Saturday, December 20, 2008

Living with Jesus

Simple words? Perhaps they are for those who have long enjoyed the experience of focusing on Jesus and not on anyone else or on anything else. However, for most people living with Jesus is either not attractive or if it is something to be desired, it is not as easy as simply saying the words three magical times.

We can only live for or with Jesus if he comes to us and makes his home with us. Day after day I find myself asking him to come and live inside me. I think that's what I want although I'm not sure if once he comes and stays with me, I'll realize it or even if I will find that it's what I thought his constant presence would be like.

The nicest compliment anyone could ever give me would be to say that I reminded them of Christ. I'm not sure I could handle such a compliment. I have a hard enough time handling compliments of any kind. That one in particular would probably break any Christ connection I may someday have.

Now that I think about Christ-like people I've met, my mind comes to one particular pastor who was the kindest and most devout person I ever met. I would mention his name, but I think it best not to do so in case he's reading this and by my stating such an opinion it would either send him to his knees or would sever the Christ connection for a bit until he confessed his sin of spiritual pride.

Perhaps it is better not to think so much about whether or not one is Christlike. Better to think how unChristlike one has been and how we are in dire need of his transforming grace to make us not self-conscious about our Christlikeness, but obsessed with Christ and fellowship with him.

Suddenly I think of Christ on Earth and what he thought of himself. Did he consciously think about wanting to become more Godlike? Did he see God in himself? Did others tell him that he was the most Godlike person they had ever met? I think not. Jesus was probably not self conscious about things like that. He might have lived his life as naturally and as unself-consciously as we live our lives. For him to have lived it otherwise is unrealistic. Jesus was as sane as you or I. He didn't think more of himself than he had to. We should do the same.

(I wonder if the Adventist Review would be interested in an article like this one? It sounds so safe and non-controversial. I've often wanted to write an article for the Review, but I can never quite leave out controversial bits and pieces. Now that I've proofed it I realize that I'm probably incapable of writing an article that would fit the mold. So much for my passing desire to write for the Adventist Review.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christianity is mystical, by nature

Other words instead of mystical might be transcendent, otherworldly, mysterious. Ellen White used the word mystic* to describe the ladder in Jacob's dream that reached from Earth to heaven. I feel comfortable then, using a word that some traditional folk might not like to use about Christianity.

What I mean is that it takes a lot to believe in all these non-tactile realities and historical occurrences. Rationally speaking it makes no sense. But reason is not always the most important reality in the world; or it need not be.

This dawned on me as I drove home in a cool afternoon without any cares in the world. This was in spite of the fact that I had just spent $900 to have new wheels put on my car and other automobile expenses. Where was I going to get that money to pay down the credit card bill? I didn't care. I would let God take care of that essential expense. Worrying about it was not going to pay it off any faster. God knows I had to have those tires and the other parts that were defective. He knows, also, that I need to find the funds to pay off this negative cash flow expense.

Back home, I spent what I thought was going to be only 30 minutes reading about the Christian life, but I got so engrossed in the experience that when I looked at the clock, almost two hours had come and gone. I wanted to continue reading more of Steps to Christ, but I realized that I had other things to do before Sunday became Monday morning.

I had been invited to a Christmas party--the only one this year so far. I was unsure of whether to go as there was going to be alcoholic drinks there and other non-Christian influences that may or may not turn out to be deleterious to my experience. I prayed about it and decided that that was one party that I was better off not attending. Now, it might have turned out just fine, but I felt moved not to take a chance. Instead I spent the afternoon reading and meditating about God's amazing grace. That defies reason in most people's minds. I does in mine.

There's no other explanation other than that Christianity is mystical. How else to account for spending good quality time on a Sunday afternoon reading Steps to Christ when so many other things beckoned?

* mysterious: having an import not apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence; beyond ordinary understanding; ". . . someone who believes in the existence of realities beyond human comprehension

Friday, December 12, 2008

Making Sense of Life

Lately I've been reading about whether it's possible to see life as both the outcome of evolution and God. Or rather, whether it's possible to believe in evolution and still believe in God.

No Christian wants to let go of God altogether by embracing evolution as the only explanation for our presence on Earth.

As I read about and ponder these polar opposites, I sometimes look out on civilization and am amazed if only evolution is the explanation for the reality of the human brain. If that's the case, it defies explanation that so much complexity was the result of millennia of humankind's efforts. Our technological and cultural accomplishments are truly mind-boggling. Our potential for future achievements are equally astounding.

If God is responsible for evolution, then he is, alas, not the kind creator of the Bible. Evolution is successful only though violence and death. In no way can a committed Christian attribute these to God in spite of the fact that some Bible texts seem to attribute death and destruction to God under certain extreme situations, e.g., the Flood story and the final destruction of the impenitent.

What then to do about the conflicting demands of faith versus evolution? Would further study and reflection about evolution as the answer to our origins draw one closer to the God of the Bible or away from him? Unfortunately or fortunately, I find that the more I study about evolution and its survival-of-the-fittest motif, the more I want to get closer to God as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. I need to suspend belief in the evidence of evolutionary history as that is the only way to continue believing and benefiting from a life time of approaching the God of the Bible.

I'm not saying the world was necessarily created in 6,000 years. I'm not saying that life isn't filled with too many mysteries to completely solve. I'm not saying I've finally arrived at the best situation that will resolve all these perplexing theories and their competition for my attention.

What I am saying is that I want to continue believing in God. Even more importantly, I want God to continue believing in me. The reason for this is that only as God continues believing in me will he continue helping and blessing me. For these realities I am very grateful. If only evolution were as kind then I'd love it in all its benign aloofness.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Loving the Sabbath, Hating my Sinfulness

All week long I wait for the Sabbath with such wistfulness that when it finally comes I realize that I longed for it too intensely. Now that it has finally arrived, I take it for granted and am aware of my confinement. I cannot do what I want to do. There are only so many activities or thoughts that are allowed to me on this holiest of days.

As the sun set I worried about the many details of keeping the Sabbath holy. I decided not to worry about the details of Sabbath keeping, but rather, to focus my attention on my relationship with Christ. Let Christ take care of how I keep the Sabbath holy.

I can worry about whether the house is ready for the Sabbath; it is not; it rarely is. I can worry about what I'm going to do when I am not in church and the Sabbath hours find me, once again, on my own with too many hours to experience while it is still Sabbath.

You have to admit, the Sabbath is--pardon the expression--the oddest of all the commandments. For example, today I thought that if I purposely delay my observance of the Sabbath by a minute or 10 or 60, have I invalidated the remaining 23 hours of Sabbath still in play? Unlike the commandment to not kill, steal, take God's name in vain, etc., once you break those commandments, you have broken the entire commandment and not just part of it. But the Sabbath, you see, is one long 24 hour experience. You are then able to break it or observe it once an hour, or perhaps more than that or less than that it you are careful. Or should one foolishly decide that since you've already broken it by not starting it on time or by breaking it half way into it, it is pointless to try to keep the rest of the hours that remain? Some may find the thought improper; others simply practical.

This can't be what God had in mind. Before the Sabbath begins I ask God to make me holy so I can keep his Sabbath holy. I also ask him to fill me with his Spirit and move me to keep his Sabbath holy, and for that matter, to keep all his commandments holy.

I don't know if I've ever really kept the Sabbath as one is supposed to keep it. I'm sure that even in the midst of no work, no play, church all day, or charitable visits to nursing homes, etc., I could very well have been breaking the Sabbath at the same time that I was, with good intent, trying to keep it.

Violations of all the other commandments are truly grotesque violations of some spiritual or basic human value, e.g., respect for one's God or one's fellow human being. But the Sabbath is a different concept all together.

I'm suddenly reminded of a church member who was so concerned about violating the sabbath by being awake during most of it--I guess he knew himself quite well--that he'd go to bed after church so as not to be conscious during the rest of the 7th-day Sabbath. Judging from the sister who told us about it, his intentions were sincere. However, by not engaging in more useful activities during the Sabbath, he was, in fact, breaking the Sabbath. Still, one does spend eight hours sleeping during the normal sleep period of the Sabbath, so why not sleep for the rest of the non-church part of it. I'm just trying to understand this brother's fear of breaking the Sabbath.

I used to feel that after I had spent half an hour or so reading the bible, I could open up my Sabbath post-vesper experience by engaging in cultural and spiritual activities like listening to symphonic music, or watching thoughtful DVDs about stimulating topics. Lately, I find myself unsure of these activities and usually spend the rest of the post-vesper Friday night Sabbath either reading the Spirit of Prophecy, reading the Bible until I get sleepy, or watching the local Christian network, Trinity Broadcasting Network. Sometimes that puts me to sleep, as well. I don't mean its content does, but rather the passiveness of these activities invites sleep quicker than a run in the park would. Of course, the park is deserted at this hour, except for hoodlums and such, so I use that example as an extreme example of a healthy, life-affirming activity on a Sabbath's Friday evening.

