Biblically speaking: IS THERE LIFE ON OTHER WORLDS?

A few weeks ago, a “seeker” of truth asked one of the members of our Bible study group if she believes there is life on other worlds? Extra-terrestrial, intelligent beings? Maybe somewhat like us? Hollywood presents popular sci-fi movies involving mutant characters from other galaxies. What should a Christian believe? Is it important what we believe?
It’s a very good question, one that requires some deductive reasoning. I think there is no question among Christians that “Heaven” is where God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit currently have their residence. Jesus told us in John 14:1-3 that He was going to prepare us a “place” so that He could take us home with HIM!!! When he left the disciples (Luke 24:50, 51) he “ascended to heaven,” where Paul (and King David) saw Him sitting at the right hand of the Father. Daniel 7:9,10 describes a resplendent scene: “I watched as thrones were put in place and the Ancient One sat down to judge. …He sat on a fiery throne with wheels of blazing fire… Millions of angels ministered to him and a HUNDRED MILLION stood to attend Him.” Astronomers are almost certain that there is an opening through the Orion constellation that seems to lead to a very bright place. They say that colorful gas swirling in the tunnel prevents visibility beyond the opening which is so big that multiple entire earths could traverse it! I cannot tell you how far it is from earth to that “gateway” but as I recall it’s millions of “light years” away.
As I say, astronomers are keeping their telescopes focused on Orion, as are Christians. There is no way to say for sure, but I believe it may well be where the redeemed will enter into the heavenly realms! What a day that will be!

SO, in I Cor. 15 Paul talks about different “types” of bodies: the celestial body and the earthly body, both beautiful but different. In verses 50-53 the change of our bodies from earthly into heavenly bodies that will never die happens in the “blinking of an eye!” We will be able to travel through space to go where Jesus has prepared us a place.
Since we are created in the “image of God” (Gen. 1:26), then the angels in heaven who were created by Jesus (John 1:3) before He made the journey to experience divine/human conception and birth, must also resemble us–but they have bodies that cannot die! It’s impossible for human beings to currently do space travel, you see, because without humanly contrived protective devices their bodies would disintegrate in the atmosphere at some altitude.
Tuck the above thoughts into a file in your mind and come with me to the book of Job once again. Chapter 1:6 KJV: “Now there was a day when the ‘sons of God’ came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came among them.” Notice the words “present themselves.” This was a planned meeting. It would appear that they came at the Lord’s bidding and God asked Satan for a report from the earth! Why was Satan there? Well, Adam forfeited his position and Satan took over his “dominion.” Remember, God said for Adam to be in charge of everything on the earth and it was his privilege to be the caretaker of the perfect gifts that God bestowed on Adam and Eve. In Matt. 4:9 Satan offers Jesus the possession of the earth if He will only fall down and worship him!!! Do you see? When Adam sinned, Satan won that skirmish and took Adam’s position as owner/operator of earth!
Please look up these texts and read the previous and following texts to get a fuller picture. –SO when there was a council in heaven “sons of God” were invited to come. Well, they are mentioned again in Job 38:6 and 7. God is talking to Job in this chapter and He says that at creation the morning stars sang and the “sons of God” shouted for joy! The same original language verbiage is used as in Job 1:6. If they shouted for joy at creation, that would have been before sin entered the picture. I wonder if Adam sang along with them!
Now come with me to Luke 3:23-38 where Luke does a genealogy kind of in reverse. I was listening to this chapter on my iPod and when the narrator got to the punch line “…which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God” – I got goose bumps.
The “sons of God” mentioned twice in Job must be the products of other “geneses” — they must be the first created beings on other planets entrusted with the dominion of their own world.
This is the first time I have been disappointed in the New Living Translation. In Job 1:6 it says “One day the angels came to present themselves…” and Job 38:6,7 reads “…the morning stars sang together and ‘all the angels’ shouted for joy.”
I believe the King James gives a more accurate picture. And if I’m right, it will be “proof” of life on other worlds – “Biblically speaking!”

