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The Be-atittudes of Jesus
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Image © Standard Publishing from GoodSalt.com

Image © Standard Publishing from GoodSalt.com

The beatitudes, sometimes referred to as be-”attitudes,” are building blocks to a complete conversion. Each be-”attitude” gives us a glimpse of Christ, and what we may become when our attitude is converted to His attitude.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:3 NKJV

The poor in spirit have no pride in themselves. They know they need to depend on God for help. Did Jesus, in His humanity feel dependent upon the Father?

Then Jesus answered and said to them,
“Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do;
for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.
John 5:19 NKJV

Jesus had no magical powers to live the way He did. Magic is a tool of legalism which focuses on what to do, which is Satan’s counterfeit for a relationship. Jesus had no magic. He had a saving relationship with the Father, and was always dependent upon the Father from start to finish. Likewise as we complete the conversion process, we will forever feel poor in spirit, and depend on our relationship with God to do good.

Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4 NKJV

In His humanity, did Jesus mourn the effect sin had on the human race?

Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.” Mark 14:34 NKJV

As our attitude becomes like that of Jesus, we will mourn for how our sin has affected our relationship with God, and we will find comfort in the forgiveness of sins, not just so we get to live forever, but get to live forever with God, with sin no longer coming between us and Him.

Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5 NKJV

Was Jesus meek?

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;
for I am meek and lowly in heart:
and ye shall find rest unto your souls. Matthew 11:29

If Jesus was meek, his servants will be meek too. A servant is not greater than His master. How could we be proud of ourselves when our Master is meek?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6 NKJV

Did Jesus hunger and thirst for righteousness?

Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. John 4:34 NKJV

The only things that satisfied Jesus was knowing He was doing His Father’s will. His followers will have the same attitude.

Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy. Matthew 5:7 NKJ

No one was every as righteous as Jesus, and no one was ever as merciful as Jesus.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. John 3:17 NKJV

The more our attitude becomes like that of Jesus, the less self-righteous and condemning we become. We become merciful.

Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Matthew 5:8 NKJV

Was Jesus pure in heart?

Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. John 14:30 NKJV

“There was in Him nothing that responded to Satan’s sophistry. He did not consent to sin. Not even by a thought did He yield to temptation. So it may be with us. Christ’s humanity was united with divinity; He was fitted for the conflict by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And He came to make us partakers of the divine nature. So long as we are united to Him by faith, sin has no more dominion over us. God reaches for the hand of faith in us to direct it to lay fast hold upon the divinity of Christ, that we may attain to perfection of character.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 123

Blessed are the peacemakers,For they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9 NKJV

Jesus was a peacemaker and we can be peacemakers also,

To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 NKJV

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10 NKJV

Jesus was persecuted as He saved others, and sometimes we will be persecuted as well as we help Jesus save others.

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12 NKJV

“Let not the follower of Christ think, when he is no longer able to labor openly and actively for God and His truth, that he has no service to render, no reward to secure. Christ’s true witnesses are never laid aside. In health and sickness, in life and death, God uses them still. When through Satan’s malice the servants of Christ have been persecuted, their active labors hindered, when they have been cast into prison, or dragged to the scaffold or to the stake, it was that truth might gain a greater triumph. As these faithful ones sealed their testimony with their blood, souls hitherto in doubt and uncertainty were convinced of the faith of Christ and took their stand courageously for Him. From the ashes of the martyrs has sprung an abundant harvest for God.” -Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles, Page 465

The climax of the conversion process is to be like Jesus. When we are like Jesus, we will be soul winners. Our attitude will be the same as His in that we will gladly suffer persecution if it will help save some one else.

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Growing Like Jesus to be Like Jesus
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Students who are loved at home, come to school to learn, and students who aren’t, come to school to be loved. Nicholas A. Ferroni

There is no true education, growth or maturity without love. On my first day of Kindergarten, way back in the mid 1900′s, I was given a red badge to wear, which meant I belonged to the red group and would be doing activities with the kids in my group. That red badge did more than tell me where I was supposed to be. It gave me a sense of belonging. That was my first step towards education – a sense of belonging.

Red Tag

People who visit your Sabbath School class for the first time may be grown-ups telling you they are just “checking this class out” or “wanting to learn more about what the Bible teaches,” but truth is that their learning system is no different than Kindergarten kids. They are looking for belonging. Sure they want to learn, but what they want more than anything else is to be loved and to belong. Most people will not settle into a learning environment until they are sure they belong.

Universities don’t send out approval letters. They send out “acceptance” letters. The college scholar jumps up and down with delight when they get their “acceptance” letter in the mail, just like I did in Kindergarten when I got my red badge. Acceptance is a life-long journey. I don’t mean that it should take a lifetime to become accepted. I mean that “acceptance” is the name of the vehicle that will get you through life.

Jesus in His humanity needed acceptance in order to grow as a child.

 “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49 NLT

Jesus shone in His interview with the religious leaders because He knew He belonged somewhere, and He knew where it was. Jesus had a sense of belonging. This is what enabled Him to grow and be educated, and that is what enables us to learn and grow as well.

1. Jesus learned the Scriptures as a Child 

Every child may gain knowledge as Jesus did. As we try to become acquainted with our heavenly Father through His word, angels will draw near, our minds will be strengthened, our characters will be elevated and refined. We shall become more like our Saviour. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 70

Children can do likewise today.

