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Conformed to Transformed

Breaking an addiction is never easy. But with our smartphones and computers, it is especially difficult because we can't just throw these things int he trash and walk away. The simple reality is, our phones, our computers, and many other digital devices that we regularly use are here to stay. So the question is not necessarily how do we get rid of them, but how do we keep appropriate boundaries in place that allow us to use them constructively, instead of them overtaking and using us?

To help gain a fresh focus in your life, perhaps you might consider doing some digital detoxing and fasting. As I've heard it said, "A diet changes the way you look, but a fast changes the way you see." As my friend Derek Morris often likes to say, "We fast from the world so we can feast on Jesus." As we learn to disconnect and disentangle ourselves from our digital devices, we will find a fresh spiritual focus and new perspective in our walk with God. And this new focus makes all the difference in the world!


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The Change in Me

The more the King of the universe set up residence in my heart, the more I learned the road to forgiveness was a process?not once and done, but decision by decision, moment by moment. 

Over time, I noticed [God's] instruction changed not only my inner thoughts but my outward behavior. The words coming out of my mouth become dramatically different. This noticeable softening of my speech actually surprised me.

Instead of letting Rick know all the ways he disappointed me, I'd find something positive to say instead. "I appreciate your help today." Or, "Thanks for cooking dinner tonight, that helped out a lot!"

I also stopped venting to my mom and close friends about Rick's failures. I knew this only built walls between these people and Rick. 

Now that Jesus was tearing down the walls in my heart, I certainly didn't want to be putting them up for anyone else. Plus, with Jesus as my Proptector, I didn't need the temporary comfort of their sympathetic validation anymore.


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The Myth of the Inflexible Prophet

A central problem all of us face in our lives is that of balance. In the case of Christian education, one polar extreme is to rely unthinkingly on prophetic authority, while the other is to lean on rationality in an unhealthy manner that allows it to become an excuse for what we really wanted to do anyway. Scripture must always guide our rational understanding. On the other hand, we must always understand and apply the truth of Scripture through the aid of our rationality. To rely either on Scripture or rational understanding without the other is a fatal misconception. Authoritative revelation and sanctified reason go hand in hand as we seek to understand God and develop a Christian educational system. God gave us the power of creative thought, and He expects us to use it for His glory.

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To learn more about Prophets in Conflict, visit AdventistBookCenter.com.


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Making the Bright Choice

For seven brutal years in the fallen forests and fields of Israel, God gave breath and sustenance and seventy heartbeats a minute to men and women who were bowing down to a lifeless god. People worshipped Baal with the strength that God had given them; they offered up children as human sacrifices?children created in God's image and shaped in the womb by God.

Before God can truly swing into action on our behalf, before He can fight for us against our own Midianite armies, the false gods have to go. The Baal idols have got to be torn down, and the Asherah poles of our own Facebook-distracted generation must be destroyed. 

The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary hits that very nail on the head when it notes that "God would not honor a sacrifice to Himself until the idols were overthrown. So it is today. Every idol must be removed from the heart if we would claim God's blessing today."

In Judges 6, the real power of God doesn't get ramped up until the false gods are ridden out of the town on a rail. God is always there; God is always love?but He can't be truly active and powerful until He is seated on the throne and giving the orders.


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The Second Commandment

The second of the Ten Commandments is, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." . . . This commandment and the first commandment are closely related. In the first commandment, God declares He is to be the only God in the beliefs and lives of His people. In this commandment, God instructs as to how He is not to be worshiped. God knows that when man worships Him through idols and images, it demeans who He is in the mind of the worshiper. . . . This commandment does not forbid paintings, photographs, or statuary. The Old Testament sanctuary was filled with such images and representations. It is using them and bowing down to them in worship that is wrong. No image or idol can truly represent God and will only degrade true worship of Him.


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Look Again... For the First Time

We are incapable of loving God unless we can first trust Him. And we cannot trust Him unless we see Him. . .unless we truly see Him as He is, as One who can be trusted because of who He is. All distorted images tend toward distrust and extinguish in the soul the capacity to love God. All clarity of God?s character leads toward trust, which in turn gives birth to love in the soul. This is the most basic of all principles regarding human relationship with God.

Where then do we find perfect clarity? The Bible gives only one answer: ?The very God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness has illuminated our hearts by giving the light of the knowledge of His true character in the person of Jesus Christ? (2 Corinthians 4:6; personal translation). Another passage of Scripture explains that Jesus is ?the brightness of God?s glory [character] and the express image of His person [who God is and what He?s like]? (Hebrews 1:3).

If we want to see God clearly, we need to look at Jesus.

Not at religion.

Not at any other person.

Not at our own experiences in life.

Not even at any isolated doctrinal truth outside of the illuminating context of Christ.

?For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God [clearly] at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom [heart] of the Father, He has declared Him? (John 1:17, 18, NKJV).

In Christ alone do we encounter God with perfect clarity. All other media are dim at best and completely distorted at worst.

LEARN MORE: https://adventistbookcenter.com/see-with-new-eyes.html


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The Lord's Prayer

The Lord?s Prayer was twice given by our Saviour first to the multitude in the Sermon on the Mount, and again, some months later, to the disciples alone. The disciples had been for a short time absent from their Lord, when on their return they found Him absorbed in communion with God. Seeming unconscious of their presence, He continued praying aloud. The Saviour?s face was irradiated with a celestial brightness. He seemed to be in the very presence of the Unseen, and there was a living power in His words as of one who spoke with God.

The hearts of the listening disciples were deeply moved. They had maked how often He spent long hours in solitude in communion with His Father. His days were passed in ministry to the crowds that pressed upon Him, and in unveiling the treacherous sophistry of the rabbis, and this incessant labor often left Him so utterly wearied that His mother and brothers, even His disciples, had feared that His life would be sacrificed. But as He returned from the hours of prayer that closed the toilsome day, they marked the look of peace upon His face, the sense of refreshment that seemed to pervade His presence. It was from hours spent with God that He came forth, morning my morning, to bring the light of heaven to men. The disciples had come to connect His hours of prayer with the power of His words and works. Now, as they listened to His suplication, their hearts were awed and humbled. As He ceased praying, it was with a conviction of their own deep need that they exclaimed, ?Lord, teach us to pray.? Luke 11:1.

Jesus gives them no new form of prayer. That which He has before taught them He repeats, as if He would say, You need to understand what I have already given. It has a depth of meaning you have not yet fathomed.

LEARN MORE: https://adventistbookcenter.com/the-greatest-sermon-ever-preached.html


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Human Love Reveals God's Love

God is revealed through the ties of human love. We can see Him depicted in the mother who cuddles her sleeping baby in her arms. We can see His care in the father carrying his small son on his shoulders. We can see Him in the teacher or pastor who takes the extra time to listen. God?s unfailing longing for us is manifest in the weeping mother at the execution of the hardened criminal?still her son. God?s love is seen in the companionship and concern of friends and loved ones.

The Bible talks about this revelation of God?s love. ?Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him? (Ps. 103:13). ?Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?? (Isa. 49:15). ?Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends? (John 15:13).

But what about the man in Madera, California, who beat his little 6-year-old girl because she wouldn?t cry? He beat her for half an hour. And then she said, ?Daddy, can I have a drink of water?? And she died. Where was the love of God then? What about the battered babies, the neglected children, the broken homes, broken friendships, broken hearts? How can God?s love be revealed in those? Even in Scripture we are reminded of the limitations of human love, in comparison with divine love. Isaiah 49:15 goes on to answer the question ?Can a woman forget her sucking child?? by saying, Yes, she may forget. Human love can represent the love of God?but only imperfectly.

LEARN MORE: https://adventistbookcenter.com/to-know-god.html


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The Definition of a Healthy Church

A healthy church seeks to obey the Great Commission and Great Commandments in its setting by being biblically based, spiritually alive, mission-focused, functionally balanced, effective in its organization, servant- led, characterized by excellence in all that it does, and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:42-47).

The key issue for churches in the twenty-first century will be church health, not church growth. When congregations are healthy, they advance the way that God intends. If your church is genuinely healthy, you won?t have to worry about it growing. Thus the principles of this book that are intended to create a healthy church will naturally lead to development.

The Bible indicates seven signs of a healthy church. It (1) glorifies God; (2) produces disciples who seriously strive to obey the commandments of God; (3) has members that participate in ministry based on their spiritual gifts; (4) is incarnational?in the world and in the community, influencing them; (5) is active in evangelism; (6) assimilates new people into the life and leadership of the congregation; (7) trusts God and obeys Him in all things.

A healthy church is one in which every member grows, serves, witnesses, and builds up others. And all things that we do must come from the indwelling life of Christ in each believer?s life (John 15:4, 5; Eph. 4:16). This is a profound paradigm transformation for many believers and churches. It is a shift away from a strategy to people and from program mentality to a Holy Spirit empowerment. If we can create a culture in which every believer takes responsibility to grow, serve, and witness in the power of God, our churches will transform their worlds!

Numerical growth constituted only part of the measure of the church. The deepening of relationships with God and with others must be part of a mature church. True church growth takes place when the local church supernaturally and faithfully fulfills the Great Commission in its unique context and with a vision for saving the world.

LEARN MORE: https://adventistbookcenter.com/the-big-four-secrets-to-a-thriving-church-family.html


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Jesus and Mother Hens

[Spread blanket across your shoulders and grasp corners in each hand to simulate wings.] Today I am being a mama hen. A hen is a mother chicken. Chickens are birds, even though they don?t fly very well. They use their wings for other things, though. Whenever there is a mean animal close by who might like a little chick for breakfast, the mama hen swoops over [swoop over and wrap your child in your blanket-wings] and scoops her little chick under her wings.

It feels all safe and snuggly and warm under mama hen?s wings. Jesus once said that He wanted to snuggle us under His wings just like a mama hen snuggles her chicks. He cried because He knew there were many sad and dangerous things that would happen to people, and they wouldn?t come to Him to be safe.

We can?t see Jesus, but we can ask to snuggle under His wings and be safe. [Wrap your blanket wings around your child again.]

LEARN MORE: https://adventistbookcenter.com/little-hearts-for-jesus.html


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Living by the Word of God

Leading believers into an obedient relationship with God is the ultimate goal of Scripture. In studying the Bible, we seek to follow God?s Word faithfully and joyfully. Such faithfulness goes far beyond mere intellectual knowledge and theoretical assent. God does not use coercion to win hearts. With a clear and reasonable voice, He speaks to us through Scripture, winning our allegiance with divine love. Attentiveness to the Word of God results in loving obedience and banishes the fear of difficult passages. Instead, we are eagerly motivated to understand the biblical message more fully and trust God to enlighten our hearts.

Faith is a necessary condition for properly understanding and responding to the Bible. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews states that ?by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God? and that ?without faith it is impossible to please Him [that is, God], for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him? (Hebrews 11:3, 6). Such faith is the practice of actively listening to God and His Written Word. This listening exercise brings an obedient response to the Word of God. Of course, this obedience is often hard won because our humanity naturally hesitates to do God?s bidding.

LEARN MORE: https://adventistbookcenter.com/how-to-interpret-scripture-2q20-bible-bookshelf.html


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Living by the Word of God

John and Judas are representatives of those who profess to be Christ?s followers. Both these disciples had the same opportunities to study and follow the divine Pattern. Both were closely associated with Jesus and were privileged to listen to His teaching. Each possessed serious defects of character; and each had access to the divine grace that transforms character. But while one in humility was learning of Jesus, the other revealed that he was not a doer of the word, but a hearer only. One, daily dying to self and overcoming sin, was sanctified through the truth; the other, resisting the transforming power of grace and indulging selfish desires, was brought into bondage to Satan.

Such transformation of character as is seen in the life of John is ever the result of communion with Christ. There may be marked defects in the character of an individual, yet when he becomes a true disciple of Christ, the power of divine grace transforms and sanctifies him. Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, he is changed from glory to glory, until he is like Him whom he adores.?The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 558, 559.

LEARN MORE: https://adventistbookcenter.com/how-to-interpret-scripture-ellen-g-white-notes-2q20.html


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