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Talking Rock Bible Training Series 2017 Report

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“And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” – James 3:18

Our Bible Training Program here in Talking Rock, Georgia has just finished.  Already we are missing some of our brothers and sisters who have left.  We had spent 4 weeks in consistent study; what a blessing and an opportunity God has given all those here who were able to attend.  I praise God and am so grateful for the privilege.  It is such a blessing to have the freedom to get off work and the financial stability to fly out here.  I and everybody else involved are so thankful to Gary and Caroline Hullquist for being such generous hosts and for all who have been here, each has been important in the fellowship we have experienced.  I want to thank Pastor Adrian for inviting me and encouraging me to come to America and on this trip with him.  We who have stayed in the Duplex also were able to spend a lot of time with Phyllis, Angel, and Ray (and Amy sometimes), who took such good care of us and fed us so well.  Now it is only Ruben and I left here; we miss Craig, Torsten, Carlos, and Daniel very much.

The month began with many gathering for Pentecost.  What a joy it was for the brethren to meet each other.  Many had only met online, via Skype or Facebook, and to meet in person and to share one another’s testimony and to hear of how good Jesus has been to each of us was amazing.  There were visitors from Australia, Germany, Puerto Rico, Thailand, Canada, Portugal, and from all over the United States.  Many plans were made for the work going into the future.

Regarding many of the topics spoken on, forgive me as my memory is failing somewhat.  During Pentecost there were powerful testimonies given by Ruben and Craig, and Craig gave his deep study on man’s corporate salvation in Christ (I just went over the notes again the other day Craig, wow!). 

We anticipated the increased outpouring of the Spirit during Pentecost, and we also knew that the Devil would try his best to bring disunity and confusion as we entered the Feast.  There was a plea for all to cleanse their hearts and not bring evil into the camp, whether in thoughts or objects, so that nothing hindered the understanding of the messages.  This was much needed, because many of the messages given at that time were challenging.

Topics presented included the True Cross, or the constant suffering Jesus goes through because he is one with the human race, for in “all our affliction he is afflicted”.  It was urged upon us the need to purify ourselves, to study (particularly the 1888 message), and to humble ourselves before God so that we can end the burden that is upon Jesus who continues to bears “our griefs and carries our sorrows”.  It also became clear that God was leading His people through a process of allowing sin to more fully enter that we could receive more grace, and we had to expect that and be quick in prayer for the things God showed us. (Romans 5:20)

Whether they know it or not, all are weary and heavy-laden. All are weighed down with burdens that only Christ can remove. The heaviest burden that we bear is the burden of sin. If we were left to bear this burden, it would crush us. But the Sinless One has taken our place. "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." Isa. 53:6. He has borne the burden of our guilt. He will take the load from our weary shoulders. He will give us rest. The burden of care and sorrow also He will bear. He invites us to cast all our care upon Him; for He carries us upon His heart. (DA 329)

We studied the story of the Israelites coming out of Egypt, and the point was made of how difficult it was to bring them into the new covenant, for them to truly love God, and how only 2 made it into the promised land.  They continued to believe God wanted to kill them, and repentance is nowhere to be seen in the story.  This was a dramatic revelation of our character.  It indicted the way we as modern Israel are trying to make it into the promised land, that our promises and works masked a deep distrust of our Heavenly Father.  Our own repentance was nowhere near as deep God wanted. 

Human wisdom, human ability, is nothingness in God's sight. He who supposes that he is superior to his fellow men in wisdom will sooner or later reveal traits of character that are a dishonor to God…

They follow a standard of their own devising. If they would see their defective, distorted characters as they are accurately reflected in the mirror of God's Word, they would be so alarmed that they would fall upon their faces before God in contrition of soul, and tear away the rags of their self-righteousness. (‘A Call to Repentance’, RH Dec. 15, 1904)

The talks on the covenants helped us realize the relationship between old and new covenant, and how God needed to make bring to the light all our human character flaws that are a barrier to righteousness by faith and fully entering the new covenant – a process undergone by Israel for our admonition.  When the entreating of God’s spirit is rejected over and over again, like it was in the history of Israel, we see the terrible power of the Ministration of Death as Israel’s old man refused to die.  Therefore they were led, or they led themselves, deeper into darkness based on the corruption of their own mind being mirrored back to them – for how they judged they would be judged, and how they measured, they would be measured. (Matthew 7:2)  God never gave up on his people, but for man to break out of his sinful reliance on self and turn and believe in God is more difficult than we have realized.

For we see in Psalm 18: 24-27 of the cross the powerful principle of the mirror:

“Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.  With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright; With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.  For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but will bring down high looks.”

God allows us to see what we want to in the Scriptures, based on our own judgment.  Therefore if we don’t humble ourselves and plead with God to give us understanding to overcome our own carnal view of his word (for example: that it is impossible to understand, that it is full of contradictions, that there is so much killing and genocide, that the characters do wickedly, that it is a racist religion, that God plays favorites, that the Father killed his own son, that I am better than the prophets or that the prophets are demigods, that it is unfair, and all our other doubts of God’s word and purpose that lay beneath the surface of all our worship – for we are “all gone out of the way and are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one”).  This is the purpose of the Law, of His word not coming back void, the ministration of death, to manifest sin and make it conscious so that we may see it and confess it and repent of it.  For “now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” Alternately it can be read that the law works so that “all the world may become subject to the judgment of God”. (Romans 3: 12, 20)  The Laodicean state needs to be recognized.

Man is so deceived that it requires the infinite love offered in the gift of Christ for him to realize his own evil nature and his true need for the grace of God.  This is the work of the law, which works untiringly to show us our sinfulness to prepare us to accept the righteousness of Christ.  It “brings us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24)  This work of old and new covenant, this flipping between the two as we are sanctified, will continue until we are finally ready for Jesus to leave the most holy place.  No matter how far along we are in our Christian walk there will always be a time when James 1:23 applies to us: “For if any be a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.”

Against every evildoer God's law utters condemnation. He may disregard that voice, he may seek to drown its warning, but in vain. It follows him. It makes itself heard. It destroys his peace. If unheeded, it pursues him to the grave. It bears witness against him at the judgment. A quenchless fire, it consumes at last body and soul. Ed 144.5.

“The character revealed by Pharaoh is similar to that of all the impenitent. GOD DESTROYS NO MAN; but after a time the wicked are given up to the destruction they have wrought for themselves.

When a man chooses his own way in the face of light and evidence, and refuses to be admonished, and to turn to the Lord with contrition of soul, the next message the Lord shall send will have less effect, for he allows his independent, self-willed spirit to control his judgment. He continues to cast the seed of resistance into his heart, and every time he repeats his act of resistance, refusing to turn from his own way to God's way, he bends his inclination in the way of disobedience, loves rebellion, and at last becomes callous, and the seed of unbelief ripens for the harvest.” (YI, Nov. 30, 1893)

Save us Lord Jesus from destroying ourselves.  Forgive us, for we know not what we do.  Please let us see your goodness and mercy so that we can accept the grace you so lovingly offer us.  Let us truly know your pure character that we may not be like our stiff-necked forefathers in the wilderness; let us see your great self-sacrifice that we may have a perfect example of submission and thereby allowing us to be born again, and finally (finally!) come into the new covenant and be sealed with the Father’s name.

This was expanded over the course of the 4 weeks, that when the Bible says in Revelation 14:7 “The hour of His judgment has come”, God is judging us through our judgment of him – if we accept the connection to Matthew 7:2.  This was one of many difficulties some were having, especially as we got more into the Character of God, a contentious topic that is easily misunderstood if not approached at with the right foundation. 

Nevertheless, it was exciting!  Others may have come into the message with different interests, but personally, at this point in my walk, the Character of God remains the most profound of all topics, bringing all aspects of the Gospel together.  Questions the people of God have had since time immemorial are being answered.  “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Revlation 6:10)  As we studied we realized our gripes with the judgment of God were born of sin and ignorance, and as the Character of God message was preached in connection with the Covenants man’s glory was laid in the dust (Amen!) and God was “justified in his sayings, and overcame when he is judged.” (Romans 3:4)

AT Jones understood this:

“The contest is between these two spiritual powers. We have been under the power of might as against right, - the power of force. Jesus Christ brought to us the knowledge of right as against might - the power of love. We forsook the dominion and power of might as against right - the power of force; and have joined our allegiance to the power of right as against might, - the power of love. And now the contest is between these two powers, and concerning us. The contest is always between these spiritual powers. Whatever instruments may be employed in this world as the outward manifestation of that power, the contest is always between the two spiritual powers, Jesus Christ and the fallen prince. {March 3, 1895 N/A, GCB 436.2}…And he who is pledged to the principle of right as against might, and in whom that is to be demonstrated, can never appeal to any kind of might. He can never use any might whatever in defense of the power of right. He depends upon the power of the right itself to win, and to conquer all the power of might that may be brought against it. That is the secret.” {March 3, 1895 N/A, GCB 438.1}  (3rd Angels Message No. 22)

And while we are on the subject, one more quote from Ellen White:

God could have destroyed Satan and his sympathizers as easily as one can cast a pebble to the earth; but He did not do this. Rebellion was not to be overcome by force. Compelling power is found only under Satan's government. The Lord's principles are not of this order. His authority rests upon goodness, mercy, and love; and the presentation of these principles is the means to be used. God's government is moral, and truth and love are to be the prevailing power. {DA 759.1} 

God’s character was attacked over and over again during the meetings, as many misunderstood the message as an attack on the literalness of scripture and seeing in it a latent universalism.   Failing to see that the use of force on God’s part automatically makes him lose the Great Controversy, we kept wanting to prove that God is a killer.  Many would not accept that God only gives us over to our own wicked choices (He “hides his face” in grief) and that is the means whereby we die, for to accept that would lay all responsibility for our destiny on ourselves.  This was too much for many to bear, and questions like arrows were aimed at Pastor Adrian as he delivered this message.  I suggest for all to watch these historic lectures, to see how dedicated man is to the God he has created for himself.  It is terrible to realize that the forceful arbitrary judgment we want to see in the Old Testament that our carnal nature demands will be turned on us and we will be judged by that same conception.  We reap what we sow, let us not pass the responsibility off to God.  All of God’s ways are righteous, and all of man’s utterly wicked for rejecting a mercy and longsuffering we cannot, without Jesus, comprehend. 

What is justification by faith?—It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself. When men see their own nothingness, they are prepared to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. When they begin to praise and exalt God all the day long, then by beholding they are becoming changed into the same image. What is regeneration?—It is revealing to man what is his own real nature, that in himself he is worthless. E. G. White

Recopied November 22, 1896. (Special Testimonies for Ministers and Workers, Number 9, Page 62)

From this understanding we continued our Bible Training Program.  We would study all morning, have the afternoon off, and then have a meeting at night.  This we did for four weeks, trying to lay the foundation for truth to spring from.  Many difficulties and misunderstandings came up as Satan tried to insert himself into the gatherings, but as meeting after meeting went on we were led into a peace and unity that is not of man to achieve himself.  God was working mightily to help us understand these truths.  Many carried bitterness toward the church and disappointments from life into their walk with God, and these complex emotional issues also had to be worked through.  An intellectual understanding was just one aspect of the message.

“The work of restoration can never be thorough unless the roots of evil are reached.  Again and again the shoots have been clipped, while the root of bitterness has been left to spring up and defile many; but the very depth of the hidden evil must be reached, the moral senses must be judged, and judged again, in the light of the divine presence.” (Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1152)

We are Father-Son believers, but we cannot allow that to fill us with pride that we are better than our brethren, or anybody else.  The need for a relational understanding of the gospel was stressed, exalting others better than ourselves and looking to bless others rather than curse them for their refusal to see things our way.  As the meetings progressed, we came to see that the very same flaws manifested in the disciples and other characters in the Bible were existent in our own lives.  The truth was preached, and it was “sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the diving asunder of soul and spirit, and the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  Let God’s people humbly study the matter and be careful not to bring self into their analysis of the truth.

Let ministers and people remember that gospel truth ruins if it does not save. The soul that refuses to listen to the invitations of mercy from day to day can soon listen to the most urgent appeals without an emotion stirring his soul. {5T 134.1}

The Divine Pattern and its many applications were also dwelt upon over the course of the 4 weekss.  What a tool for the person who would allow himself to use it!  It allows us to see the Father as a truly loving God, having Agape for His Son whom He gave everything too.  The Son in response to this agape shows perfect trust and submission to his Father.  Both are perfectly self-sacrificing.  It was this meekness and gentleness that God so graciously gave us as we continued along.  This principle, of understanding the source and its magnification in the channel, if understood, would give us great guidance in our Christian walk.  Would that we don’t forget as we go back to our respective localities!

“There is no need of our being ignorant. James says, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not." The exhortation is given, "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." How is it possible that we may grow in grace? It is possible to us only as we empty our hearts of self, and present them to heaven, to be moulded after the divine Pattern. We may have a connection with the living Channel of Light; we may be refreshed with the heavenly dew, and have the showers of heaven descend upon us. As we appropriate the blessing of God, we shall be able to receive greater measures of His grace. As we learn to endure as seeing Him who is invisible, we shall become changed into the image of Christ. The grace of Christ will not make us proud, cause us to be lifted up in self, but we shall become meek and lowly in heart.” (Sign of the Times, January 16, 1893)

Finally, as an outsider coming into the movement, I can’t help but offer a diagnosis of what I perceive as ailing the Father-Son movement, a movement God has given great truths to and has such high hopes in.  What issue plagues the Godhead movement most?  Is it not the striving for the highest, the same problem that most troubled the disciples?  The healing of others and the teaching of his own disciples to not put themselves first, that is what Jesus spent the most time on.

Lucifer had said, “I will be like the Most High; and the desire for self-exaltation had brought strife into the heavenly courts, and had banished a multitude of the hosts of God. Had Lucifer really desired to be like the Most High, he would never have deserted his appointed place in heaven; for the spirit of the Most High is manifested in unselfish ministry. Lucifer desired God’s power, but not His character. He sought for himself the highest place, and every being who is actuated by his spirit will do the same. Thus alienation, discord, and strife will be inevitable. Dominion becomes the prize of the strongest. The kingdom of Satan is a kingdom of force; every individual regards every other as an obstacle in the way of his own advancement, or a steppingstone on which he himself may climb to a higher place. {DA 435.2}

We are all disciples of Christ, and therefore we must necessarily struggle with the same issues as the disciples.  It is natural for us to strive for greatness, it is bred in us since our childhood, through the education system, social groups, sports, and celebrity culture that lifts up some and puts down others – all based on performance.  Issues such as these are deep-seated in the heart of man, and having them drawn out and articulated is painful to us.  May God help us to continue to work through flaws and understand the relational kingdom – that we are all part of the corporate body of Christ.

God is merciful, and upon this we must lay our hope.  May we not allow Satan to cause strife among us to bring us into evil thoughts and thereby taking the whole movement, those right and those wrong, into perdition together.  Much truth needs to be built upon, and it must be done in the right spirit. 

Whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca [vain fellow], shall be in danger of the council.” In the gift of His Son for our redemption, God has shown how high a value He places upon every human soul, and He gives to no man liberty to speak contemptuously of another. We shall see faults and weaknesses in those about us, but God claims every soul as His property—His by creation, and doubly His as purchased by the precious blood of Christ. All were created in His image, and even the most degraded are to be treated with respect and tenderness. God will hold us accountable for even a word spoken in contempt of one soul for whom Christ laid down His life. MB 56.3

“Who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” “Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth.” 1 Corinthians 4:7; Romans 14:4.

“Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the hell of fire.” R.V. In the Old Testament the word “fool” is used to designate an apostate, or one who has abandoned himself to wickedness. Jesus says that whoever shall condemn his brother as an apostate or a despiser of God shows that he himself is worthy of the same condemnation. Christ Himself, when contending with Satan about the body of Moses, “durst not bring against him a railing accusation.” Jude 9. Had He done this, He would have placed Himself on Satan’s ground, for accusation is the weapon of the evil one. He is called in Scripture, “the accuser of our brethren.” Revelation 12:10. Jesus would employ none of Satan’s weapons. He met him with the words, “The Lord rebuke thee.” Jude 9. 

His example is for us. When we are brought in conflict with the enemies of Christ, we should say nothing in a spirit of retaliation or that would bear even the appearance of a railing accusation. He who stands as a mouthpiece for God should not utter words which even the Majesty of heaven would not use when contending with Satan. We are to leave with God the work of judging and condemning. (MB 57)

Let us not call each other “apostates” or “despisers of God” because we have a different understandings.  Let us do all things humbly, looking to the example of Jesus.  “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” (2 Timothy 2:23-26)  We all have moments and times when the Devil has led us astray, and we all know others whom we wish would see the light.  But let it be known that it is God who grants repentance, and it is our duty not to get in His way because of a lack of meekness on our part in how we preach the message.  God is using all of these disagreements to test our hearts – let us not be found wanting.  Let us not bring hate into our hearts and unnecessarily burn bridges.  Who knows, my brothers and sisters, when we shall see each other again?  Who knows the future, and where it will take each of us?  Some may come into the truth who were long lost, and others who were in the truth for long may be lost.  Let us not forget the lessons of 6000 years of history that God has taught us.  May we continue to pray for each other, loving our enemies, and being harmless in the face of evil like our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Our God should be regarded as a tender, merciful father. The service of God should not be looked upon as a heart-saddening, distressing exercise. It should be a pleasure to worship the Lord and to take part in his work. As the people of God meditate upon the plan of salvation, their hearts will be melted in love and gratitude. When they were lost, Christ died to save them; through the gift of the Son of God, provision has been made whereby none need perish, but all may have everlasting life. God would not have his children, for whom so great a salvation has been provided, act as though he were a hard, exacting task-master. He is their best friend, and when they worship him, he expects to be with them to bless and comfort them, and fill their hearts with joy and love. The Lord desires his children to take comfort in his service, and to find more pleasure than hardship in his work. The Lord desires that those who come to worship him shall carry away with them precious thoughts of his care and love that they may be cheered in all the employments of daily life, that they may have grace to deal honestly and faithfully in all things.

The children of God are called upon to be representatives of Christ, showing forth the goodness and mercy of the Lord. If they but revealed his goodness from day to day, barriers would be raised around their souls against the temptations of the evil one. (‘Serve the Lord with Gladness’, Jan. 14, 1890)

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

I’m getting sad now thinking how I am leaving soon.  Thanks to everybody here at Talking Rock!  Ben, God’s with you brother, look forward to meeting up with you in S. Africa. Shane and Amanda I pray for the best for your family.  Sharon I appreciate your kindness and Gracie I am excited as I think of how God will use you in the future.  Thanks to the Fosters for all the exercises, and Daniel and Lorelle for always keeping us all grounded.  I also had fun recording scripture songs with Gary and Caroline, may God continue to lead you!  Ruben, spending time with you has been hugely inspiring.  Don’t forget me if you go to Burma.  And Pastor Adrian, thank you for this great privilege to let me tag along and meet everybody!  God willing you (the reader) have been blessed and you will hear more of these reports in the future.  To everybody else I met, if you or anybody you know are coming to Thailand don’t hesitate to contact me!  I’m happy to be a tour guide!  God bless