Or I can spend the entire Sabbath blogging, as I am now doing, and perhaps that will solve the problem for an hour or so.

Sometimes, though, PBS, has wonderful religion programs. Of course, most of them are pretty liberal, but it's religion, nevertheless. The History channel has a show on Friday nights about Extreme Survival in nature. That's so painful to watch, that I seldom fall asleep watching it.

Oh that God would have mercy on me and enable me to keep the Sabbath without being self-conscious about it. How wonderful if I could offer a Sabbath full of devotion by keeping the Sabbath enjoyably, and finally, lovingly. Amen.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Adventists-by-Works Anonymous & other Oxymora

During my 15 or 20 year hiatus from Adventism many changes took place that were at one time unlikely or even problematic. To my surprise (I have mixed feelings about some of these) I found the following developments:

Electric guitar solos during the 11:00 church service

Tropical-flavored (Afro-Cuban) religious children's songs during the children's hour

Rings and hoop earrings on an entire family of Adventist women and children

Gold neck chains discreetly worn by Adventist men and boys

Gay Adventists and their children in regular church attendance

Adventist Alcoholics Anonymous

Adventist Charismatics

Cultural Adventists Club

Along with the oxymoron in the title I've come up with other not so unlikely additions that may either already exist or will come about in the next few years or decades:

Adventist Aeronautics Space Agency

Adventist Evolutionists Apologetics Society

Adventist Virtual Reality Evangelism

Gay Adventist Health Bar & Restaurant

Adventist Internet Pornography Addicts Anonymous

Adventist Electronica Cafe

Adventist Rap Music Festival

Adventist mainstream-TV comedy series titled The Sexy Vegetarian Next Door

8th-Day Adventist Futurist Conference

Adventist Ecumenical Apologetics Association

Who can really say what surprises await our church, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. Some of the entries may switch back and forth from the actual to the theoretical heading as experience itself produces unexpected developments.

It is my prayer that whatever comes to pass or fails to materialize from the list, one thing remains: loving and lovable Adventist Christians.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Analyzing the Northern Lord vs. Southern Lord Blog

The Spectrum blog turned me on to the online Meyers-Briggs blog Typealizer. The analysis was a surprise to me as I'm not able to be as completely objective about myself as I would like. In light of recent distractions or an occasional writer's block I was fascinated by the analysis. I hope to take the practical advice in the closing sentence of the analysis: They have to look out not to become quitters, since they easily get bored when the creative exciting start-up phase is over.

The analysis indicates that the author of is of the type:

ENTP - The Visionaries

The charming and trend savvy type. They are especially attuned to the big picture and anticipate trends. They often have sophisticated language skills and come across as witty and social. At the end of the day, however, they are pragmatic decision makers and have a good analytical ability.

They enjoy work that lets them use their cleverness, great communication skills and knack for new exciting ventures. They have to look out not to become quitters, since they easily get bored when the creative exciting start-up phase is over.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Righteousness by Faith 123

1. Spend time with Jesus Christ reading the gospels. Let him talk to you.
2. Spend time in prayer and talk to Christ.
3. Work with Christ by
a. taking care of those in need
b. sharing what he has done for you

Based on readings contained in Morris Venden's Faith that Works

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Practical Evolution and a Benign God

Violence caused by animals to other animals, as well as their death, is necessary, as hard as it is to accept. Otherwise what would animals who are not vegetarians eat?

I'm still wrestling with the possibility of evolution being God's method of creating the world. I don't like the thought of death and violence being the vehicle by which God used to bring about the self-referential reality of homo sapiens. Nevertheless, the simplicity of the six day creation week, plus the Sabbath rest at the end, sometimes requires more faith than I have on a given day. The six day creation explanation, however, solves lots of problems, but I, at least, have to suspend some apparent evidences that perhaps life has been here for millennia, and, hopefully, will continue to be here for millennia, as well.

Minimal blog post: These are scraps of blogs that died before they could really live. Sometimes the title is the most significant aspect of the post. Other times, a lot is left to the reader's imagination. I include them as one would include unbaked loves of bread at the dinner table.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Next Great Disappointment

In one or two Adventist churches in South Florida people are making plans to leave for their countries of origin or moving to remote wilderness locations in preparation for what they feel is the arrival of the Time of Trouble. All these folks can't be mistaken or can they?

If, for whatever reason, the Time of Trouble fails to arrive along with its related event, the End of Time, what will become of all these folks? Will they realize that they were over eager or will they be sorely disappointed? Will many leave the Adventist church if these two related events fail to materialize in the near future? Their number seems to be growing more and more with each passing day.

Is this the beginning of a major fanatical phase within mainstream Adventism? Or is it the beginning of a branching off of some of these folks into an alternate Adventist church? Or will this subside in time?

If what all these folks expect to happen does not happen what will be effect on Adventism in this country and in other countries?

Has this happened before around the time of the Great Depression or is this a unique phenomenon?

In my local church --as well as in other Adventist churches all across America--several members have sold or are selling personal belongings, donated one of two family cars, or cleaned out their life's savings and turned it all over to their church for the advancement of the gospel.

This just might be the real thing we are witnessing, just like it was the real thing in the apostolic church when similar things started happening.

If it is not, may God have mercy on all of us.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Self-Hatred and Dying to Self

Not everyone is born or lives their live with their psyche intact and their self-esteem healthy. It is especially damaging to want to die to self or to pick up one's cross when one's self-esteem is less than perfect.

It takes great effort to distrust self and trust Christ more and more when one has a less than ideal opinion of oneself. If one experiences failure after failure in the Christian walk, that only adds to one's sense of self-loathing and hopelessness. This brings up the challenge: can only those who are enjoying maximum mental health effectively die to self?

Unfortunately, sometimes Christians equate a close walk with Christ with self-worth. Since it is easier to follow the savior for some more than others, some Christians despise themselves because they have fallen short of that intimate relationship with Christ.

It is very important to divorce one's self-worth and self-image from whether or not one is living a victorious Christian life.

To paraphrase Mart Crowley, "You may one day know and enjoy a Christian life if you pursue it with the same purpose with which you annihilate yourself, but you'll always be a sinner. Always--until the day you die."

It's important to communicate this reality especially to teenagers or anyone with the propensity to over identify their self-worth with success in the Christian life. The list of people who may be at risk are some of the following: perfectionists, neurotics, bi-polar individuals, insecure people, abused individuals. The list goes on and on.

When one sins, whether it be sins of passion, of omission or commission, whatever sin one seems to be battling with, it's important not to berate oneself with yet another failure. When one sins one should console oneself with the knowledge that yes, Jesus forgives us and loves us in spite of our sins. One should also remind oneself that when one sins, one is is good company with the rest of the human race.

It's not an easy or healthy life to identify yourself with your own sinfulness, however. Such identification can only lead to greater mental disease.

It's very encouraging to read the bible and notice how many people sin and grievously, e.g., David, Moses, Judas--well maybe not Judas as his story does not have a good ending. But you get my drift. The good book is a compendium of sinner's stories with most stories having a good ending. It also contains sinners who were not as fortunate, e.g., Absalom, King Saul, Judas Iscariot, and the whore of Babylon. While she was figurative, I did want to include at least one female in the list.

Christianity may very well be ideally suited for people born with and continually blessed with a healthy personality and mind. The rest of society should proceed with the greatest of caution.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Blog in the Clouds

Imagine that I have been writing post after post.

My posts have not been written here, obviously.

They have been written on the passing clouds.

Look for them there.

--Concept adapted from Yoko Ono's similar statement during the late 1970s.

Friday, October 24, 2008

23rd Century Adventist Futurism Conceived

After the collapse of world financial systems sometime in the 21st century, those Adventist Futurists who had hidden technology when there was money to be had, left Earth far behind on ark-like vessels.

Back on Earth the situation was bleak for a hundred years. After that time this is what the Earth looked like:

Clones were the second class citizens this time around.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Baptism Redux

Saturday, October 18, 2008. I was baptized for the third time. It was more special than the previous times. I had no family members in town as was the case 25 years ago. But at least I had some good friends who wished me well in the congregation.

No, I was not perfect, but waiting three years for that perfection to arrive did not dissuade me from stepping forward on Friday night. No one will ever be perfect until the Second Coming itself. As I waited for my turn to walk up and descend into the baptistry, I realized just how imperfect and sinful I was. But that was not going to deter me. I had been praying a lot about when the right time would come to undergo this event. Last Saturday was the day God had prepared for me to follow through with something that I had been praying about for three years.

There really was something different this time around. I know this time I really did receive the gift of the Spirit that's mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles.

I know I'll make mistakes and sin here and there, but I am in good company. All the folks who were baptized with me will also partake of these experiences whether intentionally or accidentally.

