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?

Faith During the Storm

Sail Boat

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Monday’s lesson, The Shipwreck, reminds me of another storm at sea and the faith of a young girl. Below is a remarkable account of Ellen Harmon, no more than eighteen years old. She is on a steamboat leaving Portland Maine that has just run into a very dangerous storm. While many were fearful for their lives, this young girl, when asked by an older woman why she was not afraid like everyone else, could answer with assurance.

“I told her I had made Christ my refuge, and if my work was done, I might as well lie in the bottom of the ocean as in any other place; but if my work was not done, all the waters of the ocean could not drown me. My trust was in God, that he would bring us safe to land if it was for his glory.” Ellen White, Life Sketches, p. 241

Young Ellen was confident like Paul, not that she would necessarily survive the storm, but that God’s purpose would be fulfilled and the Gospel would be spread around the world, regardless of her fate in the storm.  God did indeed have a work for Ellen to do. Ellen later married James White, an Adventist pioneer, and the rest is history.

God also has a purpose for each of us. Our goal in this world should not necessarily be to live a long life, but to live a faithful life. Sometimes we ask God where the safest place to be is, when what we should really be asking God is simply, “Where do you want me to be?” As long as we have the assurance young Ellen Harmon had, that we are in God’s care and doing God’s work, the longevity of our life is not consequential, and we shall be prepared to walk away from this world either by death or the Second Coming at any time.

Each has his own experience, peculiar in its character and circumstances, to accomplish a certain work. God has a work, a purpose, in the life of each of us. Every act, however small, has its place in our life experience. – Ellen White, Testimonies Volume 3 Page 541

The Gift of Prophecy in the Last Days

Ciera 006

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Referring to the latter days, Jesus in Matthew 24:24 warns of false prophets. Of course you can’t impersonate someone who is not real, so obviously Jesus recognized that the gift of prophecy would still be given out in the latter days. Joel 2:28-31 also tells us there will be those with the gift of prophecy in the last days. Ephesians 4:11-13 tells us the gift of prophecy is given to the church as long as we are growing up in Christ. So if we believe the Bible, we need to believe that there will be prophets after the Bible was written, because that’s what the Bible says.

A prophet doesn’t have to write in the Bible to be a prophet. John the Baptist, Miriam, Anna and several other prophets never wrote anything in the Bible.

Also, being a “lesser light” doesn’t mean one is not a prophet. In Daniel’s day, he was the lesser light, being compared to Moses who was the greater light of his day. Daniel had to pass the same test in his day, that every prophet has to pass in their day.

To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. Isaiah 8:20 NKJV

Following this same principle, In Acts 17:11 folks were searching their Bibles to see if what Paul said was so. Even though Paul wrote several books in the Bible, he was still the lesser light in his day pointing to the greater light, which in his day was the Old Testament. (Daniel was a lesser light in his day, but was found to be in perfect harmony with Moses and became a part of the greater light in Paul’s day.) In Acts 17:11. Paul was testifying about Jesus (Revelation 12:17 and Revelation 19:10 tell us prophecy is testifying about Jesus) and pointing people to the greater light, which was the Old Testament. So today someone with the gift of prophecy will testify of Jesus while pointing people to the greater light which is God’s Word.

While many today scoff at the idea of modern-day prophets, Paul warns,

Do not despise prophecies. 1 Thessalonians 5:20 NKJV

Instead he tells us to

Test all things; hold fast what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 NKJV

When a parent tells their youngest child, “Go tell your older brothers and sisters to come inside for dinner,” the older siblings can’t say, “We don’t have to obey you! Your’e our youngest sibling. You are nobody!” Even though they are the youngest, they have been sent by the parent. If the kids refuse to obey, they are not disobeying the youngest child. They are disobeying the parents. It is the same with prophets. If we reject a modern-day prophet just because they are just “one of us,” we are actually rejecting God and continuing the spirit of the Jews of whom Stephen asked, “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute! See Acts 7:52.

As Paul said, we need to test the prophets to see if they are in harmony with the greater light which is the law and established testimonies of Jesus, i.e. the Scriptures. See Isaiah 8:20. Prophets also need to be tested to see if their lifestyle is in harmony with Jesus. See Matthew 7:15-23. Predictions must pass with 100% accuracy. See Jeremiah 28:9. If we find a prophet who passes the test we can claim the promise,

Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper. 2 Chronicles 20:20 NKJV

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

Proverbs in Light of the Cross; Can People Who Don’t Belong to My Church Denomination Be Wise Too?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Listen to my instruction and be wise. Don’t ignore it. Proverbs 8:33 NLT

Is there a chance God tried to share His wisdom with us, be we rejected it because we didn’t like the Vessels He used?

Sure Isaiah 8:20 tells us if they speak not according to the law there is no light in them, but we need to be careful we don’t misunderstand and go overboard here. Isaiah was speaking specifically about spiritualism, and was making the point that when people contradict the Scripture there is no light in their contradiction.

Whatever men may speak that is not in harmony with that Word has “no light” in it. -Nichol, Francis D.: The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 4. Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978; 2002, S. 144

So Isaiah was not telling us that if someone was not a Jew that there was nothing that could be learned from them. As a matter of fact, when Jesus was born, gentile kings came looking for Him while the “church leaders” were ignorant of His advent. Here is what Ellen White, co-founder of the Adventist Church had to say.

These learned teachers would not stoop to be instructed by those whom they termed heathen. It could not be, they said, that God had passed them by, to communicate with ignorant shepherds or uncircumcised Gentiles. They determined to show their contempt for the reports that were exciting King Herod and all Jerusalem. They would not even go to Bethlehem to see whether these things were so. And they led the people to regard the interest in Jesus as a fanatical excitement. Here began the rejection of Christ by the priests and rabbis. From this point their pride and stubbornness grew into a settled hatred of the Saviour. While God was opening the door to the Gentiles, the Jewish leaders were closing the door to themselves. –Desire of Ages, Pages 62-63

Have we tuned out a message from God because we were prejudiced against the person God used, and felt our theology was superior to theirs?

And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. Acts 17:11 NLT

In united States elections you can vote for different individuals on the ballot for each office, or you can just just check one box and vote straight Republican or straight Democrat. If you vote straight for one party you don’t have to do any research on the candidates. Do we do this in the church? Instead of searching the Bible for ourselves do we just subscribe to whatever church we belong to, or our local pastor? Instead of searching the Bible to see if what was said is true, do we just go by who said it? If my church said it then it must be right, and if another church said it, then it must be wrong? If we are we are making the same mistake the church leaders made in Christ’s day! The Jews were God’s chosen people, but the gentiles had a few things to teach them as well about Jesus. The Bereans did not accept or reject what Paul taught based on what they thought about him, but based on whether or not he agreed with Scripture.

I am a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. My church has a message about sanctification not found in many other churches. However, one day I went to a Methodist church to hear a friend of mine sing in her choir. After the choir sang, a black woman stood up to preach. She spoke on Ephesians, and how the first half of Ephesians is about justification and us in Christ. The second half of Ephesians, she explained is about sanctification and Christ in us. She went on to preach the most powerful sermon I have ever heard on sanctification. I have “borrowed” her sermon numerous times, and received comments about what a wonderful “Adventist” sermon it was. The people did not know, I got this wonderful “Adventist” sermon from a black Methodist woman! (I add the exclamation mark, not because it surprised me that God used a black Methodist woman, but it will surprise some who are prejudiced by either three adjectives.)

I sat there in that Methodist church Sunday, feasting on every word she spoke, not concerning myself with whether or not she was black or white, male or female, Adventist or Methodist, but like the Bearans I just checked if what she was saying was Biblical- and it was!

Only listening to certain people with “approved labels” is not wise. It is prejudiced. Wisdom is listening to what is being said instead of who is saying it.

Study the Sabbath School lesson guide on the book of Proverbs here.

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; Instructing the Wise

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. Proverbs 9:9. 
As we cherish and obey the promptings of the Spirit, our hearts are enlarged to receive more and more of His power, and to do more and better work. Dormant energies are aroused, and palsied faculties receive new life.
The humble worker who obediently responds to the call of God may be sure of receiving divine assistance. To accept so great and holy a responsibility is itself elevating to the character. It calls into action the highest mental and spiritual powers, and strengthens and purifies the mind and heart. Through faith in the power of God, it is wonderful how strong a weak man may become, how decided his efforts, how prolific of great results.
He who begins with a little knowledge, in a humble way, and tells what he knows, while seeking diligently for further knowledge, will find the whole heavenly treasure awaiting his demand. The more he seeks to impart light, the more light he will receive. The more one tries to explain the Word of God to others, with a love for souls, the plainer it becomes to himself. The more we use our knowledge and exercise our powers, the more knowledge and power we shall have.
Every effort made for Christ will react in blessing upon ourselves. If we use our means for His glory, He will give us more. As we seek to win others to Christ, bearing the burden of souls in our prayers, our own hearts will throb with the quickening influence of God’s grace; our own affections will glow with more divine fervor; our whole Christian life will be more of a reality, more earnest, more prayerful.
The value of man is estimated in heaven according to the capacity of the heart to know God. This knowledge is the spring from which flows all power. God created man that every faculty might be the faculty of the divine mind; and He is ever seeking to bring the human mind into association with the divine. He offers us the privilege of cooperation with Christ in revealing His grace to the world, that we may receive increased knowledge of heavenly things.
Looking unto Jesus we obtain brighter and more distinct views of God, and by beholding we become changed. Goodness, love for our fellow men, becomes our natural instinct. We develop a character which is the counterpart of the divine character. Growing into His likeness, we enlarge our capacity for knowing God. More and more we enter into fellowship with the heavenly world, and we have continually increasing power to receive the riches of the knowledge and wisdom of eternity. —Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 354-355. 

