The End of the World and all that . . .

Posted in Theology on May 21st, 2011 by Merrilyme — Comments Off

It’s a beautiful day for Jesus to come!! And one man thinks today is the day. A few years ago, Harold Camping, a man with a radio network that has thousands of listeners made a prediction. The world was going to end in 1994. It didn’t happen. The same man is now saying that the end is going to be today, May 21, 2011 (at 6:00 pm in each timezone). This has stricken fear into the hearts of some, confusion and befuddlement into the minds of many, and caused scoffing and laughter by many others.

Is this the day Jesus will come? Well, I won’t put it past him, but if he does come it won’t be because somebody set a date! Jesus told his disciples that no one knows the day or the hour and God is more trustworthy than man. Does that mean Jesus can’t come tomorrow? Of course not! He can and will come at the time of his choosing regardless of people’s predictions for or against. But that sure hasn’t stopped people from trying! Various dates for the end of the world (some of which included Jesus second coming and some didn’t) have ranged from 400AD to 2240AD.

Now I put no stock in this date-setter, and don’t think today is the day, but it wouldn’t scare me if Jesus did come today – and that’s a huge change! I grew up terrified of the ‘time of trouble’ when all the ‘false Christians’ would come after us Sabbath-keepers and would try to destroy us from without while our own sinful natures would seek to make us commit one confessed sin so we could be destroyed from within. And the reason I was scared had to do with another bunch of date setters, and a particular date: October 22, 1844.

Looking for the Second Coming

I took my first breaths at Loma Linda Hospital, the flagship Hospital of the Seventh-day Adventist church, and was raised to be a good little SDA girl. What does that have to do with date setting? Everything! The Seventh-day Adventist church would not exist if it weren’t for a failed date-setter’s prediction. By all accounts, William Miller was an ordinary Baptist farmer when he came to the startling conclusion that Jesus would return sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844, then recalculated, ‘found his mistake,’ and set the new date at October 22, 1844. After the failure of Jesus to return on October 22, 1844, the final date he had set, William Miller repented, admitted his mistake, and went back to his farm and his Baptist church. Too many of his followers did not.

One group of them coalesced around a small group of people that included James White and Ellen Harmon (who would soon become James’s wife), Joseph Bates, Hiram Edson, and others. Rather than admitting date setting was wrong and repenting of their deception, they decided the date was right. It was just the event that was wrong – Jesus did come, not to earth, but to the ‘second apartment of the Heavenly Sanctuary’. To reach their conclusions, they testified, they studied and prayed and agonized – and then trusted the confirmations given by the young ‘messenger of the Lord’ Ellen White.

From that beginning – reinterpretation instead of repentance – a whole superstructure of doctrines was built. Some ideas the young movement borrowed from many places. They embraced Sabbatarianism, ‘health reform,’ soul sleep/annihilation, the idea that the papacy is the anti-Christ. Other doctrines they cobbled together themselves, especially their interpretation of the three angels of Revelation 14 (they teach that the SDA church is the third angel) and the Sanctuary construct they put together to explain that Jesus did move in 1844, but instead of coming to earth, he changed addresses in the Heavenly Sanctuary in order to start what they termed the Investigative Judgement – to make the final determination of who is saved and who is lost.

I grew up listening to my elders talking about the Great Disappointment (God covered the mistake till afterwards, you know), about ways to survive the coming time of trouble (including learning to recognize wild plants, and make wilderness shelters), and about becoming perfect enough to ‘stand before God without a mediator’ when our ‘time of probation’ was over (if it were possible, even the very elect could be lost). I was so thankful even as a small child that Jesus came to earth to show us how to live, and to make it possible for us to have a second chance to get it right, but I was also very fearful because there were so many rules to follow and even sins of ignorance could get me lost.

Though I gave my heart to Jesus as a child, I spent much of that childhood worried that I was lost – that I’d forgotten a sin, or wondering if the time of trouble had begun. Time was always an issue. The time till sundown Friday when Sabbath began, the time till sundown Saturday when ‘worldly pursuits’ could resume, any time used during the week for things that were not ‘useful’, and the time that I should be using to perfect my character so that I might be part of the last generation of believers – who would be so perfect, Ellen White averred, that “the character of Christ would be perfectly reproduced” and he would be able to claim us as his own, the time that I never seemed to find enough of to verify for myself what my church and my family taught me was the precious, present truth. After all, time was running out. Any time we could be called to stand without Jesus mediating for us . . .

But Is That What Jesus Says?
While he was still on earth, Jesus warned of false prophets and strong delusions to come. No one but the Father knows the day and the time Jesus would return, he said, that is why we are to watch and be ready at all times. But don’t be fooled. He will not return secretly, we will never be left without a mediator, and he will not lose any of those who come to the Father by him. Come unto me, he said, and I will give you rest. Time is an issue, of course, but the time that is important is now! This is our time to time to trust Him, to get to know him, and to live in him. We don’t have to wait for some alarm clock to go off and says ‘eeks, he’s coming today’!! Neither do we need to fear his coming.

What Changed?
What changed for me was learning to take Jesus at his word, and letting teachings that were not coherent with his go by the wayside. And what a relief it is! Jesus didn’t, as I was taught, die to ‘give us a second chance to get it right’ he died to SAVE us to the uttermost who come to him in faith. If he comes sometime today I will be glad to see him! I belong to him and he claims his own. If he doesn’t come for another 100 or 1000 years, what is that to me? My business is to enjoy the life he has given me now (for he is the light of life to all people), to share him with those who are searching, and trust him with my present, as well as my past and my future. Are we at the end of time? Well, yes! But we’re not the ones holding the clock, so what’s the point of worrying about it? He’ll be here when he gets here, so chill!

Who is God?

Posted in Theology on March 22nd, 2011 by Merrilyme — Comments Off

On an old episode of Murder She Wrote, there once appeared a scene a bit like this. Under a canopy in the back garden of a large, ornate house a wedding guest who was sat among the other guests waiting for a wedding to begin when she struck up a conversation with the old lady at her side.

“Lovely day for a wedding, eh?”she remarked.

“Oh yes, lovely!” Came the reply.

“Are you here with the bride’s side or the grooms?”

“The bride’s. I’m a distant cousin of her mother’s.”

“What do you think of the dress? I think she’s going to look lovely in that gorgeous silk!”

“Of course! It will bring out her eyes beautifully!”

“What color are her eyes anyway? I’ve never been close enough to see.”

“Deep blue! They go beautifully with her long blond hair and pale skin!”

“Interesting! . . . . You don’t really know the bride do you?” mused the guest, “She has olive skin, dark brown eyes, and short black hair, and she’s wearing cotton with eyelet lace. Just why are you at this wedding?”

Embarrassed, the other guest looked down, mumbling incoherently. “I . . . ., I . . .. “

“Don’t worry,” returned the guest, “I know you’re only here for the food. I saw you slipping some of the appetizers into your purse just a few minutes ago.”

Who knew the bride? Who knew (or was) an impostor? Actually, from this short exchange we don’t know, but the guest that started the conversation sure ‘knew’ a different person than the old lady! If only discerning who knew God were so simple! Or is it?

It’s true we don’t know more than the Bible tells us about Jesus’ looks, and discussing what he was wearing and the style of his hair would not really help much either, but are there ways to tell if, when we talk about knowing God, we are at least discussing the same being? I think there are!

One person says God once had a disagreement, with Jesus having to talk the Father into letting him sacrifice himself – twisting his arm, so to speak, till, sometime after the fall, a way was made for salvation. Another thinks that God, the Three in One, had the plan already in place before sin and that in Him is no shadow of turning. One person believes that Jesus Christ existed from all eternity with no beginning. Another thinks Jesus did not exist till the incarnation, when ‘Christ’ was somehow united with the man Jesus – in Mary’s womb, at his baptism, or, perhaps, at his resurrection. They all say they love and worship Jesus.

One person thinks Jesus came in sinful flesh and lived a perfect life – like we can live if we make all the right choices – and died so that our sins could be removed from us and taken to the Heavenly Sanctuary, where they are piling up till they will finally be dumped back on Satan, the originator of sin. This person believes Jesus moved from one apartment of the heavenly sanctuary to the other in 1844, and has begun the final work of deciding who gets to go to heaven and, this person hopes, if they do good enough and remember and confess every sin, they will be saved in the end. Another believes that Jesus’ death at the cross took care of sin, once and for all, and after He ascended, Jesus went and sat down at the right hand of His Father right then, and, having trusted Him for salvation, therefore has confidence that their adoption is sure and that they have begun the life that will continue through eternity.

One person thinks that God the Father has a body like the Son (though the Son became human and gave up part of His abilities as God) and that the Holy Spirit is something or other that comes from both of them, another thinks that God is Spirit and that only the Son took on a human body (while still remaining fully God). One person thinks that God needs to be vindicated before His creation, another thinks that God needs no vindication. And I could go on, and on. . .

If all we know is “This one thinks, but that one thinks” we know no more than the watchers of that wedding conversation. We know that the people are not describing the same person, but do not know which one is actually describing the real person. Finding out, were you at that wedding, would be a simple matter: ask the mother of the bride, look around for a picture of the bride, or just wait till the bride herself arrives. In the case of God it is almost as simple. We have the accounts of Jesus and his life as God on earth, we have the book God gave us to show Himself to us, and, better than anything at that wedding, we have the Holy Spirit who God himself has promised will lead those who seek into all truth. Go to the source!

(in the interest of full disclosure, I originally posted this on the FAF Forum thread, “Different Gods”, and am copying it here, edited for grammar and layout, for quicker reference. Notice typos or other things that need corrected? Let me know!)

What God Has Made Crooked

Posted in Devotional on March 2nd, 2011 by Merrilyme — Comments Off

Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked” (Eccles. 7:13).

This morning, my mind has been speeding along trying to figure out an efficient way to get more into this day than is possible (at least for me), to move straight from here to there. I  overslept after a rough night and in the rush to catch up on my morning routine, I thought  to skim through devotions. Then, upon opening the email that I thought was today’s reading in Streams in the Desert, I was brought up short.

Consider the work of God . . .” OK. That sounded like pretty straightforward devotional stuff. God’s works are good, for He is good, and is constantly working things out for the good of those who love him. God’s works are right, for God knows all, sees all, and does not sin like humans. God’s works are perfect – for how could they not be, since He himself is perfect, and we run into problems mainly when we turn from His ways to our own . . .

But then came the second part of the verse: “for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?” Life sure has been feeling crooked lately! Conundrums at school and work, challenges that I don’t know how to meet in the present and looming pressures just over the horizon. But God makes some things crooked? I thought His was the straight and narrow way, the smooth path that even the lame could follow! What is this about crooked paths that God makes? Then I realized that another ‘formula’ I had created for myself would have to fall. God is not in the business of giving us ways to figure out what he is doing by looking at the circumstances and then calculating. We can’t look at the path and say, “Hmm, that path looks narrowest and straightest, so it must be the right one,” or “This path looks just like the one God took [insert spiritual hero here] on, so it must be the one I should take.”  Instead He asks us to talk to Him, lean on Him, listen for Him, and follow Him. Life is not a puzzle to solve, it is a relationship to develop.

Then I clicked back to my email and saw another Streams in the Desert email had arrived. Today’s actual reading was based around Exodus 34:2-3 “Be ready in the morning, and come up…present thyself there to me in the top of the mount. And no man shall come up with thee” I am chastened. I had set out to skim through a reading, to not spend too much time, to mumble a prayer and run. But what was called for was not that. What was called for was an actual pause, a full stop, to be with and hear from God. As quoted in the reading that is actually for today,

Take thy first walk with God!
Let Him go forth with thee;
By stream, or sea, or mountain path,
Seek still His company.

Thy first transaction be
With God Himself above;
So shall thy business prosper well,
And all the day be love.
–Horatius Bonar

Happy New Year!

Posted in Beginnings on January 3rd, 2011 by Merrilyme — Comments Off

As the first business day of 2011 gets underway, my prayer for each of us is that this year will find us stronger, healthier, and happier:

Onward and Upward!


The Stone of Stumbling

Posted in Theology on December 12th, 2010 by Merrilyme — Comments Off

“Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word . . .” 1 Peter 2:6-8 KJV

I recently had an interesting experience. Someone I do not know contacted me about a religious question and in this way started a conversation. It started out calmly enough, but at the conversation progressed it became apparent that he was a ‘date setter’ who relished the fact that while Jesus said no one knows the day or the hour He didn’t specify the year. When I agreed with him that the verse doesn’t say ‘year’ but refused to therefore conclude that God is going to tell us the year he became more and more belligerent – I was being dishonest, proud, and refusing to submit. Before long he was stating that this was the ‘stone of stumbling’ that the Bible talks about and my refusal to ‘submit’ to his reasoning was reason for him to no longer talk to me. That conversation is over!