I walk in newness of life and it is intoxicating.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Legalism Refuses to Die Out in Adventism

When the fresh air of righteousness by faith was being breathed by more and more church members, along comes a reminder that legalism will not see its demise any time soon.

I can't mention any names because I'd be as bad as the person under consideration. He carefully avoids naming sources and countries--for the most part--where he has been challenged in his views, but he gives an occasional hint and comments about the persons in question. Of course, I'm guilty of the same thing, but from the other side of the street. I'm glad that I'm able to see this instead of having someone else point it out to me.

Nevertheless, I'm speaking of the speaker in charge of our week of prayer this week at my local church. I'm glad he's only a visiting pastor and that our regular pastor will hopefully undue what this visitor is so astoundingly doing to his flock. I may be in for a surprise if I probe a little deeper that perhaps our regular pastor is not such a fan of righteousness by faith as he appears to be in his weekly Prayer Meeting studies. [I felt uneasy about this comment and have subsequently apologized to my pastor for thinking such a thing about him. He then was gracious enough to forgive me and advised me not to worry about it and to focus, instead, on our common goal of getting to heaven. I leave the comment here because otherwise those who have previously read it won't make sense of my apology if I were to remove it. In any case, I don't specify his name or the name of my local congregation. Still, you never know who's reading one's blog.]

At first I was excited thinking this much anticipated speaker was going to bring some priceless jewel about salvation to our congregation. After only half an hour of him speaking I was surprised to hear it was simply an update to legalism in the present tense. Works are presented as something wonderful and life-changing. He almost makes you think that works really are not such a bad thing after all, as a necessary component to get to heaven. As he speaks I'm reminded reminded of the phrase "not by works less any man should boast." It's a high-wire act of the greatest delicacy to present works in such a new jewel setting and not let it be mistaken for the tawdry rhinestone that it really is.

What's even more shameful is that in these dire economic times which have descended upon us lately, righteousness by works and faith may find more favor than the tried-and-true righteousness by faith that was in play during more prosperous times.

The term "righteousness by faith" rarely, if ever, comes to light during the last four meetings that I've attended so far. To be fair I missed the Sabbath morning presentation, which may have been autobiographical in nature from what I've heard, but nothing that he could have said then could possibly change the constant attack on leaders and writers in our church that have so lovingly nurtured this precious bloom called righteousness by faith for many years. Even Ellen G. White, who rarely is mentioned in this week of prayer, was more in favor of righteousness by faith than the speaker in question.

A courteous reference to grace is made here and there, but it is then over-powered with the need for works. The influence of James' epistle is felt without being mentioned by name. Admittedly, the practical nature of works is highlighted: helping those in need, instead of simply saying a prayer for them. But that would then suggest that simply by helping more and more people in need--while a wonderful thing in itself--would guarantee you a home in heaven. This can never be the case. Or is this what practical Christianity is all about? Helping others and in so doing, you help yourself.

I hope most of the folks hearing this attempt at Righteousness by works and faith will remember all the other sermons and Sabbath School lessons that focused more on salvation by grace and faith (alone). If they do not, then sadly, that is what they wish to believe.

Out of courtesy to the speaker whom I will still be listening to for the next four days, both mornings at 5:00 a.m. and evenings at 7:00 p.m., I will not share some of the quotes from his personal experience that infer something slightly disturbing about him or his experience. As I hear statements that should make a thinking person shudder instead of laugh, I remember the bible verse that says" "out of the abundance of the mouth, the heart speaks."

One of the oddest of guidelines the speaker gave early in the week of prayer experience is for us all to fast for the next 40 days. After the shock of what he said, he explained that he meant as regards television, all DVDs, and even the Adventist cable networks which featured content that perhaps was questionable or perhaps it was the medium of television itself that somehow is deleterious to genuine spiritual growth.

I continue praying for this week of prayer speaker in spite of the fact that he may very well be doing more harm than good to those in attendance.

"If you look to the son of God and believe in him you have eternal life and he will raise you up at the last day." John 6. This for me is the one text that concisely states what salvation is all about. Works of any kind, even of the beneficial kind, are nowhere in sight in this priceless text.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

After the End

Life is weird as we wait for the end to finally hurry up and get here. I just drove by a big auto dealership two miles from home and found that they had gone under. Later on I read on the news that due to credit lines being frozen, auto dealerships will go out of business more and more. It was odd first seeing it first hand, then reading about this kind of thing taking place.

I attended church on Saturday morning, but today I was searching to be with people at worship so I attend an Episcopalian church in Ft. Lauderdale. Nothing in the service indicated that these brethren realize the End is upon us.

I was in an apocalyptic mood so instead of going home I dropped into the movie Blindness, a movie that had a look and a storyline that I kept telling myself might reflect what cities might degenerate into when the End creeps up upon us.

This movie was a downer for the most part and I wasn't thrilled to see it. It was billed as an exciting thriller. Perhaps thrillers no longer thrill when you know that the real thing is almost upon us. What a relief that there was a glimmer of hope at the end of the movie. Nevertheless, movies like this don't help me very much. In the future I'll choose my celluloid experiences very carefully.

Back home I put on Wynton Marsalis' church-jazz composition, In this House, On this Morning. I ate my home-cooked meal and waited for the afternoon soon to slip into forever. Alas, forever did not come so I decided to pay some bills on-line.

You will definitely know that something serious is happening to the world in which we live in when they stop filming new episodes of Desperate Housewives. But that day has not yet arrived. There's another new episode on tonight. In desperate times like these, what better show to watch than Desperate Housewives. Perhaps a little bit of humor and other people's mundane lives is what is needed as society devolves into madness. How fortunate for those who have the entire four seasons of Desperate Housewives on DVD in case they really do stop filming new episodes of this and other TV shows.

The networks would then have no other recourse than to film reality shows about the End of Days. Don't think it sounds so far-fetched. Hollywood has done everything else.

How does one live, really, when all the world is collapsing?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The End Has Come: Jesus is Almost Here

Prayer meeting is always a welcome haven from the challenges of the working week. We've been studying concepts based on the Adventist classic "Preparation for the Final Conflict" by Chaij. Our pastor really believes that these recent economic troubles are a signal that Christ is at the gates. Not just coming soon, but actually coming in no time at all.

This sense of urgency has affected me more than I'd like. While I'm glad Christ is coming in no time at all, it also has made me overwhelmed at what that entails about the End Times. I'm almost thinking of putting everything else on hold since Christ's coming is months or a few years from now.

It is exciting, but it's challenging as I have to continue living my life. Just today I considered not buying anything at all as far my hobbies are concerned, because there's no time for hobbies anymore. Again, I'm not sure that living like that is potentially healthy, but then again, if these are the last days, months or years of planet Earth's history, who has time for hobbies anymore?

In church we recently watched a video about pastor David Gates. He's a very spiritual and knowledgeable man who outlines just how close we are to the End of Time. If you want to check out his major sermons, The Approaching Storm series, the link is attached:

How will this all turn out? At what point do we stop blogging and focus on what the Lord impresses us to do to get ready to meet him in the immediate future. We can't speak of Jesus coming soon anymore. We've been saying "soon" for 2,000 years. It makes no sense to speak of soon. Why not simply say that Jesus is almost here.

I really do believe that Jesus Christ is coming back in my lifetime.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ellen G. White and the Positive Thinking Movement

Christian approaches to the role of the mind and the power of positive thinking may seem like odd bedfellows to some. Nevertheless, Norman Vincent Peale (Power of Positive Living,) Robert Schuller (Move Ahead With Possibility Thinking ,) and Joel Osteen (Your Best Life Now) are examples of past and present Christian ministers who brought this approach to large numbers of people.

The secular world also has its gurus that promote positive thinking. Louise Haye (You Can Heal you Life Now), Wayne Dyer (Inspiration : your Ultimate Calling) and of course, Rhonda Byrne (The Secret).

Without having read Schuller's work I became aware of his popular book in the early 70s as I was canvassing door to door with Adventist literature. One of the couples I met spoke to me enthusiastically about the power of positive thinking. I had already been thinking along those lines although I cannot pinpoint how I arrived at such an attitude. I know I believed deeply in positive thinking as I had just converted the year before to Christianity and everything seemed suddenly sunnier in spite of the imperfections of young adult life continuing in my own life.

Actually, come to think of it, a year before the encounter with the lady who was a Robert Schuller fan, I had taken part in The Positive Way at Atlantic Union College. Most of it was based on Glenn Coon's system of claiming bible promises. The other significant component was Ellen G. White's Christ Object Lessons. However, because of limited free time due to school work it was not actually studied in the course even though it was handed out as one of the seminar materials.

I lost my original paperback copy years ago and I recently purchased a hard cover version of this excellent book. I read it for a bit then became sidetracked with other spiritual books, and the greatest side tracker of them all, the Bible.

In Ellen White's time the positive thinking movement, or the New Thought Movement, had its beginnings. I know that because contemporaries of Ellen White's are the ones mentioned in Rhonda Byrne's The Secret. One example might be William Walker Atkinson (1862–1932) who wrote and published Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World. Three of its tenets that can be found in Ellen White's work are the following: 1) divinely attuned thought is a positive force for good, 2) all disease is mental in origin and 3) right thinking has a healing effect.

My recent fascination with wanting to read Christ's Object Lessons stems from trying to find these and other New Thought movement influences in Ellen White's work, especially Christ's Object Lessons. Of course, she focuses on Christ's parables and not just on positive thinking for the sake of positive thinking.

Recently I reached for Christ's Object Lessons again and am looking forward to studying its life-affirming chapters because of a fascination with how Ellen White approaches the positive thinking lifestyle.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Righteousness by Faith

What happens while you await sanctification? Yes, sanctification is a life-long process. Perhaps I'm fusing both justification and sanctification into one big term: righteousness by faith. Do you do right things even when you don't want to? If you do them is it righteousness by works or is it buying time till these right things happen naturally? If you don't do the sanctified act or thought, are you suddenly unsaved? If you really are experiencing bona fide righteousness by faith, are you even conscious of it? If you focus too much on yourself and what you are or are not doing, is your focus on the wrong person? If you focus on Jesus as much as you can, do you also need to monitor your actions? If you are monitoring your actions and they are either missing the mark or are hitting the mark more and more, how do you know that it's the genuine article and not wishful thinking?

Righteousness by faith is a gift of God. You can try to find it by engaging in various activities or spiritual exercises. They are not a guarantee that you will receive the gift of justification by faith, but it's better than not doing anything at all. One can engage in bible reading & payer. One can focus on the person of Jesus and visualize him on the cross and in the different stages of his life. One can attend religious services in a Christian church that one finds helpful. One can surrender one's will (power to choose) to Christ and ask him to grant you the gift of surrender. One can do all these things and yet not be guaranteed the gift of righteousness by faith.

Perhaps salvation itself arrives mysteriously. When you are living your life or trying to live it, this elusive gift may arrive much to your surprise.

Some folks can say "I accept Christ. I want his gift of eternal life. I repent of my sins. I want something more than this world can give me." They may be sincere and perhaps that is all they need to "come to Christ." However, others may have other experiences or other baggage that gets in the way and these wonderful phrases are simply that--phrases.

In the final analysis, one can only come to Jesus time after time and tell him that if he wants to save you, he has to "take your heart because you are unable to give it to him of your own accord."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Evangelism and Gays - Resources

"Below are posts that deal with different approaches regarding ministering to gays, lesbians and transgender individuals. Since no one approach is practical or life-saving to every person who seeks an answer, every link should be explored with an open mind. May God guide you, in his mercy and loving kindness, to the approach that will keep you alive, healthy and seeking after him and the salvation he offers freely to you through Christ Jesus.

The links below are not listed in any particular order. Read them all in order or read them as the Spirit moves you. Don't make up your mind until you have considered all approaches be they traditional, practical or idealistic. What may appeal to you now may not appeal to you as the reality of life requires you to seek another approach. If you can suggest an approach that should be listed here, please be so kind as to mention it and I will consider if it is valid enough to list in these resources. God bless all who are seeking an answer.

Evangelism and the Male Homosexual

Ellen G. White Bookstore Opens in a Chic Gay Ghetto

Gays in a Sexless Heaven

Trembling Before G_d

Pro and Con: How to integrate same sex-attraction and emotional attraction to members of the opposite sex.

Ex gays? Theory or Reality

Dilemma of a Homosexual

Friday, August 08, 2008

God's Arts of Light

Why speak of the dark arts of the enemy as some restless souls are wont to do from time to time? Our God's arts of light are infinitely more intriguing and beneficial.

Briefly, these arts are:

prayer, meditation, chanting of Bible verses, chanting of Spirit of Prophecy texts, healing via religious visualization, grace, righteousness, acts of kindness, righteous laughter, spiritual music, fasting, ...

These are only some of the Holy Arts. There may be others that time will make evident.


1. Chant portions of scripture that deal with Light or other principles of grace. Chant these aloud if by yourself or in a group of believers or mentally chant them to yourself. Chant each phrase or text once, pair it with another similar verse from another part of scripture, or the Spirit of Prophecy, and then begin the second or third repetition. The goal is to eventually do this spontaneously or even subconsciously.

Examples: "The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom then shall I fear. The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom then shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27

"I am still convinced of this: I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord. Be strong and take heart [cheer up] and wait on the Lord." Psalm 27

"God is the source of life and light and joy to the universe." Steps to Christ, 77.1

2. Whether sitting up in a quiet place or lying in your bed late at night or early in the morning, engage in the following mental exercise:

Imagine Christ himself standing next to you and placing his hands on your head or your shoulder as he transmits healing light all throughout your body.

3. I've been praying in new way for some months now. I call it visualization-oriented prayer. Sometimes when I'm dropping off to sleep or when I rise, or even when I'm working out at the gym, I visualize Christ--a faceless Christ which I do intentionally to avoid any hint of idolatry--who is standing next to me and either healing me of whatever pains I'm experiencing, or actually clothing me with his robe of righteousness. I don't think many people pray visually and it shouldn't take the place of word-oriented prayer. Sometimes, though, an image can express so much more spiritually speaking when words fail, or when the concurrent activities do not allow for actual words to be entertained as one prays. Perhaps this could be one way of fostering an attitude of prayer even when one is not using actual words.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Death of Time

"The end has come," Ezequiel chapter 7 announces.

Living in a timeless reality would be heaven, indeed.

If something dies, something else can live. Counter time, neo-time, non-time are possible replacements for what we know as time.

Minimal blog post: These are scraps of blogs that died before they could really live. Sometimes the title is the most significant aspect of the post. Other times, a lot is left to the reader's imagination. I include them as one would include unbaked loves of bread at the dinner table.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Post Laodicean Adventism

In my church the Laodicean message is brought up now and then.

However, might not the church as a whole be evolving towards an unnamed Post-Laodicean church, in effect, an 8th church? Instead of focusing on its lukewarm condition it looks ahead to a grace-induced condition.

I've thought that if one focuses on being lukewarm year after year, one might just get one's wish and stay that way.

Please visit Sherwood Cox's post,

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Christian Belief is Divine Madness

Yes, the Christian life has much to offer, but it also requires a lot from the believer. One really has to be experiencing a form of divine madness in order to continue to meaningfully live and benefit from the Christian life.

Recently someone said that the Christian life is generally for people in great debt, stress or need. The rest, it seems, have other priorities as they don't experience these as much. However, anyone--whatever their socioeconomic situation--can experience these unpleasant situations in varying degrees.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Abraham, Isaac & Jesus' Death

The ire of God killed Jesus, our substitute. Abraham stands for God and Isaac for Jesus. Abraham did not get to kill his son. God, whom Abraham symbolizes in the incident where Abraham was instructed to kill his only son, Isaac, did kill Jesus. It doesn't sound pleasant to say it, but when you analyze this particular story and think about the fact that God is able to take the life of sinners since he is the life giver, it make sense.

The good news is that in spite of killing or letting his only son die, God was able to save mankind.

It's seldom said, but God did not have to resurrect Jesus. He very well could have let him remain dead. Jesus was also the beneficiary of God's forgiving love.

Also, Jesus risked a lot in dying for humanity because he could possibly have failed and then not only humanity would have been lost, but Jesus as well. Had that happened, would God have found another solution? Who would then have to died to save both Jesus and humanity had that become necessary?

The similarities between the near sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham and what really did happen to Jesus have other dimensions, as well. Isaac almost died and should have died if Abraham would have gone through with it. Paul mentions that Abraham hoped that if he did kill his son, God could potentially bring him back to life. Christ, in fact, did die, but not for very long. In three days' time God brought him back to life. In this regard he is like Isaac who almost died, but was saved just before the knife came down.

There is no feminine principle in the Godhead, but if there were it would have to be either Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. In this story of Abraham and Isaac, the third person, Sarah, was left in the dark lest she influence the sacrifice of her only son. Not much is said in the Bible about how the Holy Spirit felt about Christ's approaching death. We can only assume that he too was pained by it though supportive of it, nevertheless.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mysteries of the 7th-Day Sabbath

Something as important as the 7th-day Sabbath was not kept by many Christians for almost two thousand years. Yes, there were pockets here and there, e.g., the Waldenses, but here's the problem.

