Saturday, August 15, 2015

I Find Love (When I Look at the Cross)

I know what "self-sacrificing" means in English; but to see it expressed in another language gave me a new and deeper perspective than I have ever had.

The Spanish word misericordia means "self-sacrificing." When I look at the word, I see three parts: one, the root ser which means being or existence; two, although I do not know this to be true in Spanish, mis- in English is usually a negative prefix (meaning whatever follows is not true); and three cordia, which reminds me of the Spanish word for heart, corazón. The rough interpretation that immediately entered my head was "a heart that is willing to give up its existence." For me, that was powerful.

The Bible expresses it this way:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
(John 15:13)
Self-sacrificing love is a love that cares so much about you that I do not care about me anymore. It is a love that feels that your life, even without me in it, is more valuable than mine without you in it. The thought that God could not bear to be without me - to the point of being willing to not exist - is an overwhelming thought that will take eternity to fully absorb.



Have you ever wanted to be missed? Wanted to be needed? Wanted to be wanted? I have; and it is a miserable reality when you discover that the people you would like to care don't.

Years ago, I had an experience that completely turned my social standing upside down. Once the center of all church happenings, I was now an outcast. I can assure you that the worst part was not that it happened; no, it was the rude awakening I had after denying for so long that it happened. I tried for a while to pretend nothing had happened; that I was innocent; that there were still people who cared about me; that I was not actually alone. To realize publicly that those sentiments are completely wrong is quite the shock.

At that time, all "alone" with just my family for companions, I discovered that I had changed. I had allowed my personality to dissolve into that of my friends, to be diluted by there preferences, to be tainted by their negative traits. It was bad enough that my personality needed work in the first place; now it was in shambles. New friends wanted me to talk; but I was reserved, not wanting to scare them off with my "hogging the show" as my old friends had described it. New friends wanted me to play with them, try new things: but I did not want to show off, or conversely, uncover my ineptitude and be laughed at. Things that were not me became me, and I discovered that people who wanted to care could not because I could not let them.

Slowly, I understood that these were friends not profitable to my character growth. They were not necessarily bad people; but I had obviously not benefited from them as much as I had lost. With time, I came to the peace of knowing that while God did use them at an earlier point in my life, it was time to move on. This actually helped me stop trying to be someone I was not, because now there no one to impress.



In time I re-discovered God's love and mercy. But I found myself trying to change myself to be liked and accepted by God. It was hard for me to just let Him have me without fixing something first. And of course, fixing is a long and tedious process, especially when you are operating on negative strength. But this word misericordia brought me to a reality I am only now beginning to comprehend: God's love is so deep that He would stop existing to make me live. Through the cross, He basically says, I would miss you. Other people may never, but I would miss you tremendously. He would give up - and has given up - everything so that I can have a new heart, and new life, and a new Friend.

Notice something extraordinary about this idea of self-sacrificing love. Jesus says that we should love our enemies by praying for them, by not rendering evil for evil for railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing (Matthew 5:44, 1 Peter 3:9). But self-sacrificing love is only poured out on a friend: for there is no greater love than that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Yes, you are considered God's friend; and the moment you accept that reality, it is true in your life. Only after Lucifer openly rebelled was he called "the adversary." Only upon your rejection of God's mercy are you at enmity with God. Until you say "no," you are His friend.

What will you say to such great love?

Sunday, August 09, 2015

I Find Mercy (When I Look at the Cross)

But do I accept it?

I believe that one of the most difficult hurdles in the plan of salvation is in overcoming the belief that God is out to get me. Sure, we understand that in theory; it makes sense when we are in line with His will. But what about when I fall -   doesn't He have to punish me?

No, you say. That is what Jesus died for.

Fine. My penalty is paid. But what about blessings: surely, I am undeserving of those.

Well...


Hardened by Mercy

And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.
(Exodus 7:3)
Notice firstly that this is the Lord speaking. It did always puzzle me why God would harden Pharaoh's heart on purpose seeing that He really wanted Israel free. After all, it was just as much torture for them as it was for the king of Egypt.

But I have discovered an answer - one that hurts. It hurts because... I do that.

My family and I have been listening to a series of articles written in the 1890's by E.J. Waggoner. Published in the Present Truth periodical, the series shows that the everlasting gospel of Revelation 14:7 is the very same one that was preached to and accepted by Abraham of old. The Everlasting Covenant goes through the Hebrews' history to compare it to the new covenant that Christianity holds so dear and reveals that, in fact, they are one and the same; that God has never changed His plan or purpose, except as was necessary to weave around human doubts and failings.

In discussing Israel's deliverance from Egypt, this pioneer points out that Pharaoh's heart was hardened against God's mercy. Thus God hardened Pharaoh's heart, because it was His bestowal of mercy that resulted in the king's resistence.

Did you catch that?

God's mercy is what kept Pharaoh away. God's mercy is what caused Pharaoh to reject God.

It is obviously humanly possible; but how does that play out in our own lives? An example would best be shown from my own life.


Being Vulnerable

A personal struggle that I face when I fail God is that of returning to Him. (No, that is not extraordinary.) The reason starts out as, I am such a sinner, I am so vile, etc. But it swiftly moves to I don't understand why God would want to take me back. I know better. I know that no matter how far I have fallen, God is willing to accept me back into His fold. I know that He would run miles just to find me. I know that He loves me so abundantly that He would - excuse me, He did - die for me.

Yet the very thought of those absolute truths is what trips me up. Why do You love me, Lord? Why would You take back a sinner? Would You do it the next time?

God and I have a deal that I am not to ask those sort of questions. No more questioning His love, no more doubting His grace. At least not verbally - but it helps me make the first step in returning to Him.

The amazing thing that I see on the cross is not only the forgiving of sins and the re-acceptance of a sinner. I also see a loading with benefits. You see, the thing about justification is that is is immediate, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. It is a work of faith only; there is nothing that I can do to be justified. I can only look at the cross, accept its atonement, and believe in God's love. I have faith that He will be merciful to me, "for He is faithful that promised."
I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Put Me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.
(Isaiah 43:25-26)
All I have to do is ask - declare thou - and He will forgive for His sake, not for my merits.

Not by Works

Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.
(Proverbs 10:6)
The second half of the struggle is am I deserving of blessings? The answer: absolutely not. But it was never about you.

The verse above says that the just will received blessings. But I am not just - nothing close to it. But remember how one is made just? For God's sake. "Put Me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified."

So now, God can put blessings upon your head, because in His sight, you are just. Isn't God wonderful?


Hard or Soft?

At some point, Pharaoh knew that he had sinned against God and he pleaded for God's mercy.
Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you. Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and intreat the LORD your God, that he may take away from me this death only.
(Exodus 10:16-17)
He put God in remembrance, he declared, and God justified him. The proof?
And he went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD. And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt.
(Exodus 10:18-19)
He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
(Micah 7:19)
But, in the sight of God's great compassion, Pharaoh still hardened his heart. He could not seem to accept or reconcile the reality of God's mercy. He could not understand how one moment there can be plagues, and next moment, peace and calm. He rejected God's love because it was too wonderful for him.

What will you choose? Will you accept His mercy, or will you harden your heart against, believing the lies that He does not want to forgive or bless you?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Can These Bones Live?

In family worship, we have been reading from the book of Ezekiel. There are many deep and awesome truths found in that book, some of which unlock other mysteries that we have yet to understand. Throughout the coming weeks, I will write about the book of Ezekiel based on various points my family members bring out each night. I pray that you will blessed.

The prophet is taken in the Spirit of the Lord to a valley - a valley of dry bones. These bones did not just appear yesterday. Whoever owned them had been dead for quite a while, and their bones had been exposed to sun and wind for some time as well.

As he walks about in the desolate valley, looking on the multitude of bones, the Lord asks, "Ezekiel, can these bones live?"

Could they?

"You know, Lord."

The next words from the mouth of the Most High are these:
"...Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, 'O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; "Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord." ' "
 (Ezekiel 37:4-6)
So Ezekiel obeys, and prophesies, and witnesses this grand phenomenon:
"...There was a noise, and behold, a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them."
(Ezekiel 37:7-8)
 Fully built, but with no breath, no life. They were still dead.

Scanning ahead to later verses in Ezekiel 37, it is quite apparent to me that this chapter is referring to a revival among God's people. This is noted by such words as army, whole house of Israel, and O My people. God is describing last day events in His church.
"Then He said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel..."
(Verse 11)
So what happened? How is it that a revival began, but never finished? Where was the culmination of this grand revival? Where was the newness of life?

My dad thought of this Scripture in connection with Ezekiel 37:8.
"And He said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake..."
(2 Kings 19:11)
Let's expand this passage a little bit:
And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?
(Verses 9-13)
 "Lord, what is happening to your church! No one -- no one -- gets it! No one sees! There is no one to stand in the gap. Look - they are quenching out the very life of your saints. I am the only one left!"

Can these bones live?

Everyone sees the problem: no spiritual growth; no evangelistic success; no fire; no influx of new believers; no unity; no agreement on doctrine. It's just a mess.

"...Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts" (Ezekiel 37:11).

So we launch a revival. But is the Lord in it? At the end of the day, do we gain spiritual life and vigor from these efforts?
"...There was a noise, and behold, a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them."
(Ezekiel 37:7-8)

Big and loud and showy does not do the job. So what does?
"Then said He unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."
(Verse 9)
The result?
"So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army."
(Verse 10)
 In Revelation 7, the four winds are those of strife. There are angels holding back those four winds while the servants of the Most High are being sealed. Just before these winds are released, the Spirit of the Lord is poured out on His people, also as a strong rushing wind.
"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
"And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come."
(Joel 2:28-31)
"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
"And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."
(Luke 21:25-28; see also Revelation 6:12-17)
 "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost..."
(Acts 2:2-4)
As the Preacher said, what hath been will be. The Holy Spirit is the key for true revival, for He is the One Who guides us into all truth (John 16). And when we know truth, we are sanctified and set free (John 8:32 and 17:17). This brings true revival, true life.

Notice a second wonderful thing about this true revival. It raises up an army. An exceeding great army.

Where do we hear the concept of warfare in Scripture? Yes, Armageddon. But let us be practical: who is the army? For the composition of the army determines outcome of the war.

King David said this:
"As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they [the children, for this is the only plural mentioned in the chapter] shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate."
Young people are this army. They are the ones who speak with the enemies in the gate. Are we grooming them for this great task? Are we preparing them to stand on the front-lines and the defend the faith. Are we praying for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on them so they can see the truth live? Claim the victory and fight?

The last day work will not be accomplished by those of older years, and even those of more experience. To the contrary: it will be youth who build up the foundations of many generations, repair the breach, and restore the paths.

And yet - in spite of the overwhelming evidence - we fail to ask for the old paths. Worse yet, we literally lead our young people out of the fold of God and into the army of the enemy by using his methods to win youth to God.

Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Doesn't God know that His methods are right and effective in winning our youth? Then why do we still feed them that which is not bread?

Can these bones live?

It breaks my heart when I see churches employ the world methods and ideas in youth ministry. It breaks my heart so, because I know the plans God has for His young people, to prosper them and to give them an expected end. I know that God intends to raise an army which can accomplish His work. I know that He believes in the power and dedication and diligence of young people. I know that He knows what He is doing.

But soon, the youth of God will rise up and stand in the gap and restore the old paths where is the good way; and they will lead the church in triumph and find rest unto their souls.
"And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put My spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord."
(Ezekiel 37:13-14)
But this work does not commence without our involvement. Notice an important thing about the movement of the Holy Spirit in the last days. The breath of life does not come with the package. We are instructed to pray for the Holy Spirit.
"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?"
(Luke 11:13)
And based on verses 5-9 of that same chapter, we are expected to persist in our request until it is granted.

Now, starting at verse 15, I had a complete eye opener, which actually lead me to see the first 14 verses in a different light (as above illustrated).

You see, God here is presenting Ezekiel (and all who are willing to learn) two parables, both defining the same thing. The first parable, of the dry bones, deals with the perspective of those in the church. The second deals with those without.

Inside, the church looks as though it is about to fall, but it does not. Through the work of committed young people, God's people are revived and restored. The church is saved, and they enter into the joy of their rest.

The outside perspective provides us with a few more details as to the events transpiring between this revival in the church, and the Second Coming (the entering into the joy of their rest; see Matthew 25:14, 21). Here, I will enumerate them:
  1. The people of God are brought out from among the heathen (verse 21, supported by Revelation 18).  
    • This reminds me of the loud cry of the angel in Revelation 18: "Come out of her, My people..." Compare this chapter with Isaiah 56:1.
  2. They are consolidated into one nation (verse 22, supported by Isaiah 56:1-8).  
    • There is no more separation. God's people are united with one another. As prophesied by Isaiah, "The Lord God, which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him" (Isaiah 56:8). Those who heed the loud cry also heed the third angel's message of Revelation 14 (verses 9-12). As they accept the message of the true Sabbath, they take hold of God's everlasting covenant (Rev. 14:6, Isa. 56:3-4), and earn a place among the True Israel.
  3. They are cleansed fully from their sins, and they cease performing their abominations (verses 23-24).  
    • This is not happenstance. This is the result of observing the Lord's statutes and doing them - "which, if a man do, he shall even live in them" (Ezekiel 20:11). Revelation 14 refers to them as "without fault before the throne of God."
  4. They become one flock, and have one shepherd (verse 24).  
    • This verse bundles every preceding verse together. Jesus later makes reference to this prophecy when He said, " And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" (John 10:16). This also confirms events 1 and 2, listed above.
  5. They gain the inheritance (verse 25).  
    • But this is not just any country: it is "an heavenly (Hebrews 11:16). And both in Daniel (7:27) and Matthew (25:34), we see that the saints eventually possess the kingdom. From Daniel's prophecy, we can see that a  struggle will transpire just prior to the saints receiving the kingdom: " I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom" (Daniel 7:21-22).
  6. God makes a covenant of peace with His people (verse 26). 
    • As the saints endure attacks from the little horn of Daniel, they will cry day and night unto the Lord (Revelation 6:10). Now let's Bible hop. Revelation 6:12, the seal which follows verse 10, tells of an earthquake. Skip over to Revelation 16:18, and we find an earthquake accompanied by "voices, and thunders, and lightnings." A quick comparison lets us know that both earthquakes are preceded by war or cries thereof (Rev. 16:14-16). 
    • So, let us consider them one and the same event. Then what are those voices and thunders? Revelation 10:3-4 says: "And [another mighty angel] cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not."
    •  John, who writes his gospel after Revelation, later records: "  'Father, glorify Thy name.' Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, 'I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.' The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him" (John 12:28-29). The voice of God sounds like thunder! (See also Psalms 77:8.) Those who know God will understand what is said and Who is saying it. But those who know not God will hear only thunder. Hint: John heard what the seven thunders uttered. But by the strong admonition not to write the words, this is information we are not yet to have. What about the last days do we no know at all? 
    • "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father" (Mark 13:32). Just when the saints seem to be overcome by their enemies, the Everlasting Father will proclaim deliverance to the captives.
  1. God once again dwells among His people (verse 27).  
    • Revelation 21 echoes the sentiment: "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God." As John the Revelator put it, "There was no more sea." No more separation between man and man or between man and His God.
  2. The heathen see the sanctuary of God (verse 28).  
    • In this, they witness the evidence of God's unchanging love and His power to sanctify - make sinful men holy. When do they see the sanctuary? If the saints have inherited their reward, should not the wicked be dead? Well, they will be dead. But Revelation 20 tells us that they will be raised 1,000 years after Jesus' Second Coming (verse 4-5). And as the wicked of all the ages are raised up once more, they will see the Holy City, New Jerusalem - else how could they surround it in Revelation 20:9? But, as Paul told the Philippians, "...At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Now, for a time, those on either side can change sides. That is, until verse 23 of Ezekiel 37: for Christ will declare, "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still" (Revelation 22:11). Before that declaration, all the dry bones can live. Everyone can come to know God personally and accept Him and Lord and Savior of their life.

