Thursday, June 28, 2018
People use the words 'watch' and 'wait' synonymously. However, there is a
subtle difference between the two. To wait means to be in readiness or to
remain at rest in expectation. To watch is to look and wait expectantly or
in anticipation. You can wait while doing other activities. Watching
encompasses the concept of waiting and requires full attention from the
watcher. A person may be waiting and still miss the thing they are waiting
for, but this is unlikely to happen if they are watching. The following
story illustrates the difference.
Gina, a young girl, asked her grandmother to watch for her as she was
coming to visit that day for the weekend. And naturally, Grandma Lisa
promised she would. Wanting to stress the importance of her request, Gina
repeated it several times to her grandma, asking, "You'll watch, won't you?
You'll watch for me grandma, right?" Lisa, who was now becoming
exasperated, responded several times that she would. On the day that Gina
was due to arrive, Grandma Lisa thought, "I still have time to complete a
few chores before Lisa visits, so I'll just do them and then go outside and
wait for Gina and her parents." However, despite Grandma's best intentions,
she became engrossed in her tasks and lost track of time. Suddenly, Grandma
Lisa heard the bell. "Oh no, she thought, that can't be Gina already."
Running to the door, Lisa opened it expecting to see an excited Gina. But
instead, Gina was sorrowful. "Why the sad face Gina, aren't you happy to
see your Grandmother?" Grandma Lisa asked. To which her granddaughter
responded, "Grandma, you did not watch for me like I asked you." "Honey,"
said Grandma, "I was preparing things for you, while I waited for you."
"But Grandma," replied Gina, "I did not want you to wait for me; I wanted
you to watch for me." She wanted her grandma to be outside expectantly
looking for her.
This story reminded me of the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25).
Christ portrayed them as standing or sitting expectantly awaiting the groom
who could appear at any time. As the night grew old, the bridesmaids fell
asleep. While asleep a loud cry woke them in the middle of the night, "The
Bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him." As they opened their eyes,
the night was dark, and they could barely see, so they rushed to light
their lamps. We know the rest of the story; some could light their lamps
because they had extra oil. Others, unprepared with extra oil, could
neither light their lamps to herald his coming nor enter in with the
Bridegroom. What is represented by the oil? Ellen White is quoted in the
devotional, "That I May Know Him," with an answer to this question.
In the parable, the foolish virgins are represented as begging for oil and
failing to receive it at their request. This is symbolic of those who have
not prepared themselves by developing a character to stand in a time of
crisis. It is as if they should go to their neighbors and say, 'Give me
your character or I shall be lost.' Those that were wise could not impart
their oil to the flickering lamps of the foolish virgins. Character is not
transferable. It is not to be bought or sold; it is to be acquired (That I
May Know Him, p. 350).
In contrast to the foolish virgins, the wise virgins had righteous
characters. So, although the wise virgins appeared to be as indolent as
the foolish ones - none of them were watching for the Groom - the wise
virgins had retained oil, and therefore were prepared for the wait. Living
by faith, they were enabled to receive the groom. With that said, what
would have pleased the Bridegroom more: if the virgins had been waiting or
watching? Or both?
As the Groom approached the bridesmaids, he must have noticed that they had
been sleeping and that five were missing. We can only imagine his
perplexity and disappointment, as he questioned, "Weren't they supposed to
stay awake and light the way to the banquet hall? How is it they all fell
asleep? And why were only five prepared for the delay?" "They all knew I
could come at any time. …" It did not look good.
Was this a sign of things to come? This incident revealed that the
bridesmaids became weary after the long delay. And that while they
anticipated a delay, they did not expect an extended wait period.
There are things hidden deep within the recesses of each of our minds,
things which only the Holy Spirit through time and circumstances can reveal
to us, that we may through repentance and forgiveness, receive its blotting
out. Whenever the Lord gives a promise, a period of waiting ensues before
He fulfills His promise to us. His goal is neither to drive us to
distraction nor to frustrate us. Instead, He desires us to wait patiently,
expectantly, watching, enduring and persevering until its fulfillment.
Waiting is not a natural human tendency. We want whatever it is right now.
And our selfish natures find many ways of attaining our desires. Often
subconsciously we present our thinking or behavior in the most moral or
rational light, as we attempt to conceal our true purpose, for self to gain
the promised blessing now.