THOUGHTS FROM THE BOOK OF JOB

Today is the 4th of July. All day the history channel highlighted the course of the Revolutionary War and the astounding victory of the “Continental Army” (the Americans) over the British Militia, who thought this was going to be an easy win! But the war which began in New England lasted a very long time and ended up in the southern states, with the English plundering homes and causing physical suffering wherever they went. How the United States won over the world’s greatest power at that time, is direct evidence to me of the hand of God guiding the rise and fall of nations on this earth.
I was reading the Book of Job today (it’s in the assignment for week #32 of the Bible Study Calendar), while the history of our nation was unfolding on the television. My husband is a history buff and was glued to it. Being the mother of 4 children all very close in their ages, I learned to tune out periphery noise, and happily pursued my Bible study, but followed the high points of the Independence Day special in the background.
This book (Job) took on a vibrant meaning for me today. For example, scholars have not been able to find historical evidence to pinpoint when Job lived, but simply say that he must have lived before Moses, perhaps in a very ancient part of history. Well, in chapter 28 Job describes mining for silver, gold, iron, ore, sapphires–and says that the interior part of the earth is melted as by fire. He describes smelting copper from stone (!) and cutting tunnels, and damming up trickling streams to bring to light the hidden treasures! It dawned on me that of course he would have to have lived after the flood! Scripture describes precious stones as being on top of the earth at the time of creation (Gen. 2:10-12), or at least they were very accessible.
So then I looked at the ages of the patriarchs who lived just after the flood. Shem, Noah’s son, lived to be 600 years old. Arphaxad, Salah, and Eber who followed Shem all lived 400+ years. But the very next patriarch, Peleg, lived only 239 years and from there life expectancy shortened significantly. Abraham, for example only lived to be 175 years old.
Job’s first family all were living in their own homes entertaining each other on special occasions, so they must have been adults by the time of Job’s tragedies. We are not told how long his illness lasted, but we do know that his second family, another 10 children, not only lived to adulthood but also produced four more generations — and JOB GOT TO SEE THEM ALL! If generations were 30 years apart, that all by itself would add another 150 years.
The last few chapters of the book of Job, especially God’s challenge to Job, are deeply stirring! After Job prayed for his errant friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and his family: 7 sons and 3 very beautiful daughters who were included in the will along with their brothers. Then the statement is made that Job lived 140 years after that to see four generations of his children and grandchildren! “Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, good life. ” (Job 42:16, 17)
Job must have lived during the years the patriarchs lived 400+ years. Which would put him between 1910 BC and 1817 BC. Surely he would need to live that long to have raised one large family to adulthood, survive through tragedies and illness, then start over and live to see 4 generations of the new family! (About 40 years ago, I generated a chart of the Lifelines of Genesis, just by adding up years people lived and how old they were when they had their first child- which then gave me a starting point for the next generation. It has been a useful tool that has gone through a couple of leaking roofs and one hurricane and has some water marking on the aging poster board, but I really treasure it.)
The way Job weaves the search for wisdom into the mining illustration mentioned above is awesome. Chapter 28 is a must read – verses 12-18 are similar to Proverbs, but because one doesn’t expect to find this kind of profound beauty in Job, it seems doubly precious to me. Job uses gems and mining to explain the value of wisdom. We must pursue it! Do you suppose Solomon read the book of Job???
There’s more excitement in my journey through Job, but that’s for another blog to follow soon. I see clearly in the book of Job, that God is WAY beyond our comprehension and we need to be careful what statements we presume to make about Him. As Solomon said in Eccl 5:2 “…He is in heaven and you are only here on earth. so let your words be few!” We need to diligently search for Divine Wisdom as we seek to know Him.

“FACE TO FACE” — really?…or not? (Ex. 33:11 & 20)

I have a very good friend who is enjoying reading through the Bible with the “TILE” calendar. She shared the above texts with me, a bit of distress on her face and questioning: “Is this a conflict? How do I explain this to someone who is perhaps already looking for reasons to doubt Scripture?”

Let’s take a good look at Ex. 33:11 (NLT) “Inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend!” Prior to building the portable sanctuary, Moses erected a “Tent of Meeting” just outside the camp, on a place that was elevated and visible from Israel’s “desert tent city.” When Moses went to the tent and went inside, the Pillar of Cloud which had led the nation since the first night of the exodus, would come down to the door of the tent. And there God would dialog with Moses. The people would watch the drama unfold from the front door of their tents.

So the situation in which Moses talked with the Lord involved a cloud – probably an opaque cloud to veil the devastating glory of the Lord. Although they were in intimate conversation, it doesn’t say that Moses could necessarily see God. They were in close proximity, however, and in Ex. 34:30 it describes the radiance of Moses’ face which made the people afraid to come near him. Each time he gave God’s messages to the people, he then would veil his own face, so that he wouldn’t frighten them. In vs 34, 35, his face is described as being “aglow.”

When reading Ex. 33:20, note the wording: “But you may not look directly at My face, for no one may see me and live.” Rather than being contradictory, it forces the imagination to try to capture a conversation that takes place under the “veil” of a cloud! Can you hear the thunder of God’s voice from within a cloud?

God declared in Ex. 33:17, talking to Moses: “I will indeed do what you have asked, for you have found favor with me, and you are my friend!!” (Awesome! Moses had asked for God’s assurance that He would always travel with them and guide them.) Then Moses blows me away with the forwardness of his next request “Please let me see your glorious presence…” God grants the request up to a point. It is a fascinating “read” from Ex. 33:12-23 and the entire chapter 34.

Very soon after this incident, construction began on the furnishings for the more permanent, portable tabernacle. And following the grand opening of the sanctuary, God’s glorious presence appeared in the Most Holy Place on the mercy seat behind a thick curtain! It could protect just as well as a cloud, apparently. But when they traveled, the pillar of cloud did always lead them, as God promised, (2 Sam 22:31) offering shade by day and light by night! God is so good!

In connection with the above, I have to mention that there are incidents in scripture when an angel appears and is clearly seen, or a man such as the visitor that came to Abraham’s tents, and the angel or man is identified as being “the Lord.” God can appear in forms that are not life threatening to us. But when His glory is full, if we gaze on Him in our sinful state, it could be lethal! So God remains, forever merciful, truthful, and kind and versatile beyond what our poor human minds can imagine!

Do you know people whose faces literally seem to “shine” with happiness and kindness? I do. Some of those who study the Bible with me week by week have gradually grown “aglow” in every gift of the Holy Spirit! God is faithful and will help us as we journey through Scripture. He will answer us through the beautiful accuracy of the Word, through His creative power, and the teaching of the Holy Spirit.

God bless you today, is my prayer.

Wretha

SOME EXCITING “GLOBAL” NEWS!

During the year 2007 I ran some ads in the Southern Union Tidings to alert people to the existence of this website. My budget doesn’t permit placing ads in more than one union paper at a time. So I decided to rotate through all the union conference magazines, starting with a different one each January.

In January of 2008, I started running an ad in the Lake Union Herald inviting readers to visit this website and download the This is Life Eternal (TILE) Bible reading plan – or, request it by mail. By February an amazing phenomenon occurred!
TILE went international with countries around the world visiting this website! That was really, really exciting. And still new ones come in. Today Sweden visited us for the first time and I believe “she” makes 50 countries with about 10 educational institutions, and the US military. Our most frequent visitors are Russia and Germany.

In 2009 the TILE ad ran in the North Pacific Union Conference magazine. And in the upcoming year, 2010, the Southwestern Union Conference of SDA’s will be given an opportunity to experience using the TILE Bible reading calendar.

The most frequently read TILE blog is “Baby Jesus’ Inheritance.” If you haven’t read it yet, take about 5 minutes and experience what others have read literally thousands of times around the world!

I want you to know that God is doing amazing things with TILE. As of today,(NOTE: updated 3/16/10)TILE has had “unique” visitors (those who read 2 pg. or more in the site and spend a reasonable amount of time doing so) from Africa (Zaire), Alaska, *Australia, Austria, Belgium, *Brazil, Bulgaria, *Canada, Cayman Islands, China, Colombia (S. America), Cyprus Republic, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, *Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kosovo, Republic of Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldava, *Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, *Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, *Romania, *Russia, Saudi Arabia, *Republic of Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, *Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, *Taiwan, Turkey, *Ukraine, *United Kingdom, Venezuela, *Yugoslavia, and Zambia, in addition to the US, of course, including *Andrews University and *Southern Adventist University, Bethany Lutheran College, California State University-Northridge, *Miami State University, North China University of Taiwan, Ohio State University, University of Houston, Lee University (TN), Gonzaga University (WA), University of Florida, Catholic Women’s College (ILL) and the U.S. Military (*=frequent visitor)

God said (Isa.55:11) that He would send out His Word and it would not return to Him “void.” Pray that many will learn to know God through this website and that TILE will produce a harvest of souls in heaven.

God bless each of you as you live out the adventure of life with God by your side.

Wretha

MUSIC – The Highest Form of Praise

In early January, the Port Charlotte SDA Church in Port Charlotte, FL, had a week of prayer with lay people giving the messages. I was asked to wrap the week up on Friday evening and given the topic you see above. Of course, when one reads the Bible from cover to cover and journals, it becomes obvious that the frequency of times that music is mentioned in scripture is astounding! Not only do people sing or play, but trees clap their hands, and hills, fields and forests “sing” praises to God! I and II Chronicles and I and II Kings give awesome glimpses of music and musicians. Revelation reveals scenes of worship in song in heaven. Indeed, it appears that responding musically is inevitable when hearts are full of love for God.

As I tried to gel the many possible avenues of approach to this topic into one main area of discussion, it was a tough task. Does it matter to God how highly educated the musicians are who present worship music in His praise? Does it matter to Him whether it’s classical, traditional or contemporary? Those of you who follow this blog probably would guess immediately that it was my goal to present thoughts mostly from Scripture to help us understand God a little better regarding the music in our Sabbath services.

I want to share just the most essential parts of my talk with you. A 40-min. presentation would not be appropriate on a blog! But I do want to share my heart.

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Eccl. 5:1,2 (NLT) says “As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut!!! Don’t be a fool who doesn’t realize that MINDLESS OFFERINGS TO GOD ARE EVIL…”
What a cautionary statement from the wisest man who ever lived, to consider and meditate upon. Allowing ourselves to be “mindless” or even “other minded” during any worship time is not pleasing to God. The battle for our souls is in our minds. DON’T LOSE YOUR FOCUS!!!

