Friday, December 27, 2013

28 Stories - Study 16: Eden's Wedding

Fundamental: Marriage and Family

Bible Story   

“Will you and I always be together in this beautiful garden?” Adam asked.
“The garden is your home, Adam.” Jesus answered, “But, I will come and visit.”
“I will be lonely,” Adam looked at the ground, thinking aloud. “I need someone like me. I cannot laugh, plan, love or fully enjoy nature’s beauty by myself.”
“It is not good for man to be alone,” Jesus said.
Adam’s head snapped up and he looked into Jesus’ eyes, “You were already aware of this?”
“Yes,” Jesus smiled. “I was just waiting for you to ask! Follow me.” The Creator led Adam back to the patch of clay where the day had begun. He gestured at the remaining clay, “My shadow is only half finished. Lay down.”
Adam returned to the clay he had risen from at daybreak. Lying down, he closed his eyes and was soon asleep. Jesus knelt between Adam and the remainder of the lanky clay man. He quickly gathered the clay into a pile.
Jesus reached over and pulled away a chunk of Adam’s side. He pushed the chunk of Adam into the pile of clay. It turned into clay and become one with the pile. He spoke to the sleeping Adam, “The woman is both my shadow and your desire. You are part of each other, forever.”
The Creator closed the wound on Adam’s side with a rubbing motion and then turned to forming a new body—a woman—smaller than Adam. After some time, Jesus sat back on his heals. He had finished. He reached over and shook Adam. Adam’s eyes fluttered open and he sat up. He looked over at the clay form next to him. He turned his head sideways, not understanding.
“She’s not alive,” Adam said. “Can you give her life?”
Jesus nodded and leaned over the clay woman’s face. He took a deep breath and spoke life into her. The woman’s eyes fluttered open and looked into God’s. She smiled. Jesus put a hand under her back and lifted her into a sitting position.
Adam was speechless. He had never seen anything so beautiful! He tried a number of times to speak, but couldn’t get words to form on his dry lips. His tongue seemed to be stuck to the roof of his mouth. He swallowed a couple of times and then startled everyone as he began to sing:
Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.
Without you beside me, I would be less.
I named the beasts of the land and the birds of the air,
but the name you deserve must suit beauty most fair.
I’ll call you ‘woman.’ For from ‘man’ you were made.
I’ll name you ‘Eve.’ You emerged from God’s shade.
From shadow and breath, we both have been born.
Of all Creation, we’re God’s most adored.
As he sang, Adam faced the same direction as Eve, looking into the Garden of Eden. His voice was rich, deep and beautiful. When he got to the part where he named his wife, Adam stood to his feet, faced Eve and held his hands out to her. She grasped them and stood. The couple faced each other, holding hands, until the end of Adam’s song. As Adam sang the last word, they embraced and turned their faces toward their Creator.
Jesus wiped a tear from his eye. He stood silently in front of His two children. Adam and Eve faced their God, waiting for Him to speak.
“Adam,” Jesus said, “Will you take this woman, Eve, to complete you?”
Adam smiled the widest smile his face could handle. “Yes! She is everything I was hoping for, and more!”
“And you, Eve,” the Creator continued, facing His newest creation, “Is Adam acceptable to you?”
Eve blinked her eyes a few times—startled—she had never fathomed such a question could even exist. She spoke, “My heart is so full of love for this man, there is barely room for a thought of anything else!”
“From this moment forward,” Jesus said with an air of eternal authority, “You are one. One in heart. One in mind. One in body.” The Creator took a huge breath—just as he had when breathing life into each of them—and breathed humanity’s first marriage into being. “What I have joined, let nothing separate!”
Jesus stepped forward and embraced the happy couple. Then turning toward the Garden, He said, “Follow me, I have so much to show you!”

My Reflection

What would it have been like to be there that day? Imagine that you were part of a select group of people taken back in time to be the wedding party for Adam and Eve. Use your imagination and describe the experience in detail. What would have stood out as unique? What would have seemed familiar? What would you talk about at the reception?

My Story

Have you ever had someone who made a fuss over you because they loved you? How did it feel? What do you remember most about that occasion?

Have you ever made something special for someone? What was it? How did you give it to them? How did they respond?

My Assurance

God has a holy plan for couples and families. What promises do you see in these verses? How do our relationships affect these promises?

Genesis 2: 18, 21-22 ~ Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.

Exodus 20:12 ~ Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

1 Corinthians 7:10-11 ~ But for those who are married, I have a command that comes not from me, but from the Lord. A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to him. And the husband must not leave his wife.

My Commitment

Marriages and families are very precious to God. Relationships are so important, that God has given clear advice on how to maintain them. What commitments do these verses challenge you to make?

Ephesians 6:1-4 ~ Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth”. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

Genesis 2: 24 ~ This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

2 Corinthians 6:14 ~ Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?

Matthew 19:8-9 ~ Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.

My Outlook

The world is a very distracting and potentially destructive place. If we see our relationships through God’s eyes, we realise how special they are. How do these verses help you see the plan God has for His people and the way they will live their lives?

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 ~ And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Ephesians 5:31-33 ~ As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Proverbs 22:6 ~ Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.

My Response

The following statement is the 23rd 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?

Marriage and Family

Marriage was divinely established in Eden and affirmed by Jesus to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman in loving companionship. For the Christian a marriage commitment is to God as well as to the spouse, and should be entered into only between partners who share a common faith. Mutual love, honour, respect, and responsibility are the fabric of this relationship, which is to reflect the love, sanctity, closeness, and permanence of the relationship between Christ and His church. Regarding divorce, Jesus taught that the person who divorces a spouse, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery. Although some family relationships may fall short of the ideal, marriage partners who fully commit themselves to each other in Christ may achieve loving unity through the guidance of the Spirit and the nurture of the church. God blesses the family and intends that its members shall assist each other toward complete maturity. Parents are to bring up their children to love and obey the Lord. By their example and their words they are to teach them that Christ is a loving disciplinarian, ever tender and caring, who wants them to become members of His body, the family of God. Increasing family closeness is one of the earmarks of the final gospel message.

Bible Story

You can find the Creation story in Genesis 1-3.

Further Reading

John 2; Ephesians 5:21-33; Malachi 4:5-6.

Friday, December 20, 2013

28 Stories - Study 15: Very Good

Fundamental: Creation

Bible Story   

The sixth day of Creation week emerged as a beautiful cool morning. The sun, rising in the east, shone on the Creator’s back forming a long wispy shadow in front of Him. He seemed to be studying His shadow with a concerted effort. The corners of His mouth turned up in a gentle smile. As the smile spread across the Creator’s face, the area where His shadow fell and a border area around His shadow, turned to reddish dirt. It was as if the grass had parted to allow the soil to see the sun.
The part of the new patch of red dirt covered by God’s shadow began to bulge. It was as if His shadow were taking shape. The red earth was rising to meet the shadow of its Maker. Soon there was a very long, stretched out form on the ground—a three dimensional copy of the Creator’s elongated shadow.
God’s smile slowly faded and the soil stopped rising. Walking to the far side of the dirt figure, he knelt next to it. He pointed His right finger and pushed it gently into the dirt—at the spot where the belly button would be if the man on the ground were real. His finger sunk into the dirt, turning it to clay.
From where His finger had created the navel, the Creator drew a line up the middle of the clay body—proceeding to the top of the figure’s head. There was now a line dividing the clay man in half. The Creator dug his hands into the line and pulled half of the clay away. Now there were two piles of clay—one that looked like half of a very tall, very skinny person—and the pile now being formed into something new.
The hands of God formed a new clay man, this one smaller and proportioned more like a normal person. As a final touch, He pushed his finger into the figure’s middle, making a belly button. When He finished, the Creator sat back on His heals and admired His work. He smiled, happy with His creation.
Then He took a breath. Of course, He had been breathing all along but this was a very deep, very long and very special breath. The Creator—the giver of life—leaned forward and put His mouth above the clay man’s mouth. Then He breathed out. As He exhaled, His lips moved, forming a word. It was a long drawn out word, taking the entire breath. It was the word ‘Spirit’ and it did something amazing to the clay man.
The red clay went shiny. The shininess changed to a soft skin-like substance. Then the reddish color deepened to reveal a tanned muscular human. The man sat up. The first thing he saw was the face of God.
Jesus smiled a winning smile and said, “Adam, my son, you were formed by my hands and brought to life by my Spirit, which I give to you in every breath.”
Adam opened his mouth; speech came easily to him, “Thank you, my Creator. You are my everything!”
Jesus extended a hand to Adam and helped him to his feet. Then draping His arm across the shoulders of His new creation, the two of them looked out over the glorious Garden of Eden. The sun shone full from behind them causing the river and everything beyond to shimmer and shine in it’s reflected brilliance.
The Creator spoke, turning to place His free hand on the man’s chest, “Adam, you are but shadow and breath,” and then with a sweeping gesture taking in all that was before them, He finished, “And yet, for you the universe was made!”
Jesus and Adam walked through the Garden. Jesus explained to Adam the amazing things that had taken place in the last six days. The entire world around them had taken shape—light, land, sea, sun, moon, rivers, trees, day and night.
Then Jesus said, “But today is special, Adam! Today I created and named you.”
“And I thank you,” Adam said. “I am greatly honoured to live in your paradise and care for your Creation.”
“And I am honoured to have you as my servant,” Jesus answered. “Serve me faithfully—with all your heart, all your mind and all your soul—and you will be fulfilled and happy.”

My Reflection

Imagine what it would have been like to be Adam on the day of his creation. What questions would you have asked God?

What would you have been most interested in: the garden, animals, yourself, God’s creative power, something else?

My Story

Have you ever made something from scratch? What was it? What resources did you need? What tools were necessary? Did you succeed? Was it difficult?

Imagine being able to create anything by just speaking. What would you speak into existence?

Why do you think God used His hands to make Adam? What does this act tell us about God?  What does it tell us about ourselves?

My Assurance

The Bible reveals where this world and everything on it came from. What promises do the following verses make to us and our understanding of God’s involvement in our lives?

Genesis 1:1 ~ In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 2: 7 ~ Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.

Psalm 33:6 ~ The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born.

My Commitment

Just as God used His power to create us and His grace to save us, he has a role for us to play in the life and well-being of planet Earth and its inhabitants. How do these verses challenge you to treat all that God has made?

Genesis 1:27-18 ~ So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

Hebrews 11:3 ~ By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.

Exodus 20:11 ~ For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.

My Outlook

What do these verses reveal about God’s connection to his Creation? How does God feel about us? How does He feel about the Earth He created? How does this impact the way we see the world and interact with it?

Genesis 1:31 ~ Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!

Psalm 19:1-4 ~ The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.

My Response

The following statement is the 6th 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 is Creator of all things, and has revealed in Scripture the authentic account of His creative activity. In six days the Lord made “the heaven and the earth” and all living things upon the earth, and rested on the seventh day of that first week. Thus He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of His completed creative work. The first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was “very good,” declaring the glory of God.

Bible Story

You can find the Creation story in Genesis 1-3.

Further Reading

Genesis 1, Genesis 2

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Toy Extravaganza - Northpoint Church

On Sunday afternoon, December 8, volunteers at the Northpoint Church ran a Toy Extravaganza which provided toys for 170 community children from families who receive food parcels throughout the year. Over 400 people enjoyed the carnival atmosphere with petting zoo, craft, jumping castle, balloons, face-painting, carols, storytelling, BBQ dinner and, for each child, a visit to the toy room where they were able to choose a toy that suited them. Every child was guided to the area of toys for their age by a child volunteer from Northpoint.

Approximately two thousand dollars worth of toys were donated for the event to ensure every child had something for Christmas. Each child was also given a lolly bag so the joy of the event would last longer in their memory. Event coordinator Avril Duncan said, “It was a truly amazing experience to see Northpoint along with the community having fun. We have received a lot of feedback and it has all been good.”

This year’s Toy Extravaganza follows the inaugural one last year and sets a tradition that Northpoint intends to continue into the future.  Avril said, “I don’t know what we are going to do next year to make it better than this year. This year was so wonderfully successful!” Avril is very appreciative of the 30 adults and 10 children from Northpoint Church who volunteered, making the day possible.

Every food parcel, Bible study, church program, community event and relationship formed at Northpoint Church is part of a process of bringing people one step closer to God’s intention for their life. The day before the event this year, Sussan Nguyen, a food parcel recipient who first visited Northpoint Church at last year’s Toy Extravaganza, was baptised into Northpoint Church. Near the end of this year’s event, a community member asked how he could become a volunteer involved at Northpoint.

Many of the people in the 43 suburbs around Melbourne who receive food parcels are refugees from war torn countries. Pastor Daron Pratt, balloon man for the day, reflected on the pain evident in the faces of many refugees who attended the event. “It was a blessing to bring a smile to the faces of people who had gone through such suffering,” he said. 

When asked why Northpoint Church ran the Toy Extravaganza, Pastor Loren Pratt said, “While there is even one sad and lonely child who is going to miss the joy of Christmas we have to keep dreaming bigger and better Toy Extravaganzas.”

Carol’s singer Kini Salavuki said, “I am proud to be a Northpointer and also happy that I belong to the church that touches people’s lives. Now that’s Heaven on earth.” 

Pastor Daron Pratt, brother of the Northpoint Church Pastor, reflected on the event saying, “Today I saw Jesus...The NorthPoint Centre adults and children who gave their all to bring a little bit of joy to 170 children and their parents was amazing to witness. I have never in my whole ministry seen any evangelistic effort work as well as this!”

Friday, December 13, 2013

28 Stories - Study 14: On Holy Ground

Fundamental: The Lord’s Supper

Bible Story   

Ecstatic, the new Naaman put on his clothes and armour, mounted his horse and headed back to the Prophet’s house at a full gallop. This time Elisha came out of his house and was very welcoming and friendly. Naaman stood before Elisha, and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.” He gestured to the wagons which held the payment for his healing—750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing. Elisha’s answer was beyond understanding, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept any gifts.”
Naaman tried everything to change the Prophet’s mind, but Elisha refused saying, “What are you paying me for? I have done nothing!”
“But you healed me of Leprosy!” Naaman argued.
“No I didn’t,” Elisha quipped. “I’ve never seen you before in my life! If you’ve been healed it’s because God saw fit to heal you!”
“But I came to your door,” Naaman replied. “And your servant gave me a message from you, that I was to wash in the river and be healed!”
Elisha crossed his arms and said, “That was a message from the Lord, not me! I can’t heal anyone from anything. Only God can do such things!”
 Slowly Naaman began to get the picture.  Elisha wanted no reward because he hadn’t done anything—other than deliver a message from the God “whom he served.”
God had healed Naaman. This God—the God of his slave girl—truly was the one true God and had an honest-to-goodness prophet! Naaman understood. It was God who was worthy of thanks.
But how? His chariots loaded with treasure looked insignificant now. How do you thank a God that has everything? Perhaps by thinking outside the box.
Naaman’s next statement, a request of Elisha, was very odd indeed. “Please allow me to load two of my mules with earth from this place, and I will take it back home with me.”
Imagine the confusion that now settled on Elisha, and all the servants. Dirt? Naaman wants to dig up a pile of dirt from the prophet’s front yard and take it home? Has he gone mad? What is he going to do with two mules worth of dirt?
Naaman answered their unspoken question. “From now on I will never again offer burnt offerings or sacrifices to any other god except the Lord.”  How do you thank a true God for His providence? Naaman had discovered the answer—worship.
Elisha realised the beauty and innocence of the request. It was a beautiful thing that Naaman was suggesting. He would take a bit of Israel home with him and worship Israel’s God on the prophet’s land, every day. Elisha nodded his agreement and Naaman’s servants loaded up the mules. Then, with many thank-you’s and well wishes, Naaman headed home.
Imagine the scene as they ride back into Naaman’s property in Aram. His wife and servant girl are longing to see if the master is healed. They run out to meet him. They embrace his perfectly healthy arms and legs. They rejoice. But they can see that something else is on his mind.
“Make a pile over there,” Naaman says to his men pointing at a central spot in the front yard. They take the bags off the mules and pour out the dirt. Imagine the thoughts of his wife and servant girl. Naaman has been healed of leprosy and he is excited about a gardening project? He took time to bring home a huge pile of dirt?
 “Dirt from the Prophet’s front yard!” he excitedly explains to his wife and slave girl. Then he forms the Prophet’s dirt, now in his own front yard, into a flat area and builds an altar—like he’s seen in Israel—to the one true God. Not only has Naaman been healed, he has found a God worth taking home.
Every day he brings his offerings to the altar. He sacrifices to the God of Israel. Neighbours walk by and stare. Naaman explains again, “It’s dirt from the Prophet of the one true God—Israel’s God—who healed me from leprosy!”
And everyday, as he makes his sacrifices—as he kneels in worship—he is not alone. He is joined by someone very special to him, someone who saved his life, a servant girl who taught him humility. She kneels too—on home soil—and worships the God she has always loved.

My Reflection

Imagine you were Naaman’s little servant girl. A few days ago you found out he was dying. You said he should go see the prophet and he listened to you. And now, here he is, completely healed! What would you be feeling?

Imagine watching him build the altar and hearing him say that this soil was holy ground from the Prophet’s yard. Then he invites you to worship his new God—your God—with him! What would be going through your heart and mind?

My Story

Have you ever been in a place where you felt it was holy ground or a holy time? Perhaps it was a worship service. Or a quiet walk in nature. Where were you? What was the holy ground experience?

What events in Biblical history are holy times or places that we still honour today? What events or activities can we be involved in to transport us back to those special times of worship?

My Assurance

Jesus left us with a symbolic meal to remember Him by. He left us a way to go on to holy ground and worship the memory of His presence on Earth. What do these verses tell you about that meal and what it means to believers?

Revelation 3:20 ~ Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

Matthew 26:26-29 ~ As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”

John 6:48-51 ~ Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”

My Commitment

Communion, also called The Lord’s Supper, is a time when we restate our commitment to follow Jesus. According to these verses, how does this recommitment impact our life in real ways?

1 Corinthians 10:16-17 ~ When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body.

1 Corinthians 11:27-29 ~ So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself.

John 13:3-5, 14, 15 ~ Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. . . . since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.

My Outlook

The Last Supper gives us a consistent reminder of where we are headed and who is coming to get us. How do these verses give you a hope for the future and a reason for living for Christ until He comes?

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ~ For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.” For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.

John 6:54 ~ Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day.

John 13:17 ~ Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.

My Response

The following statement is the 16th 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 Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper is a participation in the emblems of the body and blood of Jesus as an expression of faith in Him, our Lord and Saviour. In this experience of communion Christ is present to meet and strengthen His people. As we partake, we joyfully proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again. Preparation for the Supper includes self-examination, repentance, and confession. The Master ordained the service of foot washing to signify renewed cleansing, to express a willingness to serve one another in Christlike humility, and to unite our hearts in love. The communion service is open to all believing Christians.

Bible Story

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

Further Reading

Matthew 26:17-30, John 13:1-17

Sunday, December 08, 2013

The truth behind the diet guru's claims

Wow, it's been awhile since I've given a health update. Just looked at the date of the last post - Oct 11. Well, sorry! Here I am, back for an update.

I've only lost one kilogram.... this week. And one the last. And one before that. One kilo a week for 19 weeks! I'm in the middle of my 19th week and on track to loose another kilo by Wednesday, my weigh in/record it day.

You know those diet guru's that say, "Loose all the weight you want by eating what you want!" and then dance around like skinny show ponies proclaiming their amazing program in a hoarse throaty voice? Well, I've discovered the truth in their claim. And, I'm going to give it to you now, for free.

When you eat to fuel your body, rather than to please your cravings, for long enough — you no longer desire food that doesn't help you be healthy.

Right now, it's the "end of year party" season. I've been to quite a few parties celebrating the year — and there are plenty of unhealthy options. My eyes skip right over them now. In a subconscious way, my mind looks for what it needs. Good fuel. And when it finds it, my hand reaches out and puts a small portion on my plate. I am eating what I want whenever I want and loosing a kilo a week. 

Here's the key: Feed your body what it needs for 6 weeks. The first 3 will be hard. The second 3 will be a bit easier because you see the effects of the healthy lifestyle and because your mind and body are appreciating the fuel they are getting. Your thinking will become clearer. Your energy level will become heightened. Your sleep patterns will regulate. Your moods will become balanced. These things work together to increase your self-control to levels you've never experienced.

And then, one day, you'll realise you are not thinking about the way you eat. You're just eating what you want when you want. And getting healthy. Because, you have retrained your mind and body to treat food as fuel rather than rewards. That's what has happened to me. I do not plan my meals for the day or week anymore. I do not consider - where will I find the option, today? I just don't see the unhealthy options as food. They are not what I want, at all.

Health benefits I have noticed:

I can walk up stairs or a steep hill and not be puffed at the top. My body is able to carry it's weight with pleasure rather than struggle. This also means I am more willing to walk which again increases my fitness. People who have never been obese will never understand this: Fat people do not avoid exercise because they are lazy. I was exercising just getting out of a chair, walking from the car to the shops/office, standing for a long time or walking a stage during a performance. Being fat is hard work! It is taxing for both mind and body. Loosing weight is a blessing in so many more ways that just 'looking good'.

I love doing physical work. I used to avoid too much exertion when I was around other people because it made me sweat, pant and look flushed. It also took my pulse, breathing and body a long time to recover. So, a little hard work and I would look like I'd run a marathon. I hated that. So, I only did physical labour around the house, occasionally. Not good for health! Now, I love loading crates of food in the van for Northpoint, carrying boxes of food to people's doors (which often includes carrying it up a flight of steep/narrow stairs to people in budget apartments), mowing the lawn, going for walks, and even working out with weights. I have rediscovered the Davy of my youth who loved being active.

I can perform on stage for 30 minutes without pouring sweat. For years, I have been trying various ways to calm myself before and during stage performances (preaching, storytelling, etc) because I always look like I've just come up from under water. I'm a sweater, always have been. So is my Dad and he is fit and healthy. But, he sweats when he's exercising, not when he's telling a story! And now the same is true for me!

I am sleeping much better. I do not toss and turn during the night. When I do need to turn over, I do it with ease rather than struggling to turn over because of my bulk. I require much less sleep now that I'm not snoring the fat-man snore or needing to get up for the toilet at 3am (because of overeating in the evenings).  I go to bed between 10 and 11 each night and am up between 6 and 7.

My motorcycle loves me. I rode to Ringwood and Revive churches yesterday. 19 kilo's less, means faster acceleration, better flexibility for getting on and off the bike, better control of the cornering and start/stop/accelerating when the body needs to be tight and ready, and a better profile for the all important long stares of awe and respect from passersby.  lol

As a side effect of not being an unhealthy fuel provider, my family is getting fitter too! They are all lean, fit and energetic.

And, as an added bonus, people are noticing and affirming my success. Work mates who only see me once a month or less are surprised and comment "Wow, who are you?" My kids are proud of me. They are always talking about how good I am doing. Rachael hugs me and overlaps her hands, grabbing her wrists, then she says, "WOW Dad! I can remember when I couldn't touch hands around you!" And Jenny shakes her head and says, "You are amazing! You are really doing it. You look great!"

Friday, December 06, 2013

28 Stories - Study 13: Humble Thyself

Fundamental: Baptism

Bible Story 

When Naaman arrived at the prophet’s door—a moment he had been imagining and anticipating with every step of the journey—he was devastated by the brazen reception he received. The prophet refused to come to the door. He wouldn’t even speak to Naaman through the door. Clearly, Naaman thought, I am too unclean to even be spoken too by this holy man.
His disappointment turned to anger when a servant came out with a message from Elisha: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.”  
Naaman’s ultimate moment of testing had arrived. He was a man of protocol and procedure. He was respectable and expected to be treated as such. Naaman was irate. He began to lash out, “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me! I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me!” 
Naaman took the Prophet’s message and abrupt dismissal as a direct insult. Of all the things he had imagined about meeting a miracle-working prophet, he had never considered he would be refused an audience and told to go take a bath. 
He got on his horse, turned toward home, and whipped his steed into a frenzy, galloping away from the most embarrassing situation he had ever faced. As he furiously rode, he may have escaped the prophet’s land he couldn’t escape the prophet’s words. Do I look like I need a bath? Am I dirty? Naaman fumed to himself. How many rivers do we have at home that put this muddy Jordan to shame?!? If I want to wash, I’ll wash in a clean river!
Finally, as his horse began to tire, Naaman slowed. His men caught up and rode along side him. Hardened men of war, they had fought many battles together. They loved their commander but were uncomfortable with his decision to flee from the prophet’s command. Naaman’s men challenged him to consider the possibility of what the Prophet had said—what if it works? Why not wash and see? “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’” 
They were right. If Elisha had asked Naaman to bring him the heads of 100 enemies of Israel, he would have willingly done it. Such a task is befitting of a great general. But to wash? It was so menial. It wasn’t as if Naaman hadn’t tried to wash the spots off. He had spent countless hours furiously picking, scraping and washing his sores—hoping. But to no avail. Could the prophet’s promise really be possible? Elisha’s message had been, “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored . . .” 
What if? What if his men were right? What if he was just being proud and obstinate? What if the prophet’s words were true? What if he washed and it worked?
 It sounded so simple—too simple, in fact. The words of his men exposed to him the truth of his feelings. He was offended by the Prophet, not so much by the treatment at the door, but by the treatment of his pride. He was a man of substance. Not a dirty vagabond. He may have leprosy, but he wasn’t about to act dirty. He came to pay for a proper healing, not be told to go have a bath. It was unthinkable. Or, was it?
Naaman, broken by the realisation of his pride, rode off the path to the river’s edge. During his angry tirade, he had been riding along the river, forcing himself to ignore its presence. Only now, in his humbled state, did he consider it for what it really was—a baptismal font able to purify him from his leprosy and perhaps even more. 
At the water’s edge, Naaman slowly removed his armor, his clothes and his pride. His men were shocked to see the extent of his illness—he was covered in the marks of leprosy. Naaman walked into the deepest part of the river and lowered himself completely under. Immediately he stood to his full height, examining the sores on his body. They were still there. Again he lowered himself. Again no change. 
When he came up the seventh time, the glimmer of healthy white skin captured his gaze. He ran his hands over his entire body, searching for any remnant of the hated disease. There was none. He was spotless! Naaman whooped with joy, and shouted to his men, “It worked! I am healed!” 

My Reflection

Put yourself in Naaman’s place. How would you have been feeling when Elisha refused to see you and told you to go wash seven times in the river?

How would you have felt when your men told you they thought it would be easy to do what the prophet said? What was making it difficult? What would make it easy?

How would you have felt when you came up out of the water the first time and nothing had changed?

What about the 5th and 6th time?

How would you have felt when you realised you were actually healed?

My Story

Have you ever been too proud to listen to someone’s advice? How did that story in your life finish? 

Can you think of a time when you gave in, humbled yourself, and saw good things happen because of your decision? How did that experience shape you? 

Is there something in your life that you changed even though it was hard? Describe the struggle. What were the results?

My Assurance

While baptism is a public symbol of the personal commitment we have made to Jesus, it is also much more. Have a look at these verses. What blessings come with baptism? How does baptism change a person’s nature?

Acts 2:38 ~ Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 6:5, 6 ~ Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.

Acts 22:16 ~ What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord.

My Commitment
Baptism is the first public step in God “creating a clean heart” in His people. Read these verses. How do they challenge you to live a different life? What does life “in Christ” look like?

Romans 6:1-4 ~ Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

Colossians 2:12-13 ~ For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.

My Outlook

Baptism is only the beginning. The rest of the Christian life is about seeing the world as Christ sees it and ministering to the needs revealed to you. What do these verses say about the lifestyle and activity of a fully committed Christian? 

Acts 16:30-33 ~ Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized.

Matthew 29:19-20 ~ Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

My Response

The following statement is the 15th 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?


By baptism we confess our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and testify of our death to sin and of our purpose to walk in newness of life. Thus we acknowledge Christ as Lord and Saviour, become His people, and are received as members by His church. Baptism is a symbol of our union with Christ, the forgiveness of our sins, and our reception of the Holy Spirit. It is by immersion in water and is contingent on an affirmation of faith in Jesus and evidence of repentance of sin. It follows instruction in the Holy Scriptures and acceptance of their teachings.

Bible Story

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

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Revelation for Children

I recently received an email from a parent which made me think again about Children and the book of Revelation. I get asked similar questions quite regularly and thought it might be of benefit to share the short discussion here:

Hi Pr Edgren,

I have an 8 year old son who has read each of your scroll books and really wishes you could write another! My son is always reading revelation in his spare time and wants bible studies, not necessarily for baptism but to study God's Word. He often finds that because he is younger it isn't considered that he is old enough for bible studies. So I guess why I'm emailing you is to see if you have any suggestions on any materials or more books about revelation that he can read or that I can read with him. 

Thank you for the using the gifts God gave you in such an awesome and inspiring way especially for kids.

*name supplied


How exciting! Thanks for telling me about your son enjoying my books! I love to hear such things. :)

A few years ago, I was talking with Jon Pauline about a good strategy for writing a series of books about Revelation for children. Jon is a one of the best Revelation scholars I know and a wonderful Adventist Christian. 

I had said, “Jon, I want to make a version of Revelation for Children.” 

Jon said something that has stuck with me for years. “Dave,” he said, “tell them to read the book of John. John is Revelation for young Christians. John comes first! Then Revelation.”

He didn’t say kids couldn’t understand Revelation. And I know they can because the Serpent Scroll is loved by children and has a big section from Revelation. But, his point is well made. John is filled with stories about Jesus and leads beautifully into a study of Revelation. 

What about reading the book of John together, first?



~ ~ ~ restorying faith & values ~ ~ ~

                  Dave Edgren
     Story: teller, author & trainer

My website filled with stories, videos and more:

Jon Pauline’s website:             

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

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,...