Thursday, August 15, 2019

1888 Message Study : Jesus And Those In Need

https://www.1888msc.org/resources/ssi/2019-q3/jesus-and-those-in-need

"JESUS AND THOSE IN NEED"

 

Are you going through a challenging time right now? I am sure we all are.  My family is off in another country for the next three weeks taking care of my ailing mother in-law who has broken her hip, two of my closest mentors are facing terminal diseases, financial constraints have arisen that were unexpected—and yet I have comfort. I have a Savior nigh at hand. Psalms 34:17-19 says "The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of ALL their troubles. The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken spirit; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them ALL.

Let me relate a personal experience. I fell from a rope-swing ten years ago this month and have sustained long-term residual deficits that have been unimproved by dietary, lifestyle, or ANY OTHER intervention—I have tried MOST of them. It is in the darkest moments of these ten years that I have found a true Friend in Jesus, ALL my sins and griefs to bear. His Word has sustained me….literally. When all feelings of worth and meaning were removed it was only His promises that bore me up. Promises like "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7. Trials are the Lord's designed means of saving us from heartless indifference. I needed Jesus and He draws close to me.

It is in this context that I read Jesus' 'Mission Statement' and our memory text for this week ""The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." Luke 4:18-19. Here is the rub. It is only to the extent that I see or regard myself as poor that I can appreciate that unending riches and resources of selfless King Jesus and direct others to Him. It is only as I have been healed and restored by the tenderly applied balm from doctor Jesus Himself that I have undeniable confidence in His healing touch through me. I know the hold that jailer 'Fear' had on me, but praise God that Jesus unlocks me from that grip too. It is only since visiting Ophthalmologist Jesus that I realized he has restored my vision and helps me to see the needs of others. It is exciting when we see Jesus' mission statement as our mission statement. It is in brokenness that we are called and that we shine.

Over the last two years God has placed a lady in my path who was an Adventist in her past and who has fallen on hard times. She had lost all her children through illnesses and is now alone. We met telephonically after she learned that I was the last friend at the bedside of her only remaining son as he died. I cared for him as a nurse for three years to that point.

Her son had bequeathed to her his collection of rare books—many of them Adventist—with the request that they be used to be displayed in a museum to encourage others. Having limited means she insisted on a hefty amount for them—not even knowing the contents and therefore the value of the collection.

Knowing that I was an Adventist she placed the collection in my keeping eighteen months after his death with the task of finding a buyer who could meet both stipulations—price and purpose. A friend and I who were praying for her eternal welfare were amazed when an unsolicited offer was made which not only met her asking price, but also had the mutual desire of displaying the unique collection with the goal of impacting a new generation. At the conclusion of the experience this lady and I praised God for His providence in supplying her financial need and also that of the new owner. If this is what it means to reach out to those in need—the widow and orphan?

The lesson points us to Isaiah 53:1-6 regarding the Cross and cries of the poor, but an interesting perspective on God's provision for the rich is infused in verse nine of the same chapter. "And He made his grave with the wicked, And with the rich in His death;" This prophecy was fulfilled in the time between Jesus being removed from the Cross and the Resurrection—less than thirty-six precious hours in Joseph's tomb. In Matthew 27:57-58 it states "There came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph who also himself was Jesus' disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered."

To this point Jesus' body would be taken from the Cross and clumsily lumped on the burning ash-heap of Gehenna—the place where the fires never go out, but Joseph could not see this happen. Joseph, the ultra-rich Sanhedrin, had a need—the body of Jesus. What he was formerly coy to acknowledge he now boldly appealed to the top authority, Pilate, to "beg" for it. What a sight—a rich man begging a ruler for his Master's body. Touchingly he took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. Jesus would be placed in Joseph's newly hewn tomb; He would actually take Joseph's place in death. Additionally, God would be honoring His Son by having Him be covered with clean linen cloth—blotting the naked and violent preceding hours. God answers the cry of the rich.

I see myself as wrecked and poor and blind and naked. It is Jesus that is my health, my wealth, my sight and my righteousness. As He has met all my needs as my Life-source I am able to direct others to Him as theirs—receiving to give.

Thus, in the night of spiritual darkness God's glory is to shine forth through His church in lifting up the bowed down and comforting those that mourn. All around us are heard the wails of a world's sorrow. On every hand are the needy and distressed. It is ours to aid in relieving and softening life's hardships and misery. Practical work will have far more effect than mere sermonizing. We are to give food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and shelter to the homeless. And we are called to do more than this. The wants of the soul, only the love of Christ can satisfy. If Christ is abiding in us, our hearts will be full of divine sympathy. The sealed fountains of earnest, Christlike love will be unsealed. Christ Object Lessons. p. 417

~Richard Kearns


Thursday, August 08, 2019

Correlation

The definition of correlation, according to one dictionary, is "the degree to which two or more attributes or measurements on the same group of elements show a tendency to vary together." In other words, where there is correlation, there is a mutual relationship or parallelism. Despite this, one attribute, measurement, or element does not cause the other, instead, they vary together. A simple example would be, developmentally as our hands grow, our feet grow as well.  Our hands do not make our feet grow; neither do our feet make our hands grow.  The cause of simultaneous growth is the same for each.

 

Let's look at another example. In most large cities, crime increases in the summer as does the number of ice-cream sales. One could erroneously deduce that ice-cream causes crime to increase, or vice versa. However, we know that is not true. In simplistic terms what happens instead, is that hot weather, along with other activities and inclinations encourages people to go outside. Among those that go out, many will buy ice cream, as it's considered refreshing in the summer heat.  And among those that go out, are would-be perpetrators, assailants, and their victims.  This makes it easier to find a target and or become one.  

