Moses’ life is a story of God’s miraculous leading and providential guidance.
Moses, A Life of Trust
By Mark A. Finley
This month we will continue our study about the life of Moses. In our last study we focused on Moses’ intimate relationship with God as a close friend. In this lesson we will explore Moses’ commitment to trust God in the challenges and difficulties of life. We will discover a God who honors the positive choices His people make and glorifies His name by working miracles for those who trust Him. These miracles may not always come in the form of spectacular, supernatural wonders (although sometimes they do), but God always supplies the miracle of divine grace to strengthen us to face the challenges we all must meet.
1 - What life-changing choice did Moses make in the courts of Egypt? Read Hebrews 11:24-27 and describe what Moses chose to do and what he chose not to do. Moses chose to “suffer affliction with the people of God” rather than to enjoy the pleasures and wealth of Egypt. By faith he grasped the divine reality that this life has little to offer in the light of eternity. The passing pleasures of earth fade into insignificance compared with the eternal treasures of Christ.
2 - How did God reward Moses’ faithfulness? What amazing promise did He make to both Moses and the children of Israel? Discover the answer in Exodus 6:5-7. Moses’ trust in God opened the door for God to work unusual miracles for the children of Israel. God’s greatest miracles are reserved for His friends who trust Him explicitly.
3 - What crisis did Israel face at the Red Sea, and what counsel did God give Israel that revealed Moses’ trust in God? Read Exodus 14:13, 14.
4 - How did Israel respond to the miraculous deliverance at the Red Sea? Compare the Song of Moses in Exodus 15:1, 2 to Revelation 15:3, 4. What is the spiritual lesson in each of these songs? When the Israelites passed through the Red Sea, and their oppressors, the Egyptians, were drowned in the raging waters, God’s people burst out rejoicing in a song of deliverance. Their victorious strains of praise echoed throughout the camp. One day at the end of time, when God’s people stand rejoicing on the sea of glass, we too will sing a song of praise and victory. The Song of Moses, the song of God’s mighty hand of deliverance, will echo throughout the universe.
5 - Although God repeatedly worked miracles for His people as they wandered on their wilderness journey, they often bitterly complained of the difficulties that confronted them. When they had little to eat, they murmured against God. But Moses, once again, exhibited His trust in God. What counsel did he give? Read Exodus 16:6, 7.
6 - In Exodus 20 God gave the Ten Commandments—principles of His divine government—to His people. What promise did He also make to those who lovingly obey His commands through His power? Read Exodus 34:1, 6, 7, 10. One of the things God longed to teach His people in the Old Testament is that there is a blessing in obedience; disobedience forfeits these blessings. God works in special ways for those who trust and obey Him.
7 - When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, what condition clearly indicated that He had been in the presence of God? Read Exodus 34:29. God reveals His presence in marvelous ways to those who trust Him. Today, no matter what challenges we face in our lives, if we live lives of trust we will see His miracle-working power and reveal God’s glory to others.
In seeking to answer your question, I will comment on the context of the passage, examine how it is interpreted in the Gospels as it refers to Christ, and discuss how it might be fulfilled in the last days.
1. Contextual Considerations: Malachi 4 begins with an announcement of divine judgment and its effects on the fate of the wicked (total extermination) and of those who revere/fear the Lord (victory, salvation, and joy [verses 1-3]). This is followed by a call to “remember [i.e., keep] the law” God gave to Israel on Sinai (verse 4). In this context the coming of Elijah is announced and dated (verse 5): He will come “before the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (verse 5; cf. verses 1-3; Joel 2:31). The prophet’s mission will be to “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (verse 6). A literal reading of the text is possible, but the context suggests the need of the new generation to be as faithful to God’s law and covenant as were their faithful forefathers. In other words, Elijah was to prepare God’s people for the coming of the Lord by calling them to return to the faith of the fathers.
2. Christological Interpretation: The kingdom of God forcefully interrupted human history in the person and ministry of Jesus. He was the Messiah. The Jews argued that He could not be the Messiah because Elijah had not yet come (Matt. 17:10). Affirming His messiahship, Jesus answered that Elijah had already come in the ministry of John the Baptizer (verses 11-13). John denied being the incarnated Elijah (John 1:21), though he came “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:15) and “in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just” (verse 17). Through his ministry John would “bring back . . . to the Lord” many of the people of Israel (verse 16, NIV) in order “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (verse 17). His prophetic task was to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Matt. 3:3).
3. End-time Interpretation: The partial fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi in the ministry of John the Baptizer will find its ultimate fulfillment before the coming of Christ. A brief look at the book of Revelation points, first, to the coming of a false Elijah who will cause “fire [to] come down from heaven” (Rev. 13:13; cf. 1 Kings 18:36-38) in order to gather the kings of the earth in preparation for the “battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Rev. 16:14). Second, this false Elijah is not an individual but an apostate movement claiming to have the spirit of Elijah, when in reality deceptive miracles are performed through the power of demonic spirits (Rev. 16:13, 14). Third, the work of a false Elijah points to the end-time mission of the true Elijah as summarized in the messages of the three angels (Rev. 14:6-12). It refers to a movement raised by God to invite His people to come out of Babylon (Rev. 18:4). This movement is called the end-time remnant (Rev. 12:17); they are “faithful followers” of the Lamb (Rev. 17:14, NIV). Fourth, their message, in agreement with Malachi, announces the judgment of God that will bring salvation through the eternal gospel to those who “fear God” (Rev. 14:7), and destruction to the wicked (verses 10, 11). Those who fear the Lord obey/keep God’s commandments (verse 12). They restore the faith of their apostolic fathers as found in the New Testament, calling God’s people to return to Him. Fifth, they are, like Elijah and John the Baptizer, possessed by the power of the Spirit. They listen to what the Spirit said to the church (Rev. 3:14-22), and, empowered by the angel of Revelation 18:1, they will illuminate the earth with God’s glory in a last attempt to prepare the world for the coming of the Lord. They receive the outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord, announced in Joel 2:28, 29, and that will happen “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Joel 2:31, NIV).
