Friday, September 27, 2013

"The Promised Revival"

Third Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Promised Revival"
For the week of Sept. 28, 2013

Our lesson this week contains thrilling promises of what will happen when the latter rain message swells to a loud cry and the whole earth is lightened with the glory of God.

Lately, I've been listening to the audio recordings from this summer's 1888 Message Study Committee National Conference on the 1888msc website. These sermons are tremendous, and I encourage you to listen and be blessed. In his talk about our motivation for evangelism, Will Perguson shared this quote: "We were brought into existence because we were needed." ST, April 22, 1903.

If you are alive and reading this Insights today, it is because from eternity past God looked down through the ages and saw the time in history when He could best utilize you to share the gospel with others who, were it not for you, would never hear of the wonderful gift of salvation.

We are living at a time which prophets through the ages longed to see -- the conclusion of the great controversy.

The lesson for Sabbath afternoon acknowledges that as a church we are not keeping up with the world's population growth in our evangelistic efforts. Every day, there are more people who have heard the gospel and even more who haven't. Nevertheless, our lesson says, "the mission is God's, and He will accomplish it. At the same time, however, we . . . have . . . a crucial role in that final work, as well."

And what would that role be?

In the gospel paradigm, God's first work in those who desire to have a part in finishing the work is to lay the glory of man in the dust. This is a humbling experience, and it's best if we humble ourselves rather wait for God to humble us.

Paul could have humbled himself after witnessing the stoning of Stephen. Instead, he continued persecuting Christians. God had a work for Paul, but he wasn't ready while self was still on the throne. When the righteousness of Christ was revealed to Paul on the road to Damascus, what did Paul do? Did he straighten his tie and stand erect and tall before the crowd of astonished onlookers? Did he pose for pictures and autograph the memory books of those who were fortunate enough to witness his divine encounter?

No, God's first work when He calls us in service is to lay our glory in the dust. And where do we find Paul after the revelation of Christ's righteousness? Literally, on the ground. No longer the proud Pharisee; he was lying in the dirt. Blinded by the light of the revelation of Jesus, he couldn't even see those gathered about him. It was time for him to learn the Bible all over again with new eyes.

The Lord needed Paul. Where would we be today without his letters in the New Testament? He is the one the Lord chose to explain the gospel to the Gentiles of his day and to every generation since. Under the unction of the Holy Spirit, the gospel was preached to the world in a few short years. What a thrilling time that must have been!

Have you ever been on a flight that isn't permitted to land due to some trouble on the ground or perhaps a thunderstorm? Occasionally, flights are diverted, but more often they are put in a holding pattern, flying in a wide circle above the airport until the control tower gives permission to land. During that waiting time, have you noticed how people on the plane start feeling anxious, especially if there's a lot of turbulence in the air?

Sometimes it seems like we as Adventists view the delay in Christ's second advent like being a helpless passenger on a plane that is flying in a holding pattern.

There is a big difference, though. Passengers cannot make the plane land sooner. But in the case of the future of our planet, believers do have an opportunity to bring our earthly flight to an end. The apostle Peter says it is our privilege to look for and hasten "the coming of the day of God."

The Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost to make the early church efficient in communicating the gospel to the world. Paul received this gift on the Damascus Road when the Holy Spirit revealed Christ crucified to him.

Afterward, Paul eventually rose to his feet and was led away from that place. But he left something behind -- his glory. It was laid in the dust forever, and hence Paul could say, "For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake." 2 Cor. 4:5. The gospel is not the story of what I'm doing for God, it's the story of what Jesus has done for me. The cross reveals that I am nothing, and that He is everything.

The work of the third angel's message that will soon lighten the earth with the glory of God is one in which "there can be no self-exaltation, no boastful claim to freedom from sin, on the part of those who walk in the shadow of Calvary's cross. They feel that it was their sin which caused the agony that broke the heart of the Son of God, and this thought will lead them to self-abasement. Those who live nearest to Jesus discern most clearly the frailty and sinfulness of humanity, and their only hope is in the merit of a crucified and risen Saviour." GC 471.

