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Apostasy! What it is and What its Not

 I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

One Friday morning, I was helping a friend get their house “presentable” to have a group of Bible study students over for Sabbath afternoon. I was pulling weeds in their flower bed near their front door, when I got a little carried away, and found in my hands, not a clump of ugly weeds like I was suppose to have, but instead, before I could stop my over zealous hands,I realized I had just murdered a totally beautiful and innocent begonia! I snapped it before the root and there was no way now I could save it. In my mind I could hear Jesus telling me,

“See why I don’t let you go pulling weeds in my church? You can’t tell a beautiful begonia from a weed. There is no way I am going to let you destroy a totally innocent member of My church, just because you think they are a heretic. I will do My own weeding thank you. I can tell a weed from a begonia. Obviously you can’t.”

I am going to cut straight to the chase. I have become very concerned lately how easily the word “apostasy” gets thrown around Adventist circles these days. If someone does not agree with us, some of us accuse them of apostasy. That is a strong word! Apostasy simply means a renunciation or abandonment of a belief, but yet it carries with it an even greater connotation within our circles, of abandoning God Himself.  Funny, some people put themselves in God’s place of defining heresy and apostasy, yet I don’t ever find Jesus accusing anyone in the Bible of being an apostate or heretic, so I am confused as to why so many of His professed followers have taken up the practice.

Apostasy does not mean renouncing a doctrine because another church teaches it too. Remember, the Seventh-day Adventist Church grew out of many denominations. The purpose of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not to disagree with everybody else. The purpose of the Seventh-day Adventist church is to

 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21

In the mid 1800′s a group of Advent believers from many denominations sat down together with their Bibles. Rachel Oakes, a Seventh-day Baptist in that group introduced the Sabbath. The group found it to be quite Biblical so it was adopted by the group. The group found that the Baptist church was quite Biblical concerning baptism by immersion so that was adopted as well. However, the group found the immortality of the soul to be found nowhere in the Bible so that was not accepted. You see, this group did not say “Oh we don’t believe that! This is what the Baptists believe or that is what Catholics believe!” If we are going to use that logic we are going to have to give up the Sabbath because that is what Seventh-day Baptists believe! We would also have to give up the Trinity because that is what Catholics believe!

If our goal is to be the exact opposite of Catholics, then we are going to have to stop praying for loved ones in the hospital because that is what Catholics do. Actually we will have to stop running our hospital systems all together, because after all, having hospitals that provide compassionate care is something the Catholics do. And we don’t want to be like them, right? Friends, just because the Catholics do something does not make it wrong, and just because we do something does not make it right! Catholics are very reverent in their worship service. Shall we run and scream in God’s house just to prove we are not Catholics? Of course not! Like Paul said, we want to hold on to what is good instead of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

I have met bitter former Adventists who have made it their religion to bash the Adventist church. Instead of lifting up Jesus they love to go online and bash the Adventist church. I have news for them. Bashing Adventism in not a religion. Now I have some news for some of us Adventists. Bashing Catholicism is not a religion either! Jesus, our example never made a religion out of bashing people for their beliefs.

This message must be given, but while it must be given, we should be careful not to thrust and crowd and condemn those who have not the light that we have. We should not go out of our way to make hard thrusts at the Catholics. Among the Catholics there are many who are most conscientious Christians, and who walk in all the light that shines upon them, and God will work in their behalf.–Ellen White, Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 243.

Right and wrong is determined by the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16) and not by religious denomination. 

We are not to hold on to our beliefs because they are what our pioneers taught. If we do that then we are making an idol of our pioneers. We also become steeped in tradition if we only believe what our pioneers believe. It was never Martin Luther’s desire to bash Catholicism. It was his desire to take the Bible over tradition and the teachings of man. If we now set up our Adventist pioneers and Adventist traditions as the standard, then we are falling back into Babylon! The only way we can stay out of Babylon is to use the Word of God as our standard, instead of worshiping as idols the pioneers of our church even when they may be wrong, and bashing other churches even when they may be right!

