Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Instead of evolution: faith

“… Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful." 2 Chronicles 20:20 (New International Version)

I pray daily that God strengthen my faith in the inspiration of the Bible, especially the book of Genesis. I have to choose consciously to continue believing that God exists, that the Bible is the Word of God and not the Word of wise men. I have to want to continue believing. Sometimes the only proof that God exists is how he’s changed my life and continues to change my life from the self-centered and vain existence I’ve lived on and off for most of my post-childhood experience.

Sometimes in my moments of doubt, or low-brow intellectual posturing, I have to fight against the nagging suggestion that Moses is the only one responsible for the entire book of Genesis. What I mean is, in weaker moments I’ve wondered if this ancient genius, who was a byproduct of an advanced civilization, Egypt, didn’t himself synthesize much or all of Genesis from his great education, as well as his original mind.

If this were the case, it explains much of the supposed problems with the two creation accounts, the beginning of sin, and why we are here. It also, of course, creates other problems: if we’re alone in the universe, then it’s up to us and no one else to solve all or some of the problems we’ve inherited and which we’ve created. If humankind fails and blows up planet earth some day, and if it turns out, we were the only intelligent life in the universe to begin with, then how pointless it all would have been. We evolved from single-celled organisms. We lived, we loved, and we died as a species. Perhaps somewhere else in the universe, the miracle of life would come into miraculous existence again. Or perhaps, after the Big Crunch, there would be a new Big Bang and the entire miracle of life just might happen again? Or perhaps we’re only one in an infinite number of universes. Perhaps somewhere in one or more of those other universes there are intelligent beings or will someday be intelligent beings who will ask the same questions we’re asking now.

I personally hope and pray that Moses didn’t originate the Torah all by himself and in effect --because of a need to create a new system of thought and culture-- the entire Judaeo-Christian belief system that has been handed down to us. I hope instead that God gave Moses all or the more essential elements of the Torah. Perhaps faith is really about not believing what you'd like to believe, but what you need to believe in order to live a meaningful life.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Blackbird Raining Skies

After seeing Pedro Almodovar’s Volver starring Penelope Cruz, without warning, my mood felt lighter than it’s been in a while. The afternoon was brighter than I had remembered it from previous sunnier-than-gold afternoons. Chigago’s Transit Authority album blared from my car stereo and matched the windy and cool South Florida afternoon.

Feeling so good, I thought why not go to Friendly Seas, the restaurant I used to live in years ago & enjoy a tall glass of cool orange blossom tea, as well as one of their garden burgers or Buffalo burgers. I might even meet another friendly solitary diner who was looking for company if only while she or he was in the outdoor patio. I decided at the last minute not to turn left, but to turn right and keep on going home. It was almost as if someone else was doing the driving. I thought it odd that I no longer could decide whether to turn right or to turn left. Why complain? Perhaps it was better that some unseen force was turning the wheel for me, or at least, with me. I had to feed Callisto, my golden retriever, and perhaps after I had taken care of that detail I’d still be fired up and roaring to go out again into the elegance of a bright afternoon.

I almost made it safely out of my black car when I looked up at the sky & saw hundreds of black birds flying east & southeast in what seemed like chaotic patterns of flight or gliding pleasure. The sky was still light but overcast with smoky cloud wisps taped onto purer white cottony cloud formations. Willingly trapped in my slightly warm car I couldn’t stop gazing at the sight of those relentless flocks of black birds trapped in oceans of air. Surely it would only be a minute or two then the birds would all fly away & I’d be able to resume my walk upstairs to feed Callisto. The blackbirds continued to swirl in ever-increasing numbers. How long could I stay in my car? What if neighbors wondered what I was doing in my car so long? Who was I waiting for? Why didn’t I take off or go upstairs? I decided not to be concerned with what others might think of me looking toward the western skies at what other people, no doubt, thought was an empty sky. Perhaps it was empty to them, but to me it was full of possibilities.

I thought of Wallace Stevens’ Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. In that poem it was winter in the Northeast. In my blackbird experience it was an early summer-like winter in South Florida. Had the blackbirds kept on flying all afternoon long, I probably would have stayed in my black car looking at the endless arrival and departure of hundreds of sky birds in black. It wasn’t only the blackbirds that entranced me. It was a sense of well-being and of wonder that coincided with the blackbird phenomenon. I almost thought that perhaps this enhanced sense of being, of contentment, of simple acceptance of things-as-they-were and not things-as-they-should-be was how my life would be from this moment on.

I thought that it would be nice to have someone by my side in the car to point out the blackbird reverie, but then I remembered that Wallace Stevens’ wife could not relate to the nature-drenched poetry that others read and analyzed in introduction-to-poetry classes in the 70s. She just didn’t get why anyone would want to contemplate for such lengths of time, realities that were best noted, then ignored. If no one else was there to join me in the silent symphony of blackbird flight, then at least God was taking note of the contemplative moment with me. I didn’t dwell too much on how it was there because of Him, but I’m glad He turned my head upward ever so gently and coincidentally in order not to miss the invasion of winged things in the slowly darkening skies.

This had to have a coda, this endless symphony of flight & I looked in amazement as yet another movement started quietly then grew louder & more enjoyable as the next wave of blackbirds continued heading east and southeast. I had to look higher and more to the southwest in order to see a fading flock of blackbirds continue the silent symphony. I thought I’d never leave my car till night erased the silent music from the blackbird clouds.

The birds decided to finally end their 20-minute chance-like symphonic dance and I gathered my cd and excess time and headed upstairs to feed Callisto & to await another pre-Sabbath Friday night at home.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Truth about Life's Origin

It is impossible for God to lie (Heb. 6:18).

The word of God says “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1).

Evolutionary theory says that life created itself from lightning interacting with amino acids, which through eons evolved into all the species that have ever lived on earth, including humankind. It does not include any outside assistance from a supernatural force. Life in a sense, it seems to infer, created itself out of nothing, or at least out of the simpler elements found on primordial earth.

Evolution is therefore a lie. No matter how logical and scientific it claims to be. It is no matter that the fossil record indicates that simpler life evolved into more complex life. Actually Stephen Jay Gould’s Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History states that there was more complexity and variety in the earlier evolutionary stages than in later stages. Evolution makes no mention of God. It is a Godless scientific theory. It does not lead to God, but rather, away from God. Anything that leads away from God is not good for your spiritual health, as well as your mental or physical health.

Belief in evolution does more harm than it does good.

God give me faith, hope and love to believe in what the word of God says and not the lie that evolutionary theory claims about how life began on earth.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Creative Approaches to Sabbath Keeping

Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." -- Mark 2:27 (New International Version)

I once heard an elderly man years ago say that Friday Sabbath nights were the loneliest nights because he couldn't turn on the television to keep himself company. He got so depressed with the silence of his apartment that he decided that once he had read his bible for a meaningful amount of time, he would then watch situation comedies. This was told me in the late 80s. Perhaps situation comedies were more family-oriented then than they are today, or perhaps he watched reruns on TBS or Nick at Night.

Yes, of course, one can always seek out a congregation where they have Friday night meetings, but that isn't always possible, or desirable depending on one's personality or travel requirements or the danger present in big cities late at night when taking mass transit. Even those with a car can make a wrong turn and find oneself in an undesirable neighborhood. So much for a restful Sabbath evening.

I am not making excuses for wanting to turn on the television on Friday nights or Saturday afternoons after you come home from church. Sometimes there are no afternoon programs and you are not in the mood to visit hospitals, prisons, hand out literature, etc. Additionally, not everyone is allowed to install a satellite dish in their condo apartment or rented apartment for the Hope channel or similar religious programming.

In the end it depends on one's conscience and what interferes with your Sabbath connection with God. Sometimes on the Discovery channel or the History Channel or on PBS there are great programs that are of a scientific, cultural or religious nature which provide meaningful content for the non-secular Sabbath hours.

Some of what I'm saying might even apply to people who live with a significant other or family. After a while even your mate or children are talked out and are itchy to do something else other than engage you or be engaged in conversation.

The bottom line is, if you feel that the only things to do are read the bible, the sabbath school lesson, the Spirit of Prophecy or sing hymns all night till its time to go to bed or time to have vespers on Saturday night, but you don't want to do only those things, what does that mean? How do you handle the desire to do more creative things? I've sometimes thought, especially in the beginning of my Sabbath keeping experience, that if it feels disagreeable to keep on singing, or reading the bible, watching the Passion of the Christ or other religious film for the hundredth time, by continuing to do so, you are not really keeping the Sabbath & you are not enjoying your life very much on a Friday or Saturday afternoon.

On the other hand, if you naturally and eagerly continue reading the bible or singing hymns or doing the other spiritual, non-secular activities I've mentioned here, then it's natural and truly the result of a live connection with the Lord Jesus Christ. But even the latter reach a point when they do long for a change whether that same day or the following week. The Sabbath, after all, keeps on coming at you week after week. Sometimes it seems like it's the same Sabbath you kept a week or a month ago, or at any rate, a continuation of the previous Sabbath day. This is both a lovely thought as well as a challenging one, especially for those of us who live alone, whether out of necessity or by choice.

My suggestions are as follows: read the bible, sing or listen to spiritual music, but when you've had your fill of those activities, do other things. Redefine what constitutes spiritual music for you. I find little time to enjoy most of my orchestral music collection during the week. Sometimes a little Mahler or Satie or Bartok on a Friday night or Sabbath afternoon adds a transcendent element to an otherwise non-eventful segment of hours. Be as creative as the Lord had made you in your life. Don't start watching the Lord of the Rings on a Friday night unless you really discern all of the spiritual and mythic-religious themes in Tolkien's work. If you're watching it just to pass the time, or to be merely entertained, it probably won't be conducive to a meaningful Sabbath evening.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Mars Sabbath

From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me," says the LORD. -- Isaiah 66:23 (New International Version)

24 Hours, 37 Minutes is the length of the Martian day. 687 Earth Days is the length of the Martian year.

The Sabbath is kept from sundown to sundown. It follows that this method of observing God's special day (creation & deliverance from slavery or sin) would be based on the setting of the sun on Mars after 24 hrs and 37 min. If you add up the extra 37 minutes, at some point the Sabbath day on Earth will have passed in relation to the one kept on Mars. For the Martian colonists, Adventist or Jewish, the Sabbath day would be as meaningful even if it lasts 37 minutes more than it does on Earth. Given enough time though, the weekly seventh-day cycle would be so out of sync with the actual 24-hour Sabbath and seven-day week on Earth, that the Martian colonists would, in effect, be keeping something appropriate to the time and place in which they find themselves, however far removed from the actual 24 hour day and seven day week as it exits on Earth. As more and more weeks, months and years pass by, the two Sabbath "days" would be farther and farther apart in time though not in intent.

What does this mean for us who are not yet on Mars, though our descendants may well live there some day?

As a child most of the Adventists I knew kept sundown calendars so they could begin and end the Sabbath exactly when the sun set on Friday and Saturday. Sometimes it was perplexing when we couldn't find the calendar and had to keep on looking at the sky to see if it was dark enough yet. It sounds vaguely legalistic to me. It didn't bother me that much at the time.

Yesterday, it rained all day. I showered late and never got to do much of anything on my day off. I have not used the calendar method of beginning or ending the sabbath for eons now. My dilemma was there was a lovely piece of secular music I wanted to hear all day. The sky looked vaguely pre-sunset though it was hard to tell as the rain and overcast quality of the sky had made it dark all day. I took my chance with a tinge of Sabbath preparatory anxiety. I enjoyed my 3 minute secular song on cd, "The Day that it rained forever" by Nick Heyward. I then remembered who I was sitting with when last I heard that song. I enjoyed the coziness of the music and the swirling string arrangements as well as the power of simple song craft to renew one's inner vision. The song ended and I waited for the Bible to open itself to the accidental, or perhaps not so accidental text, something in Ezequiel about how "The End had come." It was interesting but a bit too severe for a vesper text so I tried my usual Sabbath author Isaiah. Anything near chapter 53 is usually appropriate for me.

The ethereal music I had experienced during the pre-Sabbath day, the insularity of the rain-flecked "green architecture" windows, and the momentary shock of Ezekiel's "End of the World" prophecy brought to mind my past meditations on the Sabbath day and how to find meaning and sustenance in an enhanced version of the Sabbath. I thought of future Adventists or Jewish believers who would have the financial ability and, perhaps, vision to escape Earth's violence, global warming and overcrowding to settle on Mars 100 years from now.

I was then reminded again of my unusual attempts to enhance the Sabbath by extending the hours of reflection & meditation till the sun rose on Sunday morning. A month ago when walking the dog at midnight on a Saturday night, or early Sunday morning, I briefly meditated on the enhanced Sabbath day it is my habit to observe since the spring of this year. Yes, it's not biblical, but some would say the same thing about the Investigative Judgment or, at least, the "pre-advent judgment," depending on whether you are a traditional modern Adventist or a post-modern or "progressive" believer. Once or twice I felt a bit of guilt for wanting to extend the Sabbath meditation beyond Sunset on Saturday night. Guilt is a two-edged sword. It can cut away the wrong things we do, but it can also limit the creative and new things or new ways to think about things that are normally possible.

In the end the important thing is the spiritual blessing you derive from the Sabbath. It may be the traditional sunset to sunset 24-hour Sabbath. It may be an enhanced conceptual sabbath. Or it may be, someday, a 24 Hrs, 37 Mins Sabbath day on the Martian colonies in the 22nd century.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Real but not "in-your-face" Real

What would reasonable people think of you if you told them you’ve been talking to and learning about and thinking about three people since you were a little child, but had never actually seen or heard or touched these three people? It sounds a bit unsettling, does it not?

There are people who have done just that, but don’t think of these three people in the same way as they do, say, their close friends, husband or wife, children or parents. They think of these three people as being, somehow, “other.” Yes, of course, they will tell you these three people are real, but in a way, not as real as their other significant others, the ones they can see, touch and hear.

The other day, it dawned on me how I have spent an entire lifetime mostly thinking about these three people as “other,” and not as very real, in-your-face real. It made me think how I could have thought so much about them, for decades now, but somehow categorized them in an alternate, less real and tangible reality, that of the spiritual. Even though I’ve never seen them, touched them or heard them as you hear a child’s laughter, they are just as real and inhabit a very real world or realm.

I hoped at times that they had decided to make themselves “in-your-face” real, instead of physically removed, audibly unheard, tactilely unperceived. How different and yet familiar it would be for each of them, or at least, one of them, to appear when I wanted to see, hear or touch that person. That would make a world of difference. Of course, that was not how they wish my encounters with them to be. Historical accounts tell of a time when one of them was heard audibly by thousands of people and still, hours or days later, the “in-your-face” encounter might just as well not have happened. Then, of course, there are the various accounts of one of them walking, talking and touching and being touched by hundreds, and yet, hours, days or weeks later, the “in-your-face” encounter might just as well not have happened. So I’m left with the perplexing reality that seeing, hearing and touching a very real person does not guarantee you have a valid, lasting and significant relationship with that person. I’ve heard, seen and touched people I thought I’d hear, see and touch as long as my life should last, and they have since disappeared into the shadows of time and emotion.

Still, how uncanny and unbelievable to be so obsessed and to spend so much of my waking and dream life focused on the three in question: God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Deprogramming your own Progressivism

“I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am there you may be also.” John 14

I started to write about an alternate and spiritual interpretation of this popular verse about the second coming when I got side-tracked. In the film The Shoes of the Fisherman mention is made of the Cosmic Christ. For unknown reasons I thought of searching Google for any information I could find. A site that caught my attention was revealing. I’ve tried to edit the paragraphs to make them relevant to my post. Of course, to get the original context and intent of the author, please see that website by following the link, if you must.

I remember hearing Jack Provonsha say, my apologies if dim memories of his sermon at Atlantic Union College during the 1970s contain any misquotes, that there was value in Teilhard de Chardin’s treatise on Christianity and evolution. I later heard Ronald Lawson of the Adventist Forum New York say in a casual conversation to others that Adam and Eve were not real people. After reading these excerpts, I’m intrigued that these progressive and highly educated Adventists were influenced in their thinking, if only mildly, by Teilhard de Chardin’s writings. Importantly for me, I have been influenced all these years through their impressions of Teilhard de Chardin. I’ve tried to shake much of this progressive thinking, but how does one make oneself less progressive? How do you "unbelieve" a progressive and ingrained world view and start thinking in a more conservative fashion? It is not easy, but perhaps I’m doing it every time I read and reread the Bible or argue with the Sabbath School lesson editor in what are clearly very conservative points. Who knows whether I’ll succeed or go off the deep end. I’m being a little funny here. Not to worry!

Now to the task at hand, selecting and commenting on these scattered impressions that have influenced me for almost 30 years or so.

“But in the theology of Teilhard we are all becoming Christ. There is no Original Sin, and therefore no need of Redemption. Evolutionary forces are ferrying everyone along to God-hood and all are `anonymous Christians' making faith in the literal death and resurrection of Christ unnecessary.” I actually like that phrase “we are all becoming Christ.” Of course, becoming like Christ is the more traditional. But Christ did say, “I in them and they in me, that we might all be one.” The ultimate temptation is doing away with Adam and Eve in which case Original Sin loses its meaning. Nevertheless, when you get down to practical human living, it makes sense that killing and stealing and sleeping with another man’s wife creates all kinds of problems and so is not desirable. Needless to say, I do believe and find value in the literal death and resurrection of Christ. I thank God for that.

Pope John Paul, unlike Teilhard, believes in Original Sin, the existence of Adam, and that Jesus Christ is not a `force of nature' but the God Man who literally died on the Cross and rose again. He told the scientists they were free to pursue `theories' of evolution as long as they realized that God's relationship with man was key. I thank God that I still value Jesus and his personhood. I could not love a ‘force of nature.” Regarding the Adam and Eve issue, there are some good points and there are some bad points. I’ve previously mentioned the good side of not taking the Adam and Eve story literally, (See this link.) While that approach solves some problems it, of course, creates others. If Adam and Eve didn’t exist, then man was essentially born a sinner, or worse, was always a sinner and was never perfect, or always had the possibility of being a sinner of his own accord. Either way, he can’t save himself and needs a savior to come to his rescue and to love him and to provide the object of infinite love, his creator. But we are getting into problematic waters hear by saying that man, or human kind, was never perfect to begin with. All the more reason for needing a helping hand from the creator of us all.

The world is not heading toward an Omega point of cosmic consciousness. It is headed for a judgment day and there are two groups emerging in a confrontation. On one hand there are those who worship, love and serve God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. On the other hand there are the New-Age disciples of Teilhard de Chardin and his ilk who think that we are God. The more Christlike one becomes through the genuine work of the Holy Spirit, one can get a sensation that one is becoming less imperfect and sinful. (Although one shouldn't kid oneself and ever think that is somehow closer to perfection than one was the month before. We should focus on Christ the author and perfecter of our faith. We shouldn't focus on ourselves.) In a sense we are becoming Godlike and is what “Be therefore perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” is trying to get at. That perfection comes, of course, through the abiding Holy Spirit and not through one’s own moral achievements. I also wish to love and serve God, Jesus Christ, and significantly for me, the Holy Spirit. He’s often left out of the picture and I think it important to mention Him as often as possible. For me during the last two years, the discovery of the reality and the personhood of the Holy Spirit is something for which I am grateful to God, to Christ and to the Spirit Himself.

Perhaps next time I won’t get sidetracked and will focus on how Christ comes to you and me every day through the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Blue Sunshine Christians

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

-- 2 Corinthians 12:9 (New International Version)

Do you think Christians are always sunshiny beings that never feel discouraged or depressed? I'm not talking about feeling discouraged or depressed on account of their Christian struggle, though failing in that arena may well contribute to general discouragement or related depression. Do non-Christians get less depressed than Christians or is it about the same?

Non-Christians have easier access to instant gratification while the Christian with faults or temptations can't just find a quick and easy solution in the way that a non-Christian can. Sometimes this makes for frustration, stress and depression. Are Christians more frustrated than non-Christians?

Of course, the other side is also true. With almost no limits in mind, the non-Christian is able to access too many options and some of these lead to frustration, stress and depression as well. In some ways then, the Christian is safer from certain frustrations, stresses and depressions. A Christian doesn't have to feel the non-stop compulsion to keep up with the ever richer and more successful and more popular Joneses. He or she, may have, though, Christian Joneses to keep up with that measure success in different ways that have nothing to do with money, position and other types of worldly success.

Finally, some Christians, like some non-Christians have serious genetic dispositions to not being always happy, smiling people. Yes, they may, in fact, be more depressed than is normal for another person. Therapy and medication may help, but at times, the only solution is to look to Christ and ask him to mercifully draw nearer and heal and comfort them when they are not the Endless Sunshine Christians of all the mission stories one reads about, but rather, when they are very real, painfully real, Blue Sunshine Christians. There is hope in sight for even a Blue Sun eventually sets.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Other Solutions for the Unrepentant

The hosts of light are safely inside the Transparent City.
The confederacy of darkness surrounds the victorious city.
Beyond them, in an outer circle, an almost perfect circle, stand the mysterious people of the Fields of Colored Light.
They never imagined this could happen to them.
They wanted to be inside the City of Light. Instead, they stand far apart from those making war against the Rulers of Light and the victorious city.
Having made the wrong decision, they could not be allowed entrance into the City of Light.
However, neither do they find themselves capable of fighting against the brilliant city.

They are all gradually transported to an alternate universe of life.
As they traverse each of the known seven dimensions, they glow with the strange hues of the Fields of Colored Light.
With unfathomable and perplexing joy, they worship the all-understanding, all mysterious God of the central universe of light.
Again, they never imagined this could happen to them.
He waited till the end to let them know He had foreseen the second mysterious principle.
Not evil, but not immaculate righteousness either.
It was a nameless principle at the end of the Eighth Universe.
There they would wait for a new solution, a revelation, if there would ever be one.
Or there they would worship the eternal God within the Fields of Colored Light He had foreseen though had kept secret.

The children of the Eighth Universe would never be like those of light, nor of darkness.
Their ways would forever be a mystery, though not a threat.
Their culture would not equal that of Light; neither would it be greatly inferior.
They would exist on a plane a little lower than those of Light.

These Others, those of the Eighth Universe, would ever remember who they had been on Earth.
All the culture of Earth that was worth preserving they would perpetuate on Earth III.

Every eighth day they would come before God to worship the all encompassing being.

December 29, 1979, Saturday, 12:30 a.m.

Yes, I know much of this piece is unbiblical. It is a kind of partial universalism. If only for its idealism or conceptual beauty or wonder, I thought it curious to post here. I had totally forgotten that I had written this piece at age 24.

For related or more biblical versions of this Third Road or option, please see the following links:

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Enter the Dimension of the Spirit of God

When I was young none of what I'm about to talk about had any meaning. Or it had meaning, but I just didn't get it or was unable to appreciate it. Whenever I sang about being filled or blessed by the Holy Spirit it never dawned on me what I was really singing about. If people talked a lot about the Holy Spirit, which I know they did, the words were pleasant but they just did not register the way they do now.

For years I was afraid of offending the Holy Spirit and thus being at risk of committing the unpardonable sin. I thought it best not even to speak of the Holy Spirit, less I say something wrong or inappropriate. I had been told, thankfully, that it was hard to commit the unpardonable sin as it meant that you really could care less if you committed it or nor. That reassured me as I was deathly afraid of committing it so I felt sure that I was not close to that helpless state of being.

For years I claimed the promise found in Luke 11:13, "If you who are evil know how to give good things to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give you the Holy Spirit if you ask Him." I even claimed this promise when, as they say, I was very far from God, at least from what members of my immediate family would tell me. Although, I will admit I was into lots of strange "scenes" as they used to say in the 70s. I claimed this promise out of habit since I had probably been claiming it for over 15 or 20 years. Perhaps even 25 or 30 years. It's hard to say as the morning habit of claiming the promise of Luke 11:13 was built into my daily routine as brushing my teeth was every morning. If I didn't do it soon enough or correctly enough, I felt ill at ease.

Needless to say something unusual started happening in February of 2005, perhaps earlier. One day I went through my day & I realized that the promise had finally started to make sense and that something different was happening. Something beyond my control. Unfortunately, I can't be very objective about it all as I've always perceived reality, nature, music, books, experience, other people, in an eccentric fashion. I always assumed everyone else did so as well. It was when I read or heard a sermon that talked about truly believing the reality of spiritual states of being or awareness, that it occurred to me that how I perceived things, and yes, spiritual things, was slightly different from what most other people perceived. I'm happy to say that I've come across other people that have shared this otherworldly ability or perception, so I don't feel so alone.

For almost two years now, something, or better put, someone, has awakened me every morning at about the same time, 7:00 or 7:30 a.m. in the morning. Even if I'm still sleepy and try to fall asleep again, that force shakes me gently and encourages me to arise and spend at least 30 minutes or more with the bible and moments of prayer & meditation.

A few times during the last two years while still sleeping, I have heard a melodious voice that sounded faintly familiar address me by my boyhood name, Rauly. Perhaps it was my mother's voice calling out my name, though she is far away and living in another state. Or perhaps it was my own voice calling to me while I was still asleep. Or perhaps it was someone else's voice waking me up in as soothing a voice as I could accept while still in dreamland. At other times the voice was almost muffled or slightly groaning and seemed to say hello while I was halfway between the deepest sleep and the initial stages of wakefulness. One of the last times this voice-within-a-dream called to me, it wasn't even a speaking voice. It sang to me, or perhaps I sang to myself while still sleeping. The amazing thing was that the voice, or I myself as I slept, was singing a song that translated into English from the Spanish version I sang in church as a child was "The Shepherd loves his sheep, paternally and unlike no one else ... both the lost and those still in the sheepfold." ["Ama el pastor sus ovejas, con un amor paternal ... ama el pastor a las otras con un amor sin igual."] I had not sung this song in over 20 years. That I would sing it in my dream was so astonishing that it woke me up earlier than usual and got me to open my bible even more urgently than usual.

Having said all this, I still long and wait and study and pray for the full baptism of the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit. Does one ever know for sure that one is Spirit-filled or is that life-altering knowledge kept from one mercifully?

Friday, November 03, 2006

God's Self Punishment: the Crucifixion

"But isn't that why the Creator Himself had to come here and die a tortuous death? It's the blood of His cross that reconciles all things to himself, in heaven and on earth." --Cameron, Spectrum Magazine Website Forum 10/22/2006

As I read this the strangest of thoughts came to me for the first time ever. Since Jesus and God the Father are one, was God punishing Himself for having created sinful man, by dying on the cross in the person of his son, Jesus Christ? Was Christ's sacrifice the ultimate in making amends for not creating a perfect being, or for that being and his mate not turning out as perfect as he planned originally? Lucifer sinned even earlier than Adam & Eve, so was Christ's death on the cross also a form of self-punishment, and suffering for the pain that was to follow and that follows to this day, for having allowed Lucifer:Satan to be created and to make his fateful rebellious decision to "be like the most high" and to "know good and evil"?

This in no way infers my disbelief in God's love and mercy. In a way it casts, at least for me, Christ's sacrifice in a different light, as a form of saying "I'm sorry for all the pain and suffering my creating Lucifer and Adam and Eve have caused and is still causing." God has suffered too and continues to suffer. And someday, it will all have been worthwhile or beside the point when He "makes all things new."

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Visions of Heaven

end of the carbon cycle,
end of gender,
spiritual union with each other and the deity.

does free will mean that the whole controversy might begin again, or will it never start because free will will assume a different shape?

will time travel be the only way to personally document the reality of what rebellion against the systems of grace did to the universe, and to the Son of God? recorded realities will not be as convincing as witnessing the pain and the suffering in realtime which can be realized, if necessary, by traveling in time.

or will the inhabitants of eternity also accept by faith what others who lived and survived life in a sinful world, tell them about the nature of sin and its consequences?

Surrender to Christ vs. Guilt for Not Doing So

Dear brother Michael, I found your site via Adventist Pulpit and a comment you left there about reading Ellen White.

While I do look forward to your post about how to surrender, and while I'm pleased to see how on fire for the Lord you are in your blog, I am saddened that the obsession, if I may call it such, with 100% consecration, sometimes experiencing 99%, other times 90-95% consecration, sounds strangely out of synch with righteousness-by-faith in Jesus. If we look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and keep on looking at him, what need of feeling guilty of holding back?

Guilt, especially in the Christian life, can be a destructive thing, that only leads you into depression and feelings of low self-esteem. Yes, it would be perfect to be 100% consecrated to Christ. When we're glorified at the 2nd coming, we will be 100% consecrated to him for sure, in the meantime, enjoy your life more. Avoid evil activities that keep you out of synch with Christ, but more importantly, live and enjoy your life to the fullest, less you come to the end of your Earthly life and realize that it was not always 100% consecrated to Christ and that your life was not all it could have been. Living for regrets, present or future, sounds like a truncated life, at best. May God bless you, and all who read this. Again, I look forward to your post about how to surrender. I have been trying to surrender to Christ more and more for all of my 51 years, and in the meantime, I fix my gaze on Christ and try to enjoy Him as well as all the blessings he sends my way.

Friday, October 27, 2006

World Trade Center 3001

Build a virtual time machine and travel back to September 10, 2001: the day before the twin towers fell. Take along with you a list of all the planes that crashed and the passenger lists. Underscore the names of the terrorists on each list. From the 101st floor of one of the towers, fax the list to major newspapers, radio stations, as well as the FBI, CIA and the White House. Cause all major airports to be shut down until the Towers are emptied and guarded.

When the Towers fail to fall on the following morning, go forward in time to September 11, 3001. Stand at the base of the Twin Towers and look straightProject Rebirth: Project Rebirth: up at the aging and abandoned towers that stand as a monument to your time traveling achievement.

Instead of documentaries about the destruction of the Twin Towers, only what-if movies will be filmed about what almost took place.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Nails of Peace

Buy a large nail or a spike like those used for constructing railroad tracks.
Dip it in gold, or silver, or copper or blood.

Engrave on it words of peace only.
Attach a harness and equip it with a small parachute.

Fly over a war-ravaged country.
Drop your emissary of peace out of your airplane.

Repeat until wars become a distant memory.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Electric Funeral Splits a Sabbath Morn

"Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." I Corinthians 15:52 (NIV)

For days I had known that Saturday, my Sabbath day, was also Scottie's Funeral. All week long I felt unsure about whether to go only for the visitation on Friday night, attend the service at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, but not the farewell get-together at a place known as Georgie's Alibi. I prayed and reflected on what would be the proper thing to do. If the tables had been turned would it have been acceptable for someone to skip out on my last day above-ground? When the decisive moment arrived whether to make the left turn that would take me to Sabbath School or continue going straight ahead for three more blocks to the funeral parlor, the old song from my youth, Electric Funeral, briefly flickered across my mind and I wondered what an electric funeral would be like. A few moments later I was being ushered in to where the service was being held. I arrived half an hour late. I noticed some folks from work. I assumed the music playing was some new age type of hymn. I had no idea what religious beliefs Scottie had, or didn't have. When I looked at the front of the room at the casket, I noticed a large wooden cross. The song playing over the sound system was from Elton John's Blue Moves. It seemed elegiac in a way that music from the early 70s can sound when contrasted to the contemporary rock heard on modern radio stations. Afterwards, Elton John's Goodbye Norma Jean, or is it Candle in the Wind?, his pean to Marilyn Monroe made, at least for me, for a very bittersweet moment. I had to hold back a tear when the phrase "She lived her life like a candle in the wind" was sung.

The minister said a few words, and I do mean few, in remembrance of Scottie's life. He asked that all who wished would accompany him in saying the Lord's prayer. We then passed by the casket and I briefly said to myself, or to him, "Scottie, I hope I see you again someday." The minister then said that the family wanted to spend the last half hour of the service saying their private farewells. He reminded everyone that the Alibi's event would be at 11:30, a few blocks down the street.

I had paid my respects to Scottie so I headed for church and caught the fading moments of Sabbath school. After sitting through the endless announcement period, the pre-doxology as well as the doxology gratified me. Hymns and music in general was what I enjoyed most in church. I felt very dissatisfied though, since I had spoken very little about Scottie with anyone at the funeral. They ushered us out so quickly. I turned to a Cuban lady who I always see in prayer meetings on Wednesdays and gave her my offering envelope, telling her that I had to go to a funeral.

I was the first to arrive at Georgie's Alibi and I ran into an octogenarian neighbor from my apartment building who said that beside his home, this was the only other place in which he felt safe. He asked me if I was there for the catered affair for the guy who died of AIDS. I told him I was and did he know him? He said he didn't but that his boyfriend's cousin had also recently died of AIDS. I wished him well and waited by others who had started to arrive.

Once inside I was able to meet mostly people from work and reminisce about Scottie and his life. I also saw someone I had only seen in pictures, his former partner, Kevin. I told him that I was sorry for his loss. He said that it had come as a surprise, as he didn't seem to be that sick.

This kind of event with food, and beverages and music playing can often dampen the reflectiveness of the occasion. I did my best to ask people I encountered about their memories of Scottie. Agnes, another neighbor of mine said she had gotten to know both Scottie and Kevin at their annual Christmas party that they invited everybody to. These were wonderful events as well as lavish ones. I told her I had not known Scottie well enough to have been invited. I had known him only through visits to libraries where he was stationed at, or sometimes standing outside of restaurants or boutiques in Wilton Manors, Florida.

The last thing I heard someone say at the actual service was "Scottie was such a lovable bear of a man," referring to his large, bearded appearance. I smiled at Mimi and concurred with her as we both went our separate ways.

I'm not 100% sure if I was supposed to have attended that post funeral service brunch with it's multiple video screens with 80s music videos flickering as the conversaton ebbed and flowed on a Sabbath morning, but I'm glad I went. It allowed me to say goodbye to a man that always was more interested in saying hello to me that I was to him. He smiled even when I didn't. He mentioned common acquaintances even when I tried to minimize them. Whenever he saw me he came to greet me and to make pleasant conversation. If only for his affability and natural good cheer, I felt I owed it to him to be at both the funeral service and the brunch at Georgie's Alibi, a place I hope I never have the need to visit again.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Diving Slowly into the Ocean of God's Word

"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." John 17:3 (New International Version)

Have you ever noticed that time operates differently while you pray or meditate on the Bible? Several times this year while devoting an hour to Bible-oriented meditation, it seemed that the enjoyable Bible meditation period existed not in this normal four-dimensional world, but in a fifth dimension, the dimension of one's spirit.

Modern physics speaks of four dimensions, the three spatial dimensions plus time. When you stand still without going anywhere at all for 20 minutes, say, you are traveling in time, sort of speaking, without traveling in the spatial dimensions of height, width and length. Sometimes when meditating, not always of course, something uncanny happens. The hour you spend meditating on the Word of God is somehow disjointed from the normal march of time. You meditate on a particular verse and after what seems like a very long and enjoyable meditative moment, you look at the clock and to to your surprise what seemed like half an hour to you is only 15 minutes. It's almost as if God is slowing down the march of time so your hour can seem almost eternal. Perhaps that meditative hour, with its sometimes altered sense of perception really is an intimation of eternity with its enhanced or peculiar sense of time, where a second is like a thousand years, and vice-versa.

Perhaps what I'm describing here is a kind of Bible-induced trance where you forget your surroundings and a clinical attention to time itself. Recent studies reported in the New York Times report that these altered sense of realities happen only in the mind not in the physical world. A long time ago I read that your spirit, or your spiritual nature, is in a certain region of your mind and that it is, in fact, a very small area of your mind. An altered sense of reality would, it follows, exist only in your mind's spirit. Time itself would, of course, proceed in the normal fashion, but your perception of it would be altered by the awareness or experience you perceive in your spirit. I am not speaking here in any sense of the immortality of the soul, but simply the mind's ability to process spiritual realities or experiences.

This does not only happen during Bible-induced mediation. During the 90s on three separate occasions I sat in a darkened room, with one of the following musical compositions or artists: Ravi Shankar's ragas, Yes' The Revealing Science of God from Tales of Topographic Oceans, and James Carter's In Carterian Fashion, and closed my eyes to enable me to focus on the music only. Without consciously accessing an alternate reality or experience, that 50 or 70 minute compact disc transferred me into an altered sense of reality. With my eyes closed, and my mind and spirit focused on the transcendence of these susurrous, and water-tinged pieces, I forgot I was in my bedroom, with the lights turned out. I even forgot for brief moments that my I was in my body. I felt I was inside the music, the music was inside me. Having seldom experienced an altered sense of reality I couldn't help but smile and enjoy the exquisite quality of the experience itself, hoping it would never end. With the ending of the 50 or 70 minute compact disc the experience slowly ebbed and flowed and I was once again in my room. Even though I knew the compact disc was either 50 or 70 mintues in length, the time I had spent during the experience seemd much longer, almost timeless and out-of-this-world. Mozart's Jupiter Symphony or Mahler's Resurrection Symphony would probably have induced a similar altered sense of reality had I selected those compositions, instead.

My body went no where, time marched on, but I had, in fact experienced another world, another dimension, sensation, and perception. Perhaps the Indian yogis or other spiritual men and women from different world traditions are able to enter and exit such exalted states of being at will.

I'm glad that sometimes I can experience such golden moments of enhanced reality by diving slowly into the ocean of God's word through prayer and meditation. It is an experience that in many ways is finer than any conscious, waking dream.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Faith in Spite of Disharmony

"I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth,
Blood, fire and columns of smoke. " Joel 2:30 (New American Standard Bible)

I continue to believe in the Bible not because it can all be explained but because its study has changed and continues to change my life. There were years in my life that I refused to read the Old Testament because its God seemed too harsh. I've learned again to both accept and love that God no matter how harsh he might seem in the Old Testament. I've learned to live with the difficulties in explaining catastrophes that perplex and wound me year after year.

I thank God for the Spirit of Prophecy no matter how it came about, what sources Ellen White used, or whether she gave them credit or not. In spite of the problems one finds with the writings of Mrs. White, I find her messages inspiring and helpful to me in my Christian journey.

I do think we as a church need to focus more and more on the Holy Spirit and His ministry. Even Mrs. White mentions the Spirit in glowing terms, and that is something that needs to be stressed more and more as time goes by with the return of Christ being delayed. I honestly hope that God sends the Latter Rain within our lifetime and revives the Spirit of Prophecy in the 21st century. We certainly need more guidance and new light to make sense of the challenges we face in an ever increasingly violent and incredulous world.

Most of all, we need to stress our differences less and less and have greater love for one another. There is too much disharmony in the Adventist church today, conservative vs. progressive, old vs. young, heterosexual vs. bisexual/homosexual/intersexual, non-academic vs. academic, Third World vs. Super Power.

When will Christ come? He comes daily to each of us, individually. Someday He will return to make our spiritual connection with him a face-to-face reality. God grant us grace and hope and faith and, of course, love to help us in the meantime.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Third Testament

" 'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. " ' Act 2:17 (NIV)

While Ellen G. White insisted that she was a lesser light when compared to the greater light of the Bible, some may think that in claiming the category of light, whether lesser or greater, it was almost tantamount to suggesting her voluminous writings were a type of third testament. Some people look to her writings, especially her Testimonies, as being a kind of third testament. Whether her writings can be considered a third testament, or not, is not the subject of this post.

There are so many instances of the number three in the Bible. The Trinity, of course, comes to mind, and is the most important of the triads in the bible. There were three persons on the Mount of the Transfiguration. Christ was in the tomb for parts of three days-- our Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Three disciples witnessed the Transfiguration. Revelation speaks of three angels' messages. There are three synoptic gospels. And so on, and so forth.

The Old Testament is mostly about the Lord God, God the Father, the first person of the trinity. The New Testament is mostly about the Lord Jesus Christ, the second person of the trinity. Although it can be said that the two testaments were complete as they now stand, had it been possible for Christ to have come before he actually did, if he had been a son of one of the princesses of the House of David, if the Babylonian captivity had not taken place, because the Israelites found other ways of being cured of their idolatry, then the New Testament probably wouldn't have had to have been written. In that case, the Old Testament would have been complete, as it would have existed in that scenario. But, of course, both Testaments exist. History turned out differently.

Two thousand years have passed since the New Testament was written. The New Testament referred back to the Old Testament. What would a Third Testament be like if there ever were a need for it to exist? It would of course refer back to both the Old Testament and the New Testament. A theoretical Third Testament would, of course, magnify God the Father and God the Son. Since we have a third member of the trinity, might a theoretical Third Testament consist of a fuller revelation of the Holy Spirit? Would the inspired writers of the theoretical Third Testament magnify the Spirit who magnifies the Son who magnified the Father? The Old Testament contains fewer references to the Spirit of God than does the New Testament. Might a theoretical Third Testament contain the most references about the Holy Spirit?

You might wonder why even talk of such things? All members of the Trinity are equally important. To speak of One is to speak of Another. You might say that a Third Testament is not really necessary since the Old Testament was all humankind ever needed, but, of course, humanity's rebellion made a second, or New Testament, necessary. Nevertheless, two thousand years have come and gone and humanity's rebellion shows no signs of abating. Spirituality, as well as life itself in the Post-Modern world, sometimes appears increasingly different from the Christianity, or Judaism of the two existing testaments. Needless to say, both those testaments served, and continue to serve, humankind as perfect as perfect can be this side of eternity. Nevertheless, might not a Third Testament be given to us as the third and final gift, because of the new complex reality, as well as future realities that often are light years away from the beautiful simplicity of the two existing testaments? Or do we simply continue to the end of time, now matter how long it takes to arrive, with just the two testaments we have now?

Besides pointing back to the Bible, and drawing attention to both Father and Son, what might a Third Testament look like? Since the New Testament is briefer than the Old Testament might not the Third Testament be briefer than the New Testament? Or might it be even more voluminous then either testament and be ever-revealing, or expanding, as new mysteries in Science and future history necessitate the Third Testament to be more dynamic than the earlier ones? Again, might not a theoretical Third Testament focus on a fuller Revelation of the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit? Like the Old and the New Testaments, a theoretical Third Testament would, of course, be inspired by the same Spirit that inspired the previous testaments.

Since most of our post-modern world prizes its female writers, might the Third Testament not contain as many, if not more, books by woman prophets, chroniclers or editors? Would these 21st century prophets only come from one church, would they come from more than one or would they come from outside the church?

Since each existing testament focuses on either Judaism and/or Christianity, would a theoretical Third Testament, if it ever became necessary, still not only be God-centered, Christ-centered, but also be Spirit-centered? Would the religion of the Third Testament have a new name and would it appeal both to Jews, as well as Christians? Would these Post-Modern or Third Millennium Believers be persecuted by some members of the Old Guard as happened in the early days of Christianity? Would the civil authorities persecute them, as well, for disturbing the peace?

Since the advent of the Internet, blogs, and hypertext, would the Third Testament not be written in the traditional mode, as were the previous two testaments?

Finally, might not the Third Testament be actually being written in some of the religious or spiritual web sites, blogs and hypertexts of the early 21st century? Or does some special outpouring of the Holy Spirit have to occur before this potential Third and, no doubt, final Testament start taking shape? Who will do it and at what time in future history will a third Canon be codified? Will that triadic Holy Text be the text that will accompany humankind as it explores first the solar system, then, one day, the worlds beyond our own sun?

Friday, September 15, 2006

A World Without Adventism

"We are all connected." -- Betsy Chasse, The Bleeping Herald

In many science fiction stories involving time travel or in alternate-history fiction, the removal of just one key, or somewhat important, person in the scheme of things changes future history beyond recognition. Imagine how different World War II would have been had Einstein not discovered E=MC². Nagasaki and Hiroshima and all its inhabitants would have been left untouched. The Cold War would have been colder or hotter, or maybe would have not existed at all. Today we'd have no fear of terrorists getting hold of a dirty bomb and possibly ushering in a nuclear winter or planetary devastation.

Imagine if William Miller had taken up farming seriously. Imagine if Ellen G. White had never been hit in the forehead with that infamous stone and had gone on to get a Master of Divinity from one of the prestigious New England Universities or if someone else had accepted the call to prophesy.

If Seventh-Day Adventism had never existed, Battle Creek and Kellogg Corn Flakes would never have come about. Baby Fae at Loma Linda Medical Center would never have received a baboon heart. Desmond Doss would never have received his Medal of Honor in World War II for being a "conscientious objector who helped his country by saving the lives of his comrades, while also adhering to his religious convictions." (

If you consult web sites listing famous Adventists you find more names that one doesn't have time to verify or ponder over, but let me just focus on two who would have changed the 60s counter-culture movement and its aftermath beyond recognition. It might seem to you that I exaggerate a bit, but, again, one key or somewhat important person can make astounding differences for never having been.

Without the rebelliousness and boundary-pushing excesses of Rock and Roll and, especially, The Beatles/Rolling Stones/Bob Dylan triumvirate, our world would be quite different. It would probably be unrecognizably different from what it is today. We might be awash in the third wave of Patti Page or Doris Day Garage Bands or Nat King Cole style recitation/rap experimental ditties. I'm referring to early Rock and Roll pioneer, Little Richard (Richard Penniman), of course. He's been in and out of the Adventist church all his life. I hope he's still in the church. Little Richard was admired by Beatle Sir Paul McCartney. Paul's vocal delivery in such songs as "Oh Darling," and in countless others, owes a great deal to his admiration for Little Richard. Both Paul McCartney and John Lennon, as well, as George Harrison and Ringo Starr were aware of and admired Little Richard for his earth-shaking gospel-flavored raucous musical style. The Beatles interpreted Little Richard songs on their world-famous albums. Little Richard once said he liked the Beatles, especially Paul who was known as the "cute Beatle." Little Richard was quoted in the 80s in Rolling Stone magazine as saying, “If God can have mercy on an old homosexual like me, He can have mercy on anyone.” But that is another story.

Without Little Richard, Paul McCartney would have sounded like someone else. The influence of the Everly Brothers would have been overwhelming and he probably would have recorded more ballads and follky songs, instead of adrenaline-producing rockers like Got to Get You into My Life. The Beatles would have been a different band. They may not have had the world-shaking effect that they had during the 60s, as well as afterwards through their followers. Innovators like Jimi Hendrix and Prince (a former Adventist) and their musical progeny would never have existed. Some might say that a world without Rock and Roll and its excesses would probably be a good thing. Others might not want to have missed out on the positive Art-Rock compositions of groups like Yes, King Crimson and Germany’s avant-garde rock group, Can, or the Beatles’ artier pieces, the second half of the Abbey Road album, or the larger-than-life White Album aka The Beatles. More recently, Jay-Z, the Rapper, would never have been part of the industry-shaking sampling touchstone of DJ Danger Mouse’s The Gray Album (a fusion of the Beatles' White Album and Jay-Z’s The Black Album.)

Perhaps you might think it strange to focus on popular culture instead of focusing on subjects that are more serious. I'll leave those "serious" subjects for someone else who likes to dabble in this type of "What If" scenarios.

Coincidentally, A.O. Scott in a recent New York Times film review says: “The U.S. vs. John Lennon” doesn’t really answer this question, beyond restating the notion, which can neither be proven nor dismissed, that musicians and artists can change the world. They can also, it is clear, drive presidents [Richard Nixon] and other people in power crazy, in part because the impact of popular culture can be so hard to measure or to predict. "

Popular culture surrounds us for better or worse and has had a lasting impact on at least one President of the United States, Bill Clinton. If Ms. Hillary is able to make history by being the first woman president in American history, then the popular culture of the late 60s will have had a major influence on at least two 20th and 21st century major political leaders.

The entire Western world, and its admirers, should be thankful, as should we that every Adventist that has ever existed, no matter how obscure, has had, or continues to have, an effect beyond the religious arena.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Last Prophecy of Light

"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." Matthew 24:14 (New International Version)

Twenty five years ago I heard an Adventist minister say that all the prophecies in the Bible had been fulfilled except the one in Mathew 24:14. He reasonsoned that with the technology available at that time, the last remaining pockets of the world that hadn't heard the gospel would, no doubt, hear it.

After watching all of the 9/11 specials, especially “The Path to 9/11, I'm hoping that this now forgotten minister's sermon finds its fulfillment sooner than later. Most of the year one becomes desensitized to the death and dying overseas. One almost has to in order to keep on living, going to work, and enjoying life in spite of its imperfections, otherwise depression or something worse would overpower one for good.

But on this one day, with its grim reminder of what should never have happened here, or anywhere in the world, one can allow oneself the luxury of reveling in the shock and the painful memories of those who were lost and of the relative innocence of the pre-9/11 world.

Everyone talks about their last sighting of the twin towers. Mine occurred on 9/9/01 as I walked towards the elevated train that would take me from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The East River was only minutes away by train and as I looked towards the Western sky in mid-afternoon, I saw for the first time in my life the not-so-distant twin towers. I had never thought to look at them from Brooklyn. I'm glad I got one last chance. I admired their colossal size that even from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, they were close enough and could just as easily have been in Brookyn itself.

Later on that afternoon, I was dazzled by a state-of-the-art living-theater panorama with electronic music swirling as the digital images of cityscapes and people, flitting across streets and plazas, created a memorable art montage in a multi-media exhibit of the old Museum of Modern Art. I smiled and felt thankful that I was able to see early 21st century art in my favorite art venue in New York City. I looked forward to my next visit to that city and that temple of art. Little did I know that I would never see that city or that art-for-art's sake environment ever again. No one would.

While watching the semi-fictionalized mini-series, The Path to 9/11, in spite of its controversial build-up, I felt, not hopeless, but a bit frustrated as to what one person could do to deal with the continuing aftermath of 9/11, as well as how to prevent it from ever happening again. It is something that all good people of faith can do. I say it in the following way because I am a Christian and this is what gives meaning and hope to my life. If you are not of my faith, I hope you can find a comparable set of goals to complement my life-affirming approach.

I am attracted to the number three because of it's trinitarian qualities. Therefore, the only three realities that are my tools for suriviving and changing myself and my world are these.

  1. Dedicated and meaningful study of the Word of God (Old and New Testaments)
  2. Seeking for Righteousness by faith in Christ Jesus
  3. Seeking for the baptism and continued infilling by Jesus Christ of the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit

It is my conviction that with these three realities in my daily life, a repeat of the tragedy of 9/11 cannot only be prevented, but spiritually reversed, as well.

If we allow ourselves to be changed through these three realities, then we in and of ourselves become a positive force in the world and for God, the God of peace and life and love. We then effect at least one other person with the results of these three realities. They in turn effect someone else. This endless effect and re-effect can never cease, as a rolling stream can do nothing but seek its outlet in the sea. Year after year, this positive force for goodwill will relentlessly counteract the damage done, and prevent future damage from ever rising again. The power of a genuinely loving individual connected to the source of infinite life is invincible against all systems of hate, death and war.

It is my sincere hope that at least one person will be receive a sympathetic effect from my bittersweet recollections of what was, but need not have been, nor need ever be again.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Encounters with God

"Do not quench the Spirit." Thessalonians 5:19 (New King James Version)

Christ was so real that I sought him out often while at college by Thayer Pond in South Lancaster, Massachusetts. As I read the bible, I felt he was there with me.

A few years later, late at night lying sleepless in my bed at home in New York City on the 7th floor I felt I could reach out and touch God because he felt so near. It was eerie to realize that I was praying to a very real person, not just someone you read about only in books. He was palpably real and I was astounded with the realization late at night as the family slept in other parts of the apartment.

While reading the Beatitudes as I waited in a car dealership in Fort Lauderdale, Florida yesterday afternoon, I had this unusual and surprising image of my relationship with the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, The Holy Sprit. It is not intended to offend anyone, especially the Person of the Holy Spirit. It was a very personal and delightful set of images and their essence lingers still.

John the baptist, no doubt, saw the dove of light above Christ at the baptism. Christ, no doubt, also saw the dove. It was meant for both of them to see. Imagine yourself at the baptism and being allowed to see that wondrous image of a flaming dove that hovered with light in its wings.

The words about the Son of Righteousness with healing in his wings came to mind as did the text about Christ wanting to gather Jerusalem's people under his wings as a hen gathers her brood.

The song "Under His wings I am safely abiding" came to mind, as well. The text about God drawing us close to his bosom in the old testament came to mind, all in rapid succession.

Effortlessly, an image of a giant white dove with intelligence in his or her eyes, came to mind. I found myself drawn to seek shelter under the safety and warmth of that Compassionate Dove. When the dove moved I followed. If ever I momentarily moved outside to survey my immediate surroundings I always came back, more and more, to the shelter of the Wondrous Dove. When the situation got too dangerous where we were, I felt compelled to climb aboard the Dove of Strength and either hug its neck with both arms or held onto His strong and indestructible plumes.

Every day the dove took me higher and higher to greater and greater safety. Sometimes we would land, but as time advanced, I found myself safely under or flying with the Dove of Light, more and more. Finally, the Dove of Life landed in a wondrous place, and as I got out, I knew I was forever safe. I was home. Never to leave again. Never to fear again. Never to hide. I was safe in that world of light to walk anywhere possible, always conscious that I could not have gotten there had it not been for the kindness and protection of the Dove of Love.

"Under His wings, oh, what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me,
Resting in Jesus, I’m safe evermore." --William O. Cushing

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cleansing Lakes of Fire and Water

Hotter version: Our God is a consuming fire. God is love. Love is a consuming fire. Death and Hades were thrown into the Lake of Fire. Love is the Lake of Fire. ... a sea of glass, mingled with fire... standing on the sea of glass (the Sea of Love.) Is this Sea of Glass mingled with fire what remains of the Cleansing Lake of Fire? Or are they different bodies of heavenly fire? It is strange, perhaps shocking, to think that the light that would cause eternal day to exist is the same light that the unrepentant wish to hide from. They call upon the rocks and mountains to fall upon them (instant death) and hide them from the splendor of Him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. It would be nice if the "smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever" instead of meaning, as some have explained it, that the consummation is final and not everlasting suffering and punishment, it meant something else. Something finer, though without its problems.

If you have a very difficult child who hated you no matter what you did, but being his or her parent, you persisted in loving that child. If the state gave you the ultimatum of giving the death sentence to your own flesh and blood, or you continuing to love and, refashion that troubled and corrupt person, wouldn't the latter be the more loving for you, his parent to do? Does God stop loving the unrepentant sinner as they are cleansed in the Lake of Holy Fire? It is with understandable pain that the cleansing fire begins to do its devastating work. Could perfect love and its attendant holy fire not eventually work its miraculous change in the hating and hateful sinner to eventually restore the beauty of holiness and love in him or her after a renewing process? Is there such a thing as a truly unredeemable person? While I'm not saying all will be rescued from being eternally lost, I am saying all could be salvaged, as you would salvage the precious photographs left after a devastating fire, or destructive hurricane.

We've all known and know about truly evil and hateful individuals, I will not call them "persons," that is saved for people with some degree of humanity. Evil really is the worst form of mental illness or bodily illness there is. I don't say this to excuse "evil" individuals but to try to understand how or why someone came to be in such a deplorable state. Would not a loving God, because He loved that "dyed-in-the-wool" individual, be doing that person a great favor by slowly, even if painfully, removing the evil stain from the heart and mind, until the original childlike innocence could resurface again, and mature in a better environment with more nurturing people and circumstances? In this way, couldn't everyone eventually be renewed, and wouldn't they be grateful? I know of drug addicts or alcoholics who think they are fine the way they are, and don't want to be helped, because they don't realize how much better they would be if they were free of their addictions. But once helped, and reformed, how much happier and productive they would become.

If you love Him who first loved you, the nature of God will not terrify you, but fill you with awe and reverence. Our God is a consuming fire. If you hate Him who first loved you, God's nature will terrify you. "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the lamb. For the great day of his wrath is come and who shall be able to stand?"

These are not easy words to read or write, either for the believer, and especially for the unbelievers. But who are we, mortal beings, to question the will and nature of He who created everything that is, that was, and that is to be. "I am what I am. I will be what I will be. I will cause to be what I will cause to be."

Agnostics and atheists are no doubt applauding and shaking their heads in disbelief and dismay and disgust. Such is the nature of good and evil, of light and darkness, of life and death.

Cooler version: No matter how painful it may be to admit, or read, or ponder, "our God is a devouring fire." The God who needed to wipe out most of humanity with Noah's flood (whether it really occurred or not as a worldwide phenomenon) and the God who will plunge, if not most (only few find the straight and narrow road) then quite a lot of human beings into the cleansing lake of fire, is also the God who spared not His son and who will also give us everything. It tells you a lot about the person who in spite of painful images of past and future destruction of imperfect and recalcitrant human beings, still needs and wants to foster a faith relationship with this wondrous being who both created us and is capable of destroying us. "Even though he slay me, will I still love Him." "I will not let go of You, unless You bless me." "The Lord chastises those he loves." It's a bewildering type of apologetics. Were it not that we're talking about the author and finisher of our faith, we would have long ago abandoned him, and looked elsewhere. Our faith and life, as well, is full of oxymorons. I'm suddenly reminded of an odd statement by an Argentine pastor when I was a boy. He sometimes cursed his fate that he wasn't born on one of the many sinless worlds. I thought it peculiar that anyone would even think of such a preposterous wish. I hope we all get our wish and are reborn on a perfect world someday and never remember our perplexing, though often bitter sweet life on planet Earth.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Fear of the Holy Spirit

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me [Jesus Christ.]" [Trust also in the Holy Spirit.]* John 14:1 (NIV)

“One would expect, therefore, that nothing would be more familiar to every Christian than the reality of the Spirit. But to the contrary, there is almost no other subject in modern theology so difficult to deal with as the doctrine of the Holy Spirit." 5

All our lives it was drilled into us that the unpardonable sin was grieving away the Spirit of God. Several approaches result from such a fear. One lives in a constant state of anxiety worried that too much sinning, or lack of devotion, or some incomplete knowledge of salvation might lead to the unpardonable sin.

Another result is fear of any type of emotional response to the Holy Spirit's work during evangelistic or worship services lest that heightened sense of emotion lead to a false speaking in tongues, which would automatically be labeled "not the work of the Holy Spirit."

Still another result is to have so much respect and awe and, yes, fear, that one thinks it best not to dwell on the subject of the Holy Spirit too often, or to speak of Him as little as possible, so as not offend, and therefore "sin against the Holy Spirit."

Perhaps there are other possibilities, but these will suffice to lead to the real reality of the Holy Spirit and His importance in our lives.

During one of the Sabbaths earlier this year when the church was studying the subject of the Holy Spirit, we asked the class if they thought it was proper to pray directly to the Holy Spirit and to worship Him directly? The question was shocking to most of those present. One woman even said that to worship and pray directly to the Holy Spirit was to make an idol of the Holy Spirit. We responded that it was impossible to do so, since being God Himself, one could not make an idol of Him by both worshipping and praying to Him directly. The rest of the class then concurred that what was accepable was to worship all three members of the Godhead equally and simulaneously, but not separately, if memory serves me. Regarding praying directly to the Spirit, all concurred that one had to pray to God the Father, in the name of Jesus, and through the Spirit.

Since "God is Spirit" and the Spirit is both the "Spirit of God" and the "Spirit of Jesus" would you not be worshipping and praying to the Godhead by worshipping and praying to the Holy Spirit directly? Being Spirit in its Quintessence, are not all members of the Godhead embodied in the Divine Spirit? When we pray, love, worship and meditate on the Holy Spirit, are we not concurrently doing all these devotions to God the Father and God the Son? Do you think the first and second persons of the Godhead mind that you pray to the Spirit in this, the final age of man, the Dispensation of the Holy Spirit? How much more holiness, love and power would there be if the Spirit were constantly being invoked, praised, honored, talked about, and loved?

In the church hymnal there are very, very few songs exclusively devoted to the Holy Spirit. Of the few there are, only one was familiar to me from all the songs I've ever heard sung in an Adventist Church. That song was one made popular in the 70s by the Heritage Family with words that said, "There's a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place. And I know that it's the Spirit of the Lord." Since the Spirit is our mainline to God and our only hope of getting with God and staying with God, why are there so few songs in the Hymnal? And why are those songs sung so infrequently? Is it because if they are sung the members will get too emotional and former members who "spoke in tongues" will get the urge to do so during Sabbath morning services?

I once witnessed two former pentecostal members of my Spanish congregation in the early 70s briefly get emotional during Wednesday night prayer meetings. One woman knelt with all others during a special altar call and directly addressed Christ with language so poetic and powerful that she stood out among your usual and "orthodox" prayer meeting devotee. The others didn't follow her example, but something very unusual was happening. So much so, that the miniser with a smile of awe that I've rarely seen in an adventist church, said, "Let's keep calm, because the Holy Spirit is defintely visiting us at this moment, right here right now." It almost seemd that by his fascination with what he and all present were witnessing, that he had seldom been at such occurrences within the Adventist church. It is one of the most singular memories I have of Adventism, the Holy Spirit, and a minister's cautious counsel.

We as a church have not paid enough attention to the Holy Spirit, his reality, his ministry, his person, his beauty, his friendliness, his promise. It is a real shame that, instead of being known as those folk who focus on the sanctuary, 1844, the investigative judgment, and the prophecies of Daniel, we're not known as the "Church of the Holy Spirit." Were that the case, we'd have the tools and the power to fight post-modernism, secularism, apostasy, worldliness, bickering, contentiousness, selfishness, sensuality, smugness, pride, a superiority complex caused by an obession with our being the Remnant Church of the Last Days, unChristlikeness, and just plain insensitivity to those inside and outside of the church who are hurting, lonely and in need of a helping hand.

May God have mercy on us and help us to think more about, pray more to and love Him more. I'm speaking of the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, in a word, our Saviour, our God and our Friend, the Holy Spirit.

* It seems appropriate now to complete Christ's command to believe in all persons of the Godhead in this well-known verse. Jesus could not very well have included instructions to trust also in the Holy Spirit at the time He said these words since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit had not yet occurred.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Two Million, Three Hundred Thousand Years

While it makes for interesting, and some would insist historically important, Bible study, and, no doubt, it enrichens one's understanding of God and a host of other aspects of soteriology, I, for one, lose very little sleep worrying about the 2,300 days, years, or millennia.

Years have come and gone without those words crossing and recrossing my mind. Through the dark days that have come and gone, only Christ and his ever-present reality have been both in the forefront, as well as, in the back of my mind.

Whenever I happen to note other religious traditions and their detailed and exacting studies, reinterpretations, and endless quibbling of fine-haired details, I'm relieved to thank God for the beautiful simplicty of righteousness by faith in Christ Jesus.

So much time and effort is spent on rehashing all these dates, and possible interpretations and whether this person is right, or if they aren't how can they still call themselves Adventist, or Christian, or Spiritual. Why not give it a rest? That's right. Declare a moratorium, or a Sabbath Rest, that lasts longer than anyone has ever dared. Why not concentrate on more pressing matters, such as receiving and continuing to receive the Holy Spirit? Once more and more believers are filled with the heavenly comforter, all these dates and problems with dates, or with horns, or with places, times and reinterpretations will vanish. How I long for the simplification of Christianity. How far we've gotten from the apostolic church and their one-big-family style of worship and fellowship. We've unncessarily made Christianity into something as complex as are other tradition-obsessed schools of thought and practice.

Let's keep it simple, like Morris Venden suggested, salvation in a nutshell: "Pray to God, study His word and work with Christ." "...Apart from me [Christ] you can do nothing." John 15:5 (NIV) & "I can do everything through him [Christ] who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

Or as John Keats once said, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all you know on earth, and all you need to know.”