Monday, November 18, 2013

Message of the Latter Rain

I had the privilege of attending an event where one of the co-authors of this powerful book, Mark Duncan, presented his language research leading to a discovery about the nature and phases of justification; Charizomai and Aphiemi. The promise of 1 John 1:9 is more pregnant with hope than you may have imagined.

Be blessed by reading this inspired treatise on Christ's Righteousness preparing the field for the latter rain!


At some point we will be able to link individual sermons but until then...

Pastor Fordham preached the gospel, do not miss this sermon which he entitled "What?"

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What Should I Believe To Be Baptized?

The Church believes in baptism by immersion and
accepts into membership only those who have been baptized in this manner.
(See Chapter 14, “Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists.”) Those
who acknowledge their lost state as sinners, sincerely repent of their sins, and
experience conversion may, after proper instruction, be accepted as candidates
for baptism and Church membership.  - The Seventh Day Adventist Church Manual, published 2010

This is a beautiful testimony about the power of the gospel as shared by Adventist World Radio. Praise God for the work they have committed themselves to pursuing. What follows is no way a criticism of anything related to their ministry.

Aside from the story, however, what caught my eye was the pastor's response to the leader's desire to be baptized. "Wait!" How do I know if you're ready?"

It seems that those who would follow Jesus are being presented an open door by pope Francis in his recent interviews or 7 pages (from page 44 to 51 of the SDA Church Manual) of vows and "instruction" by the SDA Church in order to join the body of Christ.

In one of his universal statements, Jesus said "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Didn't Jesus rebuke the Pharisees and Sadducees for their rules and regulations concerning Sabbath? I certainly don't endorse the theological positions of the pope or Catholicism but how many EGW blessed, Holy Ghost steps do you need to take to get in the pool?

How you join something often sets the tone. When I crossed the burning sands of Kappa Alpha Psi to the shores of Phi Nu Pi, I "pledged hard." However, my dean of pledges, Darryl German, kept the wolves at bay, by and large and provided a great introduction to the traditions, rites and rituals of our great fellowship. Too many others, however, were not so fortunate and some were beaten badly and even killed in the years since I joined. The Fraternity's response, in a consent agreement, was to eliminate pledging. Now, once you have been accepted into membership, you are a full fledged brother with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereunto.

It's then that you learn to appreciate what makes Kappa Alpha Psi, Incorporated, the most outstanding greek letter organization on the planet. A frat so nice, they had to name it twice!

How exceedingly more special is the fellowship of Jesus? Isn't he revealed from faith to faith as you grow in grace and knowledge? Does my pledge to put the cigarettes and bottle down give me victory over alcohol and tobacco? Are these the only sins we reject or are they just more visible? How are these vows different than what Israel promised out of fear in Exodus 19:5-8? The old covenant can temporarily keep people in line but does it save?

The Holy Spirit is calling people into this fellowship with the promise from Jeremiah 31:31-34, the promises made to Abraham that God intended to renew with Israel (Exodus 2:24, Exodus 6:2-9) in the desert in Exodus 19:5, still misunderstood. If they would keep (cherish) his covenant and obey (diligently listen to his voice), then they too will become God's special treasure. Shouldn't we take them just as they are, trust Jesus and the Holy Spirit even though they may not yet be ready for translation?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sin's Self-Locking Mechanism

One of the debilitating effects of sin is self-delusion. In fact, it serves as a latch on its own gate, locking the sinner into cycles of self-defeating thoughts and beliefs. The principle self-delusion may be the belief that what we do matters, which seems to have been programmed in at Eden, where we turned His Grace into a means of self-righteousness.

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; (Genesis 3:16, 17 KJV)

In addition to the folly of trying to cover themselves after sin, they were unable to comprehend God's Grace, seeing his pronouncements to them (Eve's labor and Adam's work) as punishment or worse, a means to re-enter His favor. Their progeny, the children of Israel, after centuries of captivity and doubt-ridden desert experience, likewise failed to immerse themselves in God's deliverance. Rather, they promised to obey. Though God was there to renew His promises, those made to Abraham; their lack of trust compelled them to cast out Isaac instead of Ishmael and they made their pledge to God instead of receiving His to them.

