Beginning Again

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When our last Vignette ended—that one being, Vignette #8 of Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story—it did so on a very high note.  That’s because Noah, his family, and his animal passengers had all emerged safely from the confines of the Ark; the vessel where they had been sequestered for the preceding 370 days, while the rest of the world perished in the Flood.  What made this event all the more memorable was the fact that as soon as these weary ocean-goers were on dry land again, the first thing they did was offer a sacrifice of worship and thanksgiving to God.  And, it was in response to this, that God…

  • Blessed Noah and his three sons;
  • Charged them with the responsibility of multiplying and repopulating the earth;
  • Instituted a new set of rules by which they were to live; and,
  • Promised them that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood, no matter how sinful man might become in the future.

No doubt, these blessings, charges, instructions, and promises went a long way to reassure and encourage Noah and his family about their future; however, I am just not sure how far they went in minimizing the size of the task immediately confronting them—which was to begin life all over again in a new and a very different world.  To help us put the enormity of this task into perspective, let’s take a moment to consider some of the challenges that were waiting for Noah, the moment he was back on solid ground.

The Immediate Challenges Facing Noah

1. The Environmental One  

We begin with the Environmental Challenge because the drastic changes in the climate and in the landscape would have been the very first things that Noah and the others would have noticed when leaving the Ark.  Having left behind a world where there was a temperate year-round climate, and then stepping out of the Ark into the cold, brisk winds, swirling around in the upper levels of Mount Ararat, would certainly have been a novel experience for each of them—and one which must have sent chills through every one of Noah’s 601 year-old bones!

Plus, as they stood looking down from their lofty mountain perch on to the barren plane below—which, in its pre-flood existence would have been filled with people, trees, shrubs, and lots of green grass—they must have all shivered at the bleakness of  the scene which lay before them.  Just try to imagine what it must have been like for them as they stood there, scanning the landscape and, as far as their eyes could see, there were no sights or sounds of life anywhere!  (Although the Bible doesn’t mention this, there may very well have been both human and animal remains still lying around—that is, unless they had all been buried under layers of silt deposited during the Flood.)

If the Ararat mentioned here in Genesis, was part of the same mountain range which is located in the eastern part of present-day Turkey, perhaps the view that Noah beheld was similar to the one which can be seen of the region today.  If so, seeing how little there is to work with even now should help us have a better understanding of the enormous challenge that Noah was facing, as he set out to begin his life all over again in this less than inviting environment.

Mount Ararat

Mount Ararat Today

2. The Personal One

This, then, brings us to Noah’s Personal Challenge—which was, to try to find an answer to the question of “What do I do now?”  You see, before the Flood, although we don’t know if it was a house, a hut, or a tent, Noah did have a home; he also had an occupation—which was building the Ark; and, as a “preacher of righteousness,” he had a ministry, too.  Sadly though, following the Flood, he had none of these things to fall back on.  Instead, after a lifetime of faithfulness and obedience to God, Noah found himself homeless, jobless, and without any ministry prospects—and, just…

  • How was he supposed to build a home without any trees? Did they pack a tent or bring some extra lumber along?  Did they bring furniture with them, too?  Or, did they continue to live in the Ark for some time after the Flood?
  • How was he supposed to make a living?  With no other people to serve, or businesses or farms to run, how was he going to provide for his family?
  • Who was he supposed to preach to? The only people there were already “saved”!

Wow–what a midlife crisis this must have been for Noah!

3. The Societal One 

Although the first two challenges would have been more than enough to deal with by themselves, probably the most difficult one to meet would have been the third one, the Societal Challenge.  That’s because, at the time Noah and his family left the Ark, there was no society to speak of—except maybe, the remnants of the old-world one which they had brought along with them.  And, from what we can gather about that one, it was a society in which people didn’t eat animal meat; and, because there were no governmental structures in place during that time, it was one in which the people were accountable to no one but themselves.  Yet, here at the outset of their experience in the new world, God was instructing them to discard their previous ways of doing life and to replace them with a whole new societal structure…

  • One in which they, as the former preservers and protectors of animal life, would now begin preying on these same creatures for food; and,
  • One in which the human conscience would no longer be looked to as a means of curbing man’s sinful nature. Instead, God would be delegating authority to man—that is, to them and their descendants—to act on His behalf to insure that human life was protected and justice was properly meted out.

But, how do you go about creating a new type of society when there are only eight people in it?  I guess, the best way to do it is to put the head of each family in charge, and then make him responsible before God for the behavior of those within his immediate household—which, as it seems, is exactly the way it worked out.

The Long Term Challenges for Noah’s Descendants

Given all that they had to deal with upon their entry into this new world, it was probably just as well that Noah and his sons remained unaware of the massive global changes that appear to have taken place while they were in the Ark.  For, not only had the climate and the topical landscape undergone major transformations, but the geology and substructure of the earth seems to have changed so radically during this period that life on the planet would forever after be affected.  The most history-altering of these changes were…

  • The Continental Drift;
  • The Creation of Tectonic Plates;
  • The Development of Fossil Fuels; and,
  • The Formation of Other Fossils.

In order for us to gain a better understanding of these changes and their on-going impact on our lives today, let’s put our lab coats on and take a brief look at some of the science associated with them.

1. The Continental Drift 

Continental Drift

The Theory of Continental Drift

As you may recall, back in “But Noah…” we were introduced to the concept of the early earth’s land mass as being one supercontinent called Pangaea—a continent which subsequently broke up into the seven continents that we are familiar with today.  The US Geological Survey article that was quoted from at the time stated that…

The belief that continents have not always been fixed in their present positions was suspected long before the 20th century…[but] it was not until 1912 that the idea of moving continents was seriously considered as a full-blown scientific theory — called Continental Drift — introduced in two articles published by a 32-year-old German meteorologist named Alfred Lothar Wegener…

But at the time Wegener introduced his theory, the scientific community firmly believed the continents and oceans to be permanent features on the Earth’s surface. Not surprisingly, his proposal was not well received, even though it seemed to agree with the scientific information available at the time. A fatal weakness in Wegener’s theory was that it could not satisfactorily answer the most fundamental question raised by his critics: What kind of forces could be strong enough to move such large masses of solid rock over such great distances?[1]

While an answer to this question wasn’t to be found at that time—at least, not one which would have been “acceptable” to the scientific minds of the day–one was eventually developed which would conform to their evolutionary mindset; a development explained by the Earth Observatory of Singapore in the following way…

The main idea of Wegener and others was that modern continents formed a single landmass in the past. This idea was supported by simple observations like the fact that South-American and African coastlines fit so well, or that we can find the same fossils in similar sedimentary rocks on both continents.

The theory needed an explanation for the continental drift, a kind of engine that would implement the motion of tectonic plates. The continental drift was strongly criticised during the first half of the 20th century, until WWII: during the war, the latest radar technology was used to map the seafloor. Rapidly, evidence pointing to seafloor spreading and effective plate motion was accumulated.

After the war, marine geology was developed…[and the] Plate tectonics theory was then widely accepted among scientists because it relied on hard evidence and could explain most of the modern geological structures (ocean basins, mountain ranges, rifts etc).[2]

Stuart E. Nevins elaborates on this in an article for the Institute for Creation Research

Twenty years ago geologists were certain that the data correlated perfectly with the then-reigning model of stationary continents. The handful of geologists who promoted the notion of continental drift were accused of indulging in pseudoscientific fancy. Today, the opinion is reversed. The theory of moving continents is now the ruling paradigm and those who question it are often referred to as stubborn or ignorant….[Today] The popular theory of drifting continents and oceans is called “plate tectonics.”[3]

2.The Creation of Tectonic Plates 

As previously stated, when the technology which could examine the ocean floor became available, it was soon discovered that the crust of the earth had, at some time in the past, been broken up into large plates.  It was also learned that these plates were and still are in the process of shifting.  However, in keeping with the evolutionary assumptions of the scientists, the theory they put forth “…supposes that [the] plates move very slowly—about 2-18 centimeters per year.  At this rate it would take 100 million years to form an ocean basin or mountain range.”[4]  But, is this consistent with what the Bible has anything to say about the matter?

Again, according to Mr. Nevins

The Bible framework for earth history makes no statement about continental splitting, so it is unnecessary and unwise to take a “Biblical” position on the question. When God created the land and sea, the waters were “gathered together unto one place” (Genesis 1:9), which may imply one large ocean and one large land mass.

If continental separation did occur, the only place within the Bible framework where it could fit would be during Noah’s Flood. The cause of Noah’s Flood is described in tectonic terms: “all the fountains of the great deep broken up” (Genesis 7:11). The Hebrew word for “broken up” is baga and is used in other Old Testament passages (Zechariah 14:4; Numbers 16:31) to refer to the geologic phenomena of faulting. The mechanism for retreat of the Flood waters is also associated with tectonics. Psalm 104:6, 7 describes the abating of the waters which stood above the mountains; the eighth verse properly translated says, “The mountains rose up; the valleys sank down.” It is interesting to note that the “mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4), the resting place of the Ark after the 150th day of the Flood, are in a tectonically active region at the junction of three lithospheric plates.

If continental separation occurred during Noah’s Flood, a host of problems in the tectonic dilemma can be solved…The cause for the ancient breaking up of continents can be explained easily by the enormous catastrophic forces of Noah’s Flood which broke the lithosphere into moving plates which for a short time overcame the viscous drag of the earth’s mantle.[5]

3.The Development of Fossil Fuels 

Although the development of Fossil Fuels was not one of the immediately visible changes brought about by the Flood, it was such an important one that it would eventually become a major factor in the lives of Noah’s descendantsFor, as kids.britannica.com defines it…

 “…a fossil fuel is a general term for buried combustible geologic deposits of organic materials, formed from decayed plants and animals that have been converted to crude oil, coal, natural gas, or heavy oils by exposure to heat and pressure in the earth’s crust over hundreds of millions of years.” [6]

In other words, these are the fuels which are being used today to heat our homes, propel our vehicles, and keep all of our industries producing.  And, where did they come from?  According to Dr. Henry Morris of the Institute for Creation Research, they most likely came from the living matter that was buried under layers of dirt and water at the time of the Flood…

Evolutionists speculate that hundreds of millions of years of slow processes must have been involved, but the details of such processes are very uncertain. Coal and oil can be produced in a matter of hours in modern laboratories under appropriate conditions of heat and pressure. Recent studies by creation scientists have proved that at least the great coal beds (and even diamond mines) contain modern radiocarbon, so must have been formed recently.

Although evolutionists ridicule the idea of a world-destroying hydraulic cataclysm in Noah’s day, that phenomenon really does provide the most reasonable explanation for all these phenomena. “The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Peter 3:6).[7]

The Formation of Coal

How Coal is Formed

4.The Formation of Other Fossils 

As for the formation of Fossils themselves, Dr. John D. Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research, explains that they…

…are typically found in sedimentary rock, almost all of which were originally deposited as sediments by moving water. Subsequent processes hardened them into sedimentary rock, as overlying pressure squeezed the water out and the grains were cemented together. Often plants and animals were trapped, being buried in the sediments. As the sediments hardened into sedimentary rock, the dead things hardened into fossils…

The standard evolutionary view is that from time to time over the eons, a calm and placid sea covered what is now the continents. Over the millions of years of living and dying and coming and going the fossils were preserved as sediments slowly collected on the ocean bottom. But is there a better understanding? Let’s summarize.

Marine fossils are found in rock layers which give testimony to dynamic water processes having deposited them….Rather than demanding the conclusion of long ages of uniformity and evolution, the fossils speak of a time when the oceans fully destroyed the continents, employing catastrophic hydraulic and tectonic forces—a flood on a scale not witnessed today. Just such a flood was witnessed in yesteryear, however, and recorded for our edification in Genesis. It was the great Flood of Noah’s day.[8]

What This Means for Us Today 

During this rather lengthy “pause for critical analysis,” we have discussed a number of changes thought to have taken place during the Biblical Flood.  I say “thought to have taken place” because, of the ones we have mentioned, only two have been specifically addressed in scripture—those being, the addition of meat to man’s diet, and the delegation of authority from God to man to institute the earliest forms of human government.

As for the change in climate, which would have taken place once the vapor canopy had been removed at the onset of the Flood; and the change in landscape, which most likely occurred when the underground waters were released from their chambers, bringing about the creation of tectonic plates and the division of the land into continents—these are implied in several passages of scripture, particularly those found in the Creation Story and in those describing the mechanics of the Flood.  And, of course, the formation of fossils and the development of fossil fuels were changes which would have been unknown until long after the Bible was written.  However, the scientific sources cited in our analysis all seem to agree that these changes took place at some time in the past–they just don’t agree on when, where, and how long they took.

While we might be inclined to think a discussion of this nature, about an event as ancient as the Flood of Noah’s day, would have no bearing on our lives today, nothing could be farther from the truth.  For, as you can see from the following chart, each of the changes just mentioned has had a lasting impact on the world in which we live today…

Impact of the Flood

All of these changes should serve as a witness to our modern world, not only of mankind’s past judgment but also of the one to come.  For…

  • Our shortened lifespans;
  • The volatility of the planet on which we live;
  • The abuse and corruption of human government all around us;
  • The exploitation of the earth’s resources for personal profit; and,
  • The audacity of those who use God’s creation to justify a denial of His existence and the Truth of His Word…

…should be daily reminders to us that life is fragile and can be taken away at any given moment–something stated so succinctly in the following verses…

The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is yet toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.  Who can consider the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?  So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:10-12)

[For] just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28)

For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.  (Matthew 16:27)

For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered into the Ark, they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:38-39)

While the changes brought about by the Flood were many, there was still one that it failed to make–but, to find out what it was, we will have to wait until Vignette #9, which is just about to begin.

Smiley Face with Earphones2No matter how bleak things may have looked to Noah when he exited the Ark, as Michael Gungor reminds us, God was and still is in the business of making “Beautiful Things” out of dust…

[1] US Geological Survey, This Dynamic Earth:  Historical Perspectivehttp://wwwusgs.gov, (August 7, 2012).

[2] Earth Observatory of Singapore, Brief History of the Plate Tectonics Theory, http://www.earthobservatory.sg/faq-on-earth-sciences/brief-history-plate-tectonics-theory.

[3] Stuart E. Nevins, M.S. 1976. Continental Drift, Plate Tectonics, and the BibleActs & Facts. 5 (2).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] http://kids.britannica.com/search?query=fossil+fuels&ct=ebi&searchSubmit.x=0&searchSubmit.y=0.

[7] Henry M. Morris, Ph.D.  Evidence for Creation: Those Fossil Fuels. http://www.icr.org/article/6349/.

[8] John D. Morris, Ph.D. 2004. Where Are Fossils Found?. Acts & Facts. 33 (7).

 

Sowing, Reaping, and the Nature of the Trees

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Apple and the snake1

The Initial Seed of Evil

Previously, in Vignette #3, we watched sadly and helplessly as Adam and Eve deliberately chose to disobey God by eating from the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  This one errant action on their part was all that it took to introduce Evil, with its accompanying fear, shame, deceit, alienation, and death, into what was then an ideal world.  Later, in Vignette #4, we saw how, after the passage of time and with the addition of their sons, Cain and Abel, that initial seed of Evil sown by our first parents had taken root and blossomed into the kind of bitterness, resentment, misunderstanding, self-righteousness, and anger that would lead to the first murder in the world.

