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Elders: Acts of Love ? part 4

The book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore makes the assertion that there are four acts of love that will make your church irresistible. (These acts have been condensed for our purposes.)

Act of love 4: Experience divine anticipation. Divine anticipation involves living within the mystery and wonder of God, rather than requiring the certainty of policy or tradition. Divine anticipation involves training our-selves to watch for God in action; it tends to be far too messy for some of us. We may be experiencing divine anticipation if we are doing the following:

  • Realizing God is actively involved?all the time.
  • Grasping God?s power.
  • Accepting that there are things we cannot explain.
  • Trusting the Holy Spirit.
  • Expecting God to show up.
  • Trusting God to do what only He can do.
  • Telling others in an authentic way what God is doing in our lives.

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It Spoke Like a Dragon

A bipolar power this nation will become?part lamb, part dragon. And yet we can still sing: ?God bless America, land that I love / Stand beside her and guide her / Through the night with the light from above.?

Because God has blessed this nation. In fact, the author of The Great Controversy described America?s receipt of divine blessings this way: ?The Lord has done more for the United States than for any other country upon which the sun shines.? In any language, that is a largesse of blessings!  

But those blessings have come at a price, a high price. Jesus Himself defined the divine standard of judgment in unmistakable terms: ?From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked? (Luke 12:48). Which, being interpreted, means that on the great Judgment Day, this land of great gifts will have to answer for what she did with these bestowals of divine approbation. When America stands before Almighty God one day?with the wealth of the ages overflowing from her hands?He will quietly ask, ?What did you do with all the blessings I showered upon you?? And what shall we say?

Something has happened to the soul of America. And it is not good. And all the talk we hear about the iron fist of law and order will not heal the moral sickness that chokes America?s soul. You can?t enforce salvation. We who have been given much now shut the rest of the world out and hoard our riches for our own pleasure and profit. All the while, inside our closed-off borders, human beings are suffering of want and hunger. Just like France before the revolution, the wealthy grow wealthier. Until the downtrodden rise up and storm the Bastille. 

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Elders: Acts of Love

The book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore makes the assertion that there are four acts of love that will make your church irresistible. (These acts have been condensed for our purposes.)

Act of love 2: Offer fearless conversation. One of our challenges today is finding ways to show people a God who is more accessible. Paul wrote to one of the churches, ?I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow? (1 Corinthians 3:6, NLT). We can share our witness, realizing that it is just one part of the story God is telling. It is fearless conversation because we have a story to tell in order for God to use it in His own ways. The apostle Paul once asked, ?What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?? (Romans 8:31, NLT). So we may offer fearless conversation if we are doing the following:

  • Honestly seeking to understand where people are coming from.
  • Really listening before speaking.
  • Asking great questions.
  • Allowing others to talk, even when we are a bit uncomfortable.
  • Offering nonjudgmental responses.
  • Trusting the Holy Spirit to be on our side.

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The Gift of Time

God has given us a gift of time specifically for the purpose of entering into the joy of working with Him. It is called the Sabbath. One day in seven God gives us time?time to communicate with Him in a special way and time to join Him in service to others. Do you have a friend who has been ill and would welcome a visit, but you just haven?t had time to go to see him? God has given you the Sabbath. Is there a neighbor who you know is lonely and you?d like to invite over, but you?ve been too busy? God has given you the Sabbath. Have you been intending to take your children out into nature or maybe for a picnic by the lake, but you haven?t found the time? God has given you the Sabbath. Whether we are sharing God?s love with family and friends or reaching out into the world beyond, there is time, every week?God?s special answer to the problem of finding time, in our busy schedules, to reach out to others.  

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What are the Grapes?

Philippians 1:11: ?Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.? Please notice first of all that the fruits are fruits of righteousness; second, they are by Jesus Christ; and third, they are unto the praise and glory of God. And of course, Galatians 5:22, 23 speaks of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, and so forth. So, then, the fruit is righteousness?and righteousness is spontaneous for the branch that is connected to the True Vine. This means that the Christian never works hard on righteousness. He has never been asked to do that. Christ does not tell us to work hard on fruit?He invites us to abide in Him.

So the deliberate effort in the Christian life is always and only toward fellowship with Jesus, toward abiding in the Vine. It is never toward producing the fruits of righteousness. For when we continue the connection with the Vine, the fruit will come.

Christ is the end of trying to produce fruit apart from the Vine. When we see our condition, see our total failure to produce real fruit apart from Him, then we can come to the place of admitting, with Paul, that the good that we try to perform we find not (Rom. 7:18). And not until then can we discover what it means to be truly connected with the Vine. Only then do we realize the necessity and privilege of abiding in Him. 

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Indestructible Hope

Now when you can no longer be active, and infirmities press upon you, all that God requires of you is to trust Him. Commit the keeping of your soul to Him as unto a faithful Creator. His mercies are sure, His covenant is everlasting. Happy is the man whose hope is in the Lord his God, who keepeth truth forever. Let your mind grasp the promises and hold to them. If you cannot call to mind readily the rich assurance contained in the precious promises, listen to them from the lips of another. What fullness, what love and assurance are found in these words from the lips of God Himself, proclaiming His love, His pity and interest in the children of His care:

?The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, for­giving iniquity and transgression and sin? (Exodus 34:6, 7).?Selected Messages, book 2, p. 231.

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Hope and God's Will

People often believe that they can find a bright future through a large savings account, a promising career, or a good reputation. As Christians we may claim that pursuing such things is foolish, though many of us still do it anyway. However, one of the red herrings that even serious Christians follow in their search for a bright future is based on knowing God?s will. ?If only I knew God?s will for my life,? we say, ?I could have peace.?

To those of us who are trying to find security through knowing God?s will for our lives, Oswald Chambers has a disturbing truth. ?Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you who He is? (My Utmost for His Highest, reading for Jan. 2).

I think Chambers is right. Of course, we want to live God?s will for our lives, but finding and living the divine will is not like locating a lost wallet that we then thankfully replace in our pocket. Hope is not because we have found ?something,? but because we have confidence in ?someone??God Himself. So in this chapter we are going to explore four reasons for hope, each one involving a facet of who our Father is?for God Himself is our hope.

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The Continuing Relationship

Sometimes we get impatient and try to put timetables on Christian growth and victory and overcoming. But we?d better not! That?s God?s business; that?s the Holy Spirit?s work. The disciples were transformed gradually, first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. And so long as the relationship with Christ continues, that relationship of love has its own built-in safeguard against license. The deeper the relationship with Jesus, the further we go from license, or playing cheap and loose with God?s grace. I?m thankful today for the way Jesus treated known sinners. It brings hope and comfort to the struggling, growing Christian.

And if it is true that we are transformed through the continued relationship with Christ, then that gives us a major clue as to the how-to of obedience. We are transformed by grace, through the continuing relationship with Christ?not through our own struggles and resolutions and efforts in fighting sin and the devil. 

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Stepping Out In Faith

We all know that God wants us to walk in faith. We all know that it is easy to walk in faith when there are no trials, pain, loss, or con?ict?but that is not good enough. God needs to develop faith in us that will endure. He wants us to grow strong in faith. The only possible way that He can do that is to teach us to weather the storms that appear from nowhere in our lives.

Faith is a verb. It requires acting on what we know to be true based on Scripture. As we act, our faith will strengthen and grow in proportion to our step of obedience. When we act in faith, we will encounter trials, but through this experience we learn that God will never forsake us.

Trials are a natural part of following Christ. Second Timothy 3:12 says, ?In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.? These trials come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and involve different aspects of our lives. Jesus never promised His followers an easy life. Instead, He promised to walk through life with them.

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The Falling Out of Love

By means of deception, Satan has stolen the human heart from God, and has stolen a clear sense of God?s love from the human heart. To destroy us by that theft is his ultimate purpose. With evil genius he crafts all his lies to contribute to the one lie first forged of jealousy in his dark heart: God does not love you, but lives only for Himself. Therefore flee from His dominating control and live only for yourself. . . .

?The same God who said, ?Out of darkness let light shine,? has caused His light to shine within us, to give the light of revelation?the revelation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ? (2 Corinthians 4:6, NEB).

Our blindness of mind is healed as we look to Jesus, believing that in Him we see ?the best picture of God we?ll ever get? (2 Corinthians 4:6, TM). The spell of darkness cast upon our first parents is broken when we allow the revelation of God?s glorious love in Jesus to shine into our hearts.

Then God?s most heartfelt anticipation will be realized:

?As I passed by again, I saw that the time had come for you to fall in love. I covered your naked body with my coat and promised to love you. Yes, I made a marriage covenant with you, and you became Mine? (Ezekiel 16:8, TEV).

Fallen humanity is redeemed as we fall back in love with God.

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The Image of the Beast

The so-called Christian world is to be the theater of great and decisive actions. Men in authority will enact laws controlling the conscience, after the example of the papacy. Babylon will make all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. Every nation will be involved.

?These have one mind.? There will be a universal bond of union, one great harmony, a confederacy of Satan?s forces. ?And shall give their power and strength unto the beast.? Thus is manifested the same arbitrary, oppressive power against religious liberty, freedom to worship God according to the dictates of conscience, as was manifested by the papacy, when in the past it persecuted those who dared to refuse to conform with the religious rites and ceremonies of Romanism.

When the leading churches of the United States, uniting upon such points of doctrine as are held by them in common, shall influence the state to enforce their decrees and to sustain their institutions, then Protestant America will have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy, and the infliction of civil penalties upon dissenters will inevitably result.  

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A Change in Perspective

Jesus saw that religion in His day had become increasingly rigid and self-serving. Defense of tradition and institutions was obscuring the values of God?s kingdom. Human perspective was distancing itself from God?s. His audience needed what they couldn?t see yet. Their spiritual route needed recalculating; the templates they had built to understand God and religion were either faulty, imprecise, or ineffective.

Their point of view needed to change; thus, Jesus led them to higher ground. There He sat down and spoke to them about the kingdom of heaven, what it meant to belong to that kingdom. Their perceptions needed retuning. Their frame of reference had to change before they could understand the kingdom.

How can we be assured that we have the right perspective in life and in our spiritual experience? (Proverbs 23:26; Isaiah 48:18; Romans 12:1, 2) 

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