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Salvation is Not a “Zero Down” Deal
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In my last post1 I went over the four most common versions of salvation in the world and in the church. In the end I concluded all of them were pretty lame. However, I also proposed that the Bible teaches a fifth version, or better put the only version, and that is our topic today. So What is this only version?

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Look at it here in Ephesians:

For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing. (Eph 2:8-9 The Voice)

The  salvation story that dominated most of my experience was the “but” version that I wrote about in “Don’t Be Fooled By a Counterfeit.” In fact, that is the version that dominates many conservative Adventists. For some reason, many of us have embraced a Catholic/ Mormon view of salvation that teaches a “faith + works = heaven” theology, but nothing could be further from Bible teaching. According to the Bible, salvation is a free gift that we receive apart from works. But what use would that gift be if once we had it we would have to “work” in order to keep it? A free gift that you have to earn the right to keep is not truly free. It is a product with a price tag that comes after you receive the product. Its like those deals you see on TV: “Take it Home for zero down!” But “Payments begin in 60 days.” No one considers the “zero down” deal a gift. It is still a product for sale because you are not able to keep it unless you begin to pay at the specified time. And yet, this was the gospel to me. Not a gift, but a “zero down” option. “You don’t have to be perfect, just accept Christ and you are saved! It’s a free gift, apart from works! No one can earn salvation, just believe and its yours!” But once I accepted Christ, the message came, “Payments begin now.” Salvation was free, but only for the moment. I got it for zero down, but now I had to begin the payments. “Keep the Sabbath, change your diet, don’t do this or that or the other. Oh and by the way, here is a list of Ellen White quotes (out of context, of course) on how everything you enjoy is evil and will keep you out of heaven. So stop doing it because you have to be perfect, without blemish or spot, or else you won’t make it through the judgment.”

Now, let me be clear. No one actually used those words, but this is the picture my mind began to paint as I listened to sermons, read books, and spoke with other Adventists in my faith community. In many ways, I was oblivious to what I actually believed. It wasn’t until I was confronted with the true gospel that I realized that I had believed a false gospel. The light shone on the darkness, and how great was the darkness! I saw for the first time. The scales fell from my eyes, and there I was – stunned beyond belief. When truth came, the lie was exposed in its ugliness and this was it: Salvation is free, but only for acceptance. Once you have it, you have to start making some payments or else you will lose it. And just to be clear on how serious God is about his law, even if you make lots of payments, they won’t do you any good unless you attain a spotless character. If you fail to do that, then you can’t be saved.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is why any time someone spoke about the grace of God I felt compelled to say “Yes, God’s grace is wonderful, but that’s no excuse for sin! You still have to be obedient! That doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want!” And so on and so forth. Was there something wrong with my “but” statements? Theologically, no. But the real problem lay in the fact that grace frightened me and because it frightened me I couldn’t enjoy it for what it was. Somehow, I thought grace would open the floodgates of sin and so I couldn’t simply sit back and say “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!” because the moment I did, I felt it was too good to be true. There just had to be something for me to add. There just had to be something I had to do in order to enter heaven. A gift was too free, too good, or dare I say, too “gracious.”

Nevertheless, the Bible is clear. Salvation “is God’s gift.” It is not a “zero down” deal. It is not a, “take it home now, pay later” offer. It is a gift. It is free to receive and free to retain. This is the only salvation story the Bible tells. You are saved as a free gift apart from works and are preserved in Christ as a free gift apart from works. This means that you don’t have to do anything in order to be saved or stay saved. You just have to receive the gift though faith and through the same faith that you receive it, you also retain it. This is the foundation of Christianity. We are saved by grace through faith from beginning to middle to end. No if’s, no and’s, and certainly no but’s. It’s all a gift of God.

And the crazy thing is that God gives this gift to evil people, not to good people. Grace is for the sinner not the saint. The more wicked you are the more you qualify! Look at verse five. It says,

[God] infused our lifeless souls with life—even though we were buried under mountains of sin—and saved us by His grace. (Eph 2:5 The Voice)

It is when we were dead in sin that Jesus offered us salvation. It is when we were lifeless, buried under mountains of pride, lust, and addictions, dead in our selfishness and depravity, that Jesus came to give us life. Works cannot save us and works cannot keep us. It has to be a gift of grace from beginning to end. This is the only way. You can’t be vegetarian enough, or know enough Bible verses, or behave well enough for God to accept you. The gift of salvation is not offered to you when you are good. It’s offered to you when you are evil. You did not receive the gift because you were good. You received it because God loved you despite your sin. And you do not keep the gift because you are good. You keep it because God loves you despite your imperfections. Salvation is a gift. It is given without merit. And the end result of this free gift is that no one can “go around bragging that [they] must have done something amazing.” (Eph 2:9 The Voice)

So do you qualify for salvation? I suppose that depends on whether you are a sinner. If you are, then you qualify. And all you have to do is say yes to the gift that God has brought to you. The moment you do, it is yours without any “but’s”. I want to invite you to say yes to God’s finished work. If you have never experienced the forgiveness he offers, or if you have been trying to earn his grace or keep his grace, it’s time to let go. Salvation is a gift for those who are sinners. It is not “What Jesus did + What I do = Salvation.” It is “What Jesus did. Period.”

But what about sanctification and good works? I’m going to say something crazy here, but hang with me. We humans have a strange fascination with ourselves and because of this, the moment we talk of justification we want to run toward sanctification as quick as possible. Not this time. What about sanctification? Put it on the shelf. We’ll talk about it next time. For now, just stop. Take time to reflect on the beauty of justification. Don’t be so quick to move past it. Slow down. Taste it. Thank God for it. We will get to sanctification soon enough, but for the time being forget about it. Let your mind wrap itself around the beauty of being justified freely by His grace. Sing songs about it. Write a Facebook status. Say a prayer. Tell a friend! Whatever you do, don’t be so quick to get away from it because you want to start talking about “works”. They will come. But for now, I challenge you to do something simple. Accept the gift and rejoice.

Each one of you may know for yourself that you have a living Saviour, that he is your helper and your God. You need not stand where you say, “I do not know whether I am saved.” Do you believe in Christ as your personal Saviour? If you do, then rejoice. – Ellen White (GCB April 10, 1901, par. 14).


  1. Don’t Be Fooled By a Counterfeit. It would probably be helpful if you read this first, if you haven’t already.
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Group Think
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Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success. Proverbs 15:22 NLT

…..victory depends on having many advisers. Proverbs 24:6 NLT

None of us enjoys getting our ideas shot down by a committee or board. Yet there is safety in numbers, but only if all speak their mind in a humble and Christlike way.

I have talked to new church board members who told me they aren’t really sure what to do, so they just watch and vote the way everyone else is voting. But there is no point in having many advisers if they all think alike. There is also no point in having many advisers if they don’t warn us of the consequences of the board or committee’s choices. Board members must realize their loyalty must belong to the mission of the group and not just to the leader of the group.

While I was taking a Speech and Communications class at a local community college, the professor introduced me to the phrase “Group Think.” According to my professor, group think is a phenomenon in which being a part of the group is actually more important than the mission or beliefs and values of the group itself. It happens when members are afraid of disagreeing with the group even to protect the mission of the group. They are afraid of being separated from the group.

In group think,  the group tends to overestimates its power and authority, and become close-minded. Group members experience pressure to conform, whether or not conforming is actually helping the group accomplish its mission.

My professor gave some examples. In Watergate all the President’s men agreed to break in and bug the democratic headquarters. Later many confessed they knew it was wrong, but they complied for fear of no longer being able to work next to the President. Being a part of the group became more important than the mission of the United States government.

I started thinking of some examples of “group think” in the Bible. The Jews all agreed to crucify Jesus and release Barabbas because that’s what the leaders wanted. This actually brought unity to the group, but at what expense! People were afraid to confess Jesus for fear of being thrown out of the group or synagogue. Yet Jesus was the whole purpose of the synagogue!

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When this happened, the group defeated its purpose of being a group. They may have even thought they were protecting the group from Roman persecution by having Jesus crucified, but without Jesus the group meant nothing.

Having many advisers will keep us focused on our mission only if the advisors are not afraid to speak up.

The greatest want of the world is the want of men– men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall. -Ellen White, Education, Page 57.

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God Will Repay You
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Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.” Wait for the Lord to handle the matter. Proverbs 20:22 NLT

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A while back, after a friend had wrongfully taken money from me, I was reading in Romans 12:19,

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

While I had read this many times before, this particular time I saw it in a new light. Yes, it is true that people will hang on their own gallows, Yet rather than just seeing those who have wronged us getting paid back for their wrong, I saw God was telling me, He would repay me what my friend had wrongfully taken.

In Philemon 1:17-18 NLT Paul is pleading for everyone to give Onesimus a second chance in the ministry. Paul tells them,

So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!

Likewise I heard God telling me in Romans 12, “If your friend has robbed you, don’t worry. I will pay you back what he owes you. Don’t take it out on him. Leave him alone, and let Me make it right.”

That is exactly what happened. Right after I read Romans 12, another friend called who had bought some new furniture and wanted to give me their old furniture even thought it was still in excellent condition. God has continued to bless me in many other ways. God has more than paid me back for what my friend had stolen from me.

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I’m Offended!
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A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle. Proverbs 18:19 NKJ

This text highlights the issue that conflicts with friends and within church communities are hard and often a cause for division and even separation.

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GoodSalt.com-rbjas0219

In my personal time with God, I am reading through the New Testament and this morning came to this verse:

“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.” Matthew 24:10 NKJV Other versions say, “Will turn away from the truth” where the NKJV says, “will be offended.”

Some questions came to mind as I read this. I wonder if people today are leaving the truth because sound theology offends them. Is our society becoming more easily offended? Is it possible that people are telling us they are offended as a way to manipulate us, and make us cater to their preferences and ideas?

In our churches some people say that they have been offended by the music, order of service, gender of the elders, and so on. This thought also often comes through in blog posts.

I am not saying the church is always right or that there are not some valid points in these posts that we need to carefully consider. I read them to get an idea how people feel about church issues and it is appropriate that we have a healthy exchange of ideas.

However I believe are there some who are trying to manipulate our thinking by insisting that they have been offended, thus raising a conflict issue which leaves little room for discussion and resolution.

A personal experience illustrates how such potential “offending” conflicts can be resolved.

A while back my parents came to Florida to visit. I took them to the Columbia restaurant, which is a very nice historic Tampa landmark. My mother complained she was cold and asked if they could turn the air conditioning down. Instead they brought her out a nice blanket and put it around her. She was satisfied and comfortable. The waiter took care of the issue without apologizing for the cold air and then making everyone else endure hotter temperatures, just because one person was “offended” by the cold.

Having worked in the restaurant business I know the “customer is always right.” However, you can’t run a business successfully just catering to the most offended customer. The waiter did his best to accommodate my mother, and my mother was a good sport and easy to get along with instead of acting offended when they did not jump up and change the air just for her.

Back to our church community: Are we letting “offended” people manipulate us theologically? How far should we go as a church to reaching out to “offended” people? How far should the church go in letting “offended” people manipulate how the church defines and accomplishes its mission?

Conflict resolution within the church community is not always easy. There is a good strategic plan in Matt 18:15-17. And Col 3:12-15 describes the attitudes that our hearts should have when dealing with conflict. Acts 6:1-6 gives a case history of a conflict that rose in the early church where the resolution of a perceived racial inequality let ultimately to the ministry of deacons and improved the Church’s ability to perform its mission.