The Youth’s Instructor, 10/8/1896 carried this statement “God is high and holy; and to the humble, believing soul, His house on earth, the place where His people meet for worship, is as the gate of heaven. THE SONG OF PRAISE, the words spoken by Christ’s ministers, are appointed agencies to prepare a people for the church above, for that loftier worship.” (E. G. White)

God responds to the praise of those who seek to know Him. The words in the following texts are just as applicable to us today as they were to Israel: Hosea 6:3, 6; Isa. 5:12, 13 1st part.

The word “know” in Scripture is not a casual word. It denotes a deep and loving intimacy which gives both parties a deep joy. God wants to be a part of our lives and in fact, He has planned every hour of every day of our lives before we were born! Read Ps. 139. Why does He go to all that trouble? It’s because in spite of our sin He enjoys communicating with us. After all, He designed us for His good pleasure (Rev. 4:11), and it is His will that we follow the
divine blueprint He laid out for us.

Moses had an amazing relationship with God. On one occasion Moses begged God to reveal His Goodness to him. God arranged a safe way to satisfy Moses’ curiosity in Ex. 33 and 34. In that process, God gave His own “profile.” Read about it. God describes Himself as being “merciful and gracious, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion…” In fact, Moses’ desire to know God better was a shining example for us. We can know that God will make that iridescent, highly unpredictable, adventuresome journey right beside us!

So praise that comes from a heart that is on a journey toward KNOWING GOD BETTER produces a response both on earth and throughout the universe! In Vol 9 of the Testimonies, pp 143, 144, it says “When human beings sing with the spirit and the understanding heavenly musicians take up the strain and JOIN IN THE SONG OF THANKSGIVING!!!” It doesn’t get any higher than that!

Did you know that God sings as He rejoices over us? (Zeph. 3:17) Did you know He has a speaking voice that sounds like THUNDER or rushing waters! See Ps. 68:33. And…God is a composer. God taught Moses a song to teach the Israelites. The purpose of the song was to educate the current and future generations of Israel about their wonderful God. After Moses taught the song to them he said “Take to heart all the words I have given you today… These instructions are not mere words THEY ARE YOUR LIFE! By obeying them you will enjoy a long life…”

Could it be that the hymns we sing in church “are not mere words?” If God used a song as a mighty teaching tool “back then,” we can know that He still reaches down to us through the inspired sacred music of our day. Let us sing intelligent praises to our Maker — NOT EMPTY MINDED “praises.”
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God bless you all as we move so quickly along through 2008. I do hope that every day brings a new, higher level of love for God in your life and in your family’s life–which is an inevitable companion blessing!

ZECHARIAH, ELIZABETH, PRAYER AND INCENSE

In Luke 1 the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah, the priest, is told. Reading the Christmas story from Luke is so enlightening. He includes information that gives insight into the Jewish way of life and even more important, Luke reveals marvelous nuances about the unchanging personality of God Himself. In this process one’s mind can sweep the entire biblical history of this earth, gathering the pieces of a picture of my heavenly Father that is becoming more visible with each fascinating journey through the Scriptures.

Both Elizabeth and Zechariah were direct descendants of Aaron, and they were considered righteous in God’s eyes, “careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was barren, and now they were both very old.” (vs. 6,7) Sometimes careful obedience to regulations becomes fanaticism. But Elizabeth and Zechariah maintained a top priority: a fresh and growing relationship with God! Thank God for letting us understand that there were some well balanced spiritual people in the Jewish nation!

Apparently the priests were assigned their weekly post of duty by casting lots, and on a God-ordained week, Zechariah was faithfully serving at the altar of incense. An angel of the Lord appeared, standing to the right of the incense altar. He gave Zechariah the most wonderful news – news that he and Elizabeth had prayed for since they were young! Now ripe in years, Zechariah had a hard time believing that God had heard their prayers and that Elizabeth was to have a son! “You are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice with you at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord.”

STOP THE TAPE!!! What parent wouldn’t be overcome with powerful emotions to think that a child, my child, is going to be “great in the eyes of the Lord.” Wow! The description of the work of John “the Baptist” in Luke 1:16, 17 resonates with Mal. 3:1, pt. a; 4:5,6; and Matt. 17:11-13. Truly the baby God was to send Elizabeth and Zechariah was to fulfill Old and New Testament prophecies! It is my prayer that God will continue to bless my now grown-up children, and their children, with the Holy Spirit’s presence, and make them powerful influences for Good in this dark world!

Sadly, much like Abraham’s Sarah, Zechariah found it so hard to believe this good news. The angel finally said: “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was He Who sent me to bring you this good news! And now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you won’t be able to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly come true at the proper time.” vs. 18-19.

