“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.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Father and the Son

“And I saw in the right hand of Him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.
And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.” (Rev. 5:1-4).

John wept because the Father and all heaven wept. It was the book of God’s character, bound up by Satan’s charges. None of the angels nor unfallen worlds, not even Satan himself could undo the allegations conjured up from hell.

The Father couldn’t justify Himself nor His form of government. Self-justification would negate all His efforts to extract Himself from the falsehoods of the strongest and wiliest of His creation. Nothing but the greatest demonstration of self-sacrifice could remove the stains placed against His reputation. The Creator was uttterly destroyed at the treatment from those whom He had always only loved, His children whom He had cared for and rejoiced in.

“And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” (Rev. 5:5).

Only He who was the express image of His character and alone intimately knew His Father must save Him. “All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son.” (Matt. 11:27).

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder.” (Is. 9:6).

“He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified Him.” (Jn. 19:17,18). “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” (2Cor. 5:19).

In the death of Christ we see the death of God, for God was in Christ. We can have advocacy, and so did His Father voluntarily seek advocacy in His Son; He sought out One who could reveal Him correctly, One who understood all the issues infinitely deeply. The Son was the very center of salvation for His God and His creation.

What we see in Yahweh of the Old Testament and Messiah of the New Testament is a composite of the one and only Lord God who has ever dealt with man. The Father trusted all things to His Son until the Son of God could put down all of His Father’s enemies, namely, Satan and his seed.

With the weight of eternal consequences bearing upon Him, the Son successfully expunged every one of Satan’s accusations against His Father and His Father’s character and law of love. These accusations centered around God’s justice and mercy. Satan said they could not exist simultaneously. In his spotless life and at the cross Christ proved Satan wrong.

By His dealing with sinful humanity from the very first, the Son of God proved that those two ingredients of love, justice and mercy, were wholly homogenized together in everything God had ever done. Just as the purple veil blends its scarlet and blue threads inconspicuously woven together; so must our God dispense justice with mercy, and mercy with justice. Each component separately would cease to be love.

How forceful was the tonnage of sin and love Jesus carried for His Father!

“He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
Then saith He unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with Me.
And He went a little farther, and fell on His face.” (Matt. 26:37-39).

“And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Lk. 22:44).

Though the Father foresaw it all from eternity past, when the great rebellion broke, and all the hatred and destruction, the self-sufficiency and ingratitude, the pride and boasting, and the death and evil that came with it began and spread, it desolated the Creator. When upon that one untouchable thing, the freedom to choose, hinged the making of enemies of the empire in His children, the great God died within, as it were. Mortal death passed on to Adam, his children, and his world when they turned away from God to love self, so that they could taste a little of what their choice had done to their heavenly Father.

He needed someone to catch Him, and He found in His Son just the person for that. But in carrying His stricken and broken Father, and dealing with the sin problem in the children, it bent the Son over with the weight. The Son of God carried the whole load, even until it crushed Him. But in the crushing out of His life, He saved His Father’s children and brought His Father all the way to safety. In His Son alone could the Father see the redemption of His kingdom.

As “a priest upon His throne” Christ manifested His Father perfectly. (Zech. 6:13). When He took the cross on His shoulder, He was bent over because of His Father’s heaviness. In Christ’s love for lost humanity the smitten Father was revealed; then it is that we see the secret things of God that happened on the throne of heaven before the world was, and even more so since humanity fell.

In the Son’s perfect sacrifice of self could be the only antidote for any potential future rebellion, and all future desire to serve self and exalt self. In the cross of Christ is the one eternal cure for a disestablishment of God’s original perfect kingdom of self-forgetfulness. Once fully restored, Eden will again reign, and all who have their part in it will know the full, true existence of tenderest love and other-centeredness. Never a thought will arise to disturb the pervasive forgetfulness of self from any quarter of a vast universe of love, throughout the ceaseless millennia.

“And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain....
And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne.
And when He had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials....
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.” (Rev. 5:6-12).

“Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet….
For He hath put all things under His feet….
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. 15:24-28).

“And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped Him that liveth for ever and ever.” (Rev. 5:13,14).

“And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” (Dan. 7:14).

“The God of heaven [shall] set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people… and it shall stand for ever.” (Dan. 2:44).

“And of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end.” (Is. 9:7).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Our fighting belligerent natures

“And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness.” (Num. 14:33).

The question is: Did those rebels fall because their bodies could not survive an inhospitable desert? Or did they waste away because their belligerent natures fought against the punishment they received until they used up all their vital force?

“The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.” (1Cor. 15:56).

Here we see a train of cause and effect. The law caused sin to be strong; a strengthened sin caused a sting; the sting finally causes death.

“But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.
For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.” (Rom 7:8-11).

Paul here is describing the effect that loveless rules and condemnation had on a latent sin that he didn’t even realize he had before his call to apostleship, and still clamors for attention. It wasn’t until the conviction came that he discovered that particular sin and found himself justifying his life and resisting any change. Ignorant of the natural self-righteousness of his sinful heart, he didn’t appreciate being made aware of any deformity of character, and his natural response was to rebel. His peace of mind was slaughtered, and his reaction was to judge the law as being rude and self-righteous.

Without any volition he redoubled his energy in sin. Or rather, sin had such control, that it took on a life and power of its own. We are not our own. Either faith has control of us, or sin does, through either one of the two great powers contending for our supremacy, Christ or Satan.

“I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (vs. 22-25).

What power do we have inherently to resist the power of pleasing self? None. Zero. And pleasing self in its many forms is the essence of sin. We must have a power outside and above us. That power is a love for somebody else beside self. Even a set of laws cannot overcome the power of loving self. What the image of God in us craves is a person to love supremely. If God is not that person, then no one else except self will suffice. Not our spouse, not our most precious child, not our fine-preaching pastor, not an angel, not even one of the holiest saints. Only our all-powerful Creator can lay our self-sufficiency in the dust, because only He has demonstrated such an infinite love that blasts our love of self into oblivion; His strong love grabs hold of our focus and fixates it on Him.

Apart from the power of the Almighty, we will spend our days dealing with sin, trying to put out its fires, blaming God for all our failures, fending off His every attempt to put His hand on our shoulder, always miserable but tenaciously fighting to regain respect, wasting away our one life’s vitality. Surrender to God would remove this sting that will most certainly lead to a horrible death.

“Whosoever shall fall on this Stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Matt. 21:44). Discipline and punishment do not have to be so painful. Death doesn’t have to be either. The grinding power of resistance against trusting God has led many to a lunatic’s grave. So horrific the life feels and so dark the grave looks without falling on the Stone and being broken.

Upon Christ as our substitute and surety was laid the iniquity of us all. He was counted a transgressor, that He might redeem us from the condemnation of the law. The guilt of every descendant of Adam was pressing upon His heart. The wrath of God against sin, the terrible manifestation of His displeasure because of iniquity, filled the soul of His Son with consternation. All His life Christ had been publishing to a fallen world the good news of the Father's mercy and pardoning love. Salvation for the chief of sinners was His theme. But now with the terrible weight of guilt He bears, He cannot see the Father's reconciling face. The withdrawal of the divine countenance from the Saviour in this hour of supreme anguish pierced His heart with a sorrow that can never be fully understood by man. So great was this agony that His physical pain was hardly felt.
Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of Jesus. The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father's acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal.
DA p. 753.

He had tasted the sufferings of death for every man. DA p. 694.

When we fight surrender we face the losing struggle that Christ won for us at such a cost to the Prince of Peace. We taste the sufferings of death for our own self that He already paid for. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (Jn. 3:36).

This condition will only worsen as time marches on toward the great conflagration of the ages. Satan is gaining increasingly greater power over this earth, and the Holy Spirit is receding. Soon, all who have refused to bow to the love of God will receive the enchanting enslavement of a Christianity-appearing spiritualism. Then comes the final appeal to the world before complete devil possession of the human race.

“If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” (Rev. 14:9-12).

A storm is coming, relentless in its fury. 8T p. 315.

Only those who have surrendered to God in faith and have been established in that faith through victory over sin through the Law and grace of God, will escape the possession of the whole world by the spirits of wickedness in high places. To delay ending the continued resistance and giving up to the God of love and righteousness is to make a fearful mistake. We need all the time we can get to prepare for the hurricane force winds heading our way.

“And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.
And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea,
Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.” (Rev. 7:1-3).

Let’s heed the grave warnings from God. Let’s fear God and take seriously the fight of faith, of wrestling with the Holy Spirit to get through the devils crowding Jesus’ presence. While probation still exists let us crowd around the Jesus who so lovingly exemplified His Father’s Law. Let’s try the Lord’s promises and find Him to be faithful and true, that His presence truly is fullness of joy and stronger than the most masterful of sins. The joy of the Lord will be our strength.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:1-4).

Monday, November 23, 2009

What love isn’t

We said love verifies. That is to say that it doesn’t just throw itself into the arms of everyone who professes to love it. And I believe that God has special pleasure in those who aren’t easy catches, who He must follow for a long time because they need much time to verify His claim to love them. Love is closely bound with faith. Deep love must try the object of its endeavors. The Bereans were noble for verifying the person they might trust in. Don’t we want to be noble?

There is no such thing as a “leap of faith.” Real faith is not blind. We don’t have to give our love to strangers. Real faith tests and holds a reserve until its object is tried and proven true. Jesus said, “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” (Matt. 7:16). If there is no leap of faith, then there is to be no leaps of love. Love without reservations is foolishness. Blind love is no love at all.

Let’s talk about the expression of love. Love without inhibitions is filled with self. Extravagant love, uncontrollable love, has ulterior motives. Its object is to so bring the receiver into indebtedness to an outpouring from the flagrant lover that possessiveness is the real cause and purpose of the rendition. Love without boundaries is only selfish and self-serving.

When the eye is kept single to the glory of God, audacious “love” is offended. “What?” says the flamboyant lover, “You don’t like my style of love? You judge me?” But bombastic love is all about “me”, and those who know the selflessness of God detect the self-centeredness of that mutant variation of love.

Jealousy waits on the wing of this malignant perversion of real love. Since God is not loved supremely, the love that the mere human heart can create is that likened to “an imperious whorish woman.” (Jer. 16:30).

“Behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart.
(She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house:
Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.)” (Prov. 7:10-12).

Everyone who can’t accept the requirements of true love to be quiet, self-abasing, and reserved are not reconciled to God’s Law, thus are not reconciled to God. Despite the greatest profession to the contrary, their works prove the real condition of an unconverted heart.

True love can only come from a heart surrendered to God’s love. Only love begets love; gracious love to the proud heart. Solely by believing in God’s grace, in the face of all of our sinfulness, can we really love—love God and love man.

When divine grace has done its work in transforming our selfish human heart, then we may take that grace and bring it to all those around us. Redeeming love becomes the new tune in our heart, and grace our new equipment for catching the proud souls we meet.

Human love may not love the untrusted, but grace will. Grace will develop trust in those who haven’t proven themselves trustworthy. Grace may at times need to stand apart from those it is seeking to uplift. Grace will be tough sometimes, as this lifting of loving-kindness toward the backslider is grievous for him to endure. But this is only a temporary arrangement until pride calms back down in the recipient and he opens the door again for grace to return to its former kindnesses and gentle admonitions.

Grace counts the cost; it begins its ministry knowing it’s in the work for the long haul. Each soul is a long-term project. There will be the times of rejection of grace’s discipline. The gluttonous, perverted heart will loathe the toughness of grace’s love until it surrenders once again to it.

Grace alone can change the heart that hates rules and restrictions; charity single-handedly will reconstruct the lawless love into faithful fidelity and honest expressions of affection. Grace humbles; grace alone can lay the pride in the dust and raise up a new person possessing the mind of Christ.

Those who become new creatures in Christ Jesus will bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” Galatians 5:22, 23. They will no longer fashion themselves according to the former lusts, but by the faith of the Son of God they will follow in His steps, reflect His character, and purify themselves even as He is pure. The things they once hated they now love, and the things they once loved they hate. The proud and self-assertive become meek and lowly in heart. The vain and supercilious become serious and unobtrusive. The drunken become sober, and the profligate pure. The vain customs and fashions of the world are laid aside. Christians will seek not the “outward adorning,” but “the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.” 1 Peter 3:3, 4. SC p. 58.

What love is

Do angels love? Or are they more like red army ants? Mechanical, robotic, heartless automatons? Which angel was as gorged on affection as the disciple Peter? The angel who appeared to Samson’s parents, what do we know of him? What did he say?

“Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:
For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”
“Of all that I said unto the woman let her beware. She may not eat of any thing that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I commanded her let her observe.”
“Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the Lord.”
“Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?” (Jud. 13:3-5,13-14,16,18).

Until now the angel was simply conversing with Manoah concerning the promise of a child. Manoah didn’t know this was an angel, and the angel didn’t seem to mind being spoken to as an equal.

“So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the Lord: and the angel did wonderously; and Manoah and his wife looked on.
For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground.
But the angel of the Lord did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the Lord.” (v. 19-21).

What can we tell about angels? Do they love? Did this one show love? Or was he standoffish? Too serious? Businesslike? Condescending? Holier-than-thou? Unwilling to accept a gracious meal?

I perceive in the angel a commission by God. It was on a holy mission for the King of the universe. Its demeanor was holy, yet humble. The angel had a love that was full of divine authority. It spoke for God; therefore it could not play games with sinners. Its message was of fearful importance. Not only was it time for Israel to be delivered from the Philistines through this promised son, but Samson was going to represent a type of the Son of God—big and strong and as unstoppable by Satan and his hosts as Samson was by thousands of Philistines.

Did the angel have mercy on Manoah? This isn’t immediately noticeable, but we do see a willingness to join in fellowship with sinful man. But how much fellowship was available with this Danite couple when Israel had fallen deeply into idolatry, and spirituality was well nigh extinct?

Contrast this angel visitor with Gabriel who came to Daniel. “Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.
And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding.
At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.” (Dan. 9:21-23).

Gabriel touched Daniel, informed and talked with him, and let him know that he was greatly beloved. Has an angel ever told you that you are greatly beloved by God? Not only did he bring words of comfort, but he was true to his assignment and discharged his duty in giving prophetic information to Daniel. He performed his duty, but he was also gentle and warm.

What we see in these angels is strict adherence to godliness, a perfect balance of grace and truth—perfect love, God-like love, godliness.

Is this what we should have? Are angels our pattern of conduct? Could they say as Paul said of himself, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ”? (1Cor. 11:1). No doubt, yes we can. But, must love be so fraught with business and duty and accomplishment of mission? Does that make love a bit on the chilly side?

If we knew the power of God’s love for us, as the angels know God’s love for themselves, we would have no problem standing as strictly for perfection as they do. Does that mean there is no room in our ministry for warm affection and attention? No, these angelic messengers showed that side of love, too. It may have been more reserved with the idolatrous Israelites than with the godly and repentant Daniel. But, to the extent that sinners could appreciate warmth, it was given.

Sinners in rebellion naturally disdain that kind of love. To the perverted heart, unless love is indulgent and doting, it isn’t love. Nothing makes a hopelessly rebellious sinner angrier than for it to witness love that holds firmly to self-denial and self-sacrifice. Nothing exposes the hollowness of self-indulgent “love” more than “charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” (1Tim. 1:5). Nothing has ever gotten Satan’s persecution fires burning hotter.

True love. It has self-control; it doesn’t “let it all hang out.” It has reservation; thus it has modesty. It trusts only when its object is worthy of that trust; when the receiving heart has bowed its destructive pride. True love verifies the loyalty to God in others. “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Mat. 10:16).
They might call this “judging” or condemning, but in reality it is offering the best for both parties.

Christ set the example. “Many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did.
But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men,
And needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man.” (Jn. 2:23-25).

Yet, this does not mean that He ended His ongoing appeals to their hearts. Nor should we neglect our fellow men; even our enemies. Redeeming love will extend its hand to all who will respond to love. Love begets love; trust begets trust.

Love naturally has the disposition to respond in kind to love. In the parable, the prodigal’s father had a deeper relationship with his youngest because this son responded to his abundant acceptance with abundant love in return. We can never love so much as when perfect trust exists in the relationship. When that trust is not developed, perfect love cannot thrive.

Yet, although his eldest son did not respond with the same degree of love as the youngest had, his deep fatherly love was still extended to his first-born child. Only grace will love in spite of the lack of trust. That is what grace is all about—loving when trust is missing, loving in the atmosphere of distrust. And our Father in heaven has infinitely proven Himself here. When we proved ourselves untrusting and untrustworthy, He wouldn’t let us go. He stepped away from the center of heaven and called on advocacy from His Son. Between Them both, They worked to give grace to the race in rebellion.

God couldn’t give us up; He couldn’t let us perish without a fight. It was He who was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. God loved despite our great deficit of trust. He loved while us rebels were killing His only beloved Son. He spoke to the world through His Son when the words fell from the Saviour’s lips, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Lk. 23:34). Christ had been trained up by His Father through all eternity past, and now, in the clash of the ages, He could not depart from the love embedded in His heart.

“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (2Cor. 5:19).

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A great forsaking

I believe God has given us a model of the method Satan has used, still uses, and will use as a major stand against Christ’s second coming just before He comes. That biblical model is so essential to understand that when it was first given to Daniel the prophet, it so astounded him that it left his head spinning and his soul distraught. All of his prophecies pointed to the same model, but chapter 8 and 9 give certain details I would like to point out.

The two chapters go together because Gabriel connected them when he came to give Daniel the Messianic 70 week prophecy. The prophet wrote, “Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.
And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding.
At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.” (Dan. 9:21-23).

The vision referred to here was the previous one given by Gabriel not long before this visit. It had left Daniel in total confusion. “And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king’s business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it.” (Dan. 8:27).

Here is what it said:

“And it [a little horn] waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it 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 practised, and prospered.” (vs. 10-12).

This is very significant. It is a major apostasy inspired by Satan. Based on it’s model we have the truth of the great controversy in heaven. “And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth…. And there was war in heaven: Michael and His angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Rev. 12:3,4,7-9).

The language used here came from Daniel’s vision, “it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground.” And then that little horn which “opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven” (Rev. 13:6) gave great authority to the Roman papacy which he established. “The dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.” (vs. 2).

What we see here is a conquering of Christianity by Satan. The prophecy used the previous experience of the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests of Israel as patterns of the future destruction of the gospel. These two desolations were still firmly set in the minds of the Jews, especially Daniel’s mind. And it grieved him sorely.

How did Israel's departure take place? Was the takeover accomplished internally or from an outside enemy army? According to Daniel’s vision, it began from the inside. “An host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression.” (Dan. 8:11,12).

Many people believe this to speak of Antiochus Epiphanes. But when you really look at all the catastrophe this little horn of the vision would accomplish, it could not have been the small-time king who couldn’t win a war except against the little country of Israel. He strode his little army around Palestine until he got a commanding notice from the Roman Senate. As soon as Rome threatened him, he ceased and desisted exactly as they required of him, and went home.

No, this little horn that grew up to heaven and cast stars to the ground was not Antiochus, but Satan, the great dragon. He was able to move into Israel and take away the knowledge of God that He gave through the daily sacrifices so that they saw those sacrifices as only ceremonial rituals that belonged to their culture. They no longer saw redeeming love and grace in the animal sacrifices. They became nationalistic and extreme because gracious love had disappeared, which when that happened, roots of bitterness sprang up and troubled the Jews, and thereby many hearts and minds were defiled; they were blinded to God’s love and could not be converted. (Heb. 12:15).

They had transgressed the covenant of God so deeply for so long that they were incapable of repenting. “Thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity: because thy sins were increased, I have done these things unto thee.” (Jer. 30:15). Like Esau, their rebellion left them unable to repent. “Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.
For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” (Heb. 12:16,17).

After their gracious restoration from captivity and tremendous revival of light and truth under Ezra, they rebelled again against the Holy Spirit. Nehemiah came back to see the state of the revival he had been part of, and found it totally vanished. The people had completely abandoned it almost as soon as the two reformers departed.

