Friday, February 07, 2014

28 Stories - Study 22: Eternal Love

Fundamental: The Church

Bible Story  

The Prince gingerly plucked an arrow from his quiver, knocking it with deft skill. He crept forward another step and stopped to listen for the telltale signs of his prey. He had been stalking the buck through the forest all morning and knew he was just moments away from success. With nowhere left to hide, the buck would leave the cover of the forest and enter the open field beyond. Then the arrow would find its mark.
The Prince stilled his breathing and listened intently for a footfall or panicked breathing. Instead, bursting through the silence, from the field beyond the forest, a primal scream—almost human—changed everything.
The buck broke from behind a bush and bolted deeper into the forest. The Prince lowered his bow, no longer focused on the buck, and put the arrow back in the quiver. Quickly he ran out of the forest in the direction of the scream. Again the cry came, this time feeble and distressed, clearly human. The Prince plowed through the waist high grass until he heard sniffles and, slowing to a careful walk, he found the source of the cries.
In the middle of a circle of flattened grass, a crying naked baby thrashed its arms and legs. The baby was covered in blood. Protruding from the baby’s belly a cord, uncut, led to a blood-soaked sack. The Prince fell to his knees next to the abandoned baby. It was only minutes old. He was amazed that no wild animal had come to the scent of blood and devoured the child.
Working quickly, the Prince tied and cut the cord, wrapped the baby in a hunting cloth and headed to a nearby path. He knew he shouldn’t interfere. The baby was a halfling—abandoned by its mother because it was the product of evil. But the Prince couldn’t help himself. It was a baby—a little girl. And she needed help.
The Prince took the baby girl to a woman on the edge of the village whom he knew he could trust. He left the child with the woman. His promise to return and pay for the child’s needs reassured the woman. She trusted the Prince.
Over the next few days, weeks, months and years, the Prince did return—many times—with gifts of food, clothes, money and even jewelry. The baby grew into a gorgeous little girl and then into a beautiful young woman.
When she was of marriageable age, the Prince returned yet again, but this time with an engagement ring. The young lady threw open the door at the sound of the Prince’s voice and was amazed to find him kneeling on one knee.
“My princess,” he said, “will you be my queen?”
Tears filled her eyes as she embraced the Prince and whispered her loving answer into his ear. He rose, embracing his love and placed her on his horse. The two of them returned to the palace and were married.
But, not happily ever after. There was no fairy-tale finish.
The princess, now queen, was unable to be happy with the gifts and love of the Prince. She used the jewels, gold and silver ornaments he gave her to make statues of men and then she worshiped them. She used the beautiful embroidered clothes the Prince bought to dress her idols. The oils and incense he gave her to bathe in, she used as offerings. Even her food was set before the idols before being eaten.
The Prince could not understand her actions. He told her how much he loved her, begged her to love him rather than her idols, and challenged her to allow herself to be the innocent princess he had married.
But things got worse. When her idols no longer pleased her, the princess went looking for human lovers. She roamed through the land offering herself to any man she fancied.
At first, she would come home after each escapade. But over time, she returned less and less. Until, one-day, she cleaned out her rooms. She took all of her idols, clothes, jewelry, money and food and left for a distant land where she planned to seduce more men.
The prince was heart-broken. He loved his princess more than anything. He had saved her from certain death as a baby and loved her at every stage of her life. How could it end like this? How could she abandon all she was meant to be to become the plaything of evil? Could it be that the abandonment she felt from her infancy was now playing itself out in her actions? He had to let her know how much he loved her. Again.
The Prince, still an excellent tracker, hunted down his bride. He followed her trail from one town to the next, from dens of debauchery to back alleys. The story that unraveled told of a woman who had stooped below and beyond the very heart of evil. Even the people who were known to be Earth’s most vile would comment on her time in their city with memories of disgust and disdain.
Finally, he found her. All of her wealth and finery gone, his princess had settled into the life of a slum prostitute—so very far from home. When he saw her, she was on an auction block. A lowlife pimp was selling her to the poorest buyers who remained after all the desirable prostitutes were sold for the night. The prince pulled his cloak over his head and walked into the sale yard.
“Five copper pieces, anyone for six,” the pimp called. “She ain’t much use in bed, but get her drunk and she’ll tell you stories of the wildest kind!”
A man raised his hand. “Six,” he mumbled in a drunken stupor.
“Seven?” the pimp shouted. “Anyone for seven?”
A cloaked figure walked to the front of the crowd and held up two bulging bags, “Two bags of gold,” he said in a choked voice, setting the bags on the auction table. He retrieved two more bags from his coat pockets, “And two bags of silver.” Then he looked into the pimp’s eyes and with gravel in his voice, added, “And I’ll be keeping her! She’s my princess.”

My Reflection

How do you think the princess felt after being bought by the Prince?

Why do you think the Prince was willing to go searching for her? Why did he offer so much money? What was he hoping?

What is it about us humans that makes us throw everything away and go searching the world for something else?

My Story

Can you think of anyone in your family or friends who did something similar to this princess? Why do you think they did what they did?

Have you ever been asked to be part of something that you didn’t feel good enough for? What did you do?

What would you do if you were at rock bottom and were offered a chance to start over again and be part of a group of people who had all been given the same choice?

My Assurance

When Jesus came to earth he searched for followers and specially chose the Disciples. You are part of a long line of specially chosen people! How do the following verses give you confidence as part of Christ’s church?

Ephesians 4:11-13 ~ 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.

Ephesians 2:19-22 ~ now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

Ephesians 5:25-27 ~ Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.

My Commitment

When Jesus finds us and invites us to follow Him, He expects us to grow and mature spiritually as we spend time with Him and His people. What do these verses tell you about the life of a disciple?

Ephesians 4:14-15 ~ 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.

Matthew 28:19-20 ~ 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 Outlook

Both God the Father and Jesus have a very high opinion of the church. What do these verses tell us about the church and God’s view of it? How does this affect your view of the importance of the church?

Ephesians 1:22-23 ~ God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

Colossians 1:17-18 ~ 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.

My Response

The following statement is the 8th 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 Church

The church is the community of believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. In continuity with the people of God in Old Testament times, we are called out from the world; and we join together for worship, for fellowship, for instruction in the Word, for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, for service to all mankind, and for the worldwide proclamation of the gospel. The church derives its authority from Christ, who is the incarnate Word, and from the Scriptures, which are the written Word. The church is God’s family; adopted by Him as children, its members live on the basis of the new covenant. The church is the body of Christ, a community of faith of which Christ Himself is the Head. The church is the bride for whom Christ died that He might sanctify and cleanse her. At His return in triumph, He will present her to Himself a glorious church, the faithful of all the ages, the purchase of His blood, not having spot or wrinkle, but holy and without blemish.

Bible Story

The story at the beginning of this lesson is based on stories found in Ezekiel 16 and Hosea 3.

Further Reading

Genesis 12:3, Acts 7:38.

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