“While the incense was being burned a great crowd stood outside, praying.” vs 10. They waited patiently, “wondering why he was taking so long!” vs. 21 Those words “while the incense was being burned…” set my brain synapses in motion. The altar of incense was just in front of the veil where the ark with its mercy seat could catch the fragrant smoke as it ascended from the altar. God had told Moses that He would come to that mercy seat, where the air wafted the smoke of the incense to God’s nose, to talk with him. This God is the same One Who created all manner of shrubs, blooming trees, and flowers with varying fragrances. For example, a rose does not smell like a gardenia! My Creator enjoys beauty… and endless varieties of fragrances.

When God gave Moses instructions for building the earthly tabernacle, He gave Moses a recipe for mixing the incense to be used on the altar of incense. It was never to be imitated or used under any other circumstance. This was a divine “signature” fragrance that was top secret and not to be stolen by sinful human beings!

When Jesus was resurrected, He “harvested” people (Matt. 27:51-53) from every nation, kindred, and tongue (Rev. 5:7-10 KJV), who were to be presented by Jesus, our High Priest, to the Father as the “first fruits.” (See Lev. 23:9-11 and Desire of Ages, p. 786, toward the end of the chapter entitled “The Lord is Risen.”) Read the lyrics of the special song the 24 elders and the 4 living creatures sang. They identified themselves as being redeemed from the earth! They are pictured as each holding a harp, and a gold bowl filled with incense (Rev. 5:8)–representing the prayers of God’s people! The vision John was shown positioned the 24 elders sitting on 24 thrones surrounding the supreme throne of God! Therefore, the smoke of the incense, is still surrounding the throne (“mercy seat”) in the heavenly sanctuary! God still enjoys HIS favorite, special fragrance –AND THE NEAT PART IS: your prayers and mine are mixed with that smoke of the incense and it is all pleasing to my awesome, wonderful God.

I can picture the “crowd of people” waiting outside the temple in Jerusalem, praying. They knew it was time for Zechariah to offer the incense, as he did every morning and evening, before the mercy seat. Perhaps they waited to see if God had responded to any of their individual prayer requests. But on this particular evening, Zechariah could not speak when he emerged from the Holy Place. He had to write out his experience and let someone read it to the people. Since Elizabeth was not yet pregnant, Zechariah had quite a long time to function without speech! I would say close to a year. But as soon as John was born, his voice was restored, and Zechariah could once again proclaim aloud his praise and gratitude for the wonderful, miraculous blessings of the Lord.

God wants us to believe what He says to us through His Word. Let us learn to recognize His promises, claim them in our personal prayers to the throne of God, and picture our prayers mingling with the smoke from the bowls of incense held by the 24 elders, and then be alert! Watch for God’s answers! And then PRAISE HIM WITH YOUR WHOLE HEART in Thanksgiving!

This life with our heavenly Father is an exciting journey. If only we all would live our lives according to the blue print He designed for us from birth (Ps. 139), we could avoid some, or maybe even most of our trials. I wonder how many times Zechariah wished his faith had been stronger!

May God bless your Bible study in 2008! GROW!!! PROSPER in your knowledge of the Lord and in your childlike awe of His great love for us. That is my prayer and wish for each one of you who have taken the time to come and share my Christmas Musing. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!

“THE HOLY PLACE” – Lev. 24: 1-9

The room is lit only by a candlestick, with seven wicks burning. It is solid gold, cast in one piece and it’s decoration is delicate and beautiful. Gold almond blossoms and leaves are placed with perfect symmetry. My eyes adjust to the dimness and sense the glow in the room from the golden candlestick. There is silence – nothing to hinder meditation. I see a small altar in front of a beautiful curtain and over on the opposite side of the room there is a table with 12 loaves of bread on it.

God seems to be speaking to me. “My child, the oil that fuels the candlelight, represents the Holy Spirit. Remember the foolish virgins I talked about in the New Testament! They failed to “purchase” enough oil to last until the bridegroom arrived. You need the Holy Spirit to help you every day to keep you a well balanced Christian until I come. He will teach you more about Me every day.”

The light from the wicks reminds me of Jesus, the Light of the World. How delightful the room is as the Light seems to spread not just to my mind, but to every part of the Holy Place and makes me feel as though there might even be a reflective Glow visible all through myself!

My eyes move across the room to the pure gold table, glimmering in the flickering candle light. On it are 12 loaves of bread freshly baked on the preparation day (Friday), so that at the beginning of God’s holy day (Friday at sunset), the fragrance in the tabernacle is so inviting. Frankincense has been sprinkled between the two rows of loaves perfectly complementing the bread’s life-giving aroma. The bread belongs to Aaron and his male descendants, who must eat it in the sacred confines of the tabernacle, for it represents a most holy portion of the offerings given to the Lord by fire(vs. 9).

