard it said that in order to get faith, you have to find someone who is trustworthy. Then if you spend time with that person, trust will just happen, automatically. There is no avoiding it. Conversely, if you find someone who is not trustworthy and spend time with that person, then distrust will happen automatically also and there is no avoiding it either. Its when we finally see Jesus as perfectly trustworthy and then spend time with Him, talking to Him (in prayer), listening to Him (from His word), and going places and doing things together with Him (in the Christian witness and service), then we will gain a natural trust in Him that nothing can break. And it will not be self-manufactured, but spontaneous and natural.

Abraham didn’t go to Canaan in search of real estate. He went in search of a Friend. He had a yearning for friendship. Something called to his soul, Someone called to his soul and offered that friendship he needed so much. He followed that lead out to a wild, remote place, not knowing where he was going (Heb. 11:8). He did what would be scary to others who aren’t searching for a friendship with the living God, he abandoned all earthly ties who would not come along in his search. He went in answer to a call for surrender to that God. Thus, through varied circumstances in life, Christ worked in Abraham and led him down into the calm waters of repentance and there quietly submerging him, baptized him over and over again. In the end, Abraham had faith and freedom from self. His heart was soft, his mind was healed, his will and resolve and courage were settled and strong, and he had the trust and true happiness he had longed for all his life, a peace that passes all understanding.

If we will keep following up the Lord’s leads and not be sidetracked, we will be richly rewarded. No amount of gold or silver or possessions can compare to restoration of body, mind, and soul─the return to the lost image of God in man. Christ’s question to mankind, “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” echoes through all time, down to us. Every one of us can come into such a friendship with Jesus that, like Paul, we will be evidence to the world that His friends don’t receive “the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2Tim. 1:7. One day soon Christ will have His people again. They will all be healed and sealed, and be ready to say and do His will, “fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.” Song of Solomon 6:10.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Pingo and Me

Monday, February 20, 2006

Reply to a Comment on Separation of Church and State

This is in answer to a comment on “Remembering Religious Liberty” (from 1/21/06.)

Mom, here is my reply to your inputs. By all means, if you have more to rebut, don’t hesitate. The more communication on this subject the better.

Yes, both the church and the state each have their own realm, kind of like two gangs that claim the same turf! They both have laid out their jurisdictions. In answer to your first paragraph: the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech for every citizen, not every Christian. If you are both, that’s good; if you are only the citizen, as far as the Bill of Rights is concerned, that’s equally good. Should you have more rights because you are a Christian? Not from the Bill of Right’s point of view. All that counts to get this civil freedom is that you be a citizen (generally speaking, for even foreigners and immigrants should be treated with civility). Being a Christian gives you its own freedoms and privileges, through the Holy Spirit, not through the United States Constitution. So if a non-Christian citizen expresses that he doesn’t want you speaking of Christ publicly, you have three choices: stop speaking (in which case if that person were using vulgar or insulting language he should stop if you ask), keep talking and risk having the police called out, or continue to talk in the face of the police and be taken to jail. I’ve never studied criminal law, but this is how I’ve come to view reality.

The Bill of Rights guarantees the rights of citizens, not Christians. Christians can be heard in our political life, in the capacity of a citizen, and they should also be recognized only as such. The Christian is only another citizen in the eyes of the Constitution, as long as that Christian hasn’t squandered the rights of freedom. If in the name of Jesus, he has hurt or damaged another citizen or citizen’s property, then that Christian loses some citizen rights. How many is up to a civil judge. If he has murdered and then, in prison, has come to Christ, as a citizen he may lose his life, for the judge bears not the sword in vain. As a new Christian, he knows all scripture is inspired by God, and he can accept the authority of Genesis 9:6. He also has hope in a resurrection.

As far as speaking of Christ in the public square: that is not a problem, as long as city ordinances allow for it. If public evangelism is impromptu and the public don’t appreciate being preached to, then they have the right to ask you to stop or to call the police; then you’re back to the original three choices, stop because of the people, stop because of the police, or be incarcerated. (Many of our Protestant forefathers were imprisoned for what they said.) Sidewalk witnessing for Christ has never been a problem because the other person can just keep on walking if he or she doesn’t want to listen; and they shouldnt be harrassed. In the restaurant or business establishment, we can speak of Christ until the establishment deems that the religious activity is ruining its business and then, since the property belongs to them, the person preaching Christ or any other cause must obey the requests of the owner. In short, our civil liberties must not unduly infringe on the civil liberties of others, even if, and especially because, we are Christians.

In your 2nd paragraph you stated that churches can lose their tax exempt status if they engage in political matters. I believe that is only fair, since it then becomes a political place of meeting. The Bill of Rights concerns itself with civil issues. As citizens, we have the right to assemble peaceably to redress grievances on civil matters. But any church, who under religious guise, receives tax exemption because it is a religious organization, but then engages in political instruction or rallying, has broken the civil trust, and will reap the civil repercussions. If Moslems were using their mosques to redress civil matters, should they enjoy a tax exempt status? Why should Christians get preferential treatment? Because we were here first? What is right is what is important, regardless who got here first.

Why would a true Christian ever want to be treated preferentially, when it is enough to know that Christ looks down upon him in a special way because of their relationship? This world has nothing to offer for a true Christian. His only longing is for that better country, wherein dwelleth Jesus and His righteousness. Otherwise, he glories in tribulation, knowing that tribulation works patience. Rom. 5:3. Paul captured every Christian’s deepest desire for Christ, “That I many know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings.” Phil 3:10. In the face of the loss of every civil right, the true Christian will shine brighter because of the prospect of the faith that hardship will build in him. Mom, you mentioned John the Baptist being thrown into a dungeon and being beheaded for speaking out against the prevailing corruption. This illustrates clearly what Paul was saying to the Philippians. So goes the plight of many of God’s servants. (See Heb. 11:35-39).

Does this make us feel robbed? Is this giving up the prized place of privilege we’ve enjoyed in our country? It shouldnt. This has been the agreed upon terms of the Gospel when we first accepted Christ: to take up His cross. And equality between citizens, irrespective of religion, is also in accordance with the agreed-upon terms of the United States Constitution when it was ratified. And it has worked so well and placed us at the head and not the tail in the world pecking order. It has provided for us a better country or empire than has ever been experienced since the beginning of nations. Between our Republican government and Protestantism, the pace of idolatrous paganism has been greatly retarded, and a peaceful existence has been our heritage to own and our gift to the world.

In your 5th paragraph, under Article VII, you say that religion was built into the Constitution as exemplified by the useage, “in the Year of our Lord….” I believe that this is simply an example of 18th century propriety. That was their custom for official writing of treatises and other dated documents.

In your 8th paragraph, you cite, in Article I Section 7, the Sunday deadline exemption for passing a bill in Congress, as evidence that the Constitution is inherently Christian. The reference to Sunday was not for direction concerning sabbath-keeping, but out of convenience of the common religious day. The purpose of the new civil government was not to disrupt or in any way hinder the normal operation of the “predominant” religion’s day of worship. As the Constitution is a “living” document, this is a principle that is pliable and could be reapplied to the 7th day Sabbath or any other day, if need be.

Our laws are just. They come from a moral populace, due to religion going unhampered. And as long as religion stays separate from government, like Old Testament Israel was required to remain different from the way the surrounding nations made the king the high priest as well, it will retain its purity and will offer pure, noble, and moral people to be citizens and leaders of God’s future heavenly government and the holy Law of His government, and to be subjects to obey their present earthly government and protect the Constitution undergirding it. Yet our civil laws, as just as they are, stop at the boundary of the heart, the seat of morality. Thus a citizen need not love obedience or love his neighbor, he need only obey as a courtesy to another citizen, because they should equally enjoy the same freedom. Christians love people and don’t look at them as citizens or immigrants. They serve them all. Our government doesn’t want to have to beat everyone into submission. So true Christians greatly benefit the civil government because the peace brought to them by the Holy Spirit is passed on to others, thus adding joy and stability to civil life. Far from being the opiate of the people, Bible religion would give the people a life that, with only strict laws and constant threats of corporal and capital punishment, would otherwise become depressing and oppressive.

Our countrys forefathers trusted religion to do this. Religion and spirituality, independently operating in its own sphere would aid the government in the order and happiness of the people. Yet, although receiving benefit from spirituality, the government is righteous in remaining hands-off with regard to religion. In this light, I agree with your statement, “As long as each recognizes its own jurisdiction, mere religious activity in itself does not threaten government authority.” Law is requisite for life. But spirituality improves life under the law! When working together they make the perfect living arrangement. We have it so good in the United States!