Wednesday's lesson teaches that the work of the Holy Spirit is to baptize us with fire. Those who are willing to submit to this cleansing fire now will not experience the torture of this sin-consuming fire at the end of the 1,000 years. Isaiah explains that the saved will live with the "everlasting burnings" (Is. 33:14) throughout eternity, and even now that fire can burn in the hearts of those who believe the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. As they share from place to place their testimony of what Christ has done from them, the fire of the Holy Spirit burning from within will be revealed on their countenances. Instead of expressing terror at the calamities that are coming on the earth, their faces will shine "with holy consecration" as they "hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven." GC 612, as quoted in Thursday's lesson.

By what means did God work to lay the glory of Paul in the dust? The revelation of Jesus Christ. This is the message the Lord in His great mercy sent to prepare us for Christ's coming more than 120 years ago, and there is no other way to get off this planet than by way of the preaching of the cross. "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1 Cor. 1:18

Each of us living on this planet to whom has been revealed this precious message bears the highest obligation to share the power of the cross with those around us. God needs you. He needs me. If not us, then who?

-Patti Guthrie

Raul Diaz

Thursday, September 12, 2013

“Reformation: Thinking New Thoughts”

Third Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Reformation: Thinking New Thoughts”
For the week of Sept. 14, 2013

Salt in Water
Growing up I remember seeing the men in my neighborhood work on their overheated cars. They would take a rag, remove the radiator cap, and release the steam which had been building. The men then poured water from a hose in the radiator to cool it down. Anyone hearing that now is likely to think that's crazy, as coolant, an antifreeze/water mixture, is what is currently in use.  Antifreeze was developed to overcome the shortcomings of water as a heat transfer fluid.   The same mixture works as both coolant and antifreeze.  With antifreeze a wide temperature range can be tolerated by the engine coolant, such as -34 °F (-37 °C) to +265 °F (129 °C); as compared to water which is 32 °F (0 °C) to +212 °F (100 °C).  With only water in the engine, the water will turn into steam before the engine can reach its maximum temperature and will freeze when the temperature falls below 32 °F causing damage to the engine.  The central idea here is that when water is mixed with another substance, the freezing point is lower than it would be with water alone, and conversely the boiling point is higher.

This is the principle behind using salt to melt ice or salted water to make ice-cream.  Let us begin with the melting of ice.  Ice cubes melt faster in salinated water than non-salinated water.  When the salt touches the ice, the salt is warmer than the ice, thereby causing it to melt. Once the ice melts, it mixes with the salt creating a saline solution, thus, lowering water's freezing point.  Because the cold temperature is not cold enough to freeze the saline solution it remains a liquid.

When making ice cream, the ingredients are placed in a container which is then inserted into a larger reservoir filled with salt, water and ice.  The salt lowers the temperature of the water thereby making the water colder and thus the ice takes longer to melt. In other words, to make ice cream, the temperature around the mixture needs to be lower than 32 F so it will freeze. Salt mixed with ice creates brine which has a temperature lower than 32 F, in fact, the temperature reaches approximately 0 F. The brine is so cold that it easily freezes the ice cream mixture.

Christ told the disciples - and us, that we are to be the salt of the world (Matthew 5:39). What exactly did He mean? Well, we know salt flavors, preserves and melts.  What does this mean spiritually? Many articles have addressed the Christian’s flavoring of the world, and their preserving of Christ’s standards for all to see, but not much has been said of the melting properties of the salt on Christians.

Taking in consideration what we have learned as to why ice melts when in touch with salt, what is really happening is that there is a wider range of tolerance toward extreme conditions.  Thus the person who possesses the salt of Christ will have a greater capacity to endure trials.  What would harden someone's heart or cause a person to explode in anger will not harden or cause an explosion in a "salty" Christian.

One example is when Daniel's friends were thrown into the fiery furnace (Daniel chapter 3).  “This incident revealed that the faith of these three Hebrew young men was as gold tried in the fire.” (Our High Calling, 312).  Those who threw the Worthies in the furnace were scorched to death because they had no salt or no member of the Godhead with them. While Daniel's friends walked around the furnace as if the furnace itself was not hot. Ellen White says, "The three worthies endured the fiery furnace, for Jesus walked with them in the fiery flame." (Testimony to the Church, Vol. 3, p. 47).  In other words, they were preserved.

