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Certain aspects of our human existence are universal. They?re true of every person who ever has lived or ever will live. All of us must eat and breathe in order to survive. All of us think and have emotions. Every one of us has a spiritual nature and a moral consciousness. And all of us violate our moral consciousness from time to time. Paul made this clear in Romans 3:23 when he said, ?All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.? You and I don?t have to wonder whether we?re sinners. We know it. Fortunately, Paul didn?t leave us there. He went on to say that we are ?justified freely by his [God?s] grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus? (verse 24).

The tenses of the verbs in the verse I just shared with you are significant. The verb in the line ?all have sinned? is past tense, while the verb in the line ?and fall short of the glory of God? is present tense. Actually, in the Greek, ?fall short? is an ongoing present tense?continuous action. We can translate the verse like this: ?All have sinned [in the past] and continue falling short [in the present].? In verse 24 Paul said that we ?are justified [present tense] freely by [God?s] grace.? This justification applies to both our sins of the past and those we continue doing in the present.

Some people believe that every time sinners yield to temptation, they break their relationship with Jesus; they fall out of grace and out of salvation. This simply isn?t true. Parents who adopt children don?t disown the children when they disobey them. You and I have been adopted into the family of God; we?re His sons and daughters (Romans 8:15-17). And He doesn?t disown us just because we fall into sin. My proof that this is true is found in the Greek grammar I just mentioned: ?All continue falling short . . . and are justified.? Justification applies as much to our sins in the ongoing present as it does to those of the past.

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The Dream is Fulfilled

At the very moment the king was praising his supposed accomplishments, God?s judgment fell upon him. He was removed from the throne and forced to spend seven years among the beasts, eating grass exactly as Daniel had predicted. When the allotted time of his judgment was completed, the king was restored to his former honor, but this time he finally recognized that ?those who walk in pride He [God] is able to put down? (v. 37). Hence, the purpose of the judgment as stated in each major section of the biblical narrative is accomplished. Finally, Nebuchadnezzar came to acknowledge that ?the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and Gives it to whomever He will? (v. 17; cf. vv. 34, 35).

Note that in Daniel 1?4 Nebuchadnezzar stands at ?center stage in the drama that unfolds in his court. In chapter 2 his dream about the statue took down his incompetent wise men; in chapter 3 his garish image nearly took down Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; in chapter 4 his dream about the tree took him down.? Thus, with the fulfillment of the dream, the greatest ruler of the Neo-Babylonian Empire leaves the narrative of Daniel (as a protagonist) as he left history, when gold gave way to silver. He accomplished great military victories, ruled over many nations, built a world empire, but was helpless before the God of His captives. This reminds us that the Most High was, is, and will always be the supreme ruler over any human power.

While Nebuchadnezzar had to eat grass with the beasts to learn humility, we are called to learn humility from the One who ?humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross? (Philippians 2:8). Maybe it is time to stop focusing on ourselves, our accomplishments, and our failures. Even better, why not stop comparing ourselves to others, their accomplishments, and their failures? Let us lift our eyes and look to Jesus who ?has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen? (Revelation 1:6).

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Love Is Kind

Ever heard a guy yell at his girlfriend? Or perhaps you?ve listened as a girl belittled her boyfriend right in front of everyone. That?s not kindness. Those people aren?t allowing love to get a foothold in their relationship.

To be kind means to put the needs of the other person first.

When a woman who?d been caught committing adultery was brought to Jesus, He allowed love to guide His words. Remember? While everyone else was yelling at her, cursing her actions, telling the world what a sinner she was, our Savior took a very different approach. He gently reminded the accusers that they were guilty of sins of their own. Embarrassed, the angry mob dispersed.

Looking around, Jesus asked, ?Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?? (John 8:10).

The woman shook her head. ?No one, sir,? she said.

Quietly, gently, Jesus responded, ?Neither do I condemn you. . . . Go now and leave your life of sin? (verse 11).

Whose words do you think that woman remembered? The shouting mob?s or Christ?s?

When a [loved one] makes a mistake, what motivates your response? If you allow kindness to choose your words and actions, you?re feeling true love in your heart.  

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When you rebel against God, He will honor your choice. But first, He will try to draw you back to Him. If you persist in your rebellion, there will be consequences. Here, many people think of fire and brimstone, eternal punishment, and endless suffering. They picture God?s rage and wrath. However, God is thinking of separation.

That?s the consequence of sin:

But your iniquities have separated

you from your God;

your sins have hidden his face from you,

so that he will not hear (Isaiah 59:2).

In your journey into the wild today, don?t fear for one moment that God has left you. If He seems far away, you?re the one who?s moved. If that?s the case, what are you waiting for? Hurry back to His arms! He loves you. He wants to help you. He?s waiting to forgive you. 

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Search the Scriptures

How shall we search the Scriptures? Shall we drive our stakes of doctrine one after another, and then try to make all Scripture meet our established opinions? or shall we take our ideas and views to the Scriptures, and measure our theories on every side by the Scriptures of truth? Many who read and even teach the Bible, do not compre­hend the precious truth they are teaching or studying.

Men entertain errors, when the truth is clearly marked out; and if they would but bring their doctrines to the word of God, and not read the word of God in the light of their doctrines, to prove their ideas right, they would not walk in darkness and blindness, or cher­ish error. Many give the words of Scripture a meaning that suits their own opinions, and they mislead themselves and deceive others by their misinterpretations of God?s word.?Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 36.  

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The Fires of Hell

Christians who believe in the theory of the natural immortality of the soul have defined Paradise and hell as specific places already habited by countless disembodied souls that are still alive. But what implications does such an immortalist view have on biblical eschatology? There are at least six implications that we will highlight.

First, the views of an always-burning hell and a paradise with disembodied souls are based on the Greek philosophical theory of the natural immortality of the soul and not on the biblical teaching of the conditional immortality of the human being. The Bible asserts that immortality is a gift of God to be granted at the Second Coming to those who are in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:51?55; 1 John 5:11, 12) and all the wicked will ultimately be destroyed, leaving them ?neither root nor branch? (Malachi 4:1). This means that there will be no forever-burning hell, as evident from some ancient cities that are examples of ?eternal fire? but which are no longer burning (Isaiah 34:10; Jude 7). 

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Special Creation of Humans

Humans have a special place in both the Creation narrative and the Bible as a whole. Humans were uniquely created in God?s image (Genesis 1:26, 27). No other creatures are described as having been created in God?s likeness. As if to emphasize the uniqueness of humans, Genesis 2 describes how God created Adam?from the dust?and how Adam received life?from God?s ?breath.? Another unique feature is that Adam and Eve were created individually, then joined in marriage; this reminds one of the individuality and union of the Trinity. The uniqueness of humans is noted in other passages (e.g., Genesis 9:6; Psalm 8; James 3:9). The special creation of humans is perhaps the clearest single point that distinguishes creation theories from evolutionary theories.

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To the Extreme

Don?t be confused. God the Father wasn?t taking the easy road while Jesus suffered alone. Ask any parents if they would rather have their child suffer or take the suffering themselves. God the Father experienced anguish just as God the Son did.

God?s love for us led both the Father and the Son to provide the best opportunity anyone could ever offer us. God the Son faced eternal separation from God the Father so that we don?t have to. They actually continued in tandem to draw us back to Them. ?For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people?s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.?

People hurt when their family breaks apart or even just fights continually. Pointing out whose fault it is?blaming?won?t heal the pain. Ignoring the situation pushes away the family members rather than the problem. A standoff under the guise of ?standing for what is right? cements positions. If that family is ever healed, it usually comes because of love?and with a price. But healing overcomes the hurt and brings celebration.

Neither you nor your parents, your children nor a boss, a religion nor a government, a hero nor a lucky break can do what God did. Only God can heal people. Only He can save every person who accepts His offer. And only Jesus could show us what God is really like.

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The Leader as Servant

We often encounter the three most fundamental questions of life: Who am I? Where did I come from? What is my destiny?

Which question is most important? The key question is the second one: Where did I come from? Depending on your answer, your destiny will be changed.

God says that we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9). Therefore, the most essential question is not who we are in this life, but to whom we belong and whose we are. This, in fact, will determine who we are.

We witness the life of Christ at the cross of Calvary?the grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption?when the Son of God was uplifted on the cross. Ellen G White says, ?The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth about which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary.? The cross of Calvary is crucial to Christians not only for His death and resurrection, which are the core values of the plan of salvation, but more so for how He lived his life?not just how He died, but how He lived. As his children and the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, this is the life we must follow.

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You Don't Want To Know

Perhaps it is OK to ask questions of God, but we?ll know more if we let Him question us. During times of hardship we ask ?Why?? because we want an explanation. It is not that knowing ?Why?? will help us manage the pain or better negotiate our way through tragedy. The questions God has for Job force him to look at who God is instead of why God does what He does. There is no way on earth we can comprehend the complexities of this life, but we can learn to trust the One who understands it all. At the end of all the questions God asks Job, two things change about Job. First, Job becomes aware of the massive difference between what he knows and what he doesn?t know.

There is a second change in Job, the most important one. What is unmistakable at the end of this drama is the way Job binds himself to the Almighty with loving and loyal trust. Job declares, ? ?My ears had heard of you / but now my eyes have seen you? ? (Job 42:5). Job experiences God in a new way. Before, his devotion may have been described as mechanical, but now it is emotional.  

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Un-Useless Love

Chindohgu is the Japanese art of the un-useless invention. These creations are un-useless because at first they seem absurd but have a quirky way of getting the job done. For example, there?s the latex finger glove with bristles for those moments when you forget your toothbrush and need to use your finger. Another chindohgu features a small battery operated fan that attaches to a pair of chopsticks to cool your noodles as you eat (I have almost hyperventilated cooling my noodles).

Chindohgu inventions are really more of an art culture than entrepreneurial endeavors. But what intrigued me most about chindohgus had to do with the way an irrational and seemingly useless idea had taken hold of me. The more I thought about each one, the more absurd it seemed. Some of the things Jesus said shock and twist our thinking, and if we have no patience with what He is saying, it falls away. But if we stop and allow these hard sayings to marinate in our mind a bit, a truth so real and meaningful tends to emerge.

Consider a few classic lines from Jesus: ? ?I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father? ? (John 14:12). ? ?Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it? ? (Luke 9:24). ? ?I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ?Raca,? is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ?You fool!? will be in danger of the fire of hell? ? (Matthew 5:22). ? ?I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he? ? (Matthew 11:11). 

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Do Not Be Deceived

A correct understanding of ?what saith the Scriptures? in regard to the state of the dead is essential for this time. God?s Word declares that the dead know not anything, their hatred and love have alike per­ished. We must come to the sure word of prophecy for our authority. Unless we are intelligent in the Scriptures, may we not, when this mighty miracle-working power of Satan is manifested in our world, be deceived and call it the workings of God; for the Word of God declares that, if it were possible, the very elect should be deceived. Unless we are rooted and grounded in the truth, we shall be swept away by Satan?s delusive snares. We must cling to our Bibles. If Satan can make you believe that there are things in the Word of God that are not inspired, he will then be prepared to ensnare your soul. We shall have no assurance, no certainty, at the very time we need to know what is truth.?Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, December 18, 1888.

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