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Lessons From Nature / Re: Lessons in the Stars {Astronomy]
« Last post by JimB on Today at 06:46:20 PM »
Here is a picture of the eastern sky a couple of months back. Down in the right hand corner you can see one of the constellations mentioned in the Bible. Not too far away is another. Can you tell us what it is? If it helps you can enlarge the picture by clicking on it.

Church News / Re: Michigan Conference President Steps Down
« Last post by JimB on Today at 06:26:41 PM »
Prayers are requested. The executive (I think) and the nominating committees meet this coming sunday to choose the new conference president. May the Lord guide and bless the meeting.
Prayer / Re: Prayer Requests
« Last post by colporteur on Today at 04:52:11 PM »

Prayer request for my mother. I believe she is either demon possessed or at least heavily harassed daily. Her temper has become vicious and unreasonable and has only gotten worse as she has gotten up in age. It would take a miracle as character does not change over night. Her only hope is deliverance. Please pray for my mother, Liz. Thanks :'(
Thursday January 25

The Holy Spirit

The great controversy is real; two sides are battling for our souls. One is drawing us to Christ (John 6:44) and one to the world (1 John 2:16). The power of the Holy Spirit in our lives can and will draw us in the right direction if we will but submit to Him.

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13, NKJV; see also John 14:16). The Holy Spirit empowers us to live by principle and by faith, not by whims or emotions that so dominate the world. Successful preparation for living in heaven comes by living faithfully in this world under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Paul counsels: “Your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:5, NKJV). The lure of the world, often through material possessions, draws us away from the Lord. In contrast, if we do not resist, the power of the Holy Spirit will pull us toward Jesus.

Success in the battle with the world and its lures will be accomplished only from outside of ourselves. Read Ezek. 36:26, 27; John 14:26; and Eph. 3:16, 17. When we let the Holy Spirit take possession of us, what things will God do to assure that we have spiritual victory?

“It is through false theories and traditions that Satan gains his power over the mind. By directing men to false standards, he misshapes the character. Through the Scriptures the Holy Spirit speaks to the mind, and impresses truth upon the heart. Thus He exposes error, and expels it from the soul. It is by the Spirit of truth, working through the word of God, that Christ subdues His chosen people to Himself.” - Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 671.

The Holy Spirit is the reporter of truth and is the ultimate gift that Jesus could give to represent the deity on earth after His ascension. The Holy Spirit strives to give us power to overcome the powerful lure of the world and its “charms.”

The world does pull at us all, doesn’t it? What choices can you make, right now, that can help you surrender to the Holy Spirit, who alone can give you power to resist the world’s temptations?

Friday January 26

Further Thought: A steward operates from the twin principles of duty and love. “Remember that duty has a twin sister, Love; these united can accomplish almost everything, but separated, neither is capable of good.” - Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 62. Duty is love in action. We need only to dwell on Christ’s sacrifice in order for love to awaken our duty.

In contrast are the principles of the world: hate and its twin, rebellion. Rebellion can be hate in action. Lucifer rebelled against God (Ezek. 28:16, 17) and will never stop doing so until he is destroyed. He turned the authority of love into the love of authority. The religious leaders of Israel hated the authority and power Jesus possessed (Matt. 22:29). Even when they fled the temple or withdrew from His piercing gaze, they did not change their ways.

Discussion Questions:

    Dwell more on this idea of love and duty. What does Ellen G. White mean when, after calling them twins, she says that one without the other is not “capable of good”? What does love look like without duty, and what does duty look like without love? Why must they both be together?

    The memory verse for this week reads: “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. . . . He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like foliage” (Prov. 11:4, 28, NKJV). What is the meaning of this text? What is it saying about riches and what is it not saying?

    In class, discuss the life of Solomon. Ask how he could have gone so far off track. Look through the book of Ecclesiastes for texts that help reveal the futility and emptiness of worldly possessions, even when we have, like Solomon, so many of them. What have we learned this week about prayer, about Bible study, and about a relationship with Christ that can keep us on the right track spiritually?

    How can people who do not have a lot of worldly possessions nevertheless still be caught in the trap that Satan sets for them?

    What answer did you come up with in regard to Wednesday’s final question about the different kinds of wisdom?

Tuesday January 23

The Life of Prayer

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3, NKJV). It is no wonder that Christians often say that their faith is about a relationship with God. If knowing God is “eternal life,” then we can find that life through a relationship with Him. And, of course, central to that relationship is communication. We saw yesterday that God communicates to us through His divine Word. We, in turn, commune with Him through prayer.

If, as we have seen, we are to set our minds and hearts upon heavenly things as opposed to things of this world, then prayer is essential. This is because, by its very nature, prayer points us to a higher realm than of the world itself.

Yet even here we must be careful because sometimes our prayers can be merely an expression of our own selfish nature. That’s why we need to pray in submission to the will of God.

Years ago, a woman sang these words, “Oh, Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz?” It was, in her own way, an attack on the materialism of those who profess faith in God. We, too, must be sure that when we pray, which is in itself an act of submission to God and death to the world, we are seeking God’s will, not just our own.

Read Hebrews 11:1-6. What is the crucial component that must be mingled with all our prayers? Also, what does it mean to come to God in faith and to pray in faith?

If there is no faith attached to our prayers, there will be presumption, Satan’s counterfeit faith. “Prayer and faith are closely allied, and they need to be studied together. In the prayer of faith there is a divine science; it is a science that everyone who would make his lifework a success must understand. Christ says, ‘What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.’ Mark 11:24. He makes it plain that our asking must be according to God’s will; we must ask for the things that He has promised, and whatever we receive must be used in doing His will. The conditions met, the promise is unequivocal.” - Ellen G. White, Prayer, p. 57.

Look at your own prayer life. What do you pray for? What do your prayers tell about your priorities? What other things might you need to be praying for?

Wednesday January 24

The Life of Wisdom

One of the most beautiful stories in the Bible is found in the story of Solomon’s request to God, to give him above all things “an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:9, NKJV).

What important words did God say to Solomon that, had he heeded, would have spared the king the ruin that his possessions brought upon him? Why was what God said to him here so important for all of us? 1 Kings 3:14; see also 1 John 5:3, 1 Pet. 4:17.

Solomon had great wisdom, but wisdom in and of itself, if not acted upon and lived out, becomes nothing more than good information. In the biblical sense of the word, wisdom not acted upon is not truly wisdom. Many will be lost who will have had plenty of correct information about God and His requirements. But Solomon’s lack of obedience caused him to stray from the paths to which the Lord had called him. Only later in life did he truly come to his senses, writing in humility: “For wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her” (Prov. 8:11, NKJV).

Wisdom is the application of knowledge and understanding. Knowledge represents the facts; understanding represents discernment; and wisdom comes in the process of applying our understanding and knowledge to our lives. A wise steward needs not just knowledge and understanding but the experience that comes from living out that knowledge and understanding.

Solomon’s example shows us how easily even the wisest and most understanding of people can get swept up in the emptiness of a materialist lifestyle if that person doesn’t live out the knowledge that he or she has been given.

Compare 1 Corinthians 3:19 and Proverbs 24:13, 14. What is the difference between the two kinds of wisdom talked about in these texts? Share your answers with class on Sabbath.
Lesson 4 January 20-26

Escape From the World’s Ways

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Ps. 119:11; Eph. 6:18; Rom. 8:5, 6; Heb. 11:1-6; 1 Kings 3:14; Ezek. 36:26, 27.

Memory Text: “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. . . . He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like foliage” (Proverbs 11:4, 28, NKJV).

Though Satan failed with Jesus, he has succeeded with everyone else. He will continue to do so unless we fight in the armor and power of God, who alone offers us the freedom from the lure of the world.

Thus, we must focus our attention on our heavenly Provider. David realized true value in this life when he wrote, “The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing” (Ps. 34:10, NIV). Solomon recognized that wisdom and understanding were more valuable than silver and gold (Prov. 3:13, 14). True happiness and right living come from turning our eyes from the possessions we own and looking to the living Christ, who owns us.

Our only hope to escape the allure of the world is a vital and successful relationship with Jesus. This week, we will study the elements of that relationship, and how crucial it is for our own spiritual success to recognize the power behind the mask of the world and see the importance of Christ as the real reason for living.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, January 27.

Sunday January 21

A Relationship With Christ

Love of worldly possessions, even by those who don’t have much, can be a powerful chain that binds the soul to the world instead of to Christ. Even if we don’t have much in terms of earthly possessions, the passionate desire to attain material goods can become a terrible curse that will, if not brought under the control of the Lord, lead a soul away from salvation. Satan knows this, which is why he uses the love of material possessions to ensnare as many as he possibly can.

What is our only protection?

“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2, NKJV). How do we do what Paul tells us to do? (See also Ps. 119:11, Eph. 6:18.)

What other texts can you find that talk about what we should be keeping our mind focused on? (See, for example, Phil. 4:8.)

The only cure for worldliness, in whatever form it comes, is a continual devotion to Christ (Ps. 34:1) through the ups and downs of life. Moses “regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb. 11:26, NIV). Before any other relationship, Christ must be our first priority. Christ is looking for a commitment based on conviction, not on preference; that is, we must be devoted to Christ because of who He is and what He has done for us, not because of any immediate advantages our faith and commitment to Him might bring.

Our lives are to be hidden in Jesus, and His plans are to be our plans. True commitment is putting our hand to the plow without “looking back” (Luke 9:62, NKJV). When we make that kind of commitment, Jesus elevates us to our full potential. When we surrender to Him, He will break the world’s hold upon our souls. We must become Christ-centered instead of stuff-centered; that alone will fill the void in our lives.

Think about a time you acquired a material possession, something that you really wanted badly. How long did the joy and fulfillment last before it faded away and you were right back where you started?

Monday January 22

In the Word

More than six billion Bibles have been distributed worldwide, but how many are viewed as the Word of the living God? How many are read with a sincere heart open to know truth?

Proper Bible study directs our spiritual compass and enables us to navigate a world of falsehood and confusion. The Bible is a living document of divine origin (Heb. 4:12), and as such it points us to truths that we cannot get anywhere else. The Bible is Christ’s road map for daily living, and it educates us by expanding our intellect and refining our characters.

Read John 5:39, 14:6, and 20:31. The Bible, specifically the Gospels, gives us our most authoritative information about Jesus. What do these specific texts in John say about Him and why He is so important to us and to all that we believe?

We study the Bible because it’s the ultimate source of the Truth. Jesus is the Truth, and in the Bible we find Jesus as we can know Him because of how He has been revealed to us there. Here, in God’s Word, the Old and New Testaments, we learn about who Jesus is and what He has accomplished for us. We then fall in love with Him, and commit our lives and souls to His eternal safekeeping. By following Jesus and obeying His words, as revealed in His Word, we can become free from the bonds of sin and of the world. “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36, NKJV).

Read Romans 8:5, 6. What are we being warned against here, and how can the study of the Word of God help us in this struggle over our minds?

The love of the world, especially the love of worldly possessions, can easily draw us away from God if we are not careful. That’s why we must keep ourselves in the Word, which points us to the eternal and spiritual realities that are so crucial for the Christian life.

Love of worldly things never elevates the mind to spiritual morality; instead it replaces biblical principles with greed, selfishness, and lust. Love, as revealed in the Bible, builds relationships by teaching us the importance of giving of ourselves to others. In contrast, worldliness is all about getting things for ourselves, which is the opposite of everything Jesus represents.
Amen, Sister Dorine and Richard! We see in the faith of the centurion a clear revelation of the "faith of Jesus"--for Jesus simply trusted whatever His Father said, because He loved Him. The Centurion believed and trusted the word of Jesus. So we may trust Him for forgiveness, for power to live a holy life, and not fear that God's word cannot do what it says. God is faithful!

Jesus immediately set out for the officer's home; but, pressed by the multitude, He advanced slowly. The news of His coming preceded Him, and the centurion, in his self-distrust, sent Him the message, "Lord, trouble not Thyself: for I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under my roof." But the Saviour kept on His way, and the centurion, venturing at last to approach Him, completed the message, saying, "Neither thought I myself worthy to come unto Thee;" "but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it." As I represent the power of Rome, and my soldiers recognize my authority as supreme, so dost Thou represent the power of the Infinite God, and all created things obey Thy word. Thou canst command the disease to depart, and it shall obey Thee. Thou canst summon Thy heavenly messengers, and they shall impart healing virtue. Speak but the word, and my servant shall be healed.  {The Desire of Ages, page 316, paragraph 2}
Friday January 19

Further Thought: Stewardship, as we understand it, started with God placing Adam and Eve in a beautiful garden home that they were to care for and manage (Gen. 2:15). In this perfect environment they were to make the garden livable, a task that could not have been that hard. God authorized their new role and taught them about their responsibility. Taking care of Eden would give meaning and bring happiness to the new family.

The Hebrew verb for “dominion” (Gen. 1:26, 28) means “to bring under control and rule.” This was, given the context, not a harsh dominion but a benevolent rule in caring for God’s creation. This responsibility has not stopped. In this environment Adam and Eve were to learn that God was the Owner, and they were His managers, or stewards. From the start God intended that Adam and Eve have positions of responsibility and trust but not as owners. They were to demonstrate to God that they were faithful to their tasks.   

They were not faithful. What was God's response to their sin? He cursed the ground for our sake. And, if we pay attention to the lesson, we notice that we still sweat and there are still thorns and thistles. And, we still are dying. In other words, the lesson for us that there are consequences to not doing as God has made plain. Even when converted, the curses still apply.
"Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou [art], and unto dust shalt thou return."  Genesis 3:16-19.

And yes, we also notice that there was a consequence for women also. Has it disappeared as many church leaders teach today? We like the lesson on dominion as applied to rulership over the Earth. Shall we change the meaning of "rule over" ion order to escape the consequence God has placed women? And for unconverted men who "rule over" women, let us take note that God does not countenance such rule. As the lesson stated, Adam and Even were to have a "benevolent rule" over the Earth. So it is with man and his rule of the woman, it is to be a "benevolent rule."
This is why God cares very much about who we marry. If we marry someone who is not a true Christian, then there be no benevolence, but selfishness in the marriage.

“Adam and Eve were given the garden of Eden to care for. They were ‘to dress it and to keep it.’ They were happy in their work. Mind, heart, and will acted in perfect harmony. In their labor they found no weariness, no toil. Their hours were filled with useful work and communion with each other. Their occupation was pleasant. God and Christ visited them and talked with them. They were given perfect freedom.  . . .  God was the owner of their Eden home. They held it under Him.” - Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 10, p. 327.

Discussion Questions:

    What does the fact that God owns the world teach us about our basic responsibility when it comes to the environment? While we have to avoid the political fanaticism of some environmentalists who all but worship the creation itself, what should our attitude, as Christians, be toward taking care of the environment?

We are to be good stewards of the Earth. What that means is a study in and of itself. How do we look at Carbon Credits? How about global warming? And, our use of cars instead of bicycles? If we grow a garden, then it seems we have studied some and are on the right track. If we do not grow a garden, why not? If we still live in the big city, why? God has given us great light on the subject, but to answer the question in any meaningful way requires more space and time than we have today. Suffice it to say that if we love God supremely (if we are in a converted state), then we will seek to care for the world in which we and others live.

    Dwell more on the idea of God as a “jealous” God. It’s not always an easy concept to grasp, especially because in human terms we look at jealousy as something bad, as something to be avoided. How, though, can we understand this idea as it is applied to God without any of the negative baggage the word usually carries?

God loves little innocent children. He is jealous for their safety and upbringing. What will happen to those who injure these "little ones"? I believe this is why Paul wrote "accursed be the man that brings another gospel into the church." God cares about the flock that is being misled. He is jealous for their sake. The church is the "apple of His eye."

    How can we learn to distinguish between the proper use and enjoyment of the physical things that God has created and the abuse of those things? Why is making this distinction so important?

The answer is always the same. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. If we want to understand truth, then we need to be born of the Spirit. We must be filled with the Holy Spirit if we want to understand the proper use of what God has entrusted to us and have the power to do it. Otherwise we remain what we are apart from God, selfish.

To those who want to know, and who love God supremely, it is the motive that God cares most about. What are we doing with our time and our money? Why are we doing this? Even if it is not the best use, if we believe it is for God and others, then the heart is right with God and He will continue to bless us. As for knowing what is the best use, we can ask Him and in His time, He will make it known to us.

We have much light on how we are to live. Desire of Ages reveals an awful lot, as to the nine volumes of Testimonies for the Church. There is great detail. For those who do not have this source of truth, the Bible is sufficient along with the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in our every day behavior. But, it is all dependent upon us giving the whole heart to Christ, otherwise our motive will be selfish.

Today, if we spend a thoughtful hour contemplating the life of Christ, we will by  beholding His grace, be transformed into His image (character) day by day. Let us put the cart in back of the horse. Then we shall be living for God because He is the focus of our attention.
Thursday January 18

True Ownership

We belong to God, both by creation and by redemption. And not only do we belong to God, but all our possessions do as well. We, of ourselves, own nothing other than our own choices.

In contrast, a central tenet of worldliness is the idea that we are owners of our possessions. Yet this is deception. For Christians to think they are the ultimate owners of their possessions is to think something contrary to what the Word of God teaches.

God, not us, owns everything (Job 38:4-11). We are merely aliens and tenants (Lev. 25:23), just as the Israelites were in the Promised Land. We are even dependent on God for our next breath (Acts 17:25). What we think we own, He owns. We are but His stewards, and as such we are to manage tangible and even intangible possessions to the glory of God.

List the things from the following verses that God owns: Deut. 10:14; Ps. 50:10; 104:16; Ezek. 18:4; Hag. 2:8; 1 Cor. 6:19, 20. What do these texts tell us about how we should view the material things that we have in our possession?

“All things belong to God. Men may ignore His claims. While He bountifully bestows His blessings upon them, they may use His gifts for their own selfish gratification; but they will be called to give an account for their stewardship.” - Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 246.

God’s ownership and our stewardship mandate a relationship, one through which He may use us in ways that will prepare us for heaven and that will benefit and bless others. But unfaithful stewards can restrict the Owner’s access to His own possessions. As we saw yesterday, God does not force His will upon us. He created us, and gave us possessions in this world to manage for Him until He returns. What we do with them reflects the kind of relationship that we have with Him.

Amen. This is truth. We may know who has the heart by what we do with our time and our possessions. Those who love God supremely, who have given Him the whole heart, will live to bless others and to glorify God. Gold will be used to glorify God, not for ourselves. This is not an easy thing to judge when looking at others, for we do not know motive. But, we can understand our own motives. What are we doing with our time and material possessions? Why did we buy an expensive home or car? Only we and God know the motive.

Think through what it means that, in reality, you don’t own any of the things that you possess but that they belong to God. What should that tell you about how you should relate to the things in your possession?

This makes little difference or sense to those who are not converted. It is like saying you should love your enemy who raped your daughter. The reality is that if you love God supremely, you will use your possessions to bless others. You will use your time to bless others. But, do not judge others who do not do as you do. We do not know motive.

It is helpful to understand that God is in control of this Earth, nothing happens that He does not allow to happen. Therefore, He is in control even if He does not cause everything to happen. He is the Creator of all, and He can do with it as He pleases. But, He cannot force us to love Him. He cannot recreate us in His image if we do not work with Him. If we will not learn of Him, then how can we love and trust Him? We cannot. So, if we want others to give of their means to the church, then we need to present the gospel of grace so their is understanding of our continual need of Jesus in order to do any good thing. Until we understand who we are apart from God, we will not see our continual need of an abiding Savior.

It is true that if we do not live to bless others, we will not be in heaven. But, the threat of hell will not change the heart, that is the domain of grace. We can only be transformed by beholding grace and allowing it into our heart. Then we will live for the One we love supremely and those He came to save.

The Desire of Ages / Re: The Desire of Ages--32--The Centurion
« Last post by Richard Myers on Today at 07:46:12 AM »
Amen dear sister! What a joy it is to read such beautiful truth! We love the truth, as it is in Jesus. What A Savior! Many things went through my mind this morning as I studied this chapter. One was the parallel between Israel then, and modern Israel today, His church. Are we in the same condition Israel was back then? Sadly, the church remains a Laodicean condition. But, that is no excuse for any of us to not know God. It is our privilege to behold Jesus daily. What a privilege is hours to know Him who gave all for us, and then to find others who love him as we do.

Another truth that was impressed upon my mind this morning, was that the young man who was brought back to life, we were told would have to suffer death again. Not only suffer death again, but he was brought back into this wicked world! Oh, how backwards we sometimes have things. We remember that the Apostle Paul wanted to go home to be with the Lord. But, many professing Christians today don't want to go home to be with the Lord. Why not? Because this world still has a hold on them. Do we fear death, or do we long to be with Jesus?

I really enjoyed the ending of the chapter. It reminded me of Romans 8:9.

     And "if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you." "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." Romans 8:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17. This is the word of comfort wherewith He bids us comfort one another.   
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