Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 5: More Woes for the Prophet
What is the future of the Seventh-day Adventist Church? What lessons can we learn from the prophet Jeremiah and his message to Judah that will help us know what lies ahead for Adventists? Is there any correlation between what Jeremiah was proclaiming to an unrepentant nation and what the 1888 message says to us today?
God instructs Jeremiah to observe a potter working at a wheel creating a vessel (Jer. 18:2-4). The potter wants to make the best vessel possible with the materials with which he has to work, and will work perseveringly to that end. The potter's work now and then turns out badly because of the quality of the clay.
Given the analogy that the potter is God, it can be assumed that God is not the reason for the inferior results; it is the clay/people that are corrupt. "Now and then a vessel he was making out of the clay would be spoilt in his hands, and then he would start again and mould it into another vessel to his liking" (Jer. 18:4, NEB).
The shape of Israel's future remains somewhat open. Just as the potter recreates a vessel that seems good to him in view of the possibilities inherent in the clay, so God will take corrupt Israel and work with the possibilities inherent in the human situation. Integral to that situation is the way in which Israel responds to God's continuing work; God will work with what is available, yet with God's good purposes always in mind.
Israel can respond to God's declared word in two different ways. "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them" (Jer. 18:7-10). They can repent of their evil and turn to God or they can turn away from God, not listening to God's voice. By their response the people have the God-given capacity to shape God's own response.
In Judah's case there was no repentance and the Lord permitted them to be deported in exile to Babylon. But what bearing does this have upon our own situation today as Seventh-day Adventists in view of our prophetic destiny and our failure to embrace the latter rain message of justification by faith, which is consistent with the cleansing of the sanctuary truth?
It's serious not to understand the true nature of agape. But the 1888 message teaches us to always follow His covenant agape. Critics who have given up hope cannot see how God's love could possibly be loyal to a faulty, erring church. They assume that divine love is like human love--conditioned by the value or goodness of its object and dependent on it. So they look at the enfeebled and defective condition of the church and wonder how God's love for it can be permanent.
Christ never calls us to leave the church; He calls us to repent within the church, and to "sigh and cry" positively and effectively instead of negatively. An inspired voice emphatically assures us of ultimate denominational repentance. This is implicit in statements like these: "I am instructed to say to Seventh-day Adventists the world over, God has called us as a people to be a peculiar treasure unto Himself. He has appointed that His church on earth shall stand perfectly united in the Spirit and counsel of the Lord of hosts to the end of time." 
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. 
Christ's message to Laodicea, in fact His very character of agape, is on trial before the heavenly universe. Will it be effective? Or will century after century go by with it never accomplishing the great work it calls for?
It is clear that the Lord's greatest concern is for the human leadership of His church. "God's ministers are symbolized by the seven stars. ... Christ's ministers are the spiritual guardians of the people entrusted to their care."  "'These things, says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand.' These words are spoken to the teachers in the church--those entrusted by God with weighty responsibilities."  If they refuse Christ's special call to repent, church organization must eventually disintegrate. But leadership can respond to Christ's call, and Revelation indicates that before the end they will.
Christ respects church organization. He intends that the "angel of the church" shall repent first, and then minister the experience to the worldwide church. When the leadership of the church "in a great measure" rejected the 1888 message,  He did not disregard them; He permitted their unbelief to arrest the finishing of His work for over a century.
However, we have an encouraging promise to lay hold of: the time will come when the Lord will override impenitent leadership. "There will be those among us who will always want to control the work of God, to dictate even what movements shall be made when the work goes forward under the direction of the angel who joins the third angel in the message to be given to the world. God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reins in His own hands. The workers will be surprised by the simple means that He will use to bring about and perfect His work of righteousness." 
No one knows precisely how the Lord will take "the reins in His own hands." Although His love is infinite, His patience is not. His love for a lost world will prove greater than His patient indulgence of continued Seventh-day Adventist lukewarmness. Christ died for the world. There will come a time when He can no longer tolerate persistent, willful impenitence. He is quite capable of righteous indignation. When the time comes for it to blaze forth, "Who is able to stand?"
Thus "his wife [the church] hath made herself ready" (Rev. 19:7) to be the Bride of Christ. He deserves this practical fruitage of His sacrifice. He has suffered enough, and at last His church will give him the complete surrender that a bride gives to her husband.
Can you think of any greater tragedy in the end of history than for a disappointed Christ to stand before "the door" knocking in vain (Rev. 3:20) and ultimately turning away in the humiliation of defeat? That is what the devil wants! Why should we give in to him by default? The picture we see in Scripture indicates complete success. By virtue of the infinite sacrifice on Calvary we must choose to believe that the Laodicean message will fully accomplish its objective.
That which God purposed to do for the world through Israel, the chosen nation, He will finally accomplish through His church on earth today. He has "let out His vineyard unto other husbandmen," even to His covenant-keeping people, who faithfully "render Him the fruits in their seasons." 
The Laodicean church is the new covenant church. Not for her own intrinsic goodness will the Lord remain loyal to her, but because He has to be a covenant-keeping God. "Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but ... [that] the Lord your God ... may fulfill the word which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (Deut. 9:5). That covenant aspect of Christ's character is the assurance that the message to Laodicea will not fail.
--Paul E. Penno
Endnotes (From the Writings of Ellen G. White):
 Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 397.
 Ibid, p. 380.
 Gospel Workers, pp. 13, 14.
 Acts of the Apostles, p. 586.
 Selected Messages, vol. 1, pp. 234, 235.
 Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 300.
 Prophets and Kings, pp. 713, 714.
Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org
Friday, October 23, 2015
Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 4: Rebuke and Retribution
"Rebuke and Retribution"--What a title for a Sabbath School lesson study. Is anybody listening to this kind of stuff anymore? We have to wonder whether God's people have been so spiritually "burned out" that they've turned a deaf ear to what the Spirit says about our latter rain message.
One good way to get rid of God's message, which we don't like, is to condemn the messengers. It has been an age-old problem of God's people and we still haven't learned this lesson today.
Jeremiah made a powerful request of God based upon a complaint. "I did not deliver this unbearable message of judgment out of my own imagination. It is, rather, the verdict upon Judah, which you sent me to deliver." "But, O LORD of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto Thee have I revealed my cause" (Jer. 11:20). He prays that God will protect His messenger. "I am just the messenger proclaiming what you have given to me."
Jeremiah took his cause to the one who "judges righteously." Jeremiah is being mistreated because he is being faithful to what God asked him to do. Evil is being plotted against him. He is suffering for righteousness' sake. The wicked have the upper hand. This is an unfair situation. God must intervene and do something to make things right.
Jeremiah summons God to "judge and test" this cause of evil and right. Along with Jeremiah's appeal for adjustment is a counterclaim against his persecutors. "Let me see Thy vengeance on them: for unto Thee have I revealed my cause" (Jer. 11:20). This call for "vengeance" is no desire for self-justification upon the part of Jeremiah. He is thinking more about the cause of God than He is about himself. It is God's reputation that is at stake if injustice continues unchecked. God must win His case in the great controversy with the enemy.
It is a fact that God needs His messengers to step up and recognize that "the hour of His judgment is come" (Rev. 14:6). As they faithfully speak up for God who is on trial He, in turn, hears their claim against the wicked and adjudicates the wrong. In other words, as God wins His case the righteous on earth are included in His victory.
The guilt of those who scheme against Jeremiah is established with these words: "Therefore thus saith the LORD of the men of Anathoth, that seek thy life, saying, Prophesy not in the name of the LORD, that thou die not by our hand" (Jer. 11:21). The men of Jeremiah's hometown, Anathoth, are guilty of trying to silence a prophet.
The offense of silencing a prophet is scandalous in Israel. Prophets are essential for the life of a religious community. Silencing prophets diminishes the denominated status of Israel as God's chosen people.
Here's the lesson from 1888 that we need to learn. Ellen White unequivocally stated that Jones and Waggoner were straight and true in bringing a message of God to His chosen people. "God is presenting to the minds of men divinely appointed precious gems of truth, appropriate for our time."  "God had sent these young men, Elders Jones and Waggoner, to bear a special message to them." 
Ellen White recognized the seriousness of the opposition to them personally and to their message, and fixed the ultimate blame for their potential faltering "to a great degree" upon the opposing brethren. 
Criticizing the messengers imposed on them a burden that was heavier to carry than normal opposition: "Whatever course the messenger may pursue, it will be objectionable to the opposers of truth; and they will make capital of every defect in the manners, customs, or character of its advocate." 
"Some of our brethren ... full of jealousy and evil surmising, ... are ever ready to show in just what way they differ with Elder Jones or Waggoner." 
The two men spoke positively and strongly. Keen perceptions of truth often lead those who are "only men" to speak that way. But that was offensive to human nature, which was looking for an excuse to reject the message: "Let no soul complain of the servants of God who have come to them with a heaven-sent message. Do not any longer pick flaws in them, saying, 'They are too positive; they talk too strongly.' They may talk strongly; but is it not needed?" 
The Lord Himself had clothed His personal messengers with evidences of authority, "heavenly credentials." They had lost sight of self in their love for Christ and His special message. The still-uncrucified self in others was annoyed:
"If the rays of light which shone at Minneapolis were permitted to exert their convincing power upon those who took their stand against light, ... they would have received the richest blessings, disappointed the enemy, and stood as faithful men, true to their convictions. They would have had a rich experience; but self said, No. Self was not to be refused; self struggled for the mastery." 
At Minneapolis, the personality of Jones and Waggoner became the visible, conscious stumbling-block for the invisible, unconscious rejection of Christ the Word. This is evident, as follows: "Men professing godliness have despised Christ in the person of His messengers. Like the Jews, they reject God's message. The Jews asked regarding Christ, 'Who is this? Is not this Joseph's son?' He was not the Christ that the Jews had looked for. So today the agencies that God sends are not what men have looked for." 
If we are tempted to find an easy way out, to say that this shameful past is no concern of our generation, can this open the way for the Lord again to send us the latter rain?
The Lord calls us to recognize our solidarity with our "fathers." Although himself innocent, Jeremiah confessed and repented of the sins of his fathers: "O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do Thou it for Thy name's sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against Thee" (Jer. 14:7).
Repentance alone can prevent a repetition of the fathers' sins. The reason why the Lord requires repentance for the sins of "our fathers" is that without it we are programmed to repeat them. We share a common humanity. We are by nature no better than those who rejected the 1888 message. If we were in their place, we would have done the same. This is what Ellen White means when she says, "The books of heaven record the sins that would have been committed had there been opportunity." 
Christ knew no repression of guilt for sin at all. He stood before God by "faithfulness" and was thus "righteous." His motivations were pure and transparent.
This is but a foreshadowing of the kind of people that the third angel's message will gather out, for they too are to have "the faith of Jesus"--not merely faith in Jesus, but the very kind of faith which He had, the faith of Jesus. This is the deep experience given to the Laodicean church--faith, spiritual discernment, and the righteousness of Christ.
--Paul E. Penno
 The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 139.
 Ibid., p. 1043.
 Ibid., p. 1127.
 Ibid., p. 1061.
 Ibid., p. 1043.
 Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 410-413.
 The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1030.
 Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 472.
 SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p. 1085.
Notes: If you would like to view or download a copy of "How Many Times Did Ellen White Endorse the Message of Jones and Waggoner From 1888-1896?" you will find it on the Internet at:http://1888mpm.org
"Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at the same website.
Saturday, October 17, 2015
Thursday, October 15, 2015
 Ellen G. White, Ms. 159, 1899.
 Selected Messages, book 3, p. 162.
 See, for example, Uriah Smith's and G. I. Butler's letters to Ellen White of Feb. 17, 1890, Sept. 24, 1892 (Manuscripts and Memories of Minneapolis 1888, pp. 152-157, 206-212). The Lord not only sent "prophets" to Israel, but "messengers" also (2 Chron. 36:16).
 See Ellen G. White Letter 184, 1901; Evangelism, p. 696.
 See Ellen White Letters 30, 59, 1890.
 The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 543.
Friday, October 9, 2015
Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 2: The Crisis (Within and Without)
God promised to give His reluctant prophet Jeremiah words to say, and He did, but they were not smooth words. Judah had forgotten her history and how God had led and taught her in the past. Jeremiah (chapter 2) tells us that everyone, including the priests and rulers were guilty of forgetting the past, forsaking God, and building "broken cisterns" (vs. 13) that cannot hold life giving water.
In order to get water, Judah seeks it on the road to Egypt so they could drink from the Nile, and to Assyria, to drink from the Euphrates. Both geographic areas represent heathen nations that had made slaves of God's people when they forgot Who they belonged to. Living as a slave is easier because it requires little thinking, and no faith. Once a people, or for that matter, an individual, forgets or chooses to deny God's leading, there is nothing genuine to rely on. Idol replacements are given power against all logic. Even when God allows trouble to get people's attention, the slave mentality interprets it as abandonment.
Years before, the northern kingdom of Israel had apostatized so completely that God allowed them to be attacked by surrounding nations and scattered. He pleads with Judah to learn from Israel's experience and return to Him. He reminds them through Jeremiah that He gave repeated warnings, which were ignored because My people are "foolish," "stupid," and have "no understanding." They are "shrewd" and only do evil and not good. Repeatedly, God also uses the imagery of a faithless wife cheating on her husband (Jer 4:19-22).
What does this sad lament have to do with us today? Why do we study the terrible history of Israel and Judah? If we cannot see their history as profitable warnings today, we are as foolish and stupid as Judah. If we fail to see the importance of reviewing our history, we lack understanding of our true condition.
"The reason why the children of Israel forsook Jehovah was that the generation rose up that had not been instructed concerning the great deliverance from Egypt by the hand of Jesus Christ. Their fathers had not rehearsed to them the history of the divine guardianship that had been over the children of Israel through all their travels in the wilderness. ... If parents had fulfilled their duty, we should never have the record of the generation that knew not God, and were therefore given into the hands of the spoilers" (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, May 21, 1895).
Today, there are those who refuse to discuss anything about the history of the message given in 1888. Usually, the need to study what it actually was is dismissed as unnecessary, or even silly. Important scholars go to great lengths to either declare it wrong, or that they church accepted it in 1888, or shortly thereafter so there is no reason to study it. Some criticize it as being too "liberal" while others criticize it as too "conservative." It is rare to find someone who can articulate what the message is, and rarer, to find someone who has studied the original sources written by the "messengers," Jones, Waggoner, and White.
So long as the "priests," "those who handle the law," and "rulers" (Jer 2:8) refuse to corporately acknowledge we have turned our back on God and His message, the people will never know the destruction that awaits. Some may take comfort in Ellen White's statement in a letter to George Butler and S. N. Haskell in 1886 that "The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall" (Letter 55, December 8, 1886). Those who find that statement comforting, fail to appreciate the awful and unnecessary condition the church will be in when it "appears about to fall." Why would we as God's children want to let the church disintegrate that far just because God pulls it through in the end.
The message of Jeremiah is that repentance initiated by a well-informed leadership might forestall devastation much as the repentance of Ninevah's king was accepted by the entire community and disaster was averted.
There are many devout Jews who stand at the "wailing wall" in Jerusalem, asking God to send the long awaited Messiah. God can never "answer" these prayers because they refuse to see it has already happened. In the same way, our church has prayed for the outpouring of the latter rain for well over 150 years, but God cannot answer our prayers until we recognize and admit the sins of our forefathers, including our years of denial since then. Admitting the truth of our history will save us from perpetuating their mistakes, and will lead us to a deep repentance for our own unbelief.
At times, it seems discouraging that God needs to discipline His people, but He always gives hope. "Yet even in those days, declares the Lord, I will not make you a complete destruction" (Jer 5:18). God loves His people too much to leave them to complete destruction. So what does this have to do with us? God needed to chasten Judah and Israel because they were ignoring Him; He wanted them to listen to Him. Rather than thinking that advice is for everyone else, we need to listen to God individually. We must heed the warning ourselves before we can nurture others. The message of 1888 is the final message that will prepare a people who are willing to participate fully in the cleansing process as typified in the Day of Atonement.
"The work begun in 1844, at the end of the 2300 years, is unique in the universe and brings Christ and the remnant into a new kind of union. There will be a mutual understanding which makes His remnant go with Him into the Most Holy Place. There the wedding is consummated. There sin is blotted out. There Christ sits down with His remnant, and He assures them that the 'true tabernacle,' His abiding place, is cleansed. His victory in conquering self is a guarantee that He has in all points been tempted like unto His brethren for every sin is born of a love of self. Thus as they abide with Him in the Most Holy Place, they will by faith be uniting their humanity to His divinity, and they will be one with Him in purpose and thus be 'married' to Him. They will have the faith of Jesus which keeps mortals from sinning. Then the work of the Mediator will be finished, the sanctuary will be cleansed and restored to its rightful place, the heart of the 144,000 will have been purged. Sin will not rise again. This experience awaits the remnant whenever they choose to accept the eyesalve of heavenly insight offered by the True Witness. And when her blindness is gone and at last she can 'see,' then the Bride will sit down with the King on His throne, as He has promised, for both have overcome by the blood of the Lamb" (Donald K. Short, "Then Shall the Sanctuary be Cleansed," p. 92).
This is the work of the last generation before Christ comes. Whether the number 144,000 is literal or otherwise, those of us living in the end time need to see ourselves as similar to ancient Israel, a people who need to listen and act on God's warnings. We should never take comfort that our church, the very Bride of Christ, is "about to fall." Our mission is to individually participate in the cleansing process, but also to be concerned for everyone who will ultimately make up that remnant group. As we study the message of Jeremiah for the next three months, let consider it a special voice just for us.
Note: "Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org