restorying faith and values

Reviewing and renewing Biblical faith through story and study

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Christian Social Media Usage

Like much dialog on the internet, Christians discussants dive for the jugular far too often. Being in a discussion means you listen then talk — just like in the real world! Far too many people treat social networks as a place for monotonous monologue. That’s what blogs are for. Welcome to mine.

(cue monologue)

I love being involved in robust discussion and often encounter online bullies and those hurt by them. As a primary school chaplain by day, I can’t help pulling out my resilience flashcards when I get online. Treating each-other with kindness lets everyone have more fun on the playground! Social environments involve a personal commitment to caring for others not just yourself.

As a Christian it should be our personal mission to treat others as Jesus would treat them. Pull out all the grace stops! Let them have a full dose of God’s love and mercy. That should keep you constrained while sharing your views.

But, as we all know, there are many people who do not play by these rules online. They are mean spirited and unChristlike. Here are some tips to keep you resilient in the face of the verbal onslaught.

Don’t take the haters too seriously. Using mean or dismissive language is often a sign that a person is not as resilient as they could be and have reached their emotional limit (or theological limit, as the case may be) and are thus no longer able to take the argument further. To side step, they poo-poo the thought or belittle the opponent. My advice: See this as a weakness in their character, not yours.

Emotional: John Calvin loved the work of church father John Chrysostom, yet struggled mightily with some of what his namesake had to say. He wanted it to fit into current (at Calvin’s time!) theological thought development. In his struggles he occasionally decided to painfully discard the exegetical tradition of Chrysostom but held on to much of his practical teaching and application. That’s how a scholar works. A Scholar only butchers and bags another scholar when he has reached the end of his rope!

Theological: Scrawled in every poor preachers mental margin is this note: “Weak point — POUND PULPIT!!” One of the hardest things to say, for those of us who know everything, is: “I don’t know.” We’d rather yell our view and pound on the nearest flat surface than admit we have some thinking to do.

Resilience: This is where mature Christian emotion and theology take us when a topic exasperates or exceeds us. Resilience says, “I’m OK in who I am and who you are. I can change myself if needed and I don’t need to change you to feel safe.”

Resilience in myself: I know who I am in Christ. He saved me while I was a hopeless sinner. He loved me before I knew anything. Knowing Him and His view of me gives me strength.

Resilient view of others: I know every person I meet was created in the Image of God. As they fix their eyes on Him they become like Him. By beholding we are changed. Knowing that all of us are on the continuum between Self and God gives me grace enough for myself and others.

Be of good cheer, you are among friends! We are all growing.

Keep changing the world,

Dave

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Children of Kenya

On Christmas Day at 10pm I will be sitting aboard an Emirates flight on my way to Kenya. Africa has long been on my bucket list but never did I think it would be an adventure like this that would take me there.

I met Carol and Leon Platt years ago – at two different Adventist Camps. Carol and I had a chat in Queensland at the SQLD camp when I was up there telling stories to the Junior kids. Leon and I met briefly in South Australia when I was there telling stories to the Primary kids. Little did I know that years later our paths would cross again when our shared interest in God’s children collided. This time in Africa.

That is, the children are in Africa. Leon and Carol have fallen deeply in love with the children of Kenya. They have been back and forth many times and made dear friends with two Kenyan couples who look after children, many of whom are orphans.

In January 2016, due to the global village of FaceBook, Carol and I began chatting. First she wanted to know contact details for my Dad as he has long volunteered with International Children’s Care and she wanted to pick his brain. Then she told me about her interest in Kenya and her passion for the children there.

She began pouring stories into my heart through her keyboard. Story after story of children being looked after by Joseph and Nestor – two men looking after children – in different areas of Kenya. Joseph, a country man, lives in a Masai village. Nestor, a city man, lives in the centre of Eldoret. Both men have been called by God to rescue and care for children. It sounds like the beginning of a great story, doesn’t it?

“Once there were two men – a city man and a country man – who both loved God’s children very much…”

Carol told me stories of children rescued by Joseph and Nestor. Some from homelessness and drug-addiction on the garbage dump. Some from sex slavery. Some orphans and some with parents who were unable or unwilling to care for them. All in need of a safe place, education and love.

The number of children helped grows each year as these two deeply Christ-centred Adventist men search, rescue, feed, educate and love God’s Children in Kenya. All made possible by the belief and  support of Carol, Leon and their fundraising expertise.

After telling me she organises trips for volunteers to Kenya to see and help the children, Carol said, “You’d be great, David!”

“What would I do?” I asked. I’m not much good with my hands – except on a qwerty keyboard.

“Tell stories!” Carol said. “Most of these children have not heard about Jesus or the Bible. You could tell them stories. Do what you do so well!”

“But, English? I don’t speak their language.”

“Some speak english,” Carol said. “The rest are very comfortable listening to a  translator. We use them all the time.”

And that is where my upcoming adventure began – nearly 12 months ago. Just an idea and an invitation.

Now, we have a solid plan. I will tell Bible stories to the children in both places. And I will listen to their stories. I will learn the stories of Joseph and Nestor – the country man and the city man – and I will take copious notes.

While there, I will blog about it, pictures included! Then when I come home, I will write a book. A travel journal of sorts. A compendium of stories. A testimonial treasure trove. And, hopefully, people will hear the desperate cries of the children of Kenya.

