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!

Enjoy all the Days of Your Life

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But the godly will flourish like palm trees…..Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. Psalm 92:12-14 NLT

When I was young I was inspired by John Kennedy, because he was the most youthful U.S. president, and he showed what younger people can do. Now that I am older, I am inspired by Ronald Reagan, because he showed us what older people can do.

When I was 19 I was invited to join a home Bible study group. Everyone else was in their mid twenties to early forties. As well as studying the Bible together we did a lot of social activities, and as a 19 year old I thought it was cool that people in their twenties and even forties would hang out with me. Over thirty years later, I found myself at a restaurant, eating nachos with one of my college age Bible study groups, and I thought it was cool that people in their early twenties will hang out with someone in his fifties!

Its funny how our perspective changes as life changes. Many people fear getting older. I don’t. Long before I turned 50 a few years ago, a few people in their 70’s and 80’s told me the 50’s were the best years of their life. There are three reasons to love being in your 50’s. 1. People take you seriously. 2. Usually you are financially solid by 50. 3. Most people in their 50’s are still in reasonably good health. Some joke that while 50 is the new 30, 9 pm is the new midnight. It is true that in my early twenties whenever I would have a Bible study finish early in the evening, I would run over to the baseball stadium to catch the rest of the game. Today whenever a Bible study finishes early in the evening, I think, “Great! I can get to bed early tonight!” Sometimes I will force myself to do things I used to do, just to prove to myself that I am still young.

There are other advantages to growing older. Having worked with so many different churches and conferences over the years I know a lot of people. My friends list keeps growing. A couple of years ago when I had to evacuate Florida for a hurricane, there were several families between Texas and Tennessee that let me know their homes were open for me. As you get older you get wiser in choosing your friends, and over the years you have more friends to choose from. Also as more young faces appear in my life, I have more people to share my old stories with, who have not already heard them a hundred times. By the way, when an older person tells you the same story a hundred times, it is not because he forgot he already told you. It is because he gets to relive it every time he tells the story.

Speaking of younger faces, I have found working in the education field that everyone likes working with young people whether it is coaching and teaching, or just coming to school one day on career day to talk to kids about their career. I believe we all find hope for ourselves by believing we are making a positive difference in a young person’s life. Also kids keep us full of life. I remember a few months after my mother died, I was visiting family, which of course made me think of my mother. I left the visit to go join the 5th and 6th grade class from the school I worked with at an outdoor ed camp. While driving I became very sad thinking about my mother. I told myself once I got to the camp and was surrounded by youthful 5th and 6th-graders their presence would cheer me up and I would be happy again. Sure enough that is what happened. Those kids had no clue how they helped me overcome my grief!

Two thousand years ago, Mary, a young girl, probably around 14, was told by an angel she was having a baby. She went to see her cousin, Elizabeth, who was on the other side of the child-bearing age margin, but was also with child. Their visit must have been very meaningful as Mary’s youth must have inspired aging Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s experience must have inspired a very young Mary. They both needed each other. Today we all need each other. We should not be afraid of growing old. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago. Psalm 23 tells us God’s goodness and mercy follows us all the days of our life. As a youthful Kennedy and an aging Reagan have both inspired my life, we all need both young and old people in our lives. What is more, whether we are old or young, people need us in their lives. Enjoy your youth. Enjoy your old age. Enjoy all the days of your life!

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

An Open Door No One Can Close

What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open: “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. Revelation 3:7-8 NLT

The church of Philadelphia represents the church that found the open door into the Most Holy Place in 1844.  This church also found a book open that had previously been sealed.

But he said, “Go now, Daniel, for what I have said is kept secret and sealed until the time of the end. Daniel 12:9 NLT

Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face shone like the sun, and his feet were like pillars of fire. And in his hand was a small scroll[book] that had been opened. He stood with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. Revelation 10:1-2 NLT

If the details in Revelation 10 follow the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1840 in Revelation 9, then the time period is around 1844, when the book of Daniel became an open book and the time of the end began.  Revelation 10:4 says that John was getting ready to write something down that the Thunders spoke, but was told not to write it.

What did they say and why was he told not to write it down? Obviously I have no clue for sure! But I do have an idea. In Revelation 10:8-10 John is told to eat a book that tasted sweet in his mouth but turned bitter in his stomach. Many believe that refers to the great disappointment in 1844 when people misunderstood that Jesus was coming to earth instead of going into the Most Holy Place ministry which had just begun. I wonder if the Thunders told John about the great disappointment, but he was told not to write it down? If I happen to be right, why would they tell him not to warn everybody so they wouldn’t be so disappointed? Because some things have to be learned by experience. Sometimes we have to experience problems personally so we can work out the solution clearly in our minds and see why that is the solution.

Most math books have some or all of the answers in the back. But it is not enough to just write the answer down. The teacher wants to see your work. She doesn’t just want you to know the answer, she wants you to write out and work out the problem so you know why it is the answer. The Bible tells us Jesus is the answer, but we encounter problems in life so we can know why Jesus is the answer. God wanted his precious church represented by Philadelphia to work out the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation so they would know by experience what the answer is, instead of just reading what the answer is.

Now back to the open door. While many believe the door is the door into the Most Holy Place, other scholars point at doors of evangelism that were open in those days. The American Bible Society was opened in the early 1800’s in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, of all places! Publishing and spreading sacred literature became easier during this time. Add to this that when Jesus said, “what he opens no one can close, and what he closes no one can open,” I don’t think that applied to just one door. I think that is true about any door. If anyone has ever closed a door of opportunity on you, you can be sure of this, Jesus never opened it for you! If He had opened it for you no one would have been able to close it. No matter how things turn out for us we can be sure that man does not control our destiny. The same hands that were nailed to the cross and turned around and opened the seven seals holds our destiny.

It is also interesting that the church of Philadelphia is shown an open door in heaven, yet later when Jesus comes to the church of Laodicea He finds a closed door. If we are lost it won’t be because Jesus would not open heaven’s door. Heaven’s door is open. If we are lost it will only be because we would not open our heart’s door to Jesus. Next time we will take a look at the message to Laodicea.

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

Where in the World Are You Studying the Bible?

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

To me, the Bible is the  most personal and universal book ever written. When I read it I know God is personally talking to me, just as He was personally talking to Martin Luther as he read the Bible chained to the monastery wall in Europe in 1517, and Ellen White as she read the Sacred pages on the  Alameda as it sailed the South Pacific on its way to Australia is 1891, and the business secretary who read the Bible app on her tablet commuting on the New York subway last evening. The Bible brings me into a one on one personal relationship with Jesus. It also ties me to billions of people around the globe throughout earth’s history.

Last Christmas while I was on vacation, I went golfing with a buddy in Western Arkansas near Ozark Adventist Academy. On our way to the golf course we stopped in a diner for brunch, where we coincidentally ran into my cousin Paul, who was sitting at the community table, studying his Sabbath School lesson on his tablet. We joined him and had an enjoyable conversation, before we went chasing golf balls all through the woods. I had never seen a community table before, where everyone was welcome to sit together, where strangers become friends. Now that I think about it, I guess its like the bar stools at diners back in the 50’s so maybe the idea isn’t so novel. The small town diner enchanted me with its social atmosphere, with people visiting, coming and going at their leisure.

It made me think about SSNET, the Sabbath School lesson website I write for, as well as my personal blog, In Light of the Cross. Both are a social online community where people can come and visit, study and share ideas at their leisure. I got to thinking about my cousin Paul who was studying his Sabbath School lesson at the diner, in a social setting. It made me think about people studying their Bibles and Sabbath school quarterlies around the world. I got to wondering where all people are studying their own Bible around the world. Are people studying right now at a  Starbucks in Seattle? You know Starbucks sells bottled water and fruit juices too. Is someone reading their lesson on a park bench in Birkenhead park in Liverpool? Is someone having their devotional on their back patio in Cape Town? It is summer time there now you know? Is someone passing the time on their Sabbath School app while waiting on a plane at the Perth airport?

I just thought it might be nice to share where in the world we enjoy studying our Bibles and or Sabbath School lessons. Many I suppose have a special place inside your comfy home or flat God blesses them with, while others may have a special restaurant, park bench or special meeting place. Even Jesus had a special place of prayer and worship, which was the Garden of Gethsemane. Do you have a special place for your Bible study and prayer time? Years ago in Samaria, a woman met Jesus at a well. They had a one on one conversation, but Jesus also mentioned to her about worshiping in the Spirit. John worshiped in the Spirit while on Patmos. So you have two people, one in Samaria and one on Patmos both worshiping in the same place-the Spirit! So you see why I say our Bible study time is very personal and universal all at the same time. Pretty cool, huh?

