Friday, November 29, 2013

28 Stories - Study 12: The Prophet

Fundamental: The Gift of Prophecy

Bible Story   
Amazingly, Naaman listened to the advice of his little servant girl and acted on it. He decided not only to visit Israel’s prophet, but also to do it through the proper channels. His actions show he believed his slave girl’s God was worth the risk.
First, Naaman went to his king. He took a great risk in revealing his leprosy to anyone, much less the leader of the land. In all previous cases, those who had leprosy were banished to live in caves. If they came into the presence of healthy people they were required to shout “Unclean! Unclean!” Naaman came silently into the king’s presence and told his monarch of the ailment that was eating his flesh.
He quickly followed this revelation with the seemingly impossible promise made to him by his servant girl of a miracle cure from the prophet in Israel. The king, relieved that the banishment of his right-hand-man could wait until another day, jumped at the opportunity for some foreign diplomacy. He wrote a letter to the king of Israel, had servants load wagons full of treasure in payment for the healing, and sent Naaman with well wishes.
One can imagine the emotional turmoil Naaman’s wife suffered while her husband confessed his ailment to the king. Would her sweet Naaman be banished to the caves like every other leper? Her joy upon seeing him ride into the yard with an entourage in tow—treasure and a military escort—would have been beyond words. Naaman was alive and would be heading to Israel to see the prophet.
Naaman had achieved a lot already. He had humbled himself before his wife—revealing his leprosy to her. He had acted upon the advice of a child—a girl, an Israelite slave—as low as one could be in their society. And he had bared his soul to his king, risking death. All of this was but a training ground for the humility of heart that would be demanded on the road ahead.
As Naaman and his military parade rushed through the outer towns of Israel, mothers hurried their little ones indoors. Men hid in the shadows of thatched roofs and watched the shimmering chariots, bedecked soldiers and a fluttering white flag held high by the lead horseman. The Armenians made a bee-line for Israel’s capital. Surely the Israelite people wondered, What is the meaning of this most unusual, broad daylight display? What kind of trick is this?
Arriving at the lodging place of the king of Israel, Naaman’s men were met by the royal guard. They waved the truce flag high and presented the letter from the king of Aram. It was addressed to the king of Israel and was hastily delivered.
When God’s king opened the letter, it read, “With this letter I present my servant Naaman. I want you to heal him of his leprosy.”  Israel’s king tore his clothes—an unthinkable act for God’s leader—and declared, “This man sends me a leper to heal! Am I God, that I can give life and take it away? I can see that he’s just trying to pick a fight with me.”
Not for a second did Israel’s king consider this an opportunity to represent his God and demonstrate His power. The king, in his moment of distress could only see this letter as a fight waiting to happen—clearly the king of Aram was taunting him.
Luckily, someone in the royal court heard the content of the letter and ran to prophet Elisha’s house to tell the prophet all that was happening in the King’s palace.
A messenger showed up with a message for the king from Elisha—the prophet of Israel’s God. The servant given the task of reading the message to the king must have trembled as he read it aloud. It was a rebuke from the prophet, followed by a solution: “Why are you so upset? Send Naaman to me, and he will learn that there is a true prophet here in Israel.”
Elisha saw the situation for what it was—an opportunity to represent the Almighty God to an honest man seeking healing. The king rejoiced, consoling himself that any revenge from Aram would now be directed at Elisha rather than himself.
But, in the end, it was respect rather than revenge that was directed toward God’s prophet. Respect from leaders in both countries. For there was, indeed, a true prophet in Israel.

My Reflection
Naaman and the king of Aram were trying to do things in the order they thought was right—honour the king before the prophet. Was this the right way to go about getting what they wanted? Why or why not?

When Elisha hears about the problem in the palace, he has a solution. Have you ever known that you could help someone and yet you are not asked to help? How does it make you feel?

How are we sometimes like the king of Israel in the way we deal with the problems in our lives?

My Story
How would you have felt if you were the king of Israel and you received the letter from the king of Aram?

What about when the letter from Elisha came? How would you feel then?

Just like the king of Israel, We have a letter from God written by not just one, but many prophets and people of God. When you read it, what impact does it have on your plans and purposes?

My Assurance
Prophecy has been one of God’s ways of communicating with His people since sin first entered the world. How do these verses encourage you? What promises do they make?

Joel 2:28 ~ I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.

Hebrews 1:1-3 ~ Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.

My Commitment
God’s people are not all given the gift of Prophecy, but they are all expected to have a healthy respect for prophets and their message. What do these verses show us from prophecy and about prophecy?