Jesus implied that in the Christian's life, waiting patiently would be an
issue; that's why He went so far as to say, "When I come, will I find faith
on the earth?" The delay which He is using for our good, to reveal our true
hidden state to us while there is time to repent, is instead used by many
to fulfill self's goals, which is to avoid true self-knowledge.
By remaining in union with the source of renewing energy or power, the Holy
Spirit, we are enabled by faith to 'be renewed in the Spirit of our minds'
(John 15, Romans 12:1). The battle, after all, is for our minds as well as
our affections. Watching and waiting patiently are not inactive pursuits;
they require vigilance, as well as resting and reposing in the Father.
"Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that comes to God
must believe that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek (inquire
of) Him." "You therefore beloved, seeing you know these things before,
beware lest you also being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from
your own stedfastness" (Hebrews 11:6; 2 Peter 3:17).
Friday, June 22, 2018
The Elijah Solution
In the days of Elijah, the people of Israel had turned their hearts from God. They were worshiping another god, instead of Jehovah. Evil reigned in Israel and broke Elijah's heart. Determined to stop the national evil of idol worship, the Lord weighted Elijah's heart with a message of repentance designed to turn the hearts of the people back to God. In allowing these wicked traits of character to go unchecked, King Ahab was directly responsible, for he set the example for which his people were following. Thus, the people had turned their hearts and minds away from God while assuming that they were still following Him. You see, Baal worship was similar to the worship of the true God, Jehovah. After all, Baal only meant 'lord,' or 'husband.' So, the people thought they were calling on God the way they had always done. In reality, they had switched allegiances unaware. They could have known but by choice they did not. In the days of John the Baptist, evil also reigned in Judah in the form of greed, selfishness, sensual pleasures, and nationalistic pride.
At present -- the last days to be exact -- the Lord has said that people would be "lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God -- having a form of godliness but denying its power." We were further admonished to 'have nothing to do with them' (2 Timothy 3:2-5 NIV). Isn't this precisely the case both with professed Christians in various churches, as well as with the unbelievers and the unchurched? Sadly, God's evaluation of the condition of the last church as stated in Revelation 3:15 -17 (NIV) is accurate --
Revelation 3:15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!
Revelation 3:16 So, because you are lukewarm -- neither hot nor cold -- I am about to spit you out of My mouth.
Revelation 3:17 You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
Professed Christians think themselves 'good,' because they do not behave in the wicked ways that 'bad' people do. Our problems, however, are deeper and greater than our behavior indicates. At issue is our human nature which, naturally bent towards evil, is manifested in evil imagination, attitudes, and thoughts, continually. Human nature is filled with iniquity which naturally pulls us as a riptide pulls its victim downward and outward to the sea. As this is true of all human beings, the only possible difference between the 'good' and 'bad' people is the supernatural power which controls them. Not one of us in and of himself or herself is righteous, for as the Lord stated through Apostle Paul, good people are as bent toward evil as bad people are. "Good" people have learned to hide their evil ways. Living in denial the people are deceived as to their actual condition. Furthermore, they disbelieve any evaluation that is contrary to their opinion of themselves.
In the days of the prophet Elijah, God sent him to spare the people from suffering a three-year drought. God's solution was Elijah's message, and that is what Elijah preached. "Repent for judgment is near," was his constant cry; yet it was to turn the hearts and minds of the people back to the true worship of God. In the days of Jesus, God sent John the Baptist to "prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him" (Luke 3:4 NIV). John the Baptist was given the privilege of preaching the message of repentance ("Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near," Matthew 3:2 NIV) just as Elijah was sanctioned to preach to his generation. Both messages were not only proclaimed with authority, but the power to transform - human hearts and minds - was inherent within the Word itself. So potent was this message that hard hearts melted, while lukewarm ones were heated up to white hot. Folks, the hearts and minds of those who genuinely accepted the message "were turned" to one another, "the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts and minds of the children to their parents." Thus, the people were prepared to receive Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah. Those who rejected the message rejected not only Jesus as Messiah but His Father whom they professed to serve. As the scripture says, to be without Jesus is to be without the light and life. Thus, the majority of Jews, indeed the Jewish nation itself, sealed their personal and national eternal condemnation.
In our day, the last great message to go out into the world is the message of the righteous character of God's agape - love. Bound up in the good news of the righteousness of Christ is the three angels' message of Revelation 14: 6-12 in verity (EGW). The Lord gave this message to the Elijah's of this time. And as in the days of old, inherent in the message is the power to change the hearts and minds of the people to Christ, to one another, from children to parents and vice versa. This is the power that is lacking in our Laodicean churches. The solution is therefore not more and better programming; it is not more dollars thrown at the various outreach ministries, nor is it greater local, national or global recognition. The solution is in the message. The Agape – love of Christ transforms hearts and minds who willingly, eagerly and attentively listen. False worship is put aside, and the genuine article of faith comes to reside in the souls of the people, causing them to light up the globe with the splendor of Christ's character (His glory) as they go from place to place sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
My friends, the Elijah solution has been given to all. Just how many years do we have to go on in barrenness, weary and wilting? If we are willing to receive the message as God desires us to, it will do the work He has designated, for He has said, "So shall My Word be that goeth forth of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11).
Friday, June 15, 2018
Just Rest (Originally Published on 10/19/2006)
Whose Seventh Day was it: God's or Adam's? Adam was created on the sixth day. Some believe he was created in the afternoon, and that Eve was created maybe a little after that. So they spent Sabbath together. Sabbath was their first day. Sabbath was God's seventh day. God was around for the whole week – all seven days. Adam and Eve appeared in the scene just before the sunset on the sixth day. So, again, Sabbath was Adam and Eve's 1st day.
What are the implications of this? For starters, time should always be measured from God's perspective, not ours. This is true for all reality. We are at best subjective creatures. We always see things from where we stand and filter all that we perceive through our own experience and autobiography. One event always has different accounts and explanations as to what happened, how it happened, and why it happened. But, God being the all-knowing, all-powerful, and Supreme Being that He is, can see things as they truly are.
Another implication is the relationship between work and rest. By this I mean when should we rest, before or after we work? Many will say that it should be after we work because it is when we would be tired. What could have Adam and Eve been resting from on the Seventh day? They had existed only a few hours. God wanted them to share His rest with them, even if they had not done anything to finish or desist from exertion. So, God works first then He rests. And, man rests first than he works. Spiritually this is true for all men. When we come to Christ we find rest in Him; then as we rest in Him, the works of love - agape - flow out of us. During the creation week, God's work of agape came first then He rested. So, God rests because He's done. We rest because we start in Him.
When God finished His work there was nothing else to add. Genesis 1: 31 says, "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning - the sixth day." So God celebrated by resting the Seventh Day. Adam and Eve celebrated with God. So, the Sabbath was a reward for God, but a gift to Adam and Eve. All that God gives to us is a gift - the Sabbath included. Salvation is by grace - an unmerited favor, or an undeserved gift. Responding with gratitude for all things God gives us, including the Sabbath, is Faith. Without Faith, it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6).
If it is God's seventh day, then keep it as He wants it kept. After all, we cannot enter the Sabbath rest until we enter the rest in Christ. We read about this in Hebrews 4: 1-10:
Hebrews 4: 1Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.
Hebrews 4: 2 For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.
Hebrews 4: 3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.' "
(And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world.)
Hebrews 4: 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day God rested from all his work."
Hebrews 4: 5And again in the passage above he says, "They shall never enter my rest."
Hebrews 4: 6 It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience.
Hebrews 4: 7 Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."
Hebrews 4: 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.
Hebrews 4: 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;
Hebrews 4: 10 for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.
Resting on the Sabbath, without entering first Christ's rest is not only worthless, it is impossible. However, we have then no excuse to not enter Christ's rest before we attempt to enter the Sabbath rest. Christ gives us His invitation in Matthew 11:28,"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Has God not finish His work of legal, corporate and objective redemption already. Revelation 13: 8 says that the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Hebrews 4:3 confirms it, "his work has been finished since the creation of the world." Did Jesus not say the Words just before he died on the cross, "It is finished" (John 19:30)? What else can we add? For if His creation was "very good", then so should have been His redemption work. For it was done through the same love and power. There is nothing for us to add. Give to Jesus your fears and burdens, then take His rest with you. Only then will you be able to rest on His Seventh Day.