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Dennis Priebe

Do We Know Who We Are?

In our present uncertain world, it is easy to become discouraged and fearful.  So I will begin with an amazing story.

The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry, which was to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn, arrived in early October excited about their opportunities.  When they saw their church, it was very rundown and needed much work.  They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve.  They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, and painting.  On December 18 they were ahead of schedule and just about finished.

On December 19 a terrible rainstorm hit the area and lasted for two days.  On the 21st the pastor went over to the church. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster, about 20 feet by 8 feet, to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high.  The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home.

On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type of sale for charity, so he stopped in.  One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory-colored, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors, and a cross embroidered right in the center.  It was just the right size to cover the hole in the front wall.  He bought it and headed back to the church.

By this time it had started to snow.  An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus.  She missed it.  The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later.  She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder and hangers to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry.  The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area.  Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle.  Her face was like a sheet.  “Pastor,” she asked, “where did you get that tablecloth?”  The pastor explained.  The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials EBG were crocheted into it there.  They were.  These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before in Austria.  The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told her how he had just gotten the tablecloth.  The woman explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria.  When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave.  Her husband was going to follow her the next week.  He was captured, sent to prison, and she never saw her husband or her home again.  The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth, but she made the pastor keep it for the church.  The pastor insisted on driving her home.  That was the least he could do.  She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a housecleaning job.

What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve.  The church was almost full.  The music and the spirit were great.  At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return.  One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood, continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the pastor wondered why he wasn’t leaving.  The man asked him where he got the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war.  How could there be two tablecloths so much alike?  He told the pastor how the Nazis came and how he forced his wife to flee for her safety.  He was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested and put in prison.  He never saw his wife or his home again in all the 35 years between.

The pastor asked him if he would allow the pastor to take him for a little ride.  They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier.  He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman’s apartment, knocked on the door, and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.

God made a hole in the wall and a missed bus ride turn out for good.  God help us not to murmur and complain in our adversity, but to trust Him during the dark times.

AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE

Sola Scriptura was the defining hallmark of the Reformation.  What does it mean for us today?  How we see the world, how we assess ourselves and others, and how we define our values and beliefs might be quite different from how Scripture sees, assesses, and defines these important matters.  Thus, if we want to follow Jesus and the apostles, we need to do three things: (1) develop a healthy skepticism toward our own beliefs and values; (2) trust the Scriptures more than current or long-held understanding of any particular doctrine; and (3) be willing, through the Scriptures, to see, assess, define, and live more truthfully.

A sola scriptura church says that the Bible is regarded as standing alone as the highest authority for faith, practice, and hope.  The very core and passion of the early Adventist movement was to question Christian doctrines and traditions on the basis of the Word, and be willing to relearn Christianity in faith and practice from scratch.

Are we obligated to obey everything in the Bible?  Or just those things that we find convenient?  In the words of twentieth century preacher Peter Marshall: “There are aspects of the gospel that are puzzling and difficult to understand.  But our problems are not centered around the things we don’t understand, but rather in the things we do understand, the things we could not possibly misunderstand.  Our problem is not so much that we don’t know what we should do.  We know perfectly well, but we don’t want to do it.”

Do we trust without question what Scripture tells us, without trying to reinterpret it?  Every so often we hear people make the comment that Genesis 1 and 2 is not a scientific account of creation.  Genesis is clearly describing, at some level, what God did at creation and how He did it.  Key indicators in Genesis show that God gave this revelation to us as a historical account.  Saying that Genesis 1 and 2 is not a scientific account may actually lead people to negative and unhelpful perspectives.  This should be more accurately stated.  We should say that Genesis 1 and 2 is not a detailed and comprehensive scientific account.  But this does not mean that it lacks any answers to scientific questions—even better and true answers—compared with the standard answers that science currently given us.  The best description of these two chapters is that they are a divinely inspired, historical account by God, the eyewitness, who created this world and everything in it, and He is the only one with the omnipotent capacity to bring it all into reality.  Yes, we can trust all of the answers that Genesis 1 and 2 gives to scientific questions, even if it does not answer all our interesting questions.

Let us examine one example from recent scientific discoveries.  Tiny little creatures called trilobites have often left their fossils imbedded in rock strata.  One thought to be a very simple life form, researchers have discovered that they possess an extremely complex eye.  Here is how one expert describes it: “An eye that is simply incredible.  It is made up of dozens of little tubes which are all at slightly different angles so that it covers the entire field of vision, with a different tube pointing at each spot on the horizon.  But these tubes are all more complicated than that, by far.  They have a lens on them that is optically arranged in a very complicated way, and it is bound into another layer that has to be just exactly right for them to see anything….But the more complicated that it is, the less likely it is simply to have grown up out of nothing.”  Also, there is absolutely no evidence of anything leading up to it.  This life form just suddenly appears at the beginning of the fossil record.

The late Christopher Hitchens was an atheist.  Responding to the inevitable question about how one finds meaning in life apart from God, Hitchens wrote: “There are the beauties of science and the extraordinary marvels of nature….There are the infinite splendors of literature and poetry….There is the grand resource of art and music and architecture….In all of these pursuits, any one of them enough to absorb a lifetime, there may be found a sense of awe and magnificence that does not depend at all of any invocation of the supernatural.”

Then in 2010, Christopher Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.  He wrote about the experience.  He talked about the pain, about how crummy the treatments made him feel, and about the needles in his arms.  But there was nothing about drawing hope and comfort from the “awe and magnificence” of art, literature, poetry, or music.  Art and music is for the living, not the dying.  When dying, we desperately need Jesus and the promise of eternal life.  Scripture is about transitioning from a sinful world to eternal life, and no other book or human pursuit can tell us how to do that.

SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISM

Clifford Goldstein wrote a fascinating column in the Adventist Review (November 2019).

About 40 years ago I entered the world of Seventh-day Adventists.  And I am so very thankful; so thankful for the Adventists who taught me truths that, well, no one else would have….Who, for example, but a Seventh-day Adventist would have given me a copy of The Great Controversy just as I was delving into the occult and spiritualism?...Who other than Seventh-day Adventists would have taught me the “everlasting gospel” in the context of the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14?

And though knowing, of course, about the seventh-day Sabbath, I learned from Seventh-day Adventists the bigger picture, both of creation and redemption, contained in the Sabbath truth….

Who but Seventh-day Adventists would have taught me about the state of the dead,…a powerful protection against so many illusions and lies that have deceived billions, including most Christians?...I remember cynically asking one of the first Adventists I had met, “So what’s with all this eternal torment in hell stuff?”…I’ve come to so love this biblical truth, especially in contrast to the raving insanity of eternal torture in hell, which for some reason so many Christians refuse to let go of, kind of like a woman who refuses to leave a violently abusive spouse.

Today, too, with so much of the Christian world having been swept up in the myth of billions of years of suffering, disease, trauma, famine, and death as our Creator’s wonderful way of making life on earth, how thankful I am for people whose very name—Seventh-day Adventist—points to the truth of our origins as revealed in the first two chapters of Genesis….

I’m so thankful for the health message that I learned early on at Wildwood, from Seventh-day Adventists.  Again and again, when I walk into restaurants and see people who, to quote Ellen White, are “digging their graves with their teeth,” I thank God for Seventh-day Adventists and what they have taught me about health.

And speaking of Ellen White—what can I say?  Only Seventh-day Adventists have kept alive the legacy of this amazing woman, whose life and ministry have impacted my life and faith in so many positive ways.  Any wonder that I thank God for Seventh-day Adventists?

1 Peter 2:9 is very relevant here: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  We are a church that presents the whole truth.  Many churches lead people to Jesus.  But if the great truths for this hour are excluded, it’s an incomplete gospel.  Deception is mixing truth with error, and more subtly, not telling the whole truth.

We are not just another church.  We are the final movement God raised in a prophetic time, with a prophetic message centered on Jesus and His grace to restore the whole truth and prepare the whole world for His return.  Ellen White wrote: “Seventh-day Adventists have been chosen by God as a peculiar people, separate from the world.  By the great cleaver of truth He has cut them out from the quarry of the world and brought them into connection with Himself….The greatest wealth of truth ever entrusted to mortals, the most solemn and fearful warnings ever sent by God to man, have been committed to them to be given to the world.” (7T 138)   I wonder, do we really understand and believe this?

Of course, Satan presents distractions which can undermine our identity, purpose, and mission as the remnant.

  1. To stop presenting present truth.  What is the present truth for this hour?  The truths centered on the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary, where Jesus ministers today.
  2. To focus only on social justice and humanitarian aid without leading people to Jesus and the full gospel message. Social aid and social justice are not our final mission as a church.  Jesus Himself did good works, but His mission was not just to relieve suffering, but to save the human race.  It is important to help people with their temporal needs, but we cannot stop there.  We need to lead people to the foot of the cross and the full Adventist message.
  3. To imitate other denominations in their liturgy, music, and growth methods. For Israel, imitating others had catastrophic results.  Some seek ideas from sources that deny great biblical truths, and then apply those methods in our churches.  God never suggested that Israel adopt the methods or worship style of the surrounding nations to reach them.

When preaching ceases to be prophetic, doctrinal, and Christ-centered, and is based only on grace, it leads to personal conformity and satisfaction, where genuine revival is impossible.  Do we grasp the responsibility placed by God on us in these last days of the great controversy between Christ and Satan?

One last generation will stand firm and love the Lord so much that it will obey Him.  They will be sealed for eternity, established in all biblical truth so they cannot be moved.  That generation will participate in wonderful things—the latter rain and the completion of God’s work.  The earth will be illuminated with the glory of God.

ADVENTISM’S BEGINNINGS

Let us take a short look at the last two thousand years.  As early as the sixth century, the Catholic Church reigned over Europe by the authority of the papacy.  And it was inevitable.  After 1260 years of domination by the Church, things were about to change.  Europe, in the late 18th century, found itself in a time of turmoil.  There arose a diversified movement that became known as the Enlightenment.  Many freethinkers and those of the sciences began questioning the traditional teachings, institutions, customs, and morals of society and the Church.  Enlightenment thinkers such as Voltaire helped fuel resentment in society by denigrating the Catholic Church and destabilizing the French monarchy.  In doing so, they elevated reason and enlightenment above the ruling classes and even above God Himself.  These enlightenment thinkers questioned everything the Church taught.  Secret societies such as the Illuminati, Freemasons, Scottish Rite, and other organizations were key players in this path of enlightenment and were instrumental in instigating the French Revolution.

Add to this the new science known as geology.  We are introduced to whole new geological processes that supposedly took billions of years.  These ideas came from men involved with the era of Enlightenment.  It is easy to see how scientific thinkers would be open to new views that not only went contrary to established thought, but also had the objective of promoting a whole new worldview.  We see many new teachings emerging at nearly the same time, and all intertwining with each other.  Their views would be taught academically by institutions of higher learning and would permeate classrooms around the world.  Other writers during this era, who were also connected with Enlightenment thinking, helped frame Karl Marx’s ideas which laid the groundwork for the book, The Communist Manifesto, in 1848.  These men were aware of each other’s writings, and they influenced each other’s thought processes.

All of these events and the authors of these new ideas around 1798 and into the early 1800s.  And what happened around this time?  Militant atheism arose under the guise of science, geology, evolution, and communism.  Why in this time of earth’s history did these ideas become popular?  Was there another prophetic event happening during these decades?

In the 1820s William Miller was diligently studying the prophecies of the Bible.  This was the same time that the writings of Lyell, Hutton, and Cuvier were influencing the studies and thoughts of Charles Darwin.  The new worldview of militant atheism was specifically designed to draw people’s attention away from God as the Creator and Judge of the world.  William Miller was not alone.  God was raising up others, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who were studying the same prophecies and were coming to the same conclusions.  God was raising people up to preach an end-time message to draw minds to Him as Creator and Judge.  At the very same time Satan was staging a counter-attack to draw people’s minds away from these pivotal truths.  What is the real purpose of these new sciences?  To wage war on the Bible, as well as on its Author; to divert our minds from Him who created the heavens and the earth.

All of this was predicted in 2 Peter 3:3-7: “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.  For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”

WORLDVIEWS

These are worldviews.  A worldview is an understanding of reality which shapes our values and our purpose as living human beings.  Marxism, atheism, postmodernism, existentialism, nihilism feature prominently when we think about worldviews.  We can notice the often-subtle influence of these “isms” on the way we look at the world around us.  Then there are hidden worldviews, which, often unconsciously, influence all of our lives.  Individualism, consumerism, moral relativism, the New Age, postmodern tribalism are all “isms” which shape our reality.  We act because we think a certain way.  Worldview shapes how we engage with people and the physical world around us.  Worldview helps us make sense of the reality we face.  We soak up a worldview as we grow up in a particular culture.  Transforming a worldview, especially our hidden worldviews, is complex.

We all have a worldview, whether we realize it or not.  We need a worldview that is anchored in Scripture.  The question is What is the biblical worldview?  How do we recognize and understand this worldview?  How can we make it our own?

God as Creator is a biblical worldview.  Creation is splashed all over the Bible.  Any conscientious Bible reader must recognize that God is personally engaged as the Creator of all living beings.  God is engaged in human history.  He is not far removed or distant.  He acts in history and makes history.  A biblical worldview needs to recognize God’s involvement in history.

Here is another element of a biblical worldview: the entrance of sin changed everything.  Sin has penetrated every process, every relationship, every thought pattern, and every act.  Most world religions include a way of overcoming sin and finding salvation.  We pray, we pay, we do good deeds, we try to overcome—but there is no substitute for a Saviour.  We can’t work our way to heaven or pull ourselves out of the quicksand of sin by doing.  Help needs to come from outside of us.

Finally, we look at our own lives and the world around us through the lens of a cosmic conflict.  Earth has become a battle zone.  Life is not fair.  There is an antagonist who is constantly seeking to destroy and derail God’s purpose for this planet.  A biblical worldview that is informed by Scripture points us in the right direction—straight into the arms of Jesus, the everlasting God, whose commanding word spoke life into existence and whose final words on the cross—“It is finished”—have given us the ultimate clue as to how this story will really end.

Worldview transformation is tough.  A biblical worldview is countercultural and goes beyond rational acceptance and intellectual agreement.  Day by day we are hammered by media that subscribes to distinct worldviews.  Ultimately, we need God’s Spirit to effect this transformation daily.  It’s the work of a lifetime, and it requires our daily surrender.

Now let’s apply worldview principles into Adventist culture.  There is indeed statistically established proof of an Adventist culture.  A survey was recently done about various Adventist cultures and the education of our children.  The survey instrument had 13 questions that focused specifically on Adventist culture.  Respondents were asked to respond on a spectrum of “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” on such statements as: I make it a priority to keep the Sabbath day holy, both in activity and worship.  I live healthfully, which includes not eating or drinking harmful things.  In my household we prepare for the start of Sabbath on Friday evenings, both in thought and in activity.

It was found that Adventist culture can be grouped into roughly three divisions: high culture, medium culture, and low culture.  Respondents who fell into the “high culture” category answered very positively in survey questions that dealt with Adventist culture—the “strongly agree’ category.  Respondents who scored low in Adventist culture tended to put their children in non-Adventist schools.  Adventists in the “middle of the road” more often opted to put their children in Adventist schools.  Those who had high Adventist culture scores had a greater likelihood of choosing to homeschool their children.

There are profound implications from these empirical results.  Our schools are too Adventist for those in the “low culture” bracket, and not Adventist enough for those in the “high culture” bracket.  And if church members in that middle window are the ones who consistently choose Adventist education for their children, then it certainly provides one explanation for why enrollment in our schools has shrunk over the past couple decades.  Not only is Adventist culture a real and tangible thing—it is also something that has an incredibly significant impact on the choices we make and the lifestyle we lead.

POLITICAL CHOICES

Our Adventist culture also significantly impacts our political choices.  A Christian leader said recently, “We should be insisting that Christians are thinking ‘Christianly’ about politics.”  So what exactly does a “Christianly” approach to politics look like?  And could we perhaps go even further and try to describe an “Adventistly” way of engaging with politics?

As a worldwide church Seventh-day Adventists are living and worshipping under governments that span the spectrum from authoritarian regimes to well-established democracies.  Ellen White, through her writings and her example, helped early Adventists develop a balanced, careful approach.

While we, as individual church members, have the freedom and responsibility to engage in the civic affairs of our nation, our participation should never be dictated by the collective “say-so” of a political party and its agenda.  Rather, our participation should be guided by individual, prayerful consideration of public issues, looking at them through the more nuanced and authoritative lens of our faith and biblical values.

This key idea—the wholesale rejection of uncritical party loyalty and all the trappings of partisanship that come with it—should be at the heart of any attempt to define an “Adventistly” approach to politics.  Social scientists have a name for this strong tendency we humans have for “picking a team” in politics and rooting for it, come what may.  “Partyism,” motivates you, as a supporter of a particular political party, to identify so strongly with your chosen “team” that you reflexively support it.  And you do so even when some of its policies may actually run counter to some of your other deeply held values.

In other words, our political engagement begins to feel more like a game of football, in which the prime objective is to score goals and beat the other team.  This kind of blind allegiance to a specific political party is dangerous enough, but for Christians, there’s an even more insidious form of “Partyism.”

One of the most unsettling concepts in today’s political discourse is the idea of “the Christian vote.”  It’s a phrase that implies the marriage of one’s religious identity with that of a specific political agenda.  It suggests that Christians can be treated as a voting “bloc,” with political candidates courting their favor and pandering to their perceived interests.  A number of events have been held for religious leaders and advocates hosted by politicians.  The overall tone of these occasions has the faith community giving their tacit blessing to a political leader, while he or she, in turn, declares, “Don’t forget, I’m looking out for you.”  This is an especially seductive form of “partyism.”  We like to be acknowledged.  We like to feel that we have visibility and respect.  But the desire for political influence and access can sometimes corrupt in the same way as blind allegiance to a political party.

Ellen White warned against Adventists as a people being “unequally yoked together with unbelievers in political strife.” (2 SM 336,337)   Let’s remember to think “Adventistly.”  That means rejecting blind partisanship and working instead to reflect the values of His kingdom in the public space.

ELLEN WHITE

We have just referred to Ellen White’s counsel.  She had a very important dream on the night of April 30, 1871.

I took the precious Bible, and surrounded it with the several “Testimonies for the Church,” given for the people of God.  “Here,” said I, “the cases of nearly all are met.  The sins they are to shun are pointed out.  The counsel that they desire can be found here….But there are not many of you that really know what is contained in the Testimonies….The written Testimonies are not to give new light, but to impress vividly upon the heart the truths of inspiration already revealed….Additional truth is not brought out; but God has through the Testimonies simplified the great truths already given, and in His own chosen way brought them before the people, to awaken and impress the mind with them, that all may be left without excuse.”

I said further, “As the Word of God is walled in with these books and pamphlets, so God has walled you in with reproofs, counsel, warnings, and encouragements….The Lord has walled you about with light; but you have not appreciated the light.”  Consciences have been blunted, because light has been set aside, neglected, and despised.  And God will remove these Testimonies from the people, and will deprive them of strength, and humble them….

One stood by my side, and said, “God has raised you up, and has given you words to speak to the people and to reach hearts, as He has given to no other one.  He has shaped your testimonies to meet cases that are in need of help.  You must be unmoved by scorn, derision, reproach, and censure….It is Satan’s special object to prevent this light from coming to the people of God, who so greatly need it amid the perils of these last days.”  (LS 197-202)

In light of this very significant heavenly counsel to a heavily attacked prophetic voice, just as all prophets are attacked, I have come across a very current attack on her authority.  The book is Prophets in Conflict: Issues in Authority, by George R. Knight.  A recurrent expression in this book is the phrase “the Mormon Temptation.”  He states that the Mormon Temptation for Adventists is to view Ellen White’s writings the same as Scripture, as a divine, infallible commentary on Scripture, which is a misuse of her writings, according to him.

Was not Jeremiah a divine, infallible commentary on the history of Israel?  Was not Paul a divine, infallible commentary on the Old Testament?   The only other option is that Jeremiah, Paul, and Ellen White were fallible commentaries, subject to error, needing to be reinterpreted by other fallible human beings who are not inspired.  Any true prophet speaking to us for God is as infallible as the Holy Spirit when conveying God’s message to us.  The only other option is that we have no infallible guidance for what is true and how to order our lives.

Knight seems to deny that Ellen White had doctrinal authority.  He says that she has prophetic authority and even divine authority, but not doctrinal authority.  The difference between these categories is unclear.  The author is concerned that “some Adventist have placed Ellen White in the role of Joseph  Smith and given her doctrinal authority.”  He writes, “She is not a determiner of doctrine.”

However, she relates that when in the Sabbath conferences in the late 1840s the believers “came to the point in their study when they said, ‘We can do nothing more,’ the Spirit of the Lord would come upon me, I would be taken off in vision, and a clear explanation of the passages we had been studying would be given me.” (EW xxiii)   Here the Holy Spirit empowered her to determine which of the various views were correct.  This is clearly a display of doctrinal or teaching authority.

The same is true in connection with the crisis over the book The Living Temple and its pantheistic ideas.  After a long discussion, General Conference A. G. Daniells found a letter from Ellen White in which she counseled him, “As the Lord presents matters to me, these sentiments do not bear the endorsement of God.” (Letter 211, 1903)   Her letter was crucial in saving the church from pantheism.

Scripture makes no distinction between a prophet’s pastoral and doctrinal function.  Knight’s position leads to rejecting much that she has written on our doctrines.  This was the position Desmond Ford took when he rejected the investigative judgment.  This is a selective use of inspired writings.  It is exactly how the Jews in Christ’s day used the Old Testament, and it led to disaster for the whole nation.

PURPOSE OF TRIALS

During 2020, the whole world was shaken by one of the signs predicted in the Bible—pestilence.  God, our Counselor and Friend does reveal things to us beforehand, and even explains why.  “And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.” (John 14:29)   “Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.” (John 13:19)  God goes out of His way to reassure us in moments of perplexity that He hasn’t forgotten us, that He loves us, and that the trial or perplexity we’re going through hasn’t caught Him off guard.

Seventh-day Adventists have been known to search vigilantly for evidences of prophecy.  Looking at signs and identifying their fulfillment in prophecy is nothing new for Christians, especially Seventh-day Adventists.  We must ask the question, Where does our faith find its foundation?  If it is in the events of prophecy, could it be possible that when some predicted event ends up being seen differently or finds another explanation, our faith would be so shaken that we lose our grasp on all the promises we hold confidently?  Jesus has promised to never leave us or forsake us, but are we growing in Him in peace and joy every day?  Is it our fear or our faith that’s increasing?  Looking for signs can actually be a means of delaying our personal preparation, because we are waiting for the last sign before we prepare.

The foolish virgins thought themselves prepared until it was too late.  “So now, a sudden and unlooked-for calamity, something that brings the soul face to face with death, will show whether there is any real faith in the promises of God.” (COL 412)   We should be living a life that can withstand the storms of life and that doesn’t need signs to confirm it.

There is a very important reason for God allowing trials to come to us.  “And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.” (Deut. 8:2)  “The wilderness wandering was not only ordained as a judgment upon the rebels and murmurers, but it was to serve as a discipline for the rising generation, preparatory to their entrance into the Promised Land.” (PP 407)

Could it be that God is allowing 2020 to try us so that we may know what is in our hearts?  “God leads His people on, step by step.  He brings them up to different points calculated to manifest what is in the heart.  Some endure at one point, but fall off at the next.  At every advanced point the heart is tested and tried a little closer.” (1 T 187)

I will close with some crucial counsel for the final generation.  “We cannot allow ourselves to act from impulse.  We cannot be off guard for a moment….Should we come to the close of life with our work undone, it would be an eternal loss.  The life of the apostle Paul was a constant conflict with self.  He said, ‘I die daily.”  His will and his desires every day conflicted with duty and the will of God.  Instead of following inclination, he did God’s will, however crucifying to his nature….No one will be borne upward without stern, persevering effort in his own behalf.  All must engage in this warfare for themselves; no one else can fight our battles.  Individually we are responsible for the issues of the struggle; though Noah, Job, and Daniel were in the land they could deliver neither son nor daughter by their righteousness….Hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil must be overcome….We are to form habits of thought that will enable us to resist temptation.  We must learn to look upward….The precious graces of the Holy Spirit are not developed in a moment.  Courage, fortitude, meekness, faith, unwavering trust in God’s power to save, are acquired by the experience of years.  By a life of holy endeavor and firm adherence to the right the children of God are to seal their destiny.” (MH 451-454)

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