Christianity was blessed with the rest of the commandments during the time the Sabbath was not as widely kept as it is today. 12 million Adventists, as well, as others, keeping the Sabbath can be considered a mark of popularity for the 7th-day Sabbath when compared with the centuries when it was seldom, if ever, kept. Perhaps not until the Reformation, were one or two other commandments not kept either, e.g, the first and the second commandments. (See Exodus 20)

It sometimes bothers me that something as important as the 7th-day Sabbath should have been re-introduced back into mainstream Christianity earlier than sometime in the 19th century. Jews, of course, continued keeping the 7th-day Sabbath as they had done during their entire history whether by the nation as a whole or by a remnant during periods of captivity by other nations.

It is almost as if for some reason, the gift of the Sabbath was removed from the world until modern times. Why would something apparently so important as the fourth commandment be withheld from Christians the world over? Of course, it really wasn't withheld since humans themselves decided to worship on another day. Had they wanted to they could have taken a long hard look at the 4th commandment with different eyes. Was all of Christianity blinded so they couldn't see the mystery of the 7th-day Sabbath? Are there cases where one wants to see something familiar in a new and essential way, but is kept from doing so? By circumstances, by people, by over-familiarity with the status quo?

This set me to thinking if some other nameless blessing that humanity once had access to and, with nothing more than restudy of the Bible, could once again be brought to light? Perhaps I'm hungering for new light or rediscovery of old, forgotten light? Perhaps we have to await Present Truth as it brings something equally important to Christians and humanity as a whole, at some point in the near future.

Let's hope our wait for this now hidden light or truth is a short one.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Evangelism and the Male Homosexual

First of all, you need to see yourself as that homosexual sinner that you are trying to bring to the cross of Jesus Christ. You cannot hope to reach him if you see yourself as superior to him in any way. You may have a lovely Christian home. You may have a wonderful Christian spouse. You may have children who love you dearly. None of this, however, carries any wait with the homosexual sinner you are looking to lead to the power of the cross of Jesus. Unless you identify with the homosexual or gay person, your efforts will fall short of the mark.

Only God can help you see yourself as God sees that person in need of the cross of Jesus Christ. God sees you both in the same light. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. AND all have been freely justified [considered fully forgiven and saved] by the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Book of Romans. The only difference between you and the homosexual or gay person is no difference at all. You may say that you don't do the things he does. You don't go to the places he goes. What difference does that make in the final analysis? Both of you can only depend on the grace [loving kindness] of Jesus Christ. Were it not for that marvelous grace both of you would be eternally lost. So what is there, really, to boast about?

There are some matters to consider, however, when endeavoring to bring homosexuals or gays to Christ. First of all you have to realize that most, if not all of them, will never lose their attraction for their own sex in the same way that you will never lose your attraction for the opposite sex. The only difference is that you are either married or have the potential to get married someday. Few, if any, homosexuals or gays that come to Christ can have that guarantee. What then can a life in Christ offer them that would convince them that a sexless life with Christ is better than a sex-filled life without him?

You may speak of eternal glory, a home with the saints and other worn expressions that Christian evangelists have been using for decades. This will rarely appeal to the man (or woman) who may actually have a rather enjoyable and well-balanced life that includes a partner and a group of supporting friends. Why would such a person want to leave that all behind in order to come to Christ? Why would they want to suffer being ostracized in a congregation of mostly married church people with their children by their side? Why would they want to exchange feelings of self-confidence with feelings of self-doubt and of inferiority when they seek to compare their sexless and now-solitary life with the one that you enjoy with your spouse and children?

Some might say that there are no honest answers to these questions. Others might say that it is a matter of faith. If the newly repentant homosexual or gay person "looks to Jesus as the Son of God and believes in him ..." John 6, he will feel that nothing else matters because of the excellent reality that is that life of one who is hid in Christ.

Unfortunately, this is not always the panacea that many seem to think it is. What then can the Christian life offer the homosexual or gay person that he or she doesn't already have?

For one, it offers them freedom from potentially damaging multiple sexual relationships. In this regard the unconverted heterosexual and his/her homosexual counterpart are in the same situation. Both can suffer from the psychological wear and tear of going to bed night after night with different people in the belief that this will somehow relieve the burning desire to experience sex to its highest degree and to perhaps bask in the intimate afterglow that sometimes follows the heat of passion. Like anything carried to an excess, this constant nightly sex is as addictive as any drug or habit.

When Christ comes into the sinner's heart, be he homosexual or heterosexual, the non-stop need for sex and more sex and more post-coital intimacy when it does arrive briefly, then gradually ceases to assert itself in the person's life.

Some may point out that there are committed homosexual and heterosexual couples that do not live a life of "quiet desperation", Thoreau, and to these folks it is hard to present this argument. The problem presents itself differently in those cases. While it may be true that you can love only one other person and not be married to them, be they gay or heterosexual, since there are no matrimonial constraints, there is always the possibility that someone else may appeal more to the momentarily dissatisfied person and unless conscious of the slippery walk they have undertaken, they could very easily fall into the revolving door of nightly trysts in search of a replacement of the loved one that they were unfaithful to.

Needless to say, a legitimate marriage does not prevent either spouse from being unfaithful to each other, either. Sex and its temptations, whether in or outside of traditional marriages, is the great equalizer. For those who do not have the marriage contract, however, it is easier to dissolve the bonds that held them together. All cases, whether homosexual or heterosexual, have the potential to hurt those they love by the tragedy of sexual infidelity.

What then can the heterosexual Church member offer the justified homosexual or gay person that they did not have before, outside of the sheep fold of Christ? They need to be both friend and family member (or the next best thing to that ideal) to the now solitary and hurting person who gave up a caring partner and/or community of gay friends, in order to come to the fellowship of Christ. If the heterosexual Church--into which a newly converted homosexual or gay person has come seeking the saving balm of Christian fellowship--cannot offer the support, love and encouragement that he or she had in his or her previous life, then the evangelistic goals of that church are a sham and do not deserve to use the name of Christ when seeking to benefit those who are outside the church community.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Trembling Before G_d

My local library had this dvd on the shelf and I thought I'd give it a go to get insight into something a bit different for a change.

Trembling Before G_d is a documentary about Hasidic and Orthodox Jews who are also gay and lesbian and married for the most part.

Instead of finding more celebration--as most films of this type seem to do--of sexuality and acceptance of what most people will tell you cannot be changed or cannot be changed often, this film was more about the pain that comes from family and fellow worshipers rejecting gays and lesbians. One Orthodox lesbian took the final solution to its extremes, poor woman, and ended her life rather than face the disapproval of her family.

There were some sympathetic rabbis--very few, really--but all of them either recommended therapy, change therapy, or celibacy. They did recommend that the supplicant continue coming to God because the "answers are in Judaism" and not outside of it.

If Adventists ever made such a film, who would see it? Most people don't even know Adventists exist. Others could care less. Perhaps it would be shown in universities, or perhaps on the Internet. Perhaps such a film already exists. Surely SDA Kinship must have attempted to film such a documentary, but finding funds for such a film would be problematic. Some would wish such a film would never be made. I'm sure it would have an audience, at least in film festivals if it were done in a unique way.

After seeing the film the thought came to mind of how those punishments for many sins, including same-sex relations, specified in the Torah, were not applied to the same-sex converts that Paul mentions in one of his letters to the Corinthians. Had they been applied, then most of the former Jewish or gentile adulterers, homosexuals, temple prostitutes, and a host of other sinners would never have gotten the chance to come to Christ and find salvation.

It appears to me that, at least in this regard, the Bible does change the way it presents the solution to a sinner's behavior. The New Testament provides forgiveness and a chance for the sexual sinner to live a new life. The Old Testament, on the other hand, recommends death to root out the evil from among the Israelites. I may be missing something here, or perhaps I've just seen the light, however dim it may be shining in this particular area.

Related sites or blogs:
Trembling Before G_d site
Trembling Before G_d blog

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lost and Found in a Lost World

Writers who do it for a living always sit down and write even when they don't feel like it or, perhaps have nothing special to say. They hope something eventually comes through from wherever inspiration comes for that particular writer.

Even though I don't write for a living--what a challenge that would be--I feel that I should try to add to this blog that has provided so much food for thought for myself, mostly, on a weekly basis. Additionally, I note through Google Analytics that the unlikeliest visitors occasionally spend five, ten or even 15 minutes on one of my past posts.

My title is a play on the Moody Blues song, "Lost in a Lost World." When it came out I thought how telling that the song's composer recognized his lost status. Over the years I used to take note of other song titles or passages in novels that spoke of supposedly "lost" people being cognizant of their lost condition. I'm reminded vaguely of two characters in Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf who realized they were lost, but had no idea what to do about it.

Another lost song snippet from the past that comes to mind is Steppenwolf's (the rock group) "Let's just hope there is a promised land. We'll hang on till then, as best as we can."

I was always told that irreligious folk didn't care about their lost condition, but here and there I'm reminded of instances where that is not really true.