I would be interested in meeting you, and finding out not only what country you are from, but where you enjoy studying the Bible. Are you like many of my nostalgic friends who still enjoy holding an actual book or quarterly in your hands, or do you use an electronic device? Please comment below and let me know where in the world you like to study God’s Word. Then the next time I am enjoying my alone time in the Spirit with God’s Word, I will know who I am studying alone with, and I can say a prayer for God to bless your study as well as mine.

Remain Faithful Even When……What?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:10 NLT

 

Kevin o’Rourke grew up dreaming of being a firefighter one day.  He could not imagine being anything else. When he finally became a firefighter, knowing the dangers involved, Kevin loved his job more than anything else in life. Sadly, on September 11, 2001 in New York City, his love for being a fireman cost him his life. From what I have read about Kevin and his family, I believe he would have rather died a faithful firefighter at age 44, than to have lived to be 100 without being faithful to his calling.

In 2006 an Amish school girl asked a crazed gunman at her Amish school, in an effort to buy time for help to arrive to save the other students, to shoot her first. The Amish treasure the Bible, and I can’t help imagining this young girl receiving her very first Bible, and proudly holding it close to her little heart, as she treasured the sacred pages that would teach her to give up her life. The church of Smyrna loved Jesus so much they were faithful even when facing death and will receive at the resurrection, the crown of eternal life!

So are Kevin O’Rourke and the Amish school girl extreme cases or does Jesus expect all of us to be faithful even when facing death?

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23 NLT

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.1 John 3:16 NLT

As someone who has been giving Bible studies since the 1980’s I don’t know if it is just my imagination or not, but it seems people have a harder time these days grasping the idea of being totally committed to Jesus,and being faithful even to death. Many of us are only faithful until its inconvenient! Bible students have told me that surely God does not expect a poor widow to return an honest tithe and offerings. In 1 Kings 17 we meet a poor widow who tells Elijah, “I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.” 1 Kings 17:12 NLTSo this woman is at the point of death. What does Elijah tell her to do? “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son.” 1 Kings 17:13 NLT The woman is at the point of death, but Elijah still expects her to be faithful to God and His messengers first. Even when facing death! Of course we read on about how the oil and flour never ran out after she supported God’s servants first.

So today, does God expect us to be faithful even when facing death, or just until life gets a little hard or difficult? A while back I told an embarrassing story about when I was in my early twenties and held back my tithe money for a while. So now please let me share a a couple stories where I actually did something smart. I was working for a family-owned business, and one Friday the owner called everyone into his office. He was very upset about everything being unorganized, so he said everyone would have to come in the next day, Sabbath, and work to straighten it all out or lose their jobs. My first thought was I had lost my job. I was already imagining myself losing my apartment and moving back home. What I never imagined was me working on Sabbath! I didn’t get a chance to imagine very long, before our boss looked at me and said, “I understand tomorrow is a religious holiday for you. So we won’t see you but I better see everybody else!” God saved me!

Years later I was working for UPS, and had the opportunity to become package deliverer and drive the big brown trucks. Human resources told me there may be some times I would have to work on Friday nights after sunset. I told them there was no way I would. They asked, “What if your truck breaks down, and by the time we get you another truck, it is dark?” I summed it up for them quickly. I told them, “Many people have died for their faith, and I am not going to give up my faith just to save my job!” That ended the discussion and I became a delivery driver.

I share those two stories, because so many times I have studied with people who supposedly accepted the Sabbath, only to turn around and take the first job offer that required them to work on Sabbath. I have baptized Bible study students who later told me they could not come to church on Sabbath because they had to work. When I asked them what their boss said when they asked for Sabbath off, I found they never even asked. By not being faithful, they are missing wonderful opportunities to see God work in their behalf! If we want God to be real to us we have to be real to Him.

Many never see how real God is because they never give Him a chance to do anything real in their life. We must be like the three Hebrew children in Daniel 3, who said God could deliver them, but even if He didn’t they would still remain faithful unto death! If they hadn’t taken that stand, they would not have had the experience of Jesus walking with them in the fire.

In a world that bases everything on convenience instead of faithfulness,  in a world where  surviving  is more important than sacrifice,  Jesus still promises eternal life to those who are faithful, not until it becomes hard, but until death.

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

When Was The Last Time You Invited Someone Home From Church?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

When was the last time you had people from your church over to your house?

The New Testament speaks of churches in homes. See Romans 16:51 Corinthians 16:9Colossians 4:15,Philemon 1:2.

Years ago, when I became a Bible Worker at a church in Texas, an elderly saint informed me of a group of people who began having church in one of their houses. She wanted me to get them to come back to the “real” church because, according to her, having church in a house was not “real” church. Realizing that having church in a house was indeed “real church,” I reached out to them and began a wonderful friendship. We worked together and played together, even though they “assembled themselves together” for worship in a house, while the rest of us assembled at the church building.

God’s remnant church will look like the original church, and the original church first met in homes as well as meeting in the temple court. Meeting in buildings dedicated to Christian worship came later.

By the way, the order of service most Adventists follow for worship service does not come from the New Testament. It comes from the Methodists. Nothing wrong with that. Just saying. Occasionally I have gone to preach in a church building that only had about 15 members present. Instead of having church in the sanctuary “Methodist style” I persuaded them to come into the fellowship hall where we all sat in a big circle and had a “home church.” Instead of preaching a sermon I led out in a group Bible study. It was informal yet reverent and Bible-based. Many told me they found it refreshing. It was what I imagine church to have been like in the New Testament.

Notice even the churches that met in temple courts also met in homes.

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Acts 2:46-47 NIV

To me, the fact that they met in each others’ homes shows me how dedicated they were to the church. They took the church home with them! The New Testament church was not compartmentalized. There were no boundaries between what belonged to the church and what belonged to them. Their home dining room was just as much church property as the fellowship hall.

Do we compartmentalize today? For example, let’s look at church fellowship lunches. Are they social or anti-social? For instance, do we meet for lunch at church so we don’t have to actually invite each other over to our house? We say we all meet at church so we can all socialize together. Really? Then tell me why when I visit various churches I see so many people eating alone at fellowship lunch. I often see families sitting alone at tables that could have just as easily been sitting alone at home. But it makes us feel more sociable if we eat alone at church?

Of course many people do actually fellowship during fellowship lunches. Still, I have to wonder why we aren’t meeting in homes more often? Again do we compartmentalize? Do we fellowship on neutral ground while protecting the privacy of our home? Does our church have borders, or do we hold all things common?

It may be said that we can’t invite the entire church over to our house at once, so some may feel left out. To that I would say, over time invite several people, and those who feel left out can invite people to their house! It works both ways, you know. 🙂

The New Testament church did not compartmentalize. They held all things common, even meeting in their homes. I believe the remnant church should reflect the New Testament church. In the last days Satan is working hard to polarize us and make us unsociable. Meanwhile God is drawing us together to make up, not an isolated people but a great multitude which no man can number, who reflect His character of love and hospitality.

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

Pray For Our Leaders

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: Daniel 4:34 NKJV

I don’t know how it is around the world, but here in the last days in the United States, we are becoming very polarized politically. I am afraid it is even affecting the church. A while back a young person in the church shared a meme on Facbeook, bashing a political figure with lies. I messaged my young friend and shared the documentation with her that the cruel meme was making a false accusation. She replied back that she did not need me telling her the meme was false because she already knew it was a lie. I asked her why she was spreading lies. She replied back, “They make the point I am wanting to make.” I replied back, “so your point is a lie?” She replied back that she had an agenda and did not need me judging her integrity. If it took a lie to promote her political agenda then so be it!

Sadly that is not an isolated case. Professed Adventist Christians are spreading lies and fake news about political figures to suit their political preferences. It is being done on both sides. What really saddens me is that many professed Adventist Christians are using social media to promote earthly politics instead of sharing the gospel. Not only are they being worldly focused but they are not even using integrity even by worldly standards. They are using lies, fake news and gossip.

In Daniel 4 we see a pagan king who repents and is saved. The first six chapters of Daniel are filled with stories that will be repeated as the prophecies in the last six chapters unfold. The image in Daniel 3 is similar to the mark of the beast. I believe if Daniel 3 repeats itself then Daniel 4 will repeat itself as well. I believe ruthless pagan political leaders will be converted int he last days. Why else would Daniel 4 be in the middle of other stories that are to be repeated in the last days?

As we prepare for the end time, instead of means that even the world recognizes as immoral, such as fake news, lies and gossip to bash political leaders who we think are pagan, lets instead pray for their conversion.

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 NKJV

May I also suggest that instead of hiding behind an electronic device on social media, to hurl insults at others, that sensitive issues are better discussed face to face in real life? I have yet to see social media solve a social issue yet. Social issues are better solved in social real life discussions. It also helps us to be more responsible and Christlike with our comments.

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