Monday, March 25, 2013

“Creation, Again”

First Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Creation, Again”
For the week of March 30, 2013

Creation: Again

Bill was a man on a mission. As an entrepreneur in a network marketing business franchise, he was involved in every aspect of the business, which meant not only sales, but attendance at numerous meetings and training sessions.  Although initially Bill barely broke even, he worked hard, and was quite pleased with the financial outlook of his company. One consistent factor Bill noticed as his business grew was that without fail, almost all of the successful entrepreneurs he met had good people skills.  Yes, they were good salesmen, but they lived by a principle which said, “Products do not move people, people move products;” In other words, people are moved by other people. It is disinterested service which is the by product of agape that has power. (The power of Influence)

Determined to make his business work, Bill abided by this theory, but he wasn’t quite sold on it. Over time however, Bill began to notice that when he frequented restaurants, retail shops, hardware stores, and even supply houses, this principle was in effect. There was an observable pattern. The establishments, whose staff treated guests and customers well, were more likely to be financially stable, and even profitable; while the businesses where service was subpar were eventually closed or bought out by other companies.

Almost everywhere Bill went he observed the same pattern. Curious, he began looking for it. And he found it in operation even in the churches he attended. The churches where the brethren felt welcomed and loved were full. In contrast, the churches where the brethren were treated indifferently, unfairly or inequitably were empty.  Although the empty churches had many names listed on their roster, as well as a steady stream of visitors, neither the visitors nor many of the members returned. 

When Bill asked friends from a church who lacked members why they thought the number of attendees was so low, they responded, “We don’t know, but we’ve done everything we could do.” “We conducted surveys, and acted on the information given” “We changed our worship program and style format, added programs and seminars that people said they wanted, we even refurbished our building, but very few have stayed. We can’t figure out what went wrong.”

Perplexed, Bill thought, “These people have had a poor return on their investment; don’t they know people move people?” And the more he pondered this idea, the more he thought, “It’s not really that people move people, it’s thoughtful, kind, considerate and caring (loving) attitudes, demonstrated in efficient service, that move people – they want more.”

Many church members who are looking forward to the new heavens and the new earth think that their church should be a serving church.  They believe that this is the way Jesus lived, and so should their organization. But it was Jesus’ character of love, which led Him to “seek and save” the lost. His loving service was aligned with this mission. His service to others was a byproduct of the Love (Agape) which was His essence.

In scripture, God has given us descriptions of what life will be like in the new heavens, and the new earth. Thus, in Revelation 21, we read that “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”  Because there shall be no more curse, prey and predator will graze together in the countryside of the New Jerusalem, with its streets paved with pure gold, its foundations made of precious stones, and its gates made of pearl. 

The city itself is unlike any we will have ever seen, not only because of the building materials, but because there will be no sun, and yet no lamps nor other artificial light needed. As we can see in Revelation 22:3-5, there will not even be night, for the Lord God is Himself the light. His throne and the Lamb’s throne will be within the city, and His governors will have been His servants on earth. Having seen Him here in the person of His Son, in the Word, these servants shall at last see Him face to face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. In other words, because they have seen and known Him here in the form of His character, they have been transformed into His likeness. Consequently, they shall be His reflection in the Kingdom, for they are truly His children, His rightful heirs. 

Many, through the centuries have wondered who will be there, who will ‘get’ to inhabit such a kingdom. ‘It seems so hard’, they say, implying that it is too difficult to live a life ‘fit’ for Heaven. They think you have to give up too much and wonder who can actually ‘make’ it.

To provide evidence for their concerns, those who believe this way use the text Matthew 7:14 which says, “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there are that find it.” Still others say that the prostitutes and thieves will make it into the kingdom first. Yet scripture says, “that nothing that defiles, or makes a lie, no whoremongers, or adulterers will be there (Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:1-5; Rev. 21:7, 8). Still others say only those who are ‘overcomers’ will make it. But, who are they, and what do they overcome? After all, the thief on the cross is perceived as someone who did nothing. Therefore, what is the true answer? Who is right?

