A Cleansed Conscience…

Today is Yom Kippur… The Day of Atonement

“For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year.” Hebrew 10:1-3

Otherwise stated…  “Had the Law been sufficient to ‘perfect’ those who draw near, they would have been perfected once and for all and would no longer have had any consciousness of sin.” Of course, not only did the Law fail to perfect the worshipers once and for all, but actually served as a reminder of their continual sinful state.

Or yet another alternative, by substituting “Jesus” in place of  the “Law”…  “Since the blood of Jesus has perfected those that draw near once and for all, they no longer have any consciousness of sin.” That is the good news. Those who believe that should be free from any consciousness of sin. Are you surprised? Do you object? Is it not the Holy Spirit’s job to convict of sin? Let Him do His work, He doesn’t need your help.

Is that our experience? We say we believe in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Easy schmeezy. But do we really? How often do we suffer from, or are hamstrung by, a guilty conscience? When, if ever, should a follower of Jesus suffer from a guilty conscience?

If I find myself living under guilt and shame, a “guilty conscience”, it can only be because I have succumbed. I have either missed the mark, transgressed or committed iniquity anew or I have been deceived. Those are the only two alternatives.

The first should be considered the world’s response to guilt: utilize devices in order to repress, ignore, or evade the voice of my conscience. The distractions could be sex, drugs, alcohol, money, or just general busyness. Anything to keep me from dealing honestly with my sense of guilt and/or shame. Or, in the alternative, one may simply harden their heart such that their conscience becomes “seared”, which has as its correlate an insensitivity or inability to hear the voice of God.  Over the long term that track produces “death on the installment plan”. Unfortunately, far too many who call themselves Christian fall into this trap.

The second, not surprisingly, is the far better choice and is only available to those who have called upon the name of Jesus. It’s really quite simple, perhaps so much so that we stumble over it.

Once I realize that I am laboring under a shroud of guilt and/or shame I need to ask myself a question, or perhaps I need to ask Jesus a question. Have I erred, transgressed or committed iniquity? (Those are actually distinct Biblical concepts.) If so I need to own it and respond accordingly. This may take some time, some introspection and some action depending on what I have done. Whatever it may be the Holy Spirit is faithful to convict and to lead us to a Godly repentance and, ultimately, to restoration. Jesus lives to make intercession for me and is my advocate, my lawyer if you will. Through his advocacy I can secure my pardon in the courts of heaven and then stand firm against the accusations of the evil one, freed from a guilty conscience. (Ephesians 6:13-14)

It may well be that I am merely accused, but not guilty at all. In such a case I need simply resist the evil one and he shall have to flee. (James 4:7)

There you have it. So celebrate this Day of Atonement by appropriating the work of Jesus on the cross. Live free from guilt and shame.

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:19-25)  Amen and amen.

“You find God in the strangest places… “

If you were to drive through the booming metropolis of Bliss, Idaho in the summer of 1973 you would have found two gas stations among the businesses plying for your patronage. I zipped through on my semi-chopped wannabe 750 Honda in about five minutes. Didn’t even stop for gas on this leg of my six state solo road trip.

My itinerary was abruptly amended about five miles out of town. I was southbound on a traffic-less two lane highway and the sun was dropping toward the horizon to my right. I was dressed in my standard travel garb: cut offs, “wife -beater” tee shirt (sorry for the ugly language, but that’s what those sleeveless white tees were called), Adidas and a helmet that I only wore over my flowing locks because it was legally mandated. As you can tell I was very safety conscious. I was flying down the road at my standard 80-90 mph when suddenly my back tire went flat and I only knew that because the bike began to swerve violently. As I fish-tailed down the highway all I could think of was how much skin I was going to lose! Remarkably, somehow I managed to stay up and nursed the bike to a stop without dropping it. My chest was pounding as I dragged the bike to the side of the road. There was nothing. No houses. No buildings. No traffic. There weren’t even any cows. Not many alternatives.

The sun was going down. So I took off the back tire and wheel, hid my bag and gear in some bushes and walked across the road hoping to hitchhike my way back to Bliss, even though there had been no traffic since I left the tiny burg. Before I crossed the road I did something I hadn’t done for a very long time. I called out to God. It was a long time coming and there is a backstory that would take too long to tell. Suffice it to say I was in a fix, needed help and it seemed like a good time to test the theory, “God if you are there I need your help.”

So I crossed the road with wheel and tire in hand. There I stood in my cut offs, my wife-beater tee shirt and my Adidas sans my helmet. At least the helmet had prevented my long hair from being wind blown into a nasty bird’s nest like it would have been in California which still had no helmet law. Nevertheless, I was not presenting a pretty picture to prospective rides. It wasn’t long before a white Mercedes came bearing down on me, so I stuck out my greasy thumb. This is the honest to God’s truth… the driver got out, he was wearing a white leisure suit, with a white shirt, white belt, white socks and white patent leather shoes. I told him my tale of woe and he told me to throw the tire in the back and hop in. I did as I was told and got into the white Mercedes, with white leather seats and white carpeting. I was very conscious of my greasy hands and what must have been a not so pleasant body scent as I had been on the road for a few days. But, my rescuer appeared unfazed and we chatted amiably over the few miles back to Bliss. We pulled into one of the two gas stations in Bliss and I retrieved the tire and wheel from the trunk of the Mercedes. The driver insisted on staying until he knew I was taken care of. I walked into the service bay and was greeted by an old guy wearing full length greasy overalls. I showed him the “5.00 x 16” wheel and explained that the tube blew out. He looked at the tire and wheel and said, “I think we might have one of those.” I had worked in a gas station and had been a bike owner for years so I knew that gas stations did not stock motorcycle tubes and tires so I’m like, “yeah, right”. The owner of the station came out and confirmed my skepticism, but kindly offered to put me up for the night and take me into Twin Falls in the morning. We no sooner finished our conversation than to my shock and surprise the old guy in the greasy overalls walks over holding in his hand none other than a “5.00 x 16” tube. I grabbed it and checked it to be sure of the dimensions. Sure enough. Unbelievable! No way!

So they replaced the tube while I advised my Mercedes friend that he could go on his way. They charged me $4 or $5 and gave me a ride back out to my bike. I slapped the wheel back on my bike and was back on the road. It wasn’t even dark, yet. I was beyond happy, I was experiencing a shock and awe of mine own. As I hit the road I sent up another prayer… “If this is what it’s like following you I don’t care if I get a flat every day!” He took me up on that prayer, too. The classic “be careful what you ask for” was about to befall me.

The next day I was driving on the main highway in Provo, Utah. It’s the afternoon. There are multiple lanes and lots of traffic. Boom! There it goes again!! This time while I am struggling to keep the bike up I am also dodging cars and trucks. Once again, somehow I managed to stay up and get the bike to the roadside. I got off the bike. I was a little excited. Not in a good way. Seems I had forgotten all about my last prayer. I slammed my helmet off the pavement and it bounced high into the air. (I had a good arm!) While cussing like a sailor I dragged the bike off the road way. I wrestled the rear wheel off for the second time in 24 hours. (I had this bike for two and a half years and never had so much as a flat tire, yet here I was two days in a row.) This time a state truck came by, division of highways or some such department, and gave me a ride to a nearby Harley shop. Inasmuch as the rear wheel, tire and tube were Harley products I felt confident they could help me. Nope, no deal. Not only did they not have this tube in stock, they called every bike shop in town and nobody had a “5.00 x16” tube. Provo was a good size city, second largest in Utah, seriously?

It gets better… in contrast to the day before, the guy at the counter asked if I was “LDS”. I had no idea what he was talking about, given my background I probably thought he was dyslexic and was referring to a psychedelic. He rephrased, “Mormon”. Ah, yes. Uh, no, not Mormon. He replied, “Too bad because if you were I would put you up for the night.” (I apologize to my LDS friends out there as I know very well that this guy did not adequately represent you all.) That hit me as a strange way to attract new adherents to the faith. In any event, they hot-patched the tube and I prayed all the way back to California, especially wending my way over the Sierra, that the patch would hold. It did.

A couple of thoughts. What are the chances of a 21 year old stoner, biker wannabe meeting God in the desert outside Bliss, Idaho? What are the chances of a “5.00 x 16” Harley tube being stocked by a gas station in Bliss, Idaho? Who was that man in the white Mercedes? Do you know what Bliss means? The joy of salvation or the joy of heaven.

God shows up in the most unlikely places. Where did Jesus do most of His miracles? Here’s a hint, not in the synagogues or the Temple. Before Christ how many of God’s supernatural works were accomplished in the Temple? Some things never change… He stills leaves the 99 to chase down the one who is lost…  I know, I was one.

Hope deferred…

Hope deferred… makes the heart sick!

Isn’t it true. Isn’t it so. Don’t we know the truth of this profound proverb in our soul? While we long to experience the truth of God, we find a different truth in our experience. It is all too common in our experience, in fact I would submit it is this delay in our experience of God that has caused most either not to believe or to fall away. It is, after all, hard.

The Hebrew word for “sick” can also be translated afflicted, severely wounded, grieved, even incurable. It is a serious word.

Paul wrote of these days, even though they are days so far off from the day that he had them penned that he could not have conceived of them.

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” 2 Tim.3:1-5

Does our society even hold to a “form of godliness”? We, in this country, are poisoned 24/7 by the prince of the power of the “air”. The evil poured out over the air waves in the form of “news” and “entertainment” that would be incomprehensible to a 19th century human. In 100 years we have managed to develop technology that allows for the poisoning of our people from cradle to grave, through every strata of our society. Our heart is indeed sick, but not because we grieve the lack of God’s manifest Presence among us, quite the contrary.

There is a sense that there must be a breaking point, a critical mass, wherein the axis of the world cannot sustain the weight of the garbage we continue to produce. The landfills, the seas, even space is littered with the refuse of a society, and a world, gone mad. The natural things speak of the spiritual. We see it. Our solution… environmentalism. Laws and regulation to curb our wasteful ways, never touching the “heart” of the matter or the “spirit” of our culture.

