Peace

My heart is filled with a noble theme;

from within mine eyes do gleam —

this day I am Supremely blessed.

 

Whatever life may throw my way,

it is with confidence that I say,

“This too shall pass; it is no test!”

 

For this I know and understand —

that my life rests within God’s hand —

and so I need not be distressed.

 

 

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Baptism

Baptism is understood to be an action, undertaken by an individual, which is intended to represent that they are entering into a covenant relationship with God.  Complete submersion into the baptismal waters symbolizes the grave (for a person who is fully submersed in water cannot remain alive for long — they soon drown).  It typifies the death of the sinful nature, and indicates the person’s willingness, nay even desire, for self-ishness to have an end.  It speaks to both the transition that is about to happen, and the change of state that is to be made by it.

The transition is going from life (the pre-baptismal condition), to death (symbolized by the submersion), back to life again (represented by the emersion from the watery tomb).  The change of state indicates the man or woman is no longer going to be who they used to be, or live in the same manner as they had previously lived.

The pre-baptismal condition, is a life, but it is only a dead life, because it is a life of sin; and although there are many roads which lead to sin, the only road that sin leads to is death. Self-ish-ness literally means “One who is about themself”, indicating a person who only looks after their own interests.  Is there a life more lonely or dead than one such as this?  This is the life the individual is to die to, leaving their own will behind.  The old self lies at rest in the waters, where the transition is made.  Coming up out of the water, he or she has now been symbolically raised from the dead and born again into a new life, a living life, a self-less life.  As this is the only sustainable life, continuing to walk according to this new state and manner of living is the only path which leads to Eternal life.

But baptism is merely symbolic: it has no power to actually affect a change within the person, in and of itself.  In order to walk a new Path, one must have a Guide to show the Way; and in order to be made capable of living in accordance with the will of God, the man or woman must first be granted a new, spiritual nature.  This is accomplished by God’s gift of his Holy Spirit, which now is made to dwell within, and grow along with, the newborn child of God — to be his Teacher, Comforter, Counselor, and Friend.  Without the power of God’s Spirit to instill a new nature, the only possible outcome of baptism would be a continuation of, and return to, the old, pre-established ways.

The terms of the transaction, or the agreement being made between the two parties could be written up as follows:

I (the individual being baptized), by this action do hereby acknowledge before God:

  1. That He is absolutely Sovereign.  By my entrance into these waters, I signify my willingness and desire to follow and obey your will alone, O Father, as you are my Creator and the Sustainer of my life.
  2. That prior to entering into this covenant, the life I had lived was one of sin.
  3. That sin should not and cannot continue to exist; and therefore you are justified in pronouncing the judgment of death as your condemnation of sin.
  4. That I repent and no longer wish to live in the same sinful ways as I have done previously; but I am powerless to change my nature.  Just as no cat can will itself to become a lion, I cannot but be anything other than what I am, unless You, O God, make me into something more.
  5. That just as I am powerless to change my nature, I cannot atone for my sins by my own virtue — I need a Savior. (For more on this, see the article Why did Jesus have to die?)
  6. That your only begotten Son was and is that Messiah, who was and is the only perfect and acceptable sacrifice for sin.
  7. That from henceforth I will look to Him for the strength necessary to walk in Your ways and carry out your will and to forsake my own.

God, for His part, promises:

  1. To forgive all sin by an act of grace, which was supplied by the death of His Son.
  2. To place His holy spirit within the believer to supply their every need.
  3. To be faithful, even when we are unfaithful.
  4. To never leave or forsake you as you attempt to walk the path of righteousness
  5. An Eternal reward for continued obedience.

 

Having now discussed the nature of baptism as a covenant existing between God and man, have you ever considered that the earth itself has undergone a baptism, and indeed will do so yet once more?  A man’s baptism is undertaken voluntarily; the earth however, was and will be, subjected involuntarily.

The earth’s first baptism was the Flood; which was a baptism by water.  It occurred to wash away the corruption from the sins that had taken place in it, and it represented a physical cleansing.

The second will occur at the Lord’s return, and will be a baptism of fire.  It will not only wash away corruption — it will completely consume it.  It represents a spiritual cleansing — the removal of all that can be corrupted, so that only that which is spiritual and eternal remains.  It will be the end of the physical universe.

The baptism by water, as it was the earth’s first, had but one witness — Noah — who both testified of its imminent arrival, and survived the judgment it proclaimed.

The baptism of fire, being the second baptism, has two heralds — known as the two witnesses — who are the two olive trees spoken of in Zec. 4 and in Rev. 11:4.  They currently stand in the presence of the Lord; one to His right, and the other to His left.  As they have been in the heavens, they have witnessed all that has been transacted below.  When they appear, they will be pronouncing the imminent arrival of the Lord, testifying of the Righteousness of the coming Judgment according to all that they have been witness to, and proclaiming the need for repentance; just as Noah had done in his day.

They are Enoch and Elijah, the only two men Scripture records as having been translated; and the purpose of their translation was to serve as the end time witnesses.  Enoch is the scribe of the righteous, recording all that is good; and he will be sent to testify of the blessings prepared by God for those who love and obey Him.  Elijah is the scribe for the wicked, recording all that has merited Judgment.  He will testify to the destruction that awaits all those who hate God and reject His Son.  He called down fire from heaven during his time on earth, and Scripture informs he will command it to fall again, upon all who oppose him.

 

Stream of Consciousness

Imagine the thoughts of your mind

as a stream,

flowing ahead and trailing behind,

like a dream.

 

All those you pass by

must enter its wake —

say none remain dry,

just for argument’s sake.

 

Upon wading through,

reflecting back from their shore,

would many or few

emerge changed by the chore?

 

 

Eve and the Serpent

Anyone who has read the book of Genesis knows the story of man’s fall from grace.  But why are we privy to the dialogue between Eve and the serpent, if not to learn from it?  What then can be gleaned from their encounter to instruct us as to the operation of his wily methods?  How was he successful in getting her to disobey God’s instruction?  For those who are unfamiliar with the account, the LORD’s command was as follows:

“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

Now imagine the scene at the opening of Genesis 3: The serpent approaches Eve and says, [Hey. (Nods head curtly and casually) … So, I was there in the garden with your husband when God was giving him the tour, and I couldn’t help but overhear — Am I getting this right?] — “Did God truly (spoken with incredulous emphasis) say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? ”

The purpose of his word selection wasn’t to convey that Adam and Eve weren’t allowed to eat from any of the trees — such an idea would be easily dismissed as ludicrous in relation to God’s clear instruction.  Yet it appears that this is the context in which Eve initially views the serpent’s query.

She replies in her innocence: [Ha ha ha, of course not!  Don’t be silly!]  “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden[!]”…

No, at this point Satan is content to simply instill the concept of constricting limitation into Eve’s mind: for up to then the world had known no want. Such a notion would be foreign to her, so he is attempting to manufacture the idea of being denied something desirable.  His agenda was to get Eve to understand the question to mean, “Did God really say you couldn’t just eat from any tree that you want?”  He was introducing her to a new perspective, and hoping to get her to adopt the progeny of his mind — to nurture and care for it as her own.  It appears that it is received into its hoped for home, since Eve’s retort continues,

…[…Oh!  (In the sense of a dawning revelation — as if to say, ‘I see!’)]  “But God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it…”…

Her addition of the stipulation ‘you must not touch it’ is quite telling.  By placing another restriction on top of God’s solitary one she reveals that a change has occurred, and that the concept of constrictions is now being considered.  The serpent has become a boa and achieved his first objective.  A pristine soul is being squeezed from its abode, displaced by the wicked child she unwittingly welcomed, as it stealthily, ethereally coils around her mind, pinioning her thoughts.  Eve has taken on a greatly inferior vantage point, and the first hint of a fall has begun.  It’s worth pointing out that the serpent accomplished this without overtly attempting to disparage God.  To the question ‘Did God really say…’, he did not add, [Wow. Hmmph! Seems kind of unfair to me, don’t you think?].  It’s true the intimation of a value judgment underlies his question, but he cleverly avoids a direct challenge.  He didn’t want the exchange to become an issue of how he felt about God: for why should Eve care about his opinion?

God’s command indicates that He supplied no explanation as to why Adam and Eve were to refrain from the tree of knowledge of good and evil beyond that they would die if they ate from it.  Their obedience to this point implies that they required no further reason.  Yet in order to accomplish his ultimate goal, at some point the serpent would need Eve to relinquish her simple trust and acceptance of God’s word.  How might this be done?  Now that she understood the intent of Satan’s question to mean they couldn’t just eat from any tree they wanted to, a whole new series of possible questions could be introduced.   Continuing with some more imaginary dialogue will allow us to follow a thought process, and see the gears begin to turn as the machinery of sin and disobedience is set in motion within the mind.

As she is speaking the words ‘you must not touch it’ — and before her first recorded sentence is completed — a query not previously considered flashes across her mind, [… I wonder why God doesn’t want us to eat from that particular tree?  What’s different about it?] …

… “or you will die.”

The next task for Satan was simply to plant a seed of desire in Eve’s heart.  He strikes like lightning, quicker than the speed of thought, to supply his answer to the question she had posed only to herself.

[Tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk, tsk! … Oh, thaaat God!]  (Chuckling to himself, and shaking his head amiably and knowingly)

“You will not surely die!”

(Cough, cough, *muttered disclaimer* … At least, not today! )

[Trust me, I know him.  God and I are old friends — we go waaaaay back!  Seriously, he’s just trying to scare you.]

“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Here Satan directly contradicts God’s statement that she would die, and offers an alternate explanation for why the tree’s fruit was being withheld — his final stroke.  Oh how subtle and crafty the serpent!  He did not attempt to countermand God’s directive with a contrary command — indeed, he made none.  Neither did he even recommend she disobey.  He suggests no course of action whatsoever.  To employ such a strategy would risk affronting autonomy, and potentially give rise to the inquiry, “Who are you to tell me what to do?”  If such a question were to be asked, he would much prefer it to be directed toward Eve’s Maker, not himself.  No, all that was needed was to frame the fruit differently — to cast it in an alluring light using the subjective lens of the photographer.  He knew that if he could introduce a want, it might quickly become a NEED, and a NEED always seeks to be gratified.  His formula had been a simple one, as most successful plans are.  He transplanted two ideas, asserted God’s word had been untrue, and then called it a day.  First he had assaulted the mind, next he moved to the heart, finally the spirit.  Having finished his part, he was now free to Exit Stage, Left, to allow desire to complete the rest of the scene.

He seemingly takes leave of his prey, allowing her to perhaps ponder his proposition that concern for perishing was preposterous.  She gravitates to the tree, newly perplexed.  A voice she only imagines to be her own asks, “Why would I die?”  She examines the tree in search of the answer, and her descent gains speed.  She observes that it’s good for food, just like all the other trees.  The questions breed and give birth to more, multiplying as if they had been the recipients of the Lord’s command to fill the earth.  [And it’s sooooo Beautiful!  How could something so lovely possibly be bad?]   [Why wouldn’t God want me to be wise?  Surely, he would be happy if I were to be like him!]

Having narrowly inspected the forbidden, she determines it to be harmless in and of itself, and wonders afresh: [Hmmm… So if the fruit itself won’t kill me, how would I then die?  It can’t be that God would kill me — He seems far too nice — and certainly not for something so trivial as eating a piece of fruit that He Himself made!  Maybe the serpent was right, maybe he was just trying to scare me…]

Dear mother, why have you allowed yourself to be thus persuaded?  Alas, thou hast been deceived!

Finding Joy in Trial

To all who believe in the Goodness of God,

When you encounter adversity in your life, whether it comes through no fault of your own, or because of your own words or actions, rejoice!   Your Heavenly Father is treating you as a son or daughter, and you are being perfected for the Kingdom of God!

Consider that gold and silver must first be melted in a furnace before their impurities can be removed.   The more thorough the refinement process is, the more perfect the end product becomes; and the purer the gold, the greater its value.

The same is true of trials.  Adversity is the process through which we must go in order to come to know ourselves more perfectly.  Life’s trials draw out our inconsistencies — the conflicts which exist within us between what we profess to believe versus what we actually do when put to the test.  For example, if we say we believe that we are to love our neighbor to the same degree and with the same strength as we love ourselves, do we then add conditions and disclaimers to that belief?  Rather than doing unto others as we would have them do unto us, in practice do we actually only do unto them as they do unto us?  Are we warm only to those who are kind to us, but cold to everyone else?

All trials are potential learning experiences, so the first thing we ought to do when we encounter adversity is look to God, as the source of all wisdom, and ask Him for understanding: “Father, what is it that you have for me to learn from my present circumstances?”.  Ask — and believe without doubting that you will receive — and you WILL be given your answer.  For why should you doubt?  Do you not believe that God intends ALL things for your benefit?  If we ask Him for things that are not only beneficial, but essential for our spiritual purification, do we imagine that He would ever possibly withhold them?  “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

But we must also be cognizant that the answers we seek won’t always arrive immediately.  Having believed, we must also persist in the conviction.  If the answer seems delayed, far off on some distant horizon, perhaps patience is part of the lesson.  We receive from God that which we expect from Him, so if our faith falters and our minds settle on uncertainty, we can rightfully expect that we will receive nothing.  God does not operate according to our timetables and schedules, so hold fast, persevere, and don’t let go until He answers!

Then, after we receive what we have asked for, the next step is to take the newly gained understanding, apply it, and begin to put it into practice consistently.  When we do this, we will have taken a significant stride towards perfection; and our value as servants of God will have grown.

Finally, remember also that the more fiery the trial, the greater its refining power.  Therefore let us welcome adversity into our lives as an honored, albeit temporary, guest: one who visits to unburden us of those things within which are false, so that only that which is true remains; and so we may become people of integrity, suitably equipped for service to God.