Monday, October 29, 2012

Check Mate (Delayed)

Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson for 11.3.12

I have been known to be kind of a klutz … not altogether undeservedly, I’m afraid. Well, this week I cut my finger while fixing lunch. The truly sad part about the whole thing was that I knew it was going to happen, but could not seem to make my hand move out of the way of the knife. Thankfully, though painful, the cut didn’t need anything more than a bandage, but it got me thinking about inevitability.

Then I read a story told by Contemporary Christian singer, songwriter and author, Carolyn Arends that perfectly summed up what I was thinking.

Arends relates a memory from her childhood of listening to visiting missionaries sharing their experiences in the mission field. In this particular story, the missionary couple told a story about a snake.
“One day, they told us, an enormous snake—much longer than a man—slithered its way right through their front door and into the kitchen of their simple home. Terrified, they ran outside and searched frantically for a local who might know what to do. A machete-wielding neighbor came to the rescue, calmly marching into their house and decapitating the snake with one clean chop.
“The neighbor reemerged triumphant and assured the missionaries that the reptile had been defeated. But there was a catch, he warned: It was going to take a while for the snake to realize it was dead.
“A snake's neurology and blood flow are such that it can take considerable time for it to stop moving even after decapitation. For the next several hours, the missionaries were forced to wait outside while the snake thrashed about, smashing furniture and flailing against walls and windows, wreaking havoc until its body finally understood that it no longer had a head.
“Sweating in the heat, they had felt frustrated and a little sickened but also grateful that the snake's rampage wouldn't last forever. And at some point in their waiting, they told us, they had a mutual epiphany.
“I leaned in with the rest of the congregation, queasy and fascinated. ‘Do you see it?’ asked the husband. ‘Satan is a lot like that big old snake. He's already been defeated. He just doesn't know it yet. In the meantime, he's going to do some damage. But never forget that he's a goner.’”[1]
Does that story remind of you anything? It does me. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:15

The only part of Arends’ story with which I disagree is that I believe that Satan knows (and has known since Jesus died and rose again) that he’s lost but is determined to wreak as much havoc as he possibly can.
“A battle unseen by human eyes is being waged. The army of the Lord is on the ground, seeking to save souls. Satan and his host are also at work, trying in every possible way to deceive and destroy. . . . Day by day the battle goes on. If our eyes could be opened to see the good and evil agencies at work, there would be no trifling, no vanity, no jesting or joking. If all would put on the whole armor of God and fight manfully the battles of the Lord, victories would be gained that would cause the kingdom of darkness to tremble.” (Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 41)
My brother and I played all kinds of board games as kids. In general, he is the better game player, so there would come a point in almost every game when I knew that I was going to lose. Sometimes when I saw that loss coming, I would just quit, but sometimes I would hang on and try to cause as much damage as I could before the inevitable happened. Chess was probably the most frustrating for both of us. I really stunk but I was pretty much his only option for a partner if he wanted to play. I can remember so many times when I’d be down to just a couple of pieces. I would only be able to move back and forth between two or three spaces. I knew it was just a matter of time until my brother would close in and call, “Check Mate,” but I wouldn’t quit until he actually said those words
It’s called being a sore loser and anybody who might have been watching would have known which of us was the better player and which of us was being a pouty little girl.

The Great Controversy between Jesus and Satan isn’t about who wins or loses anymore because ever since Jesus died on the cross and then rose again, we all know Who’s already won. What we, and all the beings in the universe are observing now is a demonstration of the character of God – God who allows each individual the freedom to accept or reject His salvation, who is eternally just and loving.
“But in spite of all the efforts of the enemy to make of none effect the word of God, he who has a heart to search for truth will find it; for it lies open before him, revealed in the word of God, as the secrets of nature are open to him who studies her laws. God’s word is the revelation of all truth; and in laboring for souls, the minister should seek to unveil the truth in such a way that it will make the right impression upon the heart, that the sinner may renounce his allegiance to Satan, and turn to Christ. Jesus is ready to accept the soul who turns to him, pleading the merits of the blood of Christ. He will receive, pardon, purify, and make him whole. But before this point is reached, before the soul surrenders to Christ, there is a time when the will is vacillating, when the soul is under conviction, and pressed by doubt, and it is then that a strong personal effort should be made. The minister should come close to the trembling one, and point him to Calvary, lifting up a crucified and risen Saviour as the sinner’s only hope. There are many whose hearts are as hard as the beaten highway, and apparently it is a useless effort to present the truth to them; but while logic may fail to move, and argument be worthless to convince, let the laborer for Christ come close to such in Christlike sympathy and compassion, and it may be that the love of Christ will subdue and melt the soul into tenderness and contrition. ‘The world by wisdom knew not God.’ Let the wayward and hard-hearted be led to the feet of Jesus; here they may learn precious lessons of love of their Creator and Redeemer, and hope will spring up. ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’” (E.G. White, Review and Herald, May 31, 1892)
Which side will you be on when the final battle is fought? We know who wins – Jesus has already said the final words: “Check Mate!”

[1] Carolyn Arends, "Satan's a Goner: A lesson from a Headless Snake," Christianity Today (February, 2011)

Monday, October 15, 2012


Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson for 10.21.12

There’s a TV show that my family and I watch called American Restoration. The star is Rick Dale, who “is an expert restorer of classic objects and artifacts with nearly 30 years in the business and his own shop in Las Vegas, Nevada--Rick's Restorations. Rick has built his career on an unbridled passion and unique skill for transforming the rustiest and most beat-up items into like-new products that can fetch a big price tag. He doesn't shy away from a challenge and has worked on items as varied as a beaten-down 1940s gas pump, a rusted-out 1950s soda machine and a classic jukebox with a complex mechanical design, upping the value by restoring them to mint working condition. Rick isn't just an exceptional craftsman--he is also a businessman who must manage the big personalities of his employees, many of whom are his own family members.”[1]

Watching Rick restore whatever his clients bring in is an amazing process. Usually what they bring in has been dropped, crushed, rusted or in some other way destroyed. But after Rick and his employees have worked on the item it looks and operates just like it just came from the factory.

Even better than watching the restoration process itself, though, is seeing the joy that bringing something back to “like new” brings to Rick Dale. There’s no doubt that what Rick is doing is his passion. Not many people would have the patience to take a broken, dented and non-working item, take it completely apart, clean and repair each individual piece, sand, repaint and put the whole thing back together again so that it not only looks brand new, but works like it was made to work.

You know, we’re in much the same shape as those broken and dented items that folks bring to Rick’s Restoration workshop. We have been broken and scarred to the point that we are almost not recognizable as the same types of humans that God created on the sixth day of creation.
“Through sin the divine likeness was marred, and well-nigh obliterated. Man’s physical powers were weakened, his mental capacity was lessened, his spiritual vision dimmed. He had become subject to death.” (E.G. White, Education, p. 15)
Can you imagine how God’s heart must break when He sees the marks that sin has made on our lives?

As damaged as we are, though, we can be restored. Before Adam and Eve ever sinned, God had a plan to repair the damage that sin would do – to bridge the separation that sin would open up between God and the beings that He created. God’s instrument of restoration is Jesus. 
“The thought that God’s eye is watching over us, that he loves us, and cared so much for us as to give his dearly beloved Son to redeem us, that we might not miserably perish, is a great one; and he who opens his heart to the acceptance and contemplation of themes like these, will never be satisfied with trivial, sensational subjects.” (E.G. White, Christian Education, p.188)
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
That’s part one of our restoration process – the earthly part. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, His death is applied to our lives so that when our names come before God, He won’t see our sins, He will only see that our debt has been paid. Our relationship with Him is restored to “like new” condition.

But wait, there’s more!

Part two of the restoration process is even more exciting. When Jesus comes to take us home to Heaven, something miraculous will happen. We will be changed into our original, pre-sin condition so that we won’t just be “like new,” we will be completely new.
“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-55
One of my favorite pastors, Walter Pearson, preaches about the moment when we are caught up in the clouds to be with Jesus. At that moment, we will realize both that we are face to face with Jesus and that we will have our incorruptible bodies. We will look at Jesus and see, for the first time what “made in God’s image” really looks like.

I don’t know which part of our salvation/restoration seems more miraculous – yes, changing our sin battered bodies into God’s original design is amazing, but I think the real miracle takes place when the Holy Spirit touches our sin stained hearts and cleanses and fills them with a love for our Creator and King. How can God fix something so broken as a sinful human being?

Allan Dale Golding gives an illustration that might help us understand God’s restoration process.
“When we were missionaries in the Philippines, we vacationed in Baguio City in the mountains of Northern Luzon. While there, we visited the St. Louis Silver School, where silversmiths are trained. We admired exquisite workmanship in the workshop and gift shop, and took home a souvenir—a pure silver money clip embellished with a distinctive design. I carried that clip for the next 24 years. One day it finally broke as I slipped a few bills into it. I then took the two pieces of the money clip back to the silver school in Baguio. One workman, about my age, asked if he could help me. I explained my predicament and laid the pieces in his outstretched hand.
“After examining the pieces for a minute or so, he looked up at me and said, ‘I designed this clip. I was the only one to make this design. I made all of these that were ever made.’
“I asked, ‘Can you fix it?’
“He said, ‘I designed it. I made it. Of course I can fix it!’”[2]
Jesus designed and created us. He made the plan to fix us when we fell and if we will let Him, he is waiting to re-create us in His image again.

“For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him.” John 3: 16-17AMP

[1] American Restoration, 1996-2012, A&E Television Networks, LLC.
[2] Allen Dale Golding, “Creator Makes and Fixes Creations,”

Monday, October 8, 2012


Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson for 10.13.12

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  2 Timothy 2:15

True confession time – I don’t know how to study. I know how to look stuff up and to read things … but I just don’t get the whole concept of “studying” something. Once I’ve read it, I don’t really know what else to do.

That’s become kind of a frustration for me when it comes to studying the Bible. Give me a passage to read and I can read it, no sweat. But reading isn’t the same as studying. Imagine going to a banquet and all you do is look at and sniff all the food – that’s not the same as actually eating the food. You can describe the food, but it hasn’t become part of you.

Now, I’m thinking, I’m not alone in my study impaired state. When January rolls around, we’re all set to start reading through our Bibles in a year, following the Bible Reading plan du jour. The problem is, after a few short weeks, we’ve fallen so far behind in our reading that we finally just give up. But even if we kept up with that, we’re just reading; that’s not studying! And besides all that, studying is hard, and boring, and it takes time I don’t have, and I don’t know how.
“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:14-17.
In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul tells us that to be approved by God and to be able to understand the word of truth, we have to study scripture.

That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? But, again, once I’ve read through it, I’m not sure what to do with it. How do I make the leap from just reading, to becoming equipped for “every good work?”

Well, I just read about the thing called “Inductive Bible Study” and I realize as I read through the steps, that I’d actually done it before, I just didn’t know the name. And it’s not hard or boring, in fact, it’s kind of fun!
I lived in Germany for a couple of years and during that time I spent Sabbath afternoons at the Servicemen’s Center in Frankfurt. It was run, during those years, by the most amazing couple, the Bowens. They always had something planned for Sabbath afternoon so that everybody didn’t just drift off and sleep all afternoon. One of the activities, that I really enjoyed, turned out to be “Inductive Bible Study.”

There are three steps involved in this method: Observation, Interpretation and Personalization. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? But it’s not anything you haven’t done on your own probably many times without knowing it.

Observation – That’s just the initial reading of a certain passage. We have to make sure we understand what the writer is actually trying to tell us. What are the setting and the circumstances and how are they important to the story.

One of Mrs. Bowen’s favorite stories to do this process with was the feeding of the five thousand. We’d all be sitting around the living room and we would talk about what had happened just before this miracle and how that might have affected what was going on. She asked questions like, “Why was Jesus in that particular place on that day?” “Why were the people there?”

Then we would move onto Interpretation. After we’d discussed the story for a few minutes, she’d have someone read the passage again and then she’d have us sit quietly for several minutes and imagine ourselves in that place and time. Mrs. Bowen would tell us to pick a character in the story and imagine ourselves as that character. It could be one of the main people in the story or you could invent a character for yourself. The important thing was to imagine ourselves in the story. What would we be seeing, hearing, tasting, and smelling. How would the character we picked feel and react in the setting.  Mrs. Bowen would ask for someone from the group to take a couple of minutes and share who the character they picked was, why they were in that particular setting that day and what happened to them while they were there.

You can’t imagine how interesting it was to listen to everybody’s story about their chosen character. Some folks chose to be disciples, some folks chose to be a person in the multitude, it didn’t matter.  Everybody’s story was so different and interesting.

First, imagining your own character’s thoughts and feelings really helped each of us understand the story a little bit better. Then, listening and sharing with the other folks in the room expanded our understanding and broadened our perspective of the story itself.

Personalization is the last step in the process. We called it “debriefing” but it was the same thing. Mrs. Bowen would have us go back around the room and we would each describe what we had learned from the exercise and how we could use what we’d learned in the next week.

Who knew studying the Bible could be so fun! It was a great way to spend a Sabbath afternoon and to learn more about Jesus. Most important of all, we took away an experience with Jesus that most of us still remember.

Studying the Bible does several things for us. It helps us to be more settled in the truth so that when the enemy tries to deceive us, we’re less likely to fall for his lies. We will have filled our hearts and minds with the truth. Another benefit is that we get a clearer picture of Jesus and who He really is.

Admitted, we can’t always do the exercise with a room full of people, but even if you do it alone, the Word of God has become part of you and has changed you for the better in some way.

Craig Brian Larson, editor of Preaching, relates an experience that demonstrates how we can be changed through studying the Word of God.
“Over our office lunch recently I visited with a fellow employee named Cindy and learned that her father taught music at Wheaton College and also coordinated its Artist Series. Those positions allowed him the privilege to meet celebrated musicians who were to perform at the College.
“George Szell, legendary music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, was one of the musical celebrities Cindy met while in her early teen years. Cindy's father introduced her to Szell and pointed out that she played the viola.
Ever the taskmaster, the visiting maestro put his fingers under her chin and lifted to see the left side of her jaw. ‘It doesn't look like she practices much,’ Szell said, making a serious point in a playful manner.
“As violinists and viola players know, the more you practice, the more the skin under the jaw where the violin is held is darkened. Disciplined, hard work leaves its mark.”[1]
When someone looks at me, can they tell that I spend time with Jesus? Can they see the mark of my time with Him? I hope so.

[1] Craig Brian Larson, editor of