Friday, April 26, 2019

1888 Message Study : When Alone




Definitions of the word alone include separate, apart, isolated from others, lacking companions or companionship, solitary. Who of us hasn't experienced a sense of aloneness at times?



"And the Lord God said, 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.'" Genesis 2:18, NKJV.

Many a prayer has undoubtedly referenced this week's memory text.  Perhaps a prayer that goes something like this:  "But Lord, You said that it is not good to be alone.  You created marriage!  It is one of the first and finest gifts you gave to humanity.  And here I am single.  Please Lord, lead me to someone with whom I can share my life.  I am lonely!"  Or maybe for the person dealing with the breakup of a marriage or relationship the prayer is: "Lord, what happened?  What went wrong?  Why?  The pain and loneliness, the sense of failure, the abandonment, and the betrayal is unbearable!"

Man was not made to dwell in solitude; he was to be a social being.  Without companionship the beautiful scenes and delightful employments of Eden would have failed to yield perfect happiness.  Even communion with angels could not have satisfied his desire for sympathy and companionship.  There was none of the same nature to love and to be loved.  PP 46.

God celebrated the first marriage.  Thus the institution has for its originator the Creator of the universe.  "Marriage is honorable"; it was one of the first gifts of God to man, and it is one of the two institutions that, after the fall, Adam brought with him beyond the gates of Paradise.  AH 25, 26.

Yes, we were created to live in harmonious community, and the family unit is the social order God ordained.  Of course a profound theological truth about God is implied in the words, "It is not good that man should be alone."  In Genesis 1:26 we read, "And God said, Let Us make man in Our imageafter Our likeness."  The Godhead is the prototype family.  In all eternity past the triune God has never been alone!  And how could it be otherwise?  God is Love.  God is agape.  This other-centered love cannot exist alone.  It lavishes its affections, attentions, and creative power outward away from self.  It expresses itself in mutual sharing and like-mindedness.  In the Gospel of John many verses point to the oneness, the complete cooperation and unity of the Godhead.  I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me.  If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true.  There is another that beareth witness of Me; and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. John 5:30-32.  But when the Comforter is come, Whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, He shall testify of Me… John 15:26.  Jesus directs attention to His Father.  The Father bears witness to the Son.  The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and bears witness of Jesus.  The oneness of the Godhead permeates the Gospel of John and indeed all of scripture.  Jesus desires His followers to experience this oneness.  "…that they may be one, as We are."  John 17:11



And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?  And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. Genesis 3:9-10.  The lesson points out that while human beings were not meant to be alone, sin entered and ruined what had hitherto been harmonious and joyful companionship.  Isn't it interesting that after partaking of the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve seek to be apart from God?  They go and hide!  Sin is the root cause of all aloneness.  A reading of the book of Genesis makes this readily apparent.  Discord, alienation, and death is introduced in chapter three and continues throughout the book.

Aloneness often confronts the characters in the second half of Genesis.  Hagar and Ishmael are sent away to dwell apart from the family of Abraham.  Abraham ascends Mt. Moriah with Isaac, the promised heir, all the while imagining the unimaginable ̶ descending the mountain alone.  Death separates Abraham from Sarah.  Jacob, fleeing from home, lays his head upon a stone feeling utterly forsaken and alone.  He works for Laban seven years anticipating receiving Rachel but is given Leah instead.  Poor unloved, unlovely Leah!  The names she bestows on her first three sons tell the story of her personal struggle with rejection and loneliness.  "The Lord has looked upon my affliction, maybe my husband will love me now.  The Lord has heard that I am unloved.  Now this time my husband will become attached to me." (Genesis 29:32-34).  The final chapters of Genesis are largely devoted to Joseph, betrayed by his own brothers, separated from family, living in a foreign country, put in prison for a crime he didn't commit.  But while Joseph is living apart from the family so is Judah.  His father's inconsolable grief was a constant reminder of the brothers' crime and deception in which he, Judah, had taken the leading role.  It's not that hard to figure out why Judah departs from his family for a time.  What a dysfunctional family at every turn so it seems!   And we shouldn't be surprised.  Sin is the cause of all aloneness.  It isolates and alienates.   We are all infected by the leprosy of sin.  In Leviticus we read the law concerning the unfortunate person pronounced a leper.  "He shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.  Leviticus 13:46.



But while Genesis is a story of God's perfect creation gone awry, it is above all the story of a covenant keeping God.  It is a story of forgiveness, mercy, love, and redemption.  It is a story of creation and recreation.  Yes, the cure is the Gospel, and the Gospel is ever present in the story of Abraham's family!


God provides water for Hagar and Ishmael in the wilderness.  He speaks to Hagar.  She too is loved.  God calls Abraham, "my friend." (Isaiah 41:8).  "Between perfect friends there is a perfect understanding.  So God called Abraham his friend, because they perfectly understood each other.  This sacrifice fully revealed the character of Abraham.  God had said before, "I know him;" and now again He said; "Now I know that thou fearest God."  And Abraham on his part understood the Lord.  The sacrifice of his only begotten son indicated that he knew the loving character of God, who for man's sake had already given His only begotten Son.  They were united in a mutual sacrifice and a mutual sympathy.  No one could appreciate the feelings of God so well as Abraham could."  The Everlasting Covenant 09: The Call of Abraham – The Test of Faith/ The Present Truth July 2, 1896 by E. J. Waggoner.


Abraham is bowed down with grief at the loss of his beloved Sarah, yet faith and hope make the loss bearable.  The separation is temporary.  "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1


And what of lonely Jacob?  That first night, parted from his family, he receives in a dream the promise of the everlasting covenant.  Jacob awakes realizing he is not alone!  God is present.


Leah's focus changes at the birth of her fourth son, "Now will I praise the Lord."  Genesis 29:35.  And Judah, this fourth son?  His transformation of character is evidenced by his speech before the prime minister of Egypt pleading that he become the slave and Benjamin be allowed to go free.  Remembering the anguish and loss he had previously caused his father his speech is full of love for his father and a desire to spare him.  Jealousy and selfishness are gone.  "How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me?  No!  Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father." Genesis 44:34 NIV.  Judah concludes his speech and it is enough for Joseph.  The Covenant keeping God has wrought transformation in the brothers.  The family is reunited.


Redemption is creation.  Redemption is the same power that was put forth in the beginning to create the world and all that is in it, now put forth to save men and the earth from the curse of sin…..The Scriptures are very clear on this point.  The Psalmist prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalms 51:10). The apostle says, that "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature," (2 Corinthians 5:17) or a new creation. ………….  Now the same power that in the beginning made the earth from nothing, takes man, if he is willing, and makes of him that which is "to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Ephesians 1:6). E. J. Waggoner from "The Gospel in Creation". 


Both A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner write at length of the vital connection between creation and redemption.  And indeed redemption is foreshadowed in the creation story (Genesis 2:21-25).  The last Adam like the first Adam was put to sleep/death.  His death was the means through which His bride was given life.  "But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water."  John 19:34.  "For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church."  Ephesians 5:30-32.

The marriage of divinity to humanity!  What a theme for contemplation!  Jesus is the cure!

By His life and His death, Christ has achieved even more than recovery from the ruin wrought through sin.  It was Satan's purpose to bring about an eternal separation between God and man; but in Christ we become more closely united to God than if we had never fallen.  In taking our nature, the Savior has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken.  Through the eternal ages He is linked with us.  "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son." John 3:16.  He gave Him not only to bear our sins, and to die as our sacrifice; He gave Him to the fallen race.  To assure us of His immutable counsel of peace, God gave His only-begotten Son to become one of the human family, forever to retain His human nature.  DA 25



" And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Genesis 3:15.  "I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me:" Isaiah 63:3.  It was in the garden that Adam and Eve lost their innocence and their one accord became notes of discord and separation.  In another garden the unity of eternal ages was broken up.

The Garden of Eden, with its foul blot of disobedience, should be carefully compared with the Garden of Gethsemane, where the world's Redeemer suffered superhuman agony when the sins of the whole world were rolled upon him.  Listen to the prayer of the only-begotten Son of God, "O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt." And the second time He prayed, saying, "O My Father, if this cup may not pass from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done." And the third time He prayed, saying the same words. Oh, it was here the mysterious cup trembled in the hands of the Son of God!   E. G. White, Signs of the times, April 17, 1893

We can have but faint conceptions of the inexpressible anguish of God's dear Son in Gethsemane, as He realized His separation from His Father in consequence of bearing man's sin.  He became sin for the fallen race.  The sense of the withdrawal of His Father's love pressed from His anguished soul these mournful words: "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." Matthew 26:38. . . .  AG 169

The Majesty of heaven was as one bewildered with agony.  No human being could endure such suffering; Manuscript 42, 1897. CTr 266

God spared not His only-begotten Son.  To show the depth of His love for man, He delivered Him up for us all.  "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).  Behold Him dying on the cross.  Behold Him who was equal with God, mocked and derided by the mob.  Behold Him in Gethsemane, bowed under the burden of the sins of the whole world.  HP 15.4.

The value of a soul, who can estimate? Would you know its worth, go to Gethsemane, and there watch with Christ through those hours of anguish, when He sweat as it were great drops of blood.  Look upon the Savior uplifted on the cross.  Hear that despairing cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Mark 15:34.  Look upon the wounded head, the pierced side, the marred feet.  Remember that Christ risked all.  For our redemption, heaven itself was imperiled.  At the foot of the cross, remembering that for one sinner Christ would have laid down His life, you may estimate the value of a soul. COL 196



The gospel is the solution but as long as we live in this sinful world we all face seasons of aloneness.  In the last couple of weeks two dear friends have gone to their rest.  Family and friends grieve.  As we approach the end of all things, and the contest between the truth and the lie intensify, the problem of aloneness becomes more acute.  We rub elbows daily with many who have or are experiencing incredible loss and aloneness.  In addition, feeling unloved, unwanted, unappreciated, misunderstood, ignored, ridiculed, scorned, criticized, unattractive, inferior, or marginalized (the list goes on) can and do contribute to a sense of aloneness.  If we ourselves have struggled with one or more of the aforementioned we should of all people be most empathetic and sympathetic to the lonely.

The lesson gave many examples of bible characters who were confronted with aloneness.  We can find great comfort in bible biographies!  We relate to the various characters' perplexities, struggles, failures and triumphs.  We are not alone after all.  And again, truly the Gospel is the answer!  We have a Savior, a representative who experienced the lot of humanity and knows our temptations.  Hebrews 4:15.

He walks with us.  Keep cheerful.  Do not forget that you have a Comforter, the Holy Spirit, which Christ has appointed.  You are never alone.  If you will listen to the voice that now speaks to you, if you will respond without delay to the knocking at the door of your heart, "Come in, Lord Jesus, that I may sup with Thee, and Thee with me," the heavenly Guest will enter.  When this element, which is all divine, abides with you, there is peace and rest. AH 350.  

 Our pilgrimage would indeed be lonely were it not for Jesus.  "I will not leave you comfortless" (John 14:18), He says to us.  Let us cherish His words, believe His promises, repeat them by day and meditate upon them in the night season, and be happy.--MS 75, 1893, 2MCP 468.

As a single person I have known what it is to be alone.  For years I believed I would marry.  I had very much looked forward to sharing my life with a husband and to having children.  Unfortunately in my search for happiness I made many wrong choices.  I often was wounded, caused grief, and brought grief upon myself.  I am deeply grateful for God's forgiveness, mercy, love, and abundant blessings.

At this point in my life I am content to remain single.  While I have been privileged to witness a number of marriages that are powerful testimonies to the creative and redemptive love of God, I'm not aware of any perfect marriages.  I've yet to find anyone living the utopian life, married or single.  I resonate with the words of the song, This World is not my home.

After her vision of Heaven, Ellen White had this to say.  "Then an angel bore me gently down to this dark world.  Sometimes I think I can stay here no longer; all things of earth look so dreary.  I feel very lonely here, for I have seen a better land.  Oh, that I had wings like a dove, then would I fly away and be at rest!"  CCh 36.  Don't we all long for Heaven? - a place where misunderstanding does not exist, a place where love is perfectly expressed, a place of true intimacy and pure unselfish desire, a place where the beauty of individuality is preserved and yet a meeting of minds occurs.  No conflict!  Heaven will more than compensate for any dashed dreams and disappointments of this life.  The spiritual reality is always greater than the type.  The marriage of the Lamb and His bride is the greater reality.  Oh what a glorious restful union! 

But even prior to Heaven we can look forward to the time that surely is right before us.  A time when "One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other,--Christ our righteousness.  RH, December 23, 1890 par. 19.  This experience is going to unite God's people.  May the desire of our hearts be - Christ in us, the hope of glory.  (Colossians 1:27)

~Martha Ruggles

Friday, April 19, 2019

1888 Message Study : Preparing for Change




"Righteousness will go before Him, and shall make His footsteps our pathway" (Psalm 85:13, NKJV).


We spent last quarter delving into the book of Revelation: reviewing the history of God's people over the past two thousand years, examining prophecies that were fulfilled in the past, and studying things yet to come. Revelation contains the heartbeat of the Seventh-day Adventist message. The three angels' messages of Revelation 14 followed by the final fourth angel's message of Revelation 18 direct us to our unique call as Adventists, to proclaim the everlasting gospel to those who dwell on the earth, and to embrace the final "Loud Cry" message of Revelation 18, which will culminate in the complete overthrow of Babylon, the earthly apostate church system which epitomizes Satan's self-exalting character. These are thrilling themes!


This quarter our lessons have seemingly pivoted 180 degrees. Instead of studying the great prophecies of Daniel or Revelation, we are now contemplating the seasons of life. What a contrast! In rapid succession our lesson this week, titled "Preparing for Change," guides us through the major life changes. A scant page is devoted to each theme. Sunday's lesson discusses changes brought about by our own actions. Monday's lesson covers preparation for marriage; Tuesday, preparation for parenting; Wednesday, preparation for old age; and Friday, preparation for death. We could certainly add other life experiences to the list (as was alluded to on Sunday): preparation for starting school, moving to a new community, selling a home, etc. But there's another item that could've been given a page in the lesson this week: Preparing for translation! And it is that topic to which I would like to turn for the remainder of this Sabbath School Insights.


If you search "translation" on the EGW app, you will find a consistent theme. The early Adventists were focused on preparing for translation. For example: "God is leading out a people who are peculiar. He will purify them, He will cleanse them, and fit them for translation" (RH, Jan. 19, 1864).


"While the eyes of the righteous are fixed upon the heavenly, priceless treasure, they will be more and more like Christ, and will be transformed, and fitted for translation" (RH May 20, 1882).


The Seventh-day Adventist movement was started by a group of young people who believed fervently, with all their hearts, that Jesus was coming soon, within their lifetime. Some put off decisions to marry or have children, believing time was short. They expected to be translated. Who among them imagined growing old? But after 40 years of believing in the soon coming of Jesus, the faith of some had grown faint; heads had turned gray; not a few, including James White, were laid to rest.


Spiritually, this beloved movement had become as lifeless as the bones in Ezekiel's vision, "as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain" (RH, March 11, 1890).


This past winter I had opportunity to visit Adventist Historic Village in Battle Creek, Michigan. We toured the homes and meeting places of the advent pioneers on a cold, rainy Sabbath afternoon. Seated on wooden plank pews, we sang early advent hymns accompanied by an old pump organ. That experience, along with docents dressed in period clothing, helped to create a nostalgic sense of being back in time. To our modern minds, distracted by emails, texts, calls, and worries, it seems those were the good old days.


But history tells another story. "Had Adventists, after the great disappointment of 1844, held fast their faith and followed on unitedly in the opening providence of God, receiving the message of the third angel and in the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming it to the world, they would have seen the salvation of God, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts, the work would have been completed, and Christ would have come ere this to receive His people to their reward. But in the period of doubt and uncertainty that followed the disappointment, many of the advent believers yielded their faith. . . . Thus the work was hindered, and the world was left in darkness. Had the whole Adventist body united upon the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, how widely different would have been our history!


"It was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be thus delayed. God did not design that His people, Israel, should wander forty years in the wilderness. He promised to lead them directly to the land of Canaan, and establish them there a holy, healthy, happy people. But those to whom it was first preached, went not in 'because of unbelief.' Their hearts were filled with murmuring, rebellion, and hatred, and He could not fulfill His covenant with them.


"For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. In neither case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord's professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years" (Ev. pp. 695-696, originally written Manuscript 4, 1883).


Generation after generation has gone to the grave. We now have a whole quarter of lessons devoted to the seasons of life. Don't get me wrong. We need to be cognizant of these life stages. The decades pass all too quickly. All too soon, we are preparing for old age.


We are beyond disappointed.


Slowly, imperceptibly, but surely, Adventism has apparently lost sight of the goal of translation. With so many generations of advent believers now resting in their graves, what are the prospects for us? Like the Israelites of old, we have become accustomed to our wilderness wanderings. Dying before we reach our heavenly Canaan home has come to be the expected order of the day. We are saving for retirement. Then what? For some, agonizing months or years of struggling with terminal disease, debility and senility precedes our final steps to the grave. And somehow, we've come to accept this as our new normal.


