TruthInvestigate

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

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A person God turned around many times.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Macular Hole

“But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” Matt. 6:23.

This “evil eye” has been believed to be used for casting a spell. When some people have read this, a shiver has gone down their spine. But that is simply a superstitious misunderstanding of the scriptures, an age-old relic of the Dark Ages when the meaning of the Bible was destroyed. The evil eye is simply the physical disability of eyes that don’t train together. One eye looks at you but the other points away. Sometime this is barely noticeable, sometimes it is extreme.

Jesus, the Master teacher, used this condition to help us understand our sinful condition and, by comparison, what we can have, which is what He had. For centuries, the people of Israel appeared to be looking to God, yet their attention was toward the evil going on around them. Our fallen human natures have lost the luster of a heart wholly dedicated to goodness. This is due to a lack of surrender to the God of righteousness and holiness. We are helpless to ever bring ourselves to surrender. This is a problem deep inside the will. Philosophy, ethics, education, social refinement, human morality only waste our time and energies. Unless we drown ourselves with self-destructive pleasures, this inability to be consecrated to goodness and love will dig at us for life. That is, unless we can stumble upon the antidote.

Another eye disease exemplifies this even better, called “Macular Hole.” Macular hole is a problem that affects the very central portion of the retina. The symptoms are a blind or partially blind central spot in the vision. All that the victim has is his peripheral vision. This is so descriptive of our lack of spirituality because we all want to be moral. We all want to be happy, and happiness comes from being compassionate. We want others to recognize that we are good and trustworthy. We hate rejection by the group because they have lost trust in us due to misbehavior.

But we gravitate to self-indulgence; we gravitate to evil and misbehavior. It’s in our fallen, weakened natures. We can get involved in religion, even deeply so. This was Israel’s situation. We can align our lives with God like they did, yet their problem still persisted, as does ours. We can be looking straight at God, yet all that really catches our attention is from the world around us. How rude we are to Him! The distractions are abundant and constant, and He knows what’s happening inside us better than we do. But, to our undoing, we look directly at Jesus, and are blind to the principles and forces that molded His character and moved His heart and will. The secret of His power over the devil is unknown, a power that we can have, a power experienced by godly men and women of the past. We can spend our whole lives going to church, and still die ignorant of who Jesus was.

Our tendency for this is so deeply ingrained that even after learning of God’s love, submitting to its dominion over our heart and knowing the real consecration to the God of goodness, that we can lose that prized condition. And the slide away from God’s love is so subtle that rarely do we notice it. Peter, on the shore, seeing the bounty of fish and the love of God, prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet. That hardened fisherman acted the fool in public, oblivious of everyone on the beach that day, in response to a new concept of the eternal God that flashed through his deadened conscience. Yet, he was in and out of that original conversion during his whole time with Jesus’ ministry. Thus Christ’s words to him on the night before His rejection and crucifixion, “Peter, I have prayed for you. And when you are converted, strengthen the brethren.”

It’s God’s work to bring us to conversion, that consecration to divine love. We simply can’t make it happen. That would be like a doctor doing brain or open-heart surgery on himself. Faith and reconciliation to God is all His work, and not ours. Ours is to yearn for it, earnestly seeking God, and then to patiently waiting; ours is to fear and tremble when we notice it missing, to act on the conviction of the Holy Spirit that we have fallen away and aren’t right with God. Ours is to respond to each lesson He gives along the way; we must choose for Him and His righteousness at each test. But the heart transplant is really the transplant of a new principle in the conscience, which must be able to abide there long enough, and in the atmosphere of peace, that it takes root. Consecration, trust, submission to God’s will, is wholly a gift of God. We are His workmanship, through a knowledge of Christ and through His washing of water by the word.

Only as we are surrendered to Christ’s love and will, can we sympathize with His Law and methods. Then we will have a tunnel vision when we face Christ, in which peripheral vision is disabled. Only when we can continually have communion without any distractions of the flesh, can we walk with Him as did the holy men of old.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Peace, Peace, When There is No Peace

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom. 1:7. When we are reconciled to God we are automatically reconciled to His law. We are justified through a renewed trust in Him. We are just through a new trust in His law, a trust born from the grace we see in God in His treatment of rebel sinners. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom. 5:1. In this peace comes a whole new world. We look at life completely differently. Trouble is not troublesome anymore. The landscape of our past is transformed. Our grievances toward this person or that are easily forgiven and forgotten. The hate or pain by erring mortals in the past are overshadowed by a gracious love and kindness in God’s treatment of us. In His forgiveness and peace our forgiveness comes easy—a joy! And we have full confidence that any future mistreatment toward us we can just as easily forgive. “Not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Rom. 5:3-5. Through the love of God our new work is uplifting fallen humanity. So many never have tasted of grace, and our new determination is to give them that opportunity. We can see the look in their face when grace dawns upon their darkened minds. The world’s multitudes, even in the church, have never tasted and seen that the Lord is good.

Even in our temporal occupations, our new priority is to give grace. The effects of grace will only be good and bring a new rush of activity and enjoyment among the coworkers, with people happy to come to work because they have found a true friend there, one who wants not only their happiness but the happiness of the supervisor and the president of the company. Our new goal is to send a message of grace to the owner via a renewed attitude among the employees. In their happiness, surging productivity and creativity bring new health to the company, with its resultant wealth. No new privileges or awards are necessary; all we want is to see them accept the ticket out of this world to paradise, the grace of God acknowledged and received.

And our life outside of work is no different. That one goal in life, that new and effective tool in our hand, we use in our homes, in the neighborhood, in the church, among our extended relations, and with friends, acquaintances, and strangers. God has finally succeeded in turning our course, like redirecting the mighty Mississippi River. And all of this through the blessed peace of heaven.

If we don’t have this powerful peace and all these new determinations, do we really have God’s pardon? Do we have the eternal life that starts today? (Jn. 6:54;1Jn. 3:15;1Jn. 5:12) Are we truly justified, as some might imagine themselves to be, without the big change in the life? I raise this question because an idea being noised about is that all we need is justification and that the results listed in the epistle to the Romans, i.e. the peace, glory in tribulation, forgiveness, service, are not required. Some profess to be justified before God through their Lord Jesus, but the peace is missing. They can’t forgive, they don’t show grace; their work is to demolish, not to edify and strengthen. Because of their good sounding language, they seem to be on the right track. But the very accusations they call against others may be said of them, “Destruction and misery are in all their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes.” Rom. 3:16-18.

This is particularly disturbing in that the love of divisiveness which has caused the break up of other denominations, now some use to threaten the unity of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, the last movement on earth to prepare the world for the coming storm which is already gathering momentum. The purpose of the Advent movement is to garner souls for Christ before His soon coming, but many have become divisive. Satan has always loved the work of division. Divide and conquer is his preferred method. Scatter the power of the mighty and holy people is his intention. Are the Adventists those holy and mighty people? God sees it that way. We are the last church; we have the testimony of Jesus. We may be as corrupt as the Jews became, yet Jesus said, “Salvation is of the Jews.” Jn. 4:22. “Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and He hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it. He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him and the shout of a King is among them.” Num. 23:20,21. God always has a preferred group on Earth. They have special privileges and also a heavy duty and responsibility for which they will be held accountable. Who are we to argue with God? Through His messenger we have this stunning word, “The church, enfeebled and defective, needing to be reproved, warned, and counseled, is the only object upon earth upon which Christ bestows His supreme regard.” TM p.49. The work of tearing down the church is as much a losing battle as it was for Balak and Balaam. We have the Law; we have the testimonies; we have the oracles of God. “God is with us.” “Salvation is of the [SDA church].” “To the Law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Is. 8:10; Jn. 4:22; Is. 8:20.

But Satan’s work (Dan. 12:7;8:24) of scattering and destroying God’s people today is no different from his work in all ages. This was his work in the courts of heaven. And what did he use for a wedge then? Peace—but a peace of a widely different character than God’s peace. Lucifer “waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and [he] cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. Yea, he magnified himself even to the Prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground and it practiced, and prospered.” “And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many.” Dan. 8:10-12,25.

What Satan is doing today is only a continuation of his tactics in his original revolution against the laws and requirements of God. But he works best under cover. “He shall cause craft to proper in his hand.” Deception is his forte, an art perfected by success over eons of time. He has been described as being “wiser than Daniel; there is no secret that they can hide from thee.” Ez. 28:3. He deceived almost half of the angelic forces, all whom “excel in strength” physically, mentally, and spiritually. What are we? How can we withstand his cunning without the constant and direct help of Christ, without doing His work, imitating His purity and excellence?

So Satan works, undermining the outpost of God government on Earth, the territory of his daring venture. For the last 150 years, the civil laws of God have demonstrated to the devil the peace and order He plans to set up; and the oracles of His testimony in His people declare the kingdom of righteousness that will reign. Both prophesy Satan’s approaching demise. But that only makes him redouble his effort to rise above God. “Woe unto the earth and sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” Rev. 12:12.

This warning was given following the revival of the Early Rain in the apostolic church. The devil did come down and in great wrath. Silently, determinedly, during centuries beginning while the apostles yet lived, he stole away the kingdom of God from Christ and His people. As described in the ancient language of Daniel’s vision, “He shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries. And with the arms of a flood shall they be overflown from before him, and shall be broken; yea, also the Prince of the covenant. And after the league made with him he shall work deceitfully: for he shall come up, and shall become strong with a small people. He shall enter peaceably even upon the fattest places of the province; and he shall do that which is fathers have not done, nor his fathers’ fathers; he shall scatter among them the prey, and spoil, and riches: yea, and he shall forecast his devices against the strongholds, even for a time.” Dan. 11:21-24. Out of a humble and faithful minority grew a monolithic monster, the “holy” Roman church. Through its borrowed superstitious mantras, its charades and parades, Christianity was conquered. Through its confessional booths the civil kingdoms were weakened. “Penances were so contrived as to lead to a repetition of the offence.” Wylie, Book 6, Chap. 4. Always insinuating civil unrest through the confession system, the kingdoms were always fighting among each other, thus allowing the Pope to keep the upper hand of power. Today, in the countries of Catholic influence, the same history is repeated and the church retains her self-acclaimed temporal power over the nations of the world. By attacking the government covertly, she dominated them while they trusted her whole-heartedly as a teacher sent from God.

But as we near the end, that woeful prophecy of the devil’s wrath will become increasingly applicable. What do we see happening among the reformed Protestants in America? A resurgence of criticism and attack, the spirit of Rome— the spirit of Lucifer—the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience. Now we see Protestants working to threaten and openly assail their own U.S. government, they being grieved by the separation of church and state. The same work of overthrow is also seen in the sphere of religion as denominations break apart under the spirit of bitterness and intolerance.

This very attitude has been prophesied for the very last day. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” Among the characteristics of the final wicked society is listed: “without natural affection,” “false accusers,” “fierce.” Yet they all profess religion, “having a form of godliness.” 2Tim. 3:1-5.

The following appears to help the church but really demonstrates the venom of the enemy:

“As I said yesterday, having love for the church doesn’t mean I, or anyone else, should hold back if some fellow Adventist needs to be held accountable. Being a supportive Adventist sometimes means I have to kick a friend in the ass so he or she takes a few steps forward.”

Is this what we really want to be part of? Is this the language of our Savior? The rest of the context of the above statement revealed much cynicism. It’s none other than the work of the accuser of the brethren. It doesn’t bear the stamp of Jesus. The Lord is not in it.

Let’s draw away from the precipice. Let’s not choose to become God’s enemy by siding with His enemy. He used and recognized no other force in His work than the force of love. Love is easily entreated; love is not puffed up. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by them that make peace.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Cotton, the Kitten

A very pregnant cat lay at the entrance of a gas station crying to give birth. My compassionate daughter couldn’t ignore her there and brought her home. The cat birthed 4 kittens which we kept until they were weaned and then we took all to the SPCA, except one of the males because my wife knew someone who asked for it.

But unforeseen factors prevented that person from taking the kitten, so it slowly became a part of our home. My wife named it Cotton because it was pure white, however we held out hope that it would be taken. But no one wanted the little white kitten, and, with exception of being deaf, it grew healthy and energetic and finally needed to get outside. So he’d spend the day playing out in the front yard, hiding in the azalea bushes or under the porch, pretending he was a panther lurking in the deep dark jungle.

He started getting bolder. Almost every day when I would come home from work, he would jump out from behind the railroad ties we use to border the parking spot in our yard. He would arch his back to be scary and, half-nerved, pounce at my feet; and then run away after putting fear into me—like a hit and run. He was starting to tie knots in my heart and my apathy toward another pet began to wane.

But now Cotton was a few months old; and just as I had gotten attached to him, a terrible tragedy occurred. My daughter’s boyfriend and I got in his car for a quick spin around the block. There was no sign of Cotton; but as we started backing up, the kitten darted out from under the car and over to the pickup. We stopped and got out to see if he was hurt. He was hurt badly and lying over by the truck, breathing heavy, but just laying still, too hurt to cry. He was going to die.

We wanted to pick him up and take him into the house but we thought his back might be broken, or there might be organ damage from being run over, so I just spoke softly to him and held his head, stroking it very gently. He lasted maybe half a minute, then spit up some blood and went limp.

I can’t forget his look of innocence and sorrow mixed. Maybe kittens aren’t capable of blaming and condemning; nevertheless, his look of friendly acceptance never accused me of hurting him. That sad moment I can’t erase from my memories. He died in great pain for no cause of his own, and looked to us to help him to the bitter end.

That image leaves a solemn attitude in me. I never got to say good-bye. I never got to pick him up and show him that I loved him. But he was a life, he was energy and excitement and joy. And he trusted in me to never hurt him. Yet he died because of me.

You can’t know how I feel about the death of this cat because you didn’t experience him. But you have your own pets and loved ones—and maybe your own tragedies.

When I related this to a friend, she had her own story. Donna was waiting outside on a really cold winter day. Her daughter was just a baby and it was so cold that day that my friend had to put her baby inside her coat. As she listened, she heard a bird singing. It sang and sang. Then suddenly it just dropped to the ground, dead. It froze and was calling out for help, but no help came. That made my friend very sad.

In spite of the terribleness of it, our tragedies affect us for the good. They empower us to leave our self-pity to begin being pitiful and sympathetic of others; they change us from self-engrossment to being other-focused. They alter us, and do for us what we can’t do for ourselves.

It was for this purpose that the animal sacrifice system was instituted by God at the beginning. When a baby lamb had a knife put to its throat by someone who couldn’t carry their burden of guilt anymore, or a little sparrow died from a broken neck, having had his head wrung by a priest in behalf of a penitent sinner, pangs of sorrow penetrated to the core of that individual. Sacrificing is serious business; but it had to be. Though now dead, the memory of that precious little animal or bird left a new melancholy and solemn view on life that acted as a check to sinful self-centeredness and rebellion. Through the sacrifice, the guilty sinner became dead to sin and alive again to holiness, to wholeness. As much as Jesus loves to hear the little sparrows sing and see the lambs and kittens romp and play, He would allow them to be killed if that might turn us revolting rebels around. This doesn’t lessen the value of animals, it exalts the value of the unworthy human in God’s sight.

Those sacrifices were a shadow of things to come. They all foreshadowed the ultimate offering of innocence and purity, the Messiah, the innocent Lamb of God. If we would review the scenes from Gethsemane to Golgotha, the impact would rivet us to self-sacrifice. Christ died not only in our place, but at our hand. Not only would we have done what those soldiers and priests and people did to Him, we have done the same to Him and to the Father even today, and all during our lifetimes. It was my sin that blocked His view of His dearest Friend and my sin crushed out His life. He, the perfectly innocent, must perish if He insists on associating with a race of sinners like ours. In order to give me of His life to rescue me from drowning in a world of living death, I live and He suffocates. We trade life for death; I walk away alive, Him dead.

Never, throughout His ordeal, did He denounce, blame, accuse, and shout anathemas at us. No condemnation, but rather forgiveness to a world of sinners; in His acceptance for Barabbas’ accomplice He reaches out to a world of thieves and murderers like you and me, offering pardon for faith like He heard from the dying convict next to Him that day.

Overcome by trauma and shock, that kingly head lays limp on His chest; His healing hands mangled, His travelled feet broken, His hair torn and pulled out, His merciful face bruised and stained and reeking with priests’ and soldiers’ saliva. Having died in utter grief without any evidence for hope, His countenance is only sorrow; no furled brow betrays revenge. That scene Paul could never forget. It’s all he could think of; its all he could talk about.

Do we feel the riveting tragedy? Does it shake us from our self-complacency? If not, why not? This post can never take you there. The cross has no efficacy unless you go there yourself. We all must go there and stay. The effect does not happen instantaneously. Our mind, dulled from a lifetime of sin, wakens slowly to sorrow and sympathy; so time at the cross is key to a permanent change of heart toward it.

Do I sound self-centered and uncaring about the death of animals? The animal kingdom is full of death and competition for life. We are surrounded by tragedy. Those Old Dispensation victims of sacrifice were only a few examples throughout nature of every victim of a predator or starvation or disease. But not only will the Lord use nature, we also see human tragedies which He uses to get our heart’s attention. As it is written, “Since thou wast precious in My sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.” Is. 43:4.

Let us take each tragedy we encounter, in domesticated life or in the wild, as an opportunity for the Spirit to brand upon our imagination, to seal forever in our foreheads, the infinite sacrifice of the sinless Son of God. That we being dead to sin might live unto righteousness. “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” 1Pet. 2:25.

Works

What an archaic word! How we have carried forward a relic of the past and kept it for the sole purpose of making theological diatribes. I suppose its usage is a link to the KJV which is still my favorite version of God’s word. But that word, “works,” is the perfect example of why the KJV needed some revamping and updating. Few post-modernists would have a clue if they heard that word in our attempt to witness to them or if they chanced to catch it from a preacher.

“Works” needs some work! It needs some redefinition, some modernizing. “Faith without works is dead.” “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” Jas. 2:20;Eph. 2:8, 9. Two of the best known verses in the Bible, bar none. And the people who love to argue about everything under the sun just can’t get enough of these two apparently contradictory texts.

But obviously there is something important about “works” and faith. Are they together or opposed to one another? Friends or enemies? Can we produce either of them? How and when do we experience either one? Evidently “salvation,” another mysterious archaic, is heavily dependent on a resolution of the two components. So exactly what does “works” mean?

Well, works can be defined by the following modern terminology: behavior, good deeds, being a good person, human effort, obedience, acts of righteousness, commandment keeping, fruits of the Spirit, religious display, “Doing the right thing,” duty, the law, overcoming sin, a good track record, good reputation, etc. Quite a wide array of concepts, some good, some bad!

Ok. We’ve pretty much nailed down “works” to be what we can see and hear. It is actions, and words, related to morality or religion. Paul says to the Ephesian folk that these are not enough—not enough to be considered a Christian, not enough to really being good, not enough to endure the day of Christ’s coming and the Judgment. Faith is where our assurance lies and faith alone!

