WOMEN PASTORS – ORDINATION, COMMISSION – what direction are we going?

Appointed committees with representatives from all over the North American Division, travel expense, individuals with higher education, and some everyday people have gathered to form a co-ed study group meeting over contiguous years to study the subject issue. There was a vote taken, finally, during the world church quinquenniel in July of 2015. The outcome while disheartening in some ways showed some progress with an increase in positive votes over the previous General Conference session in 2010.

Over the past 17 years, I have been leading small groups through the This is Life Eternal Bible reading calendar at least 20 times. What a joy it has been! We weren’t doing it to earn grades! We weren’t doing it to nail down key texts for doctrines! WE WERE DOING IT TO KNOW GOD BETTER, DEEPER, BROADER, and CLOSER!!! Please read John 17:3 and picture the scene in which Jesus prayed those words. If one keeps reading John 17 down to v. 20 of Jesus’ prayer to His Father, it becomes clear that Jesus is praying for us!!! He wants all His people from all the intervening centuries to be “one with Him” as well. For we, the Church, are the “apple of His eye!” Read the following verses in the KJV: Deut, 32:10; Zech. 2:8; Ps. 17:8.

Has the Church always looked the same? No. There have been junctures in history where God brought about change in the way the church functioned. I’d like to share the panorama of church styles in Scripture.

At first, God instituted the policy that the first born son became the “Patriarch” or spiritual leader for his family and he received the “birthright.” to support that leadership monetarily. Remember that those early families became quite large. Abraham for example had in his family 318 men capable of fighting wars, plus servants. Society around them was organized much differently than today. Each town had a “king” and sometimes they invited other kings to join together to go to battle.

After Abraham and Lot separated because their herds got too large to use the same grazing lands or
wells, Lot settled in Sodom and he and his family were captured and taken away. So Abraham had to rescue his nephew and was successful! Moses learned strategies for war while he was in Egypt and used them as Israel’s leader.

Because the blood line of the Redeemer had to be verified, the children were always verified by their father’s name: following Adam as the next patriarch was Seth, son of Adam, In the “begats” of Scripture we see the bloodline identified that way for a couple thousand years.

So, “in the beginning” we see careful record keeping to establish a connection between the Garden of Eden and the Cross and the worship of the God of Heaven was the responsibility of the Patriarchs who raised altars and made sacrifices on behalf of their people.

That worked fine until Jacob’s family went to Egypt to live and were subjected to 400 years of slavery. When they were finally delivered and were leaving for the wilderness God changed the format of their worship. The patriarchal system was not practical for 2,000,000 or more people! So God chose the tribe of Levi to lead in worship to God. No one else was to come close to the Sanctuary or they would die. The priestly Levitical plan worked until Christ died upon the cross, fulfilling every Old Testament prophecy, and removing observance of the Jewish festivals from the Christian calendars! Those festivals pointed forward to Christ and the final harvest etc. Once Christ died, so did the requirements of all those rituals.

You know, those who say only men can serve in leadership roles have not caught the vision of a God who is not fettered by human assumptions. For He left the door open for women to receive the birthright because Zelophahad only had daughters, so God created a law to protect women in that situation from then on.
Deborah was a judge and went to war with the men and won with the help of another woman, Jael, who killed a general who had plagued Israel. She drove a nail into his brain as he slept. Zeruiah, David’s sister, raised three “mighty men.” Every time her sons are mentioned, they are identified by her name: Asahel, son of Zeruiah, etc.

My point is we need to be careful about making statements that identify how God works, because He will surprise you at almost every juncture! Take a good look at Hebrews 11 and the cast of characters there. There is no mention of sin there. You already know from the Old Testament that all of them were sinners, some worse than others! My God is limitless in his resources and His ways! He said to Moses “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy!” He said in His Ten Commandments that we should not “bear false witness” and yet Rahab appears in the bloodline of Christ! She flat out lied about those spies from Israel. But that’s not how God saw it.

Joel 2:28 tells us that in the last days God would pour His Holy Spirit out on men and women alike. And Peter in Acts 10:34, 35 says that God shows NO partiality, but in every nation, whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.

Paul is another story. He makes some direct comments to a certain class of women, not intended to apply to ALL women! Where his journeys took him were temples to heathen gods and there were prostitutes “working” in the temples as part of the worship experience! Apparently they did not understand worship decorum and Paul bluntly lays down some rules for them. But in other places Luke describes women who are leading out in the churches, and in one instance a well known eloquent evangelist named Apollos, was not letting people know that they needed to be baptized in the name of Jesus (he only knew of the baptism of John the Baptist), so Aquila AND Priscilla took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately. See Acts 18:24-26.

Jesus said the harvest is ripe, but where are the workers? When Joel says the Holy Spirit is poured out on men and women alike, shouldn’t our church use every gifted speaker with leadership qualities to finish the work?? The Holy Spirit gifts people with no respect to gender. Can we agree that when a woman aspires to serve God by preaching, nurturing, baptizing, marrying and feels called by God to that position, why not put her gifts to work and FINISH THE WORK. There is no doubt that ordination is for the purpose of recognizing the God-given gifts already demonstrated by anyone who enters the ministry.
For “in Christ there is no male, no female, no bond, no free”…….

There is a prayer that the Pharisees prayed, “Lord, I thank You that I am not a Publican, or a woman…”
Women are still grouped with minorities today. It is a form of prejudice, which I believe must be erased from our church before Jesus comes. Could He be waiting for it to disappear from among us?

May God’s grace and love win over all soon!

God’s Loving Message: DO NOT BE AFRAID

It was the year 1998 when my life was changed forever — for the better, thank God!  It was the year God gave me the TILE Bible reading plan.  The next year small TILE groups began, and then over the next decade other groups have started both in my own church here in Florida, and across the nation.  This way of reading scripture has blessed my life more than I can express.  I think it was on my third journey through scripture I began to notice how many times the people of God were told: “do not be afraid.”  I began jotting down the texts where the phrase occurred.  About two-thirds through the Bible, I counted the number of times I had seen it.  It was over 300 times!

Remember when God told Joshua multiple times, “Do not be afraid.”  When an angel appeared to Gideon, or Samson’s parents, or David, it was a startling experience to see a brilliant, beautiful, shining being come to proclaim messages from God.  The first thing the angel would say — and I would think that the tone of voice would be very soothing– was  “Do not be afraid.”

Probably the most famous angelic message was the one given to Mary when she was told that she was to be the mother of the Messiah.  “Do not be afraid,” the angel said to Mary.

But there is another visitation that is perhaps the most poignant of all.  John, the beloved, was on the isle of Patmos, imprisoned on the rocky island because he preached the word of God.  It was the Sabbath day and John was in a worshipful frame of mind, I am sure, because that is when God comes to us.   John heard a voice like a trumpet BLAST behind him!  When he turned around, he saw…seven gold lampstands, furniture found in the Holy Place of the heavenly Temple.  Standing in the middle of them was the Son of Man, wearing a long robe with a gold sash across His chest.  His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow!  And His eyes….oh, His eyes,  bright like flames of fire.  His feet were as bright as bronze refined in a furnace, and His voice THUNDERED like mighty ocean waves.  He held seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth.  And His face was as bright as the sun in all its brilliance!!!!

John recognized the glorified One, calling Him the “Son of Man,” but the brightness of His appearance and the majesty of His voice, the golden glow and the polished bronze feet, all were too much for John.   Jesus, the Creator of all things.  Jesus, Who died for John’s sins to make his salvation sure.  Jesus, Who served in greatest humility so recently, now was so incredibly beautiful as to take away John’s equilibrium!

John says “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.  But He laid His right hand on me and said,  “Don’t be afraid!  I am the First and the Last.  I am the living One Who died.  ….”  Jesus established His identity for those of us who live in this age and who take the time to read what Jesus has said which reverberates to today!  Then He gave clear instruction to John regarding writing down the REVELATION of JESUS!

Then, Jesus, Who sits at the right hand of the Father, laid His right hand on John and said, “Don’t be afraid!  I am the First and the Last. …”   Think of John’s mixed emotions: fear, yes, because of the immense power emanating from the Savior; joy, yes, because John liked to be a close to Jesus as possible; a feeling of sinfulness, yes, for we are all sinners.

What a scene.  What a loving heavenly Father we have!  Do you see Him?  Merely vicariously seeing through the eyes of John is a very emotional experience for me.   And each time we reach Week #33 in the TILE Bible reading calendar, the scenes of Revelation 1 become ever more effervescent, and deeply meaningful.

It was 2001 when it dawned on me that it’s very important to God that we not live in fear!  Duh!  Why did it take me three times through the scriptures to get the importance of this message from God.  I’m so glad that reading the Bible completely each year has become a permanent part of my life, because every journey through brings new understanding about my Saviour.

Any psychologist will tell us that fear can be a debilitating emotion, affecting not only our behaviors, but our very vital organs!  These bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, the gift Jesus left for His believers (that’s us) when He ascended to heaven.  We need to keep our bodies healthy and functioning efficiently so that we can be living letters to our neighbors and our church family, and our own families and/or close friends.

Therefore, “do not fear” the bad economy, just tighten your belts and trust God; “do not fear” the illness you might get – some day, it could hasten it; “do not fear” your enemies (whether people or Satan’s angels) for God is greater than any or ALL of them…     Oh, my friends, God is so interested in the details of our lives.  He has the capacity to absorb the needs of every living human being.   Lean on Him and feel His hand of comfort stilling the storms that brew all around us.

Once more, let me repeat: God does not want you to live your life in fear.  He doesn’t promise that we’ll never have pain, grief, or illness, but He DOES PROMISE to walk with us through those challenges.  Let His power carry you.  Whatever challenges come your way, God’s presence can make even the deepest valleys bittersweet.

Remember the T-shirts that were popular a few years ago?  The “No Fear” shirts?  Maybe a visual might help us to move out of our fearful thought patterns into the light of more healthful thoughts In the momentous changes in our world of late, I encourage you to “Take the Name of Jesus with You” and sing about Him until your courage soars unfettered toward Heaven!

GOD SEES ME

Proverbs 15:3 (NLT version unless otherwise specified) is the inspiration for all that follows in this blog:  ”The Lord is watching everywhere, keeping His eye on both the evil and the good.”

II Chronicles 16:9 “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.”

Job 1:8 “Then the Lord asked Satan during a council meeting held in heaven of all the ‘Sons of God:’  caretakers of other planets–see Archive for April 2008.  ’ Have you noticed My servant Job?  He is the finest man in all the earth–a man of complete integrity.  He fears God and will have nothing to do with evil.’ ”

Malachi 3:16,17  “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with each other, and the Lord Himself listened to what they said.  In His presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared Him and loved to think about Him.”

Proverbs 14:26  ”Those who fear the Lord are secure;  He will be a place of refuge for their children.”

Psalms 33:13, 14  “The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race.  From His throne He observes all who live on the earth.”

Psalms 34:15 “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; His ears are open to their cries for help.”

The attention that God gives to events and individuals on earth, according to the Scriptures, amazes me.  Trillions of thoughts, actions, decisions and attitudes are occurring “24/7.”  He not only knows what is happening right this minute, but He has recorded information in “resource books” in heaven (Mal. 3:16,17; Rev. 21:27; Ps. 69:28) that I’m sure will be available during the millenium to those who are “judging, and reigning” with Christ (Rev. 20:4,11-15)

I believe that God’s presence everywhere, anywhere, anytime on this earth is represented symbolically in Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4.   These chapters are better than any science fiction movie ever concocted by mere human beings:  fascinating reading!  But for this writing, I’ll emphasize references to “eyes.”