The nation had been given a probationary period of 70 prophetic weeks and after that would be the end of them as God’s appointed means to teach the world of His character and His laws. The Lord knew them well and saw how deeply the roots of paganism had grown into their thinking. “All the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.” (Jer. 9:26). How could they be God’s chosen representatives? How could they fulfill His hopes that they become “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation”? (Ex. 19:6). According to Daniel 9:24-27 it was not to be.

That which Isaiah said was determined against them (Is. 10:22,23), now the message from heaven was that that determined judgment had a definite date—490 years after the decree to rebuild of Jerusalem. And as the omniscient God “knew what was in man,” (Jn. 2:25) He foresaw that Israel, as a nation, would be completely beyond salvaging for His purposes. After the forewarned time they could repent and be saved, but only as individuals joining with the Gentiles who had become the new vessels to bring a knowledge of God to the world.

At that time, they finally heard the words straight from Christ’s lips, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matt. 21:43;23:37).

They were clean on the outside but unclean on the inside, and wholly unsuited to bear the vessels of the Lord, or they would not have slain the Lord of glory.

Daniel 8 opens to view the inner erosion from obedience to God’s Law that took place long before. “An host was given him [Satan] against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.” (vs. 12).

Constant transgression and searing of the conscience led to almost complete infidelity throughout the priesthood and people. “He said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
Then said I, Lord, how long? And He answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, and the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.” (Is. 6:9-12).

They thought they believed the truth. They sincerely believed they were serving God, so blinded were they to their apostasy. Their “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Only the Lord can search the heart and try the reins, “even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jer. 17:9,10).

“Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever: that this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord.” (Is. 30:8,9).

So, just as He brought in Nebuchadnezzar because there was no other way to get the idea through to the Jews that they had apostatized, so the Lord allowed three other pagan empires to reign over them because the Jews never learned their needed lesson, that they had forsaken and departed far away from what Moses and David had given them.

But they went on as if they had done no wrong. “Therefore He hath poured upon him the fury of His anger, and the strength of battle: and it hath set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart.” (Is. 42:15).

This was Job’s condition. “Behold, He findeth occasions against me, He counteth me for His enemy, He putteth my feet in the stocks, He marketh all my paths.” “I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me.” (Job 33:10,11, 8,9).

And it took another stern round of the hand of God to finally get through to Job what it was that was so secretly hidden deep within his heart—self-exaltation.

But at least Job did finally learn that difficult lesson. Israel wouldn’t. As a nation, their eyes became so blinded that they grew incapable of conversion and salvation. So, Daniel 8 and the gospels show how low they got by continuing in their façade of self-imagined righteousness before God. They could not be turned back to a warm relationship with Him. All their religiosity was from their own will and worked only to make them deaf to the comforting voice of the Holy Spirit. It took the destruction of the temple, which they had used as proof of Jehovah’s approbation, and their total desolation, to make them see that Yahweh had left them, and yet to this day they are unconvinced of any wrong-doing to God’s law. Judaism is a religion of their own devising and not the original Mosaic-Hebrew religion.

Satan had changed the times and the laws. He had craftily substituted man-made tradition for the true burning and convicting laws inspired by the Spirit of God. But their obstinacy to the obvious providences of God’s displeasure and of the exaltation of the followers of Christ, only the more deeply sent the Jews into darkness.

“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward.
And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.” (Is. 8:20-22).

Why should we today, in the gospel dispensation, bother with ancient Israel’s failings? Because “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”

“Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”

“Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.” (2Tim. 3:16;Rom. 15:4;1Cor. 10:11;2Pet. 1:12).

“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.” (Ecc. 1:9-11).

As we saw, the architecture of the Daniel 8 vision, foretelling an apostasy by the Jews, was set squarely on a past apostasy earlier in the Old Testament, yet it foretold another departure from the truth of a much greater magnitude; so much so that it devastated Daniel.

That greater apostasy was forewarned by Paul. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” (2Thess 2:3,4).

The great gospel revival would also apostatize, and this is what the Lord was revealing to us in Revelation 12 and 13. The Reformers saw the first beast of Rev. 13 to be Rome, the Church of Rome.

As had Israel before the Messiah came, the church of the early centuries became deluded through transgression and departing from the laws and statutes of righteousness. Paganism displaced the true religion, as sophisticated philosophies moved into Christian doctrines by Origen, Jerome, and Augustine. Just like the Jews centuries before it, the church didn’t even know that it had fallen away. They didn’t know the day of their visitation.

After forcing practices inculcated from paganism into Christianity little by little, and the church populace was far removed from knowing the Bible, sweeping changes were rapidly and fearlessly introduced and accepted by the people, without resistance. As predicted in ancient language, “With the arms of a flood shall they be overflown from before him, and shall be broken; yea, also the Prince of the covenant.” (Dan. 11:22).

Likewise has Protestant America repeated the apostasies of the past. She wants to call herself a Christian nation, but she doesn’t know her Lord. Of Protestant America, it can be said, “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.” (Hos. 4:17).

Being unclean, how can he be allowed to bear the vessels of the Lord? He is unhallowed and can offer nothing except strange fire; and God cannot permit this. Yet, true to the past with Israel and the Papacy, Protestant America will try. But it will be its undoing. Protestantism is perverted and its offering to God is cursed by heaven.

Let the Bible be taught in public schools and we will see the same imperious persecutions developed in our young as was demonstrated by obstinate Israel and the whore of Revelation toward those faithful men and women who dared to rebuke the church’s prevailing fall from grace. A time of trouble such as never was is forecasted. This tribulation will not come against Christianity, but by Christianity, and because of it. Once more, Satan will reveal his bitterest hatred against the truth of God by working against it from within its own walls. “Whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.” (Jn. 16:2).

Only those today who have wrestled with God and come out victorious in faith are His messengers to reach a perverted world. Certification in teaching the humanities and sciences recommends nobody to teach God’s character and His commandments. All which that can do is to quickly deteriorate the remaining spirituality still residing in this nation.

To make Bible study part of the states’ requirements for public educational curriculums is to begin the movement to unite church with the state. And uniting them always has caused the corruption of both and weakening of both. Idolatrous teachers can only teach idolatry. They are not educated in righteousness. Thus they could only pass on a flawed and perverted knowledge of the Bible if they had to teach it.

But what about the freefall of morality in America, if the public schools can’t teach the Bible? How will the collapsing of our society be arrested?

Again, I point you to the Lord’s methods of the past ages:
“Then said I, Lord, how long? And He answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, and the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.” (Is. 6:9-12).

Yet, the Lord brought something beautiful out of Israel when their blindness and deafness were fixed through 500 years of prophetic silence after Malachi. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.” (Eph. 2:13-17).

If He let an apostasy happen once before and used it to save those people whom He foreknew, He can and will do it again. Because of blinding delusion, there is no other way to reach His people.

Out of that first great apostasy He brought out the apostles and the gospel. Out of the next great apostasy by Rome He brought out the Protestant Reformation. Out of the last and final apostasy, the climax of which we are quickly moving toward, He will bring out the 144,000 and a great multitude which no man can number. He will bring glorification and the end of this sinful world.

He will receive us to Himself that where He is we may be also. And thus shall we ever be with the Lord.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The peace offering

The peace offering was a ceremony the Lord ordained to signify justification. As Paul wrote, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The SDA Bible Commentary has this to say:

The distinguishing feature of the peace offering was the communal meal held within the precinct of the sanctuary, in which joy and happiness prevailed and in which people and priest held converse. This was not an occasion where peace was affected, but a feast of rejoicing that peace existed. It was generally preceded by a sin offering and a burnt offering. The blood had been sprinkled, atonement had been made, forgiveness extended, and justification assured. 1BC p. 723.

Peace and rest is all that God wants in His children. But to have this there must be pain and unrest. In Paul’s words, “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest.” (Heb. 4:11). As the innocent animal died in the hearts of the worshipers before the peace meal could be acceptable, even so the Spirit of God must convict the sinner of his sin before he can know and celebrate peace with God and rejoice in life.

Real faith is what comes out of the wrestling match with God. Pain and suffering, both in the conscience and in the life, His word convicting us and our life condemning us, is the only ordained method by God to come to the peace He has to offer. The seeker after God’s mercy will know the chastening of the Lord. This is unavoidable because we are all so corrupted. We are all like the apple that looks red and so delicious, but is all mushy and rotten to the core. We throw away those kinds of apples. Yuck! We don’t have a second thought about eating them. But God seeks to save and rejuvenate them.

But the sacrificial animal was a substitute for the person. We may suffer grievously before coming to peace with God, but we don’t suffer the second death; we don’t suffer hell. This is because Somebody has taken our place. Somebody has been our substitute in hell. That Somebody was Jesus. He took the full force of God’s wrath and sorrow and grief toward sin. God made Him to be sin so that God could unload on Him, instead of on us, the infinite hatred and anger we deserve. All of divine wrath was diverted from us to Him, the innocent Lamb of God. He was treated as we deserve, so that we could be treated as He deserves.

This should sting our consciences and mar our hearts for life, even for eternity. If we suffer at all, it is only a miniscule degree of what we deserve. God has been the one who has suffered. Beyond all human comprehension our Father has suffered. Let’s not complain when we suffer for our sin.

“The people shall be as the burnings of lime.” “The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. And My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” (Is. 33:12;32:17,18).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Come rest awhile

A visitor at the prayer meeting who is young in the faith made this statement last week. “God doesn’t want us to keep praying for the same thing over and over again. I heard a preacher say that.”

My thoughts raced for the truth on that statement. I sounded kind of right, but also wrong. Christ told us to not use the kind of repetitive prayers as the heathen do. But He also taught us the power of tenacious prayer through the parable of the unjust judge. There the woman kept up her praying until the self-centered magistrate was pestered into doing something for her. “Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.” (Lk. 18:5).

Jesus then turned to the lesson He sought to teach. “Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them?” (vs. 6,7).

Though He bear long with them? Why does God do it that way? Why must He wait? Does He love to see us begging Him? Does He just want to see us squirm? Does He enjoy watching over our misery? No, for we see, in the dialog, that Christ contrasts the selfishness of the judge with God, inferring by the contrasting assumption that God is purely selfless and infinitely merciful.

Shall not God come to the rescue? The rhetorical answer was, Of course He will! “I tell you,” He continued, “that He will avenge them speedily.” (vs. 8). God waits long, then rescues quickly. Wonderfully amazing formula! He tests our faith and patience to the dregs. Then before we give up the fight for faith, He mercifully saves the day. In the end, He has humble, exercised, and happy children. What a loving Father we serve!

True to God’s never changing character, His mercy is tinctured with justness; His ever present desire is to purify His children. This is the eternal stamp of His method to sinners today, and even before sin entered the universe. Grace and truth must forever and a day be blended, because love must have it that way. Grace and truth “is the power of God” unto perfect development, and we are not perfectly happy unless we are growing and developing and accomplishing.

But is there a time to rest, to stand down from our pleas to God? Is it possible to implore God so long that our faith turns into doubt? Can we pray so hard that we are talking without listening? Can we unwittingly corrupt prayer and turn it into something it wasn’t designed to be? Matt. 6:7, 1Ki. 18:26,28, and Is. 47:12,13 seem to indicate so.

My daughter hated being cramped up in the car for long trips. So she would begin asking, “Are we there yet?” After every combination I could imagine of “No, but soon,” “No, but we have only ___ miles to go,” she would get perturbed and start asking in rapid fire fashion, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?...(ad naseum)” She knew what the answer was and only asked only to vent her impatience. She wanted to get unbuckled or get out of the car and go running around.

She was talking, not to have conversation, but to vent. And my wife and I bore long with her. Although it was irritating to her mother, I thought it was somewhat cute and interesting how selfishness manifests itself at such a young age. But I also recognized that Betania’s imprisonment in the car was good for her. Long trips only happened once in a while and would teach her to bear up under less than ideal situations later in life.

Yes, our prayers can be corrupted. Self is always seeking to be reinstated on the throne of our soul, even at a very young age. Prayer is not an automatic key to depending on God. Multitudes around the world are taught to pray by rote. Every religion around the globe teaches their votives to pray without trying to have a child-to-parent relationship with God. Rather, the world religions teach them to conjure up a self-made yearning for God concerning some necessity and try to move the infinite God as a mere human, a rebel sinner at that.

This God cannot reward. Some pray just to be seen by others; some pray to be admired by themselves, imagining how pious they must appear. Many are the ways self-exaltation affects us.

All of these impure motives God must remove from us before He can come to our assistance. For Him to give us what we ask for through selfish prayer would encourage us in our self-centeredness. We would come to believe that we control God by our varied methods of manipulation. We would come to see prayer as the means of moving God on our selfish terms, instead of His moving us on His terms, that is, through love, “the righteousness of faith.” (Rom. 4:13).

So if He cannot immediately answer our beseeching Him because of our self-centered way of asking, then He must delay His help until He can work life to show us our true motives. This can take a while; will we be patient? Here’s where many abandon Him. “Blessed are all they that wait for Him.” (Is. 30:18).

Will we learn to rest in Him, not for the sake of getting something we think we need, but just for the sake of spending time with Him? For prayer to be valid, we have to be real. We have to give God a chance to deliver. So we can ask and ask, and then quit asking and wait. He’s not going to forget about what we asked for!

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.” (Jas. 1:17). Don’t we think that if He could arrange for Adam to learn from the animals so that the need of a wife would dawn on him, that every true need we have is inspired by God anyway? He inspired the need, thus He knows what we are going to ask for before we even think of it. We are so naïve to think we invent all of our needs! God is the author of everything, including our thoughts. In Him we live and move and have our being.

Let’s be natural; let’s be His offspring. Much of what children receive from their parents isn’t even asked for. Much of it the children, in faith, just assume they are going to get. And they get it! –because of their happy love and perfect trust in their parents, and because the parents’ feelings are mutual. If we’ve spent the time getting to know God, we don’t have to ask for everything we need. Sometimes, Jesus just looked to heaven, and that was enough to unleash His Father’s blessings upon His beloved Son.

The real exertion should be in reading His word and getting to really know Him. Then our petitions and communion will meet His approval, and it will be said of us, “Before they call, I will answer” “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.”(Is. 65:24;Eph. 3:20).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

John the apostle and Mary of Magdala

This may not be fully confirmed, and may sound like pure conjecture; but from piecing together the evidence, I believe what I write to be true.

John was the youngest in Christ’s family of disciples and the very first called by Jesus to be trained to establish the church. He was also the first and last disciple to begin the new dispensation, which would carry the torch of truth about God’s character until the end of earth’s history. Being the least in age and in life experience, John had the insecurities that come with adolescence and the strong desire for acceptance retained from childhood. This timidity in the group of men, and especially in the presence of the Messiah, awakened all of his senses. That keenness of awareness and longing for acceptance enabled him, in a deeper way, to discern in Jesus what the others failed to see—a deeper love than mere peer friendship, a purpose beyond simply the overthrow of the Romans, a purely unselfish yearning to help more than just for those of His own nation and His own kind.

John saw in the demanding expectations of His master a justice that was different from that in all others. None he had ever met displayed the strength of manhood mixed with the innocent joy of a child. Surely this was the Son of God. Justice and mercy came out in every look and word and action. Love, pure and constant, was his teacher for 3 ½ years. John was captivated and sold. Subconsciously and consciously, he copied everything he saw in his wonderful new Master.

Mary came into the picture probably early on during those 3 ½ years. Lazarus was one who also detected the love in Jesus that John had seen. Drawn to Christ, Lazarus, the elder brother in that male dominated society, brought his two sisters to meet Jesus. Mary was the youngest in the family.

Jesus often visited their home. When dogged by the traps of the duplicitous priests and Pharisees, the weary Man of sorrows made His way to the loving home of Lazarus. At other times, when His unbelieving brothers left His soul in anguish, He would go where they were not—to the warmth and mutual trust of this unique family of siblings.

Mary immediately formed a close bond to the new friendly traveling prophet, and loved to sit and hear His stories and lessons. Mary was the gregarious type and made friends easily. But Mary was so trusting and outgoing that it led her into associations which were unhealthy for her. Over time a so-called boyfriend led her into sexual promiscuity; and once that happened she felt so dirty that she couldn’t go home to her upstanding brother and sister. Also rumors would fly quickly and she didn’t think she would be welcome back in that town anyway. So deeper and deeper Mary got into prostitution, making a living at it. She moved to a town of questionable reputation because that’s where all the business was. The rumors flew anyway, and Mary of Bethany became known as Mary of Magdala.

But one day crowds of people came to Magdala, and among them the itinerant preacher friend of her brother. From a distance, she heard His lessons and stories again, with their same loving appeal as when she sat at His feet. Drawn to His love, she was soon right in His presence, just like she had in her old home. Yearning for the clean life and heart breaking to know Jesus’ acceptance again, she waited in line to speak confidentially with Him. He prayed for her, and all her sinful life came pouring out of her broken heart, as she confessed it all. Jesus told her that her sins were forgiven, and the devil of rebellion fled from her. She promised Him she would leave her filthy lifestyle and live a life worthy of God, and Jesus passed on to another town.

But, her friends immediately came over again, and soon she fell back into prostituting herself. After awhile the itinerant Preacher came to town again, taught and healed and appealed again, and Mary found His love irresistible again. Again she confessed her guilt and shame and Jesus prayed for her. Again she broke and resolved to leave the life of harlotry. But the day after her reconversion, her pimp came back and wooed her again into her old life of sin.

But Christ wasn’t finished yet with Mary. He saw in her a pearl of great price, though marred by sin. Six times He came to Magdala and each time Mary was reconverted and justified, and accepted by heaven. But six times, Mary backslid.

Finally, came the fateful evening when she received a costumer who was a well-dressed, high ranking member of the moral part of society. But in the dark of early morning her residence was raided by the religious gestapo and she was hauled off to jail. Later she was dragged out of her dungeon cell and taken to the tabernacle. Surely she was on the way to be sentenced to stoning. They pushed her into His presence, the pure Jesus who she dreadfully revered and loved, and to whom she had so many times promised, with all her heart, to be good and pure—and there she stood, face in hands, frozen in fear and shame. Then came those unforgettable words, “Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?”

Not only was she embarrassed beyond words to be in His presence, but now she saw that her misconduct was being used to trap her beloved Master. They must have known how much He loved her, and could use that to their advantage. Now she was about to be stoned; but worse, her best Friend faced arraignment also, because of her.

The religious leaders had thrust Him into being her judge and executioner. So He spoke His verdict and sentence. “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Mary cowered, believing that He must pass judgment against her; she surrendered to His righteous justice. But no stones came. When she looked up all those men were gone. Jesus had somehow made them all go away. Then His most wondrous words of justice and mercy flowed out, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?” She said, “No man, Lord.” And Jesus said unto her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”

Gratitude, wonder, and humility filled her from head to toe. Her heart broke again deeper than ever before. The last vestige of pride left her in the light of her horrible foolishness which almost cost the life of her beloved Master and most trusted Friend. The demon of rebellion and promiscuity left her again, never to return. From that day on, Mary Magdalene lived forever indebted to her Lord and her savior from sin and from death. Her life completely changed and she became His most devoted follower, surpassing her brother and even His disciples. She, out of whom was cast seven devils and had been as filthy as seven prostitutes, now was a fresh, new child of heaven, loved by God as if she had never sinned.

Of the four gospels, John mentions Mary more often than the other three gospel writers put together. In the feast at Simon’s house, when Mary washed Jesus’ feet with her tears because she foresaw His soon entrapment and execution, John is the only gospel writer to give her name. Matthew, Mark, and Luke leave her anonymous and faceless.

Based on the evidence, I believe John wrote so much about Mary because his gospel of Jesus included, in off-hand style, a loving memoir to the wife of his youth. No one else could love and ignore the ingrained cultural stigma of one so forever polluted and defiled as Mary had been. Together, their holy matrimony was a follow-on to so many of the marriages with questionable wives who made up the holy line of the Messiah: Jacob and idolatrous Rachel, Judah and Tamar, Salmon and Rahab, Boaz and Ruth, David and Bathsheba, Solomon and his Shulamite wife.

After the other apostles had all died martyrs’ deaths, this holy couple reigned from Jerusalem as king and queen of the new Israel, loved and honored by the wide-spreading church. Theirs was a living object lesson of redeeming love; theirs a model and example for all the Christian homes, and the welding of Pauline doctrines and his martyrdom into the hearts and wills of the early church that would defy all the power of the Roman bloody persecution games.

John and Mary, surrounded by the infant church, exemplified Christ’s fulfillment of Isaiah chapter four.

“And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.
In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel.
And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem:
When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.
And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.
And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the day time from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.”

John, a living type of Christ, and Mary, a living type of the church, together in the tightest bond of love, were like incense rising to the holy place where Christ ascended and gave gifts to men, the benediction of God resting on His people.

So much better than a tombstone was John’s including his long loved wife, “the dearly beloved of my soul” in his story of his beloved Master. “Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” (Mark 14:9).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Come rest awhile

A visitor at the prayer meeting who is young in the faith made this statement last night. “God doesn’t want us to keep praying for the same thing over and over again. I heard a preacher say that.”

My thoughts raced for the truth on that statement. It sounded kind of right, but also wrong. Christ told us to not use the kind of repetitive prayers as the heathen do. But, through the parable of the unjust judge, He also taught us tenacity in prayer. There the woman kept up her praying until the judge was pestered into doing something for her. “Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.” (Lk. 18:5).

Jesus then turned to the lesson He sought to teach us. “Hear what the unjust judge saith.
And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them?” (vs. 6-8).

Though He bear long with them. Why does He do it that way? Why must He? Does He love to see us begging Him? Does He just want to see us squirm? Does He enjoy watching over our misery? No, no parent requires groveling from his child. And neither does God, for we see in the parable’s dialog, that Christ contrasts the selfishness of the judge with God, inferring by assumption that God is pure, and selfless, and ready and waiting to be infinitely merciful to everything, from every person to every insect crawling on this big world.

Shall not God come to the rescue? The rhetorical answer is, Of course! “I tell you,” He continued, “that He will avenge them speedily.” (vs. 8).

But true to God’s never changing character, His mercy is tinctured with justness; His ever present desire is to purify His children. This is the eternal stamp of His method to sinners, and it was the mark of His workmanship even before sin. Grace and truth must forever and a day be blended, because love must have it that way. “It is the power of God” unto perfect development, and we are not perfectly happy unless we are growing and developing and accomplishing.

But is there a time to rest? To stand down from our pleas to God? Is it possible to implore God so long that our faith turns into doubt? Can we pray so hard that we are talking without listening? Can our insistence unwittingly corrupt prayer and turn it into something it wasn’t designed to be?

Like most children, my little daughter hated being cramped up in the car for long trips. So she would begin asking, “Are we there yet?” After our every combination of “No, but soon,” “No, but we have only ___ miles to go,” et cetera, she would get perturbed, and start asking in rapid fire fashion, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?...” She knew what the answer was and only wanted to vent her impatience. She wanted to get unbuckled, or get out of the car and go running around.

I understand that she was young and it’s hard for little ones to sit for long periods. And I felt for her. I didn’t like having to do the driving. But she wasn’t uncomfortable or hungry or thirsty. She just wanted to be unfettered, free to do whatever she wanted to do.

“Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?...” She was talking, not to have conversation. And my wife and I bore long with her. I thought it was kind of cute and interesting how selfishness manifests itself at such a young age. But I also recognized that Betania’s imprisonment in the car was good for her. Long trips only happened once in a while and would teach her to bear up under less than ideal situations later in life.

Yes, our prayers can be corrupted. Self is always seeking to be reinstated on the throne of our soul. Prayer is not an automatic key to depending on God. Multitudes around the world are taught to pray by rote. Every religion around the globe teaches their votives to pray without trying to have a child-to-parent relationship with God, but to conjure up self-made yearning for God to hear regarding some necessity.

But, self-made yearning God cannot reward. Some pray just to be seen by others; some pray to be admired by themselves, imagining how pious they must be. Many are the ways self-exaltation affects us.

All of these God must remove before He can come to our assistance. To give us what we ask for through selfish prayer would encourage us in self-centeredness. We would come to believe that we control God by our varied methods of manipulation. We would begin to see prayer as the means of moving God on our selfish terms, instead of His moving us through love, the “righteousness of faith” (Rom. 4:), which is His term.

So if He cannot immediately answer our beseeching Him, He must delay His help until He can work life to show us our true motives. This can take a while. Will we be patient? “Blessed is the man that waiteth for Him.” (Is. 30:18). Here’s where many abandon Him. Let it not be us; but let us be patient and trust Him to be on top of what we need. No sooner than the Holy Spirit has taught us to be humble and truly dependent on His love for our needs, Jesus’ promise of our Father is, “I tell you, that He will avenge them speedily.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Righteousness by Faith by Experience

She said to me, “The peace that I feel ever since the Lord took away my alcoholism and smoking and foul language and drugs is incredible. I can’t understand it, the desire for those things just disappeared! It is amazing every time I think about it! I tried for so many years to overcome those horrible habits, but I just couldn’t. And now I tell my family to try trusting in God and see what happens. But they don’t want to. But the real question I have is, ‘Why me? I’m not anybody special. Why did God pick me for such a wonderful experience?’ When I think about it it makes me want to cry.”

My friend Cheryl is realizing the experience of Righteousness by Faith. She is finding that the power of God to make us like Him comes with faith. It is what Paul described as, “the righteousness of faith” (Rom. 4:13), or the righteousness from faith. “Jesus turned Him about, and when He saw her, He said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Matt. 9:22).

Trusting God gives His Spirit the right to reclaim us from Satan’s power and to transform us into His image. “Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? But thus saith the Lord, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children.” (Is. 49:24,25).
And because the power comes from above instead of from our fighting hard to manufacture it, it is very much a mystery to the recipient of it. We never see the mechanisms of God. It all just happens.

"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17.
A person may not be able to tell the exact time or place, or trace all the chain of circumstances in the process of conversion; but this does not prove him to be unconverted. Christ said to Nicodemus, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit." John 3:8. Like the wind, which is invisible, yet the effects of which are plainly seen and felt, is the Spirit of God in its work upon the human heart. That regenerating power, which no human eye can see, begets a new life in the soul; it creates a new being in the image of God. While the work of the Spirit is silent and imperceptible, its effects are manifest. If the heart has been renewed by the Spirit of God, the life will bear witness to the fact. While we cannot do anything to change our hearts or to bring ourselves into harmony with God; while we must not trust at all to ourselves or our good works, our lives will reveal whether the grace of God is dwelling within us. A change will be seen in the character, the habits, the pursuits. The contrast will be clear and decided between what they have been and what they are.
Steps to Christ, p. 57.

Christ likened the mysterious work of true God-given righteousness to the natural world. “And He said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;
And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.
For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” (Mk. 4:26-28).

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7).

We don’t have to understand how the Spirit of God works. If we never understand it, we should not be upset or let it take us out of His hands. “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29). We are His creatures; He is our Creator and Redeemer. We will never be able to attain to the full knowledge of His creative power. But we can be satisfied to at least have the privilege of receiving it.

“In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.” (Is. 26:1-4).

“The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” (Jas. 3:18). I’m so glad God understands this concept. Actually, He invented it.

“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Thess. 5:23).

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Rom. 1:16,17).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

America steadily sliding down a slippery slope

The Sunday movement is now making its way in darkness. The leaders are concealing the true issue, and many who unite in the movement do not themselves see whither the undercurrent is tending. . . . They are working in blindness. They do not see that if a Protestant government sacrifices the principles that have made them a free, independent nation, and through legislation brings into the Constitution principles that will propagate papal falsehood and papal delusion, they are plunging into the Roman horrors of the Dark Ages.—RH Extra, Dec. 11, 1888. (Last Day Events, p. 125.)

Prayer in school, Ten Commandments and crosses in public places, In God We Trust on our coins, Abortion, Save the persecuted Christians around the world, Homosexuality/Lesbianism, Evolution in public schools, all of these and more are the vehicles for the Sunday movement.

How? Because they all represent religio-political issues fought by religious organizations moving the United States government to do their bidding. They all stand for forcing this nation to transform from a purely civil government to a Christian nation.

Again and again I hear Seventh-day Adventists getting on the bandwagon with other Evangelical Christians on these political issues. Adventists, wake up! You are signing your own death warrant! Your focus should be on the Three Angels messages—1) the hour of judgment has come, 2) corrupted religion is pervasive throughout even the Protestant denominations, 3) and anyone who prefers the traditions of men over the commandments of God feels the utter separation from Him and they have not rest, for there is no peace with the wicked.

In the movements now in progress in the United States to secure for the institutions and usages of the church the support of the state, Protestants are following in the steps of papists. Nay, more, they are opening the door for the papacy to regain in Protestant America the supremacy which she has lost in the Old World. And that which gives greater significance to this movement is the fact that the principal object contemplated is the enforcement of Sunday observance—a custom which originated with Rome, and which she claims as the sign of her authority. It is the spirit of the papacy—the spirit of conformity to worldly customs, the veneration for human traditions above the commandments of God—that is permeating the Protestant churches and leading them on to do the same work of Sunday exaltation which the papacy has done before them. —Great Controversy, p. 573.

When the leading churches of the United States, uniting upon such points of doctrine as are held by them in common, shall influence the state to enforce their decrees and to sustain their institutions, then Protestant America will have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy, and the infliction of civil penalties upon dissenters will inevitably result. —Great Controversy, p. 445.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Hubble and the Bible

I’m sitting here writing while looking at an astronomical photo of a spiral galaxy of bluish color with a white center. To its right side and lower in altitude, around 4 o’clock to the blue galaxy, is a smaller (more distant) yellowish barred-spiral galaxy. Scattered all around the closer one are many stars, as well as other galaxies more distant than the barred-spiral, and their aspects are edge-on and horizontal, vertical, and other angles. A beautiful spectacle!

Any viewer of this photo would say that it is a real image. It certainly looks real. Is it the actual place in the universe? No, it is an image of that place. In other words, I am not standing in the presence of those galaxies, looking at them. The Hubble space telescope wasn’t even in the presence of those galaxies. But it had the capability of powerfully zooming in enough to make extremely distant objects appear visible, and real.

The Biblical account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is the only extant description of what happened there so many thousands of years ago. None of us were there; we weren’t even thought of by our first parents. There wasn’t even a written language to record the events that took place at that time.

But what we have is a photograph in writing of how the human race began. The Eden story not a myth. It’s not a fable or a fairy tale. The record of that episode in Earth’s history was passed down accurately from father to son from Adam, himself, to Amram to Moses, who wrote it down from all of posterity. That written account is just as trustworthy as the photo of the universe, which I must trust was made accurately of real, live cosmic objects.

Adam was created and given this planet to reign as its king. But to begin that great work, he was given a smaller area of land to govern, which as he developed and perfected it, it would expand into a larger and larger empire until it filled the whole world. Why is that so hard to believe? The Bible account is realistic.

Although surrounded by innumerable species of animals, Adam felt lonely for someone his equal. That’s also realistic. So the Lord God made woman and introduced her to her life mate. Adam was perfectly happy with this new addition to his life. Realistic? Very. They were both naked because technology did not exist, and they were not embarrassed because they were perfectly innocent and pure. Realistic? Yes.

It’s the simple story of real people and a real origin of our world today. It’s so simplistic that the intellectual will balk at it as not complicated enough to be true. But, intellectuals aren’t happy people, and the pursuit of happiness is our divine right. If we find ourselves not being intellectual, let’s be glad. And let’s put our faith in God’s word, the Bible.

We don’t need a knowledge of evil. We can’t handle it. We become like the evil we are looking at. All we need is a knowledge of good, plain and simple. Righteousness will be our wisdom and exaltation by all those around us who are suffering because they attempted to study evil. They will praise us because we somehow escaped the misery that plagues them in body, mind, and soul.

Let’s let the Bible stories not only find a home in our intellect, but also in our consciences and hearts and lives. Let’s demonstrate what Moses and Paul said, “Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me…Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” “But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” (Deut. 4:5,6;1Cor. 1:30).

Bogged down

My computer is slowing down incredibly. It is bound down with extraneous operations going on behind the scenes. While I’m trying to write emails, it is also processing advertisements and who knows what else.

It takes me an hour to write one email, during which time I wait long periods for the cursor to show up where I clicked for it to be, and then wait again for the letters to show up that I typed in. Often, I type before the processor knows it is supposed to be where I am typing, and my letters and words are lost until the cursor finally begins blinking again. Then I have to retype those words. Sometimes, they show up in a different place on the email because, even though I thought the cursor was where I wanted it, the computer thought the cursor was somewhere else.

Sometimes our hearts and minds are just like this. We may want to do right and say right things. But if our soul is battered by this loveless world and really focused on the pains of life, even our best efforts to do and say good things just can’t happen. Satan is playing in the background of our mind and soul, and frustrating the holy thoughts and beautiful impressions of God’s Spirit.

Sometimes, we bog down and can’t find anything to say or do. Life has lost all purpose; we are dumbfounded. Confused and confounded, we sit in darkness and silence, utterly distraught. What can we do? What good are we? What can God do with me?

“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.
My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?
When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me…
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” (Ps. 42:1-5,11).

All we can do is cry out to God in our loneliness for His love and righteousness. If we have no other human “help-meet” then our God will be that for us. In those times we the most grow in grace and in a knowledge of Jesus who has been in the hopeless dark. He is touched with the feelings of our infirmities Himself having been tempted in all things as we have been. He will give ear. He will hearken and do.