“Had the priests known the facts concerning the healing of the leper, their hatred of Christ might have led them to render a dishonest sentence. Jesus desired the man to present himself at the temple before any rumors concerning the miracle had reached them. Thus an impartial decision could be secured, and the restored leper would be permitted to unite once more with his family and friends.” DA267

“He knew that if the healing of the leper were noised abroad, other sufferers from this terrible disease would crowd about Him, and the cry would be raised that the people would be contaminated by contact with them. Many of the lepers would not so use the gift of health as to make it a blessing to themselves and others. And by drawing the lepers abut Him, He would give occasion for the charge that He was breaking down the restrictions of the ritual law. Thus His work in preaching the Gospel would be hindered.” DA267.

Firstly, it’s important to recognize that spiritual healing is of highest priority to Jesus. But this physical (and spiritual) healing was a tricky balance. It’s amazing to consider the hatred of the rulers, who might not have declared the miracle valid if they knew where it came from. Jesus saw that coming. He also saw that it could send a message to the rulers that showed that He wasn’t not unconcerned with the ceremonial law as implemented by God. Next, Jesus had to address the fact that if leapers mobbed Him, others would not come. Or that Jesus might be pressured to heal all leapers, even those who had no faith, and were not as concerned about spiritual healing as this man was. This was a sticky healing with lots of obstacles beyond the prejudice of society towards leapers. And yet, the call of faith will always draw the Savior, no matter the obstacles.

“When we pray for earthly blessings, the answer to our prayer may be delayed, or God may give us something other than we ask, but not so when we ask for deliverance from sin. It is His will to cleanse us from sin, to make us His chldren, and to enable us to live a holy life. … It was to manifest His power to forgive sins that the miracle was performed.” DA270

This should effect how we pray. When we pray for financial security, physical health, a job, a place to live, a relationship to work out, to feel on fire, to be liked, or for the preferred parking place, we should not expect God to bend to our will. Prayer concerning these issues may be very useful in changing our own will. But it is always God’s will to deliver from sin. As my friend Jeff says, “He didn’t die to save us from sin so that we could remain in it.” We may mess up (sin), but the power of sin in the world that holds sway over the fallen nature is such that we might cry out to him. “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” God showed that He was willing. He is willing, and will always be willing.

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Chapter 26: At Capernaum

February 21, 2007

Nothing is sweeter than the attraction of hearts to the Son of God. I just want to be like Jesus.

“Jesus had nothing to do with the various subjects of dissension among the Jews.”

“He made truth beautiful by presenting it in the most direct and simple way. His language was pure, refined, and clear as a running stream.” DA254

“His messages of mercy were varied to suit His audience.” 

“The beauty of His countenance, the loveliness of His character, above all, the love expressed in look and tone, drew to Him all who were not hardened in unbelief.” DA255

“When His eye swept over the throng of listeners, and He recognized among them the faces He had before seen, His countenance lighted up with joy.” DA256

“Every man is free to choose what power he will have to rule over him. None have fallen so low, none are so vile, but that they can find deliverance in Christ.” DA260

“In His life no self-assertion mingled. The homage which the world gives to position, or wealth, or talent, was foreign to the Son of man.” DA261

What most attracts you to Jesus?

Week 6

February 20, 2007

Well then, Calculus exams got the best of me last week, so this week is late in starting. But I continue to be blessed by your insights and comments, and I hope that you are coming close to Jesus these days.

Has the book surprised you? Maybe because I already adore the topic, but I notice how often Ellen White writes plainly about conversion. She doesn’t message the ego, neither does she spare the heart any joy coming from the wealth of God. What have you noticed? 

This week:

At Capernaum
“You Can Make Me Clean”
Levi-Matthew
The Sabbath
“He Ordained the Twelve”

The results of a connection to the heart of Christ is taught in this chapter. How does it happen?

“Peter exclaimed, ‘Depart from me; for I am a sinful man;’ yet he clung to the feet of Jesus, feeling that he could not be parted from Him.” DA247

While feelings can’t be trusted, they do have a purpose in the changing of a person. What was the function of feelings in the above scene. At one moment Peter’s heart floated on the sea of weariness, discouragement, and doubt. But for love, Peter obeyed the command of God–the power that has control of all creation (but allows for our own scattering of mind and emotion). Minutes later, a new level of truth awakens the attention of his heart, and Peter is overwhelmed. The “spirit filled fish” was to Peter like the dislocation of the hip of Jacob.  In both cases, fear and guilt dragged the struggling heart of a man under the waters of earthly reality. But it not for earthly reality that Jesus releases his heart upon a man.

“I will make you fishers of men.” How does this happen? Must we wait through nights of discouragement?

“The first thing to be learned by all who would become workers together with God is the lesson of self-distrust; then they are prepared to have imparted to them the character of God.” DA249

Is it by feelings that we respond to God? Yet, everything we want to feel acknowledges self-trust. By self-trust Eve fell. By his love for Eve, Adam fell. Both elevated something above what they knew to be right in their Spirit (whether it be reason or emotion)–and the Spirit was quenched.