Ezekiel writes the book bearing his name while most of Judah is in exile in Babylon because they had rebelled against the Lord.  As they were camped beside the Kebar River, “the heavens were opened to me (Ezekiel) and I saw visions of God, and I felt the hand of the Lord take hold of me.”(Ezekiel 1:3) (Imagine!)  Ezekiel saw a great storm coming from the north, driving before it a huge cloud that flashed with lightning and shone with brilliant light.  The fire inside the cloud glowed like gleaming amber.  From the center of the cloud came four living beings that looked human (vs. 5)…They each had two pairs of wings with human hands (vs. 8) beneath them.

“As I looked at these beings, <em>(Ezekiel speaking) I saw four wheels on the ground beneath them, one wheel belonging to each.  …The rims of the four wheels were awesomely tall, and they were COVERED WITH EYES ALL AROUND THE EDGES.”  Ezekiel 1:15-18   This structure of beings and wheels are described as being extremely fast and they could change direction without turning!  They each had 4 faces: a <strong>human face</strong> on the front, a face of a lion on the right, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle on the back. (vs. 10)

Now come to Revelation 4 where worship in Heaven is described.  John, the Beloved sees 24 elders around the throne of God and four “living beings each COVERED WITH EYES, front and back.  The first one had the form of a lion; the second looked like an ox, the third had a <strong>human face; and the fourth had the form of an eagle with wings spread out as though in flight.  Each of these living beings had six wings, and THEIR WINGS WERE COVERED WITH EYES, inside and out….” (vs. 6-8)

Ezekiel and John, living some thousand years apart, saw similar worship scenes!   Looking at II Chron. 16:9, do you see a God Who is capable of seeing and hearing us at ALL TIMES?  Think about what that entails–seeing and hearing us  from outer space with a technology way beyond our understanding, unnumbered throngs of hearts with all kinds of spiritual failures and successes, and myriads of requests.   Can you feel assured that God is interested in your choices or needs?

Because of God’s unfailing love, we can know that in God’s infinite greatness, He is both capable of knowing us, and is interested in every faithful follower on earth.  In the gospels, He asserts that anyone who will listen to His Word and follow it are more like His family, than His earthly mother and siblings!  Therefore, I declare, that we who spend time with Him in His Word, meditating, praying and then going forth to do the job He gave each of us to do–we are His family and He is looking forward to bringing His faithful ones home as soon as possible.

I believe the eyes inside and outside of the angels’ wings, and all around the wheels in Ezekiel’s “chariot,” AND the eyes seeming to cover the four living beings in Revelation 4, represent the work of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said that He would live in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.  It is through Him that the Father loves us and we love Him.  The Holy Spirit is unlimited in His power.  Pentecost launched a greater role for the Holy Spirit.  He is available to us night and day and through His ministry to us all (see Romans 8), the Father and Son are in touch with us instantly – sometimes even before we call.   Having said that, I have observed that the Trinity seems to work on our behalf either singly, or in coordination.  I’m not saying that the Father and Son cannot see us directly from Heaven.  I believe Heaven is employing every modality available to Them to save us!!!  Hallelujah!

Incidentally, remember the banners Israel marched under every time they broke camp to move to the next venue?  There were four groupings of tribes when they marched.  I couldn’t find a scriptural reference to verify what was on those banners, but according to Jewish tradition, during Israel’s wilderness wandering, when the Cloud (or God, see I Cor. 10:4) moved, the whole camp moved with the tribe of Judah (the banner was a Lion)  leading 3 tribes, then came Reuben (the banner was an Ox) leading 3 tribes, third came the tribe of Ephraim (the banner was of a Man) leading 3 tribes and last came Dan (the banner was an Eagle) leading the final group of 3 tribes.   Notice that the symbols used in both Ezekiel and Revelation were the same ones used in the banners that led Israel through the wilderness!

God’s people, spiritual Israel, ARE STILL MARCHING TOWARD HEAVEN!  And GOD is still LEADING HIS PEOPLE ON!

Next time you read through Proverbs or many of the Psalms where God is pictured as “leaning down” to the hear the prayers of His people, let the beautiful truths given us by David, Ezekiel and John bring the fragrance of Heaven into your life, because GOD IS TRULY WITH US.  HE SEES US, He even knows my name, and He likes to spend quality time with me and all others who sincerely seek to know Him.

You Shall Make an Altar for Me

It fascinates me how a person can read scripture devotedly, and yet the significance of some texts elude us, until — one day, all the grooves in the brain are ready to see, believe and obey!  In an earlier blog, I shared with my readers that I am writing a handbook for those who might like to lead small groups reading through the Bible with the “This is Life Eternal” Bible reading guide.  As I prepared the lesson plan for the Week #6 assignment, I came across Ex. 20:24 and for the first time it sank in and hit it’s target!!!  I said to myself, “HOW DID I MISS THAT!!”  I want to share this verse from different versions.

The NASB reads:  “You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I WILL COME TO YOU AND BLESS YOU.”

The KJV reads:  “An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen; in all places where I record My name, I will come unto thee and I WILL BLESS THEE.”

My personal favorite is the New Living Translation version:  “The altars you make for Me must be simple altars of earth.  Offer on such altars your sacrifices to Me–your burnt offerings and peace offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle.  Build altars in the places <em>where I remind you Who I am, </em>and I will come and bless you there.”

There are instructions also for building their altars with stones, but apparently they could use whatever was nearest at hand:  dirt, or stones.   The place they were to build an altar is what is significant to me.  It should be at the places where God reminded <em>us of Who He is!!   </em>

As I think back over my life, there are many instances when God clearly revealed His presence and His power.  My father was an evangelist, well seasoned in his spiritual calling by the time my memories emerge from my personal past.   Dad was the baby of 12 siblings in Houston, Texas.  Three of the older children were already married with children of their own before he was born!