You may feel that your bones are too dry; that your life is too mangled, your condition is beyond help. But Christ declares Himself "the resurrection and the life." In Ezekiel 34, we saw that no sheep is too far away to be regathered to the fold of God; too broken or too diseased to be restored to life evermore. While our High Priest is in the place of intercession for us, we can be saved to the uttermost.

Can these bones live?

These bones, battered, broken, and bruised with sin? Yes, these bones can live. The Lord will give the life-giving Holy Spirit to them that ask Him. Won't you just ask Him?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Looking for Me

In family worship, we have reading from the book of Ezekiel. There are a lot of deep and awesome truths found in that book, some of which unlock other controversies that we have yet to understand. Throughout the coming weeks, I will write about the book of Ezekiel based on various points my family members bring out each night. I pray that you will blessed. 

I was lost, but now am found. But who found me? Who was looking for me?
"For thus saith the Lord God; 'Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.' " (Ezekiel 34:11)
And why does He want to find me?
"As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out My sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day." (Ezekiel 34:12)
And as my favorite Scripture says, "I have called you by your name; you are Mine" (Isaiah 43:1).

The Cloudy and Dark Day

It is not every sheep that is rebellious. It is not every backslidden Christian who set out to backslide. Some go astray looking for greener pasture and find themselves lost as the sun goes done. Some just get "lost" in the crowd - in the church, but not of it. Some, like the prodigal son, willingly choose to leave, only to find theirs a more miserable existence than before. But many - very many - simply lose sight of God in the dark and cloudy day. Rather than fixing their eyes on the Light of Life, they are tossed about by the sea and unwittingly lose their spiritual eyesight. Stresses, perceived slights, a desire to fit in, poor grades at school: all of these can distract us from the Light, and pull us farther and farther away from the safe harbour.

"He Will Heal Us"

But no matter the cause for my straying, no matter what pulled me away, God loves His sheep, each one; and He will not simply bring me back into His fold. No, no - He will bind my broken heart, heal my wounded mind, and restore His image in me.

That is how much He loves me.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I Have Made a Covenant with My Eyes: The Issue of Pornography

In family worship, we have reading from the book of Ezekiel. There are a lot of deep and awesome truths found in that book, some of which unlock other controversies that we have yet to understand.


Throughout the coming weeks, I will write about the book of Ezekiel based on various points my family members bring out each night. I pray that you will blessed.

"Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them.." (Ezekiel 16:17).

My little brother asked Dad, "This is pornography, right?"

To be true, the context of this chapter is spiritual adultery. But God uses physical adultery to describe the grossness of Judah's crime. Therefore, this verse can easily be applied to pornography.

Pornography is a delicate, yet serious issue; and that is why I am choosing to address it bluntly and openly. But what exactly is it?

Definition

It is taken from the Greek word pornographos, which is based on graphy for writing and pornē for... prostitutes. Essentially, it is writings or pictures of prostitution. "For without (the New Jerusalem) are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie" (Revelation 22:15).

Merriam Webster's Dictionary says further:
1:  the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement
2:  material (as books or a photograph) that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement
Let us first see how God feels about it. In the Sermon on the Mount , Jesus said,
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 
(Matthew 5:27-28)
In heaven's eyes, pornography is equal to adultery - the line of distinction between thinking it and actually doing it is very thin. There is a concept in neurology called mirror neurons. "Mirror neurons are a type of brain cell that respond equally when we perform an action and when we witness someone else perform the same action," wrote Lea Winerman in a 2005 article for the American Psychological Asssociation's Monitor.

This means that when we watch people engage in illicit activity, our brain responds like we are actively participating. Scary?

The issue is so serious that Jesus admonished further, "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell" (verse 29).

Job certainly took it seriously, going so far as to make a covenant - a solemn vow - with his eyes. "I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?" (Job 31:1). He felt it so heinous a crime to even think about another woman that he declared it better for his wife to openly commit physical adultery (verses 10-11). To him, lustful thinking was still adultery, if not worse.

This also goes for erotic literature, for it still uses the eyes and engages the thoughts. A New York Times article said this:

"The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated."
"Your Brain on Fiction" by Annie Murphy Paul, March 17, 2012

Causes

But there is a third definition of this vice, according to Merriam-Webster:
3:  the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction 
I was surprised by this, as it makes any sensational material - regardless of the targeted emotion - pornographic. That makes  pornographic on some level. Just as marijuana, caffeine, and soft drinks are all gateway drugs, so are fiction books, some movies and television shows and even the news gateways to to full-blown pornography. And this I can attest to personally.

Though seemingly innocuous, literature (and movies based on them) such as Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Little Women, and even Anne of Green Gables were all factors in developing a taste for the "hard drugs;" and as with any drug, you need stronger and stronger doses in order to get the same "quick intense emotional reaction."