 

Upon a cursory reading of the Bible, we see God rebuking the Israelites for idolatry, immorality and unethical behavior. We could easily assume that either idolatry caused these ungodly behaviors or vice versa.  But that would be incorrect. These practices are correlated not causal. Therefore, you can predict that when you see the one behavior, you will also see the other. The common factor which originates both, is the turning of our hearts from God.  We see this in Micah 6:6-8.

 

"Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

 

The Lord had told the people what pleased him—what was in line with his character of love, which was to walk humbly in communion with him. This and this alone would bring about the living justly and loving mercy he desired. However, the people had yet to comprehend this even by the time of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. In his mercy, the Lord gave them a similar diagnosis and prescription as can be viewed in both in Isaiah 1: 11 – 17; 58: 4-7 and in Jeremiah 7: 3-- 10.  As we can see in these texts, where there was idol worship, there was oppression and abuse of their fellow countrymen. Clearly, where the one was visible, the other was present. These attributes are correlated, because the same factor caused both. Per Ellen White,

 

"In Isaiah's day the spiritual understanding of mankind was dark through misapprehension of God. Long had Satan sought to lead men to look upon their Creator as the author of sin and suffering and death. Those, whom he had thus deceived, imagined that God was hard and exacting. They regarded Him as watching to denounce and condemn, unwilling to receive the sinner so long as there was a legal excuse for not helping him. The law of love by which heaven is ruled had been misrepresented by the archdeceiver as a restriction upon men's happiness, a burdensome yoke from which they should be glad to escape. He declared that its precepts could not be obeyed and that the penalties of transgression were bestowed arbitrarily.

 

In losing sight of the true character of Jehovah, the Israelites were without excuse. Often had God revealed Himself to them as one "full of compassion, and gracious, long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth." Psalm 86:15. "When Israel was a child," He testified, "then I loved him, and called My son out of Egypt."" Hosea 11:1. (PK 311 – 312)

 

Now, if the same factor caused both, then the cure was the same: turning of hearts and minds toward God--repenting. God not only wanted his people to believe that He was indeed a loving God who had their best interests at heart, but that he also desired their fellowship. Through the prophet Isaiah he told them,

 

"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18).

 

God's intention with them was for good, not evil.  He wanted to take all selfishness, uncleanliness of mind, and impurity of heart motive from them.  He said through Ezekiel,

 

"Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them" (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

 

Just as it was with the Israelites, so it is with us. When oppression and abuse are present among us, there is also idolatry. When there is immorality and unethical behavior among us, there is also idolatry. Many believe that as long as you are "nice," it does not matter how you "worship." Others think that if you "worship" God in the right way, it does not matter how you "behave" (worship in this context is seen as a task). Yet, God is saying that both issues are a problem. And, where one is evidenced, the other will also be visible. Both issues co-exist and arise from the same cause. Therefore, both have the same cure. What was prescribed for the Israelites has been prescribed for us. The question is, will we respond positively by receiving the cure of a clean heart and a new mind from Him?


Friday, July 26, 2019

“MERCY AND JUSTICE IN PSALMS AND PROVERBS”

"MERCY AND JUSTICE IN PSALMS AND PROVERBS"

 

 

"Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy, Deliver the poor and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked" Psalms 82:3,4

 

This week's lesson attempts a quick survey of the book of Psalms and Proverbs to draw attention to the plight of the oppressed and the poor.  The theme that the oppressed often endure the affliction of this world while the oppressors prosper is woven throughout the Psalms.  The author of this week's lesson points out that justice for the wicked will ultimately be met in the end with God's just judgment.

 

Another thread woven throughout this week's lesson is the call to participate with the heart of God in relieving the physical sufferings of the poor and needy, while offering spiritual hope.  I appreciate the goal and purpose of the author and whole heartedly agree that we, as followers of Christ, must be involved in alleviating the suffering of the downtrodden, poor and marginalized.

 

One thing that I have noticed however, is that as social justice movements abound, there does not seem to be any less suffering today.  It seems that as more social movements arise to help various causes and groups, more conflict and discord emerges within society.  Why is this?

 

Consider this verse as is it pertains to mercy and justice.  "Mercy and truth have met, righteousness and peace have kissed." Psalms 85:10.  The Psalmist speaks of this kiss in which mercy and truth come together and righteousness and peace are brought into union.  The implication is that mercy and justice are apart and righteousness and peace have been separated, but the time would come or has come in which that situation would be remedied.

 

Have you noticed that for every issue there are typically two sides?  This is true in politics.  This is true in society with social issues.  And this is true within the church.

 

In American politics, there are usually two main political parties at odds and both frequently take a stand on governmental issues that are opposite of each other.  Those that are referred to as being on the "left" are often perceived as take positions on issues that extend "mercy" to the downtrodden and less advantaged.  This however, at times is at the expense of some element of truth be it economic truth, moral truth, or even biological truth.  At the same time those who are often referred to as the "right", are often perceived to take positions to protect "truth" while at times neglecting "mercy".  Now realizing this characterization is oversimplified at best, I want you to see how two opposing sides to an issue are each fighting for something good often at the expense of something equally important.  Both sides have noble and valid causes but while one side promotes mercy and peace, sometimes at the expense of righteousness and truth, the other side promotes righteousness and truth while sacrificing mercy and peace.

 

We see the results reflected daily in the news stories and headlines.  These two great principles at odds with each other manifested in the never-ending fights and conflict we see in government today.

 

Mercy and Truth polarization is not only present in government, we see it everywhere in society as well.  There are those promoting mercy and acceptance at the expense of truth and righteousness in conflict with those who are promoting truth and righteousness at the neglect of mercy and peace.

 

Looking at the church, it doesn't take long to recognize the same issues playing out in policy conflicts, as well as in theological differences.  Mercy and truth at odds with each other in the church.  As long as mercy and truth are divided and not allowed to exist together in full measure, you will always find discord and division.

 

Psalms 85:10 tells of a circumstance where mercy and truth come together and righteousness and peace kiss.  These two principles are joined in complete union.  A place where fully manifested mercy and perfectly preserved truth exist.  A circumstance where peace is passionately protected and perfect righteousness is never diminished.

 

Throughout scripture we get glimpses of these two realities joined together.  The ark of the covenant that contains the law of God on the inside and covered by the mercy seat on the outside is one example.  We also see this blending in the words of Jesus to the woman caught in adultery, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more".  But nowhere do we see this most clearly displayed than on the cross of Christ.

 

Consider the following statements:

 

"At the cross, mercy and truth met together; righteousness and peace kissed each other. As the sinner looks upon the Saviour dying on Calvary, and realizes that the Sufferer is divine, he asks why this great sacrifice was made; and the cross points to the holy law of God, which has been transgressed. The death of Christ is an unanswerable argument to the immutability and righteousness of the law." BEcho, March 15, 1893

 

"On the cross mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissed each other. Jesus had testified that God is true. Faith demands no more. The doubting soul need not ask, Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? The answer comes clear and strong, 'God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.'"  BEcho, July 23, 1900

 

Through Jesus, God's mercy was manifested to men; but mercy does not set aside justice. The law reveals the attributes of God's character, and not a jot or tittle of it could be changed to meet man in his fallen condition. God did not change His law, but He sacrificed Himself, in Christ, for man's redemption. 'God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.'" 2 Corinthians 5:19.  DA 762

 

"Christ was 'despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed.'

 

The grace of Christ and the law of God are inseparable. In Jesus, mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other. In His life and character, He not only reveals the character of God, but the possibility of man. He was the representative of God and the exemplar of humanity. He presented to the world what humanity might become when united by faith with divinity. The only-begotten Son of God took upon Him the nature of man, and established His cross between earth and heaven. Through the cross, man was drawn to God, and God to man. Justice moved from its high and awful position, and the heavenly hosts, the armies of holiness, drew near to the cross, bowing with reverence; for at the cross justice was satisfied. Through the cross the sinner was drawn from the stronghold of sin, from the confederacy of evil, and at every approach to the cross his heart relents and in penitence he cries, 'It was my sins that crucified the Son of God.' At the cross he leaves his sins, and through the grace of Christ his character is transformed. The Redeemer raises the sinner from the dust, and places him under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As the sinner looks upon the Redeemer, he finds hope, assurance, and joy. Faith takes hold of Christ in love. Faith works by love, and purifies the soul."  ST, June 5, 1893

 

These two principles were never meant to be divided.  They are the heart of God and have always been and will ever be inseparable and the cross of Christ proves it.  Mercy and truth are an indissoluble single entity that is called love.  There exists in the self-sacrificing love of God both full complete mercy and perfect righteousness.  Love is always merciful, keeping no record of wrong while at the same time never for a moment partnering with unrighteousness.

 

"It had been Satan's purpose to divorce mercy from truth and justice. He sought to prove that the righteousness of God's law is an enemy to peace. But Christ shows that in God's plan they are indissolubly joined together; the one cannot exist without the other.  'Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.'" Psalms 85:10. DA 763. The moment we fail to show mercy to preserve righteousness or forsake righteousness while embracing the most merciful position towards others we have divorced these two principles and have joined with Satan's purpose.

 

This kiss, that was most clearly seen on the cross of Christ, is an elusive kiss here in this world.  Yet it does not have to elude us.  God has given every resource that heaven has to raise up a people who will fully manifest mercy, truth, righteousness and peace to a hurting and dying world.  Shall we let him?

 

Arise, shine; For your light has come!

And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.

For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,

And deep darkness the people;

But the Lord will arise over you,

And His glory will be seen upon you.

The Gentiles shall come to your light,

And kings to the brightness of your rising.

Isaiah 60:1-3

 

~Kelly Kinsley


Friday, July 19, 2019

1888 Message Study : Sabbath: A Day of Freedom

https://www.1888msc.org/resources/ssi/2019-q3/sabbath-a-day-of-freedom

"SABBATH: A DAY OF FREEDOM"

 

 

Every week or so, I take my wife out on a "date." It's usually out to dinner, but the intent is to spend quality time with her, for we both live such busy lives that we crave some time just to be together. It's my way of telling her how special she is to me, and how much I want that time with her.

 

Our Lesson Study this week is on a familiar topic, the Sabbath. I suspect that many feel like "oh, we Adventists obsess on the Sabbath." I think when you understand the Sabbath correctly, it will contribute to an entirely different experience, and you will ache for that day, and the experience God wants you to have on that day. In the course of this commentary, I am going to share an experience I had yesterday, a remarkable one, that is going to influence me for the rest of my life, and not just on the Sabbath, but every day, because of the need that demands it, and the one who has that need. It brought me to tears, tears of sadness, tears of joy, and tears of almost impatient expectation for what I began to realize I could fully have as a Christian. I am like you, a person growing, a person overcoming, a person healing.

 

God created the Sabbath as the final act of the Creation week. It has been said that on the seventh day, God not only rested, but He created rest as an integral part of the way that the world was to be. The Sabbath was a demonstration of how we were created to interact with God and with each other. We need to understand the integral role that the Sabbath was designed to play in the world and in the lives of God's people as a symbol of God's grace and provision.

 

The Sabbath was created not only to meet man's needs, but due to the heart of God Himself, and His desire to spend time with His creation. I pray that as you study this lesson, you will discover something that I discovered, and it came in part through a prayer, through the National Conference I just attended, and a remarkable discovery while reading some of the 1888 resource materials. It really has to do with the "higher motivation" that a full understanding of the 1888 Message is to bring to your mind and heart, and thus, spiritual experience.

