Sunday, February 28, 2016

This week's lesson (February 27 - March 4): Paul and the Rebellion

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. -- Ephesians 4:10-18, NIV
Think of Paul as a spiritual MacGyver.

MacGyver, remember, was TV's fictional master of improvisation -- the kind of man who could build an MRI out of a cellphone and two paperclips . . .

And do it without any kind of special equipment.

No, with nothing more than his Swiss Army knife (and maybe a little duct-tape), he could defuse any bomb, escape any trap, and fend off any foe . . .

Kind of like Paul.

When Paul talks about spiritual warfare, after all, he does not discuss any "special weapons" that ordinary Christians don't have. No, he doesn't say we need the Sword of Anduril, the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, or even an unlicensed nuclear accelerator.

Instead, he talks about things like truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God -- all of which every Christian should have . . .

And all of which every Christian should use every day.

Like MacGyver, in other words, we don't need anything we don't already have.

No, God's made sure we have what we need.

We just need to make sure we use it.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

This week's lesson (February 20-26): the Great Controversy and the Early Church

Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between you and me. For the generations to come, every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner -- those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenantAny uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant." -- Genesis 17:9-14, NIV (emphasis supplied).
It's not easy "to make disciples of all nations."

And sometimes, it's tougher for us than it is for them.

Read the first few chapters of Acts, for instance, and you'll notice how slooooooowly the Church included those uncircumcised Gentiles.
  • The first believers, remember, were all Palestinian Jews -- Palestinian Jews whose men were all circumcised.
  • But with Pentecost came Hellenistic Jews -- and while this created all kinds of trouble about money and leadership, at least circumcision wasn't an issue.
  • Next came Samaritans -- foreign scum, to be sure, but foreign scum who were circumcised.
  • Then came an Ethiopian eunuch -- a man for whom the whole question of circumcision was . . . academic.
  • And only after all this did Peter finally baptized a God-fearing Gentile by the name of Cornelius -- and even then, it took a vision, a command from God, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, a meeting with leaders in Jerusalem, and a church council (not to mention a number of letters from Paul) before the church finally decided it was okay to make disciples of people like . . . you know, people like him.
To be sure, we shouldn't be too hard on the early church. It's safer to stick with your own kind, after all -- safer, easier, and much more enjoyable.

That's why "the nations" aren't the only ones who need change.

No, if we want to change them, then first we need to change ourselves.

(This commentary is adapted from the commentary for the Sabbath School lesson of March 4, 2014.)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

This week's lesson (February 13-19): Comrades in Arms

The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, "What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?" -- Exodus 18:13f, NIV
The most amazing things about Christ's disciples?

It's the fact He had them.

If anyone could have done it on their own, after all, then it was Him. 

Yes, He was smart. 

Dedicated. 

And if anyone suffered more from the "help" of his friends and followers, then I've yet to meet them.

Like so many of His followers today, in other words, Jesus could avoided all the hassle of dealing with others; he could have skipped all the heartache that comes when when you try to work with people.

Yes, it could have been just Jesus and God who'd get things done -- nobody else.

Instead, he called people to follow Him -- people who did not have the faith that He did. People who did not have the love that He did. People who inevitably fell short, and made Him look bad.

Mistake?

Maybe.

But if Jesus couldn't do it on His own -- without other people . . . 

Then what makes us think we can?

Sunday, February 07, 2016

This week's lesson (February 6-12): Jesus' teachings and the Great Controversy


"Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who build his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 
"But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a crash." -- Matthew 724-27, NIV.
Sin is easy.

It's like building a house, said Jesus. You can put your foundation on stone -- but in the days before bulldozers and explosives (or even wheelbarrows), that means lots of work with picks and shovels.  Then too, you'll need to carry all your building materials uphill, up to the top of that rock

No, it's easier and faster to just burn-off the brush in some arroyo or wadi, level the sand, and build your house down where the land is cheap and building materials are close by.

Likewise, it's easier to lie than to tell the truth.

Easier to cheat than to study for the test.

And as you see in the above video, it's much, much easier to grab one marshmallow now than to wait for two later on.

But then the rain falls, the stream rises, your parent/teacher/spouse discovers the truth . . .

And that's when you discover that sin may be easy today.

But it sure can be tough on tomorrow.



And if you want to see what a flash flood looks like in Israel today, then here's a video!