The Great Controversy

If the story of Job is a microcosm of The Great Controversy anticipated, we, the church, are in serious trouble.

Please allow my generalities for the sake of discussion. May it be true that you are an exception to the following.

As a church we talk often about the Great Controversy scenario of the end-time – that time in the not-too-distant future when the test of allegiance to God will become unavoidable. Our allegiance to the Sabbath gives us an advantage (so we think) over those who will one day have to choose between a “thus saith the Lord” and a “thus saith the government.” We enjoy a measure of satisfaction in knowing that we’ve accepted the validity of the Ten Commandments, including the Sabbath truth.

The great controversy of Job’s story unveils the forces of evil that would seek to cause us to turn our backs on God. It’s really a simple formula. What will a man do when he loses the blessings and protections of God?

“Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” Job 1:9-11

We anticipate a time of trouble in accordance with the prophecies of the book of Daniel.

“And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” Daniel 12:1

Understanding the outline of future events is not our biggest challenge. Being like Job is.

The reasons Job is described as “blameless, upright, fearing God and shunning evil” are eye-opening. His level of righteous living is contrary to the virtues modeled by society and often the church. Let’s look at just a few of the reasons God could select Job as His representative.

“I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” Job 23:12

If we believe that Job spoke without hyperbole, he is saying that God’s word was literally more important than the food he had to eat. We need food to exist. If Job had to choose between food to eat and taking in God’s word, he would choose the latter.

Using Job as our example we must ask ourselves individually and as a church what part the Word of God plays in our lives? In our private lives how often do we turn to its pages for sustenance and guidance? If we can take it or leave it we have reason for alarm.

As a church, has the Word of God been diminished in its role in what we do as a body? Have we accepted the notion that old-fashioned Bible study as a church is outdated and needs to be replaced by trendy new ways of reaching today’s prospects? The attendance at the hour of corporate Bible study gives a good indication of the answer.

“As long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit” Job 27:3-4

Our words are windows to our souls. In this day of social media we have witnessed an explosion of commentary on any and everything. Sadly, much of it is negative, inflammatory and insensitive. Guarding our tongues, which are expressed though our keyboards, is a battle that has bested many. So crucial are our words that James showed it as an avenue of self-deception.

“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” James 1:26

Then there were Job’s priorities in life. Although a wealthy man who could live a life of self-absorbance and isolation, Job was the complete opposite. When he examined his life he could only relate what he knew to be true.

“Have I ignored the needs of the poor, turned my back on the indigent, taken care of my own needs and fed my own face while they languished? Wasn’t my home always open to them? Weren’t they always welcome at my table?

“Have I ever left a poor family shivering in the cold when they had no warm clothes? Didn’t the poor bless me when they saw me coming, knowing I’d brought coats from my closet? If I’ve ever used my strength and influence to take advantage of the unfortunate, go ahead, break both my arms, cut off all my fingers! The fear of God has kept me from these things—how else could I ever face him? Job 31:16-23 The Message

That’s just some of what made Job the one God could give as an example of being blameless and upright. That’s what heaven should be able to say for all who bear the name “Christian.” Thanks be to God that it is His desire and purpose to get us to that place in our experience.

Let’s close with some words from my favorite Christian author. They are encouraging for all who want a change in their experience. I know I do.

God wishes us to have the mastery over ourselves. But He cannot help us without our consent and co-operation. The divine Spirit works through the powers and faculties given to man. Of ourselves, we are not able to bring the purposes and desires and inclinations into harmony with the will of God; but if we are “willing to be made willing,” the Saviour will accomplish this for us, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5. Ellen White, The Acts of the Apostles, p 482

Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:

  • What does being blameless mean to you?
  • Is it realistic to expect believers to be blameless? Explain your answer.
  • What does it mean when the Bible says that Job feared God?
  • What role, if any, should the fear of punishment play in our obedience to God?
  • What does it mean to shun evil and is this optional?
  • If it’s true that the great controversy will be over allegiance to God, how does one show their faithfulness to God?
  • Is it possible to keep the Ten Commandments and not be a servant to humanity? Why yes or no?
  • Is it true that the more faithful we are, the more we will be shielded from adversity and calamities? Explain your answer.
  • Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: The greatest evidence that we are faithful to God is in our keeping of the Sabbath day? Explain your answer.

We close this week’s lesson with an encouraging promise from the Word of God. Let’s claim it today.

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:6

Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!

The Bait & Switch Church?

It is called the bait and switch. That’s when one thing is advertised, usually at a great price, with the intention of substituting either something more costly or of less value. This tactic has been used for everything from automobiles to grocery store bargains. The goal is to get people in the door who otherwise would not be interested.

No one likes to be the subject of a bait and switch ruse. You may be asking what bait and switch has to do with the church. Plenty. Continue reading

Jesus Won Their Confidence

“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’” – Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 143.

Usually when I think about that quote it is in the context of how to influence non-Christians for Christ; meet their needs, gain their trust and see them become disciples. All of that is applicable, but today I realized for the first time that for many in the church, myself foremost, this is the strategy Christ is using on us.For many years I’ve read this quote that has been the focus of our recent lessons. It serves as a blueprint for the evangelistic outreach of the church. So simple yet so encompassing that no one can deny the effectiveness of the strategy. However, I have been applying it to the wrong people. Continue reading

Jesus Showed Compassion

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” That was the opening line in the television series Mission: Impossible. The show was based around a group of secret government agents who would be given, via a tape recording, secret tasks of grave danger. After delineating what the mission entailed, the recording would go on to say that if they were caught or killed, the Secretary would disavow any knowledge of their actions.

The memory text for this week is but a small part of a larger story. As usual large crowds flocked to Jesus. As he looked out on the vast throng of needy people the Bible describes His feelings.A core of willing and capable individuals, working as a team to do a seemingly impossible job, was the premise of the show. Those qualities come to mind in this week’s lesson on Jesus Showed Sympathy.

“And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.” Matthew 14:14

Continue reading

Jesus Desired Their Good

I suspect there is nothing in this lesson that we don’t already know. That’s not a bad thing. It is good to be reminded of truths we hold dear. It’s good to reexamine the stories of the Bible that illustrate the love and compassion of Christ. What is troubling is that we often have difficulty putting what we know into practical use.

As a church family, we may need to have more honest conversations about what we are trying to accomplish, and if we are reaching those goals. If not, it is healthy to have a discussion on how we can do things better.

The church of 2016 is vastly different than the church a decade ago. The urban sprawl that has changed the landscape of our communities has also affected how we operate as a church. In many of our churches, especially in our larger cities, the demographics of the attendees is often strikingly different from those who live in the community.

Members like myself commute weekly into the church. Our missionary outreach efforts are mostly confined to the organized church initiatives that are placed on our church calendars. That fact alone makes it very challenging to build a consistent influence in our communities. How this adversely affects what we do as a church in our communities cannot be overstated. If we are serious as a church in fulfilling our gospel commission this issue must be addressed. Continue reading

Jesus Mingled With People

He saw something no one else saw. In those despised by society, He saw royalty – Sons and daughters of God. Though far away from Him, they were loved, cherished and not forgotten. He heard something that no one else heard. He heard the heart cries of publicans and sinners when no one cared enough to listen. He heard their cries for a better life. He heard their cries for deliverance from the chains that bound them to lives not in harmony with their purpose.

“This man receiveth sinners” Luke 15:2

His approach to ministry was strikingly different than those who were the pillars of society. There was no pretentiousness in His dealings with those He met. The Bible simply says, “and the common people heard him gladly.” Mark 12:37 His love and compassion broke down barriers of suspicion and mistrust. His kindness disarmed the skeptical. His words of truth penetrated minds who were the objects of scorn and derision by the religious rulers. He came to give life, and life more abundantly, even to the least of these.

It’s that same love and compassion that has brought us into the family of God. His methods, when adopted by His servants, still have power to change lives for eternity. This week we have an opportunity to reexamine the methods of Jesus. Not only how He did what He did, but why. Continue reading