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; Its Your Own Choice

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death. Proverbs 8:36 

Speaking of the destruction of the wicked, it is said,

This is not an act of arbitrary power on the part of God. The rejecters of His mercy reap that which they have sown. God is the fountain of life; and when one chooses the service of sin, he separates from God, and thus cuts himself off from life. He is “alienated from the life of God.” Christ says, “All they that hate Me love death.” Ephesians 4:18; Proverbs 8:36. God gives them existence for a time that they may develop their character and reveal their principles. This accomplished, they receive the results of their own choice. By a life of rebellion, Satan and all who unite with him place themselves so out of harmony with God that His very presence is to them a consuming fire. The glory of Him who is love will destroy them.
At the beginning of the great controversy, the angels did not understand this. Had Satan and his host then been left to reap the full result of their sin, they would have perished; but it would not have been apparent to heavenly beings that this was the inevitable result of sin. A doubt of God’s goodness would have remained in their minds as evil seed, to produce its deadly fruit of sin and woe.
But not so when the great controversy shall be ended. Then, the plan of redemption having been completed, the character of God is revealed to all created intelligences. The precepts of His law are seen to be perfect and immutable. Then sin has made manifest its nature, Satan his character. Then the extermination of sin will vindicate God’s love and establish His honor before a universe of beings who delight to do His will, and in whose heart is His law.
Well, then, might the angels rejoice as they looked upon the Saviour’s cross; for though they did not then understand all, they knew that the destruction of sin and Satan was forever made certain, that the redemption of man was assured, and that the universe was made eternally secure. Christ Himself fully comprehended the results of the sacrifice made upon Calvary. To all these He looked forward when upon the cross He cried out, “It is finished.” –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 764 

Christmas In Light of the Cross, Day 20 ( Jesus’ Childhood Beyond the Manger )

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.  Luke 2:40 

We talk about the birth of Jesus a lot but what about His childhood? Have you ever thought about the fact that God was a kid at one time? When Jesus came to live among men He had to grow up just like everyone else. Obeying was not necessarily any easier for Jesus than it was for any other kid. Paul shares with us that,

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;  Hebrews 5:8

In Hebrews, Paul spends a lot of time writing about the humanity of Jesus, and in this passage shows us that as Jesus constantly overcame His human flesh through the Spirit, that His humanity suffered when it did not get its own way. Jesus knows what it is like to deny the desires of the flesh and to have continual victory through the Spirit. He can help us do the same.

Below is a passage from the classic book on the life of Jesus called Desire of Ages.  It comes from pages 70-72 on Jesus’ life as a child. You will find as you read, Six keys that helped Jesus maintain a righteous character, and these six keys will help us too. Let’s take a look. They keys are highlighted in red.

Every child may gain knowledge as Jesus did. As we try to become acquainted with our heavenly Father through His word, angels will draw near, our minds will be strengthened, our characters will be elevated and refined. We shall become more like our Saviour. And as we behold the beautiful and grand in nature, our affections go out after God. While the spirit is awed, the soul is invigorated by coming in contact with the Infinite through His works. Communion with God through prayer develops the mental and moral faculties, and the spiritual powers strengthen as we cultivate thoughts upon spiritual things  The life of Jesus was a life in harmony with God. While He was a child, He thought and spoke as a child; but no trace of sin marred the image of God within Him. Yet He was not exempt from temptation. The inhabitants of Nazareth were proverbial for their wickedness. The low estimate in which they were generally held is shown by Nathanael’s question, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46. Jesus was placed where His character would be tested. It was necessary for Him to be constantly on guard in order to preserve His purity. He was subject to all the conflicts which we have to meet, that He might be an example to us in childhood, youth, and manhood

Satan was unwearied in his efforts to overcome the Child of Nazareth. From His earliest years Jesus was guarded by heavenly angels, yet His life was one long struggle against the powers of darkness. That there should be upon the earth one life free from the defilement of evil was an offense and a perplexity to the prince of darkness. He left no means untried to ensnare Jesus. No child of humanity will ever be called to live a holy life amid so fierce a conflict with temptation as was our Saviour

The parents of Jesus were poor, and dependent upon their daily toil. He was familiar with poverty, self-denial, and privation. This experience was a safeguard to Him. In His industrious life there were no idle moments to invite temptation. No aimless hours opened the way for corrupting associations. So far as possible, He closed the door to the tempter. Neither gain nor pleasure, applause nor censure, could induce Him to consent to a wrong act. He was wise to discern evil, and strong to resist it.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, pages 70-72