Sunday, May 29, 2011


Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson for 6.4.11

What picture comes into your head when you hear the word refugee?  Probably it’s a picture of someone who’s far away from home, hungry, hasn’t had a shower in a while, not a pretty picture.

I heard an old Tom Petty song this week and the words got stuck in my head:
“Somewhere, somehow somebody/Must have kicked you around some/Who knows, maybe you were kidnapped/Tied up, taken away and held for ransom/It don't really matter to me/Everybody's had to fight to be free/You see you don't have to live like a refugee/I said you don't have to live like a refugee”[1]
Just so I know we’re talking about the same thing, here’s how my dictionary defines refugee:
“1.  a person who flees for refuge or safety, especially to a foreign country, as in time of political upheaval, war, etc.  2.   political refugee.”[2]
From what I’ve seen of refugees over the years, it seems like they are often people who are trying to escape some catastrophic thing, but they get stuck somewhere along the way in refugee camps, where they endure really awful conditions.  And sometimes, these people never get to the safe place they were originally heading for because of what happens to them along the way.

While I was trying to get Tom Petty’s song out of my head, it occurred to me that we are religious refugees (as opposed to political).    We have started our journey away from sin and toward Heaven, but we are stuck in this refugee camp.
Some folks are eager to tell us that we would have been better off if we hadn’t tried to get away from sin to begin with.  Some folks are sure we’re going to be stuck in this camp and nobody cares whether we make it out or not.
You and I know, though, that a huge humanitarian mission has been launched (from the foundations of the world).
“‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
“‘Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
“‘Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.’”  Matthew 17:20-26
Then, while I was looking up the definition of ‘refugee’, I noticed that one of the synonyms listed was ‘prodigal’.  That really made me stop and think.  I’d never really thought about it before but after he had lost his half of his father’s forturne and was living with the pigs, the prodigal son was a refugee.  He was not where he’d started from, living large with lots of friends, and he’s not where he was headed – mostly because he didn’t know where he wanted to go yet.  The prodigal son was definitely stuck in between, with the pigs.
“The prodigal is far from his Father’s house, perishing with hunger. He is to be the object of our compassion. Do you ask: ‘How does God regard those who are perishing in their sins?’ I point you to Calvary. God ‘gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ John 3:16. Think of the Saviour’s matchless love. While we were yet sinners, Christ died to save us from eternal death.”[3]
There is absolutely no excuse for us to still be living like refugees…unless we choose to stay with the pigs. One of our problems is that sometimes we’re afraid to leave our refugee status behind and head for home.  Even the prodigal son held out for a while.  Why?  We’re afraid of being turned away from our destination.  Satan wants to make sure that we see our Heavenly Father as waiting to reject us instead of watching every day for our silhouette on the road home.
“In his book Waiting: Finding Hope Where God Seems Silent (InterVarsity, 1991), Ben Patterson, a man I treasure as a friend, tells a story from his personal life:
“‘In the summer of 1988, three friends and I climbed Mount Lyell, the highest peak in Yosemite National Park. Two of us were experienced mountaineers; two of us were not. I was not one of the experienced two. ... As the hours passed, and we trudged up the glacier, the two mountaineers opened up a wide gap between me and my less-experienced companion. Being competitive by nature, I began to look for short cuts I might be able to take to beat them to the top. I thought I saw one to the right of an outcropping of rock--so I went up, deaf to the protests of my companions. ...
“‘Thirty minutes later I was trapped in a cul-de-sac of rock …, looking down several hundred feet of a sheer slope of ice, pitched at a forty-five degree angle. ... I was only ten feet from the safety of a rock. But one little slip and I wouldn't stop sliding until I had landed in the valley floor about fifty miles away! ... I was stuck and I was scared’
“Patterson's words are non-religious ways of describing the predicament that more than a few of us fall into. … They take the right-hand turn around an outcropping of rock, suspecting that at the end there will be nothing but joy and roses. Instead, they find themselves stuck.
“Back to Ben Patterson, who was stuck and scared: ‘It took an hour for my experienced climbing friends to find me. … one of them leaned out and used an ice axe to chip two little footsteps in the glacier. Then he gave me the following instructions: “Ben, you must step out from where you are and put your foot where the first foothold is. ... Without a moment's hesitation swing your other foot across and land it in the next step. [Then] ... reach out and I will take your hand, and I will pull you to safety. ... But listen carefully: As you step across, don't lean into the mountain! If anything, lean out a bit. Otherwise, your feet could fly out from under you, and you will start sliding down.”’
“Patterson says, ‘When I'm on the edge of a cliff, my instinct is to lie down and hug the mountain … not lean away from it! But that was what my good friend was telling me to do as I stood trembling on that glacier. I looked at him real hard. ... For a moment, based solely on what I believed to be true about the good will and good sense of my friend, I decided to say no to what I felt ... to lean out, step out, and traverse the ice to safety. It took less than two seconds to find out if my faith was well founded. It was.’” [4]
Our Friend, Jesus, has told us exactly what we need to do to get unstuck…do we trust Him enough to do it?

[1] Tom Petty, “Refugee,”  Damm the Torpeadoes
[2] refugee. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved May 26, 2011, from website:
[3] E.G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Volume 9, page 50
[4] Gordon MacDonald, "Repentance," Preaching Today, Tape No. 121

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Indiana Jones and the… What?

Do you remember the last Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade?  Indiana and his dad find “the Holy Grail”, that was the supposed to be the cup that Jesus and the disciples used at the last supper.  In the first Indiana Jones movie he finds the Ark of the Covenant.  Those are both archeological finds that would lend some real believability to the Bible wouldn’t it?  Nobody could say that it’s just a bunch of fables and myths if we found those could he?  Or could he?

Would truly convincing physical or written articles make any difference to us when it comes to whether or not we believe that the Bible is true?  Should it?

Think about Jesus said to Thomas when He appeared to His disciples.
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace, be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:26-29 KJVR)
It’s great to have confirmation, but according to Jesus, Himself, it’s even greater when we take His word for it.  Even so, God has given us so much proof that the Bible is reliable.

You know, not too long ago, most “experts” said that there was no historical proof of the things in the Bible, but in the mid-19th century, an interest in archeology changed all that.  I went hunting on the internet and found some amazing things! Now a lot of this new information has to do with wordings and names of tribes and things that most people up, until that time, felt were either made up or experts thought were proof that the Bible was written later than it claimed to be.  There are also more concrete examples of archeology adding credence to the Bible.
According to one internet author, Mark McGee,
 “A century ago such familiar Biblical cities as Jericho, Samaria, Bethel, Shiloh, Bethshan, Gezer, Nineveh, Babylon, Ur and many otheres were shapeless mounds.  Critics scoffed at the Biblical record.  Within the last 100 years, all of these cities have been uncovered.  The importance of the discoveries is that the excavation has produced material which confirms the Scriptures point after point” Mark McGee
When archeologists, historians and scientists talked about Jericho a before, they described the account in Joshua 6 as mythical and impossible because Joshua said they walls collapsed outward making it possible for the Israelites to walk up and over the rubble into the city.  Now, according to some law of physics that I don’t understand, “walls of towns always fall inwards!”  I had no idea.  Anyway, archeologists have now proved that Joshua was absolutely right and could only have known that detail because he was there.   Bryant Wood is considered an authority on the archaeology of Jericho.  He writes about the details found in the ruins of Jericho that confirm the Bible account of the destruction of the city.  One of the most exciting is from a
 “German excavation of 1907-1909 found that on the north a short stretch of the lower city wall did not fall as everywhere else.  A portion of that mudbrick wall was still standing to a height of over two meters (eight feet).  What is more, there were houses built against the wall!  It is quite possible that this is where Rahab’s house was.” 
Isn’t that exciting?  I mean, I didn’t know that two days ago and I still believed that what the Bible said happened really happened, but it’s very, very cool to hear that the proof is there!

According to Bryant Wood,
“Jericho was once thought to be a ‘Bible problem’ because of the seeming disagreement between archaeology and the Bible.  When the archaeology is correctly interpreted, however, just the opposite is the case.  The archeology evidence supports the historical accuracy of the biblical account in every detail.  Every aspect of the story that could possibly be verified by the findings of archaeology is, in fact, verified.”
Fascinating, right?  Look what else archeologists have found:
And it came to pass in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem: And he took away the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king's house; he even took away all: and he took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made. (1Kings 14:25-26 KJVR)
Well, that campaign is recorded on the walls of the Temple of Amun in Thebes, Egypt.  Other previously questioned occurrences that have now been confirmed through ancient tablets or palace walls include:  Moab’s revolt against Israel in 2 Kings 1:1; 3:4-27; the fall of Samaria to Assyria in 2 Kings 17:3-6,24; 18:9-11; Sargon II’s defeat of Ashdod in Isaiah 20:1; Sennacherib’s campaign against Judah found in 2 Kings 18:13-16; Sennacherib’s siege of Lachish (2 Kings 18:14,17); Sennacheribs’s assassination by his own sons (2 Kings 19:37); the fall of Nineveh predicted in Zephaniah 2:13-15; the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:10-14;  King Jehoiachin’s captivity in Babylon (2 Kings 24:15-16);  the Fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians found in Daniel 5:30-31; the freeing of the Babylonian captives by Cyrus the Great (Ezra 1:1-4; 6:3-4); the Jews being forced out of Rome by Claudius in 41-54 AD (Acts 18:2)  and, of course, the existence of Jesus Christ.

Did you know that we now have archeological proof that Abraham lived in Palestine?  Some historians thought for a while that he lived in Arabia or that he was a completely fictitious character.  But, in 918 B.C., Pharaoh Shishak (they think this was Ramses II) wrote Abraham’s name on the walls of his temple in Karnack.

Did you know that archeologists have found a tomb in Shechem that holds a mummy and an Egyptian official’s sword…could it be Joseph?  Or is it just a coincidence?

Check this out:
“Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion: the same is the city of David. And David said on that day, Whosoever getteth up to the gutter, and smiteth the Jebusites,…” (2Sa 5:7-8 KJVR)
Well, historians believe that Joab climbing up those drain pipes to get into Jerusalem was just part of a legend about a great soldier, king and army.  BUT! A team of archeologists has excavated the area and has found the water pipes that Joab climbed!  Very, very cool.

And then there’s this:
a British Egyptologist named David Rohl in A Test of Time (I’m not sure whether this is an article or a book) has managed to identify the “abandoned city of the Israelite slaves (called Avaris), the death pits from the tenth plague and Joseph’s original tomb and home.”
You know, since I didn’t know that all of this proof existed before this week, I’ll go on taking these events as having really happened like I always have.  But, at the same time, it’s very exciting to have such a complete, extra-Biblical (as the writers of these articles say) historical record.  It’s kind of like a, “See, I told you so” kind of moment.  Archeologists, themselves have quite a lot to say about the evidence that they have found.  Put very simply by Nelson Gluek, a Jewish scholar and archeologist:
“To date no archeological discovery has ever controverted a single, properly understood biblical statement.”  

Nice as that is, though, what if something looks like it contradicts the Bible?  Does our belief in the Bible and God crumble?  We can’t pin our entire belief system on those extra-Biblical proofs.  And, to be honest, I’m pretty sure that’s not the reason God gave us the Bible.  Ellen White reminds us that:
“These things were not written merely that we might read and wonder, but that the same faith which wrought in God's servants of old might work in us. In no less marked a manner than He wrought then will He work now wherever there are hearts of faith to be channels of His power. Read…the story of the four Hebrew children, and… [realize] …the influence for good that was exerted in Daniel's time because of strict adherence to principle.{CG 43}
We can get all wrapped up in authenticity, history, reliability and whatever else, but when it comes right down to it – if you don’t want to believe in God, then you won’t believe no matter how much proof someone shows you.  And, if you choose to believe in God, then all the proof in the world doesn’t matter.
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”(Joshua 24:15 KJVR)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What Are You Waiting For?

Thoughts  on the Sabbath School lesson dated 5.28.11

“For those of you who've asked that question, a recent poll by Priority Management, Inc., has the answer. In a lifetime, the average American will spend:  six months sitting at stoplights, eight months opening junk mail, one year looking for misplaced objects, two years unsuccessfully returning phone calls, five years waiting in line.”[1]
That’s a whole lot of waiting around!  I’m pretty sure I’ve beaten the average on looking for misplaced objects!  What about you?

Anyway, these are the things we spend our time waiting on, how long does it take for us to become impatient?
“In March of 2006, the Associated Press and Ipsos surveyed 1,003 adults concerning Americans' attitudes and behavior regarding impatience. Some of the findings included:   While waiting in line at an office or store, it takes an average of 17 minutes for most people to lose their patience.  On the phone, it takes about 9 minutes for most people to lose their patience.  Women lost their patience after waiting in line for about 18 minutes. For men, it was an average of 15 minutes.  People with lower income and less education are more patient than those with a college education and a high income.  People who live in the suburbs are more patient than people who live in the city.”[2]
What I get from this is we’re an impatient bunch who end up waiting around for stuff.  That could explain a good bit of our daily stress levels.

It’s funny, though, that as impatient as we tend to be about trivial, everyday things like waiting in line at the store or being put on hold on the phone, many of us feel no urgency at all for a relationship with Jesus.  I’ve known people who, when asked about their lack of a relationship, have said that they’re “not in any hurry” to make that kind of a commitment.  I believe that people who feel that way, often don’t have an accurate picture of themselves and their need for salvation.  Actually we all have the same problem.  Satan does his best to make sure that we never see ourselves as we really are.
"You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”   Revelation 3:17
 The longer we see ourselves as rich and self-sufficient, the longer it will be before we ask Jesus into our lives.  The longer we stay like Florence Foster Jenkins, also known as, “the Tone Deaf Diva.”
“Florence Foster Jenkins, a soprano, loved to sing—especially the great operatic classics. She inherited money when she was in her 50s, which funded her musical career. It wasn't long before her popularity skyrocketed, holding annual recitals at the Ritz-Carlton in New York throughout the 1930s and 40s. But as one writer puts it, ‘History agrees, with hands held over its ears, that she couldn't sing for sour apples. Jenkins' nickname, behind her back, was 'the Tone-Deaf Diva,' or 'The Terror of the High C's.' The writer adds that if you ever hear one of her old recordings, all that you'll hear will be ‘squeaks, squawks, and barks.’
But get this: she didn't ever grasp that she was bad! When people laughed and hooted as she sang, she took it to be delirious enthusiasm for great music. She thought they loved her and her music.
“In 1944, when she was 76-years-old, she did a benefit concert for the armed forces at Carnegie Hall in New York. Thousands lined the streets to get tickets, and the performance sold out in minutes. The recording of that concert is still the third most requested album from Carnegie Hall recordings, punctuated by a painful rendition of ‘Ave Maria.’
“What can we learn from Ms. Jenkins? People will say, "It doesn't matter what you believe, so long as you're sincere." But it does matter. Belief must match reality, or it is laughable, a delusion.”[3]
The longer Satan can keep us in that delusion, the longer it will be until we admit our need for Jesus.

Satan knows that the instant we recognize our need and cry out , “Jesus save me,” like Peter did when he was walking on the water with Jesus and began to sink.  “Jesus save me.”

That’s all it takes…isn’t it amazing?  No matter how far away we’ve wandered (or run from) Jesus, it’s only one step back into His arms.  Falling away may have taken years, but returning is instant.
“If you go over to Scotland, or anywhere there are lots of sheep, sooner or later you're going to see a very unusual sight. You'll see a little lamb running around the field, and you'll notice this lamb has what looks like an extra fleece tied around its back. In fact, you'll see there are little holes in the fleece for its four legs and usually a hole for its head. If you see a little lamb running around like that, that usually means its mother has died.
“And without the protection and nourishment of a mother, any orphaned lamb will die. If you take the orphaned lamb and try to introduce it to another mother, the new mother will butt it away. She won't recognize the lamb's scent and will know the new baby is not one of her own lambs.
“But thankfully, most flocks are large enough that there is a ewe that has recently lost a lamb. The shepherd will skin the dead lamb and make its fleece into a covering for the orphaned lamb, then he'll take the orphaned lamb to the mother whose baby just died. Now, when she sniffs the orphaned lamb, she will smell the fleece of her own lamb. Instead of butting the lamb away, she will accept it as one of her own.
“In a similar way, we have become acceptable to God by being clothed with Christ.”[4]
It only takes an instant – no waiting in line, no application to fill out, no automated phone answering system, no app to download;  just three simple words: “Jesus save me.”

What are we waiting for?

[1] Reported in U.S. News & World Report, 1/20/89. Leadership, Vol. 10, no. 3.
[2] Trevor Thompson, "Impatience Poll Glance," (5-28-06)
[3] Doug George, "Florence Foster Jenkins: She played Carnegie Hall and she really couldn't sing a note?" Chicago Tribune (11-20-09)
[4] Peter Grant, "In What Way Is Jesus Christ Different?"

Thursday, May 19, 2011

To Die For

What would you be willing to die for?  When we look back through history, we’ll see that a bunch of different people have been willing to die for a lot of different things.  Many, many people have died for the idea of freedom.  We have some favorites of those – those who fought in the Revolutionary War and World War II, for example.  Some people have given their lives to help their family/friends/countrymen have a better chance of winning a battle – the men at the Alamo, the soldiers of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts (the unit the movie Glory was based on) and the Spartans in the Battle of Thermopylae (the movie 300 is supposed to based on them).  There are also lots and lots of people who have been willing to die because of their religious beliefs – for example, the Jews during the Spanish Inquisition and the Holocaust, the Waldensees, Joan of Arc, Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego. 

Now, we may not agree with all these folks, in fact, we may be diametrically opposed to what they believe in, but they all believed with all their hearts in something that was so important to them that they would give their lives for that cause.  Truly, if any one of these people had had any tiny germ of doubt, he (or she) would not have gone through with it. The truth is, nobody dies for a lie, not if they know it’s a lie, anyway.
Ya know, we’ve talked before about the accuracy of the prophecies leading up to Christ.  But here we can go even further.  What if all of that WAS just coincidence?  What if it WAS a huge hoax?  Once Christ had died, the movement would have fallen apart.  It’s not like these apostles were really, really brave guys.  They all ran off at the first sign of trouble.  They hid in their houses for fear of the Roman guards.  If the Resurrection were a lie, everything would have ended right there, but it wasn’t and it didn’t.

When Jesus appeared to His disciples after His Resurrection, everything changed.  For the disciples, it was a life transforming moment.  In that instant, each disciple knew that everything that Jesus had said was true and, as far as we know, he didn’t waver after that.
 “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:  to whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days,…And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.” Acts 1:1-3,9 KJV
The apostles believed what they saw and what they had experienced so strongly that from that moment on, they went willingly wherever God led them.  And their lives weren’t any easier from then on either.  They were chased and persecuted for the rest of their lives.  Just in the book of Acts we get a little taste of how things went for them:
“…the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.  And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. …But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.  And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.” Acts 4:1-3,17,18 KJV
“Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.” Acts 5:17-18
And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Acts 7:59
“Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.  And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.  And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)  And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.  Peter therefore was kept in prison:…” Act 12:1-5
Do you think these guys would have put up with this if they were not 100% convinced of the truth of the Messiah and the resurrection of Jesus?  How long do you think they would have continued to perpetrate a lie or a hoax once they were faced with imprisonment, brutality and death?  You know, a lot of people have even denied the truth they knew to escape those things.  No one would die for a lie!
According to a gentlemen named Grant R. Jeffrey in his book The Signature of God says:
“…history reveals that not one of these men, who knew Jesus personally, ever denied their testimony about Him despite the threat and reality of imminent death.  This proves to any fair-minded observer that these men possessed an absolute unshakable personal knowledge about the truth of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.”
Mr. Jeffrey goes on to tell what is believed to be the fate of each of the apostles according to a church historian called Schumacher.
>         Matthew was killed by a sword wound in Ethiopia.
>     Mark was dragged through the streets of Alexandria, Egypt by horses until he was dead.
>         Luke was preaching in Greece until he was hanged.
>       John was the only apostle who died of old age…but not because no one tried.  At one point John was boiled in oil in Rome.  He was unharmed.
>         Peter was crucified upside down at his own request.  He said he was not worthy to die the same way Jesus did.
>         James was thrown down from the pinnacle of the church in Jerusalem.  He fell over 100 feet.  When they discovered that he had survived the fall, he was beaten to death.
>         James (John’s brother) was beheaded in Jerusalem.  According to this account, the Roman guard was so amazed to watch James defend his faith that he declared his own faith and knelt beside James to be beheaded for being a Christian as well.
>         Bartholomew was in Armenia when he was whipped to death.
>    Andrew was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Greece after being whipped.  According to his story, he survived for two days and preached about Jesus the whole time.
>         Thomas was stabbed with a spear in India.
>         Jude, Jesus’ brother, was killed with arrows.
>         Matthias was stoned and beheaded.
>         Barnabas was stoned to death in Salonica.
>         Paul was tortured and beheaded by Nero in Rome after he had spent a long time in prison

These men didn’t become rich or powerful by saying they were followers of Christ and that they knew He was alive.  They gained nothing for sticking to their story.  In fact, they died because they refused to give up what they knew was the truth.

Is there anything that you believe in so strongly that you would die rather than give it up?  I believe we’re all going to have to answer that question for ourselves before Jesus comes to take us to Heaven.  If we’ve been living with compromise, will we be able to take that stand when the time comes? 

What would you be willing to die for?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Is THAT what you’re wearing?

Thoughts about the Sabbath School Lesson dated 5.21.11
Have you ever had anyone ask you that question? The person asking is probably trying to offer constructive criticism, it can be a disturbing question, to which there is no good answer.  It usually indicates that what you’ve chosen to wear is inappropriate in some way, so if your answer is “yes,” be prepared to worry about what is wrong with what you’re wearing and will everybody be laughing at you for the rest of the day.  If you decide to change your outfit, well, first you’ll probably be late, but beyond that, this outfit is your second choice. 

Have you ever felt like God was asking you that question?  Were you on your way out into the world spiritually under-dressed?  Can you imagine how hard it must be for Him to watch us running around practically spiritually naked and vulnerable to whatever Satan’s going to throw in our direction?  Especially when Jesus has made sure that each  of us has a closet full of things He’s given us to protect us  from Satan’s attacks.  Not only has He given it to us, He tells us exactly how (and why) to use it!
“Put on God's whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil.  For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere.  Therefore put on God's complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place].  Stand therefore [hold your ground], having tightened the belt of truth around your loins and having put on the breastplate of integrity and of moral rectitude and right standing with God, And having shod your feet in preparation [to face the enemy with the firm-footed stability, the promptness, and the readiness produced by the good news] of the Gospel of peace.  Lift up over all the [covering] shield of saving faith, upon which you can quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked [one].  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword that the Spirit wields, which is the Word of God.”  Ephesians 6:11-17 (The Amplified Bible)
Of course, that’s all on top of Christ’s robe of righteousness.  But not only do we go around without any of the armor, we insist on walking around in our own righteousness (filthy rags) and expect to be able to survive the attacks of Satan.  Karen Moderow describes an experience she had that helped her to understand:  
“After an elegant evening out, I discovered--to my dismay--that my back collar was unbuttoned, exposing a three-inch triangle of flesh. I realized the parallel between my fashion woes and spiritual life. Despite the care I take with my appearance, I unexpectedly find myself exposed. My ‘unmentionables’--the sharp word, the critical attitude--show through. I have no more success making myself presentable to the Lord than I have at dressing. But there's hope. Although my own righteousness is like filthy rags, God has ‘clothed me with the garments of salvation, and covered me with the robe of righteousness.’ Good thing, too! Otherwise, I wouldn't stand a chance!”[1]
She’s so right!  Without God’s protection of us, we would have absolutely no hope of every being in Heaven with Him.
“In The Encourager, Charles Mylander writes: ‘Sunrise was dawning when Los Angeles motorcycle police officer Bob Vernon saw a red pickup truck speed through a stop sign. This guy must be late to work, he thought to himself. He turned on his emergency lights and radioed that he was in pursuit. The pickup pulled over, and the officer approached.
“‘Meanwhile in the truck, the driver thought, The cops already know! He was scared. He rested his hand on the same gun he had used a few moments before to rob a twenty-four-hour market. The sack of stolen money was beside him on the seat.
“‘The officer said, “Good morning, sir, may I see your…”
“‘He never finished the sentence. The driver shoved his gun toward the policeman's chest and fired from just inches away. The cop was knocked flat seven feet away.
“‘A few seconds later, to the shock of the criminal, the officer stood up, pulled his service revolver, and fired twice. The first bullet went through the open window and smashed the windshield. The second tore through the door and ripped into the driver's left leg.
“‘“Don't shoot!’ the thief screamed, throwing the gun and sack of money out the pickup window.
“‘What saved the policeman's life was dozens of layers of Kevlar, the super strong fabric used for bulletproof vests. Only three-eighths of an inch thick, Kevlar can stop bullets cold.’ In (Ephesians 6), the Bible instructs every Christian to put on the full armor of God. Simple qualities like righteousness and faith can deflect what the Enemy of souls may fire at us.”[2]
Can you imagine how that interaction would have ended if Officer Vernon had started his day without his Kevlar vest on?  I’ve hear people who wear those vests talk about how heavy, hot and uncomfortable they are, but most folks wear them anyway, though.  It would be insane to do their jobs without that extra protection.

What does that say about us?  We’re not just dealing with people who want to do us harm, Satan is just waiting for an opening to attack us.   
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:8-9
OK, let’s take a good look at ourselves in our spiritual mirrors.  Is that really what I want to wear out into a world where Satan is just watching for any vulnerable spot so he can attack?  Have I put on the whole armor of God over His robes of righteousness?
“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10

[1] Karen Moderow, Roswell, GA. Today's Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart
[2] Mike Neifert, Lynn, Indiana. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 3.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Airing Our Dirty Laundry

Commentary on the Sabbath School Lesson for 5.14.11

Have you ever heard of an “Intervention”?  Wikipedia describes one like this:  
“An intervention is an orchestrated attempt by one, or often many, people (usually family and friends) to get someone to seek professional help with an addiction or some kind of traumatic event or crisis, or other serious problem. The term intervention is most often used when the traumatic event involves addiction to drugs or other items. Intervention can also refer to the act of using a technique within a therapy session.
“Interventions have been used to address serious personal problems, including, but not limited to, alcoholism, compulsive gambling, drug abuse, compulsive eating and other eating disorders, self-mutilation, tobacco smoking, "workaholism", and various types of poor personal health care. Interventions have also been conducted due to personal habits not as frequently considered seriously harmful, such as video game addiction, excessive computer use and excessive television viewing.”[1]
If you’ve ever watched the show, “Intervention” on the A&E channel, you already know that they often don’t end the way the organizers hope they will.  I’d like to point you to an intervention in the Bible (Yes there was too an intervention in the Bible…at least one, anyway),  that turned out exactly like the Organizer planned it.  In fact, it may have been the easiest intervention in history.  From what I can tell, interventions are usually a surprise event for the “guest of honor”, who might describe it more as being “blindsided” or “sucker-punched”.  I guess it all depends on your point of view.

Anyway, here’s the one I’m talking about:    
“The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, ‘There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
“‘Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.’
“David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.’
“Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: “I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.  I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.”
“‘This is what the LORD says: “Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.”’”  I Samuel 12:1-12

Wow!   That is really direct and to the point.  Most interventions are very carefully worded.  They are filled with something called an “‘I’ statement”. (And no, that’s not a bank statement you get on the computer.)  An “I statement” is a way of helping people say things to each other without making accusations.  For example:  instead of “You never make your bed!”, you’d say something like this: “I get angry when I see you didn’t make your bed.”

That being said, Nathan and God did not worry about using “I statements.”  What Nathan did do though was start off with a parable to side step a lot of what would surely have been defensiveness and denial.  Using the parable also put David in a position to see what he had done the way God saw it.

The instant that Nathan said, 
“You are the man”, David;s heart was broken.  “Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’
“Nathan replied, ‘The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.’”  I Samuel 12:13
Did you catch that?  The exact moment that David admitted his sin, God forgave that sin.  No dramatic music, no special effects, just forgiveness.  When David quit concealing his sin, his sin was covered.  One step, done.
We try to make things so complicated, and somethings are, but this isn’t. 
Here it is from David, himself:
“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
“Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.
“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
“For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
“Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.
“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble   and surround me with songs of deliverance.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
“Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.
“Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.
“Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!”  Psalm 32
David learned the hard way that having your sins hidden is not at all the same as having them covered by Jesus’ forgiveness.

The question we have to ask ourselves right now is, “What am I trying to hide from Jesus?”  Wouldn’t we so much rather have whatever it is covered by Jesus’ robe of righteousness so that we can stand before God with nothing to hide?

Me, too!

[1] Wikipedia, “Intervention (counseling)”,

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fool Me Twice…

Have you ever thought about what you would have done?  From here it looks so easy!  I mean, how could the Jews of Jesus’ time have missed it?  They had all the prophecies, like 450 of them, pointing straight to Jesus as the Messiah, right?   So, how could they have made such a huge mistake?  I mean, not only did they not recognize Jesus as the Messiah; they killed Him for saying so.

We like to look back and feel kind of smug.  We would have picked up on the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies right away, right?  I did a little research this week to see if I could find out what things might have looked like to the Jews of Jesus’ day, to see if maybe I could figure out what was going on in their minds that made things a bit foggier for them than for us with our 20/20 hindsight.  Because I don’t know if you’ve heard or not, but Jesus is coming again and I’d really hate to miss Him!  Amen?

OK, so why did so many people miss the signs of the first coming of Jesus?  Well, one of the reasons seems to be that most of the folks were just living.  They were going to work and coming home, raising their kids, going to school, getting married, all that kind of day-to-day stuff that just happens.  Well, we don’t have any problems with that, because we’re focused!  We know what’s going to happen so we won’t forget to look for it.

Another thing that seems to have confused a lot of people was that there were tons of interpretations of the prophecies, not to mention lots of branch off prophecies from questionable sources.  There were even some folks that said that it was all made up and there were no prophecies to interpret!  Another puzzle was that there were disagreements about exactly what kind of Messiah they were looking for.  Some said He would be a King, some said a prophet and some said a priest…hmmm.  Some folks felt the prophecies pointed to an immortal and some said it would be a mortal man.  So, who were the Jews looking for—did they know?

Well that’s no problem for us, right?  We know exactly who we’re looking for don’t we? Plus, we know exactly how He’s coming.  There isn’t any disagreement for people today about how Jesus will come back this time, is there?  Not like the Jews who couldn’t agree on how the Messiah would arrive.

And then there were the guys who claimed they were the Messiah, but weren’t.  That never happens these days does it?  We won’t have any problem at all with that part.

Think about this, what if some new inspiration tells us that we’ve been looking at this thing the all wrong.  Would we have the courage to stand out and admit that we had misinterpreted the signs?  Or would our pride hold us back—keep us from telling people about the additional truth we had found?  I think that was a big problem with the priests, the Sadducees and the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.  The Messiah didn’t make the impression they had hoped for and so they held onto their misinterpretations rather than admit the truth.

There was also the issue of political/ religious power.  One sect of Judaism quit preaching about the coming Messiah altogether, because they wanted people to believe that the prophecies were pointing to them, as kind of a master race. 

Unfortunately, when we compare the Jews of Jesus’ time with ourselves here at the end of time, we see all the same issues that plagued them.  We’re distracted by everyday life; we don’t always agree on what the prophecies are telling us; there are lots of prophecies floating around that have nothing to do with the truth (but look pretty convincing); there are folks who say it’s all made up (and can supposedly prove it); there’s the secret rapture, post-pre-mid tribulation theories, the earth will become heaven theories…


Excellent question!  Well, I did some more research, in sources I trust more than anonymous internet sites and came up with some helpful information.

First of all, the Bible:
“And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them. But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by. Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. …And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”  (Luk 21:7-11,27-28 KJVR)
Then, I checked out Mrs. White.  Of course she has lots of details on what to watch out for and what the deceptions might look like when they come.  She also has some practical information about who the most likely to be deceived will be.  For example,
“Those who can so easily be led by a false spirit show that they have been following the wrong captain form some time,--so long that they do not discern that they are departing from the faith, or that they are not building upon the true foundation.  We need to urge all to put on their spiritual eye-glasses, to have their eyes anointed that they may see clearly and discern the tru pillars of the faith.  Then they will know that ‘the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.’” The Southern Watchman/April 5, 1904Present Truth”
I love that – “spiritual eye-glasses” – wouldn’t it be great if we could buy those at Wal-Mart?
“So closely will the counterfeit resemble the true that it will be impossible to distinguish between them except by the Holy Scriptures.  By their testimony every statement and every miracle must be tested. … and the few who are aithful to God’s requirements are the only ones who can ever withstand him,… ” Last Day Events, Chapter 11—“Satan’s Last Day Deceptions” p.170
“The only safe position for any of us to take is to consider ourselves sinners, daily needing divine grace.  Mercy through the atoning blood of Christ is our only plea.  “…But [Satan] presents before men not the meekness and humily of the Christian religion, but their own good deeds and wonderful impressions.  We can meet his specious temptations only with the word of God.  Those who have the truth as it is revealed in that holy word, must stand fast on the platform, relying on, ‘It is written.’” The Signs of the Times/Feb.26,1885 “Sanctification—The True and the False”