Thursday, January 27, 2011


“Pray tell me what makes the sense of guilt in the man's conscience? Paul says that „by the law is the knowledge of sin" (E. J. Waggoner, The Gospel in the Book of Galatians, page 53). “You know what guilt is, do you not? It is the stain of sin. Now of all those who have the Father's name written in their foreheads, we are told that „in their mouth was found no guile, for they are without fault (guilt) before the throne of God. So when God says that we shall not take His name in vain, He is promising to make us guiltless, „without fault. He will „hold him guiltless who does not take His name in vain, for His own perfect likeness will be seen in all such.” {June 20, 1901 EJW, PTUK 395.4} Our lesson this week deals with guilt. More importantly, it deals with Gods victorious recovery from it.

Guilt, empowered by the law (Romans 7:9), is a powerful motivator. It drives the surrendered soul to submit to the crucifixion of the self, while the rebellious soul is driven to suicide in one form or another. If one could ask Peter whether guilt is a tool in the hand of God for reclaiming the sinner, he would no doubt answer, “Yes, it drove me to cast myself upon the ground in utter despair over my condition. It made me abhor myself and cling to Christ!” If one could ask Judas if guilt is a tool which Satan can use, no doubt he would answer, "Unto death."

Many Christians walk about flogging themselves over their past trespasses. Many create a series of self-manufactured penances by which to painfully crawl towards heaven in the hope that God will accept them. One does not even have to be a Christian to experience a guilt-driven need for repentance. Many a tortured soul has wandered into a police station and confessed his crimes, declaring that he cannot bear his burden of guilt any longer. These miserable souls make confession, thinking to find relief through submitting to a man-made punishment for their crimes. 

All such efforts must fail. It was in this miserable, hopeless condition that Martin Luther finally realized that "the just shall live by His faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). It takes supernatural intervention to remove the stain of guilt.

The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the law which shows us our guilt. "And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin ... because they believe not on Me" (John 16:8, 9). But this revelation is for the purpose of driving the guilty soul to Christ, who has taken our guilt upon Himself.

How does God view the guilty sinner? "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than you ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8, 9). "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil" (Jeremiah 29:11).

Psalm 51 is evidence that the Holy Spirit can transform the heart of the vilest sinner and bring him to repentance. In God's eyes, David's sins were buried in the bottom of the sea. Abraham is called the father of the faithful (Galatians 3:8, 9) after having repented of an act of unbelief whose effects are still felt in the world today. In spite of all Abraham's shortcomings the Bible states, "Abraham believed God, and was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God" (James 2:23).

The disciples did not understand who their Master was. They did not understand His purpose. They were so busy striving for “first place” in a kingdom established wholly upon their own fertile imaginations that at the first sign of real danger in Gethsemane they would flee in fear and disgrace. Peter would deny His Lord, not once but three times in that night. They were, verily, guilty. The stains of sin were imbedded deep in their hearts. Yet, listen as Jesus lifts up these same disciples in prayer after the Last Supper:

"I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me; and they have kept Thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever Thou hast given Me are of Thee. For I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from Thee and They have believed that Thou didst send Me ... I kept them in Thy name: those that Thou gavest Me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition ... They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (Psalm 17:6-15).

Jesus presented the disciples to the Father as what they would become in Him. This is how Jesus thinks about each one who clings to Him in faith

Our memory text asks the question, "If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" (Psalm 130:3). The answer is, nobody. About the Great Exchange, Ellen White pens these words: "Christ is speaking to every human being. Whether they know it or not, all are weary and heavy-laden. All are weighed down with the burdens that only Christ can remove. The heaviest burden that we bear is the burden of sin. If we were left to bear this burden, it would crush us. But the Sinless One has taken our place" (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 329).

“The robe of Christ's righteousness is prepared for all those who will exchange their own sinful, filthy garments for the robe Jesus has prepared for them. This garment was furnished at great cost by the Son of God, and he presents it as a free gift to any one, rich or poor, high or low, wise or ignorant, who will exchange his sin-defiled garments for this robe of matchless purity…[I]s it not a matter of great astonishment that every human being is not willing to make this exchange? 

“But we see with sorrow many…who wrap themselves in these sin-defiled garments, and will cling to them and refuse the pure garments Jesus has purchased for them at the price of his own life. Can we wonder at the language of Paul, when writing to some in similar circumstances: "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Christ hath evidently been set forth, crucified among you?" It is the bewitching power of Satan that blinds the eyes of the understanding so that sin does not appear exceeding sinful” (Ellen White, Youth’s InstructorThe Youth's Instructor Articles, August 11, 1886).

“Christ bears the burden of the worlds guilt, and bears it easily. Our sin crushes us, and presses us down to destruction; but He swallows up death in victory. Though sin crushed out His life, yet He rises from the dead with the freshness of eternal life. Whoever knows this, and believes the truth, that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, will of course let the burden fall entirely on Him who is able to bear it, and will thus be free” (E. J. Waggoner, Present Truth, page 690).

"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity ..." (Psalm 32:1, 2).

--Glen Striemer

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Honor is a priceless treasure. Highly valued by God, it is a solid foundation for lasting relationships, and a powerful tool for the development of Christian character. We are called to “honor the king,” “honor all men,” and most importantly to “honor father and mother.” It is a part of the principle of agape love. Walking “honorably” allows precious encounters with Christ which can be experienced in no other way.

Humans use the word “honor” frequently, but many human counselors give it vastly differing definitions. The natural heart wants a definition of honor which leaves plenty of room for the “self” to stay in control. My desire to find real solutions drove me to the Bible for guidance about relationships and honor.

The first and most crucial of our life relationships is that child to parent. The tone of this relationship affects all the other relationships of life. It is so important importance that God, who wrote in ten brief commands the entire sum of the laws needed for mankind to live in peace on the earth, dedicated an entire commandment to this one topic. Further, it is the one command to which God affixed an explicit promise. This relationship, therefore, bears serious consideration. Since the fifth commandment begins with the word, “honor,” I wanted to know exactly what God means by the word.

The apostle Paul says, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another” (Romans 12:10). This use of the word „honor‟ was fine with me as long as I was the one to decide what it meant. But in Ephesians 6:1 Paul says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.” Good Christian counselors assured me that this means we are to obey our parents so long as they are godly, and so long as their counsel is right. But then I read on: “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:20). I began to feel that Paul had quit preaching and gone to meddling. Yet I saw that it makes sense. The fifth commandment does not differentiate between good parents and bad parents. Clearly, the blessing of God rests on obedient children no matter what sort of parents they have. Furthermore, if it is up to me to decide whether or not my parents‟ counsel is valuable, I might as well not have parents at all. I just need to consult with myself. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17). In obeying parents we are obeying God, for He is the One who commands it.

It does seem rather „old-fashioned‟ to honor or prefer your parent‟s wishes, counsel, and advice above your own personal plans and ideas. Yet that special promise attached to the fifth commandment seems designed to lure us into obedience. As I personally wrestled with this concept, a sincere gentleman suggested that I needed to be very careful not to get away from the Lord‟s will just to "please" my parents. He said that I could "honor" them by following what I felt the Lord calling me to do, even though that precluded obeying my parents. So then I had to ask, “Does being in the center of the Lord's will mean, as Paul puts it, to „obey your parents in all things‟?”

A diligent search through the inspired writings leads to the conclusion that a Christian will not only obey parents, but that “it should be the study of your life to make your parents happy” (Ellen White, Youth’s Instructor, September 1, 1873). The one exception to implicit obedience is if the parents require something which conflicts with a clear, simple „thus saith the Lord.‟ In such cases, a choice to obey a „thus saith the Lord‟ is described as being „painful.‟ “When children have unbelieving parents, and their commands contradict the requirements of Christ, then, painful though it may be, they must obey God and trust the consequences with Him” (Ellen White, Adventist Home, page 293). Incidentally, in no case does God‟s will include marrying someone of whom the parents do not approve – even if this should mean one never marries (see Ellen White, Adventist Home, page 75).

“But,” someone says, “You are an adult now. God does not mean for you to submerge your individuality under your parents‟ whims for the rest of your life! You have to learn to let God speak to you, individually!”