But James tells his flock that “works,” or good behavior, or a good life, is essential for faith! So now begins the dog-chasing-tail routine. Which comes first the chicken or the egg? Which holds the highest priority, faith or the fruit of the Spirit? Well, you can’t have His fruit unless you know the Spirit, and that takes faith, right? But James still strongly maintains that faith does not exist unless it is being demonstrated in action. (Jas. 2:18) And he presses further into the working zone by declaring that we are justified by more than faith, by “works;” (vs. 23,24) and that faith alone is dead! (vs.17).

Is this what happens when two theologians get together? Who has more clout? Who trumps who? Or are both great men of God and in agreement? Let’s look at this closely. Let’s look and listen to the Master teacher. If anyone had a handle on this He showed it.

“Thy faith hath made thee whole.” Many times did Jesus repeat this to individuals and to the listening crowd. Jesus was honoring the faith as revealed in the effort. Didn’t faith require work? The suffering one had to get to Jesus, which was rarely an easy task. That’s work, isn’t it? The premeditation and strategizing of the leper on how to get past all the well people and be healed of leprosy like so many other maladies had been, equated to many sleepless nights. Work? The woman with the blood issue had to press through a thick and dense wall of curiosity seekers, straining every muscle in her weakened body to intersect the passing Healer. Zaccheus, forgetting all reputation and social improprieties that come with wealth, must exert himself and climb a tree to see Jesus, who He was. Jacob had to wrestle all night, even with a raging, dislocated hip. Lots of work going on here. Lots of effort, perspiration, brain power, yearning for help, supernatural help.

Yet faith was also present. In every case we see faith, never without acting on that faith. If faith is real, it will act. I love the title of the book, “Faith Works.” In Spanish the whole meaning gets lost in the translation, “Fe in Accion,” interpreted Faith in Action. What the Spanish loses is the earth-shattering news that faith and action are not two separate entities. They must coexist, and faith generates work.

But what is the character of the work, without which faith is dead? Its whole purpose is for getting to Jesus, in order to be healed of sin and its effects so that we can have more faith. It sounds like circular reasoning, but efforts in righteousness for any other reason than ultimately to know God better and to serve Him is the wrong reason for effort. Is Granny down the street in need of help? Then go help her because you love her, knowing that God loves you in a much deeper way, not because you are helping Granny, but because you are His child and you need His all-powerful love. By beholding we become changed, and working out what we know of God only strengthens that image of Him in our minds. Loving like He loved. Doing like He did. Speaking His words of hope and truth—all for the express purpose of uniting with Him and being with Him—faith.

The faith and actions always work hand in hand. Peter exhorts us to add to our faith virtue and a list of other “works” (2Pet. 1:4-9) because if we do, we will fully come to know a deeper faith in Jesus—and if we don’t “grow in grace” (2Pet. 3:18) we will lose our faith and our salvation.

God initiates everything, we only respond. Faith is His gift because He has done so much for us and we see it. Faith responds to God’s initiatives; effort and works of righteousness respond to faith’s response. Thus, both faith and work are that divine nature He promises, both a response to His outworking, both essentially simultaneous, His gifts as we respond to His initiatives.

Let’s not be afraid of righteousness in the life. Let some on the sidelines accuse us of fanaticism or legalism or any other “ism.” Be obedient to the gospel—the everlasting gospel of the Old and New Testaments. Be a friend of God, through faith and works, in their proper perspectives, without which no man shall see the Lord.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Righteousness by Fiat

Many people really think this way. I used to. (No, the title wasn’t a typo.) Fiat: commanding something into existence from nothing; an authoritative or arbitrary decree, sanction, or order. Many people believe that all that is required of them is to command someone to obey them, and that individual must conform. They don’t see the need to first prepare the heart and mind of the misbehaving individual before demanding obedience, like a farmer prepares the soil before expecting anything out of it. They know no nurturing, admonishing, winning the heart first. And they think God’s method is the same as theirs.

But, “My thoughts are not your thoughts; neither are your ways My ways: saith the Lord.” “Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me; that I exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” “[The Lord] is longsuffering.” “He that winneth souls is wise.” Is. 55:8; Jer. 9:24; 2Pet. 3:3; Prov. 11:30.

The Lord doesn’t just snap His finger and demand obedience from His children. It isn’t Him arbitrarily commanding, “Jump!” and us immediately answering, “How high?” He says like Jacob, “I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before Me and the children are able to endure.” Gen. 33:14. The patience of Job was nothing compared to the patience of God.

He does command; those aren’t ten suggestions. He doesn’t cajol us into obedience; righteousness is not the result of His being politically correct with us. He is the King and He speaks with authority, but grace tempers each command. He knows who are His and He has faith in them. He speaks with assurance and with a confidence that makes us assured and gives us a confidence that responds to His. Behold, the secret to His lordship over His people. Here is His secret for making the devils run. And in the transfer of loyalties we move from the service of sin and temptation to righteousness. This mighty transaction can only be accomplished by His gentle commands, wooing our hearts and settling our trust in His kindness. Thus, returning to our first Master, we rise from death in sin to a life of blessing.

Sometimes He must lay aside His patient overtures and pick up His scourge. But in all His scourging, as many as He loves He rebukes and chastens. He will never overstep justice, and mercy will always and forever temper His judgments. We can trust in divine love. And in that trust, through good times and bad, times of His mercy and times of His justice, we find ourselves able to give Him our righteousness and to glorify Him. Until the day that we are sanctified and sealed, having learned never to distrust Him again, but to distinguish the presence of grace poured into all that He says and commands.

His righteousness comes by faith that works by love. Righteousness by fiat is the tool of the devil; righteousness by fiat is the strength of sin. Righteousness by faith is the power of God unto salvation.

Righteousness by anything else than faith is just a close and subtle counterfeit.

Jesus, the jabberwocky?

There are people who are very talkative, plain loquacious. You can’t get near them but they immediately open their mouth and let out a 15 minute soliloquy. My wife is a good example of this. And I love her to death. I’m not much of a talker, so we are like hand in glove, (or mouth in ear.)

I’m not a good communicator; I guess that explains my preference in writing. But my wife is a natural at communication, lives for it, and speaks three languages. Sometimes she is standing in a long line at the credit union or grocery store—perfect time to strike up a conversation! Some people don’t want to converse with her. Poor them! They are going to have to, like it or not! Zeny is the kind that either you love her or you hate her. There is no middle ground. And after 23 years of her talking and me listening, she’s kind of grown on me!

I’m beginning to see something about Jesus on this thought. Does the Lord start talking just as soon as we come to Him? Is Christ a jabberwocky? Is He so full of lessons to teach us that we don’t get a moment’s rest? Is a relationship with Him destined to be a never ending college degree program? Is our Friend in the heavens so learned compared to us that He finds it necessary to bombard us with all His wisdom, whether we like it or not?