You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15 NLT

2. Jesus’ prayer life gave Him acceptance and wisdom.

One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. Luke 6:12 NLT

And so it may be with us.

Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 NLT

3. Jesus elevated His thoughts towards noble themes.

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8 NLT

Jesus can help us do likewise.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.Philppians 2:5 NLT

4. Jesus kept busy with his vocation and avoided Satan’s idle temptations. 

  Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, Mark 6:3 NLT

We are counselled to do likewise.

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 NLT

5. Jesus spent no aimless hours with corrupting associates, thus closing the door to temptation.

In His industrious life there were no idle moments to invite temptation. No aimless hours opened the way for corrupting associations. So far as possible, He closed the door to the tempter. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 72

Jesus encouraged us to do likewise.

And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13 NLT

Jesus was able to grow in wisdom and moral stature knowing that He belonged to God and God’s true people.

Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people. Luke 2:52 NLT

As He grew He never lost his need of knowing He was accepted by the Father.

“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” John 20:17 NLT

Right after the resurrection Jesus needed His Father’s acceptance, just like when He was in the temple as a boy. He accomplished what He did, knowing He belonged to “My God.”  Likewise I needed a sense of acceptance and belonging when I received my red badge in kindergarten and later my acceptance letter to Southern Adventist University. Likewise, those in your Sabbath School class will grow and learn, when they know they are accepted and belong.

Let us pray that as Sabbath School visitors experience acceptance and belonging in our Sabbath School classes, it will help them to experience acceptance and belonging in God’s Kingdom.

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Off With The Old, On With The New
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http://www.goodsalt.com/details/lwjas0042.html?r=ssnet

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

The summer of 2000 was brutally hot in Texas. It was not a good time to be trained in as a UPS delivery driver. I had worked a couple years inside the hub as a sorter, and jumped at the opportunity to become a delivery guy, but being a UPS delivery guy was unlike any other delivery job I had ever had and the heat and frustration drove me to quit and go back to working as a supervisor inside the hub.

I was very frustrated the morning I quit, and just went into my boss’ office wearing regular clothes instead of my delivery uniform, and told him I quit. Looking back I think my boss would have encouraged me to keep trying, but since I wore regular clothes instead of my uniform I had sent him a message that my mind was made up. I had repented of being a UPS delivery guy and my clothes bore testimony to that fact. My boss had no choice but to honor my decision since the uniform was mandatory for delivery drivers.

When an athlete changes teams, he changes uniforms. Along with the new clothes comes a new allegiance for his new team. By taking off his old uniform he is no longer bound to be loyal to the former team. A change has taken place.

In Zechariah 3, Joshua the priest is wanting to pledge his allegiance to God, but Satan was challenging Joshua’s claim. After all, Joshua was still wearing his old sin polluted uniform he got from Satan.

Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the Lord stood by. Zechariah 3:3-5 NKJV

Notice there was no instruction to put the new clothes over the old clothes. The old clothes had to be removed first.

No repentance is genuine that does not work reformation. The righteousness of Christ is not a cloak to cover unconfessed and unforsaken sin; it is a principle of life that transforms the character and controls the conduct. Holiness is wholeness for God; it is the entire surrender of heart and life to the indwelling of the principles of heaven. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, pages 555-556

In world War II you could not fight for Britain in a German uniform. A football player can’t play for England while wearing a German uniform either. You can’t try to wear one uniform over the other one either. Then neither side will trust you! Remember when David was hiding out with the Philistines so Saul could not find him? When it came time for battle, the Philistines sent David back. The Philistine princes said,

““Make this fellow return, that he may go back to the place which you have appointed for him, and do not let him go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become our adversary.” 1 Samuel 29:4

No, you can’t hang on to your old uniform when you change sides. A boy does not want his girlfriend wearing her ex-boyfriend’s school jacket. He is not going to try to fit his jacket over the old jacket. The former boyfriend’s jacket has to go before the new boyfriend will let her wear his.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV

The new does not cover up the old. The old passes away. Christ’s robe of righteousness does not cover us while we willfully continue in sin. Just like with Joshua, the old clothes had to go. The good news is Christ takes away those clothes for us. Joshua did not take away those filthy rags he was wearing, but he let God have them removed. Likewise we can’t change ourselves, but if we fully surrender to God, God will take away the old uniform Satan gave us, and we will be clothed with the righteous robe of Christ. We have become turncoats. We have betrayed the side of Satan and have become traitors to the prince of darkness and that is a good thing! We have changed sides and we don’t need to wear Satan’s high school jacket anymore. We have put on Christ.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Romans 13:14 NKJV

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Jesus to the Rescue!
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Many have seen the movies and read books to children about the knight in shining armor who comes and saves the damsel in distress. As we read we dream of someone caring for us the way the knight cares for the damsel. Would anyone ever pursue us with such desire?

http://www.goodsalt.com/details/lwjas0098.html?r=ssnet

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

What if I told you, that someone is pursuing you with such desire and even more so? What if I told you that Genesis 3:15 was where the original love story of the damsel in distress and knight in shining armor came from? Writers are not as original as they like to think. Fiction is often based on some truth, because writers have to get their ideas from somewhere. Since the story happened first here, I would guess that all the other books have been copy cats. Nothing beats the original version!

And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15 NLT

Jesus is talking to Satan, or the dragon, since these stories need a dragon, right? The woman, the damsel has fallen into the hands of the dragon, but Jesus is telling the dragon He is going to rescue the damsel. You could also say the damsel is a princess and the Prince of Peace is going to rescue the princess.

Sure enough the Prince of Peace is faithful to His promise!

Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True. Revelation 19:11 NLT

The prince or knight always comes in on a horse right?

His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. Revelation 19:12 NLT

Pure speculation on my part, but since the understanding of the name is not known, speculation is allowed. I have read of detectives keeping the names of missing people and even their pictures in their wallets because they are obsessed with their rescue mission. Could it be that Jesus has a special name for His damsel in distress inscribed on His person? Even written on His heart? There has never been in the history of love stories, a prince who has desired and pursued a damsel like the Prince of Peace is pursuing you! There has never been a knight in shining armor who has desired a woman like Jesus desires His church!

Please remember. I am not making this rescue look like a fairy tale. Far from it! Fairy tales writers are the ones copying themes from the Bible and failing miserably at it! Hollywood doesn’t know what real love is and could never write a real love story. Let’s go on with the original and only real love story.

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the world and their armies gathered together to fight against the one sitting on the horse and his army.  And the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who did mighty miracles on behalf of the beast—miracles that deceived all who had accepted the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue. Both the beast and his false prophet were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Their entire army was killed by the sharp sword that came from the mouth of the one riding the white horse. Revelation 19:19-21 NLT

Jesus keeps good with His promise and comes to the rescue of His damsel in distress. He destroys the dragon and his followers who were putting His woman the church, in distress like a damsel. Now He and His damsel can marry, go to His castle and live happily ever after.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:3-4 NLT

There are so many versions of love stories because everyone loves a good love story. The Song of Solomon is proof God loves a good love story too, but not the cheap imitations. He loves the original story. The original version is the only version where they really do “live happily ever after”!

Please don’t waste time on cheap fairy tale stories that make you dream about someone desiring and pursuing you. Read the real story about a real Prince Who has real love for His damsel in distress which is you! Read in the Bible how He promises to rescue you from the dragon because He really does love you with a love no paper back novel can emulate. There will never be a greater story. There will never be a greater love. There will never be a greater Prince or Knight in Shining Armor. And there will never be another damsel in distress who is loved, desired, and pursued as much as Jesus, loves, desires and is pursuing you! He is too great a gentleman to force Himself. All He needs is your consent, and He will rescue you from the dragon so you can both live happily ever after.

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Inside Story: The Tithe Receipt
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Charlie Tui, like many young men in the island nation of Vanuatu, had come from an outer island to the capital city looking for work. Charlie found a job and moved into a barracks with other young men from his home island. The friends spent their weekends drinking and smoking.

Charlie Tui Courtesy of GC Office of Adventist Mission

Charlie Tui
Courtesy of GC Office of Adventist Mission

But one man was different. Jeffery didn’t smoke or drink, and he wasn’t interested in using marijuana. The other men learned that Jeffrey had become an Adventist after attending an Adventist secondary school. Charlie and his friends teased Jeffry mercilessly.

One day Frank, one of the guys in the barracks found a slip of paper near Jeffrey’s bed. It was a tithe receipt from an Adventist church. Hey, Jeffrey! Do you really give this much money to a church? he asked, teasing.

Jeffrey answered simply that God demands one-tenth of our income. The guys were surprised, because on their island their families had paid their pastor with a basket of food or a chicken. They sat down to listen as Jeffery explained important doctrines of the Bible. Surprised by their interest, Jeffrey asked if they wanted to know more about the Adventist church, and several of the men agreed. Jeffrey invited a pastor to come to the barracks to study with his friends. About 10 of the men met with the pastor each week.

Charlie lost interest in the Bible studies, but three others joined the Adventist Church. Charlie’s life changed too—for the worse. While out partying with friends, he was injured in an automobile accident that killed the driver’s girlfriend. When Charlie sobered up, he was haunted knowing that he could have died as well.

Then Frank, one of his friends who had become an Adventist, invited Charlie to attend meetings at his church. Charlie agreed. This time he listened carefully and realized that the speaker told the truth. He wanted to know more.

Charlie invited his girlfriend, Agnes, to join him. She didn’t want to, but she reluctantly agreed. Charlie asked for prayer to stop drinking and smoking, and God delivered him. He prepared for baptism, but Agnes took longer to be convinced. Two years later she, too, joined God’s remnant church. They were married.

Charlie and Agnes’ families resist their invitations to consider the Adventist faith, but at least now the families speak to the couple. Charlie and Agnes pray for opportunities to share their faith with them.

Charlie credits Jeffrey’s dropped tithe receipt for first opening his heart’s door to God’s message. Faithfulness to God in tithes and offerings bring unexpected blessings.

Charlie Tui is captain of a fishing boat in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

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Friday: Further Study: The Church
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Further Study: Ellen G. White, Christian Unity, p. 236-248, in Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5; One With Christ in God, p. 239-243, in Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8. Union is strength; division is weakness. When those who believe present truth are united, they exert a telling influence. Satan well understands this. Never was he more determined than now to make of none effect the truth of God by causing bitterness and dissension among the Lord’s people. — Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 236. We should endeavor to think well of all men, especially our brethren, until compelled to think otherwise. We should not hastily credit evil reports. These are often the result of envy or misunderstanding, or they may proceed from exaggeration or a partial disclosure of facts. -Page 58.

studymoreDiscussion Questions:

  1. How do you deal with people who-though their doctrine (you are sure) is wrong-are kind, accepting, and loving, despite your differences? How should you relate to them? On the other hand, how do you deal with people who, though you agree with them theologically, are harsh, judgmental, and unloving toward anyone who doesn’t see things exactly as they do?
  2. However important unity is to the Christian church, how well has that unity been maintained? How do you think a non-Christian, looking at Christianity, would view the idea of Christian unity?
  3. Jesus instructs us to forgive those who hurt us. But what if they have not repented and do not ask us to forgive them? How are we to relate to them?
  4. What is the relationship between love and discipline?
  5. The ecumenical movement claims to be an attempt to create the unity that Christ prayed for. However well intentioned the motives that some might have, what problems can we see with the ecumenical movement, apart from the obvious issues regarding last day events?
  6. We should endeavor to think well of all men, especially our brethren, until compelled to think otherwise. How should we understand that sentence, especially in light of the fallen nature of humanity?

 

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Is Uniformity of Belief Necessary for Unity?
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So is there a difference between uniformity and unity?

In “uniformity,” you will find the word “uniform.” And that serves as a good illustration. When I taught in a Christian school with school uniforms, all the students look equally good. But do you believe their uniforms make them equally good in heart and character?

Diversity_and_Unity

Unity in Diversity (Wikimedia Commons)

In His intercessory prayer, Christ prayed for unity in the body of believers, asking that …

” … they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. … that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:21-22 ESV)

Do you get the idea of uniformity in this prayer or something much deeper?

It seems to me that unity among believers is more of a heart matter – a matter of loving each other as Jesus loved us, in spite of differences – a matter of respecting each other’s views, even when we think they are wrong, in lowliness of mind esteeming each other better than ourselves, as Paul suggested in Phil 2:3. This is in sharp contrast to insisting that we truly understand the mind of God and that any who disagree with us are fighting against God.

When I put it that starkly, you think, “But I don’t do that!” Perhaps not, but I have been saddened to see the self-assurance evident in arguments among Seventh-day Adventist Christians when controversial subject come up – subjects such as music, dress, role of women in the church, the trinity, prophetic interpretation and others. 1 I have been concerned to see arguments that insist that a particular topic is a salvation issue, and that those who disagree are representing arguments from Satan.

I suggest that whenever we have a discussion/argument, we need to consider what we are saying about God – not just in what we say about the subject, but also how we say it. In person, body language plays a part, but in written discussion, it is the words we use and what they imply about the other person(s). God is depending on us to portray His character to the world, and I believe that issues that affect the perception of the character of God are the truly important issues.

As faithful followers of Christ, we are to be true to principle. But we need to consider which issues are clear biblical truths and which are our traditions. While traditions may be good, traditions are subject to change. If the subject is not clear in the Bible to those who are honestly studying, it is not a subject that should cause division. I believe that, at this point, we have defined the important biblical teachings fairly well as a church, and these are encapsulated in our Fundamental Beliefs statements. When we have opinions regarding how to put these beliefs into practice, we need to do so with humility, recognizing that there may be a difference between our opinion and God’s.

Many of us are familiar with the 1888 General Conference session which focused on the doctrine of righteousness by faith – a teaching which we now understand much better. Ellen White traveled through North America with Bros. Waggonner and Jones to present the subject to all who would listen. She thought it was that important. So I decided to read some of her talks and writings on the conference, and I discovered that she was far more concerned about the way those on both sides of the issue interacted than the subject itself. She was more concerned about a loving spirit than correct doctrine.

And it seems Jesus made a similar point when He told the parable of the sheep and the goats. (Matt 25:32-46) He was more concerned about loving actions than correct doctrine.

I have seen claims that one of the current hot topics threatens the unity of the church. Perhaps so – if we let it, and if we refuse to follow biblical precedents. But the church has survived much greater divisive issues. For thousands of years, circumcision had been the sign of God’s covenant with His people. So, when the Messiah came, those who accepted Him as the Messenger of the covenant naturally assumed that the circumcision which was to be an “everlasting covenant” was to continue. (See Gen 17:13-14) But Paul appeared to be careless in his teaching of the Gentiles. He did not teach them about circumcision, but taught that faith was more important than physical circumcision. (Ro 3:30) Can you understand how heretical such a teaching was to the converted Jews? It’s hard to imagine a teaching more fundamental to their understanding of the covenant.

Yet, when the Jerusalem Council met to discuss the matter, they listened to Peter’s speech about the work of the Holy Spirit among the Gentiles (Acts 15:7-11), and they rendered the decision that the Gentiles did not need to be circumcised. (Acts 15:19-20)

I believe Paul was correct about the matter of faith versus circumcision, but the Jerusalem Council did not enforce uniformity in practice. And the apostolic church did not splinter over the lack of uniformity. Jewish Christians continued to practice circumcision for hundreds of years because it was part of their identity. And Gentile Christians did not circumcise. Insisting on uniformity could easily have killed the infant church, but unity was preserved by allowing diversity of practice.

Can we today learn a lesson from our apostolic spiritual forebears? Can we demonstrate the unity of Christian love even while we may disagree on some practices?

Will we insist on uniformity at the expense of unity? Or will we practice humility by allowing some diversity in practice and thus preserve unity the way the apostles did?


  1. While comments on the topic of what is or is not important for unity and why are welcome, this is not an invitation to discuss any of these controversial topics mentioned. No such comments will be published at this time.
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Thursday: The Restoration of Unity
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Why is reconciliation with an offended brother a prerequisite for acceptable worship? See Matt. 5:23-24.

Image © Standard Publishing from GoodSalt.com

Image © Standard Publishing from GoodSalt.com

There were different kinds of offerings brought to the altar, but Jesus was probably referring to an animal sacrificed so the sinner could receive divine forgiveness. Before we can obtain God’s pardon, however, we must make things right with others. Reconciliation requires a humble recognition of our faults. Without this attitude, how could we ask for God’s forgiveness?

What three steps should we follow if someone has hurt us? See Matt. 18:15-18.

Jesus tells us that, instead of talking about the offense with others, we should speak to the erring person, not to criticize him (or her) but to show him (or her) his (or her) fault and invite him (or her) to repent (Lev. 19:17). With a spirit of meekness and tender love, we should make every possible attempt to help him (or her) see his (or her) mistake, allowing him (or her) to repent and apologize. It is very important not to put him (or her) to shame by making his (or her) error public. That would make his (of her) recovery much more difficult.

Ideally, the private conversation will lead to repentance and reconciliation. However, if the offender does not admit his (or her) wrongdoing, nor is he (or she) willing to make things right, the next recourse is to take one or two witnesses (Deut. 19:15) in an effort to persuade the erring person. They should not be personally involved in the situation in order to be in a better position to call him (or her) to repentance. If the offender refuses to hear their counsel, they can bear witness to the efforts that have been made on his (or her) behalf.

Finally, and only if the first two attempts have failed, we should tell it to the church -not yet for a disciplinary action but for an ultimate appeal to lead to repentance. From the beginning, the whole process has a redemptive goal (Gal. 6:1).

We should remember that redemption is the best way to bring healing for everyone involved in a dispute. When someone has hurt us, why do we so often not follow the procedure that Jesus gave? How can we learn to not let a desire for revenge cloud our thinking?

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Wednesday: A Great Obstacle for Unity
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How can Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1-5 help us to avoid divisions and conflicts in the church?

James 3:5-6 Wildfire in California from Wikimedia Commons

James 3:5-6
Wildfire in California from Wikimedia Commons

It is much easier to see the faults in others than to see our own. To criticize gives a false sense of superiority, because the critic compares himself with other human beings who seem to be worse than he is. Our aim, however, is not to compare ourselves with others but with Jesus.

How many problems could we avoid if we would all obey the divine command: You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people (Lev. 19:16, NKJV). It is painfully true that a whisperer separates the best of friends (Prov. 16:28, NKJV).

On the other hand, there are circumstances when it is necessary to speak about another person. Before we do that, however, we should ask ourselves three questions:

  1. Is what I am about to say true? You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (Exod. 20:16, NKJV). Sometimes we may report something as a fact while it is actually an assumption or a guess. Besides, we may unconsciously add our own subjective assessment, running the risk of judging erroneously the intentions of other people.
  2. Is what I am about to say edifying? Will it be helpful for those who hear it? Paul admonishes us to speak only what is good for necessary edification (Eph. 4:29, NKJV). If something were true but not edifying, wouldn’t it be better not to say it?
  3. Is it possible to say it in a loving way? The way we say something is as important as what we say (see Prov. 25:11). If it is true and edifying, we have to be sure that we can say it in a way that it will not offend other people.

James compares the tongue with a little fire that kindles a great forest (James 3:5-6). If we hear gossip, we shouldn’t add more wood to the fire, because where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases (Prov. 26:20, NKJV). Gossip requires a chain of transmitters to be alive. We can stop it by simply refusing to hear it; or, if we have already heard it, avoid repeating it. Instead of gossiping, thus creating mischief, let us tell of the matchless power of Christ, and speak of His glory. — Ellen G. White, The Upward Look, p. 306.

There’s no doubt about it: criticism of others can make us feel better about ourselves. What happens, however, when we compare ourselves with Jesus?

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How the Church Failed Mo
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Mo is a pretty cool dude. I don’t say super cool because, after all, he is my brother and so pretty cool will have to do. (I’m sure such a “theorem” would be reciprocated by a hearty “my sentiments exactly” on his part.) Anyhow, the point is he’s pretty cool.

Image © Lars Justinen from Goodsalt.com

Image © Lars Justinen from Goodsalt.com

Now Candice, my special lady, is awesome. This awesome lady of mine was clever enough to plot a secret reunion between my pretty cool brother and my pretty cool self. She said it was a surprise to celebrate my recent liberation from the tyranny of biblical languages (I just recently finished my last ancient Greek class), but I’m sure that having my mother in town for a visit had more to do with it.

Now onto my main point. Mo and I were raised Seventh-day Adventists all of our life. At the age of 17 I decided to follow Jesus. Mo went a different direction and has stuck to it ever since. For many years I have wondered why he walked away from the faith of his youth. Being highly intelligent, scientific, and analytical would have been a challenge for him,  especially when my father rejected his scientific explanation of where the wind came from and instead insisted, very dogmatically of course, that God had a room in heaven with wind trapped inside. Whenever he wanted the wind to blow he would open the door. Whenever he wanted it to not blow he would shut it. Though I have no proof of this, I wonder if Mo’s brilliant mind wrestled with such an irrational concept, thus planting the seed for a growing discontent with Christianity.

Regardless of what reason (or perhaps reasons) led Mo out of the church one thing is certain: his experience was, to be quite generous, bitter. You see, Mo and I share a craving for authenticity that we acquired from our culture. We want answers, not cliches. We want truth, not opinion. We want a faith that is logical and rational – free from fanaticism, phobias, and unreasonable superstitions. We want Bible, not dogma and traditions. We want relationship, not religion. And most of all, we want honest and open dialogue not absurd, irrelevant, and simple-minded solutions. Authenticity. That is what we crave. And that is what the church failed to give.

You see, Mo grew up in a church culture that told him it was bad to go to the movie theater even though we could go to the elder’s house and watch mindless killing and gore. It was OK, was the message, so long as it is in a house. But don’t go to the theater! Your angel wont follow you in there and if you die there you will go to hell. Irrational, anyone?

Mo grew up in a church that told his lady friends it was bad to wear pants to church, or anything too revealing for that matter, even though every Saturday night half of the members were glued to the infamous Sabado Gigante game-show with half naked women parading their curves on the TV screen for all the choir singers, elders, and deacons to enjoy. Hypocritical, anyone?

Mo grew up in a church where the leaders were only concerned with whether or not you were a good church member. Do you cry yourself to sleep at night because you are lonely and depressed? We don’t care. Just make sure you don’t let your hair grow too long and you have a tie on when you show up on Sabbath. Absurd, anyone? Yes, Mo grew up in a church where the leaders spoke to you when you were in trouble and ignored you the rest of the time. A church that wanted to erase him from membership because he joined the Army even though not a single one of those involved in this proposition had ever sent him a letter of encouragement or called him to offer a prayer. A church where lack of biblical knowledge prompted an “Ellen White said” that was supposed to settle the issue once and for all. A church steeped in simple-mindedness, irrationality, and flat out extremism at times.

For a mind craving authenticity, I conclude that the phonyness was simply too much to bear and the highways and byways of the world, complete with their own set of phonyness, somehow seemed more fulfilling than the dictatorial corridors of his childhood faith.

This, I believe, is how the church failed Mo. This, I believe, is how it fails so many of its youth. It is not because it lacks entertainment. It is because it lacks authenticity. It is not because it lacks programs. It is because it lacks relationships. It is not because it lacks answers. It is because it lacks questions and somehow marginalizes those who seem to have many of them.

Over the years I have come to shed many of the absurd and nonsensical standards of my upbringing and have come to discover a simpler yet infinitely more complex relationship with God. With all of the cultural baggage that my traditional Hispanic culture brought to Christianity gone, I can now see Jesus and his love much clearer than ever before.

I no longer believe that a true Christian is only the one who fits into my brand of Christianity. I have met wonderful Christians who are covered in tattoos, who enjoy the bouncy feel of dread locks, and who go to church without a tie on. I have experienced Hawaiians who worship God in Hula shirts and flip-flops. I have experienced theologians who enjoy sporting a fro-hawk.

I have experienced Jesus among the real, the genuine, and the broken. I have experienced doubts and wrestled with them. I have come to realize that God, the multiplex deity of the cosmos, is paradoxically simple. He invites me to have a relationship with him and to let my life be an outflow of that relationship. As Jesus once said,

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22: 37-39.

And as my friend Amir Davis once said, “Do the Ten. Love God. Love Men. Take care of your body. And live your life. That’s all God requires of you.” It really is that simple.

I wonder where Mo would be today if the church had focused on Jesus’ words more than they focused on their own traditional discomforts? What if they had loved the culture instead of demonized it? What if they had shown us a God who cannot be caged, the wild lion of the heavens who cannot be controlled, and taught us to live on the edge with Him? What if they had embraced questions? What if they had let go of the pretensions and gone on the journey of doubt, struggle, and pain? What if they stopped misusing Ellen White? What if they had forgotten the opinions of men and taught us to live by the Bible only? What if they had looked past the long-haired guys, the braids, the jeans, and the baggy t-shirts and shown us the love of Jesus? And I don’t mean shown it to us in a Bible study. I mean shown it to us with a life.

I pray I wont have to keep wondering. I pray the era of the Mo’s will come to an end. I pray we learn our lesson.

But that is not the only point of this article. I also want to take the opportunity to appeal to the Mo’s of today. While the church has failed you, it is still within your reach to recognize that Christianity is extraterrestrial and as such it cannot be defined, contained, or limited by human culture. We may have messed it up, but you can look past our faults in the same way we should have looked past yours. While we may look at the church and find much to criticize. we can find neither spot nor wrinkle in the person of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, I leave you with a challenge from Christian apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias and it is this: “Look at Jesus and ask yourself the question, Can I find anything wrong with him?” The answer may just revolutionize your life.

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08: The Church – Lesson Plan
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Key Thought : The church is not an invention of man. The church was established by Jesus Christ to continue His covenant relationship with man.

gless08-2014c[Lesson Plan for The Church August 18, 2014]

1. Have a volunteer read Matthew 16:18.

a. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
b. Who is the Rock that the church is founded upon? Why is it important to know that the church is founded on Jesus Christ?
c. Personal Application: When church leadership seems to let you down in some way, what keeps you attached to the church body? Share your experience and thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your relatives states: “Jesus built His church on Peter, the rock foundation. That’s why we have unity under one leader, the Pope. It is the Catholic, or universal church that holds the keys to salvation.” How would you respond to your relative?

2. Have a volunteer read Matthew 18:15-18.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
b. Why is redemptive discipline a necessary part of church organization and evangelizing?
c. Personal Application: When someone in the church is not doing the right thing, how often do we follow the three steps outlined in Scripture? Is it better to do something, or to do nothing? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your neighbors states, “The church has power to change laws, excommunicate people from heaven, and forgive as they see fit. And God says whatever the church binds or looses, heaven agrees with the church.” How would you respond to your neighbor?

3. Have a volunteer read Matthew 7:1-5.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. Is this saying we are not to evaluate others words and behavior and to mind our own business? If not, what does it mean not to judge, since Paul said, ‘a spiritual man judges all things.’”
c. Personal Application: Why is it so easy to be critical of others, especially in the church? Why are the pastors and elders a special focus of criticism at times? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your friends states, “We should be less critical of each other and more loving and accepting. This will lead us into an ecumenical unity of the Spirit and break down the walls of doctrinal division between churches. We just need to be more loving and accepting of each other.” How would you respond to your friend?

4. Have a volunteer read Matthew 5:23,24.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. Why is it important to make amends with fellow church members who might have something against you? Is unity in the church important for personal and mental well-being?
c. Personal Application: What’s the biggest challenge you see in the church that may be preventing Christian unity? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.

(Note : “Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.” MH p. 149.

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HopeSS: The Church
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You can view a discussion of the current lesson in the Hope Sabbath School class led by Pastor Derek Morris. (Adobe Flash Player version.) A Youtube version of this week’s lesson at Hope Sabbath School is below. You can download the video, the MP3 audio, and the lesson outline from the HopeTV Sabbath School Site. You might also want to bookmark the HopeSS Youtube channel.

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Tuesday: Christ’s Provision for Unity
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What is the basis for the unity that Jesus prayed about for His church? See John 17:23 and John 15:1-5.

Image © Pacific Press from GoodSalt.com

Image © Pacific Press from GoodSalt.com

You in Me, and I in you (John 14:20, NKJV) expresses the intimate relationship we need to have with Jesus. The presence of Jesus in our hearts produces unity. He brings to our lives two things that are indispensable for unity: the divine Word and divine love.

If we have Jesus, we will also have His words, which are actually the words of the Father (John 14:24; John 17:8, 14). Jesus is the truth (John 14:6), and the Word of the Father is truth, as well (John 17:17). Unity in Jesus means unity in the Word of God. In order to have unity, we need to agree on the content of the truth as presented in the Word of God. Any attempt to attain unity without adherence to a body of biblical beliefs is destined to failure.

The Lord also wants His followers to be united by true love. If we have Jesus, we will have the perfect love the Father has for the Son (John 17:26). This love is not a temporary emotion or feeling but a living and permanent principle of action. In order to have true love, we must have less of self and more of Jesus. Our selfish pride must die, and Jesus must live in us. Then we will truly and sincerely love one another, making the perfect unity that Jesus prayed for possible.

When those who claim to believe the truth are sanctified through the truth, when they learn of Christ, His meekness, and lowliness, there will be complete and perfect unity in the church. — Ellen G. White, The Signs of the Times,\AE September 19, 1900.

It has not always been easy to maintain a high view of truth and to have deep love for one another at the same time. There is always the risk of emphasizing one at the expense of the other. There was a time when doctrine alone was considered the most important element for unity. Fortunately, this lack of balance has been gradually corrected. Today, however, we run the risk of going to the other extreme: to think that love is more important than truth for unity. We need to remember that love without truth is blind, and truth without love is fruitless. Mind and heart must work together.

The apostolic church exhibited the unity for which Christ prayed. They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine [truth] and fellowship [love] (Acts 2:42, NKJV).

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Monday: Christ’s Prayer for Unity
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It was Thursday night. After the Last Supper, Jesus and the disciples went toward the Mount of Olives. On their way to Gethsemane, Jesus stopped and prayed for Himself, for His disciples, and for all who later would believe in Him through the apostles’ preaching. Although the agony of the Cross was before Him, His greatest concern was not for Himself but for His followers. John 17 presents Jesus’ longest intercessory prayer recorded in the Bible. It is encouraging to think that He prayed for everyone who believes in Him, including each of us.

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Read John 17. What was Jesus’ main prayer request to the Father regarding the believers? See especially John 17:21-23.

Unity is crucial for the life of the church. We can measure its importance by the fact that four times Christ repeated His eager desire that His followers may be one (John 17:11, 21-23). In that special final hour, the Lord could have prayed for many other very significant and necessary things. Instead, He focused His prayer on the unity of the believers. He knew that the greatest danger for the church would be a spirit of rivalry and division.

Jesus’ plea is not for uniformity but rather for a personal unity similar to His relationship with the Father. He and the Father are two persons, distinct from each other, with different functions. Yet, they are one in nature and purpose. By the same token, we all have different temperaments, backgrounds, abilities, and roles, but we all should be united in Jesus Christ.

This kind of unity does not happen spontaneously. In order to have it, we must fully accept Christ’s lordship in our lives. He must mold our character, and we must surrender our will to His will.

This unity is not an end in itself. It is a testimony to inspire the world to believe in Christ as the Savior sent by the Father. Harmony and union among men of diverse dispositions is the strongest witness possible that God has sent His Son to save sinners. It is an unquestionable evidence of Christ’s saving and transforming power. And we have the privilege of bearing this witness.

Many times unity is threatened by nothing other than selfishness. How can we make sure that we are not guilty of jeopardizing unity for no good reason?

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Sunday: The Foundation of the Church
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Jesus said on this rock I will build My church (Matt. 16:18, NKJV). Who is the rock (petra in Greek) upon which the church is built? Some interpreters believe that Peter is the rock. They argue that the Lord used a play on words between Peter and rock (Petros and petra, respectively, in Greek)-a play that presumably would be clearer in the Aramaic language, which Jesus probably used. The fact is, however, that nobody knows with certitude the exact wording of Jesus’ statement in Aramaic. We have only the Greek text recorded by Matthew, which distinguishes between Petros (stone) and petra (rock), a distinction that should not be overlooked.

There are good reasons to affirm that petra refers to Christ. The immediate context of Jesus’ statement (Matt. 16:13-20) centers on Christ’s identity and mission, not Peter’s. Besides, Jesus had previously used the image of building upon a rock, clearly identifying the rock as Himself and His teachings (Matt. 7:24-25).

What is the symbolic meaning of rock in the Old Testament? Deut. 32:4; Ps. 28:1; Ps. 31:2-3; Ps. 42:9; Ps. 62:2; Isa. 17:10.

Image © John Baker from GoodSalt.com

Image © John Baker from GoodSalt.com

When Peter and the other apostles heard Jesus speaking of building His church on a rock, they would have interpreted the image in terms of what it meant in the Old Testament-namely, a symbol of God.

Peter himself affirmed that Christ is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone (Acts 4:11, NKJV), and he applied the term rock to Christ as the foundation of the church (1 Pet. 2:4-8). While he compared Christians in general to living stones, he applied the term rock (petra) to Christ alone. In the Bible no human being is called petra, except Jesus.

The apostle Paul used the term petra in reference to Christ (Rom. 9:33, 1 Cor. 10:4) and decidedly declared that no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11, NKJV). We conclude, therefore, that the apostolic church unanimously understood that Jesus Christ Himself is the underlying petra upon which the church is built, and all the prophets and apostles, including Peter, are the first layer of living stones in the church’s spiritual edifice (Eph. 2:20).

Why is it important to know that the church, feeble as it sometimes may seem, is founded upon Christ Himself?

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Did Jesus Tell Us to Love Ourselves First?
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The speaker was telling us that when Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves, He was saying that we need to love ourselves first.

Image © Sally Weimer from GoodSalt.com

Image © Sally Weimer from GoodSalt.com

After all, if we don’t love ourselves, we can’t love our neighbors. I was only 15 and was sitting in a girls’ dormitory worship service. But something just didn’t compute for me. It seemed to make logical sense, but it was contrary to what I had read in the Bible and to the example of Jesus Himself.  That was the first but not the last time I heard such teaching in our church.

The teaching of “love yourself” was and is popular in the world. Unfortunately, it has become accepted in the church as well, perhaps because of Freudian psychology that teaches that people act bad because of a bad childhood which produced low self-esteem. So, of course, we need to make sure we and our children have high self-esteem so we can love our neighbors, right?

And then I read some research into the psychology of criminal minds. Did they have low self-esteem as pop psychology would have us believe? Quite the contrary. Violent criminals, in particular, had higher than average self-esteem. 1  And this correlates with thoughts in a book on manipulative personalities which I read just recently. The author points out that Freudian psychology just doesn’t work for overt-aggressive and covert-aggressive (sneaky/”passive” aggressive) personalities. He points out that our society has been so so conditioned by Freudian psychology that we wonder how people got so hurt that they act abusively. And we’re all wrong. That’s because not everybody thinks the same. Some people are just so thoroughly self-centered that they want to dominate. They don’t bother to think about what others might need or want. They want what they want and will do nearly anything to get it. And when we see it that way, we can see that that is exactly the way Satan wants us to think. It is a reflection of his government. 2

But the government of God operates on a completely different principle, the law of self-renouncing love. Christ came to demonstrate the principles of God’s Kingdom on this planet. If He had loved Himself first, He would have stayed in heaven where He belonged. Instead, He gave up His position and His rights to descend to the lowest depths of the universe to die for us the death that is the appropriate “wage” of sin, namely the second death.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:5-8 ESV)

And Jesus told us that we are to love others as He has loved us. (See John 13:34). That doesn’t leave much room for loving ourselves first, does it?


  1. For instance, check out these articles currently available online: The Dark Side of High Self-Esteem, by Roy F. Baumeister et al.,  Self-Esteem and Character, by Dennis Prager
  2. I might mention that the author suggests ways of dealing with manipulative people. And the short version is to trust our instincts and confront them firmly and courteously.
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