To learn more and become involved:
http://educationcareprojects.com/

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Our Reformation Roots

There's a lot of talk about the protestant reformation in Christian circles right now. And rightly so, we're just one year from the 500th anniversary of its beginning. That's fine and good, unless you are an Adventist claiming it as your heritage. 

The reformation was, as you can imagine, a slow ball to get rolling. As Protestantism formed, another group took shape in reaction to the direction it was heading.

This new group, forming less than five years into the reformation, stood apart from both Catholicism and Protestantism. This group believed in baptism by immersion. They believed in believers’ baptism not infant baptism. They believed in Jesus' return prior to the Millennium. They believed in a faith without creed which allowed a man to follow the Word as it pulled on his heart. They believed church and state should be separate. 

These people were neither Catholic nor Protestant but Anabaptist. And it is from the Anabaptist people we Adventists emerged, in time.

Learn More:

Here is a very insightful Christianity today article telling the story of the beginning of the Anabaptist movement.

You can learn more about our Anabaptist forbearers from this website as well as many others. Do some research and find yourself in history!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Reasons for being a Christian

I am involved in a discussion forum at ClubAdventist which I really enjoy.

Every so often a question brings out something worth sharing widely.

A poster called "The Wander" started a post with the question, "What reasons would you give me for becoming a christian?"

I read through the answers given and was struck with how much my answer has changed in the past few years due to my experience of the Gospel in my life. So, I thought I would share it on my blog to hopefully reach more people.

Here is what I wrote:

My answer to this question is so very different now than it was for the first 40 years of my life. Being raised an Adventist, studying theology, becoming a pastor and leading from the pulpit for 15 years - I knew the answers and could sit and chew the fat with the best of them. My Bible and I were best of friends and we lead many people to a greater understanding during those years.

Then I fell into sin. Not that I wasn't a sinner before, I had just lived with a hedge around me. That hedge had been built by loving parents in whose house I was raised. That hedge had been prayed into place by my mother and maintained by a love in my heart for Jesus and the stories of His Word. But, that hedge can be climbed over. And I did.

When I fell it was because I had piled-up, in my mind, a litany of doubt that went unanswered for years. I knew the answers I would receive - because I had espoused them for years - So, I didn't ask. I didn't ask questions or ask for help. I was afraid. I didn't want to loose my job or my reputation by verbalising my doubts and admitting my struggles.

I read a lot. Very few authors believe exactly what the reader believes. I love this! So, I was being stretched for years but not being able to test these thoughts - iron sharpens iron - with Adventist leadership because I was sure they would fire me. Which they did, but for sinning, not for asking questions. (Although, at my firing, I was told by the conference president that other pastors with similar doubts would be rooted out and dealt with. I've yet to see this inquisition enacted - thankfully!)

Questioning God is not sin - as we learn from the oldest story in the Bible, Job. But letting those questions drive a wedge between you and God is a sure sign that the sin which is always knocking at our door is about to make its way inside. And it did.

I committed adultery. For a short few weeks, at the pinnacle of my doubts, I threw caution to the wind and let Sin take over. It was discovered quickly and when I was confronted, I admitted it. And I was fired.

On the way home, I prayed and confessed my sin to God. And yet, It wasn't until I got home that the full weight of my sin hit me.

My wife and I went for a drive. I confessed to her, told her I had been fired, the adulterous relationship was over, I had confessed my sin to God and then sat silently. Her next line is what has lead me to my new answer to your question "What reasons would you give me to be a Christian?" There is only one reason.

My wife said, "What are we going to do?"

I was dumbfounded, humbled, desperately hopeful and in agony. That word. I said, "We?"

She said, "You're not getting rid of me that easy! We are in this together. God put us together and we are going to face this together. I'm not about to do this alone unless you tell me you don't want me."

"You forgive me?" I asked.

"Absolutely!" she answered, "I love you and love is about forgiving."

And, that is my answer now to your question. Love. God is Love. And God's kind of love is not the world's kind of love. God loves with an everlasting love that seeks to forgive. Reconciliation is God's goal for humanity. To make all things right is His game plan. He doesn't have a backup plan. He forgives.

So, my answer to your question is: The good news of Jesus' act of forgiveness - while we were yet sinners - is why I am a Christian. I am a follower of Jesus because His followers practice His forgiveness and lead others toward Him. Anyone who is brought to Christ will see the Glory of God the Father. And in experiencing the embracing love of God, you will become a follower of Jesus, too. His Love is Compelling!

I am in Christ, forgiven. I am loved. And there is no greater place to be.

Blessings,

Dave

Friday, September 30, 2016

Reconciliation - How God Wraps Things Up

Sabbath School Discussion Guide
2016 Quarter 4 - Lesson 1
Job: The End

Read Job 42:7-9
What is the most important point in this passage?
God has a special title for Job, what is it? How many times does God call Job this title in this passage? What is message is God trying to get through to God’s three friends?
Do you know anyone who believes they are always right? Why is humility so hard when you have this attitude? Job’s three friends spoke for God – they thought – and ended up deserving God’s anger. What stopped God’s punishment from falling upon them?
When Job’s friends offered their sacrifices to God in front of Job, who were they ‘making things right’ with? (God and Job) Whose idea was this? (God) Why is reconciliation important to God?

Read Job 42:10-11
What is the most important point in this passage?
Why did Job’s fortune turn positive “when” he prayed for his friends? Was this a cause and effect, coincidence, a reward, or natural result of his prayers?
How hard is it to say nice things to someone you are angry with? How much harder would it be to pray for God to bless that person? What effect do you think it had on Job to officiate at the sacrifices of his three ‘offensive’ friends and then pray that God forgive them?
Again, God is setting people up to reconcile. Is this just a good idea, or is it something bigger? Why?

Read Exodus 22:7
What is the point in this text?
Who gave Job his wealth? (God) Who took it away? (Satan)
Why does God give back double if he is not the thief? What does this teach us about God’s Nature? Is this a foretaste of something to come? Whose debt will God ultimately pay in His Son Jesus?
How does this ultimate act of reconciliation help you understand why it’s so important to God that we ‘make things right’ with each other?

Job's Three Themes: The book of Job is built around three themes. They are also the three themes our lives, as God’s people, are built around. This book helps us understand who we are to God and who He wants us to be.
  1. Where does evil come from? (Satan, not God)
  2. What is going on in the spiritual realms? (Great Controversy)
  3. What is Sin and its Solution?
    Sin = to disrespect or destroy a relationship (defacing the Image of God in our relationships)
    Love = healthy relationships (compassion, faithfulness & worship reveals the Image of God)
       Salvation = God's perfect Love reconciles our Sin in Jesus' death & resurrection
       Reconciliation = moving from Sin to Love (restoring the Image of God in our relationships)
Read Job 42:12-17
What is the most important point in this passage?
How do you feel at the end of the story of Job? Do we know the reasons behind the good and the bad times in our life? What does the book of Job tell us about God’s plan for us?

Conclusion: Now that we know how it ends, we will better be able to face the pain and struggle Job goes through in this quarter’s lesson. We will also be able to more bravely face the difficulties in our lives, knowing that God is ultimately in charge and, being passionate about reconciliation, He will make all things right in the end.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

With God, Love Trumps Power

Read a Book 
The number one question people throw at God is, "But what about suffering!?"

The usual answer starts with "God is all powerful" and leads to God cannot do the illogical and thus will not control people because He values their freedom of choice. This is the "God didn't create robots" line of thinking...

There is another answer Christians can use. A better one for this question, I think. (a better one, all round!) It starts from a different foundation. 

God is Love.

Starting from "God is Power" implies God's power is His primary attribute and thus where He operates from - a position of power.

Starting with Love - which is more Biblical: "God is Love" (1 John 4:8) - leads to a similar conclusion but from a very different foundation. Rather than saying God cannot do the illogical we say God cannot do the unloving.

Because all of Creation is a created in and sustained by His love, the uncontrolling nature of our all-loving God is universal, not just personal...

 I could go on, but I'll leave you to think on these things!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Family

We humans care about those we love. We give our time, energy and resources to help make life better for those whom we consider family. As the social structure of the world has changed over the past, we have regularly redefined family.

A few thousand years ago, my family was my blood. I cared about you if I had the same parents as you. From this time in history we get the saying, “Blood is thicker than water.”

A few thousand months ago, my family was my people. We believed the same thing. We lived the same way. We were a tribe. We looked, acted and thought in similar ways.

A few thousand weeks ago, my family was my country. We had national pride. We ate the same food. We spoke the same language. We shaped our family borders through war and law.

A few thousand days from now – sooner, I hope – we will realise we all come from the same planet. Killing them is killing us. Hating you is hating me. We need each other because we are each other.

We are family.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Chaplains Are a Safe Place

Dear One and All,

I am a School Chaplain in two primary schools in Melbourne, Australia. I love being involved in making a difference in the lives of students, staff and families! Much of what happens through chaplaincy is funded through people like you who want to see schools have the influence, mentoring and care of chaplains. I am employed by ACCESS Ministries and would love for you to help keep myself and other chaplains like me doing what we love!

Please click on the Pic or the Link below to make a difference.




https://www.accessministries.org.au/support/donate-to-access-ministries/lets-all-support-school-chaplaincy

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Embracing God: Study 6 - Millennium & End of Sin: The End of the Dragon’s Tale



Study 6 - Millennium & End of Sin: The End of the Dragon's Tale

Scholars have said there is nothing in Revelation that is not also in the Old Testament. Many of the references are direct and obvious quotes or rewordings. Other phrases and ideas are vague enough that they require detailed knowledge and careful study of the Old Testament. The study of the Dragon in Revelation is one of the primary themes in Revelation. Let’s explore this ancient story carefully!

Read Revelation 12:1-2
How is the woman dressed? Does this remind you of any story in the Old Testament? (Genesis 37:9)
What is the woman doing? Why? (Genesis 3:15-16)
In the second study – about Creation – we saw this ‘first prophecy’ of mankind. How does this story retell the prophecy?
How does the Dragon story combine the Genesis curse and the promise?
What twist exists in the story of Jesus’ birth that adds something unique to the curse/promise? (Isaiah 7:14)

Read Revelation 12:3-4
Who does the Dragon represent? (Rev 12:9)
Why is there conflict between the Woman and the Dragon (Genesis 3:15)
Who do you think the Woman represents? (Isaiah 54:5-6)
How did the second half of Rev 12:4 play out in reality (Matthew 2:7-8,16)

Read Revelation 12:5-6
Who was the Son of the Woman?
Read Psalm 2 and reflect – what might this section of the Dragon story brought to mind for ancient hearers?

Read Revelation 12:7-9
What result did ‘setting his sights too high’ have for Satan?
How does this remind you of our first study? (Review Isaiah 14:12-19)
What is the Dragon’s goal? (Rev 12:9)
Who is Michael? How is Michael vs Satan going to play out? (Daniel 12:1)

There’s a lot that can be said (and has been in these studies) about the time between the Fall in the Garden and the Return of Earth to the perfect pre-fall state. As we live through the final hours of this Earth’s suffering, we are experiencing the death throes of the Dragon as he thrashes about – knowing that his time is short (Revelation 12:12). We explored the Victory March last week – as Jesus returns in the clouds of Glory to claim those who have claimed His gift on the Cross – and this week we explore what happens after the Second Coming.

In our third study we saw that the Day of Atonement was key to understanding the meaning and purpose of the Death of Jesus on the Cross. In the middle of that day, there were two goats. The first was sacrificed for the cleansing of the Sanctuary – This first goat represented Jesus who took the weight of the confessed sins of the entire world for all time and died as a sacrifice for us all. The second goat received both hands of the High Priest as all the gathered sin from the cleansing of the Sanctuary was transferred to its head. This act – only on the Day of Atonement – was the final act of removing sin from the Sanctuary – sin which had already been forgiven during the past year of Israel’s confession was now removed entirely from God’s presence.

In the Old Testament Sanctuary, the sacrifice of the second goat was the only time both hands were placed on the head of a sacrifice. It was also the only time the sacrifice did not die immediately after receiving the weight of sin upon it. At this point on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest had already purified the people and the Sanctuary. This Goat - representing Satan after the Second Coming – was sent walking with the blood of all the deaths from all offerings of the year upon its head. While the first goat took the punishment, the second goat took the blame. The entire metaphor holds together here only if that goat, guilty as charged, never returns and ultimately dies. This goat is not purifying anything. He’s not playing any role in forgiveness for sins. He is merely taking what doesn’t belong to God or His people – Sin – away from them both.

While the second goat was merely a metaphor, Satan deserves his time in the desert. He is the guilty party for all of sin. He is the tempter, the dragon, that old snake the Devil. He deserves – and will receive – the blame for all sin.

Read Revelation 20:1-3
What is this passage describing? What do you think it will be like for Satan?
As we saw in last week’s study, there are no humans alive on the Earth after Jesus’ Second Coming. Those who believe in Jesus have gone to the place he prepared for them. Those who do not believe are destroyed by the brightness of His coming.
How is this humanless state of planet earth like a bottomless pit for Satan?
How long will Satan be in this ‘locked up’ state? (Rev 20:2)
Without anyone to deceive – what will Satan do for so long? (go even more mad!)

Read Revelation 20:11-15
What happens after the 1000 years are finished?
What process occurs for every person who has not accepted Salvation? (Rev 20:12)
Then what happens to them? (Rev 20:13-14)
How do we know that this judgement and death does not happen to the Saved? (Rev 20:6, 15)
What is the difference between the First and Second Death? (John 11:25-26)

Conclusion and Call

Read Revelation 21:1-4
What is your favourite part of this passage?
Do you think this time of eternal peace will mean more to us or God? Why?
What do you think this will be like?
What excites you most about the new Earth?

From the moment sin entered our planet, God had a plan to solve it. We are now living just moments from that plan reaching the second of three major waypoints. The first, and most important, was the Death of Jesus in our place. The second, drawing ever closer, is the promised return of Jesus to claim those who have accepted the gift of eternal life. The third and final waypoint is the one we studied tonight – the end of sin, Satan, death and pain. Forever!
A day is coming when God will cleanse and perfectly recreate planet Earth. He promises that He will make His home here with us! Do you want to see this amazing day?

Prayer

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Embracing God: Study 5 - Second Coming: Eager Living



Study 5 - Second Coming: Eager Living

As we learned in the study about the sanctuary, the blood of the sacrificed animals prepared people to understand the sacrifice of Jesus. The Sanctuary on Earth was also a great illustration of what would one day take place through the Cross. Just as the Sabbath is tied to this great day of atonement, so is the second coming of Jesus.

Read Hebrews 9:23-28
Where did the plan/model for the tabernacle on Earth come from? (Heb 9:23)
What was accomplished by the sacrifice (blood) of animals? (Heb 9:23)
What ‘far better sacrifice’ was made to cleanse the Heavenly Sanctuary? (Heb 9:23)
Where is Jesus, now? What is He doing? (Heb 9:24)
How powerful was the death of Jesus? What did it accomplish? (Heb 9:25-26)
After death, there are two possible outcomes: Judgement or Salvation. It is our choice which we receive. How do we demonstrate our belief that Jesus took the Judgement we deserve and that we await ultimate Salvation? (Heb 9:27-28)

Those who eagerly wait for the return of Jesus live with assurance of Salvation because of their faith in His atoning sacrifice on the Cross. They live in the belief that the same God who would offer His son as a perfect sacrifice in their place will also send Him to claim them as His own.
The lifestyle of one living in the hope of the Second Coming is one of eager anticipation. Knowing they are soon to receive the ultimate reward of eternal life with their Creator and Redeemer, they tirelessly spend their time telling others of the soon coming King and the eternal reward He brings with Him. And, unwaveringly, they invite and implore their friends and family to be ready.

Read Acts 1:6-11
When the Holy Spirit enters God’s people, they receive power to do what?
Why is it important to be telling the story of Jesus to the world as we wait?
How will Jesus return? What will it look like?

Read Matthew 24:26-31
The first time Jesus came as a baby quietly born in a stable. How is this time different?
What do you think Matt 24:30-31 will sound like? Look like? Feel like? Describe the scene…
What is the goal of this second visit to Earth?
Where will he take these ‘chosen ones’?

Read John 14:1-3
Why might our hearts be troubled before Jesus returns? (death of loved ones, suffering, sin)
What is Jesus’ advice for those of us who worry about life?
What promise did He make to those who have chosen Him?
When will Jesus return to get us?

When Jesus is ready, when all is prepared for us, He will return to Earth in glorious splendour. This time not as a baby in a manger surrounded by animals but as a King on a throne surrounded by angels. The Second Coming of Jesus will show his true nature to the entire world.
And it will change everything!

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
What promises are in this passage?
What happened to Jesus after the Cross? (resurrection)
How does this give us hope for the Second Coming? (Eternal life is secure – even for dead believers)
What story of the future are we to encourage each other with until we see Jesus return?

Conclusion and Call

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
This is the story we are to repeat to our friends, family and ourselves as we eagerly wait. What part of this ‘end time mission statement’ stands out for you? (take an answer from each person in the circle)
Do you want to live in the light of knowing Jesus is returning to claim His people?
Do you want to live like someone living in the dark or the light? What will you do? (1 Thes 5:8)
God chose not to pour His anger on you but to save you through Jesus. What do you say?
Christ’s death and resurrection guarantee that eternal life is possible! What do you say?

The last two verses in the Bible speak to and for all those who believe Jesus is coming back for them.

Read Revelation 22:20-21
What do you say?

Prayer

Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!


Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Embracing God: Study 4 - Sabbath: The Rest of the Story



Study 4 - Sabbath: The Rest of the Story

As our previous studies have shown, Sabbath is tied tightly to the identity of God’s people.
In the first Creation story, Sabbath features as the day humanity is to celebrate being created in the image of God by worshiping Him faithfully from week to week on the day he set aside.

In the Sanctuary system, Sabbath played a special role – particularly on the Day of Atonement of which God said, “It will be a Sabbath day of complete rest for you” (Leviticus 16:31). This “Sabbath” was on the 10th day of the 7th month – the Day of Atonement. Clearly, this would not always be a Saturday but God calls it a Sabbath nonetheless. And a very special Sabbath. If the people of God were not fully committed to the careful observance of “denying themselves” on this day, the High Priest would die within the walls of the Most Holy Place as he attempted to minister on their behalf. This yearly day of Atonement was a foreshadowing of the amazing gift of eternal atonement made by Christ on the Cross.

It would stand to reason that when type met reality, things would change. Rather than fading into non-importance, as some would suggest, the Sabbath rest of the people of God swelled in meaning and purpose with Jesus’ life and death. The perpetual Day of Atonement in which we now live creates in us and through us a Sabbath reality that is beyond any understanding available before the event of the Cross. 

Let’s explore this Biblical and historical background so we can launch fully in understanding and action into the new Sabbath of the present.


Blessed Rest…. Creation/image

Read Genesis 2:1-3
How did God celebrate the finish of His creative week?
What do you think Adam, Eve and God did on that Sabbath?

Read Exodus 20:8-11
To whom was this passage being presented? (Exodus 19:25)
What had they been doing for the past 400 years?
Why do you think this commandment starts with the word “remember”?


Rest we Forget… Freedom

After spending 40 years in the desert, Moses repeated the 10 Commandments to the Israelites as they were about to conquer the promised land. The wording changes – particularly in the Sabbath Commandment.

Read Deuteronomy 5:12-15
What follows the word “remember” this time?
Why is this important?
How is the Sabbath a day of Freedom, today?


In God We Rest… Jerusalem falls

Read Jeremiah 17:19-27
What were they doing that God wanted them to stop? Why?
What was promised if they honoured the Sabbath?
What was promised if they dishonoured the Sabbath?

Read 2 Chronicles 36:11-21
How did the people’s treatment of the Sabbath impact their lives?
How important is the Sabbath to God?


Heart of the Sabbath… Jesus & Sabbath Kingdom Activity

Read Matthew 12:1-8
What are some things in this passage that are examples of missing the point of Sabbath?
What does Jesus see as the most important thing to do on Sabbath?
What would a Sabbath ‘well kept’ look like based on this passage?

Read Luke 4:14-21
What is Jesus teaching here?
How did Jesus bring the things in this passage into reality?
Does this passage describe what you think Jesus was like?

Read Isaiah 61:1-3
What would a place look like if this prophecy was fulfilled?
How does it bring God glory when His people are blessed?
If this passage was your mission statement, what would you spend your time doing?


Conclusion – Sabbath Attitude

Thinking back to the beginning of this study, the Sabbath attitude present in the hearts of those living in the perpetual Day of Atonement begun at the cross brings about a new way of living and loving. What does this Perpetual Sabbath-attitude look like when lived out?

Read Isaiah 58:1-14
What stands out to you in this passage?
What kind of ‘fasting’ pleases God? Fasting is ‘denying yourself’ something – usually food. What ways of ‘denying self’ are mentioned in this passage?

What is the difference between a self-centred Christian and a God-centred Christian?
How does the Sabbath act as a reminder of who we are meant to be?
How is the Sabbath a day of delight for those living this way?

Sabbath is a day to remember.
A day to remember that we are created in God’s image.
A day to remember that we are free from slavery to sin.
A day to remember that God’s Kingdom serves God, not self.
A day to remember that Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath, came to bring mercy.
And, ultimately, Sabbath is a day to remind us to live this way every day.

We are God’s image-bearers selflessly showing mercy and joining Jesus in His mission to ‘so love the world’ by being willing to give up our lives in the hope of seeing His Kingdom Come, His will done – on Earth, as it is in Heaven.

This is what it means to be a people of the Sabbath.

We don’t keep the Sabbath; the Sabbath keeps us.
It keeps us living as reflectors of the image of God.
It keeps us claiming forgiveness rather than guilt.
It keeps us focused on serving rather than being served.
It keeps us speaking mercy rather than judgement.
It keeps us holy by doing good rather than being good.
The Sabbath keeps God’s people on task, on track and on fire.



Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Embracing God: Study 3 – Sanctuary: Rites for Wrong




Study 3: Sanctuary – Rites for Wrong 


Introduction: The Sanctuary was a place of forgiveness. It started with blood and ended with holiness. All year long, the blood sacrifices would come into the temple and then, on the 10th day of the 7th month – the day of Atonement – everything would be cleansed and holiness would reign among the people and priests for a time. Until it all started over again. And again. And again.

Then Jesus came.


Read Romans 5:6-11
How does this passage make you feel? Why?
What state were we in when Jesus died for us? Why does this matter? (v6,10)
Why is it important that we were ‘still sinners’ when God sent His Son? (v8)
What has the blood of Jesus done for us? Why is that important? (v9)
What restored our friendship with God? What comes with that friendship? (v10)
We are friends of God! How does this new relationship change the way we live? (v11)


The Old Testament Sanctuary
Before Jesus came, God demonstrated his plan for reconciliation through a system the people participated it each year. It was called the temple. When God’s people were wandering around the desert, God gave Moses a plan for a mobile temple called the Sanctuary. Just as the people had tents they would set up every time they stopped travelling, the Sanctuary was God’s tent where the priests made sacrifices for the people – to cleanse them from their sins – because of God’s instructions. These personal sacrifices could happen anytime the Sanctuary was set up.

Once the Israelites settled in Canaan, they built a temple out of stone and built a fixed Sanctuary at its centre. There were many rituals, rites and items in the Sanctuary used in the forgiveness process. Amazingly, each and every one of these things represented the ultimate and complete sacrifice made on the cross by Jesus – God’s Son.

Once a year, both when they were travelling and once the temple was fixed in stone, there was a special day called the ‘Day of Atonement’ in which everything was ‘made right with God’ through an entire day of purification rituals. This ‘Day of Atonement’ was designed to return God’s people, priests and temple to a perfect relationship with Him. On this day all of the sins of Israel were forgiven and then the sins were removed from the Sanctuary and sent walking – literally! Let’s have a look.


Read Leviticus 16:1-2
What had happened that caused God to present careful rules for coming into His presence?

Why was God so serious about how people acted in His presence? (sin cannot exist in God’s presence. If it is enacted, it will destroy the sinner.)

Read Leviticus 16:3-5
What must Aaron (the High Priest) do before entering the sanctuary? (bathe, clothes, bring sacrifices – two goats, one bull-ram)

Read Leviticus 16:6
What did this sacrifice (of the bull-ram) accomplish? (purified himself and his family)

Now that he is clean, dressed right and ready – the first sacrifice ensures he is totally right with God before entering the sanctuary.

Read Leviticus 16:7-10
What is the purpose of the two goats?
(one is a sacrifice for the sins of the people)
(one is sent walking with the sins accumulated in the temple that year on it’s head – at the end of the ceremony – to purify the sanctuary for the next year)

‘Azazel’ is one of the most mysterious words in the Bible. It only appears on the Day of Atonement and nowhere else in any ancient literature. Therefore, it’s meaning is unsure. What do you think ‘azazel’ means? (‘the goat that goes away’ or ‘scapegoat’)

What does the goat sent walking to Azazel accomplish?
(In effect, the sins of the people are symbolically cast into the realm beyond civilization, to become the property of a being who is the antithesis of the God of Israel.)

Read Leviticus 16:11-16
Why were each of these steps so very important?
This is the most dangerous part of the day. Aaron enters God’s presence – the Most Holy Place. Each year, when Aaron came out of the Most Holy Place alive, how do you think he felt?
What did this part of the day accomplish? (purify the Most Holy Place, entire Sanctuary [tabernacle])
What was it purifying God’s house from? (the sin and rebellion of the Israelites)

Read Leviticus 16:17-19
What did putting blood on the altar accomplish? (purified Israel from sin [goat] and his family [bull])

Read Leviticus 16:20-22
All the sins from the people that day and all the sins accumulated in the Sanctuary that year were now figuratively ‘on the hands’ of the High Priest, Aaron. What does he do with those sins? (both hands – not through the HP, all other offerings were one handed! – but from him onto the goat.)

Where did the sins from the purified Sanctuary go? (into the barren desert – to Azazel)

With Christ as our High Priest and the sins of the world forgiven on the cross, we are now living in the heart of the perpetual literal Day of Atonement. The High Priest was right with God, the Sanctuary was cleansed (Daniel 8:14), and now we await the time of the second goat – when all the sins of God’s people, reconciled throughout history in the Sanctuary of Christ’s love will be placed on that old goat, the Devil, and he is sent walking for the thousand years between the second and final (third) coming of God to this world. We are living in the presence of God because of the lifesaving rites and righteousness of His Son.

With such forgiveness and reconciliation with God available, how can you take the temple to the people in your life, today?

Read 2 Corinthians 5:14-19
What does the ‘old life’ and ‘new life’ mean? (v14,15)
How does it change? (v15) (selfishness to Christlikeness)
Who do Christians life for? How are they new people? (v17)
What ‘gift from God’ did we receive? (v18)
Who is the initiator of our reconciliation: us or God? (v18)
What does that ‘gift’ of friendship lead to initiate in our personal relationships? (v18)
What is ‘wonderful’ about the message of reconciliation? (v19)

Read 2 Corinthians 5:20-21
How do these two verses sum up this study? (v20 our call, vs21 perfect sacrifice)

Leviticus is at the heart – the middle – of the books of Moses.
Leviticus chapters 1 – 15 are focused on blood and how to apply it.
Leviticus chapters 17 – 27 are focused on holiness and how to maintain it.
Leviticus 16 – The Day of Atonement – is the apex and tipping point between sin and salvation, blood and holiness, justification and sanctification. How does this compare to the cross? (the cross is the tipping point in reality, the Sanctuary was the example)


Conclusion:
Reconciliation between humanity and God has always been in God’s hands. He chose to forgive us for our sin. He chose to establish a plan of reconciliation to reach out to us. He designed the Sanctuary to exemplify His plan for forgiveness. He sent His Son to enact His plan for forgiveness. Every time the plan of reconciliation emerged, God initiated it.

From that place of applied reconciliation, God calls us His ‘temple’ and our actions are the actions of His ‘priests’ – acting on behalf of God to enact the work of reconciliation which God, again, began within us. God’s ‘priests’ (us) are called to continue the work of reconciliation between humanity and God - firstly within the camp (between sinful believers and God, as in the OT Sanctuary system) and then to the wider world of those who do not yet know God due to the gift of His Son – the perfect blood sacrifice.

Now, bought with the blood of Christ, we live in the reality of the Sanctuary’s work in our lives – as holy because He is holy. Each and every act of reconciliation that we initiate is an act of God’s holiness in us and through us.

We are living in the perpetual Day of Atonement – bringing at-one-ment between God and fallen believers, God and those who have yet to meet Him and between God’s image-bearers and fellow image-bearers (interpersonal forgiveness).

This life of bringing forgiveness is a work we are truly cut out for! We were saved from certain death by the Reconciliation of God for us through His Son Jesus. And now we are called to enact and encourage reconciliation in every relationship in which we have influence. When relationships break down, the deceiver is delighted. When relationships are healed, the Creator is exalted. We are relationship reconcilers.


Call:
Do you want to take seriously God’s Sanctuary mission to make things right in the world?

Will you commit to being a reconciler on a world filled with brokenness?

Will you accept the challenge to be God’s reconcilers, today?


Prayer

Friday, May 27, 2016

Embracing God: Why I’m a Seventh-day Adventist

Exploring the "So What?" of being a Seventh-day Adventist in today's World.

What do I believe? Why does it matter?


Series Introduction:

The purpose of this series of six Bible studies is to explore the thematic reasons I find the Seventh-day Adventist understanding of Jesus and His mission for the church to be the most compelling option available to myself as a thinking and passionate Christian today. 

Before we get into this study, I think it imperative to declare here – at the beginning of all things – the primary reason I find an Adventist understanding of Scripture to be the most engaging and inspiring: The Great Controversy. This phrase "The Great Controversy”  is the Adventist phrase for “The Story of God” beginning long before the Bible was written and ending well after it’s conclusion.

The Bible is the story of God’s presence, plan and purpose for Earth. While there is so much more to God than what we could ever fathom, the Bible introduces us to a God who reveals himself to us through us – His people, penning His inspired Word. This was His strategy in ancient times and it continues to be His strategy today – using fallible people to do His Self-revealing work on Earth. God’s Kingdom on Earth is revealed and developed through His people.

The Great Controversy is the epic narrative constraining and compelling God’s will and work on on Earth. There is a problem called Sin. There is a solution called Salvation. There is a process called Reconciliation. All of these are demonstrated in and motivated by the story of God as revealed in the Bible. This is a story, entirely, about God’s love for His ultimate creation – Humanity.

God loves us. We Sinned. We fell out of love with Him but His first love for us has never wavered.
He is doing everything within His power to reconcile us back to Himself.


This is His story.

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Embracing God: Why I’m a Seventh-day Adventist

Discussion Guides: (I'm writing and discussing these weekly with the Ringwood Adventist Youth.)





Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Embracing God: Study 2 – Covenant: Order from Chaos



Study 2: Covenant – Order from Chaos

Introduction: Life without God is Chaotic. By entering into covenant with God, life is given order, purpose and relationship. By living to fulfill the covenants you have agreed to – in God – you are given identity, community and eternity.

Creation – A Covenant of Image Bearing

Genesis 1:1 – 2:3
What patterns do you see in the creation story? (Evening/morning, good/very good, Day 1-3 environment, Day 4-6 filling environs)
How is this a journey from chaos to order?
How is the ‘creation of man’ different in pacing and content? Why?
What does it mean to be ‘the image of something’? (Gen 1:27: Idol, Engraved coin)
What is the covenant (agreement) God gave mankind? (Gen 1:28) Why is this important?
How is Day 7 different? Is the 7th day ‘good’, ‘very good’ or what? (A unit of time ‘blessed’)
So, in this environment (day 1-3) of all the objects made (day 4-6) one is created in God’s image (humanity) and given a holy sanctuary in time (Sabbath) in which to worship the Creator. How does our ‘image bearing’ quality make us uniquely able to worship?

Matthew 22:15-22
What reason did Jesus give for the coins belonging to Caesar? (picture and title stamped on it)
If Caesar’s image means the coins are his, what does “Give to God what belongs to God” imply? Whose image was stamped onto humanity at Creation?
In the Roman times, every coin was loaded with idolatrous images of Roman rulers whom they worshipped and pagan gods. Before coins, every pagan God had a shrine – an Eikon (Image) entombed in stone – to worship. But our God has living breathing Eikons who stop time each week. Rather than a God set in stone, we worship a living God during a time set in stone – the 7th day of each week, for eternity! When we do this – stop time to worship – we declare our God is the Creator. We are created in His Image and we, like Him, are very much alive.
As His image bearers, how do we “Give to God what belongs to God?”
How does the Genesis 1 Creation Week story declare our Covenant of Image Bearing? What does it remind us to do? What is our Covenant – our agreement with God? (To care for Earth and Celebrate the Creator on Sabbath).

Marriage – A Covenant of Companionship

The Second Creation Story (Genesis 2:4-24)

It would be one thing if there were two creation stories in two separate books of the Bible, or even a few chapters away from each other. But, writing them right next to each other tells you one thing – these are meant to be compared and contrasted. So, let’s do it. We saw what the first Creation Story taught us – Image Bearing Humanity and Sabbath Celebrations of the Creator. But, what about this second story? Is it different? If so, why? What are we to learn from the similarities? What are we to learn from the differences? There’s only one way to find out … Let’s get into it!

Read Genesis 2:4-6
What would the world have looked like?
Why would there be two stories that seem so different? (Different teaching purpose)

Read Genesis 2:7-9
What does God make the man from?
What makes the come to life? What does he become? (Living person ‘soul’)
Where did God ‘place’ the man?
What was in the middle of the Garden?

JUMP! Read Genesis 2:15-17 – Skipping four verses, we find to the logical next point in the story.
Why has God put the man in the Garden?
What warning does God give the man?

BACK! Read Genesis 2:10-14 – Now let’s look at the interjected verses
What was there LOTS of in the Garden? (Water)
What does lots of water create? (Fertility, beauty)
The author is really slowing the story down – between the tree and the command – to show the reader something. Why put these four verses here? What is the purpose of the Garden of Eden?

Read Genesis 2:18-20
What problem does God decide to solve? (Adam is alone)
What does God do to solve the problem? (creates animals)
Does this seem strange? Why doesn’t it work?
What do you think God is creating within Adam before creating Eve? (desire)
How has the author been creating the same frustration/desire within us? (by stretching this second creation story out - almost painfully – between the creation of Adam and Eve)

Read Genesis 2:21-22
Why does God use one of Adam’s ribs? Isn’t it just dirt anyway? Why not just make a woman?
How do you think Adam felt when he finally saw Eve?

Read Genesis 2:23-24
“At Last!” – did you feel the same? Why?
How do you like Adam’s Song? What’s your favourite part?
What emotions could you feel in the song?
What is the punchline in Genesis 2:24?
What does this second creation story teach us about humanity? (marriage is worth the wait!)
What does it teach us about finding a spouse? (it is a time consuming and worthy pursuit)
What does it tell us about God’s involvement? (He takes pride [and time] in growing relationships)
What does this second creation story teach Covenant of Companionship?

Conclusion and Call: Chaos to Order

Think back to the first Creation Story: How does the Covenant of Image Bearing show chaos becoming order?
How does Sabbath celebrate this Covenant?

In the second Creation Story: How does the Covenant of Companionship show chaos becoming order?
How does Marriage celebrate this Covenant?

God created you in His image. Would you like to Covenant with Him by promising to bear His image in a world of Chaos – showing care for Creation and celebrating Him as Creator each Sabbath?

God created you with Companionship in mind. Would you like to Covenant with Him to – like Adam in the Second Creation Story - struggle through the Chaos of waiting – waiting for the person that completes you as a perfect Companion in marriage?


Prayer