“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.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The birth of the soul

“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Jn. 3:3).

An egg comes into being deep within the female ovary. All the parts and mechanisms that form that egg manufacture an insipid, inactive body that has the potential for human life. The egg is not the human life, but only the potential for it. Once produced, the egg moves down the fallopian tube, on its way to oblivion. I say oblivion, because after a week or two, before it reaches its destination, it just breaks up and is washed out of the mother’s reproductive system.

But if it is met by the father’s cells, a whole different scenario occurs. The most lively, the strongest and fastest of his reproductive cells, is the first to reach the egg, and penetrates the cloud of nursing cells and the outer membrane. It transfers all its energy and predesigned reproductive burden into the egg, and the egg is never, ever again the same.

From a lifeless, sleeping machine, the egg wakes up from an otherwise short trip down a 12 inch tube, to begin a long journey far from the mother-host, a journey that will last many, many decades, in a body full of life and intelligence, so inconceivably beyond the dead thing it was in its unregenerated state. No longer cold and lifeless, it is a moving, multiplying zygote; the embryonic machinery of intelligent life. It will take months of slow, unconscious development, but the process goes on. All the factors that are needed come into play in a daily ongoing way.

Only the mother knows what’s happening. Long before baby comes forth, she is intimately acquainted with it. While baby is oblivious to the life changing epoch taking place, life is nonetheless changing for it, and mother is aware of it all, moment by moment monitoring its growth, and living in anticipation and excitement.

Finally, baby is ready for introduction into the big world. Still weak and heavily dependent on mother, the time has come to leave its warm, perfectly comfortable womb which has become the only home it knows. It has no choice to stay. Regardless of how much it desires that old life, God refuses to allow it. For its own and its mother’s good, it must leave. Life has its benefits and also it’s demands.

Into the new world comes little baby. Still nursed along, though differently from before, it moves into a new stage of quasi-self-support. Mother is perfect for this transition for baby; she is fitted with the tools needed for baby’s survival in its new life. She is soft, she is warm, and her voice is higher pitched to suit baby’s tiny ear drums; yet she is knowledgeable in life and caretaking. She supplements for baby what baby can’t do for itself.

So baby survives birth into this world. Baby has three basic entities to its being—physical, intellectual, and spiritual—all woven or entangled together. So interconnected are these three that their points of division is unobservable, yet those connections are recognized to exist. Any one entity of the three cannot function properly without the healthy operation of the others.

Each of the three faculties begins to develop at different stages during baby’s existence. First is the physical aspect. From the very beginning, the body busily grows, even while the mind is still waking up. Then we see the intelligence come to life. Observation skills and memory awaken as the body continues to grow and develop, and the brain emerges from its dormancy.

Last of the three attributes to come to life is the soul—the seat of trust and love. Love and trust cannot exist without a functioning mind that can appreciate love and the many gifts in the world. And neither mind nor soul can perform without the energy coming from a healthy and rested body. All three work together to make the active, alert, and happy human being.

But the soul is not complete if it simply lives with the animal kingdom. Animals cannot provide the full requirement of the human’s deepest desire for love. And neither is the human spirit completely fulfilled with trust and love only for another human being. This is true because the trust is resting in something that is not perfectly and ever trustworthy and loving. For some sooner, for others later, the human heart is disappointed and hurt by those it has come to hope in.

Another discrepancy in the soul is within itself. It is born weakened by sin; it is naturally self-centered. It is not born naturally connected with God, and it develops separate from His love. So there exists an inherent source of irritation, a lack that is not filled, disturbing the development and the health of the mind and the body. If the connection with it’s Creator is not perfectly restored, death of the soul will result, and then of the mind and body.

We are like the egg that is born in the ovary and which comes floating down the fallopian tube. We are born and destined to oblivion. While the egg remains as it was at birth, untouched, undisturbed, unawakened by the sperm, it is destined to break apart and be washed away as if it never existed. In that process we see the justice and mercy of God. The ungerminated egg had no capacity for human life, therefore it was allowed to go its way and come to nothing. It attempted nothing, and produced nothing.

We come into this world with all the machinery we need to glorify our Creator—an amazing human body, complete with an amazing intellect. What more could God give us to come into the closest bond with Him? But we must make the choice to get to Him. He almost suffocates us with Himself by way of so many gifts that should wisk us into faith in Him. All we must do is respond. Yet many pass through this short life of 75 years and never allow trust to bring them to salvation.

So they move on to oblivion. They come to the end of their probationary lifetime, dissolve into dust, and pass on into eternity, lost. They stayed too busy for God. They never allowed the abundance of evidence of His love to enter their consciousness and to transform them. Their world never attained the beauty and sparkle of a life filled with a knowledge of Him. His Spirit was never able to open their blind eyes to behold all the glory that surrounds them in the garden of Eden He had given them.

“But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Jn. 1:12,13).

Whoever it is that responds to the wooing of the Spirit of God, and follows up on that still, small voice which calls that one to get acquainted with One of loving righteousness and unfaltering faithfulness, then, like the egg that gets penetrated by the father’s cell, the soul will come to life. It will find Someone who is perfectly trustworthy, a Friend who is ever dependable.

A new life begins, complete with new purposes and a new capacity to love and to know God. Conversion is a mystery to the all those dead in sin, but its a living reality to anyone who has experienced it. The world takes on a whole different character; beauty is everywhere. The Bible is seen through completely different glasses; the mercy and justice of God is all love. We have a new ability to discern His purposes of love in all His acts, whether soft or severe, and its all good. We see His hand of wise and loving judgment in every event in sacred history as well as in this life.

We are born again, and this time, complete in Him. And we are bound for a incomprehensibly fuller, endless life.

Monday, February 26, 2007

On top of the world (last summer)

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Libeling Solomon

Dear brother C and L,

Please don't take this as an assault against you. But I have been much disturbed by this quarter's subject. The sentiments of the principal contributor have left a severe reproach against Solomon and his authority to add to the sacred canon following his downfall.

Many times has the author of the quarterly created in the minds of millions of readers the false idea that Solomon after his repentance and restoration still retained his old character. I'll quote just a few examples by their month/day:
1/11--As Solomon sees here, the world leaves one frustrated, angry, cynical.
1/14--Solomon bemoaning, old and bitter, was still lost when writing Ecclestiastes.
1/18--He's complaining, seems to be saying, "Since there's nothing I can do about what my heirs do, I might as well live life well now."
1/28--Solomon looks at life from a worldly perspective, moaning, lamenting his fate, complaining.
2/5--more moaning
2/15--"More griping"

Slowly but surely, Solomon is being described as an old, run-down, cranky and bitter man. The reality is, Solomon had made an inspiring turn-about and was striving with all the sageness and depth of wisdom that God had given him to describe this life in such a way as to deglamorize the world and the excitement it promises and to uplift the glory of obedience to God. In Ecclesiastes we see a noble, completely rehabilitated and restored man who dwarfs all of us by his spiritual discernment, the principal contributor of this quarter's quarterly not excepted.

The book, Prophets and Kings, describes a completely different Solomon from the one in the quarterly, and a person who makes much more sense from the whole Bible perspective than is being ascribed to him in the Sabbath School lessons.

From the "gloomy and soul-harrassing thoughts," that "troubled him night and day," and a future "dark with despair," Solomon "awakened as from a dream," with "quickened conscience." (PK 76:5; 77:3). "In gratitude Solomon acknowledged the power and the loving-kindness of the One who is 'higher than the highest' (Ecclesiastes 5:8); in penitence he began to retrace his steps toward the exalted plane of purity and holiness from whence he had fallen so far." "He would endeavor earnestly to dissuade others from following after folly. He would humbly confess the error of his ways and lift his voice in warning lest others be lost irretrievably because of the influences for evil he had been setting in operation." PK 78:1.

EGW calls him a "true penitent." PK 78:2. This means he has sorrowed for sin and forsaken it. It was all behind him and he had complete remission for his sins of the past. Yet the quarterly attempted to bring it back up, thus undermining the force of his counsels (1/18--"He's not advocating licentiousness, however [he's been there and done that already]"). Rather than a self-pitying psychotic, our subject is a noble kingly gentleman, reborn to a new life. "He does not put his past sins from his remembrance. He does not, as soon as he has obtained peace, grow unconcerned in regard to the mistakes he has made." PK 78:2. Solomon can bring up his past, further humiliating himself, and demonstrating his trust in God's love for him; however, for us to bring to surface someone's past is not our prerogative, especially for one of the "holy men of God." 2Pet. 1:21. Humiliating a servant of God in his office of preaching the truth has been done before, and the guilty party experienced heaven's disapproval. (2Kings 2:23,24).

Solomon was writing "by the spirit of inspiration." "With meekness and lowliness Solomon in his later years 'taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.' He 'sought to find out acceptable words; and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.'" PK 79:1. Ecclesiastes reveals that Solomon "realized more and still more the wickedness of his course." PK 80:2. Not a complaining cynic, but a noble character wrote Eccleciastes. It was in "sorrow and shame" and "yearning desire," with "touching pathos" that he wrote to the youth. PK 80:2,3. Not a confused, griping man, but one to whom God restored "wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore." (1Kings 2:29). "Solomon's repentance was sincere" as he "confessed his sin." PK 84:2.

"In the anguish of bitter reflection on the evil of his course, Solomon was constrained to declare,...'There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler: folly is set in great dignity.'" PK 85:1.

It seems that the main contributor assumed that the book of Ecclesiastes was an diary, a human devised blog of someone as he moved from apostasy to redemption. But this was a very wrong assumption. 1/10 says "Solomon looked around at nature and saw endless and seemingly meaningless repetition...His tone...suggests that something is wrong in all this and things shouldn't be this way. His attitutde comes through clearly...." Yet, here is a very wise, experienced, former proverbist who previously understood much from nature and retained it all. (1Kings 4:33). He wasn't depressed about the cycles of nature, he was declaring the little this world really offers to us. Its from this context that Jesus said, "What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul." I believe Solomon, a recipient of the gift of wisdom as a type of Christ, saw the issue as clearly as Jesus did.

1/13 falsely insinuates that Solomon's study of God and His operations was not done humbly with a seeking heart and that it led Solomon nowhere. 1/18 describes Solomon's concern as "ironic: after all, considering the life that Solomon lived after he assumed the throne."

1/22 "A time to kill" is not so problematic as is mentioned in the lesson, at least not to Solomon. Remember he is the one whose first case as judge was to split the baby in half? He reveals in his later writings that he has returned to the former greatness of thought and heart when "his energy, piety, justice, and magnanimity that he revealed in word and deed, won the loyalty of his subjects and the admiration and homage of the rulers of many lands." PK 32:2. He had been "the most merciful of rulers," yet had a "strong manhood," "noble and manly." PK 56:0; 57; 58:1:2. Knowing this background, the phrase "a time to kill" is easy to understand. Justice is a necessity; that is all he was saying.

1/31 claims that Solomon, still unsubdued in character and unrepentant, was attacking all work and skill as nothing and envy. Yet, the context of the scripture reveals a very different attitude: he was speaking of "right work." (vs. 6). It is true, though, that righteous employment can even become mundane and unsatisfying if we don't know God. Communion with heaven is the only way we can truly enjoy our work in this world of sin. "Let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good."(Eph. 4:28). "The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep." (Ecc. 5:12).

So, the wrong first assumption has led to many false conclusions that contradict not only Solomon, undermining his authority, but also contradicting the rest of the Bible. Contrary to the lesson of 2/28, Solomon does have the answer--his admonition is the answer and his acceptance of the fact that God chooses us in the furnace of affliction.

2/24 seems to be saying that Solomon is seeing this life "through a glass darkly," and that he is full of "pessimism and complaints." Then the author invites the readers to follow the same pessimistic outlook on life. Then "Nevertheless, as in most of these chapters, powerful gems of deep spiritual truth can be found amid all the more difficult rhetoric." Its nice that the author condescended to list a few gems amid all of Solomon's "rhetoric"!

There is more, but I will stop here. I don't want to sound like I have issues with all the quarterlies. They have all been good (with exception to the one on Jonah where he is also again and again lambasted and called a "peep squeak of a prophet." As if the principal contributor had gone to Baghdad, as the lone Christian, and put everyone on their knees, like Jonah had done.) The other quarterlies have been edifying and praise-worthy.

But to take the position toward Solomon, a true and noble reclamation of Christ's from the depths of idolatry, that he was still derelict does nothing but destroy him and his inspired book of the Bible. It is nothing less than a subtle, though unwitting, attack on the whole inspired Word of God. Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost in every book of the Bible.

In conclusion, there is no way to take back all the quarterlies around the globe, in all their myriad of translations. But, please, please, let us take a more reverent approach in our explanations of sacred scripture, and be careful not to lift up our hand against any one of the Lord's anointed.

Sincerely and in much love and respect,

David Burdick

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The goodness and severity of a God of love

We love to read about God’s love. “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jer. 31:3). It feels good. It’s nice to know God is so nice.

Yet just a few lines before that one we read, “For thus saith the Lord; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble.” (Jer. 30: 5-7). In other words, the Jews had been warned over and over again about their continued backsliding and involvement with false worship. The Lord had promised punishment, and now that punishment was just on the verge of happening. Nebuchadnezzar’s armies were on their way to besiege Jerusalem, to kill, and to take captives. Life in Israel would never be the same again.

And there are a multitude of other verses similar to this one all through the Bible, words of the Lord’s threatening wrath. “Why criest thou for thine affliction? Thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity: because thy sins were increased, I have done these things unto thee.” (vs. 15). “For thus saith the Lord, Thy bruise is incurable, and thy wound is grievous. There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up: thou hast no healing medicines. All thy lovers have forgotten thee; they seek thee not; for I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins were increased.” (vs. 12-14).

It’s this angry Person that makes so many turn away from God. Doesn’t He know this? Doesn’t He know we need to be consoled? Then why did He keep getting angry? Why does He have all His angry words printed on everlasting pages?

Because, “faithful are the wounds of a friend.” (Prov. 27:6). Because, He wounds only to heal. “For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet I will not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.” (vs. 11).

“For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.” (vs. 17).

“Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey.” (vs. 16).

“Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on his dwellingplaces; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof.” (vs. 18).

“I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto Me: for who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto Me? saith the Lord. And ye shall be My people, and I will be your God.” (vs. 21,22).

“Behold, the whirlwind of the Lord goeth forth with fury, a continuing whirlwind: it shall fall with pain upon the head of the wicked. The fierce anger of the Lord shall not return, until He hath done it, and until He have performed the intents of His heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it.” (vs. 23,24). After all our Father’s tirade is past, peace and rest reign supreme. Our spirits are at rest because we know how jealous our Father is to cleanse and save us. In His disciplines we see a new depth of His love for us. He has our full attention; our brain and heart and will are fully engaged to serve Him.

“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. 12:11).

“Thus saith the Lord, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest.” (Jer 31:2). Thus it is that only those who will be disciplined by God will come out really knowing that He loves them. Only if we submit to His punishment and refining process, only by not getting up and walking off when His training gets rough, can we know His grace. Any other method for discovering His grace is futile and imaginary. Is the church today suffering under the curse of God? Let her take all this to heart; let her return to the testimonies Christ has given His people. Tears and pain are only pride and self-will leaving the body.

Only those who remain His children under the heavy hand of His chastening will, in the end, comprehend the voice of earnest remonstrating from a God of love. Only those who hang on to Him through all His stormy blasts and who refuse to let go of their trust in Him, only they will ever hear His promise personally to their soul, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The gifts of God

“For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (Rom 11:29)

We are showered by an infinity of gifts from God daily. “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” (Matt. 5:45; Lk. 6:35).

And it is right for us to partake of these gifts. “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.” (1 Tim. 4:4). For us to turn away His abundant giving is an affront to His generosity and love for us. Instead of being politeness, it really crosses into unbelief and insolence. As we see with the message of Isaiah to King Ahaz, “Moreover the Lord spake again unto Ahaz, saying, Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord. And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?” (Is. 7:10-13).

Satan knows that the abundant giving and goodness of God is His chosen method of turning our hearts back to Him. Thus the arch-deceiver works feverishly to turn us away from the conviction that would automatically come through all that God does for us, by the ascetic life or by its virtual reality, the stubborn resistance we often exhibit toward God’s blessings. Both are a method of pouting and nurturing our self-centeredness. So He scolds us and warns us away from following the devil’s guidance, the treachery and insult against our one source of love and support. Christ says our stiff attitude toward His Father is “an iron sinew” and our “brow brass,” that our look is “imperious.” (Is. 48:4;Ezek. 16:30).

But He loves all His children, selfish and pouty or responsive, alike. It is our privilege to partake of all of God’s goodness and to splash and play along the edge of the ocean of His abundant provisions for all His children, good and bad.

But Satan has another trick to get us to insult God and to ignore Him. If once we’ve accepted all His gracious offerings for our happiness, the deceiver then moves us to enjoy the gifts but to forget the Giver. And if we will still remember the Giver, then, at the least, he will tempt us to enjoy the gifts more than the Giver, essentially and eventually forgetting our loving Father in heaven.

It began from the beginning and has continued without letup. Condemnation has been forthcoming against all those who “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” (Rom 1:24,25).

They loved and worshipped the gift more than the Giver. It was to pre-empt this that God called Abraham to give up his only begotten Isaac. Abraham was in danger of treasuring Isaac to such a degree that Abraham would be derailed from the single object of his whole life, an uninterrupted friendship with God. So God taught him the lesson that he desired most, but in an unexpected way.

It was a terrible and grueling journey to the site God had picked out for the sacrifice of Abraham’s dearest treasure on earth. It was a severe test God gave the father of faith, but he must pass the test in order to permanently seal his consecration and loyalty to God. His tears endured through the long days and nights of travel, but joy came at the end.

Out of that experience Abraham came forth settled and having surrendered his whole will to God, the example for all his children of the true standard for the next 2000 years. His faith was demonstrated in his willingness to give up the dearest on earth for love to the infinite and holy God of heaven. The great Giver was given His proper place of honor, for all His love which He has so abundantly showered upon us. Abraham passed the test similar to the one that Adam failed when he put his love for Eve higher than that for his Creator.

This also gave us a glimpse of the extent God would go to give us the best gift. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Jn. 3:16)

God joys in all His children who look to Him like we thrill when our little ones look up to us. If we, being evil, joy in the happiness of our children, how much more infinitely does God for those who look up to Him? When my daughter, Betania, makes her little squeal of delight when she gets something that she has wanted, I feel the deepest sense of satisfaction. Why not God all the more when He hears our thankfulness for Him? If we know how to give good things to our children, how much more will our heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him? (Lk. 11:13).

We must defer our greatest pleasure and love and worship to our Creator and Father in heaven. To the One who has sacrificed all for us, we must hold our greatest service, above service and love to any other, and especially to our own needs and wants. But to whom does the Father defer His utmost love?

To us and all His creation, “His whole family in heaven and on earth”—“His body,” “the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.” (Eph. 3:15; 1:23).