 

Sunday

 

We are to see a marvelous truth in the account of the giving of the manna in Exodus 16. It is to teach us several truths about our relationship to God.

The lesson for the Israelites, and us, was that God has provided sufficiently for His people and His creation. If we take only what we need and are prepared to share our excess with others, all will be cared for and provided for. Taking only enough for the day required the people to trust that there would be more the following day. Oppressed people, such as the Israelite slaves, tend to focus on their own survival, but God wanted to demonstrate to them a life of trust, generosity, and sharing.

But there was also another, more remarkable, dimension to this practice. Each Friday a double portion of manna appeared on the ground, and on that day—and only that day—the people were to collect the extra manna in preparation for the Sabbath. The special provision for the Sabbath became an additional way for them to learn to trust the Lord for all their needs. This extra portion of manna, an act of grace on God's part, enabled them to enjoy even more fully the rest that God has promised them on the seventh-day Sabbath.

What are we to prepare for, and what is the portion we are to give away, ultimately? You may be thinking that we are to give to others, in witnessing. Certainly, that is true, but there is something far more important that I wish to discuss today. It has to do with the ache of a heart.

Monday

The Sabbath plays a double role of creation and redemption, of relationship and restoring of that relationship. Sin interrupted the full relationship that we had with God. But did we ever think that it interrupted the relationship that God had, and wants again, with us? God experienced a divorce, from us, that was not His will or doing, and the pain must have been incredible. Certainly He foresaw it and made provision for it, but have you ever prepared for the death of a loved one, and then found out when it occurred that you really were not fully prepared, or that the pain was even more than you anticipated? I wonder if we see God that way. Is that possible for God to have gone through much more than we think?

In the Exodus 20 version of the fourth commandment, God as our Creator is revealed most clearly.

By contrast, their rescue, redemption, and salvation is the focus of the fourth commandment in Deuteronomy 5. This was a story that the Israelites were to retell regularly; they could reconnect with it especially every Sabbath. Their first story was one of actual, physical rescue from slavery in Egypt, but as their understanding of God and His salvation grew, Sabbath would also become a weekly symbol and celebration of their spiritual salvation.

Both of these motivations for Sabbath were about restoring the relationship between God and His people: "I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the LORD made them holy" (Ezekiel 20:12, NIV). And, as we have seen, this was never about this group of people only. On the foundation of this relationship, they were to establish a new kind of society, one that was kind to outsiders and a blessing to the wider world.

"Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day" (Deuteronomy 5:15, NIV). By keeping the Sabbath as a way of remembering and celebrating both our Creation and Redemption, we can continue to grow in our relationship, not only with the Lord but with those around us. God is gracious to us; therefore, we need to be gracious to others.

The Sabbath should make us more compassionate and loving people. But how does that happen? We know this, we have read this, but many people are broken, afraid of people, frozen in their emotions, and in that state, its harder to minister to others, for one broken person has a difficult time dealing with other broken people. It can cause a disconnect, unless empathy and sensitivity has been aroused. The concept of Biblical justice is one discussed at the National Conference, and as I reflected upon it, I saw something that helped my brokenness. I will share that in this lesson.

Creation and redemption are concepts. They are cognitive, intellectual, conceptual, and perhaps, merely clich├ęs. Does Creator and Redeemer touch your heart? If not, I think I understand something, at least that was true for me, that may help.

There is a famous story in the 19th Century on the East Side of London. A child was born who was hideous in his appearance, and as he grew, he became more hideous and deformed. He was abandoned by his parents, sold into a circus freak show, where he often experienced people laughing at him, and one day, they chased him into an alley, throwing rocks at him. He wore a bag over his head, to avoid the direct exposure of his appearance. He turned to them and screamed out in an almost primeval cry of the heart, "I am not an animal, I am a human being." He, of course, was the Elephant Man. Have you ever felt that way, broken, abandoned, rejected, a bit "strange" because of the scars of sin, and craving for love, acceptance, and relationship. Then you know more about your Creator, and how He knows what you feel, what you crave, and what redemption is desiring to heal. You see, He felt abandoned, rejected, scorned, and was "wounded in the house of His friends." God is not at all unfamiliar with the human experience, the shatteredness of what we are and feel, for He came to be one with us, and to lead us home again. Do you have a bag over your head? Are you afraid of God, afraid of rejection, afraid of exposure? Walk further in this study.

Tuesday

The Sabbath Commandment has some very unique, and often unappreciated aspects to it. Notable among these Sabbath details is the focus on others. Sigve K. Tonstad argues that this kind of command is unique among all the cultures of the world. The Sabbath commandment, he explains, "prioritizes from the bottom up and not from the top looking down, giving first considerations to the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. Those who need rest the most—the slave, the resident alien, and the beast of burden—are singled out for special mention. In the rest of the seventh day the underprivileged, even mute animals, find an ally". – The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day (Michigan: Andrews University Press, 2009), pp. 126, 127.

"Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." I have learned in my life as a psychologist, a pastor, and a medical missionary that there is ONE thing that people crave, every one of you that are reading this lesson. You want PEACE. You ache for it, you long for it, at times you have cried about it. When the head moves to the heart you want what all of the Bible, all of the doctrines, all of the concepts of the 1888 Message discuss, and you hate the times it is all "heady" and has no impact. You want God in the heart. The sabbath commandment reveals that God wants that for you, and for everyone. The Sabbath is one great equalizer, for God is there for everyone, He created all, He died for all, and then............there is something else, which we need to eventually see. It is the higher motivation, but it is also the higher antidote to bring the mind to the heart. God gave me something yesterday that I believe we all need to see, and I discovered it in a remarkable way. I cried over it.

God gave the Sabbath in part to remind us all that we are equal, in spite of differences in intelligence, giftedness, or level of spirituality. We are equal in need, in hope, and in destiny, if we will grasp it all by faith. Lest ye be like a little child. Think about that.

Wednesday

Jesus confirmed that the Sabbath is important. We need to put boundaries around Sabbath time to keep it special and to allow this weekly time to be opportunity to grow our relationships with God, our families, our church, and our community. But Sabbath keeping should not be selfishly about just us. As Jesus said, "It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" (Matthew 12:12, NKJV).

Many church members do much good work to care for others. But many of us also feel that we should do more to help. We know God cares about those who are hurting, oppressed, or forgotten, and that we should care, too. Because we are commanded not to pursue our regular work and are freed from the pressures of the week, on Sabbath we are given time to focus on this concern for others as one of the ways of true and active Sabbath keeping: "According to the fourth commandment the Sabbath was dedicated to rest and religious worship. All secular employment was to be suspended, but works of mercy and benevolence were in accordance with the purpose of the Lord … To relieve the afflicted, to comfort the sorrowing, is a labor of love that does honor to God's holy day". – Ellen G. White, Welfare Ministry, p. 77.

Yes, on the Sabbath, a day for healing, a day for relieving the afflicted, the oppressed, the forgotten, the lonely, we need to grasp something that will make a difference in our relationship with God, and in our response to God. I mentioned to one of the board members of the Committee that in terms of Biblical Justice, there is something we need to see, that really is at the heart of the Great Controversy, and will assist to bring true healing.

Isaiah:53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth.

Do we care about that? Yes, we are grateful that He suffered and died out of His Agape for us all, but do we care that He went through that? Have we forgotten about salvation for a moment, or the cross in relation to us, and just got into touch with what He felt? Why hast Thou forsaken Me? Have you ever felt totally alone? Have you ever been abused, scorned? Do you care that your Creator went through that? It should cause us pause and to do more than thank Him. Feel with Him, care about Him, love Him for being the kind of God He is. But there is more.

Thursday

There is the Sabbath rest of the land, a time to teach total trust that God will provide. Jehovah Jireh. What an act of faith to NOT plant for a year, believing, just as in the sixth day of gathering the manna, God will provide over a long period of time. God is faithful, everlasting. What does that mean in terms of His heart? Has God had to remain faithful, over the centuries, in the midst of the constant rebellion, apostasy, abuse, agony, that sin has caused people, and ultimately the heart of God himself?

Those who think of the result of hastening or hindering the gospel think of it in relation to themselves and to the world. Few think of its relation to God. Few give thought to the suffering that sin has caused our Creator. All heaven suffered in Christ's agony; but that suffering did not begin or end with His manifestation in humanity. The cross is a revelation to our dull senses of the pain that, from its very inception, sin has brought to the heart of God. Every departure from the right, every deed of cruelty, every failure of humanity to reach His ideal, brings grief to Him. When there came upon Israel the calamities that were the sure result of separation from God,—subjugation by their enemies, cruelty, and death,—it is said that "His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel." "In all their affliction He was afflicted: ... and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old." Judges 10:16; Isaiah 63:9.

His Spirit "maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." As the "whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together" (Romans 8:26, 22), the heart of the infinite Father is pained in sympathy. Education, 264. Our world is a vast lazar house, a scene of misery that we dare not allow even our thoughts to dwell upon. Did we realize it as it is, the burden would be too terrible. Yet God feels it all. In order to destroy sin and its results He gave His best Beloved, and He has put it in our power, through co-operation with Him, to bring this scene of misery to an end. "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." Matthew 24:14. Education, 263-4.

Did you hear what that quote said? Every sin brings GRIEF to Him. In all our affliction He WAS AFFLICTED. The heart of the infinite FATHER is pained in sympathy. God "feels it all." The Sabbath will never be experienced until we realize who we are walking with. There is more yet.

Friday

God does not want us to have pain. He knows more than we the pain that sin has caused. He gave us a day of rest for just that, rest. Rest from our works, rest from the agony of human existence, to find quality time with Him. Who is He? Salvation is to "know God." Who is He? Dee Casper talked, in his one sermon, about God being lonely for us, missing His time with us. When we are too busy for God in our life, missing out on communion and fellowship with Him, it brings Him the uttermost grief, for He craves fellowship. I was reading on the 1888 Message Study Committee resource list, and I found one article about the Book of Hosea, and the issue of Love and Judgment. I remembered my thought during the National Conference that in terms of Biblical Justice, the one person who has been treated the most unjustly and cruelly is God, and the cries of the saints in Revelation 15, that God is just and fair, will bring a balm to His soul, and the universe finally will have learned the truth that God is love. The article I read described God, in one respect, as having a heart like a little child, innocent, pure, vulnerable, sensitive, kind, longing for love and fellowship, gentle. "Come learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart." During the conference, I prayed for God to heal my limbic system in the brain. Why? It is the center that controls emotionality. I have struggled with that part of me, for I was savagely beaten as a child, almost killed, and I went through post-traumatic stress for many years. I have had other very traumatic experiences, cruelties, of course like many others have had also. I struggled to go from the head to the heart. As I read this description of the Heart of God, I cried, for I got in touch with my Creator, the heart of the universe, and how I had seen him as some mature, aristocratic, computer like brain who was far above me, and yet, He made us in His image, and He wants us to be like little children, and to be pure in heart, meek and lowly, innocent, as He is. God has a heart longing for us to be with Him, to love Him, to care for Him and each other, to have our hearts united. Then I looked at the bottom of the article, as I wanted to thank the one who wrote that insight into the heart of God. I will probably never forget what I saw. It was from a SS Quarterly article in 2013. It was I who wrote the article, and God used an article 6 years ago, that He inspired me to write, to minister to my own heart and soul, at a time I was more ready to feel it, not just "know" it.

Enjoy your Sabbath. God wants a date with you. He is the lover, wooing HIs bride. He is the paternal father, who aches to be with His children. He has the heart of a Child, pure, innocent, vulnerable. I urge you to enjoy that date, and minister to the heart of the One Who every day, during this time of sin, suffers infinite agony. There is coming a day soon, when sin and suffering will be no more, for us. However, God for all eternity will miss the ones who spurned His love. I urge you to love Him, and the two of you walk hand in hand, and as Jesus said, always do those things that please your Father. God bless you.

1
O let me walk with Thee, my God,
As Enoch walked in days of old;
Place Thou my trembling hand in Thine,
And sweet communion with me hold;
E'en though the path I may not see,
Yet, Jesus, let me walk with Thee.

2
I cannot, dare not, walk alone;
The tempest rages in the sky,
A thousand snares beset my feet,
A thousand foes are lurking nigh.
Still Thou the raging of the sea,
O Master! let me walk with Thee.

3
If I may rest my hand in Thine,
I'll count the joys of earth but loss,
And firmly, bravely journey on;
I'll bear the banner of the cross
Till Zion's glorious gates I see;
Yet, Savior, let me walk with Thee.

God wants to become married to us again. He wants the walk He misses so much, the walk Adam and Eve had in the Garden, so long ago. I urge you to walk with Him. 

 

~Pastor Thomas Cusack


Friday, July 05, 2019

“GOD CREATED”

"GOD CREATED"

 

"He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy" Proverbs 14:31.

I have to admit the juxtaposition of topics in this week's lesson, starting with creation and ending up with helping the needy, was a stretch for me. It wasn't immediately clear how these two concepts fit together. In this insight we will endeavor to connect the themes in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

"By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. . . . . For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast" Psalm 33:6, 9.

From my earliest years, these words were indelibly etched in my mind. My father was not raised as a Seventh-day Adventist. Trained in physics and the theory of evolution, the biblical account of fiat creation posed an enigma beyond his comprehension as he first learned of the Genesis record. A decision to accept the creation story by faith, followed by his baptism into the Seventh-day Adventist church, took my father on a quest to find scientific support for the faith position he had accepted. Did science really contradict the Bible? Do we need to lengthen the ages mentioned in Genesis to accommodate the wisdom of the world? My father's decades-long research and discoveries ultimately affirmed the biblical record. His faith in the Word was strengthened. Moses was not mistaken. God did not fabricate an account of earth's beginnings in Genesis. Satan is the author of lies. The theory of evolution originated with him.

But in addition to the physical record of creation being validated by science today, for those willing to acknowledge the evidence, the Bible contains many other deep lessons pertaining to creation, the fall of man, and our salvation.

On day one of creation, "God said, 'Let there be light;' And there was light;" Genesis 1:3. From Paul we learn that the Light that shown that day was more than a mere brightness that illuminated space: "For it is the God Who commanded light to shine out of darkness, Who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" 2 Corinthians 4:6.

Darkness represents the misapprehension of God's character of agape love. He had been maligned by the highest angel in the heavenly courts. The unveiling of the creation of our world would bring to light a revelation of the mystery that had been hidden from ages past. Christ, the Creator, would demonstrate His love in a way never imagined by the onlooking universe. After the fall, our little planet took center stage. It would be here that the fate, not only of the human race, but of all creation, would be decided. The contest had yet only begun.

John explains that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it" John 1:1-5.

Here again, we see that the light shining in the beginning was emanating from Jesus Christ, and it was not only something to be seen, like a flashlight in a dark tunnel, but something to be comprehended, or understood. This reality the plan of salvation would unfold. 

John correlates the light that shone in the beginning with the life that is in man. E. J. Waggoner expounded on this in his Present Truth articles beginning in 1898:

"A portion of this unquenchable life is in every man that comes into the world. It would all be in every man, if no man would reject it; for of His fullness have all we received.' But men 'hold down the truth in unrighteousness.' Rom. 1:18. R.V. Christ is the truth and the life. They work against the life, because they love death." Proverbs 8:36. What wondrous grace has been manifested by the Lord, in that He has so marvelously provided for the salvation of all men. Upon every soul of mankind has He bestowed this wondrous love, that all might be called the sons of God. Men may reject the love, but that does not at all nullify the fact that it has been bestowed.

"This light of life is in every man that comes into the world. It 'lighteth every man coming into the world.' R.V. As he comes into the world, he receives the light. It is ours from our earliest infancy. With our first breath we have the life of Christ. What for? - 'The Word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.' Deuteronomy 30:14. And this Word was in the beginning with God, and the Word was God. So although 'the wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies' (Psalms 58:3), there is no excuse for their so doing. God's eternal power and Divinity are to be seen in them as well as in the other things that He has made, 'that they may be without excuse.' Romans 1:19, 20. The life is with them from the very beginning, in order that they may live even as Christ lived.

"Do you say that it but increases the condemnation of all mankind, in that all have sinned, and 'there is none that doeth good, no not one?' Very true, but 'where sin abounded grace did much more abound.' Great as the condemnation may be, greater still is the salvation. The life is in every man, not for condemnation, but for salvation. 'For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.' John 3:17. These things are for our learning, not for our discussion. They are not theories but facts. We are to understand them by believing them, and thus we get life through His name." (PT, December 22, 1898)

The world needs to hear the gospel story of what Jesus has done for us, through creation and through redemption. As Waggoner states, Christ's life was given to every man. Paul warns us in Romans 1 not to suppress this light. Jesus said to let it shine.

In our world today there is much talk of stewardship of the earth and climate change. Great fear has taken hold of some who feel drastic political measures must be set in place in order to save our planet from its seeming path to self-destruction, aided and abetted by the selfish pursuits of man.

To this we say, if we desire to be stewards of the earth, we must be stewards of ourselves and allow the light that streams from Calvary to shine out in deeds of mercy to our fellow men. It is certainly true that when we show respect to our earth by caring for it and not aiding its destruction, we are showing respect to our Creator Who will one day make all things new. Our earth in its current state cannot be salvaged, but while the earth remains, "seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease" Genesis 8:20. The Lord will continue to provide for the needs of mankind while time should last.

Further, as stewards of His bountiful blessings to us, we must help call others out of darkness into His marvelous light. The poor and needy of this world remind us of our own destitution and complete need of Jesus Christ. We should point them to Jesus, Who has promised to make all things new. God's love is transformative. He does not leave us in sin, filth, chaos, and degradation. The light of Jesus in the heart, when given free rein, transforms the believer into an effective soul winner and reflector of His glory.

We are not called to do the work of the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, or other agencies, however admirable their work may be. God has given us a specific work: "We are not commissioned to feed the world, but we are instructed to educate, educate." (4MR 286)

As we share our food with the hungry, our clothing with the naked, we are to point them to Jesus, and help them gain a measure of independence. Many have never been taught the first lesson in the work of practical self-support or in self-discipline. These all need our tenderest love and care, without enabling behaviors that perpetuate an entitled existence.

Recently, our church hosted an AMEN Free Clinic. We were pleased with the turnout -- some 95 individuals came seeking help -- and a variety of resources, including health and lifestyle education -- were included along with dental, eye, and medical care, haircuts, food and clothing.

One particular family seeking help stood out for their great need. At 38 years of age, the father and husband was crippled from a debilitating stroke last year. His wife, burdened with the care of three young children, could not drive and was dependent on friends for everything. They were constantly being threatened with eviction. I invited her to go with me to the DMV, where she eventually successfully passed her driver's exam. A driver's license is a step toward independence. There are many suffering ones in our world, but none are less valuable in the sight of God than the ones most highly favored in this world. God has no favorites. When we allow His light to shine through us, we become stewards of His grace, love, and mercy to our world and especially for those whom He died.

~Patti Guthrie


Saturday, June 29, 2019

1888 Message Study : Turning Hearts in the End Times

https://www.1888msc.org/resources/ssi/2019-2nd-qtr-apr---june/turning-hearts-in-the-end-times

SECOND QUARTER 2019

SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #13

JUNE 29, 2019

"TURNING HEARTS IN THE END TIME"

 

As we look back at this quarter's Sabbath school lessons, we have seen a spectrum of individual and family life experiences that many of us are familiar with and can relate to either directly or indirectly through friends, relatives or co-workers.  In each case, we can see how God, through His word, is there for us to guide us through the situation or circumstances and to give us hope and peace of mind.

Topics have included: conflict, forgiveness, marriage, depression, loneliness, grieving, illness, parenting, family unity, life and death, addiction, and the list goes on.

It struck me that each and every week, there has been one constant that was always there as we covered these issues and discussed them together.  That constant is God's infinite, eternal, totally unselfish (agape) love for each of us individually and for the entire human race as a whole.

Scripture tells us that "God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able".  Often with suffering and pain/loss in our lives there is indeed a temptation to blame God—how could He let this happen to me or a loved one?  And so, we try to deal with it ourselves to get through it somehow-- "just be strong"!

I've been there myself and I suspect many of you have been there too.  Just put God on a shelf and deal with it ourselves.  The problem is we need to look at the last part of that same verse, 1 Corinthians 10: 13, which says "but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."  He is there for us always and when our grief or despair is greatest is when He is the closest to us, just waiting for us to realize that we need Him and that we truly want His will to be done in our lives.

This does not happen naturally, for our sinful human nature does not seek after God, it is at enmity with God. It is a result of God seeking after us, His initiative, His love, and His infinite sacrifice.  This brings us to the title of this week's lesson, "Turning Hearts in the End Time."

Scripture clearly tells us that "God is love":

"And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him." 1 John 4:16.

What a God! — He has done everything for us because of that eternal, infinite love including the gift and sacrifice of His only Son because He wanted all of us, the entire human race, to be with Him forever.  He wants us to dwell in Him so that He may dwell in Him.  Corporately, Christ as the second Adam has taken the whole human race into Himself to undo the damage done by Satan through the first Adam.  And as Jesus promises us in John 15, "if you abide(remain) in Me, I will abide(remain) in you".  Our hearts and minds are naturally turned away from God because of our selfish and sinful human natures.  But as we behold His love, for each of us and all of us, our hearts will indeed, by faith, be turned towards Him.  That faith, the faith of Jesus, the same faith He had in His Father when He came to this planet to save us, is also a gift.

God not only wants our hearts turned towards Him, He wants to give us new hearts as we become new creatures in Christ (see Romans 6).

In Ezekiel 36:26, God promises us that:

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh."

What does this mean for you and me in these final days of Earth's history? Let's look at this quote from EGW (YI Sept. 26, 1901):

"When Jesus speaks of the new heart, He means the mind, the life, the whole being.  To have a change of heart is to withdraw from the affections from the world, and fasten them upon Christ.  To have a new heart is to have a new mind, new purposes, new motives.  What is the sign of a new heart? – a changed life.  There is a daily, hourly dying to selfishness and pride."

As God's love and His sacrifice are at the core of the "most precious message" given to us in 1888, it is not surprising that Waggoner and Jones many times spoke of His desire to give us a new heart.  Here are a few examples you might enjoy:

  1. Our flesh is sinful flesh; there is in it the tendency to wrong and only wrong, — the tendency to pass over the bounds, — transgress. Now the Lord Jesus, dwelling within by His Spirit, delivers us from this power of sin that is in us, and holds us back from doing wrong. He condemns sin in our flesh, and so frees us from the power of sin. Thus, in the sense that we do not transgress, do not go over the bounds, we do not sinARSH March 14, 1899, p. 170.9

    Now, on the other word: iniquity is evil-doing, bad intent. This Jesus Christ abolishes in us, takes away from us, delivers us from, and gives us a new mind, a new heart, a new spirit, a new disposition, that neither wants to do evil nor even thinks of doing evil. We commit no iniquity. ARSH March 14, 1899, p. 170.10

    Thus, we are made free from all the life of sin that has bound us; we are made free from sinning, by the power of Christ holding us back from transgression; we are made free from iniquity, by being given another Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, which loves the good, and will neither do evil nor think evil. Thus, it is that "whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: ... whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin." ARSH March 14, 1899, p. 170.11

    And still it is true that the best we do, when aiming to do right, when aiming at perfection, which is the only standard, — in all that we can do, we come short, we miss the mark, without the perfect merit of Jesus Christ to be our substitute and surety. ARSH March 14, 1899, p. 170.12 ATJ
     
  2. On the other hand, the new covenant is wholly of grace, and of the work of God by grace. ARSH July 24, 1900, p. 473.8

    It is a covenant in which the work is solely the work of God, and righteousness is the righteousness of God. ARSH July 24, 1900, p. 473.9

    It is a covenant in which everyone who shares it is born of the Spirit, and who thus receives a new mind and a new heart, in which mind the law of God is put, and upon which heart that law is written by the Spirit of the living God. ARSH July 24, 1900, p. 473.10

    It is a covenant in which, by the creative power of the promise of God, each one who submits to that promise is created a child of God. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10 ARSH July 24, 1900, p. 473.11

    It is a covenant in which, solely because of the mercy of God, and by his promise, there is obtained forgiveness of sins, full and free: the sins and iniquities to be remembered no more forever. ARSH July 24, 1900, p. 473.12 ATJ

     
  3. Sin is the transgression of the divine law. 1 John 3:4. The only effective means therefore for suppressing sin is that which enables the individual to keep that law. And as this law is infinitely higher and broader than man's law, only the Infinite One can provide the means required. And this He has done in the provisions of His gospel, which is "the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth." Romans 1:16. It is the privilege of Christian preachers to preach the power of God for the salvation of every sinner. It is their duty as well, and they are not true to their calling if they fail to do it. And what is "the power of God unto salvation"? The first chapter of Genesis furnishes an answer to the question. God said, "Let there be light," and "there was light." He said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters," and "it was so." He said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed after his kind, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind," and "it was so." His word created that which did not exist before; and in "every one that believeth" His word, there is created by its power that which did not exist before, even a new heart, which is clean and without sin. Psalm 51:10. By faith, the sinner becomes a "new creature" in Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17AMS April 8, 1897, p. 210.1 ATJ
     
  4. Luther, toiling on his knees up the so-called holy stairs in Rome, was trying to punish sin out of his flesh; but when he heard the voice speaking, "The just shall live by faith," he began to learn of a power able to set him free. All that system of penance and punishing of the flesh that has come into Christendom with monkery is based on the idea that there is good in man, and if only he is punished sufficiently the evil will be suppressed and the good remain. True, Jesus said, "If thy hand offend thee, cut it off," but it was only a striking way of emphasizing His teaching that "from within, out of the heart of men" proceeds the evil. The trouble is not with hand, or foot, or tongue, but with the heart, and only the Lord Jesus Who can give a new heart can deal with the trouble. The new heart and the new life come with the free forgiveness of sin, and if any weary, heavy-laden one will but confess his helplessness, and choose the life of obedience, the gift is his by the power of God. Professing Christians who still want to be saved in sin and not from sin need this message of life and righteousness by the gift of God, and the myriad souls in darkness who know nothing of a burden-bearing, loving Saviour need it. BEST October 25, 1897, par. 4 EJW
     
  5. Here is a test by which we may settle every question as to the lawfulness or unlawfulness of an act: Will it glorify God? If it will it is not only lawful but necessary. The man who is honest with himself before God in this question can settle which things are unlawful for him, and how far he may go in things that are necessary, as in eating and drinking. PTUK June 4, 1891, p. 185.4

    "But what a hardship," says one, "to be obliged to rein ourselves up to such a test." Well, that depends on whether or not we are really the slaves of Christ; whether or not we have willingly, gladly capitulated, accepting His terms, and yielding to His service. If we have, then it is not a task to inquire what will be to His glory, and to do it. We have yielded to Him because in His infinite love and mercy He has enabled us to see that there is more to be desired in His service than in our own; and we have made His will our own. He has made us new creatures, giving us a new heart, and new purposes, so that when we do His will we are simply doing our own, for His will is ours, and our will is His. PTUK June 4, 1891, p. 185.5

    "But suppose our will is His, and we have only one longing, supreme desire, namely, to do His will and glorify Him, how can we always do it?" That is answered in the very fact that we are His, wholly His. We are not our own, but have resigned ourselves into His hands as simple instruments of His will. We have no power in ourselves, but He has all power, and can make us what He wishes. And here comes in the encouragement of the thought that we serve a mighty Master, one against whom all the powers of earth and hell combined can do nothing. So, when the fierce temptation arises, when the infirmity of the flesh would cause us to fall, we, having the mind of our Master, to hate sin, flee to Him for strength, and His strength does what our weakness cannot. PTUK June 4, 1891, p. 185.6 EJW

 

And so, in closing, because of His infinite agape love and complete, eternal sacrifice, we today have the opportunity to respond, by faith, and allow Him to give us the new heart that we all need and that He desperately wants to give us. May that be our desire so that we can be with Him forever.

Blessings,

John and Monica