Could it be that something beyond feelings sparked in the heart of Peter? Self-distrust allowed this spark to ignite, and the spirit of man, whichhad mastered feelings and reason before the fall, again took up cooperation with a greater Spirit.  

This is a profound and beautiful mystery. But it is the reality that is worth clinging to, even if we fear our own shortcomings.

“There is no limit to the usefulness of one who, by putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon his heart, and lives a life wholly consecrated to God. If men will endure the necessary discipline, without complaining or fainting by the way, God will teach them hour by hour, and day by day.” DA250  

By Jan Ellis

Emotions can’t be trusted!

“As their hearts were moved upon by the Holy Spirit they responded with fervent amens and praises to the Lord.” DA236

“They now scorned the faith with which Jesus had at first inspired them.” DA238

“Now that their prejudices were offended, they were ready to commit murder.” DA239

Imagine that! Within a very short time; you see them physically grabbing Jesus, pushing him around, shouting and swearing and throwing rocks at Him. Mary must have been beside herself as she surely followed the crowd. Did His brothers follow suit? Did they join in the shouting?

I looked for clues as to how this dramatic change could have taken place. Was it because He had claimed to be the Messiah? Or was it because He had compared them to a Gentile, and called a Gentile more worthy? What are your thoughts on that subject?

For whatever reason, their angry hearts tried to kill someone who had been their friend. It makes me sad to read that toward the end of his ministry, Jesus again visited Nazareth and even though “they were moved by the Divine Spirit, they would not admit that this Man was greater than themselves.” DA240 In the end, it really doesn’t matter the reason why we are angry, what matters is that we will respond to the wooing of the spirit and give God our anger and our misconceptions. “Don’t Quench the Spirit.” That is advice they should have followed, and that is what I am determined to do today, how about you?

Two thoughts:

1. Leaving the Church won’t do any good.

2. There’s a time for everything; a time for time and a time to end time.

“As the light of life of men was rejected by the ecclesiastical authorities in the days of Christ, so it has been rejected in every succeeding generation. … In our day few of the professed followers of the Reformers are actuated by their spirit. Few are listening for the voice of God, and ready to accept truth in whatever guise it may be presented. Often those who follow in the steps of the Reformers are forced to turn away from the churches they love, in order to declare the plain teaching of the word of God.” DA230

What would make this generation every different? Are leaders less likely to reject light today then in AD30, then in 1844, then in 1888? I’m not really anti-leadership or anti-organization, but I keenly realize that leadership takes more than talent. Without a miracle, leaders can not wield spiritual power without cutting themselves.  The truth is not tired, but so many think they have heard it all and are not listening for it. Just as certainly, many converted ears are continually tuned to the broadcast of the Holy Spirit waiting expectantly. These are people that are unassuming and from a worldly prospective have little to offer to the world or the church. These people will know when, if necessary, to leave churches in favor of the Word of God. What hurts me is people who are leaving any church in favor of how they feel–whether that be because the church is not meeting their needs or because they have been offended by people in the church. It is rare these days for anyone to leave any habit for the Word of God. But even if they do, will it do anyone eternal good?

“So today the kingdom of this world absorbs men’s thoughts, and they take no note of the rapidly fulfilling prophecies and the tokens of the swift-coming kingdom of God.” DA233

Jesus fulfilled hundreds of points of prophecy when He arrived right on schedule. God works within time as if it were unstoppable for Him. Of course we know that this is not the case, He could be late if it were His will. He could be early. He did neither in His first coming, and I am guessing that He will be neither late nor early for His second coming.

The kingdom of God is swift-coming. It breaks upon the hearts of men today, smashing through barriors we have built. And self dies. The second coming of Christ is on schedule, and even now, hearts are being prepared for eternity. Jesus is never late.

“Had he been unfaithful in his mission, that he was now cut off from labor? If the promised Deliverer had appeared, and John had been found true to his calling, would not Jesus now overthrow the oppressor’s power, and set free His herald?” DA217

“How could He permit His faithful herald to be deprived of liberty and perhaps of life?” DA216

“To many minds a deep mystery surrounds the fate of John the Baptist. They question why he should have been left to languish and die in prison. The mystery of this dark providence our human vision cannot penetrate: but it can never shake our confidence in God when we remember that John was but a sharer in the sufferings of Christ.” DA225.

God is anti-death, anti-hate, and anti-sin. He is pro-eternal life, pro-love, and pro-righteousness. So why is suffering allowed to continue, and especially in the lives of those God loves the most? Ah, but there is the rub. God is not a bigger likeness of us, He dosn’t quantify His love like humans do. He always loves every person the most–and cannot love less. He loved Herodias as much as John the Baptist. Though He is just, God is not just like us only more so. His justice is the most because he cannot act against His character. This is hard to fully understand, but without spiritual recognition of the character of God, we will not be able to understand suffering and our faith is in danger.

The Bible spins suffering in the most positive light, and so does Ellen White. It’s honorable; even desirable, not of itself, but because it is the result of following Christ in a world where the natural laws diabolically oppose the nature of Christ. Concerning suffering,

“God never leads His children otherwise then they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning, and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him.” DA226

Can this be serious! Contextually this means that John the Baptist would have chosen his lot of confinement and death if he had seen it as God sees it? Strange and wonderful teaching, and I pray I see this more clearly as I mature because, “of all the gifts that Heaven can bestow upon men, fellowship with Christ in His sufferings is the most weighty trust and the highest honor.” DA227

I told you self dies hard.

I have been studying the issue of undeserved suffering. Many people can’t seem to climb over this whole idea while holding the hand of an all powerful God of love.  At the same time, other people have no problem believing that God supernaturally sustains physical and spiritual torture in hell and will continue to do so throughout all eternity. How does that work? Maybe we will deal with hell later, but for looking at suffering on this earth, this is a key chapter. Fit these pieces together with me.

“He longed to exercise His healing power, and make every sufferer whole. … He knew that such an act of healing would so excite the prejudice of the Jews as to cut short His work.” DA199

“The sick man was lying on his mat, and occasionally lifting his head to gaze at the pool, when a tender, compassionate face bent over him…”  DA200

[and about the sick spirit]

“Let these despondent, struggling ones look up. The Saviour is bending over the purchase of His blood, saying with inexpressible tenderness and pity, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ … Whatever may be the evil practice, the master passion which through long indulgence binds both soul and body, Christ is able and longs to deliver. … He will set free the captive that is held by weakness and misfortune and the chains of sin.” DA201

What is shown about God’s view of suffering? I’m thinking:

1. God takes the long view.
2. The long view has more to do with healing the spirit than with the body.
3. God longs to put an end to all suffering including physical pain.
4. Healing is not only possible, but available. Free and by faith.
5. God will not control our will, but “Self-will is blind.” DA210.

Despite the force of sin and self-destruction causing sorrow, there is hope in the invitation of Christ, “Do you want to be made well?” There is power in the command, “Rise, take up your bed, and walk.”

Not only does this chapter unpack how healing is accomplished, it also tells how hardening is accomplished. It deserves to be unpacked and examined; I want you to be free, not yet from suffering, but from self and sin. Let’s continue in Christ.

Week 5

February 11, 2007

Well then, one month, 200 pages, and tons of good insight from the panel.

This week:

Bethesda and the Sanhedrin
Imprisonment and Death of John
“The Kingdom of God Is at Hand”
“Is Not This the Carpenter’s Son?”
The Call by the Sea

Now wouldn’t it have just been unfair for the official’s son to have died? What did that kid ever do wrong to deserve such treatment? Of course the Jews were taught then that sickness was the wrath of God.

I’m studying about a God who doesn’t choose suffering as a means, but allows it. Many people have a problem with God on this issue. I think the problem is our little brains tend toward a fantasy of justice. We want immediate answers and swift judgement. And if God worked on that system, I’d be dead along with you. This chapter doesn’t deal with justice or even reasons for suffering in the world. But what it does cover is our perception of God, the games we play on the road to faith, and how God responds to our games.

“He [the nobleman] hoped that a father’s prayers might awaken the sympathy of the Great Physician. … But already his sorrow was known to Jesus. Before the officer had left his home, the Saviour had beheld his affliction.” DA194

If there is a Sympathy who is always awake, it is Jesus. Have you ever felt in prayer that you needed to come to God to convince Him of your sorrow? If we are not so narrow in our understanding of the empathy of Christ, why are our prayers often structured like this nobleman’s prayers? Maybe I’m being too harsh.

“But He knew also that the father had, in his own mind, made conditions concerning his belief in Jesus. Unless his petition should be granted, he would not receive Him as the Messiah. … Notwithstanding all the evidence that Jesus was the Christ, the petitioner had determined to make his belief in Him conditional on the granting of his own request.” DA194

What a shocking look at the inside of a human! I hate looking in this type of mirror. No wonder God allows sorrow. Think of the implications of any other system. If Jesus did not allow bad things to happen to good people on this sinful planet, we would turn His love into a currency. I’ll pay you love if you give me what I want. Rather, sorrow is the lot of every man, and hope is it’s partner for every man and woman who truly believe that God is Love regardless of suffering that lasts for a while. God always takes the long view, and I know that His hope is that we will love Him now, and trust His sympathy even in the face of sorrow and death.

God revealed the thoughts of at least one man that day. The man’s needy soul and lack of faith was brought into the brightness of holiness, and when it crumbled, Jesus replaced it with a faith that went beyond the answered prayer. God want’s all of us to take Him at His word, even in the face of death. It’s not easy, but neither is it easy to allow suffering when suffering was never the plan.

Are you willing to allow suffering in your own life so that you might have the chance to grasp faith?