Really Jesus? A Humble Child is the Greatest in Your Kingdom?

Kids Studying Bible

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 18:1-4 NLT

Do we live our lives like this is a practical teaching, or just something cute Jesus said?  I mean seriously, how could a little child really represent  the greatest person in heaven?

I am afraid that even in the church, we have a man-made hierarchical system that defies the teachings of Jesus. We just can’t seem to swallow the fact that someone like a humble primary Sabbath School student could be greater than the General Conference President. Surely Jesus didn’t actually mean what He said in Matthew 18:1-4! Surely He was just trying to say something cute, right? Or did Jesus really mean it?

In the medical field I have heard of doctors looking down on Registered Nurses, and RN’s looking down on Licensed Practical Nurses. This may come as a surprise for some of you in the medical field, but many of us outside of the medical field have great respect and appreciation for everyone taking care of our health. We appreciate caring and compassionate LPNs just as much as doctors. We respect LPNs and RNs just as much and sometimes even more so than we do doctors. Fran, a friend of mine in Texas, was a nurse who was studying to become a nurse practitioner. She was driven to use all of her time studying hard to become a nurse practitioner, because her third grade teacher in a parochial school, told her she would never be smart enough to be a nurse. She was determined to prove the teacher wrong. The thing is though, is that the teacher had already died and would never know. Meanwhile, the patients that came to see Fran knew nothing about her struggle to prove her self worth. All they knew was that they needed her help. So long as Fran could help them, they didn’t really care about an rivalry with a teacher who was not even in the picture anymore. Fran was already loved, respected and appreciated by those who needed her. Any condescension from a former teacher was totally irrelevant to Fran’s medical ministry.

Likewise, as I do Gospel Work in the community, I find that many people in the community do not see a distinction between pastors, lay pastors or Bible workers. To them a Gospel worker is a Gospel Worker, period.

Consider this,

Then Moses told the people of Israel, “The Lord has specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. The Lord has filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze.  He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft. Exodus 35:30-33 NLT

God not only knows kings, prophets and priests. He also knows construction workers, and He fills them with His Spirit and wisdom just like prophets and kings! This has me thinking Jesus was not just being cute when He said that being like a humble child was to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. He really meant it, for real!

About 35 years ago, my friend was flying on the company jet. She had an entry=level position, but was invited on the trip since there was an empty seat, and the the plane was going to where she had family. Having never flown on the jet before, she got on and just took the first available seat. As the flight was nearing its destination, it was pointed out to my friend that she had taken the company vice president’s seat. Horrified that she had done so, she asked where the vice president was sitting. She was informed that he was sitting in the back of the plane. She looked back and found him sitting alone in the back just as happy as could be. Either the vice president did not think too highly of himself, or he realized whatever seat he was sitting in was the vice president’s seat. Maybe both, but he never said anything to my friend. Maybe he did not look down on my friend, because he realized he was no greater than his employees.

Even though Eli had his problems, I have to hand it to him. When He realized God was talking to little Samuel, he told him next time he heard the voice to say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Eli could have thought to himself, That couldn’t be God talking, because if it was God, He would be talking to me and not a little boy.  Praise God, Eli was humble enough to realize that God may just want to talk to a little boy instead of the high priest. See 1 Samuel 3:1-21.

Six verses after telling us a humble child-like person is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven Jesus said,

“Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father. Matthew 18:10 NLT

That confirmed to me that  Jesus really meant when  He said that anyone as humble as a little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

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

How NOT to Study the Bible With Others

As we study this week’s Sabbath School lesson, about turning hearts in the end of time, I know many of us are praying for loved ones who have turned away. Sadly, many have been brought up in the Adventist church under legalistic and even abusive home and church situations. Because of this they have a hard time separating the message of the church from the people who abused them. I have talked with not just a few people who were raised in the church, who told me they left because of abuse and emotional reasons. Later though, while discussing doctrine they tell me the exact opposite of what they told me previously. They will say emotional reasons had nothing to do with it. They left solely because of doctrinal reasons. I tend to believe what they first told me.  Our emotions are tied closely to our theology, which is why all our doctrines need to present God’s love in the light of the cross.  This is why we must stay focused on the love of God while talking about every Bible doctrine.

At a funeral service a few years ago, I was talking to a lady who was raised in an Adventist home. She explained to me that she was no longer Adventist because the Adventist church talked about the law instead of love. She since has joined a church that she considers more loving. However, her new church believes in an eternally burning hell. I am not sure why she thought a church that teaches an eternally burning hell was a more loving church. I also wonder why she felt the law was against love, while it actually promotes love by helping us put people and relationships first. It makes me wonder if she was wanting to get away from the message of the church or just the people who did not show her real love?

We need to pray for and love people who have been hurt by legalistic and abusive Adventists, instead of just preaching to them. Jesus met many in His day who were hurt by legalistic leaders. He ministered to those who were hurt by legalistic and abusive Pharisees, instead of just preaching at them. Sometimes He did not need to preach at all. The woman taken to Jesus in John 8:1–11 had been abused by the very church leaders who dragged her to Jesus. She may have made some mistakes on her own, but Jesus did not preach to her. He did not tell her, “If you stop sinning, then I will stop condemning you.” No! He never condemned her in the first place! His message was “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” The “go and sin no more” was not just  a command as much as it was a declaration of her freedom from the abusive lifestyle she had endured by abusive church leaders. Jesus healed her emotions and theology by ministering instead of preaching.

Understandably, many like the woman in John 8, who have been hurt by the church are angry. Anger often gets misdirected. Ty Gibson talks about himself being an atheist, because he does not believe in the God most of the world does not believe in either. His point is that the God so many people hate and don’t believe in does not even exist. God has been so misrepresented that the God they reject is not the real God. So many are angry at God when the God they are angry with does not exist. That is misdirected anger. Likewise in Adventism, many former Adventists are angry at an Ellen White who does not even exist. Her writings have been taken out of context literally and blatantly in many compilation books. Her writings have been used to beat people over the head. Thank God my family never beat me over the head with or crammed Ellen White down my throat. I grew up reading her writings for myself, and  I read how she always talked about love and grace. I would dare say that Ellen White herself would not appreciate the “Ellen White” that many have to come to know through abusive parents and teachers who used her writings in ways that were never intended, which was more like weapons instead of the testimony of Jesus.

A while back I was talking to a woman who told me Ellen White was legalistic and only taught we are saved by works. Of course this is  totally untrue. Later in the same conversation, she told me she knew Ellen White was a false prophet because she says Martin Luther will be in heaven, while we all know he drank and ate pork. I suggested that maybe Ellen White believes Martin Luther and everyone else will be saved by grace alone. This woman was so angry at an “Ellen White” that did not even exist, that she rejected the real Ellen White who believed salvation was by grace and not by works.

In ministering to many hurt former Adventists, we must realize their issues are not only doctrinal if at all. They are emotional. Instead of defending Ellen White, we need to realize the  “Ellen White” they reject may not even exist. Do not attempt to win them to Ellen White. Win them to Jesus, He is the One who saves. Show them the God of love in the Bible, and show them the love in all of the Bible teachings.

Seeing how our emotions and personal experiences are so closely tied to our theology, it is important to refrain from emotional mind games, while studying (debating?)  with and ministering to former Adventists who are hurting. I have talked with and tried to reason with  many former Adventists who tell me they are totally healed emotionally, while they continue attacking the church and Ellen White. Hurting people hurt people. As long as they are on the attack I know they still need love and healing. Emotionally healthy people don’t make a religion out of attacking others.

These mind games work both ways. It’s human nature to try some of these tactics, so we need to watch ourselves that we don’t use these tactics and don’t allow others to use them on us. Of course this applies to general Bible studies even within the church as well as outside. Here are four suggestions of what not to say while studying the Bible with others.

  1. When you get closer to Jesus you will understand. 

It’s been a while since I heard this one, but I have heard it. Just a few years ago  a lady in the church was disagreeing with me about Jesus dying the second death. She was getting frustrated that I was not seeing things her way, so she finally rested her case by smiling and assuring me, ‘When you get closer to Jesus you will understand.” In my frustrated humanity, I wanted to assure her, that while there are 9 billion people on the face of the planet now, probably a good 8 billion of them could teach me what its like to get closer to Jesus, but she was not one of them!  Now that would not have been nice of me either.
Maybe when we see we are not “winning our case” it would be better to just agree to disagree and leave it at that, rather than to say something silly we will later regret. We all know the Holy Spirit will give us the right words to say, but there were times when even Jesus was silent in the judgment hall. If Jesus did not feel the need to answer every question, neither should we. Being silent is better than saying something foolish. By the way, I was talking with this lady again recently, and she was agreeing with everything I said years earlier about the cross, as if she did not even remember ever disagreeing with me.

2. You only believe that way because you were raised that way

I  have had several former Adventists tell me I am only an Adventist because I was raised Adventist. Of course they themselves are evidence this is not true! If they can leave, so can I. This also is not true when you consider the millions who have joined the Adventist Church with no previous family ties to the church. Ironically the people who use this argument on me are complaining about how judgmental the church is. Then they turn around and judge me. That’s human nature. Even as Adventists it is tempting to tell Sunday keepers they are keeping Sunday only because they were raised that way. When we do that we are judging their motives, which we really know nothing about. It’s best to just stick to Scripture. What happened generations before really doesn’t have anything to do with what Scripture is telling us.

3. Sounds like an idea from someone who was hit in the head with a rock when she was little!

It’s ironic that people who feel they were abused and mistreated in the church would turn around and make fun of a little girl getting hit in the head with a rock, but that is what many do. I have read it online and heard it in person. An idea from the Spirit of Prophecy is introduced and the person who doesn’t like it exclaims, “Sounds like something someone would say who was hit in the head with a rock!” A former Adventist with his doctorate explained to me that when Ellen White was hit in the head with a rock that it gave her a mental disorder which caused her to become a prolific writer. Of course when I asked non-Adventist medical doctors what he was talking about, they all said no such condition exists. Such comments are not only disrespectful; they are also irrelevant. When people make such comments, it shows they are still hurting. Remember, hurting people hurt people. There are those who do not accept Ellen White as a prophet, but would also never make fun of her getting hit in the head with a rock, because they are emotionally healthy and have no reason to hurt others. To these emotionally healthy people, the fact that she was hit in the head with a rock is irrelevant to her doctrine. Other comments that are irrelevant are, “So and So was a Jesuit.,” or “So and So was influenced by the Masons.” Such accusations are all hearsay. Furthermore it does not matter if the person making a statement was hit in the head with a rock, or had ties to the Jesuits or masons.  I have heard people say that the Secret Rapture teaching is wrong because it is a relatively new idea. No. It is wrong because it is not Biblical. I am sure when Rachael Oakes introduced the Sabbath to a group of Advent believers in the mid 1800’s several of them could have said, “That is a new teaching we have never heard before.” Or even, “Rachael Oakes in just a woman.” Or “Rachael Oakes is a Seventh-day Baptist. Baptists teach some things that are not right.” Fact is it did not matter if the Sabbath was a new idea or if it was introduced by a woman with a Baptist background. The only valid question is whether or not the seventh-day Sabbath is Biblical. Once again we need to stick to Scripture instead of discussing and judging  people and their possible motives.