Has anything changed? Though God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son..., we still want to see proof, signs and evidence, looking for "fruit" instead of the experience of faith. Children, the fruit of the Spirit is not to be striven for, it is to be experienced. It is not a litmus test or even a sign post. Jesus himself twice said, a wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign (Matthew 16:4 and Matthew 12:39).

Yet, we are powerless to change this proclivity, this most debilitating sin that so easily besets us. However, Hallelujah, the keys Jesus claimed at Calvary unlock this self-locking mechanism too and indeed destroy it when we believe.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, July 29, 2013

Who Are You, Really?

There is a Greek aphorism, so significant, it was inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi and recorded in the Suda, an ancient encyclopedia of Greek knowledge, which translated to English reads "know thyself." It is said to have been a warning for any who would regard themselves too highly, especially those with accomplishment attributed to them. In Hamlet, the advice Polonius gave to his son Laertes before the younger was to depart is similar: "This above all, to thine ownself be true and it must follow as the night to day, thou canst not then be false to any man." Paul put it this way to the church at Corinth, take heed lest you fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

I've asked myself why is it so difficult to go to the cross each morning; why I am so inclined to self-justify, why I tend toward self-righteousness? I want to see myself as improving as being changed as being able to take steps of righteousness outside of God's grace. I know that this silly meme that we so easily fall into of "with God's help" is just vanity. Yet, at this point in my experience, I don't want to need Jesus to do it for me either. I feel that because I know better, I truly ought to do better (on my own!).

One of the most moving passages of scripture to me is where Jesus describes two prayers. "Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner." (Luke 18:10-13 KJV) This passage often moves me to tears but I'm not the the publican, I'm the Pharisee!

If I am honest, if I'm true to myself, if I know myself, I am at enmity with God. How am I different than the father of lies?
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isaiah 14:12-14)

I feel the stinging rebuke of Jeremiah when he says:

The heart is deceitful above all things,And desperately wicked;Who can know it?
Do you really want to know the truth about me? No, trust me, you don't and I'm pretty sure I don't want to know the truth about you. The nature of sin is ugly, contemptible, vile, it has a putrid stench and has no mercy. Unconstrained, without the grace of God, there is no one you would fear more than me. I would betray you, I would beat you with single-minded hatred, I would scourge you, imprison and mock you, spit on you and hang you, ridicule you and watch you die without lifting a finger to help. If I did it to Jesus, why wouldn't I do it to you and more?

It's easier to self-justify than to witness the choice Jesus made in Gethsemane to become sin for me. My self-righteousness doesn't want him to do that; maybe for you but not for me! It's easier to see sin in someone else and to be critical than to watch Jesus be beaten as he accepts my guilt. It's easier to tout my knowledge of righteousness by faith than to see Jesus violently pinned to a cross because of my selfishness. I can lead a discussion and show others the merits of Calvary but I can't watch him bear my shame because by then, it breaks my heart.

Who am I that He considers me, that he would visit me?  For he knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust. So as much as I object to going to the cross, once I have been there, Jesus' love trumps my sinful nature, my selfishness and his cross, his righteousness, covers me and it gives me peace. It is then that I know that even though I will arrogantly and foolishly try to assert my independence, he who began a good work in me will finish what he started. So, despite my sinful nature, I rejoice.  Because now, through the Holy Spirit, Christ in me, is the hope of glory.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

How Can We Stand? - Pastor Furman Fordham II

Society is changing at, what for me is, an almost overwhelming pace and not in salubrious ways. As the real is forsaken at a shocking rate, the counterfeit rises and is accepted alongside; "gay marriage?" Violence is everywhere, so much so that even churches have created ministries to protect leadership, members and resources. Media sources we consume at home and elsewhere are full of hauntingly supernatural themes and promotion. Unemployment and labor force participation levels, especially in the black community, are at sustained depression levels and food stamp usage is at all time high, with two new recipients joining the total with each net new job added to payrolls. Economies foreign and domestic are collapsing. Once great cities are bankrupt and communities appear to be increasingly divided. One gets the sense that we are inexorably headed toward societal collapse with nothing in place to stop the inertia.

Jeremiah 30:5-7 describes the time of "Jacob's trouble:"

“For thus says the Lord:
‘We have heard a voice of trembling,
Of fear, and not of peace.
Ask now, and see,
Whether a man is ever in labor with child?
So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins
Like a woman in labor,
And all faces turned pale?
Alas! For that day is great,
So that none is like it;
And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble,
But he shall be saved out of it.
Pastor Fordam asks and answers, "How Can We Stand?"

Be blessed!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

God's Aleatory Covenant - Beyond Behavior

Aleatory Contract - 
A contract type in which the parties involved do not have to perform a particular action until a specific event occurs. Events are those which cannot be controlled by either party, such as natural disasters and death. Aleatory contracts are commonly used in insurance policies. The insurer does not have to pay the insured until an event, such as a fire, results in property loss. (Investopedia)

I've worked with and around insurance most of my professional career. Life insurance in particular, is not well understood and most people don't like to talk about the subject because it causes you to face the inevitable and who really wants to pay premiums? What is life insurance? It is a contract between the owner of a policy and the guarantor (the company) to pay in the event of a mortality event. The promise to pay is often referred to as a "death benefit."

Let's look closer at this contract. There can be several parties to an insurance contract. There is 1) the owner, who may or may not also be 2) the insured (the person on whose mortality payment is triggered), 3) the guarantor and the 4) beneficiary (of which there can be many).  It often works out this way: the owner, who also pays the premiums/the cost, dies, which triggers payment to his heirs or beneficiaries.

Doesn't it also work this way in the economy of heaven? God's covenant (his insurance contract) has always been, from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8) that he would restore to man our glory and possession, our inheritance. Isn't the covenant promise that he (the owner) himself would pay the cost triggering payment to his beneficiaries?

What do the beneficiaries do but collect the death benefit? That guarantee is in effect for all who claim; who believe by faith in the one who pays the cost and the guarantor (and the guarantee), to be heirs of salvation. As for this focus on fruit (behavior), does an apple tree produce apples by focusing on producing apples? What can you do by your insistence on seeing fruit? Just be glad you're a fruit tree and behold the salvation of The Lord!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Gospel In One Verse - A Contest!

My friend George McFarland sent a text this morning that is The Gospel in one verse!

"Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I WILL rescue you, and you will give me glory." (Psalms 50:15 NLT emphasis supplied).


Here's the contest. Though George found it in one verse, you can have up to four verses.

The prize? Joy unspeakable, life eternal, a peace that passeth all understanding and a little fun!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What's Love Got To Do With It?

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! It is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved

The bard of Avon was a bad man! He had within his creative grasp the ability to move, sway and evoke emotions that the reader often could never articulate until considering what seemed to flow so effortlessly from his prolific pen. He did this in his well known plays and in 14 lines of iambic pentameter often with quatrains and rhymed couplets.

My wife said I was easy on the eyes back in the day (no jokes please!) but when I opened my mouth and without missing a beat shortly after meeting her asked, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely more temperate:..." and just in case she thought that's all I had, I rolled right into "When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state...," the deal was all but done!

Playwrights, song writers, poets and storytellers of all stripes have crafted a romanticized view of what we refer to as love. The relational intrigue in most movie plots and television shows represented by the character with a physical and emotional attachment to the protagonist is often referred to as a "love interest." Love is a word we use freely and in a variety of contexts, e.g., I love to play ROOK.

In a society and culture that has come to accept the phrase "baby momma" (Can I at least put an apostrophe "s" after the y?) and it is understood by even the most removed of us and where marriage and sex videos are forms of career enhancement for those we revere, does love retain any of its original virtue?  As I've heard Tina Turner protest, "What's love got to do with it?"

This concept of love has us looking out for ourselves and even to the extent we look out for someone else, it's often because it's in our own self-interest. It's very much like a business relationship that so long as the arrangement continues to be beneficial or while you're under contract, the parties to the agreement persist.

Another concept of love is a mother's love. For many, if not most, that can conjure up some strong sensory images and emotions. In some cultures, you invite a violent response if you talk about someone's mother in a manner that suggests a lack of respect. Yet, does even this love, in the best of circumstances, represent what happened on Calvary? I think it can definitely point us in the right direction.

But if even this is what informs our highest notions of love, is it any wonder that we are skeptical about the Gospel of Christ and His Righteousness? I may be cynical but it appears to me that many of us who profess a belief in righteousness by grace through faith, live our lives and give counsel as if we are seeking God's favor through our actions. I say this with sadness because there is no freedom and no joy in offering sacrifices of even good works to appease an angry god.

God's love is patient and kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails! These are not admonitions to believers, these are a calling card! It is God's billboard on the interstate of our lives.

These are not to be performed as if you have trained yourself to sing, fight or swim. They are to consumed like a thirsty man in a desert, like a hungry man in a famine. Because until you experience these and luxuriate in them, you cannot understand the Gospel. It's like what my friend David said when he experienced it; "O taste and see, that The Lord is good, blessed is the man that trusteth in him." 

Trust me when I tell you, if you have not properly considered, placed in context and consumed God's love on Calvary you aren't going to put an "O" at the start of a sentence proclaiming his goodness. You will be content with a verbal assent that says, taste and see blah, blah, blah, let's get busy. The recognition is in the "O!" The peace is in the "O!" The power is in the "O!" The victory is in the "O!" The shouting all by yourself in your prayer closet is in the "O!" The circumstance-less joy is in the "O!" Love is in the "O!"

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Is Anything Too Hard For The Lord?

We at Riverside are blessed with an embarrassment of riches! Our pastoral staff knows the Gospel and will preach it, come what may! Last sabbath our senior pastor, Furman Fordham II preached a sermon entitled, "Don't Laugh at Me." Parenthetically, I'm going to have to work with our video department so that I can embed these videos directly instead of linking to them. I digress.

Not only does the pastor preach it but he challenges us to believe and apply the Gospel. What say you?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Knowing What You Know

EPISTEMOLOGY: the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity. Merriam-Webster

When I'm not on the road and working from the office at home, I listen to talk radio or music or sermons on low volume. Occasionally, something will catch my attention and if I can stop, I'll turn up the volume and listen. Yesterday, I was listening to sermons and David Asscherick was preaching about 1 John. This was too much coincidence not to be the Holy Spirit having me listening in. I have been troubled by the struggles of a friend to believe and understand the Gospel, so much so that I was sending text messages late into the night to her and her husband relating to belief.

Sometimes, it's difficult to convey, what you know. Theories, feelings even beliefs are by comparison, far easier to convey than knowledge. For example, I can tell you how I feel about something and it's very difficult for you to dispute. A personal example of this is because I travel for work and have to eat out often, I prefer to eating a simple meal at home to being offered the chance to eat at the finest restaurant. But how can I prove something I know? I know that I love my wife and children but what unequivocal proof can I offer? What proof I offer, if I were so inclined, could be easily dismissed as an attempt to influence your belief.

Here's the essence of what I wrote my friend last night, just before midnight.

You know the scriptures. "The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LordBut this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more." (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NRSV) - Oh, by the way, Hallelujah!

Jesus said in John 10:27, "My sheep know my voice." Paul said in Romans 1:19-21 CEV "They know everything that can be known about God, because God has shown it all to them. God’s eternal power and character cannot be seen. But from the beginning of creation, God has shown what these are like by all he has made. That’s why those people don’t have any excuseThey know about God, but they don’t honor him or even thank him. Their thoughts are useless, and their stupid minds are in the dark." Here's Paul again. "Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ." Then there's: "But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. When this happened, I did not rush out to consult with any human being." (Galatians 1:11-12, 15-16 NLT)

Yesterday, the sermon I heard pastor Asserchick deliver was about the gnostics (know it alls) who were trying to dissuade John's churches from what he taught them; to dissuade them from what he said that they already knew! They knew these things, John said, not because he taught them but because it was given to them by God. You know the gnostics, they're the ones who will tell you the bible says this but... Well yes, Jesus is our righteousness but you gotta.... Sure the bible clearly states that the sanctification part of the salvation spectrum all belongs to God too but Sister White said.... 

