Friday, January 19, 2018

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #3 January 20, 2018

First Quarter 2018
Sabbath School Insight #3
"God or Mammon"
January 20, 2018
The title of the quarterly for this new lesson of 2018 is exactly correct – "Stewardship:  Motives of the Heart".  You could put anything for the first word – obedience, sacrifice, worship, music, recreation, theology, lifestyle, Sabbath, etc. - and then follow it with "motives of the heart", and it would be a right reflection of what God is hoping will be the reason that we are engaged with His Kingdom.  What is in our heart when it comes to ANYTHING in Christian experience?
The religion of obligation, the religion of fear or reward, the religion of "ought to" or "should", the religion of trying harder, the religion of emotionalism – all produce religious experiences outside the religion that comes from an intelligent, faith-filled, heartwarming, understanding discernment of what God's kingdom is meant to be composed of.
God is looking for individuals who value His principles so highly, who respect what He stands for so much, and value Him so highly for the love and freedom and independence that He has bestowed on them, that to break with His eternal ideals of love and freedom, which are the basis of His character and thus His kingdom, that they would never, ever, turn to align themselves with self and selfishness.
Unfortunately, it is common in religious life to default back to the motives that aren't from a heart of appreciation and understanding.  The religion of fear and reward have been hard-wired into our spiritual DNA – and sometimes it comes out.  On Sabbath afternoon's lesson this week, after sharing God's "perspective on excessive obsession with money", the author states that Christ's words to the wealthy fool of Luke 12 "should put the fear of God in us all".  In the next paragraph we are reminded, not that true stewardship is a "motive of the heart", but that we will all one day have to give an account to God – true.
I wonder however, does God want us to be faithful stewards because we have to give Him and account – and thus we should have the fear of God in us all?  Or, does God want us to be faithful stewards because we honestly and truly care about His bride – the church?  Does God want us to be faithful stewards because of rewards received and punishments averted, or because we see the beauty and practicality of the stewardship and financial principles of God's kingdom?
"It is not the fear of punishment, or the hope of everlasting reward, that leads the disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour's matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary's cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders. They hear His voice, and they follow Him."  {DA 480.3}
What?  Be a Christian with no thought for the reward we'll get or the punishment averted?  Why else be a Christian – or a faithful steward – if not to get rewarded or avoid punishment?
"The sight of (Jesus) attracts"?  "Love awakens in the heart"?  We hear His voice and we follow Him – just because He's beautiful and attractive?  We behold His matchless love and we say we want to live by those principles – to do what's right because it is right?  Is that what true, mature, meat not milk, grown-up Christianity actually looks like?  Can we conceive of a whole corporate church body that do the God thing not with any hint of fear or reward motives, but because they love God and love His principles – what a beautiful picture!
As Pastor Robert Wieland used to illustrate – the flower girl goes to the wedding because she wants to eat the wedding cake (the reward!).  But the bride is at the wedding because she loves, respects, and honors the groom!  Which is it for us?  Which is it for us as individuals – and for us as an Adventist church?  Are we Seventh-day Adventist Christians because we feel that gives us the best chance of getting our slice of the heavenly "cake"?  Or, are we Seventh-day Adventist Christians because the truths and doctrines of Adventism have given us incredible insights and understandings about the beauty and attractiveness and "rightness" of God and His principles?
I want to encourage you.  I want to encourage myself.  I want to encourage us as a church.  Jesus is attractive.  Jesus is beautiful.  Jesus is the exact and perfect revelation of the beauty and attractiveness of God.  Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us by looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of faith.  And in looking at Him, the motives of reward and fear will grow strangely dim, in the light of Jesus' glory and grace.
Stewardship – whatever it is - may it be motivated by a heart appreciation of the love of God as manifested in Jesus' life and death.  As we continue our study this quarter, never forget, it's the goodness (good news, gospel) of God that leads to repentance – and true stewardship.
~Bob Hunsaker

Friday, January 12, 2018

Sabbath School Insight #2

First Quarter 2018
Sabbath School Insight #2
"I See, I Want, I Take"
January 13, 2018

The title of this week's lesson brings vividly to mind the story of a young man I'll call Dave, whose family became interested in the Adventist message while Dave was a teen. After completing a home Bible study on the fourth commandment, his family became convinced of the seventh day Sabbath truth. We met this family the first Sabbath they ever attended church. After making their acquaintance we enjoyed times of study and fellowship with them. We suggested the family consider sending Dave to an SDA school. They did. The school accepted him based in part upon our recommendation.
Things went well for a while until we received word that Dave had been expelled from school for stealing. On the outside he exuded an exemplary demeanor and deportment. We were saddened by the news that the stealing had been a recurrent issue, leaving the school with no choice but to send him home. Shortly after his return, he came over to our home with his parents to apologize for letting us down. He read to us a carefully composed apology he had written and then explained to us in his own words what happened: one of the staff members had a valuable piece of equipment which had been left "unguarded." With no one to witness his act, Dave took the equipment and hid it in his own belongings. More than once, he emphasized that the object he took was one that he saw, he wanted, and he took because it was "unguarded." We assured him that we forgave him and that God loved him.
Dave came from a family of means; lack of resources to obtain such equipment legitimately wasn't an issue for him. This experience unfortunately dampened the family's interest in the Adventist Church. Eventually they stopped attending and intentionally cut off all ties with us.
A few years later we heard the tragic and shocking news that Dave had been arrested as a primary suspect in the cold-blooded murder of his parents.
While no one would have predicted this outcome for Dave, nor can we presume to understand the motivation behind his actions, the Bible is clear.
Sin originated in the heart of Lucifer. The principle of "see, want, take" was borne out in his life. He saw Jesus, Who as Creator of the universe and the self-existent One inherently had more power and a higher position than he, a created being, could ever have. Nevertheless, Lucifer aspired to the higher position and more power, and in the ages that followed, he revealed that he would stop at no means to gain his object, even taking the life of his Maker, the Son of God. Covetousness starts in the heart, but given opportunity without repentance, it leads to murder.
All this to say, the desire for something that isn't mine isn't something that merely needs regulating to keep it from getting out of hand. It must be crucified. Covetousness is the root cause of the murder of the Son of God. It bears fruit in stealing from others what isn't mine, whether it be property, money, or a spouse. It resorts to falsehood to cover its insidious tracks, and it ultimately leads to murder of the Son of God.
Greed has a large appetite that can never be assuaged. It is an equal opportunity employer, willingly engaging rich and poor alike in its servitude. Hoarders amass worthless treasures in their homes or garages while others accumulate fortunes in their bank accounts. Both are alike at risk for putting their confidence in the things of this world, which is passing away.
The only cure for the fatal condition of covetousness (it is fatal because the wages of sin is death) is found in beholding Jesus, who "being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God," — in other words Jesus did not obtain His high position as God by angling for it or by strategizing; it was His by right, therefore He did not arrive at that position by deceptive means, it was His very identity — "but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." Philippians 2:6-8.
The position Lucifer wanted so badly but could never have, Christ willingly gave up in order that He might save man at any cost to Himself. When Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit in the garden, they imbibed of that Luciferian spirit: I see, I want, I take. Once infected with this disease of sin — of taking what is not ours to take — Adam passed it along to the entire human race. Outside of Christ there is no cure. Materialism isn't merely a desire that must be reined in or controlled, it must be rooted out of the heart like a poisonous plant. With Paul we must experience the life-changing power of the cross every day. We are crucified with Christ and we live, not for ourselves, but for Him who died for us and rose again (Galatians 2:20).
Have you noticed that there are places in the world where people are much more content than in other places? I have witnessed children in Africa who couldn't be happier playing with a self-constructed ball or toy in an open field while I have witnessed children in America made miserable by the acquisition of another toy because it is the wrong brand or not as nice as the neighbor's next door.
The quest for better and more doesn't necessarily end in happiness. It takes resolute purpose to turn away from the things of this world and turn our eyes upon Jesus.
Whether we are rich or poor, the gifts with which we have been entrusted are to be rendered in service for Him.
"To live is to give" is the principle of heaven and of Christ's followers on earth. Owing to the fact that we still inhabit sinful bodies, we should not be surprised if our flesh rises up to complain when we strive to live according to God's plan. If it hurts to give, give anyway. God's agape love medicine is doing its needed work upon the heart. Giving wisely to those in need, whether through the means of our time, energy, or resources is the currency upon which heaven is based. Riches thus invested in our heavenly account will never be lost, but will rebound in blessings throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity.
~Patti Guthrie RR
Raul Diaz

Friday, January 05, 2018

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #1 January 6, 2018

First Quarter 2018
Sabbath School Insight #1
"The Influence of Materialism"
January 6, 2018
The lessons for this quarter are about the righteousness of Christ as lived out in a life of stewardship. Stewardship involves motives of the mind with resulting actions carried out in the life of believers. Stewardship is fruit from faith in Christ alone. Our love for Christ is carried out in stewardship. God gives us material blessings and the strength to acquire them. He also gives us the ability to properly use them. This is what stewardship is about. However, the desire of getting and having things may become more important than the most essential matter: eternal life.
While in this world, we are in conflict with enemy number one – selfishness. Selfishness is the sin of the world. And the world with its selfishness has invaded the church. It was in the church in the days of Christ. His chosen 12 battled with it. Christ struck at the very root of selfishness in the sacrifice of Himself for the benefit of mankind. Christ's selflessness defeated the selfishness of the world in and by His death on the cross. This defeat was a fatal blow to the prince of all selfishness – the devil.
Satan was supremely in love with himself. We learn this from Ezekiel's descriptive narrative of his fall (Ezekiel 28:12-19): "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor" (Ezekiel 28:17). He became arrogant because of his God-given beauty. His heart – his inner self with the will and mind – was bent inward to total love for himself. Because of his pride he corrupted and misused his God-given wisdom and squandered the goods given to him. He ceased to be a steward for God and became a fool. The Good News Translation (2nd ed.) puts it this way: "You were proud … and your fame made you act like a fool."
Lucifer walked on streets of gold. He wore ornaments of gold along with sparkling gems. These things became his god. He became greedy and coveted other things material. His materialism led him to covet God's position. From the god of materialism he became his own idol with supreme worship of himself. Isaiah wrote additional thoughts of his self- adulation in chapter 14 verses 13 and 14:
13For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; 14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.'
In this passage there are five personal pronouns ("I") and one adjective ("my") recorded. There is a total of 48 English words describing the covetous activity of Lucifer. In the Septuagint there are 30 Greek words and in the Hebrew Bible, 24 words are used. In English, Lucifer's use of personal pronouns is 1 in 8 words. In Greek, his use of personal pronouns is 1 in 5 words and in Hebrew it is 1 in 4.
Years ago, I wrote in the margin of my Bible the following idea (the source, however, I neglected to write down): The use of the terms "I", "me" and "my" used once in 26 words is normal. Used once in 12 these personal pronouns are considered abnormal and the use of them once in 7 or 8 words is indicative of a mental problem. My conclusion then and now is this: in whatever language used, in this passage, we may safely conclude that Lucifer has a severe mental problem.
Later, after Adam and Eve, in their perfect environment of Paradise, accepted the devil's lies they began to blame one another in self-defense. This love of self has been passed on to their posterity both by inheritance and by nurture. This includes all of us. Without exception. As a consequence, we are incapable of free choice for good, independently of God's marvelous grace (2 Timothy 2:26). Fortunately, His grace was manifested as soon as our original parents sinned. In the promise of Genesis 3:15 we have the assurance of supernatural grace in the battle against self and Satan. This is the enmity God promised – His grace placed between Christ and Satan and, because of Christ, between ourselves and Satan.
Not only has the world turned to materialism as its god. This idolatry has crept into God's church as well. "Selfishness, the sin of the world, has become the prevailing sin of the church. In sacrificing Himself for the good of men, Christ strikes at the root of all selfishness…." Because of what He did for us, "He expects corresponding self-denial and sacrifice on the part of those whom He came to bless and save" (5T 204).
So, the message comes to us from Jesus in the form of a warning: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24).