4. The Bible translation you are using is a bad translation

I covered this idea more thoroughly in a previous post.  I have heard people call the NIV the Non-Inspired Version. They tell me you can’t preach the sanctuary message from the NIV. Well, sorry, but I have taught the sanctuary message from the NIV! No translation is perfect, including the KJV, but God has protected His Word through the ages so that everything that pertains to our salvation will be understood. If you can only prove your beliefs from the KJV, then you may want to question your own beliefs. Valid beliefs can be proven from all the translations. I find that various translations actually complement each other and help us get the big picture. For example in the KJV Job 27:3mentions “spirit.” In the NLT Job 27:3 mentions “breath.” The big picture is that the spirit that returns to God when we die (see Ecclesiastes 12:7) is simply our breath. Having said this, do not discourage someone from reading a version you may not like. The important thing is they are reading the Bible! When I became a Bible Worker over 26 years ago, I was surprised how many adults had trouble reading anything, let alone 17th century English. What good does it do for someone to stumble over all the words in the KJV  if by the time they finish a sentence they have no idea what they just read? When people ask me what the best Bible translation is, I tell them, “the one you are reading.” When people open their Bibles in any version it gives the Holy Spirit opportunity to work on their hearts. Please do not discourage a Bible student by telling them they have a poor translation. Instead encourage them to read whatever version they are reading.

In turning people’s hearts to their heavenly Father in the end times, it is futile to argue about motives for believing, or if a belief is new or where it came from. The only thing that matters is, is it biblical and does it represent biblical teaching correctly?

Cultural Influence and the Bible

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I suppose most Christians around the world would agree that the Bible takes precedence over  culture as far as deciding what is right and wrong. At the same time I think all of us are sometimes confused, thinking we are following the Bible instead of culture, not realizing that our culture heavily influences how we understand the Bible.

I will provide a couple of quick examples. When Jesus tells the woman at the well in John 4, that she had 5 husbands and the man she has now is not her own, those of us in the western world quickly judge her as a loose woman jumping from man to man. However, in the Eastern world at that time, a woman could not divorce her husband. That means that 5 men had already left her and the man she was with now was not even claiming her. Jesus’ message was not that she was a slut. His message was that while everyone else had left her thirsting for love, Jesus, the Living Water, would quench her thirst for love for all eternity, as He would never leave her.

Another example is in Numbers 12, when Miriam and Aaron complain about Moses’ Ethiopian wife. Many in the western world think they looked down on her because she was black. That’s because we live in a culture that not even 200 years ago had black slaves. But remember that was not the case at the time of Moses’ day in the eastern world. The Ethiopians were not slaves. It was the Hebrews that had just been freed from slavery. Instead of looking down on her, they were probably jealous, and were insinuating that Moses thought he was all that, because he upgraded in their minds to an Ethiopian woman.  (Of course snubbing your nose at anyone based on the history of their race is nonsense in any culture. We are all equal!)

See how our culture influences our understanding of Scripture?  So we need to be careful when we claim our traditions and standards are based on Scripture. I would dare say some are and some are not. I remember studying the Bible with a teenage boy, who asked for a ride to church. The family giving him a ride each Sabbath, gave him a tie to wear since he did not have one. They felt he should wear a tie. He thanked them, but never wore it. While their tradition was to wear a tie, he was not convicted that he needed to wear a tie. To the family giving him a ride, he needed to dress appropriately for church, but to him a tie served absolutely no purpose and was nothing more than cloth jewelry.  Yet the family would tell you that wearing a tie was a Bible standard while he felt not wearing a tie was a Bible standard.

This reminds me of a story that comes from my extended family.  My cousin’s husband was a missionary many years ago in Micronesia. The native women came to church topless. To them breasts were totally utilitarian. The missionaries gave the women shirts to wear to church. They were surprised when the native women returned the following Sabbath with holes cut out of the shirts to expose their breasts. When the missionaries asked why, they were informed that in their culture only prostitutes cover their breasts. The prostitutes were sexualizing their breasts for sale. These God-fearing church ladies were not wanting to come across as being sexually alluring, which is why they actually exposed their breasts.  It reminds me of what Paul wrote to Titus,

Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted. Titus 1:15 NLT

Even in our own culture we struggle with this. A friend of mine came back from visiting a very conservative pastor and his family. My friend told me he was shocked when the pastor’s wife breastfed in front of them without a blanket. He told me, “And I thought they were conservative!” I explained to my friend that the wife was probably so conservative that she never thought of breastfeeding as a sexual thing. Like the godly women in Micronesia she saw breasts as utilitarian.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe in modesty. I have written about modesty. But like everything else, we have to stop and ask ourselves if our convictions are biblical or cultural. Fact of the matter is that godly families around the world, and often even in the same cultures, have different ideas about what proper modesty looks like. Of course this goes for many other topics too. I was just using modesty as an example because I thought my cousin’s husband’s experience fit so well. Remember we must do all of our rebuking with Scripture according to 2 Timothy 3:16. The Scriptures will tell us exactly on what day to rest, but the Scriptures won’t tell us exactly how many inches a woman’s skirt should be from her knees. If I tell someone exactly how to dress, am I teaching them from the Bible or from my culture?

Some Bible  teachings have nothing to do with culture. For example the Sabbath is the seventh day in every culture. Leviticus 11 defines clean and unclean foods for every culture. But even though the Bible is clear that we should be respectful, each culture has different customs and traditions of showing respect. The same is true when it comes to modesty. As a matter of fact, I could share some quotes from the Bible with you that were totally appropriate in Bible times that would not fly today in our culture. For example, this is how David said he was going to capture all the men.

So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that [pertain] to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.  1 Samuel 25:22 KJV.

Newer versions word it a different way now – way that we say is more appropriate. But apparently in David’s day and in King James’ day, that was a totally appropriate way to talk and write to mixed company of all ages. So even when the Bible clearly teaches us to watch our mouths, the Bible itself words some things differently than we do today. That is because culture has greatly influenced our understanding of the Bible.

A few years ago I found a children’s Bible trivia quiz book that actually had a category for circumcision.  While I have publicly taught about Bible circumcision with all ages, the thought of using it as trivia in a children’s Bible game was a little too much for me, so I chose not to use that category.  At the same time I did not tear the section out, as  some have done, because I did not think it was appropriate. I decided not to use it myself and left it for the next person to decide for themselves.

We need to keep in mind that while Scripture does indeed take precedence over culture, that even Jesus recognizes that some things do vary from culture to culture, without contradicting the Bible. When that happens, Jesus gave us a simple rule to follow.

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:12 NLT

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

What Makes Jesus Angry?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A Facebook meme reads,

“When asking what would Jesus do? Remember turning over tables and throwing a whip around are all within the realm of possibilities.”

I don’t know if the person who wrote that meant to be funny or not but they make a very valid point. Many times when people ask what would Jesus do? They are suggesting we just take the path of least resistance, but that was not always Jesus’ way. It is not a sin to be angry.

“Be angry, and do not sin”: Ephesians 4:26 NKJV

This verse tells us we can be angry and not sin. Did Jesus ever express anger? Yes He did. Besides turning tables over in the temple, He became angry when the people refused to extend mercy to a man who needed healing on the Sabbath.

And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Mark 3:5 NKJV

When Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers in Mark 11:15-18 it was not because they were selling items inside the church. I remember as a child listening to someone complain about the Heritage Singers selling their albums in the church lobby. They took Mark 11 to mean that we should not sell things in the church, but that was not what Jesus was angry about. Jesus tells us what made Him angry.

Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? Mark 11:17 NKJV

The Jewish leaders had instructed the people that at Jerusalem they were to be taught to worship God. Here during the Passover week large numbers assembled, coming from all parts of Palestine, and even from distant lands….

The dealers demanded exorbitant prices for the animals sold, and they shared their profits with the priests and rulers, who thus enriched themselves at the expense of the people….

The worshipers had been taught to believe that if they did not offer sacrifice, the blessing of God would not rest on their children or their lands. Thus a high price for the animals could be secured; for after coming so far, the people would not return to their homes without performing the act of devotion for which they had come. The priests and rulers were called to be the representatives of God to the nation; they should have corrected the abuses of the temple  court. They should have given to the people an example of integrity and compassion. Instead of studying their own profit, they should have considered the situation and needs of the worshipers, and should have been ready to assist those who were not able to buy the required sacrifices. But this they did not do. Avarice had hardened their hearts. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 154-157

The problem wasn’t buying and selling in the temple. It was doing it in a way that was not friendly to those who came from distant lands, and those who had little money. They did not care that God’s house was to be a house of prayer for all nations, and not just the greedy money changers and priests.

So, when we see Jesus angry it is most always when someone is not being treating with mercy. Jesus is not passive when He sees others being abused, and He does not expect us to be either. Jesus definitely does not take a passive approach to child abuse.

It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Luke 17:2 NKJV

Sounds like a threat to me! From Jesus! You know, Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek when we ourselves are mistreated, but Jesus never told anyone to turn the other cheek when a child or their aging parent is being mistreated. Many God-fearing Christians will turn the other cheek if you hurt them, but if you hurt their family that is a different story!

Just this morning, I was reading in John 11 about the resurrection of Lazarus, when I came to this passage,

When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him,[f] and he was deeply troubled. John 11:33 NLT

I wondered why Jesus would have such a deep anger in this situation? I checked the commentaries, and one suggested that Jesus was angry with the way some of them were so hypocritical in their mourning, especially seeing how many of them would turn around  right after Lazarus’ resurrection and plot Lazarus’ death!

Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, John 12:10 NLT

John 11 goes on to tell that many at the resurrection ran to report what had happened in a way that showed they were not happy with the outcome, revealing  they only pretended to be mourning about his death.

So what makes Jesus angry? lack of compassion and hypocrisy.  Let’s ask Jesus to give us true compassion for others.

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

Conservative Towards Ourselves, Liberal Towards Others

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Monday’s section of this week’s lesson reads,

Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Try placing your name where the word “love” appears. How well does it fit? Ask Jesus to bring these qualities of love into your life by His Spirit. What changes might the Spirit prompt you to make in order to reach this Christian ideal?

I heard of this idea several years ago, and now whenever I am asked to perform a wedding ceremony, I always include 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. I read it twice, The first time I replace the word love with the groom’s name, and the second time I replace it with the bride’s name. It always brings smiles to the  bride and groom as well as the entire wedding party. Still I trust the Holy Spiriting is impressing the sacredness of love upon their hearts.

For some reason, what seems to bring more smiles than anything else is the part in 1 Cor 13:5 where it says in several versions that love keeps no record of being wronged. Now remember, God is love. So we can just as easily replace the word love with the word “God” and get an accurate description of God. But doesn’t God keep a record of all of our wrongs? Let’s let Scripture answer that.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you. Psalm 130:3-4 NLT

Remember resurrection morning when the angels told the women in Mark 16:7, to tell Peter  as well as the others that Jesus would meet them in Galilee? Peter had denied He even knew Jesus just a few nights before, but apparently Jesus didn’t have any record of that in His heart. For the sake of unity Paul pleads with us to have the same attitude with others.

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:13 NLT

Make allowances for each other’s faults? But what about character development? What about Bible standards? First, forgiveness is a Bible standard and should be included in our own character development. Second, Jesus gave us an example of being conservative towards ourselves while being liberal towards others. In other words hold yourself to a higher standard while cutting everyone else some slack. Jesus was conservative towards Himself when he fasted 40 days in the wilderness, but we was liberal towards others when He fed the multitudes. Jesus was conservative towards Himself while He prayed all evening in Gethsemane, but He was liberal towards the disciples when they fell asleep while praying. Jesus could have been hard on them and still spoken truth had He told them, “Hey, I have come down here in the same flesh you have, so if I can pray without falling asleep so can you!” According to Romans 8:3 that statement would have been exactly true!

He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. Romans 8:3 NLT

But as true as such a statement would have been, instead of condemning them for not being like Him, He sought to excuse them by saying, “For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” See Matthew 26:41.

Paul endorses this idea of being conservative towards ourselves while being liberal towards others. We’ve seen in Colossians 3:13 how he says to make allowances for each other’s faults, which is being liberal towards others. Then, in Romans Paul says,

Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires. Romans 13:14 NLT

Paul is teaching us to make allowances for the fault’s of others while not indulging in sin ourselves. Conservative towards ourselves, liberal towards others. This attitude of keeping no record of the wrongs of others, while reaching a higher standard for ourselves, is not just for grooms and brides. Its for children and parents, and brothers and sisters, and cousins and neighbors. We have all heard, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” What happy homes and churches we can have if we will all shred those records of other people’s mistakes, and be liberal towards others, while being conservative towards ourselves!

Sleeping in While Jesus Knocks at the Door

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While this week’s lesson mentions Song of Solomon, a passage comes to my mind from chapter 5, that maybe should be compared with Jesus knocking on the heart’s door of the church of Laodicea. Most of us are familiar with this passage in Revelation:

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Revelation 3:20 NLT

We are familiar with Revelation, borrowing imagery from the Old Testament. Christ’s message in Revelation 3 is to His beloved church.  Song of Solomon could be a metaphor of Christ’s love for His church. In Song of Solomon 5 we find a man possibly representing Christ knocking at a woman’s door, and we all know a woman represents the church throughout the Bible. Could this passage be a sad ending to the scene in Revelation?

I slept, but my heart was awake, when I heard my lover knocking and calling: “Open to me, my treasure, my darling, my dove, my perfect one. My head is drenched with dew, my hair with the dampness of the night.” But I responded, “I have taken off my robe. Should I get dressed again? I have washed my feet. Should I get them soiled?” My lover tried to unlatch the door, and my heart thrilled within me. I jumped up to open the door for my love, and my hands dripped with perfume. My fingers dripped with lovely myrrh as I pulled back the bolt. I opened to my lover, but he was gone! My heart sank. I searched for him but could not find him anywhere. Song of Solomon 5:2-6 NLT

By, “I Slept, but my heart was awake,” many take this to be a dream. The woman hesitates to open the door, and apparently hesitates too long, as by the time she opens the door, the dream turns into a nightmare as her lover is gone. The seventy weeks of Daniel 9, tell us God knocked on the door of Israel’s heart for 490 years. The stoning of Stephen in A.D. 34 as a nation Israel closed the door on Jesus. In Matthew 23:37 Jesus seems to cry over Jerusalem as they closed the door on His love. If Laodicea represents the last day church, then we have examples of the 5 foolish virgins in Matthew 25 being locked outside the wedding. While a whore represents the apostate church in Revelation, a virgin represents Christ’s remnant people. (See Revelation 14:4). So the parable in Matthew 25 is about the remnant church, and five of them are foolish and locked outside of the wedding feast.

Let’s not be lulled into a fatal false sense of security. The dream which turned into a nightmare in Song of Solomon may be a wake up call. In Song of Solomon the woman finds her lover gone when she left the door closed while she was sleeping. In Matthew 25,five virgins find the door closed because they slept. Belonging to the right church is not enough. If we are asleep in the remnant church then we might as well just be asleep anywhere. Sleeping in the remnant church won’t save you. While God loved and cherished His Old Testament Church they still had some pretty severe wake calls, like their captivity in Babylon for just one example. While Jesus loves and cherishes His Remnant last day church, we too have had some severe wake up calls. The burning of the Review and Herald in 1902 for just one example.

