Friday, March 23, 2018

Lesson 12. The Habits of a Steward

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Stewardship: Motives of the Heart
Lesson 12. The Habits of a Steward


Here is a thought suggested by our Adult Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly, from the 1888 perspective. We've often heard it said that although Christ gets us started, we must keep on flying on our own, keeping up our speed or we will crash. I must "read the Bible, pray, and witness," in order to retain salvation. These are the very things I find difficult to do.

It is good to read the Bible, pray, and witness, but doing these things as works is not the way to retain salvation. If it is true that God takes the initiative in our salvation, it is equally true that He maintains the initiative. In other words, once you begin the Christian life, the Lord does not back off like a car salesman when you have bought your car, leaving you to struggle thereafter on your own. Struggling on our own discourages us and hardens the heart.

The Good Shepherd still takes the initiative in looking for His lost sheep. He still keeps knocking at the door of the heart. "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). Never are we to think that our divine Friend becomes indifferent toward us.

How did Jesus in His humanity maintain His closeness to His Father? He was human, He had only 24 hours a day as we have, He was busy as we are, and He needed sleep as we do. He gives us a surprising insight into His devotional life: the Father maintained the initiative. Speaking of His prayer-and-Bible-study life, Jesus said in the prophecy, "The Lord God has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to hear as the learned" (Isa. 50:4).

His Father wakened Him morning by morning that He might listen and learn. The Lord promises nourishing food to all who "hunger and thirst for righteousness" (Matt. 5:6). Since there is only one kind of righteousness (by faith), what the Lord means is that a lifelong hunger for more and more righteousness by faith is happiness. You are hungry to learn more and more, never satisfied with what you learned yesterday any more than you are satisfied with the food you ate yesterday.

We don't eat our daily food because the Bible tells us to; we eat because we are hungry. The Bible reveals a loving heavenly Father and Saviour and Holy Spirit eager to maintain connection with us. He continually invites us to come to "breakfast," but of course if we are not hungry, we won't go.

This is what the Lord gives to those who hear and believe the good news. They want more, just as when you taste something delicious, you want more. They don't have to set their alarm clocks to wake up in time, or force themselves to read and pray as a "work."

It is easy for us to turn a devotional life into a works program. Note how Jesus responded to His Father's daily initiative to awaken Him "morning by morning" to "learn": "The Lord God has opened My ear; and I was not rebellious, nor did I turn away" (Isa. 50:5).

How often we have been "rebellious" and turned away from His knocking at our door in the mornings! Sometimes it's because we have stayed up to watch the late show on TV, depriving ourselves of proper rest and making ourselves deaf to His appeals. (There is a reason why Scripture says that the day begins at sunset!)

To awaken in our souls that hunger and thirst is the purpose of the 1888 message of Christ's righteousness.

The gospel is the bread of life; and once you taste it, you will ever after want to "eat" without being forced to do so. What joy! Always to be hungry and thirsty for more. The world's amusements all lose their appeal when you "taste" the gospel for what it is. Many are now testifying that that hunger has been aroused in their souls by hearing or reading the 1888 message truths.

Suppose you keep trying but don't get that "hunger"?

This is not to say there is never a time for force-feeding. A sick person must temporarily be fed intravenously. But that is not the healthy way to live. And we never find health by taking pills and capsules instead of wholesome food. Five or ten minutes of hurriedly forced Bible study and a casual prayer are not adequate spiritual nourishment.

If you get sick with the flu, don't you take a day off from school or work to stay in bed and recuperate? Why not take a day off for fasting and prayer? Not seeking the Lord as though He were trying to hide from you, but taking the time to listen to Him as He seeks you.

There are times when a wise doctor keeps a patient in a coma on intravenous feeding; but normally a healthy person eats because he's hungry, not because of stern cold duty. Your problem may not be that your 24-hour day is too short (that would be God's fault). Probably good sincere people have pounded into you a wrong idea of God.

God is not waiting for you to maintain a relationship with Him; He wants you to know He is maintaining a relationship with you. It all begins with His initiative, not yours. He wants you saved more than you want to be.

--Paul E. Penno

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Lesson 11. Debt--A Daily Decision

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Stewardship: Motives of the Heart
Lesson 11. Debt--A Daily Decision


Our lesson gives us excellent advice and wise counsel on borrowing and spending money, and staying out of debt. However, the 1888 message goes beyond our day-to-day interaction with money to a different kind of "debt," one that never can be repaid. Let's start with what Ellet J. Waggoner had to say:

"'I Am Debtor.'--That was the keynote of Paul's life, and it was the secret of his success. Nowadays we hear of men saying, 'The world owes me a living.' But Paul considered that he owed himself to the world. And yet he received nothing from the world but stripes and abuse. Even that which he had received before Christ found him was a total loss. But Christ had found him, and given Himself to him, so that he could say, 'I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me' (Gal. 2:20).

"As Christ's life was his life, and Christ gave Himself for the world, Paul necessarily became a debtor to the whole world. This has been the case of every man who has been a servant of the Lord. ... 'Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant; even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many' (Matt. 20:26-28)." [1]

Whether or not you believe the gospel, the fact is that Christ died in your place when He died for "all" ("for the world"). Therefore, if He had not died for us, you would now at this moment be dead and in your grave. When Paul realized that, he took a deep breath. "I don't belong to myself! I don't possess anything that is mine by right--even my physical life I owe to Christ who died for me. My money, my house, my land, my education, my time, my strength--not one of these things I have called "mine" is really mine at all. I am infinitely and eternally in debt, a debt imposed by the grace of Christ."

Paul continues and explains to us how this mighty motivation works in our hearts: "He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:15). In the original language the idea is clear that those who understand and believe this great truth of grace will "henceforth" find it impossible to live self-centered lives. No more gritting your teeth and clenching your fists and trying to forceyourself to work hard for the Lord; it is automatic. An appreciation of the love of Christ has transformed you into a slave forever, a slave "under grace," Christ's freeman.

The key word there, and of course throughout the Bible, is "love." You cannot truly live under grace unless you appreciate that love revealed at the cross. When the sinner sees that cross, and appreciates that kind of love poured out, all for him, the tears come in his eyes. His heart is melted.

But must the one who truly believes in Jesus live under the tension of feeling unworthy, "the chief of sinners," sensing a constant conviction of being in debt? Is this the proper way for a Christian to feel? If Jesus were living here, would He feel like He had a daily debt to pay, an obligation to live for others and not for Himself? What can we know for sure?

(1) He invites us to "come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ... My yoke is easy, and My burden is light" (Matt.11:28-30).

(2) "The Savior of the world" has redeemed you, saved you, pulled you out of the mire, died the second death that would have been yours; adopted you into the Father's family. Ephesians 1:3-12 details in precision all the riches of His grace that He has already given you in the gift of Himself. Even the bread you have eaten today is the purchase of His cross, for you. Infinite wealth has been lavished upon you; and you are to know, to realize, to revel in your new status as a prince or princess "in heavenly places in Christ."

(3) But genuine faith has a built-in defense against a terrible spiritual arrogance that is so bad that it actually drives people away from Christ. Most pathetic of all delusions is the vain self-confidence that can assume you are specially honored by Heaven when in fact Jesus may be deeply ashamed of you, and abhors your unlikeness to His character.

(4) The built-in defense against this tragedy? The heart-awareness of what it cost the Son of God to save you. In the midst of your rejoicing in your salvation you forever sense that it is all a gift undeserved. It becomes a joy to remember that you are eternally, infinitely in debt.

As the innocent and divine Son of God, Christ became one of us. He entered the corporate stream of our fallen humanity so that He could take the load of guilt upon Himself, and pay our debt of death. By His perfect life He satisfied the demands of the law, and His death is accounted as our death because He became one of us.

The reason Paul can say, "I have been crucified with Christ," and "If one died for all, then all died" (Gal. 2:20; 2 Cor. 5:14) is because the Bible sees this corporate union of Himself with us as very real. This does not mean that we paid the debt for our sins, but that we are identified with Christ as He paid the debt. Our huge balance on the books of heaven is stamped "Paid!" As we consent to be united with Christ by faith, His death on the cross becomes our death and His righteousness becomes ours.

When the Father gave His Son, Christ also gave Himself. The price that Jesus paid was not merely a brief time spent as a visiting diplomat to this earth after which He returned to His former home; rather He gave Himself to be one of us, with us, forever. He will always retain His humanity. The price He paid was not a few days or hours of physical or spiritual agony to be endured with the prospect in view of relief and restoration; He actually went to hell in order to save us. He consented to die the equivalent of the "second death" which means, as one author puts it, "goodbye to life forever." He had to "taste death for everyone," so that we might not have to taste its bitterness (Heb. 2:9).

It's time to realize how infinitely in debt we are to a Savior who has saved us from what is in ourselves. Think it through, and you'll be singing the Hallelujah Chorus.

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland

[1] Ellet J. Waggoner, Waggoner on Romans, pp. 18, 19.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz

Friday, March 9, 2018

Lesson 10. The Role of Stewardship

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Stewardship: Motives of the Heart
Lesson 10. The Role of Stewardship


This week's lesson concentrates on two essential elements of the 1888 message--the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary from all sin, and the second coming of Christ. The first must be accomplished in the hearts of God's people before the second can take place. The judicial declaration of forgiveness of sins rests solely upon Christ's work on the cross and in the heavenly sanctuary. Christ's death provided the atoning sacrifice, and His work as our high priest in the heavenly sanctuary carries out the application of that sacrifice's blessing in the lives of the faithful. Therefore, the very first work in the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is the cleansing--the removal of all sin--from the hearts and minds from God's people. [1]

This is the object of the everlasting covenant (see 1 John 3:5-10).

"While the sins of penitent believers are being removed from the sanctuary, there is to be a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God's people upon earth. This work is more clearly presented in the messages of Revelation 14." [2]

"Forgiveness has a broader meaning than many suppose. ... God's forgiveness is not merely a judicial act by which He set us free from condemnation. It is not only forgiveness for sin, but reclaiming from sin." [3]

The cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary and the second coming of Christ are the very core of the unique Seventh-day Adventist message. No other group on earth have been called to carry forward this work. It is the reason for our being in this world as God's ambassadors. The apostle Paul's declaration, "we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ's behalf, 'Be reconciled to God'" (2 Cor. 5:20Holman Christian Standard Bible [HCSB]), is the driving force of our last day message.

The first angel of Revelation 14 appointed a people to the preaching of the everlasting gospel. The everlasting covenant (gospel) calls all men, everywhere in the earth, to recognize the Creator as the one true God, who not only created all things "in the beginning," but recreates the characters of penitent sinners through the power of the faith of Jesus Christ. As soon as a person recognizes the comprehensive significance of the fact that the God of heaven is the Creator, the Sabbath comes into focus as the one day that honors God and praises Him for His work both for us and in us.

The second angel then tells us that the fundamental truth of God as Creator and the sanctity of His seventh-day Sabbath, are in direct contrast and in conflict with Babylon's message, which centers on the works of man. Recognizing the gospel truth of these two messages means that all other ideas about God and salvation fall to the ground as unsustainable denials of God's power to save from sin.

The third angel calls all humanity to heed the messages of the first and second angels, and to "come out" of those false ideas about salvation that have plagued the human race since the Fall.

The three angels' messages are, together, "the everlasting covenant" concerning the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. Christ's work in the first apartment is a work of forgiveness, but His work in the most holy place is a work of the blotting out of all sin. God has a superabundance of forgiveness that continues to the close of probation for the world, but the blotting out of sin in the hearts of God's people prepares the way for the second coming of Christ. This is the distinctness of "the third angel's message in verity"--the faith and righteousness of Christ that cleanses from sin, all who will believe the good news. [4]

Through the work of Christ in His sanctuary ministry He is preparing His people for the second coming. This preparation in our hearts involves a deepening knowledge of His character so that we become so intimately acquainted with Him that deception will be impossible during the final misrepresentation of His character to the world through the "great wonders" and blasphemy propagated by the two beasts of Revelation 13. In this preparation, Christ Himself is reflected to the world through His people who lift Him up, and thus "draw all men" to Him (John 12:32).

"The time of the coming of the Lord and the restitution of all things is indeed at the very doors. And when Jesus comes, it is to take His people unto Himself. It is to present to Himself His glorious church, 'not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing,' but that is 'holy and without blemish.' It is to see Himself perfectly reflected in all His saints.

"And before He comes thus, His people must be in that condition. Before He comes we must have been brought to that state of perfection in the complete image of Jesus. Eph. 4:7, 8, 11-13. And this state of perfection, this developing in each believer the complete image of Jesus--this is the finishing of the mystery of God, which is Christ in you the hope of glory. ...

"The present time being the time when the coming of Jesus and the restitution of all things is at the very doors; and this final perfecting of the saints having necessarily to precede the coming of the Lord and the restitution of all things; we know by every evidence that now we are in the times of refreshing--the time of the latter rain. And as certainly as that is so, we are also in the time of the utter blotting out of all sins that have ever been against us." [5]

We are God's special stewards of the most unique message of Christ and His righteousness. It is a message that is not being preached by any other entity on earth. That being the fact, we should ask ourselves: If this is God's focus; if the message that God entrusted to A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner in 1888 is the message that will prepare a people to receive the outpouring of the latter rain, to fit a people to be God's final ambassadors to the world; if it is the message that will bring an end to Christ's ministry in heaven so that He can come as "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" (Rev. 19:16), then what business do we have employing our energies with any other message? [6]

--Ann Walper

[1] See pages 119, 120, A. T. Jones, The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, Glad Tidings ed. (2003).
[2] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 425.
[3] Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 114.
[4] See Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 372.
[5] Jones, The Consecrated Way, pp. 125, 126.
[6] With current events that are challenging, confusing, and counterfeiting the proclamation of God's vital truth, see Ellen G. White statement in Selected Messages, book 1, p. 204: "The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization. ... The fundamental principles that have sustained the work ... would be accounted as error. A new organization would be established. ... A system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced."

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Lesson 9. Offerings of Gratitude

Stewardship: Motives of the Heart
Lesson 9. Offerings of Gratitude


From time to time, Jesus warmly commended the faith of various individuals whom He healed. But His commendation of Mary sets the crowning seal of perfection to His growing definition of faith.

He had said to the coldhearted Simon, "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much" (Luke 7:47). Clearly, Mary loved much because she knew she had been forgiven much.

She probably felt, however, as many since have felt, that she yet wanted faith. This simple, contrite love she knew--what good would it be if she knew not that greater virtue of faith which alone could get something done, like moving mountains? Imagine her surprise to hear Jesus assign His own definition to her experience of contrite love, as He told her, "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace" (vs. 50). She had a precious possession: genuine "faith." But what is it?

A picture is worth a thousand words. Faith is the essence of true Christian experience. Righteousness is only by faith, "not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph. 2:8, 9).

But we must distinguish genuine faith from its counterfeit if we are ever to know peace of heart. Jesus lifts up Mary's heart-response to His delivering her from her "seven devils" as being what the Christian wants: the "picture" of faith. Mary's story makes it easy for us to understand. The picture is worth more than many thousands of words.

Faith is simply a heart-appreciation of the agape love that led the Son of God to die for us on His cross. That faith is what Mary had.

From her first contact with the Savior, she had begun opening her heart for the Holy Spirit to "pour" in that agape. She couldn't receive much at first, but day by day her capacity began to grow.

In His first contact with her in Magdala, Jesus gave expression to that agape, perhaps not in words, but in look, in touch, in spirit, in the fervency of His prayer for her deliverance. She was almost totally gone, but a tiny remnant of soul was still within her that responded with that tiny spark of appreciation. Thereafter, with each succeeding prayer during the following six sessions, her appreciation of His agape grew.

What motivated her thereafter was not fear of hell, not hope of reward, not love of heaven, not desire for praise from others, but a totally non-egocentric appreciation for "the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love [agape] of Christ which passeth knowledge" (Eph. 3:18,19).

She experienced the reality of the delightful process stated in Romans 5:5: "Hope does not disappoint, because the love [agape] of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (New American Standard Bible). Starting with an empty heart, the agape fills it like you fill a wine jug! And once the heart is filled, it all flows to others as easily and naturally as it flowed in from the heart of Jesus.

It's not that you try and try to behave like Jesus; "behold," see, comprehend the reality that was in His heart; sense what it cost Him to save you; then the same behavior flows out from your own heart. Like watching a game at the arena, we behold this drama unfold unconsciously in Mary. She is a demonstration of how a sinner is saved.

What is the link between the love of Christ and the faith of Mary? When she broke the alabaster flask of precious ointment to anoint Jesus, she was giving a lesson to the world. She showed that same spirit of sacrifice which Jesus' life and death exemplified. Mary's act has special meaning for us as an illustration of what led Him to His cross.

Her act at Bethany stands out alone in history as the most beautiful, heart-touching deed ever performed by a repentant sinner. It was closely involved with the outworking of the great controversy between Christ and Satan because it was welcome evidence to Jesus and to the watching universe that Satan's grand contention was wrong: humanity is indeed capable of attaining a heart-appreciation of the sacrifice Jesus made.

Mary had no righteousness of her own; but her Savior's righteousness had been imparted to her, to become now an integral element of her character. She welcomed it. It was not merely legally imputed; it had found lodging in her soul. As Job long before had proved Satan wrong when he demonstrated that someone could serve God for no reward, so now Mary makes a magnificent demonstration, but not realizing her role.

She demonstrates the power implicit in a commitment. She burns all bridges behind her; from now on she has given herself to the Savior, everything laid on the altar of Christ. Paul said, "For to me to live is Christ" (Phil. 1:21). Henceforth she has no problem with "obedience." It's not just outward acts; it's heart.

Did she help Jesus? Imagine how her noble deed cheered the heart of the Savior in His darkest hours when He hung on His cross! No angel from heaven could have brought Him the comfort which the memory of her tearful sacrifice gave Him. In her sacrificial faith directed to Him He discerned a pledge of His eventual joy. The travail of His soul will purchase for Him a precious reward--the making of many righteous through "faith which worketh by love" (Gal. 5:6; Isa. 53:11).

Christ's death on the cross satisfied the legal demands of the atonement. Fine. Theologians can wrangle over it endlessly. But the evoking of such repentant love in human hearts is what changes lives. It gives the Savior a reward for His expenditure of Himself.

Yes, "God commanded" that the "most precious [1888] message" go to the world; and Jesus said clearly that wherever the gospel is preached "throughout the whole world," Mary Magdalene's story must be included (Mark 14:9). The joy of Jesus was in proclaiming this Good News and watching people's eyes light up. That joy will be yours, too.

--Paul E. Penno

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Friday, February 23, 2018

Lesson 8. The Impact of Tithing

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Stewardship: Motives of the Heart
Lesson 8. The Impact of Tithing


There's a fundamental truth that underlies all human existence: No human being anywhere can claim rightful title to even one dollar as being his or hers. This principle is taught in a well-known verse: "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish" (John 3:16). Obviously, this means that "the world" was doomed to "perish" unless God gave that Gift. It's a blunt, straightforward recognition that "the world" (everyone, not just believers) owes everything to that divine Gift. No one can believe the gospel without recognizing immediately that he now relates to money and things in a new way.

Another text states the same principle even more clearly: "The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead: and He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:14, 15). The original language implies that a new compulsion now grips the heart, stronger than the old compulsion of selfishness.

This powerful truth lays an ax at the root of our love affair with money. If we believe that Christ "died for all," that is the same as saying that we died along with him and that if He had not died for all, we would all be dead and would therefore have nothing.

This idea parallels one of the essential elements of the 1888 message--the new covenant truth, which is God's one-way promise to write His law in our hearts, and to give us everlasting salvation as a free gift "in Christ." E. J. Waggoner caught the Bible idea: "The covenant and promise of God are one and the same. ... God's covenants with men can be nothing else than promises to them. ...

"After the Flood God made a 'covenant' with every beast of the earth, and with every fowl; but the beasts and the birds did not promise anything in return (Gen. 9:9-16). They simply received the favor at the hand of God. That is all we can do--receive. God promises us everything that we need, and more than we can ask, or think, as a gift. We give Him ourselves, that is, nothing. And He gives us Himself, that is, everything. That which makes all the trouble is that even when men are willing to recognize the Lord at all they want to make bargains with Him. They want it to be an equal, 'mutual' affair--a transaction in which they can consider themselves on par with God." [1]

God has instituted a plan of managing money that perpetually reminds us that we do not own "our" assets. In the early days of our world, even before there were any Jews, He instituted the tithing system--returning one-tenth of all we get to Him.

The idea is not that God is poor and needs a dole from us. And it's not a taxation system. To return a tenth of our income to God acknowledges that "if One died for all, then were all dead" (2 Cor. 5:14). It also acknowledges that we are handling Someone else's property. The tenth we return to Him says that we see ourselves as thankful stewards of life itself. Tithe is a tangible hallelujah, a lifeline that helps connect our alienated souls to reality, a reminder of our tenuous grasp on life and on all we have.

The principle of giving is the antithesis of getting. Everyone is born with the spirit of getting; no baby ever cries because another one is hungry. The "cheerful giver" whom God loves is not that way by nature. No one has any natural-born righteousness. The "cheerful giver" is a selfish person (we all are by nature) who has been renewed by a heart appreciation of the "unspeakable gift" of God's grace in Christ. His cheerful giving is the fruit of a faith that works by love (see 2 Cor. 9:15; Gal. 5:6).

Although God so loved the whole world that he gave His Son for it, those who appreciate the Gift are stockholders in His grand enterprise of telling the world the good news. All who believe are members of His family, with a vested interest in the plan of salvation. The tithes and offerings that are acceptable to God are those that are given as freely as He gave His offering in our behalf. God has directed that they be used in His worldwide program of proclaiming the good news: "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings. ... Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse" (Mal. 3:8-10).

The "storehouse," or God's "house," symbolizes His temple or organization on earth--the church. We don't pay tithes to God, nor give them; we return them to Him. They are His. He does not keep a cent for Himself, but uses all of it in support of His world network of agencies proclaiming the pure gospel--His church on earth.

Does God intend for even poor people to return to Him a tenth of their meager income? The answer is that everyone is invited to share in the blessing of being shareholders in God's enterprise. Never in the history of the world has anyone suffered because of returning the tithe to the Lord. He has made Himself personally responsible to fulfill an ironclad promise: "Prove Me now herewith [in tithe-paying], saith the Lord of hosts, If I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes" (Mal. 3:10, 11).

The tyranny of materialism is cruel bondage, a constant oppression of spirit. It is the pressure of keeping up with the neighbors or the relatives, excessive concern for clothes, houses, furniture, cars, vacations, anything to bolster our sagging self-esteem. In loving concern for our happiness, the Lord pleads with us, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15New International Version).

Could Jesus have been speaking especially to us today? Yes, most surely. Never in world history has any people had more "good things laid up" than we have. Jesus' point is that these material baubles are neither true wealth nor permanent. "The pagan world runs after all such things" (vs. 30). But God has already given us wealth infinitely better! "Your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. ... Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near. ... For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (vss. 32-34).

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland


[1] Ellet J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 71, CFI ed. (2016).

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Friday, February 16, 2018

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #7 February 17, 2018

FEBRUARY 17, 2018
As we review the lesson we may find little to rejoice over.

Instead we are expected to draw warmth from the coldness of the author.  Loyalty from his treason and courage from his cowardice.
Let's raise our thought and praise the Lord while we have an opportunity.  The Lord is good and worthy to be praised.

Although there is little to rejoice over we can still praise the Lord.  The sunshine shines in the sky.  The birds sing.  The clouds float above.  The gentle breeze floats around us.  We are at peace. 

            The Lord is good and His mercy endures forever.
            O give thanks unto the Lord for His mercy endures forever.
            We have life and health and strength for His mercy endure forever.
            We can count our blessings for His mercy endures forever.
            There may be war in the streets.  Yet His mercy endures forever.
            The enemy plots against us.  Yet His mercy endures forever.
            We have a place to sleep for His mercy endures forever.
            We shall not fear for His mercy endures forever.
            We will enter His house for His mercy endures forever.
            We rest under His wings for His mercy endures forever.
            He provides our peace for His mercy endures forever.
            I shall rest in His word. For His mercy endures forever.
            There is no reason to hide for His mercy endures forever.
            We can lift our voices and sing.  For His mercy endures forever.
            It's a beautiful day.  Praise ye the Lord for His mercy endures forever.
            Rather than complain about the lesson, let's just praise the Lord.
~Mark Duncan

Friday, February 9, 2018

Lesson 6. The Marks of a Steward

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Stewardship: Motives of the Heart
Lesson 6. The Marks of a Steward


The sovereignty of God means that He owns everything. Humans are only entrusted with what God has provided. The primary trait of stewards is they clearly understand this, and consistently act accordingly. This is a simple concept, but human pride has perverted it almost beyond recognition to most people living today. Regardless of what we think of God's sovereignty, He is sovereign and our perceptions don't change that. We can understand God at some level, but we have to turn to His word and leave our preconceived ideas about Him.

It is easy to fall into the self-centered trap that comes naturally to humans. We always want to possess, whether it be material things or intangibles such as power and influence. Striving to have anything belonging to this world brings us to the point where God's gifts now take the place of God. The mark of a good steward is that he or she never forgets that nothing can take the place of God.

"Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For ... whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?'" (Matt. 16:24-26, New American Standard Bible). This is where most nonbelievers err; they think they have something to offer in exchange for their souls.

What does it mean to take up our cross? Many think our cross consists of the various trials that come to us. Often, we hear parents sighing that their cross is something their child is or isn't doing. This unnecessarily causes the child guilt, because it becomes more about the parent controlling the child's behavior. In reality, we have been told to "count it all joy" when trials come because they are God's way of refining our character. Perhaps God is trying to teach the parent that they have only been given stewardship of the child, and He will take care of His children in His way and time. Our cross is the same one that Jesus had. He said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for what ever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner" (John 5:19). Our cross, like that of Jesus' cross, consists of giving everything to God without reservation.

The person who has completely lost all confidence in the flesh to acquire things of this world understands what it means to be poor, as Jesus used that word. The blessed ones who possess the kingdom are they who have released everything and have come to understand they can possess nothing. They become like a common beggar, who has accepted the fact that he or she has no hope of possessing anything. What a wonderful place to be, since Jesus has promised to supply all our needs. Stewardship means you aren't expected to be the commander over that which you are the steward. Your only job is to preserve, cherish, and responsibly manage what you have been given.

This applies to the lessons God has led us to and taught us in the past. The most serious responsibility a steward can have is to be given a gospel message that is "most precious," as our church was given "through Elders Waggoner and Jones." [1] We alter, disregard, or despise that message at peril to our souls, especially those who have been given the special opportunity to study the message of righteousness given to our church in 1888. That was many years ago, yet we still hear people who misunderstand the message, and quarrel about whether we should even study it.

James asks, "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? ... You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (4:1, 4).

In our dear church, there are still many sincere folks who are conflicted about the message of righteousness by faith, and they quarrel about what it is, often without adequate study. James says the source of these quarrels and conflicts are "your pleasures that wage war in your members."

In verse 4 he tells what these "pleasures" might be. Adultery can only be committed by persons who are married. If you're not married, you can commit fornication, but not adultery. James is trying to tell believers that they have become part of the bride of Christ, and any friendship with the world is disloyal and unfaithful to her husband. A bride who doesn't cherish her relationship with her Christ-husband is committing spiritual adultery.

A quotation from last week's lesson is also appropriate for this week: "'A steward identifies himself with his master. He accepts the responsibilities of a steward, and he must act in his master's stead, doing as his master would do were he presiding. His master's interests become his. The position of a steward is one of dignity because his master trusts him. If in any wise he acts selfishly and turns the advantages gained by trading with his lord's goods to his own advantage, he has perverted the trust reposed in him.'--Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 246." [2]

The people who make up the bride of Christ have all "died in Christ." Waggoner explains this: "Now we see how it is that we are dead to the law. We died in Christ, and were raised in Him. ... Now that the union with Christ has been effected, we serve in newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. In marriage, the woman is to be subject to the husband. So when we were united to sin, we were in all things subject to sin. For a time it was willing service; but when we saw the Lord, and were drawn to Him, the service became irksome. We tried to keep God's law, but were bound, and could not. But now we are set free. Sin no longer restrains us, and our service is freedom. We gladly render to Christ all the service that the law requires of us. We render this service because of the perfect union between us. His life is ours, since we were raised only by the power of His life. Therefore our obedience is simply His loyalty and faithfulness in us." [3]

The marks of a steward are loyalty, faithfulness, trustworthiness, and obedience; all things that are impossible without death to self and resurrection in Christ. Our Bridegroom, Jesus, has demonstrated all these traits toward His church and He will give us the same traits if we are willing to receive them.

--Arlene Hill

[1] Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 90.
[2] Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, p. 37.
[3] Ellet J. Waggoner, Waggoner on Romans, Glad Tidings ed. (1997), pp. 119, 120.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

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