The Apple Of God's Eye

November 21, 2009

Emotional Maturity In Prayer

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How’s your prayer? Is it dead earnest and with rending of heart – in deepest, intense feeling? Don’t mistake this for thoughtless and uncontrolled emotion! This is full mental realization of purpose – of need – seeking God with all our strength and might.

Scripture shows that we can pray with superficial emotion, and not the type that God wants (Hos. 7:14). The Moffat version translates this scripture as: “They never put their hearts into their prayers.” This shows that we can have three states of emotional immaturity in our prayer:

1. Emotion getting the better of us.
2. Suffocating emotion because we’re afraid to feel anything.
3. Being indifferent altogether.

    God desires proper, thought driven and earnest emotion. He doesn’t want fake emotions or those tied up somewhere else. And He certainly does not appreciate  prayer with absolutely no personality or enthusiasm.

    Prayers need to be intense – surrendered and yielded to the great God in tears. The example was set for us in Heb. 5:7 where it says: “In the days of His flesh Christ offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears…” These were His prayers throughout His human life – not just on his last night!

    God has graciously granted, by astonishing miracles, many answers to earnest prayers. But Christians will receive no real answer except this prayer comes earnestly from the heart. Casual, routine prayers will never get through to God – will receive no answer – because they are a matter of duty and without feeling or emotion. Perhaps this makes plain the reason why most people have never received an answer in their prayers.

    Prayers need to have motivation and emotional connection to God.  Passion, enthusiasm and compassion for others  must fill prayer life. This is the prayer of the emotionally grown-up. It expresses gratitude and joy for self, mercy and sympathy for others, reverence and adoration in worship of God.

    “Groanings which cannot be uttered are often prayers which cannot be refused.” – C. H. Spurgeon. You can feel the emotional connection and expression in prayer if your whole being is in touch with God. Even though the emotion is a physical reaction, it accompanies or reacts from true, spiritual experience.

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    October 6, 2009

    The Eternal Habitation Of God

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    bwzone.wordpress.com

    Isaiah 57:15 contains one of the most incredible phrases that a human mind could possiblyunderstand. These few words describe God as “One that inhabiteth eternity.”  Considering the overwhelming significance of these words, let’s investigate what “inhabit” and “eternity” mean.

    The Hebrew word translated “eternity” is ad. Ad can be translated “eternity, forever, everlasting, always.”  The English word “inhabit” in Isaiah 57:15 comes from the Hebrew verb shakhan — which can mean “to rest, live in, continue, dwell, settle, inhabit.” The word shakhan gives the impression of comfort and confidence. In various contexts the meaning includes the complete possession, occupation and fulfillment of the object inhabited.

    And so, much like the human family abides in, dwells in, continues in and inhabits the earth, the God family rests in, abides in, dwells in, continues in and inhabits eternity!

    In the same manner that physical beings can control and comprehend a specific plot of space, spirit beings can control and comprehend an eternity of time. Just as the earth is the arena for all the activities of the human family, eternity is the arena for all the unimaginable activities of the God family.

    Grasp the fundamental difference: Just as physical beings employ the vectors of space, spirit beings employ the vectors of time. (This is why God equally speaks of 1000 years as one day and one day as 1000 years — II Peter 3:8.)
    Jesus Christ is called the Father of Eternity — which is a way the phrase “the everlasting Father” in Isaiah 9:6 can be translated. And incredibly, the Bible actually states that human beings have the potential to be like Christ (John 17:22). Like God!

    “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2).

    God says as a son in His family, all will eventually possess, envelop, encompass, occupy and fulfill eternity, in the same manner as they today can physically possess, envelop, encompass, occupy and fulfill a comfortable home or a soft easy chair.

    That is a fundamental truth that the religions of this world cannot accept, They are locked into doctrinal disputes which have nothing to do with what Christ actually spoke about; concepts such as going to heaven or hell, the trinity, pagan holidays (Christmas, easter, etc). NONE of these are biblical, yet all of them are universally accepted among Christian denominations.

    What is eternity?

