Friday, September 30, 2016

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #1 October 1, 2016

Fourth Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The End"

October 1, 2016

Have you ever read a book by first reading the last chapter to find out how it ends? This is how the lessons for this quarter begins. In this last quarter of the year we open our study of Job by beginning at the end. It is in the last part of the book we learn that God ended the captivity of Job by restoring his terrible losses of family and of health, thus condemning the retribution theology of the friends of Job.

Another item we need to take into consideration is this: the book of Job reveals the continuing great controversy between Christ and Satan. Every human being on planet earth is caught in this conflict through no choice of their own. With Job the good news is that the end of Job reveals Christ in charge, is triumphant and that His people's captivity will be forever ended. Restoration will be complete.
Everyone at some time in life (or several times) finds him/herself suffering because of this great conflict brought on by the enemy of God and man. These sufferings include among others the death of a loved one, a hurtful divorce, loss of employment, emotional and spiritual turmoil or a painful sickness without a cure. Truly, the book of Job addresses the afflictions of humanity.

Paul wrote to the Romans 8:22-23 saying that all of creation groans. 22 "We know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body."

Throughout his book, Job addressed the issues of grief and sorrow and misery under the extreme pressures of his intense sufferings emotionally and spiritually as well as physically. Even so he exercised faith in God as recorded in chapter 14:14-17, 14"If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes. 15You shall call, and I will answer You; You shall desire the work of Your hands. 16For now You number my steps, but do not watch over my sin. 17My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and You cover my iniquity."
Under the reproach of his friends, even with children turning from him, Job knew that His Redeemer was/is alive and that he will one day see Him with his own eyes (Job 19:25-27). This is a picture of the "faith of Jesus" in the "patience of Job" (James 5:11, KJV). The faith of Jesus is believing not only in the absence of our feelings but against them! This, then, is the last picture we see of God's people just before Jesus returns to the atmosphere of earth: "Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus…. Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle" (Revelation 14:12, 14).

So, in the end of time each of God's people will declare with full assurance of faith in Christ alone, as did Job in his affliction, "You number my steps, but do not watch over my sin. My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and You cover my iniquity" (Job 14:16-17). This is justification by faith in Christ alone. Job understood this. And God's people will understand and experience justification by faith – the third angel's message. The end product of justification by faith (the righteousness of Christ) is "peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever" (Isaiah 32:17; Romans 5:1).
In the end, God condemned the retribution theology of Job's "friends" (Job 42:2-6). This theology remains to this day. This theology teaches that God brings retribution on those who do evil and good to those who do good. At the end of the book God validated the faith of Job against Satan's charges made in the beginning. God vindicated Job and in doing so vindicated His own case brought against Him by Satan in the beginning of the book. The ending good news for Job is for us also – we too will have exceedingly good news when our captivity is brought to a halt by the second coming of the One who suffers with us in all our afflictions.

Today we may learn in our suffering experiences: "To all who are reaching out to feel the guiding hand of God, the moment of greatest discouragement is the time when divine help is nearest. They will look back with thankfulness upon the darkest part of their way. "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly," 2 Peter 2:9. From every temptation and every trial He will bring them forth with firmer faith and a richer experience" (DA 528). This was the experience of Job as depicted in the end of the book as we begin our study for this quarter.

"To all who are willing and obedient, to all who are reaching out to feel the guiding hand of God, the moment of the greatest discouragement and difficulty is the time when divine help is nearest. When the path of duty is obstructed by difficulties the most formidable, when it seems that the soul must give up in despair, the glory hidden behind the cloud that has darkened the way shines forth in all its brightness.
"Those who press on in the path of duty will look back with joy and thankfulness upon the darkest part of the way, where trials and difficulties seemed like a heavy cloud to hide every ray of God's sunshine. The Lord conceals himself from us in the cloudy pillar, as from ancient Israel. His ways are past finding out. Yet all that he makes known of himself, all that he can reveal to the most elevated mind, only convinces us of an infinity beyond, of wisdom, purity, and love.  (ST, October 21, 1880).

A great lesson for us today is James is found in James 5:11 – "Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful."

With this in mind, next week, let's begin at the beginning – the beginning of Job.
~Jerry Finneman

Friday, September 23, 2016

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #13 September 24, 2016

Third Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
How Shall We Wait?
September 24, 2016
How shall we wait?  As the coming of Christ draws near this question becomes more relevant.  We consider it more thoughtfully.  We contemplate it more purposefully.  It is a serious question and requires, even demands, a serious answer.  So often our witnessing seems to have a hollow ring.  We share our beliefs but there is an undeniable hook in the testimony.  We are not really sharing the goodness of the Lord.  We are not seeking to get others to praise the Lord with us.  Careful analysis of our witness reveals that we are just trying to get them to join us.  Every time someone does - we feel validated.  It serves as an endorsement of our position in the world, a vote for our legitimacy.  When reading these "tracts", one often feels sick to the stomach even to the point of throwing up.
Can't we share the gospel for the gospel's sake?  Why must we always seek to get others to accept some unique, perhaps peculiar tenet of our faith?  Why must every tract seek to correct some popular misconception in the other churches?   We can't hope to win someone every day.  We can't hope to have someone join our church every time we "witness".  Isn't the Lord good and doesn't He want us to tell somebody about the goodness of the Lord?  Getting someone to join our church shouldn't be the only thing on our minds.  How shall we wait?

We believe we belong to the remnant church of Bible prophecy.  But don't believe we are the only ones that are going to be saved.  The Bible clearly teaches otherwise.  Zech. 13:6 says, "And one will say to him, 'What are these wounds in your hands?'"  Consider the implication of that prophecy:  Some will get to heaven having never heard the gospel.  The person in that prophecy is asking about the most fundamental truth of the gospel.  They are unaware that Jesus was crucified on their behalf.  Yet they are there in heaven anyway.

"For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law" (Rom. 2:12).  So we see that some will perish without law just as some will be saved without law.  Our witness isn't as essential to the salvation of souls as we may have thought.   Then why do we witness and why did the servant of the Lord say, "Every true disciple is born into the kingdom of God as a missionary" (ChS 11)?  Isn't witnessing essential?  Why did Jesus say, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matt. 24:14)?

Can it be that the witnessing is for a different purpose than we have assumed.  Can it be that we witness for our own benefit rather than for the benefit of those to whom we witness?  Can it be that we are to be learning more about the character of God as we share the truth about him?  Can it be that we are learning to care for the lost as He cares?  Can it be that we are learning to love as He loves?  Can it be the process shapes our character as no other process can shape it?  Can it be that this is the only way that we can have our characters so changed and our hopes and dreams and aspirations so molded that we become fit for the kingdom of heaven? 

Jesus already told us that our witness is for another purpose.  He said, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations."  Some versions say it's for a "testimony."  Both "witness" and "testimony" can be used in a legal sense.  They both suggest that legal observations of the facts of a case are being described.  In this case what is at stake?  The Bible describes the last days as a time of deception.  Jesus said, "Take heed that you not be deceived" (Luke 21:8).  There will be all kinds of deceptions on every hand.  The most significant of the deceptions of the last days will be that Satan will impersonate Christ.  He will have already misrepresented his character and convinced the world that God is really like him.  Then ultimately he will come to convince the world that he is God.

Therefore, to prepare the world to detect the deception, someone will have to tell the world what God is like.  A clear, unambiguous, believable, testimony of the truth about God will have to be given.  Thus Jesus said, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world."  This preaching is not for the conversion of sinners.  It will be for a witness unto all nations.  It must be a clear, unambiguous, believable, testimony about the character of God, without the taint of self interest.  For "the hour of His judgment is come" (Rev. 14:7). 

Are we ready to give that testimony in all the world?  That will be our job in the very last days before the end.  How shall we wait?  We shall be giving that testimony for a witness unto all nations.  It will be a clear testimony about the goodness of the Lord.  It won't be a clever trick convincing the world that they should join our church, give up their flawed doctrine and adopt the truth before time runs out.  There will no longer be a hook that spoils our testimony.  It is about His goodness, not ours.  We will finally be clearly convinced that He is worthy of our witness.  We will give the testimony regardless of the consequences.

No longer will we be concerned about our place in the world.  We will feel no need to tell the world how many millions are in our church.  We will no longer recount the number of our churches, or our schools or our colleges, or our hospitals.  Our motive will be like that of John the Baptist, "He must increase, and I must decrease."  Our central burden will be to tell the world about Jesus, the Saviour of the world.  And no competing agenda will cloud our vision.  Only "One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other,--Christ our righteousness" (SD 260).

Until this becomes our focus, our one interest, our consuming desire, we shall wander from place to place feeling that we have no place in this world.  We shall wring our aching hands and empty arms knowing that we have no meaningful purpose down here.  We shall look for meaning, and explanation, reasons for our existence in this world and find nothing.  Life shall be empty and futile and barren and we shall cry, "How long O Lord, how long." 

When we shall cease trying to establish ourselves in this world, when we shall abandon all effort at propping up our agendas, when self shall be completely humbled in the dust, then we will finally choose Christ.  His agenda will be the only agenda.  His mission will become our mission.  Whatever He desires will become our only desire.  Then life will finally have meaning.  We will not be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.  We will not be driven by every significant event.  Come what may, we shall know that nothing matters and nothing will amount to anything, except Christ our Righteousness.

Then we will know the answer to the question, How shall we wait? 

~Mark Duncan

Thursday, September 15, 2016

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #12 September 17, 2015

Third Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Urban Ministry in the End Time
September 17, 2016
This week's lesson highlights the need to share the gospel in cities. Because we value country living, many Seventh-day Adventists have chosen to live in rural areas. To return to the cities to share the gospel would involve a sacrifice: 
"It is not always pleasant for our brethren to live where the people need help most; but their labors would often be productive of far more good if they would do so. They ought to come close to the people, sit with them at their tables, and lodge in their humble homes. The laborers may have to take their families to places not at all desirable; but they should remember that Jesus did not remain in the most desirable places. He came down to earth that He might help those who needed help" Evangelism, p. 424.
The entire book Evangelism is filled with counsel about winning souls to Christ, including a section on reaching people in the cities of both Europe and America. Clearly, there is still a work to be done. Further examples of the counsel given in Evangelism are listed here.
Insights from Evangelism
"In our large cities the medical missionary work must go hand in hand with the gospel ministry. It will open doors for the entrance of truth." p. 387
"The work that Christ did in our world is to be our example, as far as display is concerned. We are to keep as far from the theatrical and the extraordinary as Christ kept in His work. Sensation is not religion . . . " p. 396
"A terrible charge of neglect is brought against those who have been long in the work, in this very America, and yet have not entered the large cities." p. 401
With reference to difficult-to-reach areas: "How can the great work of the third angel's message be accomplished? It must be largely accomplished by persevering, individual effort; by visiting the people at their homes." p. 411
"The cities are to be worked, not merely preached to; there must be house-to-house labor." p. 430
"Wherever you can gain access to the people by the fireside, improve your opportunity. Take your Bible, and open before them its great truths. Your success will not depend so much upon your knowledge and accomplishments, as upon your ability to find your way to the heart. By being social and coming close the people, you may turn the current of their thoughts more readily than by the most able discourse. The presentation of Christ in the family, by the fireside, and in small gatherings in private houses, is often more successful in winning souls to Jesus than are sermons delivered in the open air, to the moving throng, or even in halls or churches." p. 437
"There should always be two and two of our brethren to go out together." p. 437
"Bear the truth to them in great tenderness and love, and returns will surely come." p. 437
"When a great and decisive work is to be done, God chooses men and women to do this work, and it will feel the loss if the talents of both are not combined." p. 469
Our motivation for sharing
The 1888 Message of Christ our Righteousness is a message that stirs the soul to its very depths. Having a theoretical knowledge of the message is no substitute for testing it, living it, and sharing it. To become effective witnesses for Christ, we may need to overcome our natural aversion to certain situations or people groups. Many people living in cities today suffer under great disadvantages. Addiction, trafficking, crime, unemployment, dismantled marriages and fatherless households have created a toxic mess of pain, misery, and hopelessness. Seventh-day Adventists have good news for these dear souls for whom Christ died, and the people need to hear it:
"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. 
"No man ever yet naturally found it difficult to do wrong. His great difficulty has always been to do right. But this is because man naturally is enslaved to a power--the power of sin that is absolute in its reign.  . . . But let a mightier power than that have sway, then is it not plain enough that it will be just as easy to serve the will of the mightier power, when it reigns, as it was to serve the will of the other power when it reigned?
"There is much more power in grace than there is in sin" Lessons on Faith, p. 71. 
We hold in our hands a message that sets the captives free!
The truth as it is in Jesus is the only true hope for our planet. The nearness of our sympathizing Savior, His initiative in our salvation, and the Cross of Christ are all themes that have the capacity of transforming the vilest of sinners.
But on a practical level, how does it work? What will it take to motivate us to action for Christ?
Something for everyone
God designed the church to be a powerhouse for good. Combining the varied talents and gifts of all, the church was intended to be a place of hope and healing; a place where people could meet Jesus, be mentored by others, and directed to a life of service. Your church community may not be such a place now, but service for others--living the gospel--will at least revitalize your own life, and your church will be blessed, too. 
Here are a few ways we have found that  are effective in reaching souls for Christ, and these methods work in the city as well as rural communities:
-- Invite (non-SDA) guests at church to begin in-home Bible studies--even the first time they attend church! You would be surprised how many will say yes 
-- Study the Bible with individuals and families in their homes
-- Be generally helpful in practical ways in the neighborhood, church and community
-- Show genuine interest in people's lives even if they aren't interested in attending church, receiving Bible studies, reading missionary books, or changing their lifestyle
-- Extend personal invitations for Bible studies to cooking school or health class attendees, door-to-door contacts, neighbors and friends
-- Go on "missionary walks." If you are accustomed to walking around your neighborhood anyway, try meeting up with a neighbor and ask the Lord to guide your conversation. This is not only evangelism but medical missionary work!
-- Take a fellow church member along with you on a home missionary visit or to follow up a Bible study interest (two by two)
-- Share a loaf of homemade bread or garden produce with a new neighbor
-- Move out of an Adventist community 
-- Look for opportunities to share Christ with people wherever you go 
-- Exercise the gift of hospitality
-- Carry tracts in your pocket or purse to share
-- Sing to patients or inmates in nursing homes, hospitals, homes, or prisons
There are so many ways. If you pray and ask God to give you wisdom, He will direct. Try something! You may feel like a failure, but try again. Jesus is longing to reveal His love to the cities of our world, one personal contact at a time. 
Space doesn't permit me to illustrate all of the above items with stories, but I would like to share one experience with you. 
A few months ago while driving to Southern California, my husband and I stopped for gas and food. He dropped me off at Chipotle to get burritos while he went to refuel the car. The line was long -- almost out the door -- so I resigned myself to a long wait. 
The couple in front of me had an adorable baby boy who reached out his hands  for me to hold him. I smiled at the parents, who appeared to be fit, 40ish and wealthy. I wondered if this might be their first child (turns out, it was). We struck up a conversation and I learned they were returning to their home in LA after vacationing for the weekend in San Francisco. Their baby ("Jaxson") continued begging for me to hold him, until, remarkably, his parents yielded to his begging and placed their curly blonde-headed treasure in my arms. As the conversation continued (remember, the line was very long), I began to pray that the Lord would open a door for me to share Jesus with them. We had almost reached the counter when I returned Jaxson to his mother. Holding him close, she said, "Jaxson saved my life." 
My opportunity had come. "It sounds like there's a story behind that."
"Yes," she said, pausing. "When I was going to the doctor for my pre-natal appointments with Jaxson, they discovered that I had ovarian cancer," she said. "If I hadn't had Jaxson, the diagnosis wouldn't have been made until perhaps it was too late."
She described the anguish of waiting for treatment until after Jaxson's birth, and how she had prayed fervently to God out there "whoever and wherever He is" to save her life. Now, she says, every day is a gift. We talked about working outside the home vs. staying home. She decided to be a stay at home mom and hasn't regretted it.
Between making selections for guacamole and salsa, I fumbled in my purse for the tracts I had put there for just in case. Sure enough, there was a colorful tract on "Foods that Fight Cancer." I put that one on top. Underneath I put a couple of other faith-filled tracts. "Here," I said, "after hearing what you've been through, I was thinking you might enjoy reading these." She grasped them eagerly from my hand, thanked me, and put them in her purse. We parted ways and I have continued to pray for this family whenever I think of them. I hope and pray to meet them in heaven someday. I can hardly imagine the thrill.
Sharing Jesus with others is among the most rewarding experiences of this life. As we behold Him, may the love of Christ constrain us, compel us, to be His helping hands, His willing feet, His caring voice, His encouraging smile, His listening ear, in every place (2 Corinthians 5:14).

~Patti Guthrie