I suspect some people believe this of Him. They think that He is all about a program, busyness, that He is simply goal oriented with a schedule to meet, and nothing more, a workaholic who automatically assumes the same for us. Maybe that’s because His people are that way, and since they are very prone to advertise their connection with Him, He ends up with a bad rap. It’s amazing He has stayed with us after all that we’ve done to His name. Wonderful grace!

Who would want to come to a Jesus like that described above? In reality, Christ was the supreme psychologist, the master teacher, a wise trainer of self-sacrifice, the stuff of true leadership. A wonderful counselor, He was one who knew the needs of humanity, inside and out. It doesn’t take the average person long to learn that a mindless taskmaster doesn’t make a good friend or teacher. It’s true He had a goal to reach when He was here. He had a new organization to establish on unheard of, unearthly principles with twelve men, and He only had 3 ½ years to do it in. His disciples were so slow of heart and mind and faith. Yet by His treatment of them they counted it the highest privilege to come to Him, always welcome to crowd into His presence. The attention He gave each one, the personalized lessons tailor-made from day to day events, the patience and gentleness, even in His reproofs, endeared Him to His little family of students, and left them deeply in wonderment and knowing deep down that He had been the Messiah, Prince of heaven and King of love.

He wasn’t always talking. Often He was asking a question and listening to the reply. Often He taught by example. Often a lesson came by means of His allowing a foreseen trial to teach for Him, needing only His short cap on the lesson. And then He was the master of getting some grand lesson to come out of the mouth of the person to whom He was conversing. “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Matt. 16:16. “He saved others, Himself He could not save.” Matt. 27:42. “He hath done all things well.” Mk. 7:37. “What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Matt. 19:16.

So coming to Jesus will truly be a learning experience, but it won’t ever be a chore. In fact it will be just the opposite; it will be a restful, exhilarating experience, an endless, blessed Sabbath. Will it be all ease and laid back? No. Will it ever be demanding? Yes. But He has a way of always keeping His demands doable. Will He ever ask us to do the impossible—maybe feed 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread, or its equivalent? Quite possibly He will pull a heavy requirement on us sometimes. But the intimate fellowship we have with Him and His humble unselfishness and kindness toward us will constrain us to follow His directions, no matter how difficult.

So is a relationship with Jesus simply an arrangement for Him to load us down with all that He knows? On the other extreme, will it decline into simply idleness or an infatuated romance? Never. There will be precious time alone, just being together with God, knowing He is present, and bonding closely together; but there will also be His instructions and lessons, a school for us to enter, an everlasting training program from which we never graduate, broken by many intimate moments, just Jesus and me.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Misrepresenting Christ with hate

He (or she) that doeth truth cometh to the light.

It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife: and some also of good will; the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds; but the other of love.

But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.

Their throat is an open sepulcre; with their tongues have they used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in all their ways: the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes.

For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.

Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it...and a mouth speaking great things....Which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet....whose look was more stout than his fellows.

He shall magnify himself above all.

If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

The Lord is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him.

That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and trodden under foot of men.

Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.

Be thou an example unto the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.

What glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps; who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously: who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

Be ye angry, and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil.

Wherefore my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

The tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on the fire of hell…Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be…Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

Having a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.

Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written.

The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.

Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man came not to destroy mens lives, but to save them.

And all bare Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth.

Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into Thy lips: therefore God hath blessed Thee for ever.

When He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.

Be ye holy; for I am holy.

All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth:...Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Two Adams and a Great Controversy

Christ was the second Adam. (1Cor. 15:45). Like the first Adam, Jesus was born of God and inherited His Father’s likeness in character and connection in spirit. As man was made a living soul, so the soul of Christ, from the dawning of intelligence, was unimpeded by sin and compatible with holiness and purity. His appreciation for God’s character naturally lent to communion with Him, constant and ever deepening, as His mind developed and matured.

As the second Adam, Christ reveals to us the life of the first Adam. Adam’s communion with God was equally perfect and unbroken. From the day of his creation and introduction to the wonder-filled garden Christ had prepared for him, Adam grew in appreciation and ardor for his Creator-Father. So deep was his love for his Benefactor and Life-giver and so perfectly did he reflect that love, that Adam is aptly described in scripture as a being of love—a living soul. And his praises of unclouded gratitude redounded and echoed throughout his garden home, and way beyond.

This was the Lord God’s beloved son in whom He was well pleased. Yet Adam came to see a discrepancy. The rest of creation had life mates. Shouldn’t he also have one? Imagine the greater happiness with some other creature on the same level of intelligence, communing together in the same language. It was within just a short time that he came to this conclusion, indicating his new observation skills and the child’s heart yearning for ever greater fellowship.

The next moment, being presented to him was HER, his companion! A being different but yet the same! Not exactly what he thought of, but exactly what he wanted and needed. Adam’s communion with Christ was perfect before the woman came along. Now it got even more perfect!

Hindsight what it is, it was a risk for the Lord God to divide Adam’s love for Himself with the one for whom Adam had asked; but God is a risk taker. He knew the minds and hearts He had made, that the investment in Eve would not decrease Adam’s love for Him but rather expand Adam’s faculties and increase his appreciation and deepen his love for His Father-Friend.

Woman came forth to life into a family already made for her. She was ready to support her life mate in all his endeavors and to join with him in worship and thanksgiving. Beside her greatest happiness in serving God, serving Adam and pleasing him brought the highest happiness, and Adam’s chiefest joy was in protecting and loving this astonishing finale of God’s creative ability. They were the perfect couple, tailor-made just for each other, inseparable; joined at the hip, as it were. “This is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.”

What God had joined together put the finishing touch on a busy week of bringing this lovely and amazing world of ours to life. And as the angels passed to Earth to train that newborn couple, the doubts that plagued them slowly began to ebb. The massive controversy that had already begun for them and the incomprehensible allegations against God and the laws of His government, accusations with which the angelic hosts had had no experience, began to melt away into renewed trust in the eternal Father, thrilling again in His perfect love, unselfishness and infinite wisdom in requiring a high standard and perfect loyalty from His creatures in response to His everlasting love toward them. This amazing experiment on the new planet gave birth to a deeper love for God as the angels witnessed the beautiful couple, uninvolved with the insurrection and unbiased toward the claims of Lucifer, but reveling in unabashed happiness and glory to God for all His kindness toward them. Surely God’s Law is good, thought the angels! Truly our God is wonderful!

