Thursday, June 28, 2018
Watching Versus Waiting
People use the words 'watch' and 'wait' synonymously. However, there is a subtle difference between the two. To wait means to be in readiness or to remain at rest in expectation. To watch is to look and wait expectantly or in anticipation. You can wait while doing other activities. Watching encompasses the concept of waiting and requires full attention from the watcher. A person may be waiting and still miss the thing they are waiting for, but this is unlikely to happen if they are watching. The following story illustrates the difference.
Gina, a young girl, asked her grandmother to watch for her as she was coming to visit that day for the weekend. And naturally, Grandma Lisa promised she would. Wanting to stress the importance of her request, Gina repeated it several times to her grandma, asking, "You'll watch, won't you? You'll watch for me grandma, right?" Lisa, who was now becoming exasperated, responded several times that she would. On the day that Gina was due to arrive, Grandma Lisa thought, "I still have time to complete a few chores before Lisa visits, so I'll just do them and then go outside and wait for Gina and her parents." However, despite Grandma's best intentions, she became engrossed in her tasks and lost track of time. Suddenly, Grandma Lisa heard the bell. "Oh no, she thought, that can't be Gina already." Running to the door, Lisa opened it expecting to see an excited Gina. But instead, Gina was sorrowful. "Why the sad face Gina, aren't you happy to see your Grandmother?" Grandma Lisa asked. To which her granddaughter responded, "Grandma, you did not watch for me like I asked you." "Honey," said Grandma, "I was preparing things for you, while I waited for you." "But Grandma," replied Gina, "I did not want you to wait for me; I wanted you to watch for me." She wanted her grandma to be outside expectantly looking for her.
This story reminded me of the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25). Christ portrayed them as standing or sitting expectantly awaiting the groom who could appear at any time. As the night grew old, the bridesmaids fell asleep. While asleep a loud cry woke them in the middle of the night, "The Bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him." As they opened their eyes, the night was dark, and they could barely see, so they rushed to light their lamps. We know the rest of the story; some could light their lamps because they had extra oil. Others, unprepared with extra oil, could neither light their lamps to herald his coming nor enter in with the Bridegroom. What is represented by the oil? Ellen White is quoted in the devotional, "That I May Know Him," with an answer to this question.
In the parable, the foolish virgins are represented as begging for oil and failing to receive it at their request. This is symbolic of those who have not prepared themselves by developing a character to stand in a time of crisis. It is as if they should go to their neighbors and say, 'Give me your character or I shall be lost.' Those that were wise could not impart their oil to the flickering lamps of the foolish virgins. Character is not transferable. It is not to be bought or sold; it is to be acquired (That I May Know Him, p. 350).
In contrast to the foolish virgins, the wise virgins had righteous characters. So, although the wise virgins appeared to be as indolent as the foolish ones - none of them were watching for the Groom - the wise virgins had retained oil, and therefore were prepared for the wait. Living by faith, they were enabled to receive the groom. With that said, what would have pleased the Bridegroom more: if the virgins had been waiting or watching? Or both?
As the Groom approached the bridesmaids, he must have noticed that they had been sleeping and that five were missing. We can only imagine his perplexity and disappointment, as he questioned, "Weren't they supposed to stay awake and light the way to the banquet hall? How is it they all fell asleep? And why were only five prepared for the delay?" "They all knew I could come at any time. …" It did not look good.
Was this a sign of things to come? This incident revealed that the bridesmaids became weary after the long delay. And that while they anticipated a delay, they did not expect an extended wait period.
There are things hidden deep within the recesses of each of our minds, things which only the Holy Spirit through time and circumstances can reveal to us, that we may through repentance and forgiveness, receive its blotting out. Whenever the Lord gives a promise, a period of waiting ensues before He fulfills His promise to us. His goal is neither to drive us to distraction nor to frustrate us. Instead, He desires us to wait patiently, expectantly, watching, enduring and persevering until its fulfillment.
Waiting is not a natural human tendency. We want whatever it is right now. And our selfish natures find many ways of attaining our desires. Often subconsciously we present our thinking or behavior in the most moral or rational light, as we attempt to conceal our true purpose, for self to gain the promised blessing now.
