Lamb (square)

“Because He is risen, I don’t keep Easter” — plus a great chart contrasting Easter and Passover

Passover Lamb or Easter Bunny? Mr. Mike DeSimone has something worthwhile to say about that. (So does the Bible...)
Passover Lamb or Easter Bunny? Mr. Mike DeSimone has something worthwhile to say about that. (So does the Bible…)

It’s a busy day, today! As did the ancient, faithful Christian Polycrates, my family “observe(s) the day when the people put out the leaven.” With Passover last night and the Days of Unleavened Bread beginning tonight, we’ve got loose ends to tie up — really, final crumbs to throw out. And I can’t stay down here in my hovel typing on my blog while they are doing all the work upstairs. (Or, can I…)

Still, I do like to post something at this time of year — in particular, I like to mention why I, as a Christian, simply cannot keep Easter. So, I thought I would provide some reruns today in the event that some may not have seen them before.

The one post I’ve written on the topic that I like the most is “Because He is risen, I don’t keep Easter” — which was eventually cleaned up and turned into the Tomorrow’s World commentary, “Because He Is Risen, I Do Not Keep Easter.” It’s a rare example where I found the ability to be concise. 🙂

And the Tomorrow’s World website has a number of resources for anyone interested in why Christians should not keep Easter and why they should consider the biblical Holy Days, instead. (You’ll note that the statement presumes that Easter is not a biblical Holy Day. Not an accidental contrast there.)

Speaking (however parenthetically) of contrasts, the commentary published just today (I think) on the Tomorrow’s World website is excellent: “Easter or Passover” by Mr. Mike DeSimone. It includes a very good chart contrasting Easter and the Christian Passover that really nicely lays out points one should consider. I highly recommend it.

That’s all from me today. Those last stubborn crumbs await! For those who keep the biblical Holy Days, I pray that all of us have a meaningful and profitable Days of Unleavened Bread!

Lamb (square)

Did Jesus only pay the price for Adam’s sin?

Only for Adam's SinThe title here reflects one idea behind the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and it seemed a decent topic to bring up as we approach Passover. In particular, while some may quibble with the wording, it is a summary of how Jehovah’s Witnesses approach the issue of how Jesus’ death atones for sin: The idea that in His death, Jesus paid the price of Adam’s sin, one man for one man, and that by paying, through His perfect life, for the sins of Adam, all of us are then “ransomed” from death. Actually, here’s how one of the JW resources summarizes it: “[H]e would pay the wage for Adam’s sin … the ransom would cut off the destructive power of sin right at its source [that is, Adam’s sin — WGS].”

They reference many verses — the verses you would expect one to refer to if you were trying to justify such a position. (Noting that through one man’s sin death entered the world, etc.) But they do not establish the central point: That Jesus atoning death paid only for Adam’s sin and that the gift of forgiveness is extended to all of us through an architecture of “legal consequences.”

And it is a false point, contradicting God’s Word concerning death, guilt, and sin. None of us die in connection to Adam’s sin other than in the fact that we are following in Human Dad’s sinful footsteps. The death we experience due to sin was, indeed, “welcomed” into the world when he sinned, but the death we earn is our own and is due to our own sins, not his.

God sets out the “legal doctrine,” if you will, very plainly in the book of Ezekiel:

“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” — Ezekiel 18:20

The whole passage is worth a read (of course), but this is a great one verse summary. God wanted to make it clear, and He does. Crystal.

  • “The son shall not bear the guilt of the father”–meaning none of us bear Adam’s guilt. We bear our own.
  • “The soul who sins shall die”–meaning Adam’s sin earned his death, not mine and not yours. My sin earns mine. Your sin earns yours.
  • “The wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself”–meaning Adam’s wickedness is on Adam. Mine is on me. Yours is on you.

Sin entered the world through Adam–true. But I didn’t have to dance with it, myself. But I have.

In contrast to that faulty idea of atonement, the one Mr. Armstrong made so plain is so much more sensible: Only the Eternal, Divine Creator’s death was sufficient to cover all of ours.

John 1:1 — translated accurately — says that the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, existing as the Word, the Logos, “was with God” and “was God.” If John did not believe in the Divinity of Jesus Christ and His equality with God (which He did not claw at, desperately, to keep it but, rather, gave it up willingly for us and emptied Himself: Phil. 2:6), then this is one of the most poorly written statements in the entire Bible. But knowing the truth — that there are two Persons in the Divine Family that is God — John 1:1 shows itself for what it is: a beautiful poetic statement of a beautiful and remarkable truth. (And it is a truth with profound implications for all of us.)

With that understood, we can see how three days and three nights in the grave for the Son of God, our Creator (John 1:3; Col. 1:16), can pay the price of eternal death for all of us. No life was worth more. And the death of an infinite life there on Calvary, for however long it would have been, is enough to pay the price for all the sin we could ever have committed in all of our little finite lives combined.

[Sort-of-side note… That, to me, provided an answer, however speculative, that used to allude me, to a question that vexed my little math brain: If the ultimate penalty of sin is eternal death, how could a death that lasted only 3 days pay that price? No problem: The death of the Eternal, for however long at all, is the ending of an eternal life. That the Eternal, Himself, who inhabits eternity, is the one who died, what death of a finite creature–even an unending one–could ever compare? His taste of death (Heb. 2:9) was more than all the death I could ever drink in. If you will forgive the math-ish slang: Whether you look at it as ∞ × n = ∞ or n × ∞ = ∞, the result is still ∞.]

Claiming Jesus Christ is a created being is heresy, and it is heresy for very good reason. It not only robs the Son of God of all that is due Him — all that His Father and ours wants recognized in Him — but it also robs His atonement for all of its force and robs our purpose of all of its meaning and significance, as we are to be made like He is (1 John 3:1-3).

For those who claim Jesus Christ is a created being, the ability of His sacrifice to pay for all of our sins becomes a problem. That’s why you see nonsense like this idea that His death really only paid for Adam’s sin, and our own sins are forgiven through some legal architecture.

But it is a legal architecture that is contradicted by God’s Word. As God makes plain through Ezekiel, we all die for our own sins, and we do not bear the guilt of our forefathers’ — not even Adam’s.

All this brings to mind two things for me. First, theology matters. The idea that some doctrines, like the nature of the Godhead and the deity of Jesus Christ, are simply theoretical and don’t make much difference is wrongheaded. It makes a great difference. Jesus, Himself, said on that Passover 1,984 years ago, that “this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). If Jesus Christ is God, then it is a stretch to believe that one knows Him if one doesn’t know that. (Seems to me that it would be the equivalent of claiming that one knows George Washington while believing that he is a cocker spaniel.)

Secondly, it reminds me that when I am sitting there Thursday night on Passover, meditating on what Jesus Christ did for me and how I need it, I am in that need because of what I have done. The life I have lived. The choices I have made. The guilt lifted off of me every time I kneel and ask God to forgive me day-by-day is my own. I cannot blame it on others. I cannot blame it on Adam. I cannot blame it on my neighbor. I cannot blame it on my wife. I cannot blame it on my kids. It is all mine.

Yet, the beautiful and magnificent Eternal was willing to empty Himself so that He could take my guilt–the guilt I owned, I earned, and I had compiled over a lifetime of ignoring Him and disobeying Him–and make it His, to rid me of it forever.

What an amazing thing.

Too wonderful for me, #7

Wow! It has been almost four years since I have added to this little personal blog series! Well, today I will break that drought.

As Passover season approaches, I am reminded that one of the things I enjoy most about being a pastor is counseling others for baptism. Given the continual growth of God’s Work, it has been a fairly constant presence in the work i get to do over the last several years, and I enjoy it for obvious reasons, of course. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing someone being brought into a relationship with Jesus Christ that will last eternity? (Raise your hands, please. None? OK, good.) But another aspect of such counseling is that it keeps fresh in my mind some of the beautiful truths that are really the cornerstone of that relationship and of our faith. One such truth is expressed by David at the beginning of his prayer of repentance concerning his sin in the matter of Uriah and Bathsheba:

Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:1-2

It might seem like an odd choice, and–even given my thinking here–I could see other choices taking the place of this one, but I always come back here when these thoughts enter my mind.

What the passage reminds me of is a beautiful truth: That the source of the forgiveness available to me is not my own attempts at goodness, my own strength, my own righteousness, my own character. Rather, the forgiveness extended to me is grounded in God’s lovingkindness. It is grounded in the multitude of His tender mercies.

David’s wisdom here is the realization there is nothing in Him on which forgiveness could really be founded. Surely reflecting on the previous 9-months-or-so emphasized that to him. How many times, perhaps, during that time did he go to God and ask for forgiveness because he would do better in the future, or because he had done so much better in the past before this “slip up”? We can’t know (until we can ask him directly, of course). but here he makes it clear: His basis for being forgiven is not his own potential to be good, but is founded on God’s own goodness and mercy–a foundation with depth and strength and solidity that goes beyond comprehension. David recognizes that he can’t truly make up for his sins. He can’t “reverse” his adultery. He can’t bring Uriah back into the world of the living. He can’t clean the stains his actions have smeared on his heart and on his character. There is nothing that he has done that he can truly undo.

I’ve felt that way. If you’re a Christian, you surely have, too. There are those times when it is hard to ask for forgiveness again. Times when I want to take the edge off of the sting of my guilt by imagining that my repentance and desire to change is somehow a worthwhile “trade” for God’s forgiveness. Repentance is necessary, to be sure. To imagine that a request for forgiveness is sincere when there is no desire to actually change or do differently is to indulge in self-destructive delusion. Paul makes that pretty clear in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11.

But to think that our necessary repentance and obedience somehow “earns” our forgiveness would be a delusion of another sort. And it is that realization that gets me at times. The idea when I am asking for forgiveness that I have nothing of enough value to somehow trade to gain that forgiveness. And yet I need that forgiveness. I need to be made right with my Creator.

And, thus, Psalm 51. However confused he may have been up to that point, he knew: The only basis for forgiveness available to him was God’s own goodness and mercy. He sought forgiveness not in any way “earned” because he planned to “do better next time”–a desire he surely had–but, rather, it was available because that the the amazing sort of God he had. His Creator was one of astonishing lovingkindness. One whose tender mercies were beyond counting.

What a comfort that has been to me–a comfort too wonderful at times for me, and one I understand that I can’t fully grasp. It has been a comfort to know that when I ask for forgiveness, I am asking one who loves me beyond measure. I am asking to drink from a well of mercy, the depths of which no man has ever imagined and which no measuring line could ever fully plumb. It is something that comforts and reassures in a way I cannot fully describe, but for which I am thankful.

Signing our hymn based on Psalm 51, “In Thy Loving Kindness Lord,” after the Passover service every year, as we do in our area, seems such a fitting thing to do. That lovingkindness, that multitude of tender mercies extended to ones such as you and me, found corporeal expression in the life and death of Jesus  Christ– a life He lived for us and a death He died for us. And it continues to be expressed in the life He lives now — a lovingkindness and a tender mercy that doesn’t stop at seeing that I am forgiven for the things I have done, but that continues on further, seeking to rescue me fully and utterly from those things. A lovingkindness and a tender mercy that seeks not only to free me from the grip of my sins but to take me far from them, far beyond their reach, where they will never be able to touch me again, forever.

Knowing that the ground of my forgiveness is not rooted, truly, in my own goodness but is rooted in His is something too wonderful for me. And I hope it is a part of all of our meditations as Passover approaches.

Again, it’s been a long time since I have visited this little thread! Here are pass posts for those with a little time on their hands:

Stack_of_Matzoth_from_kosherstock

A Couple of Unleavened Lessons

English: Matzah Bread (unleavened flatbread fo...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, this year’s Unleavened Bread has come and gone! I’m actually writing this on the day before, but I’m going to set it to be published on the Last Day of Unleavened Bread.

I often like to write up some of the lessons I’ve learned during the Days of Unleavened Bread, and often these focus on the removal of leaven. But there are lessons in the eating of unleavened bread, too! The scriptures are pretty clear: “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread” (Exodus 12:15). (And Exodus 13:6.) (And Exodus 13:7.) (And Exodus 23:15.) (And Exodus 34:18, Leviticus 23:6, Numbers 28:17, Deuteronomy 16:3.) And there’s lessons from that, too. Just as leavened bread pictures sin in these days, unleavened bread pictures the righteousness we are to take in, instead.

One that came to mind this week is related to this diet I am on. It’s pretty strict about carbohydrates, and there was no room for them during the Days of Unleavened Bread, carbs and bread going, pretty much, hand-in-hand. Though the diet is going very well, and I have no interest in derailing it, of course I ate some anyway. I know I’m stating the obvious, but it was a good reminder that no matter what’s going on and whatever plans and goals we might have, we always have to make room and time for the things of God.

The other was related. As I was eating yet another plate of protein (beef in this case–very good!), I had set aside the bite of matzoh (my wife’s gluten free variety) and another unleavened cracker by the plate to eat after I was done. In the meantime, I was pushing some of the last bits of food onto my fork with my fingers (as the well-bred Texas Aggie I am), when I saw those two pieces of bread sitting there and thought, “Why am I using my fingers when I’ve got two decent little pieces of bread there?” So, I grabbed one and used it instead. Before that, they were sitting there waiting for me to finish my meal and eat them when I was done–frankly, just to make sure that I got my “unleavened bread” in. But it made me think: what’s the whole point of “taking in righteousness”? Isn’t it to put it to use in our lives? What good is it to set what we’re learning and studying aside and not incorporate it into our lives, where it is meant to make a difference? Righteousness is meant to “go to work,” as it were. “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11). God intends His word to accomplish something in us, not to sit next to our plates while the meal goes on, so to speak.

What are some things you learned this year? Feel free to let me know, below!

Because He Is Risen, I Do Not Keep Easter

I see that the Church has kindly reposted a commentary I wrote on Easter! I really liked that one. I’m not always the biggest fan of my own writing, but I tried to make that one simple and straightforward, since I thought that would be the best way for it to have its intended impact. Here are the first few paragraphs:

Because He Is Risen, I Do Not Keep Easter

I believe in the risen Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior of mankind. I believe that after His crucifixion on Passover, He was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth—as He said He would be. I believe He was then resurrected by His Father, restored to the glory He had with His Father before the world was.

He was the perfect Passover Lamb. He also became the perfect wave sheaf offering, accepted by His Father as the first of the firstfruits. In His resurrection, I see confirmation of the promise made to all those who truly follow Him that they, too, will one day be resurrected to live forever as He now does.

Consequently, I do not keep Easter.

Read the rest here: “Because He Is Risen, I Do Not Keep Easter”

It was actually a commentary that was conceived as a post on my blog. That remains one of the benefits of this blog, which is the chance to write without the pressure of being as polished as I would strive to be for one of our Church publications or websites while still staying in a “writing mode” and being able to ruminate with pen and paper (well, keyboard and LCD screen) in such a way that I can explore some topics I might write about in the future. I’ve said before that I don’t have a “dog in the hunt”, as it were, concerning my blog, and if it interfered with the other work I have to do or was somehow unhelpful, I’d be content to stop doing it. But this is one way in which I’ve found it really helpful.

Matzah

There’s a reason Passover comes first

Howdy! These have been crazy days, to be sure, and not much blogging on my part. And this post will be little exception! However, I have had a thought turning around in my mind for a few weeks as the Holy Days approached, and I thought I would comment on it — or, rather, refer anyone passing by to a comment I made on it long ago in the Spring Holy Day season of 2007.  It concerns the reason the fact that Passover precedes the Days of Unleavened Bread is an important one, and I’ll add a little commentary here before sending you to that earlier post.

Passover pictures God acting first, as He always does. To me, the Passover-then-Days-of-Unleavened-Bread order typifies a great truth of Christianity: “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Passover reminds us that He loved us before we loved Him. And Unleavened Bread reminds us that the only acceptable response to God’s love is to love Him back — and repentance and turning to obey the laws of God is, indeed, how we love Him (John 14:15, 1 John 5:2-3). Those who place Passover a day late on the evening of the 15th of the first month, when we’ve already “deleavened,” get it backwards. Christ did not die for a people who had already repented and thrown sin out of their lives:

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Yes–He died for us while we were yet sinners. Leaven and all. Our repentance is a response to what He had done, hence the beginning of the Days of Unleavened Bread, picturing our response to the love and sacrifice of Christ, happens after Passover. Again, we love Him because He first loved us.

Well, that’s more original commentary than I had planned! What I really wanted to do was to refer to this post I wrote in 2007. It would have been better to bring it up right before Passover, but given it’s main thrust is that Unleavened Bread must be kept in the light of the lessons of Passover, I think it is still fitting. I hope you enjoy it! The “tricycle lesson” mentioned at the end of the post, as simple and obvious as the lesson may be, is probably one of the most personally meaningful learned-through-parenting lessons I’ve ever learned about life and God’s work in us, and I am thankful for it every year. In fact, it has become a staple of my baptism counseling.

Here’s the post:

Again, I hope you enjoy it, and have a wonderful First Day of Unleavened Bread!

Matzah

On Talebearing, Pettiness, Food Fights, and Passover

Please forgive me for the awkward title, but this will likely be a rambling post (coffee drinkers, you might need to caffeine up!) and it was hard to sum it up in something pithy, yet it is all interrelated in some way. It is also poorly edited and quickly written, so beware, lest a misspelling or typo poke you in the eye.

This post is a follow up to something I said yesterday in my post concerning Mr. Dennis Luker’s death.

At the time when I went to my blog yesterday, I was thinking of posting some comments about lies and the lying liars who tell them (and, yes, it feels icky to borrow from Al Franken, of all people), because some new ones had come my way. For instance, a weird comment one made about Mr. Meredith surrounding himself with “yes men” — a subject I have discussed before (for instance: here and here) and mentioned that my personal experience (repeated numerous times in multiple contexts) is exactly the opposite. I’ve seen Mr. Meredith seek out contrary opinion, even strong contrary opinion, and I’ve seen individuals provide him with such. In fact, I, personally, respectfully gave him a different opinion on the phone once, for which he… yelled at me? chastised me? No: For which he thanked me. No one is perfect, to be sure (well, except, perhaps, for my Beautiful Wife), but Mr. Meredith is, indeed, surrounded by individuals willing to disagree with him–individuals he, himself, put in place. (Public service announcement: Just because someone doesn’t accept your ideas, that doesn’t mean that person only surrounds himself with “yes men.” It may just mean that after thinking about them the person thinks your ideas aren’t as good as you think they are. Learn to live with that.)

Another bunch of false stuff was brought to my attention on the website of a particularly self-righteous fellow, claiming that one of the new self-appointed prophets to join the ranks of self-appointed prophetdom is somehow having a “big impact” on the Church. Really? Where? I mean, seriously: Where? None of the members in my area have asked about where a bunch of people supposedly went. It didn’t come up in our Council of Elders meeting this week (or in any meeting this year, or in any Executive Luncheon I’ve been able to sit in on) or when I was in Charlotte last month. No single minister in the entirety of the Church has mentioned that they are suddenly missing folks that I have heard. In fact, things have been the opposite–this particular self-appointed prophet hasn’t really made any impact at all, much like most previous self-appointed prophets in the Church’s history (if not less than those). Really. None. And that’s pleasantly stranger than it should be. When someone goes off and starts his own work, it can sometimes become a magnet for those who were already grumbling and distracted by their own personal confusions, and you sometimes see a handful follow (until they find something else, of course); yet in this case I don’t even know of much of that–actually none at all. Even in the 1½ states I pastor directly, most didn’t even seem to notice he’d gone off to begin his own work. Of those few who did mention to me that they had heard about it, the sentiment of several seemed to be that they had sadly thought for some time that he might do something like that and that they would plan to pray that God humbles him lovingly and gently so that he might repent and come back one day–the sort of sentiment one would expect when you see someone hurting themselves in some way, all the while knowing that they probably have to go through the experience to learn what they need to learn. (I should add that it wasn’t that those few hadn’t read his own account of things; it’s just that the unmentioned reality that was present between the lines of that account were so obvious to them.) But beyond such prayers for the individual’s mindset by the few who even mentioned that they noticed, it hasn’t even been much of a blip on the radar.

(To be fair, the “particularly self-righteous fellow” who made the bogus claim on his blog about a non-existent bunch of phantom “departing members” says such a mind-bogglingly vast number of things that are so ridiculously and hilariously false to the point of being delusional that one can only assume that he is on medication. So, perhaps it is the peyote that is talking.)

So, having the weird, false comments of rumormongers, talebearers, and self-promoting accusers brought to my attention, I thought I would write another post yesterday (having already written one: “Warning: The internet is full of ninnies”) talking about the mental vomit that is gossip, rumors, talebearing, and accusation-farming. (My apologies for the phrase “mental vomit”–I know it’s not pretty. At the same time, that’s part of what makes it accurately descriptive.) But two things hit me, one at the time, and one since then.

The “since then” one was expressed well in a comment by iammarchhare on yesterday’s post:

I think I know the rumors you’re speaking of, and what’s interesting to me isn’t that there are those who will spread them. The Church has always been scattered because of the enemy’s tactics to persecute in any way those who love God. No, what surprises me so much is that so many will listen in with eager ears (“itching ears”?) to unfounded slander and insinuation, make mountains out of molehills, and give credence to those whom the accuser will use.

He’s right. The weird accusations of such folks will always be there. Satan is pretty consistent. The greater concern is whether or not we will actually spend time reading or listening to them — that is, to borrow iammarchhare’s words, whether or not we will give credence to those whom the Accuser is actively using. If we see the devil’s fingerprints on someone’s website, why continue to go there eagerly for “news” or to “get some dirt”? Don’t we dirty ourselves in that process? Isn’t it a bit like digging in the sewer for a bit of undigested food we might want? (Again, please forgive the yucky nature of that word picture, but, again, there is a reason it’s an appropriate one.) One person and I were joking about such a person’s website a couple of years ago (actually, it was the peyote user’s), and he said to me, “Yeah, I just hold my nose when I click there.” We laughed at the time — yet, if I am having to “hold my nose”, why am I there? And if so much of what is being said is rotten verbal refuse, is it worth digging into it to find something that may, in reality, be just as tainted as the rest? It’s like another minister in our own Church told me: “You know, all the things this fellow says about our own Church are so ridiculously wrong and full of fantasy, why in the world would I put any stock in what he says about other organizations?”

The Bible has so many warnings about talebearers, gossipers, rumormongers, those given to accusation, etc.–even in cases unlike these false ones I’ve highlighted, where what they say may actually be true–that it would be shameful to approve of what they do by participating. And if we think of every website we visit as sitting down for a “mental meal,” what sort of food am I eating while I am on their website? What is it turning me into while I’m there, chowing down? Aren’t the answers obvious? Talk about “unclean meat”… Can we really believe God is pleased if we scrupulously avoid a ham sandwich like it’s the plague, yet we dive in and digest “information” from places that He so soundly and passionately condemns? Really, can we?

While any time is a good time to examine oneself, the Passover season is a fantastic time. As we place in our mouths the bit of unleavened bread at Passover picturing Jesus Christ’s body broken for us, hopefully those who need to will have considered beforehand how much time they spend eating filth served by the Accuser — filth that same Jesus Christ hates very much.

And mentioning Passover brings me to the second thing that hit me. (Ha! You probably thought I forgot that I said “two things”! Well, frankly, I’m surprised I remembered also…) This one hit me the moment I heard the news of Mr. Luker’s death and stayed my hand on the post I was going to put up instead.

How petty is all of this stuff?

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are times when the petty things need to be addressed, too, but we need a sense of perspective. It does bother me that people can be harmed by stupid rumors that they hear, not because they, themselves, go searching for the websites of various self-appointed-ones and peyote-users (in which case, any harm would be self-inflicted), but because some of those who foolishly do so then spread the false information to others. On one hand — especially one-on-one as a pastor, but sometimes through little not-widely-read blogs like this — it is good to address the “small things.”

But it doesn’t do any good to lose sight of the fact that they are small things. Again, the self-appointed prophet I referred to hasn’t even been a blip on the radar in terms of affecting the Church or the Work of God. The same with the apparently-medicated rumormonger I had in mind, too. As loudly as the latter likes to talk about his self-proclaimed deep faithfulness to God (it is always amusing when someone boasts about their humility; they need to read Ben Franklin) and how much “impact” he fantasizes he is having in his railings against the “corporate churches of God”, what has been the result? Again, not even a blip. Not even a micro-blip.

[Side note: Could any of these individuals (not just the two I referred to) have any significant impact the future? Of course they could. Those who are unwilling to heed God’s commands concerning talebearers could certainly whip things up into a fevered frenzy, even if it is much ado about (literally) nothing or less than nothing. That’s always possible. Liars, gossips, and accusers do find an audience at times, especially when the Accuser, himself, is helping out so generously. But for the moment, and, frankly, for the easily foreseeable future? Nope. No impact at all. The only impact they seem to possess apparently exists mostly in their minds.]

So, here I am, talking about things of, fairly literally, zero importance and of microscopic impact: Individuals who currently have about as much real influence on the Church I am blessed to serve as a light breeze has on the Empire State Building–noted by the few who happen to see a leaf blowing by, but then forgotten as a trivial observation.

And that makes all their doings, sayings, mutterings, etc. simply petty stuff.

Then, in stark contrast to the petty stuff, Mr. Dennis Luker died yesterday. Even though I did not know him personally, his death simply highlighted to me yesterday the pettiness of all the other stuff. I believe that is one of the reasons King Solomon suggested as he did in Ecclesiastes 7:

“Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (vv.2-4).

There is something about that “end of all men” that gives us pause and makes us think–helps the living to take certain things to heart. And the thought I had after hearing the news was that the goofy delusions and misleading accusations of a few prima donnas on the Internet was, in the end, equivalent to little more than someone throwing broccoli in a school cafeteria hoping to start a food fight. And, in the spirit of another passage in Ecclesiastes, there actually may be a time to hurl a brussels sprout back. There is a time for snark and a time to talk about things that deserve snark–even quite snarkily snark. But yesterday I was reminded that those times are rarer than living on the Internet can make them seem because such things and such people are, in the end, petty.

Then there is Passover. Faced with the magnitude of what Jesus Christ did for me and the death of the Son of God, how can I justify in this season focusing inordinately on the pettiness and the pretensions of Internet prima donnas? Yes, I note the irony that in a post addressing how silly it would be to snarkily focus on pettiness I did, actually, spend some time snarkily focusing on pettiness. I should pay more attention when I start writing these sort of “stream of consciousness” posts, huh?

Still, the point and the feeling remains. Again, it isn’t, again, that there isn’t a time for spending effort on such things, perhaps. I’ve toyed for weeks now with the idea of beginning an informal series of tongue-in-cheek posts that will be, I think, of value given the times in which we live and given the fact that last couple of decades probably only represent the first few floats in a parade of self-appointed prophets God warned about a long time ago. But, in the big scheme of things, such efforts lack even a shadow’s depth compared to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and it is hard to get one’s neurons firing on such topics when the mind is brain with such an awesome and humbling thing as that. There just isn’t room.

I will try to stop my ramble here. The fact is that the Son of God died for me. He died for the rumormongers, too, and I can’t ignore that. More than that, He lives now. And, miracle of miracles, He does more than live but actually lives in us if we are willing to allow Him, helping us to dedicate ourselves more and more fully to the way of life He taught and to the commandments He loved. At this time of year, we are confronted with the fact that the Ever-living Creator actually died–a seemingly impossible and wondrous contradiction–so that His creation might have hope of truly living. The heart of One whose own life defined what life is stopped beating, so that the hearts of those He loved might one day truly begin to beat. That thought is so huge that I struggle to try to type it out, knowing that the best words are certainly escaping me and feeling frustrated at the poor job I am doing at conveying such a simultaneously heart-rending and hope-inspiring truth.

Faced with that reality, food fights can wait. I have to leave pettiness to the petty, and should, instead, simply pray that I do not accidentally fall into their number–or, if in stupidity I have already wandered into their crowd, pray that He will mercifully reach in and pull me out. And then, to go further, I have to ask Him to help me see them as He does–with righteous indignation at their actions, to be sure, but with a real love for them that, without God’s spirit, would be beyond us. Certainly beyond me.

Let the ever-present ungodly rumormongers, devilish accusers, and faux-enlighted self-appointed-ones preach their little fantasies to their little audiences. God is bigger than the world they seek to craft with their tales. This is the season of more important things. If any of us have unwittingly assisted Satan in his work by dining on their poisonous words in the hopes of finding a tasty morsel here or there, or, much worse, by spreading it to others, may God have mercy on us. This is a great season for repenting of that sort of sinful stupidity and removing some bookmarks from our web browsers if we need to. It’s a season for focusing on things of more depth. More significance. Eternal significance.

The accusers, talebearers, and reality-challenged ones will always be there, and when this set finally passes out of the world–should the world last that long–they will simply be replaced by “new blood” recruited by the devil for his work of attacking God’s people, His ministry, and His work.

For us to give them our attention: That’s the real shame, and a leaven that should be put out of our houses.

Excited about the Work! And (believe it or not) the Fast!

I’m back from my week in Charlotte! I meant to write this post this past Sunday or Monday, but life has been a little “crazy busy” catching up, and it’s taken me a while to get back into a “normal” swing of things.

What a FANTASTIC week I had in Charlotte last week! Most of you know me, and you know that I am usually very excited about God’s Work, but–WOW–I don’t think I have been this excited about it before in a long time! In so many ways things are moving in such a manner that it seems clear to me God is behind some wonderful things in His Work. It wouldn’t be my place to talk about anything Dr. Meredith is still approving which are still a few steps away from completion (even if I thought it was awesome!), so I won’t. BUT, I can talk about…

The Live Online Tomorrow’s World presentation. Yes, I know that there were a few technical glitches (if anyone thinks it wasn’t live, they don’t know how the Internet team was scurrying around like busy little bees taking care of the glitches as they happened!), but, still, wow!

I admit, I am a little envious. Dr. Meredith was really able to cut loose on that broadcast! On the telecast, we have to consider a number of factors given the vast breadth of the television audience and the limits of the station producers of various nations. For instance, Canada’s restrictions can be a real pain in the neck when it comes to preaching the truth, and all four of us on the telecast have to be wise like Paul in Athens and smart in our approach. It’s not that we can’t preach the truth, yet–we can, but we simply have to do it with savvy and with a mindfulness of our medium. Every medium has its mix of powers and limits, and someone using that medium must keep those things in mind and adapt (something Paul was good at). That’s one of the things I like about the live in-person Tomorrow’s World presentations I have been able to do: Really being able to cut loose in a manner that you can’t on television.

And that’s a great thing about this live Internet presentation. Dr. Meredith just cut loose! It was fantastic to see, and I can’t wait to see more live, online presentations. It’s hard to know for sure, but based on connections and registrations, we believe that more than 7,000 people who do not attend with us in any way saw that live broadcast and many of them requested literature from our website. It seems like a brand new world opening up to us in this way, with this being just the first peek at grander vistas to come. Very excited!

The Tomorrow’s World Broadcast. Here’s the other thing I can talk about from experience without preempting anyone, and, again, WOW. (Yes, I know I am using “Wow” a lot, but it’s a hard exclamation to beat. Maybe when I’me feeling more energetic I can come back and edit this to have more variety. Or maybe I can invent another one. Suggestions welcome!)

I had the privilege of taping two new broadcasts this past Thursday, and it was an absolutely fantastic experience. We’ve been working with some consultants on the broadcast recently, and last Thursday was the first chance we’ve had to tape programs with the consultants’ input. The content was all exactly the same as I normally create (My apologies to those who hate our content… HA! Just kidding! I love our content and make no apologies!), but we are upgrading our taping technique in the studio, and we’ve added two new cameras, upgrading from one to a total of three (also a driving factor in talking to some consultants).

Our fantastic crew has been hard-pressed in recent days learning new things and new techniques, so when we taped on Thursday, our first time out of the gate after beginning to learn all of this, we used only two of the cameras to keep the stress level manageable. If the fact that I was not able to get my scripts done quite early enough to plan the blocking for a full three cameras was a factor in only using two this time out, they were all kind enough not to tell me! But, really, it was a lot of new work to learn the two camera environment, so three will be more work, still, and I’m glad we got to get our feet wet before jumping in to the deep end. The end we were swimming in was deep enough as it was!

And I think the smiles on all of our faces after those tapings were wonderfully telling! It was simply fantastic. It’s amazing how even small choices add a dynamic quality to so many shots, and working with the jib (our movable camera on an arm) was a lot of fun. As I mentioned to my congregations this past Sabbath, I was fairly giddy for sometime afterwards–simply a terrific day on the set! We have always striven to make sure that the set, the editing, the graphics, etc. complement the power of the content, and I have been–and continue to be–very thankful for the talented and dedicated people we have on our crew who work hard to make that happen to the limits of our ability. But what we’re doing now is pushing the limits of that ability to new places, and it is a real challenge but, at the same time, wonderful to experience! I know the crew had to be stressed in the days and weeks leading up to Thursday’s tapings–if they weren’t then they wouldn’t be human. (And I know they are human. We ate some wonderful homemade Sri Lankan food between tapings that day, and I did, indeed, see them chewing and swallowing like we humans usually do.) But to see all of their hard work and “learnin’ curve climbin'” come together like that was incredible, and I think that getting to experience the first tastes of the fruit of that hard work showed on all of us. Personally, I know I was walking on air for quite a while afterwards, and I was already thinking that I cannot wait to get back to Charlotte to tape more programs.

All of them really stepped up their game, and I hope I contributed what I could to their fantastic work. Again, my thanks to every one of our amazing crew–including Mr. Ciesielka, who has helped get many of these elements together–and to our consultants, who are proving a wonderful help. I can’t wait to see the results of our highly experimental first day, let alone what we’re able to do when we get used to the new opportunities that have been opened to us. New graphics, new cameras, new techniques, but same powerful message–it’s a good day to be a part of the Tomorrow’s World team!

BTW: I did feature one of our new cameras–the jib–in a recent Tweet:

It’s not the best picture since it’s at an angle, so the length of the arm gets lost. I routinely referred to it as an animatronic dinosaur or as “the robot”, but not to disparage it–mainly since (1) the jib is my new friend, and (2) I really, really wouldn’t want to get it angry.

I should add that the consultants we’re working with seem like wonderful folks. They didn’t mind at all that we wanted to pray before the taping and they put up with me and my on-set hyperactivity with smiles and good attitudes, which was probably quite a chore! And, wonderful or not, they are great at what they do, and I’m happy to be learning from such capable professionals.

So, in so many ways–some I’ve mentioned, but others I will wait until they roll out–it seems like the Work is really at an amazing tipping point. AND as I was walking around, talking to folks behind the scenes like Mr. Ames and Mr. Ciesielka, it seems powerfully apparent that God’s fingerprints are all over this forward motion. (I would say “Wow” again here, but I have used up my quota for the month. If anyone has some Wows to spare, I will try and pay you back next month.) Not only does it have me jazzed like nobody’s business, but it also humbles me to the point that I keep asking myself repeatedly: If God is enabling us to seriously step up our game in so many ways, am I really up to that?

It’s an important question. On one hand, to be sure, being “up to that” means focusing on professional development and increased production. Can I improve as a presenter and a speaker on the telecast? Not “can I” as in “is there room for improvement”–that’s a little (painfully) obvious! But can I actually do it–can I actually do what is necessary to improve my scripts in quality and design for greater impact and have them ready much earlier for better pre-production work, for instance? Can I step up in my magazine contributions, as well? Yes, there is all of that.

But on the other hand–the bigger hand, if you will–the question really presses me spiritually more than anything. God is preparing to do amazing things, and He is quite capable of raising up stones to be his vehicles for doing those things. Yet, we don’t want Him to have to do that–we want Him to use us right? So where are each of us spiritually in our walk with God? Unlike so many other professions out there where the world wants to focus on competence over character (think of the defenses of President Clinton’s appalling behavior during the impeachment drama), we know that with God it is the other way around (cf. 1 Sam. 16:6-7). For instance, I know that I cannot separate my role as a husband and father from my role as a telecast presenter, since if I fail to fully heed God’s commands related to the former roles, I risk reducing the freedom God has to use me as an instrument of any sort in the latter role. How we respond to Christ’s desire to live in us and to obey His Father’s commands through our lives directly impacts our ability to be the Church we need to be for Him to do the things He seems to be providing every indication He wants to do!

This leads to my excitement about the coming fast Dr. Meredith has asked for. Not that I am a fan of going hungry (obvious to anyone who knows me), but it is just a reminder to me that Dr. Meredith has our priorities right.

I had a chance to talk to Dr. Meredith in his office this last week a little before he and his executives met and decided to call a fast. He explained to me that with all of the success we are seeing–the Work “leveling up” (my video-game inspired words, not his!) in so many ways all of a sudden; the humbling unity we’ve long experienced now in the ministry, in the Council, and among the leaders at Headquarters; the doctrinal solidity we’ve enjoyed under Christ’s leadership–we don’t want to take anything for granted, since we know that Satan surely does not like the way things are headed for us. The devil hasn’t been able to break us in these things–unity, zeal, doctrine, etc.–but that doesn’t mean he can’t get to us in other ways. For instance, in 2012 we inexplicably enjoyed incredible income while the country continued to experience a downturn, but it has been lower the very first bit of 2013. While this isn’t necessarily unusual and is easily explained and, to a certain extent, very understandable given the financial state of the U.S. and the world, it does remind us that we never want to take God for granted! Also, while things have been amazing from the perspective of what God is doing through us, we don’t want to take for granted that we are worthy of these things and that we are immune from faults of character. We cannot risk “letting our hair down” spiritually (as he said in his announcements) and neglect our personal character development–an error that is always easy to make when things have been this good for this long (cf. Deut. 8:11-18).

Again, we’ve been blessed with a remarkable unity and stability–especially given the age we’re living in. So many organizations in other places have been rent, fore and aft, by disloyalty and politics or confusion and lack of unity, and we simply haven’t. Some few have left over the years here and there–a characteristic of this age to be sure–but their impact on God’s Work has been virtually, and remarkably, nothing. Nil. Nada. Over the years, some individuals, ordained and not ordained, have begun their own “works,” all to no avail or effect (delusional boasts notwithstanding). It has been, and continues to be, a remarkable time of significant unity and faithfulness to sound doctrine.

But as wonderful as all of those things are, we are all still frighteningly human. What good is doctrinal unity and zeal if one’s character is flawed and vulnerable? Satan is constantly on the hunt, and while he hasn’t been able to distract and divide us in terms of our leadership and ministry, we are–every one of us–personally vulnerable to his devices in the ways that all humans are vulnerable. What kinds of husbands and wives are we? How do we respond when a brother or sister disagrees with us? Are we selfish or selfless? What entertainment do we allow ourselves, and how does it compare to the desires of God for us? Etc., etc., etc.

That’s why I am thrilled about the coming fast: because it reminds me that the Living Church of God is focused on exactly those things it should be. We don’t want to simply be “doing the Work.” We want to ensure that we are striving to be worthy of that Work. Not that anyone can truly be worthy of that Work, but we must always strive to be so. What a difference that attitude makes! And that is the attitude I see in the Church, and in its leadership. Dr. Meredith, Mr. Ames, Dr. Winnail, Mr. Wakefield, Mr. Hernandez, Mr. Weston and so many others — consistently, I see men and women who long to be what God would have them be to give Him maximum freedom to do His Work in us, and it is uplifting almost beyond description. Perfect people? Of course not. But people seeking the mind and desire of the One Who Is Perfect? Yes, that’s what I see. And that’s what this fast is all about: making sure that at this crucial time we do not take anything for granted and that we are all, individually and collectively, drawing closer to God.

So, I am excited and encouraged. The Work is growing in power right in front of our eyes, and it is thrilling to see that from the blessed “behind the scenes” perspective I get to experience. The unity we continue to experience is humbling. The leadership we have in place continues to impress me with its maturity, rapport, and spirit of “one accord.” And the Work is increasingly becoming well-positioned to accomplish amazing things, seemingly by God, Himself. But one thing remains and will remain until our Savior returns: We’re still human beings, and, as such, we are all potentially “weak links.” I can speak as passionately and eloquently on the telecast as I want (for the sake of argument, please pretend I speak eloquently), but if I am failing to be the father I am supposed to be, or the husband I am supposed to be, or the neighbor I am supposed to be, or the brother I am supposed to be, I cannot pretend I am not harming God’s Work, because I am. That is true for all of us. And I walked away from my conversation with Dr. Meredith understanding that to be the reason for our coming fast–a reason that has only grown more powerfully convincing as I have meditated about it, further. And the fact that Passover is rushing toward us makes this seem, all the more, like an inspired decision.

Jesus Christ is clearly rolling up His sleeves and preparing to do some astounding things. That seems abundantly clear to me. And recent events make it just as clear that He would like to be able to do those things through us. It may be that we could never be truly worthy of those things, but may we always be found striving to be so.

Matzah

Unleavened Bread Lessons for 2012

As I have done past years [EDIT: Which can be seen here — WGS], I thought I would list some of the lessons I learned from “deleavening” our home and property this year. I like to emphasize that the physical act of removing the leaven from our homes and eat unleavened bread every day is meant to teach us spiritual truths about the removal of sin and the taking in of righteousness (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8), and noting these lessons down in writing has always been a help for me.

[I would love to have done this earlier, but the pace of life has been terrifyingly fast these days! Much to do, much to do, much to do… 🙂 But this will be a nice break, though I may be a bit brief.]

The lessons, actually, came fast and furious this year, but I will restrict myself to some of those that came to mind while cleaning my car, several of which involved money (oddly enough, referred to as “bread” in days long gone by!).

I vacuumed our van–which was filthy with crumbs and bread-bits, by the way!–at the local car wash. While getting between the chair and the console (yuck! that was bad…), I noticed two pennies that I didn’t want to suck up (money is money!), so I put the vacuum nozzle aside and reached with my fingers, trying to get them out of the space before I cleaned it. It was hard (space was very narrow), but I eventually got them out and continued.

This hit me in two ways:

  • How often do we put off repenting of sin because we’re afraid of losing money or a paycheck?
  • How often do we get our priorities out of whack when we address our lives? In this case, I spent about 15 seconds removing those two pennies while the vacuum hose–for which I had paid 75¢ for about 3 minutes’ worth of cleaning–sat idle. That means that while I struggled to “rescue” 2¢ I lost about 6¢, for a net loss of 4¢. I’d have been better off sucking up the two pennies!

Back to money, I did collect a lot of coins in cleaning up the car–a lot more than I would have anticipated and not all of which was in in accessible nooks but, rather, was fairly accessible but which had gone unnoticed while we were living our life. Some of it was all gathered together waiting to be found, such as the “stash” that had built up under the rubber covering of the van cup holder, which was “crummy” as all get out. (Do people still say “as all get out” today? For the record, I do.)

And from this I thought…

  • Ridding our lives of the baggage of sin is often so much more “profitable” than we anticipated that it would be. Sometimes that profit is literal, such as in leaving a job due to Sabbath conflicts and finding another job we never would have considered that pays more or gives better benefits. But the greater profit is spiritual. Christ tells us that His burden is lighter than the one we bear without him (Matt. 11:28-30), and it truly is. In the end, though we do experience temporary losses in this life there is no true loss in ridding ourselves of sin and embracing the Way of God and Jesus Christ, only eternal gain (cf. Luke 17:33, Matt. 19:29).

Speaking of the cup holder, as I was cleaning up the area between our front seats (the home of much crummy, bready nastiness, to be sure) between the console and the cup holder, I kept noticing a sharp scratching against my right forearm. And it wasn’t just a feeling, it was the real deal. Here’s some of the aftermath:

Picture of some scratches on my arm.
A few scratches on my arm (sorry if this is gross to look at). Coloration here, by the way, is due to the app I chose for the picture, Hipstamatic, which imitates (to a degree) the style of late 60s cameras and which I've been enjoying of late.

Horrific, huh? Well, OK… not horrific. But, still, it stung! What was the offending item? It was hard to find! I eventually noticed what looked like a tip of a little wire sticking out from the bottom of the cup holder. I tried pulling it out (sticking myself a few times in the process), but it wouldn’t budge much. That’s when I pulled off the rubber cover to the cup holder and found…

Straight pin I found in my car
My tormentor, the straight pin of doom.

I recognized it as one of my wife’s straight pins, which had likely fallen out of something we had in the car, finding its way under the rubber covering of the cup holder and, now, into my flesh.

And the lesson from this?

  • Ahhh… Actually, I’l let you decide. Yes, a couple of thoughts came to mind at the time, but I’d be interested in hearing yours! If you have one, leave it down below.

I’m not trying to take the easy way out, here — just that (1) I’d be interested to know what sort of “getting rid of sin” analogies you might come up with for this, and (2) I have left over Chipotle for lunch sitting upstairs waiting for me, and suddenly continuing to type on this post sounds less attractive. (No, seriously, it’s more (1) than (2)…) And in addition to lessonifying my experience, feel free to add any lessons you believe you learned from you own experience, as well. [EDIT: And your patience will be appreciated if your comment sits in the moderation queue for a while until I get to approving it! Thanks! 🙂 — WGS]

I hope the rest of your Days of Not-Fluffy-In-Any-Way Bread go well!

Apologies

Howdy, all! My apologies to those of you who have visited here numerous times expecting to see something and seeing… well… nothing. 🙂

The lead up to the Spring Holy Days has been crazy with work and other necessities, and consequently blogging has taken a back seat, as has a number of other activities. I hope to pick up writing again as soon as the Passover/Unleavened Bread dust settles.

Speaking of which, many of you reading this will be keeping the Passover memorial of Christ’s sacrifice tonight and will begin the Days of Unleavened Bread tomorrow night. Let me just say that I hope these days are meaningful for all of us and that we truly learn all God would teach us this season. As is often the case, what we get out of things is closely related to what we put into them. These days are such an opportunity to grow in our relationship with God and with each other — even with ourselves, in terms of getting to know ourselves more thoroughly and seeing ourselves as God sees us through the self-examination encouraged this season.

So, again, my apologies for being AWOL, and I hope everyone has a profitably memorable and profoundly meaningful Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread.