Friday, July 19, 2019

Sabbath: A Day of Love

Sabbath: A Day of Love

 A group of young people from a Pentecostal Church in Ethiopia had heard Pastor John - a 7th Day Adventist Preacher - preach. They put his name up to be a speaker at their camp meeting.  The leaders of the Church were horrified that the young people had asked a Seventh-day Adventist preacher to be their speaker at the camp meeting (this was for the youth department).

There was a little bit of discussion, and then the leaders said, "Why don't we let God solve the outcome?"  So they agreed to have three days of fasting and prayer.  On the third day, while they were praying together, the leader (our equivalent of Conference President) said, "The Lord has impressed me that the answer should be yes."  So they called Pastor John, and he gave a series on the cross and then some of these young people, mainly university students, began coming to the Adventist Church.  And, some of the leaders started coming, and then the Pastor of Church where they had the camp meeting (with a membership of over 800) began coming.  Eventually, the whole Church began keeping the Sabbath and called themselves "Seventh-day Pentecostals."

 The Sabbath School Secretary of the Union saw this Pastor coming out of the Church, and he said to Pastor John, "Why don't you try to bring these people into our church?"  And I said, "Why don't you ask him?"  (The Pentecostal leader had already told Pastor John why they wouldn't join the Adventist Church.).  So, the Pentecostal Pastor said to Pastor John, "Now you are putting me on the spot."  Pastor John said, "No, I want [the other Adventist Pastor] to hear from your lips why you are not joining our church."  The Pentecostal leader said, "When you Adventists learn to love each other, (like the Pentecostals love each other) we'll join your church."   Unfortunately, The Pentecostal leader saw that the Church was divided into factions — tribal and nationals. So, during the Sabbath, the worship was segregated, because of prejudice and discrimination. That is why he said, "When you Adventists learn to love each other, we will join your church.".  And, the poor Sabbath School Secretary had no answer to give him.

 The Church in Christ day was no different.  They had taken Sabbath rest to mean that God stopped working, but that is not what it meant.  God rested from creating not working.  So, for the Jews to enforce their no working policy during the Sabbath, they had made the Sabbath a burden with their strict rules and requirements.  They turned the Sabbath into a curse instead of a blessing.    

 In Desire of Ages pages 206 and 207, Ellen White elaborated upon the difference between the Jewish Sabbath and Jesus' Sabbath says that Jesus had come to "magnify the law, and make it honorable." He was not to lessen its dignity, but to exalt it. The scripture says, "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in the earth" (Isaiah 42:21, 4).  Christ had come to free the Sabbath.  To release it from the burdensome requirements the Jews created, thus making the Sabbath a curse instead of a blessing.

 She adds that "it was for this reason He had chosen the Sabbath upon which to perform the act of healing at Bethesda (John 5). He could have healed the sick man as well on any other day of the week; or He might simply have cured him, without bidding him bear away his bed. But this would not have given Him the opportunity He desired. A wise purpose underlay every act of Christ's life on earth. Everything He did was important: in itself and in its teaching.  

The Lord asked the man to carry his bed throughout the city so all city the could see the great work that the Lord performed upon him.  The man carrying his bed would raise the question of what it was lawful to do on the Sabbath and would open the way for Him to denounce the restrictions of the Jews regarding the Lord's Day, and to declare their traditions void.

 You would think that the healing of a fellow Jew would have made them rejoice, but the Jews were more interested in their rules than the wellbeing of their neighbor.  This religious establishment was manifested hardness of the in the healing of the man blind from birth (John 9). Verse 16 reveals how little mercy they had,

John 9:16 Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.

Talk about law without love!

Ellen White continues saying that Jesus stated to them that the work of relieving the afflicted was in harmony with the Sabbath law. God's angels are ever descending and ascending between heaven and earth to minister to suffering humanity. Jesus declared, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." All days are God's, in which to carry out His plans for the human race. If the Jews' interpretation of the law was correct, then Jehovah - whose work has quickened and upheld every living thing since first He laid the foundations of the earth - was at fault.  The Jews interpretation of the law would imply that He who pronounced His work good and instituted the Sabbath to commemorate its completion, must put a period to His labor, and stop the never-ending routine of the universe.  Should God forbid nature from continuing its never-ending work from which all men benefit?  In such a case, men would faint and die.