Mom, you ended this paragraph saying, “Children are compelled by the State, since public school is compulsory, to be taught ‘alternate life styles’, when the vast number of parents are totally against this being taught to their children. The parents are not consulted. There are other examples, one being the ‘theory’ of evolution.” However, public school is not compulsory. Private or home schooling is another alternative. I’m not sure what you mean by public schools teaching “alternate life styles.” Homosexuality? Drug-use? Self-destructive behavior? I went to public schools and have had a lot of dealing with my children’s public schools and I’ve never seen destructive lifestyles taught from any curriculum. This is not to say that students don’t teach each other alternate lifestyles because of what they witness and hear on television and radio. And yes, evolution is taught. An atheistic view of the scriptures and God are espoused; but in order to protect against that, if we teach our children what’s right, in the home, they won’t be affected by human theories like evolution and atheism. I came out of public school a determined creationist, thanks to my home training and church teaching. The alternative of private education is not inexpensive, but my one year in Christian education was a very good experience. And I worked hard to pay my share of the costs. If parents and children must suffer together for the children to have a Christian education, so be it. Christianity and Protestantism were forged out of suffering. Just such tough religion George Washington envisioned in America. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer.” 2Tim. 3:12.

In your 11th paragraph, you ask, “Where does this idea come from that the Church should never weigh in on the State?” To that I ask, Why must the church think it need ever put pressure on the state? The early Christians did not die to reform the government of Imperial Rome, but to refuse the forced state religion of paganism. The church of Christ does not need the aid of the state because it has its own resources and firepower from Christ and their commission is not to reform governments, but to reform religion and convert souls. This would be different if our nation were a theocracy. But it is not. The closest thing today to a theocracy is each individual denomination’s organization. They are theocracies and any Christian Elijah can march in and put pressure on a denomination as much as the Spirit leads him or her to do.

You also state, “I understand the reason why there should never be a State Religion,” as in one of the Protestant denominations. And you say that no one is trying to make one of them a state religion, and that’s true. But don’t we hear so many today claim America is a Christian nation? They may not want an individual denomination to saddle up next to Uncle Sam, but they believe Christianity should be our state religion. And they say, If any Moslems don’t like it, they can go back to wherever they came from! Are these the sentiments of a truly converted Christian? Would Jesus ever say or intimate such a thing? No, this is not the Spirit of Christ. He never pushed anyone away, and it was His inspiration that led Paul to use tact and every loving, Spirit-filled method to lead everyone he could to Christ.

Continuing with the 11th paragraph, Hitler may or may not have been influenced by Martin Luther, I don’t know. But one thing I feel certain: the religious regime that gains control of the United States government will lead this country into something much worse than Hitler did in Germany. Hitler was a non-religious man. Bigoted religionists have always done much worse, as you stated. The Inquisition of the Dark Ages gives us a good idea what to expect. One hundred million to one hundred fifty million lives were lost to that so called “holy” institution reinstituted just recently by Pope Benedict.

What can a Christian do when his heart is vexed by what he sees in his country? He can pray to Christ and then work his prayers. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. And the Christian’s first duty is for the conversion of souls. Some may say, “But that is slow work! We have too much to get done! We have a whole generation being influenced to doubt God and leave the church!” God knows how to speed things up. He has His ways. He brings efficiency to His work that neither we nor government assistance can provide, much less see. Should we work to reform civil laws and decisions that affect the moral fiber of society? Yes, like Daniel in Babylon, as a citizen, a praying citizen. Perhaps, God will reward our efforts in government, or company, or even military command policy. But if He doesn’t choose to do so, we can keep praying and working as a citizen at work or in the political arena, and as a Christian in the home, church, and neighborhood.

Only let us make sure we don’t cross spirituality and religion with politics and government, and thus desecrate both.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

My Name is David, and I am a Recovering Legalist

One day I’m going to find a Legalists Anonymous meeting and stand up and say this! I admit to trying to keep the Law till I was hog tied and bone dry as the hills of Gilboa which have neither dew nor rain!

But I’ve learned a good lesson from it all. That lesson is that the Law is God’s appointed method for bringing us to Him. It’s not solely that the Law “was” our schoolmaster and never again to be. It still “is” the schoolmaster and still has its appointed task of bringing us to Christ to be justified by faith, if that’s what we want. Anyone out there want faith for justification? I do, more and more! Not just once, but every day! Not just cleansing for my feet, but my head and my whole body!

So, as crazy as it might sound, if you want to know God, keep the commandments! In your futility, if you are in earnest and determined to run into its 100 foot thick wall until you prevail, sooner or later you will crumble and that’s exactly where God needs you to be in order to help you. And there is no other way. God gave the Law the first time just for the purpose of preparing the world for the Saviour to come. And, according to Galatians 3:24 it accomplished its intended purpose. Remember the fellow who got the people ready for Jesus? What kind of a message did he give? Love and peace? No, it was all about what God expected of them and the consequences of disobedience. “Bring forth therefore the proper fruit of repentance! Now the axe is laid to the root of the trees! Every tree that doesn’t bring forth good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire!” It may not have sounded like a nice speech, but it was necessary, it was God-inspired. Only those who listened to John followed Jesus. If they rejected John, they rejected Jesus later. This is good news if you find yourself a legalist (such as we all really are), that is to say, an honest legalist.

So today, many may say the Law was done away with, or they may know better than to profess that but they skirt the Law as an unwanted, dangerous thing. But, all in the same group, they are only hurting themselves and refusing the one and only authorized method for coming to Christ. God wants to break us down to parade rest. That’s what they do with a fire-arm in order to clean it. Every tiniest part of the weapon must be disassembled and cleaned and oiled. Otherwise, a jam up will occur and someone may get seriously hurt. So God needs to see the sinner broken into crumbs. Then He can clean us every wit.

We need to do what no one in his right mind would do! We need to be crumbled and humbled. It needs to be done and we must consent to it. So what’s God to do? He must get rid of our self-styled “right mind!” And then we will do the ridiculously foolish thing that is necessary for our own good; we will fall before Him in repentance. He uses His Law and the foolishness of preaching and many pricks and hard knocks until we bow before His Law in a pitiful little heap. When the Law is returned to its rightful place of respect in our hearts, then our mouth is finally stopped because we put our own hand over it, and we realize our guilt before God. Yes, guilt is healthy in the hands of a Professional. Then and only then do we really need a Saviour enough to go in search of one. Only when I see the exceeding sinfulness of my self will I truly hunt as for hid treasures, lift up my voice, knock on every door in desperation for a cure for sin, until I find it.

Eventually I discover that the it is a Him. A Person! A caring, compassionate Friend and Mentor!

Then the adventure really gets good.

Cats and Dogs Living Together

My wife took in a kitten and named it Fernando. Not long after that she was driving and a neighbor’s little dog ran out and was hit by my wife’s car. It was fine, but my wife was shaken and so sorry that when she reported the incident to our neighbors they informed her that the dog had fathered some mixed breed puppies. My wife felt so guilty and shaken that she agreed to take a puppy off their hands. She chose the only male and named him Pingo, which is Portuguese for “water droplet.”

Pingo and Fernando grew up together. Fernando was a normal sized cat, and Pingo a mixture of miniature Dachshund, Chihuahua, and Jack Russell. Both were the same size and had some similar interests. Of course they had differences too. Fernando was always aloof and aware of his surroundings, like all cats. Pingo became gregarious and full of energy. It’s amazing they got along. If they were humans they would probably be at each other’s throats. But early on Pingo found it his greatest joy doing things together with Fernando. If Pingo had just eaten and Fernando decided to eat, Pingo would eat again, just to do something together with Fernando.

My daughter loved to play with Fernando and knows how to toughen up all our cats. So when Pingo got old enough to play rough, Fernando didn’t mind the entertainment. They would play fight on my bed while I would be reading. I would first notice the bed shake a little, then I’d hear them quietly play-attacking each other. All that I would hear was their heavy breathing and quiet jabs. It was really other-worldly! Pingo would always be on top on the offensive, and Fernando on his back swiping at Pingo. Pingo would be snapping at Fernando, and even biting him, but never to hurt him. Fernando would be doing his best to push with his hind feet or bat at Pingo with his front paws, never using his claws. Sometimes, in mid-attack, Pingo would freeze for a second and then lurch around to his back to attack a new enemy, a real one. Fernando would look at him as if to say, “Saved by the flea!” then he’d flip around onto his feet and in a split-second be running out of the room. Once Pingo realized his prey had escaped, if the joy of wrestling weighed greater than the pain of the flea, then he would turn and high-tail it, his ears and tail a-flappin’, in hot pursuit of his feline foe.

Sometimes both animals would be out in the front yard. If either one wanted a chase, he would initiate it and the other would oblige gratefully. It was always Pingo chasing Fernando, but either one could initiate. Either Fernando would look over at Pingo and then start running to see if Pingo would catch him, or Pingo would just charge Fernando to see if he was in the mood for a chase. Usually Fernando would end up 6 feet up a pine tree with Pingo jumping 6 feet and snapping at him, over and over again. What a sight! With children, real life is so much better than cartoons.

We are all God’s children. He is a wise Father and has created the order of things in this life. By His design we live together in so many different capacities. Either it’s a family, or a church, a societal or employment setting. We can be as different as cats and dogs, but if we can find something in common, and allow a relationship to establish, there is no amount of difference that will separate us. All learned or inherited animosities and prejudices dissolve when we are forced together in a group and when time is on our side.

Cats and dogs can live together and it’s not the end of the world. Rather, it makes a very beautiful world.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Apologies

Many thanks for the many comments I've received. Like anyone, I am very happy to be heard! Unfortunately, I am new at blogging and had some technical difficulties. Just today I was surfing around in the administrative part of Blogger and decided to click on "Moderate comments." I am a little hesitant to click on too much for fear of really messing things up. But when I looked at Moderate comments, lo and behold, I had 10 comments there! And all this time, I thought no one was reading anything I wrote with exception of Trailady! So I am going to keep my eye on that from now on and am publishing all the comments. Thank you again for being patient and for your generous comments.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Pingo-1 Fleas-0

Pingo was scratching his back and hind quarters something fierce. He bit and gnawed at his flesh and was leaving it raw. I saw the beginning of a rash that would never go away on its own, especially since he so continuously jumped into digging at it.

A year ago he had a serious problem with sand flees. They are horrible around here in southern coastal Georgia. I was trying to fix the problem with flea shampoo and bathing him often. But my doctoring was only making things worse. Eventually Pingo was constantly in agony and scratching all over his body, so we took him to the veterinarian who set us straight and the flea problem slowly went away, to his great relief and mine.

But Pingo doesn’t understand anything about fleas. His little doggy mind doesn’t comprehend where they come from, what they are, or how I got rid of them. All he knows is, from now on if his skin ever crawls, his reaction is to throw himself into whatever contortion is necessary and “Get the little bugger!” He remembers the fury of itchiness he experienced in the past and now anything that causes an itch drives him to the same, previous heated scratching he learned to do because of the fleas in the past.

Now when I give him a bath, as the water evaporates and his pores close, there is an itchy feeling—and he’s back to using his incisors again to find that “pesky flea!” Whenever skin dies from just natural causes like we experience and there is an itch, Pingo doesn’t just scratch it a few times, he dives in and pulverizes it!

But now the sores, which he had created because of his flea problem, became the cause for perpetuating those very sores. They were trying to heal, but due to the healing process, itchiness would come and go, forcing Pingo to get those “fleas,” thus irritating the sores and frustrating the healing. I couldn’t afford another visit to the vet, but an idea came to mind. I would buy a tall jar of Olive Oil to rub into Pingo’s fur and put a shirt on him so he couldn’t bite and dig at his skin anymore. And the oil would soothe the sores also while it was healing the skin.

The idea worked and now Pingo is free from fleas and their phantom counterparts.

Animals to humans is like we are to God. We are stuck in a bad sin problem. We really don’t understand sin or how it works, and we don’t know how to get to sin’s root to remove it. “Ye are not your own.” 1Cor. 6:19. It takes time and the infinite wisdom of our Creator and Redeemer, who alone can remove our rebellion from us.

But even after Jesus takes away bad habits and practices, the mind is so complex that there are still the memories that play tricks on us. There’s the guilt that quietly nags; there’s the empty hole that hasn’t yet been filled with good things; there’s the secondary habits that aren’t destructive of themselves but were associated with the sins that tore at us and our loved ones, that call us to resume all the evil that we had connected with those secondary things; and often there may be the worry that God doesn't accept us if we still feel the pull of sin.

But the Spirit teaches us through our day-to-day experiences that God sees our distresses and, like my work to save Pingo from his misery and self-destruction, Christ infinitely more so brings the forces of Heaven and Earth to save us from the pit whence we have been dug, not just initially but continuously. We can’t be trusted to stay out of sin once we are brought out of it at the first. “Once saved, always saved” just doesn’t work when it is taken in the practical sense. We need God’s continuous help, His training, His discipline and mercy; all that He has to offer.

If we don’t have Christ’s saving help and conversion on a daily, continuing basis, all that sin has worked into us will consume us. We don’t stand a moment without the sustaining power of Christ. We all, as some have mourned, were “born on the wrong planet.” We have spent our life choosing the prince of this world and he has worked his rebellious spirit into the very fibers of our being. So for the rest of our life, we will never be safely “on the wagon” enough to say, “I am free from the influence of sin and temptation,” unless it is while we are fully under the influence of Jesus, and the power of His grace has made us “free from the law of sin and death.” And even then, it is only “so long as.” The moment we lose His empowering grace, we fall right back under the power of Satan like Peter into the stormy waters, or like Moses, and David, and Solomon, and, Elijah, who after years of walking enviously close to God lost their hold on him and immediately sank into the depths of sin.

So, like Pingo’s fleas and subsequent sores, Jesus vanquishes our old sins, but then comes the work of removing their effects. He must heal the pains and the deterioration of our lives and souls that the leprosy of sin plagued us with. If we refuse the second phase of God’s help, we will fall victim to the wounds and bruises and putrefying sores that resulted from our life of open sin. We aren’t out of the woods just because Jesus saved us from our past. After that comes the washing and the medicating oil and ointments and salves.

Then over the medication He lays a protective cloth, to keep our sores clean, to enhance the life that is in the blood, to allow it to do its work. And that cloth stifles the old temptation to resume our own remedy and help fix our sin problem. Then as long as we submit to His methods, we eventually return to health. It is God’s glory to love us and to restore us body, soul, and mind.

“And they shall be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” Is. 61:3.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Adam

Adam came forth from the Creator’s hand perfect in every respect. His mind was clear and penetrating, his heart pure, and his muscles strong and quick to obey his will. Adam had a purpose and determination, yet was so gentle in his pursuits that a world was not too much to maintain. He represented God upon His throne, ordering the universe that surrounds Him. And as Adam looked upon the creation given him, researching and comprehending their every makeup, a common relationship began to dawn upon his mind—there was male and female.

Then he questioned God. Maybe it was his earnestness, maybe the look of innocence, maybe the appreciation of everything already prepared for him, that took such a hold on God’s heart. But when he intimated that Earth wasn’t perfect enough and he knew how to improve upon it, the Son of God agreed.

Adam fell into a deep sleep and a horrible darkness came upon him. If he wanted something, he must pay for it; All things by sacrifice. Out of his side, the Son removed a rib and formed the perfect life mate for Adam’s greatest happiness. Now the King of Earth was in perfect tune with his creation. Bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh, the perfection of beauty, the joy of his whole heart, Eve was the epitome of all creation! Through discomfort he could enjoy his mate yet be in subjection to the law of Jehovah. Pleasure under control. All things by sacrifice.

After the transgression, the master of creation became its slave. Adam lost everything he had ruled. Creation turned against him. And what once his closest associate and the object of his warmest affection now was his enemy. Oh how his heart was broken on that first day of rebellion! And, oh the pain when he beheld that first dying flower and the first fight among the animals! He had been given another lease on life, but all things by sacrifice. He turned from his Creator—his Creator must turn from him. He must taste something of what his disloyalty had done to God; he must die without seeing the redemption of his kingdom.

In his banishment, he lived another 930 years, surrounded by a rebellious animal kingdom. He saw murder, theft, polygamy, unfaithfulness, dishonor, a world of men made in his image, devoid of an understanding heart. So dead was Adam to hope that the iniquity of his children went unrestrained, it was not until Enos was born to Seth that the voice of revival was reclaimed and men began again to call upon the name of the Lord. Gen. 4:26. If Adam had not been given the perfect body that he had, he could not have endured the pressing burden so many years. His life mate, for whose love he had given up paradise, had already passed, and he must move on through the remainder of life to face the insolence and accusation as progenitor of all misery in the world. By the time he laid his tired head down, he had had enough of his transgression and gave up the ghost.

“Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou mayest not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die….And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.”

Friday, February 10, 2006

On Directions

This was a conversation with my daughter in her younger days.

“Betania, you need to read the question because that is half of learning.”
“OK. Go southwest...”
“No. That’s not what it says.”
“Go southwest...”
“No. Try again.”
“Go southwest...”
“No. You jumped right over some very important words.”
“Go southwest...”
“No! Try it again!”
“Go to the southwest corner of C1.”
“That’s it! You read it right this time! Its a completely different meaning now, doesn’t it. We’re at F3. You have to go northeast, not southwest to get to C1. Don’t add to or take away from the instruction.”

Betania needed my help with homework and as I corrected her she became irritated toward me instead of taking responsibility for her own mistakes. She wasn’t interested to learn the subject matter anyway. But when I got upset with her she finally gave up the attitude and accepted her duty to learn the homework.

How is it with us adults? When we read the scriptures, do we understand them? Do we comprehend God’s purposes; do we appreciate the sometimes tough ways He has chosen to deal with the sin problem? Or do we misread His methods and His trustworthiness? Is it because we are missing some very important pieces of the puzzle? Some very important concepts that have eluded us keeping us from arriving at truth and trusting in Him perfectly?

