Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16
The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant. Psalm 25:14
Vol. 22, No. 7 Straight and Narrow July 2013
“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,
from whence cometh my help.” (Psalm 121:1)
This month’s articles:
The Incarnation: An Introduction
Stand Up and Move
The Nature of Conversion
West Virginia Camp Meeting
The Incarnation: An Introduction
By Allen Stump
As a preacher I am always suspicious of the person who appears to sleep during the service and then later says, “That was a great sermon.” I am wary of that because I wonder if they really heard. Jesus said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15). In this day of technology, we hear the phones ring, the text message alerts go off, and a host of other things, all wanting our attention, but we need ears to hear and what they need to hear is the word of God. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). We may need, at times, to lay aside our preconceived ideas, if they do not have a foundation in the word of God or in the Spirit of Prophecy. We may have ideas about theology that we think must be, and so we take our ideas and look in the Bible to try to prove them. We are forming our theology based upon our ideas, instead of taking the word of God and from it forming our theology. This article, along with the article in last month’s issue entitled “The Angel of the Lord,” begins a series we will be doing on the incarnation.
(Before we enter into this wonderful subject, I want to make an acknowledgment of thanks. For over a year the Lord allowed me to work closely with the late Elder William Grotheer. Perhaps no subject of theology drove him as did the study of Christ’s humanity. Often we would study and discuss this theme. I believe that there are few men living today who have even a fraction of the understanding of this doctrine that Grotheer had received by much diligent study in the Bible and in the Spirit of Prophecy. I am certainly indebted to God for the time he allowed me to spend with Elder Grotheer and to have my mind and concepts on the incarnation expanded. Ellen White wrote: “Upon every individual who has had the light of present truth devolves the duty of developing that truth on a higher scale than it has hitherto been developed” (The Review and Herald, September 21, 1897). This was one of Elder Grotheer’s favorite statements and one he tried to live by. I have tried to accept that principle as I have prepared these studies.)
The Apostle Peter wrote, “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4). He says that through the promises of the word of God, the Christian is able to be a partaker of the divine nature. The Spirit of Prophecy declares that we must be a partaker of the divine nature to be saved:
With his divinity he could grasp the throne of the Infinite, while with his humanity he could reach fallen man. It is by our humanity laying hold upon his divinity that we can be saved. We thereby become “partakers of the divine nature.” (The Review and Herald, December 30, 1909)
There is an aspect of Christ’s divine nature that is essential for us to lay hold of, if we are to partake of the divine nature and be saved. The incarnation will be a key to opening up this treasure for the believer.
The word incarnation is not found in the Bible. It’s origin comes from the Latin incarnates which is the past participle of incarnare or to incarnate, from the Latin meaning in- + carn-, caro, or in the flesh. While the word incarnate is not found in the Bible, the concept is clearly taught: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us . . .” (John 1:1, 14).” “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3).
While not in the Bible, the word incarnation registers 183 hits when searched for in the Ellen G White database of published writings, and the term incarnate registers thirty references. While many of these are duplicates or do not apply to Christ coming from heaven to live as a man, many do and enough so that we see the subject was not considered a minor concept by Ellen White.
The incarnation is described in the Bible as a mystery. Paul, writing to Timothy, stated: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Timothy 3:16). Paul says that there is a great mystery in the gospel. What is that mystery over which there should be no controversy? God was manifest in the flesh, and he is speaking about Jesus Christ, not simply a revelation of the Father manifested in the flesh of Jesus, for the one manifested in the flesh was received into glory. That is Jesus Christ, and Paul says it is a mystery.
The Greek word for mystery is musterion. In classical or ancient Greek, it was a word that meant the mysteries or secrets.
a. The word musterion is used for many mystery cults which enjoined silence on their devotees, so that our knowledge of them is fragmentary. They are cultic rites portraying the destinies of a god in such a way as to give the devotees a share in them.
b. Those who wish to participate must undergo initiation in a ceremony which embraces various offerings and purifications, which may itself be called a mystery, and which involves certain conditions and new relationships.
c. The mysteries promise initiates salvation (soteria) by the dispensing of cosmic life. (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, p. 615)
The etym. of the word is itself a mystery. Probable, though not certain, is derivation from muvein “to close” (the mouth, lips). (Theological dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 4, p. 803)
However, J. A. Robinson in his book St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, notes a change of meaning given to musterion by the New Testament writers:
The New Testament writers find the word in ordinary use in this colourless sense, and they start it upon a new career by appropriating it to the great truths of the Christian religion, which could not have become known to men except by Divine disclosure or revelation. A mystery in this sense is not a thing which must be kept secret On the contrary, it is a secret which God wills to make known and has charged His Apostles to declare to those who have ears to hear it. (St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians p. 240; all emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted)
In the New Testament, then, musterion is still a mystery that, apart from the revelation of God, we could never understand, but it is a revelation that God wills to be revealed to us.
How is the incarnation a mystery? There are certainly aspects of the incarnation we cannot, and cannot ever, understand. The how of the incarnation is infinite in depth.
How wide is the contrast between the divinity of Christ and the helpless infant in Bethlehem’s manger! How can we span the distance between the mighty God and a helpless child? And yet the Creator of worlds, he in whom was the fulness of the Godhead bodily, was manifest in the helpless babe in the manger. Far higher than any of the angels, equal with the Father in dignity and glory, and yet wearing the garb of humanity! Divinity and humanity were mysteriously combined, and man and God became one. It is in this union that we find the hope of our fallen race. Looking upon Christ in humanity, we look upon God, and see in him the brightness of his glory, the express image of his person. (Signs of the Times, July 30, 1896)
There is a great contrast between God and man, and the how the two could become one is beyond us.
In Philippians 2:6, Paul speaks of this great contrast: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” The Greek word translated form in this verse is morphç. It means “nature, [or] character” (Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek). Jesus was in very nature God. The one “whose goings forth have been from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2 margin); the one who was set up or begotten from everlasting (Proverbs 8:22–25); the one who could say, “Before Abraham was, I am”; the one who is in very nature (morphç) God now takes the form of a slave. Philippians 2:7 says, “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” The Greek word for form in verse 7 is the same word used in verse 6 (morphç). So he who had divine nature now accepts the slave nature, for the Greek root for servant is doulos which means slave. Another translation of verse 7 puts it this way:
When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! (Philippians 2:7 The Message: The Bible in contemporary language)
This is what Jesus Christ did. The how of that is beyond humanity. The Bible never expresses how this happened, other than to state that the Spirit of God overshadowed Mary and she became with child. We cannot put this into a repeatable formula or understand it, beyond accepting it as a fact. I do not usually quote the NIV, but in this case, it is very close to the Greek and puts it this way:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:6, 7 NIV)
That is a how we cannot understand. The how is a great mystery in the classical sense of musterion, but the nature he took on and the why is a very different subject. This is a mystery that God wills to be understood. In other words, the objective for which he came can be known, and the experience which he realized in humanity can be re-experienced in everyone who by faith becomes one with Jesus, and this God wills to be known, not only intellectually but also experientially. Now let us proceed to vital scriptures for understanding.
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Romans 8:9)
Paul says that if we do not have the Spirit of Christ, we are none of his, or we have no part with Christ. We are nothing without his Spirit, and Paul also writes: “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17). Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” There is something about Jesus coming to this earth that supplies life, even an abundant life, but we do not have life without him, we have nothing without his Spirit.
In John 6 we find some words of Jesus that certainly produced a lot of thought from the people. He said:
Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him” (John 6:54–56).
There is a vital union with Jesus Christ that is necessary for life, and without it we have no life.
Christ was invested with the right to give immortality. The life which he had laid down in humanity, he again took up and gave to humanity. “I am come,” he says, “that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (The Youth’s Instructor, August 4, 1898)
This is all summed up by Paul in Colossians 1:27: “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” But if we wish to receive the life Christ into our life we must not have a vague impression of the nature of “the life which he had laid down in humanity.” Ellen White told us of the importance of the incarnation, when she wrote:
When we want a deep problem to study, let us fix our minds on the most marvelous thing that ever took place in earth or heaven—the incarnation of the Son of God. God gave His Son to die for sinful human beings a death of ignominy and shame. He who was Commander in the heavenly courts laid aside His royal robe and kingly crown, and clothing His divinity with humanity, came to this world to stand at the head of the human race as the pattern-man. (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 904, — MS 76, 1903)
Jesus is the pattern-man. That is an important expression. Those who make dresses usually use patterns. A pattern is taken, and from that pattern other like dresses or items of clothing are made. If you have a pattern, it is so others can be reproduced exactly like the original. The life of Jesus Christ was a pattern so that others could be reproduced like it. When we want a deep problem to study, we should study the incarnation.
As Jesus called his disciples, he said, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19; 9:9). Today, Jesus is still saying to us, “Follow me.”
We are to follow him; we must be able to go in the path he treads. When we were children we would play the game “Follow the Leader.” Do you remember how it was played? The leader would go here and yonder, over logs, on rock steps across streams, and anywhere it might be difficult to follow. I had long legs, and I could stretch over some wide gaps that were hard for others to follow. I was asking the short followers to do something that they were not able to accomplish, but I had an ability to do something that they could not do. The question now is, “Jesus asking us to follow him, but is he walking with a longer pair of legs in a manner that we cannot reproduce?” Does Jesus have springs in his feet to allow him to jump higher than we can? Does he have an advantage to which we do not have access? The answer is plainly no. His Spirit he offers to each one so that we may “walk in the Spirit, and . . . not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
Not only was man to have an example and pattern, but the false charges of Satan because of man’s fall were also to be answered by Christ in the incarnation. On this point Ellen White also says:
After the fall of man, Satan declared that human beings were proved to be incapable of keeping the law of God, and he sought to carry the universe with him in this belief. Satan’s words appeared to be true, and Christ came to unmask the deceiver. The Majesty of heaven undertook the cause of man, and with the same facilities that man may obtain, withstood the temptations of Satan as man must withstand them. This was the only way in which fallen man could become a partaker of the divine nature. (Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 252)
Notice the phrase may obtain. Mankind, in his natural state, does not have all that is necessary to withstand the temptations of Satan, but he may obtain the same facilities that Jesus had and so overcome Satan. This is done by being a partaker of the divine nature. Christ met the battle where we may meet the battle.
The essence of Satan’s insinuation was that God was tyrannical for demanding death for the transgression of a law that man could not keep, but God did not alter his demands to meet Satan’s charges. The standard set for unfallen man and man fallen in sin was the same! On this point the following quotations are indisputable:
The conditions of eternal life, under grace, are just what they were in Eden—perfect righteousness, harmony with God, perfect conformity to the principles of His law. The standard of character presented in the Old Testament is the same that is presented in the New Testament. (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 76)
The Lord now demands that every son and daughter of Adam through faith in Jesus Christ, serve Him in [the] human nature which we now have.
The Lord Jesus has bridged the gulf that sin has made. He has connected earth with heaven, and finite man with the infinite God. (Selected Messages, bk. 3, p. 140)
God expects every son and daughter of Adam to serve him now, in the human nature we have now. There was a fanatical movement within the Indiana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists over 100 years ago. It became known as the holy flesh movement. This movement taught that believers would stop sinning before Jesus comes. Nothing wrong with that, it was a part of standard Adventism, but remember that “the track of truth lies close beside the track of error, and both tracks may seem to be one to minds which are not worked by the Holy Spirit, and which, therefore, are not quick to discern the difference between truth and error” (Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 202).
In addition to teaching victory over sin, this movement taught that the sinful nature would be, by a miracle of God, eradicated before Jesus came. Then the believer would be able to serve God after going through a Gethsemane experience. This was a terrible error. During a special session held in Indianapolis in 1901 to deal with the Holy Flesh movement, Ellen White stated:
When I am gone from here, none are to pick up any points of this doctrine and call it truth. There is not a thread of truth in the whole fabric. (G. A. Roberts, “The Holy Fanaticism,” Ellen G. White Estate, Document File #190, quoted in The Holy Flesh Movement, p. 27, William Grotheer)
E. J. Waggoner stated that “the idea of sinless flesh [in] mankind is the deification of the devil” (General Conference Bulletin, April 22, 1901). Sinful flesh is the only flesh we will have with which to fight against Satan, and it is the very flesh that Jesus accepted in the incarnation.
For Christ to meet the charges of Satan, and unmask Satan as the deceiver and at the same time to become the pattern-man for the human race, certain laws had to be met by him in his humanity. A law must not only be just in its very nature, but the application of the law must meet the requirements of justice. For example, I used to teach mathematics and I know that a teacher cannot require his/her students to perform an assignment that it is impossible for them to do. A teacher of arithmetic would not require his students to perform algebra, and an algebra teacher would not assign his/her students calculus. It would be unprofitable and unreasonable.
In other words, the ones to whom the law is applied must have the ability to meet its demands. Either, after man sinned, the law had to be changed to meet man in his new condition, or a way had to be found whereby power could be given to man to meet the law’s requirements.
Secondly, the law of equivalents becomes operative. Again by simple illustration, when a teacher is challenged by his or her students in their inability to do the work assigned, does the teacher answer this challenge by demonstrating that the teacher can do it? No! To demonstrate the justice of his assignments the teacher must show that one of the students is able to do that which was assigned. Christ clearly accepted these requirements:
He came not to our world to give the obedience of a lesser God to a greater, but as a man to obey God’s holy law, and in this way He is our example. The Lord Jesus came to our world, not to reveal what a God could do, but what a man could do, through faith in God’s power to help in every emergency. Man is, through faith, to be a partaker in the divine nature, and to overcome every temptation wherewith he is beset. (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 929)
To study the incarnation, then, is to understand how Jesus met the law of equivalence and the demands of justice. His life becomes the ladder that reaches down from heaven to earth; it is the golden chain that binds us to Jesus. The importance of this truth cannot be overestimated because it is by becoming a partaker of the divine nature that we are overcomers and inherit eternal life, and understanding the incarnation is essential for us to be a partaker of the divine nature.
In Christ divinity and humanity were united, and the only way in which man may be an overcomer is through becoming a partaker of the divine nature having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. Divinity and humanity are blended in him who has the spirit of Christ. (The Youth’s Instructor, June 30, 1892)
Ellen White says very plainly that the only way we can be an overcomer is to be a partaker of the divine nature—“Divinity and humanity are blended in him who has the spirit of Christ”—and “he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:17).
The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. It is the golden chain that binds our souls to Christ, and through Christ to God. This is to be our study. Christ was a real man; He gave proof of His humility in becoming a man. Yet He was God in the flesh. When we approach this subject, we would do well to heed the words spoken by Christ to Moses at the burning bush, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). We should come to this study with the humility of a learner, with a contrite heart. And the study of the incarnation of Christ is a fruitful field, which will repay the searcher who digs deep for hidden truth. (Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 244)
Over and beyond this, there’s a broader aspect to consider. If Christ did give this demonstration to the world and to the universe, why didn’t the conflict sees then in there? Why has the warfare been prolonged? Revelation 1:1 speaks of things “which must . . . come to pass.” Why was it necessary for certain things to take place?
There another demonstration to be made! A correct understanding of the incarnation has a definite bearing on the group Revelation calls the 144,000. Will the image of Jesus be perfectly reflected in his people or not. Can the model be reproduced? Yes it can and must!
I also saw that many do not realize what they must be in order to live in the sight of the Lord without a high priest in the sanctuary through the time of trouble. Those who receive the seal of the living God and are protected in the time of trouble must reflect the image of Jesus fully. (Early Writings, p. 71)
Can the image of Jesus be perfected reproduced in his people? Is Jesus truly the pattern-man and if not, then the plan of salvation fails.
John 1:14 says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Jesus is of course the Word (John 1:1). The word dwelt is the Greek word skenoo; “to have one’s tent, dwell:—dwell(3), dwelt(1), spread His tabernacle” (New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries). The verse could have been translated as in Young’s Literal Translation, “And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us.”
The plan of salvation will not fail however and the incarnation then becomes the basis for that righteousness by faith which permits the glory of God to tabernacle once more among men. This will be the final answer the initial charge of Satan. The incarnation is the foundation upon which rests the truth, “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
The revelation of His own glory in the form of humanity will bring heaven so near to men that the beauty adorning the inner temple will be seen in every soul in whom the Saviour dwells. Men will be captivated by the glory of an abiding Christ. And in currents of praise and thanksgiving from the many souls thus won to God, glory will flow back to the great Giver. (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 420)
The revelation of Christ’s glory will bring heaven near to man, and this beauty will be seen in every soul in whom the Saviour dwells. May he abide in each of us today. May he tabernacle in his people today, for this is the golden chain that binds us to him and from him to God.
Christ is the ladder between heaven and earth. When someone falls through thin ice on a lake or river, the standard means of rescue is to obtain a long ladder. The ladder is carefully laid upon the ice to distribute the weight, in the hope that the ice will not further break, so the one needing rescue may be reached. The ladder must be long enough to reach the victim. If the ladder is short, it fails to accomplish its purpose. But more importantly, the ladder must be strong enough. Can you imagine a ladder made of yarn? It might be long enough and light enough, but it would not be strong enough. You need a ladder that is long enough to reach both ends and is strong enough to accomplish the task. Jesus is the ladder that bridges heaven and earth, and his arm is strong in power to save.
Stand Up and Move!
By Onycha Holt
Everything moves. Plants grow toward the sun. Mammals stretch when waking. The carapace of a turtle grows ever so slowly. Blood flows through the still form of an unconscious man. Light races across the universe, sound waves awaken our ears, oceans undulate to the shores, and the earth spins on its axis.
There is nothing that does not move. Nothing. The paper you hold in your hand, though inanimate, will flutter in a breeze and will fall to the ground if released, and even when at rest, will continue to move at 67,000 mph around the sun. You may think you are sitting still as you read these words.
But, in fact, the muscles in your eyes are moving as you read, and nerve impulses are traveling from your eyes to your brain, where additional neural activity enables you to interpret these characters as words, sentences, and ideas. Your heart muscle is beating, circulating blood throughout your body. The capillaries in your lungs are extracting vital oxygen from the air you breathe. Your digestive organs are converting your most recent meal into nutrients that give you energy and renew your cell tissues. Your bones, too, are constantly taking up new calcium from your diet to build and repair themselves. Even your brain’s nervous system is in a continual state of renewal. Internally, your body is constantly in motion—if it ever stopped, you’d be dead. Indeed, you might say that the human body is designed to be a perpetual motion machine.
Gravity is the driving force behind all this perpetual motion. Colorless, odorless, tasteless, it’s something that those of us who live on Earth have always taken for granted. We cannot see it, though we learn from experience its predictable effects: childhood tumbles, car keys accidently dropped into a mud puddle, a basketball gracefully curving down toward the hoop. . . . In our physiological makeup, as in carpentry, gravity is our friend. It is gravity that enables our muscles to know they are being used, so that they can rebuild themselves. The same is true for our bones and for our nerve fibers.
Scientists have long known that plants use gravity to grow healthy roots, but nobody knew about gravity’s role in keeping the human body healthy until we had the opportunity to observe the one group of people who had ever lived without gravity—astronauts. During my thirty years of research, and during and after my time as Director of Life Sciences for NASA, solving this mystery was my passion. . . .
. . . when astronauts traveled away from Earth’s gravitational pull, those of us at NASA who were monitoring their physical health were in for quite a shock. The absence of gravity for even a few days accelerated the astronauts’ physical degeneration. We found changes in their bodies of the kind that we typically associate with aging. Could it be that living without the downward pull of gravity was actually detrimental? We observed that by merely returning to their active lives on Earth, the astronauts could quickly be restored to full fitness. It became obvious that gravity is a greater contributor to good health than anyone had previously thought. We discovered that living without gravity is like being immobilized, since leg muscles, bones, and the brain and spinal programs that regulate our movements are not longer needed and atrophy. Nothing speeds up brain atrophy like immobilization. (Joan Vernikos, Ph.D., Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, pp. viii, ix, xi; emphasis in original)
The physical inactivity that comes with illness or with sitting around all the time (and with astronauts in orbit) causes dramatic changes in our bodies. Our muscles become weaker. Heart muscle, for example, atrophies, immune systems become suppressed, and sleep is disturbed; and when you do try to increase your activity after a state of inactivity, you find that you have less stamina, that your sense of balance is off, and that you may even shuffle when you walk!
We’ve learned that as little as four days in bed is sufficient to result in a reliably measurable case of GDS [Gravity Deprivation Syndrome]. In fact, orthostatic hypotension—fainting upon standing up—and a measurable reduction in blood volume are evident within 24 hours; so is an increased loss of calcium in the urine. Markers of bone loss can be detected in as little as three to four days, and aerobic fitness can decrease by as much as 25 percent within that same time. (Ibid., pp. 31, 32)
In her research, Dr. Vernikos found that, to counteract the physical consequences which occur during the time one is bedfast, standing up several times during the day was extremely helpful.
Standing up often is what matters, not how long you remain standing. Every time you stand up, the body initiates a shift in fluids, volume, and hormones, and causes muscle contractions to occur; and almost every nerve in the body is stimulated. (Ibid., p. 33; emphasis in original)
The volunteers in one of her studies agreed to be bed-bound, but during the study were required to be out of bed periodically to stand or to walk for a small amount of time. Dr. Vernikos found that just a few two-hour sessions of gentle walking prevented the loss of calcium, the appearance of bone-loss markers, and the decrease in aerobic stamina! If you do not stand or move about a little, however, it takes longer to return to your normal status, and “the longer the period of immobilization, the longer the time required to reverse the deterioration. With very prolonged immobilization (months or even years), there is little hope of totally reversing the problem, since viable muscle tissue is converted to a fibrous state” (Harold Sandler, Joan Vernikos, eds., Inactivity: Physiological Effect, p. 196). People need to be mobile—it strengthens them just as trees are strengthened by the wind.
Just what does exercise do for us? For one thing, it builds muscle which, in turn, improves insulin sensitivity, which lowers insulin levels, and lowering insulin levels improves our metabolic state, which is what we want! (See Robert H. Lustig, M.D., Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease, page 145.)
You want to improve your insulin sensitivity—and exercise does just that. It makes you build muscle at the expense of visceral [abdominal] and especially liver fat. But you can’t see this by stepping on a scale. By improving insulin sensitivity and lowering insulin levels, exercise improves leptin signaling, thereby increasing your sympathetic tone (see chapter 4), energy expenditures, and quality of life.
And these metabolic improvements translate into disease prevention. (Lustig, p. 145; emphasis in original)
In other words,
Exercise gives insulin an extra boost. For reasons that have never been clear, exercising muscles love to take sugar out of the bloodstream. It is as if your muscles know their glycogen “batteries” are being drained by the work they are doing, so they draw in sugar to recharge them.
Using a twenty-two-day program, researchers at Laval University in Quebec found that exercise improved insulin sensitivity dramatically. Peak insulin levels after meals dropped by more than 20 percent, meaning that the body needed less insulin to do the job. (Neal Barnard, M.D., Turn Off the Fat Genes, p. 83)
Isn’t that great? But the benefits to our bodies from exercise are “relatively short-lived and have to be frequent and sustained” (Lustig, p. 148). They “decline within a day of cessation of exercise, and insulin sensitivity returns to baseline within fifteen days” (Ibid.). Whether you are heavy or slim, exercise is your “best defense against metabolic dysfunction. . . .Irrespective of weight, consistent exercise (even just fifteen minutes a day) is the single best way for people to improve their health” (Ibid., pp. 148, 149).
But some of you might think, Some people may love to exercise, but I hate it! and it is true that some of us just seem to be born Energizer Bunnies. Actually, our genes may hold the key. The muscles of endurance athletes are different than the muscles of an average person, and this can be seen under a microscope:
They [the muscles of endurance athletes] are rich in special muscle fibers, called Type I cells, which are endowed with a good blood supply—extra capillaries that bring in plenty of oxygen for energy. And that is these athletes’ secret asset. As they run down the road, their blood vessels carry the oxygen they breathe straight to their muscles to power movement, which is why they tend not to tire easily.
These Type I muscle cells also have lots of lipoprotein lipase (LPL), the enzyme we met in chapter 4 that chisels fat out of particles in the bloodstream and passes it into cells for food. As a result, these athletes’ muscles soak up fat and burn a tremendous number of calories during exercise. People with lots of Type I muscle cells are well suited to endurance sports, are slimmer than other people, and can eat more fat without putting on weight, all because their muscle cells are so eager to take in oxygen and fat from the bloodstream and turn them into energy.
The rest of us are different. If researchers take a sample of an average person’s muscle tissue and examine it, they find mainly Type II cells, which have fewer capillaries, are less able to take on oxygen, and are more susceptible to fatigue.
The type of cell that predominates in your muscle—Type I or Type II—is not a matter of choice. It is, in large part, genetic. Not surprisingly, these genetic traits determine your athletic aptitude. Muscle samples from endurance runners are more than 60 percent Type I cells. Short-distance sprinters, on the other hand, have less than 30 percent Type I cells. It was not the sport that changed their muscles. Rather, the type of muscles they were born with guided their choice of sport. No matter how long and how hard you train, a Type II muscle cell does not turn into a Type I, or vice versa, according to the best evidence science can muster. (Barnard, Turn Off the Fat Genes, pp. 95, 96)
But there is hope for Type II people. “Believe it or not, you can change your muscle fibers to make up for what is missing in your chromosomes. While exercise will not turn Type II cells to Type I, it will do the next best thing. If you start an exercise program and stick with it, it will increase the number of capillaries reaching each muscle cell by as much as 40 percent within a few months. The lazy Type II cells will become almost as vigorous as Type I’s. . . . The muscle type changes begin when exercise becomes rigorous and regular” (Ibid., pp. 96, 97).
Now let’s talk about habits for a moment, for many people start an exercise program, only to give up soon after starting. To understand habits, we must look at our brains.
If you picture the human brain as an onion, composed of layer upon layer of cells, then the outside layers—those closest to the scalp—are generally the most recent additions . . . When you dream up a new invention or laugh at a friend’s joke, it’s the outside parts of your brain at work. That’s where the most complex thinking occurs.
Deeper inside the brain and closer to the brain stem—where the brain meets the spinal column—are . . . structures . . . [that] control our automatic behaviors, such as breathing and swallowing, or the startle response we feel when someone leaps out from behind a bush. Toward the center of the skull is a golf ball sized lump of tissue . . This is the basal ganglia . . . (Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit, pp. 13, 14)
And research with rats learning a new maze pattern revealed exploding activity in the basal ganglia, but the activity decreases as the rats learn the maze: “As each rat learned how to navigate the maze, its mental activity decreased. As the route became more and more automatic, each rat started thinking less and less” (Ibid., p. 15). Running the maze to find the treat at the end was becoming a habit, and within a week the basal ganglia was nearly silent—the rat had hardly to think at all—and this seems to be how we form habits also. Even complicated operations, such as driving a vehicle, repeated often enough, will become habits, and (here is the scary part) old habits never die.
“We’ve done experiments where we trained rats to run down a maze until it was a habit, and then we extinguished the habit by changing the placement of the reward,” Ann Graybiel, a scientist at MIT who oversaw many of the basal ganglia experiments, told me. “Then one day, we’ll put the reward in the old place, and put in the rat, and . . .the old habit will reemerge right away. Habits never really disappear. They’re encoded into the structures of our brain, and that’s a huge advantage for us, because it would be awful if we had to relearn how to drive after every vacation. The problem is that your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits, and so if you have a bad one, it’s always lurking there, waiting for the right cues and rewards.”
This explains why it’s so hard to create exercise habits, for instance, or change what we eat. Once we develop a routine of sitting on the couch, rather than running, or snacking whenever we pass a doughnut box, those patterns always remain inside our heads. By the same rule, though, if we learn to create new neurological routines that overpower those behaviors—if we take control of the habit loop—we can force those bad tendencies into the background . . .And once someone creates a new pattern, studies have demonstrated, going for a jog or ignoring the doughnuts becomes as automatic as any other habit.
Without habit loops, our brains would shut down, overwhelmed by the minutiae of daily life. People whose basal ganglia are damaged by injury or disease often become mentally paralyzed. They have trouble performing basic activities, such as opening a door or deciding what to eat. They lose the ability to ignore insignificant details—one study, for example, found that patients with basal ganglia injuries couldn’t recognize facial expressions, including fear and disgust, because they were perpetually uncertain about which part of the face to focus on. Without our basal ganglia, we lose access to the hundreds of habits we rely on every day. (Ibid., p. 20)
“Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. . . .When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically” (Ibid., pp. 17, 20; emphasis in original). To start a new habit of exercise in the morning, for example, it will help to place a cue the evening before that will remind you to jog in the morning, such as leaving your exercise shoes by the bed. And exercising can have hidden benefits:
When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, often unknowingly. Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. It’s not completely clear why. But for many people, exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change. “Exercise spills over,” said James Prochaska, a University of Rhode Island researcher. “There’s something about it that makes other good habits easier.” (Ibid., p. 109).
When you exercise regularly, you benefit yourself and others in extra ways. Exercising, however, isn’t the only keystone habit:
Studies have documented that families who habitually eat dinner together seem to raise children with better homework skills, higher grades, greater emotional control, and more confidence. Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget. It’s not that a family meal or a tidy bed causes better grades or less frivolous spending. But somehow those initial shifts start chain reactions that help other good habits take hold. (Ibid.; emphasis in original)
But keystone habits aren’t the only thing involved in resisting old habits and starting new ones. Willpower comes into play; however, we all know on some days we have more willpower than on other days, or do we?
Some evenings he [a postgraduate student studying willpower] would come home from work and have no problem going for a jog. Other days, he couldn’t do anything besides lie on the couch and watch television. It was as if his brain—or, at least, that part of his brain responsible for making him exercise—had forgotten how to summon the willpower to push him out the door. Some days, he ate healthily. Other days, when he was tired, he raided the vending machines and stuffed himself with candy and chips. (Ibid., p. 135)
The student, Muraven, decided the only way to solve his problem was to run a test in the lab with
. . . one bowl of freshly baked cookies and one bowl of radishes. The room was essentially a closet with a two-way mirror, outfitted with a table, a wooden chair, a hand bell, and a toaster oven. Sixty-seven undergraduates were recruited and told to skip a meal. One by one, the undergrads sat in front of the two bowls.
“The point of this experiment is to test taste perceptions,” a researcher told each student, which was untrue. The point was to force students—but only some students—to exert their willpower. To that end, half the undergraduates were instructed to eat the cookies and ignore the radishes; the other half were told to eat the radishes and ignore the cookies. Muraven’s theory was that ignoring cookies is hard—it takes willpower. Ignoring radishes, on the other hand, hardly requires any effort at all.
“Remember,” the researcher said, “eat only the food that has been assigned to you.” Then she left the room.
Once the students were alone, they started munching. The cookie eaters were in heaven. The radish eaters were in agony. They were miserable forcing themselves to ignore the warm cookies. Through the two-way mirror, the researchers watched one of the radish eaters pick up a cookie, smell it longingly, and then put it back in the bowl. Another grabbed a few cookies, put them down, and then licked melted chocolate off his fingers.
After five minutes, the researcher reentered the room. By Muraven’s estimation, the radish eaters’ willpower had been thoroughly taxed by eating the bitter vegetable and ignoring the treats; the cookie eaters had hardly used any of their self-discipline.
“We need to wait about fifteen minutes for the sensory memory of the food you ate to fade,” the researched told each participant. To pass the time, she asked them to complete a puzzle. It looked fairly simple: trace a geometric pattern without lifting your pencil from the page or going over the same line twice. If you want to quit, the researcher said, ring the bell. She implied the puzzle wouldn’t take long.
In truth, the puzzle was impossible to solve.
This puzzle wasn’t a way to pass time; it was the most important part of the experiment. It took enormous willpower to keep working on the puzzle, particularly when each attempt failed. The scientists wondered, would the students who had already expended their willpower by ignoring the cookies give up on the puzzle faster? (Ibid., pp. 135, 136)
What do you think?
From behind their two-way mirror, the researchers watched. The cookie eaters, with their unused reservoirs of self-discipline, started working on the puzzle. In general, they look relaxed. One of them tried a straightforward approach, hit a roadblock, and then started again. And again. And again. Some worked for over half an hour before the researcher told them to stop. On average, the cookie eaters spent almost nineteen minutes apiece trying to solve the puzzle before they rang the bell.
The radish eaters, with their depleted willpower, acted completely different. They muttered as they worked. They got frustrated. One complained that the whole experiment was a waste of time. Some of them put their heads on the table and closed their eyes. One snapped at the researcher when she came back in. On average, the radish eaters worked for only about eight minutes, 60 percent less time than the cookie eaters, before quitting. When the researcher asked afterward how they felt, one of the radish eaters said he was “sick of this dumb experiment.”
“By making people use a little bit of their willpower to ignore cookies, we put them into a state where they were willing to quit much faster,” Muravan told me. “There’s been more than two hundred studies on this idea since then, and they’ve all found the same thing. Willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle, like muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things.
Researchers have built on this finding to explain all sorts of phenomena. Some have suggested it helps clarify why otherwise successful people succumb to extramarital affairs (which are most likely to start late at night after a long day of using willpower at work) or why good physicians make dumb mistakes (which most often occur after a doctor has finished a long, complicated task that requires intense focus). “If you want to do something that requires willpower—like going for a run after work—you have to conserve your willpower muscle during the day,” Muraven told men. “If you use it up too early on tedious tasks like writing emails or filling out complicated and boring expense forms, all the strength will be gone by the time you get home. (Ibid., pp. 135–137)
So, what do we make of this because we have been told that “everything depends on the right action of the will” (Ellen White, The Ministry of Healing, p.176)? Let us read on, and we will find the answer:
Desires for goodness and purity are right, so far as they go; but if we stop here, they avail nothing. Many will go down to ruin while hoping and desiring to overcome their evil propensities. They do not yield the will to God. They do not choose to serve Him.
God has given us the power of choice; it is ours to exercise. We cannot change our hearts, we cannot control our thoughts, our impulses, our affections. We cannot make ourselves pure, fit for God’s service. But we can choose to serve God, we can give Him our will; then He will work in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus our whole nature will be brought under the control of Christ.
Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in the life. By yielding up the will to Christ, we ally ourselves with divine power. We receive strength from above to hold us steadfast. A pure and noble life, a life of victory over appetite and lust, is possible to everyone who will unite his weak, wavering human will to the omnipotent, unwavering will of God.
Those who are struggling against the power of appetite should be instructed in the principles of healthful living. They should be shown that violation of the laws of health, by creating diseased conditions and unnatural cravings, lays the foundation of the liquor habit. Only by living in obedience to the principles of health can they hope to be freed from the craving for unnatural stimulants. While they depend upon divine strength to break the bonds of appetite, they are to co-operate with God by obedience to His laws, both moral and physical. (Ibid.; all emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted)
Brothers and sisters, there is a difference between will and willpower—the first is the mental choice we make to either serve God or Satan, and when we make the choice to surrender all to God, then God empowers us, praise the Lord, to accomplish his will. The second is the impoverished attempt by man to apply himself, with his own strength, to any given project. On his own, he is doomed to failure at some point. At first he may succeed, but when the stress level increases, when his patience wears thin, when his reserves have been drained at the office or on other tasks, then crankiness, unkindness, impatience, and murmuring will set in. We’ve all seen this happen, perhaps even in our own homes.
Another question researchers wondered about was if the exercise of willpower would make willpower grow and become stronger, the same way using dumbbells strengthens muscles. So a couple of researchers designed a few tests. One was to send some self-professed couch potatoes to the gym to get in better physical shape, and the researchers found that “the more time they spent at the gym, the fewer cigarettes they smoked and the less alcohol, caffeine, and junk food they consumed. They were spending more hours on homework and fewer watching TV. They were less depressed” (Duhigg, p. 138). In case these results were because exercise just makes people happier and had nothing to do with willpower, the researchers designed another test—a four-month money management program in which the participants set savings goals, denied themselves luxuries, such as going to restaurants and to movies, and had to write down every purchase they made.
People’s finances improved as they progressed through the program. More surprising, they also smoked fewer cigarettes and drank less alcohol and caffeine . . . They ate less junk food and were more productive at work and school. It was like the exercise study: As people strengthened their willpower muscles in one part of their lives—in the gym, or a money management program—that strength spilled over into what they ate or how hard they worked. Once willpower became stronger, it touched everything. (Ibid., pp. 138, 139)
Their last study involved enrolling students in a program that focused on creating study habits. The results were the same—as the so-called willpower muscles were strengthened, good habits seemed to spill over into other parts of the life. The benefit is that “people get better at regulating their impulses. They learn how to distract themselves from temptations. And once you’ve gotten into that willpower groove, your brain is practiced at helping you focus on a goal,” said Todd Heatherton, a researcher at Dartmouth who has worked on willpower studies (quoted by Duhigg on page 139).
These findings do not contradict what we know about the right action of the will. There is a cooperation between God and man—first we surrender, then God empowers us, then we use that power to do what is right. After our wills are surrendered to God, the power to do obey is supplied us, but we still have to do the action, and that is where a righteous willpower comes in to play. The willpower of a non-Christian can be developed to a point, but it will always fail in the end because the power comes from man and not from God.
Now back to exercise—physical activities that are not usually considered exercise are also beneficial to our health.
Non-exercise activity is a different kind of activity than what we normally picture as exercise. It is “the multitude of small, low-intensity movements we make throughout the day as we go about the business of living—movements that are related to using gravity. These are movements that occur naturally throughout the day when you’re doing activities other than sitting” (Vernikos, p. 34; emphasis in original), and they “are the key to health” (Ibid.)! If we are inactive by choice, we are no longer working against the force of gravity and have, instead, surrendered to the relentless pull of gravity by settling for long periods of time into a chair or bed during our waking hours. Our muscles become weaker which results in “damaging oxygen peroxides, resistance to insulin, accumulation of fatty triglycerides inside the muscle, and a reduced protection by antioxidants” (Ibid., p. 35). A simple correction for these negative consequences is not to take an antioxidant pill, but to resist gravity—to stand up and stretch and to do the normal, everyday activities required of us; in other words, to move, not intensely for an hour or two at the gym, but in a low-key manner throughout the day. This does not mean that you never sit and rest, just that you do not stay there, and if you are tied to a desk at work, stand up periodically, reach for the ceiling, and move around, and while seated, do little things that work against gravity, such as raising your lower legs, moving your feet around, and raising your shoulders. There is a place for aerobic exercise, for resistance training, and for focused flexibility maneuvers, but these are not activities that can be sustained throughout the day; whereas, low-intensive movements can be maintained and will greatly benefit our overall health.
Too much sitting is bad for you! Knowing this, you might think that the solution would be to spend more time standing—but this is not so. Workers in the retail trade or others whose job includes six hours a day standing often suffer from varicose veins, as well as foot, hip, and knee joint problems. It is developing the . . . habit of standing up often, changing your position relative to gravity, that is the most beneficial way of using gravity. (Ibid., p. 45)
Movement is an integral part of God’s plan for us, and he has given work to us as a blessing:
Christ worked at the carpenter’s trade, and helped to support the family, and in this He has forever set his seal that work is a blessing. Useful employment of all the physical powers is essential for health. It is honorable, praiseworthy, approved and blessed of God. To every man God has given his work. (Ellen White, The Gospel Herald, January 1, 1899)
Even before sin entered our world, work was instituted as a blessing:
To the dwellers in Eden was committed the care of the garden, “to dress it and to keep it.” Their occupation was not wearisome, but pleasant and invigorating. God appointed labor as a blessing to man, to occupy his mind, to strengthen his body, and to develop his faculties. In mental and physical activity Adam found one of the highest pleasures of his holy existence. And when, as a result of his disobedience, he was driven from his beautiful home, and forced to struggle with a stubborn soil to gain his daily bread, that very labor, although widely different from his pleasant occupation in the garden, was a safeguard against temptation and a source of happiness. Those who regard work as a curse, attended though it be with weariness and pain, are cherishing an error. The rich often look down with contempt upon the working classes, but this is wholly at variance with God’s purpose in creating man. What are the possessions of even the most wealthy in comparison with the heritage given to the lordly Adam? Yet Adam was not to be idle. Our Creator, who understands what is for man’s happiness, appointed Adam his work. The true joy of life is found only by the working men and women. The angels are diligent workers; they are the ministers of God to the children of men. The Creator has prepared no place for the stagnating practice of indolence. (Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 50)
Exercise Affects the Brain
If we do not move, our bodies will deteriorate. Physical exercise is not, like defensive driving or long-term financial planning, an option, and it should not be looked upon as something that may be good, but not absolutely essential, for inactivity has a detrimental effect on every area of our body. For one, exercise affects our brains:
People who exercise regularly have physical differences in their brains that can be seen on special brain scans. The hippocampus—the brain structure that is key for memory—is enhanced by any sort of exercise that gets your heart going. That appears to be true regardless of your age. And as the years go by, people who exercise are much less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or have a stroke compared with their couch potato friends. Much as we might like to slip into a life of lazy leisure, the impressive power of exercise is going to lure us into breaking a sweat. (Neal D. Barnard, MD, Power Foods for the Brain: An Effective 3-Step Plan to Protect Your Mind and Strengthen Your Memory, p. 101)
If you’re not convinced, let me describe what science has shown:
Researchers at Columbia University invited a group of young (twenty-one to forty-five years of age), out-of-shape volunteers to start an exercise program. Everyone got his or her choice of a treadmill, bicycle, StairMaster, or elliptical trainer and was asked to exercise for forty minutes, four times a week for twelve weeks. The researchers then scanned their brains using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The scans indicated that their brains were actually building new blood vessels and new brain cells—not just anywhere but specifically in the hippocampus. The more physically fit the participants became, the more brain changes they had, and the stronger they performed on cognitive tests.
“But I’m not twenty-one years old!” you might be saying. Well, it looks like exercise works in the same way—or even better—for older people. In fact, it may actually reverse the gradual age-related shrinking of your brain.
Researchers at the University of Illinois recruited fifty-nine adults—all were over age sixty and sedentary—for an exercise program. Three times a week, the research volunteers got together for aerobic exercise, that is, activities designed to boost the heart rate (e.g., running, step exercises), as opposed to weight-lifting or stretching exercises that don’t quicken your pulse.
After six months, the researchers measured the size of everyone’s brains. Using MRI, they measured their gray matter—that is, the part of the brain made up mostly of brain cells (think of it as the business part of the brain). They also measured their white matter, which is made up mostly of axons—long wirelike processes extending from one brain cell to another. White matter is the collection of fibers that keep various parts of the brain and nervous system in communication with each other.
Then they compared the results to MRIs done before the exercise program began. It turned out that after six months, the exercisers’ gray matter was larger than before, especially in the frontal lobe areas essential for memory and attention. Their white matter was larger, too. The part of the white matter that had increased in size was the part of the brain that allows the right and left halves to communicate.
In a later study, researchers zeroed in on the anterior hippocampus, which typically shrinks about 1 to 2 percent per year as we age. The researchers asked 120 older adults to start a simple walking program and tracked the size of the hippocampus in each person as the study went along.
Three times a week, the participants went for a walk. For the first week, the walks were just ten minutes long but were designed to be brisk enough that the participants’ pulses noticeably increased. They then lengthened the walking sessions by five minutes each week, until they reached forty minutes in length. They then kept up the forty-minute walks and included five minutes of stretching before and after each walk.
MRI scans showed that, yes, exercise reversed the gradual brain shrinking that comes with age. That is, it increased the size of the anterior hippocampus. And, in the process, their memory performance improved, too. (Ibid., pp. 101–103; emphasis in original)
God communicates to us through our nervous system, so we need to keep it in the best of health:
The brain nerves that connect with the whole system are the medium through which heaven communicates with man and affects the inmost life. Whatever hinders the circulation of the electric current in the nervous system, thus weakening the vital powers and lessening mental susceptibility, makes it more difficult to arouse the moral nature.
. . . right living depends on right thinking, and . . . physical activity is essential to purity of thought. (Ellen White, Education, p. 209)
You can help your brain work well with a good diet that keeps your arteries clear and the blood running smoothly to and throughout your brain, and you can help also help the brain by exercising. “As your heart gets pumping, your brain starts laying down new connections between cells” (Barnard, Power Foods for the Brain, p. 104) because aerobic exercise increases the amount BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) in your brain, and this is important because “BDNF tends to be lower in people with Alzheimer’s disease” (Ibid.).
The same things that kill the body kill the brain, which neuroscientist Mark Mattson, of the National Institute on Aging, sees as a positive. “I think the good news—if we take it seriously—is that many of the same factors that can reduce our risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes also reduce the risk for age-related neurodegenerative disorders,” he says. The measures we would take to guard against diabetes, for example, also balance insulin levels in the brain and shore up neurons against metabolic stress. Running to lower our blood pressure and strengthen our heart also keeps the capillaries in the brain from collapsing or corroding and causing a stroke. Lifting weights to prevent osteoporosis from devouring our bones releases growth factors that make dendrites bloom. . . .
The mental and physical diseases we face in old age are tied together through the cardiovascular system and metabolic system. A failure of these underlying connections explains why people who are obese are twice as likely to suffer from dementia, and why those with heart disease are at far greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia. Statistically, having diabetes gives you a 65 percent higher risk of developing dementia, and high cholesterol increases the risk 43 percent. We’ve had the medical proof that exercise protects against these diseases for decades, yet, according to the CDC, about a third of the population over sixty-five reports that they engage in no leisure-time activity. My hope is that if you understand how exercise can protect your mind, you’ll take it to heart. (John J. Ratey, MD with Eric Hagerman, Spark, p. 220)
Exercise also has a profound effect on our skeletal system:
During prolonged immobilization (and weightlessness), skeletal bone structure is demineralized through the accelerated urinary excretion of calcium leading eventually to a loss of bone strength. This phenomenon is seen not only during exposure to weightlessness, but also with inactivity, bed rest studies, and prolonged clinical immobilization. Although clinical immobilization removes the weight-bearing strains from bones and joints and therefore is useful for orthopedic problems, it also results in bone demineralization over the long term. . . . With continued loss of body calcium salts, a true state of osteoporosis occurs. (Sandler & Vernikos, pp. 195, 196)
Osteoporosis afflicts twenty million women and two million men in this country. More women every year die from hip fractures—a vulnerability of osteoporosis—than from breast cancer. Women reach peak bone mass at around thirty, and after that they lose about 1 percent a year until menopause, when the pace doubles. The result is that by age sixty, about 30 percent of a woman’s bone mass has disappeared. Unless, that is, she takes calcium and vitamin D (which comes free with ten minutes of morning sun a day) and does some form of exercise or strength training to stress the bones. Walking doesn’t quite do the job—save that for later on in life. But as a young adult, weight training or any sport that involves running or jumping will counteract the natural loss. The degree to which you can prevent the loss is impressive: one study found that women can double their leg strength in just a few months of weight training. Even women in their nineties can improve their strength and prevent this heartbreaking disease. (Ratey, p. 236)
Using weights and resistance training twice a week “is critical for preventing and counteracting osteoporosis: even if you do all the aerobic training in the world, your muscles and bones will still atrophy with age” (Ibid., p. 241).
A Tufts University study of women fifty to seventy years old showed that those who participated in strength training for a year added 1 percent of bone density in their hips and spine, while the sedentary group lost 2.5 percent of the density in those areas. (Ibid.)
Wow! Dear sisters, let’s find some way to consistently do resistance training to build and to maintain our bone density. Dr. Barnard has this to say about calcium and osteoporosis:
Osteoporosis is a serious problem, particularly for Caucasian women after menopause. But it is not usually due to not getting enough calcium. Rather, it is a problem of abnormally rapid calcium loss. Calcium passes from the bones into the blood, filters through the kidneys, and is lost in the urine. The factors that affect this calcium drain have been identified, and they might surprise you. (Barnard, Turn Off the Fat Genes, p. 136; emphasis in original)
Barnard then lists the factors affecting calcium drain: “Animal protein is a major culprit in the loss of calcium from bones, and avoiding animal protein completely can cut calcium losses dramatically. Sodium is aggressive in encouraging calcium loss via the kidneys. . . . Go easy on the caffeine. . . . Don’t smoke. . . . Regular physical activity helps keep your bones strong . . . Your bones also like a little sun. . . . If you rarely see the sun, you will need a vitamin D supplement” (Ibid., pp. 136, 137). And you should know that the “healthiest calcium sources are green leafy vegetables and legumes, or as some people say, ‘greens and beans’” (Ibid., p. 139). And here is a visual picture of bones with osteoporosis:
In people who have the misfortune to suffer from osteoporosis, bones do not merely become thinner, they begin to look more like Swiss cheese as they lose their density. These osteoporotic holes in bone become filled with fat, as does the bone marrow. (Vernikos, p. 39; emphasis supplied)
Starting an Exercise Program
We hope you are beginning to see the need to move more, and if so, please keep in mind Dr. Barnard’s advice for starting an exercise program: Follow a healthy diet; be medically evaluated before starting if you are over forty, if you have any health problems, or if you are significantly overweight; start out slowly; and use a program that includes aerobics, resistance, and flexibility. (From Barnard, Power Foods for the Brain, pp. 105–107, 112, 113)
Other Effects of Inactivity
Other changes in our bodies occur when we are inactive. After a period of bed rest, early alterations are seen in fluid levels and in electrolytes. Most of the twenty-four hour rhythms of the body show a major shift after people are confined to bed for significant periods, and “this is particularly the case for thyroid function or in the rhythms of most other endocrine variables” (Sandler & Vernikos, p. 197). A loss of tolerance to stress has been noted, perhaps due to “tissue hypoxia and increased pooling in the limbs” (Ibid.). This decrease in the oxygen content of the blood also predisposes one to a greater tendency toward intravascular clotting. A slowing of EEG waves has been reported in healthy individuals during prolonged bed rest, and prolonged inactivity or immobilization has “also been observed to result in mental disturbances. The monotony of prolonged bed rest can affect not only psychosocial responses but also central nervous system function” (Ibid., p. 198), including symptoms of “withdrawal, regression, lack of energy, decreased mental capacity, and exaggerated or inappropriate reactions to external conditions” (Ibid.). So, if you have a loved one confined to bed for a prolonged period of time, it would be important to offset these symptoms, even though it can only be done to a limited degree, with
. . . sensory stimulation, projects designed to improve motor and brain function, and exercise. These have all been used during long-term spaceflight. Soviet cosmonauts who were exposed to both weightlessness and confinement for very prolonged periods (up to 237 days) experienced a number of the symptoms of deterioration just outlined However, the receipt of stimulating material from earth transported by unmanned space vehicles and the visits of manned crews for a week or so greatly improved their outlooks. (Ibid., pp. 198, 199)
And some people who have awakened after spending a significant period of time in a comatous state have remarked that, while unconscious, they were aware of the visits paid them, of being read to, of being touched, etc.
Does this add to your understanding on why it is important to visit those imprisoned and those in the hospital, as noted by Jesus: “I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me” (Matthew 25:36)?
The findings of research personnel and clinicians have demonstrated that no single human physiological system remains unchanged following prolonged periods of inactivity or immobilization. Under these conditions, the various systems deteriorate to a lesser or greater degree and according to different time sequences. (Ibid., p. 8)
Today in Naperville School District 203
Neil Duncan is a physical education teacher at Naperville Central High School in Chicago and 7:10 in the morning was not the ideal time to get his freshmen students moving, but here they were in the old cafeteria-turned-cardio-room that was filled with treadmills and stationary bikes.
“OK, once you’re done with your warm-up, we’re going to head out to the track and run the mile,” he says, presenting a black satchel full of chest straps and digital watches—heart rate monitors of the type used by avid athletes to gauge their physical exertion. “Every time you go around the track, hit the red button. What that’s going to do—it’s going to give you a split. It’s going to tell you, this is how fast I did my first lap, second lap, third lap. On the fourth and final lap—which will be just as fast if you do it right—” he says, pausing to survey his sleepy charges, “you hit the blue button, OK? And that’ll stop your watch. Your goal is—well, to try to run your fastest mile. Last but not least, your average heart rate should be above 185.” (Ratey, p. 9; emphasis in original)
The Naperville District has nineteen thousand students, and they have become some of the fittest and some of the smartest in the nation, through the efforts of this experimental physical conditioning program that tries to determine if working out before school will give the students a boost in reading ability and in the rest of their subjects.
The notion that it might is supported by emerging research showing that physical activity sparks biological changes that encourage brain cells to bind to one another. For the brain to learn, these connections must be made; they reflect the brain’s fundamental ability to adapt to challenges. The more neuroscientists discover about this process, the clearer it becomes that exercise provides an unparalleled stimulus, creating an environment in which the brain is ready, willing, and able to learn. Aerobic activity has a dramatic effect on adaptation, regulating systems that might be out of balance and optimizing those that are not—it’s an indispensable tool for anyone who wants to reach his or her full potential.
Out at the track, the freckled and bespectacled Mr. Duncan supervises as his students run their laps.
“My watch isn’t reading,” says one of the boys as he jogs past.
“Red button,” shouts Duncan. “Hit the red button! At the end hit the blue button.”
Two girls named Michelle and Krissy pass by, shuffling along side by side.
A kid with unlaced skateboarding shoes finishes his laps and turns in his watch. His time reads eight minutes, thirty seconds.
Next comes a husky boy in baggy shorts.
“Bring it on in, Doug,” Duncan says. “What’d you get?”
When Michelle and Krissy finally saunter over, Duncan asks for their times, but Michelle’s watch is still running. Apparently, she didn’t hit the blue button. Krissy did, though, and their times are the same. She holds up her wrist for Duncan. “Ten twelve,” he says, noting the time on his clipboard. What he doesn’t say is “It looked like you two were really loafing around out there!”
The fact is, they weren’t. When Duncan downloads Michelle’s monitor, he’ll find that her average heart rate during her ten-minute mile was 191, a serious workout for even a trained athlete. She gets an A for the day. (Ratey, pp. 10, 11)
And at the end of the semester, Michelle and her early morning classmates “will show a 17 percent improvement in reading and comprehension, compared with a 10.7 percent improvement among the other literacy students who opted to sleep in and take standard phys ed” (Ratey, p. 11).
The goal of physical education at Naperville is to teach fitness and health, rather than to teach how to play various sports, which is laudable, but what exactly is fitness? Is it something we gain from a trainer at the gym?
The Call for Fitness
With the rise of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1700s, man moved from the country to the city, from an agrarian lifestyle to an urban one, which resulted in the debilitating effects of being stuck in an office, in a factory, or in a shop all day long. Man was experiencing civilization! The New York Stock Exchange was also created (in 1792), and the contented shepherd became the calculating stockbroker. Children began to be employed. Pure air and sunshine were exchanged for the confines of four walls, the simple diet of the farmer was replaced with the poor foods of the city, and by the 1800s, health reformers were beginning to emerge, Sylvester Graham being one of the first. He was a temperance-advocating Presbyterian minister, who denounced meat-eating as a most injurious habit, who developed the Graham cracker in 1829 (one of the first American health foods), and who was a proponent of vigorous exercise. Sound familiar? John Harvey Kellogg also adopted similar principles at the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Soon other people developed a new type of gymnastics using weight machines and before long, physical training became a class at Harvard. Health reform was on the move. The health left behind at the pioneer homesteads was being sought and is still being sought today.
Fitness combines being physically fit (having muscles that are strong and that endure) with a healthy lifestyle; in other words, fitness includes not only the condition of our physical bodies, but also the quality of our lives, and it is possible to be physically fit and at the same time have a poor lifestyle. But not for long, which is why Dr. Lustig, Dr. Barnard, and others, promote positive changes across the board that involve more than one aspect of our lives.
We, who should be the head and not the tail, have known for a long time about the true fitness that establishes health of body, mind, and spirit—“Pure air, sunlight, abstemiousness, rest, exercise, proper diet, the use of water, trust in divine power—these are the true remedies” (White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 127).
Movement Is Important
A number of years ago a man came to see Dr. Henry Link, a very famous doctor in New York. He was despondent and discouraged. He had lost his job, nobody cared to associate with him, and even his own family did not seem to want him anymore. The only thing he could think of doing was to commit suicide. He thought first he would see what the doctor would advise, so he told him all his troubles. Dr. Link said, “Your work has been very sedentary. You have developed your mind but not your body. I will give you a program of manual work, and soon you will be feeling better.”
The man replied: “I don’t like manual work; I don’t want to work.”
Dr. Link replied, “If you don’t get that body to work, you will soon lose your mind.” He did his best to dissuade him from committing suicide, but all the man would say was, “I don’t want to work; I want to commit suicide.”
At last almost in exasperation the doctor said, “All right, then, commit suicide, but don’t blow your brains out, or hang yourself, or jump over a bridge; do something out of the ordinary. If you could not get into the headlines of the newspaper while you were alive, do something heroic and commit suicide in a he-man way and get into the headlines when you die.”
The man said, “That sounds interesting. What do you have to suggest?”
The doctor said, “I have never yet heard of man running himself to death. If you want to get into the headlines, run around the block until you drop dead, and every newspaper will have it on the front page.”
The poor despondent man said, “That is what I am going to do.”
He went home, wrote a letter of farewell, dressed in . . . [running clothes], and started running; and he ran and ran, but he could not drop dead. He got so tired that he could hardly lift one foot after another, and at last he said, “I will have to finish this off tomorrow night.” He went back home, and he slept better than he had slept for a long time. The next night he began running around the block, and round and round he went. But he couldn’t drop dead. He got so tired he couldn’t move another inch, and so he went back to bed and slept, and the next morning he was as hungry as a horse. The next night when he was getting ready to run, he said, “I feel better than I have felt for a long while. I don’t think I am ever going to drop dead.” And that man literally ran himself back again to life and health and strength. (Eric B. Hare, Fullness of Joy, pp. 175–177)
But you do not need to run to start feeling better—walking is a wonderful way to move:
Nature’s fine and wonderful mechanism needs to be constantly exercised in order to be in a condition to accomplish the object for which it was designed. The do-nothing system is a dangerous one in any case. Physical exercise in the direction of useful labor has a happy influence upon the mind, strengthens the muscles, improves the circulation . . . When the weather will permit, those who are engaged in sedentary occupations, should, if possible, walk out in the open air every day, summer and winter. The clothing should be suitable, and the feet well protected. Walking is often more beneficial to health than all the medicine that can be prescribed. . . . for it brings all the muscles into exercise. (Ellen White, Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, p. 100)
May you find great joy as you seek to improve your lifestyle, and we pray your eyes will dim not nor your natural force abate.
The Nature of Conversion (Making A U-Turn)
By Allen Stump
Apples can be easily converted into applesauce by simply cooking them and then squeezing them through a colander. If you have flour, salt, honey, applesauce, and yeast in the right proportions you can convert these ingredients, via a mixing and baking process, into bread. Through the process of metamorphosis, a caterpillar is converted into butterfly. The word convert is defined thus:
“Convert” cause to change in form, character, or function: production processes that converted raw material into useful forms.
[ no obj. ] change or be able to change from one form to another: the seating converts to a double or two single beds.
ORIGIN Middle English (in the sense ‘turn around, send in a different direction’): from Old French convertir, based on Latin convertere ‘turn around,’ from con- ‘altogether’ + vertere ‘turn.’ (New Oxford American Dictionary)
When a person repents of his or hers sins, there is a fundamental change in the life. True repentance results in a turning from sin and an inner renewal which can only be brought about by God, who draws people to himself and who, through Jesus Christ, gives forgiveness and new life. This conversion involves turning to God. In Deuteronomy 4:30–31,we read:
When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.
We are required to turn to the Lord. We must turn away from our old lives to a new life. The work of John the Baptist was prophesied to be a work of turning people towards the Lord God:
And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1:16–17)
The root Greek word that is translated turn is epistrephô; which is translated turn, but is also translated eight times in the New Testament as convert, converted, or converteth. In the chart below we see how epistrephô is translated. One of those places is Luke 22:32, where Jesus tells Peter: “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” The Greek word translated converted is epistrephô.
As humans we have two eyes in the front of our faces, so our ability is best focused forward and in one direction. Despite multi-tasking today in computers, we were designed to focus in one area and in one direction at a time. Prior to turning to God, the sinner is focused upon the world which is 180 degrees away from God. This means that when one turns to God, he or she has to turn away from sin which manifests itself in many ways. One sin that God over and over pleads for his people to leave is idolatry. When Barnabas and Paul were about to be worshiped as gods, Paul said:
Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn (epistrephô) from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein. (Acts 14:15)
We translate the word epistrephô as turn, but it could have been translated repent; “repent from these vanities unto the living God.”
Speaking to Israel Samuel said, “If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 7:3). Israel was counseled to return because they had been with God at one time but had left him.
Paul praised the believers in Thessaloniki because they had turned from idols to serve God and his Son. “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned [epistrephô] to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10).
This turning in the believer’s life is well-illustrated by the Ephesian Christians. Some had been involved in what we would call today magic, witchcraft, or the occult. They had books containing the secrets and procedures for these satanic arts of magic. These books were small scrolls of papyrus on which were written oaths or curses. Estimates differ widely today over the cost of the scrolls, depending upon the value understood for the drachma, but estimates range up to $35,000, a tremendous amount for that time.
God calls upon his people to turn from their sinful ways. “Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets. Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the LORD their God” (2 Kings 17:13–14). God called upon Israel and Judah to turn from their evil, but he says that they did not turn, but were like their fathers who lacked faith to believe in God.
We are told: “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6–7). We are to seek God and turn to him, for there will be a day when we will not be able to turn to him. If we will turn to God, the promise is that “he will abundantly pardon.”
The Bible says that “Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz . . . he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD; he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin: but he walked therein” (2 Kings 13:11). Jehoash failed to turn away from sin. God pleads with his people, “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live” (Ezekiel 18:23)?
True conversion is a change of heart, of thoughts and purposes. Evil habits are to be given up. The sins of evil-speaking, of jealousy, of disobedience, are to be put away. A warfare must be waged against every evil trait of character. Then the believing one can understandingly take to himself the promise: “Ask, and it shall be given you.” Matthew 7:7. (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 95)
Conversion as a Turning Away from Unbelief to Faith
God’s command to turn to him and away from sin is linked in the Bible to repentance. For example, in Acts 3:19 we read: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” The Greek word for converted is epistrephô which we have seen means to turn or to change. The Greek root word for repent is metanoeô, and it means to change one’s mind or purpose. When you change your thinking, you will change the way you turn and go. We see repentance and turning, or being converted, together in other texts, as well:
Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. (Ezekiel 14:6)
Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. (Ezekiel 18:30)
But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. (Acts 26:20)
To repent, though, one must have faith. Of the early believers it is said: “And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned (epistrephô) unto the Lord” (Acts 11:21). “Believed” is simply a verb for having faith. The great number had faith, and so they turned or were converted.
Conversion Brings New Life
Conversion brings a new life to the believer. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). To be a new creature requires a new creation. The ESV renders the text, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”
The Bible stresses the idea that conversion results in a new person. Romans 12:2 says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” We are to have new mind, the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Paul, summing up his epistle to the Galatians, says:
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. (Galatians 6:14–15)
You may not have ever heard of Jacob DeShazer. He was born November 15, 1912, and died March 15, 2008, living to the ripe age of ninety-five, but you might have heard of his boss, Colonial James Doolittle. Doolittle is best remembered for a daring bombing raid he led during WWII.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Americans were down and discouraged. President Roosevelt believed that a direct attack upon Japan would serve to not only unsettle the now confident Japanese, but to bolster up the Americans, as well. But how could this be done? A bold plan was designed where an aircraft carrier would be equipped with especially equipped B-25 Mitchell bombers. The planes would go as far towards Japan as the carrier could safely take them, and they would take off of the carrier, though it had never been done before, and mount a surprise attack at points in Tokyo and other areas.
Originally the plan called for fifteen planes to carry bombs and a sixteenth plane to photograph the mission. But when the carrier was discovered by Japanese aircraft, the plan was changed to send all the planes equipped as bombers, and they had to leave much farther away than planned. They knew that they could not carry enough fuel to return to the carrier so the plans called for the planes to turn towards China after the mission and try to find landing areas there. So, on April 18, 1942, the planes took off.
Jacob Daniel DeShazer was on the sixteenth plane. When DeShazer left the carrier, he was an atheist, believing in no God. During the air attack his plane was hit by Japanese anti-aircraft fire, and he and his crewmates were forced to bail out. He was captured and imprisoned by the Japanese and thought certainly his life was approaching the end. He saw two of his companions shot by a firing squad and saw another die of slow starvation. During the long months of imprisonment, he had time to ponder the meaning of life. Why did the Japanese hate him and why did he hate them? He began to recall some of the things he had heard about Christianity. Boldly, DeShazer asked his jailers for a Bible. At first they wildly laughed, as at a good joke. Then they became ugly and warned him to stop making a nuisance of himself. Yet DeShazer kept asking for a year-and-a-half. Then in May of 1944, a guard finally brought him a Bible, flung it at him, and said, “Three weeks you have. Three weeks, and then I take away.” True to his word, in three weeks the guard took the Bible away, and DeShazer never saw it again. In those three weeks, however, there was intensive searching, meditating, and delving into the meaning of life and humanity’s ultimate destiny. During those three weeks a change came about; he found Christ. Later DeShazer was released from Japanese captivity and returned home, and in 1948, he, his wife, and infant son were on their way back to Japan as missionaries, all because he had asked for a Bible and a Japanese guard had given him one for three weeks. He had searched the Scriptures and found life. What a beautiful story of a man’s life turning around.
The good news is that the story does not end there. DeShazer wrote a tract entitled I Was a Prisoner of Japan. Mitsuo Fuchida read the tract in 1950 and became a Christian. Who was Mitsuo Fuchida? He was the pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor! DeShazer and Fuchida became close friends and even preached together as Christian missionaries in Japan. Fuchida would spend the rest of his life as a missionary in Asia and the United States. Thus was proven the truth of Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
Conversion Is Symbolized in Baptism
Conversion is symbolized in baptism. The old life has died and been buried and a new life is to begin. Paul speaks of this symbolism in Romans 6:3, 4: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
Within Adventism many tend to have an aversion to the word sacrament, due to the connotation it carries from Catholicism. The term sacrament, though, simply means a religious ceremony. Ellen White used the term three times in a positive manner in her book The Desire of Ages on pages 655, 659, 660. Interestingly the early Christians called baptism a sacramentum which is the Latin word for the Roman soldier’s oath of absolute devotion and obedience to his general. In baptism we are giving an oath of absolute devotion and obedience to Christ in that we have turned our backs on the world and forever renounced the former ways.
To fulfill this oath demands a new lifestyle. “Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually” (Hosea 12:6). After Jacob DeShazer read the Bible, he began to treat his Japanese captors with respect and kindness, for he was now a changed man and had turned from hatred to love. The Holy Spirit was now in DeShazer’s life, and the fruit of the spirit was now working in his life as love, peace, long suffering.
Conversion Brings a New Relationship with God
To achieve the statue of saint within the Catholic Church, four different stages must be achieved. Firstly the person must be accepted for consideration, whereby they are called servant of God. Then the person must gain the title of venerable. After that the person is blessed, or goes through the process of beatification. Proof of one miracle is needed for beatification. If another miracle can be documented, then the pope can consider the person for sainthood, and this does not happen usually until at least five years after the person dies.
The process in the Bible is quicker and simpler. It is simply to turn from the world to Jesus Christ and be born again. In both the Old and the New Testament, the believers are called saints.
He [God] will keep the feet of his saints. (1 Samuel 2:9)
O love the LORD, all ye his saints: for the LORD preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer. (Psalm 31:23)
I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. (Daniel 7:21, 22)
To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7)
For they [the wicked suffering under the plagues] have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. (Revelation 16:6)
Turning away from sin towards God brings a new status to the believer. He is now a saint of God and a child of God. “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:7). Not only are we heirs, but we are “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). Paul explains that this status is based on faith in Christ.
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26–29)
John boldly declares that believers becomes “the sons of God” (1 John 3:1), and Peter says that the believers are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
This new status brings not only the privilege of being a son of God, a saint of the most high, but it also brings enlightenment to the believer. Receiving the spirit of God brings a new understanding to spiritual things which before were incomprehensible. Paul writes:
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. (2 Corinthians 3:12–16 ESV)
Conversion Is a Work of God
A vital point that must be understood is that we cannot change ourselves. Even if a person, apart from God, could know of his need to turn from sin and to change his ways, he alone, is powerless to do anything good. Jesus said, “Without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). But God takes it upon himself to draw us and to change us, if we simply surrender to him. He has promised:
And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart. (Jeremiah 24:7)
This is a wonderful promise, but it is given upon the condition that we surrender to him with our whole heart. A half-hearted surrender will avail nothing.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezekiel 36:26–27)
At the beginning of this study, we talked about converting apples to applesauce. Yet this example, while illustrating a process of conversion, cannot properly illustrate biblical conversion because it is an illustration that uses the same raw material before and after the process. Applesauce may be changed and appear and even taste differently than apples, but it is the same basic substance. In biblical conversion, however, God has to start with the equivalent of cold stone and produce warm flesh from it. That is a miracle that only God can perform! He offers us the chance of being born again:
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (John 3:5–8)
Ellen White writes about conversion and our children, but the principles she mentions apply to all children from two to ninety-two.
In working for the conversion of our children, we should not look for violent emotion as the essential evidence of conviction of sin. Nor is it necessary to know the exact time when they are converted. We should teach them to bring their sins to Jesus, asking His forgiveness, and believing that He pardons and receives them as He received the children when He was personally on earth. (The Desire of Ages, p. 515)
Every good gift comes from God (James 1:17), and James says that he begat “us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (v. 18). Through the word we are begotten as new creatures. Peter says, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Peter 1:23).
Cooperating with God
In the great work of redemption, man has been privileged to have an opportunity to work with God for the salvation of others, and this work is worthy of man’s best efforts:
For the conversion of one soul we should tax our resources to the utmost. One soul won to Christ will flash heaven’s light all around him, penetrating the moral darkness and saving other souls. (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 22)
If we would humble ourselves before God, and be kind and courteous and tenderhearted and pitiful, there would be one hundred conversions to the truth where now there is only one. (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 189)
You may have not heard of John Rowlands. He later changed his name to Henry, Henry Stanley, and became involved in journalism. In 1871 the New York Herald sent Henry Stanley to Africa in search of the missionary David Livingstone, who was long overdue back in England. During his search, Stanley endured unbelievable hardships but finally found the explorer in central Africa, where he spent four months with him. When Stanley went to Africa, he was a conceited and confirmed atheist. Livingstone’s influence of gentleness, genuineness, goodness, and zeal, however, won Stanley. Stanley became a Christian, saying, “I was converted by him, although he had not tried to do it.”
As we turn away from sin to God through faith and repentance, we become new creatures through Jesus Christ, and we walk in the newness of life. Our status is changed from being poor beggars, perhaps harlots or drug dealers, and we turn from being lost souls to children of God. We make a U-Turn upward. Beloved, Satan will work hard to stop us from following God, but God and his help is greater. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). May we turn to God today, never to return to the things of the world. “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).
Youth’s Corner — When It Was Unsafe to Read the English Bible
(This month we continue a series based upon the book Youthful Witnesses by W. A. Spicer, published in 1921. This month’s story is from chapter 8.)
Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart. (Jeremiah 15:16)
The young people named in this chapter had no more need to suffer themselves to be troubled about religion than had thousands of others of their time, save that they loved the truth of God, which did not allow them to deny their religion at the command of men. The Protestant religion had for a time been established in England as the religion of the state. Then the multitudes were, perforce, Protestant. Now came the Catholic Queen Mary, and the multitude attended mass again.
It was perilous not to do so. Bishop Bonner, of London, and others like him, had everywhere agents spying upon those who did not conform to the religion established by law. This bishop’s name stands for heartless cruelty. He it was who took Thomas Tomkins, the godly weaver, by the hand, and held the hand over a candle of three or four wicks, till the sinews burst, just to show him how the fire at Smithfield would hurt if he persisted in denying the mass. The old weaver said afterward that “his spirit was so rapt that he felt no pain,” and without a fear he went to the stake in Smithfield market square.
Not a few young people followed the older confessors in those troubled times. Young John Leaf, a candle maker’s apprentice, nineteen years old, answered before Bonner in London, and died at the same stake in, Smithfield with John Bradford, the Oxford scholar. Rose Allin, a girl of twenty, was brought before a magistrate in Colchester. He took a candle, no doubt in imitation of the London bishop, and burned her hand on the back till the sinews cracked, all the time saying, “Wilt thou not cry? wilt thou not cry? “She told him she thanked God that he himself had more cause than she to cry.
Among the five men and five women of Colchester who were condemned together at that time, was another girl of twenty, Elizabeth Folkes, who at the stake said: “Farewell, all the world! farewell, faith! farewell, hope!” and taking the stake in her hands, said, “Welcome, love!”
Along with the report of young people who were made strong to endure, it is good to note also deliverances that youth experienced. Such a story of these times is told of a young woman named Bascome.
At Richmond, near London, she attended church at her mother’s request, but was noticed not to turn to the east and bow with the congregation at the proper place in the ritualistic service.
Suspected heretics were being burned all about. She was marked by the church warden and constable as a probable heretic, and was cited with her mother to appear next day before them at Kingston, across the river Thames. Foxe tells how the Lord delivered her from them:
The next day, according as they were assigned, they came to Kingston to appear before the aforesaid officers, who at the time (as it chanced) were going over the ferry, and meeting them by the way, saluted them by their names; but at that time had no further power to speak unto them. Afterward, as they [the officers] were in the boat going over, they knocked their hands, stamped, and stared, lamenting that they had let them so pass their hands.
The ferryman told the story afterward. The officers had intended to bring that young woman to trial, and here they had met her as she came in response to their orders, and now they had let her pass, unable to carry out their purpose of apprehending her. The young woman, taking advantage of their helplessness, went on to London with its crowds; and so, says Foxe, “escaped their cruelty through the secret working (no doubt) of the Lord, who in all His works, and evermore, be praised. Amen.”
But people in general were the same then as in every age. They were working for a living, busy with buying and selling, toiling and pleasuring. The most convenient way to get on was to do in religion as others did. Why should the Lord require any one to do things that are inconvenient? London, crowded within its ancient gates, was even then a bustling, noisy city. Working for a silk weaver in Coleman Street, was William Hunter, one of the army of apprentice lads who scolded the clerk of Bow-bells church if he rang the bells too early in the morning or too late at night. Once they nailed up a notice on the door of the Bow-bells church on Cheapside, with the warning:
Clerk of the Bow-bells,
With thy yellow locks,
For thy late ringing
Thy head shall have knocks.
As mischievous and rollicking as the other apprentices, apparently, was our youth of Coleman Street. According to the ballad story of Canon Langbridge,
He would hoax and coax the passing folks
His master’s silks to buy;
In many a rub his club would drub
To the roaring rescue cry.
He dreamed his dreams in the garret beams;
He lounged and larked in the lane;
And often his hap was a taste of the strap,
Or the singing, swinging cane,
To heighten growth and brighten sloth,
And keep him hearty and fain.
His name I tell, — now mark it well,
Ay, heedfully write it down:
Apprentice of London Town:
There is never a nobler name than that;
Treasure it proudly; lift your hat
To Hunter of London Town.”
At nineteen William began to read an old brass-clamped Bible that he had brought from home,
The price of the book was shillings four:
Ere all was over, the price was more
To Hunter of London Town.
As Hunter read, he determined that he could no longer go to mass; but closer and closer came the pressure now for every one to go to church. When the young man told his master that he was done with masses, the master ordered him home. Said he:
Ye may singe your wings, if ye so incline,
I’ll take good heed that ye singe not mine.
So back to his home at Brentwood, just outside London, came Hunter. In the parish church at Brentwood he one day found a Bible chained to the reading post, and stood reading it. Some one saw him, and called the vicar from a near-by alehouse.
“Sirrah,” the priest said, “who gave thee leave to read in the Bible?”
“I will read the Scriptures (God willing) while I live,” the youth replied.
“Ah,” sneered the priest, “a godly youth,
And a learned, I’ll be bound,
Ready and fit all Holy Writ
Most weightily to expound.”
“Nay, sir, not I,” he made reply;
“I read for the peace I have found.”
“Boy,” said the priest, “ye may burn for this;
Do ye covet a red renown?” . . .
“Nay, sir, no traffic have I with fame;
But I’ll read my Bible all the same,”
Said Hunter of London Town.
Hunter fled after that into the country, and the authorities sent his father to find him. The father tried not to find him, but one day accidentally met him in a country lane. The father begged his boy to flee away, and said he would report he could not find him. But Hunter said, “Father, I will go home with you, and save you harmless, whatsoever cometh of it.”
At last he was brought before the terrible Bonner, bishop of London, who threatened and ridiculed and cajoled him.
“You will be burned ere you be twenty years old,” the bishop said, “if you will not yield yourself better than you have done yet.” “God strengthen me in his truth,” answered Hunter.
“Water and bread,” the bishop said,
“Will bring proud stomachs down,
Apprentice of London Town.
I wot your sickness is heavy and sore,
Yet my prison hath cured worse case before,
Young Hunter of London Town.’
Nine months and a day in gaol he lay,
Eaten of rot and cold;
Yet he stood again at the bishop’s bar;
And his look was firm and bold.
Said Bonner, “Enough! I like thy stuff;
Good steel is in thy blade;
Boy, I will give thee forty pound
To set thee up in thy trade;
Recant to me in secrecy,
And all the dust shall be laid.”
“I cannot deny God’s verity,
Nor shuffle my burden down,”
Apprentice of London Town.
They carted him down to Brentwood Cross;
They led him on to the pale;
Meeting him there his parents were,
With looks that did not quail.
“God bless and keep thee, William, my son!”
Up spake his father loud;
Beside her boy with a solemn joy
His mother walked in the crowd;
“That I bare and bred such a son,” she said,
“I am full happy and proud.”
“Tis only a little pain,” quoth he,
“And that good hope will drown” —
Apprentice of London Town.
He lifted his skirt with a firm content,
And steadily on to the stake he went —
Young Hunter of London Town.”
At the stake young Hunter knelt and read the fifty-first psalm. He said, “Pray for me while you see me alive, good people, and I will pray for you.” To his mother he said, “For my little pain which I shall suffer, Christ hath promised me, mother, a crown of joy. May you not be glad of that, mother? “And the mother, kneeling, said, “I pray God strengthen thee, my son, to the end.”
The agents of the church abused him with their tongues as they prepared the fagots. William, looking up, prayed: “Son of God, shine upon me.” “And immediately,” says Foxe, “the sun in the element shone out of a dark cloud so full in his face that he was constrained to look another way; whereat the people mused, because it was so dark a little time afore.”
As the fire was lighted, this youthful witness called out, “I am not afraid,” and with the prayer, “Lord, Lord, Lord, receive my spirit,” he bowed his head into the smoke and flame and died — a working lad — for the Saviour who died for him.
Tasty Recipe — Simple Waffles
The following recipe is for simple whole wheat waffles and is makes a good breakfast when topped with fruit such as berries, peaches or your favorite fruit. Vary the recipe by substituting ½ cup of buckwheat or other flour for ½ cup of the whole wheat flour. We have found Prairie Gold flour to make excellent waffles.
Mix all ingredients until mixture is thin and cook in hot waffle iron until throughly done. When removing the waffles if you place them between two towels for a few minutes they will be softer if you prefer that texture.
Camp Meeting Announcement
If you did not make it to camp meeting we will be broadcasting most of the meetings. See smyrna.org for details.
YouTube Channel Update: Since last month we have added several new videos including two featured below. To access all of our video presentations please go to :http://www.youtube.com/user/swiftkayak?feature=mhee
Available upon request or at:
You may watch the video “Growing Trees,” which teaches a spiritual
Old Paths is a free monthly newsletter/study-paper published monthly by Smyrna Gospel Ministries, HC 64 Box 128-B, Welch WV 24801-9606. U.S.A. It is sent free upon request. The paper is dedicated to the propagation and restoration of the principles of truth that God gave to the early Seventh-day Adventist pioneers. Duplication is not only permitted, but strongly encouraged. This issue, with other gospel literature we publish, can be found at our web site. The url is: http://www.smyrna.org. Phone: (304) 732-9204. Fax: (304) 732-7322.