Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Lamb of God

I dreamed that we were living in a dystopic society nearing the apocalypse. The governing powers announced one morning that all those in Christian leadership would be rounded up and put to death that evening for “treasonous beliefs,” unless they renounced their faith in Jesus Christ. In a vain attempt to make these actions appear humane, the rulers decreed that all these Christians would be taken to a camp in the woods for a last meal and fellowship with one another.

Two pastors, my husband and I were to be taken together, and we made last-minute preparations. I put on red slacks, sandals, a brown shirt, purple jacket, and a white cap.

“I trust God even if I do die tonight,” said the older pastor. “God has blessed me with a good life; I’d probably die in a few years anyway from natural causes; and I know where I’m going.”

“God has a plan,” the other pastor said.

Their conversation was interrupted by a loud mechanical roar outside and pounding on the door. Armed guards burst inside and escorted us out to a cattle car being pulled by a tractor. We sat quietly with the other prisoners, not putting up any resistance.

Our heads and bones rattled as the tractor pulled us along a rocky, unpaved road up a steep mountain to an abandoned camping lodge in the middle of nowhere. A forest fire appeared to have leveled the trees, and only a few charred stumps poked forth from the scorched earth like stubble on a three-day-old beard. The guards locked the four of us in a dilapidated room containing only four bare cots, one weakly flickering lantern, and a built-in cupboard. The only window had been filled in with concrete.

My husband opened the cupboard, which was empty except for a few roaches that scurried out. “So much for them feeding us, not to mention letting all of us get together for our last prayer meeting,” he sighed.

“I have part of a leftover sandwich,” I said, digging the sorry remains out of my pocket and offering it to him. He gestured to the others and placed it on the ledge beneath the cemented window, beside a chipped old plastic toy bird that some child must have left there.

Suddenly the sandwich transformed into a bountiful, fragrant loaf of fresh baked bread; the bird sprang to life as a white dove; and the obstructed window became transparent crystal befitting a modern cathedral. A brilliant white light shone through the window as the panes opened and the dove flew upward and away. Before us stood the Lamb of God, perfect in His humanity, yet resembling a Lamb with hair as white as wool, indescribably beautiful, radiant, powerful, tender, and compassionate.

As I reached toward His face, I realized we were being transported upward into His light, and I was overwhelmed by utter peace and joy!

Upon awakening and thinking about the symbolism of the dream, I realized that Jesus warned that Christian persecution would increase in the End Times (Matthew 24:6-10), and that Peter reminded us not to be surprised if we are facing fiery trials for our faith (1 Peter 4:12-19). We can only be prepared for these trials if we put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17), symbolized in the dream by my strange outfit.

Our loins are to be girded with the truth that we are bought (1 Corinthians 6:20) with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-20), red like the slacks. Our feet are to be shod with the Gospel of the preparation of peace, denoted by the sandals. The brown shirt may represent the breastplate of righteousness, as brown is the color of humility. We need to be humble and recognize that we have no righteousness on our own merit (Romans 3:10), but that we need instead to be clothed in the imputed righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 61:10).

Purple is a royal hue and therefore the color of faith in the King of Kings (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16). The purple jacket reminds me of the shield of faith, which we are to use above all to quench all the fiery darts of Satan. We are to protect our mind with the helmet of salvation, symbolized by the white cap. Only when we realize that He saved us by His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) can our sins be washed as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).

All the prisoners in the dream had refused to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ, even though the penalty was death, much like Daniel facing the lions' den (Daniel 6:10-23). The two pastors expressed their trust in God to either deliver them from the earthly danger or to remove them directly to His presence, much like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo as they were thrown into the fiery furnace for their faith (Daniel 3:14-28).

Although the tractor was pulling us up the mountain, that destination and view had nothing to be desired, for it was but a charred wasteland. The best that man can offer by his own efforts are nothing but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) or dung (Philippians 3:8) compared with God’s abundant provision (Philippians 4:19). He alone can give us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, to His glory! (Isaiah 61:3).

Our seemingly hopeless situation in the barracks reversed completely to a glorious new beginning after we offered what little we had for the good of our companions. Jesus transformed a little boy’s lunch into a banquet for thousands (John 6:5-14), and He honored the widow’s pitiful offering above all the riches poured into the treasury (Mark 12:41-44). The size or the value of our gift means far less to Him than the degree of sacrifice with which we offer it. But no matter how much we give, we can’t outgive God! (Luke 6:38).

In the dream, He transformed the stale crumbs from my pocket to a magnificent loaf that could nourish all, representing Himself as the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48, 51), and the forsaken toy into the Heavenly Dove of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; John 1:32).

God is light (1 John 1:5), and if we seek Him we can walk in His light (Ephesians 5:8-11; John 8:12) and ourselves be light in this dark and wicked world (Luke 1:79; Acts 26:18; 2 Corinthians 4:6). He will take us from darkness into His marvelous light (Matthew 4:16; 1 Peter 2:9) and elevate us to heavenly places with Him (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6).

Words escape me when I try to describe what I saw and felt in the dream state of encountering Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world! (John 1:29, 36). In His perfect love we have nothing to fear (1 John 4:18), for our sins are forgiven (Mark 2:10; Acts 13:38). He paid the price; and if we belong to Him, we do not need to fear anyone or anything else (Romans 8:31). The “light affliction” of this world, as the apostle Paul put it, will fade the instant we see Him in glory (2 Corinthians 4:17).

One day, I believe and pray one day soon, the Lamb of God will call all His children upward to meet with Him in the air, take part in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9), and forever serve Him (Revelation 22:3) and bathe in His light! (Revelation 21:23; 5:6; 7:17)). Until the Rapture occurs (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17), may we stand fast in our faith (1 Corinthians 15:58), encourage one another, put on the whole armor of God, and share what we have with others in need, all to His glory!  

© 2018 Laurie Collett


Saturday, April 14, 2018

How God First Told Me to Read His Word

Photo by Nyehob 2016

Three weeks after I was saved by trusting Jesus Christ as my Savior, the One Who died to pay my sin debt and rose again to prove His deity (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), my husband and I had to meet a friend at the airport. Our friend’s plane had been delayed, so we found ourselves wandering through the shops when suddenly a book in a window display caught my eye.

“BIBLE CODE” read the large, black, Hebrew-stylized characters in the title on the cover, with what appeared to be word-search puzzles underneath. Intrigued, I entered the store and began thumbing through a copy of Michael Drosnin’s nonfiction best seller. A casual perusal soon became a voracious desire to read the book cover to cover, so I bought a copy and spent the remaining hours until our friend arrived devouring its contents.

At risk of oversimplifying a highly complex topic, let me explain that the book referenced a paper published in the academically prestigious journal Statistical Science. This article described “Equidistant Letter Sequences,” or ELS, in the Hebrew Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. These ELS encoded words, names and dates near each other, in meaningful groupings with historical and possibly prophetic significance.

To use an arbitrary number, circling every fifth, or fiftieth, or many other skip sequences of Hebrew characters in the original text of the Torah often resulted in a meaningful message, presaging events occurring millennia after God inscribed His Word on stone tablets and delivered it to Moses.

In 1985, this type of ELS analysis searching for names of 34 Jewish rabbis who were well-known over the past 1,000 years found all 34 in the book of Genesis, coded along with the dates of their births or deaths, even though Genesis was written more than 1,000 years before the first rabbi was even born!. The statistical probability of this happening by chance alone was determined to be 11 million to 1, as indicated by the authors of the Statistical Science article. The journal’s editors not only could find no fault with the analysis, methods or calculations, but even issued a challenge to other scientists to do so.

The existence of such codes was suspected by Sir Isaac Newton and confirmed in a very basic ELS by a Czechoslovakian rabbi in 1938. But it was not until the advent of modern computers that such searches became practical.