This is what the senior pastor John told his flock:

These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. (1 John 2:26-27 NASB)
Who tells the geese to fly south for the winter or the bears to hibernate? Who tells the spider to spin her web or tells the salmon to swim upstream? Your DNA is programmed to KNOW the Gospel when you hear it and to respond in faith!

Paul, who like John, had snipers trying to pick off his flock, does not mince words nor spare anyone's feelings on this point. 

Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it? 
I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.
What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would declare the Gentiles to be righteous because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when he said, “All nations will be blessed through you.”  So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith.In the same way, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God.
 But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, “It is through obeying the law that a person has life.”
But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”  Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:1-14 NLT)

Paul went straight thug on the Galatians and Paul knew thug! He was also protecting his flock and he was a righteously angry shepherd here with his flock but more so with the gnostics!

I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. 
Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you.  I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed. 
Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. (Galatians 1:6-10 NLT)

Get the picture? Know what you know believers not because someone told you but because you know! Oh, and look out gnostics!

It Pays To Serve Jesus

The Readings That Stopped The Mouths Opposing A Message of Christ's Righteousness

While I eagerly await the availability of Pastor Fordham's sabbath sermon on video, to post it here, I offer a list of the readings Elders Waggoner and Jones presented at the 1888 General Conference session in Minneapolis. To set the stage (not completely, for those of you who've read up on the goings on there) here's a little background. Prior to the General Conference session, Elder Waggoner had been offering editorials in official church publications regarding his understanding that the law in Galatians was the moral law.  Elder Jones had done research on the "10 horns" in Daniel. Without diving into great detail, which you can read here and many other (including official) sources, the older General Conference leadership took issue with the positions of the younger upstart's (Waggoner & Jones) views and it had become personal and contentious. So much so, in fact, that when either spoke, they were, at times, heckled.

To eliminate personal commentary from their presentation, which could be objected to, during one presentation, they offered support for the Gospel of Christ's Righteousness by setting up daises on opposite sides of the stage and alternating, they simply read scripture, allowing it to speak for itself.

E.J. Waggoner

  1. Jeremiah 23:5-7
  2. Galatians 2:16-21
  3. Romans 1:14-17
  4. Galatians Chapter 3
  5. Galatians 5:16
  6. Galatians Chapter 2
  7. Romans Chapter 5
  8. Romans 8:14-39
A.T. Jones

  1. Ephesians 2:4-8
  2. Romans 11:1-33
  3. Romans 2:13-29
  4. Romans Chapter 3
  5. Romans 9:7-33
  6. Romans 4:1-11
  7. Romans 1:15-17
  8. 1 John 5:1-4
Be blessed!

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Obedience Dilemma

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13 KJV)

Actor/comedian Chris Rock examined a well known cultural phenomenon in his HBO documentary Good Hair. Black women spend billions of dollars annually to change the appearance of their hair. They sew, bind, cut, attach, burn, color, twist and even poison their hair to have it conform to a look that it does not come by naturally. These processes aren't designed to promote the health of the hair and scalp nor does the discipline fundamentally, at the root, create more manageable hair. If not relaxed, it will revert.

In the movie Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne's love interest, Rachel Dawes, witnesses what appears to be the folly of a billionaire playboy. Tormented by the fact that he can't reveal his identity or purpose, the hero Bruce Wayne pleadingly protests that what she's witnessing is not who he is "inside." Her retort was a cutting, it's not who you are inside, "it's what you do that defines you."

Throughout our lives, we are judged by our performance by often well meaning parents, by teachers, at work and even, perhaps especially in church. We start with our children, don't we? "O be careful little feet where you go...for the Father up above is looking down in love..." But do we really mean to teach them that if their feet go the wrong way that God won't look down in love at them? Isn't the whole point of church to bring our behavior problem to The Lord? If I could fix it myself with self-discipline, assistance or through obedience, why would I attend church? More to the point, why did Jesus have to die?

On the other hand, how effective can a marketing campaign for weight loss be where all of the models, long-time participants in the program, are obese? So, why not then emphasize behavior, outcomes, evidence and fruit? It is a dilemma.

Paul puts an even finer point on the issue: "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." (2 Timothy 3:1-5 KJV)

Don't we invite "cheap grace" if we don't emphasize behavior? Look at Paul's list. If obedience isn't stressed then don't we get attitudes of license? Because of course, those behaviors aren't also prevalent in a church that's known for its admonitions to believers, right? That can't happen in a church that is often conflicted about conflating judgement with salvation, can it?

Let's back up to 2 Timothy 3:5, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." Many of us remain uncomfortable with things that aren't tangible; we don't leave things to "chance" if we can help it. Isn't the Good News that we don't have to burn, cut or poison ourselves to create the illusion of Good Hair? God recreates, God transforms and doesn't God even obey?

For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. (Romans 5:19 KJV)

Yes, it is crazy sounding and radical, even foolishness to think this way. Maybe not!

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18 NASB)

God's power must transform or our belief is nonsense. So, if this is true, aren't we better served to try Jesus, to recommend His merits rather than exhorting outcomes and behaviors that may be confused with a "works righteousness?" Personally, I don't want to do wrong just because through Jesus, yes and even in my mess, I'm declared right! No, His love draws me ever closer.

This is my prayer -

O how deep your holy wisdom! Unimagined, all your ways! To your name be glory, honor! With our lives we worship, praise! We your people stand before you, water-washed and Spirit born. By your grace, our lives we offer. Recreate us; God, transform!

Here's Oleta Adams' version, enjoy!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

But Be Ye Transformed!

In Romans 11, Paul writes about the disobedience of Israel and the mercy of God to both Gentiles and Jews. He says these things as if preparing the reader for ordination or a commission. In Romans 12, Paul implores us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice and invites us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. How? By His grace, through faith Romans 12:2-3. The balance of chapter 12 is devoted to "Christian living."

Though I stand firm that our behavior is so inconsequential as to be almost, if not altogether meaningless as it relates to our own salvation and sanctification, the way we relate to one another does play a part in our witness to others. Besides, after you've received this light, if you're like me, you're probably frustrated by those times when you revert to hurtful, destructive behaviors precisely because it obscures the agape of Christ you want to share with others. I'm hard-headed and no amount of self-discipline, will power or admonition is going to get me to change my ways. Sure, maybe sometimes, for selfish reasons I'll do what appears to be right but I'm talking about that righteousness (not my own) which comes from deep inside me.

I can't explain it but I have experienced the transforming power of Jesus. How do I know? Because, given certain circumstances, my behavior is predictable and I have experienced transformation in those circumstances. On occasion, I've witnessed it almost as if I'm watching it from outside myself. I freely admit, it doesn't happen as often as I think it should but nonetheless, it happens.

I wish I had a proprietary formula, I don't (other than that which you'll find in scripture), but I can say I never get this experience without having gone from Gethsemane to Calvary before my feet hit the floor in the morning; seeing an innocent man take my punishment then looking him in the eye before he hangs his head and dies.

Since Paul tells us that faith produces the transformation that grace makes available, how do we secure our faith and what is it that we believe? I believe that I'll have oxygen to breathe but that belief doesn't transform me. Paul tells us earlier (in Romans 10:17) that faith comes by hearing the word of God. Well, this Word, the following belief described by the prophet Ezekiel (36:24-36), for me has been transformational because it's consistent with and clarifies the Good News (emphasis supplied)!

Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.
Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse youA new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do themAnd ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen. Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.
Thus saith the Lord God; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Evidence

Bill Liversidge explains in part one of a 3 part seriesVictory in Jesus!