    Eternity is a long time. Could it get boring?  If it could, it would!  There’s plenty of time available! If boredom would develop — even a little bit — we’d be in deep trouble. Eternity would become a literal hell! As a matter of fact, that is precisely the fate reserved for Satan and his demons — hell — an eternity of boredom: “Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 13).

    If eternity is to be spent gazing blissfully up into God’s face in heaven, or having our every wish immediately fulfilled — as many religions teach — after a few months (or after a few octillion years, it doesn’t really matter). life would get unbearingly boring.  And once life got boring, it would be sickeningly and fiendishly terrifying. Because there would remain nothing but an unending eternity of boredom to come — with death a wonderful but impossible way of escape (see Luke 20:35-38). This would indeed be the ultimate torture.

    But our Eternal Father has a better idea. He has designed a plan in which eternity will not grow progressively more boring. But, as unbelievable as it seems, eternity will grow progressively more exciting, more scintillating, and more enjoyable as each eon follows eon.

    In Ephesians 2:7 God reveals “that in the ages to come he [God] might chew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”

    Psalm 16:11 multiplies this simple but profound concept: “… In thy presence is fulness of joy; at [in] thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”

    The words “pleasures” and “for evermore” in Psalm 16:11 are somewhat unusual. Note the numerous meanings of each:

    “Pleasures” is translated from the Hebrew word naeem meaning: “pleasant, delights, agreeable, lovely, beauty, glory, pleasures.” “Forevermore” is translated from natzach, a Hebrew root which can mean: “forever, perpetuity, permanency, truth, faithful, overseer, entire, perfect, complete, surpass, excellency, glory.”

    Now combine them together in your mind’s eye in order to begin to barely approach the really great time that God has in store for us for eternity.

    Men are shackled to time

    Man is  constantly hounded by time because he does not have life, only a temporary physio-chemical existence. It feels like life because it is all he knows – this limited physical body needs to recharge daily.

    God wants us to realize the temporary nature of all things physical – the nature of matter. It’s all in bondage to decay. Everything in us does not want to accept that fact. We don’t want to believe it, despite the evidence.

    Do we realize how short and temporary life is? The Bible says we are like a fading flower, like a fleeting shadow. Another analogy is that we are like an alarm clock that is constantly running down to death. We die daily and are one breath away from death. That is why the Bible says our years come to an end in a flash, like a tale told (Ps. 90:5).

    There is simply no guarantee that we will see 70-80 years of life and there is no way to predict how long we live either. Compare the days of your life to an hourglass with sand draining from top to bottom. Now imagine the top being opaque and hard to see through. You would have no idea how much time is left. There may be a lot but there may also be very little.

    Now consider if you are married and how you feel about your wonderful wife and children. Do you understand that you marriage covenant is a temporary agreement only, until you die? You will see 100% disruption and destruction by death, abandonment, split-up, or old age.

    Use time wisely

    God tells us to number our days (Ps. 90:12), which is akin to asking God to teach us to understand how short life  really is and how certain it is to come to an end and motivate us to use our time wisely. The better perspective we have with time, the better we will put it to use.

    If we are wise with the use of our time on this earth, then God rewards us with rulership in His Kingdom (Math. 25:20-21). Basically, God says if we sue this small amount of time (our life) in a faithful way, He will give us eternity with “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away…” (I Pet. 1:4).

    God (through His human servant) then proceeds to explain the contrast between the physical and the spiritual by saying:

    Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away (I Pet. 1:23-24).

    In other words, what is waiting for us has eternal (and very positive and joyful) consequences, while the end of the physical life offers only decay.

    The nature of God

    Psalm 90:2-4, II Pet. 3:8) shows that to God,a thousand years is as a day and a day as a thousand years. What does that mean?

    It is all about our approach to time. Our destiny is to become members of God’s family – with a mind oriented towards eternity.  1000 years can go by as a single day to God. Figures are arbitrary. Paul may well have said one second is as a trillion years.

    We can only be in one place at one time, but for God time is multi-dimensional. He can dwell in one moment for as long as He chooses or move one moment to another at will. He is not restricted by time, which is why he can listen to all our prayers at the same time.

    In these prayers, true Christians have special access to Christ. But what if  all desire to have access at the same time? The answer is that we will have time without limits. Eternity is not an endless amount of seconds, minutes and hours. It is timelessness – to have all limitations removed.   You can inhabit eternity to have all problems resolved.

    Time versus eternity

    God puts limitations in the lives of humans so that they have to prioritize. Seek first the kingdom of God to eventually be rulers over many things. Man has to manage his time because he are in bondage to it. And precisely because he is limited to time, he must do all he can with limited resources. Don’t waste a single day. Our body is a temporary tent and we have to make the best use of it (II Cor. 5:1).

    We crave permanence and stability – we crave eternity. God has shackled us to decay and we don’t want to think about something not being permanent. How often in this life have old age and death, tragedies and separations disrupted and seemingly obliterated forever the supreme joys of deep family satisfaction and quiet family happiness? One hundred percent of the time!

    Every family that has ever existed has eventually been destroyed by death. The death of husband, wife, parents, children, brothers, sisters — whether at premature or elderly ages — is always the most piercing and the most permanent of human tragedies.

    Well, the time is coming — soon — when such misery will never again darken the door of any home. And even more fantastically stirring, most members of almost every family in all human history, having been ripped apart by death, will become reunited! And this time they will be forever inseparable.

    God’s Word has the answer to death: “… Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (I Cor. 15:54, 55.)

    Never again will the corruption of disintegrating change alter the serenity of family life. Never again will separation, disease, old age and death bring that grinding despair known to every human being. This is why verse four of the twenty-first chapter of the book of Revelation is so emotionally stunning:

    “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

    All the epochs of human obituary — in childhood, in youth, in the prime of life, in middle age; all the ways of human death by war, by accident, by disease — will all be eradicated. Full families — your family — will for the first time be really together — grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren. All will be in the prime of their spiritual lives, working, living and enjoying life as a close-knit family, as part of the overall family of God. Forever. And ever.

    But this life is just a stepping stone to something far greater. Ps. 36:7 says all will eventually be abundantly satisfied. There will be no death or disease in the World Tomorrow.

    Make the best use of all we have and all the time we have. Number our days and soak up all moments. It may be our last opportunity to do so. We are one breath away from death, so this little sliver of time is a gift. Use it to attain eternal life.

    September 28, 2009

    The Day of Atonement and Your Future

    Scene one: A young woman walks through a semitropical garden filled with beautiful trees loaded with luscious fruit. Everything looks so good — so right.  But is it?

    Suddenly she is confronted by a talking serpent who asks about God’s commands. Subtly, the serpent reasons with her until she decides to eat the fruit forbidden her by her Creator. Her husband then follows her example of disobedience.

    From that time forward, mankind continues to be subject to Satan’s influence. Consequently, all humans sin and fall short of God’s glory.

    Scene two: A young man, once strong and virile, is nailed to a stake. Blood oozes from deep, gaping lacerations in His body, wounds inflicted by a savage beating. Tormentors surround Him, arrogantly jeering, “He can save others, but not Himself!”

    But the man’s mind is not on revenge; it is on the ultimate purpose of His suffering, which is to provide the sacrifice necessary for mankind’s salvation.

    Finally, after many hours of suffering, death comes suddenly. Three days later He is resurrected. He rejoins His Father, where He serves as High Priest and soon-coming King for all humanity.

    Scene three: The earth has been devastated. Plant and aquatic life are almost nonexistent. The human population has been reduced to a small fraction of its former size by the terrifying events of the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.

    Everywhere there is destruction, but there is also hope. Jesus Christ has intervened in world affairs. One obstacle remains — the presence of Satan the devil, mankind’s enemy for 6,000 years.

    To eliminate this threat to global peace, an angel is sent to bind Satan. Satan is taken to a place of restraint where he is prohibited from influencing mankind for a thousand years.

    Is there a relationship between these scenes? The answer is yes. There is a profound relationship that can be understood by studying the meaning of one of God’s annual festivals — the Day of Atonement.

    This Day is commanded

    Most professing Christians don’t even know that this Festival of God exists. Many who have heard of it think that it is no longer to be kept. But what does God say?

    “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God…. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings’ ” (Lev. 23:26-28, 31).

    This year the Day of Atonement falls on September 28. Some will reason that this command ceased to be in force after Christ’s crucifixion. Such reasoning is false! Jesus Christ did not come to nail God’s annual Holy Days to the cross (Matt. 5:17-18) .

    The fact is that God’s festivals have only begun to be fulfilled. These days picture aspects of God’s plan of salvation (Col. 2:16-17), and must be observed by true Christians.

    But what about the ritualistic laws that the Old Testament commanded with festival observance? Are they to be kept, or have they been fulfilled?

    The purpose of the physical rituals God gave to ancient Israel was to remind the people of the need for the payment of their sins. The various sacrifices pointed ahead to the sacrifice of One who would come later in history as Savior of all mankind.

    So the ritualistic laws were fulfilled by the events leading to and including Christ’s own sacrificial death. Therefore they need not be kept today, nor can they be, as there is no Aaronic priesthood to perform these physical duties (Heb. 9:8-10, 10:1-4, 9-12).

    The ritualistic laws are no longer performed, but their various aspects still have symbolic meaning. For each festival, we seek to understand all the festival’s meanings, as revealed in the Bible, and as they relate to salvation.

    The Tabernacle and the priesthood

    Before we proceed with a study of these rituals and symbols, it is necessary for us to understand some things about the Tabernacle and the priesthood.

    After making the covenant agreement with Israel, God told the nation to build a Tabernacle, which is a physical type of God’s habitation in heaven (Ex. 25-27, 30, Heb. 9:23-24). The Tabernacle consisted of an enclosed courtyard, containing an altar for animal sacrifices and a tent.

    The tent was divided into two sections by a veil. The section behind the veil was called the “Most Holy” place or “Holiest of All.” The other section was the “holy place” (Ex. 26:33, Heb. 9:3). The most holy place represented God’s throne. Located here was the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments and other items (Deut. 10:2, 31:26, Ex. 16:33-34, Num. 17:1-10). The lid of the Ark was called the mercy seat; this was where God manifested Himself (Ex. 25:22).

    The job of high priest was given to Aaron; his sons served as priests. As time passed, other of his descendants held these positions. As priests, they performed various animal sacrifices and ceremonies on behalf of Israel.

    Rituals for Aaron

    On the Day of Atonement, special animal sacrifices and ceremonies were conducted. These are explained in Leviticus 16.

    This was the only day when Aaron was allowed to enter the most holy place. Before doing this, he had to bathe and dress himself in his priestly garments (Lev. 16:4). Then he had to offer on the altar a bullock as a sin offering for himself.

    Once this was completed, he took a censer, a vessel that held burning coals, from the altar and entered the most holy place. He then took incense, an aromatic compound, and placed it on the burning coals. Next he sprinkled blood from the bullock on the mercy seat, which represented God’s throne (verses 11-14).

    Why did Aaron do these things? What did they picture? Aaron had to first make atonement for himself as a sinning human before God. The word atonement means “to make at one with.”

    Washing himself pictured having his conscience changed to accept God’s standard of righteousness (Heb. 10:22). His linen coat symbolized living a righteous life (Rev. 19:8). The incense pictured prayers ascending to God (Ps. 141:2, Rev. 5:8). The blood represented the way sins are forgiven (Heb. 9:13-14, Rom. 3:25).

    Aaron, the high priest, was a type of Jesus Christ, who is now our High Priest (Heb. 3:1). By living a sinless life, Jesus qualified to offer Himself as a sin sacrifice for all humanity through His crucifixion.

    After Jesus’ death, the veil in the Temple (the Temple had replaced the Tabernacle) was torn in two from top to bottom (Matt. 27:50-51). The torn veil represented the fact that we are now allowed direct contact with God the Father through prayer (Heb. 10:19-22, John 16:23).

    This contact is something that those living before Christ’s resurrection did not have; their access was limited to the Word of God, the God of the Old Testament who became Jesus Christ.

    The two goats

    Now that Aaron had completed sacrifices for himself, what happened next?

    “The two goats he must place in front of the Eternal at the entrance to the Trysting tent [Tabernacle]; Aaron shall cast lots over the goats, one lot for the Eternal and the other for Azazel the demon; the goat that falls by lot to the Eternal shall be brought forward and offered as a sin-offering, but the goat that falls by lot to Azazel shall be set free in presence of the Eternal, that Aaron may perform expiatory rites over it and send it away for Azazel into the desert” (Lev. 16:7-10, Moffatt).

    Whom did this slain goat, whose blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat and the altar for the sins of the people (Lev. 16:15-19), represent? The answer is Christ, who was slain and whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins (Heb. 9:12, 22-26).

    But Christ’s death has not completed the job of making atonement for the sins of humanity. Why? Because Satan, the god of this world, has blinded the minds of most people. Consequently, mankind rejects the true Gospel, which includes accepting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and living a righteous life (II Cor. 4:3-4, Rev. 12:9).

    So how will the job of atonement be completed? How will mankind be made at one with God?

    The answer is revealed through the symbolism of the live goat — the azazel, in Hebrew.

    Says The Comprehensive Commentary: “[According to] the oldest opinions of the Hebrews and Christians … Azazel is the name of the Devil … the word signified the goat which went away.” The Azazel was the goat that was sent into the wilderness.

    This Azazel is sometimes referred to as the “escape goat” or “scapegoat.” But these terms make the meaning unclear. Scapegoat has come to mean “one who bears blame or guilt for others.” This is not the case with Satan. He is guilty of influencing mankind into disobeying God (Eph. 2:2). And he will be punished for it — Satan will bear his own guilt! He will not be allowed to escape.

    Symbolism,

    The live goat was brought before Aaron, who, as we have seen, is a type of Jesus Christ, our High Priest. Aaron laid hands on this goat, confessing upon it the people’s sins. Then it was led by another individual into the wilderness where it was released (Lev. 16:20-22).

    How is this symbolism going to be fulfilled? Jesus is coming to this earth again, this time to rule. He will order Satan bound and taken to a place of restraint for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3).

    The world will then become free of Satan’s influence and responsive to God’s way of life; man’s sins will be laid to Satan’s charge. The change will be remarkable. Humanity as a whole will accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and live according to God’s law (Isa. 11:9). Finally, there will be universal peace, joy and happiness (Jer. 31:12-14).

    What about fasting?

    In addition to the symbolism of the sacrifices, there is another aspect of this Festival that we must consider. Notice Leviticus 16:29:

    “This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who sojourns among you.”

    What does it mean “afflict your soul”? The word afflict (Hebrew anah) is translated “humble” in Psalm 35:13, where David said, “I humbled myself with fasting.” So afflicting oneself means to fast.

    Biblical examples show that fasting means to go without food and water (Deut. 9:9, 18, Esther 4:16, Acts 9:8-9). This is the only day when we are commanded to fast. It is so important that in the New Testament we see this Festival referred to as “the Fast” (Acts 27:9).

    The purpose of fasting is to humble ourselves, to see our insignificance and realize our need for and utter dependence on God (Jas. 4:9-10). God does not hold us guiltless for the sins that Satan influences us to commit. We bear a responsibility for yielding to Satan’s temptations.

    God wants you to examine yourself so you will recognize your shortcomings and overcome them. These are the conditions of a proper fast that will cause God to intervene on your behalf.

    Keep this Festival

    The Day of Atonement, then, is a solemn, serious occasion, and yet, because of what it pictures, this Festival is a tremendously positive and encouraging day.

    Besides revealing vital understanding about God’s plan of salvation, the Day of Atonement can bring you much closer to God, if you obey God’s command to observe this day.

    Don’t deny yourself this relationship with God. Decide now to keep the Day of Atonement!

    Source: The Good News, August 1983

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