Let’s be careful who we call apostates and what we call apostasy. Recently I have heard people saying the trinity is not an Adventist doctrine while it most definitely is! Many people are accusing other people of apostasy while they are in apostasy! So let’s be careful how we use that word, and not use it all if we can avoid it. It is not a word I read Jesus using. Let’s try to be more like Jesus.

Let’s not accuse someone of apostasy because they do something a Catholic or Baptist does. If we do, we will need to stop baptizing by immersion and having compassionate hospitals. Not everything they do is wrong and not everything you do is right. Let’s just go by the Bible.

Let’s not set up our Adventist pioneers as infallible and above the Word of God. If we tell the Catholics not to worship Mary and St.Peter, then its only fair we not worship Uriah Smith and Ellen White. Yes, I know Ellen White wrote under inspiration but so did Peter. Let’s not worship either one of them. Let’s worship Jesus. If we tell Catholics not to put their traditions above the Word of God then lets not put our traditions above the Word of God. Let’s not make a religion out of bashing other people’s beliefs and churches. Let’s make a religion out of lifting up Jesus!

You may study and discuss this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Everything About Him Was All Wrong, Except For The Fact That He Was Perfect

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Have you every brought up an idea in a committee meeting, only to have it ignored, and then ten minutes later someone a little bit more popular than you, says the same exact thing you just said, except this time, instead of it being ignored everyone loves the idea! And you are sitting there thinking to yourself, “That’s what I just said ten minutes ago!”  

Sometimes its not what is being said but who is saying it. A while back, after teaching a group of young people how to chain reference their Bibles, to give Bible studies, I then had one of them lead out in an actual Bible study group. I was there for encouragement, but they were the teacher. Maybe I should not have even showed up at all, because what happened was, while the young person had all the answers from the Bible, the people in the group kept directing their questions at me, instead of the young person who was teaching the class. Awkward! Somehow the group members thought my life experience trumped the authority of this young person, but not so! This young person was getting all their information from the Word of God, and I don’t care how much life experience someone has or titles behind their name, nothing trumps the Word of God!

In John 4:1-54 Jesus meets with a woman at a well, and counsels her about her promiscuous relationships. What gave Him the right? He had no marriage counseling license. He had no marriage experience. Yet this is not the only time He counseled people about their sex lives. In John 8:1-11 Jesus not only counsels with a woman taken in adultery, but He also counselled the men involved, by writing in the sand. In Matthew 5:27-32 Jesus preaches about marriage, sexual temptations and divorce.  Instead of referencing His personal life as many do today, Jesus referenced the Scriptures. The Scriptures trump human experience.

Jesus counsels the woman at the well about her relationships, by helping her realize that she has been trying to fill a void in her life that only God can fill. Each sexual escapade just left her thirsty. Just like people try to use Pepsi to quench their thirst, only to find Pepsi actually dehydrates you and leaves you even more thirsty for water, likewise inappropriate sex was leaving this woman thirsty for the living water that is only found not in sex, but in a relationship with God.

Could it be that while having no wife or children, Jesus was an authority on relationships because He had a perfect relationship with God the Father? While giving counsel in John 8, Jesus says “let him without sin throw the first stone.” This was from the Levitical law, so Jesus was basing his counsel on Scripture as well as His relationship with His Father.

In Matthew Matthew 6:24-34 Jesus is giving financial advice. What gives Him the right? He was not a Wall Street wizard. He has no place to lay His head and relied on friends for a place to stay. If a man with no money in the bank and no home or property were to hold a financial seminar today, how many people do you think would listen to him?

The story goes of a very rich business man who tried to school a poor man about wealth. The rich man from Chicago was vacationing in Mexico and doing some fishing. A local came along and threw his reel in the water and a few minutes later had caught four fish, which he put in his bucket and started to leave. The rich business man stopped him and asked,

“Why are you leaving already? You are doing great!”

The local replied, “I caught all the fish I need for my family. I am going home now to eat with them and relax and spend time with the family.”

The business man exclaimed, “But you are doing so well! If you stay longer you can catch even more fish!”

“What would I do with them?” The local asked.

“You could catch enough fish to sell them and buy a boat!” the man answered.

“Then what?” The local asked.

“You could catch even more fish with a boat! Then you could sell even more fish and buy more boats and catch and sell even more fish.” The business man exclaimed, somewhat frustrated that the local was not catching the vision.

“What would I do after all of that?” The local replied,

to which the rich business man answered, “Then you could retire.”

“What would I do while I’m retired” asked the local.

“You can eat with your family and relax and spend time with them!” The rich man declared! Wondering why this simple local could not follow his logic and financial advice! But was it logical? Wasn’t the local already on his way to eat and spend time with family now? Why should he spend his life planning only for tomorrow never knowing for sure if there would even be a tomorrow?

Ever heard the saying, “Some people are so poor all they have is money?” The local, like Jesus realized you need more than money to be wealthy. Some people give up their health and friends in an effort to make more money, only to find out that money is not the substance of life. Good relationships are what make you wealthy in the long run. Years ago a friend of mine went to hear a financial motivational speaker. The speaker told them, “In order to be rich, the first thing you need to do is drop your poor friends and only hang out with rich people.” Some one raised their hand and asked, “Won’t we be losing a lot of good friends doing that?” “Sure the financial wizard explained, “But if they are are good friends they will understand.” True story! My point here is financial wizards don’t always give the best advice. Sometimes the best advice comes from a Teacher who had no money in the bank and “no place to lay His head.”

While Jesus had no marriage or financial experience according to our standards, He was the perfect counselor. Like my young friend teaching the Bible study group, Jesus was often heard saying, “It is Written.” When asked questions instead of relying on personal experience Jesus would often say, “What saith the Scriptures?” Jesus made the perfect counselor, not because He had a degree or license  or the perfect wife and children and perfect home, but because He had a perfect relationship with His heavenly Father and a perfect understanding of the Scriptures.

Looking at first glance Jesus was totally the wrong person to be giving advice, except for one thing, He was perfect.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Better Promises Make A Better Covenant

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The story goes of a man who got a job chopping down trees. The first day his foreman noticed he had chopped down only ten trees while the other men had cut down a hundred or so. “Oh well,” thought the foreman, “it was his first day,” But the next couple days went the same way, so the foreman decided to have a talk with the new worker. “I am sure you have noticed you are not chopping down nearly as many trees as the others are” the foreman began. “Yes I know sir, but I am having trouble with this saw you gave me,” said the new worker. The foreman took a look at the saw and pulled the cord to start the motor. The buzz of the motor on the saw scared the new worker, and he jumped back shouting, “What is that sound?”

The new worker did not realize he was not expected chop down a hundred trees in his own power. He did not realize what power was available to him. It’s the same way with us.

Many people shirk at keeping the law, thinking it is an impossibility, not realizing they were never expected to keep it in their own power, and like the power saw, there is plenty of power available. If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it.  But when God found fault with the people, he said:

“The day is coming, says the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel and Judah.
This covenant will not be like the one
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
and led them out of the land of Egypt.
They did not remain faithful to my covenant,
so I turned my back on them, says the Lord.
But this is the new covenant I will make
with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people. Hebrews 8:7-10

There are those who would have us believe that the Ten Commandments were done away with because God realized they were unreasonable and could not be obeyed. However that is not the case.

Psalms 19:7 KJV says,

 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.

A legend tells about a huge ship that spotted a light off in the distant fog and radioed the source of the light telling it to change its course 15 degrees to avoid a collision. The source of the light radioed back that the ship needed to change its course instead. The arrogant sea captain once again demanded the other vessel change its course instead, only to find out the source of the light was not coming from a vessel but from a lighthouse.

So it is in life. Many people want the law to be changed just like the ship wanted the lighthouse to change, but lighthouses don’t move out of the way and neither does the law. The law is perfect. The law does not need to change.

That the law which was spoken by God’s own voice is faulty, that some specification has been set aside, is the claim which Satan now puts forward. It is the last great deception that he will bring upon the world. He needs not to assail the whole law; if he can lead men to disregard one precept, his purpose is gained. For “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10. By consenting to break one precept, men are brought under Satan’s power. By substituting human law for God’s law, Satan will seek to control the world. This work is foretold in prophecy. Of the great apostate power which is the representative of Satan, it is declared, “He shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand.” Daniel 7:25-Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 763

No, the law is not faulty. Hebrews 8:8 NLT says the fault was not with the law but with the people. So why would God change the law when the law was not the problem?

The fault of the people was in trying to keep the law in their own power. God made a covenant with the people, and instead of them asking for God’s help they eagerly replied,

“We will do everything the Lord has commanded.” Exodus 19:8 NLT

God knew this was never going to work from the get-go.

He who is trying to reach heaven by his own works in keeping the law is attempting an impossibility. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 172

God never intended for man to keep the law on His own. This is why God says in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah 31:33 NLT,

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

You see, the old covenant was not called old because it was the first covenant. It was called old because it was a useless covenant that God never asked them to make. He never asked Abraham to have a son on his own. He never asked us to keep the commandments on our own. This is what Paul is talking about inHebrews 8:6 NLT when He says the new covenant is, “based on better promises.”

In the first covenant the people in Exodus 19:8 were the ones making promises God never asked them to make. I don’t need to tell you how worthless man’s promises are. The new covenant is based on better promises because they are God’s promises!

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 2 Peter 1:4 NLT

The law was never the problem. The problem was the people and their worthless promises. Even in the Old Testament we find the new and better covenant when Abraham becomes the father of Isaac, based on God’s promise. We find the new and better covenant based on better promises in Jeremiah 31:33 when God is promising to write and establish the perfect law in the hearts of men, not by their own power and promises, but by His power and promises.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Pray a New Prayer

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

My parents tell me, when I was two years old, one Sabbath morning the elder kept praying and praying in church, and I got tired of kneeling on my two year old little knees, so I finally stood up on the pew and started shouting, “Amen! Amen! Amen!” Well let me tell you something, I have felt like doing it a few times since then. Even at two years old I must have realized that public prayers are suppose to be brief.

“Our prayers in public should be short…” -Ellen White, Prayer, Page 176

In recent years I have been kneeling in congregational prayer for what felt like an eternity, and have thought to myself during the long drawn out prayer, “Why doesn’t the elder praying just ask the pastor if he can preach sometime. I am sure he would let him, and then that way the elder wouldn’t have to use prayer time to preach a sermon.” 

Jesus mentored His disciples to pray longer prayers in private, Or at least He tried to in Gethsemane the night of His arrest, in Matthew 26:36-46. Jesus led by example, in long personal prayers, even lasting all night (Luke 6:12). He also taught that prayers should be genuine and not rehearsed.

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” Matthew 6:7 NLT

When we pray we are to talk to God as a friend. I even heard of an elderly Bible Worker, who when driving to Bible Studies, would make sure nothing was in the passenger car seat, because He pictured God sitting there, riding with Him to the Bible study as he prayed and drove. (I hope he kept his eyes opened as he prayed and drove!)

Many times in my Bible studies I ask people to have the opening prayer, and many are shy and say they don’t know how. I never pressure anyone to do anything they don’t feel comfortable doing, but several have been surprised how easy it is when I tell them. One man, who had already heard me pray many times, told me he wanted to pray but did not know what to say. I told him, “Just say “Dear heavenly Father, please send your Holy Spirit to be with us in this Bible study, in Jesus’ name amen.” His eyes opened wide and he smiled when he realized how easy it was.

God wants us to talk to Him as a friend. God also does not wanting us just babbling the same words over and over. He wants to have a real conversation with us. The psalmist talks about singing a new song (Psalms 40:3) and a song is like a prayer as songs and prayers are stories of our experiences. Just as God enjoys new songs He also enjoys new prayers.

While Jesus mentored His disciples to pray in private, He also mentored them to pray in public. He gave them a model prayer, not to be repeated over and over word for word necessarily, but a model for us to use to form our own prayer. God loves creativity. Not every song has to be sung the exact same way and by no means does every prayer have to be prayed the same way. While Jesus prayed long private prayers, notice how short His public prayer is.

Our Father in heaven,may your name be kept holy. Matthew 6:9 NLT

Jesus starts by addressing His Father and setting a tone for reverence and awe. Our prayers may also be prayed with confidence knowing our requests are reaching the throne of the universe.

May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 NLT

I have a friend who was taught long ago by his parents to always ask people how their day was, and listen to them, before going on about yourself and your day. You may think you had a tough day, but before you dive into your prayer, telling God all about your heartaches, have you ever asked God how His day went? God saw way more heartaches in one day than we will see in a lifetime. We want God’s will to be done and His kingdom to come soon, not just to end our suffering, but to end God’s suffering, as He suffers not just with you and me, but with everyone in the world who suffers.

Give us today the food we need, Matthew 6:11 NLT

When Daniel asked for God to reveal the kings dream to him, Daniel did not save himself only, he saved the lives of all the kings men (Daniel 2:24). InMark 4:39 Jesus calms the storm at the disciples request, but the sea was not only calmed for their tiny boat. Like wise, all the other boats on the water benefited from the calmness. Jesus does not pray for Himself alone to have food. He prays for everyone to have the food they need. There is no selfishness in Jesus’ prayer. There is no selfishness in any genuine prayer.

“and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” Matthew 6:12 NLT

Jesus could have prayed, “Father forgive everyone else for their sins, but as you know I have never sinned,” but again there is nor self or pride in Jesus’ prayer.

And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:13 NLT

Jesus overcame by asking for the Father’s help along with everyone else. We can ask for His help and overcome as well. Jesus ends His prayer the way He began, by exalting the Father, Who gives us the confidence we need in our personal lives and ministry when we worship and follow Him.

You can study this week’s SS lesson here. 

The Last Prayer of Woodrow Hill

I am writing from the Beautiful Tampa bay area which was home to Jean and Woodrow Hill.
I am writing from the Beautiful Tampa bay area which was home to Jean and Woodrow Hill.

This last Thanksgiving my Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church family lost a dear patriarch and friend, when Woodrow Hill passed away at 95. I had been friends with Woodrow and his wife Jean, ever since I moved to Tampa ten years ago, but I still learned some intriguing things about him, after his death, that I never knew before. Do you find like me, that you always seem to learn something you never knew about someone after they died?  Oh, I knew Woodrow was a man of God. Always a cheerful smile on his face, even when I would go see him at the hospital, or when he would be delivering bread to the church’s community service center. Woodrow and his wife Jean would always tell me they were praying for me and my ministry. That means so much to me. It also means a lot to me when people comment on my blog posts and tell me they are praying for me or even leave a prayer as a comment. It helps to know I am not alone in this spiritual warfare. However, it wasn’t until he died, and I came over to his home, to visit with the family, that I learned some amazing things.

Woody’s stepdaughter said he became her daddy when she was 12. He was the best dad a girl could ever have, and she does not have one unpleasant memory after her mom married. The daughter (she never felt like a stepdaughter) went on to talk about Woodrow’s prayer life. As she sat in her daddy’s chair, she told me “he would be up all night praying and, by listening to the way he prayed you would think Jesus must be sitting in that chair right there that you are in.” The mother and daughter then both told me that the night before he died he was up all night praying for all of his church family, blood family, and neighbors until 6 in the morning! They told me he mentioned my name in his prayer, and it sent chills down my spine to know that this godly Patriarch had prayed for me in his last prayer.  At first I thought to myself, “Wow! He really appreciated my ministry!” Later as I recalled the incident, I thought, “All they said was that he prayed for me. They didn’t say how. He may have been praying for me to repent and be saved!”

I look back, and I wonder, why did he pray all night the night before he died? Why was he mentioning every soul he ever met?  Did he have a premonition that he was about to die, and wanted to say one last, long prayer, not for himself, but for everyone else before he died? This reminds me of only one other person-Jesus! As He hung on the cross, He told John to care for His mother. He prayed for His Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him. Woodrow and Jesus were alike, as while they both faced death, their thoughts and prayers were only for those around them. Woody, like Jesus, did not waste his last breath on himself, but used those last few precious breaths to bless others one last time.

I believe Woodrow was a true disciple of Jesus, and was able to live the selfless life that Jesus lived because He prayed the selfless prayers that Jesus prayed. I don’t think we can expect to live the way Jesus lived in the multitude, until we pray the way Jesus prayed when He was all alone. In Matthew 14:1-32 we read about Jesus walking on the water, while Peter at first walked on the water and then stumbled and fell. Earlier, in that chapter we saw Jesus spending all night in prayer. I wonder, if Peter had prayed the way Jesus had prayed the night before, could he have walked the way Jesus walked on the water? Would His prayer life kept his eyes focused on Jesus instead of the waves, and those watching him? While walking on the water, Jesus was using no special powers that were not also available to Peter.  Later, in Acts 9:36-41 Peter does something remarkable that people thought only Jesus could do. Peter raises a community services leader back to life! Dorcas, the Christian Church’s first community services leader had died. Peter went over and raised her back to life! Remember me mentioning, how Woodrow delivered bread to the community services center? One day he will be raised back to life as well. This story tells me how precious community services leaders and workers are to God! I don’t read anywhere in my New Testament about a conference president, pastor or Bible Worker being raised back to life, but God raised a community services leader back to life! They must be very special to Him. Now look with me at what Peter did before he raised her to life. (Of course it was the Father, not Peter doing the work, just as Jesus said He did nothing of Himself, but it was the Father doing the works. See John 5:19-21)

But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body he said, “Get up, Tabitha.” And she opened her eyes! When she saw Peter, she sat up! Acts 9:40 NLT

When Peter fell in the waves, no record of Peter praying first is mentioned. Of course when he cried out for Jesus to save him, that was a prayer which Jesus immediately answered! But here we see Peter praying the way Jesus prayed before He worked the miracles that Jesus worked. Peter could do the works that Jesus did, once He prayed the prayers that Jesus prayed.

The night before Jesus died He was up all night praying, and asked His disciples to pray with him, but when His disciples fell asleep He quickly excused their humanity, saying the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. While men in their prime of life fell asleep trying to pray, 2,000 years later, Woodrow, a  95 year -old man prayed through the night. Woodrow was a true disciple of Jesus, doing something Jesus asked His disciple to do 2,000 years ago, which they did not. Oh how precious Woodrow’s prayer must have been to Jesus!

It’s no mystery how Woodrow was able to leave such a legacy behind for his family. Woodrow was able to live the way Jesus lived, because he prayed the way Jesus prayed.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson on prayer and Discipleship here.

Jesus as the Sanctuary, in Light of the Cross

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In Numbers 21:1-9 God has Moses set a brass serpent on a pole so that if anybody was bitten by a serpent, they could look at this serpent on a pole and be healed. Now as real and literal as this serpent was it was only symbolic. There was no magic in the brass or the pole. This brass serpent was to point forward to Jesus dying for us on the cross and curing us form the snake bites of that old serpent the devil. Still some people started worshiping the brass serpent because they could not see past the pole and get the big picture. 2 Kings 18:4 tells us, finally Hezekiah destroyed the brass serpent because people were worshiping it instead of God. The problem was they saw the brass serpent as the end of their theology instead of looking beyond the pole to what it represented.

Today some say there is no literal sanctuary in heaven, while the Seventh-day Adventist Church continues to teach what I understand to be true, that there is a literal sanctuary in heaven. See Hebrews 8:-12. However, if your theology stops at either the literal sanctuary on earth or the literal sanctuary in heaven your theology still falls short. Just like the brass serpent was real and literally existed, those who could not see beyond the brass serpent still fell short in their theology. Yes there is a real sanctuary in heaven but even the real and literal sanctuary in heaven is not the end of our theology.

When Jesus came to this earth He referred to His body as a temple. See John 2:19. A temple is a dwelling place. Today we dwell in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. See Ephesians 2:6. Jesus was the most the Holy Place and his humanity was the veil shielding us from the glory so as not to destroy us.  As real as both the earthly sanctuary is, and as real and literal as the heavenly sanctuary is, neither sanctuary is the goal of our theology. Jesus is the goal of our theology!  For years while I have been writing and preaching about the sanctuary and making Jesus the center of my preaching and writing, I have had people call upon me and remind me that there is a real sanctuary in heaven. That is nothing that I have ever refuted. I teach there is a real sanctuary in heaven. I just don’t make the real sanctuary building in heaven the goal. I make Christ the goal. Still people want to remind me that there is a real sanctuary in heaven. That makes about as much sense as someone reminding me about the brass serpent when I teach about the cross! Yes, I know there was a real brass serpent but that real brass serpent was not the goal. The cross of Christ is the goal. In the sanctuary message Christ is again the goal.

Everything in the sanctuary points to the goal and end of our theology, which is Christ.

Christ is the Lamb of God that took away the sins of the world.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 NLT

Christ is the light of the world that lightens every man.

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12 NLT

Christ is the living bread who came down from heaven to give us eternal life

Yes, I am the bread of life!  Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”John 6:48-51 NLT

Christ is the mercy seat (propitiation), through whose redemption we have salvation full and complete

Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.  For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past. Romans 3:24-25 NLT

Christ is our intercessor against the accusations of Satan

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.1 John 2:1 NLT

By the way, when we join Satan in making accusations, we fire Jesus as our advocate and hire Stan to replace him! Jesus can plead your case without making accusations against other people. Accusing others is Satan’s game plan.

Christ is the curtain that bore our sins in His flesh

 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death,Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. Hebrews 10:19-20 NLT

The Sanctuary Revealed the Fall and Restoration of Man.  In Adam, humanity sinned, was defiled, and condemned to death. In Christ, the same humanity was reconciled to God, cleansed from all defilement, and justified to life.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Romans 5:18 NLT

Through faith in Christ, sinners experience salvation.  This is the good news of the gospel and the truth of righteousness by faith. All this was revealed in the Sanctuary model given to Moses:

The Sanctuary was where God met sinners

I will meet with you there and talk to you from above the atonement cover between the gold cherubim that hover over the Ark of the Covenant. From there I will give you my commands for the people of Israel. Exodus 25:22 NLT

Today He meets us in Christ

 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:19 NLT

The Sanctuary was where God revealed Himself to sinners

and they will know that I am the Lord their God. I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them. I am the Lord their God. Exodus 29:46 NLT

Today He reveals Himself to us in Christ

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!  John 14:9 NLT

The Sanctuary was where God accepted sinners

Lay your hand on the animal’s head, and the Lord will accept its death in your place to purify you, making you right with him.Leviticus 1:4 NLT

Today He accepts us in Christ

To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. Ephesians 1:6 KJV

Whenever I am preaching, giving a personal Bible study or writing for SSNET.org, I always have this quote from the book Evangelism in mind:

The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption–the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers.—Ellen White, Gospel Workers, p. 315.

Friends, the foundation for the discourse on the sanctuary message is not the literal temple on earth or in heaven. Yes, there is a real sanctuary up in heaven, I know. However, according to our prophet, in Gospel Workers page 315, the foundation of the sanctuary message is the sacrifice of Christ Himself. Just like the brass serpent on a pole pointed us to Christ, likewise the literal heavenly sanctuary points us to Christ.

You may study this week’s SS lesson on the sanctuary here.

Giants, Grasshoppers and Reality

Clear Water Moon

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Reality is 90% perception, or so they say. I don’t know who comes up with these statistics, but it makes a lot of sense to me. When I was in sales, I led my district one year, but also went through a three week drought with no sales at all. So what was my reality? Was I a good salesman who had a bad drought or was I a bad salesman who just happened to get lucky?

Since the dynamics of a family are so different between, first born, middle and youngest child, and then take into account the gender difference, two siblings can grow up in the same family, but since their perceptions are different, it is not even like growing up in the same family! Each child perceives and experiences the family differently to the extent that as far as perception goes, it’s not even the same family. You and I can watch the same football game, but if I am watching behind the goal, and you are sitting on the sideline near the center we are going to have a totally different experience and perception of the same game.

Satan well knows how perception affects our picture of reality. So he likes to play little mind games. A while back during a Bible study I mentioned, sometimes I am tempted to think that I care more about people than they care about me. My Bible student quickly responded, “Me too!” Then he paused, scratched his chin, and added, “I bet Satan tries to make everyone feel that way.” I agreed with my Bible student.

Let’s look at how Satan played mind games with the Israelites. Look at how they perceived themselves after spying out the Promised Land which had already been…. well, promised to them!

All the people we saw were huge.  We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!” Numbers 13:32-33 NLT.

Wait a minute? First of all, historians say the Canaanites may have been a few inches taller than the Israelites, but not so much taller as to be called giants. The grasshopper comparison was a drastic exaggeration. Furthermore, how did they know the Canaanites thought they were like grasshoppers? How would they know what they were thinking at all? They didn’t! They cast their perception on other people, and thought their perception was reality, when it was all in their minds! Satan was playing mind games with them!

Later, in Joshua 2:24 another group of Israeli spies visit rehab in Jericho and there they found out what the reality was.

 “The Lord has given us the whole land,” they said, “for all the people in the land are terrified of us.” Joshua 2:24 NLT

So the grasshopper comparison was just a little mind game of Satan’s that the first spies bought into. It was not reality. Sure, God wants us to be humble, but that does not mean he wants us to think we are grasshoppers while everyone else is a giant. Those who walk humbly with God are a terror to those who stand in their own pride and arrogance. If you walk humbly with God you do not need to be intimidated by anyone, regardless of their title or letters behind their name.

Humble men, armed with the word of truth alone, withstood the attacks of men of learning, who, with surprise and anger, found their eloquent sophistry powerless against the simple, straightforward reasoning of men who were versed in the Scriptures rather than in the subtleties of the schools.  –Ellen White, Great Controversy, Page 455.

So it is today as in every age. The same can be said for you today, which was said of John the Baptist.

He could stand erect and fearless in the presence of earthly monarchs, because he had bowed low before the King of kings.  –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 103.

Wisdom and humility go beautifully together, while the common combination of arrogance and ignorance seems to be lacking in comeliness. While we do not want to be arrogant and ignorant, it is possible to be humble and confident. Our confidence should be in God and not in ourselves. Are you facing a giant today? First humble yourself before God. Put your confidence in His love and power. Walk forward in humble faith and obedience, and your giants will turn into grasshoppers. The humble of the land can also be the confident of the land, and not cowards.