Well, if we look at sin, not as specific acts or ungodly actions, or thoughts, but as a condition, which has symptoms that cluster around the self; self-will, self-promotion, self-exaltation, self-preoccupation, self-preservation, self-centeredness, self-ishness-- our perspective will change. When Adam and Eve sinned, they could no longer bequeath Agape to their progeny (us). Instead, we inherited from them an inordinate focus on self. Those who inhabit the kingdom of God, are not lovers of self, but lovers of God, and they love others as He has loved them (John 13:14, 15).

Voluntarily, they lay down their lives in service to others, as directed by the Holy Spirit. They keep neither their hearts and minds, nor their finances in reserve for themselves, because of the gratitude and love they have for the Saviour.  In humble submission, and belief, they yield up their rights. Consequently their thoughts, feelings, and actions spring forth from the disinterested motive of agape love, which is the essence of the Holy Spirit who actuates them.                                      
-Raul Diaz

Monday, March 18, 2013

“Creation and the Gospel”

First Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Creation and the Gospel”
For the week of March 23, 2013

Creation and the Gospel

       In Genesis 3, we have before us the first sin of Adam, the first investigative judgment, the first gospel promise, the first sacrifice, and the first covering garments symbolizing the righteousness of Christ.
     An Investigative Judgment (Gen 3:9-13). All judgments are investigative in nature. In the judgment, several principles are involved. Two of these are responsibility and accountability. Both Adam and Eve were responsible for their actions and both were accountable. Two sentences were declared, by God, at the close of that first investigative judgment. The sentences: acquittal and condemnation. In the acquittal phase, probationary time was given to Adam and Eve (Gen 3:15) while Lucifer, that serpent of old, was condemned by God’s court curse in the other phase (see Isa 14:12; Rev 12:9; Gen 3:14, 15).

      Jesus became the Savior of the world and thus of the first fallen human pair. The first promise to them was God’s covenant promise of salvation (Gen 3:15) which could come only through Christ crushed to death by the author of sin along with of our own sins. To illustrate, God’s promise of a sacrifice is implied in Gen 3:21 – “The Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (ESV). The sacrificial offering and the garments were emblems of Christ crucified and His covering of righteousness. The promise of salvation and the altar of sacrifice stood side by side, each casting clear lines of light from “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8) to the guilty pair. The gospel of the cross was clearly portrayed.

      The preaching of the cross is the proclamation of the power of God. (1 Cor 1:30,18, 23,24). This power is the power of redemption which is the power of creation. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Cor 5:17). The power of God’s Gospel is seen in His work of creation. Paul in writing to the Romans connected redeeming power and creative power: “The gospel of Christ…is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes… For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Rom 1:16, 20). The power is the same in redemption as in creation. It takes nothing less than creative energy, as demonstrated in nature and in the cross, to save and to change us.

      Paul again joined the power of redemption to creation in Col 1:14 – 16 where he wrote, “in [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins….For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” And John, also, in the first angel’s message of Rev 14:6 – 7 links redemption and creation. In the preaching of “the everlasting gospel” heaven’s call to worship the creator is clear: “worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” Both the first promise of redemption in Genesis and the last message proclaimed to the world before Jesus returns place creation and the gospel together.

      In 1893, E.J. Waggoner wrote a book entitled The Gospel in Creation. In the introduction, page 9, he penned:
“The first thing that Moses wrote, through the inspiration of the Spirit of God, was the story of creation. That, therefore, is one of the things through which we are to receive hope and comfort. Why is it that we can receive hope and comfort through the story of the creation? Because that story contains the Gospel.”
     Again he wrote, “It is in creation, therefore, that the power of God is to be seen by everybody. But the power of God in the line of salvation is the Gospel. Therefore the works of creation teach the Gospel.” Ibid. “When we consider the works of creation, and think of the power manifested in them, we are contemplating the power of redemption.” Ibid. p. 16.
"The Gospel, then, is simply the creative power of God applied to men. Any gospel that leaves creation out, or which does not preach the creative power of God, as seen in the things that He has made, and which does not comfort men by that power, calling upon them ever to keep it in mind as their only source of strength, is 'another gospel,' which is simply no gospel at all, since there can be no other." Ibid. p. 47.
      While the gospel in creation is very good news, the theory of evolution leaves both creation and the gospel out of its intellectual and emotional speculations. Think of this. Proponents of evolution present the idea that death preceded sin by millions of years! 570 millions of years of death before sin, measured off in their geologic column from the so-called Cambrian explosion in the Paleozoic Era through the Mesozoic into the Cenozoic Eras of mass extinction of animal and plant life. If this is true, then the Bible is false because it states unequivocally that death is the result of sin (Rom 5:12; James 1:15). Evolution also denies God’s salvation in Christ. This is because if death is not the result of sin, then there is no need for the cross, nor redemption.

      But if Scripture is true that sin brings death and that Christ was made “to be sin for” us not only “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” but also in order to destroy death and its author (2 Cor 5:21; Heb 2:14-15; Gen 3:15), then the future is bright with hope for believers in an atmosphere not tainted in any way by the enemy of God and man.

      In the memory verse for this week the work of the two corporate human representatives are in stark contrast: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” 1 Cor 15:22. In the immediate context Paul writes of three resurrections in 15:20, 23–28:
  1. Christ was raised first as the fulfillment of the sheaf of the first-fruits taken from the ripening crop at the Passover.
  2. Next is the Second Coming harvest resurrection. When Christ returns, all his people will be raised and taken to heaven.
  3. The final resurrection is of the lost and is post-millennial. At that time the final enemy, death, will be destroyed.
     The term order in 1 Corinthians 15:23 originally referred to military rank “each one in his own order.”  There is order, a sequence, in the resurrections. At the time when Jesus returns in the air, He raises from the dead all who have trusted Him having died in the faith. Jesus called this “the resurrection of life” (John 5:29). When He returns to the earth in judgment at the end of the millennium the lost will be raised in “the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29; Rev. 20:11–15). No one in the first resurrection will be lost, while no one in the second resurrection will be saved.

     Finally, God cleanses and re-creates the earth and the heavens. He will wipe away every tear. Every ear will be tuned to His voice. Every eye will behold Him in His glory. Every voice will sing, giving Him praise and honor and glory forever (Rev 5:11-13).