Is not the written Word of God His message to me, personally? “This [fifth commandment] is the first commandment with promise. It is binding upon childhood and youth, upon the middle-aged and the aged. There is no period in life when children are excused from honoring their parents. This solemn obligation is binding upon every son and daughter, and is one of the conditions to their prolonging their lives upon the land which the Lord will give the faithful. This is not a subject unworthy of notice, but a matter of vital importance” (Ellen White, Testimonies Volume 2, page 80). I, personally, do hope to claim the reward mentioned in the fifth commandment, so should I not follow the command on which this promise is based? Adventists who, above all others, claim to be keepers of all ten of God‟s commandments would do well to make sure that we do not keep the fourth while rejecting the fifth!

The story of Joseph helps me to understand the promise attached to the fifth commandment and the true beauty of God‟s leading through the relationships of life. Joseph “learned to bear the yoke in his youth. He learned to govern by first learning obedience. He humbled himself, and the Lord exalted him to special honor” (Ellen White, The Bible Commentary, Volume 1, page 1097). After being sold as a slave, Joseph spent the rest of his preparation for the Egyptian court implicitly obeying the whims of his heathen masters. First he served Potiphar. Then while, faithfully carrying out his duties, he received a command from Potiphar‟s wife which conflicted with God‟s clearly revealed will. Joseph chose to obey God and leave the consequences with Him. Yet, according to the word of God, Joseph remained obedient to his masters in everything else which did not clearly conflict with the law of God. He served so faithfully, even in the prison, that the keeper could trust Joseph to follow his orders implicitly. Far from losing his „personal identity‟ through all those years of godly submission, Joseph was thus trained for the highest service to God and man. “The religion of the Bible never degrades the receiver; on the contrary, it elevates and ennobles all who accept and obey its teachings” (Ellen White, Counsels to Teachers, p. 97).

Many years after Joseph died, it came time for Israel to leave Egypt. God sent Moses, not to start a rebellion, but merely to tell the Pharaoh that God wanted him to release the Hebrews. The Israelites were to remain in service to Pharaoh until such time as God dealt with that king and changed his heart. Following the same principle, Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon – not demanding, but requesting that Philemon forgive the servant and set him free. “The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1, 2). This principle applies as much to parents and other God-ordained authority figures as it does to Philemon and the kings of Egypt.

Some think it „confining‟ to be in submission to authorities. They fear a lack of „individuality‟. I have found it both freeing and fulfilling. The more that we learn the true meaning of honor, esteeming others better than ourselves, the more God can create His character in us. If God has not brought my parents around to my way of thinking, I can be sure that either my feelings on the matter are wrong, or the timing is not right. There may be some flaw in my own character which needs to be dealt with before God can trust me with His assignments. Since surrendering to God‟s definition of the word „honor‟, I have discovered that miracles are not a thing of the past. My admiration for God has grown by leaps and bounds, and my faith has been strengthened. Peace is becoming a familiar companion. God‟s ways truly are best.

Coming into right relationship to my parents has strengthened my other relationships. It is a wonderful way of learning to be in perfect submission to my Heavenly Father. It brings me into closer sympathy with Christ. Paul says, “Be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves…Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:2-8).

--Lisa Kaye Puffer

Thursday, January 13, 2011


First Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
For the week of January 9 - 15, 2011
When it comes to eating in fancy restaurants the most outlandish oddities on the menu come with the most exorbitant prices. Often they are presented in unusual settings. Imagine having a flock of ravens for waiters. What a presentation! Faithful Elijah was nourished from the beaks of ravens. The only problem is that ravens are considered to be unclean. They were among the creatures perched on the sheet that came down in Peter’s dream.   If being fed by ravens is not stress inducing it must at least be appetite suppressing. Would it not have been more appetizing had a flock of tropical macaws delivered the meal?  
Has God ever delivered truth to you through the some unlikely vehicle or person?    Be very careful how you judge the means God chooses to bring spiritual nourishment. One might just be rejecting the very truth that the soul is needing most. 
What if you had twenty-four hours to live? How would you live it? Jezebel sent Elijah a twenty-four hour ultimatum, thus giving him an opportunity to learn something about himself that he had not known before. He bolted and ran, praying along the way that God would let him die before Jezebel could get to him. Praise to our loving God for sending an angel to put him through a depression recovery program of good nutrition, rest and time alone with God. It seems that even the prophet of the Lord was subjected to depression that seems to be the result of inappropriately dealing with a stressful situation. How could this happen to such a pillar of faith? How can we avoid falling into a similar trap?
First, we must accepted without reservation the facts regarding the condition of our hearts. The Bible says, “The Heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Even Elijah, after God’s great miracles, had a heart that wanted to take some credit for the amazing power of God that came in answer to the prayer of faith. He wanted everyone to recognize that his calling has been of God all along. He wanted to see an immediate and complete revival and reformation.   
Stress can come from the tension between reputation and character-between what we think we are and what we really are-between the outcomes we want and the outcomes God allows. Stress can also be the energy expended to do, in our own strength, what God has promised to do for us. How much energy have you used in trying to protect your reputation? It is hard work that does not bring a reward. Could this be what Elijah was experiencing? Stress that led to depression?   Here is some sound advice from Elder A. T. Jones.
 “I want to know how anybody is going to stand faithful to the third angel's message and do the work of that message who cares particularly what people say about him and has much respect for reputation or puts his dependence upon reputation? He cannot do it. But thank the Lord, God has something a great deal better for us to depend upon, and that is character. Let us not forget that Jesus, our example in this world, "made himself of no reputation" (A. T. Jones, General Conference Daily Bulletin, February 3, 1893 p. 124).
The experience of Elijah mirrors what God is taking us through. I know that you are going through trials where God is weaning you from your own reputation and presenting to you His perfect Character. This journey of character development is a painful process, but God is wonderfully orchestrating it from His Sanctuary. One of the least understood aspects of the gospel is one of the greatest stress reducers if rightly understood; namely the work of the Comforter. Jesus said, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).
When you are convicted of sin do you feel comforted? Jesus says that this is the work of the Comforter. Here is a wonderful thought by Elder Waggoner: “Mark well the fact that the first work of the Comforter is to convict of sin. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, which pierces ‘even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.’ Yet even while sending the keenest and deepest conviction, the Spirit is the Comforter. He is none the less the Comforter in convicting of sin, than in revealing the righteousness of God for the remission of the sin. There is comfort in the conviction which God sends. The surgeon who cuts to the very bone, that he may remove the poisonous death-breeding substance from the flesh, does it only that he may successfully apply the healing oil” (E. J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, p. 290
Here is the same thought expressed more eloquently by the Messenger of the Lord: “Repentant sinners have no cause to despair because they are reminded of their transgressions and warned of their danger. These very efforts in their behalf show how much God loves them and desires to save them. They have only to follow His counsel and do His will, to inherit eternal life. God sets the sins of His erring people before them, that they may behold them in all their enormity under the light of divine truth. It is then their duty to renounce them forever” (Ellen White, Courage and Conflict, p. 8).
We have the opportunity to cooperate with God as He cleanses His people. Do you sense the work of the Holy Spirit plowing deeper to show you things about yourself you did not know? Do not despair. God is working out the Elijah message in your life. God is turning us from self-centered observers into Christ-centered, fruit-bearing Christians whom He can use to bless others. Thank God for this cleansing work. Surrender to this process is a powerful cure for stress. His word to you is, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Ricky Kearns
Health Nugget: Are you starting the new year with a resolution to exercise more?  Here is something to help you stick with it.  Everyone knows that the skeleton is made of bone. Bone is composed mainly of calcium. This too is common knowledge. What is surprising and motivational is that calcium is deposited in the bones, not during periods of rest, but during periods of weight-bearing exercise--or stress. So get on the treadmill if you are in colder climes or go for a brisk walk if you are in sunnier environments.  Subjecting the body to the stressors for which the Creator designed it actually increases our ability to deal with the negative physical and mental stressors which are unavoidable in this life.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

“Divine Provision for Anxiety”

“Divine Provision for Anxiety”

Twins Joseph and Jenna returned from school one day to see their mom sitting on the floor surrounded by small piles of pictures.  “What are you doing mom?” they asked her.  “Just organizing these pictures to put in a scrap book,” she replied.  Soon the twins’ dad came in, discouraged because he still could not find a job.  Seeing his wife sitting on the floor, he decided to take over organizing the pictures, so she could prepare supper.  Later the family gathered for their customary evening devotions. Just prior to opening the Bible, the father held up two pictures he had picked out of the pile of photos on the floor.  One was of his daughter in a bathrobe just after her operation for a ruptured appendix. The second photo showed their old car which frequently needed repairs.
 Impatient for devotions to begin, Joseph asked his dad what these two old photos had to do with worship. “Just this,” replied his dad.  “Remember when Jenna had that operation?  She could have died, but God is so good to us – He healed her and gave back her health, and our insurance actually covered the bill. And remember when the transmission had to be replaced? We had no money, but God provided the money through that painting job on old Mr. Wilson’s home.” 
Still puzzled, Joseph said, “But Dad, what does all of this have to do with worship?” 
“Son,” the father replied.  “I think God wants us to always remember what He’s done for us in the past.  As He was faithful then, He will continue to lead and help us in the future.”  Then he opened his Bible and read from Psalm 77:11, 12.  “I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember Thy wonders of old.  I will meditate also of all Thy work, and talk of Thy doings.” 
Do you have stressors in your life that cause problems in the present and worries about the future?  A good way to banish worry is to remember what God has done for you in the past, and to believe He will help you now.  Luke 21:34 says, “Take heed to yourselves, lest at anytime your hearts are overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, so the day come upon you unawares.”
The Bible has a lot to say about cares and worries.  Remember the story of Mary and Martha? Let’s look at the passage in Luke 10:38-42
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he (Christ) entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?  Bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Jesus’ answer to Martha shows that the real issue was not the amount of work needing to be accomplished. The real issue was the condition of Martha’s heart. 
In verse 40, we see that Martha was ‘cumbered’ with care.  The word ‘cumbered’ in Greek is perispao, which means to be distracted with care, to be troubled or distressed.  Martha was anxiously weighted or burdened with her concerns.  She was so frustrated, that she could not really ‘see’ Jesus as He was (is), which is the one constant in life.  This inability to see Him clearly led her to place blame on Mary, and even on Jesus, leading her to imply that He did not care about her sufferings.  
Martha’s question is all too common. Jesus, who is the one consistent, eternally loving, infinitely wise being in our lives, so often hears us cry out, “Why aren’t you constant in your care and provision for me?” We, who are so hopelessly faulty and inconsistent, ask Him this!
Consider the anxious disciples who were caught in a strong storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41).  Jesus was peacefully asleep in the hull of the boat while the disciples battled with the raging sea.  “Master!” they called, after it became clear that their most heroic efforts were insufficient to keep the ship afloat, “Don’t you care that we perish?”   
Like Martha, their anxiety led them to misjudge their Savior.  Have we not said the same thing –
Jesus! Don’t You care? Why are You letting this happen to me?”  We who are fickle and inconsistent, are asking the eternally vigilant, eternally constant One, “Why aren’t you constant in your care and provision for me?”  
When someone hurls such an accusing question at us, we feel offended. But Jesus, in His tender love and compassion, ignores the personal insult and calms the storm through His Father’s word, saying, “Peace be still.” Then, after giving His disciples another evidence of His love and care for them, Jesus says to them sadly, “How is it that you have no faith?”
In Desire of Ages, Ellen White wrote regarding this experience, “When Jesus was awakened to meet the storm, He was in perfect peace.  But He rested not in the possession of almighty power. It was not ‘as the Master of earth, sea and sky’ that He reposed in quiet.  That power He had laid down, and He says of Himself, ‘I can of mine own self do nothing’ (Desire of Ages, page 336, italics added for emphasis). This brings to mind a line from a Scott Kryppane song, “Sometimes He calms the storm, and sometimes He calms the child.”
God has given all mankind emotions so that we may experience the beauty of love and joy and peace.   In the body we receive information and sensations which are then translated into emotions.  Negative emotions such as anxiety and fear alert us that we need to cast our cares upon Christ, our divine Care Giver.  Often during our Christian walk, faith and feelings part ways.  The mind that is stayed upon the Word is the mind that will find peace in the midst of the storm. Let us by all means endeavor to live by the Word in all things – remembering and rehearsing the ways He has answered our prayers, and fulfilled His promises to us in the past.
--Raul Diaz
The divine perscription for anxiety and fear is trust - - rest and trust  (Psalms 37:7, 40). 
The Lord says in Isaiah  41:10 "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."