Utilizing the Gifts in 2014
During the past few days, I would imagine that many of you received gifts from spouses, parents, siblings, friends, employers, fellow employees, or charitable organizations. Possibly, some of the gifts were unnecessary. It is also likely that there were individuals who may not have received any gifts. Be it so or otherwise, how can these gifts impact attitude, behavior, decision and the like? What can be expected of those who did not receive any gifts? If we focus simply on these special occasion-gifts, my intention for this article will be missed, as I am not referring to gifts purchased but gifts endowed and entrusted by the Greatest Giver, God. God does not overlook anyone; and that you will discover as I reference a Biblical parable (The Parable of The Talents) recorded in Matthew 25:14-30, to make three basic points.
No One Is Without a Gift
The Parable of the Talents explains that each of the three servants received talents, endowments or gifts, even if just one. This clearly underscores that God does not exclude anyone from His list. The Apostle Paul confirms this fact in 1 Corinthians 12:7 where he states, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.” However, Paul further clarifies in Romans 12:3-6 that God gives people gifts according to their ability and in ways for which they are to function; and these are not limited to natural abilities but also acquired skills, talents and opportunities as suggested by the original word for talents or gifts. So what is the point? Whether you recognize it or not, your Heavenly Father has gifted you! Given this reality, shouldn’t everyone seek to identify what are his or her gifts? Doing so will not only confirm a sense of value, usefulness and meaning, but it will also create wealth and expand opportunities for others.
Gifts Are to Be Utilized
God expects that we use what He has given to us, no matter how small or insignificant the gift/s may seem. But apart from gifts, remember that I pointed out earlier that opportunities are included. For instance, He gives all of us a 24-hour period each day. He gives us life. He gives us family and friends. He gives us influence, positive reputation, and the benefit of His word. How are you utilizing or availing yourselves of these? Going back to the Parable of the Talents, it states that the person who received 5 talents went out and traded them and therefore gained 5 more. This was also the case of the second servant who received 2 and gained 2 more. In each case, they did something and therefore they were blessed.
With a brand new year upon us, we, too, are being given the opportunities to not just recognize what we possess but to embrace possibilities. Notwithstanding that one may have been trained for a certain field, if there is no opening, he or she should be willing to go into another area, or accept an entry position, but never compromising himself or herself for gain. In the process of being open and willing, you are likely to discover other talents and opportunities God has in store for you. I can think of persons who were laid off, but instead of being angry with the boss or company, they prayerfully sought guidance and were inspired to engage in their own businesses; and now they are successful with many employees and making significant contributions in building their nation.
How are you utilizing your 24-hour period? Has it occurred to you the wonderful friends that you have? What about your ability to make people laugh, your ability to speak, sing, write, cook, sow, construct, repair, to trouble shoot problems, lift heavy items and play an instrument? These did not come by chance; God has gifted you. It is about time you utilize and expand on them. There are natural and acquired abilities. Personally, in 1976, I would not have imagined myself as a pastor or a leader of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. However, as I recall, God strategically placed persons in my path to point out what I did not see --as well as opportunities that necessitated that I do certain things that would hone the talents He planted in me. Imagine if I had not been willing to follow and go in His direction, I would not have grown and be where I am today. You, too, can realize God’s purpose for your life.
Gifts Carry Responsibility
As noted in the parable of the Talents, the Master who went away returned and required a reckoning of his talents or gifts. Likewise, God will one day require us to provide an account of our faithfulness in utilizing that with which He has endowed us. We will all have to answer to Him one day. In the case of the parable, God commended the first two servants for their faithfulness and gave them the same “well done” pronouncement. This shows that God does not reward for equal giving but equal sacrifice. The bottom line is faithfulness. Accordingly, should we not endeavor to prove more faithful in using what we have, as opposed to wishing for what we do not have? Therefore, there is no need to envy or grudge another, as God has gifted each of us. We need to discover our gifts and faithfully employ them. Thereby, we would be empowered; and as a result, crime is likely to trend down. Also, by extension, our country is likely to be a better place; but we must begin utilizing the gifts we have now, and thereby 2014 will be a banner year for you.
Where Is the Joy?
The spate of senseless killings, rapes, robberies and untimely deaths on our streets have resulted in the question, “Where is the joy?” Admittedly, this time of the year ought to be one of joy, glee, laughter and happiness; but apart from crime, many other challenges are confronting our people: joblessness, reduced income and illness (terminal and otherwise) -- not to mention marital and family issues that are plaguing our land. Therefore the question, “Where is the joy?” is echoed.
Joy Is Constant
The Bible makes no fuss about it as it simply and unapologetically declares that joy – remarkable joy, wonderful joy, unbelievable joy, real joy has come to this world with the birth of Jesus. Consider the saying of Luke 2:10: “Do not be afraid,” says the angel, “for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” The angel of the Lord adds, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Joy is tied to Christ. His first coming brought joy; His death on Calvary manifested a matchless love; His resurrection assures us of a sound resurrection hope as penned by Bill Gaither, “Because He lives I can face tomorrow.” Additionally, the fact that He is in heaven interceding for men and women provides an ongoing reason for celebration and rejoicing. In fact, I am reminded of some of His final words to His disciples, “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the ages” (Matthew 28:20). Furthermore, I reference the well-known John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” These declarations constitute joy even in the midst of all the ills, disappointments and issues of our land. We sure do need it!
Are You for Real?
Christians are accused of offering “a pie in the sky” or speaking of some future bliss, but truth be told people are hurting now, and they need answers today. How does this Christ message apply? The Christ message could not be more relevant. After all, the Bible says, “He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15). Do you know of anyone like that? For South Africans and many others, Nelson Mandela who sacrificed personal freedom and endured great pain, isolation, and deprivation for the freedom of his people would come close; but Christ is more. Wiping away the tears of pain and disappointment, He offers healing, food, shelter, freedom, forgiveness, hope and companionship. These and more He provides through His church and through His people everywhere. Consider the acts of kindness you have experienced all year. Notwithstanding some of your setbacks, look at what He did. You received the favor of someone paying a bill or part of it; someone repaired your car, or appliance, or roof free or at a discounted rate. You received a loan even though you were not qualified; through some charitable foundation you received medical assistance. You received the favor of lunch, or better still groceries when you could not afford it. You have sat your exams owing tuition, and you even graduated this year and possibly you are still wondering, “How did I make it?” Your landlord gave you a reprieve on your rent. Maybe you went all year and did not have any health issues; no unnecessary marital pain; you paid all your bills on time. And even if the opposite applies aren’t you glad that you are still standing with just a few days to the end of 2013?
Joy Today and Always
Joy was never intended to be a once a year encounter, or even a now and then experience but a daily and hourly one; for Jesus Himself announced, “I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). The reality of this remarkable gift of joy dispels despair, ingratitude, worry, sleeplessness, revenge and anger. The joy that Christ gives by His presence, His Church and His Word is unquestionably real, practical and enduring. If you have not experienced it, it could be for several reasons. Maybe you do not know Him. Maybe you are looking in the wrong place. Maybe you are expecting to receive when you can be giving time, encouragement and some other form of assistance. Maybe a paradigm shift is needed in your thoughts. The Apostle Paul would tell you that to know this Christ is to experience radical change. And I could say the same. God gives me such an outlook that keeps me going daily notwithstanding my share of pain, loss and apparent setbacks; but the favors of God outweigh all of these, and as a result, I am discovering that the more that I trust Him and stay close to (abide in) Him, I experience an inner calm, peace and joy. Indeed, joy has come and is here and will be here as long as Jesus is alive; and that my friend is forever, so let His joy become your joy today and always. This way you will dismiss the question, “Where is the joy?” We know by experience that the joy of the Lord is present, real and long lasting!
No Need to Bypass the Book of Daniel
When last did you read the Book of Daniel? It was possibly a long time ago, recently or never. Some persons may ask, “Where is that book found?” Persons tend to shun the books of Daniel and Revelation, as they appear hard to understand. “There are simply too many images lacking relevance for us today,” admit some individuals. Even some Christians bypass these two books preferring to read the gospels, psalms and proverbs, for they make for easier reading. However, if we are to gain an understanding of the past, the present and the future, then Daniel and Revelation are a must. We will certainly understand some of the current issues and ills. Therefore, I encourage a study of the Old Testament book of Daniel.
Looking at Daniel 1-6 (Narratives)
For starts, let's consider the author. Who wrote this Old Testament book? It was Daniel, a young Hebrew captive taken to the city of Babylon in 605 B. C. When Babylon overpowered his nation of Judah, he and some of his Jewish friends were removed from their home and taken as captives to Babylon, then the strongest nation of the world under the leadership of King Nebuchadnezzar. Christ recognized Daniel as author as noted in Matthew 24:15. There He says, “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, (whoever reads, let him understand:)...." These words of Christ not only confirm the authorship of Daniel, but they again underscore the need to read and understand the book of Daniel. It is to be known for more than just some of its familiar stories. It is also known for it's relevance for the present.
Breaking Down the Book of Daniel
The Book of Daniel is divided into two sections: Daniel 1-6 and Daniel 7-12. Daniel 1-6 is regarded as the narrative section. It comprises of those familiar stories such as the capture of Daniel and his Hebrew friends in Daniel 1; and also their faithfulness and loyalty to God in not compromising their principles even in a foreign place. Daniel 2 speaks of a dream by Nebuchadnezzar, which he could not remember. However, God would expose the so-called magicians and elevate Daniel and his companions by making known the dream and its interpretation to Daniel. Chapter 3 is even more familiar. It records the well-known story of the golden image erected by Nebuchadnezzar and the refusal of Daniel’s Hebrew companions to worship it or (by extension) Nebuchadnezzar. In Chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar is humbled; and in chapter 5, there is a new ruler namely, the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, who holds a feast ignoring the true God; and finally, Daniel 6 which comprises possibly the best known story of the Bible --Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Therefore, it can be argued that the Book of Daniel is not that difficult thus far.
Looking at Daniel 7-12 (Visions)
In order to comprehend this section (chapters 7-12), it is important to refer back to the themes of Daniel chapters 1-6. You will discover that they are paralleled in chapters 7-12. For instance, the destruction of the temple, the persecution of God’s people, the longest time prophecy, judgment, and finally God standing up for His people and delivering them. However, you will discover that there is a repeating of the prophecy of Daniel 2. Instead of one image as noted in Daniel 2, in Daniel 7 there are 4 great beasts referring to the kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. Likewise in Daniel 8, there is the vision of the Ram and the Goat. The Ram with the two horns, one being higher than the other refer to Medo-Persia. Additionally, the male goat with a notable horn between his eyes refers to Greece, but the large horn was broken into 4 pieces pointing to the dividing of the kingdom of Greece into 4 kingdoms. Then finally, there is reference to the little horn growing “exceedingly great”. Persecution is associated with this little horn. This was troubling to Daniel, and rightly so, as this system persecutes the saints of God and attempts to change God's law. Whereas Daniel 2 speaks about pagan Rome or imperial Rome, there is clear reference to Papal Rome in Daniel 7, 8 and 9.
What Is the Point?
God wants us to know what is happening, what will happen in our world, and the importance of being ready for His return. More importantly, the book of Daniel offers the present generation a sense that God is in control; and while it may appear that our world is spiraling out of control, the events of these last days will usher in the eternal kingdom of God - one that will stand forever. It gives the church a perspective that otherwise would lead men and women to despair for example the feet of the image of Daniel 2, refer to the divided kingdoms of Europe. This period precedes the kingdom of God. Daniel therefore provides a knowledge of the future today, and based on what has been fulfilled, the prophecies of Daniel can be trusted. Is it any wonder that the enemy would seek to prevent persons from reading and understanding Daniel and Revelation? People fear and despair for a lack of knowledge, but this needs not be the case for us. Our loving God is not willing that any be lost; therefore, He has prepared a plan whereby we might know and be aware of the situation in the world. No matter how dismal current affairs may appear, God's word teaches that there will be an end to it, and we will have a new experience in Christ. Shouldn't this motivate followers of God to be eager in sharing this knowledge?
The Joy of the Judgment
Have you heard “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10), and “And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27)? Admittedly, judgment tends to evoke a sense of fear and consternation with many - and for obvious reasons. The very name judgment conjures up trial, investigation, sentence, and of course the attending questions, “How will I look?” “Will I pass the scrutiny?” Nevertheless, my topic is “The Joy of Judgment.” Is that possible?
Looking at the Judgment
The Bible refers to different phases of the judgment such as the pre-Advent phase (Daniel 7:9, 10), the judgment by the Saints referred to as the millennial judgment (1 Corinthians 6:1-3), and the executive or final phase (Revelation 20;5, 6). And some add another judgment which takes place during a partial resurrection of those who pierced Jesus being raised up to see Him according to Revelation1: 7.
Bring It On
Doesn't this sub topic, “Bring it on,” sound a bit presumptuous? Who asks for judgment? I would imagine that few persons would think to do so. However, as I read Psalm 7:8 and Psalm 26, the Psalmist with much boldness is asking God to judge him. Essentially, he is saying, “Bring it on.” To some this would seem ludicrous, but not when one knows the purpose of judgment, who is in charge, and who will represent him in the judgment. Without a doubt, David knew the answers to all these questions. The judgment allows for the truth to be known as it vindicates God’s people. Secondly, while God the father is Judge, according to John 5:22, He has committed all judgment to Jesus the Son, who is our advocate or defense attorney. That undoubtedly is good news!
It is highly unusual for the same person who represents you to sit as judge. It is unthinkable in our court system. It would not work. Of course there are those who pull strings and pay under the table, but with God none of that is possible, for David refers to Him as the “Righteous Judge.” The key, I have come to realize is to know Him; and that we do through a daily relationship with Him. Prayer, Bible study, church attendance and Christian witnessing allow for growth in understanding and appreciating Jesus. Thereby we are able to approach the judgment with much confidence, for we know in whom we believe; and we know that He is able to deliver us. And just in case a further point of assurance is needed, consider these poignant words, “He who dwells in the heavenly sanctuary judges righteously. His pleasure is more in His people, struggling with temptation in a world of sin, than in the host of angels that surround His throne” (Christ Object Lessons, p. 176). Given the aforementioned, I say, “Bring it on!”
How About Thanks!
How Can I Be Thankful When . . ..?
I am minded that many in our country are hurting, vexed, angry, upset, perplexed, distraught, disappointed, and the like. And possibly for valid reasons! Locally, it would seem that the stand off between the Ministry of Education and the Teachers’ Union has intensified, and other unions are also agitating for some rights and/or benefits. Ask the Bahamas Electrical Company staff union, the Taxi Cab Union or the Police Staff Association how they feel, and you are likely to hear many of the answers listed above. It would seem that the Bahamas is on the brink of a national strike. Without question such strife will get the attention of the government and targeted boards and managements. However, it is also likely to get the attention of the world, which may not auger well for a touristic destination like ours; after all, travellers have choices. They can go elsewhere, resulting in less income for the Bahamas.
Is There Something I Can Be Thankful For?
While I am not suggesting that there are no wrongs, injustice, broken contracts and legal issues to address, I feel that there must be better ways of remedying differences. Resolutions should be sought and had. But putting aside the stand off or the approach taken on both sides for today may allow for reason to prevail, the lowering of blood pressure possibly resulting in resolution or steps to one.
Generally, when injustice is perceived and persons hurt, it is hard to see God in the picture or for that matter anything good. The usual questions are: “Why Lord?” “Why me?” “Why don’t you do something Lord?” Has it occurred to you that God does not always resolve our problems the way we think He should? At times, as in the case of Joseph, He allows the problems to run their full course, or as in the case of the three Hebrew young men, He permits us to go through some fiery and unpleasant testing. Notwithstanding much prayer, anointing and superior medical service, He allows a loved one to die. Therefore, the question is begged, “How can I be thankful today given these and other issues?” “Is there some reason for which I may be thankful?”
Realizing that God Has a Purpose for My Life
Returning to the Bible character Joseph, it is clear to me he had a sense that God was with him in all that he was permitted to suffer. This reality led him to “hang in there” maintaining a positive attitude. In his story, there is indication of grudge, jealousy, injustice, and ingratitude toward him. At times he must have wondered where was God? When will He deliver? Some of you have similar questions. I know, for I have asked those questions; but as I reflected on past blessings of deliverance and God’s favor, I was reassured that God would do it again for me. Therefore, I intentionally try to see what good God desires to bring out of any situation that confronts me. Doing this allows me to manifest a thankful disposition. Now that does not mean the trouble has ended or was fixed, but I choose to believe that God will remedy it for me- whether clearing my name, vindicating me, resolving a difficult situation and strengthening me to go through it, or rising above an ordeal. A friend shared with me about a wilderness experience of enduring the pain of false accusation and the accompanying loneliness and ridicule for months. While God did not remove the pain or alter the circumstances, He strengthened the individual so much so that he got a clearer vision of God and saw accusers and those who failed to help in a different light. Today, this person is “light” as burdens have been released, and God is seen as One who delivers in His time. Furthermore, this person is thankful now for the experience of suffering. Can you imagine that? I can!
Some friends of mine missed their cruise return by mere minutes owing to a misunderstanding of the correct time to return to the ship. It cost them hundreds of dollars in airline fares from the Bahamas to reconnect with their ship. What good did they take from that experience? Well, for one thing, they were happy that it was not missing out on salvation. And being so close, they wondered as they saw the ship pulling out of the harbor, “Why don’t the captain stop the ship and let us board?”However, their missing the ship allowed them to spend the night with us and, yes, add a few more dollars to the treasury of the Bahamas; but the greatest lesson is that they saw this as a warning not to miss out on eternity. They are grateful people.
Thankful Now and Always
As long as you and I live, there will be problems, disappointments and apparent setbacks. However, as long as we live there will be God who does not change. He is merciful, righteous, long suffering and knows how to deliver His children. It is this fact that moves me to thankfulness, gratitude and a true positiveness that no amount of money can buy or legislation can make possible. Says David in Psalm 63:3, “Because Your loving-kindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You.” Accordingly, the person who has this reality lives thankfully- even when he is permitted to suffer affliction, misunderstanding and disappointment, etc. Choose to be thankful each day!
Putting Church Above Personal Position
In response to last week’s “Weekly,” some of you shared your thoughts which I appreciate for various reasons (one being that it confirms that you are reading the Weeklies). However, there was one response that necessitated that I do an additional write up to clarify -and therefore this week’s update.
Relating to Personal Views
It is possible to have personal views and positions that may at times not comport or line up with established positions of church’s practice. That in itself is not necessarily wrong. However, what I do or the steps I take may lead to compromise, chaos or reform. So it is crucial for one to weigh carefully all that he or she does. I can recall that I strongly resented the idea of dedicating infants born out of wedlock in a pastor’s study or away from the main sanctuary. This was the practice of my church for years -and for acceptable reasons to many over the years. However, I decided to research the practice and discovered in the 90’s that the Church Manual did not support this practice. Therefore, I researched further and came to understand a principle as to why many of the then church leaders held to it. Nevertheless, I met with my then conference leader and shared my position and was given the opportunity to present a position paper at a Ministerial Retreat in Cuba. This position was accepted generally, but it took some persons years to change the practice of what appeared to be discrimination. It is possible that some pastors still struggle with praying for babies born out of wedlock in the sanctuary.
Not Going Ahead of My Church
Had the then leaders disagreed with me, I could have decided to resign, or study more and reason more but not taking it upon myself to disregard authority as this would have been irresponsible. This was essentially the summary of last week’s Weekly, “Subjecting to Church Authority.” My position of female ordination is immaterial to a greater point; and that is how do I submit to the established authority of the church? I restate that we as leaders cannot be a part of the worldwide system and operate independently of that system and its policies. Quoting Lowell Cooper, one of the Vice Presidents of the GC, “each [entity/church/conference/union] is seen to be a part of a sisterhood which cannot act without reference to the whole.” These are “separate but not independent organizations,” says Cooper. Additionally, in reference to the Working Policy, Cooper says that it “is the recording of our agreements as to how we will work together to do the Lord’s work and mission, serves as one of the practical unifying agents that the Holy Spirit uses to bind the church together. Policy is not inflexible. It can be changed but it reflects the understanding of the collective group, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
What We Can Do In the Interim
In the meanwhile, as we await next year’s GC Annual Council, we as pastors and elders could visit www.adventistarchives.org and read all of the study papers produced by the Commission on the Theology of Ordination. I can assure you that these will be quite enlightening and informative. Following this, or while doing so, we could engage one another in dialogue and in writing respectfully notwithstanding differences of opinion. Additionally, we could sincerely pray for our church to come to a position reflective of the Spirit’s leading. Until such time, let us continue the dialogue but never preempting the Commission that we through a representative democracy have put in place. I hold to the view that we all believe in our church. Then let’s trust the process in place. To take it upon oneself to go contrary to policy and the church’s position is to say I will not wait; I will go it my way. That is to open the gate to our personal feelings, and individuals doing as they feel
Subjecting to Church Authority
Since the election of Sandra Roberts as president of the Southeastern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists on Sunday, October 27, 2013, I have been questioned several times regarding this decision of the delegates. As a result, I thought to make a few observations. At the Yearend Committee of the Atlantic Caribbean Union, November 11-12, I will make a more thorough presentation.
Subjecting to the Authority of the Church
The election of a female president could be viewed in many ways. For some it could be said that there should be equality among workers. Or put another way no person is to be denied a position on the basis of gender if qualified. This argument is no doubt plausible, but to ordain a female pastor and then elect her to the office of president show disregard for the current policy of the church and the counsel of the leadership of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. This action has the potential of encouraging persons to take this approach in addressing any matter that they feel the church or leadership may be taking too long to address, or that is not supported by Church policy. The result of such could lead to independent actions, even rebellion and chaos. After all, why subject myself to authority when I can go it my way and do so now?
The Church Ought Not to Ignore Current Realities
On the other hand, the Church’s leadership ought not to disregard the current issues and situations faced by segments of the world church. One can argue that the topic of ordination as it relates to females has been in discussion for years and should have been addressed one way or another. And during some of the passionate and emotional discussions, unfortunately, some of our sisters have left meetings feeling hurt and wounded by both men and women. Of course, we could discuss and debate without wounding one another.
Notwithstanding previous discussions at sessions, credit should be given the present GC leadership for the appointment a Commission on the Theology of Ordination. The Commission, which consists of representatives from each division, has released an initial statement containing 5 points of agreement. Hopefully, the Commission will present its final report to the 2014 Fall Council of the General Conference, and in turn a recommendation will be passed on to the General Conference Session in 2015 for adoption.
The Church Is a United Body
Given that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is a united body “bound together by a common commitment to Christ, the truths of the Bible” it is only proper that the Commission on the Theology of Ordination be allowed to complete its work before pockets and segments of the church move to action or preempt the Commission’s report in any way. (The North American Division just voted this week to affirm Women’s Ordination). Entities such as Mission/Conference and Union ought not to operate without regard to the relationship that exists among them and the GC/Divisions. According to Lowell Cooper, one of the Vice Presidents of the GC, “each is seen to be a part of a sisterhood which cannot act without reference to the whole.” These are “separate but not independent organizations,” says Cooper. An official statement of the GC Leadership regarding the Southeastern California Conference decision states, “The Church, the body of Christ, is inter-related. Actions that affect one part of the body affect the whole.” Additionally, the statement explains, “Working Policy, which is the recording of our agreements as to how we will work together to do the Lord’s work and mission, serves as one of the practical unifying agents that the Holy Spirit uses to bind the church together. Policy is not inflexible. It can be changed but it reflects the understanding of the collective group, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When personal convictions are placed ahead of the collective policy decisions of the worldwide church, troubling precedents are set. God works in an orderly way and wishes His church to exemplify this sanctified behavior through the power of the Holy Spirit. Humility and submission to God for the good of the church body as outlined in the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy are fundamental Biblical principles for the benefit of the church.”
Therefore, it is incumbent that we allow the process to work and that we pray sincerely for a resolution to this matter of ordination. I am of the view that some decision needs to be made as soon as possible.
The Church in Perspective
The more I travel from place to place (being involved in church activities) and the more I participate in various church meetings at all levels, I keep arriving at one conclusion; and that is, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, whether in Cayman, Washington, Haiti, or Italy, is the same –the Church of God. A sense of mission drives us to be about the business of preaching, teaching and living the word of God. Though strangers in some ways when in a new area, the fact that we are Seventh-day Adventists peels through what would be obvious barriers and blockage. It must be our love for Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit that propels us to welcome and receive strangers almost immediately into our homes. I can only imagine what heaven will be like.
The Danger of Pride
As I reflect upon this disposition, I am heartened. Furthermore, as I behold our various structures and facilities at the General Conference Headquarters in Washington, the IAD Office in Miami, Florida, or the new Union Offices in Honduras, Chiapas, Mexico, Nassau and other territories, I have to resist seriously the temptation to take extreme pride in these- overlooking that these are but means to an end. The mean thing is to have the where withal to proclaim the gospel, inclusive of Daniel and Revelation, with a clear ring. The end is the salvation of people- culminating in the return of Christ. We look forward to that day as noted in our name. As long as we keep these facts and realities before us, we are safe. For this reason, I advance to my next point.
Not to Miss the Point
Jesus is very clear in Matthew 28:19, 20 as He enjoins His people to go into the entire world and make disciples of all His people; for according to John 3:16, He is interested in the world. Additionally, Ellen White explains, “The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world.” In fact, she adds, “From the beginning it has been God’s plan that through His church shall be reflected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency.”
As members of God’s church, having been called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, we “are to show forth His glory. The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to ‘the principalities and powers in heavenly places,’ the final and full display of the love of God” (Ephesians 3:10 --Acts of the Apostles, p. 9).
Evaluating the Church
Therefore, when we look at God’s church, we must never forget to go back to that mandate of Matthew 28:19, 20. As for a church board, should not the first business be to a revisiting of that mandate? This also applies at the local field and Union levels. If we are not strategic in this regard, we are likely to take pride in the means and forget the end. At the end of the age, God’s question will be one of faithfulness. How faithful have we been in fulfilling His will and purpose for all people? In this vein, it is crucial that we evaluate ourselves daily to ensure we are faithful to our call to mission. We must be about employing our talents to fulfill the church’s agenda. In the lyrics of a song sung by Steve Greene, I say, “May all who come behind us find us faithful.”
Paying Attention to a Most Needed Emphasis
Among the topics that receive less focus and balanced attention is that of health reform. Unfortunately, there are those of us who shy away, and on the other hand, there are those who have a tendency to go overboard. Accordingly, I attempt to share a balanced article regarding health reform and its obligation and implication for us as leaders.
The Need to Focus on Health Reform
Ever since I have read Counsels on Diet and Foods, I have been reminded to give attention to health especially as it relates to diet, exercise and rest. Additionally, I was re-admonished that “The health reform is closely connected with the work of the third message,” CD, 74. Also, Ellen White explained that, “The proclamation of the third angel’s message, the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus, is the burden of our work.” CD, ibid. However, she cautioned in the same context that the Health Message is not “the message;” instead, it is a part of the message; and preachers “should not make this the leading theme in the place of the message.” This statement in no way discredits health reform, but it seeks to give balance. As God’s servants, we must proclaim the total message of our church, which includes health reform. Equally important is that we practice and seek to model what we teach.
Health Reform Challenges Us
Admittedly, many of us would say there are some counsels regarding health that tend to challenge us. Personally, I have felt uncomfortable when I came across certain statements. Nevertheless, I know that God would not send counsels that are not good for His children. It is His will, as noted in 3 John 2, that His followers be in health physically, spiritually, mentally and socially. Thus, when we experience a greater quality of life, essentially, we will have a more positive impact on family, neighbors and friends. This impact no doubt will serve as an entering wedge in reaching others with the good news of salvation. Mrs. White observed, “Much of the prejudice that prevents the truth of the third angel’s message from reaching the hearts of the people, might be removed if more attention were given to health reform. When people become interested in this subject, the way is often prepared for the entrance of other truths.” CD, 76.
The Need to Do More
As Seventh-day Adventists, we have been blessed with the health reform message for over 100 years. Unfortunately, we have not always aggressively and responsibly promoted it as we ought to, and in some instances, when we have promoted it, as already noted, some of our presentations have been lacking in balance. However, today’s diseases and poor examples of lifestyle call us to be more aggressive and determined. To whom much is given much is expected. We must not be trite or flippant with health reform, and neither must we see health reform as just becoming non-meat eaters. Balance is the key as we practice and teach.
Make a Start Today
I encourage those of you who are advanced in your approach to health principles, to continue on the path; and for those who are in need of added reform, that we will begin to make gradual and incremental steps in improving our eating, drinking and exercise. Essentially, there is a call for temperance in all that we do. For even that which is good can be abused. The many diseases that are common among us and among the people outside the church are very much treatable and manageable, if we would simply subscribe to the diet prescribed for us. Together, we can do much more to encourage healthful living at our church functions, homes, church schools and certainly our headquarters. Let’s make a start today!
It is not likely that any of you reading this weekly was around 125 years ago. Nevertheless, history tells us that 125 years ago the people of France gave the United States a gift of friendship, The Statue of Liberty, 'Liberty Enlightening the World,’ which was dedicated on October 28, 1886. Additionally, 125 years ago “a sudden, fierce blizzard slashed across Nebraska. . . . The temperature fell to between 30 and 40 degrees below. The storm raged for 12 to 18 hours.”
However, for Seventh-day Adventists 125 years ago (in 1888) in Minneapolis, a major breakthrough came about in the church’s understanding of righteousness by faith. According to noted Church Historian George Knight, it marked “The most important teaching to flow out of posterity from those sessions [GC} . . . .” Adds Knight, “That teaching and its implications for the end-time message of the third angel is what gives the Minneapolis meetings their ongoing significance.”
Was This Teaching New to the Church?
The following remarks by Ellen White in 1889 clearly show that the presentation was not altogether new. “I have had the question asked, ‘What do you think of this light that these men [Waggoner and Jones] are presenting? Why, I have been presenting it to you for the last 45 years –the matchless charms of Christ. This is what I have been trying to present before your minds. When Brother Waggoner brought out these ideas in Minneapolis, it was the first clear teaching on this subject from any human lips I had heard, excepting the conversations between myself and my husband” (Sermons and Talks, vol. 1, pp.116, 117).
Implication of the 1888 Message of Righteous by Faith
Such an emphasis of Righteous by Faith, when rightly understood, tends to keep us focused on Christ, the only Source of our righteousness. This is critical, as in some pockets of our church it is easy to feel that the strictest we obey God’s law inclusive of the Sabbath, we are guaranteed salvation. However, the Apostle Paul clearly states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Additionally, argues Paul in Romans 3:21-23, “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Righteousness by Faith Does Not Negate the Law
God is calling for His church to have a greater trust or reliance on Him. In fact, following Monday’s Sabbath School Lesson of the week, a short conversation between Denise (my wife) and I resulted in the question, “What does it mean to be fully surrendered?” Is it not a total reliance on God, especially in the area of salvation? However, I need to clarify that dependence on God and His righteousness does not mitigate or diminish the law. In Romans 3:31 Paul clearly states, “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” Therefore, I encourage you to “throw your all on God for He knows how to care for us.”
Gifted to Serve!
More and more it is becoming difficult to commit persons to serve at the local church. Have you not noticed the same? While the current Church Manual allows for church officers to be elected for up to two years, experience has shown many members are opposed to this length of time. Nevertheless, I share a few points that may be beneficial.
Looking at the Gifts
Known or unknown, we are endowed with spiritual gifts and abilities. The Apostle Paul, in three books of the Bible, informs us of this fact (Rom.12:6-8; 1 Cor.12:8-10, 28-30; Eph.4:11, 12). Among these, he lists “the word of wisdom,” “the word of knowledge,” “faith,” “gift of healing,” “the working of miracles,” “prophecy,” “discerning of spirits,” “different kinds of tongues,” and “the interpretation of tongues." And he emphatically states that they are all “given by the same spirit.”
It might be of interest to note that prayer is omitted. That is because prayer is not a gift. It would seem that God intended that all of His children would pray and not depend on another or a prayer specialist. Ellen White says, “Our heavenly Father waits to bestow upon us the fullness of His blessing. It is our privilege to drink largely at the fountain of boundless love. What a wonder it is that we pray so little!” (Steps to Christ, page 94).
The Use of the Gifts
According to Ephesians 4:11-15, Paul says that members are equipped with gifts for the work of ministry, and, secondly, to edify the body of Christ. The aim of this endowment as seen in verses 13 and 14 is to unite the body, thus allowing it to grow or mature spiritually. Then, says Paul, members will no longer “be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.” Essentially, when members allow themselves or their gifts to be utilized for ministries in the church and outside, the church is effective, vibrant and strong.
On the other hand, when there is a reluctance to have our gifts, talents and abilities utilized to enhance God’s work, the church suffers and fails to grow. At times, there is in-house fighting over irrelevant matters; and the work of the church stagnates.
How is your local church? Is it operating on all spiritual cylinders? If not, is it because of something you are reluctant to do? Did not Paul say in 1 Corinthians 12:7 that "the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all"? (NKJV). I hope that you will serve and also seek to hone the gifts of others who may not recognize what they possess.
The Necessity to Use the Gifts
Christ’s mandate recorded in Matthew 28:19-20 requires that we go, teach and make disciples. How do we do so without the equipping of the Spirit? No wonder we find in Acts 2:17, 18: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on my maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy" (Joel 2:28, NKJV).
Has it occurred to you that there is no form of discrimination? The passage says God will pour out His Spirit on “all flesh!” What an honor to be endowed with the Holy Spirit! And what a privilege to serve! As we near our annual local church elections, let each of us ask, “Will I make a commitment to serve?” In fact we may not need to wait for elections, as there are numerous ministries requiring our involvement such as visits to shut-ins, the soup kitchen and the like. Whether the response is “no” or “yes” is left to each of us.
The final weekend of September 2013 will long be remembered by the elders of the Atlantic Caribbean Union as one when they were accorded permission to baptize those special ones whom they worked with. As a part of the initiatives for the Inter-American Division’s Year of the Laity emphasis, some 50,000 active elders were granted the privilege of baptizing. In ATCU, 23 of our elders took advantage of the offer and baptized a total of 34 persons- according to the initial report. Praise God for these new babes in Christ and the efforts of our elders in preparing their candidates for baptism. One elder remarked, “baptisms will increase if elders are accorded this privilege to baptize from time to time.”
Festival of the Laity
Apart from just being a time for baptizing, Sabbath, September 28, 2013 marked the fulfillment of another initiative planned for this year, throughout the Inter-American Division, to affirm and recognize the laity of the church. Accordingly, the two Bahamas fields, the North and South conferences observed the local festival of the laity. These, like the previous one in the Turks and Caicos Islands, were punctuated with church marching, soul stirring reports; music fit for the occasion and lay preaching. Indeed the laity made their leadership proud. These services underscored the value and need of each member in proclaiming the good news of Christ in the church, community, home or marketplace.
This Sabbath, October 6, marks the culmination of the Festival of Laity celebrations. Meeting in George Town, Grand Cayman, the Union will team up with the Cayman Islands Conference to affirm the lay members there. Additionally, the Union will recognize 4 outstanding laypersons, one from each field in the Union. These are the outstanding laypersons from the four fields. Of course, these awards pale in comparison to many persons sacrificing and serving weekly. Nevertheless, we must make a start; but we are mindful of that ultimate reward when our Lord will say, “Well done good and faithful servant enter into the joy of thy Lord.”
Work Yet to be Finished
I remind you, my dear brothers and sisters, that there are nearly 500,000 people that make up the Bahamas, Cayman, and Turks and Caicos Islands. Of that number, 30,000 represent our Union’s membership. Given the disparity between the two numbers, it must be clear that our work is cut out for us. With nearly 50 pastors and church administrators making up the full-time leaders of ATCU, we are greatly challenged, but with our hundreds of elders and thousands of church officers coming together, there is much hope of reaching our territory with the gospel message. Additionally, I remind you to pray and prepare for the outpouring of the latter rain that we may do the work of God with power and great glory. Ponder these words: “It is the absence of the Spirit that makes the gospel ministry so powerless. Learning, talents, eloquence, every natural or acquired endowment, may be possessed; but without the presence of the Spirit of God, no heart will be touched, no sinner be won to Christ. On the other hand, if they are connected with Christ, if the gifts of the Spirit are theirs, the poorest and most ignorant of His disciples will have a power that will tell upon hearts. God makes them the channel for the outworking of the highest influence in the universe” (COL 328.1).
Elders to Conduct Baptism
In light of the Year of the Laity, a number of initiatives have been launched throughout the Inter-American Division. However, one in particular takes place this weekend in the Atlantic Caribbean Union, and that is granting elders the privilege of baptizing.
Also, as a footnote, it is to be noted two of our fields, the North and South Bahamas conferences, will conduct a Festival of the Laity service to mark the contributions of their laity. These fields are following the Turks and Caicos Mission’s example, which recognized their laity a few weeks ago. Next weekend the Cayman Islands Conference will culminate the festivals as they award their people. The Union will join in with Cayman and award 4 outstanding lay persons from all 4 fields.
Of the more than 50,000 ordained church elders that are serving throughout the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Inter-America, many of them will be accorded the privilege of performing the rite of baptism this Sabbath, September 28, 2013. This, no doubt, will be historic, as it will perhaps signal the first time something of this nature has occurred in IAD and in particular, ATCU. This act during this weekend is but one of numerous activities that have taken place during the past nine months to highlight the work of its active members of the Inter-America’s Year of the Laity. According to Pastor Hector Sanchez, Ministerial Secretary for the church in Inter-America, “This is a momentous date in the history of our church in the Inter-American Division and around the world.” Furthermore he says, “I believe this is the first time that a world church division has asked presidents of local conferences and missions to authorize ordained church elders who are currently appointed as such in their congregations to baptize in their congregations.”
Elders Are Very Important to the Church
The 50,000 plus active elders are responsible for assisting the pastor in ministering to church members. There is no need to convince members in ATCU of the significance of elders and their weekly labors of love. Were it not for such godly and committed men and women, many of the churches throughout the union, but especially the ones outside the various capitals, would probably be closed or greatly destabilized. Thank God for the hundreds of elders in ATCU. Again Pastor Sanchez articulates the church’s appreciation for such: “We are thankful for the men and women church elders who faithfully work alongside our pastors every week,” says Sanchez. “We want the world to know that they are important to the Lord and our church and their work is not only of filling out forms, and preaching, but they take souls to the feet of Jesus,” he adds.
Prerequisites for Baptizing
There are four requirements that the church ought to follow for elders to baptize on September 28, in keeping with the guidelines set out by the church manual. Firstly, the elder must have been appointed by his or her local church. Secondly, he or she is to be ordained. Thirdly, he or she must be authorized to baptize by the conference or mission president, and finally, he or she must have a baptismal candidate or candidates that he or she has brought in through Bible studies.
Even as I write, I sense a great excitement as elders are accorded this privilege. I caution each elder granted the privilege to note the permission is not ongoing. Each time a baptism is to be performed, permission must be granted by the field president. Nevertheless, I salute and applaud elders and look forward to the great report on Sabbath, September 28 from each Ministerial Secretary and/or field president. “Work for the night is coming.”
Those of you who studied the Adult Lesson during the week may have a greater appreciation for some of the points in this Weekly Update. Nonetheless, I note that all persons experience some form of relationships. They can be the source of great blessings or they can be the means of much pain and stress when fractured and not nurtured. Accordingly, I pass on the following to you.
The Value of a Relationship
Among the greatest relationships to me has been that of my family, which includes my wife, children, siblings, and in laws. Additionally, some wonderful friends, spiritual guardians and mentors have been and continue to be a source of much encouragement. I am grateful to God for placing such individuals in my path. Time with such is never time lost, for so much is gained in the process on both sides. However, as important as these friendships are, I value my relationship with God the most. Because of it I can approach Him with confidence and assurance as He provides forgiveness, grants favors and inspires hope. As I recall some of the most challenging moments in my life, I confess that I could not have survived without the support God provided. And therefore, my daily devotion with Him is not an option but a necessity.
When Relations Are Fractured
During my years in leadership, I have observed that people are people with idiosyncrasies and issues. This fact makes the likelihood of misunderstanding and fracture a real possibility, even among professed followers of Christ. As such friends may no longer relate the way they once did; family members may become cold, colleagues may not be so trusting, and marriages may result in divorce, etc. In some instances inflictions may result, and persons may not speak to each other for years. We can refer to the Biblical example of the Apostle Paul and John Mark.
What may help in such situations is being open and objective as opposed to acting without checking and doing so thoroughly. It is necessary that in listening to a complaint or charge against one to try to get the other side of the story, otherwise it is possible to act in haste and on hearsay. Also, allowing the spirit of Christ to control one’s actions and words may save many a relationship. Is it any wonder that Christ commends the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” And even when a divorce or a severing of such relationship may occur, persons are not bitter.
When Relationships Are Healed
Relationships may be mended and healed only when there is an adjustment to our thinking, attitude, and when our positions are open to change. Friendships will be restored only when Christ is allowed to control our thoughts and actions as happened with the Apostle Paul towards John Mark. Whereas Paul had serious reservations with John Mark initially, it took a Barnabas who saw potential in Mark to help him and stick with him. Later Paul would come around and see the same as what Barnabas saw, and therefore he referred to Mark as “being profitable” (2Tim. 4:11).
Admittedly, personalities will continue to clash, and some people will struggle with this more than others; however, I believe that it is possible for relationships to improve. It is only the work of Satan to keep persons apart and distrust one another. On the other hand, Jesus has come to heal, restore and make what seem impossible possible. The question is, “Am I standing in His way?” The problem is never God. It is I. It is you. It is us. With God’s help, we must learn to live in harmony here if we would live with Him in the earth made new.
The recent spate of crime last week has once again sparked concern across the nation and in particular New Providence. Additionally, it has raised many questions as to what can be done. How can this matter be addressed? Tourism is already being affected, and this is likely to trickle down to other areas. A stemming of lawlessness and crime needs to happen. Unarguably, there is a need to address this major wave of lawlessness as it affects all of us- rich and poor, black and white, Bahamians and non-Bahamians, Christians and unbelievers. However, could it be that our approach is a bit limited in that we continue to look at the results and then react? I wish to proffer the following thoughts for consideration.
Policing the Heart
Policing for the most part would seem to address the results and, in some instances, prevent crime as arresting someone with a loaded gun intent on robbing a bank and/or inflicting harm. But there is a bigger and deeper problem that is hard for any law enforcement agency to address that is the policing of the heart. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NKJV). I may smile with you, shake your hand, or even embrace you all in an effort to cover my motives. Trust me, it is hard for the best trained from Scotland Yard or the FBI to detect such. Only Christ and His indwelling power through the Holy Spirit can discern and change one’s motive to do good where it intended to do wrong. In the same book of Jeremiah is stated, “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind” (Jeremiah 17:10, NKJV).
So what is the point? Am I advocating that we get rid of the policing? Certainly no! Get rid of the personnel? Absolutely No! Then what?
Recognize an Alternative Approach
The involvement of the church is critical. When godly men and women are about sharing and modeling the gospel, lives are changed for good. Furthermore, homes are strengthened, discipline is restored and responsibility is assumed. These changes that are real make the job of our law enforcement agencies less frustrating and more manageable. By extension, the society is a safer place. Yes, I am naïve to believe that persons lifting up Christ in words and example on the job, in their homes, on the streets, in the classroom, and in business transaction will have a positive impact on our nation. Don’t you think it is about time that we consider the relevance of Christ and His law as a viable approach in addressing the scourge of lawlessness? Of course this is not to say that other strategies should not be considered. They ought but not to exclude this one.
It should be noted that I am not calling for a legislation of spiritual living as that is contrary to God’s will. However, I am appealing for preachers to be preachers uplifting God’s word in its purity and allowing it to have free course. We cannot expect the nation to be law-abiding when we teach that God’s law is abolished because we are under grace. Grace does not negate or cancel out the purpose of the law. I call upon Christians to be Christians not just on weekends but daily- especially in our homes and on the job. I call upon churches to become more deliberate in outreach and involvement in the community. There is a sense of hopelessness looming all around. However, the church can help to restore hope; for people all around want to “feel our presence” and want to know that we care. I guess it is best explained by the old adage, “I would rather see a sermon than hear one.”
The Call to Evangelize
That Christ commanded His church to “teach,” “preach,” “make disciples,” and “baptize” is unquestionable. However, to fulfill that mission requires an authority and power that is akin to the Giver. It comes from heaven, and being the all-knowing and wise God that He is, God made provision for the execution of the mission given to the church. He declared, “All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth” and therefore the enjoinment “Go.” “Go and teach,” “go and preach,” “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18-20).
The Power of Unity
Given that the power is available, is there anything else likely to affect the fulfillment of the gospel mandate? Yes - it is a reluctance to unite and work together as clergy and laity to reach the world for Christ. It is no secret that there are many more lay members as opposed to trained ministers. Therefore, if the church depended just on the clergy, it is not likely that all people would be reached with the good news of God’s love and power.
Ellen White, an inspired writer understood this fact, for she wrote, “The real workers in this cause are few, yet the work covers much ground; and it is often impossible for the laborers to look after the interest awakened, and they fail to discern that they must enlist the lay members of the church, and teach them to work, that they may hold all that has been gained, and continue to advance. The plan of labor has been such as to lead the people to feel that they could do very little themselves; if anything was to be accomplished, they must have a minister” (Gospel Workers, p. 219).
The Need for Enlisting
Believing in the priesthood of all believers, the Seventh-day Adventist Church detests any exclusivity of clergy to evangelize, but instead embraces the view that, as noted by Pastor Israel Leito, president of the IAD, “it is the duty of pastors and laity to join forces, skills, talents, and resources to bring salvation to the people of countries that are part of our division.” Therefore, the Atlantic Caribbean Union, in tandem with the Inter-American Division, encourages a greater lay involvement throughout its four fields. There is need for the empowering and releasing of our lay brethren so that this gospel with its richness and fullness may be carried in ways that otherwise may not be utilized.
As such, I remind elders of the special baptism for September 28, 2013. While you are to conduct the baptism providing that you have prepared your candidates, permission must be granted by your field president.
Finally, I wish to point to a serious of Festival of the Laity celebrations beginning this weekend in the Turks and Caicos Mission, on September 28 in South Bahamas and in the Cayman Islands Conference October 4-5. Do your part!
Last week I shared with you the dangers of being hooked to technology. However, for this week I seek to extoll the necessity and benefits of technology, once it is controlled and consciously managed by reason and spirituality, for it will only keep advancing.
Years ago, there was the parchment script which made the hand of few persons for obvious reasons. As such when people got together and the one chosen to read the script it must have engendered a sense of expectation with the accompanying attention and focus. Later with the printing of the actual Bible in one’s language, it was most welcomed and considered a major break-through. Now today we have several versions and easy access to the word of God. Thanks to the Bible societies and others for advancing this means.
More recently, with advanced technology, there is greater access to the Bible as well as books covering every subject imaginable. For me, I value the easy access to the writings of Ellen White. For the past 10 years or more, I have enjoyed this convenience.
Another blessing realized as result of ongoing technology is the ability to hold live meetings in real time. No longer is it required to travel away from home for every meeting. Also, three years ago the Union would Fedex its weekly “Voices” DVDs to Cayman and Turks, and, of course, it arrived days later. Only South and North Bahamas conference viewed the programs right away. However, with “Sendit” large video files could be sent via the Internet. This capability reduced time and cost. Now, as I write further advance in technology such as the Roku box and Church Pond, allow for each field in ATCU to view “Voices” at the same time or on the road. Indeed a major break through in technology! My dream, years ago, of linking up all family islands is now a reality. In fact, we can link up the world.
What’s the Point?
These advances, when viewed for what they are and what they can do, allow for dispensing medical assistance and knowledge, pursuing studies even from remote places, attending a General Conference service and above all spreading the gospel. While in last week’s Ministerial Weekly I cautioned against the possible addiction to technology, we must not shun or be overly afraid of it. Instead, we need to embrace it; for it presents possibilities and opportunities heretofore only dreamt about. Could we be witnessing the fulfillment of Daniel 12:4 - the increase in knowledge?
What Can We Expect?
Could it be that more Bibles will make it to church but not necessarily the printed ones? Could it be that more hymnals or songbooks will attend church but in electronic version? Could we be nearing the day when the person doing the Scripture reading will be asking for persons to open their iPads, or turn on their smart phone to Isaiah 40? As I write, many of you no longer stand on lines to pay bills. Instead, through your smart phone or tablet, that is now done online. Even grandparents are appreciating the ease of seeing their grand children daily and being able to communicate with them for “change.” I could go on, but I believe the point has been made.
While I extol the benefits of technology, I need to conclude by noting possible dangers. Without remembering what is the purpose and reason for the use of technology, the enemy could entice us in such ways that we become hooked to the gadgets, forbidden sites and sounds that we would otherwise shun. We must not see technology as the end but as the means to a desired end. We must set boundaries and rules and hold ourselves accountable to spouses, others and above all God. Determine at times to put down the phone or tablet, or even switch off the radio, ipod or television, so as to enjoy just each other. Look around you – you are bound to see gadgets getting between couples, parents and children. While we must not assume in every instance that it is trivial, as it could be necessary use, we must remember to control their use.
I am sure you have heard the expression as it has been around for possibly three decades. Associated with American Express, the expression encourages holders not to leave home without their American Express credit card
Today, it would seem that our smart phones, computer tablets and the like have replaced the card, for one can do virtually anything on them. They can keep us occupied from waking up to retiring at night. In fact, if not controlled, they can keep us occupied 24/7, and herein lies the danger. Accordingly, I share with you some observations that may prove beneficial.
Recognizing their Worth
It is no doubt that such devices as smart phones and tablets can make life easier for us. By that we can through a small telephone in hand make calls, receive calls as well as prepare, send and receive mails and files. Additionally, we can take policy books with us as well as volumes electronically. Heretofore in traveling I had to ensure that I took what I needed and that proved expensive and strenuous with many heavy volumes but not to day. If that is not enough, I get to carry my photo albums and add to them while virtually anywhere in the world. In short, I am well equipped on the road and so the caption "Can't Leave Home without It" is real. I should mention that my Bible (several versions), Sabbath school quarterly, hymnal and church manuals also go with me. Additionally, there is music, in fact many albums, to keep me inspired; and when the Sabbath has ended, there are numerous games and of course movies to keep one entertained. Now that is amazing! Did we think of such mobile devices with these capabilities?
Recognizing their Danger
Given the benefits of a smart phone and/or tablet as noted above, who and what else does one need? Herein lies danger. One can give less personal and quality time owing to absorption of these electronic gadgets. While they may suffice when to university or when on assigned military duties thousands of miles away from home, there is no substitute for the personal and physical contact. A wife needs to see her husband in person, and each needs to feel the touch and closeness of each other. Likewise a child needs the touch and live smile of mom or dad. The need to have such devices can become addictive and controlling. Before we can fully utilize the current one, manufacturers come out with later models, adding new features enticing one to upgrade, not considering budget but just wanting to be on the cutting edge. As such funds needed to pay bills are diverted to fund the "addiction." Lest you misunderstand, smart phones and the like are necessary. Being able to make that call or connect has saved lives and enhanced relationships. No one will deny this, but like any good thing, there may be abuse. Do we know when to put down? Do we exercise the will to switch off or distance ourselves from them for other needed realities? If we are not careful, they will penetrate all areas of our lives seeking to control us. Such devices must be controlled!
Recognize the Need for Balance and Control
Recognize that these gadgets are for use and not to use us. They are to assist us but not to replace relationships. They are never intended to be in our hands all day and every day. Kimberly Luste Maran, the young adult editor for the Adventist Review in her article published in the August 15, 2013 Review and Herald says, "We must be social on more than social media. We must take the time to enjoy the birds that fly and perch in trees, rather than the ones flung from a slingshot. We can read a paper Bible, or one from an app. But lines must be drawn. Digital use is what we make it. God calls us to Him, and we can find Him on the Internet, in a text message, etc. But temptations abound. Don’t embrace the tyranny of your smart phone or tablet. Pray that Christ gives you and me the wisdom to avoid its shackles."
What Does It Mean to Be Faithful?
Faithfulness may mean many things to different persons. For example, faithfulness to a husband means that he would not cheat on his wife and likewise she would not cheat on him. To a person watching his weight, it means discipline to diet- observing the amount and timing of intake; and to a student persistence in studying, completing homework assignments and preparing for class. To pastors and elders it means diligence in preparing for services, sermons and visiting regularly. Above all “faithfulness” is fulfilling God’s purpose for one’s life daily. It begins with spending time with God, working for Him and doing one’s best without regard to recognition. I know that that is easier said than done. However, to do otherwise is to miss the point. It is calling into question one’s motive.
What Does It Mean to Be Successful?
I would think that everyone wants to be successful, successful in class, on the job, in marriage, in raising a child to love Jesus and the like. Those desires cannot be wrong, for doesn’t the Bible call us to do our best? However the difference for Mother Teresa lies in focus or motive. Her objective was to simply be an instrument of love faithfully carrying out the mandate of God to heal, mend and restore. In this regard, she sought to please God by fulfilling what she regarded as His purpose for her, and that was faithful service. On the other hand, if we are not careful, we can do the right things for the wrong reasons. I can feed others to be recognized or to make the news; or I can compromise a little if it will get me elected. With a focus on being successful, I may be tempted to compromise my morals to get to the top. After all that could mean more money and more tithe for my church. I can tell a lie if it means that I would get the job or status. In other words, I could be so success minded that I put aside my Christian principles and values.
The Paradox of Faithfulness
When I am all absorbed in being successful, it is possible, as noted, for me to ignore my religious principles just to get ahead or to obtain what I want. On the other hand, when I am faithful, regardless if I appear to be disadvantaged, experience has shown that with God one does not lose- at least ultimately. The Bible is replete with examples such as Joseph, Daniel, Barnabas and others who focused on doing God’s will and ended up being successful in their settings which possibly could have been realized otherwise. Certainly you and I can think of personal examples of success that came from not pursuing it but by being faithful to God. With the adoption of this mantra, the world would be a better place. Maybe I am expecting too much, but did not God say, “Be thou faithful until the end?” Let’s pursue faithfulness to God, His Word and the Spirit of Prophecy in all that we do.
The Object of His Attention
When in a meeting in1893 the church had been described as becoming Babylon, Mrs. Ellen White wrote: “The church, enfeebled and defective, needing to be reproved, warned, and counseled, is the only object upon earth upon which Christ bestows His supreme regard”(Counsels for the Church, page 240). Additionally, she penned, “Nothing else in this world is so dear to the Lord as His Church. Nothing else is guarded by Him with such jealous care. He paid a costly ransom for His heritage, and He is not willing that anything should separate them from Him, so that He cannot protect them and give them prosperity” (Review and Herald, August 20, 1901).
Given the aforementioned, shouldn’t we be careful in criticizing God’s church and its leadership? That is not to say that the church is perfect; for it is not, and neither are the leaders. Leaders are expected to model Christ and do so daily. In one’s attempt to revive and reform the church, it is good to know that we constitute the church and as such change should begin with me.
The Purpose of Revival
The July 20-26, 2013 Sabbath School Lesson says, “The purpose of revival is to fill our hearts with such a love for Jesus that we long to share this love with every person possible.” On the other hand, “a ‘revival’ that focuses on one’s ‘spiritual experience alone’ misses the mark.” Additionally, “If it develops attitudes critical of others who do not measure up to one’s ‘standard of holiness,’ it is certainly not heaven inspired. If the emphasis of revival is to merely change external behavior rather than to change hearts, then something is wrong.” A further note says, “All genuine revival leads to a renewed emphasis on mission and service.”
So how can a pocket of members with an understanding of this fact plan and sponsor their own meetings even at the same time the church is having scheduled meetings? I observe that generally the speakers that appeal to such persons are individuals who are critical of the church and its leadership. They quote scripture and the writings of Ellen White profusely- giving the impression of being Spirit led. Unfortunately, some members feeling a need for revival, are drawn to these meetings unaware of the subtleness of their intent, risk being deceived.
Jesus’s Prayer for His Church
In John 17, I note that Jesus prayed for His disciples and, by extension, those who would believe as a result of their preaching, teaching and witnessing. I need not tell you that includes you and me. However, I remind you that the objective of Christ’s prayer was for unity; and it is the same today. How do we experience revival when we are constantly attacking each other and discrediting each other? Only the revival spoken of above will bring about that unity. We need to be aware of off- shoot movements such as the Shepherds Rods and those claiming to be members of the church but are tearing it down. We as elders and pastors must be willing to confront such persons in love but with firmness, letting them know that their approaches to addressing issues are misguided and misleading. Likewise, those of us in leadership must not turn a blind eye or deaf ear to known ills. As Paul admonished, we must be about restoring in love as opposed to tearing down, ever mindful that we are all human beings.
Finally, I remind you of the opening quote by Ellen White: “The church, enfeebled and defective, needing to be reproved, warned, and counseled, is the only object upon earth upon which Christ bestows His supreme regard.”
According to the statement, “Seventh-day Adventists understand ordination, in a biblical sense, as the action of the church in publicly recognizing those whom the Lord has called and equipped for local and global church ministry.” Biblical examples of ordained persons include elders/supervising elders and deacons, the document says, as well as “elders who were itinerant and supervised greater territory with multiple congregations.”
Explaining the role of an ordained person, the statement continues: “In the act of ordination the church confers representative authority upon individuals for the specific work of ministry to which they are appointed. These may include representing the church; proclaiming the gospel; administering the Lord’s Supper and baptism; planting and organizing churches; guiding and nurturing members; opposing false teachings; and providing general service to the congregation.”
Adventist Review editor and publisher Bill Knott addresses the chair on the second day of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee on Tuesday, July 23 in Baltimore, Maryland. [PHOTO: Ansel Oliver]
Unlike the beliefs of some other Christian faiths, however, Seventh-day Adventist ordination “neither conveys special qualities to the persons ordained nor introduces a kingly hierarchy within the faith community.”
The statement concludes by noting “the ultimate model of Christian ministry is the life and work of our Lord, who came not to be served but to serve.”
The approval of the document came on the second day of the second 2013 gathering of TOSC members, who met at a private, non-church conference center near the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. Delegates included church pastors, lay members, scholars and officers from throughout the Seventh-day Adventist global community, with Artur Stele, a general vice president of the world church and director of the General Conference Biblical Research Institute, as chairman. Geoffrey Mbwana, another general vice president, is vice chair.
“This is the first time the church has taken a serious study to develop a theology of ordination,” Mbwana said shortly after the vote. “It’s critical that before we discuss any issue of ordination, we actually understand a theology of ordination. Today, I think a milestone is beginning to happen: that a consensus statement has been accepted to be recommended to the General Conference, the Annual Council and then to the [G.C.] Session to be adopted as a statement of a theology of ordination.”
Agreeing on a theology of ordination is preparatory to the TOSC’s other task, discussing the ordination of women to the gospel ministry. The subject has been debated among Seventh-day Adventists for years, with the worldwide General Conference sessions of 1990 and 1995 declining to permit such ordinations. The TOSC is charged with producing material for discussion and making recommendations that will be acted upon at the church’s July 2015 world session, due to be held in San Antonio, Texas.
According to Bill Knott, Adventist Review editor and a member of the TOSC, “If the church can reach consensus on a common theology of ordination, it offers hope that it may also find a solution that honors the strongly held convictions on both sides of this issue.”
BY MARK A. KELLNER, News Editor, reporting from Linthicum Heights, Maryland. Document to go to 2014 Annual Council, 2015 General Conference Session (Posted July 23, 2013)
On Saturday, July 27, 2013 Pastor Ted N. C. Wilson, world leader of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, will visit the Bahamas for a service of thanksgiving to be held at the Independence Ball Room, Sheraton Cable Beach Hotel. Invited by the Atlantic Caribbean Union, Pastor Wilson will deliver the sermon at the Divine Service focusing on Revival and Reformation. Accompanied by his wife, Nancy Wilson, Pastor Wilson is slated to meet the Governor General of the Bahamas, Sir Arthur Foulkes and Lady Foulkes, the Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie, the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Hubert Minnis, and the Minister of Tourism, Hon. Obie Wilchombe. Invitations have also been extended to various religious leaders to attend this service. Services will include Sabbath School (8:30 a.m. - 9:40 a.m.) and Divine Worship (10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.).
Pastor Wilson who was born in Takoma Park, Maryland on May 10, 1950, was elected as president of the Seventh-day Adventist world church during the General Conference Session in July 2010. The son of former General Conference President Neal C. Wilson and Elinor E. Wilson, he spent part of his childhood in Egypt.
He began his church career as a pastor in 1974 in the Greater New York Conference. In 1975, he married Nancy Louise Volimer, a physical therapist. The couple has three married daughters - Emilie Louise, Elizabeth Esther, Catherine Anne, and seven wonderful grandchildren.
Pastor Wilson served as an assistant director and then director of Metropolitan Ministries in New York from 1976 to 1981. He went on to serve as departmental director and later as executive secretary in the Africa-Indian Ocean Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, based in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, until 1990.
Following his post in West Africa, he served for two years at the church's world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, as an associate secretary. Next he accepted the position of president of the church's Euro-Asia Division in Moscow, Russia, which he held from 1992 to 1996. Pastor Wilson returned to the Unites States to serve as president of the Review and Herald Publishing Association in Hagerstown, Maryland, until his election as a General Conference vice president in 2000.
An ordained minister, Pastor Wilson holds a doctorial degree in Religious Education from New York University, a Master of Divinity degree from Andrews University, and a Master of Science degree in Public Health from Loma Linda University's School of Public Health. In addition to English, he speaks French and some Russian.
At forty years of age as an independent nation the Bahamas is to be commended for providing education for all its people and residents. Education is essentially free from kindergarten to secondary level, therefore each person has an opportunity to develop and grow in knowledge and skill. Nevertheless, the national grade would seem to imply that this opportunity and privilege is not being embraced to the fullest. Or it may suggest that there needs to be a re-visitation of our methods and approach to teaching and learning. It is crucial that a one-fits-all methodology not be applied, for it is a known fact that persons learn differently. There is much to unpack in the biblical saying recorded in Proverbs 22:1: “Train a child in the way he should go.” That way, whether academically or vocationally, is to be determined and responded to accordingly. Those not academically inclined must not be made to feel inferior in any way. Nonetheless, forty years later, why is there need to import so many laborers and persons with other skills? Could it be that our education and training have not kept pace with our country’s need?
Public Health Care is another service provided by the government with minimal cost to citizens and has been expanded significantly over the past forty years. Government facilities, inclusive of the Princess Margaret, Rand Memorial and numerous mini hospitals and clinics throughout the country, provide a reasonable measure of health care. Of course, this comes with a heavy price tag to the government, or should I say the citizens? And now it is once again proposed that a national health care plan be instituted. It does not require a rocket scientist to know that this is costly. One might ask, “Can the country afford it?” On the other hand, some will counter, “Can the country not afford to provide such a service?” However, another question needs to be placed in the mix: “ Shouldn’t a forty-year old maturity demonstrate that we the citizens and residents are willing to pay our part as opposed to being totally dependent on the government?” While I am mindful of a percentage of persons who would need to have their health needs totally funded, there is unfortunately a dependency culture that prevails. And that is the government should pay for me. Maturity implies that I do my part as opposed to depending on another to do what I can do. Biblically, we are counseled in Luke 6:31, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In other words, would you want to be taken advantage of? Certainly not! Likewise we should not take advantage of the system. Honesty and integrity are necessary ingredients of a matured country, and I do not think it coincidental that they are included in the current constitution. Nevertheless, the way forward calls for citizens and residents to adapt healthier lifestyles that will hopefully serve to decrease lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol, and thereby reduce our health costs.
On another note, it is so comforting to hear that the government plans to place focus on agriculture. Forty years later we should have been further advanced in feeding ourselves. Unfortunately, not many of us have been taught and encouraged deliberately to embrace farming and agriculture, and today we are paying the price in high import bills.
Safety and Security
Security is a basic need of mankind and likewise a necessity of a developing nation such as ours. However, forty years later --gone are the days of being able to go to parks and beaches at any time. Even night church attendance is purported to be down owing to the fear of crime. Forty years ago it was much safer to move around. The sight of burglar bars, security personnel and alarm systems speak to security concerns. Without question it costs more to live in Nassau, Grand Bahama and some of the more developed family islands. The alarming robbery and murder rates stand to ruin and destroy our once peaceful, safe and friendly status. This poses a major threat to a country dependent on tourism. Maturity demands that we the people stop depending on just the police to combat crime. There is more that we can do in implementing security measures and being alert to our environments. Also we must we willing to report what we know. Likewise there must be the assurance that for reporting we will not be put at the risk of retaliation.
A Non-Partisan Spirit is Needed
Another sign of maturity is the ability to be objective and truthful about the contribution of another, even an opponent, and give credit or praise. It disturbs me to hear so often from our halls of parliament reference to opposing parties on the part of successive governments blaming and pointing the finger. There would appear to be an unwillingness to continue or maintain an initiative because it comes with the branding of the opponent, be it a former government or the sitting government. Forty years old ought to imply that we are beyond pettiness. It is said of Jesus in Luke 2:42, 52 at the age of 12 that He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”
There is need for a greater consideration of country as opposed to who does what and who gets the credit. Maybe with it starting with our politicians, it will trickle down to our people and the label of PLP, FNM, DNA or the like will not determine if one gets a job or not. Instead, consideration will be given to who is qualified.
Until we get beyond the partisan spirit, we are not likely to benefit from the vast knowledge and contribution of our people. Until we remove smeared lenses, public funds will not be wisely expended thereby minimizing waste; crime is likely to reel out of control and anger will continue to grow when the people perceive favoritism.
The Importance of the Presence of God
Forty years later there is unquestionably a proliferation of churches. They are everywhere; but are they having the impact and/or influence in establishing morality? Even as I write there is the news of a major victory for same sex marriage in the United States of America. Could the same be lurking at the doors of the Bahamas? Maturity and growth do not suggest that we welcome everything because others do so. Maturity would suggest that we have morals, standards and a mind of our own. However, I hope that it would be a mind that is informed by godly principles and values. It is clear a nation that has the Lord as its God is a wise nation (Deuteronomy 4:7-9). Bahamians and residents must never underestimate the necessity of God’s presence. Without Him we are doomed to degradation and failure all in the vestige of a so-called maturity and modernization. And therefore I ask, “Are we forty years old (matured and responsible)?” Or “Are we forty years young (not knowing who we are and succumbing to any and everything simply because others do it?” It is my hope that we will allow God and His teachings to influence our thoughts, actions and decisions. Thereby we will be a blessed nation –forty and growing.
It is not usual that the General Conference president gets to visit all of the unions within a five-year term. Given that there are approximately 130 unions worldwide, we in the Atlantic Caribbean Union consider ourselves blessed to be recipients of a visit albeit short. We are indeed grateful for the opportunity to welcome Elder Ted and Nancy Wilson to our Union territory for a joint Sabbath service July 27.
Welcoming the Wilsons
On the final Sabbath of this month, July 27, Union and Field Officers along with Pastor Leon Wellington, a vice president of the Inter American Division, and Minister of Tourism Hon. Obie Wilchombe, will welcome Pastor Ted and Nancy Wilson at the Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau at approximately 7:50 a.m. Following the arrival of the Wilsons, the delegation along with Pastor and Mrs. Wilson, will travel to the Union Headquarters where a representative group of Adventurers, Pathfinders and Masterguides, will form a color guard and allow for a brief inspection. Thereafter it will be off to the Independence Ball Room, Sheraton Hotel, Cable Beach.
The logistics of securing an adequate and commodious facility has not been without challenge. Nevertheless, commendation goes out to many of you who prayed and shared your valuable information. As a result, we were able to secure favorable arrangements at the Sheraton Hotel, Cable Beach. However, the need for a place that we can call our own to be used for similar events is very great. It is important that we look at this within each of our fields.
Nevertheless, I am excited as the South Bahamas leadership along with its pastors and lay leaders are working together along with the Union to ensure a great visit and meaningful service. Please note that the Sabbath school service will commence at 8:30 a.m., and Divine Worship will start at 10 thus allowing for adequate time for worship. For those of you outside of Nassau, the Sabbath school and Divine services will be video streamed allowing for all to see. The Spirit of God is at work, and I am sensing that God will bless tremendously. We solicit your prayers as we look forward to that day in worship to Almighty God, with the presence and preaching of Elder Ted Wilson. Pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Pray for safe travel. Pray for good weather. Pray for Elder Wilson even now as he is in New York conducting a crusade. See you on July 27, 2013.
“Dear Saints of the Lord:
The World is in financial turmoil, and many see this as fulfillment of prophecies. Because we are a prophetic people, we pay keen attention to the events gripping our world in fear. However, God’s people can remain confident, knowing we are in His hands. This is not the time to panic. It is not the time to be paralyzed by fear, nor is it the time to forget that this is the Lord’s church, and we are His people.
As financial institutions are collapsing, as banks are closing, as credit becomes tighter, we must lift up our eyes to heaven in gratitude, because the Lord is still holding the winds of strife, giving us time to reach our neighbors and friends with the message of salvation.
Not a Time to Panic
It is time to rejoice because of the prospect of the soon return of our Lord. However, life goes on, and we must live as the best citizens on this planet. The future is very uncertain, but we are confident the Lord will see us through. His will must be done, and we need to be ready to accept His will in our lives. In the meantime, what can we do?
Definitely, nowhere in the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy do we learn that this is the time to panic or lose our heads. To the contrary, this is the time for ardent prayers, this is the time to frequent God’s house and to associate with His people like never before. This is the time to really care for our brother.
As we go about our lives, please remember that in times of crisis, many civil guarantees will be suspended or canceled outright. The world has seen years of peace and quietness, time had been given to us. However, this is the time for action in preparation for what may come.
Threats to Sabbath Keepers
According to predictions by the experts, one of the first things that may happen is massive job loss. In times of crisis, there is no job security, and as workers in the upper echelons of society lose their jobs, they will fall back on the jobs of the less fortunate persons. It must not surprise us to soon see persons who had high paying jobs, be our trash collectors, for want of a better job.
As Adventists we must be aware of this reality, and one of the first groups of casualties many well be the Sabbath keepers. Protections we have enjoyed thus far may not be there anymore, and to ask for the privilege of Sabbath off to worship according to the dictates of our conscience may well be the reason to be laid off. We need not despair, for the Lord is on our side. However, there are things we can do today to at least lower the possibility of getting fired. No, it is not relying on the laws to protect us, but by being the best workers possible.
Conscious Workers and Supportive Members
Although it was always important that Seventh-day Adventists should be the best workers and citizens there are at all times, now it is more essential than ever. We must engage in our work always with a prayer on our lips, asking the Lord to help us to discharge our duties to the best of our abilities. Let us make sure we are never late for work; let us make sure we are not the first to leave at quitting time. Let us pray to the Lord to preserve our health in order for us not to have to take days off due to real sickness or because we just need “a day to attend to other business.” Let us treat our fellow workers with respect, and deal honestly with our employers, by giving an honest day’s work. Let us go beyond the call of duty. After all, what is to happen shall happen, but don’t let us accelerate it needlessly by just being average workers. We must be the best workers around.
This is the time to intensify our commitment to the Lord, our love for one another, and our dedication to His church. We do not return our tithe to force the Lord to bless, because according to His blessings, we return to Him what is His. This must be a priority now. Let us come together to pray, and to study God’s Word. Let us fill our churches on Wednesday nights to pray, and invite our neighbors to come with us to the house of the Lord to pray.
If you know of a brother or a sister who has fallen on hard times, make life more bearable for him/her. Share with each other what we have, and make the burden of our fellow Christians lighter.
No, we are not in panic mode, but we realize that this may be the call of the Lord to draw closer to Him, and to be prepared for bigger things that are to come on this earth.
May the Lord grant us His peace in this time of trouble, and may His blessings preserve us from the ills of the world and the uncertainties surrounding us.
President of the Inter-American Division
Moving with ConvictionI read with interest a document provided by a friend regarding visions given by Ellen White while in Australia “in which she was shown places in California suitable for building sanitariums.” In August 1901, as she was attending the Los Angeles Camp Meeting, she recalled those visions and thus moved to acquire the properties. These included The Paradise Valley and Loma Linda properties. These would give rise to our initial sanitariums. Today, we identify one of these as the renowned Loma Linda facility. Without doubt, God inspired those projects. In fact, a well digger while digging for water on one of the properties encountered some difficulty. To explain, Mr. Hamilton, the well digger and his helpers had dug down some 80 feet but no water. However, Brother Hamilton in the light of this situation put the following question to Mrs. White, “Did the Lord tell you to buy this property?” It would seem that Mrs. White answered immediately. “‘Yes! Yes!’ ‘Three times I was shown that we should secure this particular property . . ..’” Brother Hamilton replied, “‘All right,’ ‘The Lord would not give us an elephant without providing water for it to drink.’” Therefore, he declared that he would go on digging. This time Hamilton “tunneled in another direction, and with a vigorous blow his pick broke through the clay into a fine stream of water as large as a man’s arm.” The well quickly began to fill so much so that there wasn’t enough time to get all the tools out. This was another indication that God was behind the plan to get the property.
Personal DemonstrationGiven the fact that, “the Southern California Conference was unable to provide the funds for this enterprise, Ellen White borrowed $2,000 from the St. Helena Bank, at 8 percent interest, and Josephine Gotzian, a close friend, provided the other $2,000 toward the total price of $4,000.” This clearly demonstrated Ellen’s faith in the visions and, therefore, her personal support for the advancement of the work.
Each Can Play a PartToday, I remind you and myself that the same God who encouraged the procurement of the California properties inspired numerous projects throughout our union. We who lead have opportunities to demonstrate our support by promoting and financing these projects, ensuring their advancement and completion. Much is accomplished when there is a united and team approach to assisting with so many unfinished conference/mission, church and school buildings.
It is not the amount that is given that is important, but it’s the willingness to give and the positive support we give publicly. I was most impressed with the giving of members, thus enabling the leaders to meet the deadline for purchase of the property. It should be noted that not in every instance was the giving spontaneous-there were many appeals made before some member were pricked to contribute. For example, following a three-hour meeting when an appeal for the Loma Linda project was made, “the people began to testify to their confidence in the work, and to tell of the money they had in the bank, which they would lend to the enterprise. Others promised to sell property and to invest the proceeds in sanitarium enterprises.” So astonished was the conference president that he commented in the Pacific Union Recorder: “This liberality on the part of a willing membership, few of whom are well off in this world’s goods, sought to stimulate confidence in our own conference and perhaps inspire other conferences to raise funds to liquidate all indebtedness (Sept.14, 1905).
Friend, I believe that that same liberality exists today –I only ask that you do your part in your area. Give today that church buildings can be obtained, schools can be completed and improved, and our children can be housed.
Who Is a Local Elder?
Local elders are recognized as possessing strong spiritual leadership and good reputation both in the church and the community. In the absence of a pastor, they are the spiritual leaders. By precept and example, they seek to lead the church into a deeper and fuller Christian experience. It is expected that elders conduct the services of the church and minister in both word and doctrine when the assigned pastor is unavailable. However, the SDA Church Manual cautions against choosing elders “primarily because of social position or speaking ability.” Instead, elders should be chosen “because of their consecrated lives and leadership abilities.” Local elders should be ordained in order to participate in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, etc. While ordination is for life, “all things being equal,” so to speak, elders are required to be re-elected in order to function at the local church.
Function of an Elder
Given the aforementioned, one can appreciate why the church uses the term local elder. The term “local elder” refers to function as opposed to title in that the elder functions within the context of the local church. However, they are not addressed as local elders. Instead, they are commonly addressed as elders; and therein resides the basis for some confusion. How does a member differentiate between a local elder from a senior church administrator? In the December 12, 2012 edition of the Spectrum Magazine, it is observed that “Adventism has one of the most layered and complex hierarchies in all of Christianity.” The article continues, “but at the same time there is not (officially) an office with more authority than the local elder. Thus, even our General Conference president’s ecclesial title of address remains ‘Elder Wilson.’ This middle-ground which Adventism tries to occupy leaves us with ‘presidents’ that function like ‘bishops’ but who are called ‘elders.’ No wonder debates regarding ordination are so volatile.”
So to refer to a local elder, as “Brother” or “Sister” in no way diminishes his or her roles. The focus is on function and not title. Personally, I refer to my Division and General Conference leaders as elders. I picked this up from hearing local conference leaders refer to the same and the then Union president as Elder. To me, this is not so much an issue as much as a matter of respect. Interestingly, when they write me, they sign their names without any title. They are Israel and Ted. I am in no way suggesting that they be addressed by their first name, for in our culture that would be disrespectful. Again, I think it is safe to keep in mind function as opposed to title. “Brother” suggests respect and closeness in certain cultures. Nevertheless, there are times when occasions may require some official titles.
The Work of Elders Is Local
As the name suggests, the authority and work of elders are confined to the church in which their election has been made. It is not permissible for a conference committee by vote to confer on an elder the status that is granted to an ordained pastor to serve other churches as elder. If that need exists, the conference committee may recommend to the church needing an elder that it invite and elect the elder of a nearby church to serve. Thus by election one individual may, when necessary, serve more than one church. Such an arrangement should be made only in counsel with the conference committee. Authority to elect elders is inherent in the local church and not in the conference committee. The only way one may be qualified for serving the Church at large is by ordination to the gospel ministry (See Church Manual pp. 33, 72, 73.).
On the other hand, the work of the pastor is international, as his ordination allows for service throughout the world.
No Sharp Thrusts
Ellen White states, “Let not those who write for our papers make unkind thrusts and allusions that will certainly do harm and that will hedge up the way and hinder us from doing the work that we should do in order to reach all classes, the Catholics included” (LDE 90.2). While she speaks to persons who write for our papers, the principles may apply otherwise. Furthermore, she explains that, “It is our work to speak the truth in love and not to mix in with the truth the unsanctified elements of the natural heart and speak things that savor of the same spirit possessed by our enemies. . . .” Ibid. Additionally, she points out, “We are not to use harsh and cutting words. Keep them out of every article written, drop them out of every address given. Let the Word of God do the cutting, the rebuking; let finite men hide and abide in Jesus Christ” (9T 240, 241, 244, 1909). [LDE 90.3].
Beware of Side Issues
A point to be noted is, “God has not passed His people by and chosen one solitary man here and another there as the only ones worthy to be entrusted with His truth. He does not give one man new light contrary to the established faith of the body.” She adds, “In every reform men have arisen making this claim. . . . Let none be self-confident, as though God had given them special light above their brethren. . . .” (Italicized for emphasis) [LDE 90.6]. There is the tendency for one to accept “some new and original idea which does not seem to conflict with the truth.” Dwelling upon it, “it seems to him to be clothed with beauty and importance, for Satan has power to give this false appearance. At last, it becomes the all-absorbing theme, the one great point around which everything centers, and the truth is uprooted from the heart. . . ” [LDE 91.1].
Emphasize Unity, Not Differences
Mrs. White clarifies that, “There are a thousand temptations in disguise prepared for those who have the light of truth, and the only safety for any of us is in receiving no new doctrine, no new interpretation of the Scriptures, without first submitting it to brethren of experience.” This is an excellent point; and she counsels, “Lay it before them in a humble, teachable spirit, with earnest prayer, and if they see no light in it, yield to their judgment, for ‘in the multitude of counselors there is safety.’ . . .” [LDE 91.3].
As followers of Christ, clergy and laity, we must be willing to subject ourselves to authority, the word of God and to the policies of the church. In addition to being submissive, we should seek to model Christ in our pronouncements, writings and attitude. Thereby, our lives would be reflective of Christ’s life in all that we say and do.
Seeing God in the Crucibles
If one sees or senses the presence of God in his trying circumstances, he/she is able to endure and manifest a tenacious hold upon God as in the examples of Joseph, Job and Daniel. I read with interest the expression, “The Lord was with Joseph” (Gen. 39:2, 21). So seeing oneself under God’s control, in the light of present trials, enables one to endure and manifest a remarkable sense of patience and trust. Job remarked, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
Understanding the Will of God
Knowing the will of God for one’s life comes through a daily walk with God. By that I mean deliberately carving out time for reading of God’s Word and time for prayer. Through these avenues, we see and understand how God works. Through these simple approaches, the Holy Spirit is able to connect with the soul of man, creating awareness and a sensitivity to that which is spiritual. Failure to grasp this may lead one to conclude that he is suffering for God’s sake when, in fact, his own doings or some failure on his part has brought on his suffering.
Making the Application
Here is where “the rubber meets the road.” Looking at one’s joblessness, turbulent relationship, whether in marriage or toward a church or job colleague, or the unresponsiveness of a wayward child a parent has been praying for years- but apparently no change- what does one do? Not to mention those who have been for years seeking a companion, continue to get older and have to endure the subtle taunting of friends: “When are you going to get married?” These are but few of the trials people of God face; however, the words of the Apostle Paul may prove encouraging. Paul counsels, “but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope” (Romans 5:3, 4). And if more encouragement is needed, I share the words of last week’s conclusion by Walt Allmand, “Doubt your doubts before you doubt your beliefs,” for as my caption says, “This too shall pass.”
A Sense of Assurance
From a biblical perspective, there are several passages that bear the message, “God is in control.” Among them is Psalm 11:4 where David establishes this theme. According to the Message translation, it reads, “He’s in charge, as always, His eyes taking everything in, His eyelids, unblinking, examining Adam’s unruly brood inside and out, not missing a thing.” Additionally, I read in Psalm 22:28, “For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations (NKJV). Considering the backdrop of each text, one will read of opposition, impending calamity, emotional distress, frustration and a sense of doubt. Without questions, these are issues that we face today; and therefore the relevance of the words, “God is in control.” Put another way it can be said that, “nothing happens by chance” in the life of a sincere follower of God. Isn’t that comforting?
God Is Constant
At times, there is a tendency to feel that God has distanced Himself, especially when we determine that we need Him now and there is not the apparent response we seek. But does God do that? The Bible reminds us in Matt. 28:20, “Lo I am with you always.” God is not one to isolate Himself. Oh no! He stays with us. It is just that the pressures of life weigh heavily on all sides, and if not careful, we begin to doubt His many promises to us. Consider Psalm 22:1&2, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning? 2. O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent (NKJV). However, later in the Psalm, the Psalmist regains his confidence in God, for God never changes. He is the same God-- always constant in His love and regard for us, never wavering, but we sometimes forget and as such doubt. Nevertheless, in the words of Walt Allmand, “Doubt your doubts before you doubt your beliefs.”
What Is the Issue?
Given the fact that God is in control and that He is in His sanctuary, and that He watches over us, never sleeping and always alert, why do we worry and become so troubled? Could it be that we are too busy to pray? I am not referring to the norm, but I’m speaking of being tuned in to God and listening to Him so that we understand His purposes for our lives.
Many are the cares and concerns that come our way within and outside of the church, testing us severely. False accusation, unfair criticism, and not to mention financial, marital and other issues, all test us to our very core. Unfortunately, these tend to pull us away from thinking about God, as the nature of such problems tends to overwhelm us. However, we must remember that our God is bigger than any problem that might confront us now or later; and the key to a calm spirit is to keep our focus on Him, no matter how bad situations may be or appear. We must remember always that while situations all around are spiraling out of control, God is in control! He is in His Holy Temple. He is within reach, and as one writer said, “He is only a prayer away.” He is in Control! Praise the Lord!
Why Did Not God Intervene?
In response to such a question, I find the words of Ellen White most comforting and trust that it will do the same for you. She writes, “This is a question with which we have nothing to do. God has given us sufficient evidence of His love, and we are not to doubt His goodness because we cannot understand the workings of His providence” (GC 47). She adds, “Said the Saviour to His disciples, foreseeing the doubts that would press upon their souls in days of trial and darkness: ‘Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you’” -John 15:20 (Ibid). The life of a Christian is one of explicit and implicit faith, totally believing in God and not giving way to doubt even for a moment. Here is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, when we are praying for an answer to a current situation that challenges us financially; marriage or family wise; academically or health wise. At times it seems that God is not hearing, or is taking forever to answer, and therefore the temptation of doubt sets in. It is then that we need to hold and cling tenaciously to His promises. However, there is another aspect to persecution that “blows my mind.”
A More Important Question
What question can be more important than the above? According to Mrs. White, “There is another and more important question that should engage the attention of the churches of today.” “What is it?” you ask. Ellen White asks, “Why is it, then, that persecution seems in a great degree to slumber?” (GC 48). I must warn that the answer is most revealing as she says, “The only reason is that the church has conformed to the world’s standard and therefore awakens no opposition. The religion, which is current in our day, is not of the pure and holy character that marked the Christian faith in the days of Christ and His apostles. It is only because of the spirit of compromise with sin, because the great truths of the word of God are so indifferently regarded, because there is so little vital godliness in the church, that Christianity is apparently so popular with the world”(Ibid).
I need not tell you that this made me uncomfortable, but it got worse as I considered that she spoke in reference to her day. Now in applying this to our current age, I am even more disturbed. Am I doing all that I can to model Christ? Are you? Are we? This is the more important question that we must answer. So help me God to live for you in total submission.
The lyrics are normally written for a song, and then the music would follow. However, in the case of Blessed Assurance, just the opposite took place. Mrs. Joseph Fairchild Knapp composed a hymn tune in 1873 visiting Fanny Crosby; she played the tune for her. Finding that it pleased Fanny very much indeed, Mrs. Knapp asked her to write some words for it. She played it over the second time and noticed that Fanny Crosby was kneeling in prayer. After the third playing, Fanny began dictating rapidly the words of the hymn that we now have. The hymn is based on first John 3:2, “Beloved, Now Are We the Sons of God.”
‘Tis the Blessed Hour of Prayer
“’Tis’ The Blessed Hour of Prayer,” #501, reflects Fanny Crosby’s own devotion, spirit, and experience. You cannot help but notice the progression of the thought concerning ‘our care’ in stanza two, we cast ‘our care’, in the next stanza ‘Christ removes the care’ and finally, ‘we lose all of our care’. It should be noted that William Howard Doane composed the music for this hymn.
All the Way
This hymn, which was also written by Fanny Crosby, with music by Robert Lowry, reflects an interesting experience. While meditating on the leading of providence, Fanny Crosby was unexpectedly given $5 by a friend who called at the door. It is said that Fanny was short of money at the time and needed this amount before she was able to draw money from her publishers. This experience awakened a train of thought that calumniated in the writing of this hymn. Consider some of the lyrics; All the way my Savior leads me; what have I to ask beside? Can I doubt his tender mercy, who through life has been my guide? Heavenly peace, divinest comfort here by faith in Him to dwell, for I know what ere befall me Jesus doeth all things well; for I know what ere befall me Jesus doest all things well.”
One must conclude that Fanny, though blind, saw what many of us failed to see with a vision of 20/20. It underscores that notwithstanding what we may refer to as apparent setbacks, lacks and deficiencies, God enables us to have such a remarkable hope and to do the unthinkable; and this hymn, #516, certainly reminds us of that.
Let Us Break Bread Together
Finally, I include #403, “Let Us Break Bread Together.” This song, especially the chorus, poses a challenge to some persons, as it conveys the idea of Sun worship. However, that was never the intention of Miles Mark Fisher who wrote the words. In the days of slavery in the United States, this song was used as a signal for Blacks to convene a secret meeting. However, following the Civil War, the first two stanzas were added making it a Communion hymn.
The concept of sun used as a symbol for God is found in Ps. 84:11: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield.” Also, Mal. 4:2 says, “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.” Hopefully, this background information will allow all persons to sing these lyrics with confidence knowing that they refer to God. Enjoy and have a great Sabbath.
Far From All Care
“Far from All Care,” #394 in the current Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, with reference to the Sabbath, was composed by Douglas Albert Raoul Aufrance, a Seventh-day Adventist physician and dentist. It is said that Douglas, after a period of intense work and strain in the rush and bustle of the great city of London, spent a short holiday at Pevensey Bay, between Hastings and East Bourne on the Sussex coast in England. This quiet and peaceful place, especially on the Sabbath day, contrasted vividly with the noise of the city, and therefore the idea of the hymn had its roots there.
We’ll Build On the Rock
Based on the parable of the wise man who built his house on the rock that withstood the rain and the floods as well as the winds, this hymn was written by an Adventist hymn writer, Franklyn Edson Belden. Born at Battle Creek, Michigan on March 21, 1858, Franklyn Edson Belden was the eldest of five children born to Stephen Belden and Sarah Harmon, the elder sister of Ellen Harmon (Later White). Belden is noted for many of the hymns in the current hymnal such as #183, “I Will Sing of Jesus Love,” #253 “There’s No Other Name Like Jesus,” #308 “Holly Thine,” #412 “Cover With His Life,” #416 “The Judgment Has Set,” #430 “Joy By and By,” #579 “Tis’ Love That Makes Us Happy,” #595 “Let Every Lamp Be Burning,” #596 “Look For The Way Marks,” #600 “Hold Fast Till I Come,” #604 “We Know Not The Hour.” Isn’t it amazing that these songs depict comfort, faith, and hope; but at the same time, speak to remarkable theology and teachings of love, righteousness, judgment, devotion, diligence, steadfastness, the second coming, etc. It might be a good thing for a chorister or song leader to focus one Sabbath on just hymns by Franklyn Belden.
It Is Well With My Soul
Listed as #530 in the current Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, this hymn was born out of great tragedy; nevertheless, it is a hymn that inspires so much hope and assurance. The author, Horatio Gates Spafford, had planned a trip to Europe for his wife and family, but at the last minute, he had to remain at home on business, so he sent them on ahead. Unfortunately, his wife, Anna, and their four daughters, Maggie, Tanetta, Annie and Bessie, ages 18 months to 12 years, were on a ship Ville de Havre that collided with an English sailing ship, the Loch Earn of Newfoundland, and sank within half an hour. Mrs. Spafford was rescued, but all four children drowned, the baby being washed from her mother’s grasp. Needless to say this incident brought great sorrow, but Mr. Spafford shortly thereafter sailed across the Atlantic to meet his wife, and both of them met with Evangelist Dwight L. Moody in Liverpool who comforted them. Nonetheless, they said, “It is well and the will of God be done.” These words were framed and hung on Mr. Spafford’s wall. In 1876, on the occasion of Ira D. Sankey’s visit, Mr. Spafford again expressed his resignation to God’s will. It was then that he was inspired to put his thoughts into verse, and this hymn was written two years after the tragedy. However, there is one stanza that is omitted in the current Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal, and I thought I would share these words, for we often sing them at funerals.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And had shared His own blood for my soul.
Given the aforementioned hymns, it is my hope that as we sing these hymns, especially the last, “It Is Well With My Soul,” that you would consider it as one that, though borne of tragedy, offers much encouragement and hope. I equate this to the lily that comes out of mucky water, or the gold after the dross has been removed; and likewise our shattered, checkered, bruised, and sinful lives that have been turned into ones of righteousness because of the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Therefore, sing with meaning, sing with understanding, with joy, with enthusiasm; and sing with hope in honor and praise to almighty God.
Other hymns to follow include #403 “Let Us Break Bread Together.”
We Have This Hope
“We Have This Hope” (#214), was published in response to a request that Wayne Hooper write a theme song for the 1962 General Conference Session in San Francisco. Hooper, a member of the King’s Herald Quartet for the Voice of Prophecy Radio Broadcast, started thinking about the motto that had been chosen, “We Have This Hope.” Accordingly, he prayed to the Lord seeking to write something useful and that the Holy Spirit would impress his mind with the right combination of words and music that would be a blessing at the General Conference Session. In just a matter of half an hour, Hooper “had all the words and most of the music.” The transition section came about a week later. Needless to say, this musical piece, with its rich music and theologically sound lyrics, blessed the 1962 General Conference Session, and has been used as a theme song for several sessions since that time. Today, we continue to use this hymn, as it reawakens and reaffirms the blessed hope of our Lord’s return.
I Saw One Weary
Secondly, I proffer the hymn “How far From Home” (#441), written by another Adventist author, Annie Rebekah Smith, the only daughter of Samuel and Rebekah Spalding Smith, born at West Wilton, New Hampshire, on March 16, 1828. Annie joined the Baptist church in 1838 and became a follower of William Miller, but after the disappointment of October 1844, she lost interest in the doctrine of the Second Advent of Christ. She trained to be a teacher, later specialized in painting; and in 1851, at the request of her mother, she attended a meeting conducted by Joseph Bates. It was during that meeting she decided to join the Sabbath keeping Adventists and devoted her poetic talent to writing for the church paper, The Review and Herald. It was also during this time that she wrote numerous hymns that made a permanent impression on the early believers in the advent and brought encouragement to those who laid the foundation of the Seventh-day Adventist church. Unfortunately, she died at the early age of 27 on July 26, 1855, after less than four years of service to the church.
It is of interest to note that the first three stanzas of this hymn written in 1852 refer to three outstanding personalities in the early history of the Seventh-day Adventist church. The first stanza refers to Joseph Bates whom God used to convert her. The second stanza refers to James Springer White who faced poverty, incessant labor, fanaticism, and other hardships. His courage remained steadfast because of his firm hope in the advent of Christ. He and his wife, Ellen, whom we refer to as Sister White, pioneered the development of the Seventh-day Adventist Church against much opposition. The third stanza refers to John Nevins Andrews who became the first missionary to be sent by the church from North America.
How Far From Home
Listed as #439 in the current Hymnal the hymn “How Far From Home” is based on Isaiah 21:11 & 12. Annie penned this hymn in the form of a question to inspire early believers with a sense of confidence in the nearness of the eternal home.
Given the aforementioned information, one can understand why I am so passionate about our using hymns and knowing their background; for if we are unaware of what motivated the writing of these hymns, we are likely to miss out on their rich meaning and history. For example, the three hymns employed for this Weekly are tied to the disappointment of 1844, the early pioneers who sacrificed greatly for the church, and above all, the glorious return of our Lord which sparks daily hope. Of course, I repeat that I am not in any way advocating that we should not use contemporary praise and worship songs, but that we as pastors and elders ensure that hymns such as these are included, so that the younger ones will know their church, its history and its returning Lord.
(A few more hymns to follow next week)
The Aim of Worship
According to Alain Coralie, a church leader in Nairobi, Kenya, “The primary point for worship leaders to realize is not how to make worship more appealing and relevant to seekers, but how to make believers engage more fully with their Creator and Redeemer.” I could not agree more, for some worship services tend to be more anthropocentric (human focused) than God-centric. Our personal time with God and/or our corporate worship have little to do with self and our needs as important and real as they may be. Worship is about focusing on God and His word.
Given the aforementioned, it is necessary that the worship leader, committee and the pastor get together to ensure that what is planned for worship comports with or lines up with the motif of worship to God and not on what makes man feel good. The music and whatever activity chosen must not be for the sake of popularity, to appeal to the youth per se, to appeal to non-church goers, or even to increase church attendance -as important as all of these concerns are. When these or any of them become the basis for worship, we are likely to dispense with the objective of worship for the sake of fulfilling any of the above, which may result in watering down biblical principles. We must remember that we do not change people. God does that through His Holy Spirit. Jesus says, "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself”" (John 12:32, NKJV).
Music and Culture
Music and culture must be informed by a sound biblical Theology of worship. Music is an ongoing debate, for it has to do with taste, type and appeal. Some love this type and others a different genre of music. The overarching principle for me must be, “Is it directing worshippers to God?” Is the aim of the worship leader to lead worshippers into worship of God, as opposed to impressing or appealing to what makes one feel good?
Culturally, we in the Bahamas tend to be a certain way in our worship, expressions and style. And yet within our various churches and denominations there is variation. Some churches favor drums, the guitar and the like, but as for others they do not. As for me, I feel that a more relevant issue has to do with the purpose of worship and the preparation of those who lead out and play musical instruments in worship. An instrument under the control of a converted musician can be an enhancement to the worship of God, pointing away from the instrument or person to God.
Notwithstanding the above, I struggle with Junkanoo music being played in the halls of the church. My experience is that such music involving the use of cowbells, the goatskin drums, horns and whistles with its pulsating beat is likely to get people “rushing,” moving up and down, swaying to the Junkanoo rhythms and feeling justified, especially when Christian lyrics have been added or have replaced the secular ones.
Interpretive dancing also raises questions. Most times when I get questions on this and the use of Junkanoo music, the concern is to save the youth by allowing for greater participation and attracting more worshippers. Also, some persons argue that David danced before the Lord. It may help to take another look at the text and its context. However, as already noted, none of these (though important) ought to be the primary basis for worship; for the premise is wrong. Worship is about God and what He gives to us through His Word. Our understanding of the purpose of worship and not what we desire ought to inform what we do. We must start with our focus and concentration on God.
Also, as important as emotions are in worship, we must be challenged to think and reflect. We must not be afraid even of silence. In fact some of us as preachers and church leaders feel that if folks are not saying “amen,” we are not getting through. Again I underscore that the objective of whatever we do ought to be God-directed, God-centered and God-focused.
Preparation for Worship Is Necessary
For the aforementioned to be realized, we as church officers, local elders and pastors should give serious attention to preparation of self for worship. He or she who spends time with God will experience such a moving of the Spirit of God upon his/her life that as he/she speaks, announces, reads, plays an instrument and preaches, God will take over appealing to the hearers through a given service. On the other hand, one who is lacking in preparation is likely to be misguided. Whatever we do must be informed by the word of God. Culture does not inform the word; instead the opposite must take place. Our preparation should not be to determine how many positive feedbacks, or “amens,” or approval we can get. “Authentic worship does not start with felt-needs or human ingenuity but God’s activity in history” (Alain Coralie).
Within recent years, I have witnessed at some church services and crusade meetings the use of non-traditional hymnal songs for song service and divine worship. These are commonly referred to as “Praise and Worship” songs. You will recognize these, for example, “Lord Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary,” “As the Deer Panteth,” “Lord, I lift Your Name on High,” and the like. Today, there are some new ones that some of you know all too well. And as if there was a shortage, these would be sung each evening in a crusade, or weekly at church. Additionally, the one leading out or directing may say to members and visitors who are invited to participate in the singing, “O come on –you must not have the Spirit,” or “Everybody Praise the Lord!” If there is no favorable response, or if there is reluctance, then one may assume it is because persons do not have “the Spirit.” What’s wrong?” you may ask. To me, it is limiting the church to one type of songs. I feel that those desirous of what they term “Praise and Worship” could be inclusive by using both hymns from the Hymnal and contemporary gospel songs.
Employing Hymns from the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal
I believe there are many hymns in the current Seventh-day Adventist Church Hymnal that could be used as Praise and Worship songs. These include #100, “Great is Thy Faithfulness;” #109, “Marvelous Grace;” #8, “We Gather Together;” #10, “Come, Christians, Join to Sing;” #15, “My Maker and My King;” #34, “Wake The Song;” #86, “How Great Thou Art;” #108, “Amazing Grace;” #371, “Lift Him Up;” #341, “To God Be the Glory;” #338, “Redeemed!;” #294, “Power in the Blood;” #286, “Wonderful Words of Life;” #189, “All That Thrills My Soul;” These are but a few that could be sung in different ways, using a stanza or two and just moving into another song, once preparation is made. It may be of interest to know that there is a companion book to the hymnal. The chorister, by looking up the history or story behind the hymn and sharing a little before the song, would enable worshipers to truly engage in praise and worship. Then the song is bound to take on meaning. For me, one is #530, “It Is Well with My Soul.” Employing the use of a large screen and projector may prove useful as well. The point is that we do not always have to throw away all that we have to embrace the new. Even songs from the Hymnal can appeal to the young. It all depends on what we put into them and the level of spiritual preparation on the part of the song leader/s.
Purpose of Praise & Worship
The term, “praise and worship,” is “praise” and “worship.” It is for the purpose of our coming together at church, and that is to praise and worship God. We can employ the use of traditional hymns for Praise and Worship. It is important that our members, especially our new members, know these things. Each hymn carries meaning and a theology; and some hymns speak to significant and unique theology that could be lost if church pastors and choristers choose to bypass them. Further more, if we are not careful, some members will view the Seventh-day Adventist church as just another church as opposed to God’s remnant church with a specific mission. As we move forward, it is alright “every now and then to look in our rear view mirror to appreciate where we are coming from.”
Instruments have their places, too, but it is important that they compliment and enhance instead of drowning out the lyrics creating unbearable noise and thus distorting. Equally important is that the musicians be sanctified and understand that they play to the honor and glory of God, whether at a church building or at a crusade. We need to find a way to avoid extremes seen at some of our meetings; for it is hard for visitors or newly baptized ones to transition into some of our churches. Also, it is important not to use music per se as a means to draw people, for there is the temptation to compromise “to get them.” On the other hand, services can be exciting and dynamic with planning and much spiritual preparation. Let us not underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit, for Jesus says, “If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me.” Let’s lift up Christ in our Praise and Worship.
For further guidance and counsel refer to “A Seventh-day Adventist Philosophy of Music – Guidelines” at www.adventist.org.
Consider His Death
The Apostle Paul, in his view of Jesus, described Him as one deserving our attention, admiration and a response. Says Paul, “Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond servant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6, NKJV). Here is a picture of humility in stark contrast to the pride and arrogance of the day. While the religious leaders of the day, known as the Pharisees, sought prominence and honor, Jesus "humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8, NKJV). Isn't that noteworthy? It is unthinkable for one to give his life for another, but Christ did, and did so willingly, as noted in the New Testament book Titus: “Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed” (Titus 2:14, NKJV). Considering that we had nothing to offer in exchange, it could only be deduced that He did it because He loved the human race - His creation, that is you; that is me. Should not these facts lead us to consider this Christ? I would think so!
Consider His Resurrection
It is unknown for one to lay down His life and pick it up. As we know, once you are dead, that is it; for man does not possess the power to raise himself from the grave. Not so with Jesus, for He declared, “I lay down My life that I may take it up again” (John 10:17). So on the first day of the week, when Mary Magdalene and later Simon Peter went to the tomb where He was laid following His death, they found it empty, and rightly so, for Jesus predicted that resurrection would happen on the third day (Matt. 20:19). Now He lives and lives for evermore; but more so He lives that we may live and live eternally. Says Jesus in John 14:19: “Because I live, you will live also.” Bill Gaither certainly got it right when he wrote, “Because He lives I can face tomorrow; Because He lives all fear is gone; Because I know He holds the future. And life is worth the living just because He lives.”
What Will You Do with Him?
Need I further convince you that this risen Lord is to be considered? It is more than consideration that is required. Hopefully, your consideration of the facts presented will lead you to accept Him and the resurrection power He offers freely, enabling you to live a life of victory, purpose and meaning. On the other hand, to spurn Him is to invite death, doom, misery and failure. He is the Son of God – God Himself clothed in humanity. Therefore, He says, “I have come that they (you) may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” John 10:10). It is clear that this life can be had now. The promise has a now and later fulfillment. Isn't that wonderful?
I do not know of a life that equates to life in Christ notwithstanding riches, pleasures and instant gratification. These can only satisfy for a time and go so far, but that which the Resurrected Lord gives is eternal. Put another way, He gives security, peace, forgiveness, protection and eternal life. In fact, He gives better health, riches, in some instances, and if not, He ensures that our bills are paid and needs are met. He provides a twenty-four seven connection that is always open with no drop calls despite His billions of children. I do not know about you, but I value my Lord and have come to realize that I cannot do without Him --no not for a day. Like Thomas I declare, "My Lord and My God!" Do you know Him? If not, why not seek Him today? To know Him is to experience a resurrection of sort today and always!
Consider His Opposition
Paul was arrested on several occasions. His first imprisonment in Rome was due to false accusations by some of the Jews; and likewise was his second imprisonment there. Some unbelieving Jews charged Paul with “the crime of instigating the burning of Rome.” According to Ellen White in Acts of the Apostles, “Not one of them thought for a moment that he was guilty; but they knew that such a charge, made with the faintest show of plausibility, would seal his doom” (p. 489). Nevertheless, these Jews succeeded and the Apostle Paul was placed in a gloomy and dark dungeon known as the Mamertine Prison. From the tour that I had of this dungeon, it was humiliating and demeaning for human beings, but yet this was the place believed to have been the prison for both Peter and Paul on separate occasions. To make matters worse, unlike in his first imprisonment where he was allowed to spend in a home and welcomed many friends, this time there were few friends that shared his burdens. In writing to young Timothy he stated, “Only Luke is with me” (2 Timothy 4:11). However he would also be ministered unto and comforted by a faithful disciple Onesiphorus.
Reflecting again on that dark and gloomy dungeon so small and hid from the sunlight, I can better appreciate what Mrs. White meant by the following, “The desire for love and sympathy is implanted in the heart by God Himself. Christ, in His hour of agony I Gethsemane, longed for the sympathy of His disciples. And Paul, though apparently indifferent to hardship and suffering, yearned for sympathy and companionship” (AA, p. 491).
My trip to Rome also gave me a better appreciation for the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians. From the Biblical and historical accounts, it is a known fact that the Roman Emperor Nero was “a capricious, passionate, licentious tyrant.” The mention of his name instilled fear, trepidation, and worse - the thought of standing or appearing before him. And it was this tyrant that the Apostle Paul would appear. It should be clear that Paul was unafraid. Though he wrote in 2 Timothy 4:16, 17 “no man stood with me, but all men forsook me …. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” Not intimidated in the least Paul preached Christ and the record states “Never before had Nero heard the truth as he heard it on this occasion. Never before had the enormous guilt of his own life been so revealed to him” (AA, p. 496). It is observed that Nero for a period “feared the apostle’s God, and he dared not pass sentence upon Paul.” Later Nero would disgrace himself and succumb to an untimely death at age 32.
How often do we let go? How often do we allow folk to discourage us? How often we allow situations to intimidate us? The story of the Apostle Paul in his imprisonment is a lesson of faith, courage and an unflinching stance. The prophecies of Daniel speak to future trouble and testing for Christians. Will I, like the Apostle Paul, stand and endure when it counts? Will you? My prayer takes on the words of the Hymnist William H. Bathurst, “O, for a faith that will not shrink, Though pressed by many a foe, That will not tremble on the brink, Of any earthly woe!” Let’s determine to be faithful as was Paul. Again I thank God for the privilege of my Great Controversy tour. My faith has been strengthened.
Who Are the Waldenses?
The Waldensian Church is believed to have had its origins in the Middle Ages. Named after Valdosta, a rich merchant from Lyons, it is reported that in 1170 Valdo was converted to Christianity. As a result, he parted with his riches and decided to work as an itinerant preacher, attempting "to bring to the Church of his day a sense of the Church" as it was in the Apostolic times. Therefore, he lived a simple life; and taught and preached the gospel to his fellow citizens. No wonder this movement was also known as the "Poor Men of Lyons." On the other hand, The Roman Catholic Church was not pleased, as it regarded any group going contrary to her teachings and practices as heretic. While historians note that the Church of Rome reacted to Valdo teaching and preaching, for he was not a priest, I am of the opinion that the Church of Rome was more concerned with the proclamation of the word and the implication of her false teachings and practices being exposed. There was no tolerance on her part toward the Waldenses and others (Taken from Waldensian Museum booklet and The Waldensian Churches in Italy pamphlet).
What May We Learn from Them?
It is clear from my reading of the Great Controversy that Ellen White had a great regard and appreciation for the Waldenses. She wrote, "The Waldenses were among the first of the peoples of Europe to obtain a translation of the Holy Scriptures." Additionally, she pointed out that "They had the truth unadulterated, and this rendered them the special objects of hatred and persecution. They declared the Church of Rome to be the apostate Babylon of the Apocalypse, and at the peril of their lives they stood up to resist her corruptions." Unfortunately, "While, under the pressure of long-continued persecution, some compromised their faith, little by little yielding its distinctive principles, others held fast the truth." Of significance to Adventists, Mrs. White explained that the Waldenses "kept the true Sabbath," and this they did "under the fiercest tempests of opposition," but they maintained their faith, standing "unflinchingly for God’s word and His honor" (GC 65).
Implications for Seventh-day Adventists
Like the Waldenses, we as Seventh-day Adventists must also be unflinching in our stance for not just the Sabbath but also the Word of God. Based on prophecy, we can expect to be discriminated against and persecuted by the Church of Rome. As a result of visiting Rome and, yes, the Vatican City, I am even more convinced that this church has not changed. During this time of lull, we need to be more vigilant in studying the prophesies and sharing these with the thousands of people in our Union who are not aware of what exists and what is to come. As Church officers, elders and pastors, we have a responsibility to be more vigilant; "for to whom much is given much is required."
Also, we, like some of the Waldensians, risk yielding to pressure without being grounded in the word of God. Observing from the Thirteenth Sabbath programs, it would seem that we are moving away from the practice of committing scripture to memory, which tend to ground children from early in the word of God.
Another concern relates to the lack of use of the Church Hymnal. We stand the risk of losing some theological footings when we no longer use them. A song that brought tears and gripped many of us who made the trip to a cave used as a hide out and a place of worship by the Waldenses was "A Mighty Fortress." Let us not forget those things that made us what we are and helped us to come this far by faith.
May God help us to be faithful!
The Importance of the Hoy Spirit
I must confess to you that I have learnt to pray for the Holy Spirit and His guidance especially when faced with meetings where I least know what to expect. However, I have come to realize that even in meetings and situations where I feel most confident, I need to depend on the Holy Spirit. “Why?” you may ask. It is because I have discovered that when I have this sense of over confidence, I tend to pray little; and it is then that what was supposed to be an easy and predictable situation turns out to be just the opposite of what I expected. It could be that God is showing me that in every situation I need to be more dependent on Him - even in situations that I may consider of little challenge.
Accordingly, I ask that you revisit the above statement by Mrs. White. I underscore, “Wherever the need of the Holy Spirit is a matter little thought of, there is seen spiritual drought, spiritual darkness, spiritual declension and death.” Truth be told, you and I cannot afford that. So what should be our position? Recall my Belizean experience in last week’s Ministerial? Because of my strong conviction that God wanted me in Belize, I had to pray and depend on Him, notwithstanding my feelings and what my body was saying to me. (An additional 12 persons were baptized on Sabbath past thus bringing the total to 43). I am more convinced of my need to have a Spirit-filled life.
Seeking Sincerely the Holy Spirit
Given the fact that “Wherever the need of the Holy Spirit is a matter little thought of, there is seen spiritual drought, spiritual darkness, spiritual declension and death,” shouldn’t we pray earnestly for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit? In this vein, Ellen White contends, “Since this is the means by which we are to receive power, why do we not hunger and thirst for the gift of the Spirit? Why do we not talk of it, pray for it, and preach concerning it?” In fact, she points out, “The Lord is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who serve Him than parents are to give good gifts to their children. For the daily baptism of the Spirit every worker should offer his petition to God.” Furthermore, says Mrs. White, “Companies of Christian workers should gather to ask for special help, for heavenly wisdom, that they may know how to plan and execute wisely. Especially should they pray that God will baptize His chosen ambassadors in mission fields with a rich measure of His Spirit. The presence of the Spirit with God’s workers will give the proclamation of truth a power that not all the honor or glory of the world could give” (AA 50).
The Need for Intentionality
Given the above statements, I need to be more intentional in my daily walk with God. Like you, I want to know that God is directing in every phase and aspect of my life. In short, I must have a greater dependence on Him- and yet the privilege is ours to get to know Him better and to know His will. The secret is found in Acts 1-2, which speaks about the disciples being of one accord and seeking the fulfillment of that which Christ promised –the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. What about us? Isn’t there the promise of Joel 2 that apply to us? "I will pour My Spirit upon all flesh." Until we realize the need and importance of the Holy Spirit, it will be business as usual. Have you considered why the various initiatives (Revived by His Word, P.U.S.H, and 7-7-7) are all under the banner of Revival and Reformation? All of these are designed to encourage us as church leaders and members to recognize what is our greatest need. Let us make the application today.
Congrats to all of you who have been involved in various first quarter evangelistic efforts. Initial reports throughout the union speak to the establishment of a new church, a new company and the baptism of one who has a touching conversion as a result of reading the Great Controversy. Finally, remember to pray for our youth during the week.
Prior to leaving the Bahamas for Belize on Friday, February 15 for a same Friday evening crusade start, I began to experience flu-like symptoms. On the very morning of the travel, I remarked to my wife, “I am feeling flu-ish; however if God wants me to go, He will work it out.” As I traveled to the airport from my home, an unusual body fever coupled with a sore throat only served to dissuade me from going to Belize. Nevertheless, with a strong conviction that God wanted me in Belize, I said goodbye to my wife and continued the journey, arriving in Belize City around 12-noon local time.
Following my arrival, I was warmly greeted by the Union president, Pastor Dennis Slusher, Executive Secretary, Pastor Luis Jessie, and host Pastor, Angelo Dominguez. We had lunch, and then it was off to Belmopan where I would stay and conduct the crusade. I was anxious to get there, as I desired to rest in preparation for the opening of the crusade. Feeling a little better but still a bit warm, I preached that night and continued the crusade Sabbath morning but rested Sabbath afternoon. On Sunday, the flu had abated somewhat, but by Monday I felt an uneasiness in my stomach. I wondered what I had eaten. Later I learnt that it was the local water in a drink. Well I need not tell you that vomiting and diarrhea resulted, but having used charcoal to remedy my situation, I was determined to preach Monday night and Tuesday night. Praise God it worked! And by Wednesday, I was feeling fine - except that I felt as though I was losing my voice. By this time, I was even more resolved to forge ahead, still convinced that God brought me to Belize to do the crusade. Each night I wore my cap and a scarf to protect my throat prior to and following the preaching. Amazingly, my voice started weak but about 10 to 15 minutes into the message, I would gain strength and preach with much power. At the end of the sermon, I thanked God remarking, “Lord, just one meeting at a time.” I felt as though this was a test, for my voice was strong during the day. Nevertheless, I was determined that God did not take me to Belize to stay in bed. I was in Belize to speak for Him.
The Break Through
Friday, February 22 came, and I was still challenged by the problem with my voice. Also, my wife who had joined me in Belize the day before began to experience an uneasiness in her stomach. It was clear to me that this was not the norm. It seemed as if I was fighting a demoniac force, but I forged ahead. That Friday, I preached with every once of energy. When I appealed, several persons responded to a call for acceptance of Jesus and baptism.
However, I could not help but notice individuals with issues who had responded, especially when Pastor Dominguez came after me to pray and extended the call. It became clearer to me why the many challenges. On Sabbath morning it became even clearer, as individuals overcame struggles and responded to the appeal following a message on Saul who became Paul in Acts 9. At the end, 31 persons were baptized -more than what I actually saw at the altar. Yes they showed up at the river.
Looking back, I can only exclaim, “To God be the Glory!” I am so happy that I did not allow sickness to deter me one meeting, but in the strength of God, I preached by faith. Of course, I must pay tribute to the Dominguez family for their hospitality and their tremendous support. And to Elder Correa, translator, along with those who baked, cooked and encouraged, etc., I shall forever be indebted. The lesson I have taken from the crusade entitled “Lessons FromThe Past” is that no victory in Christ comes without challenges from the enemy, but we must persevere. I thought to myself, “What if I had decided not to go on this mission? I would have missed out on the Belize experience and failed to add to my repertoire of friends.” Again to God be the glory!
For the past two years, it has been my privilege to represent the Atlantic Caribbean Union (ATCU) in the exchange of speakers for short evangelistic campaigns held in early to mid February. Last year, it was in the Dominican Republic where for ten meetings I preached- resulting in several baptisms. However, ATCU also benefitted, in that Pastor Caesar Acevedo preached for the same period in the Cayman Islands.
This year the Turks and Caicos Islands are on the recipient’s list, as Pastor Danny Francis, Personal Ministry Director of the Caribbean Union Conference, is preaching in Providenciales until March 2. I am in Belize concluding this weekend ten days of meetings under a tent, coordinated by Pastor Angelo Dominguez, local district pastor. I have been encouraged by the attendance of members and visitors alike. I ask that you join Pastor Francis and me in praying for a rich harvest of souls.
A Privilege to Experience a New Culture
Some may wonder why go through the sacrifice of leaving one’s home for ten days or more in a foreign place? There is much to be gained from learning a new culture, experiencing great fellowship and the love and acceptance of Adventists, who appear to be the same wherever one goes. More importantly, the opportunity to communicate the Word of God is a significant gain. This church is a wonderful body of believers!
A Privilege to Take on the Role of Pastor/Evangelist
Additionally, I find it refreshing as an officer to serve as a pastor/evangelist; and I am deliberate in reminding myself of the fact that I have been called as a pastor and that it is a privilege to serve as a union president. Therefore, pulling away from the office and going into a different union represents a wonderful opportunity to get back into the pastoral frame of mind. It also lends to a sense of credibility when as Ministerial Director in addressing certain evangelistic and pastoral issues, I am able to speak from current experience.
A Privilege to Emulate Christ
Finally, this deployment, though not with lay preaching, is part of the plans for the Year of the Laity throughout the Division. I am most impressed with the level of involvement and devotion seen in the lives of the men and women and, of course, the youth of the church. People still attend church and are eager to participate. I am further led to wonder what it will be like in heaven when we see one another and reflect on what God would have brought us through. Consider it a privilege to serve wherever you are as pastor, elder or other church officer. Do so willingly, considering that Christ “came not to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
P.U.S.H (Pray Until Something Happens) -Next week Feb 24 – March 2, commit to praying for Health throughout the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands.
Prior to paying attention to what and who I pray for, I just prayed and included names of persons who I was requested to pray for. However, that has changed; and thanks to our Union’s Prayer Initiative, P.U.S.H. It forces me to be strategic or intentional in my focus. For example, during last week, the emphasis was on individuals with special needs. As Denise (my wife) and I prayed, we just could not pray generally for special needs individuals. Rather, we paused to think of actual individuals and thereby called them by name. The same was repeated and expanded at the office among the team. In focusing on such persons, we also thought about parents, relatives, teachers and caregivers who look after them. Unless we have a child or relative with special needs, we are not likely to know the challenges that accompany them; and therefore the focus on such persons allowed me to be more sensitive to them and those who look after them. The same is true for widows, widowers and singles, etc.
Pray until something happens (P.U.S.H.) is more than a catch phrase. It denotes follow-up. So often we start something, which is good and could yield dividends, but we fail to follow through; and great ideas and initiatives get lost through “the cracks.” However, with P.U.S.H. questions are asked and concern is noted, for the Pray-er wants to know if the prayer for the Pray-ee has been answered. In other words, “How is the marriage working out?” “Is there a break through?” “Did you pass the exam?” “How is the healing coming?” “Are you more patient with the special need-individual?” “Did you get the job?” “Did you gain the victory over that besetting sin?” “Were you able to pay your mortgage?” “Are you finding ways to relate to that difficult individual?” “Are you learning to forgive one who is making life difficult for you?”
Praise and Thanksgiving
When the prayer is answered, there is cause for thanksgiving, praise, rejoicing and testimonies. This is impacting, for it increases one’s faith in God. One can rightly assume that if God did it then, He can do it again. It also allows for fresh testimonies during the mid-week Prayer and Praise service. Instead of the same story each week, one is able to relate what God did in answer to prayer. Additionally, when we follow up, we will see more answers to prayer- even in the every day, “God protect me.” The fact that you are reading this Ministerial Weekly is evidence that that prayer was answered, for you are alive. So I encourage you to be more focused in your prayers. Follow the weekly focus of the Atlantic Union Prayer Initiative. We started with the family; and you need not look far to see that the Devil is targeting the family. This week we have prayed for national and religious leaders. Next week the focus will be on law enforcement and civil servants. For starts, consider law enforcement and the role they perform in establishing and maintaining law and order. I would not want to imagine a country without them. As such we need to intercede in their behalf and above all, we need to pray until something happens. Just in case you lost your prayer card or never received one, you may download a copy at http://atcunion.org/resources/P.U.S.H.-III.jpg
Have you ever wondered why a whole year dedicated to the laity? Quite frankly, it is not enough time, as the Laity does so much to ensure the advancement of the gospel, aiding and sponsoring various and numerous ministries in and outside the church. Most of these members have no desire for compensation or, in some instances, recognition. They just desire to help and serve their church. And as one of the leaders of the church, I value this fact. Therefore, when the Inter-American Division dubbed this year (2013) the Year of the Laity, I found this most apropos, for it accords us the opportunity to celebrate our lay brothers and sisters whom Elder Leito refers to as “Heroes of God.”
Equipping, Involving and Honoring the Laity
Accordingly, Atlantic Caribbean Union, in partnership with The Inter -American Division, share several events and initiatives designed to involve, train, motivate, encourage and honor the laity of the Bahamas, The Cayman Islands and The Turks and Caicos Islands. These include but are not limited to the following:
Virtual Counsel for Elders to be held this weekend, February 8-9, 2013
Showing of the Movie “The Return” in South and North Bahamas Conferences on ATV #53, February 15 – 16, 2013 (the time to be determined for the Turks and Caicos Mission and the Cayman Islands Conference)
Evangelistic Deployment involving children, youth, women and men in Bahamas, Cayman and Turks and Caicos Islands
Selecting a Lay Champion of ATCU to attend the Mid Year Executive Committee meeting of the Inter-American Division in Miami - May, 2013
Youth representative to attend the Union’s Mid Year Executive Committee in Freeport, Grand Bahama
Elders to be authorized by Field presidents to baptize candidates they would have prepared on Sabbath, September 28, 2013
Outstanding Layman to attend the Festival of the Laity in George Town, Grand Cayman
Great Things Happen When Laity and Clergy Unite
It is only when the laity and clergy come together that the work of sharing the gospel will spread rapidly. Ellen White, an inspired writer, understood this fact; for she wrote, “The real workers in this cause are few, yet the work covers much ground; and it is often impossible for the laborers to look after the interest awakened, and they fail to discern that they must enlist the lay members of the church, and teach them to work, that they may hold all that has been gained, and continue to advance. The plan of labor has been such as to lead the people to feel that they could do very little themselves; if anything was to be accomplished, they must have a minister” ( GW 219).
Reaction to the Outcome
There is cause for rejoicing when people collectively take a position or stance of righteousness and morality. It says a lot for such persons and by extension the nation that it is righteous minded. It also speaks well for a government that decides to listen to its people and act in accordance with their wishes - though there are times when that is not the best thing to do.
Restating the Church’s Position
On the other hand, it is necessary that we as Adventists always remember that as much as we stand opposed to gambling in all of its forms, as clearly stated in the official position of the church, it is against our practice and beliefs to force our thinking or belief on anybody. As seen in the faces of some Christians following a perceived victory, the impression given was that we have won, and the church needs to be listened to. As for some who voted "yes" and were quite disappointed, the question is, “Does the church have the right to tell me how to live my life?” “Does the church have the right to tell me what to do and what not to do?”
The Church is to Proclaim God’s Will
Yes, the church is mandated by Christ to preach righteousness and uplift the standards of God’s Kingdom but never to coerce or force its position. It is never to decree morality; and here is where some of you may feel that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is being too accommodating. No, the church is not; but it is following the example of Christ. That example speaks to lovingly appealing to people regarding the love of God; doing His will and appealing to one to see the value of accepting the way of God. After all, did not God say, “Choose life”. Nevertheless, He never forced but respected the freedom of choice given to mankind. As such, the church must not go contrary to this practice. While we aggressively preach Christ and the requirements of His law, we must not “push down the throat” of people our position. They reserve the right to accept or reject though we pray that they would accept.
The Work Continues
Given the above, our position ought not to be so much that we have won a victory, but to recognize that the proclamation of the gospel continues; the reaching out to those affected continues, and the ministry to the poor and abused must continue. A vote will not change the thinking and practice of people. Only Christ can change. This is the time to seek God more than before and to reach out to share Christ. This being the Year of the Laity accords us that privilege.
Have a great Lord’s Day!
Holy Convocation Weekend
I remind you that this Friday, January 25, each organized church and/or church district throughout ATCU is invited to celebrate the ordinance of humility and the communion service. Also, the following day, Sabbath, January 26, you are invited to participate in prayer and study of the Bible in accordance with the plans for Holy Convocation and revival and reformation.
Logos Bible Software
In response to the request by some of you to make the Logos Bible software training simple and practical in sermon preparation, I have spoken with professional trainer Morris Proctor. Accordingly, he has committed to adjust his teaching and presentations to meet our needs. Additionally, he has promised to include tips for the use of the iPad and smart phone in applying the Logos Bible software. I remind you that the training for elders is Sunday, February 10, and for advance learners and pastors on Monday and Tuesday, February 11-12 at the union office on Gladstone Road. I note that only a few spaces remain for the advance training Feb. 11-12. However, there is much space for the Sunday (one day) session. You would want to contact Mrs. Deena McPhee early in the week.
Why ATCU and not ACUM?
Just as I have, many of you have become accustomed to referring to the Union as ACUM. However, you have been reading and hearing ATCU lately. This change has led to many of you asking if there has been a change in status from Mission to Union Conference. No, the Union has not been upgraded in status, but the world church, in tandem with the division, has sought to establish guidelines for the purpose of abbreviating names of unions. Therefore, certain rules for the use of acronyms must be observed.
To create the English acronyms for the Inter-American Division Unions, these rules will apply: 1. For a union with TWO words in its name, its acronym will be created using the first three letters of the first word and the first letter of the second word. 2. For a union with THREE words in its name, its acronym will be created using the first two letters of the first word, the first letter of the second word, and the first letter of the third word 3. For a union with FOUR words in its name, its acronym will be created using the first letter of each one of the four words. 4. For unions for which their acronyms would result in several consonants or vowels in a row that might present a challenge in creating an acceptable acronym, an EXCEPTION to the rules will be made.
Based on the above, the Atlantic Caribbean Union, which has three words now, changes to ATCU, taking the first two letters of the first word, Atlantic. Next, take the first letter of the second word and the first letter of the third word and hence ATCU. Also, observe our sister union, Jamaica Union. Using the principle for two words (Jamaica) the first three letters of the first word are used and the first letter of the second is also used- and therefore JAMU.
What is the Logos Bible Software?
The Logos Bible Software is the brainchild of one who formerly worked for computer software guru Bill Gates. Employing technology and skills, Bob Pritchett sought to make the Bible and religious books available online and in an integrated manner. Essentially, an electronic library has been created, enabling one to have access to a mobile library consisting of thousands of volumes. Fortunately for us as Adventists, all of Ellen White’s books, as well as the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentaries, among others, are accessible. Additionally, there are scores of Bible versions, Bible dictionaries and commentaries. In fact, one does not need to have any training in Hebrew and Greek in order to obtain original meanings of Old and New Testaments words. With this powerful tool, persons can access their library wherever they go via their computer, iPad and/or iPhone.
Why Obtain the Software?
I commend this software, for not only is it mobile and loaded with appropriate books, but also it is expandable and user friendly. It is like having all the books needed before you open. You can mark then, make notes and, if you have to curtail your studies, you can leave your library with all of the books open just as you want them, without incurring the displeasure of a spouse or roommate for leaving so many books open. In fact, you may resume studies on another computer and pick up at the same point. Additionally, you have footnotes capability; and soon, with the latest version of Logos, one can produce his own book.
Notwithstanding the powerfulness and capability of Logos, I caution that this software is but a tool, as there is nothing that ought to replace our dependence upon the Holy Spirit who guided the Bible Writers of old. We must seek the same Holy Spirit to guide and enable us. Therefore, the Logos Bible software must be seen as a means to accomplishing or enhancing- but not as a panacea to great sermons and Bible presentations. Otherwise, we may have impressive presentations but devoid of the Holy Spirit; and that will be a disaster. For further information, visit http://atcunion.org/page39/logostraining.html
Adventists’ View of Gambling
The Seventh-day Adventist Church stands opposed to all forms of gambling, inclusive of raffles and lotteries to raise funds for charitable organizations. It views gambling “as a paid game of chance . . . winning at the expense of others” not comporting or lining up with Christian values and principles. For example, consider the principle of love for neighbor. How can one who loves his brother feel good in winning knowing that it is at the expense of his brother? Additionally, stories of how addiction to gambling has negatively affected and continue to impact families and societies exist all around; therefore we cannot turn a blind eye. Accordingly, the following questions are most appropriate: “What is the alternative?” “What can one do to raise money in place of gambling?”
Consider Some Alternatives
As the Bahamas marks its 40th year of Independence, I am informed that nearly 40 years ago the late Carlton Francis appealed to his political colleagues to shun what I term the easy way out or short cuts in building a new independent nation. Said Carlton Francis, the then Minister of Development, “We are a small nation that can be easily permeated by any pernicious influence.” He added, “I am saying that where we are aspiring to the disciplines of hard work and industry we are not yet off the ground.”
Also, I read with interest an interview with former Minister of Immigration, Loftus Roker, as recorded in The Nassau Guardian, December 24, 2012. He recalled that when the then PLP campaigned in ’67, “it was against casino gambling.” It was not until they won the government that some in the party felt that the closure of gambling casinos would have a negative effect on tourism; therefore casino gambling was allowed. Concluding from these and other records, it is clear that the subject of gambling in one form or another has been with us many years. Nevertheless, 40 to 45 years later where are we in discipline and industry as touted by Carlton Francis? In fact Mr. Roker in his interview with the Guardian did not see the need for legalizing gambling some 44 years later. Therefore, whether the pending referendum on gambling receives a “no” or “yes” vote, the need for alternatives must not be ignored. Life continues and the nation needs to continue building.
Deliberate and intentional ways must be sought to further empower our people regardless of color, politics, gender, or where they were born- if the nation is to truly develop maturely. People need to be taught how to survive --not to be dependent on government. It would seem to me that with the pooling of ideas through discussions and town meetings, and even the talk shows, ideas can be gotten that will serve to inspire and motivate our people as well as result in strategies that can impact the economy positively. Consider the example and by extension the principle of 2006 Noble Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus. Muhammad pioneered what is referred to as microcredit. Using loans of tiny amounts, he sought to transform destitute women into entrepreneurs thus creating economic and social development from below.
It was the first time the committee for the Noble Prize was awarded to a profit-making business. It was because “The selection seemed to embody two connected ideas that are gaining ground among development experts: that attacking poverty is essential to peace, and that private enterprise is essential to attacking poverty.”
Dr. Yunus, ”founded the bank in his native Bangladesh to lend small amounts of cash — often as little as $20 — to local people, almost always women, who could use it to found or sustain a small business by, say, buying a cow to sell milk or a simple sewing machine to make clothing.”
It was observed that the traditional banks considered “such people too risky to lend to, and the amounts they needed too small to bother with.” However, Dr. Yunus thought otherwise. He reasoned that, “the poor could be as creditworthy as the rich, if the rules of lending were tailored to their circumstances and were founded on principles of trust rather than financial capacity.” Additionally, he found out that “they could achieve lasting improvements to their living standards with a little bit of capital.” Isn’t that amazing? Drawing on this principle, could we not take some examples from the Grameen Bank? Though Bangladesh may be different from the Bahamas in some ways, isn’t there a definite need to continue the fight of the early fathers of this country in empowering people as opposed to making them dependent on others?
So, rather than setting up web cafes in close proximity to each other, creating a sense of false hope and not lifting the values and morale of our people, let’s seek ways to empower them. There must be local Muhammads existing throughout the country. Let’s harness, process and implement some of the doable ideas resulting from our think tanks, radio talk shows and town meetings. Even the ideas of those Bahamians outside the country as well as the non-formally educated ones must not be ignored; for God does not discriminate in blessing people. To me, this is better than hoping for “a certain number to fall,” or hoping to win a lottery. Yes, some will win, but too many will lose. I must also mention the likely vices that could result from gambling, especially when one loses. Our people must be innovative and not just follow-along consumers.
The Church Is To Play a Role
While the church has received much criticism, it is to play its role. Using the Bible as its guide, it realizes that according to Genesis 1-2 man was made in the likeness of God and endowed with much potential and usefulness. Accordingly, the church seeks to get the message across to all mankind explaining that God has a purpose for one’s life. He/she was designed for more than waiting and just hoping for something to happen. God wants all to recognize what He has already placed in man to help him realize his design for greatness.
At the same time, employing the example of God, the church recognizes that God gave man a choice; and as dangerous as that ability is, God empowered human beings with it. There was that risk that man would choose to go contrary, but God still gave the choice. However, the church observes that the gift of choice does not mean that the church shirks its responsibility of teaching and informing mankind of consequences of decision-making. In fact, it is more incumbent on the church to instruct and inform but never to force one against his will. Therefore the Seventh-day Adventist Church will not argue against one’s right of choosing, but seek aggressively to inform and instruct in the ways of God. We have been doing this prior to the announcement of the referendum, and even after it, we will continue. However, as this article is about alternatives, I turn to a biblical example in summing up.
Recall the Joseph Principle
The world of Joseph, as recorded in Genesis 41, was headed for the worse recession to be brought on by a seven-year famine. Nevertheless, God in His own way chose to communicate in a dream a plan to a heathen king --one who did not worship Him. However, He would give the ability to interpret that dream to a young Hebrew prisoner in Egypt named Joseph. I noted that the plan He gave Pharaoh through Joseph was a simple but a powerful life saving one. It required planning and discipline. Pharaoh was encouraged to collect 20% of all the produce during the seven years of plenty in order to prepare for the seven years of famine. The rest of the story reveals that people from everywhere came to Egypt for sustenance during the lean years. Now think about how many would have died had God not provided the plan! Fast forward from then to our time. Is there no God? Doesn’t the same God exist in the Bahamas today? I declare that He does. He wants His children to recognize that which He placed within each of us. Says the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.” Were it not for this hope being revealed to me some 35 years ago, I would be hopeless and lacking in my interest and concern for others. There are alternatives; and they will be found when we seek God. Also, this example teaches us the value of saving for the lean years. The country during its prosperous years must learn to put aside for its not-so-prosperous ones. It is simple but calls for discipline!
Most of us grew up in homes where we were taught to close our eyes when praying. However, today’s topic is “Praying with Your Eyes Open.” Such a caption is bound to stimulate some reaction sparking some of you to ask, “Is it possible to pray with one’s eyes open?” In many of the local religious settings, it is not something that is practiced. However, I hasten to explain that I am not referring to one’s literal eyes but instead the opening of the mind to God as one communes with Him. This is praying with one’s eyes open. The thought is one I came across some years ago when I purchased a book with the same caption written by Dr. Richard Pratt, a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary. Essentially, the book helps one to see what is involved in prayer, and hence this article as I focus on prayer.
What Is Prayer?
For starts, I note that prayer is not a gift of the Holy Spirit, as it is not listed among the spiritual gifts found in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. I feel that it is for a good reason that God arranged it this way. It is no secret that there are some persons who believe that they cannot pray and should not pray, preferring to call upon others as such persons are perceived to be gifted. However, Ellen White, an inspired author, says, “Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him --SC 93”. So simply put, prayer is communicating with God as to a friend, denoting a sense of intimacy that God desires with us. Is it any wonder that Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father?” That speaks to a father-child relationship. An understanding of this lends to praying with one’s eyes open. So it is possible for anyone to come to God in prayer, for it is not our words that impress God but the contrite nature of our heart, and therefore any and everyone can get the attention of God.
Aspects of Prayer
In Psalm 54.2, we find three important points: the One to whom prayer ought to be directed, and that is God. Also, we find the one who ought to pray, and that is each human being; and what is involved in our prayers namely our words. Observe the passage, “Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.” Praying with our eyes open involves knowing to whom we address our prayer. It is not as the Pharisee who prayed thus within himself (Luke 18:11). Instead, it is like that of the Publican who prayed to God (Luke 18:13). Also, David explains that it is us, and not special Prayer Warriors praying to God; and this we do by our words (no negative thoughts intended regarding Prayer Warriors). We do not need to impress God, for He already knows our hearts. Through this passage, David helps us to understand that we have a God who is eager to have us come to Him. John Scriven, the old Hymn Writer, captured this idea when he penned, “What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear; What a privilege to carry everything to God in pray! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”
When Last Did You Pray with Your Eyes Open?
Praying with one’s eyes open is praying with the understanding and knowledge that God is not only our Creator, but that He is also our Friend. He is One in whom we can trust with any and everything. I know that this may not seem so, as some time there may be those who feel that their sins are so heinous that not even God can forgive. So many are misled and mistaken regarding God’s nature! I need not tell you that this is the work of the devil in getting us to harbor such negative thoughts. Truth is –we may come just as we are, for God will not reject or ignore one of a contrite heart as already noted. We need God, because without Him we could not survive. And the good news is that He has made it possible through the means of prayer for all people to reach Him. So let us pray for our nation, as there seems no solution for crime and the fear of crime; let’s pray for those who lead our nation, for they need more than ordinary wisdom; let’s pray for our youth that they will make wise choices; let’s pray for abused spouses and children; let’s pray for the sick and afflicted; yes, let’s pray prayers of thanksgiving; for it is in praying that we begin to see God and understand His will and love for us.