Friday, March 30, 2018

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #13 March 31, 2018

MARCH 31, 2018
          His words caught me off guard. I am not sure if it was the inflection in his voice or his honest surprise at such decadent wealth, but nonetheless, it caught me. I can still see his face contorted by the quandary before him, "You have two watches?!" In that split second of reactionary time, as soon as the simple Khmae sentence relayed its meaning to me, my American, collector mentality (you can never have enough for an unseen emergency) jumped up within me. As answer after answer exploded from my wounded conscience, vying for the chance to be blurted back, I knew that the still small voice was also whispering. Amidst the clamor of responses, its clarity was deafening. He was right: I had two watches. His temporary surprise became my ongoing uneasiness.

          Living in Cambodia after September 11, 2001, sent to love, serve and even share the gospel of Jesus Christ in a fully Muslim community, surrounded by abject poverty, I had two watches. What did he mean? Ahmad knew my life and my teachings as best as I could explain them at the time. He visited daily to see my family and the way that we lived our lives devoted to God. Together we had traveled to places and he heard me exclaim the need for a heart change in the lives of Christians and Muslims alike. He knew that my ultimate goal in life was to be fully submitted to my God and King. He had heard me SAY all the right things.

          How dare he ask that question about two watches? He didn't know how much we had given up to come here, all that we had turned our backs on to be in his village. Did he realize the income we walked away from? [My self was rising.] He hadn't heard the cries of my daughter before we left the USA as someone purchased her little used, plastic kitchen set and tossed it in their trunk like it was nothing of value. How could he imply that we had too much?

          Yet, that honest question still haunted me.

          Maybe Ahmad just wanted my watch because he didn't have one? Ah yes, my mind began to grasp at the chance of sidestepping conviction with the tried and true trick of comparative judgment. That's it! Was I to tell him about coveting? Oh yes! Defend my right for owning two watches. Easy enough, a guy needs to have one for daily use and then another for the occasional social event that "demands" more than a functional Casio to fit in. Right? Here was a teachable moment to strike deep at the heart and expose that covetousness cancer lurking there. Can you feel the Spirit leading my thoughts, as the missionary sent to teach Ahmad, giving me the discernment to help my brother from this sin? NO. That was not the sin needing to be unearthed.

          Mine went deeper.

          The conviction I felt was striking at the heart of my American culture of "stuff." How much is enough? What do I really "need?" Should the claims of the Bible make any impact on my spending and lifestyle? Now, I realize that lifestyle and wealth are definitely relative to your surroundings. But, the question and conviction remains. If I claim to be part of God's end time people, I must be willing to ask it and test my own culture by Scripture. There should be telltale results in our lives and habits.

          John the Baptist said if you had two coats and you meet a brother that has none, give him yours. Whoa! Do we think that was merely figurative and the principle being expressed is therefore conveniently locked into the time and space of his culture? Could it actually be meant to apply to our shoes, coats, clothes, food, or multiple television sets cluttering our homes!? The line between need and want gets blurred doesn't it?

          Scripture is full of counsel (commands) referencing how we should live our faith with our pocketbook, as we have studied this quarter. Have we forgotten that God wants our convictions to be evident in our lifestyle or have we merely relegated religion to a once or twice a week hobby in the corner of our lives? Stewardship is inclusive of every area of our existence. As the chariot wheel illustrated a few weeks ago in our studies stewardship is where the "rubber" meets the road. All of our claims of faith and end time living are eventually validated or invalidated by our visible life choices.

          Have we truly been changed by the realization that in Christ we have received all things necessary for Godly living (2 Peter 1:1-4)? In Christ we are now joint heirs with Him in the heavenly places (see Ephesians 2), are we living life that way? Has our faith in a loving and compassionate God led us into a settled rest in Him, whether in our worship or our lifestyle (Matt. 6:19-34)? Are we walking this world as children of God, now (1 John 3:1, Rom. 8:12-22)? Have we entered into a life of faith through Christ that literally begins the life eternal, here? Please consider reading chapter 34, the Invitation, in Desire of Ages and be amazed at the life we are invited to. What exceedingly precious promises and realities are available to us! By faith we can live as ambassadors of heaven stewarding the goodness and grace of God for this world.

          Years ago, I shared a thought with a friend that apparently touched her quite deeply; deeply enough that she wrote it in her Bible. I simply said, "I am completely His, not because of me but because of who He is. We are His executors (stewards in our context here) parceling out the Kingdom of God to the world, living it out and sharing heaven's blessings with the world around us." I completely believe that and I believe that has been the point of these studies.

          This quarter has revealed the bigger picture of being the stewards of God's wealth and gifts to humanity. We have now come full circle with the focus being on the results we will experience as we carry God's riches, even the intangible ones like the gospel, into the world to bless them. We are invited into a life of rest, godliness, contentment, and a peace that passes all understanding as we allow God's Spirit to bring us into this amazing life of trusting God in all things. We have all heard, repeatedly that "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Tim. 6:6), yet we also know that finding people with such true wealth is quite rare. Hypocrisy and show seem to mark most lives and erode them from the inside out. Yet we are called to a life so much better. Our studies have ranged from our finances to our health and abilities, even to the whole way we see the world and our part in it. As we close this quarter consider the personal implications before us.

          Ahmad's words continue to call to me, to us. If I claim to be working with Muslims as a person of the Book, they better be able to see evidence of the Book transforming me. Muslims expect Islam to be all or none – isn't that what Scripture teaches too? If we claim to believe that Jesus is coming soon and that in Him we have passed from death to life; then the world needs to see a change in our living and thinking. This salvation we hold dear needs to be worked out into every aspect of our lives. This is the ongoing life of stewardship, the result of a life hid in Christ.

          Later that day in Cambodia still talking to Ahmad, my conscience re-captured my heart. I then had the joy of teaching my friend how to read a nice, non digital, $30 Dakota Factory watch with a second hand. Watching him walk with a new spring in his step glancing repeatedly to his wrist to check how many seconds had elapsed I imagine he left thinking he had just received a great gift. But, in reality, if he could have heard the lessons that God was giving me, he would have known that I would remember this day far longer than that watch would run. Because that was the day that I became a one watch man.

          By the grace of God and a lot of other powerful lessons of learning to be content in God's guidance and provision, I am still a one watch manparceling out the gifts of heaven to the world around me. Join me in a never ending, glorious life!
~Bryan Gallant

Friday, March 23, 2018

Have We Been Persuaded?

The following insight is to illustrate the importance of listening.   We all understand the importance of forming habits.  The habit of listening is also very important.  Have we formed a habit of listening to God?  Is He pleased with our listening?  Let us read to learn more about listening.  

Have We Been Persuaded? 

Remember the story of Peter Rabbit? You know, the one where Mother Rabbit encourages Peter and his siblings to go outside and play, but cautions against two things: losing or destroying their clothes and entering into Mr. McGregor's garden. Mother Rabbit had her reasons for warning against entering Mr. McGregor's garden, as Mr. McGregor had killed Father Rabbit in that very garden. (Father Rabbit had also gone there to eat some of Mr. McGregor's vegetables). So, off Peter Rabbit and siblings went, with Mother's warning ringing in their ears. Peter's siblings were determined to follow Mother's advice, but Peter wasn't. He decided to go into the garden anyway. And at first, all was well as he feasted on all sorts of fresh produce such as carrots, lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, and the like. Munching happily away, Peter sniffed the cucumbers and boy did they smell good. Allured, he hopped over to the cucumber patch, when all of a sudden, he and Mr. McGregor came face to face. Surprised and irritated, Mr. McGregor immediately picked up his rake and pursued Peter round and round through the cucumbers, the tomatoes, radishes, lettuce and the carrots. What mayhem they caused in the process. But try as he might, Peter could not find the entrance to the garden, nor a place to hide from Mr. McGregor. Frantic now, Peter kept looking, until just up ahead, he saw a light.  Al last, he found the garden entrance. Hopping as fast as he could, Peter squeezed through the small opening and was free. Momentarily relieved, Peter sat down to catch his breath, and that's when he noticed that he had lost his clothes hopping madly through the garden. "Now, I'm in big trouble," he thought, "mother is going to be so mad at me." "Why didn't I listen?" he asked himself.

Did Peter really not listen? Did he not hear his mother's words? Of course he heard, after all, he could repeat what she said. So what went wrong? Apparently there is a difference between hearing and listening. In our story, it is evident that Peter did hear his mother, but since he desired to do other than his mother admonished, he did not actively listen to her, lest he be persuaded to change his mind. That Peter resisted being persuaded is evident by his cavalier attitude. 

It is evident that the theme of this story is obedience. In the English language (and in many others), the word obey is typically translated "to do what you're told" (despite dictionary references stating the contrary). When did Peter disobey? According to the conventional definition, Peter Rabbit was disobedient the moment he did not do what his mother told him to do. But is this really getting at the heart of obedience? The word rendered obey originates from a compound word meaning to listen actively. You cannot do "as you are told" unless you have listened carefully as to what to do. And furthermore, you cannot do so cheerfully and joyfully unless you trust the person you are listening to, implicitly. You see, Peter trusted himself more than his mother. He trusted his knowledge of his abilities while underestimating that of Mr. McGregor's. This distrust of His mother led to his unwillingness to listen to her.

At its core, obedience is about hearing from the one who has your heart; it will not matter if the One communicating with you speaks to you with an inward, silent persistent thought, or an audible external voice. What matters is, will you, through trusting and confiding love, choose to heed what you have actively listened to? A wise man has said, "First there is the mental creation, (the mind involves the emotions) then the action is taken." So obedience involves not only our outward actions, but our motives and attitudes before the doing. Interestingly, a literal translation of the word "obey" in the Hebrew and Greek, is to listen willingly, eagerly, attentively, leaning into the speaker, straining to catch the slightest nuance. Its opposite meaning would be, hearing while preoccupied, resisting the one who is speaking, reluctantly paying attention, and finally, listening to find the disagreeable. The latter are all things Peter Rabbit engaged in.

The Apostle Paul says, "Faith comes through the hearing and hearing through the Word of God" (Romans 10:17).  The Greek term used for 'faith' means to be persuaded. Referring to our story, Peter Rabbit heard his mother's words; but he did not actively listen. Furthermore, he refused to be persuaded by them. In contrast, his siblings chose to be persuaded by those very same words. Their respective actions revealed their respective choices. Paul knew what this meant. He, too, lived for a long time refusing to be persuaded by the Word of God. And, his actions revealed his choice of resisting persuasion. Ellen White speaks of Paul's experience.  She says:

The Saviour had spoken to Saul through Stephen, whose clear reasoning could not be controverted. The learned Jew had seen the face of the martyr reflecting the light of Christ's glory--appearing as if "it had been the face of an angel." Acts 6:15. He had witnessed Stephen's forbearance toward his enemies and his forgiveness of them. He had also witnessed the fortitude and cheerful resignation of many whom he had caused to be tormented and afflicted. He had seen some yield up even their lives with rejoicing for the sake of their faith. All these things had appealed loudly to Saul and at times had thrust upon his mind an almost overwhelming conviction that Jesus was the promised Messiah. At such times he had struggled for entire nights against this conviction, and always he had ended the matter by avowing his belief that Jesus was not the Messiah and that His followers were deluded fanatics (Acts of the Apostles, p. 116).

It was not that Saul did not hear the Word. It was that he did not make space in his heart for it, and therefore refused to be persuaded. After, Saul's conversion his actions revealed his persuasion. The same could be said of the disciples. Christ told them many times of His impending death and resurrection, but they refused to be persuaded. Ellen White elaborates thus:

"After the death of Christ the disciples were well-nigh overcome by discouragement ...Jesus had several times attempted to open the future to His disciples, but they had not cared to think about what He said. ... When Christ was crucified, they did not believe that He would rise. He had stated plainly that He was to rise on the third day, but they were perplexed to know what He meant. This lack of comprehension left them at the time of His death in utter hopelessness. ...If they had believed the Saviour's words, how much sorrow they might have been spared!" (Acts of the Apostles, p. 26)

Three times in Luke 24 the disciples and others were reminded, "remember how He spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again" (Luke 24: 6 -7). The disciples had all the evidence they needed to believe, but, preoccupied with who would be the greatest among them in the kingdom, they reluctantly paid attention to Christ's words, resisted considering them, and thus refused to be persuaded. Yet, Mary Magdalene, with less evidence, believed, and, her later action of anointing Christ, revealed her belief.

In our day, those who profess Christianity believe in Christ's resurrection. But, do they believe in His soon and imminent return? In Luke 12, Christ tells the Parable of the Unwise Servant. This servant believed his master would take a long time to return. So, this servant said, "… in his heart, my lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken" (Luke 12:45). This parable references those who, in our time, having heard the Words of Jesus regarding His return, refuse to be persuaded that His coming is imminent. How do we know they believe that Jesus is not coming soon? Their actions reveal what they believe. They are preoccupied with eating, drinking, marrying, and being given in marriage; they buy and sell, plant and build (as if there is no eternity to reckon with -- Matthew 24:37 – 39; Luke 17:28 – 30). With hardened hearts, they think highly of themselves, and look down on others, and consequently abuse and mistreat each other. These have heard the Words of God, but they resist their import and refuse to be persuaded by them. Friends, let us not be resistive to God's Words, but joyfully receive them, letting them persuade us while there is still time. Let the world see by our agape-ing others that His Word has found its home in our hearts. As the scripture says, "those with ears, let them hear" (Revelation 3:13, 22).

Friday, March 09, 2018

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #10 March 10, 2018

MARCH 10, 2018
To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Col. 1:27 (all texts NKJV unless otherwise noted)
And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Phil. 4:19
Jesus is the rightful Steward of heaven's resources. In Him all creation exists and holds together. "He is the living center of everything." Evangelism, p. 186. Without Him we can do nothing. John 15:5.  Jesus gave Himself, and thus all of heaven's resources, in order to redeem us.  The Creator of all things took the responsibility for all humanity, and "did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped." Phil. 2:5, RSV.  Yet He held on to the Father by faith, the faith of Jesus.  It is this faith that the stewards of the gospel need so desperately today.
Jesus is the only One Who can teach us what we should hold and what we should release as good stewards.  His unselfish life is what informs ours.  For too long we have been holding onto, or worse yet, suppressing, the glorious truths of the gospel.  The root causes are our own self sufficiency, thinking we can do what only God can do, and our unbelief in what He has already done, which impacts what we believe He will do.  What we must have is the "fellowship of the mystery" in an experiential, practical religion.
"Christ is coming 'to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.' 2 Thess. 1:9, 10. But before He can come, His way must be prepared, so that He can dwell fully in His saints. Just as God was in Christ, so must He be in His church as a whole, and in each individual member, before Christ can be revealed to the eyes of all the world. It is only as men see God in His people, that they can fully know that there is only one God, the One who created all things. Christ, the fulness of God, must be fully formed in His people, and then will all 'See what is the stewardship of the mystery which from all ages hath been hid in God who created all things; to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.' Eph. 3:9-11, R.V. Then will the world know that God hides Himself in man, in order that man may be glorified by His presence." {January 4, 1900 EJW, PTUK 3.5}
The sanctuary was given by God, as He said, "that I might dwell among (tavek, also translated 'in') them.  The sanctuary teaching is an illumination of what Christ was doing for humanity as well as what He is doing in humanity.
The sanctuary, rightly understood, encompasses God's universal sacrifice for the world, His justification for all men, the true humanity of Christ, the walk of faith, the life of prayer, and so much more. The message of Minneapolis was focused on these truths.
"The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders [E.J.] Waggoner and [A. T.] Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. 
     Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure."--TM 91, 92 (1895). 
Our doctrines must not just be Christ-centered in name, but in reality - in experience.  Perhaps Christ-infused is a better term.  "The soul must be infused with the Spirit of the great Teacher if the mind would penetrate into the deep things of God." (20MR 241).  For example, we cannot rightly present the sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin as the great truth around which all others cluster until we admit our shortcoming in this area.  Historically our Adventist view has been so focused on us and our response (i.e., self-centered) that we have neglected the fact that, in Christ, God has justified, reconciled, redeemed, and given the gift of eternal life to the entire race.
We are much more motivated to share the message as good stewards and willing ambassadors when we finally believe how valuable and precious it is. Then we can properly give the message of what God accomplished through the unconditional expression of His love, while we were yet sinners and His enemies.
We have been justified by a loving God through the faith of Jesus, and we experience this justification as we agree with what He has done for us, as us, letting the reality of His faith transform and sanctify us. This is the basis of holiness. This is the essence of the final proclamation of the three angel's messages.
As Ellen White noted:
     "Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, 'It is the third angel's message in verity.'"--1SM 372 (1890).  
     "The message of Christ's righteousness is to sound from one end of the earth to the other to prepare the way of the Lord. This is the glory of God, which closes the work of the third angel."--6T 19 (1900). 
     "The last message of mercy to be given to the world is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory. In their own life and character they are to reveal what the grace of God has done for them."--COL 415, 416 (1900).
~Todd Guthrie

Saturday, March 03, 2018

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #9 March 3, 2018

MARCH 3, 2018
As we study our lesson this week it is important to note that an offering is typically made on a voluntary basis.  However, there can still be a variety of motivations for providing an offering.  These could include such reasons as: 1) because it's expected 2) others are doing it 3) it's the "right thing to do"4) a future benefit is expected and so on.  Our focus, however is on offerings motivated by gratitude.
This now raises up another question.  Our gratitude suggests that there is, in fact, something and/or someone that we are grateful for.  Thus, an offering of gratitude is made as a response to that action or person.  It could be something as simple as a tip provided for a decent haircut.  Here, however, our offerings of gratitude should be a response to God's love.
It follows, therefore, that the size of our offerings, whether it is our resources, time, or anything else that we possess will be in direct proportion to the extent of our gratefulness. It will be our picture of God's love and His impact on our lives that will make all the difference!
God's word has been given to us so that we can truly have a more complete understanding of who God is, His character and the infinite unselfish love and complete sacrifice He has made for the entire human race as exemplified in the birth, life, death and resurrection of His Son, our Savior.
As we look at scripture, we see God's love revealed to us everywhere we look and the more we study, the more we see of the depth and breadth of this incredible, undeserved agape love for you and for me.
While we study this week's lesson, now would be a good time to go back and revisit some of your favorite scripture texts revealing God's love in both the Old and New Testaments.  Here are just a few of our favorites:
1 John 4:8-10; "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
God's love is not just an attribute of His character, it is who and what He is, and His very existence is based upon His love!  All other aspects of His character flow from that undying love—His mercy, forgiveness, justice, compassion, kindness, unselfishness, patience, longsuffering, etc. It was His infinite love that resulted in the infinite sacrifice of His son that brought the free gift of salvation to our lost human race!
Jeremiah 31:3-4:  "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with everlasting kindness, I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt,"
Think about it!  These verses tell us that God has loved you and me from the very beginning, before we were conceived, and will always love us—forever, whether or not we choose to be with Him for eternity.  They also contain His promise of our re-creation in His image—we will be rebuilt!
Of course, there are many others:  John 3:16-17; Gal. 2:20; Romans 5: 5,8; the list goes on so please add your own. It can be a list that is always there for you as a reminder of God's love and sacrifice.
God's love was a predominant theme of Ellen White's writings as well, so here are some favorite quotes that we hope you enjoy:
"For the world Christ's sacrifice was made. 'God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son' John 3:16.  It is through that one gift that every other is imparted to men.  Daily the whole world receives blessings from God.  Every drop of rain, every ray of light shed on our unthankful race, every leaf and flower and fruit, testifies to God's long forbearance and His great love." (COL 301,302).
"But not to any class is Christ's love restricted.  He identifies Himself with every child of humanity.  That we might become members of the heavenly family, He became a member of the earthly family.  He is the Son of man, and thus a brother to every son and daughter of Adam.  His followers are not to feel themselves detached from the perishing world around them.  They are a part of the great web of humanity; and Heaven looks upon them as brothers to sinners as well as to saints.  The fallen, the erring, and the sinful, Christ's love embraces; and every deed of kindness done to uplift a fallen soul, every act of mercy, is accepted as done to Him." (DA 638)
As we continue to look at our gratitude in response to God's love, we are reminded that God's love, as reflected in His character and His infinite sacrifice is a central theme of the most precious message given to us through Elders Waggoner and Jones.  It is the message that God's last day church is to share with the world…the everlasting gospel in it's fullness!  EGW brings this to our attention in the following statement (TM: pgs.91/92):
"The Lord in his great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones.  This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Savior, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.  It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God.  Many had lost sight of Jesus.  They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family….. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world.  It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure."
A.T. Jones, for example, has blessed us with the following quote:
"Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." The kingdom is not to be gained by our efforts. It is to be given to them that "fear not." Let your mind dwell in prayerful meditation upon the infinite love of God toward you in Christ Jesus. Think of the exceeding great and precious promises, of the Holy Spirit, which dwells in you, of the holy angels that are encamped about you; think of all these blessings and "fear not." Fear not the want of temporal good. He who feeds the ravens, the sparrows, and the beasts, will feed you. "The Lord will provide," is a motto which you may write on every necessary want in life. Fear not the power of Satan. Greater is He that is for you than all that are against you. The mighty God fights our battles; then why should we fear? Fear not that the Lord will forsake you. His love is an everlasting love. He is married to you in Christ. "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Having loved you, He will love you "to the end." {August 16, 1898 ATJ, ARSH 524.24}
E.J. Waggoner also points us to God's incredible love as a central theme.  The following statement is one example:
"The fact is that nothing but the love of God can turn a man away from sin. The world was in sin, and God manifested to them His infinite love, in order that they might be able to cease from sin. The fact that some will despise the riches of His goodness and forbearance and long-suffering, does not cause Him to withdraw His love, and should not prevent us from dwelling upon it, for the encouragement of any who may want to do God's will. {July 27, 1893 EJW, PTUK 258.6}
But it is not alone by what God requires of us that we may learn what He is anxious to do for us. The death of the Son of God is the pledge of God's infinite love for us, and of His inconceivable desire to cleanse us from sin by the application of His healing forgiveness. "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" Rom. 8:32. The gift of Christ comprises everything. And trusting in that unspeakable gift, the humblest and most debased sinner may look up from the midst of his sore temptations, and confidently say: - {July 27, 1893 EJW,PTUK 258.7}
"Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom. 8:37-39. {July 27, 1893 EJW, PTUK 258.8}
God's love is surely the reason for our gratitude.  It changes hearts, it changes lives, and it brings with it the free gift of eternal salvation.  As we look at Tuesday's lesson, we see the story of Mary Magdalene, one whose life was truly changed by God's love to the point that Christ Himself says: "Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the whole world, what this woman did will also be spoken as a memorial to her." Mark 14: 9.
Mary had been a woman with no hope, dragged down to the depths of despair by a life of sin and exploitation, possessed by seven demons, and in need of a Savior as we all are.  In Christ, she saw hope, His infinite agape love and finally His forgiveness!  Her faith in her Redeemer was a genuine faith that changed her heart and her life and Jesus, Himself, said to her: "Your faith has saved you.  Go in peace."  Luke: 7:50.
Mary's story is particularly important to us in these last days. Mary followed Jesus wherever He went, her "new" life in Christ reflected His character, and as Jesus said "she did all that she could."  Mary was "all in" for Christ and her belief and faith was an encouragement to Jesus as He was dying for all of us on the cross.
Similarly, in the last days, there will be a group of people, the ''144,000", that "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth .…..In their mouth is found no guile: for they are without fault" Rev. 14: 4,5. Also, "they keep the commandments of God, and have the faith of Jesus" Rev. 14:12.
Mary's story is there to inspire us that as we respond to God's infinite agape love and sacrifice, and allow Him to change our hearts and lives, we too may have a genuine faith.  Then, in Christ, and covered by His Righteousness, He will provide us with the strength and power we need for whatever may await us in the troubled times ahead.  Now, there is a reason for gratitude.
Mary Magdalene felt hopeless and useless until Jesus helped her to see how much she was loved by God.  She was important to Jesus and as a lesson for us today.  You and I are just as important to Him today, as He waits for His bride to be ready for the Second Coming.  May we look forward to His soon return with eager anticipation with an attitude of gratitude for what He has already done for us through His love and sacrifice.
Blessings, as you study the lesson this week.
~John and Monica Campbell