And aren’t you glad He continues by our side, teaching us patiently and determinedly, like the loving Father that He is? No one but He knows how short our probation is, our three score years and ten, this one short lifetime, our one chance to learn of Him and to accept Him as our loving Father, wholeheartedly.

“Come unto Me, all ye that labour and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Great Controversy

God never changes. In the unknown past He has designed laws, determined courses, placed within creation its direction. And life unfolds, based on His four dimensional design. At certain points a new thing appears and begins to develop—not because God changed His mind, and not because He “lets” things evolve, but because it was predetermined. The Great Controversy may even figure into this same principle somehow.

The angelic hosts and heavenly beings find such joy in the wonderful order of God’s creation, His laws and government. In perfect submission they find existence to be a school and life under the great Master Teacher full of challenge to the body, intellect, and soul. They are constantly being met with surprises which they answer with holy joy and humility. Its easy for them to be caught off guard by God and to be repeatedly regarding themselves as unlearned students and imperfect sons, because they trust their Master and Father. Forever it has been proven to them that His laws of self-forgetfulness are the basis of all that He does and that can ever endure. And despite their feelings of insufficiency, they are satisfied that God should be glorified and that for self to die is gain.

But Lucifer could not endure correction. The life of an angel is not a meaningless existence floating on clouds, aimlessly strumming harps. Development requires correction and he grew weary of that. Greater honor means greater responsibility and more exacting austerity, but with all that, greater privileges of communion and a greater comprehension of God. But he turned aside from the communion and began to see only the austerity demanded of God. And in a setting similar to the glories of Eden, he decided he had had enough. After all, behold how far he had already advanced! He had endured great affliction to get where he was and it was time to retire from this school and to graduate. Life would be so good without correction.

But how can one escape a universe filled with God’s laws and reminders of His presence? It would take drastic measures and Lucifer, of all people, was up to the task. Or so he thought. But bursting at the seams with desire for antinomian freedom, he bent all his energies to design a new form of government free from God’s restraints and the rebuke which he felt so constantly.

How could one who had stood next to God end up so hateful toward goodness? That’s just the way it goes. We never know what we are capable of until we make that first decision—for good or for bad. Freedom of choice and intelligent existence is so very complicated, and animate creation contains such deep resources, that the possibilities of accomplishment are endless, for good or for evil; so thorough is every one of God’s creations. In every facet of the mind the possibilities are infinite; and there is an infinitude of facets. We can’t foresee where our decisions will lead; so it would behoove us to carefully decide in accordance with God’s Law of righteousness.

So, Lucifer, king of self-righteousness, was reborn by his own decision. He believes what he is doing is right; deep down he knows it’s not true that God is unjust, but he blinds himself through disdain of reproof. And he has company to help reaffirm his rebellion. He reminds them, they remind him…its one tight bunch. But deep down inside every one of them there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. They refuse to have any Man rule over them. In spite of all their effort to forget God, He is still able to remind them of His government. It is inescapable and it is torment to them. On the one hand they are bound by fear of the truth that they are losers in their Great Experiment, and on the other, they are bound by their own proud honor to finish what they started and to attempt to prove that it is best.

“We had to bow down and worship God and His measly Son. But who do They bow down to? They could correct us, but who corrects Them? We served Them. Who do They serve? So we form a government without worship, service, and correction. And we are happy.”

Yet there has been much bloodshed, death, and consternation. The planet of their experiment has been a stain in God’s otherwise beautiful universe. We are subjected to their foul presence. All that surrounds us and even within us are reminders of their effort to improve on what was already made perfect.

They cannot be satisfied to leave God’s creation alone. God’s designs are a perpetual reminder of His character and presence, and the satanic hosts will not stop short of a complete make-over. Through their human agents God’s perfection must be altered somehow, someway; even just a little is a statement of their ownership and rage against their King. Again and again. Deeper and deeper. Adorning, piercing, painting, dying, tattooing. Scientifically improving, fortifying. Cloning, amalgamating, genetically altering, …defacing Christ’s work and effacing the signature of the Creator.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Do the First Work

Repent and be baptized!” is not the keynote of the new evangelistic campaigns; rather, “Believe some doctrines and be baptized, and help swell our numbers!” So we compass land and sea to make one proselyte, and when we have found him, we make him like ourselves, or worse.

“Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” Rev. 2:5.

A solemn warning—the essence of the third angel’s message. Not them, Remnant, Thou! Not if they over there worship the beast—“if any man worship the beast!” “Watch out! If you, even My church, don’t discover repentance, I will give you up to a world-wide movement which looks good on the outside but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” Act. 20:29-31.

“Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward…. Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire. Your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.” Is. 1:4-7. This was not spoken to those to whom God had not revealed Himself. It was for Judah and Jerusalem. Is. 1:1. It is to His church first that He commands warning and correction. “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew My people their transgression.” Is. 58:1.

The people called by God’s name have perfected the art of profession. To swoon, to wail, or to put on cheery eyes and a glitzy smile, does not constitute consecration. They encourage each other in the Lord. Yet only few of them know the Lord, if only few of them know repentance and the surrender that leads to renunciation of sin. Repentance is a fountain rarely touched to the vast majority of professors. They devolve upon the group for hope, they desire only the outward work, the secondary work. “With the Lord’s help we will be the fastest growing congregation in our community like we are the fastest growing denomination in the world. Surely the Lord is with us!!

Ah, sinful denomination, how can the Lord be with you if you dodge repentance? “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken. I have nourished and brought up children and they have rebelled against Me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, My people doth not consider.” Vs. 3.

How can the Lord pour the Latter Rain upon an impudent, stout-hearted people? He cannot and He will not. Ez. 3:7. “Therefore thus saith…the Lord of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease Me of Mine adversaries, and avenge Me of Mine enemies; and I will turn My hand upon thee.” Vs. 24-25.

The confession of faith from the lips of My people is too often a charade, a game. They have deceived themselves; the mystery of iniquity is at work; papal religion has extended its bounds to encompass the Protestants, even the Remnant church. And they unwisely compare themselves with themselves and therefore see no problems. They do not notice the insincerity that is sown broadcast. “And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.” Vs. 15.

Few know anything of real religion; a personal, saving friendship with Jesus, is beyond them. They wither, exhausted, chained to the enemy’s car. They fear to leave the church yet they fear to be fully consecrated. “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” Joel 3:14. They are afraid to miss Christ’s return, yet they fear the surrender to repentance which will give them the only preparation for His coming. So they accept a nicer substitute, a cleaner one, one not so messy. “Maybe what we need is slightly lower standards. The children will be happier and they won’t mind coming to church if we entertain them! Maybe a new church building is what we need; how about a change of scenery, maybe new carpet; maybe a new order of service. By all means, let’s not work to meet the needs of the hearts.”

“Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear to the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah…Come, let us reason…If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat of the good of the land.” Vs. 10, 19.

Will this serve as a warning to us today? Do we take God at His word, as we profess to do? Is the Bible and the Bible only our true rule of measurement? Then why is the condition of the church so lifeless? Why the void of consecration? Why the stampede to go home right after the sermon or Sabbath fellowship dinner? Why the idols of Babylon creeping back into the church—jewelry, immodest dress, Sabbath sunsets disregarded, conversation that should never escape the lips of people bearing God’s name, especially during the Sabbath hours—conversation devoid of Jesus? Why can’t we stop the tide of vanity flooding into our churches? Why can’t we stop the lowering of our once high standard? Why are our children sacrificed to the gods of this world?

We trust in a philosophy. We trust in profession. But what saith the scriptures? “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus…Thou shalt be saved.” Rom. 10:9. Profession does not lead to salvation, confession does. Confession comes from the heart of one who has seen his true condition and has found rest in beholding Jesus’ righteousness, His goodness. Profession is merely intellectual and cannot express faith. How many desire to confess faith in Jesus? Then how many among God’s people are really saved? No sooner does one come to Christ than there is born within him a desire to make known to others what a precious friend he has found in Jesus. Why the lack of evangelism among the people of God? Why the sins that are mounting to heaven? Are we susceptible to the Spirit’s call to repentance like we profess to be?

When repentance is missing, in its place comes an abomination. A very close imitation is introduced—one that eases our conscience and tries to ease our heartache. We hear, “Rejoice evermore.” ─OK, fill the sermons with comic relief. Hilarity will substitute for joy. We hear that we should repent. ─OK, preach at the top of your lungs until at least one saint cracks and pleads for heaven’s mercy. Surely that’s a sign the Spirit was present! We are told to go to all the world, and that the Lord daily added to the apostolic church. ─OK, make altar call after altar call. We will compass land and sea at a time when people are afraid of the second coming, and we will rake in souls by the millions. We’ll televise a herd of people going through the baptismal pool on satellite TV. That should demonstrate that we’re obeying the great commission!

Repentance no longer is the requirement for baptism—simply ascent to our doctrines. Make them laugh, make them cry, but by all means don’t, through love, show them sin in all its sinfulness. If you do that they might leave and go to those other denominations. “And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich; I have found me out substance: in all my labors they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin…Is there no iniquity in Gilead? Surely they are vanity…Ephraim provoked Him to anger most bitterly; therefore shall He leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall His Lord return unto him.” Hos. 12:8,11,14.

It is time to return to repentance. It is time to reconsider that which we have feared, yet surrender to God’s goodness and repentance is nothing to be afraid of. We cannot make ourselves be sorry. We cannot make ourselves repent. But we can pursue repentance and pray for it and seek the Lord about it. Repentance is the engine that brings with it a train of many blessings. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Gentleness. Goodness. Faith. Humility. Temperance. And again—peace, grace, glory in tribulations, patience, experience, hope, confidence, and the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. Another apostle described its cars as virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, charity. (Gal. 5:22, 23; Rom. 5:1-5;2Pet. 1:5-7.)

Many, many good things await those who will give in to God and admit to their true condition. So what is holding us back? What are we afraid of? That He might get offended and leave us? He knew our condition before we were born! Yet He still makes the offer to us, just the same. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the water, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear and come unto Me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” Is. 55:1-3. Thus saith the Lord, as the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, destroy it not, for a blessing it in it: so will I do for My servants’ sake. That I may not destroy them all. And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob.” Is. 65:8, 9.

Promise after promise. Never-to-be-exhausted mercy toward us. Grace piled high upon grace after all that we have done to Him and to His promise to keep receiving us again and again. “The children of promise are counted for the seed.” Rom. 9:8. The children who bow to His promise and repent. Will we be one of them?

The engine and train of righteousness has its limitations. It cannot come to us unless we go to where it passes through. Go and stand between those tracks and wait, if you want the train. Be vulnerable and let it get you right between the eyes! No one can jump on board; no one can enter through a window. Trying to sneak on to it through some little red caboose virtue, God does not offer as an option. We must gird up our loins like a man and meet the engine of repentance head on. There is no easy way out.

Down must go our life, our reputation, our livelihood, all that brings us self-confidence and self-esteem. Some pieces of our wreckage we may never pick up again. Are you willing to risk losing you know not what, all in order to lose the old life and gain the new one? Here is where faith gets really laid on the line. “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life, the same shall save it.” “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Lk. 9:24, 23.

The train is also on a schedule—God’s, not ours. We will have to stand and wait. Maybe for a short time, maybe for a long time. It took Jacob 60 years, Moses 80 years, and Samuel 3! But, what a tragedy if the train came through and you missed the golden opportunity? “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning.” Mk. 13:35. Daily, as often as you can, lift up your heart to God; and He will ensure that you’re available when He passes through. Then at that time, take full advantage of the opportunity that He has granted you. “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” Is. 55:6,7.

We cannot convert ourselves. We cannot make ourselves repent. All that sinful man can do toward his own salvation is to put himself in the place where conversion happens, on your knees before God’s open word, listening to the sermons, by witnessing and service and by opening the heart to God as to a friend, and then ultimately, accepting the invitation by His Spirit, Come unto Me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. And God will be watching over us during the whole process.

Without repentance and the submission of the soul to God, all of our conflicting unsatisfied desires contend to take control of us. The heart refusing submission to God is like the trouble sea when it cannot rest. No amount of profession and vanity can hide the muck and ugliness that spills out from our insides. “O generation of vipers, How can ye being evil, speak good things?” Matt. 12:34. “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” (Is. 57:20).

Isn’t it time? Haven’t we had enough empty religion? Aren’t we exhausted with the struggle of trying to maintain a moral exterior? How many more times will we turn down His freely offered gift? “Come, and let us return unto the Lord; for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight.” Hos. 6:1,2.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

I Extrapolate a Creator

Scientists extrapolated the atom from theory and then the building blocks of the atomic structure, and later found the evidence to prove them. Today we can now photograph an atom and smash them into even smaller particles.

I extrapolate that there is a Creator. How may I do this? Because much evidence points to that as the truth. From time immemorial, the intellect of man has picked up on these evidences, despite the distractions to the contrary. Paul said it like this: “That which may be known of God is manifest in them. For God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead.” Rom. 1:19, 20. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament sheweth His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech; night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Ps. 19:1-4.

What evidences? What has God showed us of Himself? The beauty and usefulness of creation, the design and the order.

But is the design and order perceived as such, merely due to the natural result of the evolving human brain—its ability to adapt to its surroundings and accept them through familiarity, even to treasure them and find joy in them? Is it simply perceived to be beautiful and useful, orderly and by design? Or is it truly so—and able to be detected and appreciated by our higher order of creation, designed with our happiness in mind when it all came from the Creator’s hand?

It is the height of human pride to say that all that is seen to be beautiful is not beautiful in its own right, but only because it is perceived to be so by the great, artistic capacity of the human! Rather, creation is beautiful, it is utilitarian, it is orderly, it follows a design. It suits all the needs and wants of man and of the animal kingdom which is not exactly asthetically enclined.

But why does modern man have such difficulty beholding the invisible things of God manifested in creation? Because they are only understood through faith and love. “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom...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. “See ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy and shut their eyes: lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” Is. 6:9, 10.

We can only understand the deep things of life through the heart—faith and love. Using only the intellect, science becomes falsely so called, and the students get involved in an endless round of learning without arriving at the truth. Like the color blind person viewing a picture of a number made of colored bubbles from a background of a different color of bubbles─he doesn’t see anything of significance, while others with color vision see the number staring him in the face!

I saw a picture a while ago. It was a collage of many, many small photographs. There was a common theme of marine life running through each photo. But the real purpose of the collage could only be seen by stepping back and beholding the whole thing. Over the dark water of the bay surrounded by snowy mountains, stood the big, dripping tail of a whale, just before it slipped back into the icy depths.

The real meaning would have been missed if a scrupulous examination of each small photo was all that was done. Periodically, in our studies, we need to step back and find out what direction we are pointing─toward God or diverted from Him, even slightly. We can be assured that there is more to creation, and to this life, than meets the eye. If we will entertain faith also we will verily arrive at the whole truth, the truth about God that will set us free.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Condemned to Death for Just one Sin

One transgression of the Law of God makes a person guilty and sentenced to eternal ceasing of existence. Once the first infraction has occurred, no amount of righteous living will undo the grievousness of that one sin. There is nothing else to look forward to but damnation.
Why?

It only takes one disobedience to be sentenced to death, because that one failure was a statement broadcast to the universe, GOD’S LAWS AREN’T GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME! They can’t be all obeyed all the time! And guess who takes these arguments to the very throne and casts them all at God, daring Him to avenge Himself? Satan! He insults God every chance he gets. Of the devil the scriptures states, “He opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.” Rev. 13:6. But it doesn’t matter that he does it often. God doesn’t deserve even the first insult, even the first slap in the face! He is the Most Holy, the everlasting Father, the Ancient of Days, our loving Creator. How dare anyone approach Him without the proper humility and fear? God doesn’t deserve the treatment He gets every moment because of our insubordination and selfishness. We need to go to Jesus and be changed by His love and grace.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Lost River of Zion

As time moved forward out of the moral darkness of Babylon after the flood, God found a man who had finally seen enough of wickedness. Terah found a thought continually disturbing his mind that Ur was no place to raise up his boys. Although part of a long line of families who maintained the fundamentals of the truth, due to his exposure to rampant idolatry, Terah’s conception of God’s will had become degraded. So he left the Babylonian suburb but was content to remain within the Fertile Crescent where merchandise was idolized, and through the constant traffic found there, the good life of the world could be guaranteed. Over time, the settlement named after Terah’s son, took on the evil attributes which had unconsciously been carried out of the Chaldees with them. The influence of the pagan travelers, as well, left their mark on the inhabitants of the camp and it had lost its original purpose of being separate from the indulgent practices so prevalent around the world. They needed to move again, but Terah, unable to listen to God’s voice, was to stay where his heart was and where he had made his home.

Abram was to remove from his father, and all his brother Haran’s business and worldliness. He was to leave the comforts and security of civilization and to come down into the arid hills of the land of Canaan, God’s original destination for Terah.

Abram conceded. Packing up his things, with his wife and helpers, he forever put behind him the promise of worldly wealth. His disdain for all these things grew out of that longing for purity of heart and excellence of character, and he knew that that voice which he heard behind him was more than just his own thoughts. The business centers which all favored the surface lifestyle were full of pride and pretense. Abram’s desire was for honesty, humility, modesty and a right standing before the Judge of the whole earth. He looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker was the Creator of that honesty and humility, for which he longed. So he gladly obeyed the command, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.”

Abram, like his grandfather ten generations previous, found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Here was one who would follow after righteousness, one who could be used by God to establish a slow but sure movement to change the whole world. His spirit was so humble and responsive to heaven that Jesus confided to him His plan. “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great.” But these great blessings were not to belong to him. With joyful relief Abram heard the next part, “...And thou shalt be a blessing.” Through an example of righteousness which he would be taught, and that of his children and grandchildren, the plan of salvation for this world would swell until it covered the whole planet. There would be resistance and provocation, but truth would surely set the world free from self-gratification. Through this human medium God would be able to speak to a world trapped in the clutches of its own self-destruction. “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Not through extensive organizations, not through complex systems of science and sociology, not through great accomplishments and achievements of man, would the true God save the world from its downward spiral. The family structure and the principles governing its operation—faith, hope and love—would be revived as the means of bringing man up again to his original destiny of service.

Much effort and time are required by God to bind a man’s unwillingness to be subject. More so a family and very much more so a nation and a world of rebellious, conflicting sinners. Thus after four generations of struggling against the Hebrews’ own self-sufficiency, God led them down into Egypt rather than allow them to desecrate, with their half-heartedness, the holy place where God had begun His work with Abraham away from the corrupting influence of high civilization. This would be a witness through all time to demonstrate God’s design in correcting the stubbornness of man. If we persist in our own direction, God will finally give us our way; and when we are fully aware of the results of our course, then and only then does He come and save us out of the mess we have caused. The river of Zion will go down, but God can bring it up again.

Only through his own struggle against the hand of God was Moses qualified to lead Israel out of the iron grip Pharaoh had on them. During forty years they had to learn the same lessons that Moses had already spent forty years learning. But God’s purposes in uplifting “all the families of the earth” must take place. God led the nation into the wilderness, to the enemies, the snakes, the places with no water or food, places of monotony, of solitude, of primitive lifestyle. They must obey the mandates from heaven or endure the threat of being cut off from the camp, left behind to find their way back to Egyptian civilization if they were determined to go. To be a Hebrew then was to be enclosed by God and the deafening reality of Him in the surrounding creation and in all the rites and precepts commanded them. There was no escaping it. They had had a close encounter with the God of gods. They had heard Him and seen the fire of His presence, and with that came accountability.

In spite of the worldliness from Egypt, the nation learned surrender to God. They were sanctified and able to enter the old homeland in a condition that was honorable to their heavenly Leader. The Sabbath became an experience and the day held a wonderful reminder of His power to sanctify. The sanctuary implemented the strength of a pure conscience, as a system was given to them for the removal of their guilt. Once in their new land, the revolting iniquitous nations were forced out, and farming, herding, and a simple, peaceful life, bringing glory to Christ, was brought in.

During the period of the judges, the truth of earth’s beginning, the truth of the great controversy between God and Satan, the truth of the entrance of death and the state of its captives, the warning of involvement with the paganism surrounding them; all was their guide and laid the foundation for their later exaltation. In spite of the unfaithfulness to God and to each other which might arise, they retained that which kept them precious as a body of men—the Sanctuary, the Law of God, and their identification with Abraham, the one who was promised exaltation through service. They had their ups and downs, but no matter how horrible their disobedience, so long as they retained these three things, they had more than the other nations and there existed the potential for them to turn from rebellion and again be a blessing to the world.

The oracles, the laws, which formed only the framework of holiness was finally filled in with the Spirit of God when David and Solomon sat on the throne. The operation declaring God’s name was at its apex and confirmed that what God promised He could perform. The words of the queen of Sheba spoke for all who beheld this miracle kingdom, “Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom. Blessed be the Lord thy God which delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the Lord loved Israel for ever, therefore made He thee king, to do judgment and justice.” 1Kings 10:8, 9. Jerusalem was a city set on a hill, which could not be hidden from the world. Exalted to world dominion, Israel ruled in fairness and created an atmosphere of good will and peace on earth.

But Israel slipped from that exalted standing, and the decline began with Solomon. He became disobedient to the structure God gave for their protection and this led him to fall away from his faith and the Spirit of God left him. Quickly he found himself unable to obey the wisdom that had poured from his own mouth as he leaned unto his own understanding.

With a few exceptions of faithfulness and zeal, the majority of Israel quickly departed from the faith once delivered to the saints. Separated from the sanctuary by a diversion in Bethel and Dan, the not-so-distant tribes to the north resigned to never venture to the true house of worship in Jerusalem. The laws which pricked the heart were neglected by them and obliterated from their conscience. Their connection with the surrounding nations strengthened and it overshadowed their admission of their connection with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, their namesake. “When they knew God they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened.” Rom. 1:21. The God of Abraham was lost to their understanding. They were no longer distinct as a nation faithful to the Creator; so He let Satan take them away, assimilating them into the rest of paganism, and they ceased to exist as a unique tribal entity. Judah demonstrated a more favorable history, but leaning on her sister for human support, she also ceased to remain loyal to her heavenly Master. Her revivals were followed by deeper apostasies until God gave His temple to the destroyers and left the world without the light of truth.

Numerous messages poured from the hearts of Isaiah and Jeremiah. “A grievous vision is declared unto me; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth. Go up, O Elam: besiege, O Media; all the sighing thereof have I made to cease. Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken hold upon me, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth: I was bowed down at the hearing of it; I was dismayed at the seeing of it. My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me...Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground...Watchman what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night.” Is. 21:2, 3, 4, 11, 12. “Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof…. The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken His word…. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.” Is. 24:1-3, 5, 6. “The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.” Is. 24:19, 20. Yet the promise was made: “They shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited. Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously.” Is. 24:22, 23. “And He said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not: and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Then said I, Lord, How long? And He answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, and the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return,…so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.” Is. 6:9-13.

At the end of a long 600 year period of desolation, when the last straw of misfortune had broken the dream that the Lord countenanced their rebellious hearts, a special Person was promised for bringing Israel back to the obedience it had once known. “Behold My servant, whom I uphold; Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth; I have put My spirit upon Him: He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles…He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for His law.” Is. 42:1-4.

Jeremiah had similar warnings of the long desolation for God’s people. “The Lord said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto Me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord. And the Lord said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah. Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause Mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed My voice, saith the Lord. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion: and I will give you pastors according to Mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the Lord, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more. At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart. In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for a inheritance unto your fathers.” Jer. 3:6-18. “My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. Destruction upon destruction is cried; for the whole land is spoiled: suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment. How long shall I see the standard and hear the sound of the trumpet? For My people is foolish, they have not know Me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the Lord, and by His fierce anger. For thus hath the Lord said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end.” Jer. 4:19-27. “Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, and seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it. And though they say, The Lord liveth; surely they swear falsely. O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return. Therefore I said, Surely these are poor; they are foolish: for they know not the way of the Lord, nor the judgment of their God. I will get me unto the great men, and will speak unto them; for they have known the way of the Lord, and the judgment of their God: but these have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds. Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them, and a wolf of the evenings shall spoil them, a leopard shall watch over their cities: every one that goeth out thence shall be torn in pieces: because their transgressions are many, and their backslidings are increased.” Jer. 5:1-6. “For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.” Jer. 29:10-14.

Like dominoes the kingdoms of vanity fell and were removed, and the holy land was finally at rest. And while some of the children of Judah had not partaken in the general apostasy, every person marched the hundreds of miles in chains to Babylon. There, Daniel and his three friends were set apart from the other Hebrew nobles because they followed the laws that had been forsaken by the captive nation of Judah. For Daniel and his friends one blessing followed another as they learned the rewards of obedience to Jehovah.

For seventy years Daniel served among men opposed to the pure principles of righteousness given to the Hebrews. During that time he longed for the restoration of the temple and throne of Israel. How much longer for the desolation of Israel? was ever on his mind. Without the temple to present the peace of heaven, the curse of God lay heavier and heavier on the earth. In the final year of Belshazzar, with the kingdom rotting out from underneath him, Daniel saw a vision of the future purposes of God in the earth. Babylon was soon to be destroyed by the Medes. Then Greece would rise and afterward an unnamed kingdom which would oppress God’s people.

No word was given that Israel would ever return to world dominion. In this curious vision was related a king of fierce countenance and understanding dark sentences; in this vision the great Prince of princes was also seen being attacked, along with the casting down and stamping upon of the hosts of heaven. It was indicated that, notwithstanding the great wickedness seen in the current corrupt empire of Belshazzar, transgression had not as yet come to the full. Even more disturbing was what he saw during an intermission of the vision. Two angels were speaking of the great apostasy under review and one asked the other, “How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden underfoot?” And the answer came, “Unto 2,300 days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” Dan. 8:13, 14.

This time prophecy was in apparent collision with the vision two years previous concerning the same issues. “And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.” Dan. 7:25. 1,260 years of desolation for Israel, or 2,300 years? Thus Daniel was utterly confounded and in his empty search for the future of the re-establishment of righteousness on earth he saw only a faint gleam of hope at the end of some long period of darkness. Then in the first year of the Medo-Persian empire, Daniel discovered Jeremiah’s prophecy of a seventy-year captivity for Judah. This triggered him to seek God in behalf of his people and for himself, that God would pardon them for all their woeful past. “O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither Thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against Thee…. To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him; neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets…” Dan. 9:7-10.

Before he could finish his confessions, the word of the Lord came. “O Daniel,” said Gabriel, “I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding…Therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision. Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, and to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.” Dan. 9:22-24. Here we can detect a dual purpose of this time prophecy: 1) a second chance, one last opportunity, given to Judah as a nation, to follow the laws and keep the covenant of God; and 2) the Messiah finally to come. Messiah was that Servant spoken of in Isaiah (chap. 42 and 53). He was that Prophet like Moses mentioned in Deuteronomy (18:15). He was Shiloh and “the Seed” of Genesis (49:10; 3:15). He was the one of whom David was a type, typified in Isaiah (9:7) and in Jeremiah (33:21). He was to come to establish judgment in the earth and to magnify the Law. The Lawgiver from Sinai was to come in person, somehow, someway. Then He was to bear the sin of many and make intercession for the transgressors. Daniel understood one last chance remained for the Jews to make an end of sins in preparation for the great event and then the sacrifices again would end and the abomination of desolation would play out. (Dan. 9:26, 27).

Another desolation to come! 70 years, 490 years, 1,260 years, 2,300 years! How much more could this world take? Daniel fasted for three weeks and lay in sackcloth and ashes to mourn the distressing news. Many years of defilement lay between the end of the system of sacrifice and oblation and the promised cleansing of the sanctuary. Who was that cruel king who could end the only means of propitiation of God, of revival and conversion in the hearts of men? How dark would earth become without a single clear voice of sanctified conscience?

But what about the promises of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel? “…For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness. For the Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the land.” Is. 10:22, 23. “This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people… and … they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jer. 31:33, 34. “I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and I will bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean:…A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God.” Ez. 36:24-28. Gabriel explained to Daniel that 490 years after the rebuilding of Jerusalem the rebellion plaguing the cause of God would be removed completely, but only a small part would be saved—a tenth, if that. The rest would be cut off from the privilege of the special covenant with God.

The prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel looked like they were fulfilled in the revival and reformation under Ezra and Nehemiah. A revival did occur during the rebuilding of city and temple, but this quickly died again at the passing of those humble servants, and the religious leaders fell into vanity again and reared up their own imagined continued revival. No, the truth lay in the words of Gabriel that Daniel strained to comprehend, a prophecy that would be sealed from the nation. In His grace, the Lord God gave them another opportunity to prepare for judgment, knowing that their eyes were already too blinded and their ears deafened to truth. The true fulfillment would occur at the end of the 490 years, beginning at the 69th week of years, at the baptism of John. “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God. Speak comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” Is. 40:1, 2.

To this true revival of the prophets’ real Remnant of Israel, which would include not only the Jews and dispersed ten tribes of Israel but also Gentiles, all who would receive it, Paul attests when he declared, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will… Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself:...in whom we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will…in whom ye also trusted after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.” Eph. 1:3-5, 9-11, 13-14. “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” Rom. 8:29, 30. Being that Messiah had not yet come during the centuries preceding the end of the 70 week prophecy, the true revival and return of Israel to God could not truly occur until then, in spite of the façade of the religious leaders. Instead, the apostolic church at the end of the 490 years truly fulfilled the prophecies. The ancient “kingdom of priests,” and “holy nation” (Ex. 19:5, 6) was reincorporated anew into “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people…which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” 1 Pet. 2:9, 10. We cannot argue with the claims of Peter, Paul, and John when they apply the promises of the Old Testament scriptures to the apostolic revival of what they termed the “present” “Israel of God.”

To the rest of the nation, the contemptible revival that poured upon them was “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” Vs. 8. “And the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.” Is. 28:17, 18. Paul further clarifies what had so recently happened. “Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.” Rom. 11:11. As a corporate body, the nation of Israel “fell,” they “stumbled,” they “were diminished,” they “were cast away” and rejected by God to show the “severity” of His displeasure. But through that experience some would come to terms with God’s expectations. The rejection of the Jews, as God’s spiritual depository to the world, was designed not only to startle them into repentance, but also to permit the Gentiles entrance into a knowledge of God whom the Jews had forbade. (Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.) As Paul wrote, “the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world.” Vs. 15.

“I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.” Vs. 13, 14. Paul makes it clear that God cast away His people, rejecting them as a nation, not rejecting them as individuals. They were not all cast away, for Paul himself was proof of that. “I say then, hath God cast away [all] His people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew.” Rom 11:1, 2. Since the beginning of man, the real Zion consisted of the core, “them that turn from transgression in Jacob.” Is. 59:20. The Jews who received the gospel were the true children of God who would turn from rebellion, whom God had seen down the portal of time. “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel; neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children.... That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God,” but the children of faith are counted for the true seed. Rom. 9:6-8. They were that tenth, the promised remnant prophesied by Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. “At this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” They, “if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.” Vs. 5, 23.

The election of grace was hidden in the promises of the prophets, foretold but not explicitly explained. It was not explained because it could not be comprehended. If described, it would have been distorted by unconverted rabbis and the New Dispensation aborted. The beautiful and simple ritual law had become corrupted beyond all effectiveness and was discarded as a mentruous cloth by heaven. The new covenant gospel must be protected until its revelation to the world in the New Dispensation. Now Paul saw the Gospel eclipsing an old ceremonial system, corrupted by the pagan world and decayed by centuries of unbelief in the ministers of the true altar. Yet he saw it saving some of them, and then spreading to encompass all the groups that ever departed from the truth, from the days of Noah to our day, until all God’s remnant, wherever they might dwell, would hear and turn to heaven and join the commonwealth of Israel transferred to the church. (Acts 4:33-35). “Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” And then Jesus would purify through tribulation and personally retrieve His church; “and so all Israel shall be saved…‘when I shall take away their sins.’” Vs. 25-27.

But, in spite of God’s reclaiming His citizens for His Earth made new, Paul also discerned an apostasy on the horizon for the Dispensation of grace. Against all his efforts to stem the mystery of iniquity, he wept that his precious gospel must also be corrupted. He was familiar with Daniel’s prophecies and had insight to their meaning in view of the phenomenal revival he had been part of. He warned the Roman saints, “Be not highminded but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee.” Paul put out every form of disobedience and trained others to do the same, “Lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” Heb. 12:15. He counseled, trained, chastened, provoked; he worked hard to stir up the people of God to fortify them against the battle to come. And his writings are the legacy which have brought God’s people through to our day.

To the Thessalonians Paul gave an interpretation of Daniel’s fearful visions. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day (of Christ’s return) shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition… For the mystery of iniquity doth already work.” 2Thess. 2:3, 7. And anyone who would give in to the current apostasy of Paul’s day would continue to do so, until, like the dispersion of Israel, he was taken out of the election of grace. Concurrently, the political Roman Empire would remain in place, holding back, as it were, the next great empire, the apostatized Christian church. Then God, at the end, would send a great delusion and lying spirits; that all who had joined in to soil the greatest gift to mankind might be damned and destroyed by the brightness of His coming.

This apostasy developing in Paul’s day was the 3½ year prophecy that Daniel had been given, when the beast power “shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of times.” Dan. 7:25. The apostle John also was given the vision of this beast which attempted to destroy the intercessory work of Messiah. The Son was born and escaped His murderer and was caught up to God and to heaven. A war then commenced in heaven and the Dragon drew the worst part of the host of God and cast them to the earth. This symbolized the backsliding church standing on the side of the Dragon for 1,260 years. (Revelation 12).

Again in the New Dispensation, the true character of God and an intimate relationship with Him was trampled under foot. Christianity took on the features of cruelty and self-sufficiency. The very heaven-sent cure for pagan self-indulgence became the source allowing it and claiming that God doesn’t so much mind the unconsecrated life. The words of Jesus, “Be ye therefore perfect” transformed into the philosophy “Nobody is perfect!” The best way to hide something is to put it right out in the open, and Satan completely hid the gospel from Christendom while they claimed to reverence it. For over a thousand years Christianity suffered this tragedy while the sciences fell behind and the Dark Ages began. The national governments were limited in their sovereignty and power because the papal father corralled them in his holy arms, and, taking advantage of their ignorance of God, forced them to submit their strength to him. Tribute to the pope was the dues they owed for his prayers for God’s continued blessing. All the while they were hoodwinked as he grew richer and more powerful than they. Not a soul throughout Europe during those long centuries heard the good word, “Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The sweet call of the Spirit never came from the pulpit. Conversion, true repentance, the transformation by God, were forgotten treasures. None were admonished to good works through the power of the authoritative word of God; rather, worship consisted of a round of rituals using a tongue of an empire long extinct. The age-long conclusion was that that was good enough and that nothing more was expected of religion. Held in ignorance, the stifled nations conceived of nothing better and were held as pawns to the enslavement of the ruling class, who were enslaved by the religious leaders.

Mary, Peter, Paul, John, James and a myriad of other individuals were venerated. When, in Christ’s day, the rich young ruler attempted to venerate Jesus with the flattering words, “Good Master,” Jesus, the royal Son of God, turned away from the aggrandizement, apparently disclaiming His own Godship. Nicodemus said, “Master, we know you are a teacher sent from God…” and Jesus simply replied, “Ye must be born again.” Jesus did not come here to pamper or to be pampered. He came not to fall down and worship a man, nor did He expect that from anyone. He taught His disciples, “If I your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” “So careful was the great Healer to direct attention from Himself to the Source of His power, that the wondering multitude, ‘when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see,’ did not glorify Him but ‘glorified the God of Israel.’ Matt. 15:31.” Prophets and Kings p. 69 (Emphasis supplied). Like the religious leaders in Christ’s day, the pontiffs fixed a great gulf between the Son of God and themselves. They were the antithesis of the One they professed to follow. Christ said, I am not God, but He was. They claimed to stand in for God, vicariously reigning in His stead and presenting His image to the world, even at one point accepting the praise of “God on earth,” but they were not. They were just the opposite of everything Jesus stands for. They were anti-Christ.

Paul saw all this coming. He told the people on his last journey, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” Acts 20:28-31. Paul reminded them of what Daniel had seen, “I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.” “Then I would know the truth…of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows…. Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon the earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.... And he shall speak great words against the most High.” Dan. 7:8, 19, 20, 23, 25. “And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.” “And power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.” Rev. 13:6, 5.

But this beast power would receive a wound by a sword. The Word of God, the sword of the Spirit, was brought forth from its prison behind church walls. The Protestant Reformation rose up and slew the giant papal power. Through the simple presentation of the truth of God’s character and mercy, Europe shook off the chains that the imposters had placed upon it. Relying wholly upon the arm of God the Reformers faced the dangerous opposition of the Vicar of Christ. Each burning martyr drove the stake deeper into the heart of the papacy until its power was completely lost, for a time, to Europe. The movements of those early years of the 16th century resulted in the establishment of Protestant America as a stronghold against papist imperialism. The vibrancy of America, in spite of its faultiness, has stood as the one obstacle to Roman Papal supremacy, and that beast power has chomped at the bit to this day. The providences of God fulfilled His own prophecy. Through subterfuge, however, the papacy has almost returned to its former superiority. Protestants are being convinced to give up their God-given birthright and now they are falling before their papal enemy which God had put under their feet.

Thus the Reformation of the 16th century finalized the prophecy of the 1,260 year trampling of the saints. Yet there remains one last time period spoken of by Daniel: the 2,300 year prophecy, the re-establishment of the daily service of the Sanctuary, the played out demonstration of the plan of salvation, and the true representation of heaven. The beauty of the Old Testament scenes took its watchers far beyond the mundane cares of this life. The purity, the obedience, the modesty of the priests, the order, the overall humility in its design touched every heart willing to respond to the Author of love. “O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day.” “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Ps. 119:97; 23:6. “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me up upon a rock. And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in His tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.” Ps. 27:4-6. David here intimates that to dwell in the temple was to dwell in wonder and awe of God’s will and to abide under His control. It meant the essence of the Christian experience, a millennium before Christ, in the supposed dark ages of the “barbaric” and “legalistic” Old Testament! Reiterating David, John wrote, “He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in Him.” “Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit.” 1Jn. 4:16, 13. “The everlasting covenant” of the Old Testament is “the everlasting gospel” of the New. Is. 24:5; Rev. 14:6.

Thus with the revival of the daily on-going relationship with God within the apostolic church came the reappearance of the Old Testament gift of prophecy. The church had answered the promise of a remnant of Israel in all respects. The “holy men of old” who “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” were seen again in the church of God. 2Pet. 1:21. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out My spirit.” Joel. 2:28-29. Concerning the strange events on the day of Pentecost, declared Peter, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” Acts 2:16.

At the end of Daniel’s 2,300 years, with the restoration of the experience of salvation through communion, the gift of prophecy would again be the inevitable byproduct. Another remnant was envisioned by John beyond the 1,260 year prophecy in Revelation chapter 12. At the cleansing of the sanctuary, the apostolic revival, the pure system of obedience on earth, would be reestablished, replete with the Sabbath rest and the spirit to prophesy, or “the testimony of Jesus.” Rev. 12:17. The revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the days of the apostles was given to that group which repeated the unpopular prophecies and reproofs of Daniel and Revelation in preparing the world for the second advent of Christ. Seen in the pageant of John, they were to “rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.” Rev. 11:1. Principle by principle, precept upon precept, the Adventists collected all the original truths that had been handed down through the ages since Adam, but which had been lost in the papal darkness, regained by the Reformation, and scattered among the various denominations. Like the rebuilding in Ezra’s day, the Adventists, represented by the cleansed sanctuary, stood forth ready for the exit of the great High Priest from the heavenly Most Holy Place. The high standards given to the original group that erected the first tabernacle in the wilderness were again given to their anti-type and the Adventists stood preparing for the personal, literal return of Jesus as He had promised.

As the revival of Paul’s day compared to the “remnant” of Moses’ revival, so the Adventist revival compared to the remnant of Paul’s revival. See Rom. 9:27,28; Rev. 12:17. Every revival has ended in apostasy, each remnant has its own remnant. It happened to Enos’ revival, it happened to Enoch’s. It happened to Noah’s, Abraham’s, Moses’ and David’s. It happened to Ezra and Paul, it happened to Luther and the Wesleys. And it has happened to James and Ellen White. The spirit may be willing but the flesh is weak. Up and down, in and out, the weakened will of man for righteousness has been so fickle. The Adventists were raised up to rebuild the desecrated sanctuary and to recapture the story of the battle that had raged during the Christian falling away. But something bad happens to them like all the others before them. “The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them...And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.” Rev. 11: 7, 10. “While the Bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.” Matt. 25:5.

Just like Israel of old, the group who received the Law of God in the 1840’s, but became disobedient to it, have found themselves without God’s benediction like “a wild bull in a net.” “They are full of the fury of the Lord, the rebuke of thy God.” Is. 51:20. But their time of desolation will come to an end. When the Adventists are finally ready to be obedient, the words will again be fulfilled: “Therefore hear now this, thou afflicted, and drunken, but not with wine: thus saith thy Lord the Lord, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of His people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of My fury; thou shalt no more drink it again: but I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee; which have said to thy soul, Bow down, that we may go over: and thou hast laid thy body as the ground, and as the street, to them that went over.” “Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion. For thus saith the Lord, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money.... Now therefore, what have I here, saith the Lord, that My people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the Lord; and My name continually every day is blasphemed. Therefore My people shall know My name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am He that doth speak: behold, it is I.” Is. 51:20-23; 52:1-6.

This is no time to be throwing stones at the Lord’s anointed bride. “And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.” Rev. 11:11-13.

Like the tribe of Judah preserving the truth contained in the Hebrew religion, Adventism carries forward the true spirit of Protestantism. They possess the holy oracles from God in the pillars laid by their pioneers. History, through the providence of God, is repeating itself. Due to the war raging over the ownership of humanity, the cause of truth, carried by mere men, waxes and wanes. Each bright spot in history is a guidepost forming a line of direction pointing out the purposes of God. Satan’s efforts are to destroy those places in history which can be used for guidance for us in these dark times. If we lose hold of these we will be a ship without rudder or anchor, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness. Adventists, though many do not appreciate it, have the correct relation between scriptures and the true interpretation of history through the knowledge of the great controversy. Among all of Protestantism, their books alone hold on to the original tradition and structure given by heaven to Adam and Noah, and Moses and Paul, whether or not the people obey it or savour it. In the library of the Spirit of Prophecy they have the ark of God; but few realize its holiness, and but few will be saved by the truth in it. Regardless of their unfaithfulness, however, (and ours) we must not reject the oracles. Adventism is the last bastion of truth—Adventism in its pure form, straight from the testimonies and instruction of God’s last prophet. If we find ourselves becoming disenchanted with the people of God we need to remember that we are all slumbering and sleeping while the Bridegroom tarries to see who will choose His righteousness or their rebellion. Let’s remember, according to Revelation chapter 3, that an aroused Laodicea is the last church. We need to heed Paul’s admonitions to certain individuals who wanted to bust loose from the bondage of the established religion: “Be not highminded, but fear...Lest He also spare not thee,” and, “Be of the same mind toward one another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.” “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.” “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.” Rom. 11:20, 21;12:16, 15, 12. And let’s remember the humility of David who said to his men, concerning the envious and murderous King Saul,“The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.” 1Sam 24:6. But we, “speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Eph. 4:15, 13. Then we too may one day stand on the sea of glass mingled with fire, there without blame or fault before God, and “sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb,” (Rev. 15:3) a part in a river of multitudes, nations, tongues and peoples, all of whom had gone down into the depths of sin and unbelief, but whom Christ was able to bring up again to Himself.