And man also has work to perform on this day.   Man must attend to the necessities of life, by caring for the sick and supplying the wants of the needy. He will not be held guiltless who neglects to relieve suffering on the Sabbath. God's holy rest day was made for man, and acts of mercy are in perfect harmony with its intent. God does not desire His creatures to suffer an hour's pain that may be relieved upon the Sabbath or any other day.

 The demands upon God are even higher upon the Sabbath than upon other days. His people then leave their usual employment and spend their time in meditation and worship. They ask more favors of Him on the Sabbath than upon other days. They demand His special attention. They crave His choicest blessings. God does not wait for the Sabbath to pass before He grants these requests. Heaven's work never ceases, and men should never rest from doing good. The Sabbath is not intended to be a period of useless inactivity. The law forbids secular labor on the rest day of the Lord; the toil that gains a livelihood must cease; no work for worldly pleasure or profit is lawful upon that day; but as God stopped His labor of creating, and rested upon the Sabbath and blessed it, so man is to leave the occupations of his daily life, and devote those sacred hours to healthful rest, to worship, and to holy deeds. The work of Christ in healing the sick was in perfect accord with the law. It honored the Sabbath.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Essence of Prophecy

The Essence of Prophecy

Victoria went to the store to buy cologne.  She was looking for a specific brand.  It was a very exclusive perfume, tough to find.  The clerk gave her the news, "The good news is there is one bottle left.  The next news may be good or bad; it depends on you.  We only have the extract."  Victoria asked the clerk, "Excuse my ignorance, but what is the extract?"  The clerk replied, "The extract is the most concentrated form of perfume sold.  Because it is more concentrated, the scent is more intense and lasts longer."  Victoria's curiosity was piqued, "You mean to tell me that perfume is eluted?  The clerk graciously replied, "Well, yes.  The essence of the scent is eluted in ethanol and water.  The more concentrated it is, the better and of course, the more expensive.  That is why they say the best perfume comes in smaller bottles.  They are more concentrated.  Which also means you can put on less amount, and still smell as well as when you put a lot of cologne, which is more diluted."  Victoria then asked the clerk, "So it is like concentrated juice or something similar?  The clerk laughed at her ingenuity but realized she got the picture, and then said, "Yes.  The concentrated juice would be the essence that we dissolve in water."

Besides perfume, many of the things we buy or eat have essential ingredients.  For example, bread has flour, omelets' have eggs, and prescriptions usually have an active ingredient.  The word essence comes from the Latin word that means "To be."  Essence may be defined as the intrinsic or indispensable properties that serve to characterize or identify something; the most important ingredient; the crucial element; an extract that has the fundamental properties of a substance in concentrated form (An extract in a solution of alcohol, such as perfume or scent); or something that exists, especially a spiritual or incorporeal entity.  Without the essential extract, perfume is nothing but alcohol.

With this in mind let us read Revelation 19:10,

Revelation 19:10, "And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy."

What does essence have to do with this verse?  It is interesting that in the Biblical Greek, the word "spirit" used in this verse can be translated as essence.  Prophecy is an utterance said by a person who is inspired by the Holy Spirit to reveal to us our Sin and God's solution for Sin in the person of Jesus.  The essence of prophecy, according to Revelation 19:10, is the Testimony of Jesus.  All prophecy that comes from God is essentially giving a witness of Jesus as the Savior of the World.

The idea mentioned above has an interesting connotation for those chosen at the end to be the recipients of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as the latter rain.  Revelation 19:10 and 12:17 says that they have the Testimony of Jesus.  The Lord will entrust them with the Loud Cry of Revelation 18.  This outpouring of power will come with prophetic gifts as we read in Joel 2: 28, 29:

Joel 2: 28 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:
Joel 2: 29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.

This select group -that Revelation calls the 144,000 - will all be prophets, just as Elijah (Malachi 4:5).  However, just as Elijah, their primary mission will not be the destruction and slaughter of Baal worshipers.  No, it will be to "turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Malachi 4:6).  What the verse describes will only happen if those who hear this loud cry message: listen and heed the message to turn their hearts to God.

Ellen White says that we should all strive to be a part of this select group.  However, many of us will not be part of this group.  We will sleep before the Lord pours the latter rain.  But, just as David was not given the privilege of building the Temple, and was, however, given the opportunity of training the one who would, we too are given the privilege of training - in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6) - those who will receive this unique and powerful outpouring of the Spirit.  We are to make sure they receive the former rain, which will prepare them to grow to the fullness, stature, and perfection of Christ.  When they forsake all Sin and reflect the perfect character of Christ's righteousness, then the latter rain will be poured on them.  The pouring of the latter rain will enable this group to finish the work of spreading the loud cry – the Gospel - to all parts of the World.  It will also prepare them for the unique privilege of seeing Christ return, and to be translated to Heaven as described in (1 Corinthians 15: 51 – 55).

Friday, June 21, 2019

Interrelationship in History

Interrelationship in History

 The reputation of Professor Menas preceded him.  If you came into the classroom when he was closing his roll book, he would not reopen it to mark you as "present."  The other thing he did was that only the highest score had an A, all others had B and the rest.  But he was a great teacher.  He made History interesting.  When he got excited about what he was teaching us, Professor Menas dramatized what he was narrating.  As when it came to describing wars, he stood up from his desk made bomb noises and air boxed.  More importantly, perhaps, to Professor Menas history was not just a collection of names, dates, and events, but a series of interrelated events.  Each meaningful event in History was a reaction or response to a previous one.  

 For example, there is a reason why Spanish royalty gave Columbus their support for the trip across the ocean, Spain was one the first monarchies with a united kingdom in Europe.  No longer concerned with inner-territorial issues, they decided to look outside of Spain.  No event is isolated from others.

This view of History also applies to the Biblical view of History; even when we factor in God's continual involvement in human History.  As our lesson states, God sometimes caused events to happen, and sometimes He allowed them to happen to achieve His purpose.

 We consider the Babylonian army's invasion of Judah.  This invasion was not an isolated incident without historical context.  The Babylonians wanted to invade Judah because Judah had precious objects they liked and wanted.  To understand this, we have to go back to Judah's History to the era of King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah.  When Hezekiah ruled, he purposed in his heart to reform Judah so that Judah would be in harmony with God's law.  In moments of crisis, he prayed to God and consulted with the prophets (Isaiah 37).  The King wanted to do God's will.  But, when he got sick in older age, God sent a message to King Hezekiah through the prophet Isaiah: "put your affairs in order" (Isaiah 38:1).  Hezekiah refused to do God's will this time (2 Chronicles 32:25).  He pleaded for healing and extra time to live.  King Hezekiah felt entitled because if his long years of faithfulness to God (Isaiah 38: 2 – 3).  The Lord granted Hezekiah's petition, and as a sign to Hezekiah, the Lord made the Sun turn one hour back. But, this unleashed a series of events that proved to be the beginning of the undoing of Hezekiah's reform.

Puzzled by the strange phenomena of the Sun going backward, the Babylonians studied this event wanting to know what happened.  They inquired and found out about Hezekiah's petition to God.  So, they set out to meet Hezekiah and really to find out what kind of God can control the Sun's movements.  When the Babylonians showed up, Hezekiah made no mention of God.  Instead, the King  "shewed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not" (Isaiah 39: 2).  The Lord sent the prophet Isaiah to rebuke Hezekiah. We read in verses 3 through 7,

 Isaiah 39:3 Then came Isaiah the prophet unto King Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? And from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country unto me, even from Babylon.
Isaiah 39:4 Then said he, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All that is in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them.
Isaiah 39:5 Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD of hosts:
Isaiah 39:6 Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD.
Isaiah 39:7 And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon.

 In taking all the glory to himself, Hezekiah had piqued the interest in the Babylonians for all they saw.  The Babylonians coveted what they saw.  The Babylonians set in the hearts to return one day and acquire them. We know they kept a record about what saw because when Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah, he not only brought captives from among the Jews to Babylon but also some of these sacred objects his predecessors had seen.  From among these objects were the ones that Belshazzar used that fateful night when the Medo-Persians invaded Babylon (Daniel 5:3).

 In the surface, we could say that what we learn from this story is to be careful who you let in your house, and once they are in, what you allow them to see.  On a deeper level, we learn that today's mishap has farther repercussion than just our immediate lives.  The adverse consequences will be felt generations after.  Just look at Adam and Eve.  We are still paying for their mishap.  Doing God's will and giving him the glory can save us from unnecessary suffering.  It will not spare from suffering altogether.  It will save us and others from the pain that could have been prevented. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Entertaining Versus Hospitality

Entertaining Versus Hospitality

Denise grew up in a very wealthy home. Her parents were both prominent and highly regarded businesspersons who hosted many affairs in their palatial home. Many were the evenings in which Denise dined sumptuously with her parent's guests, almost all of whom were individuals of social prominence. Guest lists often included celebrities who were involved in international business enterprises abroad and desired her parent's influence to secure a particular outcome. Denise's home was listed in several magazines not only due to its size and decor but also because of its spectacular and opulent gardens. To maintain and even upgrade their lavish lifestyle, Denise's parents spared no expense. Unfortunately, Denise had come to think of her way of life as typical. It was unthinkable to her that others did not live as she did.