The five wise virgins were not welcomed into the wedding feast just because they were virgins, or the remnant church. They were welcomed because they woke up. They had their lanterns or Bibles, and they had their oil which was the Holy Spirit. I am a 5th generation Adventist. My family Adventist heritage goes back to the beginning of Adventism. My great grandparents, who were 2nd generation Adventists were married in Uriah Smith’s home in Battle Creek. They would have met Ellen White had she not been in Australia at the time, but my great aunt did meet Ellen White. But my Adventist heritage means nothing. Being 5th generation Adventist does not get me or my family anywhere. If I am going to boast about anything, rather than boasting that I am 5th generation Adventist, I should boast that my family has always known and loved Jesus, probably well beyond 5 generations!

But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken! Jeremiah 9:24 NLT

Song of Solomon 5 is about a nightmare that could happen to us, but definitely does not have to happen to us. Let’s wake up now and answer the door to God’s love!

What if I Told You Life is not About Being Married?

After Glow Fort Desot

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” Revelation 19:9 NKJV

I talk to people right along, and I am sure you do too, who are very lonely, isolated and feeling unfulfilled in their marriages. You might think such experiences would make me feel validated in my singleness but they don’t. Jesus validates me, without comparing me to others. Jesus wants married people to be just as happy as single people, and so do I. But what if I told you marriage was never designed to bring fulfillment? What if I told you marriage is not the goal in life? What if I told you, rather than making you fulfilled, marriage was designed to point you to the God who brings fulfillment? What if I told you marriage only points you to the real goal in life, which is the marriage of Christ to His church at the second coming?

I believe that is the point Jesus was making In Matthew 22. Some rulers tried to trick Jesus by asking him about marriage in heaven. Jesus said there would be no marriage in heaven. Why? I suppose because everything marriage ever pointed to will be fulfilled. Christ and His church will be married.

But wasn’t marriage the goal when God said, “It is not good for man to be alone?”  I believe God was implying something vastly greater than marriage. He was implying a community for Adam. Of course by nature and design that had to start with Eve and marriage. But marriage was a means to the goal which was a greater community. When people tell me that they can worship God at home and don’t need to go to church, I tell them God disagrees. Adam had God when God said Adam should not be alone. Obviously even God recognized He was not enough for Adam. Adam needed community and so do we. That is why we should not “forsake the assembling of ourselves together.”

Marriage is not the goal for intimacy or the cure for loneliness.  As a matter of fact we miss out on many forms of companionship and intimacy by believing marriage is the goal in life that brings fulfillment. When David’s best friend Johnathon died, David cried,

I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; You have been very pleasant to me; Your love to me was wonderful, Surpassing the love of women. 2 Samuel 1:26 NKJV

Now we know from all of David’s wives and concubines, including his escapade with Bathsheba, that David was very much heterosexual. So what did he mean by saying his love for Jonathan surpassed his love for women? He meant there was a level of intimacy with Jonathan that went deeper than sex and romance. David’s love for Jonathan was deep and intimate but had absolutely nothing to do with sex. It’s sad that we live in a world that thinks sex and romance is the only kind of love there is. We see it in all the love songs we hear on the radio. Very seldom do we hear a love song about anything other than a sexual relationship. The idea that sex and marriage is the only kind of love there is places undo stress on the marriage relationship, expecting it to meet and fulfill our needs that God and community were meant to fulfill. It also makes us miss out on all the other loves and meaningful relationships that are meant to fill our lives.

The idea that life is all about being married and is the goal in life is an unhealthy idea for both married people as well as singles. It makes a god out of your spouse by expecting your spouse to meet all of your needs and fulfill you. Philippians 4:19 says God supplies all of our needs, not a spouse. God supplies all of our needs regardless if we are married or single. God’s love is too great to be experienced by sex and marriage alone. Marriage is too small to teach us everything about God’s love. It takes community.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.