Even though the family planted gardens and preserved food, the supply didn’t seem to last through the winter.  There were long periods of time when the family subsisted on cow’s milk, soda crackers and sugar.  By the time Dad was  a teenager, he had some serious stomach problems.  Doctors did not have the wonderful medicines that are available today, and the ulcers in his stomach pained him frequently and finally constantly.

I can remember his groans from the pain.  Doctors would say that he needed to rest and relieve his body of stress as much as possible.   So he followed their orders, but left his bed to meet all the preaching commitments on his calendar.   Here is how God showed Who He is:  when Dad entered the pulpit to give the message, his pain left him and until he had finished greeting the people after the sermon he appeared to be pain free.  But as soon as that was done, the pain returned.

As a little child I was aware that God was giving my father the strength to preach God’s Word.  He was one of the most gifted people I have ever seen in his ability to maintain a one-on-one effect with huge audiences – a mighty Man of God!  Looking back now in adulthood, those times that God freed him from the debilitating pain so that his thoughts full of Truth could flow were awesome evidences that God exists, and the end goal is to “educate the public.”  I Peter 3:19-22 and 2 Peter 2:4-6 reveals a God Who shared the Gospel with every human being, in every age, who will listen, obey and be saved.

But someone must “go” and “give” the message and God protects His messengers.  He certainly enabled my dad to function in the capacity of a messenger for over twenty years.  Looking back every time God acted, and Dad was miraculously pain free in the pulpit, I wish we had built an altar in each of those towns with an inscription honoring the God of Heaven.

The final awesome part of this promise from God is that HE WILL MEET US THERE at the altars we erect in His honor.

Now the chief purpose of an altar in Old Testament times was to worship God by offering sacrifices which represented the coming Messiah.  Since Christ died and became the <em>real </em>sacrifice in our behalf, the offerings bring today are a surrendered heart and cheerfully given tithes and offerings.    Instead of seeing God’s fire descend to burn up our offerings, we sense His presence in the blessing of congregational worship, or as we come before Him in personal devotional time.  In addition are the times when we realize God’s intervention in our lives.

We live out in the country where there is a river, very tall trees, a fair amount of snakes and everything that Mother Nature offers to make a wonderful place for children grow up.   Our four children were 7, 8(the only girl), 11 and 12 when we moved here.   Our eldest son, Todd, has a joyfully adventurous spirit and at that age it drove him to swing on vines from tree to tree, and to climb trees.  There is a very tall, very stately cypress tree about 100 yards behind our house.  During our first summer in this house, Todd decided to climb the closest cypress tree.  When he was comfortably lying nestled in the tip-top branches of the tree, he screamed for me to come look!  It was an unusual scream, so I ran to the back porch check it out.  He called down to me proclaiming excitedly how beautiful the view was from his 60-ft. high leafy nest!!  I of course screamed right back to get down from there N-O-W!!!  So he obediently came down.

Later as I worked in the house, I glanced out the window which looked right toward that cypress tree.  I saw a human missile hurtling toward earth and realized it was the bright blue T-shirt Todd was wearing — it was my son’s body falling!

Cypress knees protrude from the ground at the bottom of cypress trees.  Had he landed atop one of them, I have no doubt that it would have cost his life.  The ground, while not actually wet, was quite soft so that when he landed on his side, the bright blue shirt became vertically half dark brown.  Although it was July and very hot, he had chills and crawled into a sleeping bag.  He did not get a spanking, for I knew he was already suffering for disobeying me.

The other miracle is that he had nailed little strips of wood to the tree so his little brother, Chris, and sister, Mauri, could climb up the tree and see the same view he had been privileged to see!  As he was putting up the last strip of wood and raised the hammer to strike the nail, he lost his balance and started to fall about 40′ to the ground.  Trying to grab on to something to break the fall, he let go of the hammer which fell right toward his siblings who by now were part way up the tree!   Neither Todd, nor the hammer hit the little ones, for which I was very thankful.  They were able to scramble back down the tree to safety, – or so I thought all these years.

Recently Mauri was home with her three little ones and we were reminiscing about Todd’s great fall!  She told me something I had not known.   From above her, she heard Todd exclaim something as he began to fall and then as his body whizzed by her, it actually made a rushing whirring sound which scared her so badly, she froze.  Beneath her, also clinging to the tree,  was Chris, our youngest son.  Todd’s breath was knocked out of him, of course, and it took a bit for him to gather his senses and climb back up the tree to help Chris down, and then make another trip up to help Mauri to safety.

You see, I saw Todd’s body hurtling downward, but then the dense underbrush hid all three children from view.  (Rob, our second son, was away at Camp Kulaqua for Junior Camp at the time of this incident.)

When new friends come to our house, the story they most frequently hear is how God saved Todd’s life that day, now 38 years ago.  I have thought many times that I should have built an altar at the bottom of that cypress tree, for God surely made me aware that He is the One who saves us and keeps us and sends angels to protect.  On that altar, I would inscribe a tribute of PRAISE to my God!  For had Todd landed on a cypress knee, or if his hammer or his body had slammed into his younger siblings on the way down, we might have lost three of our children that day.

Maybe the tree itself is equivalent to an altar when we share the story with others and give glory to God.  Through the years many visitors  have commented to me that they feel the peace of God in our home.  While this particular story was not always known to them, they still sensed God’s presence.   Hardly a day goes by that I don’t look at that tree with thoughts of gratitude to God rushing into my soul.  God said He would meet us at the “altars” we erect, and I believe He has blessed this home because we give the glory to Him for His saving power and presence.

AWESOME HOLY SPIRIT, COME!

I have always known since I can remember anything in this world that God the Father loves me, and God the Son (Jesus) loves me, and I knew that the Third Person of the Godhead is totally committed to the plan of salvation. But I have been deeply impressed as I’ve studied Romans on my current cycle through the TILE Bible reading calendar (available at www.thisislifeeternal.org) with how very personally involved the Holy Spirit is with me and with ALL who believe in Jesus.

Some years ago I memorized John 14 with all its beautiful promises. Following the Last Supper, as the disciples walked together to the Mount of Olives, Jesus shared rich truths with them (chapters 14-17). Jesus knew His time had come and wanted them to know that after He was no longer personally with them, they would be given the Holy Spirit Who would comfort them and teach them, and NEVER leave them!(John 14:16) This part of the Godhead known as the Holy Spirit seems to be gifted at serving the other two Members! (Please read John 16:13,14. This is humility within the Godhead!)

All through the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit is active. A couple examples follow. Judges 13:24,25 gives a brief glimpse: “When her son was born, they (Manoah and his wife), named him Samson. And the Lord blessed him as he grew up. And in Mahaneh-dan…the Spirit of the Lord began to take hold of him.” Another reference is Exodus 35:31 where Moses writes: “The Lord has filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, intelligence, and skill in all kinds of crafts.”

So–what was different about the Holy Spirit’s work in the Old Testament? Could it be that with God “the Son” working closely with the human family on earth since sin occurred (I Cor. 10:4), there was a limiting factor as to how much the Holy Spirit could do at that time? Would there be accusations from Satan that the conflict was becoming “unfair” because it was Two against one? Some questions I realize must be put on hold until the day I can talk to Jesus!

Jesus told His disciples that He was going to send them a Gift that would be an essential part of their lives after He went back to heaven(John 14:26). They were to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them at which time they would receive power to tell people about Jesus everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

On the day of Pentecost, seven weeks after Jesus’ resurrection, the believers were meeting together in one place, including Jesus’ mother and brothers (Acts 1:14 and 2:1). Suddenly, the Holy Spirit came with a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the sky, and it filled the house where they were meeting with tongues of fire and they settled on each one of them! Godly Jews from many nations were in Jerusalem at that time, they heard the sounds and came running to see what it was all about. They were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers!

This was the beginning of a world-wide, pervasive power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said the disciples were going to do greater things than He had done (John 14:12,13). But there was no way they could have done it without the presence, direction and help of the Holy Spirit(John 14:16-18). Pentecost coincided exactly with the Festival of Harvest which had been kept by the Jews for thousands of years. Truly it was a great harvest of souls reaped in the early years following Jesus ascension, and was to continue until the final events of this earth’s history as we now know it.

Now, back to Romans. In chapter 1, vs. 4 it states that God raised Jesus “through the power of the Holy Spirit!” Chapter 5, vs. 3-5:(NLT) says “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us–they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us, For we know how DEARLY God loves us, BECAUSE HE HAS GIVEN US the HOLY SPIRIT to FILL OUR HEARTS WITH HIS LOVE!!” Thank You, Holy Spirit! For being such an effective Member of the Godhead Team!

Romans 8:9,11(NASB)”However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. …But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through HIS SPIRIT WHO DWELLS IN YOU.”

I now am convicted that the power of the Holy Spirit that lives in every believer will raise ALL the faithful when Jesus comes to finally take us home to join His heavenly family in a relationship that all other beings in the universe will observe with awe and wonder. Thank You, dear Holy Spirit for Your power living in us! I also see God the Father and God the Son working right alongside the Holy Spirit in the culmination of the plan of redemption which was formed before the foundations of the earth were laid!

There’s more, oh, my! Tears flow. Romans 8:15: “So, you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into His family –calling Him ‘Father, dear Father.’ For His Holy Spirit speaks to us DEEP IN OUR HEARTS and TELLS US THAT WE ARE GOD’S CHILDREN.” Keep reading your Bibles dear readers! If you continue in chapter 8 you will find more that the Holy Spirit does for us: when we don’t even know what to pray for, the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words! And the Father Who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads FOR US BELIEVERS IN HARMONY WITH GOD’S OWN WILL!

I have been shaken in my conviction that I have been way under appreciative to the Holy Spirit for the marvelous, wonderful work He does for EACH believer. Thank You, God! Thank You, Jesus! And, dear Holy Spirit, forgive my sin of omission – failing to realize how much I owe to You. Thank You, dear Spirit, for filling me with God’s love, and for praying for me in ways that I can never ever achieve in this world. Please equip me to share this message in a way that will enlarge the Kingdom of God!

HAPPY NEW YEAR and SOME GOOD NEWS

A blessed and Happy New Year to all you TILE blog readers! We are one year closer to seeing the One who loves us the most! I pray that God’s Word will convince you that Jesus greatly loves you in 2010! It is such a comfort and strength to know and believe that one fact.

Now for the GOOD NEWS. The contact information found on the CONTACT page of this website is now functioning beautifully. So feel free to request special prayer, give us your feedback or ask for information. We will respond appropriately.

The FINAL good news is that I’m writing a “Handbook for Moderators of THIS IS LIFE ETERNAL Small Groups.” It is so thrilling to have the small group opportunity to share with others the passages of Scripture which reveal to us what God is like!!!! God loves to hear us talk about Him, and He writes it down in the “Book of Remembrance” in the heavenly records. Check it out in Mal. 3:16-18 God says “On the day when I act, they (the ones who like to think about Him) will be my own special treasure!…” I want to be special to my God. Don’t you?

If having a tool for leading out in a small group using the TILE study guide would encourage you to start your own group, would you please go to the contact page and email me. The book will contain general information, stories about how God has led in the development of this world-wide ministry, and suggested “lesson plans” for presenting each of the 52 weekly assignments. Your responses will give me some information and/or statistics to share with publishers and marketers.

God bless you throughout the New Year, is my prayer.

Wretha

“Keep MY Sabbath and Be ‘Happy’ “

In the 56th chapter of Isaiah, God pronounces blessings on gentiles (!), and eunuchs, and anyone “who will keep MY Sabbath!” It is therefore important for us to know which day God claims belongs to Him, AND what does it mean to “keep” the Sabbath? This topic is too huge to completely cover in a blog. But we can wrap our minds around a few of the passages that reveal the significance of God’s messages to the world regarding “His” Sabbath Day.