Revelation 12:17 ~ And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.

Revelation 19:10 ~ Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said, “No, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers and sisters who testify about their faith in Jesus. Worship only God. For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus.

1 Corinthians 13:2 ~ If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.

My Outlook
One of the things that prophecy makes clear to us is that God has a plan which He is following. How do these verses help you understand God’s plan and how prophecy is involved in that plan?

Joel 2:29 ~ In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.

2 Peter 1:19-21 ~ You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts. Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.

Revelation 22:7 ~ Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.

My Response
The following statement is the 18th of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Review the doctrine and then write a personal response. What difference does this make to your life?

The Gift of Prophecy
One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen. G. White. As the Lord’s messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested.


Bible Story
The Biblical story of Naaman can be found in 2 Kings 5.

Further Reading
Acts 2:14-21

Friday, November 22, 2013

28 Stories - Study 11: Little Maid

Fundamental: Spiritual Gifts and Ministries

Bible Story  
The northern riders, darkly robed, came at dusk—when they came. Without warning or pattern to the attacks, they would gallop gracefully through town grabbing any child within reach.
They always came when they needed more. But only they knew when that need arose. The townspeople waited each day in fear that today the riders would return. As quickly as the torrent of riders rushed in one end of town, they would flow out the other, followed only by tears of mothers and shaking fists of fathers.
She had been one of those children. Taken—playing in the street. Now she served as the personal slave of the commander’s wife. The commander who led the raiding parties. The commander who planned attacks on her parents and their people.
Yet, she did her best to serve. She wanted to please her mistress, to follow instructions and to love her new family. Yes, love. It was the way of her people. The people of the one true God. Only one word was required to define their indescribable God—love.
While she had no choice about leaving her mother and father, she did have the choice of whether or not she would leave her God. And she chose to love. She chose to hold onto her people by holding doggedly to their God—and living the way He required. She would serve willingly and love generously. Never could she have imagined the reward it would bring her.
The glimpse we are given in scripture of this little girl is fleeting. She is unnamed. But her master is well known, for he was the leader of all the armies of Aram. He too may have been left unnamed, had he not encountered the love of this young slave girl. Because of her, he became part of the narrative of the Israelites—her people—as a blazing testimony of the power and love of her God.
His name was Naaman. His story can be found in the fifth chapter of 2 Kings. It is a story of numerous amazing things—not just the miracle healing often told as a children’s story. There is much more in this brief chapter of Scripture. The character of God is revealed. And the character of His true followers is demonstrated through the slave girl, through God’s Prophet Elisha and ultimately through the healed Commander of Aram’s armies—Naaman.
All because of the love of one small girl who, hearing that her captor had leprosy and believing she had a God who was able to heal, said to her mistress, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:3).
Having lived in the house of Naaman for some time, the slave girl would have known of his military genius. His king had high admiration for Naaman. As did, unbeknownst to him, his slave girl’s God. This foreign God—the Israelite God—demonstrated His inclusive nature, in the life of Naaman, when “through him the Lord had given Aram great victories” (vs 1). Only later, would Naaman realise how very involved the true God was in his life.
Thousands of years later, Jesus would say, “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:44). Could it have been the presence of this little slave girl—her prayers and her love—that brought the hand of God and His military blessings to Naaman?

My Reflection
What would it have been like to be taken from home and forced to serve someone you didn’t know or love?

This little servant girl seems to have grown to love Naaman and his wife. She acted out of kindness by mentioning the Prophet in Israel. What character traits would it take to be able to care for your captor like she did?

Do you think you could be this kind of person without God’s help?

My Story
Have you ever been forced to help someone you didn’t like? What was it like? Did it ever become easy? Why or why not?

Have you ever been put into a role that you didn’t feel suited you? What helped you make it work?

How does God help us become what He needs us to be? How do tough times shape us?

My Assurance
Each of us plays a special part in the plan God has for this world. Every church is like a body that has many parts — each is very important. What assurances do these verses give you about the gifts God places in the lives of His followers? How does this encourage you in your faith?

1 Corinthians 12:27-28 ~ All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church: first are apostles, second are prophets, third are teachers, then those who do miracles, those who have the gift of healing, those who can help others, those who have the gift of leadership, those who speak in unknown languages.

1 Peter 4:10-11 ~ God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

My Commitment
God’s church only functions at its optimum level when everyone is fully involved. Look at these verses. Jot down all the ways people can be involved in the church. Circle the ways you like to be involved. What steps do you need to take to be fully involved?

Romans 12:4-8 ~ Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Ephesians 4:11-15 ~ Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

My Outlook
Finding our place in the world can be a real struggle. The following verses show how God is involved in making the church work effectively. What do you see in these verses that helps you understand how church works?

1 Corinthians 12:9-11 ~ The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.

Ephesians 4:16 ~ Christ makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Finding our place in the world can be a real struggle. The following verses show how God is involved in making the church work effectively. What do you see in these verses that helps you understand how church works?

1 Corinthians 12:9-11 ~ The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.

Ephesians 4:16 ~ Christ makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

My Response
The following statement is the 17th of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Review the doctrine and then write a personal response. What difference does this make to your life?

Spiritual Gifts and Ministries
God bestows upon all members of His church in every age spiritual gifts which each member is to employ in loving ministry for the common good of the church and of humanity. Given by the agency of the Holy Spirit, who apportions to each member as He wills, the gifts provide all abilities and ministries needed by the church to fulfill its divinely ordained functions. According to the Scriptures, these gifts include such ministries as faith, healing, prophecy, proclamation, teaching, administration, reconciliation, compassion, and self-sacrificing service and charity for the help and encouragement of people. Some members are called of God and endowed by the Spirit for functions recognized by the church in pastoral, evangelistic, apostolic, and teaching ministries particularly needed to equip the members for service, to build up the church to spiritual maturity, and to foster unity of the faith and knowledge of God. When members employ these spiritual gifts as faithful stewards of God’s varied grace, the church is protected from the destructive influence of false doctrine, grows with a growth that is from God, and is built up in faith and love.


Bible Story
The Biblical story of Naaman can be found in 2 Kings 5.

Further Reading
 Acts 6:1-7; 1 Timothy 3:1-13

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dave's take on the Job story

Over the past year, as I healed from my brain surgery, I have visited a number of churches and shared my faith journey in a sermon entitled "The Question of Suffering."

Melbourne Asian Seventh-day Adventist Church was kind enough to film it and pop it up on YouTube! Here it is:

For those of you wishing to explore Job's story in more detail, here is an article I wrote.
It will appear in a Signs of the Times magazine in 2014.

To read the article click on the image or here: The Question of Suffering

Friday, November 15, 2013

28 Stories - Study 10: The Strength of Joy

Fundamental: Growing in Christ

Bible Story   
Due to the Spirit-filled leadership of Nehemiah, the people of Jerusalem achieved a great amount—the city wall was rebuilt in just 52 days, Jerusalem’s corrupt leaders were ousted and the people had come together for registration. Jerusalem’s glory was renewed!
In response, the people gathered, built a platform in the city square and called for Ezra, their priest, to read them God’s law. The people longed to worship.
“Ezra stood on the platform in full view of all the people. When they saw him open the book, they all rose to their feet.
“Then Ezra praised the Lord, the great God, and all the people chanted, ‘Amen! Amen!’ as they lifted their hands. Then they bowed down and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah 8:5, 6).
Then Ezra began to read. He recited the scriptures “from early morning until noon. . . . All the people listened closely to the Book of the Law” (verse 3). When the reading finished, the Levites mingled with the people reading the law and they “clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage” (verse 8).
Then, the inevitable happened. People began to see the disparity between their lives and the holy lives called for by God’s Law. In sorrow and repentance, the worshippers began “weeping as they listened to the words of the Law” (verse 9).
At this point in their day of worship, Nehemiah is first mentioned. I imagine him quietly walking on stage and whispering something in Ezra’s ear. The Levites regroup at the podium and confer with God’s leader and His priest. Then, they provide the people with a life-changing message.
The Levites merged back into the crowd and “quieted the people, telling them, ‘Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day’” (verse 11). The worshippers timidly approached the stage. Don’t weep? they thought. Aren’t we supposed to heap ashes on our heads and repent with tears? Isn’t this the purpose of the law?
Nehemiah took center stage. Their fearless—seemingly faultless—leader smiled and in a jubilant voice proclaimed: “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God. . . . Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (verses 9, 10).
The joy of the Lord is your strength. Have you ever pondered Paul’s meaning when he wrote, ”Always be joyful” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)? Is it really possible to be joyful always? Even when facing your true nature in comparison to Christ’s perfect law?
Or what about Jesus, hanging on the cross? He couldn’t have been joyful as he endured such pain, could he?
Where did Jesus get His strength as He “endured the cross”? Paul presents the answer: “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).
Joy? Yes! Jesus looked beyond the cross to the joy of the Kingdom and received the strength to endure His temporary suffering. His own future joy, and the joy of His Father, gave Him strength.
But, that’s only the last half of the text. Paul had a reason for painting a picture of joyful Jesus on the cross. The first half of the text offers us the same opportunity for transformation in worship experienced in Nehemiah’s new-Jerusalem.
We know our sinfulness, and we have witnessed our sinless Savior suffer on our cross. The chasm seems too great. And we weep. How are we to go on? We must mourn, we think. We must bear the burden of His death. How can we endure?
Paul—our Nehemiah—steps forward and proclaims, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:2).
Jesus, the joy of the Lord, is our strength! Eyes fixed on Him belong to a people of joy. And to a world searching for strength, such joy is irresistible. So, be joyful always!

My Reflection
Imagine you were in Jerusalem and heard Ezra read the law. You asked for God’s Law to be read to you, and when it is read, it is very challenging. How do you think you would have reacted?

What changes do you think the people were challenged to make in their lives?

My Story
Have you ever been challenged to change something about your character, beliefs or habits? What were you challenged to change? What was it that brought the challenge (a person, event, book, etc)? Describe the process of that change.

My Assurance
The Christian life is not always easy, but it is never lived alone. The following verses make some amazing statements about things Jesus has done, is doing and will do in our lives. How do these verses encourage you?

Colossians 1:13, 14 ~ For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

Colossians 2:14, 15 ~ He cancelled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.

Psalm 34:4 ~ Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

John 20:21 ~ Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”

Romans 8:38, 39 ~ And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

My Commitment
Life is like walking up a down escalator—when we stand still, we go backward! What challenges do these verses provide to keep us moving forward in our walk with Christ?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ~ Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Psalm 1:1, 2 ~ Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.

Colossians 2:6 ~ And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him.

Ephesians 5:19, 20 ~ Singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Galatians 5:22-25 ~ But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

My Outlook
There is so much more going on in this world than what we can see with our eyes. Good and evil are at war. How do these verses help us keep the spiritual world in mind as we are busy in this physical world?

Psalm 77:11, 12 ~ But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

Ephesians 6:12-18 ~ For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 ~ For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

How does a joyful outlook help?

My Response
The following statement is the 11th of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Review the doctrine and then write a personal response. What difference does this make to your life?

Growing in Christ
By His cross Jesus triumphed over the forces of evil. He who subjugated the demonic spirits during His earthly ministry has broken their power and made certain their ultimate doom. Jesus’ victory gives us victory over the evil forces that still seek to control us, as we walk with Him in peace, joy, and assurance of His love. Now the Holy Spirit dwells within us and empowers us. Continually committed to Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we are set free from the burden of our past deeds. No longer do we live in the darkness, fear of evil powers, ignorance, and meaninglessness of our former way of life. In this new freedom in Jesus, we are called to grow into the likeness of His character, communing with Him daily in prayer, feeding on His Word, meditating on it and on His providence, singing His praises, gathering together for worship, and participating in the mission of the Church. As we give ourselves in loving service to those around us and in witnessing to His salvation, His constant presence with us through the Spirit sanctifies every moment and every task.


Bible Story
The story at the beginning of this lesson can be found in Nehemiah 8.

Further Reading
Luke 10:17-20; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 3:18; Philippians 3:7-14; Matthew 20:25-28; 1 John 4:4; Hebrews 10:25

Friday, November 08, 2013

28 Stories - Study 9: Tie me Tightly

Fundamental: God the Son

Bible Story  
As the two men prepared the altar, the younger asked a question. “Father, we have the stones, we have the sticks and we even have the fire,” He pointed to a ram’s horn propped up against a rock. “But, we have no sacrifice!”
Abraham paused, facing the altar. Isaac was gathering sticks behind him. A painful expression spread across the old man’s face. He wiped the sweat from his forehead. 
Isaac walked past Abraham and placed the sticks on the altar. Then he turned to face his father, resting his hands on his hips, taking large breaths from the hard work. “Don’t we need a lamb or a goat? Or something, at least?”
Abraham reached out and placed a hand on his son’s cheek. He struggled to smile. “God will provide a lamb,” he said, in little more than a whisper. 
Then raising his other hand, Abraham cradled his son’s face. Looking deeply into Isaac’s eyes, he raised his voice and said with longing, “God will provide!”
Isaac’s shoulders slumped. He understood.
Isaac reached up, placing his hands over his fathers, and slowly pulled them off his face. He turned and looked at the large altar with dread. His gaze moved from the altar to his father and back again. 
Isaac climbed onto the altar, lay on his back and folded his arms across his chest. Abraham untied a rope from around his waist and carefully tied his son to the altar—crisscrossing across Isaac’s body, from head to foot. 
Isaac seemed to have accepted his role in this sacrifice. In a quiet voice, he said, “Tie me tightly, Father. I’m nervous and afraid. If I break away, the sacrifice will be improper. I must not move.” 
His father nodded without speaking, tears streamed down his dusty face. As he tightened the rope that crossed Isaac’s shoulder—leaning over his son to do so—a tear fell from his eye and landed on Isaac’s cheek. The two cried together as they continued preparing the sacrifice God required.
Once the ropes were tight, Abraham drew a large knife from his belt. He walked to the uphill side of the altar and looked down at his son—the son God had given him as a special gift—and placed his hand on Isaac’s forehead.
“Isaac, my boy,” Abraham said, in little more than a whisper, “God promised me a son. You brought us such joy when you were born—we named you laughter! You have been such a blessing. I do not understand this day. I do not understand God’s request that I offer you as a sacrifice. But, God’s command was clear—clearer than ever. He said, ‘take your son, your only son, and offer him as a sacrifice to me on the mountain I will show you.’ And this is where He brought us. What am I to do, my boy?”
Isaac turned his head under his father’s hand to look into the eyes of the man who loved him more than life itself. Before this moment, he had never seen his father cry. Isaac had heard all the stories about his father’s God: The God who had told Abram to leave his homeland, to wander the earth—to a place God would show him. And God had lead him to this beautiful land. Isaac knew, without a doubt, that God spoke to his father. And, in recent times, he had decided to make his father’s God his own God. He loved the God who led his father.
“Father,” Isaac whispered. “Father, you have always obeyed God. He has been good to you—giving you your hearts desire, time and again. Today he asks for my life. I give it willingly, father. Follow the leading of your God—and my God—and all will be well.”
Abraham nodded ever so slightly. He moved the hand that rested on his son’s forehead, sliding it down to cover Isaac’s eyes. He may have to kill his son, but the boy didn’t need to see it happen. He tightened both hands—the knife in one, his son’s vision in the other. 
Abraham lifted the knife to his shoulder. Next he carved a slow arc in the air toward the chest of his son, stopping just before the tip of the blade touched his son’s skin. He repositioned the knife to where he knew his son’s beating heart lay just beneath the surface. He pulled the knife back to his shoulder and steeled himself for the real thing—the next arc of the knife would end his son’s life and please his God—their God. 
Every muscle in Abraham’s body went as taught as a trap ready to spring. Almost without intending to, Abraham thrust the knife toward his son’s chest. It was a hard, fast thrust—hard enough to accomplish the required task. Time seemed to stand still. Abraham saw the knife plunging toward his son, saw his other hand resting over his son’s eyes and felt the throbbing thud of his own heart beating in his chest. 
A voice ripped through the cosmos, stopping the knife mid-swing. “Abraham!” It was a loud, earth shattering voice. “Abraham!” the voice repeated. 
Every muscle in Abraham’s body released and relaxed. The hand holding the knife slipped to his side. The other hand slid off Isaac’s face. Abraham’s shoulders fell forward in exhaustion. All the tension flooded out of his body. Isaac looked up from the altar, his eyes wide. He, too, had heard the voice.
In a gentle quiet voice Abraham replied, as he always did, “Here I am.”
“Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the voice said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly honour God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

My Reflection

Put yourself in Isaac’s place. What would it have been like to be Isaac? What would have been going through your mind?

What would it have been like to be Abraham? How would you feel about God during this time?

Which would be more difficult for you, to be Abraham or Isaac? Why?

My Story

God sent His Son to die for each of us. Jesus came willingly, and when the tough times came, he prayed, “thy will be done.” Have you had a tough time in your life when you had to trust and believe that God was with you and leading you even though it didn’t seem He was? Tell that story. How long ago was it? Does it make sense yet? How are you feeling about God now?

My Assurance

Jesus has more power than we can fathom and He uses this power for our benefit, because He loves us! Consider these verses. 

What do these verses tell you about the character of Jesus? 

How do these verses encourage you?

John 1:14 ~ So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

Colossians 1:15-19 ~ Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ.

John 5:22 ~ In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge.

Hebrews 2:18 ~ Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

My Commitment

Jesus is passionately interested in our well-being. He loves us! What do these verses challenge you to do in response to Christ’s great love?

Romans 6:23 ~ For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

John 14:1-3 ~ “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 ~ God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.

My Outlook

Without Jesus Christ, life can be a lonely purposeless existence. His death and resurrection set us free from hopeless living. Read these three passages and then explain what they teach us about how Jesus set us free from death, how He gave us a purpose for life and what He is doing for us now. 

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 ~ This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ.  

Hebrews 2:14 ~ Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

Hebrews 8: 1, 2 ~ Here is the main point: We have a High Priest who sat down in the place of honor beside the throne of the majestic God in heaven. There he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands.

My Response

The following statement is the 4th of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Review the doctrine and then write a personal response. What difference does this make to your life?

God the Son

God the eternal Son became incarnate in Jesus Christ. Through Him all things were created, the character of God is revealed, the salvation of humanity is accomplished, and the world is judged. Forever truly God, He became also truly man, Jesus the Christ. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived and experienced temptation as a human being, but perfectly exemplified the righteousness and love of God. By His miracles He manifested God’s power and was attested as God’s promised Messiah. He suffered and died voluntarily on the cross for our sins and in our place, was raised from the dead, and ascended to minister in the heavenly sanctuary on our behalf. He will come again in glory for the final deliverance of His people and the restoration of all things.


Bible Story

The story at the beginning of this lesson can be found in Genesis 22.

Further Reading

John 1:1-3; John 10:30; John 14:9; Luke 1:35; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The Day of Atonement

A Sabbath School resource from the Victorian Conference of the Adventist Church in Australia


There is no feeling like that of being truly “at one” with another. Experiences of that moment of true oneness are few and far between. For some it happens when they find their “soul mate”. For others it happens in a deep discussion that spills into and over them until they feel as if that other person truly knows them. The day of at-one-ment is God’s moment in time with his broken people - the moment that he fully reveals his true nature - when He is revealed as both merciful and just. The day of atonement is when we find the law and Lawgiver again, as if for the first time.

The Day of Atonement: Meeting the Law again, for the first time

While with Moses on top of the mountain, and delivering the first set of covenant tablets, God tells Moses that the people are worshiping a Golden Calf in his absence. Read Exodus 32. What two amazing things does Moses say to God (11-14, 30-34)? How are God’s answers different?
What does the first answer tell us about the Mercy of God?
What does the second answer tell us about the Justice of God?

How do you respond when you receive an answer to prayer that reveals God’s Mercy?
How do you respond when you receive an answer that reveals God’s Justice?

Moses had a very special relationship with God. Read Exodus 33:18-34:10.
What does this conversation tell us about God?
What does it tell us about Moses?
What does it tell us about ourselves?

On the Hebrew yearly calendar, the day of atonement is scheduled on the day Moses came down the mountain with the two tablets of God’s Law - the second time. 
Why do you think this day was so significant to the Israelites?
Compare the experience of the first set of tablets and the second:
What differences were revealed in the people?
What differences were present in Moses?
What differences were shown in God?

On the day of Atonement:
     How did the High Priest represent the people to God?
     How did the High Priest represent God to the people?
How does Jesus, as our High Priest, serve in these two roles for us?
How do you, as a follower of Jesus, serve in these two roles for the watching world?

What was the difference in Moses’ attitude when he walked up the mountain to receive the tablets the first and second time?
What was the difference in him when he came down the mountain the second time?

The Day of Atonement: A Live Dragon in the Desert

In the New Testament prophetic telling of the Great Controversy (Revelation 12) Satan, fallen from Heaven, is portrayed as a Dragon. In the Old Testament Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) Azazel, the one symbolically guilty for all Sin, is a “Live Goat”. Intriguingly, artists have seen this parallel for eons - drawing dragons with a head strikingly similar to a goat’s head. How does “keeping the story alive” help us to recognise evil and call it by it’s right name?

In the typical (Old Testament) day of Atonement, the goat was released in the wilderness to demonstrate that all sin is, finally one day, to be placed on the head of one cast out. In Revelation 12, the dragon attempts to defile heaven and is cast out by Michael and “thrown down” into the wilderness. How does this teach us, again, of God’s plan for salvation?

When “the dragon, Satan” and “the goat, Azazel” arrive in the desert their “time is short.” How so? How does this dragon/goat parallel reveal them as type and antitype? how are their story’s (past, present, and future) similar?

What other parallels do you see between Leviticus 16 and Revelation 12?
“When the Devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future!”

The Day of Atonement: Sabbath of Sabbaths

How does the Day of Atonement, and it’s effect our lives, change our interaction with the world around us?
At what times in your life have you felt God’s anger toward sin?

At what times have you carried God’s mercy toward sinners?
How do we, as God’s heart and hands on Earth, hold Mercy and Justice as equals? How do we deal with those needing forgiveness, and after forgiveness, cleansing?

Is God’s love powerful enough to cleanse the Earth?
How does this take place?
How does the day of atonement, both Old Testament and New, reveal God’s plan for sin, salvation and eternity?

Friday, November 01, 2013

28 Stories - Study 8: The Road to Emmaus

Fundamental: Life, Death & Resurrection of Christ

Bible Story   
The hours crept by as Nathaniel and Cleopas headed home. As they walked, they quietly discussed all that had happened over the past few days. In the late afternoon, a man resting on the side of the path and asked to walk with them. It was a common courtesy to provide safety in numbers to a stranger.
The new man fell in step with them and asked, “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. If you don’t mind my asking, what was it about?”
Cleopas answered, “Oh. We were just talking about the horrible weekend we had in Jerusalem.”
“Horrible? What happened?” the new man asked.
Nathaniel was irritated. “What do you mean, ‘what happened?’ You are headed the same way on the road as us. You, too, just left Jerusalem. Surely you saw all the things that took place during Passover week.”
“What things?” The man asked.
Nathaniel grunted, “What things? Where have you been, hiding under a rock?”
Cleopas interrupted, trying to quiet his friend, “The sun went dark for three hours. The temple veil ripped from top to bottom. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. He was a prophet and very impressive in all he said and did. The chief priests handed him over to be killed. We had hoped he was the Messiah and would set Israel free from Roman oppression. We followed this man for the last three years and now we have no purpose. It is the third day since he died and we are still without direction. So, we are heading home.”
Nathaniel had regained his composure, “And this morning, some of the women shocked us by fabricating a ridiculous story about Him coming back from death! One of the ladies claims an angel met her at the empty tomb and told Her Jesus is alive. Somebody has obviously stolen his body. Poor women—they loved Him so much and now that he is dead they’ve gone mad.”
The new man spoke, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Didn’t the Christ have to suffer these things so that he could be glorified? Don’t you remember the story told of Moses when he lifted the serpent for all the bitten people to look upon. The Christ had to be lifted up on the cross so that all who wanted to be saved from that old Serpent the Devil could look at the perfect Son of God on the cross and be saved.”
The two men looked at each other, shocked at this new teaching.
The man continued, “The prophets are full of proof that Jesus was the Messiah: Isaiah predicted His simple birth in a manger and that His mother would be a virgin. Micah said the birth place would be in Bethlehem. And concerning his death: Isaiah said He would be whipped. The psalms say His hands and feet would be pierced. Zechariah said His side would be pierced. Even the act of the soldiers who cast lots for His clothing was foretold!”
There was silence for a few steps, and then Cleopas said, “That’s amazing! It really is. Why have none of us seen this?”
The man smiled, “That’s not all! His burial in a wealthy man’s tomb was foretold by Isaiah. You say the women who saw the Christ this morning were mistaken? Didn’t the prophet Malachi say the Son of Righteousness would rise with healing in His wings? From His birth, to His death—nearly all of his life fulfills prophecy. Jesus Christ is the Messiah. A little knowledge of the prophets will convict the strongest skeptic of this!”
The two men stopped in front of a small house, “Thank you for your words. You have given us much to consider. Please stay and eat with us.”
A few minutes later the three men sat at a table with Cleopas’ family. The table was loaded with bread, water and hot food.
“Sir, would you do us the honor and bless the meal,” Cleopas asked.
“Certainly,” the man answered, taking one of the round loaves of flatbread in his hands. He lifted the bread high in front of him and prayed.
Everyone sat staring at him as he prayed. Their eyes darted from person to person and back to the praying man. As he said, “Amen” he broke the bread in half and handed the halves to Cleopas and Nathaniel on his right and left.
“I knew it!” both men shouted as one. They looked at the joy in the faces around the table. Tears streamed down every face. Then they turned to Jesus, but He was gone!

My Reflection
Why did it take so long for them to recognise Jesus? What misconceptions did they have to overcome before they could accept who He was?

If you had been sitting at that table and recognised Jesus, what would you have done next? Who would you have told? What would you have said?

My Story
Seeing something from a completely new perspective is very difficult. Jesus was willing to go through numerous changes to accomplish His mission—our Salvation. In the passage below, underline the changes Jesus accepted, endured, embraced and received. How can we apply this to our lives?

 Philippians 2:6-11 ~ Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

My Assurance
Jesus’ life, death and resurrection give hope to all who accept the gift of eternal life He offers. What do the following texts reveal about the amazing impact Jesus has made on us and our world?

John 3:16 ~ For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 1:4 ~ He was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 4:25 ~ He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

1 John 2:2 ~ He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

My Commitment
The results of Jesus’ ministry during His life on earth provide one of the greatest reasons for being committed to God and His will. What do the following verses reveal about the character of God and the commitments He calls us to make in our character?

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ~ Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

1 Peter 2:21-22 ~ For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone.

1 Corinthians 15:20-22 ~ Just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.

My Outlook
Jesus’ life and death give us both purpose and meaning in this life and a hope beyond death. What do these verses tell us about the hope God has for every human living on earth today?

2 Corinthians 5:19-21 ~ For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Romans 3:23-26 ~ For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.

My Response
The following statement is the 9th of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Review the doctrine and then write a personal response. What difference does this make to your life?

Life, Death and Resurrection of Christ
In Christ’s life of perfect obedience to God’s will, His suffering, death, and resurrection, God provided the only means of atonement for human sin, so that those who by faith accept this atonement may have eternal life, and the whole creation may better understand the infinite and holy love of the Creator. This perfect atonement vindicates the righteousness of God’s law and the graciousness of His character; for it both condemns our sin and provides for our forgiveness. The death of Christ is substitutionary and expiatory, reconciling and transforming. The resurrection of Christ proclaims God’s triumph over the forces of evil, and for those who accept the atonement assures their final victory over sin and death. It declares the Lordship of Jesus Christ, before whom every knee in heaven and on earth will bow.


Bible Story
The story at the beginning of this lesson is based on Luke 24:13-35.

Further Reading
Isaiah 53; Romans 8:3,4; 1 John 4:10; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

Atonement: Purification Offering

A Sabbath School resource from the Victorian Conference of the Adventist Church in Australia

Last week, while visiting at MASDAC Church in Melbourne, the Sabbath School Super mentioned that she missed my “Head, Heart, Hands, Horizon” lesson approach from 2012.  After coming back to work after 6 months on sick leave and in my creative approach to life, ministry and all things, I forgot the old ways and started doing the discussion guides with less structure. So, what I will do is put some symbols next to certain questions that are intentionally directed at the Head, Heart, Hands and Horizon. 

God - Sin, Selfishness & Separation

Which comes first, sin or selfishness? 
Would sin exist if our first parents had not desired selfishly?
Would we ever sin if we did not put our desire for our own pleasure before our desire for God’s pleasure?

So, which is truly to blame for our separation from God - Sin or Selfishness?
When we focus  on sin - and the avoidance of sin - as our main aim in holiness, we leave doors wide open for selfishness to run rampant. “Look how great I am! I haven’t sinned for weeks!” Focusing on eradicating sin in our lives is like swatting flames with a flyswatter to put out a bush fire. It may make us feel like we are working very hard to solve the problem, but we are only tiring ourselves out. And we can feel very proud of ourselves for working so hard!

Read Hebrews 12
Where should our focus be?
How do we succeed in living Godly lives? 
How do we maintain a balance between humble obedience and selfish sin-swatting?

Wages VS Gifts

Sunday’s lesson, in reflection on 2 Samuel 14:9, says "the woman and David understood that if the king would decide to let the murderer go free, then the king himself would acquire the guilt of the murderer.” Really? Does any earthly legal system work this way? (We need to be careful not to insert a desired doctrine into our reading of the Bible.) Have you ever heard of any court requiring a judge to go to jail or the gallows as the natural course for declaring someone innocent? How is God’s Mercy and Justice different than ours?

Read Romans 6:15 - 7:6 
What view does this paint of wages vs gifts? 
What is the difference between Mercy and Justice?
Is “forgiveness of sin” Mercy and Justice or both? Explain.


God’s gift of Jesus, His son, on the cross makes “all things right.” Discuss. 
How? Why? When? Where? Between whom? What things? 

Dave Edgren ~ Story: Teller, Author, Trainer ~

BOOK DAVE NOW! Dave Edgren is passionate about creating a values-based storytelling culture. In his engaging and often hilarious way,...