Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Worship From Exile to Restoration by Pastor Paul Penno (notes)


Ezekiel 8:12: “Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, the LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth.”
The old men, the ones looked up to for wisdom in Israel, had a transcendent concept of God. He is so far off in His universe that having once placed man here on this earth He just leaves them to work out their own destiny. Man is sort of a wind-up toy whose vitality and energy is gradually winding down to be ground into dust. It is sort of a despairing view of God.
If God doesn’t care about this earth, if there is no Judge over all, then there is no justice, no meaning to life and history. There is no gratitude and appreciation for divine love. God is not self-sacrificing love. God is divinely passive and unconcerned with man—the Great Sphinx—who could care less about what transpires on earth. A world without a caring, compassionate God, is a despairing, hopeless tangle of meaninglessness.
A Newsweek cover article on AIDS in Africa captured in pictures the despair of the millions of victims there. One picture of an attractive young woman with a 2-year old son, both with AIDS, was poignant. Her face registered the agony of hopelessness. Death there with AIDS is a long-drawn-out hell on earth, with nothing to look forward to but abandonment by relatives and apparent God-forsakenness. Hope for medical cures is practically gone. They have nothing, nothing, to comfort them except what they may find in the gospel, and their usually accompanying sense of guilt often blacks that out. For many the silent horror of their future is devastating.
Can we do something for them? Ease their physical discomfort? Yes, but that doesn’t dry their tears. Assure them of God’s forgiveness and acceptance? Yes; but the days that remain before death releases them are long. Many feel that they are already paying for their sins (some healthy people think they are!). Innocent or guilty, they need to identify with Jesus. But for many, their view of Him prevents identification. They view Him as separated from the sinful flesh which they know they have; there is a wall between. Jesus is the Big Bwana who lives Upstairs. They need to see Him wrestling in His hour of death with the same sense of God-forsakenness which they feel. It was then that He was “made to be sin for us, who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). Like the AIDS victim, He cries out, “My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mt. 27:46). He hears no answer to His prayer (“O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear. . . I am a worm, and no man,” Ps. 22:2, 6). As the Son of God, the second Adam of the human race, He drinks to its dregs the cup which the AIDS victims must drink. Their relatives despise them, true; but Jesus does not. One last and forlorn hope remains for them: now by faith they can identify with Jesus and truthfully say, “I am crucified with Christ.” They can’t finish the verse which says, “Nevertheless, yet I live . . .” (Gal. 2:20), but they may be privileged to realize a fellowship with Christ in His sufferings that will establish their kinship with Him. They must become the thief on the cross—no joy left but being crucified with Him. No, suffering does not save; but suffering with Christ is a privilege of salvation. Some healthy and innocent (are there any?) saints may have to step aside in the last Great Day and watch Jesus embrace these pathetic victims. But first, they need to hear and understand the gospel; they need someone to point them to the true Christ who “in all things” was “made like unto His brethren.”
Daniel 1:16: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.”
Daniel 1:17: “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.”
There is a beautiful illustration of genuine faith in the story of the three Hebrews of Daniel 3 who were thrown into the fiery furnace. They told the insanely angry king that (1) the living God whom they served was “able” to deliver them from his power, but (2) it might possibly be that He would be unwilling to do so—they didn’t know for sure—but if He were unwilling to deliver them they would serve Him nonetheless, and they would not cast contempt on His holy law by bowing down to his golden image.
In this way these three men demonstrated that their faith in God was the New Covenant kind, not the Old Covenant kind. (They probably had been studying the writings of Jeremiah!) The Old Covenant kind of “faith” is a counterfeit of the genuine: it’s making a “bargain” with God. Old Covenant faith says,” Lord, if You will deliver us, then we’ll keep Your commandments.” Sometimes preachers lead their people into Old Covenant faith when they tell them that if they take the initiative to “pay tithe,” then God will bless them financially. New Covenant faith is a choice to pay tithe whether or not the Lord rewards us.