The Commandments of God and The Faith of Jesus

Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, "It is the third angel's message, in verity."-- EGW, The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890. 
Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.  Rev. 14:12

The Seventh Day Adventist understanding of justification or righteousness by faith - The Everlasting Gospel, incorporates many elements, elements the enemy has often used against our witness. Of course, the sabbath is one of those issues. Our emphasis on other aspects of the law is another. However, the most controversial component especially among non-adventist Christians (and even some adventists) may be our doctrine of the "investigative" or "pre-advent" judgement based on our understanding of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation and our study of the sanctuary. I'm finding that the enemy uses these elements of the glad tidings or the good news against us because we ourselves are shocked by and often reject its truth.

The tragedy of our Laodicean lethargy is that this truth which incorporates the Law; the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, is the life giving message that the people of this dying world are longing to hear and it must be delivered by we who have been given this light. Our hiccups, our stumbling blocks are the praiseworthy sounding euphemisms for behavior we think we ought to be seeing from the converted, like "Christian living" or emphasis on how sanctification literally scrubs the hell out of you if you, the stubborn and hard-hearted will only obey. As I read the bible, the only behavior of consequence we should be discussing or describing is that of Jesus. Or, as Paul said, "For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." 1 Cor 2:2 NASB

Yesterday, guided by the Holy Spirit, our associate pastor, Michael Polite, in a sermon entitled, "Chill, I got this!," preached about the desperate state of our wicked condition (that we are unable to change by our effort) and just who is the object of scrutiny and inspection as it relates to justification, sanctification and glorification. A critically important aspect of the good news is that at no point along salvation's spectrum are we the object of inspection, if we bring an acceptable offering! Pastor Polite brought the glad tidings of Psalm 77:13 "Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?" Our responsibility, our work, our righteous comportment is to, by faith, bring the proper offering.

My prayer is that we be delivered from darkness into His marvelous light!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Eschatology vs. The Matchless Charms of Jesus

A hurdler who focuses on the obstacle instead of the execution of stride length, timing, lead leg and body position, trail leg recovery and breathing, likely will not only lose the race but may collect the object of their focus as they go down in a heap before crossing the finish line.

As I study to understand our church's position on Christ's Righteousness, Justification and Righteousness by grace through faith, I continue to discover camps and staked out positions that create division and stress among the faithful. Last Generation Theology is one of those narratives that engenders passion. It is legitimized not through formal church doctrine but by the weight of adherents, like Herbert Douglass, Joe Crews and GC president, Ted Wilson.

Leaving aside the ubiquitous Ellen White, whose writings have blessed me greatly but who by virtue of the sheer volume of her work has been used to support and deny the Trinity, to support the pre-fall nature of Christ's human nature as well as the post-fall nature of Jesus' humanity, to predict 911 and the Miami Heat repeat, what does a focus on eschatology produce?

Once the hurdler understands the dimensions of the hurdle, height, width, mass, structure, spacing, etc., should they watch film of the stationary object, become obsessed with the color, construction, materials and craftsmanship of the hurdle or should they work on stamina, speed, strength, timing, breathing, technique, etc?

The Last Generation Theology adherents may be accurate in their eschatology, perfectly so, in fact. I can't argue that the bible makes it plain that there will be a witness to vindicate God as overcomers. Their logic that it's possible for justification and sanctification to be so thorough as to produce believers who are completely free from sin is unimpeachable. They may have painted the perfect picture of the hurdle.

But the prophet Jeremiah asks one of the most critical questions recorded in the bible:

Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil. (Jeremiah 13:23 KJV)

How do we run this race? Can we perfect ourselves or help God in the effort? Should that be the objective or even a casual thought? I take no issue with descriptions and accurate prophesies regarding end-time events, it is a crucial part of the landscape. However, my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus'  name. On Christ The Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

Besides, John tells me that in addition to the 144,000, there is a multitude that no man can number who cross the line to victory. As my wife might say, I ain't studyin' no hurdle!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Having Been Justified By Faith, We Have Peace With God...And?

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:1, 3-5, 9-11 NASB) 

In Justification, the legal declaration of right standing with God, are contained all the benefits of The Gospel. Salvation from sin, Righteousness, Sanctification, Glorification, Eternal Life, Agape. Without Justification, none of the benefits are available and cannot be accessed by any other means. It is also the only point in the continuum where we can participate by beholding, through study of the Word and prayer that results in an intellectual, wonder-inducing, heart-rending appreciation that leads to active, ridiculously addictive belief in the matchless charms of Jesus. Well, it's true in my case anyway.
Too often, we look for behavioral outcomes, proof, "manifestations," "fruit." The focus on these, from my observation, leads to legalism, rigidity, discontentment and self-righteousness. The acquisition of righteousness, however, requires a knowledge of and experience with God's grace, that exists outside of your behavior's capacity to encounter or even comprehend.
But Jesus tells us, as Paul did in Romans 5, first things first - "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His Righteousness; AND all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33 KJV)

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Law & The Gospel

Lutherans and Calvinists have an approach to the relationship between the moral law and the gospel. With all deference to the subtlety of differences of opinion between them, the three uses of the (10 commandments) law as they see it are:
  1. As a non salvific restraint on human behavior
  2. As a means to turn sinners toward Christ
  3. As a standard of Christian living
Before 1888, Seventh Day Adventists were focused on the law as a standard of Christian living with a shout out to the Holy Spirit's "help!" For a brief period after the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference, we were redirected to "the matchless charms of Christ." But the subtle, insidious thought that Satan sewed in heaven and then Eden continues to come back like a bad check. So, while we increasingly hear about grace, grace, our emphasis remains overwhelmingly law and behavior (modified self-righteousness). We are seeing the fruit of that emphasis played out in the lives of our members, too many of whom have no victory.

Points 2 and 3 of the Lutheran/Calvinist understanding roughly corresponds to a certain view of justification and sanctification; once you're saved, you gotta live right. Doesn't this thought take us right back to a performance based approach? If this isn't true for Lutherans and Calvinists, it's certainly true for a lot of Seventh Day Adventists. The Good News Paul describes, in my reading, is that Christ in me, is the hope of glory, not my effort to abide by what we all agree is good, even after I'm justified.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Is She Right? If so....

The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel’s message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.  Testimonies to Ministers page 91

Compare and contrast this with the counsel given to the last church in Asia, the church with which the Seventh Day Adventist church openly identifies.

"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'" (Revelation 3:14-22 NASB)

We often profess an intellectual acknowledgment in Christ's righteousness yet we emphasize behavior; "Yes but..." In my experience, there is no overcoming power after the "but." Before we can deliver the message, we must believe and experience this power for ourselves. The key for me has been a change in my belief in who Jesus is and what he did and is now doing. Jesus asks you, "Whom do you say that I am?" Your answer determines when Sister White's statement is operational in your life and when the message goes forth to a dying world waiting to hear from The Good Shepherd.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Let's Get Ready to Rumble....

Editor's note:

I've started this blog because I'm a student wanting to know more. It is the desire to know and understand as much as for any reason, save sharing the everlasting gospel. Jesus has hooked me and is reeling me in! I am not a theologian, never attended seminary and am not all that familiar with what Ellen White wrote on many topics.

As I looked for resources to inform the discussion and my understanding, the issue of the nature of Jesus' humanity seems to be one of the more controversial topics in our church (I didn't know!). The reason for this is that there are heavy theological consequences that logically follow from your conclusion on whether Christ took on the nature of Adam (whose name means mankind) before he sinned or his nature after he sinned. Based on my reading of the bible, I side with those who say that Jesus took on our fallen nature.

Though not exhaustive, here are some relevant texts:

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the fleshGod did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4 NASB)
Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. (Hebrews 2:14-18 NRSV)
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV)
What do these texts tell us? What are the implications for the believer (which must incorporate an understanding of the nature of Christ's divinity, which we'll address later)?

Though all serious people agree that Jesus did not sin, how could he satisfy the righteous requirements of the law if he came in Adam's pre-fallen state?  Here is the law:
If there is a dispute between men, they are to go to court, and the judges will hear their case. They will clear the innocent and condemn the guilty. (Deuteronomy 25-1 Holman Christian Standard Bible)
Unless he took on my fallen, guilty nature, even though he did not sin, he could not be condemned for my sake. Behold The Lamb of God!