We are in danger of identifying with things the world has identified as its deity. This is the sin of which Lucifer was guilty. Because of his attachment to "mammon" Lucifer learned to hate God. He wanted to possess more and still more until he decided to take over all the properties and possessions of God. His lust was to make God subservient to himself. He wanted God to be his steward. The servant was possessed by lust for power and position. He coveted the power but not the character of God. Coveting the very materials of which he was surrounded and which he finally idolized is our danger today.
The lesson for us is this. We must be and shall be divested of selfishness by Christ "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, and we shall thus grow more and more like Jesus till the crown of immortality is placed upon our brows." Manuscript 2, May 13, 1884.
Only Christ can deliver us from our self-idolatry. In the very month, of the year 1888, when the Minneapolis General Conference convened, the following message was sent:
The soul that is thus touched [by the Spirit of Christ "with its marvelous awakening power"] will never wrap itself about with self-righteousness, or a pretentious garb of holiness; but will hate its selfishness, abhor its self-love, and will seek, through Christ's righteousness, for that purity of heart which is in harmony with the law of God and the character of Christ. He will then reflect the character of Christ, the hope of glory. It will be the greatest mystery to him that Jesus should have made so great a sacrifice to redeem him. He will exclaim, with humble mien and quivering lip, "He loved me. He gave himself for me. He became poor that I, through His poverty, might be made rich. The man of sorrows did not spurn me, but poured out his inexhaustible, redeeming love that my heart might be made clean; and he has brought me back into loyalty and obedience to all his commandments. His condescension, His humiliation, His crucifixion, are the crowning miracles in the marvelous exhibition of the plan of salvation. That the just should die for the unjust, the pure for the impure, is beyond all manifestations of human love; and all this He has done to make it possible to impart to me His own righteousness, that I may keep the law I have transgressed. For this I adore Him. I will proclaim Him to all sinners. I will cry, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" (Ellen White, RH October 16, 1888).
The influence of materialism is extraordinarily great. In this very time of earth's history this influence is far greater than at any other time. It is by far more than we can handle. This cupidity will swallow us and destroy us unless we experience in our lives more power than this increasing power of the world. We will need, in our lives, the super power of God of which Elder Jones spoke when he said that the message of the latter rain will be "ten times the power of '44." This is what he said: "Another testimony that has never been printed says, that this [latter rain] will come as suddenly as it did in '44 and with ten times the power." A.T. Jones, #7, GCB 1893. After reading this I searched for the source from which he cited but could not find it and so I finally decided that it was one of those apocryphal statements attributed to Mrs. White.
Then one day, while reading in the Spaulding and Magan Collection, p. 4, I read the following:
"I saw the latter rain was coming as the midnight cry, and with ten times the power."
(E. G. White, Washington, N.H. Sept. 1852).
This message will sweep the world with untold power carrying the message of Christ and His righteousness. This is the power we need in our lives today to resist and overcome the "The Influence of Materialism" of which the harlot of Revelation, the mother of abominations, controls and uses to prostitute the world and also purposes to prostitute God's Remnant (Revelation 17:1-6; 13).
In closing, consider this word of hope from inspiration: "If you would stand through the time of trouble, you must know Christ, and appropriate the gift of His righteousness, which He imputes to the repentant sinner." (RH Nov 22, 1892). We need to know Him, not just about Him. And we need this before the time of trouble. It takes time to get to know Christ Jesus. Do you know Him? This takes time, day after day. Are you taking the time to get to know Him? Knowing Him will acquaint us with His power that delivers from "The Influence of Materialism."
~Jerry Finneman

Friday, December 29, 2017

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #13 December 30, 2017

"Christian Living"
DECEMBER 30, 2017
In Romans, Paul has done a thorough job of explaining and outlining the everlasting gospel focusing on God's agape love and His infinite sacrifice as manifested by Christ's birth, death, life, and resurrection and the meaning it has for each and every one of us. Now in the closing chapters of Romans, Paul wants to bring it home and show us how it can become real in our lives.
The title of our lesson, "Christian Living", could just as well be summarized by the phrase "Living for Others".  But with our selfish human natures, how is that even remotely possible?  Our human love might extend to caring for and making sacrifices for close friends and family but, even so, it looks for them to love us back in return and is self-centered—looking for a response and what's in our best interests. God's agape love is the exact opposite---His love is totally unselfish, it is infinite and is given to the entire universe, including the whole human race.  Whether we respond or not, His love is a wonderful gift.  Really, God is giving us Himself—it's who He is!—"God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." 1 John 4:16.
At the incarnation, Christ, as the second or last Adam, put the entire human race into Himself, and through His birth, life, death and resurrection paid the price for humanity's sin.  In His own words (John 15:4), Christ promises to us: "Remain (abide) in Me, and I will remain (abide) in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself: it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me."
It is still our choice as to whether we remain in Christ, but if we do, His power and His love will remain in us through the Holy Spirit in our heart and in our lives. It is His love, His power, and His strength that allows us as Christians to live for others and not ourselves.
Now, with these thoughts in mind, we look at Romans 14 and see that we are not to judge or condemn one another (vs 10: But why does thou judge thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ).
As Waggoner states, (Waggoner on Romans pp. 196-197): "We have learned that the members of the church of Christ are not judges one of another, but fellow servants of one common Lord.  We are not taught that is a matter of indifference whether or not we keep the commandments of God—quite the contrary, since we are all to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and be judged by them—but we are taught that in those things concerning which the law of God does not speak particularly, one man's ways are as good as another's.  We learned even further that even one who may be faulty with respect to an express commandment, is not to be dealt with harshly, and condemned.  Such a course cannot help one, and, besides, we have no right to do so, since we are but servants."
Continuing on, as we look at Romans 14: 14-23, there are many that take these verses as a license to eat or drink what we wish whether it be clean or unclean.  However, we need to look at these verses in context.  In Paul's day, the issue creating conflict was food that had been dedicated to pagan idols and was subsequently sold by their priests in the markets to raise funds at very good prices.
Let's look at Waggoner's comments on this topic (Waggoner on Romans pp. 197-198):
"If we consider well the subject under consideration, we shall not wrest this scripture from its connection.  The thing presented from the beginning of the chapter is the case of a man with so little real knowledge of Christ that he thinks righteousness is to be obtained by the eating of certain kinds of food, or by not eating certain things.  The idea clearly conveyed by the entire chapter is that it is by faith, and not by eating and drinking, that we are saved.
A little consideration of the question of clean and unclean food will help us much.  There is a strange idea prevalent, to the effect that things that were at one time unfit for food are perfectly wholesome now.  Many people seem to think that even unclean beasts are made clean by the gospel.  They forget that Christ purifies men, not beast and reptiles. Enlightenment brings carefulness in the selection of food."
Jack Sequeira's book, "Romans, The Clearest Gospel of All "(RCG) is also a very thorough study of Romans and provides some additional insights for our benefit (RCG pp.213-216), Referring to Romans 14:14 he says:
"We should not equate this statement about uncleanliness with the health laws of Leviticus 11.  Paul is not discussing the health issue.  He is discussing food offered to idols.  Is it right or wrong for a Christian to buy market food which was once offered to idols? Clearly Paul is not discussing rules of healthful living which are still viable to Christians.  When God gives health laws in Leviticus, (or in the Spirit of Prophecy) He is not giving these rules as requirements for salvation.  He is giving them for the good of His people.
God is not only our Savior, He is our Creator (and Re-Creator).  As our Creator, He knows what is best for our health.  He wants our bodies, our souls, and our spirits to be kept blameless (1 Corinthians 1:8) until the coming of the Lord.  God gave health rules and many other rules.  We take these rules and apply them to ourselves, as Christians, not because we want to be saved but because we want to have bodies that are healthy so that God can use us more fully for His glory.
Christians must never take the guidelines God gives us in the Old Testament regarding lifestyle, eating, or dressing, as requirements for salvation.  Men and women are saved only one way—by grace.  True justification by faith creates a relationship to God and fellowmen that differs radically from the pre-conversion way of life.  Before conversion, human beings live as they please.  They do as they please, it's no one else's business.  But now they live for God, uplifting Him before all, doing nothing to cause either believer or unbeliever to reject Christ.
Genuine Christians live unto God and for the sake of others.  These become controlling factors in whatever they do.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31 that whatever Christians do, eat, or drink, let it be to the glory of God.  God wants Christians to live for others.
In Romans 14:18-23 we read: "For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men." What a wonderful statement!  Christians should live lives that please God and bring honor to the cause of God. Verse 19 says, "Let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another".
True Christianity brings peace between human beings—not only between man and God.  Justification by faith gives peace with God but also produces a lifestyle conducive to peace between man and man.
Christian living involves a cross—self-denial (Luke 9:23).  In exchange, Christ lives within.  The life Christ lived 2000 years ago He can live in the Christian today, for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
The world needs to see, not how good Christians are, but how the goodness of God can be manifested in them. In other words, Paul says "You are God's children.  Please behave as God's children.  Let the world see.  Let the Christian church be an example of the unity of the Trinity.  Let us be of one heart—one mind—so that the world recognizes that the gospel is the power of God to redeem us from selfishness as well as condemnation."
God wants nothing but the best for us, His children.  He wants us to be healthy and strong in mind, body, and spirit. God's biblical health laws were intended for our good as are the health laws brought forth in the Spirit of Prophecy for His last day church.  In Jeremiah 29:11, He says: "I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you hope and a future."
God truly loves us, but He does not force and allows us to choose. Similarly, as we discussed at the beginning, if we are truly abiding or remaining in Christ, then we will be living for others and neither will we be judging, forcing, or criticizing our Christian brothers and sisters (or anyone else).  Rather, we will be seeking to build them up, help where we can, and look to share with them all the blessings that God has in store for them and us.  May you be blessed as you study this week's Sabbath school lesson.

~John and Monica Campbell