Just as it is not possible to run a business successfully just catering to the most offended customer, neither is it possible to have a thriving church community by catering to the most easily offended among us. Instead, let us seek ways to discuss the issues and resolve them in submission to the Holy Spirit, recognizing that no individual or group of individuals has exclusive access to the mind of the Spirit.

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10: Behind the Mask – Lesson Plan
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Key Thought : Moral situations that humans face do not change over the years. The book of Proverbs is an ethical textbook that fits our situations today.

BehindMask[Lesson plan for Behind the Mask March 2, 2015]

1. Have a volunteer read Proverbs 25:2-7.

a. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
b. What are some of the mysteries of God that intrigue you? Are they in nature, spiritual, or other?
c. Personal Application: How do we get the dross taken away from the silver in our lives? Share your thoughts. Is it only God who tests us, or do we need to do something as well?
d. Case Study: One of your relatives states: “Everybody wants to be famous, or in the presence of someone who is. Why is Solomon telling us not to want to be in that position? He was the king, son of David, so he was famous.” How would you respond to your relative?

2. Have a volunteer read Proverbs 26:11,12.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
b. Why do so many people who overcome vices return to them later?
c. Personal Application: Have you ever been tempted to compromise on your core values or truths? How do we know which values trump others? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your friends states, “God seems to be far away during difficult times. How do we find Him when things are tough?” How would you respond to your neighbor?

3. Have a volunteer read Proverbs 26:13-16.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. Why don’t lazy people want to take risks? Fear of danger? Fear of rejection? Lack of training? Lack of motivation? Or something else?
c. Personal Application: Do you consider yourself lazy or slothful in work? What about in spiritual things like reading God’s Word or doing His work? Share your thoughts..
d. Case Study: One of your neighbors states, “Our church and our government encourages slothfulness by rewarding those who are lazy to work and don’t want to earn their own living. They think society owes them something.?” How would you respond to your friend?

4. Have a volunteer read Proverbs 26:17-23.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. Why do people butt in to other people’s arguments and affairs? If it is not a smart thing to do, is there any good reason to do so?
c. Personal Application: Do you know any talebearers? How can we stop the burning lips from spreading fire? 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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Tuesday: The Sluggard
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The Sluggard

The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth (Prov. 26:15, NIV).

Just as students who spend more time and energy preparing to cheat on an exam than studying for it, it is ironic that lazy people work hard to find excuses for their laziness!

Read Proverbs 26:13–16. What are we being warned about here?

Solitary Pink Rose

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The lazy person may be right: There is a lion in the road! (Prov. 26:13, NKJV). Therefore, it is wiser to stay at home and not to confront the danger. But by doing just that, we miss all the opportunities that life offers. We will never enjoy the beauty of the rose if we do not run the risk of being hurt by its thorns. We will not be able to move forward if we are afraid of obstacles. People who do not dare to commit themselves will never taste the fullness of life.

Look at some of the other imagery in those verses. Just as the door swings on its hinges but doesn’t go anywhere, lazy people turn in their beds; that is, they just change position, but don’t go anywhere either.

The other image, in Prov. 26:15, is even more startling. They can get their hands into a dish of food but are too lazy to bring them back to feed themselves?

But even worse is their intellectual laziness, their closed-mindedness and certainty about their own positions. Therefore, they will always be right, wiser than seven wise men (Prov. 26:16), and will not be open to other views, perhaps wiser than their own. Those who think they have all the answers usually don’t.

In the judgment men will not be condemned because they conscientiously believed a lie, but because they did not believe the truth, because they neglected the opportunity of learning what is truth. — Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 55. How do we understand our role in giving others the opportunity to learn what is truth? Where does our responsibility begin, and where does it end?

 

 

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Monday: The Fool as Wise
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The Fool as Wise

Though not a recent fabrication, (especially in the Western world) the idea has taken hold in recent years that argues for the relative nature of truth. That is, what is true for one person, or one culture, might not be true for another. While on one level this is always correct (some places drive on the right side of the road, others on the left), on another it’s a dangerous error, especially in the moral realm. Certain things are right and others are wrong, regardless of where we live or our personal preferences. In the end we must always submit our views to the Word of God and the truths found there. God’s Word must be our ultimate source for knowing right and wrong, good and evil.

Read Proverbs 26:11-12. (See also Judges 21:25; 1 Cor. 1:20-21; 1 Cor. 2:6-7; 2 Cor. 1:12.) What must we all be careful not to do?

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Image © Darrel Tank from GoodSalt.com

As we can see, this idea of doing what is right in one’s own eyes is nothing new. Yet it was as wrong then as it is now. As we have already seen, none of us understands everything; in fact, we don’t fully understand anything. We all have areas where we need to grow and learn, so we should always be open to the fact that we don’t have all the answers.

In the case of fools, as seen in this proverb, the reason to be concerned is that the influence of their folly will go beyond themselves. They are now more convinced than ever of their wisdom; they will therefore repeat their folly. They may even be so convincing that others will think they are wise, will honor them, and consult them for advice, which can lead to big problems (Prov. 26:8). Folly will spread, but labeled as wisdom, it can be that much more damaging. Furthermore, fools are so foolish that they are not aware of their folly.

How often are you tempted to compromise on what you know are core values, core truths? What happens, however, when certain core values collide? How can we know which ones trump the others?

 

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Sunday: Mystery of God
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The Mystery of God

Life is full of mysteries. Physicist David Deutsch wrote that everyday events are stupendously complex when expressed in terms of fundamental physics.

If you fill a kettle with water and switch it on, all the supercomputers on Earth working for the age of the universe could not solve the equations that predict what all those water molecules will do — even if we could somehow determine their initial state and that of all the outside influences on them, which is itself an intractable task. — David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World (New York: Penguin, 2011), Kindle edition, locations 1972–1975.

Man's Head Pixelating and Disappearing As He Works on Computer

Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

If we are confounded about something as mundane as water molecules, how could we even begin to expect to understand the mysteries of God?

Read Proverbs 25:2-3. What point is the author making, and how can we apply it to a broader situation?

What makes the glory of God different from the glory of kings is His mysterious nature, and by implication our human incapacity to fully understand Him. The Hebrew root str (conceal, hide), from which comes our word mystery, is often used in the Hebrew Scriptures to characterize what makes God the only true God (Isa. 45:14-15). There are things about God that we simply cannot understand. On the other hand, what makes the glory of kings is their willingness to be scrutinized. Transparency and accountability should be the first quality of leadership (Deut. 17:14–20). It is the king’s duty to search out a matter, that is, to give an explanation for events and for what he is doing.

Life is so full of unanswered questions, isn’t it? In a split second, seemingly random events can mean the difference between life and death. Some people go from one tragedy to another, while others do fine. All this should tell us that we need to live by faith. What things are happening right now in your life that you have to accept by faith, trusting in God? What other choice do you have?

 

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Sabbath: Behind The Mask
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Read for This Week’s Study: Prov. 25:2-3; Prov. 26:11-12; 1 Cor. 1:20-21Prov. 26:13–16; Prov. 27:5-6.

Memory Verse: Do not exalt yourself in the presence of the king, and do not stand in the place of the great (Proverbs 25:6, NKJV).BehindMask

Behind the dazzling serpent, who utters sweet words and who seems so concerned with Eve’s happiness, hides the enemy who plots her death (Gen. 3:1–6). Disguised as an angel of light, Satan prepares the most dangerous traps for humankind (2 Cor. 11:14).

Even more dangerous and deceitful is self-pretension; when we claim to be what we are not, we end up cheating others and even ourselves.

There are different ways to deceive. One of the most common is through language. Some of the proverbs this week deal with words, lying words, flattering words, pretty words that use nice sounds and wonderful sentiments to cover ugly thoughts and intentions. We need to be careful not only about what we say to others, but about how we interpret what others say to us. Perhaps this week’s message could be summed up this way: Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves (Matt. 10:16).

*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, March 7.

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Friday: Further Study
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Further Study: Souls around us must be aroused and saved, or they perish. Not a moment have we to  lose. We all have an influence that tells for the truth or against it. I desire to carry with me unmistakable evidences that I am one of Christ’s disciples. We want something besides Sabbath religion. We need the living principle, and to daily feel individual responsibility. This is shunned by many, and the fruit is carelessness, indifference, a lack of watchfulness and spirituality. — Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 99.

A one way road sign that says John 14:6

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Talk faith, live faith, cultivate love to God; evidence to the world all that Jesus is to you. Magnify His holy name. Tell of His goodness; talk of His mercy, and tell of His power. — Ellen G. White, Our High Calling, p. 20.

Discussion Questions:

  1. In class, go over your answer to Sunday’s final question. What can we learn from each other’s answers? What are ways that we can learn to build up our faith in what we believe?
  2. Someone wrote: Remember two things: Christ died for you, and you will one day die. In the context of Tuesday’s study, which talked about how we will have to answer for sin one way or another, what crucial lesson should we take away from this thought?
  3. Here again is the quote put on the buses in London: There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life. Besides what the lesson talked about, what other problems do you find with that sentiment? Why would God’s existence be something that would make people worry to begin with? What does this sentiment tell us about how well Satan has distorted the character of God in the minds of many people? In class, come up with different ways in which you could respond to that slogan. What are some short, pithy slogans that could help people see the hope that we can have in God?
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Inside Story: “Helping Mission Succeed”
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When Dan Jacko isn’t busy helping people learn to walk again, he’s assisting his church members with their spiritual walk. Pastor Dan, a professional physical therapist, is also serving as lay pastor for the Mountain View Conference in the two church district of Elkins and Parsons, West Virginia. He also teaches biology and chemistry to the academy level students at the Highland Adventist School in Elkins. His wife, Cheryl, is an educator and registered nurse, and serves as the principal of the K-12 school. Their son, Jeremy, teaches Bible, math, and history.

People

Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Believing mission is important, every other year, Pastor Dan leads the students and church members on a mission trip. So far, they’ve been to Mexico, Panama, Honduras, and in 2014, Costa Rica.

While in Costa Rica they built a church during the day, and presented evangelistic meetings and Vacation Bible Schools in four different churches in the evenings. In spite of his own full schedule, Pastor Dan was impressed with the dedication of the pastor in Costa Rica, who shepherds six churches, and doesn’t have a car.

Not only does Pastor Dan and his members build churches abroad–they also build them at home, where they recently completed their own church and school, located on five and a half acres (2.2 hectares), and are completely debt-free.

The most recent challenge for Pastor Dan and the 80-member Elkins church is keeping up with the many Bible study requests coming from their community. Over the course of three mailings in 2013 and 2014, everyone in the state of West Virginia received an invitation for the Voice of Prophecy’s Discover Bible course. The response was overwhelming–with 10,000 people indicating that they would like to have Bible studies. Of that number, more than 200 came from the Elkins/Parsons area.

Some are face-to-face Bible studies, explains Pastor Dan, and others prefer to take them by correspondence, which are then graded by our local church members. The local churches are responsible for purchasing the lessons and providing postage for correspondence students.

What makes this area even more of a mission field, says Pastor Dan, is that you’ll get a lot of people who say, I believe this, but if their family isn’t in favor of it, a lot of them just won’t make the commitment.

Nevertheless, Pastor Dan and the small churches he leads see reaching people for Jesus in their territory as an important mission and are willing to give the time, effort, and funds needed to help it succeed.


Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.
Find more stories at
www.adventistmission.org


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Thursday: Our Responsibilities
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“When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand” (Ezek. 33:8, NKJV). What basic spiritual principle is revealed here? How do we take this concept and apply it to our everyday lives?

distracted woman steps into manhole

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Years ago, in a big Western city, a woman was being attacked at night on a street. She cried out for help; dozens heard her, yet not one person even bothered to call the police. Most people looked out the window and then went back to whatever they were doing. Soon the woman’s cries stopped. Later, she was found dead, stabbed numerous times.

Were the people who heard her cries but did nothing responsible for her death? Though they hadn’t attacked her themselves, did their inaction kill her?

Read Prov 24:11-12, Prov 24:23-28 What important messages are here for us?

The law of Moses clearly warns that those who fail to report what they witness will bear guilt (Lev. 5:1). We may not be able to act against crime, but if we keep silent about what we see, we then share the guilt with the criminal. By our silence, we become accomplices.

On the other hand, if we report the truth in our testimony, giving the right answer (Prov. 24:26), we respond appropriately and behave as responsible people. This act is compared to a kiss on the lips, meaning that the person cares about the other one.

It’s tragic enough to remain silent and do nothing as a woman is being murdered on your street. But what about many of the other evils in the world: hunger, war, injustice, racism, economic oppression? What are our responsibilities here as well?

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Wednesday: What We Put in Our Mouths
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It is no accident that the first human temptation concerned food (Gen. 3:3). It was by being disobedient and eating of the wrong thing that brought sin and death into the world (Gen. 3:1–7, Rom. 5:12).

Man Trapped in Bottle

Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

We shouldn’t miss the hard fact, too, that the first mention of wine drinking in the Bible is presented in a terribly negative and degrading story (Gen. 9:21).

Read Proverbs 23:29–35. How is the use of alcohol presented in these verses?

Who hasn’t seen personally just how devastating alcohol can be? Sure, not everyone who drinks becomes a drunk in the gutter. But most likely drunks in the gutter never imagined, the first time they took a drink, that they would eventually wind up in the gutter.

The man who has formed the habit of drinking intoxicating liquor, is in a desperate situation. He cannot be reasoned with, or persuaded to deny himself the indulgence. His stomach and brain are diseased, his will power is weakened, and his appetite uncontrollable. The prince of the powers of darkness holds him in bondage that he has no power to break. — Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 1162.

Read Proverbs 23:1–8. Why should we control our appetites?

This admonition is about more than table manners. The biblical text is a warning to those who like to eat and who have great appetites (Prov. 23:2). The metaphor of putting a knife to one’s throat is particularly strong: it not only means curbing the appetite, but also suggests the risk to your health and even your life that could be caused by overeating. The Hebrew word (bin), translated consider carefully, expresses the idea of carefully deciding between eating various kinds of food. The same word is used by Solomon when he asks for wisdom to help him discern [bin] between good and evil (1 Kings 3:9, NKJV). The inspired writer has more in mind than just the issue of appetite control. His counsel may also concern banquets and social drinking, when we are pressured and tempted to desire his delicacies (Prov. 23:3, NKJV).

Think about someone you know whose life has been destroyed by alcohol. Why should that example alone be enough to help us understand why we should never put that poison in our bodies?

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09: Words of Truth – Thought Starters
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Introduction. Are you comfortable with the idea that some of the proverbs in the Bible reflect sayings of the heathen? If not, why not? If the truth espoused by the ancient Egyptians corresponds with truth followed by Christians, should we not embrace that truth as well?

Image © Pacific Press from GoodSalt.com

Image © Pacific Press from GoodSalt.com

[Thought questions for Words of Truth February 24, 2015]

1. Knowledge of truth. How often do you find yourself nodding off to sleep during a sermon? Does staying awake assure you that you will catch the central theme and allow the message to enter your heart? Do you now and then hear people refer to the church as “the truth”? Besides understanding the concepts of your faith, what else is required for a deep heartfelt knowledge of truth from God? What should we watch out for in “belief by definition” or, “preaching by proof text”?

2. Robbing the poor. If it is scandalous and outside all Christian thinking to rob from the poor, are we justified in stealing from the rich when they have so much more wealth than they need? Is it easier to steal from the poor than the rich? Why? Is there some comfort in the prediction that thieves of all kinds will one day be brought to judgment and found guilty? How can your standards of honesty and right living make the Christian life worthwhile?

3. Being jealous of the wicked. Have you ever known or heard about people who were dishonest, scheming individuals who seemed to have everything? Isn’t it natural to be jealous of people who have what you need but can’t afford? Are we ever tempted to find something wrong with the rich in our community or church so that we could stop wishing we could be like them? In God’s sight, what is wealth?

4. What we put in our mouths. Alcoholic beverages are becoming popular in some of our church circles, even though not openly. Why is that? How do church members justify drinking beer, wine, whiskey and other intoxicating drink? What message is contained in the 23rd chapter of Proverbs? Take notice of verse 35. Drunk beyond human reason, what is the first thought of the person awakening from his stupor? Are you amused? Is God?

5.  Our responsibilities. When we see someone in tattered clothing who is lying alone by the side of the road, do we have a responsibility? What about the 14-year-old daughter of a church leader who finds herself pregnant? Or the young church member who ends up in prison because he has participated in a major crime? How can we minister to the troubled in our midst without being judgmental or accepting their wrongdoing? How can the words of Proverbs 24:26 help bring healing?

6. The God of love. What an empty life the ungodly lead. Do the proverbs contain tidbits of knowledge and wisdom that lead you to fill your life with God’s way? Share the most meaningful ones with others, in discussion or in the way you live this week. And be glad you’re not an atheist. As Dante Gabriel Rosetti put it, “The worst moment for the atheist  is when he is thankful and has nobody to thank.”

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HopeSS: Words of Truth (Feb 28, ’15)
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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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09: Words of Truth – Lesson Plan
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Key Thought : Truth is the surest and the simplest way to live one’s life. God recognizes and blesses those who live truthfully.

gless09[Lesson Plan for Words of Truth February 23, 2015]

1. Have a volunteer read Proverbs 22:16-18.

a. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
b. What does it mean that Christ’s words are to be kept within us? How do we keep them within us?
c. Personal Application: Is there anything that we teach as truth in God’s Word that you don’t understand or agree with or follow? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your relatives states: “Before we can boldly proclaim the truth of the SDA faith, we have to live that truth in our own lives. I think that is the major reason we are not witnessing like we should and the gospel is not progressing rapidly.” How would you respond to your relative?

2. Have a volunteer read Proverbs 22:20-23.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
b. Is this text saying that we are to know the certainty of truth so we can share it with others in personal witnessing?.
c. Personal Application: Does faith in God help give you peace of mind concerning all the injustice in the world today? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your friends states, “How could we be guilty of robbing the poor or oppressing the afflicted? Are there modern day applications to this statement?” How would you respond to your neighbor?

3. Have a volunteer read Proverbs 23:1-8.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. Why should we watch what we eat in overeating? What is eating too much? Have you been guilty of overeating?
c. Personal Application: Think of someone you know who has destroyed their life with alcohol. Does that example give you enough reason not to use that poison? Share your thoughts..
d. Case Study: One of your neighbors states, “Why does this say not to work to be rich? Aren’t we supposed to make money, and if we do, aren’t we supposed to thank God for His blessings? Does He want us to live poor?” How would you respond to your friend?

4. Have a volunteer read Proverbs 23:9-17.

a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. What old landmarks do you think we should not remove that Proverbs may be referring to?
c. Personal Application: God says we should not withhold the rod of correction, but the state is making laws that make it illegal to physically discipline a child. What should a Christian do? 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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