Friday, June 14, 2019

Lesson 11: Families of Faith

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Family Seasons
Lesson 11: Families of Faith

 

"As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:15).

"Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain" (Psalm 127:1).

Lot's separation from Abraham and Sarah is an early example of the decline in the multiple generation family unit. Abraham and Sarah were 75 and 65 years old (respectively), and barren when Lot chose to move away from the family into the nearby city of Sodom. Apparently heedless of the needs of his "elderly" aunt and uncle, Lot selfishly chose to live among evil rather than to remain with his righteous uncle in a family devoted to the worship of the one true God. The loss of his nephew to such an environment brought great heart distress to Abraham, but he did not try to prevent the move.

When Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were transported from Jerusalem to Babylon, they were already prepared for the trials they faced. The young men had been taught in their families and through the sanctuary service about God's covenant promise of the coming Messiah (made visual through the sanctuary service), had been raised in a knowledge of proper health practices, and were solidly grounded in the faith of their Saviour. If they had not been, then they would have fallen just as rapidly as the other young men who were deported at the same time.

Spiritual preparationbefore a crisis is essential.

In both of these situations, we can see a first generation faith. Abraham was the first generation called from Babylon (the city of Ur), and Daniel and his righteous companions were the first generation of the group that would later be brought forth from Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem. Abraham's descendants, through Judah, remained steadfast to the faith (more or less; all twelve tribes fell into paganism and that's why they went into captivity).

The generation that followed Daniel were in serious need of spiritual reformation when they returned from Babylon. In captivity they had become complacent and far removed from their confidence in God's covenant. Their seventy years in Babylon had not brought them closer to their Lord. The returning exiles were unprepared for the challenges they would face when trying to rebuild their city, the temple, and their faith.

At the time the message of Christ and His righteousness was first presented in 1888, God's remnant family faced multiple theological crises through John Harvey Kellogg's pantheism, and the resultant "holy flesh" movement. Another serious challenge came through an upheaval concerning the sanctuary doctrine. It has been said that after 1905, Ellen White went into a "damage control" mode in her writings, trying to handle the deviant teachings confronting the denomination.

It has been almost seventy years since Elders Wieland and Short recovered the message of Christ and His righteousness that was lost through these challenges and plain neglect of the "most precious message" of A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, presented to the church in 1888. First generation enthusiasm for the recovery of the message was lost when these two men went to their graves.

In the original message given in 1888, the emphasis was on Christ, His faith, justification through His faith that has been given to every person on earth (Rom. 12:3), and other connected elements of the Gospel that are all related specifically to Christ and His righteousness (such as Christ's fallen human nature; Heb. 2:14-18). Man's "efforts" at sanctification were not forefront of the original message. It was all about Christ and His work for mankind.

As the years have passed and still Christ has not returned for His people, emphasis has changed from a "soon coming" idea to a "here for the long-run" plan. Emphasis has become evangelism of non-Adventists rather than preaching Christ and His righteousness to a church in need of repentance and reformation.

"Christ's death was for the sins of every human being everywhere. Many people simply do not know this great truth yet. To bring this news with an invitation to respond is the evangelism mission of Christians." Absolutely! So many people have never heard the "good news" of Christ and His righteousness, and are hungering and thirsting for this message. The best thing we can do is tell them!

However, the church "history sadly shows that compromise and accommodation to cultures has yielded a patchwork of pseudo-Christian beliefs posing as authentic Christianity." [1] The same can be said for the "1888 message"--many groups are claiming to preach this message, but through compromise with culture or to accommodate opposing theological views, the full message of A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner has never been fully presented under the second generation's work. Praying for the Latter Rain is not enough. We need a heart transformation before that blessing of heaven can be bestowed upon us.

The very high level of commitment and enthusiasm to the original message held by the first presenters has been lost in the "second generation." The "most precious message" as become a "tradition" with a "few peculiar aspects," which must be spoken of in a way so as not to give opportunity for Satan to exploit disruption caused by the presentation of those "peculiar" aspects.

"Jesus is trulythe message still needed by the world today." Yes, and He is waiting for a "generation" that will accept His message with a wholehearted enthusiasm, that will then go forth and "lighten the earth with His glory."

"Clad in the armor of Christ's righteousness, the church is to enter upon her final conflict. 'Fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners,' she is to go forth into all the world, conquering and to conquer. Only the covering which Christ Himself has provided can make us meet to appear in God's presence. This covering, the robe of His own righteousness, Christ will put upon every repenting, believing soul." "When we submit ourselves to Christ ... we live His life. This is what it means to be clothed with the garment of His righteousness." [2]

Christ is waiting with longing desire to see this happen in His remnant family, so that He can proclaim to the world and watching universe: "Here are they that keep the Commandments of God and the faith of Jesus!" (Rev. 14:12).