“In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6

Israel’s political reality in those days is a picture of our heart reality today. We have no king, because after all we are far too wise, far too sophisticated, far too urbane, educated and enlightened to believe in a God who is over all. And, if we do believe, does that belief result in mere moral goodness or does it actually produce an experience in God that matches up with the New Testament believer’s experience?

I readily acknowledge my own deficit of experience. Where are the dreams and visions promised by Joel and referenced in Acts? Where are the signs and wonders that are to follow the preaching of the good news? Where are the healings? The miracles?

Yes, I know, they are occurring in third world countries. They are occurring at this revival or in the that ministry and God’s people chase around after them like cloud bursts in a drought. There are thousands of testimonials on YouTube. There are more cable ministry programs and networks to serve this country and the world than ever before. That’s good, maybe that’s great. BUT, I have been a believer for 40+ years, have been to many churches, seminars, conferences, countries… and while I have witnessed that which would necessarily be considered super-natural, yet those instances and experiences are a rarity, an exception as opposed to the rule. For years there has been talk of another Great Awakening, a great revival. Where is it? And, unless and until it visits the common people, sincere believers in Christ who are not “the gifted” then don’t bother trying to convince me of revival. Better yet, until there is an awakening such that our culture is changed there should be no talk or report of real revival. Every time there is another such “revival” reported in the Christian world, one which glows for a short time and then fades away, is it not as much an indictment as it is a blessing?

Proverbs 13:12 is probably most recited and recognized by the first phrase, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”. But, the writer of wisdom completed the thought, “desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Where is God and where are His people? I wait. Heart sick. Grieving. Afflicted in spirit. Affected in soul. David could not find a place where God was not present, I cannot find a place where His Presence is a constant, not just as a theological proposition, but as an experience.

Perhaps I am the minority. Perhaps I am not committed enough. Don’t pray hard enough or long enough. Don’t give enough of my time, energy or money. For years I labored under the harsh taskmaster of religious piety and was easily persuaded that the lack was mine. I honestly don’t believe that’s the case. After 40+ years of touring Christendom I don’t know any Christians, personally, whose experience differs much from mine. I don’t know any whose experience matches that of the first century church.

To those who would argue that they have seen and do know, I ask where is the evidence of same in our society, better yet, in our churches? Sorry, I don’t see it. Ask the world they will tell you what they think of the church. We can blame them, criticize them, argue that they are blind and therefore cannot see, but I know many unbelieving folks who are not ignorant, unkind, or uncaring who see the church as a caricature of what it claims to be, the Body of Christ.

If Jesus were to walk into your church next Sunday would that shake things up a bit? Well, we have the mind of Christ, we have the Spirit of Christ, we have the Word of Christ, we are ambassadors of Christ, we have the gifts of the Spirit, we have been given the power to be His witnesses to the uttermost parts of the world. Where two or three are gathered in His name He is there, in our midst. So what part of Jesus are we missing? Why is there such a distinction between Him walking bodily into our congregation and we being His body?

Where is God? Where are His people?

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

I am a 60 something. I have sojourned for 6+ decades and have, hopefully, gleaned some wisdom and humility along the way. While if you knew of me you would likely conclude that my life is conventional. But, if you really knew me you would know that convention has not been and will never be my goal. History does not note the conventional, the compliant, those who follow without challenge. I find convention stultifying, smothering and primarily fear-based. At the same time, there are rules. Gravity is fairly absolute.

I do believe in Divine design. Actually, it’s quite simple. Either we were designed or we are all a product of chance plus time plus matter. Science has demonstrated that the human genome consists of 3 billion base pairs. Every cell in our body contains a strand 3 billion characters long that has to be in a particular order in order to produce the necessary result, typically production of a protein. Product of chance? ‘Nuf said.

That’s the easy part. Does the Divine that designed communicate to we human types? If so, how? Through whom? Without going into a long complicated explanation and inasmuch as I lack the desire to argue, cajole or persuade you all, or defend myself, I will simply submit as an admission against interest, if you will, that I have landed on the person of Jesus, Yeshua Hamashiach.  My message is for those who have, also, decided to follow him. Not that I intentionally ignore those who are not his followers, should anyone derive encouragement from my story, my thoughts, my words then my goal shall be realized.

So encouragement is one of my goals for this space. Hope would be another. Our world is increasingly complex on so many fronts. It can be overwhelming. What do people need most in order to navigate this crazy life? Money is helpful. Shelter. Food. In many thrid world countries the list should probably start and stop there. In the good ol’ US of A that list is still important, but most have been provided with the basic necessities and the daily battle is not fought so much in the field as in the mind, the heart, the spirit. Where there is no vision, that is to say no hope, no plan, the people are uncovered, vulnerable and in danger of perishing. While I have no particular vision or plan here, my intention is to honestly share, honestly question, honestly take on the challenges of this journey we call life through the filter of faith. To paraphrase a line I read long ago… while my fire may be small, it is nonetheless real and, hopefully, you can find warmth for your soul in its glow.

 

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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