Month 11:22, Week 3:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5939:318 AM|
2Exodus 2/40, 4th Sh'mittah - Year 49/50
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 31 January 2016
Your Three Choices
Shabbat shalom mishpachah - Yah'shua's (Jesus') grace and peace be with you on this His day of set-apart rest. May we learn to rest in Him as perhaps as one of the most important items of preparedness as we brace for the big changes. With runs on Italian banks and Venezuela about to collapse economically at any moment, we know that we are on time and that Yahweh's timetable has been accurate.
The Three Choices
Bill Skyes, the Anglican chaplain of University College, Oxford, when I was a student there reading Biochemistry, once said that at any one time we face one of three choices, especially when our faith is under assault and we are faltering:
Doubts and Atheism
- 1. We can abandon Elohim (God), Yah'shua (Jesus), the Besorah (Gospel) and Emunah (faith) and simply cast ourselves into the hands of society, fate or whatever - the way of cowardice;
- 2. We can pretend everything is fine, in spite of doubts and fears, and just going on making all the expected religious motions - the way of hypocrisy; or
- 3. We can stand our ground and STRUGGLE - the honest and true way.
You could say that in the last couple of weeks I have let all the 'backburner' doubts out of the genie bottle of my life and faced them head on. It has been a frightening experience. I had no idea that there was so much atheism in me. So I begin today by making that confession. And though I know from a life of experiences, though I know from common sense, though I know from science, though I know from philosophy, and though I know from using the tools of numerous other disciplinary skills I have acquired over half-a-century, that it is absurd to be an atheist - it takes more faith to believe in evolution than in creation (it takes blind faith to believe there is no Elohim/God whereas it takes reasoned faith to believe He exists) - nonetheless I have concluded that everyone is assaulted by atheistic thoughts and feelings - including the greatest divines - on a more or less continual basis. This being indisputably so, I set out to explore why we have these doubts (in the face of the overwhelming evidence against them being valid) and what we should do about them.
The Story of Bill Sykes
It surprised me to learn, as I started reading one of Bill's books , that he, as a young Anglican priest, had actually lost his faith but then refound it. Those of us who encountered Bill at College will remember him as such a robust, warm-hearted and generous man of faith who had such a love of the students - especially undergraduates of all and no faith(s) - that the notion that he once lost faith would have seemed preposterous to us had we known it. His way back to faith, moreover, occurred in the most unusual way. He sought for Yahweh through literature, poetry, art, science, philosophy and music - and then read the Bible again through new eyes, questioning all his previous theological assumptions. He emerged from that journey, to quote another student who came up to Univ after me, "renewed and enlarged."
Revising the Main Website
It has been an unplanned practice of mine, pretty much every seven years, to step back and re-examine my beliefs. The opportunity came to me on this occasion as I set to work completely revising our large website at www.nccg.org, made all the more interesting as I sifted through hundreds of items of material that has not been online for nearly 15 years. In doing so I found myself re-living old experiences again but this time with the hindsight of one who has moved on and acquired fresh experiences and understanding. Some of it was embarrassing, some of it was boring, some of it was enlightening (as I had forgotten some profound truths that Yahweh had taught us back then) and some of it encouraging as I saw how we had advanced. But in the process, old ghosts surfaced that had been relegated to the subconscious but never fully dealt with.
Examining Ghosts from the Past and an Amazing Woman
As I carefully examined my own atheistic ghosts I was pretty much able to boil them down to a particular set of happenings or lack of happenings, those experiences in life that lead us to either question Elohim's (God's) existence, His love, His interest or His care. As I flipped randomly around Bill's book (he actually wrote five), which is sectioned according to theme, I came across the story of a Yorkshire woman who had lost her husband and then her two sons to separate motor accidents. Then the woman herself went down with some crippling illness. What was amazing to me was that at no time was she ever heard to complain or to rail against Elohim (God). She had a serenity and wisdom that is only ever born of suffering linked to a deep and abiding emunah (faith) in Messiah. She was never irritable, never short with people. She 'had it all together'.
Anger Behind the Ghosts
Stories like this, which are not a few in this world, arrest the scepticism in us all and lead us to ask, in shere bafflement, "HOW? How did she do it?" As I started working my way through Skyes' collection of writers I began to find answers. Indeed the first night of reading his book I felt as though I was being transported to a new 'high', a spiritual perspective that made so many of the doubts I had had drop away in the sudden realisation that I had been asking the wrong questions and looking in the wrong direction. This was then spoiled by a couple of dreams that night in which many of those 'ghosts' of the past rushed to the surface and played out in a frustrating drama over which I seemed to have no control. The next day I was grumpy and angry. Literally. When my PC mouse broke down I pulverised it (I know, shocking, isn't it?) though mercifully no one saw or heard me (as I wouldn't have done it in front of anyone else). The last time I had an experience like that was when I was at school and took it out on an old chair with a hockey stick with a friend of mine, though truthfully we enjoyed that piece of vandalism until we were caught red-handed by the House Master. He couldn't believed that two boys, who were the models of discipline and good behaviour, whom he used as examples when confronting the wilder sort, could ever do such a thing. He was merciful, I am glad to say, and we got off without any sort of punishment save a stiff repremand.
The Depravity of Man
The truth is, whether you think of people as 'angels' or 'demons', they - we - are all capable of the most despicable things. We are but a choice away (usually a series of choices as we cross one line of sinning and on to another) from being those depraved creatures the Calvinists like to remind us that we are. It's true, and the Calvinists are right, though they tend to focus a little too much on the depravity at times and quench tiqveh (hope). So, yes, some anger surfaced which had been well buried because as a responsible husband, father and minister, I am 'not supposed to do such things'. Yet we are all human, we all have a fallen nature, we are all subject to temptation and we are all susceptible to the worst the Adamic man can throw up. And we need to remember that. There are no squeaky-clean human beings, even amongst the maturest Christians.
We Overcome Through Intense Struggling
What of that amazing Yorkshire woman who lost husband and two sons and became crippled? We can only suppose she dealt with her 'demons' privately or with the help of trustworthy believing friends and mentors. It is inconceivable that 'demons' did not surface not only once but many times. However, like all of us, she had the choice: to run, to pretend or to overcome through struggle. Jacob was a devious SOB (pardon my language) until he struggled with that malak (angel) at Peniel and met Elohim (God) face-to-face. He overcame, he became a new person and he got a new name (Israel) as a sign of his overcoming. The struggle cost him a dislocated hip and a limp for the rest of his life. ALL OVERCOMERS MUST BEAR SCARS OF THEIR SPIRITUAL WARFARE AGAINST THE ADAMIC NATURE.
The Coming Rude Awakening
If you're hoping to merely brush cheeks or exchange rude words with your flesh and simply skip merrily around, you are delusional and are likely thinking along the lines of a coward. That's why there are so few overcomers today, because we have received a satananic education and brainwashing at the hands of the statist élites in order to make us self-entitled whimps and cowards. Look at the way people whine and complain these days. This generation has been trained to be cowardly which is why armed Swedish police are running away from rapists (from the 'religion of peace') torturing innocent boys and girls. Can you understand why the West now needs a rude and violent awakening? You will, if you don't, a few years down the line. Seven years on we will all be very different people whether we like it or not. The days of the imagined Liberal Utopia are all but over.
The Flesh and the Tree of Death
So I suggest that now is the time for every soul to rise up, resist evil and embrace good. It is most definitely the time. But let's first deal with those tough questions I hinted at earlier - those questions that prod us into atheism against all common sense, all sound experience and all acquired spiritual knowledge. The answer will not please your flesh because your flesh demands access to the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (the Tree of Death) for its answers. Your flesh will be enraged by the answer and yet logically it's the only intelligent answer there is. We rage because the answer is not what we want to hear.