So, what we want to do now, as we pause once more between Vignettes to critique this most recent part of God’s One Big Story, is to learn how things could go from bad to worse in such a relatively short period of time, and the lessons that we can take away from it today.  To do this, though, we first need to spend a few minutes acquainting ourselves with a few of life’s most basic and important principles—these being, the principles of sowing and reaping, and the nature of the two trees that are at the heart of all of life.

Sowing and Reaping

Because the majority of us have not, and probably never will have, any connection to anything agrarian (other than eating the produce we pick up from the local market), it may be difficult for us to understand how important sowing and reaping is in God’s plan for our lives.  And yet, we can begin to see their significance when we stop to consider that:

  • In John 15:8, Jesus said, “In this am I [God] greatly glorified in that you bear much fruit”;
  • In the Creation Story found in Genesis 1, we are told at least ten times the all living beings were designed to reproduce “according to their own kind”;
  • God told Noah in Genesis 8:22, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease”;
  • All of Israel’s God-appointed religious feasts and festivals were connected to an event in the agricultural calendar; and,
  • All of the major events in prophetic and redemptive history are associated with some part of the sowing and reaping process; with that process being described by Jesus in the following way:

The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom.  The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil.  The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels.  Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age.  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace.  In that place will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then, the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  He who has ears, let him hear (Matt. 13:37-43).

Reaping the Harvest

Reaping the Harvest

From this, it should become apparent that life itself is just one long cycle of sowing and reaping, the purpose of which is to produce more life and/or fruit for the glory of God.  A seed is sown, it is fertilized, watered and supplied with light by the sun; it takes root and after some time, it grows to maturity and reproduces the fruit which will either nourish some other living being, or provide the seeds needed to reproduce itself once again.  In theory, it is a very simple process; however, when it comes to sowing and reaping, there are a few principles that must be taken  into consideration, if we are going to be prepared for the harvest that we will inevitably receive.

Therefore, we need to remember that..

  • Although one seed will produce just one plant, that one plant is likely to produce a lot of fruit—so we will almost always reap more than we sow;
  • The seed we sow will not spring up into a plant overnight but it will take time, sometimes a lot of time, to grow to maturity—so that while our harvest will not be immediate, it will be sure and will come at the appropriate time; and,
  • Whatever seed we sow, it will bear the image of the original—so that the fruit produced by any seed we sow will be of the same kind and nature as its “parent,” with that kind and nature being passed on to all future generations of that seed.
You Reap What You Sow

You Will Reap What You Sow

But what do these principles of sowing and reaping have to do with our Story?  Well, in short, everything—which is something that we will come to see, after we learn a little more about the two trees at the heart of the Story.

The Nature of the Two Trees

Of course, the two trees to which I am referring are the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; trees which were planted by God in the center of the Garden of Eden for a very specific purpose. As we learned in Another Learning Interlude, this Garden was the designated place of meeting and fellowship between God and Man; where, if Man was going to continue his fellowship with God, he would have to live in obedience to Him, even when tempted to do otherwise.  God’s purpose for positioning the Trees at the heart of the Garden, then, was to test Man’s heart, and to demonstrate if he would choose to obey God and be blessed, or disobey Him and reap the consequences.

As for the trees themselves, and why Adam and Eve would choose the one over the other, I don’t think their choice had anything to do with one tree being more attractive than the other for, in a description of all of the trees in the Garden, Genesis 2:9 tells us that…

And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.

So, given that all of the trees were equally attractive and good for food, what was it that made the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil so appealing; and why would the first Man and Woman choose to eat from it instead of the one from which they could freely eat?  For a better understanding of this, let’s consider what these Trees represented to Adam and Eve—and what they represent to us, as well.

The Only Two Ways Available to Men

In His provision of the two Trees, God was presenting Adam and Eve with the only two Systems of Faith that would be available to mankind, and was confronting them with the choice that both they and we have to make at some point in our lives—the choice to either put our Faith in the Works of the Flesh and try to earn our salvation on our own terms, or to to do things God’s way and put our Faith in the Sacrificial Work of the Lamb of God as the only way of securing our salvation and eternal life.

If we were to analyze these two Systems of Faith in the following way, we would discover that…

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil…

…Is rooted in the same desires that motivated Satan to rebel against God—which are listed in Isaiah 14:13-14:

I will ascend into Heaven.
I will be like the Most High.
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds.
I will also sit on the Mount of the Congregation.

…Produces SAP of Selfishness and Pride.

Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

The Way of Works and Death

…Produces Fruit for Me and My Glory.

While…

The Tree of Life…

…Is rooted in the same desires that characterized Jesus, the promised Messiah in Psalm 40:6-10:

I delight to do Your will.
Your law is within my heart.
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth.
I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation.
I have proclaimed the good news of [Your] righteousness in the great assembly.

Produces SAP of Submission and Praise.

Tree of Life

The Way of Faith and Life

Produces Fruit for God and His Glory.

From our analysis of these two systems, it should be easy for us to see that the reason the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was so attractive to Adam and Eve was because of its overpowering appeal to their flesh—that is, to their latent selfishness and pride, and to their desire for self-glorification.  Unfortunately, because of their decision to eat from this tree and to go the Way of Works, they doomed every one of their descendants (with the exception of Jesus Christ) to enter this world already committed to this same system–which, as we have learned, is nothing other than the Way to Death.  However, because of God’s gracious provision of a Sacrifice to atone for or to provide a covering for their sins, both they and all those who would after follow them would have the opportunity to opt out of this system of Death, choosing instead to go the Way of Faith—which is really the only Way to Life.

As for how sowing, reaping, and the nature of the two trees affected the children of Adam and Eve, this will be more clearly seen next time, as we take a closer look at the Story of Cain and Abel, and inspect the fruit that didn’t fall too far from the tree. 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

As we reflect on these things, let’s join Unspoken in “Call It Grace.”

 

 

 

All the World’s a Stage–and Life its Cosmic Drama

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William Shakespeare

The Bard, William Shakespeare

Having just gone over the presentation of the Bible as a story, the program guide for that story, and the process by which that story will be presented to us—and, since we are rapidly approaching the first of the fourteen stages upon which our story will be presented—let’s use the few minutes we have before we arrive there to try and solidify in our minds the overall concept behind the production that we are about to witness.  The best way I know to do that is to draw upon what may seem like a rather unusual resource for instruction in Bible study, and that is the works of William Shakespeare.

It may come as something of a surprise to learn that there are two things that we can appropriate from Shakespeare’s works that will greatly aid us in our understanding of the Bible.  The first of these is Shakespeare’s view of or observation on life; something he makes known to us through the words spoken by Jaques, one of his characters in the comedy, “As You Like It.”  Jaques is the somewhat melancholy and philosophical traveler who pops up here and there in the forest of Arden, where much of the action of the story takes place.  On one such occasion, we find Jaques in the company of his lord, Duke Senior, a nobleman who is living in exile in the forest, and someone who—after meeting a hungry young man named Orlando—comments to his forlorn companion:

Thou seest we are not all alone unhappy.  This wide and universal theater presents more woeful pageants than the scene wherein we play.

It is in response to this statement that Jaques waxes his most philosophical, and mouths the now famous, and probably the most often quoted, of Shakespeare’s lines:

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts…

All the World's a Stage

Shakespeare’s Oft-Quoted Lines from “As You Like It”

Jaques then goes on to elaborate on these “many parts” by describing, in the monologue which follows, the roles in life that men (generically speaking) play as they go from birth to old age.

When these words were spoken, I am not sure if Jaques—that is, Shakespeare—knew of the real implication or importance of his remarks.  Certainly, being the student of human nature that he was, he was well aware that each of us, upon birth, makes an entrance into life on a small, very limited stage, where we play a variety of roles—those of son, daughter, sister, brother, grandchild, niece, nephew, or friend—only to have these roles reversed with the passage of time, until we find ourselves acting out the roles of father, mother, grandparent, aunt, or uncle to the next generation of players who are rising to take their places on their very own stages in life.  But, was it to these smaller stages and roles in life that Shakespeare was referring; or was he really aware of, and speaking about, the larger cosmic or heavenly stage upon which we all, at various times, play a contributing part?  While we may never know for sure the answer to that question, what we can be certain of is this:  that when we learn to view the world of the Bible as an earthly stage, upon which the people within its pages become very real human actors, the Bible will suddenly begin to make sense to us in ways that we never thought possible.

As for the other thing that we can borrow from Shakespeare’s works, it is his often-used theatrical device of a “play-within-a-play,” or a “story-within-a-story.”  Although this device isn’t something that originated with Shakespeare, it was a tool that he used to great effect in many of his plays, including “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” and “Hamlet.”  Sometimes, he used the scheme of inner plays and stories for the sole purpose of entertaining his audiences; and, at other times, he used it to provide his characters with examples or object lessons about life.  In still other instances, the play-within-a-play motif was used to convict consciences, or as a commentary on the many inconsistencies in life.  What we will find, as we apply this device to our study of the Bible, is that the very human story that is being acted out upon the earthly stage of the Bible is the tool that will be used by God to reveal the greater cosmic drama—that is, the very real, beautiful, but often unseen story of love and redemption—which is simultaneously being acted out on the heavenly stage above and behind the earthly one that we are viewing.

These concepts will be much easier for us to understand if we will try to remember that, at each of the fourteen stages which we will be visiting on this Rocking and Rolling trip through the Land of Revelation Knowledge—the stages where the Two Acts, Twelve Scenes, One Intermission, and One Epilogue will be presented to us—this is what we will actually be viewing:

At Stage #1 – The Celestial Suitor

Now Playing1

At Stage #1

On the earthly stage, as we are witnessing the major events taking place in Genesis 1-11;
On the heavenly stage, we will be seeing God, as the Celestial Suitor, getting the stage ready for the entrance of Israel, His Beloved and future Bride;

At Stage #2 – Israel, the Beloved of God

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At Stage #2

On the earthly stage, as we are witnessing the major events taking place in Genesis 12-50;
On the heavenly stage, we will be seeing God’s negotiation and covenant with Israel’s father, Abraham, for his future offspring’s hand in marriage;

At Stage #3 – Long Engagement, Short Honeymoon

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At Stage #3

On the earthly stage, as we are witnessing the major events taking place in Exodus – Deuteronomy;
On the heavenly stage, we will be seeing Israel as she is whisked away to her wedding, only to see her violate her wedding vows immediately afterward;

At Stage #4 – The Wayward Wife

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At Stage #4

On the earthly stage, as we are witnessing the major events taking place in Joshua – 2 Chronicles;
On the heavenly stage, we will be seeing the sad spectacle of Israel’s long and unfaithful relationship with her Husband;

At Stage #5 – Words of Warning and Woo

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At Stage #5

On the earthly stage, as we are witnessing the major events taking place in Isaiah – Zephaniah;
On the heavenly stage, we will be seeing God’s repeated efforts at trying to warn and win back His unfaithful wife;

At Stage #6 – Separation and Reconciliation

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At Stage #6

On  the earthly stage, as we are witnessing the major events taking place in Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Haggai – Malachi;
On the heavenly stage, we will be seeing the inevitable separation taking place between God and Israel, brought about by her many adulteries; later witnessing their eventual reconciliation;

At Stage #7 – The Intermission

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At Stage #7

On the earthly stage, as we are witnessing the major cultural, political, and religious events taking place from Malachi to Matthew;
On the heavenly stage, we will be seeing the stage as it is being redressed in preparation for the imminent entrance of God’s Son;

At Stage #8 – The Righteous Redeemer

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At Stage #8

On the earthly stage, as we are witnessing the major events taking place in Matthew – John;
on the heavenly stage, we will be seeing Jesus, the Righteous Redeemer, as He comes to earth, finds a Bride for Himself, enters into a marriage covenant with her, and then pays the “dowry” or Bride price for her.  Sadly, in the process, we also see Him rejected by His “mother,” Israel—a rejection which results in another, even longer, period of estrangement between her and God;

At Stage #9 – The Bride in the World

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At Stage #9

On the earthly stage, as we are witnessing the major events taking place in Acts;
On the heavenly stage, we will be seeing Jesus, the Bridegroom, going back to His Father’s house to begin preparing a home for His Bride—leaving her, the Church, on earth to begin the long process of preparing for their wedding;

At Stage #10 – Long Engagement, Rapturous Wedding

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At Stage #10

On the earthly stage, as we are witnessing the major events taking place in Romans – Revelation 4;
On the heavenly stage, we will be seeing the Church, the Bride of Christ, getting ready and waiting for the appearance of Her Bridegroom—Who, at the time appointed by His Father, returns and whisks His Bride away to their Marriage Supper in Heaven;

At Stage #11 – Israel and the Impostor

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At Stage #11

On the earthly stage, as we are witnessing the major events taking place in Revelation 5-18;
On the heavenly stage, we will be seeing Israel duped by her Husband’s long-time enemy into believing that he is her long-lost “Son.” We will also witness his eventual betrayal of her, and the horrific consequences of that betrayal;

At Stage #12 – Reconciliation and Righteousness Restored

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At Stage #12

On the earthly stage, as we are witnessing the major events taking place in Revelation 19-20;
On the heavenly stage, we will be seeing Israel’s true Son, Jesus, return to the earth with His Bride, the Church, where  He defeats His Father’s enemies, rescues His “mother,” and restores her relationship with Him and His Father.  He also establishes a kingdom of righteousness on the earth, over which He rules for 1000 years—the time, after which, when those who have been His enemies will finally be judged and punished.

At Stage #13 – Happily Ever After

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At Stage #13

On the earthly stage, as we are witnessing the major events taking place in Revelation 21-22;
On the heavenly stage, we will be seeing God and His family taking up residence in their new home, a paradise where they will live together in righteousness and peace—happily ever after!

At Stage #14 – The Epilogue

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At Stage #14

On the earthly stage, as we are reviewing the parts we each are currently playing in this Cosmic Drama;
On the heavenly stage, it is my hope that we will be seeing all those who have yet to make Jesus their Bridegroom, come to Him in faith, and be united with Him in love, forever.  I can think of no better way for us to end this play!

 

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Secret Garden and “Did I Not Love You?”

More about the Bible… from Booth #1

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Bible and Candle

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Ps. 119:105

I hope everyone has taken the time to look over the Bible brochure available here at Booth #1, in the Welcome Center of the Word While the veteran believers or long-time church members among us—those who are traveling in Group #1—might consider the information contained in it to be more than adequate to meet their needs, those traveling with us in Groups #2 and #3 who have little or no knowledge of or background in the Bible, might prefer to receive a little more instruction as to what the Bible is all about.  So, in an effort to address the needs of these last two groups, we’re going to take a few minutes for a more expanded explanation of the Book through which we will soon be traveling.

Toward that end, the first thing we need to do is pause for a DOT—or a definition terms.  For our purposes, we will define the Bible as the collection of books considered to be the sacred texts of both Judaism and Christianity.  The word itself comes from the Greek word biblia, the plural form of biblion, which is a diminutive of biblos—the word meaning book.  It got its name because books were originally made from byblos, or papyrus—the plant that was used to make parchment, or the material upon which books were written.  Byblos was also the name of the Phoenician city that exported papyrus to other parts of the ancient world.

The Jewish Bible, written mostly in Hebrew, came first and consisted of three parts:  the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.  Later, when the Christian Bible came into being, it was written in Greek, Latin, and Syriac, and contained the same books of the Hebrew Bible, only in a different order, and with the books of the New Testament added to it.  In order to distinguish between the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures, the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” were introduced, and were in general usage by the end of the second century AD.  Although the Greek word for testament is usually translated as “will,” the Hebrew for it is translated as “covenant.”  Therefore, when we speak of the “Old” and “New” Testaments, what we are actually referring to are the covenants that God made with His people during each of these two eras.

The Torah

The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings

Now, in order to further enhance all of our future study, there are several other things that we need to understand about the Bible—with the first being, it is unlike any other book that has ever been written; it is unique in all of literature because it is the only trustworthy source of God’s words—and of His self-revelation to mankind—that exists in the world.  Actually, the Bible is not just one book, but a collection of books—sixty-six, to be exact—that have been arranged in a systematic, progressive, and comprehensive way so that God’s revelation of Himself could be made known and understandable to any and all who chose to receive it and to heed it.  Although it was transcribed by many men over the course of fifteen hundred years, men who employed a variety of genres and styles in its recording, it is remarkably consistent in its message, in its portrayal of the person and purposes of God, and in its honest representation of the nature and character of humanity.

The only way that I know of to explain such a consistency in its content over so great a period of time is to say that, in spite of its having so many human scribes, the Bible has only one author—and that author is God Himself.  Only the One who is able to declare that…

“…I the Lord do not change…” (Mal. 3:6), and “…I am God, and there is none other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done…” (Is. 46: 9-10)

…could be capable of accurately documenting a story which transcended the generations of the very ones who took part in recording it.  Through the means of divine “inspiration,” or through the intimate involvement of His Spirit, God made known His thoughts and words to a select group of men, and then He guided them in the ways in which those thoughts and words were to best be presented.  While each presentation reflected the personality of the man who was doing the writing, as well as the times during which he lived, the words were always God’s; words which repeatedly conveyed the timeless truths that every man and every generation should know.

Inspired Scribes

God’s Inspired Scribes

We learn more about this matter of inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:16, where we are told that the Bible was

“… breathed out by God and [is] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

This breathing out by God means that the words of the Bible were imparted directly by the Spirit of God, an impartation which made the Bible a living book imbued with power.  Hebrews 4:12 confirms this when it tells us that…

“…the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

In other words, as a living book, the Word of God is able to penetrate our innermost beings in order to confront us with the truth about God and ourselves, and to convict us of our deviations from, or our rejections of, that truth.  As the only real source of truth in the world, the Bible, then, becomes the only trustworthy guidebook which man has for life.  Not only does it teach him how to live successfully—that is, to live godly—in the here and now, it also instructs him on how he can obtain eternal life, or the life in the hereafter, which God has promised to give to those who will come to Him in the way that He has prescribed.

Since God’s purpose in authoring the Bible was to make Himself known to mankind, it would follow that He intended His Book to be for all people of all time, and that it was not something reserved for just Christians and Jews.  This would mean that everything in it would have application, at some point, for every person who has ever lived, and that its principles and truths would be so universal that they would be relevant to every age and every culture.  This would make it possible for even the most seemingly disparate people to be able to comprehend them; meaning that the peasants working in the rice patties of ancient China, the tribesmen hunting for heads in the jungles of Africa, twenty-first century penthouse dwellers, and kings and con men throughout each generation would all be able to learn the truth presented within its pages.

The next thing that we need to understand about the Bible is that it is a multi-layered presentation of truth.  By that, I mean that it presents us with a number of important truths, on several different levels or dimensions, all at the same time.  Through the stories of real people, who are taking part in real life activities, at real times in human history, we not only learn important lessons that we can use in our everyday lives, we can also learn about God’s prophetic or future plans for all of mankind, for the earth, and for His enemies, and learn about the person and character of God, as well.

Something else that we need to understand about the Bible is that it is consistent in its method of teaching.  Throughout the Bible, the way in which God explains spiritual truths to us is by taking the things with which we are familiar and using them to teach us about those things which are beyond our comprehension—that is, He takes the things that we can see, which are temporal or earthly in nature, to explain those things that we cannot see, because they are spiritual and eternal in nature.  And, in order to do this, He has purposefully incorporated things in His creation that He could use for His divine illustrations.  We will learn much more about all of these as we go along.

Finally, the most important thing that we need to understand about the Bible is that it is ALL about Jesus.  He is there at the very beginning, He is there at the very end, and He is there in every chapter and verse in between.  Throughout the Old Testament, He is seen covertly—that is, some aspect of who He is is hidden within the pictures or types that were created by the lives of the Old Testament characters; plus, He is represented in each of the feasts and in the rituals of the Old Testament system of worship.  In the New Testament, however, He is seen overtly or openly, as He makes His appearance in the flesh to become the fulfillment of each of those Old Testament pictures or types.

Wow, when we think about all that the Bible is, it strikes me as a wonder that we haven’t made its study the highest priority in our lives.  Just think about it for a moment:

  • If the Bible is the best resource for teaching us that which is truly moral, then why isn’t it the first book that we teach to our children? 
  • If the Bible teaches us about what love is all about, and how we can love one another better, then why isn’t the Bible at the center of every home, marriage, or personal relationship? 
  • And, if the Bible provides us with indisputable rules for success and prosperity, then why isn’t the Bible the operating manual for every kind of enterprise, be it business, education, government, entertainment, or science?

In other words, if the Bible is all that it is cracked up to be, then why aren’t we reading and studying it every chance we can get?

 

Bible

The Wonderful Word of God

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

Join with the Gaithers as they sing about God’s “Wonderful Words of Life…”

 

Image of scribes courtesy of http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/.

Now…On to the Welcome Center of the Word

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Well…we have made it across the border!  Having received the gift of God’s glorious Salvation as the result of the New Birth, we have left behind the spiritual bondage and death so characteristic of the dark, barren land of the natural life, and are now entering the vibrant, verdant, and fruit–filled land of the Spirit—a land simply exploding with light and liberty!  I hope you have already noticed the change in the atmosphere.

Train Going Through the Mountains

Enjoy the Beautiful Vistas of this New Land

Something else to take notice of, as you eagerly survey this brand new landscape, is that the land through which we are now traveling is one that is filled with peaks and valleys:  majestic peaks, blanketed with trees of every size, shape, and variety; and deep, lush valleys—teeming with life of every sort—that are all well-watered by the streams cascading down from those very same peaks.  Although, from here, it may look like our trip will be one of continuous highs and lows, overall, it will actually be one of steady ascent, as we stay on a course traveling due east, heading toward our destination of the ever-intensifying light and land of the Son of God.

I think it only fair to warn you, that while they are not visible from our present location, there will be some desert areas and stretches of wilderness that we must pass through, before we can arrive at that highly desired destination.  Certainly, these will be the least pleasant—and possibly even the lengthiest—parts of our travels; however, once we get to our journey’s end, I am sure that we will find our experiences there to have been some of the most instructive and valuable ones of the entire trip.

Before going any farther, though, there is one more stop that we must make.  It is just up ahead, at the Welcome Center of the Word—the place where we can get essential information about this wonderful new world where we now find ourselves, as well as instructions which should help make the time we spend here more meaningful.

Welcome Center of the Word

As you enter the center, you will see that there five information booths set up around the perimeter of the room.  Although you may not think that you need to visit all five, I would strongly suggest that you do, because each one will have something unique to give you which will make your time in the Word more fruitful.  For instance:

  • At Booth #1…you will obtain a brochure describing the Bible—what it is and what it isn’t; a little pamphlet that will be prove to be most helpful in getting and keeping your expectations in check;
  • At Booth #2…you will have the opportunity to identify and check the baggage that you have brought with you—particularly any baggage that will negatively impact your ability to navigate freely through this new land;
  • At Booth #3…you can obtain a map detailing the limitations or boundaries imposed upon all those who are visiting here;
  • At Booth #4…you will be given the opportunity to have your spiritual vision checked, to insure that you will be able to see the Truths awaiting you in the Word up ahead; and,
  • At Booth #5…you will introduced to our Guide, the Holy Spirit, and get connected to His SPS—the Spirit Positioning System—and instructed as to its use.  This device will prove to be invaluable should you ever get lost along the way. 

So, with that being said, it’s everyone off the train, and on to the Welcome Center of the Word!  Please be sure to stop by Booth #1 first and pick up a copy of the Bible brochure.  It looks like this…

Bible Study Brochure

…and if you find that this information isn’t sufficient to meet your needs, we can address the attributes of the Bible in greater detail a little later on.  For the time being, though, let’s join Shane and Shane in giving thanks for the wonderful gift of spiritual “Liberty” that is making this journey possible for us…

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

 

 

 

Next Stop…New Birth!

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rain stationT

Leaving Salvation Station

Now that everyone is back on board the train, it’s time for us to leave the Salvation Station; the place where we introduced to God’s wonderful plan for saving sinners from death and destruction while, at the same time, adopting them as His very own children; in the process, giving them a hope in this life, as well as a glorious future in the next.

What we didn’t learn here, though, is just how we can appropriate this salvation that God has so graciously provided for us.  With that as our immediate goal, then, let’s make our way to the next stop on our tour, the New Birth Station; where we will not only discover what the New Birth is, but for those who have never been this way before, they will learn how they, too, can participate in the New Birth experience and be “born again.”

While some may consider the “head” knowledge of God’s salvation which we gained at our first stop to be sufficient for any venture into the world of the Word, for the purposes of this journey, that mere intellectual knowledge will prove to be woefully inadequate when it comes to providing us with access to all of the places listed on our itinerary.  That’s because, on this trip, we will actually be traveling from one land into another; going from the darkened land of the natural, where we live every day, into the illumined land of the spiritual, where God dwells eternally—and without an experiential knowledge of salvation, should we even make it into the Word, we would be at a loss to understand the language, the laws, and the culture of that land once we had arrived there.

I should also point out that there is a heavily guarded border which separates these two lands and, since it runs right through the  New Birth Station, before we can go any farther on our tour, we will have to stop there and make our way through Customs, before being allowed to cross the border.  The purpose of this processing is to help insure that all of us will have the “experiential” knowledge of salvation that it will take to make the rest of our trip truly enjoyable and productive.  And, once that has been done, we will be provided with the Passports that we will need for our further travel.

Customs Desk

“Anything to Declare?”

Well, what do you know—we’re here at the station already!  Quickly, before you leave the train, let me give you some instructions which should help to facilitate your processing through Customs.  As soon as you disembark, you will see two signs overhead:  one saying, “Something to Declare,” and the other saying, “Nothing to Declare.”  For those who are traveling in Group #1—those who have already experienced the New Birth—please proceed to the “Something to Declare” counter, where, when asked, you will declare “Salvation by the Blood of the Lamb,” be handed your passport, and then be escorted back to the comfort of the train.  However, those who are traveling in Groups #2 and #3 (and possibly some in Group #1 who are not certain that you’ve experienced the New Birth), will need to proceed to the “Nothing to Declare” counter, where you will begin your processing through Customs in the following order:

  • First, you will visit Room 1, where you will learn about the mandate for the New Birth;
  • Next, you will proceed to Room 2, where you will learn about the spiritual dynamics of the New Birth;
  • Then, you will go to Room 3, where you will learn about the legal reasons for the New Birth; and,
  • Finally, you will go to Room 4, where you can share in the experience the New Birth for yourself.

Once you have completed the process, you will also be escorted to the “Something to Declare” counter where, when asked, you too will have the opportunity to declare, “Salvation by the Blood of the Lamb,” be handed your passport, and then be escorted back to the comfort of the train.

Room 1…

Jesus and Nicodemus

Jesus Explaining the New Birth to Nicodemus

Here, you will learn what Jesus had to say about the New Birth, as you witness a scene taking place between Him and one of the religious leaders of His day.  This scene, as recorded for us in John 3:1-14, takes place one night as Nicodemus seeks out Jesus, for reasons which are never really made clear to us.  That’s because, before Nicodemus is able let us in on the motivation for this visit, Jesus, knowing the real need of his heart, tells him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (V.3).”  Thinking like a true natural man, Nicodemus tries to rationalize how he could go back into his mother’s womb and be born a second time.  To this, Jesus responds, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not be amazed that I said unto you, You must be born again’ (vv. 5-7).”

During the course of this interchange, Jesus makes it very clear that there is a fixed gulf between our fleshly beings and our spirits; and that, while everyone born into this world will be initially born into a fleshly or physical state, only those who have been regenerated by the Spirit of God will be born into life in the Spirit.  Here, then, is the mandate, given by Jesus Himself, stating that anyone who hopes to see God and participate in His kingdom must be born again.  But, what isn’t given here are the answers to the questions of why is this necessary, and how does one go about being born again?  So, in pursuit of those answers, you will go on to… 

Room 2…

…where you will learn about the dynamics involved in the New Birth; dynamics which have everything to do with regeneration.  Since our DOT for regeneration is—the act of bringing something into existence again—that is, to form again, or to be made new—for us, regeneration is the act by which our dead spirits are brought back to life again by the Holy Spirit of God.  You may be wondering, though, just why is this necessary?

Adam, Eve, and Serpent

It Only Takes One Sin to Separate a Person from a Holy God

In order for us to answer that question, we will need to go back to the beginning of human history, back to the time when Adam and Eve first disobeyed God; the time when their spirits, as well as those of all of their future descendants, died because sin caused them to be separated or cut off from God.  What this means is that every human being who has been born since then, with the exception of Jesus Christ, has been born spiritually dead—or, with a spirit that has been cut off from its source of life in God.

As Watchman Nee explains in his book, The Spiritual Man, “…when we say the spirit is dead it does not imply there is no more spirit; we simply mean the spirit has lost its sensitivity towards God and thus is dead to Him.  The exact situation is that the spirit is incapacitated, unable to communicate with God…it remains in a coma as if non-existent.”  And, as a result of this death, no descendant of Adam has ever been able to have a relationship with God while remaining in his or her natural or fleshly state.

The New Birth, then, is what occurs when God’s Spirit brings a man’s spirit back to life, restoring that man’s lost relationship to God, and making it possible for him to communicate with God once again.  But—and this is a very BIG BUT—before this can happen, certain legalities will have to be taken care of; legalities which will be discussed in…

Room 3…

…legalities involving our repeated violations of God’s laws.  As we learned back at the Salvation Station, each of us has, throughout our lives, offended God by violating His laws, or His codes of acceptable moral and spiritual conduct.  In the process, we have unwittingly erected a barrier between Him and us, a wall of offense which makes any relationship between us impossible.  Until such a time as we confess our faults—that is, we agree with God about what we have done wrong, and seek His forgiveness—we will continue to be “cut off” from Him, losing whatever opportunities we may have had to get to know Him and to love Him.  Thus, the elimination of our offenses against God, along with the removal of the wall which those offenses created, is what the New Birth is all about.

Unfortunately, because most of us have no concept of what God’s righteous requirements for relationship with Him are, we don’t know what we have done to offend Him.  Most of us have lived our lives according to the codes of conduct that we acquired from our parents, picked up from our friends and associates, or created for ourselves in response to the ever-changing circumstances of life.  Unlike God’s immutable standard of holiness, our concepts of what constitutes right and wrong have been derived from very human and fallible sources and, as a result, tend to have very nebulous boundaries.  Consequently, the principles by which we live are often adapted to the situations in which we find ourselves at any given moment, with what is true and right in one situation differing from that in another.  With backgrounds steeped in such a relativistic system of ethics, how are we to know for sure what God’s requirements are; how can we understand what our offenses against Him have been?

The only way we can know how we have missed God’s “mark” for acceptable behavior (and sin is defined as “missing the mark” of God) is through His Word, where God has set forth His standard of righteousness, or right living, in Exodus 20: 1-17; a standard we know today as the Ten Commandments.  There, He makes it clear that in order for us to have a spiritual relationship with Him, we must meet certain conditions:

  1. We can have no gods other than Him; ours is to be a personal and an exclusive relationship;
  2. We cannot make an idol, or anything in the form of a person, or an object from the natural or spiritual world, which we worship in His place; so, no person, possession, position, pleasure, power or money can be substituted for Him;
  3. We cannot take His name in vain—that is, use His name in a disrespectful or dishonest manner.  We are not to use God’s name as a swear word, or to legitimatize or authorize any activity which He has not sanctioned;
  4. We are to remember the Sabbath day, or one day in seven as a day of rest and worship, and keep it holy, or set apart for Him;
  5. We are to honor our parents, respecting them as God’s appointed authorities in our lives;
  6. We are not to murder; or, according to Jesus in an expanded version found in Matthew 5: 22, to even harbor hatred in our hearts toward another person;
  7. We cannot steal—that is, take anything which is not ours, including money, property, an employer’s time, a person’s reputation, or the affection of someone who belongs to another;
  8. We cannot commit adultery, or any sexual sin, either by thinking about it or actually doing it (see Matthew 5: 28 for another amplified rendition);
  9. We cannot bear false witness or lie about anyone else; and,
  10. We are not to covet, or want for our own, anything that belongs to another person; this includes his or her spouse, children, positions, possessions, personalities, looks, or money. 

Of course, we have all violated these laws at one time or another; so, how is it possible for us, as naturally unrighteous people, to meet God’s demands for righteousness, and enter into a relationship with Him?  In all honesty, we can’t—at least, not on our own.  We must have the help of Someone who can meet these demands on our behalf; Someone who can bridge the gap between God’s holiness and our sinful condition, thereby making a relationship between God and us possible–Someone you will learn more about in…

Man's Bridge to God

The Cross is Man’s Only Bridge to God

Room 4…

Since God is the only One who completely understands the strict demands of His law, and man’s total inability to meet those demands, He took it upon Himself to create a plan by which Someone, namely Jesus, could bring God and man together.  In order to understand how His plan works, here is what we need to know:

  • First, we need to understand that God is so holy that anyone who comes into His presence must be free from any and all impurities, or else he will die.  When God told Adam that if he ate from the forbidden tree he would die, He was making clear to him the principle that “…the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23)” and that “the person who sins will die (Ezekiel 18:20).”
  • Since the law of God’s holiness requires that sin’s offenses be paid for by death, this means that the one who has offended must die to satisfy the judgment imposed upon him by the law.
  • However, God in His grace, also stipulated in His law that a substitution could be made for the offender—that is, the sinner could avoid paying the penalty for his own violations of God’s law if he could find Someone else who was willing to die in his place.
  • But, in order to qualify as such a substitution, this Someone could not be a person who was himself a sinner—he would have to be Someone without guilt in order to satisfy every one of God’s specific rules for holiness.  The only Person who has ever lived who could meet these demands was Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
  • Therefore, God sent Jesus into the world to live a life of sinless perfection; a life which would fulfill all of the righteous demands of the law. Then Jesus died an agonizing death on the cross—a death which paid sin’s penalty, and one which could be substituted for the death required of each and every sinner who would ever live.
  • In addition to paying the price for everyone’s sin through His substitutionary death, Jesus also conquered the power of death once and for all when He was raised from the dead to live again forever.
  • Although Jesus’ death paid the price for everyone’s sin, the payment for any individual’s penalty will not automatically be credited to him.
    –  First, he must come humbly before God, acknowledging that he has violated the laws of God and is unable to meet God’s demands for righteousness on his own, in order to receive, by faith, what Christ has done on his behalf.
    – He can then exchange his sin for the gift of salvation that God has graciously made available to him through Christ’s sacrificial death.
    – It is with this transaction that his spirit becomes “born again”; and it is at this time that God’s Spirit comes to live within him and begins teaching how to live like a son of God.
Thank You, Jesus

After All He has Done for Us, What Else is There to Say But…

This, then, is God’s plan for providing us with a New Birth.  If you aren’t sure if you have ever experienced it, then let me urge you to go to God, acknowledging the offenses which have kept you spiritually dead and alienated from Him, and ask Him, for Jesus’ sake, to remove them.  When you do, the Holy Spirit will come to live within your spirit, and you will be “born again!”


Take as much time as you need at this station, and I will meet you back at the train whenever you are ready to travel again.

 

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You can rejoice along with Third Day because you are “Born Again”…

 

A Detour Around the Trees

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Although I had planned on using our time together today to try and answer some of the questions that were raised at the end our last visit—questions as to why God would choose to use trees to tell His story of redemption—it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.  The reason is, every time I have tried to organize my thoughts on the subject, it was as if somebody put my brain on “automatic scramble;” and, after being hit with the equivalent of a mental brickbat, not just once but many times, I decided that it would be to my advantage to go with whatever alternative the Lord decided to give me.  This seems to be that alternative—a reflection that I am calling “A Detour Around the Trees”—for all of the obvious reasons.

This detour originally began as a status update for my Facebook page, however, it never made it that far.  For whatever reason, while I was working on this, I didn’t experience the “brain scramble” that I did with the other work. As a result, this update just kept on growing until eventually it looked more like a reflection rather than an update–so that is what I decided to make it.

It was always my intention, once this blog was up and running, to use one of our visits to explain why I had chosen “His Truth, My Voice:  The Reflections of a Reluctant Prophet” as the name for my blog.  But, even though we have been meeting together, on average, once a week for the past five months, it is something that remained unattended to.  I thought that since some of you may have been curious about my choice of names, this would be a good time to offer an explanation for it—plus, it will give my brain something of a break, too.  So, let’s get started by first explaining the “reluctant prophet” part of the name.

This originated many years ago, when I was trying to get a new singles’ Sunday school class started at my church; a class specifically designed for more in-depth Bible study than what was currently being offered.  When I proposed the class to the powers-that-were, though, I was told by the minister of education that I would not be allowed to teach the class because I was a woman who would be teaching adult men.   He explained to me that there were only two other women in the church at the time who were teaching adult men, but it was okay for them because they were married and their husbands were “visible presences” in the church.   When I replied that, as a single woman, I considered Christ to be my husband until He gave me one in the flesh, and that I certainly hoped He was a visible presence in the church, the minister didn’t know quite how to respond—other than to say that he still didn’t want me to teach.

What, me a prophet?

I Don’t Think So…

Interestingly enough, about this same time, I was asked to be the guest teacher in a men’s Sunday school class at another church about a hundred miles away. Obviously, this church didn’t have the same concerns about me teaching men that my home church did.  Naturally, none of this made any sense to me, so while I was out walking one day, asking the Lord what I should do about both situations, He spoke to me, saying, “You need to resolve this issue because I am going to make you a prophet…”

Since that was the last thing I expected to hear, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the first thing out of my mouth was, “But I don’t want to be a prophet, I want everyone to like me.  Besides, I have read ‘The Book’ and I know what the ‘people of God’ have done to the prophets of God in the past–plus, I am really not up for being drawn and quartered, burned at the stake, beheaded, or boiled in hot oil.  So, what is ‘Plan B’?”  Although I waited and waited for Him to respond, no answer came.

More time went by and when no “Plan B” was forthcoming, I decided to go back to God in an effort to try and negotiate a better deal for myself.  “Okay, I get it—there is no ‘Plan B’.  But, if You are really determined to go ahead with this ‘Plan A’ thing, at least let’s define our terms; that way I will know exactly what You will be expecting of me as your ‘prophet.’  According to my definition of the term, however, I just don’t see how I could possibly be qualified to be one.  I don’t foretell the future, I don’t give personal words to people, and there isn’t a preacher that I know of who would move over and let me preach the Word from his pulpit.  So, what do You mean when you use the term ‘prophet’?”

After a short pause, all I heard Him say was, “Think about it.” (Mind you, He has told me that on more than one occasion and I really don’t like to hear it because, as far as I am concerned,  it requires just a little too much effort and thought on my part, if you know what I mean.)

Hmmm…think about it, huh?  Well, the thought that came to my mind right away was of the three offices that were mentioned in the Old Testament:  those of prophet, priest, and king.  And, as I began to think about them, I realized immediately that I could eliminate any consideration of the duties of king because gender alone would exclude me from that office.  As for the office of priest, I was aware that it was to be filled by someone who would represent the people before God; someone who would bring sacrifices, prayers, and petitions before Him on their behalf.  Of course, being a Christian meant that I was already a member of the priesthood of believers, so I couldn’t see how I would have to concern myself with that office either.

Thinking Cap

This is too much like work!

With this process of elimination speeding things along, all that was left for me to consider was the office of the prophet.  I knew that this office was going to be different from the others because both of those were intended to be hereditary ones.  The office of prophet, however, was to be occupied on an as-needed basis by the person chosen by God to be His representative before the people; as such, he would be charged with the task of delivering God’s Words to the people,  so that they could come to understand His thoughts, positions, or attitudes concerning any given subject or situation.

As I thought about all of this, suddenly the bells went off—ding, ding, ding—and the light bulb came on—blinkie, blinkie, and I said, “OK, Lord, I’ve got it.  As Your prophet, what You want me to do is to take Your Word to people, and use it to explain to them who You are, and what You want from and for them.  I can do that—in fact, I have been doing that for years!  No problem.”

Thankfully, I did not have to work so hard or think quite so much when it came to the reason for the “His Truth, My Voice” part.  That’s because those words came to me directly from the Lord, in two messages given on two separate occasions.  In a word given to me by the Lord on June 26, 2008, He said,

“Use the voice that I have given you…age is not an issue, appearance is not an issue…the truth is the issue—make that your focus.  Remember, My Truth is your voice.”

And later, in a word given to me on July 28, 2009, He said,

“Remember:  My Word is My Truth, and My Truth is Your Voice.”

His instructions couldn’t have been any clearer so, for once, He didn’t get any back-talk from me—something which certainly must have come as a welcome change!

 

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Selah, with “Press On.”

 

Redemption, a Story Told by Trees

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Trees, Trees, and More Trees

I don’t know why but I have always had a special fondness for trees; and, since most of my life has been spent living in Virginia, there has seldom been a time when I did not have a beautiful one to behold. That being said, try to imagine the shock that I experienced shortly after my husband and I were married, when we moved to West Texas, a place where trees are a rare and very precious commodity.  At first, the fact that we would actually be moving to a place where trees would be so scarce didn’t really sink in; but, as we were driving across country to our new home, and once I saw the trees start to disappear from the landscape after we left Oklahoma City, the reality of it hit me like a ton of bricks.  It was at that point, as I suddenly found myself surrounded by the all of yellows and browns of the great southwest, that all I could think of to say was, “Where did the green go—and what in the world have I gotten myself into?”

I certainly don’t mean to disparage West Texas, for the area has many special beauties all of its own:  the gorgeous sunsets, miles and miles of big skies, and the chiseled-out beauty of the nearby canyon are but a few—it’s just that my beloved trees were not among them.  As much as I missed my trees, though, I learned very quickly that it was not wise to lament their loss out loud, for I had noticed that whenever any “newcomers” started making comments about the treeless horizon, the locals, as lovely as they were in all other respects, would very quickly and enthusiastically suggest that they go back to wherever it was they came from.  (Oh, by the way—although I had never cared to watch golf tournaments on television before going to Texas, once there, I found myself tuning into to the tournaments every weekend just so I could see the trees and the long stretches of lovely green grass!)

After living in Texas for almost three years, we very happily made our way back to Virginia, where we bought a home in an area filled with some of the most majestic trees that I had ever seen.  They were huge, with canopies so dense that it seemed as if we were chicks being sheltered under the wings of a big green mother hen.  I loved walking around that neighborhood, particularly around twilight, just so I could gaze upward and marvel at the silhouettes created by the treetops as they were set in relief against the dusky sky.  Often, as I walked, I would mentally try to measure the height of the trees in an effort to determine their ages, and as I did, I would silently wonder what tales those trees would tell, if only they could talk.  I was sure that they had seen it all:  all of the comings and goings as one generation passed into another, along with all of the births, deaths, joys, and hardships that life would surely sandwich in between.

Of course, common sense would have us believe that trees don’t really talk, at least not in a language that any of us have been able to understand so far.  But the Bible would have us believe differently, for in the story of human history that it recounts for us, not only do trees speak, but the message that they have to relate to us is of such importance that it has literally meant the difference between life and death for every human being who has ever lived.  And just what is the message that the trees have to tell us?  It is the destiny-altering, everlasting story of love known as Redemption:  a story which began with a choice between two trees, a story whose pivotal point was reached when God’s Son died on a man-made tree, and a story whose ending takes us to a tree of new beginnings, in a brand new dimension of life that we will one day know as eternity.

At this point, and as much as I love them, all I can say in response to all of this is:  trees, trees, and more trees—why trees?  When He could have chosen anything in this wide world to use for the accomplishment of His purposes, why would the all-wise, all-knowing, and all-powerful God of creation choose to use the humble tree to tell His wonderful story of redemption? Or, to be more specific:

  • Why would He choose to use trees to test the measure of a man’s righteousness?
  • Why would He make the choice of one tree over another to mean the difference between life and death, not only for the one doing the choosing, but also for all the ones who would come after him?
  • Once the choice had been made, why would He make the way to the Tree of Life inaccessible to the very ones who needed the new life that it offered?
  • Why would He allow an ugly, cruel tree fashioned by men be the instrument of torture and means of death for His one and only Beloved Son?
  • Why and how would He make what was a tree of death for One into a Tree of Life for many?

As you can see, we now have lots of questions about the trees, trees, and more trees of redemption—but so far, not any answers.  Therefore, in a quest for those answers, let’s put on our thinking caps, take some time to ponder the questions and search out the answers in the Word, and then let’s meet back here to share what we have learned when the time rolls around for our next visit.  Until then, be sure to seek out a good tree and tell it “thanks!”

 

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Big Daddy Weave tells us what being “Redeemed” means to him…