But it did send be back to the Bible to re-read the passage about the ‘stone of stumbling, and what a comfort it is! The chief cornerstone is Jesus Christ Himself, not a doctrine about times or years, not a secret thing that can only be understood by people who say, “well it says this, but what it really means is that.” Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” May we who have come to Him live rejoicing today in Him, not in walking in the sparks of our own kindling!!

The Context of Predestination

Posted in Theology on December 12th, 2010 by Merrilyme — Comments Off

Predestination is a bit of a sticky subject, and not one I pretend to comprehend, but as I was reading Ephesians recently, some neat things jumped out at me. I’d love some feedback!

Ephesians begins with “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,”

“Blessed be.” It is interesting to me that the greeting used by Wiccans (yes, I’ve known a few) is just this. It is interesting to see the greeting in context. It’s not just “Blessed be,” but “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And more to my topic, it is obvious that Paul saw the context of predestination as blessing – God Himself is blessed and has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Has blessed us! We are also blessed. It has happened. We don’t have to wait for it.

Now how has He blessed us? well, Paul tells us: “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” He chose us in Jesus Christ “before the foundation of the world” and for what? That we should be holy and blameless before him. How? by good works and by making ourselves perfect? NO. In love, through Jesus Christ, according to His will, that the riches of His grace would be praised, as it is written “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

And has He blessed us further? Yes! “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. Wow! In him we have not just adoption, but redemption through His blood and the forgiveness of our trespasses. Because we’ve cleaned up our act and are now doing things right? No! Again it is “according to the riches of His grace, lavished on us. Is this foolishness? No! He chooses to do this in all wisdom and insight. Why? Because in His love and according to His grace, He has chosen to unite all things in heaven and on earth in Christ!

Is our inheritance on solid footing, or is it something that may be jerked away? Paul tells us that it is in this very Christ, in whom all things are being united, that we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will. Now that’s something to get excited about! Predestination may be a hard word to understand, but it is wrapped up in God’s Love, the riches of God’s grace, God’s purposes, and God’s Son. It is a mystery, but needs hold no fear for us since Love, Grace, and Jesus are its very context! But just in case we still worry Paul has even more reassurance. All who believe in Jesus are included: Those “who were the first to hope in Christ . . .to the praise of his glory” and all the rest of us who heard and believed later, “when [we] heard the word of truth, the gospel of [our] salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, because we managed to become righteous in ourselves? No! Again, rather, “to the praise of his glory.

May You be glorified in us, Lord. For I know that when You work according to Your will it is also for our best good! You do not work in half measures. You can be trusted to complete the work You’ve begun, and to provide for us “exceedingly abundantly above all we could ask or think.” Thank you so much!

Reflections in Autumn

Posted in Poetry on October 24th, 2010 by Merrilyme — 1 Comment so far

The world is new washed, The leaves slowly turning

to crimson and gold . . .

at summer’s adjourning.

Clouds pass on along, the breeze, gusty, blowing

caresses my face . . . .

in boisterous flowing.

The hedgehogs find slumber, the squirrels their nest

The dark brown cold earth

Speaks of nature at rest.

Still frost on the meadow replaces the sound

Of insect and songbird

As autumn comes round.

My God, what is this? Full glorious beauty

inhabits this world . . .

E’en in its death-duty.

The march of the seasons, in stately progress

In song, sight, and silence

Your bounties profess.

And I too, my Lord, am made for Your glory

a child of your heart . . .

O give me my story.

Please, where do I fit? Is my life-quickened clay

Just made to ‘exist’ . . .

To survive for a day?

My God, breathe on me. With life, give me wisdom

To live, yes, but more . . .

To flourish and then some.

Life seems so erratic, the present is boggy

The past harsh and done . . .

The future all foggy.

As mist, drifting, caught, in the dark stream of time

As rain-carried dust . . .

Am I still on your mind?

Oh God, help me learn, not my purpose merely

but fullness of joy –

to trust You sincerely.

To dance in Your presence, carefree and cared-for

Protected, secure . . .

In your love evermore.

To see in the seasons of soul as of earth

The hand of my Lord . . .

King of sorrow and mirth.

To hear in the ebb and the flow of my years

The voice of my Lord . . .

Speaking peace to my fears.

To find in the innermost realms of my heart

My Savior enthroned . . .

Nevermore to depart.

Discovering then when my years reach their end

At eternity’s doorway

My Maker and Friend.

– Mary Seeley Stockler

The Armor of God – A Meditation

Posted in Prayer, Theology on October 23rd, 2010 by Merrilyme — Comments Off

“Finally be strong in the Lord.” Oh Father, strengthen me and I shall be strong. Fill me and I shall be whole. Remove from me all that hinders my walk with you.

“Put on the full armor of God . . .” Lord, the battle is yours. Clothe me for it. I am your handmaiden.

“. . . so that you may be able to stand against the devil’s schemes.” Show me where I must stand. Let me not be deceived or disheartened by anything the devil tries. Thank you that you do not deceive or trick.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood . . .” Keep me in reality Lord, let me be always conscious that it is not any human against whom I stand, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world” who try to work through humans, who do not want to give any of us up.

“And against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Here again my Father, I plead with You to hide me in You! You are perfect, but I am carnal, sold to sin except for your grace which has bought me back.

“Therefore” – because this is not something I can do alone and unarmed – “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes . . .” Okay Lord, you inspired the word WHEN not IF. Hide me so deeply within this armor that no power of heaven, earth, or hell may drag me out or away from You no matter what happens “. . . you may be able to stand your ground.” What ground is that Lord, if not the ground that you have given me?

“And after you have done everything, to stand.” Again, Jesus, I remind you of Your word. You would not ask this of me unless you intend to give me all it takes to fulfill it, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Therefore, my Master, work in me to do the “everything,” and in me to “stand.”

“Stand firm then, with the belt of TRUTH buckled around your waist,” O my Armorer! Just as I imagine buckling on a belt, wrap the “belt of truth” so firmly and snugly that there is no way I can climb out of it, slip out of it, jump out of it, or in any way get out of it or lose it. Center me so firmly in the truth that the mists of illusion and darkness will disappear, and I will see true reality.

“And the breastplate of righteousness in place,” Without You Lord, I am nothing. Cover me with Your Righteousness for mine is only filthy rags. Make your righteous covering permanent.

“And with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” O my Father! Shoe me. Fit the gospel of peace so well to my feet that walking in it will be what I do by nature – Your nature in me.

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” I take this shield, Father, in the strength you five me, by Your power working in me.

“Take the helmet of salvation.” O Father, you have given me salvation, for you have called me and I have responded. Fit the helmet so securely that no one in heaven, earth, or hell can knock it off.

“And the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” Again Lord you ask of me something I cannot do by myself – therefore I run to You. Fit the sword of the Spirit to my hands. Fill me with Your word. And train me to use my sword. If I were not to come close to evil in combat You would have given me some other, long range, weapon. As it is, I pray You for courage and strength. Let me not shrink back from where You send me to fight. And be my Companion there. Do not send me anywhere you won’t be.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Father, give me Your Spirit! Bring this to pass in me. Holy Spirit, do with me according to your will.

“With all this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Bring to my mind the ones I am to pray for and, Father, provide for the needs of each.

“Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given to me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains.” Lord, I pray for all your ambassadors, and for myself, that every time I open my mouth You will give me the words I need to fearlessly make known the mysteries of the gospel.

“Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” I do so pray my Lord. Let it be to me according to Your word.

(The Scripture passage quoted in this meditation is found in Ephesians Chapter 6. ESV Translation. Philippians 2:13 also quoted)

On Beginning a Blog . . .

Posted in Beginnings on August 13th, 2010 by Merrilyme — Comments Off

It’s morning. The coffee is nearly ready, the children are off to school, and my own classes start soon. The crickets and cicadas of summer are harmonizing with the birds out my window, seeming to contradict the encroaching evidences of fall.

A myriad of projects – both important and merely urgent – are pressing for my attention yet here I sit in front of my screen, second-guessing my decision to start a blog. Why would I want to blog? I like my privacy. I like to talk face to face with people I actually know. I like the immediacy of face-to-face conversation, the give and take, the courtesy and thoughtfulness that is sometimes lacking in online communication. Besides that, I already have online conversations going at other places and different forums. Life is comfortable as it is . . .

But I DO want to start a blog: to challenge my own thinking in a new way, to step out of my comfort zone and do something new.  So many times I have been encouraged (and provoked, and sometimes aggravated)  by what others have written online — at iMonk for example, at Former Adventist Forum, or at CARM. Now it is time to give back, and to add my voice to the larger conversation that does not need a set time and place to carry on.

I look forward to discussing theology, history, daily life. To sharing books that interest me, the faith that brings me joy, and ideas and tips that I have found helpful. I also look forward to continuing to learn here in the internet community, as I do in my local one. So here goes . . .

Meet me on the web!