But do not think that only "infidel authors" pose a problem. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg penned this in 1891:
Some of these "religious novels" are actually more pernicious than the fictions of well-known novelists who make no pretense to having religious instruction a particular object in view. Sunday-school libraries are not often wholly composed of this class of works; but any one who takes the trouble to examine the books of such a library, will be able to select the most pernicious ones by the external appearance. The covers will be well worn, and the edges begrimmed with dirt from much handling. Children soon tire of the shallow sameness which characterizes the "moral" parts of most of these books, and skim lightly over them, selecting and devouring with eagerness those portions which relate the silly narrative of some love adventure. This kind of literature arouses in children premature fancies and queries, and fosters a sentimentalism which too often occasions most unhappy results. Through their influence, young girls are often led to begin a life of shame long before their parents are aware that a thought of evil has ever entered their minds.
Plain Facts for Old and Young, p. 184

Results

In Ezekiel 16, the Lord describes the way in which a young woman broke her marriage covenant.
  1. She gave her monetary substance -- which God had given her -- to her lovers.
    •  "My meat also which I gave thee, fine flour, and oil, and honey, wherewith I fed thee, thou hast even set it before them for a sweet savour: and thus it was, saith the Lord God" (verse 19).
  2. She destroyed her children.
    • "Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter, that thou hast slain My children, and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire for them?" (verses 20-21).
  3. She became addicted: she needed more and more to be satisfied.
    •  "Thou hast played the whore also with the Assyrians, because thou wast unsatiable; yea, thou hast played the harlot with them, and yet couldest not be satisfied" (verse 28).
But these are actually results of pornography as well.
  1. In 2006, the industry brought in $13.33 billion in the  United States alone, according to Economy Watch. And roughly $3,000 per second is spent by consumers.
  2. Children pay the price for this vice in two ways:
    1. Disadvantaged Offspring. Many years ago, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg made this statement regarding excessive sexual indulgence:
      • "That those guilty of the transgression should suffer, seems only just; but that an innocent being who had no part in the sin, no voice in the time or manner of its advent into the world, -- that such an one should suffer equally, if not more bitterly, with the transgressors themselves, seems anything but just. But such is nature's inexorable law, that the iniquities of the parents shall be visited upon the children; and this fact should be a most powerful influence to prevent parental transgression, especially in this direction, in which the dire consequences fall so heavily and so immediately upon an innocent being.
        "Says Acton, 'The ill effects of marital excesses are not confined to offending parties. No doubt can exist that many of the obscure cases of sickly children, born of apparently healthy parents, arise from this cause; and this is borne out by investigations among animals.'

        The "physical and and nervous exhaustion which the parents bring upon themselves, and which totally unfits them to beget sound, healthy offspring." 

        Plain Facts for Old and Young, pp. 480-481

    2.  Child Sex Trafficking. Of the 20 to 30 million slaves trafficked in the world today, nearly 80 percent of them will be sexual exploited, according to DoSomething.org. That includes being forced into the porn industry. Sadly, "The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12 to 14-year-old." And it is a known fact that children are made to appear over 18 in some pornographic works. Get the facts from Thorn's National Survey
  3. Addiction is very possible, though everyone may not become addicted. "Porn addiction can be defined as a behavioral addiction that is characterized by an ever-growing compulsion or need to view pornographic content or material," according to ProjectKnow.com. And Focus on the Family has outlined five stages in addiction, which ultimately ends in physical acts of fornication (or worse).
But there is hope.

Consider Rahab, a harlot. Because of one act of faith, she earned a place in the lineage of our Lord and Savior (see Hebrews 11:31, Joshua 6:25, and Matthew 1:5).

That is all it takes: one act of faith.

If you have fallen into the vicious habit of pornography, do you have faith in God's power to restore and make new? You may, like the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda, find it difficult to take steps in the right direction. But fear not: Jesus only asks, "Wilt thou be made whole?" Do you want to be freed from your condition? If you say yes, you have taken the first act of faith.
"For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:10).
Then a change of action is needed. In Kellogg's book Plain Facts for Old and Young, an entire chapter is devoted to the subject of continence, the refraining from all sexual indulgence. In this chapter, he offers a multitude of helps for building self-control in this aspect of life. Take time to read it, especially beginning on the bottom of page 162.

Now a change of thought is needed. When the house is "swept clean" (Matthew 12:44), it needs to be occupied, or it will be inevitably swept away. In the book Child Guidance (p. 50) is penned these hopeful words:
If the frivolous and pleasure-seeking will allow their minds to dwell upon the real and true, the heart cannot but be filled with reverence, and they will adore the God of nature. The contemplation and study of God’s character as revealed in His created works will open a field of thought that will draw the mind away from low, debasing, enervating amusements. The knowledge of God’s works and ways we can only begin to obtain in this world; the study will be continued throughout eternity. God has provided for man subjects of thought which will bring into activity every faculty of the mind. We may read the character of the Creator in the heavens above and the earth beneath, filling the heart with gratitude and thanksgiving. Every nerve and sense will respond to the expressions of God’s love in His marvelous works.
But "no outward observances can take the place of simple faith and entire renunciation of self. But no man can empty himself of self. We can only consent for Christ to accomplish the work. Then the language of the soul will be,
'Lord, take my heart; for I cannot give it. It is Thy property. Keep it pure, for I cannot keep it for Thee. Save me in spite of myself, my weak, unchristlike self. Mold me, fashion me, raise me into a pure and holy atmosphere, where the rich current of Thy love can flow through my soul.'
Christ's Object Lessons, p. 159

And if you have never been trapped by this sexual sin, do you have faith in His power to keep you from falling?

