Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Living on Earth as Foreigners

Comments To Sabbath Schools Lesson #13, Qtr. #2

In the late 1980's, the Pop-Rock singer, Sting, released a song called "English Man in New York." As the title of the song indicates, the lyrics are about an Englishman living in New York. After many years this man still dressed as a Brit, walked with a cane, and enjoyed 4 o'clock tea- all British habits. "I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien, I'm an English man in New York," Sting quotes the man in the song.

Like Sting's friend, most foreigners are easy to spot. Their manner of dress, behavior and speech all give them away. Many foreigners are tourists, you can tell, because they take the time to sight see, and take pictures of what natives now take for granted. If you listen closely, the topic of conversation for tourists and foreigners differs from the topics which interest the locals. Locals don't often talk about their country as an entity outside of themselves, they refer to it as home. On the other hand, foreigners and tourists, while they may appear to be local, are usually making comparisons between their homeland or country of origin, and the land they are visiting. They miss the sights and smells of home. They miss the familiar. A local doesn't understand
the predicament of the visitor until he like the foreigner, becomes a visitor or traveler in a foreign land. No matter how great the land you visit is, there is no place like home.

As Christians we are foreigners. We do not belong on this earth. We are in the world, but not part of it (John 17: 13-16). The hymn says that we are just passing through. In Hebrews, it says those of us that walk by faith desire a better country (Hebrews 11:14-16). Those of us who have accepted Jesus as our Personal Savior have resigned any earthly and temporal citizenship and accepted a heavenly and eternal one. We cannot stop talking about our home, for although we have not yet seen it, by Faith we know it to be a better home than this world can ever offer. This is exciting! Just like earthly foreigners we cannot stop talking about it. For we are getting ready to leave and we are excited.

Isa 65:17 - For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the
former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.
Isa 65:18 - But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create:
for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.
Isa 65:19 - And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people: and
the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of
Isa 65:20 - There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old
man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred
years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be
Isa 65:21 - And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they
shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.
Isa 65:22 - They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not
plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of My
people, and Mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
Isa 65:23 - They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for trouble;
for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring
with them.
Isa 65:24 - And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will
answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
Isa 65:25 - The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion
shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's
meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, saith
the Lord.

This is a beautiful promise. And what God promises He fulfills. In
Revelation, the city which is our home is described. It is beautiful
beyond our wildest dreams. We can't even begin to imagine its splendor and magnificence. This is where we are going. This is where we belong. As we think, talk, dress, and behave like the natives in that heavenly land now, we will fit in when we are finally home. Just as a foreigner longs to go home, so we long to go home. The greater the desire, the more we are not be able to stop talking about it. That is why to others, we appear as foreigners in this land. Going home is exciting when your loved ones are there, eagerly waiting and expecting your arrival. That kind of excitement is contagious. It is so contagious, that some locals, catching your emotion, will want to know about your home, and the love of those who are there. Perhaps they too will want to go with you.

Won't you let others catch your love and excitement? Won't you let them see you longing for heaven and for your loved Ones there? Are locals even able to look at you and say, "he is not from around here," or are you blending so well you can no longer be distinguished from them?

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Friday, June 18, 2004

Conduits Of Light - Audio - Part 2

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Conduits of Light - Audio- Part 1

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Conduits Of Light Or Obstacles

Commentary on Second Quarter Sabbath School Lesson #12

As I wrote this commentary, I noticed how all around me there was light. Actually, without light I could have not written it. I can view the earth with all the details in nature because there is light. That is the way God established it in Genesis. "Let there be Light," He said. We can see the moon because the light of the sun reflects on it. However, if the light is absorbed then we do not see the object we are looking at. Sometimes the object will not let light through. In this case, it creates a shadow opposite the point of the light's origination. The object becomes an obstacle in the path of the light.
Depending on the intensity of the light and the size of the object, some shadows can be very dark. Light can create heat, and the absence of direct light can create cool temperatures. Such is the case when the shadow is the shade of a tree.

Jesus is the Light of the world (John 9:5.) He commands us: "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee" (Isaiah 60:1). Jesus has revealed Himself and His character to us through the Bible and through the Prophetic writings of Ellen G. White. When He shines on us we either reflect His light through us or absorb it all and create a shadow. We either become a conduit of Light or an obstacle. Of course, Jesus wants us to be co! nduits of Light that "… men … may see your good works, (His good works in you by faith, through the power of the Holy Spirit) and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16.)

When Jesus came to this planet He chose to shine among His chosen ones. They apparently had chosen to live in darkness, while claiming to live in the Light. Christ read to them Isaiah 61:1-2:

Isaiah 61:1 - The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me; because the LORD
hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
Isaiah 61:2 - To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD…

After&n! bsp;He read He sat down "And He began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4:21). At first, the reception was arm. Ellen G. White says:

His impressive manner and the wonderful import of His words thrilled the hearers with a power they had never felt before. The tide of divine influence broke every barrier down; like Moses, they beheld the invisible. As their hearts were moved upon by the Holy Spirit, they responded with fervent amens and praises to the Lord. DA, p. 237

But, there was a change of heart when He mentioned that it was to himself that
the scriptures referred. Ellen White adds:

"But when Jesus announced, 'This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears, they were suddenly recalled to think of themselves, and of the claims of Him who had been addressing them. They, Israelites, children of Abraham, had been represented as in bondage. They had been addressed as prisoners to be delivered from the power of evil; as in darkness, and needing the light of truth. Their pride was offended, and their fears were aroused. The words of Jesus indicated that His work for them was to be altogether different from what they desired. Their deeds might be investigated too closely. Notwithstanding their exactness in outward ceremonies, they shrank from inspection by those clear, searching eyes." Page 237

They asked, "Who is this Jesus?" They refused to believe He was the Promised One – The Light. Ellen White says:

"The words of Jesus to His hearers in the synagogue struck at the root of their self-righteousness, pressing home upon them the bitter truth that they had departed from God and forfeited their claim to be His people. Every word cut like a knife as their real condition was set before them. They now scorned the faith with which Jesus had at first inspired them. They would not admit that He who had sprung from ! poverty and lowliness was other than a common man." Page 239

God wanted the Israelites to be Light bearers to the Heathen (Courage and Conflict, p. 236). But, instead of becoming Conduits of God's Light, they became obstacles. This attitude of the Jews created a dark and cold shadow upon the Gentiles. The Jews kept God away from the very people He had chosen them to reach.

What about us? Are we being a conduit of the Light or an obstacle? If someone approached us and said, "You have it all wrong. This is what God is truly telling us." How would we receive this? How would we react? Would we think, "Who is this fellow? Does he not know who I am? I am a Seventh Say Adventist. I have the truth. I am a Sabbath Keeper. I am a vegetarian." Who does he think he is?" Would this be our attitude or would we humbly pray to God to find out if there is any Light in what the person says? Beware, we may think we are a conduit of Light, while we are an

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Thursday, June 10, 2004

Sabbath School Commentary #11 Audio Version - pt 3

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Sabbath School Commentary #11 Audio Version - pt 2

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Sabbath School Commentary #11 Audio Version - pt 1

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Its Either My-Way or the High-Way

Commentary to the Sabbath School Quarterly Lesson #11

The title of this Sabbath School commentary represents a very common American saying which is somewhat negative. It describes the attitude of a very controlling, narrow-minded individual who always thinks he or she is right. While this attitude is totally the opposite of God's attitude, when read superficially, scripture seems to affirm the above negative perception, and attribute it to Him. In Isaiah 55:9, God says: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." Hence the reference to the "High-Way." God's ways and thoughts are so much higher than ours, that we lack the words to actually express or define what He says. We consider the common words or terms, My Way vs. High Way, as meaning one thing, however, God's written and spoken word adds a whole new dimension. His thoughts and ideas are much deeper and higher than what we can ever conceive. Let's consider some of the differences between God's thoughts and ours in this week's lesson through the example of fasting, sabbath observance, and forgiveness. Let's view them through the motif of "self-denial for the benefit of others" or more simply, "God's self-denying love."

First, let's look at the concept of "fasting." To us it means to stop eating for a period of time, which is a good health practice. God is not against it. In fact Christ endorses the practice in the New Testament. But, skipping a few meals does nothing for our Spiritual condition. The fast God speaks of in Isaiah goes beyond what we could ever consider a fast. Consider God's definition in Isaiah 58:

Isaiah 58:6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the
oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Isaiah 58:7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

The fast Christ refers to is self-denial for the spiritual preparation to benefit others. All the food you don't eat while fasting, will mean nothing if you are not asking God to reveal your sins to you, and to give you the gift of repentance. Doing the work He is asking is not truly possible without constantly receiving His forgiveness and cleansing. Hence Christ's words in the New Testament (Matt. 25: 33-36) that when He comes, He will separate the sheep from the goats. Many will think they are sheep when they are goats. Oh, they will have done all the right things, but not from a self-denying, loving, repentant heart. They were not filled with gratitude to Christ and to their fellow human beings. They did not have the servant's heart of Christ. Their motives were those of duty, and fear of reprisal. No, with their service Christ is not pleased, for it does not represent Himself. Christ has said, "By their fruits you will know them." The good works are not the fruit. Love, joy, peace and patience (...) is the fruit, and the work is done through these. Just as Christ was evaluating Israel's spiritual condition in Isaiah's time, so is He evaluating our condition at present.

Another example in Isaiah, and in this week's lesson is that of "keeping the Sabbath." To many of us, "keeping the Sabbath" means leaving our daily job on Friday night at sunset, and then going to church on Saturday. It means spending the afternoon with Adventist family and or friends at a potluck dinner, where we often overeat, gossip and discuss how dissatisfied we are with the pastor, the church, its leaders and its services. How is this self-denial to benefit others? In Isaiah 58, God contrasts our habits with His concept of fasting. He says-

Is 58:13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasures, nor speaking thine own words:
Is 58:14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee
with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

How is the Sabbath a delight? What does He mean by "doing / finding thine own pleasures" or "speaking thine own words?" We know that Christ came to "seek and save the lost." That has been me, and you. We know that His whole ministry, indeed His whole life was bent to this one purpose, to redeem humanity from sin, and to restore them to what they would have been had they not fallen. If we love Him, if we truly love Him, will not our hearts go out to Him in response? Will we not open the door of our hearts and minds to Him. Will we not hear His spirit even now knocking at our door? Won't we let Him in? Won't we want to know what He thinks, and how He feels about us, and the world in which we find ourselves? To "keep" the Sabbath means to "treasure" it, and to "treasure" the spiritual rest and one-ness He is wooing you to. Won't you listen closely, and catch His voice to your soul?

The last example we wish to highlight from the lesson in Isaiah, is that of forgiveness. The dictionary defines it as: 1.) To excuse for a fault or an offense; as to pardon. 2.)To renounce anger or resentment against. 3.) To absolve from payment of (a debt, for example). Forgiveness implies the explaining of a fault with the hope of being understood or pardoned. And pardon means to release (a person) from punishment. This is our typical understanding of forgiveness. It can be said as giving mercy when what is deserved is punishment. So when we think of God forgiving us this is how we define it. Yet many times we still feel condemned, and even guilty. Yet, aaccording to Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing: "Forgiveness is the setting free from condemnation, and the reclaiming from sin" (TMB 114). Further still, Paul echoes the thought, hence his statement in Romans:

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Unfortunately, subtly below the surface, we feel that we still owe God, and that we can explain it away. Perhaps this stems from the way in which we forgive others. We usually feel they must deserve it, that they must request forgiveness, and feel sorry for what they've done. Even then, we may doubt their sincerity, and almost always hold a grudge against them. The scripture says that the way we forgive others is the way God forgives us. So, perhaps we have such difficulty experiencing God's forgiveness and forgiving others, because we have not allowed Him to free us from the thought that we still owe Him.

In Luke 11:4- Christ teaches us to say, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." In other words, the measure with which we forgive others' sins or debts, is the same measure Christ will use with us. To be forgiven one must forgive. Ellen White says in Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing:

"… Jesus teaches that we can receive forgiveness from God only as we forgive others. It is the love of God that draws us
unto Him, and that love cannot touch our hearts without creating love for our brethren…After completing the Lord's Prayer, Jesus added: 'If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.' He who is unforgiving cuts off the very channel through which alone he can receive mercy from God. We should not think that unless those who have injured us confess the wrong we are justified in withholding from them our forgiveness. It is their part, no doubt, to humble their hearts by repentance and confession; but we are to have a spirit of compassion toward those who have trespassed against us, whether or not they confess their faults. However sorely they may have wounded us, we are not to cherish our grievances and sympathize with ourselves over our injuries; but as we hope to be pardoned for our offenses against God we are to pardon all who have done evil to us."

So, don't think you are justified to hold grudges and remain angry any longer. Instead, choose God's High-Way, embrace His forgiving attitude toward the one who has hurt you and receive His blessing.

Choosing God's "High-Way" is fasting as He fasted. It is treasuring the Sabbath as He treasured it, and it is forgiving others as He forgave. Self-denial for the benefit of others was and is the crowning principle of His life. Through His power, won't you choose it to be yours?

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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Reparation For Restoration

Comments to Sabbath School Quarterly #9, 2nd Qtr.

Some say, "relationships are what life is all about." Still others, usually those who've been hurt, hold the opposite opinion. To these individuals, accomplishing personal or career goals is the crux of life. Unfortunately, in our world not all is well with relationships. Difficulties occur such as misunderstandings, which depending on the unmet and unexpressed, or poorly expressed, expectations may lead to negative feelings such as dislike, and even revenge. Relationships brake, and when they do, hearts are broken too. It's difficult to restore a relationship when painful feelings of grief (such as anger or sadness) remain unresolved. The restoration of a relationship requires the breach to be repaired. For trust to be restored, the painful process of self evaluation, admission of wrong doing, requesting of forgiveness and restitution must occur. To genuinely engage in this process, there is a sweetness of humility that must take place internally, unfortunately, this goes against our very nature.

The fact that we all have sinned means that we have wronged God. A perfect God requires perfect restoration, and perfect restoration requires perfect reparation. We as sinners are incapable of offering perfect reparation, because all we do is tainted with Sin. Although God hates Sin, He loves us. However, God's law is plain and clear: death is the wage of Sin. The problem is that if we die to pay for our sin we will die eternally. If we were to continue to live, we would live in and perpetuate sin and never be able to pay our debt. God would never allow that to happen. To add to the dilemma, although God loves us and wants to live with us forever, He will not break His law. What's God to do?

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

This decision was made from the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20) and at its appropriate time was fulfilled. The Holy Spirit prompted Isaiah to predict the event centuries before it happened, to prepare all who would read and receive his writings thereafter. A reading of Isaiah 53 will give us a glimpse of what Christ went through. Christ, the perfect God, gave up His sovereign position and privileges in Heaven to come to our imperfect and sinful world to save us. In this way God solved the dilemma. In this way our reparation is fulfilled and our restoration is made possible. The debt to the law is paid in full as Jesus paid to Sin its wages. Salvation may be likened to an unlimited line of credit that is given to all of us. But only those who use it will enjoy salvation.

Isaiah 53:5 says, "with His stripes we are healed." Sin has bruised and wounded us. We may not know this because we are used to grief and sorrows. When we believe that Christ, having made reparation, is our Lord and Savior then our restoration begins. This is the process of making us one with God. Christ's stripes begin to heal the wound Sin has caused in us. As we begin to heal, our transgressions and iniquities begin to disappear. While we once considered Christ stricken, afflicted, and smitten of God, now we consider Sin that way. We increasingly consider Sin something to be despised and rejected. We increasingly consider God Someone to be loved and accepted, even worshiped. We increasingly consider Sin the oppressor and afflicter, and Christ our deliverer. A transformation occurs that prepares us for the final act of restoration of our relationship with God. We no longer stray from our Good Shepherd, but respond to His loving voice as we walk with Him.

Do you believe this report (Isaiah 53:1)? Do you believe in Him who was given to us so we could have eternal life? Or will you choose to continue to believe Him stricken, smitten and afflicted of God?

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