July 27, 2013 § Leave a comment
While reading about the flood and the events leading up to it, I couldn’t help but notice that the situation surrounding the flood is the same one surrounding Christ’s Second Coming. Matthew and Paul also tells of this parallelism:
“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:37-39)
“Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” (2 Peter 3:3-7)
The situation then is the same as it is now before Christ comes back; the world will increase in evil, there will be scoffers and skeptics, and there will seem to be a delay.
During the time of Noah, mankind had succumbed to sin, “and…every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6:5). With their thoughts always on evil, one can only imagine what sorts of things were happening at that time (however, don’t forget that there were followers of God at this time as well). Humans were able to use the full capacity of their minds and bodies for centuries. Seeing the evil on Earth, God said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis 6:3). Today we live to be about 70-80 years old with a minority living past 100. And even then, we humans become feeble once we reach old age. These men and women during Noah’s time were spry multi-centennials, and “they sought only to gratify the desires of their own proud hearts…[reveling] in scenes of pleasure and wickedness.” (PP 91). Man’s wickedness was so bad that God repented making humans and wanted to destroy His creation, “but Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8). The prevalence of wickedness and the dwindling of God’s followers will be, and is, the same before Christ returns. As I’m sure you can see, the world is becoming more selfish, more evil, more corrupt, and this degeneration is seen everywhere, through the media, next door, on the other side of the world. And the corruption will continue to increase until Christ comes. But there will be a remnant, a minority, of people who believe in God and who follow Him wholeheartedly just as Noah and his family did.
When Noah was telling everyone about the coming of the flood, they initially believed him or at least kept his words in their minds. Mankind was not totally separated from the Earth’s first week and first humans. Stories had been passed down orally through the generations, so even if there were skepticism, there was enough knowledge of God and His power. They had never seen rain before; the ground was watered with dew and mist. But since the flood seemed to be delayed, they believed Noah less and less until they all began to scoff at him and ridicule him. They continued in their revelry and put Noah’s warnings from God out of their mind. Even when they saw the animals orderly going into the ark, they had put Noah’s warnings so far from their minds that it didn’t have an impact. Again, before Christ comes, there will be scoffers just the same as it was in Noah’s day. We are even further removed from Eden, and many are denying God’s existence and Christ’s second coming. As His coming nears and as there is further evidence that He will come (as seen in scripture), the skepticism will grow.
For 120 years, Noah warned everyone about the Earth’s destruction. As I said before, some may have initially believed in what Noah was saying. But as time went on and the sky remained cloudless, they ignored his warnings and carried on with their wickedness. They had never seen rain, they couldn’t imagine the entire world being destroyed by water, and this flood was taking forever to manifest itself. Christ’s second coming will also seem to tarry. Even though it may seem that it will never happen and that evil will win, Christ will come at the appointed time and “at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:44). But God keeps His word and when He says something will happen, it will happen.
After the flood, the Earth was cleansed and as a covenant with humanity, God placed a rainbow in the sky, reminding us that He will never destroy the Earth by water again. Of course, sin still reigned on Earth, for Noah and his family were still a part of a sinful generation. The Earth continued its downward spiral in sin; through the generations, humans decreased in mental capacity, strength, and size, nature decayed, animals were made to fear humans, etc. However, after Christ comes and after the Earth is cleansed by fire, the Earth will no longer be under the control of sin. It will be made completely new with “no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4).
July 21, 2013 § Leave a comment
Abel’s death and Cain’s rebellion shattered Adam’s hope if only for a little while. He witnessed the full impact of sin and the intensity of its consequences. And aren’t we the same way? When we hear of atrocities either from next door or from the other side of the world, we lose hope. We wonder, “Is God really there and caring for us? Is He still watching over us?” It is true that sin is in this world and until Christ comes again, there will still be sin in this world. But God does still have followers and there are still people who reflect His love and mercy even in an evil world.
This is the case with Seth and Enoch; both were followers of God in an evil world, and both brought some kind of hope. Seth was the son born to Adam and Eve after Cain and Abel. Eve named this son Seth, “For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.” (Genesis 4:25 KJV). Seth means “compensation” or “appointed”, and he brought hope to his parents. Unlike Cain but like Abel, Seth feared God and obeyed Him. Adam and Eve taught Seth directly about God and about their sin. What an awesome experience that must have been to follow God at that time! For almost a millennium, Adam and Eve could impart wisdom of how to live godly and could be a witness, telling seven generations of people of how he walked in the presence of God. The many inhabitants of Earth could go to Eden and see the flaming swords and cherubim guarding the tree of life. At that time, “Skepticism could not deny the existence of Eden while it stood just in sight, its entrance barred by watching angels. The order of creation, the object of the garden, the history of its two trees so closely connected with man’s destiny, were undisputed facts. And the existence and supreme authority of God, the obligation of His law, were truths which men were slow to question while Adam was among them.” When the evidence is right in front of you, it’s hard to dispute its authenticity and existence.
After Seth had his first son Enos, “then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.” (Genesis 4:26 KJV). See, with Cain and his family in his land and Adam’s family in their land, there was a clear division line between those who followed God and those who didn’t. They had worshipped God before of course, but now the distinction was clearer. Cain went on to found a city, but his descendants had a different purpose for themselves. Instead of seeking to be in the presence of God, they remained content with the Earth’s material possessions and with their own selfish desires. They were different from those descended from Seth who sought to do God’s will.
But they did not remain separate; “the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.” (Genesis 6:2 KJV). When truth mixes with error, only error comes out. Therefore, wickedness increased and humans sought to please themselves instead of God. Now, I’ve always imagined the world at that time as a time of extreme wickedness, a time of glorification of sin, and a time of general ignorance. And this was true to some degree; evil was prevalent, and with humans living and increasing their knowledge for centuries one can only imagine what was going on. But not only was it a time of darkness, it was also a time of light. Man’s intellect and strength at that time is unparalleled. If we marvel today at the discoveries and intelligence and physical prowess of man who live for 70-80 years, imagine how we might wonder at the discoveries from mankind who lived for more than 8 or 9 centuries. Yes they may not have had the plethora of technological and scientific discoveries that we have today, but surely they were close. They developed in stature and mental capacity quickly just as we do. The difference is that they had much more time to improve and build in their knowledge. It was also a good time for the Word of God to be spread. Adam and Eve were able to tell of their time with God and about what they learned from Him. Everyone could see the garden of Eden and could share in our first parents’ sorrow in going against God. There were fewer degrees of separation between Adam and the other inhabitants of the Earth. Their mental capacities also worked for them. I’m sure that they had intelligent conversations and discussions on God’s Word and that they were able to spread their findings across generations. It’s really quite amazing when you think of the spiritual, intellectual, and physical accomplishments of those first people.
As an example of a follower of God, enter Enoch, son of Jared. The Bible doesn’t say much about his life. His biography spans only 4 verses: “And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” (Genesis 5:21-24 KJV). Ellen White adds a bit more to his story and gives some context to his life. Enoch lived for 365 years on a sin-filled Earth, yet he remained faithful to God and desired to be closer to Him. He didn’t become a hermit, he lived and worked all the while doing God’s will. He embodied the command to “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2 KJV). He was a vessel for God at that time and he shared God’s Word to the believers and to the skeptics. Shouldn’t we be the same? We live in a sinful world just as Enoch did. And we have the same capacity to reflect who God is in our character and to live as God wants us to live. To be in constant communication with God must have been amazing. To have such a close relationship with Him that God wouldn’t want to break the communication through death must have been the best experience known to man. I know I strive to have that kind of relationship with God. But in order to do so, we need to be in the world but not of the world. Not conforming to the ways of the world helps us to be in and to improve upon a relationship with God.
Through Seth and Enoch, we see hope for the newly sin-filled world. There were many other unnamed people who followed God of course. Though evil is here, there will always be good.
July 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
The first murder on Earth foreshadows the attitudes of the Earth’s future inhabitants. Whenever I read about the encounter between Cain and Abel, I’m always amazed at how quickly sin spreads. Of course, sin was first manifested on Earth with Adam and Eve ate the fruit and then proceeded to place the blame on others instead themselves. And death had already manifested itself when God made clothes from animal skins for Adam and Eve. But with Cain and Abel, we see the death of the first human being and the first casualty of this great controversy.
God had explicitly told the first family about how to go about about sacrificing a lamb for their sins. The sacrificial lamb was to mirror Christ’s death on the cross and no other sacrifice or offering would suffice. “Without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin; and they were to show their faith in the blood of Christ as the promised atonement by offering the firstlings of the flock in sacrifice” (71). Abel followed the Lord’s command and followed His will. He recognized the importance of the sacrifice. Cain, on other hand, wanted to follow his own will. In his mind, atonement was obtained through his own works, not through the mercy of God. When God accepted only Abel’s offering of a lamb and not Cain’s offering of fruit and vegetables, Cain was enraged. See, Cain resented the fact that Abel’s offering was accepted; Cain knew that what he did was wrong and what Abel did was right, yet he still wouldn’t obey God’s command. God saw Cain’s anger and asked, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6, 7 NIV). Again, here is the power of choice and here you can see God’s unchanging love in the mercy that He shows to Cain. He was given the opportunity to change, to make things right. Instead, Cain let sin rule over him and he killed his brother.
We see this dynamic many times in history and even today; we see the struggle between followers of Christ and followers of Satan, bringers of love and agents of hate, good and evil, right and wrong. Those who bring evil usually know what is good and right, yet they hate those living right all the more, for “everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:20 NIV). We’ve seen this throughout history in the murders of so-called heretics and in the injustices and oppression that we see in the world.
Not only did this murder set the stage for the great controversy, it also introduced the idea of being saved by works alone. Many people believe that so long as you do what you think is right and follow God’s law without surrender, you’ll be fine. Such is not the case. Simple following the letter of the law is not saves us, but it’s accepting Christ as your Savior and surrendering your life to Him. In Ephesians, Paul writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9 NIV). We are saved through the grace and mercy of God, not by our own works. And even if we were to try and be righteous, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6 NIV). We are sinful and even at our best we’re still sinful.
When we accept Christ as our Savior, following His law and His will comes next. We will find it a delight to follow it instead of a burden, and we follow it out of love for Him, not to gain a reward for ourselves.
The first murder painted a picture of the future of Earth, and today we still see its effects. Only when Christ comes again can the controversy be ended and sin be completely eradicated with its followers and originator.
July 13, 2013 § Leave a comment
We need a Savior. In our sin-cursed state, we need a Savior to save us from the power and presence of sin; “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NIV). Because we are sinners, we deserve to die. Sin can’t live in the presence of a sinless God and sin brings death to us. If we didn’t have a Savior, we would be forever separated from God our Creator. But in His love for us (remember, that’s the main point in everything), Christ died the death that we were supposed to die, thereby giving us access to God’s kingdom.
This plan was set from the very beginning, for “the Lamb…was slain from the creation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8 NIV). Because the plan of redemption was known even during the creation of the world, we have some insight into our eternal God. To Him, all times are present and He can see the end and the beginning. So He knew what to do to save us. We couldn’t save ourselves; how could we overcome the power of sin and death? We had already succumbed to sin and believed Satan’s lies, therefore, we are powerless against sin. The angels couldn’t save us, even though they are higher in intellect and righteousness. It is true that they are not tainted with sin, but they are not our creator and they have no power to save us. Only our Creator has the power to save us and only through His death could we be reconciled to our God.
That’s pretty powerful don’t you think? That Someone could love us so much that He would die to give us access to being eternally with Him. How many people would you be willing to die for? Or if not die, suffer immensely? Would be for your family? Your spouse? A close friend? These people we love and we know they love us. But Christ died for those He loves knowing that many don’t love Him. That’s the ultimate sacrifice to save us from sin. Sin separates. The weight of the world’s sins separated Christ from His Father when He died on the cross and sin separates us from being in God’s presence.
When Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, they were not left without hope. God gave them this promise, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15). The seed from the woman that God was hinting at was Jesus, and He in bruising the serpent’s head would reign supreme and conquer evil. This promise served as a reminder to Adam and Eve about their Savior and that there is hope for them. This promise was repeated and refined throughout history through the sanctuary, through the sacrificial offerings, through the prophets, and ultimately, through Christ’s first advent.
When Christ died on the cross, He showed the Earth, heaven, and all other inhabited worlds that Satan seeks to destroy and God’s aim is to love. No other sacrifice could have done that and no other person on Earth has the power to save us from sin.
July 13, 2013 § Leave a comment
Imagine a parent with a newborn baby. It can be their first child, second child, third child, nth child. For argument’s sake, let’s say that this child is their first child. (Bear with me, I’m not a parent so my coming descriptions could be inaccurate) That’s “first” number one. Then, imagine the parents’ joy at hearing the baby’s first laugh, the parents’ hurt at hearing the baby’s first cry. Then 1-2 years later come the baby’s first steps and first words (I believe my first word was “mama”). Maybe in 2 or 3 more years, the child will tell their first lie, be in trouble for the first time. Then comes the first day of school, first the day the child is primarily without his or her parents for a few hours. I can imagine the first day of school is a point of great emotion for parents; they are letting their child go and trusting them with another adult for a good part of the day. I’ll stop there but I’m sure you can think of plenty of other “firsts” in a family (first job, first car, you get the picture).
Now shift your thinking to the Earth as a baby and God as the Father. The words “Let there be light” started the Earth’s first day and first night. Life was first brought to Earth by God in the form of plants, microorganisms, animals, and humans. The first marriage in Earth was celebrated when God created Adam and Eve, and “it was one of the first gifts of God to man”. God hallowed the first Sabbath day and He and all His creation celebrated it at the end of the first week; “All was perfect, worthy of its divine Author, and He rested, not as one weary, but as well pleased with the fruits of His wisdom and goodness and the manifestations of His glory.” Then came the first sin when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil; the first parents were cast out of the garden of Eden and sin started its rampage on Earth. The Earth grew in sin and on it was the first murder, the first blame, the first sacrifice, and many other firsts, both good and bad.
Just as parents remember and document the firsts of their children, God remembers the firsts of the Earth, His creation. There are just a few “firsts” that I wanted to elaborate a bit on: the first Sabbath, first marriage, and first sin.
First note that God blessed and hallowed the seventh day. Even in Eden where all was made perfect, God knew that man would need a day of rest to commune with God. God didn’t need to rest from His work for He never tires. But in His love for man, He created the Sabbath day to give man a day to rest and focus on God (although of course, communing with God should be a daily occurrence). So, knowing why the Sabbath was created, how should we celebrate it? For me, I’ve had Sabbaths where it seemed as if I or my family was doing more work than we did during the week! We would be hung up in meetings and discussions that didn’t really keep us in the Sabbath spirit. There were times when I’d dread the coming of the Sabbath because that meant that I was due to another day at church from 9:30am to 10:00pm. It made me realize that we shouldn’t stuff the Sabbath full of meetings and activities all the time. Why not take some time to not go to church on Sabbath and spend some time at a park with your family or stay at home and study the Sabbath school lesson? Of course this is not to say that you should absolutely not go to church on Sabbath; sometimes the best way to keep the Sabbath is with many others who do as well. But wherever you go, remember to commune with God, for that is the reason for the Sabbath.
When Adam was created, “there was not found an help meet for him.” (Genesis 2:20 KJV). God saw that Adam didn’t have someone suitable for him therefore, He created Eve “from a rib taken from the side of Adam, signifying that she was not to control him as the head, nor to be trampled under his feet as an inferior, but to stand by his side as an equal, to be loved and protected by him.” Notice that God saw that Adam needed a suitable helper and that God brought Eve to Adam. He blessed and formed that relationship between them. From noticing that, I can see that any relationship or marriage is better when God is at the center and is in control.
“For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.” (Psalms 8:5 KJV). Just as the angels in heaven, Adam and Eve were given the freedom of choice and were created with high-performing, intelligent minds. In obeying God, they could be in the presence of God in paradise. But in choosing to disobey God, they allowed sin to reign on Earth and they rejected God’s presence. I find it interesting how Adam and Eve reacted once they realized that they had disobeyed God. Firstly, they sought to hide from Him and cover themselves; “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.'” (Genesis 3:7, 8, 10 NIV). Isn’t that still our first reaction? Whenever someone catches us doing something wrong our first instinct is hang our head or hide in shame. We want to leave the presence of whomever we’ve wronged. When confronted about their sin, both Adam and Eve placed the blame on someone else: Adam on Eve, Eve on the serpent. The same holds true when we sin; we try to find a scapegoat whether in a person, situation, thing, or mentality. Sin leads to blame and shame, and sin cannot exist in the presence of a loving, perfect God.
These firsts described above are pretty crucial to the Earth’s first days; there are the gifts of the Sabbath and a close relationship in marriage to man, and there is the curse of sin that gave the need for a Savior. We can’t save ourselves from sin, only Christ can do that.
July 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
“God is love.” 1 John 4:16.
That’s how Ellen White begins the first book in Great Controversy series. And in my opinion, that’s the best way to begin it. Many people may forget or choose to ignore or not know that God’s motive behind everything He does is love. His love is infinite, long-suffering, and unconditional.
So why would sin be permitted? (this is also the title of the first chapter of Patriarchs and Prophets) If God is an ever-loving God who desires that no disharmony or harm come to His creation, why would He allow sin to come into the world? That’s a typical question asked by many and, I do admit, myself at times. Just seeing or hearing about all the evil that goes on in the world makes you wish that somebody or something could make it stop. And I’ve heard people saying that if they were God, they would immediately wipe out all of the evil in this world.
According to Ellen White, and also several other people that I’ve heard from sermons and Bible studies, love is the answer. When Lucifer sowed the seeds of doubt and deception in heaven, he brought discord to the normally harmonious heaven. Lucifer is the one who brought sin to our world; because of his selfishness and his desire to rise to the top solely to have everyone worship him, he brought discord to heaven and sin to Earth. Now for the angels who had never heard anything like the deceptions that Lucifer was feeding to them, they had no idea what would become of Lucifer’s rebellion. Was he right to challenge God’s authority? Would he make a better ruler than God? Had God destroyed Lucifer and his followers straight from the get-go, the other angels would not have known which way was right and doubt would forever be in their minds. So out love for the angels and for Lucifer (God, in His long-suffering love wants Lucifer and his followers to return to Him), He allows Lucifer to carry out his rule.
Well then, why for so long? For us humans, time is finite. Our average lifetime is about 70-80 years; in that timespan we experience a lot of things – birth, family, love, hate, death, friendship, pride, envy, excitement, sadness, anger, happiness, the list can go on. So of course for us, 6000-odd years is a long time to let Lucifer rule and carry out his deception. But remember, God is infinite. To Him the past, present, and future are the present to Him (the best analogy to Him being infinite that I’ve heard is reading a book). 6000+ years is nothing to God let alone 70-80. “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” Psalm 90:4. “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8. To God, it’s like it was yesterday when Lucifer rebelled. And again, it is out of love that God allows Lucifer to carry out his plans. Even if with our finite minds we can’t quite perceive why, we must still trust in God and his infinite love.
Another concept covered a bit that I found interesting is that of free will. God is love, and out of love, He gives His creation free will. As Ellen White says, “God desires from all His creatures the service of love – service that springs from an appreciation of character. He takes no pleasure in a forced obedience; and to all He grants freedom of will, that they may render Him voluntary service.” (P and P, 35). Forced obedience is not of God and it’s not in His character. How can you love someone whom you obey against your will? And how can Someone whose character is based on love force his creation to obey Him? Voluntary obedience comes from love from both the ruler and the subject. In the fall of Lucifer, you see that he and the angels he deceived did indeed exercise free will. They had a choice, and they took it. Again, had God simply destroyed them immediately, He would be going against his loving nature. Letting the consequences of their choices speak out would make it clear to all of creation which way is the right way.
Again love is the basis of this great controversy: “The history of the great conflict between good and evil, from the time it first began in heaven to the final overthrow of rebellion and the total eradication of sin, is also a demonstration of God’s unchanging love” (33). Love is the backstory, the driving force, the main thing to remember. And how quickly we tend to forget.
July 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
I figured I should add an introduction post before I start doing anything else. “What’s the purpose of this blog?” you may ask. Many blogs are devoted to the thoughts of their writer, to art, to family, to religion, to crafts, to fashion, to travel. In fact I have another blog (cue shameless plug) devoted to my art. You can find it here if you want to take a look.
I’ve wanted to create a blog that has meaning to it, that allows me to show my thoughts about things besides art. But what could I do? Being a student, it’s not like I have time to think about every aspect of my life and write about it all the time. I’d much rather write about something that means a lot to me.
And thus this blog was born.
I’m a Seventh-day Adventist Christian and I want to improve my relationship with God. The way that I tend to learn about things is by reading and studying. So in this blog, this journey of sorts, I’ll be posting my thoughts towards books I’ve read, towards Bible passages I’ve read, and towards sermons that resonated with me. Firstly, I’ll be going through Ellen White’s Spirit of Prophecy series: Patriarchs and Prophets, Prophets and Kings, The Desire of Ages, Acts of the Apostles, and The Great Controversy. I plan on finishing those 5 books by the end of the year (hopefully!) and writing my thoughts on them as I read them. Most likely I’ll go chapter by chapter or chapters by chapters (I don’t want to overwhelm myself with writing). Just reading is, of course, useful in my studies, but writing makes what you learn stick. I don’t like writing in journals too much for they can be easily lost and I’m rather impatient with writing by hand. And by writing a blog, I can share what I’ve learned more easily than I could by just having a journal.
So join me on this journey in my relationship with God. Feel free to comment and give your thoughts but make them constructive. If you think I’ve made a mistake or said something wrong, tell me through the comments. I’d hate to be a stumbling block for anyone.
But enjoy, and prayerfully, my relationship with God will be stronger.