As Lucifer saw the real object for the creation of Earth, that it was the project of the secret councils of the Godhead from which he had been barred, and as he witnessed the grounds for his revolution rapidly crumbling, he realized that there was only one solution and strategy. With all the savvy and wily connivances he could muster, he must destroy this new thorn in his side along with its inhabitants as quickly as possible…

The woman chose the exhileration of self-indulgence over the settled peace of obedience to her Creator. Adam struggled. It was a horrible moment, but he chose to throw out his supreme love for God and faith in His goodness in preference for his intoxicated wife in her flushed, unnatural excitement.

As soon as the angels caught the news of the fall of man, they were thrown into confusion greater than during the great controversy before the new creation. Could Lucifer be right after all? In testing the new couple, he had just demonstrated his main underlying charge against God, that the freedoms of faith and loving obedience to God’s laws were a flimsy constitution to support a government for the universe. The government which Lucifer proposed, one of freedom from forced law, self-government without any external restraints, and righteous indignation toward anything so unstable as humble obedience to love, was, as he protested, the only truly enduring principle and foundation for any government, universal or local. “And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.” Rev. 13:6. “And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. Yea, he magnified himself even to the Prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice (the continuous peace under God’s government) was taken away and the place of His sanctuary was cast down. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practiced and prospered.” Dan. 8:10-12.

Again the loyal angelic kingdom was shaken to shivers. Almost half of the original hosts of heaven had already sided with Lucifer during the great divide. Would more defect now? And how can we ever again have that sweet, blissful, undisturbed peace we used to have before the King had been contested? What do we do with Lucifer’s charges against God’s intentions, as he called it, God’s agenda to subjugate His creation in subconscious slavery. While he could show no real proof of this, could it be true?

The Godhead never once spoke to justify Themselves. That would only have given Lucifer firepower that could have been the loss of more angels loyal to the current Administration. In spite of certain extended pain and doubts, nothing could be done to salvage the kingdom of heaven but to allow the rebellion to take its course. Thus the consequences of sin would become the very firmest argument against rebellion to God and His principles of righteousness.

Adam and his wife stood fearfully ashamed, but contaminated. Their fear of repulsion by their Creator-Father weighed heavily. They could never, ever again experience the joy of perfect innocence and acceptance. Without that they were ready and willing to be blotted out of existence. There was no further purpose to live. Ignorant of the real results of their disobedience, they had destroyed God’s design in winning back full allegiance and trust in His family throughout the illimitable bounds of heaven. What that special couple had done, by not withstanding the temptation of Satan, was no small thing. Its ramifications reached to the very depts of the issues of truth and falsehood, self-sacrificing love and self-indulgence, eternal institutions versus temporary façades. So heavily had God invested in Earth that their desertion to powerful and persuasive Lucifer brought a great blow to God and havoc in His children throughout His universe.

But destruction was not to be. Their lives were to be spared and communion was to be restored through a plan from the Administration they had spurned. Their sorrow and despairing of life was counted acceptable, and God would be gracious by giving them a period of probation. Though weakened by self-indulgence, should they remain faithful to the law of righteousness and trusting in God’s love and grace for them, though they would die at the end of the probationary period as the consequence of disobedience, they would have a place in the kingdom when it would be won back from Lucifer. The arraignment before the court of all heaven and the sentence against them for punishment—unutterable pain until the extinction of life—had been spared them because their Creator, the Prince of heaven, had assumed that horrifying fate for Himself.

The Commander of heaven, as the second Adam, would come and live the human experience to exonerate His Father, the high privilege Adam could have had, but failed; and then before returning to His heavenly home, the Son of God would suffer the punishment owed to Adam and his family. Thus, the Son would save not only Adam and his descendents from sin, but also the loyal angelic hosts from their distressing doubts, and lastly, but greatest of all, He would save His own Father from the torture of sin and of the rebellion, and the threat of losing more children to it. The royal Prince would temporarily assume the control of Heaven and Earth, as advocate and intermediary between His Father and His Father’s weakened creation. Then through unreserved surrender and obedience, even to death, He would restore God’s disrupted kingdom of peace to its original splendor. “And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” 1Cor. 15:28.

“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” Eph. 3:14, 15.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Straight Testimony of the True Witness

If you ask the average Christian what this title means, they will probably go, “Huh?” If you ask the average Adventist pastor, he might get a little nervous. Frankly, we should all get nervous, but probably not for the same reason the pastor would.

In my denominational subculture, we expect that “the Straight Testimony of the True Witness will be revived.” This revival we’ve been told, by a certain authoritative little woman, would happen before Christ returns. And Adventist pastors here and there in their travels have run across a very forceful, conservative/fundamentalist type who stood up on a soapbox and accused the pastor of apostasy. It seems endemic in our subculture, even though much of the time our little “prophets” have been shortsighted and unbalanced, and more angry at a personality than at sin. Love was not their motive.

The straight testimony is a remnant of the Protestant Reformation when men stood up with the Bible under their arm, and rebuked the Church for its evil and fraud and error. It took much more courage to do that in those dark ages than it does today, especially in America, land of the freedom of speech. Usually those reformers paid for the freedom of conscience and speech with their life. Though they have been long forgotten, we can thank those brave men and women for the freedoms we enjoy today in this, the greatest nation ever in the history of the world. We have shown them great dishonor by forgetting the sacrifice they endured to secure liberty of conscience and to provide for their children the legacy of truth spelled out in the Holy Bible.

But that straight testimony goes back much further in history than the Reformation. Many prophets in the Old Testament were moved by the Spirit of God to expose the sins of the leaders and to call for accountability. With force of words by the influence of the Holy Spirit they were compelled to rein up evil before the court of Heaven in such a magnitude that the leader was hushed and blushed and convicted. When Jonah preached to the Ninevites, the scriptures says that they didn’t hear Jonah speaking, they heard Yahweh talking to them, the God who destroyed Egypt and Sodom. They “believed God” and hurried to proclaim a fast. But, although Jonah walked away from that preaching, many prophets were executed for their exposing of sin.

The phrase “Straight Testimony of the True Witness” is taken from the Bible. Revelation 3:14 describes Christ as the faithful and true witness. In the following text He points out the hypocritical, yet blatant carelessness, of the church just before His return. There is a rebuking and a chastening, and then an offer for something better. Then it closes with the beautiful imagery of Christ knocking at the door of the heart, not demanding entrance but requesting the door be opened, wooing and understanding and beckoning, through the thick barrier, the disciplined one, and promising a wonderful experience together should His loving avowals be received and the stubborn and proud heart accept Him again. He is not only straight-talking, but also a “faithful” friend.

Straight testimony filled John the Baptist. The fear and love for God drove him to accuse the nation of apostasy. But while he told it like it was, love was in his voice and word, the tender love of a father. Thousands responded. This same fatherliness characterized Paul. It was from concern that he berated the Corinthians and set them straight. And they turned around and loved him for it. It was the balance of mercy and justice that formed an endearing bond of trust that no amount of deception could lure them away from. They saw the fruit of the Holy Spirit and they recognized the good tree. Yet as great as these two men became by their association with Christ, they were but the false summits, only foothills, flanking the great mountain of righteousness and exalted grandeur, Jesus, the faithful and true Witness. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and He shall be called wonderful Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace.”

If people are afraid of the straight testimony today, it’s only because they have been abused by the devil’s brand of straight talk, which has no mercy in it because he doesn’t know what love is. Listen to him imitate Samuel and “discipline” King Saul. “Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? And the Lord hath done to him as He spake by me: for the Lord hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David; because thou obeyedst not the voice of the Lord, nor executedst His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the Lord done this thing unto thee this day. Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with thee in the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the Lord also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.” 1Sam. 28:16-19.

This was not Samuel, who yearned for Saul, and loved him (1Sam. 15:35). And even though he had some harsh rebukes for Saul while he was still living, he communicated a father’s love to Saul in his expressions and in his bearing. This imposter coming up before the spiritualist was Satan, the great deceiver. He loves to angrily load people down with guilt and then never provide a way for repentance.

The Lord of love will rebuke and chasten, but “He will not always chide: neither will He keep His anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins: nor rewarded us according to our iniquities....Like as a father pitieth his children so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.” Ps. 103:9, 10, 13. “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.” “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” Heb. 12:6, 11. “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness. For His anger endureth but a moment; in His favour is life: weeping may endure for the night; but joy cometh in the morning.” Ps. 30:4, 5.

We have some straight talk coming our way. The Lord will raise up servants who will speak boldly for Him. Sin will be pointed out instead of varnished over. Repentance will be called for. Like the preaching of John the Baptist and Elijah, this calling out of sin will again be aimed right at the church. “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird....Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven and God hath remembered her iniquities.” Rev. 18:2,4,5. And false grace, the kind of “grace” that disdains straight testimony and dismisses God’s Law, the intoxicating “wine of the wrath of her fornication,” (vs. 3) will be the cause of the church’s final and utter downfall, and the sin that is awarded double punishment for its ability to completely enslave and destroy souls.

“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men....for the love of Christ constraineth us.” 2Cor. 5:11, 14. That final message to the world will be full of love, tough love if that’s what it takes.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Wise as Serpents, Harmless as Doves

Last night someone said, “I’ve noticed something different about you for the last couple of years, and one of these days I’m going to ask you about it.” Then I got nervous. I have come to view life differently, but how could I communicate it? How did the change happen? How could I explain it to my atheist friend without becoming exclusive and condemning and offensive? Then in the early morning hours it all came very clear.

The change of mind happened as the result of many years, even decades, of hearing and reading of God’s judgments and rebukes and discipline, and not seeing Him as a loving person. I had also read and heard that He was love—but a love that will kill and destroy I could do without. I could live without that kind of love; I wanted to know, with certainty, that God is love. Everyone wants to be loved, and I’m no exception. Yet, despite all my Bible reading and hymn singing and church-going, I couldn’t escape the rebellion that rose up in my heart against such a pretense of mercy and kindness as I saw it in God, and even in Christ. I believe many billions are trapped in this same dilemma. Like the child attached to an abusive parent, even so Satan has abused us in the name of God, and God has had to wait for the right moment for us to be able to listen to His side of the story.

Finally the light broke upon me. After what seemed would be an eternally hopeless life with this God from whom I somehow couldn’t detach, it came to dawn on me that God had really been working for us all along. His open and subtle rebukes to the Pharisees, and religious leaders and people, were His method to get their attention so that He could then demonstrate grace toward them. Without startling them with truth and jarring them into the reality of their true condition, without showing them their guilt and condemnation, speaking grace would have no good effect, and would have only played into Satan’s assistance in their presumptions.

Christ must speak harshly to them. There was no time to dally. They must be reached before He finished His ministry and before His 70 week prophecy to Daniel was finalized. It was a desperation borne of divine love and omniscience that drove Jesus to be so blunt to those hard-hearted Jews, even sometimes to His own disciples. They must be shaken.

He followed this same principle in all His dealings with man since our creation. He pounded the Israelites from the top of Sinai, to deeply impress in them His requirements; not to hurt them, but to protect them from the dangers of foolishness in the presence of His holiness. “Fear not: for God is come to prove you, that His fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.” Ex. 20:20. He sent prophet after prophet with stern messages in order to lay His axe deeply into the root of the leadership’s iniquity, if by any means He might save some.

Christ knows the perversity of the fallen nature of man. He knows what He is working with. He made us and we are in His image. And He has confidence that He can bring us all the way through and restore us to obedience to His Father’s Law.

As I learned of Christ’s character I saw that His stern justice was always perfumed with His mercy. It dawned on me that He never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul. True, there is some very strong language in His word, enough to make our faith tremble. But He is more than able to bring each trembling soul from the darkness surrounding him.

Mercy and truth meet in Jesus. By beholding this quality of His we become transformed to have the same quality. We begin to trust in His method. Love begins to dawn in us and a new force takes the ascendancy. We are no longer afraid to speak the truth, no matter if it hurts feelings, because the whole purpose for speaking the truth is to follow through with a look of compassion, or strong and confident words of mercy to bind up any wounds. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Prov. 27:6. We discover a new freedom in this new capacity for kindness and comfort, encouragement and discernment of repentance. The stronger love grows, the more forceful we become; faithful with the truth, and equally faithful and forceful with the words of hope and peace. That forcefulness, depending on our natural personality, may take the hurricane force of Paul, who was an in-your-face kind of person but who still attracted honest folks who “clave unto him,” or of Barnabas, “Son of consolation,” who may have flooded people with comfort, but always declared God’s character and ultimately made his point known. Acts 17:34; 4:36.

But no one was the master of conviction like Jesus. So closely connected was Christ with His Father that every word, every expression, every move brought conviction and repentance on a continuous, non-stop basis. Love, love, and more love was His only motivation. In hard words or in blessing, the royal Son of God made the devil run everywhere He went. What a humiliation to the haughty prince of darkness!

Thus in preparing His disciples for their first of many missionary trips through Galilee and Judea, He taught them, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Matt. 10:16. They had already seen the grace and truth in the daily life of Christ. His grace had had its sanctifying effect on their hearts and His truth has molded their characters. They were to go out to speak His precepts without fear of repercussion. Their duty was to speak with conviction, let the consequences fall as they might. They were to preach the word and leave results with God. And as they spoke and taught they kept their eye open for signs of a pained conscience; and then a good word of the gentlest encouragement would find its way into the ear of the contrite one.

Today, we have the authority to stand the ground for the truth we know. We can be wise and confident in the perpetuity of righteousness and be settled and calm in pronouncing the precepts of eternal truth. But we must also be prepared for the reaction against it or any positive response of submission to it, and in all be harmless and unoffending, enduring repercussions and troubles as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. The truth always wins in the end.

It’s the kneading together of truth and mercy in the message to sinners that produces the “power of God unto salvation.” (Rom. 1:16) It’s the “kissing of each other” (Ps. 85:10) of these two apparent opposites that provides us “the weapons of our warfare” that are so “mighty to the pulling down of strong holds,” “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience to Christ.” 2 Cor. 10:4,5. When the heart has been warmed by the love of Jesus we will never be afraid to speak the truth and tell it like it is because we are ever ready to chase those strong words down with grace and peace which we have learned from Him, when the signs of conviction have become evident.

“Thou hast given me the shield of Thy salvation: and Thy right hand hath holden me up, and Thy gentleness hath made me great.” Ps. 18:35.

The Lord God

When Jacob’s family began to dress, talk, and act like the surrounding Amorite neighbors, he led them to forsake their worldliness and to reconsecrate themselves to the God of his fathers. (Gen. 35:1-4.) But that revival wasn’t deeply settled in their hearts and the root of idolatry remained. They thought they were reformed and revived and doing pretty good; but God knew better. So He put their professed consecration to the test. Through a providential drought He forced them to leave their haven, and He brought them into Egypt.

Under the greater pressure to live apart from Him—greater due to their new proximity to paganism—they would learn through experience the deeper lesson of righteousness by faith: that acting good doesn’t necessarily constitute being good.

Down they went from the countryside to the big city, down to the innocent looking and hope-filled land, led by their father Israel. Oh, what a thrill! Look at that pyramid! Look at those stately columns in that gigantic temple to Isis! Look at the size of the Nile River! See the Palm trees and lush greenery along its banks! Admire the army of hundreds of infantry and cavalrymen, all so proud and uniform in step and in clothing. Hmm, this could be a nice home after all!

Of course, the Lord God didn’t just throw them into temptation; that would be their decision. He provided them a place separate from the Egyptians that could have been a barrier if their consecration was in reality what they imagined it to be. Nevertheless, the better place for them was where God had originally had them, up in the arid highlands of Canaan. But too much weighed on them to be lukewarm toward Him. If they wouldn’t be hot, He preferred them cold in a foreign land. So if by choosing to unite in the spirit of the Canaanites they would defile His holy place and His plans for them and for the redemption of the world, then He would give them the desire of their hearts—and a big dose of it, in the very center of the most flagrantly rebellious empire on earth.

They were suspicious and cautious at first, the sons of Jacob having learned humiliation and some sanctification. But, slowly a familiarity with the Egyptian practices bred a contempt for righteousness, and one by one, the Israelis joined with Egyptians in covenant after covenant, and compact after compact. Their conscience at peace, Israelite minds justified living more and more like the rest of the empire and heathen religious methods made their way into the Hebrew sacrificial services, displacing holiness and faith.

Now the devil had the rights to them by their own choice. They had sold their soul for a taste of the good life. Soon a king rose to power who felt no particular affinity or obligation to these strangers who still acted peculiarly because they were good at acting and especially acting righteously. Soon, under a little pressure by Pharaoh, the friends they loved more than God became their bitterest enemies. How fickle the relationship that isn’t solidly founded upon the true God! Now they were in real trouble. They couldn’t just leave their houses and go back to roughing it in tents. Moving back to Canaan was simply inconceivable. They had become attached to the convenient and comfortable life in Egypt.

Presently, they were put to work like never before. God had originally blessed Adam with discipline; and His blessing came in the form of hard work. Again, He would permit forced labor upon His children as a discipline for their choice to serve the world and thus serve the god of this world, instead of Him. If they preferred to serve a better master than their Father, then let them see how good that other master really was.

Harsher the measures grew, and stricter the enslavement. They never had time to rest, never time to themselves. Living so closely beside the master of their choice, they had no weekends, no Sabbaths to rest on. They had no time to raise their children properly; the home became just an extension of the work place.

But God had not forgotten them. As His eye was on the small craft, being beaten about in a storm at night, loaded with 12 precious but self-seeking disciples of His, even so His notice never left those disobedient but equally precious children of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.

Almost 200 years of slavery and after many generations of only an agnostic memory of Yahweh, He said, “It is finished.” They were ready to listen, some of them. They felt their need of a better master, their original Master. Those old, ritualistic stories of the past began to take on a new character; the God of their fathers was real! So when the long, lost Moses appeared bearing a message of deliverance, the people’s faith arose with repentance toward God’s goodness and relief that He hadn’t abandoned them after all their carelessness regarding Him, and they “bowed their heads and worshiped.” Ex. 4:29-31. That must have been like incense coming up before God. “Sacrifices and offerings Thou didst not desire; mine ears hast Thou opened.” Ps. 40:6.

What they needed was a new master, a new Lord. Not a lord who would threaten and demand his way into their will, but One who would win their hearts and motivate their will through love. Not that, as Lord, He would be forbidden to make threats and demands. But His disciplines would be only for their best interest. Any glory He worked to achieve would be purely by His subjects’ choice. He provided a schedule for praising and worshiping Him in order to communicate to a vast nation, which was almost wholly ignorant of real liberty. He retained a framework of forced obedience because that is all they understood, as former slaves. But His intent was to gradually teach them the real freedom under loving consecration, as Abraham, Isaac and Israel had known. As individuals learned that lesson they would demonstrate its wonderful advantages to the others. “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion…To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Is. 8:18, 20. Without throwing off the restrictions of His laws, they would find freedom in those laws. “I will walk at liberty: for I seek Thy precepts.” Ps. 119:45.

God would be their Lord. He would be their Boss, the ultimate Supervisor.

“When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law. To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Gal. 4:4,5. “Before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster,” “being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ.” “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” Gal. 3:23-25; 1Cor. 9:21; Rom. 3:31.