As Denise grew older, she became dissatisfied with life, for it seemed to lack meaning. Oh, she continued to participate in the social round of lavish parties her parents and others threw as part of her social obligations, but something seemed to be missing. Sometime during this turbulent time in her life, Denise decided to take a solo trip to a small country in South-America to get away from the superficiality of her life. Out of curiosity, she decided she would visit a little village miles away from the central city, to see how the native people lived. Denise hoped the experience would help her change something about her life.  On her journey to the village, Denise marveled at the simple beauty of the land. The hills shimmered in the daylight as the countryside reflected the sun. No, it wasn't a glare, but a soft light seemed to bathe every tree and plant upon which she looked. Denise felt herself relaxing and thought that it was beautiful to be alive, a thought she hadn't had in a long time. Shortly after that, the bus -- if you could call it that -- pulled into town, and Denise got off. How simple and beautiful everything was.

Friendly and hospitable people were milling about everywhere, and most of them pleasantly smiled as they met Denise's glance. It was thrilling to arrive at the small village finally.  In just a few minutes, it seemed that all of the shops closed right before her eyes. Bewildered, Denise wondered what was going on, and where everyone was heading. At last, she found herself alone in the street, lost, confused, and unsure of what to do next. An older lady, passing by her living room window, saw Denise and bade her come to the door. Uncertain, Denise just stood in the street. Suddenly, a young boy came out of the house and said to her in broken English, "Will you join us for siesta?" Taking her hand, he led her into his home and to his grandmother. Once inside, Denise joined the simple family as they washed and sat down to eat. Curious about their new guest who did not speak Spanish well, they communicated their welcome with hand gestures. Soon, Denise realized that if her hosts spoke slowly, she could understand them. She hoped in turn that they might be able to understand her broken Spanish, and so she attempted to speak. As the siesta time came to a close that early evening, the oldest daughter stood up, and bundled some food for Denise to take with her. Grateful, Denise tried to offer her hostess money but was kindly rebuffed. Coming close to her, the young boy who took her hand and led her into his home whispered, "to give us money is insulting; we do this because you are our guest."

Humbled, Denise never forgot her experience of genuine hospitality in the small South-American village. And upon her return home, she spoke more often of that family's hospitable treatment than she did of her parent's lavish and sumptuous entertaining affairs. You see, Denise had come to realize that there is a difference between entertaining and being hospitable. Her parents entertained to impress and amuse their guests. Fully believing the adage that "one hand washes the other," they anticipated that at the appropriate time, they would receive something of value in return for their efforts.

In contrast, the South-American family expected nothing from Denise; they shared what they had. However,  Denise felt that her presence was desired and appreciated. Such a far cry from so many of the guests her parents had entertained because they had to make a good impression.

As Thursday's lesson so wisely says, there is a difference between hospitality and entertaining. In the Middle East, the concept of hospitality is taken very seriously, for, without it, many travelers would perish in that dry, hot, arid land. The taking into your home of strangers who are merely traveling by your dwelling has been replaced with the inviting of people you like, or want to impress into your home. Surprisingly, hospitality is about others, while entertaining is about you.

The Bible defines hospitality as "a tangible _expression of self-giving love ... [which] springs from the hearts of those who have been touched by God's love and want to express their love in words and actions (to others)." In simple terms, hospitality is offering and sharing with others what God has so graciously provided for you. What has God given you? Yes, you can look around at all your material possessions, and your degrees and your career accomplishments; you can even look back at the time God healed you of some terrible disease, or miraculously spared you from dying in that horrible accident. You can also look back at the child He gave you in answer to your prayers. But, have you not read John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." God gave to you His Son; He gave to you pardon and spared you from eternal death.

Additionally, God gave you the promise of eternal life. What else has God given you? He gave you His Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and direct you on your journey to the eternal kingdom. Furthermore, God has given you His agape-love. Have you by faith received these things, and made them yours? You cannot share what you do not have. You cannot give what is not yours.

