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Sabbath School

“But the Fruit of the Spirit Is . . . Patience”

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The Sabbath School Quarterly lesson for this week comments on the December 8 Saturday introductory commentary:

Scientists did an experiment with four-year-old children and marshmallows. Each child was told by a scientist that they could have a marshmallow; however, if the child waited until the scientist returned from an errand, they would be given two. Some of the children stuffed the marshmallow into their mouths the moment the scientist left; others waited. The differences were noted.

Meekness in the Crucible

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This past August, I left home. Actually, I left college, but it sure felt like leaving home. I went to Europe with the resolution not to return until I had found some new direction, had settled a theological quandary or two, and had found the courage to begin a new chapter in my life.

On the Legitimacy of Ascribing Certain Evils to God

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She sat there in her freshman Bible class and wept. The Bible teacher had just insisted that whatever occurs is God’s will. Glory comes to God through whatever happens, even evil. She wept because her mother had brain cancer. A world where God willed such things for his glory, for the purpose of exalting his own name, perplexed and eluded her. My daughter, a classmate, came home bewildered. This kind of a God troubled her as well. As she understood God, he does not act this way.

A Life of Praise

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“…[B]ut…we know that we’re not supposed to question God.” I’m surprised whenever someone turns from expressing anguish to attempting self-restraint by means of this platitude. As a rookie chaplain, I was surprised the first time I heard it, and I still am by how frequently it comes up.

Seeing the Invisible

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While I am writing this essay, I am still under the spell of last night’s magnificent performance of the Elijah in the Marktkirche, of Hanover, Germany. Listening to the choir brought memories of past days, when as a member of the Andrews University chorus, I, too, was singing Felix Mendelssohn’s famous oratorio in the Pioneer Memorial Church. “Blessed are the men who fear Him,” “Baal, we cry to thee,” and “Thanks be to God!” These were unforgettable moments in my life, and even more so in the history of God’s ancient people.

Lights Off, House Empty

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A thoughtful Adventist academic who might prefer to remain anonymous, once gave me this sobering definition of “hope”: “Hope is what you do when you don’t have enough evidence to be optimistic.”

Struggling With All Energy

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Fighting with God over a name? The actual outcome of the struggle between Jacob and God was a name change, from Jacob to Israel. Is this the expected outcome when we commit to struggle with God? A name, your name, particularly in Hebrew, ancient near eastern ways was a key thing (that is, it defined your history, your character). Jacob meant liar, cheater, usurper, the one who deceived his brother and father.

The God Who Risks Being Misunderstood

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My early life on a farm taught me that there is only one way to control a large bull. Even an animal that is quite feisty will follow submissively if you lead him around by clipping a rod to the ring in his nose. At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work. The trick, of course, is to remain safe while you’re getting close enough to clip onto the ring, let alone getting a ring into his nose in the first place!

Seeing the Goldsmith's Face

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The year was 608 before the Common Era. Jehoiakim was king of Judah. Judah was a little jewel that the kings of the south (Egypt) and north (Syria, Assyria, and Babylon) coveted. To keep his head and his throne Jehoiakim, had to play diplomatic games with his greedy neighbors. Babylon was more than a thousand miles away, whereas Egypt was only three hundred miles away. The smart move would be to play footsy with the Pharaohs.

In Defense of Magicians and Trickery

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I am troubled by the general thesis of this week’s lesson that God purposefully leads us into situations that God foresees will cause us suffering, because God also sees how such situations may provide some greater benefit. A woman who worked with children once told me a story about one of her small clients that set forth the general tenure of my difficulty with such suggestions as well as any I have ever heard.

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