Praise God. He can and will keep you from falling; but only through trust in His power and obedience to His expressed will. Read Christ's Object Lessons chapter 13 and Plain Facts for Old and Young. Share with those who you know are trapped by sexual sin. Pray constantly for His power to win them and keep you. Help and encourage those who are struggling for the mastery over appetite. God will surely use you, if you let Him.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

What Kind of Inheritance?

This reading on motherhood and prenatal influences explains the results seen in Ezekiel 19. 
 
And Manoah said, Now let thy words come to pass. How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him? Judges 13:12.
 
The words spoken to the wife of Manoah contain a truth that the mothers of today would do well to study.
 
The child will be affected for good or for evil by the habits of the mother. She must herself be controlled by principle, and must practice temperance and self-denial, if she would seek the welfare of her child.
 
If before the birth of her child she is unstable, if she is selfish, peevish, and exacting, the disposition of her child will bear the marks of her wrong course.... But if she unswervingly adheres to the right, if she is kind, gentle, and unselfish, she will give her child these traits of character.
 
And fathers as well as mothers are involved in this responsibility. Both parents transmit their own characteristics, mental and physical, their dispositions and appetites, to their children.... The inquiry of every father and mother should be, “What shall we do unto the child that shall be born unto us?” The effect of prenatal influences has been by many lightly regarded; but the instruction sent from heaven to those Hebrew parents ... shows how the matter is looked upon by our Creator.

The mother who is a fit teacher for her children must, before their birth, form habits of self-denial and self-control; for she transmits to them her own qualities, her own strong or weak traits of character. The enemy of souls understands this matter much better than do many parents. He will bring temptations upon the mother, knowing that if she does not resist him, he can through her affect her child. The mother’s only hope is in God. She may flee to Him for grace and strength. She will not seek help in vain. He will enable her to transmit to her offspring qualities that will help them to gain success in this life and to win eternal life.

Our Father Cares, p. 80

My Blood is Not Good Enough

In family worship, we have reading from the book of Ezekiel. There are a lot of deep and awesome truths found in that book, some of which unlock other controversies that we have yet to understand.

Throughout the coming weeks, I will write about the book of Ezekiel based on various points my family members bring out each night. I pray that you will blessed.

There she was. A baby. Abandoned. Bloody. Polluted.

God describes it this way in Ezekiel 16:4-6:
And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.

None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the loathing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born.
And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.
This newborn was unwanted, uncared for. She was left to lie in her mother's blood. She herself was yet innocent; but she suffered for the sins of her parents. "...Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation" (Exodus 34:7).

Quite literally, she was "born in sin, and shapen in iniquity..."

Continue reading, and notice that later on, this little girl becomes polluted with her own blood:
I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare. 

Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine.

Then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.

Verses 7-9
Is this not the story of every human being since Cain? All of us are born into sin -- not yet sinners ourselves, but made in the image of transgressors (see Genesis 5:3). But at some point, we reach an age of understanding and we make a choice to sin or to obey God. Most of us choose sin and death over obedience and life...

But what is our own blood? Why does our own blood pollute while the blood of even rams and goat cleanses? "And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22). Confused yet?

Let us examine this carefully. Notice that the girl in Ezekiel 16 is progressing from childhood to womanhood. She is showing the typical signs that accompany puberty in a female. Then appears the tell-tale sign: her menarche. This is "her own blood" which has polluted her yet again. How does the Bible describe this sort of pollution:
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away" (Isaiah 64:6).

As we grow in our relationship with God, there is a tendency to depend on ourselves for our daily victories. We feel that we have matured in the faith, and we forget that we are but as little children in understanding. We fail to remember how God has lead us, and we begin to lean on our own righteousnesses. But these goods which we do apart from God and His strength are just filthy rags - menstrual cloths. Our own blood cannot cleanse us.


Case in point: see the professed Christians in  Matthew 7. Hear them cry in surprise and anguish: "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works?"

But these were their own righteousnesses. Filthy rags. They had trusted to their own strength to perform these good works. And though they knew it not, they were polluted in their own blood, unfit to pass through the pearly gates. "And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth..." (Revelation 21:27).

Yet there is still hope: for God promises that He will cleanse us from our own blood. He will purify us with His blood. For "almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission" (Hebrews 9:22).

But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 

Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Hebrews 9:11-14
 Will you let Christ cleanse you from your own blood? His blood is good enough.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The True Israel

In family worship, we have reading from the book of Ezekiel. There are a lot of deep and awesome truths found in that book, some of which unlock other controversies that we have yet to understand.

Throughout the coming weeks, I will write about the book of Ezekiel based on various points my family members bring out each night. I pray that you will blessed.

After reading Ezekiel 15 (which compares Israel to a vine tree), my littlest brother said, "But Jesus is the vine, so Jesus is the true Israel."

Yes, Jesus is the vine and we His servants are the branches. So if in Ezekiel 15 the vine is Israel, then Jesus must also be Israel; making Him the true Israel.

Jesus = Vine (John 15)
Vine = Israel (Ezekiel 15)
Jesus = Israel

Logically, this makes sense. However, I disagreed at first. Jesus, the true Israel? Somehow it did not connect in my mind.

But my dad pointed out this Scripture:
"...Israel is My son, even My firstborn... (Exodus 4:22).
So, the Bible supports that the logic makes sense. :-)

Jesus was called out of Egypt just as Israel of old had been freed from Egypt (Matthew 2:15). Jesus was baptized just as Israel had been when they crossed through the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:2). Both were commissioned to be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6; Acts 13:47).

Those are just a few of the many parallels between physical Israel and the True Prince of God. But what about spiritual Israel - the church?

We are to fully imitate the True Israel. We are to come out and be separate and touch not the unclean thing. We are to be baptized with both water and the Spirit. We are to go into all the world and preach the gospel.

But more than that: The spiritual Israel will fully reflect the beauty of holiness and achieve perfection of character that our Example attained. We must strive to be like Him in thought, word, and deed. Wherever we go, people should be able to see Christ in us, the hope of glory.

How do I obtain this? Spend time in His presence; learn at His feet; behold His glory, full of grace and truth.

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18).

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4:8).

"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he..."(Proverbs 23:7).

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the Vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me" (John 15:4).

Monday, January 12, 2015

Made to Bear Fruit to the Glory of God

In family worship, we have reading from the book of Ezekiel. There are a lot of deep and awesome truths found in that book, some of which unlock other controversies that we have yet to understand.

Throughout the coming weeks, I will write about the book of Ezekiel based on various points my family members bring out each night. I pray that you will blessed.

What is my purpose on this earth? Why did God make me?

This evening in worship, we read from Ezekiel 15. Its eight verses left a deep impression and an important lesson. God did for me for a purpose. And He strives to lead me in that purpose. But, I can only attain to that purpose when I am fully connected to Him.

Are you connected?

My dad connected the chapter with John 15:5-6, 8:
I [Jesus] am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.
If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. ...
Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples.
The Lord points out to Ezekiel that the vine tree's purpose is not decorative or constructive or organizational. Vines are not used to make pegs and pins for hanging things; nor are they used to build houses. No: vines are made to bear fruit. Hundreds of years before, in the book of Isaiah, we see that Israel was meant to bear grapes - but instead they brought forth wild, unruly, and sour grapes. What good is it then?

I am made to bear fruit. That is what glorifies the Father; that is what proclaims the Son; that is what justifies Their character. If I do not fulfill my God-appointed mission, what then am I good for?

Sometimes we want to be like the other "trees of the forest." We want sing like them, dress like them, attend the schools they do, etc. But is that what God meant you to be? Is that where He intends you to go?

For me, the struggle was learning to play sacred music on the French horn. Who does that? To learn classical music seems to make sense, to be expected of me. On the other hand, many younger musicians are perfecting pop and other genres on the horn. But what glorifies God? "...Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God..."

What is your struggle? What pull does the world have on you? In what areas of your life do you struggle to abide fully in Christ and His will?

Oh be careful little eyes what you see;
Oh be careful little eyes what you see!
For the Father up above is looking down in love:
Oh be careful little eyes what you see!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Who Created the World?

In family worship, we have reading from the book of Ezekiel. There are a lot of deep and awesome truths found in that book, some of which unlock other controversies that we have yet to understand.

Throughout the coming weeks, I will write about the book of Ezekiel based on various points my family members bring out each night. I pray that you will blessed.

 After writing last night's post ("The Word of God"), I realized that the Bible teaches that the Son of God was the active agent in Creation. In other words, God the Father planned it, and God the Son executed it.

How do we come to that conclusion? Well we learned that Jesus is the Word - that He has always been the Word, even before His incarnation. We also learned that the Son of God does in fact take commands from the Father; that is their order of things.

With those lessons in mind, consider this text: "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth" (Psalm 33:6). The surface meaning is that God spoke and things happened. This is proven by Christ's ability to command the winds and sea to obey Him.

But it can also have deeper meaning. "By the Son of God were the heavens made..." In other words, Jesus, being the Word of God, formed the heavens (and the earth) Himself. This, too, is confirmed by Scripture in Colossians 1:16. It would neat to know that Psalms was a second witness to Colossians!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Word of God

In family worship, we have reading from the book of Ezekiel. There are a lot of deep and awesome truths found in that book, some of which unlock other controversies that we have yet to understand.

Throughout the coming weeks, I will write about the book of Ezekiel based on various points my family members bring out each night. I pray that you will blessed.

How many men were commissioned by God in Ezekiel 9? There are six with swords; but among them was a man in linen with an inkhorn at his side...

In Revelation 1, Jesus is said to be walking among the candlesticks. But is that humanly possible? (We are allowed to consider the human element of the Son of God because John says, "one like unto the Son of man," a reference for the Son of God incarnate or made flesh.)

Jesus would not be in the candlesticks or be a candlestick Himself; no, He would be in the general area of the candlesticks - in their presence, so to speak. The same can be said of Him in Ezekiel 9. (For a brief review on Jesus being the man in linen, see the post entitled "A Duty to Report.")