Turning Setbacks to Good Use
One of the great secrets of life, Bill taught, is turning major setbacks to good use. He tells the story of a Ghurka from Nepal who lost a leg in Libya fighting Rommel in 1942. Soldiers who have lost limbs in battle who can no longer do what they once did, or be what they once were, can relate. Bill writes:
Effects of the Tree of Rebellion
"He greeted is cheerfully and then slapped his wooden leg...we were impressed with his carefree attitude to life. Later, when we came to leave the area, he bravely tackled the steep and rugged path down out of camp to bid us farewell. Here was someone who epitomised 'acceptance'. He had come to terms with the loss of his leg, without a trace of bitterness, and was living a full and active life...We shall never forget him. His quiet courage had introduced us to 'acceptance'" .
The Tree of Life and the Tree of Death (the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) are diametric opposites. I have discoursed on them to you at length before. The world teaches us to engage the latter whereas Christianity insists we engage only the former. And never the twin shall meet. Yet the vast majority of Christians and Messianics, for all their doctrinal correctness, as they suppose, still engage the Tree of Death. The Tree of Life is the Tree of Emunah (Faith). The Tree of Death is the Tree of Rebellion. We have been 'well' educated but more often than not don't know it. We have come to believe in the Tree of Death, Rebellion and Scepticism. The writer Oscar Wilde, for all his many faults, expressed it this way:
The Tree of Life
"He who is in a state of rebellion cannot receive grace...for in life, as in art, the mood of rebellion closes up the channels of the soul, and shuts out the airs of Heaven" .
Breathing Gas and Water
There are very existential consequences to rebellion. We are accustomed to breathing only one kind of air, that nitrogen-oxygen-carbon dioxide mix we call the atmosphere, unless you happen to be a deep-sea diver and breathe some added helium in order to avoid the 'bends'...the result of that is that funny squeaky voice when they talk. Or if you have certain illnesses you can breathe in an oxygen-enriched mixture, as some people with fibromyalgia do in order to get oxygen to oxygen-starved muscle cells. In the physical realm we can only really safely and comfortably breathe one particular kind of mixture. But in the spiritual realm there is a choice of two different 'gases' we can breathe - the Gas of Life and the gas of Death. The former invigorates your spirit and the latter puts it into a coma.
Breathing Through Oxygenated Water
The Two Spiritual Atmospheres
It is hard to describe it but there are literally two entirely different 'atmospheres' in the spiritual dimension occupied by Yahweh and the one occupied by the devil and his angels. And the effects of breathing these two spiritual gases is to create two entirely different kinds of human being. Some of you may have heard of experiments done by scientists that enable air-breathing mammals to breathe oxygen-enriched water in their lungs. They have done it with humans too. As unborn babies our lungs are filled with liquid and when we are born we evacuate that liquid in order to be able to breathe air. That's why they often slap babies' bottoms at birth to 'shock' them into taking their first breath...or at least they did when I was born. You all know what it's like accidentally breathing in water - your body's lungs were not designed for it and it starts to violently cough it up. Yet the body can be acclimatised to breathe water. What advantage, though, would there be to being confined to a tank of water which you must breathe? Likewise, we can be acclimatised to breathing the air of the 'Tree of Death' which confines out spirit to a prison in which it can barely move. That's a pretty good illustration of the kind of life you live eating the fruit of the Tree of Death and of Rebellion against Elohim (God). Once acclimatised, though, you don't remember what it was like outside the tank and claims that there is a bigger, freer world out there provoke derision.
Polar Experiences of the Two Trees
You can view your experiences of this life either through the lens of the Tree of Life or the Tree of Death and you will not only reach entirely different conclusions but you will feel those conclusions emotionally, and with such intensity, that you will be persuaded that your conclusions are right either way. However, your conclusions, based on the Tree of Death, will always turn out to be irrational (since they are not based on reality) even if the steps to your conclusion, based on numerous false assumptions made along the way, will have made sense to you along the way. The fact that you have been passionately convicted about something, having used your best powers of reason, illustrates this.
In Search of Justice
You can read any number of testimonies by Christians who have experienced life on both sides of the fence and you will know what I mean. Journalist Peter Hitchens, brother of the radically anti-Christian and atheist Christopher Hitchens (now deceased), and a brilliant mind, was, like his late brother, once a passionately convicted Marxist-Leninist who later became a Christian. Every conversion story is different but if you happen to be an intellectual who is into current affairs, you will find his books a must-read . For Hitchens, it was the quest for justice in the universe that finally led him to emunah (faith) because communism offered none.
Coming to Acceptance
I have to say that what I have often perceived to be 'injustice' is what has led me into atheistic frames-of-mind. The Yorkshire woman who lost husband, sons and health could have turned to the Tree of Death and bitterly complained about 'injustice' - and specifically, Elohim's (God's) 'injustice' or 'lack of love' or failure to reward her for her devotion to Him. And so could the Ghurka, for his faithful service to the Allied cause against tyranny resulting in the loss of his leg, rather an important limb for one living up in the Himalayas of Nepal. But he didn't either. Both came to a point of 'acceptance'.
Exactly What Are We Guaranteed by Yahweh?
Ruth Burrows makes the important point that "we have no guarantee excepts God's (Elohim's) love and fidelity (faithfulness)"  which does not rest comfortably with our sense of 'justice' when things go wrong, but she is right. If you read the Scriptures you will see that these are the only promises Yahweh makes to us while we are here on earth outside of a national theocratic community. And there are reasons for this, as Burrows goes on to say:
The Subtlety of Spiritual Pride
"[Yahweh] does not want us to have any but this. We turn from Him when we make much of such things, when we crave them and welcome them. Too easily they include spiritual pride simply because we read in them signs of great spirituality. We must be convinced they are no such sign" .
Now we must not miss this. There are two things being said here, though they are the same principle. We can understand the negative side by first understanding the positive. When things go well we can fall into the trap of believing that this is a result of our own self-generated 'goodness'. That's spiritual pride. When things are going well, it is in reality entirely because of Yahweh's grace to which we have responded affirmatively by putting our gifts into action. We have simply cooperated. We did not create our gifts - Mozart didn't work hard to become a brilliant musician. The genius was born into him from above. Yahweh put it there as an act of grace. He got plenty of accolades but was more than willing to take the credit for himself instead of crediting all to Elohim (God). That was spiritual pride. Mozart went along with the gift - the inspiration - and turned it into something beautiful for men and women to enjoy.
But when things go wrong - when we suffer a grievous loss, like the death of a child, the abandonment of a spouse, bankruptcy, life-threatening illness or the failure of a cherished career - we can respond in a similar way by giving Yahweh the negative credit, that is, blaming Him. I myself, who, in addition to the ministry, campaign against the social injustice of the state kidnapping of children for the most ridiculous of reasons, struggle to understand why Yahweh allows Christian families to suffer so. The recent state kidnapping of five innocent children from a dedicated Romanian Pentecostal family in Norway just makes my blood boil. Why is it permitted? To what end? Why are so few injustices ever corrected?
Tolstoy and the Incomprehensibleness of Life
Tolstoy wrestled with this problem in his novels. In his book, Resurrection he anguishes:
Fruits of Being in Yahweh's Will
"'No, no,' he thought, 'the reason for what happens in our lives, all that we do, the meaning of it, is incomprehensible and must remain incomprehensible to me. Why did I have aunts? Why did Nikolenka Irtenyev die, while I am still alive? Why should there be a Katusha? What about my lunacy? Why that war? Why my reckless life afterwards? To understand all that, to understand the Master's purpose is beyond me. But to do His will, inscribed in my conscience - is in my power and this I know unquestioningly. And when I am obeying His will, there is no doubt that my soul is at peace" 
Shalom or peace is certainly one very important fruit of being in Yahweh's will, but there are others:
Becoming a New Creation
"The true signs of the Spirit (Ruach) are very different [to having something for ourselves, of ourselves, for the self-satisfaction of the authentication of our spiritual life]: an ever-growing selflessness in daily living, self-disregard in all spheres, humility, service, devotedness, and in our innmost heart, a joy at being empty of all, poor, abandoned to God (Elohim) as He appears in every moment and in whatever guise" .