The New Covenant is God’s out-and-out promises to His people, and their heart response is to believe and appreciate what He promises. His love, not fear, “constrains” them to loyalty and service (2 Cor. 5:14, 15). The Old Covenant is “bargaining” with God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego rebuke us for that. Jeremiah promises (31:31-34) that the time will come when God’s people graduate completely out of the Old into the living faith that is in the New. As God’s people face the trials of the last days, their faith will mature into that of “the Lamb’s wife”—a church that has grown up into that “measure of the stature, of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). It’s time for the New Covenant, now.
 Daniel 1:18: “But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
Daniel 1:25: “He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
Jeremiah 29:10: “For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.”
Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
At any given moment in your life, the only news that the Lord has for you is good news. But you are being bombarded with the bad news that Satan wants you to accept and believe. If you are a teen in school, he wants you to believe that you will fail that test that’s coming up, or that the boy or girl you really like will reject you, that you won’t be able to get a good job, that you’ll never be able to drive a decent car.
I don’t need to elaborate further, for you already know his repertoire of doom he specializes in. Believing Satan’s bad news makes for an unhappy life and you don’t want that; and the Lord, your heavenly Father, doesn’t want that for you.
Why can I be so bold as to say that the only news the Lord has for you is good news? (And this is not only for teens: it’s never too late for teens already grown up to learn to believe the good news that the heavenly Father has for you.)
Here is that word of the Lord ready for you to choose to believe with all your heart: “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). You may ask, How can I know this is addressed to me? I have made wrong choices, I have done evil, I have broken the Lord’s holy law; maybe I’m done for!
Read the context of what your heavenly Father has just told you: the Lord’s people in Jeremiah’s day had done gross evil (the book of Jeremiah is full of the story). One very bad thing: the entire nation had committed the equivalent of national adultery. And very many of the people had gone on and committed the personal deed, as well (vs. 23). Yet the Lord wanted them to repent and accept His forgiveness; Jeremiah was pleading for a national repentance; so with you, the only “thoughts” the Lord has for you are “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Yes, you may know that you have sinned; you deserve only failure and pain and disappointment; but the worst sin you can commit is to abandon your heart to anger against Him (it’s not His fault!) and reject His forgiveness.
Now let the “grace of God that brings salvation . . . to all people” teach you to say “No!” to that hellish temptation (Titus 2:11-13; cf. NIV).
 Jeremiah 29:12: “Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.”
 Jeremiah 29:13: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
Is there hope for someone who, like a fly in a spider’s web, is caught and enmeshed in a tangle of evil desires and habits? If the answer is No, then if there is no hope for the “one” there can be no hope for the “many.” Several solid truths can be nailed down securely:
(1) “Whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered” (Joel 2:32).
(2) Obviously there must be some understanding of who the LORD is: “Let him . . . understand and know Me, that I am the LORD who exercises loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight” (Jer. 9:24). In other words, you must believe that God thinks kind, loving thoughts toward you, that He wants to have the “fun” of saving you.
(3) “He who comes to God must believe [a] that He is, and [b] that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).
(4) The simplest common sense indicates that any “call” upon Him must be serious and sincere: “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who reverence Him: He also will hear their cry and will save them” (Ps. 145:18, 19).
(5) It becomes obvious by now that this is serious business. Your eternal destiny depends on getting freed from this trap. You don’t have to “seek” the Lord because He is trying to hide from you, but you must “seek Him” in the sense of seriously listening to Him, paying attention to Him. That is the meaning of this promise: “Then shall ye call upon Me and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I  will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD” (Jer. 29:12, 13). In other words, God is a Grown-up; He is not playing childish games. If you mean business, you will find that He means business. Eternal life is at stake here!
(6) There is objective truth you MUST understand: “The gospel of Christ . . . is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32). That doesn’t mean mere psychology; but it’s very simple—if the truth will make you “free,” it follows that you must understand it.
(7) Back to our first text: Christ wants you to be a part of His “body,” His church, for you need the fellowship of others sinners like yourself who are being “saved by grace”: “In mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said” (Joel 2:32).
 Jeremiah 29:14: “And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.”
Haggai 1:1: “In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying,” 

 Haggai 1:2: “Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’s house should be built.”

 Haggai 1:3: “Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,”

 Haggai 1:4: “Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?”

 Haggai 1:5: “Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.”
 Haggai 1:6: “Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.”
Zechariah 1:1: “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,”
 Zechariah 1:2: “The LORD’s house should be built hath been sore displeased with your fathers.”
 Zechariah 1:3: “Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.”
 Zechariah 1:4: “Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the LORD.”
David Irving is the author of a book, “Hitler’s War,” in which he denies that there were gas ovens at Auschwitz and that Hitler did not authorize the extermination of Jews. His book has stirred a storm of comment regarding historians. In France and Germany it is against the law to publish such statements that are considered historical lies. The comment in the press regarding Irving's book has stirred much discussion about the evil results of twisting and distorting historical facts. Irving “is a falsifier of history,” says Lawyer Richard Rampton.
The person who loves Bible truth is also concerned about the importance of historians telling the truth about history. He who lies about the past lies about the future; “we cannot escape history,” said Abraham Lincoln. A distorted or falsified history spells ruin for the future of a nation, which is why German leaders view with alarm all efforts to falsify the history of Germany’s past lest a future generation in ignorance or misinformation repeat that sad history. The same honest concern applies to the history of God’s work. The NIV for Jeremiah 8:8 reveals the prophet as telling the Kingdom of Judah that their historians have falsified their national history and in so doing plunged their nation into ruin. “How can you say, ‘We are wise for we have the law [torah] of the Lord,’ when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?” Likewise, the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day “handled falsely” their history and thereby prepared to lead the nation to crucify the Son of God. A wise writer has warned the church that “we have nothing to fear for the future except as we forget the way the Lord has led us and His teaching in our past history.” Jesus says, “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Mt. 24:4).
To be deceived is not merely a temporary setback, it can be fatal.
In this time of great crisis for God’s work of proclaiming the gospel to all the world, it is especially important that the history of the work of the Holy Spirit not be “falsified” as wrote the ancient scribes in Jeremiah’s day. Those who dig into the facts of national or church history and present them honestly are to be welcomed not resented or silenced. “Prove all things,” says the inspired apostle, and ‘hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). You want your doctor to be careful and accurate when it comes to your health; it’s also important to remember that the health of the church is involved with honest history.
We have called upon church administration to face the truth of our history which Ellen White points out clearly. The four volumes of 1888 Materials which the White Estate published in 1987 gives her positive support of our presentations to church administration.
Her appraisal of our history is astonishing. She states emphatically, “An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth (the 1888 message), lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis. . . . Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. . . . The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world” (1888 Materials, p.1575).
It is futile to profess belief in the Spirit of Prophecy and reject the testimony Ellen White repeatedly proclaims regarding the loss sustained at Minneapolis. A SPECIAL REPORT documents nine examples wherein the testimony of Ellen White is defied. It is this very situation that caused the Lord’s Messenger to proclaim that she was shown “again and again” the comparison between the Jews and ourselves.
Any number of world-wide baptisms will not cancel this testimony of the Lord’s Messenger. Until our history is accepted as presented by Ellen White probation cannot close. In this day of final atonement when the sanctuary shall be cleansed the Lord cannot overlook corporate sin any more than individual sin.
 Zechariah 1:5: “Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?”
The facts of this history remain just what they were over 100 years ago, “evidence heaped upon evidence” with the indictment—“Had Christ been before them, they would have treated him in a manner similar to that which the Jews treated Christ” (1888 Materials, p. 1479).
The whole world knows how the Jews brought Christ to trial and crucified Him, but how many know that in our history we would have done the same if Christ personally had been in our midst? Sadly our Adventist history has been likened to that of the Jewish nation—“The trials of the children of Israel, and their attitude just before the first coming of Christ, have been presented before me again and again to illustrate the position of the people of God in their experience before the second coming of Christ” (ibid. p. 533).
We have done a bit of research ourselves into the 1888 era of our history, and could come to no other conclusion than this: the 1888 message was intended by its Divine Author to have become the beginning of the latter rain and the loud cry. Accepted wholeheartedly by God’s people, it would have led to a preparation for translation.
Would you agree with this conclusion? You, of course, have access to the vault and to many documents we have never seen.
Another conclusion we felt forced to confess was that the 1888 message was rejected for what it really was—a revelation of the righteousness of Christ that is yet to enlighten the earth. We found that Sister White used the words “reject”, “rejection,” or “rejected” at least twenty-six times in her discussions of the reaction against the Minneapolis message; and dictionary synonyms of “reject” a further eighteen times. Some of our brethren prefer to use the milder expressions such as “resisted”, “unappreciated,” “never fully entered into,” etc., which of course express the same thought as the word “reject”. We felt driven by reiterated evidence to conclude that the initial manifestation of the loud cry was kept away from the world by the unbelief of God’s people, and that the finishing of God’s work has been consequently delayed.
But no amount of verbalism can alter a single, “Thus saith the Lord.” In the same way no amount of rationalization can alter one single page of our history as a people. Sooner or later we will have to face it the same as sooner or later the world will have to face the crucifixion of Christ. These are unalterable facts.
There is a crisis facing the church. We can go on indefinitely reaffirming our letters forbidding this one or that one to publish or agitate this manuscript. We think, however, it is evident that so long as a large and increasing number of workers and members in the field believe that the brethren are not willing to deal with this matter in a straight-forward, candid way, confusion will only increase. A truthful and clear settlement could be made soon, such that the Lord would bless and in so doing resolve the present confusion into that deep and lasting heart-unity that a denominational love for the truth alone can ensure. There is no crisis too great for the Lord to handle if we follow His counsel.
Our dealing with the brethren and our convictions have been registered in writing. The brethren have not seen fit to talk to us face to face on the matter in question—perhaps we are not worthy of this. But this we know—the matter will be settled and it can be settle in our day if we are willing to heed the counsel of the True Witness.
 Zechariah 1:6: “But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us.”
Nehemiah 1:5: “And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:
 Nehemiah 1:6: “Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.”
“There is constant danger that professing Christians will come to think that in order to have influence with [worldly people], they must to a certain extent conform to the world. But though such a course may appear to afford great advantages, it always ends in spiritual loss.”—Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 570,

