Never Seek to be Satisfied

I was angry at the world. I cried out and it did not listen. I was in need and no one helped me. I wanted someone to love me; I longed to find someone who could make me believe that I was precious and special, but I only saw cold indifference around me.

No one cared. No one helped. I could throw tantrums, sulk here and there, and I could be miserable… and still the world would continue to go on it’s merry way to hell at a breakneck speed. I was being swept along by it.

I did not understand how I–a believer in God, a so-called Christian–could be so wretchedly unhappy, so lonely.

God… WHY???

I was so blind.

BLIND.

Around me were people who were going through greater pain and loneliness, who had no hope, and who were in a desperate situation. And I–so foolish and so selfish–was too blind to see that. When I was placed in a situation to comfort the needy, I had nothing to offer them. Maybe some sympathy, but no comfort except that which could be found when our misery found company…which was precious little.

* * *

Every experience in life is preparation for ministry. My loneliness taught me to feel how a human being could be driven to feeling that death is preferable than to continue living an empty life. I learned to be merciful to those who did not succeed because I found myself in the same position. I can also understand how people are driven to do crazy things and put aside their personal dignity in their futile search of love and acceptance away from God. I understand now.

But things don’t end with simply understanding others.

I need my self to be broken beyond repair–a broken vessel that is continually filled and is continually giving out from the blessings received; a container that is cracked and broken and and yet pass on God’s blessings to others.

God, may I be a container filled with your love, and may my self be broken enough for me to act upon the understanding that the dark times in my life have taught me. Fill me with wisdom and gentleness to do the right thing and speak words that will be like a balm to those who are hurting.

“He that believeth in Me out of him shall flow rivers of living water”–hundreds of other lives will be continually refreshed. It is time now to break the life, to cease craving for satisfaction, and to spill out…God spilt the life of His Son that the world might be saved; are we prepared to spill out our lives for him? –Oswald Chambers

Preventing Identity Theft

Identity Theft

I swiped my card for the fourth time, with great misgivings in my heart.

*DENIED*

“Do you want to try sliding it again, ma’am?” The lady at the register of my neighborhood grocery store said.

I nodded, and tried again, barely conscious of the fact that I was holding up the line–the customers behind me could have been very annoyed, but I didn’t care. Nor did I care about the person bagging my $30 worth of groceries–who could have been shaking his head and slowly, and ever so surreptitiously begun to unbag the groceries he’d already put in my cart. I was only conscious of one thing . . . my mounting frustration.

Later I called and complained to my banking institution. What gives? I have more than enough money to cover this measly $30! It was then that I was told that there were some questionable transactions that I needed to verify… Transactions that did not conform to my spending habits… and only THEN did I notice the recently-posted transactions on my account… it had not been 24 hours since someone spent hundreds of dollars from my debit card on some random internet purchases, and my bank had blocked my card as a safety measure.

I panicked–wouldn’t YOU if an amount equivalent to a week’s worth of work is suddenly swiped from your account by some anonymous thief?

* * *

I was studying today for a discussion I’m leading on Saturday, when I came across an interesting sermon that put the idea of “Identity Theft” in an interesting light. I want to share it with you….

One of the crimes that is beginning to take off in our high-tech, information-driven society is known as identity theft. . . . This crime is well named because as far as the credit and banking systems are concerned, the person using the information is the same person whose name is on the card or account. For all practical purposes, there has been an exchange of identity.

What identity thieves accomplish illegitimately, Jesus Christ has accomplished legitimately for believers. That is, He has affected an exchange of identity with you. Christ did not simply come to change your life. He came to exchange your life for His [1].

I hope that you are never a victim of Identity Theft. However, I DO sincerely hope that if anyone is to take over your identity, it be Christ. When he takes over your life, you don’t end up losing, but gaining much, much more than you ever had to begin with…

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20)

– – –

[1] Krell, Keith, “Courting Sin” https://bible.org/seriespage/courting-sin-1-corinthians-61-11

While Reading the Bible, Discard the Brain (But Keep the Heart)

Most cultures in antiquity designated the heart not only as the seat of emotion, but also the seat of thought.[i] That’s why the Egyptians, for example, extracted and discarded the “useless” gray matter (i.e. brain) prior to the mummification of the dead (“Who cares what this mushy stuff is?It’s just gross… Hurry up and get it out”).

The heart, however, was jealously and carefully stored, because it was responsible for life, desires, and thoughts.

This same attribution occurred in the Jewish culture, which is why in the Bible the meaning of so many passages in which the heart is mentioned should be re-considered—there is additional depth to the heart than we can suppose upon a cursory reading. It is, therefore, convenient to re-define the meaning of heart as used in the Bible. Better yet, discard the notion/function of the brain as the seat of thought and keep the heart instead.

According to some sources, the heart was the “seat of all morality and of all moral and spiritual functions.”[1] This encompassed the conscience, and the thinking self.

In short, what came from the heart was much more than emotion. It was thought of as “the authority within.”[2] In other words, the will.

* * *

 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

By the fact that “heart” is mentioned in this passage, it describes this love as being much more than a love based on emotions; it is based on a total surrender of the will and the self. A love coming from what makes you you—a conscious love, not a heedless, reckless thing.

This begs the question—how does one love God like that?  How can we, people who have so distorted the definition of love to include everything from affection, to fleeting infatuation (even erotic passion), properly respond? Is God simply asking for the impossible?

* * *

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20)

God’s promise is to give you a new heart—and with it a new way of thinking, a new way of making decisions, a new way of being your own self. That is what makes the promise in Ezekiel so much more meaningful than before. God wants to give you a new set of values by which you are able to live by. Obedience of his law comes natural to the new heart he gives you, because it has transformed the “authority within” you. It is no longer you, but Christ who lives, thinks, and is in you.


[i] It wasn’t until Herophilos in Alexandria (Egypt) did many studies in human anatomy by means of dissections, that the center of thought was relocated from the heart to the brain, and the mechanical connection between the heart, the pulse, and the flowing of blood in the veins was first grasped.

Habitation

You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Pet 2:5-9 ESV)

When I think about God wanting to dwell in me, I think of a very private inner chamber–sort of like my bedroom, but jealously kept closed against intruders. That is where the real me can actually emerge. It is also where things can get the most cluttered, the most obtrusive, and where I often resist against change.

* * *

One of the most chilling passages that I have found in the Bible is one found in Matthew 12, and it has to do with how we are a habitation, either for good or evil.

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none.Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first . . .” (Matthew 12:43-45)

If we give in to God, and we let him come in, he will free us from the evil things that lurked inside the inner chamber. Whoosh! They are gone. The gloom of evil cannot exist in the presence of God. But such a habitation cannot stand empty. If we don’t follow-up with filling ourselves with God’s word, and doing so continuously, the empty chamber becomes, once more, a habitation of demons, and our state is worse than before.

Every day counts in the battle for your soul. So if you don’t feel like studying the Bible, make yourself do it, invoking the power of the Holy Spirit to imbue his word with meaning for you. Not everyday is a lyrical day in which you’ll feel God inside you. But He is there, don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Guard your inner self with everything you got.

Better yet, hand the key over to God so he can claim every nook and cranny inside the Habitation.

The Prophet No One Really Knows About

At this time Uriah son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-Jearim was also prophesying for the Lord. And he predicted the same terrible disaster against the city and nation as Jeremiah did . . . (Jeremiah 26:20 NLT)

Throughout the book of Jeremiah, there is a particular evil mentioned over and over again. Not just that of the apostacy of the people as they went after other gods, but that of the distortion of truth. The priests did not preach the truth to the people, and many, many false prophets rose up and told the people “Peace” when the people most needed to heed the Lord’s warnings.

Jeremiah had few friends. Yes, he is a very important prophet in the Bible, but in his day he was scorned, mocked, beaten, and even jailed several times. He lived in the last years of the Judean Kingdom, stood in the presence of many kings, lived to see all his predictions of doom come true, and the hand of God deliver him time and time again.

And Jeremiah needed it. His life was often in danger because he openly decried against the sins of the nation.

“The Lord sent me to prophesy against this Temple and this city,” he said. “The Lord gave me every word that I have spoken. But if you stop your sinning and begin to obey the Lord your God, he will change his mind about this disaster that he has announced against you. As for me, I am in your hands—do with me as you think best. But if you kill me, rest assured that you will be killing an innocent man! The responsibility for such a deed will lie on you, on this city, and on every person living in it. For it is absolutely true that the Lord sent me to speak every word you have heard.” (Jer 26:12-15)

Likewise Uriah the prophet prophesied the same message of the Lord. He was not a phony prophet, he had the truth, and spoke it. He was just as effective as Jeremiah, I imagine, otherwise King Jehoiakim and his officers might not have considered him a threat.

When King Jehoiakim and the army officers and officials heard what he was saying, the king sent someone to kill him. But Uriah heard about the plan and escaped in fear to Egypt. Then King Jehoiakim sent Elnathan son of Acbor to Egypt along with several other men to capture Uriah. They took him prisoner and brought him back to King Jehoiakim. The king then killed Uriah with a sword and had him buried in an unmarked grave. (Jer 26:21-23)

* * *

Egypt is considered to be a symbol of atheism; the disdainful attitude towards the Living God (Exodus 5:2). It also symbolizes the luxury, peace, and relative safety that the world offers. How often do we see in the Bible the children of God (often mistakenly) looking to Egypt as a refuge–and called out of Egypt to claim their rightful destiny? Could it be that Uriah looked not to God but to human strongholds for protection? Could it be that Uriah forfeited his God and abandoned his calling as the Lord’s messenger in order to pass for a nameless nobody? It is possible he did.

Uriah wasn’t the only one whom Jehoiakim wanted to kill. When the scribe Baruch read the scroll of the messages Jeremiah had had from God, both Baruch’s life and Jeremiah’s life were in danger. It is true they feared for their lives–they were told to hide–but there was no abandoning the post. It takes a deep trust in God to keep doing what he says you must do in face of great opposition. God took on an active role in their protection because when the king commanded the arrest of Baruch and Jeremiah, he himself hid them and kept them from harm (Jer 36:26).

* * *

What are some ways we tend to “look to Egypt” as our refuge? How can this possibly twart God’s purposes for you?

What are some promises in the Bible that tell of God’s protective care for his children?

Are we guaranteed the protective care of God in every situation? (see for example Daniel 3:17-18)

Reboot–Notes

Last week was the last in a month-long series of sermons at my church dealing with the issue of renewal.

We used the analogy of when your computer stops working and it crashes. Nothing you do can make it alright again. The only solution left is to reboot. This is what we need to do in life too.

1. Don’t despair when your life unravels and gets out of control. Because this needs to happen first before you can become the instrument of God. The only people God can use are broken people.

2. There is a beautiful analogy in the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32). When, after his resurrection, Jesus met two disciples and walked with them on their way to Emmaus. He was invited for supper, took the bread, blessed it (gave thanks for it), broke it, and gave it to them. This is a metaphor for whAt Jesus does to us.

  • Jesus takes you
  • Blesses you — Do you remember when you first converted and accepted Jesus that great, happy time when you felt so connected to Him? Do you remember how you felt so joyful to be alive, and all around you saw evidences of his love and care for you? Maybe you began writing a blog, or composed happy music to share with others what Jesus has done for you? Yes. That is the blessing stage.
  • Breaks you — Your happy life begins to unravel. God reveals his glory to you and you see how you really are. Sinful, weak, inept. You’ve always been broken, it’s only now that you realize it. You lose your self-sufficiency.
  • Gives you a calling to serve others — Peter’s calling and Isaiah’s calling are just a few examples of this truth. Both were called to serve immediately they recognized how human they were.

3. God uses our messes to reach other people. He uses those things in the past that we had no control over, and those things we willingly walked into, to reach other people. Our scars and old wounds become channels for his grace to touch people whose lives we would not have been able to touch if we had been pristine. Satan’s plans are frustrated because he can’t knock you down.

4. Never forget that it is when you are weak that you are strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

God’s grace is enough; it’s all you need.
His strength comes into its own in your weakness.

– – –

Notes from Sermon by Pastor Ritchie Pruehs (1/25/14)

Video by Yours Truly 🙂

Doormat

And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I will be loved (2 Corinthians 12:15)

When I began this blog I said that I wanted to share about what I learned as I looked to God. I wanted to share with others my spiritual journey. I was feeling very smug in Christ, I suppose. Please excuse me. I was on the Blessing stage.

Lately I’ve been examining myself and why I do what I do. I’ve been searching within my heart, and scrutinizing my motives. Is my service to others a duty? Is Jesus in the center of it all?

I think about how dejected I sometimes feel because I think that I’m not making much of a difference in people’s lives or making any significant positive changes in my life as a result of the service I do…but mostly (this is mortifying to admit but necessary to say), I feel like I keep making people a priority when those same people think of me as second choice, or replaceable.

Quite honestly, this struggle did not exist until I got a job and suddenly every precious minute counted. And my time finally began to be equated with money. Last week the struggle came to a head. Yes, I’ve reached the Broken stage….I think.

Last week I read a quote from Oswald Chambers from My Utmost for His Highest

The mainspring of [our] service is not love for men, but love for Jesus Christ. If we are devoted to the cause of humanity, we shall soon be crushed and broken-hearted, for we shall often meet with more ingratitude from men than we would from a dog; but if our motive is love of God, no ingratitude can hinder us from serving our fellow men.

That paragraph blew my mind. Chambers goes on to say that with the realization of how Jesus deals with us and how he has “saved us to the end of our meanness, our selfishness, and sin, nothing that we meet with from others can exhaust our determination to serve men for His sake”

He presents us with Paul’s case, Paul’s willingness to become a “doormat” for others for Jesus’s sake. He was met with abuse, ingratitude, calumny from the ones he gave the gospel to. He was persecuted, beaten, almost killed…and still he did what he did—he was a doormat for others to make use of—only because of his love of Jesus.

My soul-searching this week did not reveal to me that my motives are pure. On the contrary. I am selfish. I serve others, but in my heart of hearts I expect them to return the favor, or at least give credit when it’s due. That’s wrong.

I’m also a fake. Because there’s a few people whom I know who look to me for some spiritual guidance, and I cannot give them anything. Well. I DO, I listen to them and talk to them and they walk away feeling good or at least feeling better. But I think that is also wrong. How can I minister others? Was I not the one that recently complained to my mom Who will minister to ME? And Why doesn’t the person I care about, care about ME for once?

It’s a wonder I’m still compelled to continue writing in this blog. But like I said before, this blog details my spiritual walk with God, and this is where it has led me. Whoever said that transformation from the sinful human to the Holy nature was like a pleasant saunter?

No one said it.

Creation and Human Purpose — Sabbath School Discussion Notes

Young Adult Sabbath School
SDA Fundamental Beliefs Series — #6: Creation
For: January 11, 2014
Duration: ~40 min

Icebreaker Question

Please state your name and share with us your favorite book or story growing up.

Preamble:

Will be discussing FB#6. Ground rules: Not a Creation/Evolution debate.

Prayer

Introduction – The statement from the 28 SDA Fundamental Beliefs

God made our world with brilliant creativity and tender care. He created humanity to take care of and take pleasure in the planet, with rest and recreation in perfect balance.

God is Creator of all things, and has revealed in Scripture the authentic account of His creative activity.

In six days the Lord made “the heaven and the Earth” and all living things upon the Earth, and rested on the seventh day of that first week. Thus He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of His completed creative work. The first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of Creation,given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was “very good,” declaring the glory of God. (See Supporting Texts at end of entry).

Q1 Within the story of creation are important themes/principles. What are they? / If you were to teach a course Christianity 101 using only the story of Creation, what principles would you be able to share?

1.Six Literal Days; Culmination in the Sabbath as day of rest

[CREATION IN SIX LITERAL DAYS]

[Genesis 1:31] also on 5,8,13,19,23: Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

====> (see APPENDIX for more info on why it matters)

[SABBATH ESTABLISHED]

[Genesis 2:1-3] New King James Version (NKJV): Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

2.Human Origins and Purpose

I’m going to pass out some papers. Please take five minutes to read it with your group. Tell me

1. What was the creative force,

2. How and of what humans came to be.

3. What was the motivation (or the purpose—if any) to make humans.

Babylonian  — After a power battle between the gods, Marduk (the leader of the winning side) set the vanquished gods to a variety of tasks, including work in the fields and canals. Soon they complained of their work, however, and they rebelled by burning their spades and baskets. Marduk slew Timant, the general of the rebels, and with his blood, clay from the earth, and with spittle of the other gods humans were created. On them was imposed the labor previously assigned to the gods: to maintain the canals and boundary ditches, to hoe and to carry, to irrigate the land and to raise crops, to raise animals and fill the granaries, and to worship the gods at their regular festivals.

India — The “Self” created itself from the nothing and from the death and hunger of a void universe. Self had no happiness because it was alone, and Self longed for another. He grew as large as two persons embracing, and he caused himself to split into two matching parts: husband and wife. From their union arose the human beings of the earth.

Hopi — Sotuknang, the nephew of the powerful and infinite Creator, created Spider Woman. Spider Woman took some yellow, red, white, and black earth and mixed it with saliva to create human beings as she sang the Creation song. She made four men. Then created four women after her own form. From these men and women humans came to be. Sotuknang instructed them that their duties was to respect the Creator and live in harmony with him. But the people forgot to worship the Creator, so they were destroyed—only a few remained. Four times this happened, until after four creations the true remnant settled in the desert in a desolate land, so that the hardship of their life would always remind them of their dependence on, and link to, their Creator.

Norse — The first god was brought out from the earth. He had a son named Bor, who had three sons, one of whom as Odin, the most powerful of the gods. Odin and his two brothers defeated the rebellious frost giants and created the heavens and the earth with the body parts of their vanquished foes. Later they found at the edge of the sea two logs. The three of them together made people out of them—one man and one woman. From these logs—now people—all humans came. The gods left humans to dwell on earth, leaving only a pathway from earth to heaven: the bridge that appears in the sky as a rainbow. It doesn’t last, however. It breaks whenever someone attempts to cross it.

Mayan — Kukulkan and Tepeu created the world. They decided to preserve their legacy by creating an earthbound species looking like them. The first attempt was man made from mud, but Tepeu and Kukulkan found that the mud crumbled. The two gods summoned the other gods and they decided to make man from wood. However, since these men had no soul, they soon lost loyalty to their creators. The Gods destroyed them with a great torrent of rain. Finally, man was constructed from maize—which, by the way, was the food of the gods.

Chinese (one of the many versions) — The earth was a wild and lonely place. There was a goddess named NuWa who roamed it. She was lonely. She gazed into a pond and realized when she saw her reflection, that there was no one in all the world  who looked like herself. She resolved to make something like herself for company. She took some mud and shaped it in the form of a human being. She made many such humans in two days, but she was tired. To solve the problem of making more and more humans after they died, she separated them into male and female so they could reproduce on their own and save her the trouble of being so lonely.

Islam — Adam was created by God out of clay, earth, sand, and water and placed in Paradise. God taught Adam  the names of all of the creatures, and then commanded all the angels to bow down before Adam. All of them bowed but Iblis, who refused to obey. Iblis was a jinni, a spirit of fire, and claimed that his fiery nature was superior to Adam’s flesh which consisted of clay. This resulted in his expulsion from Paradise. Iblis then vowed to separate Adam and Eve from God and corrupt them. Sure enough, after they sinned, Adam and Eve were cast down to the earth away from God, to populate the empty world.

Australian — The Sun Mother was awakened by the Father of All Spirits. Her task was to awaken the sleeping spirits who dwelled in the new earth and give them forms. She created the animals, but they envied each other and argued. The Sun Mother was forced to come down from her home in the sky to mediate their bickering. She gave each creature the power to change their form to whatever they chose. She was appalled when she saw winged rats (bats), giant freak lizards, and a beaver with a duck bill who could lay eggs (platypus).  The Sun Mother looked down upon the Earth and thought to herself that she must create new creatures because otherwise the Father of All Spirits would be angered by what she now saw. She gave birth to two gods: the Morning Star (male) and the Moon (female) and sent them to earth, where they because our human ancestors. She made them superior to the animals because they had part of her mind and would never want to change their shape.

[MAN CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD AND WITH A PURPOSE]

[LETS ALL READ: Genesis 1:26-28]

[26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all[b] the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

1. What was the creative force,

2. How and of what humans came to be.

3. What was the motivation (or the purpose—if any) to make humans?

 Q2 Where can we find the account of Creation?

At the very beginning Genesis 1, 2

Q3 Why do you think the Bible begins with the story of creation? /  What do you think is the advantage of  the Bible establishing our origins early on? / What more do we gain from the account of creation other than where we came from?

Understanding God’s work of creation is essential. It is the basis of a Christian worldview and helps us make sense out of life. All the truth in the Bible relates back to the basic truths taught in the creation accounts of Genesis 1 – 2.

 Q4 What implications are there in the fact that you are a precious creature and not a “mistake” or made on a whim?

  • Legitimacy—do you guys know how terrible life could be      for someone who was illegitimate? Historically it has ever been a stigma,      a great disgrace.
      • [Deut 32:6] Do you thus        deal with the Lord, O foolish        and unwise people? Is He        not your Father, who        bought you? Has He not made you and established you?
  • Purpose:
    • to inhabit and enjoy the world he created
      • [Isaiah 45:18].        For        thus says the Lord, Who created        the heavens,
        Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it,        Who has established it,
        Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it        to be inhabited:
        “I am        the Lord, and there        is no other.
    • stewardship.
      • [psalm 8:4-6] 4 What is man that You are        mindful of him,
        And the son of man that You visit him? 5 For You have made        him a little lower than the angels,[a] And You have crowned him with glory        and honor. 6 You have made him to have dominion over the        works of Your hands;
        You have put all things        under his feet,
    • do good works
      • [Ephesians        2:10] For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good        works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
  • Self worth —if we are made in the image of God, that      fact alone should give us a real idea of how much an individual is worth.      There is no room for feelings of inferiority or superiority
      • [Malachi 2:10] Have we not all        one Father? Has not one God created us?
        Why do
        we deal treacherously with one        another By profaning the covenant of the fathers?

There is a great deal at stake in the issue of human origins. Not merely a question of how our species arrived on this planet. It involves the larger issues of purpose and destiny, as well as the principles that should guide our lives. It is the power and purpose of a personal God that accounts for our existence. Therefore, we cannot ignore his wishes for us as we attempt to understand the meaning and purpose of our existence.—Rice, Reign of God

3. In his image—Getting to the heart of who God is (Closing remarks)

Q4 What do you guys understand by the phrase “Created in his image”?

Q4.5 If God created us in his image, what aspect of human life does that encompass? / What makes you YOU? / Imagine that some scientists want to make a robot in your image, is it enough for it to just look like you for it to BE a convincing likeness and have your friends thinking “Oh, it’s very much like “so and so”? What else besides how you look like physically is necessary to produce a faithful likeness?

-personality, emotions, character, habit, human intelligence

Q5 So then, what does it mean to be created in God’s image? What else besides the proportions of our physical being are we supposed to reflect?

Can it be that our character and our inclinations towards good and love were part of the original plan?

[CLOSING REMARKS]

I want to revert to the original beauty that is God’s image. Millenia’s worth of sin has taken its toll on the human race. We’re shorter, short-lived, or ill, but with the help of the almighty God who created heaven and earth, we can still aspire to have the likeness of God in our character. Not to BE God, but to be LIKE God and reflect his character wherever you go. If this is your wish too, then please stand up and join us in our closing prayer

Closing prayer

– – –

APPENDIX: LITERAL 24 HOUR DAY OR NOT??

One of the issues that the SDA church has been contemplating in recent years is adding “six literal 24-hour days” on the Fundamental Beliefs statement.

Q – What are the inherent issues at stake in defining the length of the days in which God created the world? What would be different about your Sabbath belief if we allow for the interpretation that each day was symbolic and was actually thousands of years for each “day”?

The last few years have shown that theistic evolution has gained entrance into our church. Should it become more and more accepted, we will be in danger of losing the biblical foundation for the Sabbath and our understanding of salvation. Without the creation week, the Sabbath becomes a Jewish institution; and if death existed long before the appearance of man, then there was no Fall in Eden and therefore really no need for salvation. And if there was no Fall, then Paul was in error when he wrote:

Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. (Rom 5:12)

Gerhard Pfandl, Associate Director of the Biblical Research Institute

– – –

APPENDIX 2: EVOLUTION VS CREATIONISM

(See the Ruling Principle)

* * * *

Supporting Texts

Ex. 20:8-11 –8 i“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 jSix days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the kseventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the lsojourner who is within your gates. 11 For min six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Psalm 19:1-2 1 iThe heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above1 proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

Psalm 33:6 6  By pthe word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.

Psalm 104:24, 27-30  –O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. . . .27 These all look to you to give them their food in due season; 28 when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30 When you send forth your spirit,[g] they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.

Hebrews 11:3 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

God the Father and the Character of God — Sabbath School Discussion Notes

Young Adult Sabbath School

Seventh Day Adventist Fundamental Beliefs Series — #3: God the Father

For: December 14, 2013

Duration: ~40 Minutes

MINGLE QUESTION

How did you see God manifest himself in your life this week?

PRAYER

INTRO – The Statement from the 28 Fundamental Beliefs:

God the Father is the source of all love and life. He sent His Son to save us from our sin and ourselves, and to show us what He is like.

God the eternal Father is the Creator, Source, Sustainer and Sovereign of all creation. He is just and holy, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. The qualities and powers exhibited in the Son and the Holy Spirit are also revelations of the Father.

Q1 Oftentimes however we view our father is how we also tend to view God the father. What are some common ways people tend to do this? How has your view of your father affected your view of God?

 Q2 The concept people have of God generally changes as they grow. How is the view of God you have now different from the one you had as a child or as an adolescent?

POINT 1 – OUR EXPERIENCE ESTABLISHED BY OUR VIEW

One of this section’s particular concern is to establish the character of God. Now, there is much—much written and said out there on the topic—I looked up some books and things online and found some statements of famous writers and thinkers.

Let’s do a quick exercise. Break into groups of three, and the quote I will pass out. With your group discuss: do you agree/disagree, why? And any other thoughts on this.

“God is a metaphor. He is a dream, a hope, . . . a father, a city, a mother, a house of many rooms, a watchmaker who left his prize chronometer in the desert, someone who loves you—even, perhaps, against all evidence, a celestial being whose only interest is to make sure your football team, army, business, or marriage thrives, prospers, and triumphs over all. . . ” ― Neil Gaiman

“When I saw my Father lying dead in a pool of his own blood, I knew then that I hadn’t stopped believing in God. I’d just stopped believing God cared. There might be a God, and there might not, but I don’t think it matters. Either way we’re on our own.” ― Cassandra Clare, City of Bones

 “A father has to be a provider, a teacher, a role model, but most importantly, a distant authority figure who can never be pleased. Otherwise, how will children ever understand the concept of God?” ― Stephen Colbert, I am America

 “I always wondered why God was supposed to be a father,” she whispers. “Fathers always want you to measure up to something. Mothers are the ones who love you unconditionally, don’t you think?”― Jodi Picoult

 “Blessed be God’s name? Why, but why would I bless Him? Every fiber in me rebelled. Because He caused thousands of children to burn in His mass graves? Because he kept six crematoria working day and night, including Sabbath and the Holy Days? Because in His great might, He had created Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buna, and so many other factories of death? How could I say to Him: Blessed be Thou, Almighty, Master of the Universe, who chose us among all nations to be tortured day and night, to watch as our fathers, our mothers, our brothers, end up in the furnaces?“ ― Elie Wiesel, Night

 “We want not so much a Father but a grandfather in heaven, a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?” ― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

 I am persuaded that God has more the quality of a “presence” than of a nonpersonal “energy” or “force”…God has more the quality of a “you” than of an “it,” I see this sense of God as a presence, as a “you,” as grounded in experience

Like flies to us are we to the gods. The kill us for their sport

Never accept a view of the Fatherhood of God if it blots out the Atonement. The revelation of God is that He cannot forgive sin. Cannot stand it. Cannot tolerate it. He would contradict his nature if He did. The only way we can be forgiven is by being brought back to God by the Atonement. God’s forgiveness is only natural in the supernatural domain. Forgiveness is the divine miracle of grace.—Oswald Chambers

[After groups have shared]

As we can  see, there is such a wide opinion of God, his role in our universe, and his character. Even we tend to have such different opinions.

Think. Is your God (or your idea of God)

Primarily concerned about personal virtue?

Primarily a lawgiver and judge, somebody you need to measure up to?

A God of requirements and rewards?

Mostly “nice”?

Mostly indifferent?

A God of compassion?

A God of social justice?

Q3 Why do you think it is necessary for us to understand the true nature, and character of God? / Will our experience with God be any different if we hold this or that view of him? / e.g. Will believing that God is mostly “nice” produce a different result or experience from believing that God is a “wrathful” God?

Q4 What do we stand to lose if we have the incorrect view of God? / What do we gain when we glimpse the true nature? / What is at stake in this question?

POINT 1 – What’s at stake in the question of God’s character is our image of the Christian life.

Is Christianity about requirements?  Here’s what you must do. Check off the list.

Is Christianity about relationship and transformation? Here’s the path: Jesus. Follow him.

 

POINT 2 – Bible’s OT and NT are united and present a consistent view of God—in particularly God the Father

Q5 What are some of the ways we can get to know God? How can we know not only about God, but know God?

Q6How does the Bible describe God the Father to us? What are some Bible passages or stories that are helpful in describing God the Father?

What do you think about the view some people have of the Bible seeming to contradict itself in how it describes God in the Old Testament and the New Testament?

Someone once told me that Christians themselves are to blame for the confusion of the “Two Gods” in the Bible. Many Christians—myself included at one point—seem to differentiate between the God of the OT and of the NT, and have placed an incorrect emphasis on one and the other.

There are other characteristics of God the Father all over the Bible. It is very important to keep in mind that OT alludes to the 3 personas of the trinity—but doesn’t clearly differentiate between them. The NT makes clear the roles they take. –Marcus Borg

That is why in this discussion, it is important to establish the one defining characteristic of God: LOVE.

The OT and NT are full of accounts of God’s love for us

1 John 4:7-8 7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Hosea 2:19-20 19 I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. 20 I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the Lord.

Isaiah 43:4 Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.
With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.

The prophets in the bible use the language of love to speak of God’s relation to Israel. God is the lover, Israel is the beloved, ALSO note that Song of Songs has been understood as an allegory of the God-human relationship, or the Christ-church relationship.

 Why do you think it is so important to nail down and to get this down right?

[If no one answers, continue:]

How many of You are married? Engaged?

As we said before, being in a deep and lasting relationship with God can be rightly compared to being married. Wouldn’t you agree that it is important to know your future spouses character before tying the knot? What happens to the relationship if there is no real knowledge of who you are marrying? 

POINT 3: JUSTICE/WRATH—GOD AS A MORAL BEING

I’m going to pass out some quotes. Form groups again, read, share, discuss

Never build your preaching of forgiveness on the fact that God is our Father and he will forgive us because he loves us. It is untrue to Christ’s revelation of God, making the Cross absolutely unnecessary…anything that belittles or obliterates the holiness of God by a false view of the love of God, is untrue to the revelation of God given by Jesus Christ. Never allow the thought that Jesus stands with us against God (against himself!) out of pity and compassion; that he became a curse for us out of sympathy with us.—Oswald Chambers

 This is one way to look at it: God’s Love makes him willing to forgive, sinners, but his holiness requires him to punish sin; the atonement provides a way to meet the demands of both attributes. The problem with this way of looking at it, is that this equates wrath with vengeance and love with indulgence. A better way to interpret their relationship is to see God’s wrath as the expression, not the antithesis, of his love. –Rice

God’s wrath is his loving response to sin. He finds it repulsive, disgusting. It distresses him to see the ones he loves destroying themselves –Rice

Whosoever comes to me I will never cast out, for I have come down from heaven…that everyone who looks on to the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:37,40)

 They are very deep passages. What is one thought that it produces. Do you agree? Disagree? What strikes you more?

GOD OF JUSTICE, GOD OF LOVE

The God of love isn’t just a “nice God.” Author Marcus J. Borg states that The God of love is also the God of justice. The two are related, for in the Bible justice is the social form of love. Love that has an edge—and a passion for justice. God loves everybody and everything, and we need to take seriously that side of love—prolonged injustice has consequences.

What happens to human beings is the outcome of their own choices. They bear responsibility for their destiny. (rice)

As a moral being, God is more concerned with the way his followers treat other people than he is with the forms of worship they employ…Rituals are worthless, offensive, in God’s eyes if people abuse the weak and ignore the needs of the poor. (R. Rice)

YANCEY: What good is God? Why doesn’t God do something about wicked people? Why doesn’t God take a more active role in human history?

According to the OT, God did take an active and foreceful role in the past yet it failed to produce lasting faith among the Israelintes. And, as eartly powers have learned, force and freedom make uneasy partners and an emphasis on one always diminishes the other; God consistently tilts towards human freedom. In the end, though, we have to sure answer and only fleeting glimpses of God’s ultimate plan.—Phillip Yancey, What Good Is God?

CONCLUSION

Briefly refer to Conclusion of: –MY STORY IN ALMOST CRASHING THE CAR– and what I learned about love. 

CALL TO ACTION

Your life and my life is to vindicate the name of God. Wherever you go, or in your social media, or blog, or wherever your walk of life takes us, we are called on to represent the truth of the God we serve. God the Father, is love.

PRAYER

Ask so that this week, as we draw near to God and seek him in scripture, we may have a clearer revelation of his character.

The Unseen

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)

He was a philosophy major and he wanted me to tell him how I—a rational, intellectual person—believed in God. He caught me off guard (spiritually speaking). At that time I was ill prepared to counter his arguments, and though I spewed out all manner of things (which I still don’t remember) in a valiant effort to prove to him that Christians are not the mindless and anti-science lot he made us out to be, it was a dismal failure. Ultimately I had to fall back on faith: You believe or you don’t.

He rolled his eyes at me, “Well, that is what I want to know. You believe—have this faith that you call it. How did you come about to have that faith?”

I could not answer that then. The basic explanation of faith in the Bible still confounded me, how could I explain that which I never really knew of? I simply believed, and I figured that was the same as having faith, right?

Now I am inclined to think otherwise.

Belief—like I’ve said in one of my previous posts—is nothing special . It is essential to faith, but it is not faith. Belief will only carry you as far as the limits of your comfort zone, that is, up to the point where certainty ends and where faith must begin.

Ok, so I believe. How do I make the leap from believing to having faith so small (the size of a mustard seed) that I get to move the mountains? That, O my soul, is the work of God!—and it’s up to you to let him do his work or not.

God brings us into circumstances in order to educate our faith, because the nature of faith is to make its object real. Until we know Jesus, God is a mere abstraction and we cannot have faith in Him…Faith is the whole man rightly related to God by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ  –Oswald Chambers [1]

My mercenary self always missed the point of faith. Before feeding the prophet—so to speak—I wanted to know for sure that God would replenish the jar of flour and the jug of oil. In short, I wanted to have the certainty of something happening (of my leap of faith being effective) before I acted upon my faith (before leaping). That, of course, is missing the point altogether. I was a mere believer—seeking certainty and not faith—what else was to be expected?

The ultimate goal of faith is to know and love the Father. Hebrews 11;1 talks about faith being a certainty of what is unseen. For me, the only unseen that matters most (indeed, the only thing I should seek to be certain of) is the Father–the great Unseen– whom one day we all hope to see face to face.

That is the crowning glory and the goal of having faith: to reach the point of not needing faith. To reach Heaven. Healing the sick, moving mountains, having free refills comes as a happy bonus. It’s extra.

 


[1] Chambers, Oswald, My Outmost for His Highest “Faith” (October 30)