Not all people know how to find God. It's not as easy as religious people seem to think it is. Sometimes "lost" folk have to wait until God finds them.

Lord, that's my prayer today. Please find the "lost" people in my world. Even better, use me to find them with you. Thank you, Lord, for putting that desire into my mind.

Over and out.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Time of Trouble is Almost Upon Us

For weeks now Wednesday night prayer meeting focuses on how bad things are getting in the world and how much worse they will get. It should make me happy that the Time of Trouble is almost here and after that, the Second Coming should follow close behind.

Perhaps this is really it. Why deny it any longer?

However, I wonder how Adventists responded as the Great Depression was ushered in by that unthinkable stock market crash and its aftermath? Did they also think at that time that the Time of Trouble was, no doubt, in its initial stages?

The thought has come to me more than once that society at large will probably not persecute the Remnant because of their refusal to honor the Day of the Sun, but rather for having such deeply pessimistic and dire predictions about how things will get worse and not better.

If as a people, all seven million of us--or however many Adventists are actively waiting for the Time of Trouble to arrive--focus all our efforts and mental energy on how things will get worse, no doubt, such a powerful self-fulfilling prophecy will come true. Sooner or later.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Callisto Died in My Arms This Morning

I always called him by his name, even when I knew it would raise eyebrows. I didn't care. He loved me more than I ever could. Even when I'd abandon him through forgetfulness for days at a time he'd always forgive me.

My father didn't care much for him even though I pointed out his good qualities. He was convinced that there was some kind of animosity between them. There was none. Father made wrong assumptions from time to time.

When I thought he had cancer, I worried that I wouldn't be there for him. It turned out it was benign. He didn't have health insurance so I had to pay all his bills, as much as I could. Sometimes it made helping others difficult. I'll still be paying off his medical bills for some time now.

I always knew that Callisto would leave me some day because he was so much older than I was. And yet, he was younger in some ways.

The Sabbath day and the weekend were special times for us because I could tend to his ill health and enjoy his company more than at other times.

Mornings and sunsets and quiet TV moments were among the best as he was always there waiting for time to take its customary slow course.

Sometimes he couldn't sleep at night as I slept since he spent so much time resting while I worked to pay his medical bills and all his other basic needs. Perhaps he watched me as I slept or fell asleep on the sofa. He was too polite to wake me or to complain.

If I could meet him again for the first time, I would be as patient the second time around as I was during our first 15 years together.

He only got mad with me once when I moved him from one side of the bed to the other as he was in the last stages of his many diseases. I guess I inadvertently hurt him and he had a right to be mad.

Minutes before he died I told him we'd see each other again in another land, in another time, when we'd both be born again. I don't think he understood, but I've used those words before when I've lost a loved one. It was natural for me to say it to him, as well. As long as these words live on, the life we had together will live on, as well.

Callisto was my golden retriever.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Simple Sabbath Musings

I'm sad to report that the last Sabbath I had was a bit odd. I guess I looked around and didn't find the right groove at the church I normally attend. It's filled with nice people. Unfortunately, I know very few of them well enough to walk up to them and strike a conversation even after three years of attending the same church.

The rest of the Sabbath was spent reading the bible and staying out of the hot Florida sun. At least I got to hear a new song in church and was able to let that wonderful melody & lyric carry me through to this very moment. I think, for me at least, music and hymns have always been what my church experience has always been about. Each hymn is both praise as well as a melodic prayer. What could be better than that?

I respect your goal of "dying to self". I too pray that, though not in those exact words. Dying of anykind gives me the willies. I prefer to ask God to empty me of self and of all else. I guess it's the same thing without using the "d" word. I want to live for Christ. I want to be like him and less and less like myself. That doesn't sound exactly right either. How could I not be myself? I think God wants us to draw closer to him, but still retain our personality. Otherwise, we'd all be the same in heaven and heaven would not be such an interesting place.

I pray that you enjoy what's left of this week and that you have the very best Sabbath this time around that you've ever had.

God bless,

Yours in Christ, Raul

[exceprt from a letter to a friend]

Friday, May 30, 2008

All Religions Can't Be Right

Two Latter Day Saints missionaries sat quietly in my place of business for two hours doing whatever they needed to accomplish in our city, which like so many, can no doubt benefit from the positive activities missionaries engage in. As I thought of them and others like them I had seen through the years, I thought of the unique beliefs that I've learned about LDS folk from watching documentaries, particularly their belief in baptism for the dead, and to a lesser degree, their off-shoot movements that still practice polygamy.

I then thought of all the different varieties of Christianity, as well as my own, and realized that they can't all be right. If they can't all be right, then it may be fair to grant them all the possibility that they are all wrong, including my own. If that is accepted, at least as a remote possibility, that leaves room for some hidden truth or reality that has not yet surfaced. Perhaps that hidden truth may never come to light either. In the meantime then, we continue with whatever brand of Christianity--or religion in general--we have come to accept as true.

Such uncertainty in uncertain times is neither agreeable nor comforting. Nevertheless, being dogmatic about the absolute superiority of one's own religion or brand of Christianity, is neither agreeable nor comforting. So we're back where we started. We keep on doing what we've been doing for a lifetime for some, only years, months or weeks for others. We hold onto what we think is superior truth, for whatever it's worth to us.

All religions can't be right, but they're right enough for those that subscribe to those particular values and beliefs.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

666 Ways of Being Religious

The title was, of course, conceived tongue in cheek, however, please note that the following link even has a funny looking pentagram of sorts. Well, it's an imperfect hexagram, but you get the general picture.

The original context was included in the following comment:

Intellectual inquiry IS a way of being religious, and an important one. Religious scholars usually divide religious behavior into six categories, one being inquiry. Some posit further that any religion or sect that grows for a long enough period of time will eventually incorporate all six categories, which you can find here:
Posted by: Samuel Sukaton 27 May 2008 at 9:16

The above comment was, in turn, part of the following link:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Postmodern Belief

A wonderful being such as God should exist, must exist and, therefore, does exist.

God exists because one chooses for him to exist.

For those who choose for God not to exist, he simply does not exist.

Whether he exists or not is immaterial.

The choice is yours.

Now one can go on enjoying life with this new found belief, a belief of choice.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Genetic and Neuroscience Revolutions

The Neural Buddhists NYT by David Brooks, May 13, 2008:

In unexpected ways, science and mysticism are joining hands and reinforcing each other. That’s bound to lead to new movements that emphasize self-transcendence but put little stock in divine law or revelation. Orthodox believers are going to have to defend particular doctrines and particular biblical teachings. They’re going to have to defend the idea of a personal God, and explain why specific theologies are true guides for behavior day to day. I’m not qualified to take sides, believe me. I’m just trying to anticipate which way the debate is headed. We’re in the middle of a scientific revolution. It’s going to have big cultural effects.

He recommends reading the following: books by Andrew Newberg, Daniel J. Siegel, Michael S. Gazzaniga, Jonathan Haidt, Antonio Damasio and Marc D. Hauser

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

We Create Our Adventist Reality

The reason the concept of the remnant is so effective is that only a few will ever be able or want to live the sometimes austere lifestyle of Adventism.

Traditional Adventists focus on wholesome music, art and entertainment. They eat wholesome foods, drink healthy beverages, and live a healthy lifestyle that traditionally has been both a comfort to dyed-in the wool Adventists, and a source of restlessness for the more adventurous among us.

Even though it would probably never come to pass, since you could no longer speak of a remnant, imagine what a primarily Adventist society would be like. Well, such societies actually do exist in the enclaves near Adventist institutions. The only difference is that you can always find a gas station within driving distance if you needed gas on the Sabbath.

Imagine, if you will, a world of mostly Adventists where gas stations never opened on Sabbath because everyone walked to church. That sounds like what Jewish believers do by having temples near their communities. Realistically, a society where everything stood still on the Sabbath sounds a lot like heaven on Earth.

Who would there be to evangelize in a mostly Adventist society? Again, I've experienced that when I lived in an Adventist enclave and wanted to walk to my evangelism exercise walk on Sabbath afternoon, only to find that--surprise surprise--everyone within walking distance was already Adventist. Of course, some of the Adventists I found were listening to secular music on Sabbath and not bothered by the fact that I was knocking on their door to speak to them about Christ and was subsequently informed, "everyone is Adventist in this building except the man below us who is battling cancer. If you want you could knock on his door." That was my first and last attempt to go door-to-door in a mostly Adventist community.

What if Christ, out of kindness to the Adventist worldview, actually comes back and takes the Remnant to an Adventist afterlife of their own creation? To do otherwise would seem less than kind. In a universe where anything is possible, might there also be an alternate universe where Catholics enjoyed a proper Catholic-tinged afterlife, replete with the virgin Mary having more of a salvific role than she does in protestant churches.

Might this be the reason why God tolerates so many different religions and varieties of Christianity and Judaism, because there are enough alternate universes to accommodate all his children and their particular vision of the afterlife?

Who knows, maybe the good folk in the recently conceived (8th-day) Adventist Futurism movement might also one day live and enjoy the future reality they so passionately hope comes to light.

In the future perhaps everyone will have their "million year picnic"* in a heaven of their own imagining.

* The Million Year Picnic is a 4000-word short story by Ray Bradbury, about a family from Earth that emigrates to Mars.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Second Coming of Christ: Reinterpreting the Prophecies

The first coming of Christ was nothing like what the Hebrew nation expected. It did not set them free from Roman rule. It did not usher in the peaceful and successful world that they had read about in the book of Isaiah.

If this misunderstanding happened with the all-important First Coming of Christ, what would prevent a similar misunderstanding from happening to the as-important, Second Coming of Christ.

When it is said that "every eye shall see him" one has to keep in mind that when those words were written down "every eye" referred to those in the then-known world, ostensibly a flat world with the Mediterranean, or great sea, as it's focal point. The Second Coming would have to be very large in scale, millions and millions of angels to fill a large enough area of the Mediterranean Sea, and the barbarian areas of Europe, Asia minor, etc., to be able to be seen all over the then-known world. It would follow then, that when the Second Coming occurs it will be seen by every eye in that part of the world. As the Earth rotates other areas will also be able to see the wondrous sight of golden beings and their Saviour-King hovering over planet Earth in a chariot of clouds.

Greater study and prayer are needed to unlock the prophecies about the Second Coming of Christ and strip them of interpretations that 2,000 years have built into them.

Some faiths believe in a Secret Rapture. Ours does not. However, when it speaks of "one will be taken and the other left" I sometimes wonder if out of respect for Free Will, those that are not taken will be allowed to live out their lives, as well as that of their descendants, until Free Will eventually renders this planet unlivable. In this way, God would not be the destroyer of those he created, they would destroy themselves. How long would this planet continue to exist without God's protecting grace preventing total anarchy and evil?

Some might think that to allow this world to continue with the uninterrupted intensity of evil that would exist without God's grace cushioning the effect of sin, would be more unkind than to destroy all those who reject God's last call to repentance. The same might well be said for our present state of affairs where an ever-increasing level of evil and suffering continues day after day.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Second Coming by Sheer Will

Christians everywhere are focusing more and more on the reality of the Second Coming, not as a far-away dream, but as something that will happen within a few years.

The power of the will is astounding. If we all focused on these simple words, "Jesus Christ is coming back in my lifetime," whatever we're not doing now that would hasten Christ's Second Coming, we would start doing.

Now it's important to realize that nothing we can do through our own efforts will be successful without being filled by the Spirit of Christ. I've heard from more than one person that sometimes evangelistic campaigns are mounted in large cities and famous evangelists are invited to speak, but in some cases, not one person makes a decision for Christ. Those in attendance are the ones that already believe, not those who are at the decision point.

I've often thought that if large groups of Christians would visualize the Second Coming as an event already experienced, it would have to take place sooner, not later.

Hasten the Second Coming in your life. Think of it constantly.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Short Life of Christ: Visions of Christ

I've forgotten what I was reading or thinking about that started me thinking about Christ and his short life-span. If he had somehow kept out of his enemies' way, could he have lived another decade or two or three? Did he really have to die at 33 or could he have died later?

The haunting question is what if Christ had lived out his life and died of old age but then would have been resurrected? He could still have felt the awful separation that sin causes between him, our substitute, and God. Is there something about a 33 year old younger man that an 85 or 90 year old Christ could not have contributed to our salvation?

One problem would be his post-resurrection body. It would presumably be a younger Christ that rises from the grave. Or it could very well be a very healthy and glorified octogenarian Christ, so his disciples could visibly recognize that it was the same Christ that was raised from the dead.

I meditate on this alternate history of Christ because of a suggestion by John Wood (Atlantic Union College) that Christ did not necessarily have to die on the cross. He could very well have been sacrificed by the high priest on the altar as Isaac almost was sacrificed by Abraham.

Thinking about the aging of Christ started me thinking about what it must have been like for Christ to get a cold, or a fractured leg, or other human ailments that come to human beings from time to time. Christ did, in fact, age, since he didn't stay forever 21 or whatever age is the standard before visible signs of aging begin. Some say we start aging when we are born.

How odd to think of the God-man, Christ, aging and perhaps acquiring one or two wrinkles around the eyes before he reached the ripe old age of 33. Christ, I love you, wrinkles and all.

Imagine if you will though, a 21 year old Christ dying for humanity. Even better yet, imagine the horror if, by some stroke of madness, the teachers in the temple had offered up a living, 12 year old Christ as the sacrifice that would also have saved all of humanity.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

7-minute Sabbath

Only when you don't have something, a constant weekly Sabbath guaranteed, do you take it for granted. Not that I didn't enjoy the Sabbath years ago when I had every Sabbath off from work. But it goes beyond that. Sometimes it's Monday night or Thursday evening and as I walk my dog and look up at the southern skies I celebrate a 7-minute sabbath. I also refer to this concept as the eternal Sabbath. I like to think that the Sabbath can be a state of mind that you can dip into any time during the week, as well as the regular 24 hour Sabbath that also arrives on its regular schedule.

I also think of Christ as being my Sabbath rest. The words of Matthew 11 come to me often during the busy work week: "Come to me [Christ] you who have heavy burdens and you will find rest for your souls." Right then & there I claim that promise for Christ's instant rest. It's a rest that you can tap into, must tap into to stay on course, any time you need it and not just once a week. So I thank God for allowing me to enjoy the 7-minute Sabbath dozens of times a week, or at times, 2 or 3 times a day. Thank God for the Sabbath in all its forms, real and conceptual.

I pray that the Lord help you to live in the Spirit more and more and bless you in every possible way.

What impressed me about the chapter [Acts of the Apostles chapter two by E.G. White] I mentioned before was it's obsession with things dealing with the Holy Spirit. I got the impression that one could live and breathe the Spirit constantly. What bliss that must be!

I wish you the best of Sabbaths beginning tomorrow. But I also wish for you a dozen 7-minute Sabbath's during your working week.

God bless, Yours in Christ

[adapted from an email I sent off to a distant friend]

Friday, April 18, 2008

In Loco Deus

After reading about an Asian child who lives in a garbage dump with his adopted mother and who feels that it would be a disadvantage, they both think, to leave the security and cast-off food in the garbage dump that arrives daily in trucks, I realized that there are poor children in my own country whom I could and should reach out to, if I am unable to help this particular boy and his mother in Asia.

I could pray for them, I could send money to Asian charities, I could ... I could ... I could. It then struck me that I, you, we, have the need or possibility of being not in loco parentis, but something grander for children and people who have nothing and may very well never have anything in their lives. For the first time in my life, I understood that I need to be in loco deus (in the place of god.) Or would it be too bold to capitalize not just the "g," but the whole word, thus becoming "in the place of GOD." I think I finally got it, what it means to be human and see so many people hurting. I and the help I may be able to give, with whatever limited or generous means I may possess, may be the only god or God that may ever come to rescue of people in dire need.

I understand who I am now. I understand what I'm supposed to do and who I'm supposed to be.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The End of Time

This is a phrase that comes to mind without any thought on my part. It doesn't help that often when I open the bible it opens to Ezekiel 7. The New International Version editor has titled this chapter "The End Has Come." I can't tell you how often my bible has opened as if automatically to this very page. I've often thought that perhaps it is the very center of the binding and therefore the page finds me instead of me finding it. That can't be quite right as it took me several tries just now to find this chapter. I had not remembered that it was the seventh chapter. There are, however, 48 chapters to skim through, yet it took about a minute or three to find this End Page.

I've read this chapter several times, especially every time it just happens to find me. I've thought that God guides me to this page and yet it's historical specifics don't resonate with me. My end of time obsession is far in the future. When I don't automatically think of these words, "the end of time" I often think of the following phrase: "a million years from now."

I meditate on what life or the universe will be like within a million years. Sometimes I associate both of these automatic mind phrases and imagine that life as we know it, or the universe, will end a million years from now.

It is nothing but a suspicion. It is not a wish I want to come true.

Today I stopped to think what meaning the cessation of time, as one of the four dimensions of existence, would possibly have. It sounds nonsensical that the other three dimension, height, depth, width could possibly go on and yet, the most important one, time, come to an end.

I once read in a scientific article that it is thought by some that time was the first dimension to come into being before the others could possibly exist. It makes sense since whether you believe in God or not, the universe started out as nothing, or close to nothing, an imperceptible original point of matter-energy. Since time was the first to come into existence, why couldn't it be the first to cease existing, after which the other dimensions would follow its lead.

The good news is that our universe might very well be a cyclical one. If time ends a million years from now, it can begin again a million years later. Or perhaps after time ends, it automatically begins again, racing faster and faster to its next End Game.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Delayed Second Coming

Rich Hannon: "I am presuming God will eventually explain why this train-wreck of a world should go on so long. "

I think God is a loving being. I didn't always feel that way. I'm glad I'm beginning to feel so more and more. However, I've always suspected that there is so much more that has happened and is happening behind the scenes that would explain why all of this imperfection and pain has been with planet Earth for either 6,000 years (conservative estimate) or millions of years (progressive estimate.)

I've sometimes thought that perhaps revelation is imperfect and we've assumed too much from what sacred writings he has bequeathed to humankind. Could it be that God lets this often tragic world continue because it's up to those he created in his own image to finally get it right by themselves? Did he not give us the basic tools to accomplish this, e.g., our minds? If you believe that it's taken millions of years for humanity to arrive at this point in history, might it not take a million more to make it to God's realm instead of us waiting for him to return to our realm. But wasn't this what the builders of the tower of Babel were set on doing, "making it to God's realm" They failed, the bible tells us. Perhaps all attempts at reaching God physically are meant to fail. The best we can do is try to reach him in spiritual ways.

When Jesus said "I come quickly" or that he's coming soon, he must have meant just that. Even the disciples believed such. Something must have happened that we don't know about to delay Jesus' return so much.

If Jesus doesn't come in the next thousand years, then we really should go out in search of him. I mean this in the most serious way. It is not an expression of doubt, just of mild bewilderment.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Post-Laodicean Church of Revelation 3:15

The imperfect Laodicean church, because of its lukewarm state, has already received its sentence when the Amen says "I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Rev. 3:16 (NIV) You might say that this sad spitting out has not taken effect since it speaks of "about to spit" instead of "have spit you out." Even though there is hope that the lukewarm church could potentially abandon its lukewarm condition through the spiritual gifts it is counseled to buy from the Amen, the sad reality of the Laodicean church is that it does not recognize its lukewarm state.

Note these important words, "I wish you were either one or the other [hot or cold.] Rev. 3:15 (NIV) Only in moving toward one of these two options can the Laodicean church leave its lukewarm state. Once it's fully conscious of its cold state, then perhaps the possibility of future heat can transform it, or it might also be that when once it crosses over into a cold state, it has effectively sealed its fate because it no longer makes any pretense of being even spiritually warm or, as it says of itself, "I am rich . . . and do not need a thing. Rev. 3:17 (NIV) This almost sounds like a pre-condition to becoming spiritually cold.

Since the first church, the Apostolic church, was a hot church, and since hot is the desired and positive outcome that the Amen wishes for the Laodiceans, then clearly the Laodicean church because of its steady-state lukewarm condition cannot be the last church because it would then cease to be identifiably lukewarm and would have evolved into a post-Laodicean church.

Without mentioning it by name, the words "I wish you were either one or the other [hot or cold] Rev. 3:15 (NIV,) infer the theoretical existence of a post-Laodicean church, in effect an Eighth church. Yes the number seven in the bible symbolizes completeness and you might argue that the seventh church is therefore the last one, however, the identifying characteristic of the Laodicean church is lukewarmness which does not sound like an ideal state. The wishing that this supposedly last church were either hot [desirable] or cold [undesirable but complete in its total rejection of grace] infers the return to the spiritual heat of the first church, the apostolic one. The last and ideal church would have to be like the first and ideal church. The cycle has to come full circle.

It would have been unwise to explicitly mention the Eighth church by name. Anyone identifying with it would be guilty of self-pride that he or she were part of the Eighth and ideal neo-apostolic church. By not mentioning it, it leaves the door open for its virtual existence when it finally comes into being. However, the difference being that no one who is part of the Eighth church will ever realize that he or she is, in fact, part of such an ideal and final church. Members of that church will continue thinking that they have the imperfections of the Laodicean church with its need to buy gold, white clothes and salve to put on their eyes. The silence of the name not being spelled out, or of a corresponding city being designated for this Eighth church allows it to be applied to all believers who are honest enough to realize that they are lukewarm and are in need of the Amen's saving gifts.

Identifying oneself with the lukewarm and vain Laodicean church has never seemed like much of an inspiration to me. On the other hand, wishing to be part of an unspoken and hot church, a Post-Laodicean church, sounds very attractive and worth seeking out with all the intensity that such a goal deserves.

May this Eighth church, which will remain nameless and virtual in its actual manifestation, be part of your life and mine. Or, rather, may we have the faith to seek the gold, white clothes [righteousness by faith] and eye salve that will allow us to become part of this nameless and hidden church. It is a church that hides conveniently in the description of the supposedly Seventh and final church.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Latter Rain is Falling

Listen, the Latter Rain is falling.
Run out into the Spirit Rain as it pours on you.
Let it fill your mind and cleanse you of all impurities.

Holy Spirit, beautify my soul with the colors of grace.
Color my mind with the beauty of your love.

Wash me gently at first.
Then let the downpour begin.
Don’t let your Holy Rain stop until I’m all clean.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

10 Days of Praying for the Latter Rain

5:00 a.m. prayer cycle at Fort Lauderdale Spanish Adventist Church begins Thursday, May 6

Raw impressions:

Day one Thursday: dark 4:30 a.m. rising, but full of mystical prayer. Pastor announces, without spelling it out, that we'd be praying for our (gay) neighbors that surround the church and who wish we were not in their upscale neighborhood. If only to pray that God will bless them and that they know that we mean them well and not harm, it will be worth praying for ten days, the pastor announces. At work I fight sleepiness by downing a rare two cups of coffee to not fall asleep at the manager's meeting and when dealing with clients. I'm more talkative and engaging than my usual reserve. I feel mild guilt that I have to resort to stimulants to compensate for the unfamiliar 4:30 a.m. rising. At night I witness to Peter, a non-believer, about my 5:00 a.m. prayer meeting and he seems glad for me in spite of his lack of faith.

Day two: too groggy to get up. I don't want to pray now and have to drink coffee later to ward off sleepiness at work. My day goes better than the day before as I get seven hours of sleep.

Day three Sabbath: Ancient sanctuary service as model for our approach to God in prayer. Incense as symbol of rising prayers. Mild emotion as sign of the Holy Spirit. Unconfessed sins an obstacle to revival. Alone in front of church at 5:00 a.m. No one called me to tell me they were meeting at 7:00 am, instead.

Day four Sunday: more familiar songs and requests for healing and blessing

Day five Monday: meditation announced. Breakfast with brethren each day after prayer service. Oatmeal, bread and fruit. Reminds me of early Christians meeting to break bread and pray.

Day six Tuesday: Hilda's emotional imagining of the Passion. Similar in style to some Pentecostal services I had attended as a young boy. Pastor had warned the day before that some would be upset by style of her vivid verbal re-experiencing of the Passion. I was spooked when I heard shuffling feet as everyone prayed and listened to the vivid account of the passion. I almost thought something supernatural might be happening, that Christ himself had appeared among us and was walking unseen as we prayed. I was too concerned to look behind me to see who might be shuffling across the floor as we all prayed and listened so intensely. At night I witness to my support group of mostly secular folk and am courteously received except for one man who seems upset that I chose to speak of telling my problems to God instead of a real-live person.

Day seven Wednesday: concerned about my health due to lack of sleep so I sleep in (evening prayer meeting about reform and revival supplements missed 5:00 a.m. prayer meeting). Elderly sister asked me if I thought we'd receive the latter rain soon. I respond that I believe Christ will return in my lifetime. Young mother hands me $50 dollar bill saying God impressed her to give it to me to help out my nephew in need of $350.

Day eight Thursday: Abraham and Isaac as models of true faith. Sister in front of me turns to me after opening song and tells me that I have a lovely singing voice. I thank her for her kind words. I feel yet again that I should perhaps try to sing special music some Sabbath morning or join the church choir as others have often told me to do. One cup of coffee just in case lack of sleep overcomes me again. Don't feel major guilt from the use of coffee.

Day nine Friday: Anointing & healing and prayer & bible readings by others. Testimonies were heard. I shared how my prayer request had been answered the day before regarding my uncooperative employees who were now on my side because we had a common enemy: anti-technology administrators. Several people went to the anointing corner next to the church piano were two female elders and the pastor prayed and anointed with oil those in need of prayer or healing. As I waited my turn, the reading of Psalms by the congregation seemed like chanting. My prayer was that God would prepare me for what for me would be my first anointing. All three prayed for me and then it was my chance to pray. My voice cracked as I uttered my last sentence: Oh that God would use me to win many souls for him.

Day ten Sabbath's end: The prayer cycle would not end. It would continue every Sabbath morning at 7:00 am. The Latter Rain is falling. We never imagined it would be like this.

I'll amplify as memories come back to be about elements of each day.