--Ann Walper

Endnotes:
[1] Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, Sunday's lesson, p. 89.
[2] Ellen G. White, "The Breastplate of Righteousness,"My Life Today, p. 311.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTMo8fmQVEo

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Lesson 9: Times of Loss

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Family Seasons
Lesson 9: Times of Loss

 

There's a tragic story in the Bible, all too common. But the way it ends is much too uncommon. Can we take a moment to consider another's loss and not just our own?

A man falls in love with an attractive girl, and she returns his love. They live happily until a spiritual cancer begins to destroy her heart. She flirts with other men, even in the very presence of her husband. Before long, it becomes an affair, which turns into an obsession, and this light-hearted, frivolous woman actually becomes a Prostitute.

Then the plot deepens, and takes a turn almost as unknown in human experience. She is abandoned by her lovers (that however is normal) and ends up being sold into slavery. Her husband hears that she sits forlorn in the slave market, dressed in rags and re-claims her.

It's not because he has pity on her as a decent man would pity a wounded creature, but wonder of wonders, he still loves her. This disheveled wreck is only the empty shell of the beautiful girl he once fell in love with; there is now no beauty or charm to attract him. She is in fact repulsive; but his love has never died in spite of her infidelity and insults. He is a captive to a love that he cannot forget. He has remained single--for him, "Love is eternal."

When you truly love a woman who loves you and commits herself to you, and then she betrays you, your heart is broken. The sunshine goes out, and the darkness is a loss of bitterness almost like hell.

To lose a loved one in death is painful, but rejection in love is more cruel, like having a limb wrenched from your body. Friends can sympathize in physical or material pain, but rejection in love is intensely private. A thousand faces cannot replace the beloved's.

Can God feel such pain? And does He? Some answer God is impassible, impervious to the heart-pain we feel. If God cannot feel pain of loss, why should we be concerned with the suffering of others? Could the Seventh-day Adventist Church be dwelling in that twilight zone of the impassibility of Christ? We may rejoice that He "is touched with the feeling of our infirmities," but can webe touched with the feeling of His pain?

Like the Lover in our story, the heavenly Husband cannot forget the one He loves and replace her. He is held in a deathless thralldom of devotion.

God permitted the hapless Husband to suffer this crowning human pain because, He says, "this will illustrate the way My people have been untrue to Me." [1]

A church is a "woman," good or bad, a corporate body of believers. If the object of Christ's love plays false to Him, can He simply shrug His shoulders and replace her with another "object [of] ... His supreme regard"? [2] Hosea couldn't, and neither can Christ. Offshoots of the Seventh-day Adventist Church proliferate because of a failure to understand this divine mystery of love. They assume that Christ's outrage at her infidelity prompts Him to choose another to take her place. But this can never be!

It may be hard for us to picture a grieving husband who not only loves his faithless wife but, greater still, also has the wisdom to "save" her. Such was Hosea; and such is Christ. Not only a "husband" to her, He is also "the Saviour of the body." [3] The glad news is that Hosea actually redeemed Gomer to a new life of purity and fidelity, and we are entitled to see them walking off-stage hand in hand in a love that is fulfilled, secure at last in each other's fidelity. We can be sure that the Lord would not withhold from Hosea the vindication of his earthly love which was so prophetic of His at-last-vindicated divine love.

In her early days in the "wilderness," Israel was devoted to the Lord; and in the early days of the Seventh-day Adventist Church there was also a sweet devotion on "our" part to the Lord who had led "us" through the "wilderness" of the Great Disappointment of 1844 and in later years entrusted to "us" the proofs of His electing love. It was exciting. The healing of our Great Disappointment was delicious because fellowship with the Lord grew deeper in our understanding of the sanctuary message and "the blessed hope" it gave us. Then came His "Great Disappointment"--1888. We have yet to appreciate the pain He felt, and does feel. "The disappointment of Christ is beyond description." [4]

The prophecy implicit in Hosea has to be Good News for a remnant church that a century later is enmeshed in a vast worldwide lethargy, torn with dissension, suspicion, and offshoots. As surely as Gomer at last responded to Hosea's undying love, so surely will the corporate church respond at last to Christ's undying agape. Christ gave Himself in death for this church; His sacrifice cannot prove a failure; a repentant humanity cannot remain more faithless to Him than was the repentant heroine of the Book of Hosea to her earthly husband; God has faith in us that must not prove futile.

The reasons for hope are these: Seventh-day Adventist doctrine gives a new dimension to this crisis. We do not accept the pagan-papal doctrine of natural immortality. We believe the righteous do not go to heaven at death, but wait until the resurrection. But that cannot take place until Christ Himself returns in glory; and He cannot return until His people are ready, otherwise they would be "destroy[ed] with the brightness of His coming." [5] The anti-typical crisis foreshadowed in Hosea sets everything in suspense. The success of the entire plan of salvation must therefore depend upon its final hour--Laodicea's repentance. The alternative? Accept "Babylon's" false doctrine that sends all the "saved" to heaven at death.

Gomer's repentance foretells Laodicea's. Christ "shall see the travail of His soul and be satisfied." [6] "The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out--the chaff separated from the precious wheat. This is a terrible ordeal, but nevertheless it must take place." "They will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him." There will be a response from "the house of David, and ... the inhabitants of Jerusalem." [7] It's a sin for discouraged Adventists not to believe the Good News in Hosea!

Speaking through Hosea, the Lord assures faithless Israel of a happy reunion: "They will return to the Lord their God, and to the Messiah, their King, and they shall come trembling, submissive to the Lord and to his blessings, in the end times." [8] Since agape is a love that creates value in its object, not dependent on its good qualities, it will create repentance within the church where self-centered fear or hope of reward have failed. But a change of heart is possible, and in the light of Hosea, it is certain. A much more abounding grace must be seen in the light of the cleansing of the sanctuary. The good news is that the coming of Christ is contingent on that repentance. "Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to Him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready." [9]

--Paul E. Penno

Endnotes:
[1] Hosea 1:2, The Living Bible.
[2] Cf. Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 49.
[3] Ephesians 5:23.
[4] Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Dec. 15, 1904.
[5] 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Hebrews 12:29.
[6] Isaiah 53:11.
[7] Ellen G. White, The Upward Look, p. 356; Zechariah 12:10-13:1.
[8] Hosea 3:5, The Living Bible.
[9] Revelation 19:7.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQqVwigcBeI

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm

--

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Lesson 8: Season of Parenting

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Family Seasons
Lesson 8: Season of Parenting

 

How can the 1888 message help you with parenting and grandparenting? If the 1888 message is anything, it is the practical truth of Christ's High Priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. Jesus is giving to parents wisdom and guidance in how to raise their children so that they may have characters which will fit them for Jesus' second coming and enjoy their heavenly home life. The judgment-hour message isn't more simple than that. But how can we let Him do it through us as parents? And, more importantly, how does He do it?

First, the bad news has pretty well got us as parents hyped-up about doom-and-gloom ahead for us and our children. Surveys indicate that Millennials don't want to have children for fear of the zombie apocalypse, global catastrophe, or out-of-control human chaos.

The devil is the ultimate source of all bad news. When it comes to salvation, bad news is actually a lie the devil delights to repeat. We are told that "he is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44). He wants us to believe bad news, like a stalking cobra paralyzes its fear-crazed, hypnotized victim into standing still until the serpent strikes. Bad news paralyzes the human soul, so that one can't do anything constructive towards solving the problem that appears so unsolvable.

Truth is invariably good news, for the reason that there is no such thing as truth except "in love" (Eph. 4:15), and love is always good news. Truth comes from God. He never gives a person a message of hopeless despair.

Dear parent, no matter how bad you may feel or how hopeless your outlook may appear, the Lord has some good news for you: "Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me" (John 14:1), "whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that I will do. ... If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it" (vss. 13, 14).

Children have become physically sick as the result of watching TV cartoons. There are medical effects that television can have on viewers. The illness is linked to a scene in which rhythmic strobe-like flashing lights of different colors flash about one-thirtieth of a second long. In this way cryptic and subliminal messages are conveyed which the viewer absorbs unconsciously.

Technology is not itself Satanic; but the devil uses it. Revelation 16:14 says that "the spirits of devils, working miracles, … go forth unto ... the whole world, to gather [the world] to the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (Rev. 16:14). It's scary, when you think of Satan's power to be manifested in the last days--which are right upon us.

But here is the good news. When Satan's power is manifested, the Holy Spirit of God will manifest an even greater power to reach our children's hearts. Satan is not stronger than God! It is a message from God that demonstrates where sin abounded, grace does much more abound.

Quite a number of people are discovering that a love for the pure Gospel of Jesus can drown out the allurement of TV addiction. TV is darkness, although the screen does light up with fancy colors; but the Light from heaven is stronger than such darkness. Grace is stronger than sin.

Do single parents need special good news? According to a recent "large, long-range study," the media's answer suggests yes. The scientific study of a million children for a decade shows that children in single-parent families are "twice as likely to develop serious psychiatric illnesses and addictions as children whose parents stay together." Girls--three times more likely to become drug addicts living with a single parent, boys--four times so, such children "twice as likely as the others to develop ... a severe depression or schizophrenia, or to attempt suicide, or to develop alcohol related disease." Eleven to one the problem children were in homes without a father, opposed to those without a mother.

Sounds like bad news. Is there some good news greater than the bad? Yes, if the single parent will invite the Lord God, the world's Savior, to function as the missing parent. Not once in an emotional revival meeting, but daily, hourly, continually, consciously sensing the desperate need. The Lord is willing, but He needs to be treated as the single parent would treat a loving, faithful co-parent.

In a happy marriage you never forget your spouse, do you, even for an hour. When our Savior says, "Abide in Me," He obviously means a constant conscious dependence, not fueled by fear but by heart-appreciation.

The body can function with only one lung or one kidney; the remaining organ taking over. A single parent united by faith with the Savior covers for the missing one, enabled by the Holy Spirit to assume roles he or she never expected to fill. The One who created us male and female knows what He can do for someone who knows and expresses his or her need in fervent, intelligent prayer.

There's more good news. The Lord uses human agents. Church fellowship will function corporately to fill the role of a missing parent if the single parent fully integrates into its fellowship, not just "attends once in a while."

Jesus said something both wonderful and terrible when He said to His disciples, "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained" (John 20:23). It was a parallel statement with the one in Matthew, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:19).

As parents, can we actually open or lock the gates of heaven to our children? Jesus says yes! If in a fit of temper a parent tells a child, "You are lazy! You'll never amount to anything!" that child will have to carry that burden all his life unless somehow he finds the true gospel that gives him relief from that "burden."

As parents we can close the gates of heaven against children and youth. We may wonder why they drop out of the church "family" when they reach their teens, but that was the reason. In a fit of anger, a husband or wife can tell his or her spouse words that wound forever: "There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword" (Prov. 12:18). Sometimes the words are so painful that they are like a barb--it hurts even to draw them out in repentance. You are indeed an authority figure to your spouse and children!

But there's another half to that verse: "But the tongue of the wise is health." Don't forget the good news side to what Jesus said: we can say good news to children and youth, to spouses, words that will be the opening of the gates of the New Jerusalem to their souls.

Let us thank God for a new "today" wherein we can apply some healing balm to the wounds we have made, and we can tell a family member some precious good news. There is nothing to thank God for more earnestly than that we have another day in which to receive His precious gift of repentance with another opportunity to use those "keys" the right way.

--Paul E. Penno

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37AhoK6QktQ

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm


Friday, May 10, 2019

Lesson 6: The Royal Love Song

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Family Seasons
Lesson 6: The Royal Love Song

 

The Song of Solomon and the Laodicean Message

There is a hidden love story in the Laodicean message that few of this generation seem ever to have discerned. But thoughtful and reverent students of Scripture have seen it for centuries. Somehow it eluded our pioneers, and our eyes have been too "holden" ever since to see it.

The Greek of Revelation 3:20 reads something like this: "Behold, I have taken My stand at the door and am knocking, knocking. If a certain one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will have intimate relationship with him."

This is a clear allusion to a story in the "Song of Songs" by Solomon, a book that has aroused more embarrassment than thoughtful understanding. The phraseology Christ uses is a direct, exact quotation from the Septuagint, epi ten thuran, "at the door," as found in Song of Songs 5:2: "O sleep, but my heart is awake: the voice of my Beloved knocks at the door..."

The expression "at the door" is not found in the Hebrew Old Testament for this passage. The editors of The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentaryapparently failed to check the Septuagint which the early church freely used, for they say: "The Song of Solomon is nowhere quoted in the New Testament" (vol. 3, p. 1111). But it is, here in our Laodicean message by our Lord Himself! Our Lord also referred to it in John 7:38, saying, "He that believeth on Me, as the scripture hath said, ..." referring to Song of Songs 4:12-16, the only Old Testament scripture that He could have referred to. Thus Christ places His stamp of approval on the book and states that its Hero is Himself.

The heroine must therefore be Laodicea herself. And so she is. Her history is clearly delineated therein.

It was in the history of 1888 that our Lord "knocked" as a Divine Lover seeking entrance at the door of His Bride-to-be. Jesus' direct quotation from the Septuagint is an inspired commentary that says, "The Laodicean message must be understood in the light of the Song of Solomon." If Christ is not omniscient (He says He does not know the time of His second coming--Mark 13:21), perhaps He did not foreknow the outcome of the 1888appeal. Can we not appreciate His divine eagerness to take to Himself His Bride-to-be? Can we not sense how Christ "the Lover" hoped against hope that she would respond?

But Ellen White said afterwards, "The disappointment of Christ is beyond description." [1] The Song of Solomon tells what happened better than our own historians have told it. The Bride-to-be is speaking:

A Fruitless Search

                                                 I was sleeping, but my heart kept vigil;
                                                 I heard my Lover knocking [at the door, LXX];
                                                 "Open to Me, my sister, My beloved,
                                                 My dove, my perfect one!
                                                 For my head is wet with dew,
                                                 My lock with the moisture of the night."

                                                "I have taken off my robe,
                                                am I then to put it on?
                                                I have bathed my feet,
                                                am I then to soil them?