Jesus implied that in the Christian's life, waiting patiently would be an issue; that's why He went so far as to say, "When I come, will I find faith on the earth?" The delay which He is using for our good, to reveal our true hidden state to us while there is time to repent, is instead used by many to fulfill self's goals, which is to avoid true self-knowledge.
By remaining in union with the source of renewing energy or power, the Holy Spirit, we are enabled by faith to 'be renewed in the Spirit of our minds' (John 15, Romans 12:1). The battle, after all, is for our minds as well as our affections. Watching and waiting patiently are not inactive pursuits; they require vigilance, as well as resting and reposing in the Father.
"Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that comes to God must believe that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek (inquire of) Him." "You therefore beloved, seeing you know these things before, beware lest you also being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness" (Hebrews 11:6; 2 Peter 3:17).
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Thursday, June 14, 2018
Friday, June 08, 2018
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever. Revelation 11:15
In their protest of Papal authority, Protestant princes exercised and established a measure of civil and religious liberty, both principles of which they recognized were founded on the Word of God. However, civil and religious authority were not separated as they should be. There was not a complete break from the principles of the Papacy which placed tradition over the Bible. The Sabbath, a sign of liberty from the world and freedom in Christ, was overlooked, if not rejected. Thus was left an opening for the restoration of the power and influence of the Papacy.
The French Revolution more directly challenged Papal authority, exercising civil liberty to attack the abuses of the Papacy, and thus separating civil and religious authority. By rejecting the Word of God as the foundation of liberty the revolution ended in chaos and anarchy. Out of this anarchy came Napoleon, whose autocratic rule included the wounding of the power of the Papacy.
The healing of the deadly wound involves a willingness of both the civil and religious powers of the United States to undermine both civil and religious liberty and will eventually result in combining the civil and religious powers of America to enforce both civil and religious law. The Sabbath is the barrier to the culmination of healing the deadly wound and thus the final focus of the attack.
"'And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand or in their foreheads; and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.' It is easy to show by the Scriptures, as Romans 4:11; Revelation 7:3; Ezekiel 9:4-6, etc., that sign, seal, and mark are used as equivalents, in the Bible. God gave the Sabbath as a sign of His work of creation, and of Himself as Creator. Exodus 31:13-17. Ezekiel 20:11, 12, 19, 20. In six days the Lord made heaven and earth: the seventh day-the rest day or Sabbath-commemorates that work. It is a sign of the Creator; a perpetual reminder of His power; a safeguard against heathenism, if observed by the nations. Had not man turned away from the Sabbath he could not have forgotten God. 'The things that are made' attest 'His eternal power and Godhead.' Romans 1:20. He Himself gave the Sabbath as a sign of this. How presumptuous is feeble man to treat with contempt this God-given sign and displace it by another sign without a sentence of Scripture to warrant the action." (December 22, 1881 EJW, SITI 571.11)
The United States arose in power with an attempt to assimilate the best of Protestantism (religious liberty) and the French Revolution (civil liberty). The fundamental principle undergirding the United States Constitution is that all governments derive their power from the consent of the governed. And because the founders recognized that all men are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it follows that they affirmed this principle of rulership by consent of the governed as how God rules His Universe.
This principle of the consent of the governed is the outworking of free will and the reason for the great controversy between good and evil. We might say it is the essence of the Faith of Jesus. God exercises authority by His creative faith in humanity - expecting a freely chosen faith response to His love and goodness. He speaks the Word, and this word has non-coercive power to create. The whole creation witnesses to His motives and methods.
"In the Kingdom of God, on the part of the Governor the principle of the government is, Government with the consent of the governed. 'Choose you this day whom ye will serve.' 'Choose life that ye may live. . . He is thy life.' 'Whosoever will, let him come.' 'Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in.' Among all the infinite numbers in the kingdom there will never be one there other than with his own consent. When all shall be finished pertaining to the kingdom, and 'every creature that is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them' shall be heard saying, 'Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb forever and ever,' among them all there can not he found one intelligence who is there without his own consent, in the exercise of his own free choice of the faith of Christ the rightful king." (April 14, 1909 ATJ, MEDM 291.3)
. This Babylonian "spirit of antichrist" is revealed in the rejection of the biblical account of creation and the embrace of evolutionary thought by the Papacy, recently confirmed in a documentary interview with the Pope (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/pope-francis-shares-candid-thoughts-in-new-documentary/). It is also revealed in the Protestant embrace of Spiritualism in the Emergent Church movement with its evolutionary view of personal and corporate spiritual development and its focus on the senses and experience over against the plain reading of Scripture.
"We have outlined in Revelation 13 the work of the Papacy, something just like it, though distinct from it, even as that action of professedly Protestant peoples in enforcing an institution of Rome in an exact reproduction of the workings of the Papacy. And in connection with this, the prophecy speaks of the wonder-working power by which the people are deceived and led to the bitter end in the fight against God and truth.
The miracle-working power of Satan has always been manifested in sustaining his deceptions. Wherever in ancient times we find sun-worship and idolatry, there also is found witchcraft, sorcery, etc. It was one of the sins of Nineveh and of Babylon. It is not surprising, therefore, that this is the agency employed in the gathering of forces for the last conflict. The Papacy was the result of the corruption of the church by the errors which prevailed in ancient Babylon, and which spread from Chaldea into all the heathen world. Along with these errors come the old error which is the foundation of Spiritualism-the belief in the conscious state of the dead.
Thus, Rome and the great body of Protestantism are ready for the doctrines of Spiritualism; in fact, they are already thoroughly permeated with them, unconsciously often, but none the less really. One may hear purely Spiritualistic teaching from the pulpits on every side. And when Rome and Protestantism join hands in setting aside the Word (and it is beginning to be done in earnest over the Sabbath question), it awaits only the full manifestation of the third partner, Spiritualism, and then under the influence of this three-fold confederacy the forces of the world will unite against God. Revelation 16:14." (December 12, 1895 EJW, PTUK 788-9.)
Coming out of Babylon involves more than rejecting the spurious Sabbath and the dangers of spiritualism in an understanding of the state of the dead. It must include a restoration of the true gospel in which the creative and recreative power of God was and is manifest in the sinful humanity which Christ took upon Himself. The Faith of Jesus through which the remnant keep the Commandments of God is contingent on believing this gospel, which must be proclaimed as part of the Loud Cry Message of Revelation 18:1.
"In the counterfeit gospel, the perversion of the true, we have the self-styled 'representative of Christ on the earth, who as God sitteth in the temple of God showing himself that he is God.' While assuming the titles and prerogatives which belong only to the divine Author of our salvation, he yet denies to the Christ whom he pretends to represent that very experience which alone constitutes Him the Saviour of a fallen race, the incarnation in sinful flesh. Here is the crucial test. Here is where the counterfeit reveals itself. Here is where the divinely-appointed detector will show that not the Spirit of God but the spirit of Satan is working under this mask of a pretended gospel. 'Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh [or confesses Jesus Christ as having come in the flesh, all flesh, and therefore in sinful flesh] is of God: and every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God and this, is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.' 1 John 4:2-3. 'For many deceivers are gone forth into the world, even they that confess not that Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.' 2 John 7, R.V. In its doctrine of the immaculate conception, which is 'the Catholic belief that the Blessed Virgin was, by a special privilege, preserved Immaculate, that is, free from the stain of original sin, from the first moment of her conception,' the papacy denies that Jesus of Nazareth 'took human nature from a corrupt, source,' and asserts that 'God the Son, by assuming this perfect human nature, which He took from the Blessed Virgin, was born in the flesh.' But this separates the Divine Redeemer so far from the sinful flesh in which we live that the whole human scheme of priests, saints and the Blessed Virgin with good works of many kinds become necessary in order to have communion with the Divine life. In other words, man is effectually cut off from the only saving power, the only real means of salvation, the Divine life working in sinful flesh to give victory over sin. Such is the terrible, outcome of this counterfeit gospel. Changing the law of faith into the law of works is simply the introduction of paganism under the form of Christianity. And the natural result of this change, as shown in the last study, has been to substitute by the authority of this counterfeit church the observance of the first day of the week, Sunday, the chief mark of paganism, for the observance of the seventh day of the week, commonly called Saturday, the true Sabbath of the Lord, the sign of His creative power, the sign of the true Gospel that really saves from sin. Such is the work of the papacy, modern Babylon. 'Come out of her, My people that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.' W. W. PRESCOTT . (June 14, 1900 WWP, PTUK 374.5)
Friday, June 01, 2018
For your interest, I will briefly recap a few of the highlights of this amazing story. The Allies had mostly finished fighting in the African arena and needed to move their troops and war machinery to the European front. They considered Sicily to be the best place to invade, but the Axis realized the same and it was heavily guarded by their forces. Although the Allies felt that they could take it regardless that it would be with great loss of life. Therefore, they hatched a plan (nearly as crazy as it was plausible) to have an already dead man wash up on a beach carrying top secret messages implying that the Allies were about to invade a different location. Finding a body and getting permission to use that body from the bereft family proved to be a challenge all the while making sure that the cause of death would look like drowning. Each and every detail from the clothes he wore to the additional letters he carried were involved in this deception. Even the location for this ruse was chosen based on the tidal system that would bring the body to the beach and the reputation of a meticulous German spy stationed there who the Allies could trust to find every detail of Michael's possessions played important parts in the plan. Delivery of the body and attached briefcase was carried out by a special forces submarine in the pre-dawn hours of a dark night off the coast of Huelva, Spain, and Glyndwr Michael effectively "lived" to die again. Through the expert work of the spy ferreting out the "facts," eventually the German leaders believed the letters he was carrying. Some have suggested that Hitler made the final determination of the "truth" of the information and gave the order to move their forces to another location allowing the Allied army to invade Sicily. Years later when all the classified information surfaced, and the story leaked out, the events associated with "the man who never was" have been called the most successful deception in military history: Operation Mincemeat.
As we consider this week's lesson focus I would like to use Operation Mincemeat as a helpful metaphor. Of course, I must remove the story from its historic bearings of Axis and Allies and apply it to the spiritual realm. So, after stripping this metaphor of the countries and people involved we can see that it is a story of intentional deception. That should be no surprise. Wars on this sinful earth are all fought by deception. Deception is trying to keep people from the truth by any means necessary because the truth is so important. According to Winston Churchill, "in wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies." Andrei Sakharov said it this way, "I've always thought that the most powerful weapon in the world was the bomb and that's why I gave it to my people, but I've come to the conclusion that ." So, wars continue on earth in an effort to define and control truth. Yet, the heavenly Great Controversy that rages in each of our hearts is about truth as well: the truth of God's character. which fill his arsenal.
So, this week's lesson is looking at some deceptions which the enemy of our souls will use with adept accuracy as he fights to the very end to secure as many humans as he can in his failed rebellion. Adventists around the world will study the normal deceptions that we have historically shared since the founding of our denomination: denying the reality of Satan, false Christs and prophets, the immortality of the soul, changing of the Sabbath, evolution, and the counterfeit trinity. Knowing that a high percentage of Adventists (more than 50%), outside of the USA, Australia and European countries, have been in the church less than 10 years and are new to our teachings, the Sabbath School lessons play an important role in educating our members and shoring up our distinctive beliefs. The study this week will be an important one; I pray that you are blessed.
However, I would like to take this readership in an additional direction, one that I see exhibited clearly in Operation Mincemeat. It seems that we often focus on the deceptions faced outside of our community of faith. The study this week discusses the doctrinal points that we often argue about with others as we witness or defend our reason for existence. But, my question is: what about the lies finely crafted for the Remnant people who "know" the truth? Is there a deception that we need to guard against so that we ourselves are not overrun by the enemy's forces in the last days? As we engage in the daily battles of life which according to both Ephesians 6:12 and 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 are not against people are we facing intentional demonic devices designed to move us away from the real territory to be defended, just as in Operation Mincemeat?
Consider this statement from Desire of Ages. "The greatest deception of the human mind in Christ's day was that a mere assent to the truth constitutes righteousness. In all human experience a theoretical knowledge of the truth has been proved to be insufficient for the saving of the soul. It does not bring forth the fruits of righteousness. A jealous regard for what is termed theological truth often accompanies a hatred of genuine truth as made manifest in life. The darkest chapters of history are burdened with the record of crimes committed by bigoted religionists. The Pharisees claimed to be children of Abraham and boasted of their possession of the oracles of God; yet these advantages did not preserve them from selfishness, malignity, greed for gain, and the basest hypocrisy. They thought themselves the greatest religionists of the world, but their so-called orthodoxy led them to crucify the Lord of glory. The same danger still exists. Many take it for granted that they are Christians, simply because they subscribe to certain theological tenets. But they have not brought the truth into practical life. They have not believed and loved it, therefore they have not received the power and grace that come through sanctification of the truth. Page 309 (Italics and bold type added)
Those seem like unnecessarily strong words. But, has Ellen White identified the battle that Operation Mincemeat capitalizes on? Are we in danger of being deceived like that? Could Christianity really become a curse to the world?
There is a book called Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity. . . and Why It Matters. The reason for the title, Unchristian, is very telling. In their own words, it "reflects outsiders' most common reaction to the faith: they think Christians no longer represent what Jesus had in mind, that Christianity in our society is not what it was meant to be. . . . [and] for many people the Christian faith looks weary and threadbare. They admit they have a hard time actually seeing Jesus because of all the negative baggage that now surrounds him." (page 13) On page 27, Kinnaman and Lyons describe from their research the top six things that outsiders think of Christians. These are things that Christians have portrayed to the world. All of these six were above 60%, and the top three were closer to 80%. Imagine, 80% of outsiders think this when they meet a Christian, you're: 1) Hypocritical; 2) Too focused on getting converts; 3) Anti-homosexual; 4) Sheltered; 5) Too political; and 6) Judgmental. These are shocking and tragic perceptions! To describe it in more "on the street" language, one outsider said this, "Most people I meet assume that Christian means very conservative, entrenched in their thinking, antigay, antichoice, angry, violent, illogical, empire builders; they want to convert everyone, and they generally cannot live peacefully with anyone who doesn't believe what they believe." (page 24) Wow! Breathe again and consider those words, especially the last phrase. That is exactly what Ellen White said years ago.
What a tragic statement to describe the people who are supposed to be known for following Christ. People who as their highest mark of commitment to Christ should be loving. Verses like John 13:35, Romans 13:8, Ephesians 4:12-16, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, 1 John 3:11, 1 John 4:7, all flood my mind at times like this and I cry out - what has happened? That perception of Christians is not what it should be! Apparently, in the eyes and experience of many in the USA, we have not been living like Christ. Operation Mincemeat has deceived us into moving our focus from a real experience with God day by day, which by the way, changes our hearts of stone into soft, and loving hearts, instead into the picture captured in Unchristian. How horribly tragic. That is an end time deception we need to seriously guard against. We need to recognize the effects of this deception creeping into our personal lives, families, Sabbath Schools, board meetings, churches, and even our organizational structures! When our opinions are more important than the person we are talking to we should recognize a dangerous shift in our focus. We would be wise to heed these words and perceptions.
This week as you study, consider this paragraph: "The wondering crowd that pressed close about Christ realized no accession of vital power. But when the suffering woman put forth her hand to touch Him, believing that she would be made whole, she felt the healing virtue. So in spiritual things. A nominal faith in Christ, which accepts Him merely as the Savior of the world, can never bring healing to the soul. The faith that is unto salvation is not a mere intellectual assent to the truth. He who waits for entire knowledge before he will exercise faith, cannot receive blessing from God. It is not enough to believe about Christ; we must believe in Him. The only faith that will benefit us is that which embraces Him as a personal Savior; which appropriates His merits to ourselves. Many hold faith as an opinion. " Desire of Ages, page 347
The only way to guard against this deception is to have the same monomaniac focus that David talks about in Psalms 27:4, "one thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple." Amidst the daily toils of life and the distracting tweets, news blasts (fake or real), shallow friendships, and fragmented lives we need to keep our hearts open and connected to God with that saving faith. Busyness is not godliness. Don't let anything distract you from a deep, vibrant life with Christ.
Let's keep our focus pristine and our hearts filled with the experiential knowledge of the character and love of God, then the devil won't make mincemeat of our faith in these last days!
If you would like to read more thoughts like this and have them applied to the mission challenges being faced by the world church you are welcome to download and read the extended version of the article that Bryan Gallant wrote for the Journal of Adventist Mission at: