This week’s theme is “Thinking new thoughts”; however, this seems to be a bit of a misnomer. The theme of the quarter, after all, is revival—that means renovation, rather than innovation. This is explicit in Romans 12:2, one of the scriptures set for study in this week’s lesson, which urges us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. It is not so much new thoughts that are a necessity for Christians who stand in need of revival, but rather a greater currency of the older thoughts that were associated with our first conversion.
Willingness to grow and change is part of revival and reformation. There's no doubt about it. But what is revival and reformation? Has anyone defined it or do we all assume we know what it is? The introductory lesson to this quarter told us, 'Revival is all about a God of loving kindness seeking to deepen his relationship with us.'
If confession is good for the soul and for revival/reformation—here’s mine. Beware the call for unity these days in Adventism. Beware because it means there is disagreement in the house—most likely over women’s ordination--and a frustrated church leader uses the call for unity to try to bring us together. Instead, it comes across like a schoolyard reprimand. The Holy Spirit will not come unless you are united, children, so shape up and get with the program. To me, it seems to make conditional a love that was always promised as unconditional.
I can't remember when I have seen a Sabbath School lesson on confession and repentance! And that forces me to recognize further that many Adventists (along with Christians generally) believe that, experientially, these two terms are synonymous!
This has happened for several reasons: 1) Belief that we are born sinners (forgetting that sin is a choice); 2) Belief that overcoming sin is thus impossible; 3) Belief that confession is obviously a social necessity but that our Lord's death on the Cross erased our guilt which we are “confessing.”
This week’s topic is “Witness and Service: The Fruit of Revival”
We are all very familiar with the faith versus works debate. We could go back and forth forever on this topic, getting progressively more frustrated, aggressive and cemented into our own bunkers of “rightness” and still get nowhere.
Let’s be outrageous and assume that both things are important and move on.
I remember reading the first reports about the new GC President’s call for a “revival and reformation” in the summer of 2010, probably on the Spectrum site, and, to be honest, I didn’t think too much about it. It seemed such an innocent, reasonable—even obvious—call for a church leader to make, especially one just come to office. Within days, though, Ted Wilson was being denounced on the Spectrum and Adventist Today websites. I thought, “What’s so wrong with revival? How can there be such suspicion of something so basic to Christianity as revival?”
Our commentary on this week’s lesson focuses on Zechariah 14 and two lost-and-found items from our Adventist heritage that are linked with it. One is an astonishing Ellen White quotation on conditional prophecy1; the other, a seminal article from the SDA Bible Commentary that almost no one knows about, “The Role of Israel in Old Testament Prophecy.”2 All this should allow Adventists to take a fresh look at our understanding of the end of time.
We now come to visions and revelations of the Lord; for in that way God chose to speak by Zechariah, to awaken the people’s attention, and to engage their humble reverence of the word and their humble enquiries into it, and to fix it the more in their minds and memories. Most of the following visions seem designed for the comfort of the Jews, now newly returned out of captivity, and their encouragement to go on with the building of the temple.
Haggai wrote about the challenges faced by the nation of Israel in rebuilding its holy temple nearly 2,500 years ago. Yet his insights are directly relevant for today. They speak to both our liberal and conservative impulses. Chapter one calls us to leave the distractions of individualistic materialism; chapter two instructs us to set aside the enervating longing for a mythical golden age. Then, we can engage in consecrated, sustained effort to advance the kingdom of God through the building up of his church. Let us look a little more closely at both of these sections.