That being the case, we can say that the man in linen is a seventh person. Seven is a number representing perfection: a fitting description of our Lord.

But notice that the seventh figure has an inkhorn instead of a sword. What for? To mark the righteous as He was commanded? I myself had not really considered anything deeper than that. But in worship one night, Dad said, "Because He is the Word."

He has always been the Word of God - divinely, humanly, figuratively, literally. In the Old Testament and the New. From the beginning (John 1:1-3) all the way through to the end (Revelation 19:13). Jesus is the Word.

Lord, please order my steps in Your Word. I want to be like Jesus. Please crucify me with Christ so that even though I live, it will not be I who lives, but Christ in me. Help me to live day by day by the faith of the Son of God. Help me to remember that He does love me, enough to lay down His life for me.

Amen.

Friday, January 09, 2015

A Duty to Report

In family worship, we have reading from the book of Ezekiel. There are a lot of deep and awesome truths found in that book, some of which unlock other controversies that we have yet to understand.

Throughout the coming weeks, I will write about the book of Ezekiel based on various points my family members bring out each night. I pray that you will blessed.

I learned something wonderful and interesting while reading Ezekiel 9. A job is not complete until it is reported to the one who commanded the work. Example: The man in linen is sent by God to complete a mission. When the mission was complete, the man in linen returns to God and reports the matter.

Now, my belief is that the man in linen is the Son of God based on Daniel 12:5-13. Here, the man in linen tells Daniel that he (Daniel) will stand in his lot at the latter days. In other words, Daniel will pass the judgment and be admitted into heaven at the end of time. Who else has the authority to say who is saved and who is lost but God Himself (Matthew 9:5-7)?

Revelation 10 also parallels with Daniel 12 (and thus Ezekiel 9). It pictures an angel - or messenger - who swears by Him Who liveth forever and ever - just like the man in Daniel 12. Does this have to be the Son of God, too? Consider that God often swears by His own name, because He can swear by none greater (see Genesis 22:16 and Hebrews 6:13).

So, having established that the man in linen is the Son of God, consider this: the Son of God, Who is fully God, Who has complete and equal authority with God the Father, reports a completed mission to His Father.

What an example for us!

When anyone gives us a task to complete, we should not only go to it right away (Ezekiel 9:7); not only should we do it thoroughly (Ecclesiastes 9:10); but we should also return to the commanding authority and let them know the status of the work.

Just think: that is a microcosm of the judgment. Learning to report here on earth prepares us to report to God when He returns. When He asks about our finances (Matthew 25:19), when He asks about our children, siblings, or friends (Jeremiah 13:20), when He asks about our relationship with Him (Matthew 7:23), we should be able to answer and say, "I have done as Thou hast commanded me."

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Sin is Sin... Right?

In family worship, we have reading from the book of Ezekiel. There are a lot of deep and awesome truths found in that book, some of which unlock other controversies that we have yet to understand.

Throughout the coming weeks, I will write about the book of Ezekiel based on various points my family members bring out each night. I pray that you will blessed.

After a family reading of Ezekiel 8, my mom said that it seems there are some sins that God hates more than others. Note God's words to Ezekiel.
"He said furthermore unto me, 'Son of man, seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel committeth here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary? but turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations' " (verse 6).
Here is the background: Ezekiel, a civilian* captive in Babylon,was taken in vision back to Jerusalem. God wanted him to see the wickedness of Judah so that he could understand God's justice when Jerusalem was punished. The Lord takes his servant to each arena and shows him the sin being performed there.

But as God moves Ezekiel from place to place, He continues to say that the prophet will see greater abominations. So Ezekiel is shown Judah's sin in increasing order of evil. Each step was more and more abominable to the Lord.

Jesus did note that an inward sin is just as much sin as one physically performed. So hating is essentially killing, lusting is essentially cheating, etc. But the inward sin is less abominable to God than the outward one - according to Ezekiel's vision.

Furthermore, the inward sin has fewer repercussions than the outward sin. As my dad said, the consequences of hating someone and actually killing them are vastly different. Even our modern, secular government treats attempted murder differently from actual murder. In one case, the evil can be averted; in the other, the deed is done

One thing every young person should know is that there are indeed degrees of sin. One prime example is in the area of lust. Thinking it, pursuing it, and going through with it hold different consequences. If you ever find yourself down the path of sexual sin, remember - always remember - that it is not too late to turn back. There will be some damage done, but it does not have to be the worst sort.

A ray of hope is that God will not punish us for what we have not done; moreover that He will take us back no matter how far we have gone. Note that Judah is not yet punished. Crossing over to Jeremiah's book, we see that while Ezekiel sees impending doom, God is yet pleading with Judah.
"Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate (Jeremiah 44:4)." **
And He is yet pleading with you. Will you hear His voice, and harden not your heart?

*Ezekiel was not a part of or associated with the royal family like Daniel was. He was taken in the second round of captivities from Jerusalem, whereas Daniel was taken in the first. And thereafter, he dwelt as a civilian, not a royal official in the Babylonian government.
**This particular passage does not parallel with Ezekiel 8; but Jeremiah 38:14-23 and all of Jeremiah 32 do parallel with Ezekiel 8.