Through the presence of Christ, their tolerance for heat increased. In this story, there is a spiritual lesson.  Not bowing to the image meant death. The King had no problem killing anyone that would not do as he said.  But, yielding to the King in this case meant sinning against God.  According to the record, only these three Hebrews remained faithful.  All of the other subjects, nobles, and prisoners bowed down to the image (Daniel was not present).  In the face of this imminent threat, the Hebrew worthies chose death over sin.

Seemingly, what brought the other Hebrews to forsake God was not enough for these three young men to Sin. They were able to endure where their countrymen and professed fellow believers failed.  Was there anything these three did differently?  In Daniel 1, we read that they refused to eat of the King's table.  Ellen White says they would not dare to take a risk on, "the enervating effect of luxury and dissipation on physical, mental and spiritual development… they knew that their own physical and mental power would be injuriously affected by the use of wine... In reaching this decision, the Hebrew youth did not act presumptuously but in firm reliance upon God. They did not choose to be singular, but they would be so, rather than dishonor God. Should they compromise with wrong in this instance by yielding to the pressure of circumstances, their departure from principle would weaken their sense of right and their abhorrence of wrong. The first wrong step would lead to others, until, their connection with Heaven severed, they would be swept away by temptation." (A Call to Stand Apart, 54).

We can read in Ellen White's writings how important appetite is; let's continue reading: “To every soul Satan comes with temptation in many alluring forms on the point of indulgence of appetite.  The body is a most important medium through which the mind and the soul are developed for the up building of character. Hence it is that the adversary of souls directs his temptations to the enfeebling and degrading of the physical powers. His success here often means the surrender of the whole being to evil.” (A Call to Stand Apart, 56). 

This passage reveals the importance of disciplining our body, “bringing it into subjection lest that by any means, when we’ve preached to others, we should be castaway" (1 Corinthians 9:27).  The concept of disciplining our body, and bringing its appetites into subjection to Christ, is what is meant by having our mind – our understanding renewed so that our thinking and practices or habits are transformed (Romans 12: 2).  The mind, residing within the brain, is an essential component of the body.  A body given to indulgence will invariably affect the mind adversely and vice versa. Hence, Paul's preface from the previous verse, "that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world..." (Romans 12:1- 2).  Sister White has this to say: “A sanctified life, like that of Daniel and his friends, will be evident in physical health practices.”  

Friends, a victorious Christian life is one in which the devil cannot have access to the mind and the soul by tempting the body with many alluring forms of temptations on the point of indulgence of appetite; Just as with Jesus, the devil had nothing on Daniel and his friends (John 14: 30). They were like those spoken of in Revelation 14:4, 5 and 12.

These are followers of God who in submission to Him go wherever He leads, are undefiled, guileless and pure; without fault before the throne of God, they are redeemed from among men, and will be the first fruits before His throne. These are they that treasure and cherish the commandments of God, and possess the faith of Jesus.

The faith of Christ is that which allowed Him to listen more attentively and eagerly until his listening culminated in His death on the cross as the ultimate demonstration of God’s wooing love for mankind.

All the commandments hang on love --agape – to God supremely, with whole mind, body and spirit, and then to man. It is this love which melts or hardens hearts. May we, by grace through faith, be the salt of the world.

-Raul Diaz

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fwd: Fw: Sabbath School Today, Lesson 11, Quarter 3-13

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Raul Diaz <>
Date: Wed, Sep 11, 2013 at 6:55 AM
Subject: Fw: Sabbath School Today, Lesson 11, Quarter 3-13
To: Raul Diaz <>

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Revival & Reformation
Lesson 11: "Reformation: Thinking New Thoughts"
Most religions and philosophies teach that it is possible to redirect thought patterns of the mind with enough conscious effort. Concentration or meditation is usually the method recommended, so the devout spend as much time as possible emptying the mind of earthly thoughts in anticipation of some epiphany from the gods. If you haven't reached nirvana, you must try harder; the gods will remain indifferent to you until you reach that elusive highest level.
This is an old covenant counterfeit of Satan, but like all counterfeits, it contains elements that are true. It is true that God wants our thought patterns to change, not to bring Him closer to us, but so we can accept more of His blessings. It is true that meditation helps to focus the mind, but not as an end unto itself, as a means of making our minds available to God. The "epiphany" may or may not happen, but like the phenomenon of receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, it isn't to give us a mystical experience known only by the individual. Any epiphany comes from seeing new facets of God as we meditate on His word, not on "nothing" in the hope of getting a private revelation.
It is true that by beholding, we become changed. What does it mean to "behold"? It can't mean that we look at an object 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The only thing a Christian should want is to become more like Christ, so logically, he or she should spend time studying and meditating on Him. This sounds simple, but we have an enemy who is trying to crowd our lives with everything else. There are so many distractions in this world, we tend to think of them as irresistible, but that's a lie of Satan. True, the distractions like your TV exist, but it's just a box/screen that you have. Unless you have programmed it, it doesn't turn itself on or to specific channels. The choice of when, how much, and what you watch depends on you. We tend to think of the TV's enticements as irresistible, but like all the world's other distractions, it's always a choice.
The problem is how to make the right choices. The answer cannot be a works-oriented effort to reprogram our mind to never make wrong choices. E. J. Waggoner described it this way:
"Let us now apply this illustration in a case of conflict against sin. Here comes a strong temptation to do a thing known to be wrong. We have often proved to our sorrow the strength of the temptation, because it has vanquished us, so that we know that we have no might against it. But now our eyes are upon the Lord, who has told us to come with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. So we begin to pray to God for help. And we pray to the God that is revealed to us in the Bible as the Creator of heaven and earth. We begin, not with a mournful statement of our weakness, but with a joyful acknowledgment of God's mighty power. That being settled, we can venture to state our difficulty and our weakness. If we state our weakness first, and our discouraging situation, we are placing ourselves before God. In that case Satan will magnify the difficulty and throw his darkness around us so that we can see nothing else but our weakness, and so, although our cries and pleading may be fervent and agonizing, they will be in vain, because they will lack the essential element of believing that God is, and that He is all that He has revealed Himself to be" (Christ and His Righteousness, p. 92).
We are admonished to "let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5), but how do we do that? Paul outlines the steps Christ was willing to submit to in coming to this earth: "although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped" (vs. 6). How does this help the person struggling with sin? We aren't God, but often we try to be. Idolatry is, ultimately, the worship of self and one's own ideas. We are not equal with God and any attempt to insert our own philosophy of how to worship Him is paying homage to ourselves. When Adam decided to eat the forbidden fruit, he was asserting his ideas of what was best for him above what God had instructed. We must never forget that He is our creator God.
Christ laid aside His divine privileges and took the form of a bond-servant (vss. 7, 8). Humans never want to step down and lower their position in life, the desire is always to improve and advance. Christ was willing to humble Himself in obedience to the requirements of the plan of salvation agreed to by the Godhead (vs. 8).
In the ultimate act of humility, Christ submitted to the most feared method of death, that of the cross. The Jews were instructed (Deut. 21:22, 23) that if you were sentenced to death on a "tree," you were cursed by God and had no hope for resurrection. It is one thing for Christ to have died for the unknowing and ungrateful human race, but it was by faith that Christ was willing to become a curse for us with the very real possibility of never seeing life again. Christ was willing to believe His heavenly Father's promise not to leave Him in Sheol (the grave, Psalm 49:15).
Our humility is what God needs to let His Holy Spirit work in our minds to change them. "And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. The will, refined and sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us" (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 668).
Satan always appeals to our old covenant nature, which strives to contribute to everything concerning our experience with God. With Israel of old we promise to God "all that the Lord has spoken we will do!" (Ex. 19:8). We don't realize we are born with enmity to His law and need His creative power to change that.
The good news is that God has promised to do just that for us. "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the Lord, "I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people (Jer. 31:33). "And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances, and do them. Then they will be My people and I shall be their God" (Ezek. 11:19, 20).
Notice the Person doing all the action is God, not us. No amount of concentration will change our thoughts which were "hard wired" into our stony heart, but a Creator God can give a new heart of flesh. What a wonderful hope!
--Arlene Hill
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Raul Diaz

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Christ and His Righteousness - Jack Sequeira in Downers Grove

Retired Pastor Jack Sequeira — At Downers Grove Church, 5524 Lee Ave, Downers Grove, Fri., Sept. 20, at 7 PM and Sabbath, Sept. 21, at 11 AM, 2:30 PM, and 4 PM speaking on the theme Christ and His Righteousness. There will be a potluck meal served.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

“Reformation: The Willingness to Grow and Change”

Third Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Reformation: The Willingness to Grow and Change”
For the week of Sept. 7, 2013

Our lesson this week is about the continual transformation that must take place in our lives. Each day of the week’s lesson illustrates renovating grace in the lives of the first disciples of Christ. These are examples of what God’s grace will do in those who are faulty, but “willing to be made willing. Not only is God’s grace a justifying grace (Rom 3:24), it is also His power working within us to change us and to grow us more and more into the likeness of Christ. Grace is always greater and stronger than our sinful nature and our sin (Rom 5:20). If it were not so, it would be impossible for us to change or to grow.

Growth and change does not involve our promises and pledges, for these are ropes of sand. Continual faith and the willingness to cooperate with God that is key to constant transformation. Our cooperation does not depend on our spiritual “back bone” or, in other words, our will power. However, cooperation does involve the power of the will. The strength of the will is in choosing. The power comes from surrendering the will to God’s will. This is where the battle of every believer (and of every unbeliever) is won or lost. Grace, faith and surrender of the will to God are the deciding factors in reformation, in change and growth.

Reform is not always easy. In fact “history has proved that it is easier to destroy the world than to reform it.” But reform is much easier when we are dead to self: “Why is it so hard to lead a self-denying, humble life? Because professed Christians are not dead to the world. It is easy living after we are dead.” 

So we must not “conclude that the upward path is the hard and the downward road the easy way. All along the road that leads to death there are pains and penalties, there are sorrows and disappointments, there are warnings not to go on. God's love has made it hard for the heedless and headstrong to destroy themselves. It is true that Satan's path is made to appear attractive, but it is all a deception; in the way of evil there are bitter remorse and cankering care.” 

    A.T. Jones put it this way:  “It can never be repeated too often that under the reign of grace it is just as easy to do right as under the reign of sin it is easy to do wrong. This must be so, for if there is not more power in grace than there is in sin, then there can be no salvation from sin.  … Salvation from sin certainly depends upon there being more power in grace than there is in sin....”

   What we “need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him.”

    As soon as the will is submitted to Jesus, He immediately takes control of any situation in which we find ourselves. In writing to a young man who went back into his habits of sinning, Mrs White penned:
   “It is for you to yield up your will to the will of Jesus Christ; and as you do this, God will immediately take possession and work in you to will and to do of His good pleasure. Your whole nature will then be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ, and even your thoughts will be subject to Him.”

   And she also recorded: “God wishes us to have the mastery over ourselves. But He cannot help us without our consent and co-operation. The divine Spirit works through the powers and faculties given to man. Of ourselves, we are not able to bring the purposes and desires and inclinations into harmony with the will of God; but if we are "willing to be made willing," the Saviour will accomplish this for us, "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5.”

    We observe this in the experiences of Christ’s disciples. With the exception of one, all the apostles experienced the surrender of their wills to the will of God. This was not without incident. They were selfish and proud. James and John, the “sons of thunder,” became apostles of love. Doubting Thomas became a heart-felt believer. The denying Peter became a most self-sacrificing apostle. Even the brothers of Jesus “did not believe in Him” (John 7:5), but they too were changed into believers and grew in grace (Acts 1:14).  What made the change in all of these? It was the cross of Christ. Notice the following thought:

     “The cross stands alone, a great center in the world. It does not find friends, but it makes them. It creates its own agencies. Christ proposes that men shall become laborers together with God. He makes human beings His instrumentalities for drawing all men unto Himself. A divine agency is sufficient only through its operation on human hearts with its transforming power, making men colaborers with God”

    In closing, the foundation of all reformation is always based on the cross. This is always true.  When a person is “willing to be made willing” change and growth will occur. Christ then is permitted to work within us and we will work out what He works in. (Phil 2:13, 12). 

-Jerry Finneman

 Ellen White, Review and Herald, August 26, 1890.
 Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 131.
 Thoughts From The Mount of Blessing,  p. 139.
 A.T. Jones, Review and Herald, Sept 1, 1889.
 White, Steps to Christ p. 47.
 White, Testimonies for the Church vol. 5, p. 514.
 White, The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 482, 483; see also The Mount of Blessings, pp. 142, 143.
 Review and Herald. Sept. 29, 1891.