                                               "My lover put His hand through the opening;
                                               my heart trembled within me,
                                               and I grew faint when He spoke.
                                               I rose to open to my Lover--
                                               but my Lover had departed, gone.
                                               I sought Him but I did not find Him;
                                               I called to Him but He did not answer me."
                                                                       (Songs of Songs 5:2-6, New American Bible)

The rest of the chapter pretty well describes our decades of history that have rolled by relentlessly ever since. All this is known to the heavenly universe; only we have stumbled on in blindness and pathetic shame, seeking Him whom we once spurned so tragically:

                                             "The watchmen came upon me
                                              as they made their rounds of the city;
                                             They struck me, and wounded me,
                                             and took my mantle from me,
                                             the guardians of the walls.
                                             I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem,
                                             if you find my Lover--
                                             What shall you tell him?--
                                             that I am faint with love" (verses 7, 8).

What does it mean? "Faint with love" is "sick of love" in the familiar King James Version. The Hebrew word means to be "sick, weak, diseased." It does not mean what we commonly mean as "love-sick," that is, deeply in love. All other uses of that word in the Old Testament mean "diseased."

What does the next verse mean?

The Charms of the Lost Lover

                                             "How does your Lover differ from any other,
                                             O most beautiful among women?
                                             How does your Lover differ from any other,
                                             that you adjure us so?" (verse 9).

Is there something distinctive about the Christ whom we will yet learn to love very deeply?

Another word in the Septuagint Song of Songs is arresting. The other women have asked our heroine to tell us why her Lover is so "different" from others. She rhapsodizes on His excellencies in verses 10-16, and then concludes by saying: "Such is my Lover, and such my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem." The word translated "friend" is plesion, which means "the other one near or close to" in Greek (cf. John 4:5). What is distinctive about the Christ whom we are to love and proclaim to the world? Ellen White says of the 1888 message:

"On Sabbath afternoon many hearts were touched, and many souls were fed on the bread that cometh down from heaven ... We [she and A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner] felt the necessity of presenting Christ as a Saviour who was not afar off, but nigh at hand." [2]

Clearly this is an allusion to the Christology that Jones and Waggoner presented that made Him "nigh," that brought Him truly near as our "kinsman" who came "in the likeness of sinful flesh," "tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin." There is also a tie-in with Zechariah 12:10 in the Septuagint. The reader will remember the tender passage that describes the close sympathy that God's people will learn to feel for Christ when they realize that He is the One "whom they have pierced." The King James Versionsays "they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son," but the Septuagint reads, "they shall mourn for Him, as for a beloved one," the same word as in the Song of Songs.

Note how Ellen White clearly ties in the Song of Songs phraseology with the results of the 1888 message:

"The Christian life, which had before seemed to them [the youth] undesirable and full of inconsistencies, now appeared in its true light, in remarkable symmetry and beauty. He who had been to them as a root out of dry ground, without form or comeliness, became the chiefest among ten thousand (Song of Songs 5:10] and the one altogether lovely." [3]

It is a love story indeed--the most poignant ever penned. It breathes the same hope of ultimate reconciliation and reunion as does the Laodicean message.

Such hope is worth dying for, and worth living for. Whether our own poor little souls are at last saved and we get to Heaven to bask in our rewards--this is not at all important. What is important is that the deeply disappointed Lover and Bridegroom-to-be receive Hisreward, that Heat last receive as His Bride a church which is capable of a true heart-appreciation of Him.

--Robert J. Wieland

Endnotes:
[1] Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Dec. 15, 1904.
[2] Ibid, March 5, 1889, emphasis added.
[3] Ibid., Feb. 12, 1889.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/OyZXln7S8RE

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm

--

Friday, May 3, 2019

Lesson 5: Wise Words for Families

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Family Seasons
Lesson 5: Wise Words for Families



You are to "trust in the Lord with all your heart" (Proverbs 3:5). In other words, believe the Lord loves you. Believe you have the blessing that you need even before you realize it.

Why this special series of lessons on "Family Seasons"? The leadership of our church is concerned about the breakdown of families within the church, for it is too much like what is happening in the world. Statistics vary, but everybody knows that roughly half of marriages in the world end in failure, and of those that manage to stick together, many are often miserably unhappy. Satan has gained too much of an advantage, somehow. There is even concern whether marriage can endure.

Society openly endorses couples living together without marriage, and even in the church it is debated whether couples living together without marriage are suitable for baptism into the church. The very question implies that marriage means nothing any more. Must the one true remnant church of Bible prophecy (Rev. 12:17 and 14:12) suffer our levees to collapse and succumb to the rising tide of me-first loveless living?

Nevertheless, we are a most unusual church because we have a divine mandate to prepare a people for meeting Jesus when He returns. That means an experience in receiving and knowing the love (agape) of Christ (Eph. 3:19). How can family bonds be strengthened with that love? How can the idea of marriage be honored and glorified? How can husband and wife learn to be happy in love, even into old age? There used to be a popular song, "Silver Threads Among the Gold," that told of youthful love still strong when hairs were white.

Should our church employ pastors whose marriages have failed and they are divorced? Should our churches elect elders who are divorced? How do we inspire and encourage our youth to enter into marriage with a serious purpose to follow God's commandments "until death do us part"?

Home is the hardest place to be a Christian! Why? It's impossible to fool anybody where everybody knows you in and out. But if love (agape) prevails, happiness comes with it, and it will be easier for children to grow up as happy Christians. Sometimes, maybe too often, incipient adultery lies buried in the hearts of husband or wife and thus poisons the atmosphere for the children.

Therefore the supreme question we ask is--how can we know and receive the love (agape) of Christ into our marriages and homes? Many books address the problem. Some are helpful. But we begin by recognizing that the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit of God, and there we read that the love of Christ (agape) is the ultimate answer to these problems (2 Cor. 5:14-19; Eph. 5:25).

We begin with Bible good news: "God sets the solitaryin families" (Psalm 68:6). In other words, marriage is His plan for "solitary" persons who are lonely (see 1 Corinthians chapter 7 where Paul says that marriage may not be the way of happiness for some special people who are equally loved by the Lord). The word "solitary" has an interesting meaning in Hebrew--to be lonely like an only child. All of us truly belong in that category. Apart from Christ, we were lonely and God did for us what He did for solitary Adam. And friends are part of the Lord's gift to us all.

What is the best gift parents can give their children? The answer is your marriage to your spouse. It is in the home where children first learn to develop faith, knowledge, and love for God. Many children have a difficult time believing in a God that was not able to keep their parents together and their home intact. "The family circle is the school in which the child receives its first and most enduring lessons." [1] If you want to give your children the best gift--something that will prepare them for a successful life in this world and for eternity in the earth made new--strengthen your fellowship with your spouse.

This is a prelude to Jesus giving the "solitary" a home in His New Jerusalem forever. Rightly understood, family life in this great antitypical Day of Atonement is a prelude to the social fellowship of meeting Jesus, the holy angels, and all the redeemed and unfallen ones of heaven.

Sabbath-keeping is the special gift of God for family happiness, the one day in the week when we are completely delivered from this terrible addiction of viewing the papers, the magazines, the neighbors, being tempted to covet their possessions. (Such envy ruins our happiness!) Sabbath makes being poor more endurable, and church fellowship to be a joy to lonely people.

Did Jesus enjoy a happy home? He was born into a family where His mother was a stepmother to four (probably difficult) boys whose names we have in Matthew 13:55-58, and there were at least also two stepsisters--all of whom were "older" than He and thus annoyed Him even into their maturity. This happened all during Jesus' stay at home before the age of 30. Even during his ministry, the older brothers tried to tell Him what to do, with disdain. His being "despised and rejected of men" included that at His earthly home! (cf. John 7:3-5; it was the Jewish custom for older siblings to "boss" the younger ones around).

Imagine what it was like for this babyto begin His consciousness by finding Himself in such a home atmosphere! After the early trip to Egypt, stepfather Joseph decided to take Mary and the Baby up to Nazareth to join the half-siblings. Children, if your home is less than perfect, think of Jesus! He endured earthly life in an unhappy home so that you may enjoy life in happy homes!

Think of Jesus' love for His poor mother Mary, through whose soul was plunged that terrible sword that old Simeon had predicted in Luke 2:34, 35. No woman in all of earth's history has borne a heavier burden than she! Think of a mother being forced to watch the Roman soldiers strip her Son naked and sling Him up on a cross and hear those people and the leaders of her church revile Him and condemn Him to hell! This is what it cost her to be the mother of our Savior! A domestic, earthly home was the setting for the life and death of the Son of God! He endured every pain that any of us have had to endure.

Ellen White makes clear that the coming of the 1888 message divinely "sent" to the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church was a fulfillment of God's promise to send us "Elijah before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (Mal. 4:4, 5). His primary mission is to bring reconciliation between estranged hearts!

Now, whatever it may cost, let us take up our cross and follow Him all the way we find that He permits to lie before us.

--Paul E. Penno

Endnote:
[1] Ellen G. White, Fundamentals of Christian Education,p. 65.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/qsEBE7P1jmE

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm



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Friday, April 26, 2019

Lesson 4: When Alone

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Family Seasons
Lesson 4: When Alone

 

A Christian may be alone by this world's standards, but the Bible gives us ample assurance that they are always loved by God. Let's look at a few stories about people that God allowed to suffer loneliness, but He still loved them.

Cain had to live the rest of his life in lonely guilt for his jealousy and murder of his brother Able, causing his parents life-long suffering. He could have found refuge in God's love, but he refused. This is a good example of unnecessary loneliness. Even in Cain's persistent rebellion, God gave him assurance that by "putting a mark on him" people wouldn't kill him. God did this because of who He is, not because Cain was loveable.

The next example we find is Noah who spent 120 years being laughed at by almost everyone in the world. We know that ultimately, Noah's family joined him in the ark, but it is possible they took a while to get used to the patriarch's unusual ideas. God saw that the wickedness of mankind had become so great, that He was sorry He made us so He told Noah to build an ark "for yourself" (Gen 6:14). Unlike Cain, Noah chose to find solace in the promises God gave him. God would have been willing to withhold or postpone judgment if the people had chosen to repent as did Nineveh. In spite of His great love, God does honor human choices.

Abraham's walk up Mt. Moriah with Isaac must have been agonizingly lonely. He couldn't tell Sarah since the protective mother would have tried to stop him. He walked the entire hike without telling Isaac, so he must have been worrying about his son's reaction and/or resistance. Abraham had to depend on God Who had told him Isaac was the son of promise. God didn't explain why or how He was going to make that happen, but Abraham chose to believe it. God loved Abraham and had given him the most profound promises, but He still tested him. Abraham's choice allowed him to depend completely on God's loving kindness.

Hagar was sent away with her son Ishmael and is a prime example of the care God gives to a single parent. Even though she was not completely blameless for her circumstances and she was alone, God was with her.

Isaac and Rebecca's marriage starts like a "happily ever after" story, but the fight over the birthright showed that the couple was not united in their belief in God's promise that the "older shall serve the younger " (Gen 25:23). This is an Old Testament example of "spiritual loneliness" within a marriage. Neither spouse was without blame. Rebecca helped her son deceive her husband, and Isaac thought he was giving the birthright to Esau in spite of God's promise to Rebecca. The inevitable sibling hatred required Jacob to flee and Esau to leave. The parents lost both sons and had to live the rest of their years with only themselves to blame. Yet God was faithful to His promise in spite of actions by parents and son that they didn't believe.

Jacob spent a very lonely night on his run from Esau, but God reassured with a dream showing him a ladder, and later he spent another lonely night wrestling with an angel. How gracious of God so show His presence even though Jacob's actions were what brought the trouble.

Jacob's son, Joseph spent another lonely night in a pit because of his brothers' hatred of him. We are told that, "For a time Joseph gave himself up to uncontrolled grief and terror. But, in the providence of God, even this experience was to be a blessing to him. He had learned in a few hours that which years might not otherwise have taught him … Then his thoughts turned to his father's God … He then and there gave himself fully to the Lord, and he prayed that the Keeper of Israel would be with him in the land of his exile." [1] This is an excellent example of God using loneliness and trials to mature our faith and dependence on Him.

This gives us a glimpse of God's attitude toward loneliness. All of us experience it, and all of us have the choice to have the same reaction to it as Joseph did. There are so many examples in the Bible of people dealing with loneliness. The list we've discussed is just taken from the book of Genesis. In all situations where faith prevailed, there had been a period of profound spiritual loneliness.

Most of the readers of this little essay have experienced spiritual loneliness because of prejudice against the gospel of Christ's righteousness unique to the 1888 message. Some have heard it and believed but have stepped back from their convictions because of pressure and the need to stand alone.

Spiritual loneliness carries the risk of bitterness in a special way. In a small pamphlet written years ago by Elder Robert Wieland, he described the essence of the 1888 message in the context of dealing with an "ornery" spouse. [2] Briefly, his message is that a mature Christian in a bad relationship (marriage or otherwise) has a choice. We can become silently bitter, or we can believe that God loves the people in our lives and wants all His children to come into unity of heart through His Spirit. We can ask God to give us the willingness to give ourselves "fully" to Him and He will give them His Holy Spirit. Thus, by denying their "right" to what we think we need to be happy, we can deal with our circumstances without becoming bitter. We are free to love God without quietly hating Him and the people in our lives.

This principle applies to any relationship, including our relationship with God. People who go through loneliness tend to blame God. We can choose to find blessing in our lonely circumstances, and the Holy Spirit will give us grace to depend on Him. What a privilege to know God will never leave us or forsake us.

--Arlene Hill

Footnotes:
[1] Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 213-214.
[2] Robert J. Wieland, Taking the Deadlock: Or How to Live With an Ornery Spouse. If you would like a PDF of this essay, please respond to this e-mail with "Send Deadlock" in the header or body of the message.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/415mF_pkoFo

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm


Friday, April 19, 2019

Lesson 3: Preparing for Change

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Family Seasons
Lesson 3: Preparing for Change

 

We are to prepare for future events. Marriage, parenting, golden years, yes, even death (if time should last) needs our attention in advance. As life grows long, we make plans. From beginning to end, we are preparing for life's changes and preparing for the return of Jesus. Each season of preparation is important. If done properly, we and our loved ones will be better off. To delay planning or forgo it completely can bring serious consequences.

For close to 3000 years, these "wise words" of the Psalmist have been studied and pondered by God's people. "Righteousness will go before Him, and shall make His footsteps our pathway" (Psalm 85:13, New King James Version). We are Seventh-day Adventists, people living in the "time of the end," in the time of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, in the great Day of Atonement. If time in this sinful world were to go on another 3000 years, these words would still be "wise." But we must look at them in the light of the "third angel's message in verity," to borrow Ellen White's description of the message that "the Lord in His great mercy sent" to us in the 1888 era. [1]

"Family Living" is living out the truths of genuine righteousness by faith. The emphasis in the lesson is on things that we must do in order to have happy homes. The Bible emphasis is on things that we must believe in order to have happy homes, because it is what we believe that transforms us in character from being the ornery, self-centered people that we are by nature into people in whom self has been crucified with Christ and He is permitted to live out His life within us (Gal. 2:20). Self-centered people are bound to have friction at home; the real, ultimate, powerful change in family relationships comes through the pure truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is what Ellen White described as "the third angel's message in verity."

The word "atonement" means reconciliation, at-one-with. Those who await the coming of the Lord on this Day of Atonement want to be reconciled with all the members of their families. This calls for some tremendous miracles! No one of us is innately more righteous than others, so the problems of family disorientation and alienation are in reality our "corporate" problems as a church. It seems awkward to pray to the Lord for "at-one-ment" with Him if bitter alienation with family members haunts our prayers.

And let us speak with compassion; those who fortunately have been spared the bitterness of separation or divorce should thank the dear Lord, and sympathize with those who have not been so fortunate. Marital discord is an extremely heavy burden to carry! When we all "appear before the judgment seat of Christ" (2 Cor. 5:10), if we are married, we shall be standing there with our spouse. Does the Lord Jesus have some special help for us during this Day of Atonement, to prepare for that tense moment?

Yes, there is, in God's promise to "send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (Mal. 4:5). If your mental image of "Elijah" is that of a specialist in chopping off heads of priests of Baal, look again. When "he" comes he will specialize in ministries of reconciliation: "He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers" (vs. 6). Such a work could not be successful unless there is also a turning of the hearts of husbands to their wives, and wives to their husbands.

This cannot be a fear work, even though the concluding clause says, "lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." It gives the superficial impression of the greatest fear-driven movement in history; but it cannot be because fear never works the kind of "reconciliation" that is the subject of the great Day of Atonement. It's "hearts" that are "turned," and only love can do that kind of "turning." And the only love that can work that stupendous miracle (which is greater than creation) is the love of Christ.

The coming of "Elijah" means the ministry of the experience of self-being "crucified with Christ," which in turn must mean the greatest uplifting of "Christ and Him crucified" that has ever been known on earth—and that, of course, will be the message of that fourth angel of Revelation 18:1-4.

How could Jesus be at peace at the most critical hour of His life? The salvation of a world lay in the balance—yes, as we learned last Sabbath, of the universe itself. But He was calm. The only possible answer is that He had "poured out His soul unto death," the second (Isa. 53:12), in a total commitment of Himself in the love which is agape. John says that "agape casts out fear" (1 John 4:18); it is sinful fear which always robs us of our peace.

Does the "most precious message" of 1888, which was the beginning of the latter rain, [2] make any contribution to our "peace" of soul? Yes! It transfers our thought from our own egocentric concern for our personal salvation to a different motivation of concern for the honor and reward of Christ. It makes it possible for us to receive the peace that Christ is already trying to give us, not merely to offer to us.

The prevailing motivation that has engrossed the church ever since the 1888 rejection of truth has been "what must I do so as to be sure I get through the pearly gates?" Our prayer has been, "Lord, please be sure that I and my loved ones are saved!" The greater love which is agape is a love that dares to relinquish personal salvation as Moses pleaded with God to blot his name out of the book of life if his love for Israel could not save them (Ex. 32:31, 32). That was agape!

Granted, such love is unnatural for us self-centered humans and it is impossible for us to achieve—of ourselves. Therefore the secret of receiving the peace of Christ is to "comprehend" the grand dimensions of the love of Christ revealed at His cross and thus to be "rooted and grounded in agape" and to be "filled with all the fullness of God" which is a preparation for translation at the second coming of Jesus.

--Paul E. Penno

Endnotes:
[1] Selected Messages, Book One, p. 372 (The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890); Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 91.
[2] The Review and Herald, "The Perils and Privileges of the Last Days," Nov. 22, 1892.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/otd9tGA4hg8

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm