Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Insights #4 Q1-06

Special Insights No. 4

First Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Families in the Family of God”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“Living With Lambs”


We are living in the last moments of earth’s history. Society’s plunge into evil has even left many secularists aghast. The devil has come down with great wrath because he knows his time is short. And nowhere is this struggle for souls seen more fully than in the present generation of children and youth.


In 2 Timothy 3, the Apostle Paul wrote a stinging description of what the state of things would be in the last days. Specially noted was the fact that children would be “disobedient to parents.”


This week’s lesson, “Living with Lambs,” discusses some of the typical issues facing parents—responsibility, discipline, stewardship, and momentous decisions. It rightly points us to Christ, who “tends his flock like a shepherd” and “gathers the lambs in His arms” (Isaiah 40:11).


It brings to mind the heart of the Shepherd and how He must feel as millions of children are abused, neglected, and enticed to evil each day. This is not something for scholarly discussions in walnut-paneled board rooms. From heaven’s view we are in crisis.


We are living in an age in which righteousness and evil are both developing to their fullest extent. As Seventh-day Adventist Christian parents, we of all people on earth should be most alert to the sophistries of Satan. But many of us sleep while the devil seduces our children. May God help us!


The principle of Satan’s kingdom from the very beginning has been self-exaltation. Pride, self-worship, and the desire to be first are his trademarks. But the Lord has not left us helpless.


Commensurate with the times in which we live and the unthinkable temptations to which we are exposed daily, the Lord in His mercy sent a “most precious message” to our church beginning in 1888, a message powerful enough to overcome the devil in all his artful forms.


It was the simple yet infinite message of the cross. At no time in the history of the universe has the self-denying love of God for our race been more fully revealed than in that terrible, unspeakable event. Leaving the loving companionship of His Father and heavenly hosts, our precious Savior did not despise the shame but humbled himself, taking the form of a servant and finally experiencing the complete darkness and separation from the Lifegiver that sin brings, even the death of the cross.


How does this emphasis on the cross of Christ impact our study about “Living with Lambs” this week?


Sunday’s lesson discusses our responsibility to God as stewards of His children. Children are a most sacred trust. At most we have but a few years to shape and mold their characters for this life and the next. We have the priceless opportunity of sharing with our children the story of Jesus, of reading to them from His Word, of repeating lessons from nature, of teaching them to pray, and of studying lessons from sacred history. The family circle is sacred and embraces the very throne of heaven. It is our privilege to unite the hearts of our children in love to each other and to our Maker.


The gospel message gives courage to those struggling to decide whether or not to have children (Monday’s lesson). It is possible to raise godly children in a godless age because the grace of God is so much greater than the power of sin. Satan is not the winner. He has already lost this battle. In faith, we claim Christ’s victory as our own and for our children. Indeed, we are called to have children in order that they might bear witness to the saving power of the cross to our dying world.


The story of the cross reveals the heart of our heavenly Father (Tuesday’s lesson) toward our fallen race. He suffered with His Son as Jesus died on the cross. The heart-wrenching agony that the Father experienced in losing His Son makes Him the most sympathizing, understanding Father this world has ever known. His Father’s heart sees ever tear and feels every injustice heaped upon His children. We are precious in His sight.


Raising children (Wednesday’s lesson) enables us to experience the gospel in very practical ways. It is our privilege to pray for and claim the fruits of the spirit as a promise in our lives and the lives of our children. How often do you see a family in which love, joy, peace, self-control, temperance, order, and patience are manifested? These all result from living a life of self-denial.


The cross also provides the key to discipline (Thursday and Friday’s lessons) for it is here that we see mercy and justice mingled together. When our children fall to temptation, it is our privilege to lead them to the cross. We teach them of One who was rich but became poor for our sake, that we who are poor, might experience the riches of His saving love and win others for His sake.


When Jesus comes again, will He find faith on the earth? Will there be any children who have followed Him in the path to the cross?


Here is a promise that such will be the case: “Here I am and the children whom the Lord has given me! We are for signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells in Mount Zion” (Isaiah 8:18).

Patricia L. Guthrie

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 3 Qtr 1-06

Special Insights No. 3

First Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Families in the Family of God”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)



This week’s lesson focuses on marriage as a model that God uses to teach His people about restoration, and uses the covenant as an example of God’s union with His people. The Quarterly author states: “In biblical thinking, close relationships are bound together by covenants. The predominant covenant is one between God and His people. Human covenants are binding commitments that include promises, privileges, and obligations —key factors in any marriage.”


Common marriage vows include the phrase, “I promise to love, honor, and obey.... ,” or similar phraseology. These words are solemnly articulated at the wedding ceremony before God and witnesses. The participants in the ceremony are (at the time) certain that they can fulfill these promises because of their mutual affection and strong attraction for each other. For erring humans it is easy to say the words, “I promise such and such.” However, most of the time, and for a variety of reasons, it is difficult to follow these simple words with corresponding actions.


Our Quarterly goes on to give examples of adulterous Israel’s repeated failure in keeping her promises of obedience to God (for context see Ex. 19:8; 32:1-6; 33:1-7; 2 Chron. 30:7-8). The Lord is forced to call His bride a harlot and an adulteress because of her continued transgressions against Him (Jer. 3:6-11; 13:27; Eze.20:27-32; 23:7-9). The book of Hosea is an enacted lesson for all people and all times regarding the whoredom of God’s bride, but it also reveals His heartbrokenness and great love for His wayward and unfaithful wife (Hosea 11:7-9).


Fortunately, the Gospel is not dependant upon our promises of faithfulness to God, but rather upon His faithfulness to us. God knows the condition of our heart; it is desperately wicked and as unstable as water. If the eternal covenant marriage to God depended upon our promises to Him, we would fail as surely as did ancient Israel. This is a prominent 1888 message concept.


Let’s review what God promised the children of Israel as He attempted to bring them into His covenant marriage: “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagle’s wings, and brought you unto Myself” (Ex. 19:4). What a magnificent declaration of love for His bride! He says, Look at all that I have already done to show you how much I love you.


The Lord continues: “Now therefore, if ye will obey [Heb. shama literally means hear, perceive with understanding, discern] My voice indeed, and keep [Heb. shamar literally means protect, preserve, guard, or cherish; cf. Gen. 2:15] My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people; for the earth is Mine” (vs. 5). The first thing to observe is that God already has a covenant in place to which He is referring the children of Israel. It is the everlasting covenant He made with Abraham (Gen. 15:7-21). If they would cherish His promise to Abraham, and discern the deep meaning of that covenant, then they would indeed be a “peculiar treasure” unto the Lord. They would be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (vs. 6).


God did not ask the people to DO anything. He only asked them to believe in and appreciate the promise which He had already given to Abraham. Their response in verse 8 was completely unwarranted, and showed an absolute misunderstanding of what God was telling them.


“The people of Israel were full of self-confidence and of unbelief in God, as is shown by their murmuring against God’s leading and by their assumption of the ability to do anything that God required, to fulfill His promises. They had the same spirit as their descendants, who asked: ‘What must we do, to be doing the work of God?’ John 6:28. They were so ignorant of God’s righteousness that they thought that they could establish their own righteousness as an equivalent” (E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 74).


How does this correlate to the lesson’s discussion of human marriage? How will a correct understanding of the everlasting covenant deepen and strengthen our human marriage relationship? How will it restore the “tragic loss of physical, emotional, and spiritual oneness” that was lost due to the fall of our first parents?


As we learned in last quarter’s studies on Ephesians, submission is the key to a happy marriage (Eph. 5:22, 25). This is a two-way submission, each giving their all to the other, just as Christ gave His all to save us from sin. Christ put the human race first and was willing to be lost eternally if He could save His people from their sin by dying as them on the cross. This is the essence of agape; totally devoid of any self-centeredness or selfishness.


Our lesson tells us that when “Adam and Eve fell for Satan’s deceptions, not only was their relationship with God damaged, so was their relationship with each other.” It is the work of the Gospel to remove these barriers between us and out divine Lover. “Ever since that first sin in the Garden, mankind have been repeating the tragic pattern. Unless man has faith in a divine Saviour who bears the full burden of his guilt, a full realization of guilt kills him” (Robert J. Wieland, The Knocking At the Door, p. 11).


Just as a willing and total submission to each other in a marriage removes the fear and shame of complete exposure, just so we must learn to stand before our divine Lover naked and unashamed. We must learn the full depth of our sin, conscious and unconscious, before there can be a final reconciliation between God and His people. This is the work of the cleansing of the sanctuary in the antitypical Day of Atonement that reaches down to the depths and purifies our characters.


When this is accomplished in God’s people, then it can be said that “the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). Then, standing in unabashed nakedness, fully exposed before her divine Lover, making no pretense of covering herself (as did Adam and Eve), Christ will place upon His bride the garment He has been longing to give her—the garment of His own righteousness—that she will wear forever in His presence (vs. 8).


Restoration of the whole human race in Christ is a reality; reconciliation is accomplished (2 Cor. 5:14-19). When God’s people fully appreciate what He has done to save us from sin, then the Lord can come to claim His bride and take us home. May that day be hastened, is our prayer.

Ann Walper


[If you would like a copy of Knocking at the Door, contact the Message Study Committee, (269) 473-1888.]


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Thursday, January 12, 2006

SS Insights

Special Insights No. 2

First Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Families in the Family of God”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“God’s Word on Family Living”


“Family Living” is living out the truths of genuine righteousness by faith. The emphasis in the lesson is on things that we must DO in order to have happy homes. The Bible emphasis is on things that we must BELIEVE in order to have happy homes, because it is what we BELIEVE that transforms us in character from being the ornery, self-centered people that we are by nature into people in whom self has been crucified with Christ and He is permitted to live out His life within us (Gal. 2:20). Self-centered people are bound to have friction at home; the real, ultimate, powerful change in family relationships comes through the pure truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is what Ellen White described as “the third angel’s message in verity.”


Through this means actual, dynamic love is created within cold hearts.

Our Lesson Book is good; let us look up all the texts that are listed for us in Sunday’s and Tuesday’s lessons, but not to read them with a mind half asleep or focused on something else. There is no merit in the amount of time we spend in “reading the Bible” if our mind is far away. Read the texts with a prayer that the Holy Spirit may “feed” you therein; take your time; He will hear you and respond. If you are having family problems, be sure that the Holy Spirit will find in those Bible texts some “bread” to feed your hungry soul, some water of life to refresh your thirst.


We are told that “three of the Ten Commandments deal with family life; it’s the violation of these three (in some way) that usually is the source of family unhappiness. Let us not misunderstand the Ten Commandments. Rightly understood, they are not Ten Rules; they are ten promises that God is making to us. The Preamble to the Ten must never be omitted—believe that “the Lord thy God.... have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, [that is] out of the house of bondage,” that He has done it past tense, which means that Christ on His cross has delivered you from the bondage of sin (Ex. 20:1, 2). Then, He promises, you will never fall into any sin that consciously or unconsciously can poison the joyous spirit in your family.


The author is to be commended for pointing us to the thrilling “love story” of Boaz and Ruth. Even if you have been married many years read it again and again. It will do two things: (1) enrich your memory and that of your spouse, and if perchance you are now lonely, (2) it will enrich your understanding of other people to whom you can be a real blessing.


The story of Ruth (Monday) brings the tenderness, the humility, the purity, of true love into our naturally cold hearts. When God has promised to “send [us] Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord” (Mal. 4:5, 6), what’s back of the promise is that marvelous work of “heart-reconciliation.” Notice the actual words of the promise: “He will turn.... hearts.”


Many people have said to me, “My heart is cold; I don’t know how to shed a tear of appreciation for the love of Christ! Is there no hope for me?” Cold-heartedness is the greatest problem God has had to deal with in His 6000 years of sacred history; it’s the problem of Laodicea. “Elijah” is coming to deal with it! Don’t resist his ministry, for it will be what our Lesson points us to in 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19 where Paul pleads, “We implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God”! That’s the very essence of the Elijah message! It’s not calling down thunderbolts of God’s hot wrath on His people, which many of us have thought Elijah did on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:10-40)—it’s melting of hard human hearts and reconciliation first, with God, then with each other.


Then, thank God! the entire world church will be studying the Song of Solomon! This must be because somehow “Elijah” has touched the hearts of our Lesson Book writers and editors! Did you know that the Laodicean message, which is present truth to the remnant church, is related to this Song? Jesus actually quotes word for word from S. S. 5:2 when He says, “I stand at the door and knock,” but it’s not our Hebrew Masoretic text—it’s the Greek LXX (Septuagint translation) that He quotes! Thus He tells us that the Laodicean message is actually a love letter from Christ to His Bride-to-be! “She” has treated Him exactly like the lady in Solomon’s poem treated Him—she was so wrapped up in herself that she didn’t want to bother to get up and let Him in when He “knocked” (S. S. 5:2-6). The Song of Solomon is directly related both to the Laodicean message and to that of Revelation 19:7, 8, where the identical problem is divulged as the “Bride-to-be” delaying to make herself ready” for the marriage of the Lamb!


That’s the reason why after all these many years since 1844 when Jesus said that it was His will that “this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled” (Matt. 24:34). Yes, Jesus intended all along that the generation which went through the Great Disappointment should live to see Him come the second time. But through our resisting His call to the wedding of 1888, the time has been greatly prolonged. God bless your study of this precious Sabbath School Lesson! May His reconciliation be our experience!

Robert J. Wieland



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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 1, Qtr 1-06

Special Insights No. 1

First Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Families in the Family of God”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“A Family of Families”


Why this special series of Lessons? The leadership of our church is concerned about the breakdown of families within the church, for it is too much like what is happening in the world. Statistics vary, but everybody knows that roughly half of marriages in the world end in failure, and of those that manage to stick together, many are often miserably unhappy. Satan has gained too much of an advantage, somehow. There is even concern whether marriage can endure. In at least one European country, society openly endorses couples living together without marriage, and in one Union Conference it is debated whether couples living together without marriage are suitable for baptism into the church. The very question implies that marriage means nothing any more. Must the one true remnant church of Bible prophecy (Rev. 12:17 and 14:12) suffer our levees to collapse and succumb to the rising tide of me-first loveless living?


Nevertheless, we are a most unusual church because we have a divine mandate to prepare a people for meeting Jesus when He returns. That means an experience in receiving and knowing the love (agape) of Christ (Eph. 3:19). How can family bonds be strengthened with that love? How can the idea of marriage be honored and glorified? How can husband and wife learn to be happy in love, even into old age? There used to be a popular song, “Silver Threads Among the Gold,” that told of youthful love still strong when hairs were white.


Should our Conferences employ pastors whose marriages have failed and they are divorced? Should our churches elect elders who are divorced? How do we inspire and encourage our youth to enter into marriage with a serious purpose to follow God’s commandments “until death do us part”?


Home is the hardest place to be a Christian! Why? It’s impossible to fool anybody where everybody knows you in and out. But if love (agape) prevails, happiness comes with it, and it will be easier for children to grow up as happy Christians. Sometimes, maybe too often, incipient adultery lies buried in the hearts of husband or wife and thus poisons the atmosphere for the children.


Therefore the supreme question we ask as we begin this new series of Study Guides is—how can we know and receive the love (agape) of Christ into our marriages and homes? Many books address the problem. Some are helpful. But we begin by recognizing that the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit of God, and there we read that the love of Christ (agape) is the ultimate answer to these problems (2 Cor. 5:14-19; Eph. 5:25).


We begin with Bible Good News: “God sets the solitary in families” (Psalm 68:6). In other words, marriage is His plan for “solitary” persons who are lonely (see 1 Corinthians chapter 7 where Paul says that marriage may not be the way of happiness for some special people who are equally loved by the Lord). The word “solitary” has an interesting meaning in Hebrew—to be lonely like an only child. All of us truly belong in that category. Apart from Christ, we were lonely and God did for us what He did for solitary Adam. And friends are part of the Lord’s gift to us all.


This is a prelude to His giving the “solitary” a home in His New Jerusalem forever. Rightly understood, family life in this great antitypical Day of Atonement is a prelude to the social fellowship of meeting Jesus, the holy angels, and all the redeemed and unfallen ones of heaven. Sabbath-keeping is the special gift of God for family happiness, the one day in the week when we are completely delivered from this terrible addiction of ogling the papers, the magazines, the neighbors, being tempted to covet their possessions. (Such envy ruins our happiness!) Sabbath makes being poor more endurable, and church fellowship to be a joy to lonely people.


Did Jesus enjoy a happy home? He was born into a family where His mother was a step-mother to four (probably difficult) boys whose names we have in Matthew 13:55-58, and there were at least also two step-sisters—all of whom were “older” than He and thus annoyed Him even into their maturity. This happened all during Jesus’ stay at home before the age of 30. Even during his ministry, the older brothers tried to tell Him what to do, with disdain. His being “despised and rejected of men” included that at His earthly home! (cf. John 7:3-5; it was the Jewish custom for older siblings to “boss” the younger ones around).


Imagine what it was like for this Baby to begin His consciousness by finding Himself in such a home atmosphere! After the early trip to Egypt, step-father Joseph decided to take Mary and the Baby up to Nazareth to join the half-siblings. Children, if your home is less than perfect, think of Jesus! He endured earthly life in an unhappy home so that you may enjoy life in happy homes!


Think of Jesus’ love for His poor mother Mary, through whose soul was plunged that terrible sword that old Simeon had predicted in Luke 2:34, 35. No woman in all of earth’s history has borne a heavier burden than she! Think of a mother being forced to watch the Roman soldiers strip her Son naked and sling Him up on a cross and hear those people and the leaders of her church revile Him and condemn Him to hell! This is what it cost her to be the mother of our Savior! A domestic, earthly home was the setting for the life and death of the Son of God! He endured every pain that any of us have had to endure.


Ellen White makes clear that the coming of the 1888 message divinely “sent” to the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church was a fulfillment of God’s promise to send us “Elijah before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Mal. 4:4, 5). His primary mission? To bring reconciliation between estranged hearts!


Now, whatever it may cost, let us take up our cross and follow Him all the way we find that He permits to lie before us. May your study of these new Lesson Guides in 2006 be rewarding!

Robert J. Wieland


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