Quoting from the New Living Translation, Isa. 56:1-2: “Be just and fair to all,” says the Lord. “Do what is right and good, for I am coming soon to rescue you. Blessed are those who are careful to do this. Blessed are those who honor MY Sabbath day of rest by refusing to work. And blessed are those who keep themselves from doing wrong.” The literal translation of the word “blessed” is “happy.” Human beings spend billions of dollars every year in the pursuit of happiness. Sadly, they don’t know what their Creator knows: happiness is doing what God wants us to do. God says “Blessed (happy :) are those who honor my Sabbath days of rest…” and gives an example of one way we can honor that day – “by refusing to work!” This is not the end of what it means to “keep” the Sabbath. But it is a good beginning! And it is part of “doing what is right and good.” It’s also tied in with the fact that He is “coming soon to rescue” us. Part of preparing for His second coming!

Some people say that the Sabbath is Sunday, “the Lord’s Day.” Just briefly let me define the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day. All 4 of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John reveal Jesus as customarily attending “church” to worship and read Scripture to the people on the “seventh day of the week.” He read Scriptures which revealed Himself and made it plain to the people. They were angry that Jesus presented Himself as the Son of God. Jesus spoke to them as their Creator, the Creator of the world and everything in it, including the 7th day which He “hallowed” – He created holy time! He then rested from his work and pronounced it good.

In Mark 2:28 Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the “master even of the Sabbath!” Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus state ownership of any other day of the week. He is the Creator and Owner of the Sabbath – the Giver of every good and perfect gift. He gives us “time,” on the Lord’s Day to know Him better(John 17:3).

Jesus honored the Sabbath as a human being throughout his earthly life, and then he honored it in His death. He was placed in a tomb before the sun went down on the sixth day of the week, and rested on the seventh day of the week just like he had done at creation! He had come to earth to live a perfect life as a human being, so that He could present His blood to cover our sins. He could look back at his consistently devoted work on earth with the confidence that He had provided a way of escape from this sinful world for all who love Him. And honoring the Sabbath was a part of the entire plan.

Before the earth was created (Eph. 1:3-5), God devised an exit strategy from earth in case human beings sinned. Ezekiel 28 describes Lucifer’s beauty as his downfall. He liked the jewels embedded in gold adorning his clothing and his status among the angels, for he had the top position – that of “covering cherub.” “Sin was found” in him and the Son of God Who had created everything that was created (John 1), took the responsibility for saving us.

Lucifer became Satan and he will not give up even when Jesus has taken the righteous to Heaven (Rev. 20). John, the beloved, saw in vision that Satan will try to rally the resurrected wicked into a massive army and they will try to take the New Jerusalem when it descends at the end of the millenium! Unbelievable, isn’t it? Satan’s desire is to erase from our minds the truths provided by God for our salvation. He presents distractions such as entertainment, sports, making money. (See Luke 21:34) Jesus says, “Don’t let Me catch you being lazy, drunk, or overtaken by worldy cares, or being so busy doing good things that you have no TIME to ‘remember’ Me.” Satan will exert every effort to prevent us from seeing any of God’s truths, and especially not the Sabbath truth, because in that holy time, God told us to “Remember the Sabbath (Ex. 20:8-11).” No family members, servants or cattle were to work on that day. “Remember, … remember … focus your minds on Me on this day,” God is saying. “Remember that I am the One Who brings salvation and I ask you to do only those things that will give you and I an eternity to spend in enjoyment of each other. There is so much I want to share with you about how I felt while I lived as a human being there on earth. My own beloved Father could not assist Me in any way during my death. (Mark 15:34) I was completely separated from Him during those hours. It seemed more than I could bear. (Mark 14:32-37)I even begged to not have to drink that cup! Until I come back to get you, while you are on earth experiencing your human struggles, the Sabbath day will be your opportunity to seek My presence, read My Word, and enjoy nature as I created it. I promise to be close to you if you will cling to Me, My child.” (Heb. 4:14; John 15:5-8)

Sadly some modern versions of the Bible have inserted “Sunday” into texts which speak of the Sabbath, or Lord’s Day. Look at Rev. 1:10. Review above the paragraph regarding Mark 2:27, and look into your heart and ask the question, “How could human beings insert ‘Sunday’ in place of ‘Sabbath,’ or ‘the Lord’s Day’?” I hope that you have been able to discern the importance that GOD placed on HIS Sabbath Day, which Scripture consistently refers to as the seventh day of the week. Heb. 13:8 states that God does not change. Mal 3:6 states the same thing. And His instruction and warning regarding adding to or subtracting from His Word is clear in both the Old and the New Testaments. (See Rev. 22:18,19; Deut. 4:2)

If you would like to pursue this topic, and would like another blog regarding the Sabbath Day in the Bible, please click on “comment” at the bottom of this blog and let me know what you are thinking.

Thank you, my readers, for taking this journey with me, and giving me an opportunity to share my witness, for if I read Rev. 12:11 correctly, it makes me stronger in my daily walk with God.

MY CLEAN, WHITE SLATE! THANK YOU, GOD!

Again, I come to you to share a recent personal epiphany during my devotional time a few weeks ago! It brought tears of joy to my eyes. Now comes a challenge to put it succinctly into human words that can only poorly describe Divinity. But I must try!

David had such a wealth of memories of God’s protection from Saul, of extra strength given to kill beasts of prey to protect his sheep, of God’s guidance as he killed Goliath, an enemy of God. In 2 Samuel 11 we read of David’s sad journey into adultery and murder! You may recall he wrote orders for Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, to be placed in the front line of battle and then to be deserted so that death was a certain outcome. You might counter that David had tried repeatedly to get Uriah to visit his wife while on furlough in Jerusalem. David hoped Uriah would go home, sleep with his wife and be comforted from his battles and then assume, along with everyone else, that the baby Bathsheba was carrying was his own. But Uriah could not avail himself of privileges not available to his buddies back on the battlefield. Nothing could get him to waver in his loyalty to those who were fighting to protect his own family and home.

One cannot help but admire the integrity of Uriah. God was not pleased with David and through the prophet Nathan’s parable about a rich man who took a family pet – a lamb – killed it, and served it to his guests, David pronounced his own verdict. David said “As surely as the Lord lives, any man who would do such a thing deserves to die!” The prophet said “You are that man!” The words of God are then quoted: “I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. I gave you his house, his wives, and his entire kingdom. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. Why then, have you despised the word of the Lord and done this horrible deed? FOR YOU HAVE MURDERED URIAH and STOLEN his wife. From this time on, the sword will be a constant threat to your family, because you have DESPISED ME by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own. Because of what you have done, I, the Lord, will cause your own household to rebel against you. …”

God’s words of rebuke were exceedingly clear and strong. The very next words are “Then David confessed to Nathan. … And Nathan replied, ‘Yes, but the Lord HAS FORGIVEN YOU and you won’t die for this sin. But you have given the enemies of the Lord great opportunity to despise and blaspheme Him. So your child will die.’ “

Once God “dealt” with David’s sin warning of coming consequences (trouble in his own household etc.), God’s words regarding David were consistently positive ones! However, the consequences of his sin changed David’s position. He no longer disciplined his children with authority. Because of his own actions, he couldn’t deal with Amnon’s incestuous rape of Tamar. Others meted punishment to Amnon – mainly Absalom. And then Absalom’s life was miserable after that. If David could only have realized what misery would result from his indiscretion, he might have exercized stronger self control.

And David himself doesn’t bring up that part of his life, instead, in the Psalms he frequently says things like chapter 119:101,102 “I have refused to walk on any path of evil, that I may remain obedient to Your Word. I haven’t turned away from Your laws, for You have taught me well.”

God never again in scripture accused David of murder. For example, a paraphrase of Isa.37:35 could be: “for My own honor and for the sake of my adulterous, murdering servant, David.” Be sure and re-read it as it is written below. Amazingly, I don’t believe God ever referred to David’s sin again. He frequently states things like (2Kings 22:2 & 2 Chron 34:1,2) “He (King Josiah) did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did NOT turn aside from DOING WHAT WAS RIGHT.”

Through the hundreds of years of “Kings” following David’s death, examples of respect shown for David’s work are many, for example: Read 2 Chron. 29:25-30 where King Hezekiah used all kinds of instruments designed by David. 2 Chron. 35:4 Josiah said “Report for duty…following the written instructions of King David of Israel….”

In I Chron. 28:9, 10, and 19 we learn that DAVID received detailed instructions for the building of the temple, and the organization of the priests and the musicians in GOD’S HANDWRITING! So why is it that DAVID seems to be given ALL the credit in the scriptures for following directions he received IN God’s handwriting?? Interesting, isn’t it? Perhaps God honored David in that way to soften the consequences of David’s sins.

In 1 Kings 15:3-5 lies a passage that DOES NOT appear to be a direct quote from God, but rather the words of the author of the book(s) of Kings who STILL SEES DAVID’S SIN. That’s the way we human beings are: it’s hard to accept that God no longer sees the sin!!! It is human nature to view sinners (even repentant sinners) as less deserving of salvation or less deserving of being a leader in the family of God!

Although I haven’t actually counted the times the names of Moses and David occur in scripture in both the Old and New Testaments, I’m pretty sure David’s name appears more frequently than Moses! Often God positively compares David’s record with that of other kings. Or He would move to defend Israel “for My own honor and for the sake of my servant David…” (Isa. 37:35) Or He would refer to Jerusalem as the City of David!

God knows the ones He entrusts with His truth and chooses those who are meek and humble. Isn’t that true? Perfect people? Well, Biblical people are not perfect. Otherwise how would we know that our sins CAN be completely FORGOTTEN!!!!!!!

Finally, here’s my E P I P H A N Y !!! When our confession is sincere, (God sees the heart) God accepts our confession and “throws our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:18-20).” Here’s my conclusion: GOD GOES WAY BEYOND FORGIVING US!!!! When GOD looks at us (all sinners), He does not see the repented sin, but sees the righteousness of Christ covering the sincere repentant sinner. David had a totally restored relationship to God AFTER SINNING BIG TIME! Awesome God!

For further amazement – PLEASE READ 2 Chron.33! It won’t take long. What an honor it is to know the Lord and to see His compassion and greatness!

DO take this personally: God doesn’t want us to live out our lives carrying around guilt. Remember that He freely forgives and then doesn’t even SEE the sin after our relationship to Him is restored (Micah 7:18-20) through the process he gave us: l John 1:9 (confessing, repenting and accepting forgiveness). In our cleansed state, we can truly say that we own a CLEAN SLATE!!!! and we get another chance…and another… Comfort those who may have been hurt by your sin, but KNOW that the guilt has been laid on the scape goat. …But that’s another story!!

May God give us peace and trust. May we sleep well in His love (Ps. 66:8 & 9).

The Message God Wanted All Israel to Hear

There is an awesome passage of scripture in the book of Numbers, chapter 6 and verses 22-26. God had just finished giving carefully detailed instructions for the Levites who were responsible for moving the tabernacle from place to place in the wilderness. Then He talked about how Israel should make restitution for their sins and guard against sinning again. (Apparently the Nazirite vow had some connection with overcoming sin. There was something about that process that gave spiritual strength.) When all the above details so necessary to an orderly life in the desert and to their spiritual growth had been given, the LORD spoke to Moses saying (KJV) “Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee and keep thee: The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace.”

Now, all my life I have heard these words – usually in the King James version – sung by choirs or spoken from the pulpit as a benediction. It always warmed my heart. But had it been explained to me that these were the words of God Himself, with the request that the priests were to bestow this blessing upon the “children of Israel” it would have meant even more.

“The Lord bless thee and keep thee.” What does this tell us about God? He wanted Israel to know that it is THE LORD Who blesses us AND keeps us. As modern day spiritual Israel, soon to be taken to heaven, how comforting to KNOW that He “keeps” us. Ps. 91 says that He keeps us from dashing our foot against a stone. I Chron 16:9 says that “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.” God wants us to peacefully rely on the strength of His promise to be alert to help those whose hearts are “perfect toward Him!”

“The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee.” Does God want us to KNOW that He does respond to our love for Him? There are times that I sense it strongly – that His face is shining on me. Although I am still far from the person I want to be, it gives me courage to not give up the fight. Perhaps I should take a Nazirite vow to further strengthen my resolve. You know, there are people who debate that our behaviour does not affect God. They say His universal principles operate on their own and we have no influence in the cosmic battles going on in and around us. According to these texts God is very much in tune with what’s happening in our lives. His “gracious-ness” is something I treasure, for when I slip and fall, he takes into consideration my “frame” and repeatedly says “go and sin no more.” Jesus took 7 times to heal Mary Magdalene of her demons and when the disciples asked how many times they should forgive someone, He gave them an answer that sounded like there was no cap on that number! Praise God!

With His face shining on me and with His gracious mercy and forgiveness, victory will be mine! – permanantly – perhaps very soon.

Sprinkled all through the Psalms David talks about the face of God shining on us. I’m so glad David wrote that way because it continues to emphasize that God showers His love on us when our “connection” is good with Him. He DOES respond to our behaviour – and I suspect all heaven does. Awesome God! Our part is just to spend time in His Word and in His presence so that God can shower His goodness on us.

“The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace.” God wanted Israel to know that He does consider them in their earthly existence and HE GIVES THEM PEACE. What a gift! In this complex world, peace is a precious commodity! When God looks on us and sees our need, He gives us what we need: peace within the beauty of His love for us.

In my ever-growing relationship with God, the reality of His involvement in my life becomes ever more palpable. Without His Word this kind of friendship with God would be impossible. Yes, we can learn about Him through nature. But it is in the Word that elements of His personal relationship with us come into focus and make each day sweeter. “The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows” says the song which you can listen to on my music page of this website. It is sung by my son Chris and I am blessed every time I listen to it.

May God bless you on this Sabbath day, and every day. Please continue to pray for those who come to this website, that there will be souls in the kingdom because of their time spent in the Word of God. Do go to www.thisislifeeternal.org and download the Bible reading calendar. God bless and keep you!

THE TEMPLE IN HEAVEN – IS IT THERE OR NOT?

Critics of the validity of scripture sometimes cite seemingly contradictory statements to support atheistic petitions to omit any references to God in our public/national pledges/documents–or to simply support their belief that there is no God. An example of this is Rev. 21:22 “No temple could be seen in the city for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”

Those of us who read the Bible with the simple wish to “know God” better and better, cannot help but be fascinated with the beginning and development of the earthly sanctuary services and their significance in our present spiritual life. No, we’re not observing Jewish ceremonial laws, but because those sacrifices ALL pointed toward our Savior, they become an integral part of our understanding of God.

In the book of Exodus, when God told Moses to build a dwelling place for the Most High God, He showed Moses the “real” temple in heaven to use as a pattern. Heb. 9:24says: “For Christ has entered into heaven itself to appear now before God as our Advocate. He did not go into the earthly place of worship, FOR THAT WAS MERELY A COPY OF THE REAL TEMPLE IN HEAVEN.” (See Heb. 8:1,2)

In Revelation, John is shown the temple in heaven (Rev. 11:19; 15:5,8). Chapter 16 follows each angel leaving the temple to dispense the plagues. He also sees the Ark of the Covenant in the heavenly sanctuary!

So why would Rev. 21 say that there is no temple in heaven! Let’s look at this issue closely. The sanctuary was where sins were confessed and atonement made. And on the Day of Atonement once a year all the sins for that year were symbolically placed on the head of a goat (symbolizing Satan) who was sent into the wilderness to die. Each year the sanctuary was cleansed of the sins for the previous year. But it was a process that happened over and over and….. Paul says in many texts that Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient to cover not only the years following the cross, but also all previous years as well.

In Chapter 21 of Revelation, John is shown “the New Jerusalem” where no sinners have been admitted (vs 7,8). Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life are allowed to reside there (vs 27).

So when we get to the final judgment day when sin and sinners are no more, there is no more need for prayers of confession and repentance (symbolized by the smoke of the incense), no more need for the blood of sheep and goats to be sprinkled. BECAUSE there is to be no more sin!! Ever!! Hallelujah!

In stead of a temple with a Holy and Most Holy place in heaven, or on the earth made new, we will simply come to the Father and the Son (Isa 66:22,23) and worship them: “As surely as my new heavens and earth will remain, so will you always be my people, with a name that will never disappear. All humanity will come to worship Me from week to week and from month to month.” (NLT) It makes the statement in Revelation that the Father and the Son ARE the temple.

May God give us discernment to enable us to share biblical truth as it flashes into our minds. Perhaps it isn’t “new” but it helps us to experience new dimensions in our knowledge of and love for God which we must share. See Rev. 12:11 “And they (the righteous) have defeated him (the Dragon) because of the blood of the Lamb AND BECAUSE OF THEIR TESTIMONY!…”

I thank God for the privilege of blogging my testimony! And I pray that many will be motivated to share their thoughts through the contacts available on my website on the “Contact Us” page. The email addresses found there are not functional, but will be operational again – and I will let you know when they can be used. For right now, feel free to respond to any of these blogs through the following email address: wrethalang@wloop.com