Jesus said that He is the Bread of Life. In Deuteronomy 8:3-5 God said that the manna was sent to teach Israel that REAL LIFE comes by feeding on EVERY WORD of the Lord. Ah! I really want to live. Don’t you? I want the BREAD OF LIFE, the WORD of the Lord to be thoroughly digested by my mind until it becomes a permanent part of my character and personality.

When Aaron and the priests ate the holy bread, it actually became part of their cell structure! God must use this illustration to help me understand how His love, through His Word, can become an integral part of myself — how it can change me during a process that reverses my birth circumstance of being “born into sin.”

Paul, in the book of Romans, reveals such a struggle in his efforts to be like Jesus. “Being born into sin” makes us predisposed to actions that we intellectually do not want to do. BUT PRAISE GOD, through the power of His Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus’ constant watchcare (2Chron 16:9; Ps. 139), we ARE being changed. It is an act of God’s re-creative power in answer to our prayers AND His reward for our faithful quest to know Him better. Thank you, Lord.

The small altar just in front of the inner curtain comes into my view. The scent of the smoke of the incense is heavenly. As well it should be! It is God’s own recipe. And if I understood correctly, God also made some pot pourri out of the same ingredients! I would love to have some. But He said not to try to imitate it or use it for any common purpose. It was only for the tabernacle. In Revelation 5, John saw 24 elders holding censors full of incense and the smoke ascended to the throne of God. John says that smoke represents the prayers of the saints!

So in this little room in a structure built to be mobile: a ceiling of multiple layers of animal skins, and draperies that are thick enough to keep out the sandstorms of the desert, there are Divine furnishings which hark all the way up to the heavenly sanctuary and activities going on there! The altar of incense, which is just in front of “an inner curtain,” is placed so that the smoke of the incense rises in front of the Ark of the Covenant. The Mercy Seat is there- just behind that inner curtain, in the Most Holy Place – where God came to talk to Moses. God loves fragances! My nose categorizes the variety of flower fragrances He made!

So since the smoke of the incense rises in heaven even now, before the Throne of God (Rev. 5), the prayers of the saints (our prayers!) rise before God, and our prayers are pleasing to Him. He wants us to pray and talk to Him.

What a place to meditate! I should be here frequently. These sacred furnishings are “pregnant” with meaning for me. My salvation lives in the Holy and the Most Holy Places. Sure, we don’t have the same kind of culture now that Israel had — but what is it that connects this glowing little room to my life with God today?

I believe that in 1844 God moved into the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary (Dan. 7:9,10, 26, 27) to complete the legal processes that must take place before He comes again (Rev. 22:12). Could He make all of that work happen in an instant? Sure. But would the universe fully understand the enormity of sin and the pain God has endured through it all!! Some things take time (2 Peter 3:11-15). My job is to witness to all who will listen (or read!), trust in God and wait, with my lamp trimmed and burning with the oil of the Holy Spirit and with the joy of the knowledge of the Lord permeating my life.

The 24 ELDERS — WHO ARE THEY??

This is a very fulfilling time for me. My TILE study group is finishing the assignment for Week #52. This group has been not only faithful, but excited about the Word of God throughout this last year. What a “fun” time we have had, learning new things about God, bonding with each other, doing our best to share our experience with others in our families and with our friends.

Earlier in the year, we read Rev. 1 and 4, along with Eze. 1-3 and the book of Daniel. One of the members of our group asked “Who are the 24 elders?” I assured her we would re-visit her question and answer it before the year was over. It is such a fascinating picture that came to me as I studied in my own living room about 5 years ago. I, too, had wondered just who these elders were — and when the picture came together I shouted aloud all by myself.

Here are some texts for your review: Matt.27:50-53; Ps. 68:18; Rev.5:6-10; Lev. 23:9,10. Using the KJV will probably give you the clearest translation for this study. In the Revelation 5 passage where the elders are singing a song that only they can sing, they say “You have redeemed US FROM THE EARTH…and hast made us unto our God kings and priests and we shall reign on the earth.” See Rev. 20:4,6

I remember reading the Matthew 27 account of the resurrection which occurred simultaneously with that of Jesus – wondering what ever happened to those who were resurrected and went into the city! And because Revelation describes them as coming from every nation and kindred, perhaps they were not restricted to the graveyards of Jerusalem! Maybe the graves that were opened spread across the inhabited world! Surely they were not condemned to die yet again, because God said it was ordered that man must die only once. But Matthew certainly does not shed any light whatever on the disposition of those who were raised.

As I continued through the TILE assignments and came to week #52, and read about the 24 elders around the throne, playing their harps, holding golden censers full of incense with smoke ascending, representing the prayers of the saints, and combined that with the lyrics of the song which referred to themselves as being redeemed from the earth, the realization dawned clearly that human beings like me are in heaven with a job to do that has something to do with my prayers!! How very like God! I’m sure there are lots of duties that could be assigned to newcomers, but God gave them a job to do that they could really be interested in and comprehend.