I don't know about you, but I would like to see the cycle stopped. My parents are old. Their remaining days on earth are few. They will pass, then it's my turn.


We are familiar with the commission: "This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14, ESV).


We have been doing evangelism for many years. But 130 years ago, we find that the Lord "in His mercy" sent a most precious message of Jesus Christ and His righteousness to enliven our church with the love of Jesus. Without Jesus, we had succumbed to formalism and a rigid adherence to lifeless doctrines. The green tree turned brown. The bones dried up. The grass withered. We needed that most precious message which the Lord "in His mercy" sent through Brothers Jones and Waggoner to replant the gospel seed of Jesus and His love in our hearts. While the hearts of some were warmed, others resisted.


"An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth [of Christ and His righteousness], lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren Waggoner and Jones. By exciting that opposition, Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost. The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world (Ellen White to Uriah Smith, Letter 96, June 5, 1896, 1888 Materials, p. 1575).


Let's take stock of our situation in light of what has gone before. The message of Christ our righteousness which God sent to our church through His messengers was for the purpose of preparing us for translation. There is no other message that will do this, for the message of His righteousness strips us bare of our own filthy garmentsWe can't go through the final time of trouble depending partly on God and partly on ourselves.


A colloquial definition of insanity is doing the same thing the same way, over and over, and expecting a different result.


If we want Jesus to come, we need to do something different. We need to go back to our history and discover the most precious message God sent to prepare a people for translation. Not any gospel, but a particular gospel is needed. When "this gospel of the kingdom" is preached in all the world, Jesus will come. The earth will be lightened with the glory of the fourth angel. Jesus will come because this message has done its work. We don't just need it intellectually; we need it to settle in our hearts and give us a passion for souls. The love of Christ will drive out the selfishness in our hearts if we permit it. It will infuse us with a desire to share the last message of love and mercy with our dying world so Jesus can come, and the seasons of life can transition to the earth made new where there will be no more sickness, pain, tears, disease, and death.


Please join me in praying for that day and making the study of this most precious message a priority in our lives.


--Patti Guthrie

Thursday, April 11, 2019

1888 Message Study : The Choices We Make




This week's lesson is about God's gift of choice. The areas this lesson highlights are: (1) choosing friends, (2) choosing a life partner, and (3) choosing a life occupation. In Sunday's lesson we have this thought: "This week, we will look in a very broad way at the question of the choices we make, how we should make them, and what impact these choices can have on ourselves and our families." The impact of our choices is seen in ourselves and our families.


Let's begin by going to the beginning when God gave the gift of choice to the human family. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God which means they were "endowed with a power akin to that of the Creator – individuality, power to think and to do." Education, 27. This ability to think, and to choose, and to act involved also the consideration of alternatives for putting into practice wrong, as well as right, capabilities.


This is of special concern with regard to the freedom of choice given to humanity. Both Adam and Eve freely chose a different direction than God's way. When they came to a fork in the road, they chose the enemy's path. Because of their choices, life-changing consequences happened to them, but not to themselves only. Their life-changing consequences had, and has, eternal end results for every member of their human family.


God did not take back His gift of choice after Adam and Eve sinned. The power to choose is an eternal principle with consequences reaching into eternity. This freedom to choose continued in humanity after as well as before the fall. While it is true that humans reap the results of the wrong choices made by our first parents (and present ones), we are responsible and accountable for our own sinful choices. Persons eternally lost will be so because of their God-given freedom of choice exercised in a different way than God's choice for them.


Jesus, Himself, made an eternal choice to take Adam's place and also our place. Christ's choice has had on-going eternal consequences for Himself. He will never be the same as He was before He came to earth. He became human in order to save us from both Adam's sin and from our own sins. He will forever retain the human nature He came to save. Because of His incarnation into fallen human flesh, Christ became the Son who took the place of the first "son of God" – the first Adam (Luke 3:38). As the second and "last Adam," He was the last "Son of God." But unlike the first Adam He was made to be sin itself so "that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). "He, the Sin Bearer, [endured] the wrath of divine justice, and for thy sake becomes sin itself." The Desire of Ages, 755. What an exchange! Christ became sin and we become righteous in Him.


Christ appeared "bringing salvation to all men" (Titus 2:11). In the words of Waggoner, "God has wrought out salvation for every man, and has given it to him; but the majority spurn it, and throw it away. The Judgment will reveal the fact that full and complete salvation was given to every man, and that the lost have deliberately thrown away their birthright possession. Thus, every mouth will be stopped." The Glad Tidings, 22-23. It is because of their freedom of choice men and women spurn and throw away eternal salvation which God wrought out for them and gave to them, in Jesus. Consequently they will be lost for eternity.


From Monday's lesson we read, "We all know very well the importance of the choices we make. And we all know, too, how wrong choices can very negatively impact our lives and the lives of others. The question is, how can we know how to make the right choices?"


Before we consider some answers to this question, take into account some observations about the plight of thinking, choosing and doing because of today's educational system. In receiving a secular education, I was never taught how to think and to choose correctly. We were taught to regurgitate the mental cuisine we were fed in the various required classes.


We observe the same today. Education made a turn for the worse when it came to another fork in the road. The fork chosen was socialism instead of the Protestant system of education upon which America was built. Today minds are made mush through educational institutions. Students are not taught how to think and to make intelligent personal choices, but they are told what to believe and how to riot socially as demonstrated on college and university campuses today. This is group think that produces mob action; not how to make correct personal choices. They are not taught to think for themselves, but to reflect their teacher's thoughts. This is because of the systematic destruction of mental processes through false education. The consequential result is continually seen in poor choices of friends, of a life partner, and of a life occupation.


Continuing the thought of the above passage earlier from the book Education we read: "It is the work of true education to develop this power ["to think and to do"], to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men's thought. Instead of confining their study to that which men have said or written, let students be directed to the sources of truth, to the vast fields opened for research in nature and revelation. Let them contemplate the great facts of duty and destiny, and the mind will expand and strengthen. Instead of educated weaklings, institutions of learning may send forth men strong to think and to act, men who are masters and not slaves of circumstances, men who possess breadth of mind, clearness of thought, and the courage of their convictions" (Education, 17-18). This is true Protestant education continued in the Spirit of Prophecy for us today. The break-in into our families and the robbery of the ability to think, choose and do can be changed by God's grace as we return to the question of Monday's lesson:


"How can we know how to make the right choices?" There are several Scripture references given and summarized here: prayer, willingness to obey God, to study His word diligently, to trust in God with all your heart, and to seek counsel from godly men and women. Convenience, cultural trends, peer pressure, emotions, habits, and mere preferences are unreliable guides for the choices that lead to the life God intends for us.


In closing I want to leave you with a couple practical ideas to help in learning to make proper choices. The first is to lend a hand to those who are afraid to make a choice for fear of making the wrong one.


"Long delays tire the angels. It is even more excusable to make a wrong decision sometimes than to be continually in a wavering position, to be hesitating, sometimes inclined in one direction, then in another. More perplexity and wretchedness result from thus hesitating and doubting than from sometimes moving too hastily" (Testimonies, vol 3, 497).


Think of it this way. If you seek prayerfully for God's guidance and you make a wrong choice, He will not abandon you. He will take you back to where He wants you to be. We can then learn from those mistakes. On the other hand, if we make the right choice, we will have heaven's affirmation, in time, as we see how God leads us.


"Every child [and adult] should understand the true force of the will. He should be led to see how great is the responsibility involved in this gift. The will is the governing power in the nature of man, [it is] the power of decision, or choice. Every human being possessed of reason has power to choose the right. In every experience of life, God's word to us is, 'Choose you this day whom ye will serve.' Joshua 24:15. Everyone may place his will on the side of the will of God, may choose to obey Him, and by thus linking himself with divine agencies, he may stand where nothing can force him to do evil. In every [adult,] youth, every child, lies the power, by the help of God, to form a character of integrity and to live a life of usefulness." Education, 289.


The following is a practical promise:

It is for you to yield up your will to the will of Jesus Christ; and as you do this, God will immediately take possession and work in you to will and to do of His good pleasure. Your whole nature will then be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ, and even your thoughts will be subject to Him." Testimonies, Vol. 5, 513.4.


"Pure religion has to do with the will. The will is the governing power in the nature of man, bringing all the other faculties under its sway. The will is not the taste or the inclination, but it is the deciding power which works in the children of men unto obedience to God or unto disobedience. Ibid., 513.1.


So, God's word to us continually is, "Choose you this day whom ye will serve."


~Jerry Finneman

Friday, April 05, 2019

1888 Message Study : The Rhythms of Life




          We begin a new quarter of Sabbath School studies entitled, "Family Seasons".  The cover photo of two new young parents with their newborn baby direct our focus to the topic for this quarter as we study "the family" with all the influences and circumstances that affect it and are affected by it.


          With the destructive influence of sin invading nearly every aspect of our society and individual identity, it is no wonder that our discernment of God's ideal and plan for families (husband, wife, marriage, parent, children, brother, sister) is dimly understood and in need of Biblical clarity as well as inspired commentary from Ellen White.


          As we begin our study, it's vital for us to remember – as the first lesson points out – that "the Bible is a book of relationships" (p. 11 quarterly).  It makes sense that the Bible is a book of relationships because it reveals the character of its author Who is fundamentally relational!


          God in His very character and constitution is relational.  From eternity past there have been three individual beings composing one God.  And they existed for all eternity past together – and together in loving relationship.  "You loved Me before the foundation of the world." (John17:24).  The word for "world" in John17 is the Greek word "kosmos".  The verse literally reads, "God loved His Son Jesus before they began creating anything in the universe"!


          We as human beings are, at our core, relational individuals, relational beings.  And we are that way because we were created by relational God.  A God who was relational from eternity past.  In order for us to have a glimpse of their relationship with one another they have self-identified to us as, "God the Father", "God the Son", and "God the Holy Spirit".  The Godhead compose a family unit!  Not in a gender-based sense.  Not in a hierarchical sense.  But in an intimate, familial, devoted, affectionate, personal sense!


          The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are a family made up of three members who love and like each other.  They care about each other.  The fact that GOD IS RELATIONAL, AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN, is one of the strongest arguments for the truth of the doctrine of the trinity.  If there ever was a time when God was not a family, but rather was a singular being, then it could not be said that God was – in His very essence – and had always been, RELATIONAL.


          For those who don't believe in the trinitarian nature of God from eternity past, they must admit that God at His very essence is not relational – and therefore cannot be love – as love by its very nature is relational.  If God existed in eternity past as an isolated singularity, there would be no "relationships" by definition, and thus there would be no love possible by definition.  Thankfully for us, God has been a relational, loving trinity for eternity.


And it was out of Their love and care for each other, that They wanted to share Their love and care – and this led Them to create "others" to include in Their family.  "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from Whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named," (Ephesians 3:14-15).  At its very core, the intelligent life in the universe from God to angels to other created beings such as humanity, is a family entity.


The universe is not run as a business with God the owner giving orders to all His employees.  The universe is not run as a dictatorship with God as the head power broker controlling minions based on a system of dispensing rewards and punishments.  The universe is not even a "cooperative" where everyone shares to receive and give with God as the head.  The universe is fundamentally a family!  The angels see each other – and they help us – as brothers and sisters in God's family.  God sees us as a parent sees His children.  We are part of a massive social network infinitely bigger than Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.  We are part of a loving, social, relational network called the family of heaven and earth according to Paul in Ephesians 3.


Sadly, one member of the family decided to break with the family and take as many as possible with him in a rebellion.  He chose that path of self-concern and self-interest as the primary "family" attitude – and this always leads to discord and alienation.  Other members of the family chose to continue on the path of self-giving and self-sacrifice.  And these two types of "family" relationships are present in our world today.


"The student should learn to view the word as a whole, and to see the relation of its parts.  He should gain a knowledge of its grand central theme, of God's original purpose for the world, of the rise of the great controversy, and of the work of redemption.  He should understand the nature of the two principles that are contending for supremacy, and should learn to trace their working through the records of history and prophecy, to the great consummation.  He should see how this controversy enters into every phase of human experience; how in every act of life he himself reveals the one or the other of the two antagonistic motives; and how, whether he will or not, he is even now deciding upon which side of the controversy he will be found." {Ed 190.2}.


As we study these lessons this quarter, may we keep in mind the two ways of relating to the other members of the family – even the rebellious members of the family – and reveal the great motive that prompted the heart of God to share His family intimacy with us.  And as we reveal the great motive of God's heart, may we win over some rebellious brothers and sisters to God's side of the family.


"The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian." 
{AG 276.7}.



~Bob Hunsaker