-Jerry Finneman

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sabbath: A Gift From Eden

First Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Sabbath: A Gift From Eden”
For the week of Mar. 16, 2013
Sabbath: A Gift From Eden
           The theme of the everlasting gospel that will soon lighten the earth with the glory of God is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It was the cornerstone of the loud cry message that had already begun by the early 1890's, and though the pause button was pushed more than a century ago, we have every reason to believe that it will yet go to the world as fire through the stubble.
           In the proclamation of this message we are told that the Sabbath will be proclaimed more fully. I believe this is the case because the Sabbath will be linked to the preaching of the cross of Christ.
           In keeping with that belief, we examine this week's lesson on the Sabbath and creation in light of the cross. 
           "Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?' 
           "Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, 'This Man is calling for Elijah!'
           "Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink.
           "The rest said, 'Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.'
           "And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after his resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, 'Truly this was the Son of God!'" Matthew 27:45-54
           In the Jewish tabernacle service, the sixth hour of the day (high noon) was when a second lamb was brought out and tied to the altar. At dawn the first lamb had been brought out, tied to the altar and sacrificed in the third hour. The second lamb was sacrificed at the ninth hour (3 o'clock in the afternoon), the time when Jesus fulfilled this type in dying on the cross. 
           The sacrifice of the second lamb typified Christ's death on the cross. 
           Turning to the book of Revelation, we learn that Christ was the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" Revelation 13:8. And 1 Peter 1:20 says, "He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you."
           The first lamb points back to the commitment Christ made to save man at any cost to Himself from the very dawn of creation--even before the foundation, or creation, of our world.
           On the sixth day of creation week, Jesus breathed into Adam the breath of life. In so doing, Jesus gave His life to Adam. At the cross, Christ breathed His last breath, once again infusing the human race with the life that we had lost in Adam. 
           The first-ever Sabbath of creation was characterized with fellowship between Adam and his Maker. Christ's work as Creator was ended, and "He rested on the seventh day from all His work which he had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made" Genesis 2:2,3.
           At the ninth hour on the cross Christ bowed his head and rested again -- this time from His work of saving mankind. The work of redemption was complete. Christ had plumbed the very depths of sin. He had been shut up in the bottomless pit with no escape. No one but Christ has ever entered into this death, and none but the devil and his angels need ever experience it, because on the cross Christ tasted death "for everyone" Heb. 2:9.
           The Sabbath of Creation celebrates Christ's completed work as Creator. The Sabbath of the Cross reveals Christ's completed work as Redeemer.
           On an interstate highway not far from our home, the state is constructing a new bridge. I've been watching construction of this bridge for a couple of years. Starting at the river bank, huge concrete pylons are put in place, and foot by foot, the new bridge is being built.
           The Sabbath is the bridge that spans the history of the world from Eden lost to Eden restored. 
           Every seventh day another Sabbath is anchored in time, bringing us one week closer to the culmination of the great controversy and the day in which we, "according to His promise, look for a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" 2 Pet. 3:13. 
           Over-arching this bridge of time is the cross of Christ, a Sabbath milepost in time. The promise of a coming Savior brought hope to the hearts of sin-burdened souls from Adam to Anna and Simeon. And the story of Jesus' triumph over Satan at the cross gives assurance that He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it. Jesus will come again.
           When Christ died on the cross, the foundations of the earth which had been set in place during creation week were shaken. Graves were opened, and at Christ's resurrection an untold number of saints came forth from their graves, the first fruits of Christ's victory over sin and death. These saints, some short and some giant in stature, proclaimed to an astonished world the good news of salvation. While the disciples of Jesus were sorrowing, these missionaries were telling that Jesus had risen. Death could not hold Him in the grave! He had won the victory!
           The Bible tells us of a millennial Sabbath to come. On the eve of the first Sabbath which concluded creation, God introduced Adam to his bride. The first marriage was consummated. During the Preparation Day before His second advent, Christ receives His bride, his church. 
           For 6,000 years the earth, which should have been resting every Sabbath, has been worked. On the cross Christ triumphantly proclaimed: "It is finished!" 
           On the eve of this millennial Sabbath, that proclamation is sounded again: "A loud voice is heard from heaven, saying, 'It is done!'" In the beginning our first parents--perfect in every way--failed an easy test. In the end God's people--ravaged by six thousand years of sin--will pass the most difficult test any human save Christ on the cross has ever had to bear. This final test will involve loyalty to God's seventh day Sabbath in the face of a universal death decree. 
           "And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings: and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth" Rev. 16:17, 18. 
           As before, this earthquake releases the righteous dead from their graves; Jesus comes again in the clouds of heaven to rescue His bride from the clutches of Satan. He will not be permitted to carry out his death decree. And "in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord" Lev. 25:4.
           All of heaven has been working for 6,000 years to save man. When Christ comes, the work of saving souls will be complete, and we will enter into that Sabbath rest with our Maker, even as our first parents entered into His rest on the first-ever Sabbath of creation week.
           "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His" Heb. 4:9, 10.         
           The weekly Sabbath is an opportunity for us to acknowledge that "the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture" Ps. 100:2, 3.  We are the one lost sheep that was found. This psalm reveals God's plan for the sheep of His pasture: When Jesus comes a second time, all who are in the graves will hear His voice and will come forth. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. 
           Our journey to heaven will last seven days, and somehow -- I can only conjecture -- it may be that we will arrive at the heavenly gates on the Preparation Day and all the angelic host will be there to welcome us as we "enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise" Ps. 100:4 to celebrate our first Sabbath with our Maker, our Redeemer, and our Husband, in heaven.
           What a day of rejoicing that will be! I want to be there on that happy day, don't you?
-Patti Guthrie

Thursday, March 07, 2013

“Stewardship and the Environment”

Insights #10 Mar. 9, 2013

First Quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Stewardship and  the Environment”
For the week of Mar. 9, 2013
Stewardship and the Environment
The heavens [are] thine, the earth also [is] thine: [as for] the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them. Psalms 89:11
“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.”Isaiah 51:6.
I have what some would consider an old car - a 1997 Volvo 960 with well over 200,000 miles. Why do I still have this car? First of all, it was fairly well designed, and I feel better about the safety of my son who drives like a 21 year-old. Secondly, I read that the best return on the investment for a car is in the “run-out” of the later years of its usefulness.
But this creates a dilemma. Perhaps you have faced it as well. When does further investment in repair and maintenance become of less value than getting a new car. Should I pay $1000 for a new rack and pinion or send it off to the junkyard? Can I get another 100,000 miles or more out of this car?
We face a somewhat similar dilemma when we consider our responsibility to our own bodies, the people and creatures around us, and the wider environment of this earth.
God created the world, and we are responsible for exercising the best “dominion” we can under the circumstances that Adam left us. But we also realize that what we see around us is getting old and will pass away in the near future. 
The Sabbath reminds us of God’s creative, sustaining and recreative power and provides us perspective when we wrestle with these issues. It should also direct us to Isaiah 58, where practical stewardship is outlined.
According to Isaiah 51:8, only the salvation and righteousness of God will last forever, so our efforts to improve our surroundings and protect the environment should always be in the context of this overarching truth. But we should be eager to improve and correct whatever will tend toward the salvation of ourselves and others.
We can focus our efforts best the closest to ourselves. Our health is significantly affected by what we eat and how we live. Science is today validating the health reform truths gifted to us 150 years ago. God’s purpose in our salvation is our healing, our health. The word sozo in the Greek is used in both Luke 8:48 (“Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”) and in Matthew 1:21 (“you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” ).
Improving the health and immediate environment of those less fortunate than ourselves involves the proper distribution of the gifts God has given us:
[Is] not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
[Is it] not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. Isaiah 58:6-8.
Environmental activism apart from the salvation/redemption context of the Great Controversy is prone to pander to pride and arrogance, and thus often ends up in the hands of the self-styled “ruler of this world,” whose purpose is to remove freedom and hasten the destruction of the world. This activism usually involves forcing other people to behave in ways that the “experts” believe will best save humanity and the planet, in the spirit and tenor of the builders of the Tower of Babel.
This is not to say we should not all be environmentally responsible, but that we should start as close to home as possible, respecting the freewill of others, recognizing forces are at play much bigger than all of humanity can collectively influence, keeping in mind the only things that will survive as the world self-destructs - the righteousness and salvation of God.
The work specified in these words [Isaiah 58] is the work God requires His people to do. It is a work of God's own appointment. With the work of advocating the commandments of God and repairing the breach that has been made in the law of God, we are to mingle compassion for suffering humanity. We are to show supreme love to God; we are to exalt His memorial, which has been trodden down by unholy feet; and with this we are to manifest mercy, benevolence, and the tenderest pity for the fallen race. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." As a people we must take hold of this work. Love revealed for suffering humanity gives significance and power to the truth.--Special Testimonies, series A, no. 10, pp. 3, 4.
-Todd Guthrie