You may find a momentary or fleeting 'peace' in self-centred behaviour when your demand is met by some selfless person but like dew before the morning sun it is soon vapourised. It does not last because it lacks the element of permanence that only comes from Elohim (God) Himself, by means of a New Creation:
New Creation vs. Legalism
"Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah (Christ), he is (by definition) a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Cor.5:17, NIV).
And for those, especially legalistic Messianics, who have their priorities all wrong:
Breathing the Airs of the Two Trees
"Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of Elohim (God)" (Gal.6:15-16, NIV).
You have to be changed so you can naturally breathe that spiritual air that belongs to the Tree of Life. The old creature cannot breathe it, he will perish. The water has to be emptied from his lungs and the lungs refashioned - or reborn - to breathe the new and pure and finer air of the Tree of Life. Understand what I am saying here. If you search is for satisfactory intellectual understanding of all the why's and wherefore's of this life, not only must you partake of the fruit - or breathe the air - of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (the Tree of Death) but you must also expect to experience the shame, guilt and fear of our First Parents after they committed this original sin. And your attempts to suppress by mere human fiat - by your own effort and will-power - the shame, guilt and fear that comes from sinning...all that insecurity...will come at a terrible cost, because you will have to allow Satan to deface you, that face made in the image of Yahweh-Elohim, to shut down your heart and leave you cold, empty, lonely and bitter. You cannot accomplish it without losing your humanity and becoming like the dark powers who shut you down. You cease to be your own but the possession of the devil. That is what happens when you breathe the poisoned and enchanting air of the Tree of Death.
Testing and Circumstance
Why do we in any case seek to make sense of a fallen sphere? There is no sense down here. It is but the testing ground of humanity. And what is being tested? To see whether you will be a coward, a hypocrite or a true person. And do not suppose that because you were born into a good Christian or Messianic home that your trials will somehow vanish. There are reasons that people are born into Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist, New Age, atheist and - yes, even satanic homes, not to mention nations and in different periods of history. There is divine wisdom in this. If your life is cut short, the justice of Yahweh will ensure that at some future time you will return - not as a reincarnated being but as a resurrected one - to live out a full life to complete the process. Beyond that assurance you will never figure out much of anything else. Many of us have tried and failed.
The Reason for Mortality
The only sense you are going to make down here is in the choices you make in each situation - to flee as a coward, to pretend as a hypocrite, or to struggle and fight as a true soul. If you choose to struggle as a true soul, no matter where you are born or into what circumstances or into what religion, if you are searching with a pure heart you will either find Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) or you will be judged as though you had, had the circumstances not otherwise have prevented you, according to the agency of all involved. Remember, Paul teaches that those who never knew Yahweh or His Torah will be judged by the law of conscience, and that law of conscience will be based on what you decided to choose in key moral, ethical and spiritual moments - to run, pretend or struggle. You see, there are going to be many souls of all religions and no religion who will be saved because they made choices that acknowledged the righteousness of the Elohim (God) and His Messiah whom they never knew by name, and there are going to be many Christians and Messianics who aren't saved because they merely went through the motions - through a pretense at being saved.
Preaching Salvation to the Spirits in Prison
Now please do not think I am suddenly espousing a liberal doctrine. I am not embracing the watered-down and heretical gospel of the liberals, new agers or catholics like the current One World Religion-minded Pope. There is only one Way to Heaven and it is through the Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), and none else. However, if you did not have the opportunity to hear and respond to the Besorah (Gospel) of Salvation, Justice demands that you be given opportunity sometime, whether in this life or in the spirit world. I know this is not liked by a lot of glassy-eyed Protestants and others but Scripture plainly teaches that those who never had the opportunity to hear the Emet (Truth) preached by Noah and his three sons (hardly surprising given the millions who must have been alive then) were given that chance when Yah'shua (Jesus) went and preached to them:
Justice and Opportunity for All to Repent
"For Messiah (Christ) died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to Elohim (God). He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Ruach (Spirit), through whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison (Sheol/Hades) who disobeyed long ago when Elohim (God) waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built" (1 Peter 3:18-20, NIV).
Messianic Jews, Seventh-Day Adventists, Armstrongites, Jehovah's Witnesses and others who deny that we are conscious after death cannot reconcile this and similar passages (see Soul-Sleeping). It was to the disobedient and rebellious that Yah'shua (Jesus) went to preach while He was in the grave. You don't preach to the righteous but to sinners and the unsaved. What was He preaching? Those who try to worm their way out of the obvious and inevitable meaning invent various fables like He went there to announce His victory on the Cross, failing to note that He was not yet then resurrected - for the glory and the seal of Satan's fate came only with the rising from the dead and the immortalisation of His human body. We see in this passage the Justice of Elohim (God) who gives every soul the opportunity to make the Eternal Choice.
Questions We Cannot Answer
Now I cannot tell you why this or that terrible thing has been permitted to happen in your life. I struggle with these questions myself. We all do. When I am at the Tree of Life I have shalom (peace) about the tribulations in my own life - the persecutions, the desertions, bad health, injustices in the world and the unsaved in it who are perishing (2 Cor.2:15) for whom the Cross, which is the Tree of Life principle, seems as "foolishness" (1 Cor.1:18). Believers and unbelievers alike, when they remain at - or go to - the Tree of Death for their life and raison d'être (reason to be) - cannot obtain either satisfactory answers or the shalom (peace) that comes from pro-actively trusting. I'll hopefully talk more about that next time.
"Accept the fact that you are accepted," Tillich said , and that on the basis of your emunah (faith) or trusting and don't worry about trying to make sense of it all. I can counsel that because as a scientist one of my deepest drives is to try and make sense of the universe, but the truth of the matter is you cannot. We can only go so far. We can learn all we are called to learn for our particular calling...perhaps...and each of those is different, but beyond that it is a matter of trusting that we are accepted by Yahweh and doing all we can in the most selfless manner we can. There is no security or assurance any other way. Do what is Yahweh's will for you today and leave tomorrow to Him. Turn away from the Tree of Self - the Tree of Death, the Tree of Pride, the Tree of Self-Assurance, the Tree of Self-Realisation, the Tree of Self-Worth, the Tree of Self-Will...even the Tree of Self, otherwise known as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil - stop breathing its foul and intoxicating spiritual air. Stop pretending, stop running away and turn around and go to the Tree of Life, which is the Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), and breathe deeply of the Ruach (Spirit). There you will find rest, purpose and vigour for that which matters. Amen.
Continued in Part 2
 William Sykes, Visions of Faith: An Anthology of Reflections (The Bible Reading Fellowship, Oxford: 1996)
 Sykes, ibid., p.15
 Oscar Wilde, The Works of Oscar Wilde, ed. G.F.Maine (Collins, London: 1948), p.866
 See especially, Peter Hitchens, The Rage Against God - How Atheism Led Me to Faith (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan: 2010)
 Ruth Burrows, The Watchful Heart, ed. Elizabeth Ruth Obbard (Longman & Todd, London: 1988), p.16
 Burrows, ibid., p.16
 Leo Tolstoy, Resurrection, trans. Rosemary Edmonds, (Penguine Books, London: 1981), p.296
 Burrows, op.cit., p.16
 Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations (Student Christian Movement/SCM Press, London: 1949), p.162