Friday, March 30, 2018

Lesson 13. The Results of Stewardship

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Stewardship: Motives of the Heart
Lesson 13. The Results of Stewardship


To endure poverty that is thrust upon you unwanted is one thing; you grumble at your lot and wish you had more money. But to be content with poverty, actually to enjoy its discipline and privation, is another. And that immediately makes us think of Jesus--a hard-working peasant who in later life said He had not where to lay His head. And He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit ..." meaning, they are the truly happy people.

Wealthy people are seldom happy people. It's not poetic fancy but hard truth that "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Tim. 6:6). There are people in the world who have very little of this world's goods; they barely have the "food and raiment" wherewith to be "content," but they have the sunshine of happiness in their homes, something which the richest people in the world don't have.

There's a beautiful hymn by Anna Waring that was in the old hymnal, but it's been left out of the current church hymnal, probably because its sentiment goes too much against the grain of modern American philosophy. She says:

"I have a heritage of joy,
     That yet I must not see;
The hand that bled to make it mine
     Is keeping it for me.

"There is a certainty of love
     That sets my heart at rest;
A calm assurance for today,
     That to be poor is best."

Wow! Of course! Such an idea must never be promoted among the richest on earth! But it's Bible teaching. No, not that abject, grinding, painful poverty is good--of course not; let's be reasonable. "Food and raiment" are necessary; and the One who had not where to lay His head doesn't want you be like that--He wants you to have a roof over your head, yes, that doesn't leak, and a bed to sleep in. And He wants you to have the necessities of life which today probably mean a car and a refrigerator. Many folks in the world don't have those things. But the principle is the thing: "a person's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he/she possesseth" (Luke 12:15). "More abundant life" the good news is not that Jesus merely offers it to you; He gives it to you. Receive it! Don't resent it!

In olden times men relied on their horses. Alexander the Great had a famous horse named Bucephalis, which he trusted. But David's Psalm 33 proclaimed that "no one can rely on his horse to save him, nor for all its power can it be a means of escape" (vs. 17, The Revised English Bible). Bucephalis was not the source of Alexander's military success!

To translate this into modern language, it means that you and I dare not trust the stock market or international economics as our salvation from hunger. Even the best business savvy is "the wisdom of this world; and that is foolishness with God": "If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. ... The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain" (1 Cor. 3:18-20). This is not to despise sound business wisdom, but the Lord long ago told the prophet Jeremiah the truth that we all need to grasp:

"Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD" (Jer. 9:23, 24).

Our loving heavenly Father has not promised us the wealth of this world, but He has promised to care for us if we will remember reality: "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? ... He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; ... that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; ... bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure" (Isa. 33:14-16).

That may not be a fancy, gourmet fare; but someday we shall be profoundly thankful for it. It makes the Lord happy when He can see that we appreciate what He provides us. If it's whole grain bread and vitamin rich vegetables and fruits, we shall be more healthy. Wesley said that "cleanliness is next to godliness." If he were with us today he would add that eating whole grain foods is "next to healthful living."

Happiness is trusting the Lord and appreciating all that He does for us!

There is an 1888 message lesson in grateful living we want to learn now: "Godliness with contentment is great gain. ... And having food and raiment let us be therewith content" (1 Tim. 6:6-8).

--Paul E. Penno

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

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Friday, March 23, 2018

Lesson 12. The Habits of a Steward

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Paul E. Penno

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

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Lesson 11. Debt--A Daily Decision

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland

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

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

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz

Friday, March 9, 2018

Lesson 10. The Role of Stewardship

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Ann Walper

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

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

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Lesson 9. Offerings of Gratitude

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Paul E. Penno

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

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: