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“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Friend with standards

“And whosoever shall fall on this Stone shall be broken.” (Matt. 21:44). “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” (Prov. 27:6).
 
As a teenager suffering under terrible anxiety, the Lord led me to realize a powerful lesson. After nothing else I tried could resolve the anxiety, He gave me a vision. That vision said, “Christians don’t have any anxiety.” And with that nugget of wisdom came a mental picture of the perfect Christian who was also a happy Christian.
 
So, I went in search of such a Christian. But my little white clapboard church was full of church people. It seems they never knew anything different than just coming to church, and going home. They were seeking God, and might have been living up to all the light they had. But, my anxiety needed more than that.

I thought I might meet “Calvin” who my sisters had told me about when they came back from a week at the church camp, both wanting to be baptized. But, when I went to that camp the following week, Calvin was gone. In his place were silly counselors who might have done their best to be counselors, but they certainly weren’t spiritual. The week passed quickly and I got caught up in the goings-on. But when I got home and the anxiety came back, I remembered how much I had needed to meet Calvin.
 
I continued looking for the Christian I needed to heal me of anxiety, until I finally gave up and told Dad I didn’t want to go to church anymore. But, he talked me into going. That didn’t help, and I vowed that the next Sabbath I wasn’t going. He talked me into going again, and I fumed the whole way there.

That Sabbath, wonder of wonders (!), the Christian came to our church!! He had run out of money for college and came up from Tennessee to earn some more. And I almost missed the very one who I had spent a year looking for. I’m glad God is more patient with me than I am with Him.
 
I studied the Christian from afar, amazed at how he could love the Bible so much, how he could love church so much, how he could love giving his testimony and speaking with perfect diction and dressing impeccably. He even loved to sing special music. He spoke a lot of Jesus and Ellen White; and his much underlined Steps to Christ was always in his shirt pocket and brought out later to constantly teach us something of its contents.
 
Later, I could look back on that experience and analyze what created the attraction that grabbed our young hearts. Richard loved God and he loved us. He understood the science of our salvation. The youth group that suddenly sprung up was built upon that foundation, love and obedience to God, love for God and God’s Law and brotherly love.
 
Like Jesus, Richard was a friend, but more than a friend. He was a friend with standards. Subconsciously, we knew we couldn’t go wrong with that kind of friend. He was circumspect and godly, and he loved us. We could trust him perfectly because he stood for God, he was jealous for the Lord. None of the church people had his strength of consecration to God, and neither did they love us like Richard. It was obvious that real love and true consecration went together. We had living proof of it. It was very obvious.
 
Richard drew us to himself; but, the church people could take us or leave us. The church people did church and then sped home right after it was over. Richard consumed the sermons and lingered after the service ended, and then continued on with the Sabbath all day long. We would go with him to Takoma Park or campmeeting for Sabbath events, or go to the church matriarch’s house for a nice Sabbath lunch and then study the Bible together afterward. She loved to have a dozen young people in her home. She lived for it, and her home-made cooking which exemplified the health message was our first introduction to the diet of Eden. Her food was very different from what we had ever known before, and it was simple and so delicious.
 
We gave our hearts up to the Lord and He was smiling on us. We began dressing and talking and knowing the Bible like Richard. We became as happy in church, and as friendly with the church people and visitors as Richard was. Soon, the church had a full-blown home-grown revival. It wasn’t just a lot of preaching; it was love for God’s word. It was like heaven on earth. Hungry people came from miles away and the church got packed. Other churches took note and wanted to know how we did it.
 
The Lord did it.

The Lord gave Richard the right upbringing and then put him through a difficult experience before drying up his college fund. The Lord put the anxiety in me after watching a clean-cut sit-com, so that a suspenseful or scary movie couldn’t claim the cause of my anxiety. The Lord put that youth group and church revival together. And the foundation of the whole revival was friendship and standards.
 
A friend with standards. Not just a friend, but loving friendship and consecration to the Lord’s high standards.
 
The world offered all of us lots of school and neighborhood friends. But, they didn’t know God and didn’t care to. We could trust them and have some fun with them. But the fun didn’t satisfy. We thought it satisfied, until we saw something better, something more satisfying. Jesus in Richard.
 
The church offered standards. But, the church people didn’t know Jesus, and didn’t seem to care to. We could respect the church people, and listen to them. But their circumspect lives didn’t satisfy. We came to church because our parents made us come. We were living in Nazareth, out of which no good thing could come, except wounds and bruises and putrefying sores in the heart. And if it didn’t get fixed, it would become the habitation of demons, the hold of every foul spirit, and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
 
Then something more satisfying came. The combination of both worlds, the good friend and the high standards, someone who knew God, someone who had the Holy Spirit, not just pretending to. The distinction between the heart full of the Spirit of Christ and the heart empty of Him was plainly revealed.
 
We didn’t know Jesus, but we were trying to. Yet, we knew Richard. That would not be the best, but it would suffice the Lord for then. The Lord knew we wanted Him, but didn’t have the faith to come to Him. Richard, compared to Jesus, was like the Moon compared with the Sun. To us the Moon looks the same size as the Sun because it is 400 times closer, but 400 times smaller. Richard was 400 times closer to us than Jesus, even if Jesus was 400 times bigger and brighter than Richard. Jesus is the source of all light. Our brightness comes only as a reflection of His light. While Richard reflected much light from Jesus, “he was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.” (Jn. 1:8). Jesus “was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (Jn. 1:9). “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (Jn. 1:4).
 
Nevertheless as the Sun to the Moon, in the same similitude as Richard, Jesus is also a true friend with standards, since love and Law are the only true foundation. But Christ’s foundation was infinitely stronger than Richard’s could ever be. Richard’s ardor for Jesus and for us was stronger than anyone’s around us. We had never seen anything like it before. But Jesus’ ardor was much greater. Richard was anointed with the Spirit of God; but Jesus was the anointed One, “the Messiah the Prince.” (Dan. 9:25). “For God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him.” (Jn. 3:34). Richard was a living soul, but Jesus is a quickening Spirit.
 
The world has had its great teachers, men of giant intellect and wonderful research, men whose utterances have stimulated thought, and opened to view vast fields of knowledge; and these men have been honored as guides and benefactors of their race. But there is One who stands higher than they. “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God.” “No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” John 1:12, 18. We can trace the line of the world’s great teachers as far back as human records extend; but the Light was before them. As the moon and the stars of the solar system shine by the reflected light of the sun, so, as far as their teaching is true, do the world’s great thinkers reflect the rays of the Sun of Righteousness. Every gem of thought, every flash of the intellect, is from the Light of the world. Desire of Ages, p. 465.
 
Jesus had come to spend a quiet hour by the waterside. In the early morning He hoped for a little season of rest from the multitude that followed Him day after day. But soon the people began to gather about Him. Their numbers rapidly increased, so that He was pressed upon all sides. Meanwhile the disciples had come to land. In order to escape the pressure of the multitude, Jesus stepped into Peter’s boat, and bade him pull out a little from the shore. Here Jesus could be better seen and heard by all, and from the boat He taught the multitude on the beach.
What a scene was this for angels to contemplate; their glorious Commander, sitting in a fisherman’s boat, swayed to and fro by the restless waves, and proclaiming the good news of salvation to the listening throng that were pressing down to the water’s edge! He who was the Honored of heaven was declaring the great things of His kingdom in the open air, to the common people. Yet He could have had no more fitting scene for His labors. The lake, the mountains, the spreading fields, the sunlight flooding the earth, all furnished objects to illustrate His lessons and impress them upon the mind. And no lesson of Christ’s fell fruitless. Every message from His lips came to some soul as the word of eternal life.
Every moment added to the multitude upon the shore. Aged men leaning upon their staffs, hardy peasants from the hills, fishermen from their toil on the lake, merchants and rabbis, the rich and learned, old and young, bringing their sick and suffering ones, pressed to hear the words of the divine Teacher. To such scenes as this the prophets had looked forward, and they wrote:
 
“The land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali,
Toward the sea, beyond Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles,
The people which sat in darkness
Saw a great light,
And to them which sat in the region and shadow of death,
To them did light spring up.” R. V.
Desire of Ages, p. 245.
 
We caught a glimpse of the past glories during that time while Richard stayed with us. But, as the Moon grows bright and ebbs away, so the time came for Richard to go back to college. Then everything went dark again. But, this was all in God’s order.
 
We needed a brighter light. Jesus had given us the lesser light in Richard, and we had opened our hearts wide to Him through Richard. Now our faith needed to be tested and prepared for a greater dispensation of light directly from heaven. We needed to see Jesus, not Richard, as the true Light that lighteneth every man. “I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (Jn. 8:12). We needed the closest friend of all, the greatest Friend with the greatest standards—omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence. “Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in Him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.” (1Jn. 2:8).
 
Later, we ran from the Lord, but He followed us. We had given our hearts wholly to Him by giving them to His servant Richard, and our covenant was with Him. Now He would keep His claims on us, even if the devil claimed us. Like the children of Israel, His promise remained that He would never leave us nor forsake us, but bring us back safe and sound again in His Advent movement, to await His return in power and glory.
 
We might shut the door to Him, but His door remained open to us. We might try to get ourselves lost from Him. But His eye was always upon us; and still is. We gave our hearts to Him; and He doesn’t take that lightly. “For strong is the Lord God who judgeth” (Rev. 18:8) the devil.
 
“A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in His holy habitation.
God setteth the solitary in families: He bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
O God, when Thou wentest forth before Thy people, when Thou didst march through the wilderness; Selah:
The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby Thou didst confirm Thine inheritance, when it was weary.
Thy congregation hath dwelt therein: Thou, O God, hast prepared of Thy goodness for the poor.
The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.…
Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive: Thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.
Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.
He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death.
But God shall wound the head of His enemies, and the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses.” (Ps. 68:5-11,18-21).
 
In Him are the issues of life and death, of government and peace, of mercy and justice. With Him it is never justice without mercy; and never mercy without justice. “And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6).
 
In Him is the rock hard Friend with rock hard standards. He is a Friend who will bring us higher, not take us down. He will attach our hearts to His and then to His Father’s Law. Thus, He is our Savior. He is the powerful vitamin that opens the cellular door for the glucose, water, and oxygen of God’s Law to enter for strength and energy and power.
 
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder:… Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.” (Isa. 9:6,7).

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