As the Book of Daniel predicted, in the End Times in which we now live, knowledge shall increase (Daniel 12:4) and the ability of computers to calculate and comb through data extremely quickly has put a whole world of knowledge in the palm of anyone’s hand who owns a smart phone. In that verse, the Hebrew word translated “many shall run to and fro,” is actually the same as the word now used in modern Hebrew to mean “computer search.”

Recent events coded in ELS in the Torah include the Oklahoma City bombing, the Gulf War, the 9/11 Twin Towers strike, the Holocaust, Watergate, and the Apollo 11 space mission. In 1994, ELS analysis revealed a message indicating that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin would be assassinated. He did not believe the warning Drosnin gave him, but the “predicted” event actually came to pass 14 months later.

Unfortunately, the original science became diluted and popularized to more of a parlor trick, as searchers looked for ELS in English and other Bible translations and unsuccessfully attempted to predict the future using them. Several predictions based on Drosnin’s searches thankfully failed to materialize, including atomic world war in 2000 or 2006.

On the night that I began reading about the Bible Code, I only had a very cursory understanding of all this, but one thing seemed very clear: the Bible must have been written by supernatural inspiration from God Himself (2 Timothy 3:16). Before being saved, I had previously considered the Bible to be fine literature and had heard and read several passages in school and college, but I had never grasped (1 Corinthians 1:18, 21) their eternal significance (Matthew 24:35) and Divine wisdom (Proverbs 1:2; 4:5; Colossians 3:16).

The morning after I sat up all night reading the Bible Code, I attempted to summarize what I had learned to our son Brendan, who was then 10 years old, over breakfast. After my breathless explanation, I asked him, “So do you think it’s true?”

Brendan rolled his eyes. “Well, of course the Bible is true, Mom – God wrote it.”

Out of the mouth of babes! (Matthew 21:16). In his childlike faith (Mark 10:14; Matthew 18:3), Brendan clearly saw and spoke the truth God was speaking to my heart – that all Scripture is divinely inspired. As I later learned, all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

God speaks to His children in different ways tailored to their personality and intellectual preferences. Given my background as a physician and research scientist in biochemistry and molecular biology, perhaps He first drew me to His Word by these “coincidences” that resulted in my learning of the Bible Code.

Yet we don’t need science or a computer to understand God’s Word or to know it is true – all we need is faith (Hebrews 11:1), which is possible only through the Holy Spirit Who lives within us and instructs us from the moment we are saved (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). God spoke to me the second time through the words of my son that His Word is true, for He wrote it.

Later I learned that faith comes by hearing (or reading) the Word of God (Romans 10:17), which was the third message God gave me about the importance of reading and studying all the Bible. Three days after the above events, Richard took out the trash at my medical practice.

He returned with a strange look on his face. “You’ll never guess what I just found sitting on top of the dumpster cover,” he said, handing me a Bible, which was in excellent condition despite its age.

You can imagine my surprise when I realized that this Bible was printed in the year I was born; that the front page was inscribed with the “Serenity Prayer” that I used to carry in my purse as a good luck charm in high school; and that key passages had been highlighted!

“I get it, Lord,” I prayed. “You want me to read this, cover to cover, to get to know You better and to understand Your will for my life. Thank You for sending it to me!”

So I read it through completely, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, not understanding many passages and having many questions. Then I found a reading plan that completes the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice during one year, which worked out well because there were three passages to read each day, and there were three of us at breakfast so we could each read one.

Brendan is out of the house and married now, but praise God, He has empowered my husband and me to complete the 1-year reading plan every year since we got saved in 2000! The Bible truly is a living book, with new insight to be gained with each reading, through the direction of the Holy Spirit Who is eager to teach us (1 Corinthians 2:13) if we are eager to learn!

We wouldn’t imagine going a whole week without eating and then trying to make up for it with one big meal, yet many Christians let their Bible collect dust all week, opening it only for the Sunday morning sermon. Praise God that He will speak to us daily through His Word (Luke 11:3), if we are faithful to listen!

© 2018 Laurie Collett