David was inspired to write much about doctrinal and prophetic things. In Ps. 68:18 he portrays Christ as returning to heaven with a “host (or crowd)” of captives. Hopefully you will see the connection to the following texts. Let’s read in Leviticus 23:9,10 (NLT) about the Festival of Firstfruits: “When you arrive in the land I am giving you and you harvest your first crops, bring the priest some grain from the first portion of your grain harvest. On the day after the Sabbath, the priest will lift it up before the Lord so it may be accepted on your behalf.” … When Jesus was resurrected, those who arose with him (the “first fruits”) must have been taken to heaven and Jesus, our High Priest, presented them to the Father “on our behalf”, just as the earthly priest lifted up the grain for heaven’s approval. Remember when Jesus said on Sunday morning, “Don’t touch me for I have not yet ascended to my Father.” He needed to be sure that His sacrifice met all the requirements of the Old Testament prophecies and sanctuary symbols, and all the questions of the universe.

Prayer has taken on a new dimension for me now. As I pray, I picture the scene as John describes it and know without a doubt that my loving God has delegated some aspect of processing my prayers to the 24 elders who state that they have come from the earth and their future includes reigning as priest with God on the earth. That is the same wonderful prospect that awaits those of us who are faithful and are still on the earth. See. Rev. 20:4,6 There is sweet smelling smoke ascending in the censors of the 24 elders and it represents my prayers and I have to say “Thank You, Father, for showing me a glimpse of how you give all of us relevant and productive jobs to do. Jobs that build the Kingdom of Heaven to the glory of Your Name.” Awesome Father!

When the Light shines on me as I study Scripture it is the most exciting experience I know on earth! And sometimes I say to myself, “Wow! Can this really be true?” Remember the blog about our inheritance – “Baby Jesus’ Inheritance” I believe is the title – I felt really far out (but inspired) in my description of the Garden of Eden residing in the center of the New Jerusalem and referred to it as “Central Park”? Well, just this last weekend I heard Doug Batchelor talking about the New Jerusalem and his study parallels mine almost verbatim. That was very affirming for me! His interpretation is that the city is 375 mi. on a side — the NLT version supports the 1500 mi. cube theory. Hey, either way, there’s going to be plenty of room for the entire throng of faithful lovers of the Word who will travel with – or in! – the New Jerusalem/Garden of Eden when the capital of the universe moves to earth!!! What a day that will be.

May God’s blessings continue to warm your hearts as you study HisStory!!

A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME NATURE NUGGET!!

Last Sunday about 10 am I went for a walk on our paved driveway which is almost 1/2 a mi. long. I try to do some laps every day and usually the scenery is predictable. But last Sunday as I was returning toward my house, I saw something in the barbed wire fence which borders the part of our acres where we built our home 34 years ago. From a distance it looked like part of a palm tree trunk stuck on a slant between the upper two strands of barbed wire. But as I got closer it more resembled a rabbit! I thought that rabbit must have been doing some high jumping. As I got closer I slowed my pace and approached cautiously. Imagine my surprise when the face of a very large owl emerged from under it’s outstretched wing which had been firmly imprisoned all along the top strand of wire! I talked softly to the beautiful creature. Her body was hanging in midair upside down with talons locked tightly around the top wire on a level with the imprisoned wing. “Oh please, Jesus,” I prayed, “please help me save this wonderful proof of your creative power and skill. If only You were here, You could just speak or touch and the bird would be OK. Help me, Jesus.” I carefully reached my left hand under the body of the bird and lifted it just enough to be sure that as I tugged on the enmeshed feathers it wouldn’t be painful.

It’s head rested about half way up my forearm and my hand, which was completely outstretched, cradled the body. Her eyes closed and she seemed to be completely relaxed in my care. I pulled with all my might on feathers, trying to free the outstretched wing. Some of them had actually penetrated between the strands of the wire. And the barbs were matted and gnarled with feathers. I thought maybe if those talons weren’t limiting mobility I could pull harder without risking further damage. So I carefully pulled on those strong, sharp talons with my free hand, until she relented. But I still couldn’t pull the feathers out by hand. I needed scissors! I placed the bird’s body carefully on it’s back so that it balanced on the second strand of wire! Her other wing drooped lifelessly toward the lower strand of wire. Then I RAN to my house – about a football field away. Grabbed my scissors, got in my car and drove back to where the owl waited for me, a prisoner on my barbed wire fence.

She opened her eyes as she heard me walking toward her again. I stuck the scissors under my chin, talked to her softly and slipped my hand back under her back. With my right hand I snipped and pulled carefully at first. I had no idea how long she had been stuck there, struggling until she couldn’t move at all anymore. I was afraid she might die before I could free her. So when the feathers wouldn’t give, I started just cutting bigger bunches below the wire to get her free. Frequently, with the scissors under my chin, I used my right hand to brush ants off of my legs!

When about two thirds of her wing was free of the wire I came to something white wrapped very tightly about the wire. It looked like a bone! (Daniel Webster says that a “pinion” is the “last bony section of a bird’s wing.” ..I just now looked it up!) If I cut it, would it mean that it for sure would never fly again? OR – if I cut it, and it was suddenly free, would it turn it’s weapons on the one who was trying to save it?

I thought of my neighbors, Ken and Pat. I needed help. So I took hold of those sharp talons and carefully folded them back around the top strand of wire, got in my car and sped to the neighbors who live at the end of our driveway. They said they would drive their own car over so I sped right back to keep the owl company till they arrived. They came with elbow long leather gloves on. Wow! I had not given one thought to my safety until I found that bony ring around the wire.

Ken and Pat watched as I once more cradled the bird in my left hand and with my needle nose scissors had to push very hard just to get the tip under that pinion. Finally with about 3/4 of an in. under it, I squeezed with all my might — and it broke. But as the wing released, another white ring was revealed closer yet to the body of the bird. I hoped I wouldn’t have to cut another pinion – so I gave a try at prying it off and it came loose — the wing was free.

Ken gathered the wings carefully and turned the bird upright. We chatted a bit giving the bird time to adjust. We didn’t think it would ever fly again. Both wings looked terribly damaged. I could only imagine the owl flying, probably in the night time, somehow colliding with my fence, and then struggling valiantly. That large bird must have tumbled repeatedly between the strands of barbed wire to get so terribly enmeshed!

Since it was Sunday the wild life preserve was probably closed, so since the bird might not live through the night, perhaps the merciful thing to do would be to kill it. I suggested shooting it, but Ken preferred a sharp knife to cut off it’s head (his southern drawl drew out the words) at which Pat’s eyes got big as saucers. But then Ken decided to put the owl down in the grass, about 30 ft. away from our row of cedar trees which run along the fence, and see what it would do. The owl sat there momentarily and then tested her wings. Those shaggy, moth-eaten wings, flapped unevenly at first her talons not moving from their spot on the grass, but then she flew low and loopy, looking like a 747 with too much baggage on board (about a 4 ft. wing span!). Surprisingly, she lifted herself up far enough to perch on a limb in one of the cedar trees where she looked at us with those big beautiful eyes from about 8 ft. above the ground.

Two hours later when I took a break from my work inside the house and went to check on the owl, she was nowhere to be seen. So then my prayer was for her full recovery. Later that day it dawned on me that most of us are like that owl. We’re caught in the barbed wire of bad habits, unruly thoughts … And we ALL need saving. And sometimes God gives us the joy of sharing His saving power with others. What a privilege that is!

When our children grew up here on the “Langarosa,” one of our favorite activities on Sabbath was to go for a walk and look for a visual aid (an ant lion, a flower, the shed skin from a snake etc.) and share what they learned about God from their “find” for sundown worship. It’s kind of sad that they all grew up, and left this rich and wonderful “nature nugget” place. But our grandchildren visit from time to time. They will hear the story of the bird of prey who made not one move to strike me. She appeared to WANT to be saved. …So many lessons we can learn from “God’s Other Book.”

HUMILITY AND CONFESSION

The THIS IS LIFE ETERNAL (TILE) Bible reading plan was published in its entirety in the Dec. 2006 issue of the “Florida Focus” magazine, which is mailed to every home in the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. I was excited for I felt that this exposure could encourage many to read their Bibles through in 2007. As I was doing my own study a couple weeks ago, I happened to find that Psalm 106 was not to be found anywhere in TILE!!!

It’s been almost 9 years since I designed the plan. I remember being positive that I had included every word of the Word — and when it was completed, I sat right down and, using the plan the Holy Spirit had given me, I read the Bible completely and immediately went back to Week #1 to start over…and over — and I haven’t stopped since.

So…when I realized that Psalm 106 had been missed, I went back to double check all 150 Psalms and found to my great distress that I had omitted quite a few! My original process of identifying them topically and getting them inserted properly apparently had some loopholes!!!

I first apologized profusely to God for omitting ANY of His Word and then after adding them properly into the TILE schedule, I emailed my website designer, Mark Bond. I am so grateful to him for within 4 hours he had not only inserted the missing Psalms into the weeks I requested, but had put attractive explanatory notes on the home page, the download page and had thought through a correction to send to the “Florida Focus” magazine editor.

I’m also grateful to God for modern technology that enables me to make corrections in a timely way. The text in Rev. 22 that cautions against adding to OR subtracting FROM the Word of God is an important one to me.

Thanks be to God for forgiveness. Hope you will forgive me, too.

Wretha Lang