Mary Magdalene gave to Jesus all that God through Christ had given her: the 300 hundred denarii's for the alabaster ensconced Spikenard, and His agape-love (Mark 14:3). This is perhaps the most famous example of hospitality in scripture. While Simon's guests condemned Mary for her real demonstration of hospitality, Jesus praised her. By Jesus response, Simon was rebuked for entertaining instead of being hospitable. In Luke 7:44-47 we read--

Luke 7:44 Then He turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give Me any water for My feet, but she wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
Luke 7:45 You did not give Me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing My feet.
Luke 7:46 You did not put oil on My head, but she has poured perfume on My feet.
Luke 7:47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."

The text establishes the contrast. Those who get a hold of God's agape-love are hospitable; while those who neither understand nor receive, choose to entertain. God wants to make us hospitable; let's allow Him to have His way, for the blessings we seek, are wrapped up in benevolence.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Cost of Discipleship

Cost of Discipleship

In general terms, the term cost is used to describe the loss or penalty incurred in gaining something.  In finance, it is the amount or equivalent paid or charged for something; such as price.  When I buy a piece of fruit, the cost is what I give the merchant in exchange for the fruit.  I lose money, but I gain the fruit.  I give up A, to obtain B.  This implies that the fruit is of more value than the money.

The word cost is also used to define the outlay or expenditure (as of effort or sacrifice) made to achieve an object.  Runners sacrifice time with loved ones, favorite foods, and amusement time - among other things - to exercise and practice their sport.   To practice for the chance of participating in a racing event and winning is of more value than the things they give up.  Paul saw what runners do as a parallel to the Christian experience.  Ellen White elaborates on Paul's idea.  Let us read,

In referring to these races as a figure of the Christian warfare, Paul emphasized the preparation necessary to the success of the contestants in the race--the preliminary discipline, the abstemious diet, the necessity for temperance. "Every man that striveth for the mastery," he declared, "is temperate in all things." The runners put aside every indulgence that would tend to weaken the physical powers, and by severe and continuous discipline trained their muscles to strength and endurance, that when the day of the contest should arrive, they might put the heaviest tax upon their powers. How much more important that the Christian, whose eternal interests are at stake, bring appetite and passion under subjection to reason and the will of God! Never must he allow his attention to be diverted by amusements, luxuries, or ease. All his habits and passions must be brought under the strictest discipline. Reason, enlightened by the teachings of God's word and guided by His Spirit, must hold the reins of control. {AA 311.1}

It is evident then that there is always something to give up.  The following verses make this point clearly.  Let us read them,

Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

 There is no successful runner that gratifies inclination and refuses to obey their coach, likewise, "There is no such thing as following Christ unless you refuse to gratify inclination and determine to obey God" (MYP 154).

Now, in addition to giving up self, those who follow Christ will suffer persecution.  We read in John 15: 18 – 20,

John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
John 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
John 15:20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you;

So, there is a double cost to be a disciple: what we give up and what we endure.  To get B I must give up A, but to retain B – forever - I must endure C.  So, the question is what is B, and is it worth giving up A, and enduring C, to have it.  Evidently, B is Christ.  A is self, and C is the persecution and hatred we encounter as we become followers of Christ.  We see this dynamic in Paul's experience as presented in Philippians 3: 7 – 10,

 Philippians 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Philippians 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

In the beginning verses of Philippians 3, Paul talks about what he gave up.  Nothing he had before – his ethnic background, his high standing in society, et al. – compared to the matchless charms of Christ.  In verses 7 and 8, Paul says he gives up everything to know Christ, and in verse 10, Paul says that he endures suffering and even death to continue to know Christ.  We can see that Paul makes a distinction between what he gave up and what he suffered.

What is not readily said is that the giving up and the enduring are related.  God designs the enduring, to help us in the giving up; and, the giving up helps us in the enduring.  Often the enduring reveals what we ought to give up. If we do not give up what the enduring reveals we should give up, we will fail to endure. Many may believe that the initial cost should be enough, perhaps too much.  Why should we endure trials?  Let us put it this way: if to receive Christ, we must die to self, then the trial is to help us stay dead.  Trials teach us to trust, depend, and wait on God.  Trials rightly understood and endured, are to help us develop Christ-like character.  Ellen White says,

God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him. {OFC 67.1}

What about us: Laodicea? What will it "cost" Laodicea to be in partnership with Christ, our High Priest in His mission to the world? There is a difference between fulfilling the great commission,-- "Go ye ... and teach [disciple] all nations,"--before 1844 and being co-laborers with the Harvester during the cleansing of the sanctuary.

It will cost Laodicea everything she thinks she knows about righteousness by faith in exchange for an appreciation of what it cost the Son of God to obtain justification by faith which is parallel to and consistent with the at-one-ment with God; this is the "offense" of the cross.

Why is Laodicea's discipleship and devotion to Jesus lukewarm and lackluster? The True Witness diagnoses her disease which is causing Him acute nausea,-- "I am about to spue thee out of my mouth" (Rev. 3:16).

This warning is parallel to that Christ gives those who say, "Lord, Lord, open unto us ... I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth ... " (Luke 13:25-28). That's an awful word-- "iniquity." We instinctively pass it on to our Sunday-keeping neighbors.

What we need to realize is that devotion that is appropriate during the ministry of the High Priest in the Holy Apartment becomes "iniquity" when weighed against the incomparably greater scope of His ministry in the Most Holy Apartment! Christian experience perfectly acceptable in times previous to the cleansing of the sanctuary becomes "lukewarmness" in our day. To our High Priest, there is no more nauseous sin than this.

The truthful Witness testifies that Laodicea's self-understanding of righteousness by faith is pre-1844. Moreover, she has no hunger and thirst for righteousness. Her confession is: "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." According to the Heavenly Counselor, she doesn't know her spiritual condition: "And knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17).

The True Witness is speaking to "the angel of the church of the Laodiceans" (Rev. 3:14). "The angel" is the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church who have unwittingly led the church into a self-centered understanding of righteousness by faith which it proclaims to the world as its gospel commission.

We know Jesus challenges the Adventist Church regarding her message because He appeals for correcting our course. "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed" (Rev. 3:18). The Savior couldn't be more precise. The "white raiment," which Laodicea lacks, is the garment of righteousness. This clothing is "gold tried in the fire." Furthermore, the Heavenly Merchantman markets His commodity to her. She is "to buy of me gold."

The "gold" of which He speaks is faith and love. "The gold tried in the fire is the faith that works by love. Only this can bring us into harmony with God. We may be active, we may do much work, but without love, such love as dwelt in the heart of Christ, we can never be numbered with the family of heaven." [Christ's Object Lessons, p. 158.]

Her problem is not a deficiency of doing "much work." The "gold" we lack is not more feverish activity: that we're truly "rich" in, already. Our need is basic. In respect of the very "gold" itself, the True Witness says our treasure-box is empty.

Why "buy" it? Why doesn't He say, "Ask of Me, and I'll give it to you"? Could it be that we must surrender our false concepts of righteousness by faith in exchange for the truth? These "goods" we do possess: "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods" (Rev. 3:17).

Writes the pen of inspiration: "What greater deception can come upon human minds than a confidence that they are right, when they are all wrong! The message of the True Witness finds the people of God in a sad deception, yet honest in that deception ... Those addressed are flattering themselves that they are in an exalted spiritual condition ... secure in their attainments ... rich in spiritual knowledge." [Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 252, 253.]

The "price" we must give up is "deception," false "spiritual knowledge." In other words, we must surrender our false ideas and deceptions regarding righteousness by faith to "buy" the "gold."

Is our Lord trying to tell us that we don't understand what love - agape - is, and therefore cannot have true faith? Is the "angel" of the church destitute of "such love as dwelt in the heart of Christ"?

There are two great antithetical ideas of "love." One has come from Hellenism and is the kind of "love" that the modern evangelical churches accept today. The other is entirely different and is the kind of love that can have its source only in the ministry of the true High Priest in His cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. [Early Writings, pp. 55, 56].

Christ Himself makes clear what New Testament faith is, and His view is different from that of the "popular ministry": "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him ..." (John 3:16). God's love is the first thing, and until that love is revealed, there can be no "believing." As a result of His "loving" and "giving," the sinner finds it possible to "believe." Faith is a heart-experience, "heart-work" to borrow Ellen G. White's phrase, and it cannot exist until God's love is understood and appreciated.

The "believing" is not motivated by a fear of "perishing" or an acquisitive regard for "everlasting life." The primary cause of faith is "for God so loved." The results of God's love are "that He gave His only begotten Son" and "that whosoever believeth." The believing is a direct result of God's loving the world.

Thus Jesus' clear definition: Faith is a heart-appreciation of the love of God revealed at the cross. A subtle shift has occurred in the Seventh-day Adventist Church regarding its understanding of righteousness by faith. An acquisitive hope of reward is set forth before the people and the world to offset the "cost" of discipleship now. Such self-centeredness is antithetical to the "gold" of Christ's righteousness. When faith and love are truly tested, it will be revealed as to what source produced the righteousness--whether it be self or Christ.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Giving all for the sheep

Giving all for the sheep

A Brazilian evangelist, Pastor Veloso, was in the middle of what could have been his most successful evangelistic series.  It was in a stadium and thousands were attending.  Hundreds had already made decisions to get baptized.  Moreover, they expected hundreds more to do so, possibly topping the thousand mark.  This man had had an incredible track record.  Thousands had come to the church due to his preaching.  However, it had come at a cost.

The news came to him in the morning.  His son, Chico, had been picked up by government authorities.  Chico was hospitalized and found with high levels of heroin in his system.  To make matters worse, Chico also had a couple of grams of heroin in his pant pockets.  The plans were to clean Chico up and send him to jail.  However, out of courtesy for Pastor Veloso, they delayed making a decision, until contacting him.  The authorities had high regards for Pastor Veloso.

Pastor Veloso called for an emergency meeting with his staff and organizers.  They all agreed that a scandal like this could hinder his ministry.  How should they handle it?  Some suggested asking the authorities to quietly put Junior in a rehab center, citing that God's work must go on.  Others, suggested, to hold a press conference, come out in the open, that way they minimize the scandal, and it hinders the ministry less.

A young pastor opened up his Bible to Luke 15: 4 – 24 and read,

Luke15:4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
Luke15:5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
Luke15:6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
Luke15:7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.
Luke15:8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?
Luke15:9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.
Luke15:10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
Luke15:11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:
Luke15:12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.
Luke15:13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.
Luke15:14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.
Luke15:15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
Luke15:16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
Luke15:17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
Luke15:18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
Luke15:19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
Luke15:20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
Luke15:21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
Luke15:22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
Luke15:23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
Luke15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

After finishing reading, the young Pastor then asked Pastor Veloso, "The people you preach to, what are they: lost sheep, the lost coins, or the prodigal children?  How about your son?"  Pastor Veloso started to cry.  All the men in the room were dumbfounded, then they looked at the young Pastor and yelled at him, "Look what you've done."  Pastor Veloso then said with a loud voice, "Let him be. He's right.  If I went to reach lost sheep, I did not secure the one I had to find the others.  If I went to find lost coins, I have been cleaning everybody else's home, but mine.  Now, if my son is a prodigal son, he needs to know that I am waiting for him, and I need to wait for him."  Pastor Veloso resigned that same day, to save his son.

Pastor Veloso's son eventually cleaned up, gave up drugs, and gave his life to Christ.  He said, "My Dad gave up everything for me, just as Christ gave up everything for us.  Just the thought of that and that heaven rejoiced when I gave myself to Christ makes me rejoice.  I wonder if heaven also rejoiced when my Dad chose to give up all for me." 

Friday, May 10, 2019




It was a very dark, damp and cold night. But that didn't bother her, for she had a dim candle to light her way to bed. During the time when she lived, most of the homes were very simple. There were one or two rooms, whose floors were made of dirt and covered with hay; this type of flooring meant that the occupants' feet were dirty and needed to be cleaned just prior to going to bed. Hers were no exception. By the side of her bed, there was a little bowl of water. Nightly she sat on the bed, placed her feet in the cold water, washed and immediately dried them with a small towel she had by a table - where she had placed the candle. As soon as she dried her feet, she put them on the bed, leaned over, blew out the candle, and then pulled the thick blankets up to cover herself. After a few minutes, she began to feel comfortable and warm. As she felt the heaviness in her eyes, and limbs, she began to relax, thinking that at last she'd get a good night's sleep. As soon as she closed her eyes, and began to drift into sleep, she heard the knock at the door. Startled, she opened her eyes, and listened intently. It was her Beloved Lover calling to her, telling her he wanted to see her, that he longed spend time with her and that he wanted to be intimate. Annoyed that he had awakened her, she decided to remainquiet; perhaps he would go away. Afterall, he could come at another time—a more convenient time. But he didn't go away. Instead, he continued knocking, pleading even more softly, and persuasively, "Please open the door, my love, I wish to see you.Won't you let me in? Don't you miss me? My darling, it's so cold out, it's raining, and I'm wet.  Can't I at least come in and dry off?" Conflicted, as he continued to pleadfor entry, she finally, retorted, "Not now! It's very dark, and I've blown out the candle; it's cold, and I am underneath my blankets. Besides that, my feet are already clean, and I do not want to dirty them by going to the door."  Quiet for a few moments, her lover responded, "It has been such a long day; I have not seen you, and really want to spend time with you; you will not regret it." Frustrated, yet conflicted, she firmly replied, "Come back tomorrow." Her response was met with silence. Feeling awful that she had rejected him and moved with remorse, she got up, and walked in the dark to the door. After a few moments offeeling her way, she found the knob. Turning it, she opened the doorand sadly found that her lover had left. Filled with angst, she wept, thinking that it would probably be days before she could see him again. It was likely that he left to see his fields far away and would not return anytime soon. 


Does this scenario sound familiar? If you have read the book of the Song of Solomon, you may realize that this is a paraphrase of Songs 5: 2-6, in which the lovers part ways for a time. Things seemed to be going so well between them, so why did Solomon leave Shulamite? What could have caused him to distance himself in such a way? And why did Shulamite respond to him with such resistance? Of course, we remember that the floor was dirty, and the light out; that she had just drowsily retired to bed, and was in that sweet sleep-wake state. Naturally she didn't wish to be disturbed—after all, who would. I mean, proper rest is needed to function the next day, right? Yes, at first glance we can see these things. But, where was her compassion for him? He was cold, she was warm, he was wet, she was dry, he was shivering, she was comfortable. Leaving a friend outside in the inclement elements is something you wouldn't do. Then why did she do it to her lover? What could have motivated her, and why did he leave? 

The last three questions can be answered, "because she was temporizing." What is temporizing? It is acting evasively to gain time, avoid argument, or postpone a decision. It is what we do when we do not want to be bothered, inconvenienced, or are caught unprepared. In either case, we may be trying to buy some time to find a way out. But a way out of what? Closeness; the vulnerability that comes with both emotional and physical closeness -- Intimacy. 

On the one hand we want intimacy, we desire to be close, to be fully known and accepted. Yet on the other we don't want the vulnerability, and inconvenience that comes with self-exposure. Thus, like the Shulamite woman, we selfishly and immaturely find more comfort in the warmth and cleanliness of our beds, than in the company and presence of our divine Lover who has come so near to us. As Shulamite perceived she was better off in her condition, "in need of nothing" (Revelation 3: 17), we often do too. And by so doing both she and we resist the love, warmth, comfort and cleanliness, the wonderful knowing, and deep acceptance that only our divine Beloved Lover can give.  

You may recall that the Song of Solomon is a metaphor for the relationship between Christ the Bridegroom - the Beloved Lover - and His Bride the Church. Christ has not come back for us, because we - His Bride, the Church -like the Shulamite woman have repulsed His nearness to us – His desire for union. We are content with connectivity, if you will, but not union—or full ongoing disclosure on our part. And yet, it is our permission and receptivity to His closeness that brings cleansing and renewal such as is typified in the cleansing of the Sanctuary. As a body we seem to be preoccupied with teaching and preaching the temporal specifics of how to know He's coming (prophecy), without teaching, preaching or practicing the internal preparation needed for His return. We want Him to be near enough to rescue us from our individual and corporate fears and failures but not near enough to see us as we really are. We're willing to point people to the mirror as a standard of Sabbath keeping, but not as a reflection of our unlikeness to our divine Lover. We're even willing to share the Gospel, as long as it's focused on the righteousness we are to have, and the "nearness" with its attendant victory Christ desires us to receive.

These things are in essence true, however, if we were in school, it would be the difference between theory and clinicals. Spiritually speaking, we as a body like the old covenant theory (and practice), but God wants to provide us with His new covenant clinical model. In the old covenant model, we try to impress God and each other with our theology and endeavors. Under the new covenant model, we believe His compassionate nearness to us (the taking on of our collective humanity, and gaining the victory over sin) along with His promises, and see them as His loving invitation to open the door of our individual and corporate heart to Him. This is the only power that will transform our thinking, our living, and our witnessing.

There is a song that comes to mind, probably one of many with this theme-- "Open the door, Jesus is knocking, open the door let the light shine in. Open the door Jesus is waiting, open the door to Him." Couple this with another that goes something like this, "the Saviour is waiting to enter your heart, why don't you let Him come in? Receive Him and all of your darkness will end, O how He wants to come in. Time after time He's waited before, and now He's waiting again, to see if you're willing to open the door; O how He wants to come in."

Friends, no longer let us temporize, but willingly open the door of our hearts—the deepest recesses of our minds, to Him. 



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