Worship: From the Exile to Restoration

Lesson #10: Worship: From the 

Exile to Restoration 

Our Sabbath School lesson for Monday makes a statement that “The fourth commandment, the Sabbath commandment, will be the outward issue in the last days.”
On August 16, United States senator Joe Lieberman’s publisher released his new book, The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath. Lieberman, an orthodox Jew, has for many years been very influential in U. S. politics. However, he leaves considerable latitude in when and how to keep the Sabbath. “I hope that when people read this book, in their own way they will accept the gift of rest and bring it into their own lives—maybe just deciding for one day or part of one day not to use their Blackberry or iPads or to watch television, …” (Newsmax). Glowing reviews of the book by various religious and secular leaders are posted on Amazon.com and elsewhere, and Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, says, “Senator Lieberman reminds us that the God-given day of rest—whether we call it Sabbath or Sunday—should be honored by all believers.”
But does this “outward issue in the last days” really get to the heart of the matter? This is the “old covenant” perspective under which Laodicea suffers and, in the end, will cause her to capitulate to the mark of the beast fear issue, unless there are 144,000 which emerge from her. Here’s why:
The seventh-day Sabbath is the “seal of God.” “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” The holiness of the Sabbath is God’s gift of agape-love. It’s His gift to mankind. We are to “keep” what He has given. In other words, faith is motivated by agape. The Sabbath, the gospel, the sanctuary truth, and the cross are intimately interwoven into one.
The old covenant perspective views the Sabbath as obedience manifested in “keeping” the seventh-day. “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” This is exemplified in our Senator Lieberman’s telling about the presidential Inauguration Day in 2001 when he and his wife walked four and a half miles from their home to the Capitol. He said, “We didn’t want to drive. That would have been a violation of the rules of the Sabbath. We walked … and I was glad that we did.”
It’s good for the human psyche and physical well-being to take regular time off. But none of this old covenant observance is true Sabbath-keeping because it is motivated by self-interest. The new covenant observance of the Sabbath is motivated by a “faith which works by love.”
The lesson forthrightly tells us that “even now, all the world is divided into two camps: those who are faithful to the Lord and those who are not. There is no middle ground: either we are on one side or the other.” And for Seventh-day Adventists, there should be absolutely no confusion about the Sabbath.
In reading Wednesday’s lesson one wonders if there is a parallel between the Old Testament “from exile to restoration” and the time in which we are living—the last days? The Bible text quoted in Wednesday’s lesson, “Your fathers, where are they?” (Zech. 1:5), may give us some clues. The lesson goes on to say, “ … learn from the mistakes of those who came before you; do not do what they did; learn from the past, learn from what happened before you.”
In a letter to O. A. Olsen, written from Tasmania in 1895, Ellen G. White had some strong words for the brethren. In quoting Matthew 23, she said:
“‘If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ … ‘Wherefore,’ said Jesus, ‘ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.’ What lessons are here, fearful and decisive! Jesus said, ‘… I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city.’ This prophecy was literally fulfilled by the Jews in their treatment of Christ and of the messengers whom God sent to them. Will men in these last days follow the example of those whom Christ condemned?
“These terrible predictions they have not as yet carried out to the full; but if God spares their lives, and they nourish the same spirit that marked their course of action both before and after the Minneapolis meeting [1888 General Conference Session], they will fill up to the full the deeds of those whom Christ condemned when He was on the earth.
“The perils of the last days are upon us. … Some have been cultivating hatred against the men whom God has commissioned to bear a special message to the world. They began this satanic work at Minneapolis. … They went on in their own spirit, filled with envy, jealously, and evil surmisings, as did the Jews.” [1]
As our lesson says, “… learn from the mistakes of those who came before you.”
Several years later, in 1907, Ellen White, in an article in the Review and Herald, brought encouragement: “[Christ] made an offering so complete that through His grace every one may reach the standard of perfection. Of those who receive His grace and follow His example it will be written in the book of life, ‘Complete in Him,—without spot or stain.’ … He can bring us to complete restoration.” [2]
That “complete restoration” will include restoration of Christ’s true Sabbath by His true church in the closing period before Christ comes again.
Jones and Waggoner, the 1888 messengers, saw that the Sabbath truth is embedded in a full and complete view of justification by faith because the Sabbath is the “sign” of that true faith. Where the Sabbath truth is denied, there has to be either a counterfeit or an immature view of justification by faith. Rightly conceived, with no “mixture of poisonous error,” justification by faith itself becomes the message that will raise up people all over the world to “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” [3].
Carol A. Kawamoto (with thanks to Paul E. Penno for his contribution)
[1] “Warnings Against Worldliness, Rejecting Light, and Unconverted Leaders; An Appeal to Exalt Christ and Proclaim the Message of Righteousness by Faith,” MR #1100, The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 1325, 1326.
[2] Review and Herald, May 30, 1907.
[3] See for example: Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, (pp. 37-45, new ed.); “The Rest That Remains for the People of God,” Bible Students Library, Jan. 1893; The Glad Tidings, pp. 140-144. Jones, 1893 General Conference Bulletin, pp. 243-245, 261, 262, 342-343 (cited in Robert J. Wieland, A Brief Look at “1888”).

SST 10, Quarter 3-11.pdf

Monday, August 29, 2011

Worship From Exile to Restoration

by Pastor Paul Penno

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Trust Not in Deceptive Words": The Prophets and Worship

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic


Lesson 9: "Trust Not in Deceptive Words":
The Prophets and Worship

The debate within the Adventist church over contemporary worship styles has been going on since the 1980s. The real issue of worship, however, resolves itself around the true character of the God we worship. Is our god "Baal" whose worship caters to self-pleasure; or, the God who reveals Himself in self-denial and the divine-human sacrifice on the cross?

This was ancient Israel's dilemma as well as ours. All the spiritual confusion started when they called God "lord"--Baal. Then they brought in "contemporary" worship. It was "ecumenical." It was good "outreach" to secular people. The Israelites liked it.

Ancient Baal worship was the worship of "self" disguised as the worship of God. It resulted in lawless behavior. Jeremiah pointedly asked: "Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not?" (7:9). Here is the unconscious sin.

The "watchman" is to sound the contemporary alarm.

All sorts of enslaving addictions arise out of the worship of "self": alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, gambling, infidelity, hatred, backbiting, evil-surmising, sharp-dealing, apathy, etc. When God's people lose their agape-love in exchange foreros-kind of faith motivated by self-interest, there is no end to the sins that can arise out of worshiping such a false god. The worship of "self"-idols is a violation of the first commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3).

What is the cure for worshipping our sin-addictions? The only cure for worshipping false idols is an understanding of the true character of God. "God is love"--agape (1 John 4:8). But one cannot understand love unless he "sees" how God has revealed Himself at the cross.

The "good news" dynamic about God's character is illustrated by the prophet Isaiah's experience when he wandered into the Temple one day. He thought himself fitted for "ministry" until he heard the words, "Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts," and saw "the whole earth is full of His glory" (Isa. 6:3). The character of God is holy-agape. Here is a "good news" 1888 concept. Isaiah saw God revealed at the cross by going into the Temple. This revelation fills the "whole earth."

Isaiah declared: "Woe is me! For I am undone" (vs. 5). The closer he came to God the more he abhorred himself and his unchristlike character. Said Isaiah, "My heart is polluted in contrast with the righteousness of Christ." Isaiah could never have written his 53rd chapter about the cross of Christ unless he had experienced that self-abasement early on in chapter 6.

Worship that is not cross-centered descends into entertainment which appeals to the ego. When the forms and rituals of worship are not offered by "faith which works by love" (Gal. 5:6), then it is heathenism.

Heathen worship is not inconsistent with the retention of forms and ceremonies instituted by God. God instituted sacrifices as an essential feature of His worship, and it was doubtless from these that all other sacrificial ceremonies were borrowed. "Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" (Micah 6:7). The heathen looked no further in their worship than the sacrifice itself, and attributed to it all the virtue of obedience to the Divine instructions. It was this that made them heathen. They lost faith, which looked beyond the form and ceremony to the Lamb of God, in whom alone there was virtue for mankind. Heathenism is simply worship not of faith.

The sacrifices which were intended to point Israel to the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God, was perverted when faith dropped out, by the offering of sacrifices in order to appease an angry God. They even went to the extent of offering their own children in order to expiate God's wrath (2 Kings 17:16, 17; 3:27).

When the cross is uplifted in worship it results in repentance, and hardened, self-sufficient hearts are melted by our Saviour's divine compassion. "We are not to entertain the idea that God loves us because Christ has died for us, but that he so loved us that he gave his only-begotten Son to die for us. The death of Christ was expedient in order that mercy might reach us with its full pardoning power, ..." (Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, May 30, 1895). The 1888 idea is that God gives us the atonement. We are the ones who need it. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; ..." (2 Cor. 5:19).

It is not alone the proclamation of the law that convicts of sin. In fact, it may even "provoke" sin. To preach to someone that they must obey the law of God when they have not within them the power to obey, creates frustration and tension which can result in rebellion and rejection of God. Who has not seen the wreckage of such old covenant teaching in the loss of souls who go out the back door of the church?

There is a preachment of the law which, without the gospel, descends into self-efforts of obedience that is nothing more than paganism. "As a people, we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain. We must preach Christ in the law, ... We must not trust in our own merits at all. ..." (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, March 11, 1890).

The 1888 message emphasized the union of the law and the gospel just as in the "early rain" on the day of Pentecost. Peter proclaimed: "But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and ... killed the Prince of life, ..." (Acts 3:14, 15). By this means the Holy Spirit convicted hearts in genuine repentance and conversion (vs. 19), and thousands received the atonement in a day (2:41).

The "latter rain" will be much more glorious in its call to "worship Him that made heaven, and earth" (Rev. 14:7). God's everlasting covenant is given to every earth-bound soul in a clarion call to worship: "Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus" (vs. 12). "Keep"; that is, "cherish" the "treasure" of God's promise. "Keep" what God has given you.

"The faith of Jesus," the gospel has been given to all. "God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith" (Rom. 12:3). Let Jesus' faith work out His commandments in you by agape-love.

--Paul E. Penno.
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Robert Wieland, Mary Magdalene's Story

This is probably Elder Wieland's best known and most loved sermon. Delivered in July of 2006 at Columbia Union College, Takoma Park Maryland.

The Prophets and Worship by Pastor Paul

"Trust Not in Deceptive Words" : The Prophets and Worship

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Conformity, Compromise, and Crisis in Worship by Pastor Penno (notes)


Solomon, king of Israel, was reputedly the wisest of men, compassionate, just, brilliant of intellect and warm of heart, he began his illustrious reign at the pinnacle of greatness. He honored God and glorified his kingdom before the nations of his day. “Judah and Israel were many, . . . eating and drinking, and making merry [the economy was good!]. Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines. . . . And Judah and Israel dwelt safely. . . . God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart. . . . And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of . . . all men. . . . And his fame was in all nations round about” (1 Kings 4:20-31).
And then . . . he “threw it all away.” When he became greater and greater, he turned away from the God of his strength, married pagan wives, forgot to read and ponder God’s word, descended into the abyss of sexual immorality. He who had once been famous for a brilliant decision about awarding custody of a disputed baby now offered living children to the pagan god Molloch. He would have died in despair had he not repented as best he could in the sunset hour of his life, and he did die in disgrace, abhorred of his own people.
King Solomon led his nation, like several of our presidents have led theirs, in an orgy of sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility. He “loved many strange women” (1 Kings 11:1). The reason was that he abandoned the worship of the God who is the Creator and Redeemer of the world, and dabbled in paganism. Love is a precious gift which we receive from Jesus, that is, the kind of love that sweetens life’s bitter cup, and enables a man or woman to love one person with the kind of love wherewith Jesus loves one Bride (He is not unfaithful!).
Fidelity is an essence of love itself. The love wherewith Solomon loved “many women” was sexual lust and pathological infatuation. In the end, he was left loving no one and no one loved him, for he had atrophied his capacity to love. Bitterness was all he had. Sexual promiscuity “takes away the heart,” says Hosea 4:11, that is, destroys the capacity to love. Thereafter, life without love becomes either hopeless divorces or a cold “relationship” that one must “work at” even to have a modicum of domestic stability. Human beings who live without such fidelity-love are little happier than pagans, even though they may go to church.
“We love because [Jesus] first loved us,” says 1 Jn. 4:19. That’s why such love is “a precious gift which we receive from” Him, says a wise writer. It is its own defense against infatuating infidelity. If you love, you cannot commit adultery. Love makes infidelity impossible. That’s why the Ten Commandments, rightly understood, are ten promises for anybody who appreciates the One who says, “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex. 20:2), and what it cost Him to deliver us. The New Testament says repeatedly that this love comes in the same package with our faith (Eph. 6:23; Col. 1:4).
1 Kings 11:1: “But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites:
 1 Kings 11:2: Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love.”
 1 Kings 11:3: “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.”
 1 Kings 11:4: “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.
 1 Kings 11:5: “For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.”
 1 Kings 11:6: “And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father.”
 1 Kings 11:7: “Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.”
 1 Kings 11:8: “And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.”
 1 Kings 11:9: “And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice,”
 1 Kings 11:10: “And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded.”
 1 Kings 11:11: “Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes.”
1 Kings 12:25: “Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built Penuel.
 1 Kings 12:26: “And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David:”
 1 Kings 12:27: “If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah.”
Why, oh why, did ancient Israel blow it so badly? They were God’s true people! The true church of that era! The literal descendants and heir of God’s magnificent promises to Abraham that through his many descendants, “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:2, 3)!  But the opposite happened!
The kings of Judah (forget Jeroboam; Israel failed totally!), descended to the lowest level of national disgrace history has ever seen. They did worse than the pagan nations around them. It seemed that the very atmosphere the people in Jerusalem breathed was laden with the poison of apostasy and rebellion against God. A teensy little minority occasionally demonstrated faith in God (Jehoshaphat, for example, 2 Chron. 20), and Hezekiah (even he crashed, for he sired a son that Jeremiah declares was the sole cause of the kingdom’s utter ruin, 15:4), and poor King Josiah who thought he did everything exactly right but ended up rejecting the living demonstration of the Gift of Prophecy (2 Chron. 35). Why, oh why, did God’s true people as a nation fail so tragically? Over and over!
Conventional wisdom says: “they disobeyed.” And sure, they did. By why, oh why, did they disobey, in each succeeding generation, until finally they crucified their Messiah? And why do we disobey in each succeeding generation and end up as lukewarm and worldly as our fathers? Can we actually learn a lesson and put an end to this cycle?
Conventional Wisdom says, Just stop disobeying, period. Very simple. Adopt a “righteousness-by-faith” version of a new stricter legalism. Be severe; raise the standards.
This week millions around the world are studying about Elijah. His story is no legendary tale to be forgotten in a few days. Both Malachi and Jesus talk of God “sending Elijah” back again before the second coming of Jesus. And we are told that when “he” comes, some Christians will treat “him” as King Ahab and Jezebel did. Could we do that?
Could “Baal worship” still be with us? The name meant simply “lord.” A housewife would call to her husband, “Baal, come to lunch!” Over a century of spiritual confusion, the people sincerely thought it was another acceptable name for the God of Israel; because they were scared to pronounce His true name for it was too holy. Baal worship had developed gradually. It was “contemporary worship,” keeping up with the times, an ecumenical “outreach” to the many secular people all around them. The people of Israel liked it.
Ahab and Jezebel were the equivalent of "the anointed of the Lord” in holy office. This was plausible, for the Lord had “made Baasha prince over My people Israel,” bad as he was (1 Kings 16:2)!  So much prosperity attended the reign of King Ahab that the people naturally saw him also as the divinely appointed “prince of Israel.” “Worldly”? Yes, but that’s okay.
Was Elijah sweet, humble, and gracious in his approach to the king? He strides into Ahab’s office with no appointment, right past the secretary, sets himself in front of the startled king and announces doom. Then disappears without a good-bye. Later he confronts Ahab and tells him directly he is the sole cause of the terrible drought and famine. Would any church board like to invite “Elijah” to be your guest speaker?
Jesus clears up a lot of confusion by telling us that when “Elijah” comes, “he” won’t be a man with a stern face and a white beard. “He” will be a message, an “it” (see Mt. 11:7-14).
How can you distinguish between faith and presumption? between “obeying the voice of the LORD” and fanaticism? Everything depends on the answer, because if you don’t have “faith,” you will “perish” (John 3:16). Noah had it, building a boat on dry land “at the word of the LORD.” Abraham had it, leaving his Beverly Hills home in Ur of the Chaldees to live in a tent the rest of his life; David had it, a mere stripling armed with a slingshot and 5 pebbles facing “in the name of the LORD” the well-armored Goliath, Elijah had it, drenching with water the altar on Mt. Carmel, facing certain death at the hands of Ahab if the Lord let him down with no fire to consume his sacrifice. Was Elijah a man like Jesse Ventura of Minnesota, great physical and personality stature, a knock-out boxer in the LORD’s ring? Or was he a shy, retiring, trembling human like you and I are? I’d like to see a video actually shot on location on Mt Carmel, but the best we have is what the Bible says about him, and that is that he was like you and me: “Elijah was the same kind of person as we are” (James 5:17).  Tempted to be afraid to stand alone? Yes! The faith of Elijah is a million miles away from presumption; he trembled a long time before the LORD, knelt to pray about the situation, day after day, year after year until finally the Lord strengthened his conviction to distinguish between Baal and Jehovah (precious few in Israel had that discernment!), and then courage enough to go to Ahab and give him the Lord’s ultimatum—take your choice, O king: Baal worship and famine, or repentance and God’s blessing. And all during those 3 1/2 years he had to “pray earnestly” (James 5:17) continually every day or he could never have taken the stand he did on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18). There were “7000” who had “not bowed the knee to Baal,” yet not one had the courage to stand up when Elijah made his challenge, Who is on the Lord’s side?! “The people answered him not a word” (vs. 21). Blessed be the “7000,” yet all apparently still had some cowardice deep in their souls! Revelation tells us “144,000” Elijahs will each “bloom” alone where he/she is “planted,” in the last days. O Lord, give us discernment to distinguish between fanaticism and faith, and then courage to stand for the right though the heavens fall!
1 Kings 18:1: “And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.”
 1 Kings 18:2: “And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria.”
Many who are studying the story of Elijah misread that Elijah walked into Ahab’s office and told him there would be no rain nor dew until the Lord chose to send it. But the Bible says that the prophet told the king, “There shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to MY word” (1 Kings 17:1). Several translations agree.
It’s no big deal, but the Hebrew says “my word.” And in the New Testament, James agrees. He tells how the famine was Elijah’s idea: Elijah “prayed most earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months” (5:17). Elijah loved Israel and saw they were going down to utter destruction unless something should happen to wake them up. His love for Israel was actually a love for the plan of redemption, for God had chosen Israel to be His missionary nation to the world. Elijah’s love for Israel was the same kind as God’s love for them—a love mixed with discipline. It seems that God had entrusted the fate of the nation in Elijah’s hands.
The lesson for us is that again in the close of time God entrusts into His people’s hands in partnership with Him the bringing to a close the great controversy that has raged so long:
“To the one who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with My Father on His throne” (Rev. 3:21). That’s not just for snapshots to be taken; that’s to share with Him executive authority for bringing an end to the great controversy that has raged for so long. There will be thousands of “Elijah’s” all around the world (cf. Mal. 4:5, 6; maybe 144,000?), whose hearts have at last become totally reconciled (at-one-with) Him in His ministry and in His plan of salvation.
 1 Kings 18:17: And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?
 1 Kings 18:18: And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.
 1 Kings 18:19: Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table.
 1 Kings 18:20: So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.
 1 Kings 18:21: And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
 1 Kings 18:22: Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
 1 Kings 18:23: “Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under.”
The three years of no rain were a direct result of the false idea of God that permeated the minds of the people of Israel. They had been turned away from a true understanding of God by the leaders of Isreal, King Ahab, his wife and the prophets of Baal. (see 1 Kings 16,17) Their gradual slipping away from a clear idea of God had gone full circle until they were bowing down and sacrificing to stone images.
A decision must be made in the mind of the people. Would they follow God in a true knowledge of him, or follow their idea of God and worship Baal. A confrontation was called. On Mt. Carmel the prophets of Baal were given nearly all day to do their thing. And they did it! They whooped and shouted, danced and cut themselves even trying to light the sacrifice. They were under the assumption as were the Pharisees of Jesus day, that they would be heard by their prolific speeches (see Matt. 6:7).
Finally, when they were hoarse, fainting from the loss of their own blood Elijah called a halt to their frenzied demonstration. It was the time of the evening sacrifice, about 3:00 in the afternoon. Calling the people to him, he rebuilt the altar of the Lord that was broken down. Placing the ox that had been cut in two on the wood, he asked that four barrels of water be poured on the sacrifice. Then with a simple “prayer of faith” to the Living God he watched as the fire like lightening bolted from the sky totally consuming the sacrifice, wood, stones and yes the water. Elijah had faith in God’s promise simple as that. Let us take that measure of faith that God has given each of us, and believe his promises to us! We can ask Him to direct our decisions in life. Today we can ask in faith believing he hears us and that is the kind of prayer that brings results in our lives!
 1 Kings 18:24: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.
 1 Kings 18:25: And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.
 1 Kings 18:26: And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.
 1 Kings 18:27 And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.
 1 Kings 18:28: And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.
 1 Kings 18:29: And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.
 1 Kings 18:30: And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.
 1 Kings 18:31: And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name:
 1 Kings 18:32: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.
 1 Kings 18:33: And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.
 1 Kings 18:34: And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time.
 1 Kings 18:35: And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.
 1 Kings 18:36: And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.
 1 Kings 18:37: Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.
 1 Kings 18:38: Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
 1 Kings 18:39: And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.
Malachi 4:1:4: “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.”
 Malachi 4:5: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:”
 Malachi 4:6: “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
It’s not pretty, but there it is—the last word of the OLD Testament is “a curse” (Mal. 4:6), not so much a threat as it is the inevitable Bad News of disaster as the unavoidable consequence of sin. It’s the “curse” that came in the flood of Noah when the earth was destroyed, only this one is to be “fire” (vs. 1). It’s something God Himself cannot avoid, for “the wages of [our] sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). The human race brought it upon themselves “in the days of Noah,” and will do so again, unless somehow help can come.
The “help” that God promises is a totally impossible miracle for humans: God will “send . . . Elijah before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (4:5, 6). That domestic “turning-of-heart” is the only thing that can avert a global “curse.” It concerns marital fidelity and families. Malachi’s context is the “curse” of marital infidelity, for God says “I hate divorce” (2:11-16, NEB). The only remedy for heart alienation is a “turning-of-heart.” Marital infidelity was a prime factor in the wickedness before the flood (“they took them wives of all they chose,” Gen. 6:2). No one can “turn” his/her own “heart.” Jesus predicted that “the love [yes, marital] of many shall wax cold” and “iniquity shall abound” (Mt. 24:12, 13). When love turns cold and the fire in the coals has gone out and hearts are estranged, only “Elijah’s message” can reconcile the desolated hearts and cleanse the pollution.
But it can! God has promised to “send him” BEFORE the “seven last plagues” shall be poured out. The story of sinful humanity in the last book of the NEW Testament tells how the curse will come (Rev. 15, 16). But the Elijah message must come FIRST, perhaps has come to you already. It’s more than “promise keepers” old covenant resolutions and works; it’s a heart-turning “faith-which-works” proclamation of the cross of Jesus, of grace which abounds more than sin.
Read Ellen G. White, “Jeroboam,” pp. 99–108; “National Apostasy,” pp. 114–116; “Elijah the Tishbite,” pp. 119–128; “The Voice of Stern Rebuke,” pp. 139–142; “Carmel,” pp. 143-154, in Prophets and Kings.
“The apostasy prevailing today is similar to that which in the prophet’s day overspread Israel.”—Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 170.