We can use our connections, time, and gifts in order to bring people to Jesus Christ...
Meeting God Face to Face
By S. Joseph Kidder and Kristy L. Hodsonl
The Bible includes the stories of a handful of people who met God face to face.
Perhaps the clearest record of such a life-changing encounter was recorded in Isaiah 6:1-8. Isaiah saw a heavenly worship scene. Angelic beings surrounded God, giving Him adoration and praise. These angels hovered by the throne of God, singing of His holiness and glory. Overwhelmed, Isaiah felt unworthy of this vision. He felt ashamed and ruined because of his sinfulness.
But this was not the end of the experience; one of the angels touched Isaiah’s mouth with a live coal from the altar, taking away his guilt and pronouncing forgiveness. God then offered Isaiah an opportunity to serve by asking, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” (verse 8).
The prophet did not hesitate. This encounter with the glory of God prompted Isaiah to make himself available: “Here am I! Send me” (verse 8).
Catching a Glimpse of God
Like Isaiah, before we can be available to God, we must first catch a glimpse of God. God must minister to us; only then can we hear God’s voice telling us what He wants us to do. We are to respond with an attitude of gratitude, not obligation, because He has cleansed us through the blood of Jesus. There is a sense of healing in our lives. We want to serve God because of who He is and what He has done for us. The wonder of the sacrifice of Christ must be the driving factor in all we do. When we rediscover God’s grandeur, we are compelled to minster on behalf of the only One who can offer atonement for sin.
An experience with God affects how we see the world. Isaiah heard God’s heartbeat for a lost and dying people. We too must hear God’s summons to reach out to broken people in our community. God called; Isaiah answered. This unconditional response comes only from the heart of one who has seen the vision; one who has met with God. Once we’ve seen the Lord, we go where He sends us.
Isaiah did not say, “What’s in it for me?” He signed over his whole life. Because he had seen God’s nature and character, Isaiah reprioritized his life and put God’s mission first. He came to see service for God as worship.
We See—Then We Serve
Ellen White also connected worship and service. “True worship consists in working together with Christ. Prayer, exhortation, and talk are cheap fruits, which are frequently tied on, but fruits that are manifested in good works, in caring for the needy, the fatherless, and widows, are genuine fruits, and grow naturally upon a good tree.”* Service is the result of becoming overwhelmed with appreciation for the One who heals brokenness with love.
The heart of worship is being available to God on a daily basis. It is not a onetime act on Sabbath morning; it is a day-to-day experience. Therefore, for Christians there is no such thing as sacred and secular. Everything belongs to God. Whether we eat, drink, play, or work, we do it all in the presence of God and for His glory (1 Cor. 10:31). Worship is a lifestyle.
A life of worship makes us available to the Holy Spirit and eager to see His work done in us.
Once we come to understand the gospel, the sacrifice Christ has made for us, and the grace of His enduring love, then we will realize that renewal and cleansing come from above. We will be led to a response of service. Such was the case for Ann.
Overwhelmed and Available
One day I [Joseph] received a card in the mail from a woman asking for Bible studies. When I knocked on her door, she said that she was not interested in studying the Bible and had not sent the card. I asked if she would allow me to pray for her, and she consented.
She then told me about her neighbor across the street who might be interested in a Bible study. When I went across the street, a woman, 73 years old, drunk and smoking, opened the door. I asked her if she would like to study the Bible. She did not have anything to do, so she said “yes.” I started to study the Bible with Ann. After some time she accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior.
During a study on the greatness of the power of God, Ann became overwhelmed. She broke down crying and asked how she could experience that power to overcome her smoking and drinking. We arranged a time for the church elders to come for an anointing service. After that service God gave her victory over those bad habits.
A few weeks later she was baptized. I visited her the next day. I wanted Ann to consider how she could incorporate worship and service into her life. How would she live out a response to the greatness of God and His forgiveness? What mission was God giving to her? “Ann, do you have a family?” I asked. “I have a huge family.” “God has a mandate for you. He wants you to win your family to Him.” “How am I going to do that?” “Pray and make yourself available to be used by God.”
About three and a half years later the union communication director came to shoot a video of Ann on Sabbath morning. Picture the scene: Ann stood in the middle of the platform surrounded by 57 people that she had led to the Lord, including Jena, the woman who had refused to study the Bible with me.
The communication director went around asking the 57 people, “Why are you an Adventist today?” He always got the same answer: “We saw the change in Ann’s life, and we wanted it.”
Then he turned to Ann. “What did you do to win your family and friends to the Lord?”
“I prayed for them day and night. Then the Lord showed me many ways to strengthen my relationship with them and meet their needs. When the time was right, I invited them to church, a Bible study in my home, or an evangelistic meeting. Every time one of them became a Christian, that person joined me in praying for the rest. God has been so good to us.”
This is the power of prayer, relationship, and ministry, the power of an ongoing process. It is the power of personal spirituality and seeing God. When we have an experience with God, we are overcome with a desire to share Him with others. Isaiah and Ann met with God and had a revelation of His greatness, and it changed their lives. The same living Lord is anxious to meet with us. In true worship we experience the presence of God, and it changes us and leads us to service.
Have you had a “throne room” experience? Have you heard God’s voice? accepted His call to service? Open your heart to Him today. Worship Him through praise and service. Meet God face to face and allow yourself to be available to Him.
*Ellen G. White, in Review and Herald, Aug. 16, 1881.
Once we understand the “why,” the “how” and the “what” are easy.
By Merle Poirier
The story of Balaam (Numbers 23; 24) might seem an odd place to begin an article on Total Member Involvement. It is remembered most for a talking donkey, but a closer reading reveals more.
Balak, king of Moab, had a problem. Balak has offered Balaam riches if he will agree to curse the Israelites. Balaam accepts cautioning to say only what God tells him. Fast-forward to the end, and Balaam does not curse the nation, but instead, speaks three blessings. Angry, the king refuses to pay him for his service.
Before leaving, Balaam offers one more prediction—this one for free. “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Num. 24:17).
Learning the Why
Promoter Simon Sinek recently developed three words— what, how, why—into a marketing concept. He arranged them into a “golden circle,” where the center circle is “why,” the middle is “how,” and the outer circle is “what.” These three circles moving from the outside circle to the innermost circle represent Sinek’s theory on how people think. First, they ask “What?” followed by “How?” and finally “Why?” Sinek’s point is that inspiring leaders or organizations think, act, and communicate differently—that is, upside down or inside out. Successful leaders begin with “Why?”
Look again at Balaam and Balak. Together they look at the “what,” they develop the “how,” but they never reason the “why.” What they wanted to do was rid the earth of Israelites. How to do it rested in cursing them. Never once do they speak about “why” the Israelites are there in the first place. After Balak’s frustration and Balaam’s ambivalence, God gives Balaam one last prophecy and in it reveals the why: I love them. I want to spend eternity with them. I have a plan.
Applying this concept to God becomes an eye-opening experience. Throughout Scripture, God, from a human perspective, is an upside-down communicator. Think about Jesus and His disciples. During most of His ministry the disciples are scratching their heads. They’d ask a question (what or how), and He’d answer (why). Nicodemus asks Jesus what and how—Jesus answers why (John 3:16). The woman at the well asks what; Jesus answers why (John 4:26).
On the road to Emmaus Jesus reveals the “why” throughout Scripture—I created you. I love you. I want to be with you forever. The “how” is sending His Son to die for you. The “what” becomes easy—living with Him for eternity. The excited disciples run all the way back to Jerusalem. When you understand the “why,” hearts and perspective are transformed. Upside-down thinking changes the world.
“Why” Can Change Everything
Churches can be guilty of thinking more about “what” than “why.” We tell others what we are, we describe how we work, but often don’t communicate why. Does this sound familiar? “You should know Jesus as your Savior” (what). “To know Him, you need to [attend church, become a vegetarian, reform your lifestyle, read more of your Bible, . . .] (how). The implication is “This will make your life better” (what). Some will join, but many will not. It isn’t inspiring.
But what if the order is turned upside down? “I believe that Jesus is my Creator, Savior, and Best Friend” (why). I believe that Jesus is coming soon, He’s creating a home for me so I can live with Him forever, and He grants me an abundance of blessings because He loves me” (how). “Wouldn’t you like to know Him?” (what). This doesn’t suggest that the other method is incorrect, but highlights that it doesn’t necessarily lead to a full heart conversion. Upside-down thinking communicates passion, love, mercy, and grace—and people respond.
When the Bible is read with upside-down thinking, it changes everything you might have thought about God. The “why” of God is found from Genesis to Revelation. The message is about saving you because He loves you. And when you grasp that, you are moved to tell others. You’re inspired to change the world.
Total Member Involvement
Total Member Involvement is about evangelism. It’s about enthusiastically telling others about Jesus. It should be easy, but it isn’t. Mostly because we’re stuck in our thinking. When the “why” of Jesus is understood, things happen. When the “why” of the Sabbath is understood, the day is amazingly joyous. When the “why” of worship is understood, you want to be with fellow believers.
One church in Maryland, U.S.A., was transformed by “why” thinking. Those from outside perceived the church as large and unfriendly. Members decided it wasn’t their problem, but everyone else’s. Pastors now and again would endeavor to fix the issue, but nothing endured, and membership support was lackluster. Yet one day something changed everything—upside-down thinking.
During nominating committee about a dozen individuals were placed together in a room with the challenge to create a plan for a friendlier environment. The leader repeatedly spoke to them about discovering the “why” of hospitality. The group continued to respond: What is hospitality? How about doing this? But the leader continued to encourage their “why” thinking—“Why be friendly? Why are we here?” Three weeks later it clicked. That day they got excited. Twelve members changed their church.
In less than three months these 12 individuals recruited more than 300 members to participate in a new program called HIS Team. HIS Team members help, inform, and support their church and each other because Jesus loves them (why). They do this in a variety of creative ways incorporating every person’s gifts from the moment a person enters the campus (how). And the what? Former members are returning, an evangelistic series resulted in baptisms, youth and young adults are talking about their church to their friends, and pastors from other congregations are asking how they can make this happen in their church. The success comes from thinking like Jesus—upside down.
A church in Massagno, Switzerland, had a similar experience. They had dwindled to six members. They lacked vision, leadership, and church growth. In May 2010 one of the youngest members decided, with God’s help, to take the lead. Having no experience as a pastor, but having studied principles of business, he decided to apply them, along with prayer, to church growth.
The new young pastor put the well-being of the people over the programs. He delegated responsibility to the members according to their giftedness. He increased communication to the members offering spiritual encouragement. Sabbath mornings were transformed by offering a genuine welcome to each person. In three years the group grew from five to 40 regularly attending, with nine baptisms and members of all ages. In March 2015 the small group was officially established as a church.
Certainly the Lord has blessed these churches. They transformed their thinking from “what” and “how” to identifying “why” then developing the “how.” Both were so successful that they didn’t need to define the “what”—people were encouraged and inspired, so they joined and committed.
Total Member Involvement is about using the gifts that we have been given for Jesus. It is, however, more than that. It is identifying the “why” of our Christianity. When we do this, we transform not only ourselves but also the world.
When the Holy Spirit gives us a gift, that's all the permission we need to use our gift for God... work...
Called to Care
General Conference president Ted Wilson summed up the concept of Total Member Involvement in a Facebook post not long ago. “Every follower of Christ is given the responsibility of reaching out to people—individually—with the hope that we ourselves have found in a soon-coming Savior.” That is indeed the crux of Total Member Involvement: the idea that all of us, no matter our calling in life, can do something to reach the world for Christ. Our efforts need not be grand to be effective, but with the Lord’s help, we can be His hands and feet in the world. The following stories offer a glimpse into the many ways ordinary Adventists in different parts of the world are doing exactly that.—Editors.
Fleur Duke (Australia)
Though I hadn’t had any connection with the difficulties confronting girls in the sex industry, I felt the call to reach into my area on the New South Wales Central Coast with God’s love,” says Fleur Duke.
“Lord,” I said, “I have little experience and minimal education to qualify me, but I am willing to answer Your call. Use me.” Duke’s first step to becoming involved in this ministry was to join those who were already ministering to the prostitutes in Kings Cross, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
“We started Rahab Ministries Outreach in February 2012, partnering with Rahab South Australia (a nondenominational Christian organization). The team of about 30 meets together and prays before and during our visits,” Duke says. “Once a month each brothel is visited by a group of two or three of the girls on our team. We explain that we are Christians and there to offer support through prayer and conversation, building relationships, offering Bible studies and English classes, and leaving a contact card.”
“Each girl could be your sister, daughter, friend, aunty, or mother,” she adds. Many of the girls have shared their longing for their homes and families in China or Thailand. God’s Holy Spirit speaks through language barriers, and His love reaches each one in their darkness.
All visits are topped off with hugs and prayers showing that God has not forgotten them.
“At first I thought our aim was to take God into these places, but it was not long before I realized that He was already there. My part in this journey is to meet Him in the women who have struggles just as I do,” says Duke.
—Adapted with permission of the South Pacific Division Record
The Navales Family (Philippines)
Two years ago 3-year-old Vincent befriended five children from his neighborhood and invited them to his home. Vince’s mother, Aireen, didn’t know what to do with them, but with prodding from her son, she offered what food they had, taught them a song, and told them a story.
Aireen saw how some of the kids treated each other roughly and realized they did not have the most positive home environment. “I decided to set a few rules,” she recalls. These rules were simple: everyone would use gentle hands and soft voices. “Because these rules were easy to follow, the children obeyed, but it also created a big difference, because we were able to get rid of the grabbing, shouting, and all the unacceptable street words and other behaviors.”
The following Sunday Aireen and Vincent found a larger group of children on their doorstep and realized God was giving their family a unique opportunity. From her little son’s desire to offer underprivileged children a safe place to be kids, Play, Learn, and Serve (PLS) was born.
After one month, the group had outgrown the family’s living room. Vincent’s father, Rey, transformed the sound and lights showroom on their property into a classroom.
A typical PLS Sunday gathering consists of singing, discussion of the week’s theme, prayer, a values lesson, an art activity, and snacktime. Over time, PLS earned a reputation that has attracted schools and non-profit organizations whose leaders want to learn how to use the program in their own fields. As the number of children increased, the family had to register their program as a charitable organization.
While they may not know how God will continue to expand their involvement in the future, the Navales family trusts in how He has worked through one child’s dream to empower the dreams of the many children around them.
—Adapted from original written by Gay Deles
Paolo Giametta (Italy)
It began in 2008 in a Sabbath School Action Unit in Bergamo, Italy. A young elder named Paolo Giametta had a dream to start a family group, and submitted a list of people in the municipality of Merate for whom to pray.
After a few weeks Judith, a young woman from Merate, decided to open her house to the family group to study the Bible. The number of people attending Bible studies increased week after week. Soon, a second family group was formed in the nearby town of Olgiate. In 2012 Judith was baptized. The following year the group began Sabbath worship services in her home, and by 2013 the group was officially organized. Each Sabbath morning, before the program begins at 9:00, church members and guests have breakfast together. The worship service is followed by potluck and fellowship, with friends from the community also invited. On Sundays the group often hikes and picnics together in the countryside. Often close to 80 people gather, and it’s proved to be a great opportunity to make new friends.
Individuals studying the Bible are taught by six church members from the group, which is the result of person-to-person evangelism. Recently, because of the arrival of refugees from Syria to the region, church members have assisted local authorities by caring for about 40 refugees. But Giametta hasn’t stopped there. He and a coworker named Savino became friends and started studying the Bible together after work. As a result, Savino decided to become an Adventist. Two months before his baptism he began studying the Bible with a friend he met at the gym. Now Savino also leads a midweek family group. Savino also has a list of people for whom he is praying, including his wife and their son.
Like a domino effect, individuals have been won to Christ in this Italian community, all because Giametta, a young elder with a burden on his heart to plant a church, actually did something about it.
—Adapted from original written by Paolo Benini
New Jacob (St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands)
New Jacob was baptized as a result of an open-air meeting. From then on he has been stirred with a thirst to share God’s love.
Beginning with his parents, Jacob invited his family to attend an evangelistic effort in their neighborhood. This resulted in the baptism of his stepfather and sister. “It was a thrilling moment for me; the experience was great. I felt joy knowing that God used me,” Jacob recalls. He soon joined his church’s prayer band and for three decades saw God open doors of opportunity to reach others. To encourage the ailing, he joined his congregation’s hospital visitation team. “I am like any Christian who would like to do God’s will,” he said. Feeling the need to accomplish more, Jacob joined the church’s prison ministry. “Through the prison ministry I serve those often forgotten by society,” he reflected.
At first Jacob spent about four days each week doing missionary work while still managing his business. But he felt that God required more of him. “I was thrilled when I received an invitation to join ShareHim International and did not hesitate,” he said. This ministry is affiliated with the North American Division, and members travel internationally to share the message of life in Jesus.
Jacob remains involved in church ministries and serves as an ordained elder. He sacrifices to travel annually and share hope, using his own resources. With more than 300 persons baptized through his efforts, Jacob often places his life and his business at risk to meet people’s needs. At a time when many people are self-absorbed, he reflects Christ’s love around the world. “I encourage any member, if they are going to make any choices, [to] err on the side of the Lord. It’s so rewarding serving the Lord; it completely alters your path.”
—Adapted from original written by Royston Philbert
Cindy Tutsch (United States)
When I retired, I looked forward to ‘warming a pew’ at church,” says former Ellen G. White Estate associate director and pastor Cindy Tutsch. Now, two and a half years after retirement, I’ve definitely enjoyed some travel and absolutely enjoy playing with our grandkids. But to my surprise, I’ve also enjoyed participating heartily in the life of our local church!”
Tutsch was first asked to shepherd the youth Sabbath School. “I’ve loved getting to know the youth in our church,” she says. We’ve hosted the youth at our house for a party or planning session. A couple teens come to our house weekly for Bible studies.”
Soon Tutsch was asked to serve as an elder. “I’ve pastored a couple churches, and I know that a ‘good’ elder does a lot more than just be the presiding platform leader. In the end, though, God nudged me to agree,” she recalls.
Recently Tutsch was driving to a local retirement center where she gives Bible studies to a handful of elderly people. “I remonstrated with God about this particular assignment,” she says. “God,” I complained, “I really don’t want to do this anymore.”
Almost immediately God impressed a text on her heart. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these . . . , ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40, KJV).
“In that moment God gave me a heart transplant regarding those precious elderly people. Now when I go to teach them, I see Jesus. And when they hug me and tell me how happy they are that I come to pray and sing with them every week, I can answer honestly, ‘I’m glad, too!’?” she says.
Tutsch knows she can’t meet every need in her community, but she can do something. “By God’s grace, when He asks me to serve, I will continue to say, ‘Here am I, Lord. Send me!’?”
Matilda Radge (Malaysia)
Being in the entertainment industry has helped me spread the gospel,” says Matilda Radge. “My first priority in life is to spread the gospel; the second is my music.”
As a producer and songwriter Radge composes positive songs that speak of love for others, nature, and love in its purest form. “When clients come to us,” Radge says, “they trust us because they know we fear God. They know we will give them more than they ask for. We bring out the best in their voices. Our integrity is our testament of the God we worship, and we make sure they learn that from our character and work ethic.”
“Malaysia is a Muslim country, but because of the principles we hold, radio staff, clients, and even our fans/listeners who follow us on social media know about the Sabbath,” adds Radge. “When my husband and I did a Valentine’s Day interview for a top radio station, we used that opportunity to speak about the biblical principles we practice in our marriage. Every time we are called for TV or radio interviews, we give credit to God.” “We have fans and listeners who follow us [on social media] and want to know more about us,” Radge says. “I use this to share the gospel. I post statuses and testimonies that glorify God. Many who comment and ‘like’ my posts are not Christians. But when they go through tough times, they message me and ask me to pray for them.”
Before starting production on new projects, Radge prays that they write and produce songs that honor God. “We ask Him to bless our work. From beginning to end, we pray, pray, pray. We seal the production with a dedication prayer. What usually happens is a hit song! We make sure our clients know that the song’s success belongs to God.”
My husband and I have difficulty managing our conflicts. We knew marriage would be difficult. Ours, however, has turned out to be much more difficult than either of us anticipated. Sometimes our anger spills out in front of the children. Can you share something to help us do a better job of dealing with our differences? —Diane, Honolulu, Hawaii
Real Family Talk
Marriage: A Life-changer
by Willie and Elaine Oliver
Some individuals fear marriage because they think life as they know it would be over. What do you think?
This is a brilliant inquiry for a month in which people in many parts of the world are thinking about love. February is often associated with Valentine’s Day and the many celebrations of love that take place during this time. Taken to its logical conclusion, marriage is frequently regarded as the highpoint of intimate relationships, where couples who are in love with each other pledge life-long commitment and live happily ever after.
Your question suggests—and rightly so—that many individuals are terrified of marriage armed with personal experiences from their families of origin, or what they have observed in the marriages of relatives, neighbors, acquaintances, and friends. It is no surprise, then, that so many view marriage as the end of life.
In a remarkable account that begins in Genesis 1:28, and continues in Genesis 2:21, marriage was instituted by God at the end of Creation week as His crowning act. There is suspense, drama, miracle, excitement, and transcendental declarations, as Adam and Eve become one flesh, modeling commitment, togetherness, and joy, for generations of humans to come.
So what interrupted God’s wonderful plan for marriage to be a blessing to the human race? Sin, of course. One does not have to go far into the biblical narrative to arrive at that place. In fact, by the time we get to Genesis 3, Satan’s deception of the human race is in motion, and by verse 12 Adam is blaming Eve, and marriage takes a nose-dive from the high pedestal where God placed it at its inauguration.
Despite the reality of sin, marriage continues to be a source of stability and great blessing to the human race. When one determines the right mate and one carefully selects the person one will marry, the probability of a happy marriage increases exponentially. Social scientific research also suggests that married people live longer, and are happier, healthier, and wealthier than their peers who have never married or are divorced (Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher).*
True, many marriages do poorly without the aid of premarital education, marriage coaching, and professional intervention. However, it is no different than the expected higher levels of mortality for populations without access to health care and nutritious food.
So rather than being afraid of marriage, people should educate themselves about the ingredients necessary to have stronger and healthier marriages. As we need to eat necessary amounts of the right kinds of foods at regular intervals, exercise frequently, and have access to good medical attention to be physically healthy, we must learn to be kind, patient, loving, and forgiving in order to have healthy marriages.
The New Testament’s prescription for a meaningful relationship is: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:4-6). Additional counsel states: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
Therefore, marriage should not be feared, although it would mean the end of life as you know it, but for much different reasons. Following the biblical prescription for healthy relationships, and getting the help of a trained Christian counselor or marriage coach, one would be able to embrace the Bible’s description of marriage in the words of the wise man: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Prov. 18:22).
We hope our response will help you and your friends see marriage through a more positive prism, and practice the counsel found in Scripture to ensure excellent results for your lives going forward.
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE, an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, and family sociologist, is director for Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, MA, CFLE, an educator and counseling psychologist, is associate director of Family Ministries. You may communicate with them at Family.Adventist.org or HopeTV.org/RealFamilyTalk.
All Bible references are from the English Standard Version.
*Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially. Broadway Books, 2001.
In my experience, preachers have usually talked about it as simply a big number, something far beyond the level at which any of us would bother to keep count. After all, who would bother counting 490 successive acts of forgiveness?
It was Peter who asked Jesus, “‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ “‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!’” (Matt. 18:21, 22, NLT*).
But what if this isn’t merely a large number randomly chosen by Jesus to illustrate generous or even unmeasured forgiveness? This same number does appear, presented in the same unusual formulation, in Daniel 9:24: “A period of seventy sets of seven has been decreed for your people and your holy city to finish their rebellion, to put an end to their sin, to atone for their guilt, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to confirm the prophetic vision, and to anoint the Most Holy Place.” Dated from the return of the Israelites from exile in Babylon, this understanding of prophetic mathematics gets us to the accepted dates of the public ministry of Jesus. As such, the Messianic prophecy of Daniel 9 (verses 24–27) has been described as the pinnacle of biblical prophecy, authentication of Jesus’ identification as Messiah and a key component of Adventist prophetic worldview.
However, this seems more than a coincidental number. Perhaps this is more about meaning than mathematics. Centuries earlier in the Bible’s story, when God was setting out His plan for a new society for His people of Israel, Leviticus 25 includes provision for a Sabbath year, then a year of jubilee after “seven sets of seven years, adding up to forty-nine years in all” (verse 8). These instructions embodied a remarkable social and economic re-set mechanism for the new nation: “Set this year apart as holy, a time to proclaim freedom throughout the land for all who live there” (Lev. 25:10).
Various Bible scholars have recognized an echo—even a fulfilment—of this jubilee principle in the prophetic time period of Daniel 9: “The jubilee is a fascinating social innovation within the legislation of ancient Israel, a sign that relentless buying and selling of land, goods and even people won’t be the last word. But seventy times seven? That sounds like the jubilee of jubilees! So, though 490 years—nearly half a millennium—is indeed a long time, the point is this: when the time finally arrives, it will be the greatest ‘redemption’ of all. The will be the time of real, utter and lasting freedom” (N. T. Wright, How God Became King).
This interpretation is borne out in Jesus’ inaugural sermon in which He borrowed from the jubilee language of Isaiah 61, framing His ministry and mission in the terms of this world-changing, society-transforming, freedom-proclaiming practice: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favour has come” (Luke 4:18, 19).
So when Jesus urged that we forgive “seventy times seven”—borrowing from the prophetic language of Daniel 9—in answer to Peter’s seemingly simple question about forgiveness, it seems Jesus had something much deeper in mind. Rather than merely being prepared to forgive hundreds of times, or even forgive without keeping count, disciples of Jesus are called to live—and forgive—like it is the grand jubilee, to live like the Messiah has come, to forgive like the reality of our glorious tomorrow has already come in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
As followers of Jesus, we are citizens of the kingdom of God, participants in this grand jubilee, both recipients and agents of the forgiveness and reconciliation of the Messiah. This must transform all our relationships and interactions. Whatever the wrong done to us, we are called to be first to offer forgiveness, and to work as reconcilers and peacemakers in our communities and our world.
As daunting as the call to endless forgiveness might seem, the reality of Jesus’ answer to Peter is larger still. The foundation is Jesus and His mission. That’s what we are called to participate in, to live, and to share.
Nathan Brown is book editor at Signs Publishing in Warburton, Victoria, Australia.
My husband and I have difficulty managing our conflicts. We knew marriage would be difficult. Ours, however, has turned out to be much more difficult than either of us anticipated. Sometimes our anger spills out in front of the children. Can you share something to help us do a better job of dealing with our differences? —Diane, Honolulu, Hawaii
Real Family Talk
Surviving a Difficult Marriage
by Willie and Elaine Oliver
My spouse is a church worker, and we have been married for more than 20 years. Despite our belief in God, we’ve had a difficult marriage all along. I know God’s plan is for married couples to remain together until death. However, I feel as if I’m dying every day I stay in this marriage. I want to do God’s will, but something is wrong when the person you’re married to puts you down every day. I feel as if I’m losing my mind and I need out. I would like to hear your opinion on my predicament.
We are very sorry to hear about your marriage predicament, despite being a Bible believing Christian and the spouse of a church worker. To be sure, Satan is an equal opportunity deceiver, and he doubtless spends twice as much time trying to destroy the homes of church leaders.
The Christian church, regardless of denomination, is by definition a place where the love of God is primary and operationalized by love for our fellow humans and love for God supremely. Marriage is the first institution established by God at creation, and regarded by Christians as the place where a man and a woman can intimately share their lives to reflect God’s love for them and their love for God.
A Christian minister’s or church worker’s job is to proclaim the message of divine love, helping individuals who respond to it to grow in love for one another. Married church workers can logically be expected to create in their own marriage relationships an impression or model of how other married couples through their love for God, can develop a strong and vibrant love relationship with their spouses.
When ministers’ or church workers’ marriages do not demonstrate the kind of selfless and vitalized warmth and tenderness of human love at its best, members of the congregation, as well as others, tend to say and think that if their religion does not work in this closest of relationships, perhaps the gospel they share does not really work as well.
The truth is, church workers whose marriages aren’t working are in a very difficult position—in more than one way—because unhappy marriages not only cause difficulty in personal lives, but also in the performance of their ministry tasks.
As a couple in ministry ourselves, we empathize with your predicament, because we recognize how easy it is for ministry couples to find themselves where you do. To be sure, people in ministry tend to be passionate about their calling, often leaving little time for each other, resulting in a less than desirable marriage.
It is important that at this stage of your married lives you practice what you preach or you will become a casualty of the evil one, who loves nothing better than to destroy ministry marriages. This is a time to employ the Word of God and believe what it says as you shared it with others in moments of distress.
Remember the messages of the apostle Paul: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). And the psalmist: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). And, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Ps. 34:19).
When couples find themselves where you find yourself, they tend to give up and believe their situation is hopeless. However, we encourage you to claim these promises of God, and trust Him to lead you and your spouse to an able Christian counselor—preferably one that is not a member of your congregation—who can help you repair the pain you have endured and get your relationship back on track through the power of God. Be of good courage. With God on your side, you cannot fail. You will continue in our prayers as well.
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE, an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, and family sociologist, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, MA, CFLE, an educator and counseling psychologist, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries. You may communicate with them at: Family.Adventist.org of HopeTV.org/RealFamilyTalk.
My usual Bible reading begins at Genesis and methodically works its way to Revelation. Which means that after all those stories of faithfulness and unfaithfulness, all those spiritual and historical meanderings, I regularly arrive at the end of the great story of God and His plan for the rescue and re-creation of humanity.
Spoiler alert: It ends well. As another writer summarized it: “One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love” (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 678).
It’s a wonderful picture of hope. But one of the accusations often levelled against those who believe in some kind of heaven or similar afterlife is that it tempts them to disengage from this present life and the world in which we now live. The assumption is that too great a focus on life elsewhere and eternal tends to diminish the significance of the life we live here and now, except perhaps for seeking to ensure our personal “readiness” for heaven.
But in the Bible’s telling of it, there are important aspects of “how the story ends” that urge us to greater engagement with the world and the life we now know. In this story it all matters.
First, is the recognition that God’s focus is not on us “going to heaven” but on heaven coming to earth, albeit a new heaven and a new earth: “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them” (Rev. 21:3*). Yes, it’s a significant difference when there are no more tears, pain, or death; but our destination looks a lot more like the world we know and are called to love than many of our imaginings of heaven. Our ultimate home is our planet, renewed and restored as it was created to be.
Second, Revelation 18 offers a vivid description of the destruction of the fallen, destructive, violent, and oppressive powers of this world. This is the judgment God’s people and His prophets—and the poor, oppressed, and exploited they have spoken for throughout history—have been looking for.
While God has given even the oppressors repeated invitations and opportunities to repent, for sin and injustice to be completely destroyed, those who stubbornly practice it also have to be destroyed. As tragic as this is, for those who have suffered it is the ultimate justice and restoration: “Rejoice over her fate, O heaven and people of God and apostles and prophets! For at last God has judged her for your sakes” (Rev. 18:20).
Theologian Walter Brueggemann, using disproportion as shorthand for all kinds of injustice, oppression, and inequality in the world, explains it this way: “Because God will rule, the disproportion in which we live will sooner or later come to an end, because this God will countenance no continuing disproportion. God’s intent for justice and peace in creation cannot finally be resisted” (Finally Comes the Poet, pp. 86, 87).
If this is what we believe about the future of injustice, oppression, violence, and exploitation, we are empowered, encouraged, and called to be people who stand up and speak up against the injustice we see and experience in our communities and our world. Whatever form they might take, evil and injustice matter and they—and those who perpetuate and profit from them—will be defeated and destroyed.
But there is a third aspect to the Bible’s end of the story: the good things of our lives, our communities, and our cultures also matter into eternity. Describing life in the promised city of God, Revelation points to the glory of God as the source of light; but also suggests that the best of human creativity and achievement somehow contributes to the goodness of our re-created world: “By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (Rev. 21:24, ESV**). Imagine the best of our nations, communities, and cultures—represented by the glory of these “kings”—being celebrated, shared, and enjoyed with our Creator, with our fellow citizens of the eternal kingdom of God, in the light of God’s glory.
Remembering how the story ends, we turn back to our lives and our world today; called to live with this transforming hope; reminded that so much of our lives matter; that our lives are lived with eternal significance.
Nathan Brown is an editor at Signs Publishing Company in Warburton, Victoria, Australia.
A new resource from the Ellen G. White Estate helps provide the backstory to many of her counsels.
Ellen White’s Letters and Manuscripts
Things you should know about the new online collection.
By Tim Poirier
In July 2015, on the centennial of Ellen White’s death, the White Estate made available for free on its Web site and apps the letters and manuscripts of Ellen White. The entire collection, found at www.egwwritings.org, consists of more than 8,000 documents roughly equivalent to 50,000 pages. These materials were previously available for reading and study only in hard copy form at the White Estate main office and its many branch offices and research centers around the world.
Why Not Published Earlier?
Although commonly referred to as Ellen White’s unpublished manuscripts, it is important to note that many of the documents—in fact, about two thirds of them—have already been printed in whole or in part in the many compilations and manuscript releases published over the years. Sensitive materials, often dealing with the personal failings of individuals, had remained largely unpublished up to their 2015 release, but with the passing of more generations since the time of the original recipients, it was decided the materials could be made available generally.
Another factor is the advance of technology. If the entire collection was to be printed and sold in bookstores, it would take the shelf space of more than 100 volumes, and the cost would be prohibitive. However, thanks to our digital age, if you want to read the complete letter from which only a portion was quoted in one of the compilations, you can access the materials with a few clicks of a mouse or by simply launching the EGW Writings app.
Some might ask why anyone would take an interest in these materials when we already have all her published works. That’s a good question, because there is nothing wrong with confining one’s study to the thousands of articles and scores of books and pamphlets Ellen White published during her lifetime. In fact, she said quite plainly regarding herself: “If you desire to know what the Lord has revealed through her, read her published works.”1 We might regard her letters, sermons, diaries, and other unpublished communications as complementary materials that provide a window not only into her beliefs and prophetic teachings, but also into her personal life as a wife, mother, counselor, and church pioneer.
Some Major Distinctions
At the same time, it is important to recognize some of the major distinctions between her unpublished manuscripts and her published works. Foremost is that what she wrote in her articles and books was intended to speak to the church at large. In contrast, Ellen White’s personal letters were addressed to individuals in particular circumstances; they often dealt with matters of local interest, such as who might best serve at a certain sanitarium, or how “Brother Smith” needed stronger support from his fellow believers. Principles can be derived from such communications, but understanding the historical context is important so as not to misapply the instruction given. In 2014 the White Estate made a start toward providing such background with its publication of volume 1 of The Ellen G. White Letters and Manuscripts With Annotations, covering the first 15 years of her ministry. It is hoped that funding will be forthcoming to keep that project moving forward.
Another distinction between Ellen White’s unpublished collection and her published works is in the level of attention she gave to materials she never expected to be published. In other words, consider the difference in how you write a quick routine e-mail compared to one that you expect to be posted online and read by anyone in the world. You would scrutinize every sentence to make sure it accurately expressed your thoughts so as to avoid as much misunderstanding as possible. And if you shared a draft with your associates, they might suggest ways in which the communication could be better organized or rephrased.
So it is with Ellen White’s letters and manuscripts. When comparing what she first wrote in letter form with what she may have later incorporated into a published article or book, we should not be surprised to find the material improved editorially. That was the assignment of her literary assistants: not to write the content, but to assist Ellen White in preparing it for publication.
Ellen White’s son W. C. White explained that “Mother’s workers of experience . . . are authorized to take a sentence, paragraph, or section from one manuscript and incorporate it with another manuscript where the same thought was expressed but not so clearly. But none of Mother’s workers are authorized to add to the manuscripts by introducing thoughts of their own.”2 The documents were then reviewed and approved by Ellen White before being printed or mailed. Similarly, changed circumstances might result in Ellen White’s choosing to add or omit entire sentences or paragraphs when making use of a letter or manuscript in a later publication.
Was Everything Ellen White Wrote Inspired?
Perhaps the most challenging question related to Ellen White’s letters and manuscripts is: Can we draw a sharp line between what is inspired counsel and what is mere human opinion? Her collection consists of letters written to well-known Adventist leaders, but it also contains letters addressed to “My Dear Son Edson,” or “My Dear Niece Addie,” or “My Dear Granddaughter Mabel.” Fully one fourth of the letters preserved are addressed to Ellen White’s family. Did she write those under inspiration? What about letters written to those managing her property back in America while she was serving the church in Europe and Australia?
We are reminded that at least 20 books in the New Testament are actually letters written to churches or individuals, and we correctly regard them as having been written under inspiration. In a similar fashion, Ellen White used letters to convey Spirit-inspired instruction she received. At the same time, however, she plainly expressed that she did not expect us to take everything she said or wrote as a revelation from God.
Ellen White explained that “there are times when common things must be stated, common thoughts must occupy the mind, common letters must be written and information given that has passed from one to another of the workers. Such words, such information, are not given under the special inspiration of the Spirit of God. Questions are asked at times that are not upon religious subjects at all, and these questions must be answered. We converse about houses and lands, trades to be made, and locations for our institutions, their advantages and disadvantages.”3 “In my words, when speaking upon these common subjects, there is nothing to lead minds to believe that I receive my knowledge in a vision from the Lord and am stating it as such.”4
We should also remember that the mere absence of phrases such as “I was shown” does not automatically mean that counsel she was giving was not in harmony with light that she had received on the subject.5 Although it may be impossible to lay down a rule that neatly divides what is inspired from what is uninspired, it’s usually the case that it is self-evident from the message itself what authority was being claimed in the letter.
Users accessing the letters and manuscripts in the new database may wonder why there are occasional gaps in the file number sequence. For example, letter 20, 1889, might be followed by letter 22, 1889. What happened to letter 21? Why is it missing? There are several reasons for these “gaps,” none of which is that documents have been withheld. In most cases the reason is that the document was found to be misdated and it has been refiled with a new number in the correct year. In other cases the document was found to be a duplicate of one already on file, or merely retyped from an already available, published source. Additionally, for some years—1904, for example—Ellen White’s secretaries assigned only odd numbers for letters and only even numbers for manuscripts. The database will soon be updated to indicate the reason for each “missing” number.
These are some of the issues to be aware of when researching Ellen White’s unpublished materials. Fortunately, there are new tools and resources available that assist us in appreciating the context for these writings: publications such as the Ellen G. White Encyclopedia, scholarly biographies of Adventist leaders, and digital access to the church’s historical papers. In addition, the White Estate is placing on its Web site the tens of thousands of pages of correspondence written to Ellen White by church members and leaders giving the “other side” of the conversation to her letters.
Whether reading the day-to-day accounts of Ellen White’s activities in her diaries, a strongly worded testimony to an unfaithful leader, or a mother’s heart-wrenching appeal to her wayward son, we are privileged to find in these writings insights and guiding principles that still speak to our time and circumstances.
1-Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 5, p. 696. 2-W. C. White to G. A. Irwin, May 7, 1900, cited in Herbert E. Douglass, Messenger of the Lord (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1998), p. 110. 3-Ellen G. White, Selected Messages (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958, 1980), book 1, p. 39. 4-Ibid., p. 38. 5-See E. G. White, Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 64-67.