A New Beginning

A New Beginning
 
In just a few days, God willing, we would witness the beginning of a brand new year, 2015, marking the opportunity for a fresh start. For this reason, there is much excitement in anticipation of welcoming the New Year. After all, the memories of 2014 are mixed with sadness, grief, and disappointment but also the blessings of God, even if we are not mindful of them. If you are reading this article, then you are still the recipient of life. That is a blessing! Nevertheless, what a privilege to start anew! As such, I pose the questions: “What will you do this year?” “What will you do differently?” “How will you utilize this new beginning?” “What will you do?” Religious writer Ellen White observes, “If every moment were valued and rightly employed, we should have time for everything that we need to do for ourselves or for the world” (The Ministry of Healing, page 208).
 
Making the Best of Each Day
To ensure that we make the best use of the 86,400 seconds that each of us is given every day, I share the following areas for our attention and concentration. Devotion. It is important that we begin our day with that which is likely to inspire and motivate us. For the Christian, that involves reading the Bible and spending time in prayer. It is said of Christ that “a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed" (Mark 1:35, NKJV). Time with God is never wasted, for it provides for a positive outlook on life and above all inspires hope.
Family. An institution that appears to be crumbling is this one. With successive years of high murder rates, it must be clear to you that numerous parents, spouses, children, siblings and friends are hurting. Family allows for a sense of belonging, meaning and purpose. Unfortunately, this sense of security seems to be lacking. Could it be the basis for a wave of lawlessness among some of the youth? Compounding the need for bonding is the lack of quality attention and time for children, spouse and others. Smart phones, tablets and computers have found their way in every nook and cranny of our lives -- the bedroom, at dinner dates and during worship time. I would admit that these gadgets have their place and usefulness, but it would seem that they are controlling our lives. It does make us wonder how we managed without them. Let’s pledge to control their use. Put them down at intervals and you will discover that life goes on. A story is told of a youngster who asked his father how much he made in an hour. It is needless to say that the father was upset and thought his son was getting into his business. But after some insisting by the son, the father gave in to his son’s request and shared his hourly wage. The little boy got his piggy bank and counted his savings, which was less than his father’s hourly wage. He asked his father to loan him the difference to reach the amount his father made hourly. Not knowing why his son wanted the money, the father gave it to him. The boy then placed it with his savings; therefore he now had enough money to pay his father for one full hour. You get the point! He valued his father’s time. People, family matter!
 
Exercise. What about exercise? We need to engage in some form of physical activity so as to strengthen our bodies and muscles. Health is a priceless commodity, but too many of us are afflicted by diseases that could be remedied by exercise and change in lifestyle. The Adventist Church is seeking to launch in 2015 the “I Want to Live Healthy” initiative designed to have an impact upon each family member.
 
Redeeming the Time
Based on the above, it must be clear that we have a responsibility to use our time wisely. As stewards we have different talents, different amounts of wealth, but the same amount of time. Unfortunately, when the day is gone, it is gone never to return; and therefore it is important that we understand the importance of redeeming the time as noted by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:15, 16. By redeeming the time he advocates that we embrace the opportunities that knock at our doors. Too often we see joblessness, roadblocks, recession, and other ills; but through the eyes of Christ, we may see other possibilities and potential opening of doors for the unemployed or greater use and effectiveness.
 
A Weekly and Timely Reminder
Finally, I commend to you a timely reminder that God gives each weekend designed to build self, family, community, nation, and provide rest, perspective and above all reconnect us with our “roots,”or, what I choose to call, our Maker. It is the Sabbath or, if you please, the Lord’s Day. Rightly understood, it is not a burden or Jewish per say. Stephen Covey likens Sabbath obs   ervance to “sharpening the saw.” He explains, “Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree. ‘What are you doing?’ you ask. ‘Can’t you see?’ comes the impatient reply. ‘I’m sawing down this tree.’ ‘You look exhausted!’ you exclaim, ‘How long have you been at it?’ ‘Over five hours,’ he returns, ‘and I’m beat! This is hard work.’ ‘Well why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?’ you inquire. ‘I’m sure it would go a lot faster.’ ‘I don’t have time to sharpen the saw.’ The man says emphatically. ‘I’m too busy sawing!’” “Like the Sabbath,” says Darrell Pursiful, “sharpening the saw” is about taking time we need for self-renewal –physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.
 
Have a Spirit-filled New Year!

Silent Night - My Holiday Wish!

Silent Night - My Holiday Wish!
 
Lyrics from a familiar Christmas piece, “Silent Night, Holy Night,” best describe the wish of many Bahamians and residents, especially of Nassau.  In fact, the second line of the first stanza seems elusive: “All is calm, all is bright.” Instead, one hears the firing of gunshots, police car and ambulance sirens accompanied by loud screams and howls: “Oh God not my son,” “Not my child's dad;” “Not again!” Fear is gripping us at our core. Many are simply afraid! The silence is gone out of nights and peace seems intermittent. The killing is too much- even in broad daylight and almost anywhere.
And if that were not enough, the country is still reeling from the tragic deaths of Dr. Myles Munroe, his wife and others. Electricity bill is high, and that which drops is our cell phone calls. Undoubtedly, 2014 has been a rough year, and 2015 is about to greet us with VAT (Value Added Tax). We desire a change! We need change! We need some silent nights, peace and calm but especially the gift of the Lord's favor.
 
The Gift of the Christ Child
            The gift of the Christ child two thousand years ago was intended to offer peace, joy, hope and more. God, in His omniscience, foresaw our needs and offered mankind a most necessary and all encompassing gift in His only Son. John 3:16 records, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. Years before this declaration, Isaiah, the Old Testament Prophet, penned: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).  Capturing this prophetic piece, Luke, another New Testament Writer, added, “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10, 11).
 
Why Peace Appears to Be Lacking?
Repeatedly, the Bible makes it clear that the coming of Jesus was intended to offer peace and joy. What has happened? I suggest that the problem does not lie with the Gift or the Giver but the acceptance and use of the Gift.  It is like receiving a most sizable check but not cashing it. Though valuable and useful, it will serve no purpose unless used. Could it be that the Gift of the Christ Child has not captured our minds and hearts to the extent of controlling and influencing us to live at peace with and loving one another as we should? Could it be that the Gift has not been born in our hearts to the extent that we are led to forgive and move on? Could it be that the Gift of Christ has not been received fully, so we fail to accord the respect that we should to one another on the streets, in the parking lot, and even in the church? We must do more than simply talk about Christ. Instead, we must allow Him to be Lord of our lives fully controlling and running “things.” When Christ is in control, the fruit of the Holy Spirit (love, joy and peace, etc.) will be manifested.
 
Looking Ahead
            Looking ahead, we must not be daunted by VAT or anything for that matter. It is imperative that we keep linked up with Christ. We can weather situations and effect change with His grace impacting us. We can sing again; we can rejoice and laugh. After all, Christ lives and He inspires a remarkable hope. However, I caution that a life devoid of Him will not change the New Year. It would be attempting to effect changes without resorting to the right resolution, and that is Christ. How could the Apostle Paul, a misguided one and persecutor of the church, experience a turn around? Was it not through Christ? How could Mary, a prostitute, experience a sense of belonging, appreciation and honor? Was it not through Christ who accepted her as a person and showed true love and respect for her? What the world needs is what Christians through Christ are capable of giving. It is love; it is understanding! It is respect and even tolerance for our differences. Emily Elliott explains, “My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus, When Thou comest and callest for me.” Essentially, this constitutes my wish for all: that Christ is embraced, and with the Gift mankind will experience what it means to live and to have meaning and lasting value.  It is the Gift that lives on and enables one to have a sense of Christmas daily, monthly and throughout the year.
 
Have a Christ-centered Christmas and a joyous New Year.

Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church

Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church
 
Given our focus on youth worldwide, I share with you an article I read about reaching millennial youth (person born between 1977 and 1994) by Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN. (Rachel Held Evans is the author of "Evolving in Monkey Town" and "A Year of Biblical Womanhood." She blogs at rachelheldevans.com). Though some of the views do not sync with Adventism there are some points that we might find interesting and applicable though coming from a non-Adventist perspective. Ellen White says, “Preachers, or laymen advanced in years, cannot have one-half the influence upon the young that the youth, devoted to God, can have upon their associates” MYP p.204) For easy reference I have inserted the definitions for Millennials and Generation X.
 
At 32, I barely qualify as a millennial. I wrote my first essay with a pen and paper, but by the time I graduated from college, I owned a cell phone and used Google as a verb. I still remember the home phone numbers of my old high school friends, but don’t ask me to recite my husband’s without checking my contacts first.
I own mix tapes that include selections from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but I’ve never planned a trip without Travelocity. Despite having one foot in Generation X (born: 1966-1976 - sometimes referred to as the “lost” generation, this), I tend to identify most strongly with the attitudes and the ethos of the millennial generation, and because of this, I’m often asked to speak to my fellow evangelical leaders about why millennials are leaving the church.        
Armed with the latest surveys, along with personal testimonies from friends and readers, I explain how young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. I point to research that shows young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness. I talk about how the evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules, and how millennials long for faith communities in which they are safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt.
Invariably, after I’ve finished my presentation and opened the floor to questions, a pastor raises his hand and says, “So what you’re saying is we need hipper worship bands. …” And I proceed to bang my head against the podium.
Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates – edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving.
But here’s the thing: Having been advertised to our whole lives, we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances. In fact, I would argue that church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular. Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. – precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.

 
What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance. We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against. We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers. We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.
We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.
We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.
You can’t hand us a latte (coffee with milk) and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there. Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.
Now these trends are obviously true not only for millennials but also for many folks from other generations. Whenever I write about this topic, I hear from forty-somethings and grandmothers, Generation Xers and retirees, who send me messages in all caps that read “ME TOO!” So I don’t want to portray the divide as wider than it is. But I would encourage church leaders eager to win millennials back to sit down and really talk with them about what they’re looking for and what they would like to contribute to a faith community.
Their answers might surprise you.

Don’t Panic

Don’t Panic

                                                                                 
It is unlikely that I will ever forget the Sabbath School lesson of Wednesday, June 9, 2010. To explain, it highlighted an individual who experienced healing by laughter and a positive attitude. However, the author did not say that laughter heals in every instance, but it does help to be positive.  A positive attitude results from a life of devotion and trust in God. Isn’t that amazing! By looking to and trusting in God, one will experience peace and an assurance of salvation. And yet if one is not deliberate, he will likely become so occupied with little, if any, time for God and thereby become anxious and restless. Therefore, I share the following with you.
 
When We Panic
            I am reminded of the experience of Moses, Aaron and the children of Israel recorded in Exodus 32. Moses was invited by God to come upon the mountain.  In his absence, Aaron was left in charge of the people. According to some of the folks, Moses was taking too long; and they urged Aaron to do the unthinkable as noted in this verse: “Come make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses . . . we do not know what has become of him.”  How sad! For the flash of lightning was evidence of the presence of God (SDAC vol. 1, p. 664). Yet, instead of keeping their focus on God, they panicked and took a path that led to sin.
            The happenings of today are enough to challenge us, especially the high rate of murders and a growing sense of lawlessness; recent loss of lives owing to plane crashes, and additional taxes. The worst thing that we can do is to panic. Instead, we must call to mind the leading of God in the past up to the present. A careful look will point to the fact that He has not failed us.
                                                                                          
Lesson of Discipline
            The reality of additional taxes or the introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) thus affecting the tight budget of some demand that we be frugal and adjust where necessary. An economist remarked to me some years ago that we have had seven good years (2000 – 2008) before we began to witness a downturn in the world economy. Looking back, how did we manage that time?  Did we save?  Did we invest wisely?  The principle of the story of Joseph and his counsel to Pharaoh in Genesis is noteworthy. Life does not always dish out what we want, as there are the lean years and there are the fat years. As we are in the lean years, it means that we must learn to adjust.  In fact, we learn that there are things that we do not need. A careful look will help us see what they are.  However, as I noted in a previous article, the one constant in life is God. In good and bad times, He is still the same God! His faithfulness to man is unchanging as observed in Lamentations 3. Put another way in a great hymn: “Great is Thy faithfulness.”
 
Looking to God
            Going back to Exodus 32, we see that the children of Israel looked away from the mountain and away from God, and they worshiped the image made by Aaron and rose up to play. According to the Hebrew language, it suggests that they engaged in sexual orgies.  That ought to say something to us. When we panic, we do strange and deadly things.  Unfortunately, it was Aaron who gave in under pressure to the wish of the people.  Fellow leaders, we must be men and women of prayer, courage, the word and complete trust in God. Our victory and perspective must come from a daily walk with God, ever mindful of His promises to us.  Not once must we trust the arms of flesh; but instead, lean on the everlasting arms of God, as He is able.

Pray Until Something Happens

Pray Until Something Happens
 push2015

What A Privilege!
Again, it is a privilege for us as a union family to unite in another exciting prayer journey throughout 2015.  Our prayer focus for this year will revolve around those steps to knowing Christ better found in the book Steps to Christ written by Ellen G. White.    Each month, a key aspect from the book will be the center of our petitions to God.  Accordingly, this invitation to prayer is also a call to read or reread this important book as we seek to draw closer to Christ. Therefore, each field is requested to launch this initiative before January 1, 2015. Prayer cards have been supplied. However, you may also download a copy from the Union’s web page - www.atcunion.org.
 
Prayer Keeps Us Focused on God
With this prayer walk to personal spiritual growth, it is anticipated that our four-year old union, and much older conferences and mission, will continue to grow, mature, and fully embrace God’s mandate to proclaim the Three Angels’ messages of Revelation 14. We must be about our Father’s business, recognizing that Jesus will soon return to this earth. Therefore, prayer is designed to keep us on board and focused.
Furthermore, we hope that this prayer guide (P.U.S.H 2015) will motivate each of us to pray more with the full assurance of knowing that our prayers will be answered, and that it will also serve as a catalyst for increased spiritual maturity.
 
Prayer is Not a Gift
As noted in November’s segment, we ought to recognize that prayer is something that we all must embrace. It is not a gift, but a privilege for all persons. Looking at the spiritual gifts in 1 Cor. 15, Eph. 4 and Rom. 12 you will not find prayer included among the gifts as God intended that everyone should pray. Ellen White counsels, “We must pray always if we would grow in faith and experience” (SC p. 97). Additionally, she explains, “Satan cannot overcome him whose heart is thus stayed upon God” (SC p. 98). Therefore, “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” (SC p. 93).
So, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s continue to P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens), and remember to send us some reports of how you have been blessed by prayer.

A Nation Shaken

A Nation Shaken
Recent events have left our country reeling with despair, frustration and questions. Like some of you, I viewed the bodies of Dr. Myles Munroe, his wife and colleague, Pastor Richard Pinder, Captain Stanley Thurston and co-pilot Frahkan Cooper on national news and in Tuesday’s newspaper. To say that I was not moved emotionally would be inaccurate! I was! In fact, the daily rehearsing of this tragic event by the media has not lessened the pain. I can only imagine how it must be for the families of all the victims of that deadly crash. It cannot be easy for them. The designation of ZNS, the national broadcasting station, may be most apropos- “A Nation Shaken.”
However, the news consisted of more than the tragedy of the nine lives that succumbed to the fatal crash of November 9th. Let me explain: another religious leader was eulogized and buried; several persons were murdered, and a fatal car accident took place in Grand Bahama. Our country has been jolted by deaths of various types and in various ways. Indeed, it is twirling with pain and grief. Added to these concerns is the unfortunate perception and interpretation of the country’s immigration policy by Amnesty International owing to the recent apprehension of illegal immigrants.
Amidst the grief and many unanswered questions, the Bahamas needs to turn to the Word of God for answers. What answers can be found given all the ills and concerns? Well, let’s explore the Word and allow it to speak for itself.
 
Looking at Death Through the Lens of the Bible
We may deduce from the Bible that God does not always intervene in the happenings of nature. The example of the death of John the Baptist sheds some light. While Jesus could have intervened in the case of John by sparing him the cruel death of Herod, He did not. Similarly, God could have prevented the “unfair death” of Jonathan, son of King Saul as well as save the Apostle Paul from many trials and suffering, but He did not. In 2 Timothy 3:12 we read, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Additionally, the Bible teaches that “the devil walks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NKJV). So apart from faults and mistakes on our part, we may rest assured that there is a force seeking to destroy. In fact, the Apostle Paul pointed out to the believers at Ephesus: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age . . ..” (Ephes. 6: 12, NKJV). Nevertheless, even if death should come or be permitted to take us, the same Apostle Paul clarifies that nothing shall “separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).
 
Not Absent from the Body and Present with the Lord
Also, he explains, “if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (1 Thess. 4:14). Furthermore in verse 15 Paul adds,“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord.”  How then do we hear so many persons saying today, in particular, preachers that the dead – our friends and loved ones are already in heaven? One pastor wrote that they are having conversations with God and the angels. Such sayings sound good, but the word of God does not teach that. I was pleased to hear one of the local -popular talk show hosts correct his callers, “the dead are not in heaven yet.” He had it right. Folks use 1 Cor.5 to support their theory of being “absent from the body and present with the Lord.”  How unfortunate when a clearer reading of the same coupled with 1 Cor. 15 and 1 Thess. 4 will show that Paul speaks of the assurance of the resurrection. Just go back to 1 Cor. 4:14 and it will become even clearer, “Knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.”
As for all of the others, the word of God speaks to those as well! Sin has brought about an imbalance, and life is unfair at times. It is riddled with concern but the worse it gets the word of God is our only and surest hope. Like Priscilla J. Owens, I declare: “Give me the Bible, star of gladness gleaming . . .Thy light shall guide me in the narrow way.”

Adventist Community Pays Tribute

Adventist Community Pays Tribute to Dr. Myles Munroe
 myles-munroe

The tragic and unexpected passing of Dr. Myles Munroe, one of the nation’s finest and most intellectually astute religious leaders, has dealt a serious blow to our religious community, country and world. Compounding this stunning shock is also the loss of his wife, pastoral colleagues, friends and pilots at the same time. As a church administrator, I can imagine the unsettling impact on the Bahamas Faith Ministries, as most of the nine who perished were associated with that religious body. It is painful to lose one individual, but to lose one’s senior pastor and his spouse, the senior assistant pastor, the youth pastor and family, as well as other members at one time is excruciating. Such a reality tempts us to want to question God. In fact, some have actually done so as we would have read on face-book, in newspapers and heard on television.
 
Where Was God?
It is not unusual to question: “Where was God?” “Why did He allow such an instrumental and influential leader like Myles to pass in such a tragic manner?” Most would agree that Dr. Myles had so much more to offer and contribute to our nation and the world, and therefore the added questions: “Why now?” “Why his wife?” “Why Pastor Pinder?” “Why Pastor Parks and family?” “Why Captain Thurston and others?” “Why?” “Why?” The truth is that we do not always understand the happenings and the timing of them- especially these losses at one time. However, we may know from the very word of God that Dr. Myles employed to teach and encourage so many and that blessed his ministry, that “God is love!” In fact, Jesus declares, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:10-11, NKJV).
 
There Is an Enemy
It is necessary that we be mindful of forces that are at work all around the people of God seeking to thwart and destroy as observed in Ephesians 6:12, “Wrestling against principalities of the world and rulers of darkness.” There are also the laws of nature as well as causes and effects. At times God intervenes in situations, sparing us tragedy, and at times He does not. And this is confusing to some. In spite of it all, we need to maintain our faith in Him and in His word. The example of Job is most fitting: “Though He slay me yet will I trust Him”(Job 13:15). We can rest assured that He cares and loves without measure. That is something that we will understand better by and by.
 
Truths That We Can Claim
However, here are some truths that we can comprehend. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, the Apostle Paul counsels that we do not grieve as others who have no hope. Observe that the counsel is not that we do not sorrow, but that we do not do so without hope. This sense of hope is predicated on the fact that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us, and He will come again, according to John 14:1-3. At that time, the Apostle Paul notes that “the dead in Christ will rise first,” and “we that are alive in Christ will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air” (1Thessalonians 4:15, 17). Is it any wonder that we are admonished to “Comfort one another with these words?” (1Thessalonians 4:18). So we may know that the dead have not gone on to heaven. They are asleep awaiting the return of Christ. Therefore, the Apostle Paul explains, “if Christ is not risen then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Corinthians 15:14, NKJV).  The resurrection of Christ is our surest and most guaranteed hope. As penned by Bill Gaitor, “Because He lives I can face tomorrow. Because He lives all fear is gone and life is worth the living just because He lives.” Take courage Bahamas, for one day death will be defeated; and we will no longer have to weep nor will loved ones have to weep for us.
Pastors Paul Scavella and Errol Tinker, leaders of South and North Bahamas conferences, respectively, join me in conveying condolences to the BFM family. May the God of peace and love comfort you during this difficult period in your Christian experience.

Adventists Pay Tribute to Bishop John Humes
Bishop_John_Humes_t280

 
Daily, we come across people who impact our lives; some do so negatively, others positively. Some of these encounters we forget, while others are etched in our memories forever.  The warm and cordial relationship shared with Bishop John Humes is one such interaction that will long linger in my mind. His tall stature, infectious smile, and engaging voice ensured that you took note of him and will be fondly remembered. He was a genuine, compassionate leader and a family man.
 
The Seventh-day Adventist Church family appreciates his attendance at many of their annual conventions and applauds his deliberate attempts to facilitate inclusiveness, ensuring that the Seventh-day Adventist Church leadership had participating roles to play in services of national importance when he served as president of the Bahamas Christian Council. Additionally, as head of the Church of God community, his willingness in making available the Church of God auditorium for our church conventions, Bahamas Academy graduations, and church concerts serves as an admirable testimony to his kindness and generosity to our church family.
 
As a great leader, God used him to advance the goals of the Church of God denomination in The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Of significance were the construction of the Church of God administrative complex and the renovation of the Church of God auditorium. He was undoubtedly a people’s person and a visionary leader.
 
My last visit to him was on the sad day that his twin brother died. He was so positive and actually ministered to me and my colleague, Pastor Andrew Burrows.  Also lifting our spirits on that final visit with him were the remarkable love and care displayed by his wife, Minister Jennie.
 
As such, I wish to assure Sister Jennie, their children, and the entire Church of God membership of the prayers of the Seventh-day Adventist community in the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. In a personal way, Pastor Paul Scavella and Pastor Errol Tinker, local leaders, join me in conveying sincere condolences.
May God continue to bless and comfort you, always being mindful that the great resurrection day is still future when the dead in Christ will rise first.
 
Leonard Johnson
Atlantic Caribbean Union of Seventh-day Adventists
(Bahamas, Cayman, Turks and Caicos Islands)
 
 
Leonard Johnson
Atlantic Caribbean Union of Seventh-day Adventists
(Bahamas, Cayman, Turks and Caicos Islands)

Embracing the Total Package

Embracing the Total Package
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Is it Possible?
            Is it possible to be a Seventh-day Adventist and not accept the Sabbath? Is it possible to be a Seventh-day Adventist and not accept the Second Coming doctrine?  It would seem preposterous to ask such questions of a Seventh-day Adventist, as both the Sabbath and Second Coming doctrines are embedded and entrenched in the name Seventh-day Adventist.
            Okay, is it possible to be a Seventh-day Adventist and not accept the State of the Dead or the Sanctuary doctrines? Unequivocally no! These are core doctrines.  Well, what about Righteousness by Faith or the Spirit of Prophecy writings? Is it possible to be a Seventh-day Adventist and not embrace these?  Again the answer should be “No”. However, it may surprise you that there are persons who consider themselves Seventh-day Adventists in good standing but do not embrace all of the above, especially the inspired writings bequeathed to the church. Now, I can only imagine that you are tired of the questions and are wondering, “Where is he going with these?” Nevertheless, I crave your patience as I ask just one more.
 
What about Adventist Education?
            Is it possible to be a Seventh-day Adventist and not accept Adventist Education, especially when one considers the true purpose of Adventist Education? I would have to admit that, when one understands the reason for the existence of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, it is difficult and, in some ways, inconceivable to belong to the Adventist Church and not believe in and support Adventist Education. Succinctly put, the church’s main business is salvation; for Jesus says, “I am come to seek and save that which was lost.” So all our programs and initiatives must be informed by that purpose -be they Education, Health, Youth or Family Life. It must be clear to you that I carry a burden for Adventist Education, as I see an attempt by the enemy to cloud and mislead us into thinking that it does not matter. Ellen White reminds us that, “In the highest sense the work of education and the work of redemption are one” (Education, p.30). Additionally, she says that “Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God’s ideal for His children. Godliness--godlikeness--is the goal to be reached” (ibid, p.18).
 
What does it mean to be a Seventh-day Adventist?
            So, as a Seventh-day Adventist, do I accept all that my church stands for? Postmodernism teaches me that I can be a good follower and still not accept everything.  Of course to be a good Seventh-day Adventist does not mean that I am perfect or that I understand everything.  What it does mean is that I have accepted Jesus Christ, and I am willing to be led by Him totally and unreservedly as he chooses to lead. And since He will be my Guide, the issue would not be on what I accept or not accept.  The Bible says in Proverbs 4:18: "But the path of the just is like the shining sun, That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day" (NKJV). Yes, it means that I am willing to be led “all the way my Savior leads me.” Shouldn’t that be the goal of all?

Is Adventist Education Worth It?

Is Adventist Education Worth It?

 
Today, I share with you an article by former General Conference Education Director, Dr. C. Garland Dulan. It is taken from The Journal of Adventist Education. The captions have been extracted from the sections for easy reading.
 
Aim of Adventist Education
“According to the General Conference Working Policy (FE 05 10), the distinctive characteristics of Adventist education, derived from the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White, point to the redemptive aim of true education – to restore human beings into the image of their Maker – mentally, socially, spiritually, and physically.  Our church exists to prepare individuals for God’s kingdom, and education is a crucial process through which this preparation occurs.  Should this vision of mission be lost, there would be no reason for our schools to exist.
 
Embracing Biblical Principles
“Since God is the author of all truth, and the aim of each educational discipline is to discover truth, the Bible provides the basis for the best possible education.  When biblical principles underlie the essential ingredients of the curriculum, the result is a unified rather than fragmented understanding of our world. When biblical principles shape the context and instructional attributes of schools, this provides a solid basis for promoting students’ growth in critical thinking, social interaction, spiritual insight, and knowledge about a healthy lifestyle, as well as the principles of psychological and physical well-being.  In other words, scriptural principles become the lens through which other knowledge is interpreted and evaluated.
“The promise we make to Adventist parents and students is that we seek to provide the best education possible.  This biblically based education helps students understand what matters most in life, enables them to distinguish between truth and error, and provides them with an opportunity to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  This wholistic context for learning prepares them for life here on Earth and for eternity.  This is higher-order knowledge, interpreted in the light of God’s Word.
 
Redemption-Oriented Schools of Excellence
“Adventist institutions, developed within this framework, serve as ‘Redemption-Oriented Schools of Excellence (ROSE).’  I refer to it as a ROSE because the students graduating from this type of school should come out smelling like one!
“There are other characteristics of Redemption-Oriented Schools of Excellence:

  • They are very clear and unapologetic about their mission.

  • Their goals and objectives stimulate attitudes and processes of operation that convey academic and behavioural expectations which are consistent with their mission.

  • Their personnel (faculty and staff) exemplify institutional ideals and are selected with this in mind.

  • They provide their students with opportunities for service and outreach, and inspire them to make a contribution to society and to the church.

  • Their programs are strong in quality and content.

  • Parents, constituents, and church leaders perceive the education as excellent and well worth the cost, and provide solid financial support.

  • The school, the local community, and the church constituency collaborate for success.

  • The facilities reflect what is expected of a school with high standards.

 
Commitment and Willingness to Sacrifice
“When church members discuss the cost of Adventist education, I believe they are really asking: ‘Is an Adventist education worth the cost?’  Homes and automobiles are also expensive, but this does not necessarily deter people from purchasing them.  What makes the difference?  I believe that part of the answer lies in one’s level of commitment and willingness to sacrifice.  However, the greater part of the answer may lie in the perception that our schools do not provide a quality of education that warrants commitment and sacrifice.
“The ROSE concept may be lost to parents and students if greater value has been placed on prestige, acclaim, and social placement, rather than on opportunities for gaining wisdom that is of eternal value.  I believe that to the extent that our schools exemplify the mission, ethos, and educational practices of the Seventh-day Adventist philosophy of education, God will supply their needs ‘according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:19,KJV).  Our biggest problem will be how to handle the waiting lists for admission because the education provided will be seen as of eternal value, and parents, students, church members, and leaders alike will commit themselves to pay for it.”   

“Who Are We and Why Are We Here”?  Part 2

“Who Are We and Why Are We Here”?  Part 2

 
Continued from last week . . .
 
I am firmly convinced that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is God’s last-day church, the Remnant Church of Revelation 12:17. This does not mean that only Seventh-day Adventists will be saved. God has his people in all churches. In Revelation 18:2 the fourth angel proclaims, “Babylon is fallen” and in verse 4 he says, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. (Rev 18:4 NKJ). Yes, many of God’s people are still in Babylon. I have always told my students, “There will be many Catholics in heaven, many Protestants, and some Adventists.”
 
Nevertheless, God called this church into existence and has given us a special message, the three angel’s messages of Revelation 14, to proclaim to the world, to prepare it for the Second Advent. In order to do this, we need to understand these messages. And in order to proclaim them we need to be grounded in the Word of God. We need to study it and accept what it says as it reads, and not explain away its plain meaning. According to the Spirit of Prophecy, “If men would but take the Bible as it reads, . . . a work would be accomplished that would make angels glad and that would bring into the fold of Christ thousands upon thousands who are now wandering in error” (GC 598).
 
In other words, when Scripture says, “in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day” (Exod 20:11) it means he created the world in six days and not in six million years. And when God says, “`You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination” (Lev 18:22), It means just that! It means that homosexual practice is a sin, whether it is a loving relationship or not. Friends, take the Bible as it reads, unless there are good reasons to understand it symbolically or metaphorically.
 
From time to time we need to be reminded that we serve a living God. We know from Scripture that Satan is angry with the Remnant Church. He has seen to it that worldliness and pluralism have entered the Seventh-day Adventist Church as never before. Theological pluralism presents a tremendous challenge to the unity of the church today.
 
The theological controversies in the church in recent decades have produced different brands of Adventism.
 
Today we have:         Evangelical Adventists
Progressive Adventists
Historic Adventist
Main stream Adventists
 
All of them claim to represent the true Adventism. When I began my ministry in 1971, the theological discussions at that time centered on the sanctuary, the Spirit of Prophecy, perfection, the nature of Christ – specific teachings of interest to Adventists. Today, the theological controversies in our church are much more basic, dealing with fundamental Christian teachings:
1. The Trinity – Is Christ really God from eternity? Is the Holy Spirit a person?
2.  Creation – Did God create the world in 7 days or 7 eons
3.  Atonement – Did Jesus die as our substitute or only as our example?
4.  The Bible – How much of the Bible is inspired? Is all of the Bible reliable or is it reliable only when it talks about salvation?
 
Some of our people are no longer convinced that the SDA Church is the Remnant Church of prophecy, that Ellen White is a true prophet, and that our sanctuary teaching is biblical. They are in danger of forgetting who we are and why God has called this church into existence. And Satan would love nothing more than for this to happen.
 
So, please, brethren and sisters, never forget who we are and why God has called this church into existence. He is wonderfully blessing His church. We praise the Lord for the progress the Seventh-day Adventist Church is making worldwide.
 
According to the office of Archives and Statistics at the General Conference, on any given day, more than 3,000 people join the church – a Pentecost every day! Every hour over 120 people are baptized; every minute, at least two individuals are baptized, Praise the Lord!
 
Yet, as you all know, we also face significant challenges. There are still about 4 billion people who have never heard the Adventist message. Most of them live in what is called the 10/40 window. At times one could almost despair of ever finishing the task, but God has ways and means we cannot imagine.
 
God will finish his work, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the LORD of hosts” (Zech 4:6 NKJ). So let us rejoice and be glad, and let us “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2 NIV).
 
Gerhard Pfandl, Ph.D.
Associate Director (part-time)
Biblical Research Institute

“Who Are We and Why Are We Here”?  Part 1

“Who Are We and Why Are We Here”?  Part 1

 
Today, I share with you an article by Gerhard Pfandl, Associate Director (part-time) of the Biblical Research Institute, focusing on our identity and mission, as a church. Because of its length, I have divided it into two parts. Next week, you will receive part 2. I implore you to use the information to help nurture and ground our new believers.
 
Twenty Years ago, on March 29, 1994, thirty-nine leading evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics - men like Pat Robertson and John Cardinal O’Connor - signed a document entitled “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium.”
 
Headlines across America proclaimed: “Christians Herald New Era” and “Catholics Embrace Evangelicals - Conservatives of Both Faiths Agreed to Accept Each Other As Christians.” The world was surprised; Seventh-day Adventists were confirmed in their understanding of prophecy. They remembered Revelation 13:3 which says, “his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.” They also remembered the statement in The Great Controversy:
The Protestants of the United States will be foremost in stretching their hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of spiritualism; they will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power; and under the influence of this three-fold union, this country will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling of the rights of conscience (GC 588).
 
Earlier this year, Pope Francis I spoke by video to a conference of charismatic and Pentecostal ministers, hosted by television evangelist Kenneth Copeland. The pope told these ministers he longed for the separation between the churches to come to an end. “The miracle of unity,” he said, “has begun. And God will finish this miracle.” The response of Copeland and the Pentecostal and charismatic ministers was a resounding Amen. They prayed for the pope and blessed him. Many Christians around the world were happy about this development. Seventh-day Adventists were again confirmed in their faith, because for more than 100 years they have been expecting this move towards Christian unity.
 
As Seventh-day Adventists we are privileged to see the fulfillment of prophecy taking place before our very eyes. Why are Seventh-day Adventists privileged to see these fulfillments? Because God Himself has called this church into existence and has given it special insights into end-time events.
           
Brethren and sisters, please remember, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not an accident of history. Our church did not come about by happenstance. We are not just one church among many Christian churches. This church has been prophetically foreseen in Revelation 12:17. And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Rev 12:17 NKJ)
           
This description fits only the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We keep God’s commandments, including the Sabbath commandment; and we have the “testimony of Jesus” which according to Revelation 19:10 is the Spirit of Prophecy or the prophetic gift. And this gift was manifested in the life and ministry of Ellen G. White. Don’t ever forget this brethren and sisters.
 To be continued . . .
 
Gerhard Pfandl, Ph.D.
Associate Director (part-time)
Biblical Research Institute

A Call to Steadfastness

A Call to Steadfastness
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Following several crusades throughout the union, inclusive of two mega campaigns, hundreds of persons were baptized, and many renewed their relationship to the Lord. Commendations are extended to all field leaders. Also, special commendation to Evangelists Peter Joseph, Claudius Morgan and Osias Joseph! In light of the hundreds of new believers, I thought to repeat an article I did some years ago. I hope that the article will be useful in assisting to nurture our new brothers and sisters.
In the Book of Hebrews, chapter 10, is found a three-fold appeal to believers.  The writer, who I believe was the Apostle Paul, implores his readers to “draw near” (vs.22), “hold fast” (vs. 23), and “to provoke unto love and good works” (vs. 24). Of course, there is a basis for such admonitions, which is noted in the verses preceding verse 22. There the Apostle Paul explains the accomplishment of Christ of having broken down the barriers that prevented mankind from entering into the presence of God.  Employing the language and illustration of the Old Testament sanctuary, he writes: “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,” let us move closer to God, cling to the faith and spur one another to love and good deeds.  Therefore, consider the following points:
 
Come Closer

            The words of Hebrews 10:22 represent an invitation to believers, in view of what Christ has accomplished, as already noted, calling His followers to “draw near.”  Owing to the effects of sin, human beings (like Eve and Adam) tend to shun God’s presence; and even when men and women are inclined to come near to Him, they are timid. However, Paul entreats believers to come close to God with “boldness,” which denotes confidence.  Isn’t that wonderful?  It shows God’s concern for mankind- wanting relationship and closeness or simply intimacy. To spurn God’s offer through the Apostle Paul would be tantamount to showing a disregard for His offer.  Coming close or closer to Him involves a study of God’s Word, prayer, witnessing, church attendance and other factors.

 
Hold On to the Faith
            There would seem to be progression here; whereas before, believers were entreated to come closer, now they are admonished to “hold fast the profession of [their] faith.”  What does that mean?  Hope is implied by Paul calling believers to be steadfast, as later explained in verse 35: “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.” And the reason for that is predicated on the fact that Christ is “faithful.” So essentially we can accept His word or promises, as God does not lie, He is reliable. Additionally, Paul describes Him as “a great High Priest” (Heb. 4:14, NKJV). He is unlike any other high priest.  Other priests offered sacrifices daily and annually, but Christ offered not a lamb but Himself, and He did so just once and for all (Heb. 10:11-12, NKJV). Is it any wonder the Hymn Writer Elisha A. Hoffman, penned, “Christ has for sin atonement made, what a wonderful Savior” (SDAH 335)? For these reasons, all believers need to remain faithful to Him.  This is not the time to part company with Christ or exit His church. Instead, this is the time to hold tenaciously to Christ, as life itself depends on accepting the merits of His sacrifice.
 
Spur One Another to Good Works
            In verse 24, The Apostle Paul advocates, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (NKJV). According to the original language, “to stir up” conveys the idea of “to provoke” as noted in the King James Version. Also, “In a good sense, a sharpening; used figuratively meaning an encouragement to some action or feeling” (Zodhiates, S. [2000]. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, electronic ed., Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers).  Normally this term of “provoking” is associated with inciting or spurring one to do wrong. However, Paul employs it in a positive way.  In doing so, he says that one is to consider ways to “provoke” another to “love and good works.” This comes through “holding fast,” or as stated by Paul in verse 25, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see ‘the Day approaching” (NKJV).
            The basis for all of this is made urgent by the fulfillment of our hope in the second coming of Christ.  Says the writer to the Hebrews, “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry” (10:36, 37, NKJV).

How Do You Know if God Spoke?

How Do You Know if God Spoke?

 
The expression “God spoke to me” is becoming more and more prevalent among many. Years ago, such an expression would have been associated with persons in the church; however, it has become the language of those who lay no claim to regular church attendance or being committed Christians. How can we know if God really spoke to a person?
 
Subjective Truth
By that (subjective truth or personal experience) I am advocating that a person’s claim to God speaking to him or her cannot be dismissed, as there are many occasions in the Bible where God spoke to individuals. And He did this in various ways, without regard for nationality, gender, education or religion.  It is God’s prerogative to choose whomsoever He wishes as He is God, and His wisdom is not to be questioned. Notwithstanding that –Is it not possible to scrutinize such a claim of God speaking to someone? After all, with so many saying so and with apparent conflicting messages, how may we know for a certainty?
 
God’s Speaking Will Not Conflict with His Word
Years ago, a church sister shared that a person needed a definite amount of cash, and he said that he was impressed by God to “play a certain number” (a form of local gambling). Reportedly, the number fell and the exact amount needed was realized. How do we reconcile that? One can reason that God would not in His word advocate hard work, integrity and honesty, and then turn around and encourage chance, or gambling through dream or direct encounter. Of course, one may challenge that answer by referencing the example of Abraham and Isaac.  Did not God say, “Thou shalt not kill?” Also, didn’t God say that a great nation would come through Isaac? And yet He (God) required Abraham to slay his son, Isaac, who had no children at that time.  Was God going against what He had established? Was He not contradicting Himself? The context of Genesis 22 explains and clarifies the apparent contradiction–for in verse 1 it states that God was testing Abraham.  So one can deduce that God will not tell one to divorce a spouse on grounds other than what scriptures contain.  God will not tell a person to steal when His Word says otherwise.
 
What About Dreams?
The same principle applies to dreams and visions.  They must line up with the Word, or we could have persons giving their dreams as a basis for belief or warning and claiming divine authority.  Notwithstanding the promise of the Old Testament prophet (Joel 2:28-32), that God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh, and they shall dream dreams, etc., we should be careful not to dismiss and /or be gullible to accept without seeking to test or examine the dream or vision. In the New Testament, in 1 John 4:1-3, we are admonished to “test the spirits.”  While a dream may be God sent, it may be only for the individual or a group of persons. It requires that we examine everything.
Whatever the intent, we may note that a dream or the expression, “God told me so,” is not to replace or take precedence over the written word.  A classical example is found in 2 Peter 1:16-21. There you will discover that Peter referred to an eyewitness account experienced by James, John and himself. He writes, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2Pet. 1:16, NKJV). Now in our day and age, within the judicial system, an eyewitness’ account counts for something, as one can say, “I saw it with my own eyes.” Or “I heard it with my own ears.”  Against such Peter argues for that which is better and more authoritative; “and what is that?” you ask. As noted in verse 19, “We have a more sure word of prophecy” (KJV). The Bible is God’s word to us containing His will and instructions for mankind.  It is not subjective, for Peter says, “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2Pet.1:20, NKJV). The Bible is God’s truth! Inspired writer Ellen White observes:  “The Bible is the most ancient and the most comprehensive history that men possess. It came fresh from the fountain of eternal truth, and throughout the ages a divine hand has preserved its purity. It lights up the far-distant past, where human research in vain seeks to penetrate” (Ed 173.1). Essentially, the Bible is our sure and most reliable guide, as it is “a lamp to [our] feet, and a light unto [our] path” (Psalm 119:105).

Under Grace and not Law – What Does It Mean?

Under Grace and not Law – What Does It Mean?
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            I am always amused when I hear the remark, “We are no longer under law but under grace,” implying that the law does not serve any function or very little.  Conveniently, the expression is used to support the argument that the Seventh-day Sabbath is no longer binding upon Christians.  Additionally, it is argued that the Old Testament is irrelevant and that we should follow and adhere to the New Testament.  However, I ask, “Is that really so?”  “Is the law still relevant?” “To be a Christian, does it mean that we shun the Old Testament?” “Is there any connection to the spirit of lawlessness pervading our society?”
 
Taking a Look at the Sermon on the Mount
            In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly stated in Matthew 5:17, "Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (NKJV). Consistent with the Greek translation, the context refers to the first five books of Moses and not just God’s law, which is referenced by Jesus in verse 19.  Jesus taught by referring to the writings of Moses and the prophets that essentially the Old Testament is relevant and no less inspired, and that it was not His agenda to destroy it.  Instead, He came “to fulfill,” which means to make full; to explain, or to magnify as will be seen from verse 21.  In other words, Jesus came to liberate His law, giving it its full meaning and application.
 
Fulfilling the Law
            Giving six examples between verses 21 and 48, Jesus clarified the relevance of the law and its application. For the purpose of this article, I refer to three of them.
The first one, recorded in Matthew 5:21–26, speaks to murder. Referring to the prevailing thought of the day, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’”  However, Jesus explained, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council” (Matthew 5:21-22, NKJV).
            Jesus fulfilled this law by giving its full meaning, explaining that murder begins in the heart. The word “anger,” which comes from the Greek word “orge,” refers to anger that is long-lived and that which a person “nurses, cherishes and refuses to let die,” resulting in or seeking revenge.  Isn’t it interesting that the other Greek word for anger, “thumos,” implying “a momentary anger that flares up and dies,” is not used? Yet, the Pharisees and Scribes felt that it was fine to harbor hatred as long as no murder was committed externally.
            Do we not see a connection with violent crime and a spirit of hatred, anger and revenge today?  It would seem that persons would rather vent their anger in pushing a knife into someone’s chest, or pulling the trigger. Conflict resolution seems foreign to many in our society.
            Secondly, Jesus addresses adultery in Matthew 5:27-30 stating, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28, NKJV).  Again, Jesus in regard to His law taught that adultery begins in the heart. For the Pharisees and Scribes, adultery was committed when the actual act was carried out, but not so with Jesus. It starts in the heart. The Old Testament writer, Job, understood this as seen in Job 31:1: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?"
            Thirdly, Jesus, in Matthew 5:43-48, gave attention to love for one’s enemy. Pharisees and Scribes misquoted Leviticus 19:18 to say that it was alright to love one’s neighbors and hate one’s enemies.  However, Jesus fulfilled the law on love by pointing out,"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44, NKJV).  In Christ’s day, this teaching was foreign, and today it is certainly not popular.
            Reasoning from the above three examples, the meaning of “fulfilled” is clear. Jesus, instead of abolishing His law, gave it the prominence it deserved. So shouldn’t we, His followers, do likewise?  To do so does not make us legalistic, as we ought to know that “By grace we are saved.”  However, as noted in Romans 3:31, grace does mean that we disregard God’s law; instead, we “uphold the law.”
 
Summing It Up
     Given the aforementioned, I submit that if we took the teaching of Jesus seriously, it could serve to reduce hatred, anger, murder, dishonesty and marital infidelity, etc.  I would think that those who loosely use the expression, “We are no longer under law but under grace,” may wish to reconsider the expression.  It can suggest irresponsibility. While Christians are under grace, they show a healthy relationship to God’s will, always remembering the purpose of the law, which is to point out sin and hopefully lead to Christ. No wonder Christ said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill."  More than anyone Christ gave the law its rightful place.

Four Essentials for Church Growth

Four Essentials for Church Growth

 
Some time, a friend gave me two copies of the book, The Big Four, written by S. Joseph Kidder. Why two you ask?  Well, he felt certain that I would enjoy the book and would desire to give a copy to someone.  
The book, which is the companion to an adult Sabbath School lesson, is a must for elders, pastors and administrators who desire to see their church and field grow; and therefore I share just four basic points, which make up the book. Do check with your local ABC to purchase a copy.  
 
Empowering Servant Leadership
The author, Kidder, who is a former pastor, lectures in the area of spiritual growth, evangelism and leadership at the Theological Seminary, Andrews University. Based on research, primarily in selected Seventh-day Adventist congregations in the North American Division, Kidder underscores that a major component of a vibrant church is leadership. He explains, “Growing churches have leaders –pastors, lay pastors, elders, or ministry directors –who genuinely want their congregation to grow and are willing to pay the cost.”  He observed that such leaders love evangelism and posses “a strong passion for the lost and an eagerness to do anything to connect them with the heavenly Father.” Essentially, he argues that such leaders are optimistic and pray much.
 
Passionate and Authentic Spirituality
Kidder negates the belief that “growing churches tend to de-emphasize spirituality.”  Instead, he contends that “flourishing Adventist congregations . . . emphasize spirituality often, strongly, and passionately.”
 
Committed and Active Laity
Notwithstanding the effectiveness of pastors within a local church, Kidder explained that it is crucial to have active lay involvement if a church is to be successful and effective. His survey of NAD churches revealed that a vast majority of members “have not won one person to Jesus Christ during their lifetime.”  Quite frankly, that cannot work if a church is to grow and be vibrant. Also, his research showed that the membership in some instances “is aging and . . . congregations are struggling to attract new members and hold on to young ones.”
 
God-exalting Worship
Worship experience is crucial to growing congregations. To Kidder, based on his research, the style of worship is not essential. Based on his findings, what is important is  “the quality of the worship experience, (and) not its placement on the traditional-contemporary continuum.”  Furthermore, he states, “If the heart of the believer touches the heart of God, worship will take place. Though style is not mandatory for growth, excellence, and purpose, prayer, hope, and professionalism are vital.”
Essentially, these factors are fundamental in church growth and, as already noted, form the basis of Kidder’s book; and thus the name, The Big Four.  I highly recommend it for all leaders and passionate disciples.

FORMER GENERAL CONFERENCE PRESIDENT SPEAKS ABOUT INDEPENDENT MINISTRIES

FORMER GENERAL CONFERENCE PRESIDENT SPEAKS
ABOUT INDEPENDENT MINISTRIES

 
Today, I thought to share this additional article on independent ministries in the form of a letter written by Robert S. Folkenberg in the 1990’s, notwithstanding my apparent conclusion on independent ministries last week. Thanks to a pastoral colleague who shared it with me last week and therefore, I pass it on to you. Additionally, I wish to make a correction regarding my classification of Hope International and Hartland Institute in last week's weekly. Reliable information coming to my attention, has led me to re- classify them as supportive ministries. 
 
Letter Re: Independent Ministries
“Dear fellow believers: I want to share a concern with you that lies close to my heart. Many of you have written or called me asking about independent ministries, and I want you to know where I stand. Is it true that the General Conference is out to destroy independent ministries? The answer is no!
“I have been told there are several hundred entities not integrally connected with the church. Almost all of these make a significant, positive contribution to the mission of the church. Many of these are affiliated with Adventist-Laymen's Services and Industries (ASI) and provide a wide variety of services to fellow Adventists and the public, including vegetarian restaurants, educational institutions, health care, publishing, religious radio and TV broadcasts and orphanages. These prefer to be known as supporting ministries of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“One ministry supports a cadre of evangelists who are made available to church organizations around the world. Another, Maranatha Volunteers International, having overseen the construction of hundreds if not thousands of buildings for the church around the world, recently completed its largest single project ever--in the Dominican Republic, where more than 1200 volunteers built 25 churches in 70 days!”
 
By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know;
“Organizations demonstrating by their fruit a commitment to the mission of the church merit both the descriptive supporting and ministry as well as the appreciation and backing of church members and leaders. For these, ‘organizational independence’ is only a matter of function and legal status, not mission. Their loyalty to the church and zeal for proclaiming present truth are indistinguishable from that of the church itself.
“I recently read two compilations of Ellen White's writings dealing with ‘self-supporting’ work and noted two characteristics: 1. ‘Self-supporting’ is normally linked to the concept of ‘missionary.’ lndependence from the church was born of the financial necessity to send families to un-entered areas as missionaries, not by a mission different from that of the church. 2. ‘Self-support’ is presented in the context of unity with the church. 'The work of God in the earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work, and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers’ (Testimonies, Vol 9, page 117).
“The concept of an active laity and supporting ministry of the church is not only encouraged by Ellen White, but found in the example of the apostle Paul, who, by his own labour, supported himself and others as they spread the good news.
“While the vast majority of these ministries truly are supportive and declare their loyalty to the church, a few private organizations, calling themselves ‘independent ministries,’ do not meet this standard. These [private organizations] point out what they see as deficiencies in the church, its members, and its leaders. Tragically, while subtly attributing these failings of a few to the church in general, they set themselves up as the guardians of historic truth and as the only trustworthy expositors of God's Word.
“On this foundation of distrust they build an organization that is not accountable to any wide constituency; foments doubts, distrust and disunity (impediments to the latter rain); diverts millions of dollars that might better have been used for gospel proclamation among the vast populations of the world that have never heard the name of Jesus; and at times even drive members from the church! (See ‘Poison in the Mail,’ Adventist Review, March 12, 1992.)
“Are there problems in the church? If so, do these failures justify the attacks by private organizations against the church?
“To the first question the servant of the Lord answers, 'There are evils existing in the church, and will be until the end of the world’ (Review and Herald, September 5, 1893). It's sad but true, for I am reminded every day that the evil one is hard at work within God's remnant church.”
 
Continued Study Needed
“To achieve personal spiritual growth and a deeper understanding of God's message to us, we must continually study the Word and the Spirit of Prophecy. But the exaggerated individualism that characterizes today's culture must not fragment the unity needed in God's final movement. The vast majority of our teachers, pastors, editors, elders and other leaders are firmly committed to the messages of the three angels of Revelation 14 and the fundamental beliefs that we hold dear.
“Sadly, there are a few who, following modern trends, doubt the accuracy and/or authority of Scripture, reject one or more of these fundamental beliefs (the sanctuary and related truths are among the most frequent casualties), yet insist they have ‘right’ to remain in positions of responsibility. To these I appeal, fall on your knees and, with Scriptures in hand, search and pray until you have peace with God. If you find you are in harmony with the fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, we will rejoice with you. If not, simple honesty and ethics require that you resign any appointed, elected or employed position until you can embrace that which our church upholds as truth.
“A more common weakness in the church, however, is not rejection of the truth, but rather neglect of prayer and study of the Word. In harmony with the Perth Declaration (see Adventist Review, November 7, 1991), I plead with teachers, pastors, editors and other leaders to preach the Word and feed the flock. Enough of salvation by psychology! We need a deeper understanding of the sinfulness of the human heart leading to repentance. Let us uplift Jesus and the cross, thus providing the sinner peace of mind, assurance of salvation in Christ, and connection to Him who is able to ‘keep you from falling and to present you faultless’ (Jude 24).
“Let me assure you I am not calling for uniformity. There is ample room for diversity in searching the Scriptures for truth, even while demonstrating a firm faith in the fundamentals.”
 
Attacks on the Church
“Do the failures of the church justify the attacks by private organizations against the church?
“No! While there are problems in the church that must be resolved, these must be settled by those loyal to the church who are entrusted with responsibility at every level of church administration, beginning at the local congregation. Self-appointed critics, whose fiscal survival depends on their ability to shift members' loyalties from the church to themselves, have conflicting interests and therefore are untrustworthy counselors to the church. Their very survival appears to depend on the mix their leaders choose between piety and doctrine on the one hand and criticism of the church on the other.
“The approaches of destructive critics vary widely. One group features the sensational, shrill, tabloid approach whose attacks simulate a shark like feeding frenzy against the church, albeit among a narrow audience. One of these, for example, recently reported falsely that I visited the pope twice this past year! The author never even called to check the ‘facts.’ One cannot help wondering why such an erroneous report was printed. The truth is that I have never seen, met, or talked with the pope and have no reason or plan to do so. Neither has he asked for an appointment to see me!”
 
A False Test of Orthodoxy
“The mix of piety and criticism among others is more subtle. Their publications include a far higher proportion of that which is spiritual or doctrinal in nature, including reprinting of major segments of the Spirit of Prophecy. By proclaiming their convictions on a narrow list of topics, not accepted by the body as a whole as vital to our message, they, in effect, turn acceptance of their position on these issues into a litmus test of orthodoxy. Thus they draw a pious line in the sand by leading their readers/listeners to choose whom they will trust, the church or their private organization.
“Some ministries in the name of piety and preaching the straight testimony present quotations of Ellen White that encourage independent, self-supporting missionaries. At the same time they ignore the quotations calling for unity and the yielding of individual wisdom to the body of believers (Historical Sketches, pages 122-125). Such behaviour misrepresents spiritual counsel and gives the appearance of intellectual dishonesty. Tragically, the gullible are their lawful prey.
“About these private organizations the servant of the Lord wrote: "Those who start up to proclaim a message on their own individual responsibility, who, while claiming to be taught and led of God, still make it their special work to tear down that which God has been for years building up, are not doing the will of God. Be it known that these men are on the side of the great deceiver. Believe them not. They are allying themselves with the enemies of God and the truth. They will deride the order of the ministry as a system of priestcraft. From such turn away, have no fellowship with their message, however much they may quote the Testimonies and seek to entrench themselves behind them. Receive them not, for God has not given them this work to do. The result of such work will be unbelief in the Testimonies, and, as far as possible, they will make of none effect the work that I have for years been doing...
“Those who thus bring the work of God into disrepute will have to answer before God for the work they are doing" (Testimonies to Ministers, pages 51, 51 [sic]).
The church is being attacked from within by people on two extremes. One extreme undermines the authority of Scripture, our fundamental beliefs and our distinctive end-time message. The other extreme, under the subtle guise of piety attacks the structure, authority and therefore the mission of the church. The church has, all too often, failed to address both attacks adequately.
“Both extremes are destructive to God's expectations of His church. Both bring about disunity, an obstacle to the latter rain, and divert resources from our Lord's mission to His church. ‘There is a great work to be done in the world, a great work to be done in foreign lands... With all the responsibility upon us to go and preach the gospel to every creature there is a great need of men and means, and Satan is at work in every conceivable way to tie up means…. The money that should be used in doing the good work of building houses of worship, of establishing schools... is diverted from a channel of usefulness and blessing into a channel of evil and cursing’ (ibid, page 43).
Jesus knew that the evil one would try to bring about disunity. Our Lord described the consequences of disunity when He said, ‘every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand’ (Matthew 12:25, NKJV). The apostolic record confirms the early church’s struggle for unity.”
 
Jesus' Plan for Unity
“Jesus' divine plan to resolve differences as described in Matthew 18:15-I7, is too often ignored or forgotten. As your president, I ask your forgiveness for times when I may have skipped over any of the steps outlined in God's plan. Please pray that God will grant wisdom to those who must deal with those organizations whose activities tend to undermine either truth or mission. All church initiatives must be compassionate yet sustain the integrity of the church body.
“I appeal to each pastor, Bible teacher, administrator, church board member and leader to uphold God's word and the teachings of God's remnant church and, following these biblical steps, under the guidance of the Spirit, work together to keep our church unified. To all, laity and employees alike, let us cease the derogatory remarks about others and follow Jesus' plan in dealing with wrong.
“If the plan described in Matthew 18 doesn't seem to fit the problem you see, consider that it may not be a problem God has given you to resolve. Trust that God, who is in charge of all things, will use those He has delegated to ‘right the ship.’ On the other hand, if a problem is within your area of responsibility, pray that God will give you the wisdom and courage to carry out your responsibility.”
 
Collective Selfishness, or Sacrifice?
“I wish each could share the burden of opportunities waiting for action. For example, the doors into one of the largest Muslim countries in the world have been flung open. Also, today we can send a large number of workers to China and the countries of the former USSR, yet sufficient resources are not available to respond to these opportunities.
“There are many reasons for this, such as collective selfishness instead of collective sacrifice. Many of us expect the church to meet so many of our felt needs, without the balancing Macedonian call from the un-entered areas of the world, that we do good things to an excess! Too often resources needed to reach others with the gospel are consumed by those who already have received the good news.
“Another reason is diverted resources. The dollars diverted to the few private organizations whose activities lead to disunity and shifted loyalties are resources Mrs. White said would be better used for gospel proclamation.
“It is indispensable that each of us, prayerfully guided by the Holy Spirit, evaluate each private organization. Those whose loyalty to the message and mission of the church are above reproach, whose fruit gives evidence of new souls for the kingdom, deserve our prayers and support. On the other hand, those who cause the reader or viewer, whether subtly or directly, to choose between them and the church demonstrate that they are not inspired of God.
“I admit to increasing frustration in dealing with this situation. Last summer, just before standing to preach a Sabbath sermon at a Canadian camp meeting, I was handed a sheaf of bulletins from another shrilly critical editor. I shared with the congregation my frustration with these destructive critics of the church. In retrospect, I wish I had shared my convictions with more tears in my voice and the pain in my heart rather than just the frustration. This is just evidence that God is not finished with me yet.
“I love this church. I believe our fundamental beliefs with all my heart. I believe the Lord's gospel commission was not a suggestion but a mandate. I believe Jesus is coming, and soon, sooner than most of us expect!
“Are independent ministries of value? An organization’s independence does not make it bad or good, holy or unholy! All, members, leaders and organizations (church operated or independent) that contribute to hastening our Lord's return should be reinforced and supported, while those weakening the church and distracting from heaven's mission must be properly dealt with according to God's plan.
“I appeal to all to ‘press together, press together, press together.’ I ask you to join hands with me in seeking the Lord and finishing the work.”

A Concluding Look at Self-Supporting and Independent Ministries

A Concluding Look at Self-Supporting and Independent Ministries



It is my hope that we see the difference between self-supporting and independent ministries. As noted, there are some independent ministries that give cause for concern for the church. On the other hand, self-supporting ministries work very closely with the church, assisting in various ways to advance the mission of the church. It would be a blessing if we could find ways to have all independent ministries work in harmony with the church instead of opposing it. However, I wish to note again three international independent ministries that are of concern to the church are Hope International, Remnant Ministries (based in Australia) and Hartland Institute.



Efforts to Reach Independent Ministries

In 1998, based on concerns raised by then General Conference president, Robert S. Folkenberg, a committee was formed to meet with these groups and engage in dialogue with the view of settling differences and working together. Note the appeal as recorded in Ministry Magazine, August 2000: “We appeal, in all sincerity and Christian love, to Hope International and associates to hear the counsel of the Church they claim to love. It is time for the spirit of condemnation and rebellion to be set aside, allowing the reconciling blood of Christ to bring unity among His people.”

We recognize that within our union territory there exit various ministries -radio, school, health and the like. Without pretense, we know that there are some that work closely with the church, whereas others continue to condemn the church and its leaders. However, this latter approach is not Christ-like. It is not likely to achieve much. As noted in 2000, we observe today that, “there is serious need for revival and reformation in God's Remnant Church... The Church is not perfect, but there is wisdom in listening to its advice.”



An Appeal to Work Together

I join our local field leaders in calling upon those ministries that are working independently of the church’s guidelines to accept the authority of the church. Also, I appeal to leaders to do all that is possible to dialogue, listen and encourage unity where possible. To ensure that we are aware of some of the various self-supporting ministries that exist, I share the following:



Self-supporting Ministries

Outpost Centers International

Amazing Facts

Association of Adventist Women

Association of Seventh-day Adventist

Association of Seventh-day Adventist Librarians (ASDAL)

Generation of Youth for Christ (GYC), formerly known as the General Youth Conference

Weimar Institute

Adventist Youth Ministry Movement (AYMM)

Ouachita Hills Ministries (website)

Quiet Hour Ministries (formerly The Quiet Hour)

Quiet Moments

Amazing Discoveries

White Horse Media

Morning Song Music Group

Loma Linda Broadcasting Network

Maranatha Volunteers International

Project Patch

Adventist Frontier Missions

Your Story Hour

CHIP Health

More Abundant Life Phipps

Hope on Fire

Church Pond TV

Lifestyle Magazine

Voice of Prophecy

It Is Written

3ABN



Problem ones

Hope International

Remnant Ministries (based in Australia)

Hartland Institute (based in USA)

The Forerunner Chronicles

Of course there are hundreds of these. Finally, I encourage support for the various evangelistic thrusts in your area. Union Communication Director, Pastor Andrew Burrows, shared the following a few weeks ago:



Cayman Islands Conference

The Message of Hope Campaign begins on Sunday evening, November 9, 2014, at the George Town Seventh-day Adventist Church in Grand Cayman.

According to Dr. Erika Puni, stewardship ministries director for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and speaker for the series, the focus is twofold: firstly, to invite persons who are being studied with to make a decision to follow Jesus through baptism and become disciples of Christ; and secondly, to provide an opportunity for church members to nurture and build their faith in Christ.



North Bahamas Conference

Evangelist Claudius Morgan of the Caribbean Union Conference will proclaim the gospel to the residents in Freeport, Grand Bahama, at the Good News Gospel Explosion beginning this weekend, September 6th.



South Bahamas Conference

The major evangelistic initiative for the South Bahamas Conference (SBC) for September is themed "Mission to the City: The Nassau Experience.”

According to the coordinators, NP-14, as it is referred to, “is an effort to share Jesus' love and the hope of His soon return through a holistic approach using various events including an evangelistic campaign. The campaign will be held in the city of Nassau, which is the largest city in the union territory.

International evangelist, Pastor Peter Joseph, who also serves as the executive secretary for SBC, and the dynamic team members along with a 200-voice choir will deliver powerful services to impact the lives of everyone in attendance. The meetings will commence on this Saturday evening, September 6, 2014, and will be held at the "big tent" located at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Center.



Turks and Caicos Islands Mission

The Turks and Caicos Islands Mission (TCIM) will engage in evangelistic outreach in most of the districts across the mission. These include the following youth and church crusades:

1) The "Jesus Loves Apps" youth evangelistic series with guest speaker Pastor Geovanni Franklyn from the Northeast Jamaica Conference is currently under way at the Blue Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church in Providenciales.

2) The Filidelfia Church crusade is scheduled for September 5-20, 2014, with a guest evangelist, Pastor Luis Torres, from the Dominican Republic.

3) The Ebenezer Church crusade in Grand Turk will be held during September 6-27, 2014, with a guest evangelist, Pastor Jude Bien Aime Joseph, from Haiti.

4) The Antioch Church crusade in Grand Turk will be conducted during October 5-25, 2014, with local lay evangelist Elder Patrick Gilroy Jarrett.

5) The Ephesus Church crusade in Providenciales will take place during October 2014 with Pastor Wilson Isnord.

6) The Five Cays Church crusade in Providenciales during October 2014 will feature local lay evangelist Elder Osias Joseph.

7) The Blue Hills Church crusade in Providenciales that will be held during October 2014 will involve the laity of the church.

8) The Maranatha Church crusade in South Caicos during November 2014 will feature Pastor Roy Lindsay.

Responding to Independent Ministries

Responding to Independent Ministries

 

Relating to self-supporting ministries is pleasant in comparison to some independent ministries, who regard their ministries as ordained to “straighten out” the leadership of the church; bring the church “back on course,” and “qualified” to receive tithes of members. As noted in last week’s article, the latter consider themselves as loyal members of the church although their operations run counter to the programs of the church. Accordingly, I will attempt to explain how we should respond to them. In doing so, I will reference again an article by Woodrow W. Whidden, printed in Ministry Magazine, August 2000.  Firstly, a look at the Wesleyan’s Revival of the 18th Century, the significance of this for Adventists and finally, how the church can relate to “independent Ministries.”
 
A Look at the Wesleyan Revival in the 18th Century
Woodrow W. Whidden explains, “Any effort to draw parallels from one historical setting to another is always a delicate pursuit since the parallels of history are often elusive and inexact.” Nevertheless, he views The Wesleyan Revival of the 18th century as presenting “numerous striking similarities to many Adventist para-church movements.” Says Whidden, “The parallels and concerns are so striking that I find them quite irresistible as a laboratory to explore the dynamic ways religious minorities and establishment majorities relate to one another.” He pointed out, “John Wesley never intended to be a divisive schismatic in any of the innovations that he introduced in his 18th-century evangelical revival. He died an ordained Anglican priest and proclaimed his loyal intentions to the very end. However, Wesley never shied away from doing what he thought necessary to advance his Methodist outreach, especially to the ‘poor’ who were caught in the social and spiritual crossfire of the early Industrial Revolution.” As such, from this context, Whidden identified two major factors that contributed to the unwanted schism that the Methodist revival ultimately experienced and their relevance for Adventism.
 
Relevance for Adventism
Whidden observed, “All across Protestantism, including Adventism, and in a number of sectors in the Roman Catholic community, there is a growing appreciation for small group ministries and lay leadership in all aspects of church outreach and nurture.” Furthermore, he states, “In the face of these trends, denominational ministers and administrators need to adopt wise and restrained practical and/or theological caution.” In fact, he contends, “in many cases, church leaders need to get out of the way” only “if there is an abundantly evident manifestation of positive spiritual fruitage.” On the other hand, “If the teaching and action of a particular para-church movement shows little or no positive fruitage, there may well be need for church administrations to take necessary action.”
 
Seeking Harmony
 
According to Whidden, “the central issues that appear to be unresolved between the main body and some of the so-called ‘independent’ or ‘self-sup porting’ ministries does not seem to primarily concern theology per se.” Comparing to the Wesleyans and the Anglicans, he views the issues mostly having to do with “matters of organization and lifestyle.” As such, he posed the following questions: “How should the organized body relate to groups that continue to criticize it regarding real or imagined compromise on moral and lifestyle issues?” “How does the church relate to a manifest claim of entitlement, by the ‘independent’ ministries, to receive ‘tithes.’"
He admits, “The solutions don't reveal themselves easily, but some potential schisms do appear to be amenable to solution if enough mutual patience and dialogue can be brought to bear on the situation.” In addition, he believes, “Much of the stress could be alleviated if the establishment administrators would take more time to reassure the ‘independent’ ministries that they affirm their doctrinal orthodoxy, loyalty and sincere zeal to protect, for example, the delicate balance between justification and sanctification.” He goes so far as to say, “Denominational leadership needs to be prepared to humbly and patiently dialogue with the independents and seek every possible area of agreement. They should be prepared to be vulnerable to the questions and concerns put to them.”
In seeking balance Whidden argues, “On the other hand, the ‘independent’ ministry leaders would do well to renounce any intention to knowingly receive tithes.”  Additionally, they need to ask themselves: “How far are we actually willing to go when it comes to our separate publications, institutional development, camp meetings, conventions, and other independent teachings and activities?” “Are we reaching the point where the finer points of our own prescribed behavior and teaching are becoming the primary points of ecclesiastical identity and meaning for our followers?” “At what point do our criticisms of the church and its leadership become destructive or irreparably damaging and divisive to the body of Christ?”
            Going back to the reference of the Wesleyan Revival, Whidden concludes, “With the loudest protestations of loyalty and all the best motives for reform and renewal, the Wesleyans eventually found their primary ecclesiastical identity with the United Societies rather than established Anglicanism. Do Adventist ‘independents’ really want now to go this route when it comes to established, denominational Adventism?” Quite frankly, I do not think so. Next week, I will identify some of the supporting and independent ministries.

Independent Ministries

Independent Ministries

 
Today, I begin a new series on independent and self-supporting ministries with the view of providing some clarity and understanding to these ministries.
 
Defining Independent and Self-Supporting Ministries
            Independent Ministries refer generally to those organizations and individuals who supposedly work along the church, assisting the church in advancing its mission and message. Within the context of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Wikipedia notes, “Supporting ministries are those that exist to support the church's ministry. The Seventh-day Adventist church recognizes the contribution made by these organizations as being such that the main church is unable to contribute to.”  Furthermore, it explains that such organizations “adhere to official church guidelines and do not openly solicit tithe or solicit money from members during official functions” (Ibid). Philip W. Dunham and Maylan Schurch, in their book entitled Blinded by The Light: The Anatomy of Apostasy, estimate that there are some 800 such ministries that are mostly supportive of the church and its teachings. Additionally, Matthew A. Bediako, former Executive Secretary of the General Conference, in an article in the Review, pointed out that those “who provide and receive these services have been equally blessed.” And as a means to coordinate these ministries, their strategies, plans and foster communication, “the General Conference appointed a committee to oversee these key objectives. The committee's goal is to encourage mission initiatives, while at the same time preserving unity, order, and financial support for the basic church structure.”
 
Examples of Such Ministries
            Self-supporting and Independent initiatives include some of the well-known ministries such as:
 
3ABN
Amazing Facts
HKEA Evangelistic Alliance
SafeTV
My Gospel Workers
The Voice of Prophecy
Quiet Hour Ministries (formerly The Quiet Hour)
It Is Written
Voice of Prophecy
Amazing Discoveries
White Horse Media
Firstlight Broadcasting Network
            The above list is not exhaustive as there are more international and of course local ministries within some of our local fields. However, not all independent or self-supporting ministries work in tandem with the church, and therefore the following section.
 
Self-Supporting Ministries Viewed With Concern
Back in 2000 Woodrow W. Whidden wrote in a Ministry Magazine article, “In Self-supporting, ‘supporting,’ and ‘independent’ ministries are terms that have created considerable discomfort and confusion in the minds of many Adventists in recent years.” He explained, “These expressions encompass Adventist para-church groups and organizations that normally have some missionary, evangelistic, revival, or reform (theological or lifestyle) goal as their reason for existence. ‘Self-supporting’ and ‘supporting’ groups have generally been positively viewed by denominational administrators. It is the ‘independent’ ministries that have raised the most concern.” (Ministry Magazine, August 2000).
Whidden detected that the ‘independent’ ministry groups all seem to have two things in common:
1. The vast majority of these groups proclaim their loyalty to the formal denominational organization. This, however, is usually followed with a careful listing of the church's numerous faults and theological defects.
2. While affirming loyalty to the church, such organizations deliberately claim that the church is deficient both in doctrinal purity and ethical accomplishment.
            What should be the approach of the church toward such groups? Next week, I will continue my research based on Independent Ministries.

Shepherd’s Rod - Sifting Truth From Error

Shepherd’s Rod - Sifting Truth From Error
Questions to Ask

 
         For this final write-up on Shepherd’s Rod I reference six test questions provided by George W. Reid, taken from an article he did for the Biblical Research Institute. Again, as noted in the previous two weeklies, the article by George is reprinted with minor adaptation from the Adventist Review.
 
Track of Truth Lies Close Behind the Track of Error
         George Reid from research discovered that, “The experience of the Shepherd's Rods and similar groups illustrates the hazards, not in holding strong religious faith, but in distorting it.” Furthermore, in referencing a poignant statement of Ellen White, he pointed out, "the track of truth lies close beside the track of error" (Review and Herald; Oct. 22, 1903). As such George contends that there are “Several simple but important tests [that] should be applied by every believer who wants to build solid faith while hedging against error.”
 
Applying The Tests       
         When invited to Sabbath lunch and or a Bible Study one needs to be aware of the approach by Shepherd’s Rod. Seeing themselves as being called to reform the Seventh-day Adventist Church, they target new believers who most vulnerable. Also, they position themselves to teach the Sabbath school lesson especially in small churches where there is not a resident pastor and the leadership may be inadequate. Therefore, if you do not know a person or may be uncertain, call your pastor and or field leader. Additionally, take note of the following test questions.
         1.    Is there a heavy concentration on one or two main points?     
         2.    Am I hearing a careful pursuit of understanding, or an urging toward quick conclusions?      
         3.    Does the person or group distance themselves from the larger body of believers? Such separation robs us of the balance provided by hearing the whole church.      
         4.    Does the promoter or group emphasize impending danger to the point of creating a feeling of desperation? A true walk with Christ builds hope and confidence, not terror.     
         5.    Is undue attention given to the ideas of one person?     
         6.    Am I urged to accept uncritically whatever is promoted, buttressed by the use of selected Bible texts and Spirit of Prophecy quotations as proofs?
 
Critical Thinking Is Needed       
         Says, Reid, “Ours is a perilous age for Christians, not only from unbelief, but a willingness to believe too much. The false lies beside the true. The drives of human needs and the hype of marketing, both in products and ideas, push us to make the most crucial of decisions on shallow evidence. Christ has a better way: careful searching of His Word and placing utter trust in Him alone.”  How relevant is such a statement given that a wrong decision could lead to destruction now and in the future. We need the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit daily in our lives. In fact, it is our privilege to pray for it as God is most willing to impart this through His Holy Spirit. Additionally, I wish to call for a confidence in God’s established church notwithstanding some of its issues. The issues are not with God or His church per se but with people or individuals and that may include you and me. Accordingly, I conclude with a few relevant quotations on the church and its leaders taken Acts of the Apostles by Ellen White.
“God has made His church on the earth a channel of light, and through it He communicates His purposes and His will. He does not give to one of His servants an experience independent of and contrary to the experience of the church itself. Neither does He give one man a knowledge of His will for the entire church while the church—Christ’s body—is left in darkness . . ..”
“There have ever been in the church those who are constantly inclined toward individual independence. They seem unable to realize that independence of spirit is liable to lead the human agent to have too much confidence in himself and to trust in his own judgment rather than to respect the counsel and highly esteem the judgment of his brethren, especially of those in the offices that God has appointed for the leadership of His people. God has invested His church with special authority and power which no one can be justified in disregarding and despising, for he who does this despises the voice of God.”
“Those who are inclined to regard their individual judgment as supreme are in grave peril” (The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 163, 164).

A Look at the Shepherd’s Rod Teachings

A Look at the Shepherd’s Rod Teachings

 
         Last week I sought to provide a history of the Shepherd’s Rod. Today, I will explore some of their teachings showing some differences with those of Seventh-day Adventists and, of course, the Bible. As noted the sources for this new series are as follows: the websites for Adventist Biblical Research and SDADefend.
 
Denying Messianic Prophecies
         In an article on Shepherd’s Rod teachings taken from an earlier edition of a Review article, George Reid observes, “Perhaps the most important is the idea that a Davidic kingdom of absolute righteousness is to be established in Palestine prior to the close of probation. This was the event foreseen for April 22, 1959. By divine intervention, Arabs, Jews, and others would be displaced to make room for this kingdom, whose citizens would be the 144,000, including Shepherd's Rods and certain others.”       
         He further pointed out, “Shepherd's Rod teachings deny that messianic prophecies such as Isaiah 7:14 (‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son…’) and Micah 5:2 (‘But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah… out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel’) met complete fulfillment with Jesus, arguing that they should apply to the coming Davidic kingdom.” Instead, Shepherd's Rods see themselves as appointed “to announce the approach of this Davidic kingdom.” It is their view that afterward, “Jesus will return to establish another kingdom with the Second Advent, which is to follow the close of probation.”
 
Interpretation of the Parable of Wheat and Tares
         In looking at the parable of the wheat and tares, and the harvest of Revelation (Matt. 13:36-43; Rev. 14:14-19), Houteff “applied these to the present time period, anticipating the coming of the Davidic kingdom.” Instead of Houteff describing events to occur at Jesus' return, he assumed “the harvest of grain began January 1, 1931, with a vision he received appointing him to call out the 144,000.” Additionally, he taught, “The harvest of tares, …will be a divine slaughter of Adventists who reject his message, fulfilling the prophecy of Ezekiel 9.” However, as we know the harvest, and the separation of grain from tares take place at the second return of Jesus at the end of the world, which follows the close of probation according to Matt. 13:39-43.
 
The Prophecy of Ezekiel 9       
         A major theme of Shepherd's Rod teaching has been an interpretation of the prophecy of Ezekiel 9. Unfortunately, it would seem that Shepherd’s Rods ignore the initial meaning or application of the entire book of Ezekiel that has its setting in Babylon, and God’s desire to reach His people through the prophet Ezekiel. Instead, Shepherd’s Rods bypass the historical meaning and fast forward to “a point prior to probation's close,” when according them, “divine agencies will destroy those Adventists who reject the appeals of the Shepherd's Rod.” They claim, “this represents an invisible coming of Christ to establish the Davidic kingdom prior to probation's close. Later, Jesus is to come in visible glory to establish His kingdom following the seven last plagues.”
         Shepherd’s Rods contend, "Had the church as a body, or at least the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination accepted the message of reform as presented to them in 'The Shepherd's Rod, Volume 1, there would be no necessity for that class to fall by the figure of the five men with the slaughter weapons. It is the reception or rejection of the message that will fix the destiny of the two classes as described in the following testimony: (quotes Early Writings, p.270)."-The Shepherd's Rod, Volume 2, (1932), p.218.
         On the other hand, we as Adventists see the prophecy's primary meaning in the Babylonian conquest of Judah, but paralleling “with the visions of Revelation 7:15,16” indicating ‘analogies with certain final events. But those events will follow the close of probation.”
 
The Seals of Revelation 5       
         The fracturing of the Shepherd's Rod movement, which began in 1961, has led to “a wide variety of additional beliefs promoted by different subgroups” For example, Vernon Howell (David Koresh), held a special interpretation of the seven seals of Revelation (6:1-8:1). He declared that he alone held a satisfactory understanding of the seals that he used to bolster his claim “to be the Lamb who alone can open the seals (Revelation 5).” Again, this interpretation of Howell stands in marked contrast to the Adventist understanding, which sees Jesus as the Lamb and the seals as reaching across 2,000 years from the time of Jesus to His return. Unfortunately, many of the followers of this subgroup perished with David Koresh in the Waco, Texas massacre on April 19th, 1993.

A Look At The Shepherd’s Rod

A Look At The Shepherd’s Rod

 
         With reports of Shepherd’s Rod teachings in certain pockets of the Union territory, I thought to do a series of articles looking at this organization, its history, teachings and its approach towards the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I will also seek to take a look at Ezekiel 9, a familiar reference point for Shepherd’s Rod. However, for this initial study I will explore the history of the movement. Sources for these articles are: Shepherd's Rod - SDADefend www.sdadefend.com
/WolvesinFleeces/Rods%201.htm -The Branch Davidians/Shepherd's Rod—Who Are They ...https://adventistbiblicalresearch.org/.
 
The History of The Shepherd's Rod
          The "Shepherd's Rod" or otherwise referred to as the "Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Church, " is “a religious offshoot of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.” Started in 1929 by Victor Houteff, and its unusual name, "Shepherd's Rod," was the title of his first publication, as well as his chosen name for the organization until 1942.
         Born in Raikovo, Bulgaria, on March 2, 1885, Victor T. Houteff “immigrated to the United States in 1907 at the age of 22, after having been expelled from Bulgaria.” Believed to be “originally a Greek Orthodox, Houteff had become involved in some kind of difficulty with his native church; so much so that they requested the Bulgarian Government to expel him from the country.”
         He arrived in America, (Illinois) in 1919 and thereafter, he was baptized into the Rockford Seventh-day Adventist Church. However, by 1923, “he had moved to Southern California, where, two years later, he had his membership transferred to the Olympic Exposition Park Church in Los Angeles.”
         It was reported that soon after his membership transfer to the Olympic Exposition Park Church in Los Angeles, “complaints came from some of its members that Houteff was teaching rather unusual beliefs in his Sabbath School class and at private Sabbath afternoon meetings with some of the members.” Consequently, “a representative group of church workers, Bible teachers, and leaders met with him to consider his views on November 14. 1929. But nothing came of it.”
 
The Approach of the Church Towards Houteff and His Followers
         At the 1930 General Conference Session, held in San Francisco from May 29 to June 12, Houteff seized the opportunity to proselyte members and leaders by distributing copies of a study he hectographed entitled The Shepherd's Rod. “One of those who received it-and had time to carefully examine it-was the well known F.C. Gilbert. Familiar with the teachings of the church, he wrote a letter to Houteff pointing out a number of errors in his publication and recommended that he give them up. Gilbert also wrote to the church leaders in Southern California and recommended that careful study should be given to this problem before the situation worsened.
         Consequently, on July 23, the Exposition Park Church Board met with Houteff to consider the problem, but nothing was accomplished. A second board meeting was held on August 14, at which time "It was moved and supported that Brother Houteff be asked to retract his statement that Elder Spicer is not a Sabbathkeeper and to apologize for the disturbance in the church on Sabbath, November 30, 1929. Since Bother Houteff did not make these apologies, the motion was amended as follows, [that) the church wished to express its disapproval of Brother Houteff's action in this matter."
         Additionally, “on October 16, the union president, conference president, and local pastor met with Houteff, at which time this action taken was that: 'The Shepherd's Rod is neither true to simple facts, nor true to the word of God, and it is condemned by the very ‘Testimonies’ it quotes from. We warn our dear brethren against the false conclusions this poor man has come to.’”
 
Further Development
         However, “In 1935 Houteff and 11 followers moved to a newly purchased farm near Waco, Texas, which they named Mount Carmel Center. By 1937 a tentative organization was functioning, calling itself ‘The General Association of the Shepherd's Rod Seventh-day Adventists.’ The group continued zealously producing and distributing its literature, infiltrating Adventist churches in search of anyone who could be persuaded to join them.”               
         In 1942, the U.S. Selective Service draft posed a major quandary for Shepherd's Rods as “draftees could be granted Sabbath privileges only if they could be shown to be bona fide members of a recognized religious group advocating that belief.”
Accordingly, “the leaders dropped their claim to be regular Seventh-day Adventist members and registered with the United States government under the name Davidian Seventh-day Adventists.” Subsequently, they issued certificates of membership, documented their ministers and sought to transition to a separated group in 1942 though not altogether complete. Nevertheless, “they continued to insist that they comprised the true and faithful Adventists.”               
         Before his death in 1955, Houteff announced that, “following a period of 1260 literal days, Christ would initiate His kingdom. His wife Florence, succeeding to leadership, identified the 1260 days as extending from November 9, 1955, to April 22, 1959. As the fateful day approached, a call was issued for the faithful to dispose of property and come to Mount Carmel Center. An estimated 800 persons arrived, many bringing the proceeds from the sale of possessions.”  Unfortunately, “When the day came and went, unmarked by the expected event, disillusionment led to fracture of the Shepherd's Rods into smaller groups, the largest remaining at Waco and adding the name ‘Branch.’ Some members returned to Seventh-day Adventist churches.”                   With unsuccessful efforts by Adventists for reconciliation, “late in 1961 Mrs. Houteff renounced the Shepherd's Rod teachings as in error and shortly moved to disband the group”. Nonetheless, “one of the factions gained possession of the Mount Carmel Center” and eventually came under the control of Vernon Howell in 1984, who had been disfellowshiped in 1981 from the Tyler (Texas) Seventh-day Adventist Church. “Howell later changed his name to David Koresh.” However, “Under his leadership the group radicalized its program and stockpiled heavy firearms, prompting the February 28 raid by law enforcement authorities—ending in a shootout and standoff that propelled the Branch Davidian group into the media limelight worldwide.”                                        More to follow. . . .

Living in Tension

Living in Tension

 
In the insightful book by former General Conference president, Jan Paulsen, entitled, “Where Are We Going?” he includes a chapter captioned, “Living in the Tension.” Essentially, he focuses on the tension of living between the first advent and the second coming of Christ, or put another way, living between the now and later, or between the ideal versus reality. It is hard to argue that living in tension offers its own challenges: “Where am I going?” “Am I living for Christ?”  “What do I do given current ills and acts of injustice and violence?”  “How do I make the message of the church relevant to today’s secular mind?” If that is not enough, how does one reconcile the fact that the church is not perfect? Added to the preceding, there are those who are calling for reform and a cleansing of the church.  How do we respond to all of the concerns? In response, I share some personal observations based on my understanding of the Bible, Spirit of prophecy and from my experience.
 
The Church of God
            Unfortunately, there are those who see the church as “them versus us.” The fact is the church is a body of believers who are imperfect with issues of one type or another. Some members are ill, and some others are severely ill. The church is a work of God in progress of refining and renewal. God is seeking to save His people. Against this not so good description, comes the encouraging statement of Ellen White who says, “Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard” (Acts of the Apostles, p. 12). Given this explanation, I need to be careful of what I say about God’s church or, for that matter, about myself. God is not finished with us, but He will finish the work started if we allow Him to do His job, which He is more than qualified to do.
 
Avoid Discouragement
            Living between the now and the yet to be offers its share of trials, persecution and discouragement, especially when the darts or insults are hurled from within the church. Though this hurts, it ought not to surprise us, for Paul wrote to young Timothy years ago, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).  That is not a perhaps or maybe so but a definite reality. Says Jesus in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you”.
            Paulsen explains, “Discouragement is the constant enemy of leaders.  We may face it in our own walks, and we’ll inevitably confront it within the community of faith, where it usually arrives in the company of criticism, negativity, and faultfinding.”  The onus is on us to not give in to discouragement or discourage another. Instead we can and ought to pray for one another, especially leaders.  When last did you pray for your pastor, conference or world leader?  Or when last did I pray for a fellow elder or colleague?
 
 
Keep Focused on the Yet to Be
            Living between tensions of the first and second advents, it is crucial that we learn to live in the power of the cross and the resurrection, as we keep focused on the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. We do this by spending time each day reading God’s word, praying and witnessing.  Even when we do not feel like it, we keep focused on the mission of making disciples, for did not Christ offer us the power and authority to accomplish this mission? When we lose sight of His mission, we lose focus and instead of growing in Christ, we grow away from Christ. Living in Christ must be a way of life, as it is essential as the very breath we breathe. Without oxygen we will die --it is that simple.  Likewise, when we become distracted with everything else to the neglect of our own soul’s need of Christ, we become spiritual dwarfs? Ours must be one of daily obedience. This will lead to daily renewal or what we refer to as revival, and there will be gradual reforms in our way of life, overcoming pride, jealousy, envy, criticism and negativity. This leads me to declare like the Apostle Paul, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Let’s live for Christ in the “now,” and we can rest assured that we will live with Him in the “future.” So never despair for “it’s trials that bring us close to heaven.”

Inspired Counsels of Ellen White

Inspired Counsels of Ellen White

 
For the past 4-6 weeks I have sought to sensitize, inform and encourage a greater respect for the works and inspired ministry of Ellen White. Today, I present my final article on the subject. In fact, it was my intention to conclude two week ago but owing to a series of quotes employed in the recent Geoscience Conference on Origins, held in Venice, Italy, of which I was privileged to attend from June 23 – July 2, I thought it necessary to add this final article. Therefore the quotes presented, relating to “Restraining Without Obscuring Truth,” “Meeting Opposition” and “Role Model – Religion Isn’t Limiting,” are of great significance.
 
Restraining Without Obscuring Truth
Prepare the Soil Before Sowing the Seed. In laboring in a new field, do not think it your duty to say at once to the people, We are Seventh-day Adventists; we believe that the seventh day is the Sabbath; we believe in the non immortality of the soul. This would often erect a formidable barrier between you and those you wish to reach. Speak to them, as you have opportunity, upon points of doctrine on which you can agree. Dwell on the necessity of practical godliness. Give them evidence that you are a Christian, desiring peace, and that you love their souls. Let them see that you are conscientious. Thus you will gain their confidence; and there will be time enough for doctrines. Let the heart be won, the soil prepared, and then sow the seed, presenting in love the truth as it is in Jesus.—Gospel Workers, pp. 119, 120.  (1915). – {Evangelism, p. 200.2}
 
Do not at the outset press before the people the most objectionable features of our faith, lest you close their ears to which these things come as a new revelation. Let such portions of truth be dealt out to them as they may be able to grasp and appreciate; though it should appear strange and startling, many will recognize with joy the new light that is shed on the Word of God, whereas if truth were presented in so large a measure that they could not receive it, some would go away, and never come again. More than this, they would misrepresent the truth.—The General Conference Bulletin, February 25, 1895. – {Evangelism, p. 201.1}
 
Meeting Opposition
The Lord wants His people to follow other methods than that of condemning wrong, even though the condemnation be just. He wants us to do something more than to hurl at our adversaries charges that only drive them further from the truth. The work which Christ came to do in our world was not to erect barriers and constantly thrust upon the people the fact that they were wrong (Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 121).
 
In the advocacy of the truth the bitterest opponents should be treated with respect and deference. ... treat every man as honest. Speak no word, do no deed, that will confirm any in unbelief (Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 122).
 
Do not, when referring to the Testimonies, feel it your duty to drive them home. In reading the Testimonies be sure not to mix in your filling of words, for this makes it impossible for the hearers to distinguish between the word of the Lord to them and your words. (Ibid)
 
Be sure that you do not make the word of the Lord offensive. We long to see reforms, and because we do not see that which we desire, an evil spirit is too often allowed to cast drops of gall into our cup, and thus others are embittered. By our ill-advised words their spirit is chafed, and they are stirred to rebellion. (Ibid)
 
Role Model – Religion Isn’t Limiting
Dear youth, what is the aim and purpose of your life? Are you ambitious for education that you may have a name and position in the world? Have you thoughts that you dare not express, that you may one day stand upon the summit of intellectual greatness; that you may sit in deliberative and legislative councils, and help to enact laws for the nation? There is nothing wrong in these aspirations. You may every one of you make your mark. You should be content with no mean attainments. Aim high, and spare no pains to reach the standard (Messages to Young People, p. 36).

An Independent Bahamas –Forty-one Years Later

An Independent Bahamas – Forty-one Years Later

 
It was just twelve months ago that we paused to celebrate our nation’s historic 40th anniversary. Now, a year later, we mark our 41st anniversary. Noticeably, the celebrations are not as hyped up and widespread as last year’s, and understandably so, as such celebrations are costly. Nevertheless, there are some characteristics and qualities relating to our country that ought never to be low-keyed or downplayed. Gratitude, a sense of pride and personal development, in my opinion, ought to receive daily attention, if we would build a better and stronger nation. As such, I share the following for consideration.
 
Gratitude
            Each year, our neighbors to the north celebrate thanksgiving. Though one may question the connection and relevance of some activities and celebration associated with the annual Thanksgiving holiday, in relation to the original intent of Thanksgiving, inarguably, the setting aside of a day to commemorate the nation’s beginning and offer thanks to God is commendable. Similarly so, I feel that the marking of our country’s independence calls for thankfulness and gratitude to God for His blessing upon our country and us. According to Psalm 100, we ought to, “Make a joyful shout to the Lord, . . . Serve the Lord with gladness; . . . Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God;”
Remarkably for a small nation of some 350, 000 people, we have excelled in academics, sports, medicine, tourism and to an extent, a demonstration of democracy, etc. Markedly, we still have a sense of god-ness or respect for the Divine, as seen in the offering of prayer at most public gatherings. Even at both lower and upper houses of parliament, prayer is offered. Nonetheless, I wish there was a greater and daily display of gratitude among us as a people for who we are, our uniqueness, what we possess and of course, our God. Traveling to different places has awakened within me a greater appreciation for my being Bahamian and for the Bahamas- especially when I compare. No wonder many from the outside prize and value what we take for granted –the friendliness of our people, our marine environment, gorgeous beaches, an attractive chain of islands and favorable weather patterns, making the Bahamas a preferred site for  year round visits. In the words of a popular song, “We are blessed,” Therefore, should we not wear gratitude on our proverbial sleeves? Certainly, we ought to!
 
National Pride
Additionally, there seems to be a need for a greater display of national pride. As the name suggests “national” is widespread, taking in the entire nation inclusive of every highway, round about, street, lane, alley and even every signage. Yes, it ought to include our seas, lakes and creeks.  It speaks to where I live and the way that I regard and care for my surroundings, space and self. It also relates to respect for the past and current leaders, as well as other builders and contributors of the nation, irrespective of creed, politics and hue of skin. It refers to pride and appreciation of that which is Bahamian, our culture, our food, lifestyle and our uniqueness. In addition, it ought to speak to an abiding respect for God. According to Deuteronomy 4:7-9, the Bible records that a nation who forgets God, His statutes and His blessings, is destined to ruin and failure. In fact, Jehoshaphat, king of Judah thousands of years ago, urged his people, “Believe your God and so shall you be established; believe in His prophets, so shall you prosper” (2 Chronicles 20:20, NKJV).
Could it be that some negative behavior being manifested in some pockets of our society speaks to a lack of respect and pride for the nation, self and the things with which God has blessed us? Consider graffiti on buildings, walls and the like; unkempt parks, public cemeteries and in some instances historic buildings and sites; indiscriminate dumping of waste; lack of care and attention to our marine and national environment raise serious questions relating to national pride. One such question being, “Do we know the value and significance of what we possess?”  Hopefully, a sense of national pride will enable us to comprehend the words of the Hymn Writer, Maltbie Davenport Babcock, who wrote,  “This is my Father's world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres...This is my Father's world. O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”
To realize the above, Government, church, educators, civic groups and the media must network. It is more than a periodic display of national colors and a reciting of the pledge. We need a mindset so that we would know our identity and be proud of the persons God has made and the islands He has entrusted to us.
 
Personal Development
Given the aforementioned, when practiced and embraced, our nation will demonstrate greater growth and maturity. Forty-one years later, we ought to be  a people believing in ourselves and our abilities; a people spurring one another on to greater heights. Forty-one years later, we ought to be demanding more of our students as opposed to lowering the bar to meet their level, and mediocrity ought not be a part of our vocabulary. “Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God's ideal for His children. Godliness--godlikeness--is the goal to be reached,” says an inspired writer. Composer of our national anthem, the late Timothy Gibson, penned, “See how the world marks the manner of your bearing! Pledge to excel through love and unity. Pressing onward, march together to a common loftier goal; . . .'Til the road you've trod lead unto your God, March on Bahamaland.” God bless the Bahamas!
 
Pastor Leonard A. Johnson, D.Min. President,
Atlantic Caribbean Union of Seventh-day Adventists
(Bahamas, Cayman and Turks and Caicos Islands)

Additional Helpful Points in the Interpretation and Use of the Ellen G. White Writings, Part II

Additional Helpful Points in the Interpretation
and Use of the Ellen G. White Writings, Part II

 
The Ellen G. White writings were penned through a period of seventy years.  Certain communications were written for individuals, others for the church, and still others for both Adventist and non-Adventist readers.  Accordingly, it is important to take into account certain points when interpreting and using these writings.  Therefore, I share the following taken from Index to the Writings of Ellen G. White, vol. 3:
 
 
6. The Spirit of Prophecy Writings are not to hammer or drive.
The Testimonies should not be used to drive or compel others. They provide guiding principles. It is our privilege and responsibility to endeavor to persuade others, but not drive them. Says Mrs. White, “We may be severe as we like in disciplining ourselves, but we must be very cautious not to push souls to desperation”(Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 507).  This is illustrated in the adoption of the reformed dress in the 1860’s: “Some who adopted the reform were not content to show by example the advantages of the dress, giving, when asked, their reasons for adopting it, and letting the matter rest there.  They sought to control others’ conscience by their own.  If they wore it others must put it on.  They forgot that none were to be compelled to wear the reformed dress”(Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 636).
 
7. Each person must decide questions of conscience on his own behalf. 
It must be recognized that individuals with different backgrounds and experiences may relate themselves somewhat differently than others to certain counsels.  Each person must settle some things with his conscience and with God.  Ellen White’s attitude on this matter was made clear in that which was written in the early days concerning the health reform: “We must go no faster than we can take those with us whose consciences and intellects are convinced of the truths we advocate.  We must meet the people where they are.  Some of us have been many years in arriving at our present position in health reform.  It is slow work to obtain a reform in diet.  We have powerful appetites to meet: for the world is given to gluttony.  If we should allow the people as much time as we have required to come up to the present advanced state in reform we should be very patient with them and allow them to advance step by step, as we have done, until their feet are firmly established upon the health reform platform.  But we must be very cautious not to advance too fast, lest we be obliged to retrace our steps.  In reforms we would better come one step short of the mark than to go one step beyond it.  And if there is error at all, let it be on the side next to the people” (Testimonies, vol. 3, pp. 20, 21).
 
8.  Maintain absolute honesty. 
Each must be honest in his relationship to the Spirit of Prophesy.  Each individual exerts an influence for or against acceptance of the Spirit of Prophesy.  “It does not become anyone to drop a word of doubt here and there that shall work like poison in other minds, shaking their confidence in the messages which God has given, which have aided in laying the foundation of this work, and have attended it to the present day, in reproofs, warnings, corrections, and encouragements” (Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 43).

 
9. The Testimonies present God’s ideal. 
God sets before His people His ideal, to which we should ever strive.  It may take time to reach this point.  Some may fall short in some respects.  But God does not reject or cast off His people while they are seeking to reach His ideal.  But how much more abundantly he can bless, and how much pain we would save our selves, if we would seek God’s will for us and accept the messages wholeheartedly.
As an illustration, we may cite the founding of our first college.  The call was for educational institutions in the country, with land, industry, and agriculture.  The brethren responded to an appeal to a college but built in Battle Creek on a small piece of land across the street from the Sanitarium.  Ellen White could see that the institution would face many problems, and could never fully meet God’s plan, located in Battle Creek; yet she stood behind it giving it her strong support.  However, when an opportune time came she urged the moving of the plant to a location more in keeping with the instruction God had given.
 
10.  Obedience is blessed by God
We must recognize that “those who receive the Testimonies as the message of God will be helped and blessed thereby” (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 42).  God’s blessing is in proportion to our acceptance of His counsels and our willingness to apply them to our experience and work.

Additional Helpful Points in  the Interpretation and Use of the Ellen G. White Writings, Part I

Additional Helpful Points in
 the Interpretation and Use of the Ellen G. White Writings, Part I

 
The Ellen G. White writings were penned through a period of seventy years.  Certain communications were written for individuals, others for the church, and still others for both Adventist and non-Adventist readers.  Accordingly, it is important to take into account certain points when interpreting and using these writings.  Therefore, I share the following taken from Index to the Writings of Ellen G. White, vol. 3:
 
1. The Counsels are not given to take the place of faith, initiative, hard work, or Bible study
God did not use the spirit of Prophecy to make us dependent or weak.  Rather, the counsels are to make us strong by encouraging us to study the word of God and by encouraging us to move forward.
 
2.  Study the counsels to learn God’s will, not to prove preconceived conclusions. 
Ellen White explains, “Why will not men see and live the truth?  Many study the Scriptures for the purpose of providing their own ideas to be correct.  They change the meaning of God’s word to suit their opinion….  They quote half a sentence, leaving out the other half, which, if quoted, would show their reasoning to be false.  God has a controversy with those who wrest the Scriptures, making them conformed to their preconceived ideas” (Ellen G. White, MS 22, 1890).
 
3.  Recognize that conditions in institutions and in the experience of the individuals may change. 
The purpose of the testimony of reproof is to bring about a change.  If that change has taken place, cognizance should be taken of this.  In a message sent to the General Conference session of 1893, Ellen White declared, “Not one in twenty whose names are registered upon the church books are prepared to close their earthly history” (Christian Service, p. 41).  This statement must be understood as applying to the situation in 1893, at the time the message was presented.  It was given to startle the church and to lead to a change of conditions so that a much greater percentage would be ready to meet the Lord.  To apply this statement in strict detail today would be out of keeping with an understanding of the purpose of the giving of the testimonies.
 
4.  Avoid unauthenticated statements.  Care should be exercised not to employ unauthenticated statements
Many times they are in conflict with the true teachings of the Spirit of Prophecy, and their use may be perilous.  On this point Ellen White has counseled: “And now to all who have a desire for truth I would say: Do not give credence to unauthenticated reports as to what Sister White has done or said or written.  If you desire to know what the Lord has revealed through her, read her published works.  Are there any points of interest concerning what she has not written, do not eagerly catch up and report rumors as to what she has said” (Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 696).
 
5. Correct conclusions harmonize with the over-all tenor of the Spirit of Prophecy’s writings. 
Conclusions reached as the result of a study of the Testimonies must be in harmony with the tenor of the writings themselves, taken as a whole. Statements picturing deplorable conditions of individuals or groups may be isolated from their setting and put together in such a manner as to yield a picture quite out of harmony with the over-all presentation and Ellen G. White’s conclusion. Statements delineating certain phases of counsel may also be misused. If the conclusion reached by assembling a group of statements is not in harmony with the general tenor of Ellen G. White’s teachings as a whole, faulty work has been done. To be continued next week.

Quotes of Significant Interest

Quotes of Significant Interest
 

            The following quotes shed light on diet, how God’s Church should be regarded, and correct interpretation of scriptures. These, among other quotes, ought to be considered highly as through these, we may address some current issues that are extreme.
 
Ellen White Not Our Criterion
According to Roger Coon in his book ELLEN WHITE AND VEGETARIANISM Did She Practice What She Preached? - One of the most sensible things Ellen White ever wrote on the subject of health reform was the following: “Those who understand the laws of health and who are governed by principle, will shun the extremes, both of indulgence and of restrictions. Their diet is chosen, not for the mere gratification of appetite, but for the up building of the body. They seek to preserve every power in the best condition for the highest service to God and man. .  .” (MH, p. 319).
Additionally, Ellen White cautions, “There is real common sense in dietetic reform. The subject should be studied broadly and deeply, and no one should criticize others because their practice is not, in all things, in harmony with his own. It is impossible [in matters of diet] to make an unvarying rule to regulate everyone's habits, and no one should think himself a criterion for all” (Ibid, p. 320).
Not only did Ellen White not wish to be a criterion for church members, but neither did she wish to be a criterion for the members of her immediate family, according to Coon. Ellen White is quoted as saying, "I do not hold myself up as a criterion for them"( Letter 127, Jan. 18, 1904; cited in CD 491, #22).
 
The Church Is the One Object of God’s Supreme Regard
Ellen White says of the church, “Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard. It is the theater of His grace in which He delights to reveal His power to transform hearts” (Acts of the Apostles, p. 12).
 
Not to Refer to the Church as Babylon
On another occasion, she discouraged folk calling the church Babylon, “Again I say, The Lord hath not spoken by any messenger who calls the church that keeps the commandments of God, Babylon. True, there are tares with the wheat; but Christ said He would send His angels to first gather the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into the garner. I know that the Lord loves His church. It is not to be disorganised or broken up into independent atoms. There is not the least consistency in this; there is not the least evidence that such a thing will be. Those who shall heed this false message and try to leaven others will be deceived and prepared to receive advanced delusions, and they will come to naught” (Manuscript Releases, vol.1, p. 348-357).
 
The Bible Contains All the Principles . . . .
The Bible contains all the principles that men need to understand in order to be fitted either for this life or for the life to come. And these principles may be understood by all. No one with a spirit to appreciate its teaching can read a single passage from the Bible without gaining from it some helpful thought. But the most valuable teaching of the Bible is not to be gained by occasional or disconnected study. Its great system of truth is not so presented as to be discerned by the hasty or careless reader. Many of its treasures lie far beneath the surface, and can be obtained only by diligent research and continuous effort. The truths that go to make up the great whole must be searched out and gathered up, “here a little, and there a little” (Ed 123.2).
 
It Is Easy to Put a False Interpretation on Scripture
Ellen White says, “it is easy to put a false interpretation on Scripture, placing stress on passages, and assigning to them a meaning, which, at the first investigation, may appear true, but which by further search, will be seen to be false"  (This Day With God, p. 43).  Also the same author said, “Only those who have been diligent students of the Scriptures and who have received the love of the truth will be shielded from the powerful delusion that takes the world captive. By the Bible testimony these will detect the deceiver in his disguise. To all the testing time will come” (GC, p.625). 

Statements Mistakenly Attributed to Ellen G. White

Statements Mistakenly Attributed to Ellen G. White

 
I would imagine that you have heard some quotes and/or expressions attributed to Ellen White. However, upon research or inquiry, you may discover that she did not make those statements. Therefore, in this weekly edition, I will attempt to highlight some of the alleged statements with the hope of lending understanding and clarification. These examples are taken from The E. G. White Estates website.
 
Specific Targets of Impending Disaster (i.e. the Twin Towers in New York)
Reports that Ellen G. White identified specific areas as targets or centers for earthquakes, fire, flood, tidal wave, submersion beneath the sea, or enemy invasion are without foundation, and must stem from an association of ideas with more general statements in the Ellen G. White books dealing with coming disasters… See Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, pages 411-414, for her statement regarding the linking of specific areas with predictions of disaster.
 Contrary to unsubstantiated reports, Ellen White made no prediction concerning the destruction of a twin-towered building in New York City or any other place in the world. She described scenes involving the ruin of ‘magnificent,’ ‘lofty buildings’, but nowhere does she mention any currently identifiable buildings.
 
Eggs upon Your Table
Lifting the sentence from Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 400, which reads, ‘Eggs should not be placed upon your table,’ from the context of the paragraph and the setting of the chapter has led some to a distorted concept of Ellen G. White's position, set forth clearly in The Ministry of Healing, page 320. In this reference she says, “Those who live in new countries or in poverty-stricken districts, where fruits and nuts are scare, should not be urged to exclude milk and eggs from their dietary.”
 
Ellen G. White and the 144,000
Nowhere in the Ellen G. White writings is there a statement to the effect that Mrs. White would be one of the 144,000. As recorded in Early Writings, page 40, the angel did tell her when, in vision, she seemed to be visiting another planet and desired to remain there, that ‘if you are faithful, you, with the 144,000, shall have the privilege of visiting all the worlds,’ etc. See also the statement in Selected Messages, book 2, p. 263.
 
Sign Indicating Close of Probation
A published statement which appeared in the Review and Herald Supplement of June 21, 1898, to the effect that a literal darkness will cover the earth as a sign to God's people that probation has closed, has been attributed wrongly to Ellen G. White. It was actually written by a Seventh-day Adventist minister. Such teaching is contrary to her statement in The Great Controversy, page 615, which reads: ‘When the irrevocable decision of the sanctuary has been pronounced and the destiny of the world has been forever fixed, the inhabitants of the earth will know it not.’
 
Apostasy of Seventh-day Adventist Churches or Conferences
The report that Mrs. White predicted the apostasy of entire Seventh-day Adventist churches and conferences is without support. See the statement concerning ‘The Shaking’ in Early Writings, pages 269-273; and Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 41, for these words: ‘Company after company from the Lord's army joined the foe and tribe after tribe from the ranks of the enemy united with the commandment-keeping people of God.’

The Purpose of Ellen White’s Writings

The Purpose of Ellen White’s Writings

It is important that we understand the purpose and objective of the writings of Ellen White. What was her intention? How did she intend that her writings should be used? Accordingly, I will share a few points that should prove beneficial in explaining the above questions. Theses points are taken from the book, Reading Ellen White by George Knight, a noted Church Historian.
 
Not to Take the Place of the Bible
It is clearly stated by Mrs. White that her writings were never intended to replace the Bible. In the introduction to The Great Controversy she penned, “God has committed to men the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are to be accepted as an authoritative, infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the revealer of doctrines, and the test of experience . .       .. The Spirit was not given –nor can it ever be bestowed –to supersede the Bible; for the Scriptures explicitly state that the word of God is the standard by which all teaching [including her own] and experience must be tested” (GC vii).
 
To Direct Back to the Bible
            George Knight notes that in a dream in 1871 Ellen White saw herself surrounding the Bible with several of her Testimonies for the Church. “You are not familiar with the Scriptures,” she heard herself saying to the people. “If you had made God’s word your study, with a desire to reach the Bible standard and attain to Christian perfection, you would not have needed the Testimonies. It is because you have neglected to acquaint yourselves with God’s inspired Book that He has sought to reach you by simple, direct testimonies, calling your attention to the words of inspiration which you have neglected to obey, and urging you to fashion your lives in accordance with its pure and elevated teachings” (2T 605). Additionally, she explained that the written testimonies “are not to give new light, but to impress vividly upon the heart the truths of inspiration already revealed” (ibid.).
 
To Rebuke Sin and Urge Obedience to the Bible
            Linked to the first two, Ellen White counseled, “If the people who now profess to be God’s peculiar treasure would obey His requirements, as specified in His word, special testimonies would not be given to awaken them to their duty and impress upon them their sinfulness and their fearful danger in neglecting to obey the word of God. Consciences have been blunted because light has been set aside, neglected, and despised” (5T 667).
 
To Apply Biblical Principles in a Modern Setting
            Mrs. White claimed that “the Bible was given for practical purposes” (1SM 20). The same could be said of her writings. George Knight pointed out that “They do not set forth a traditional systematic theology, nor has she assumed the role of an infallible Bible commentator. To the contrary, they are practical to the utmost. Beyond rebuking sin, they point out the better way and provide guidance for daily Christian living and for the daily application of biblical principles” (Reading Ellen White 19).
 
To Prepare a People for the Final Days of Earth’s History
            In the book The Great Controversy and others, she magnifies the biblical issues that will face God’s last-day people. “Her whole ministry,” observes George Knight, “aimed at not only pointing to the return of Jesus in the clouds of heaven but also counseling men and women on the necessary preparation for that day. In a sense she echoed the mission of Christ, who urged His people to be ready for His coming (see Matt. 24:36-25:46), which would be soon (Rev. 22:20). In The Great Controversy, we read that “none but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict” (pp. 593, 594).

The Call of a Prophet

The Call of a Prophet

Over the years, God has sought to communicate with His people face to face, through patriarchs, urim and thummim, and of course through prophets.  Unfortunately, there were several prophets who were reluctant to carry out the will and plans of God.  Such included, Moses, Jeremiah and Jonah.  Despite their reluctance, God provided the gift of prophecy to ensure that His message would be carried to all peoples.  Therefore, for this Ministerial Weekly, I seek to highlight the calling of Ellen Harmon White. 
 
The Call of Ellen Harmon
Ellen Harmon was called to the prophetic office as a young lady (17 years old), following the rejection of the prophetic call by William Foy and Hazen Foss. Admittedly, she, like some of the prophets of old, was very reluctant to accept the call as noted in Selected Messages, book 1, p. 32: “When this work was first given me, I begged the Lord to lay the burden on someone else. The work was so large and broad and deep, I feared I could not do it.” Additionally, Ellen wrote, “If I could have my choice and please God as well, I would rather die than have a vision, for every vision places me under great responsibility to bear test of reproof and warning, which has ever been against my feelings, causing me affliction of soul that is inexpressible.  Never have I coveted my position, and yet I dare not resist the Spirit of God and seek an easy position” (Selected Messages, book 3, pp. 36, 37). 
 
The Scope of the Call
It is of interest to note that the prophetic call included the responsibilities of being a medical missionary worker, caring for orphans; speaking on temperance; being a writer; interceding for those who are wronged and urging conferences to care for aged ministers.  One can read about these in Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 33 and 34.  As prophetess, she was required to give the message accurately as presented to her from God.
 
The Contents of Her Messages
Ellen White explains, “The suggestions which I make to you in my letters are not to be taken as reproach, but as light that has shone on my pathway…. therefore, do not, I beseech you, take these things as reproach but as a word of instruction from the Lord, sent to be a blessing, not to cause you discouragement” (Letter 73, 1905).  Of course, these words of hers are in keeping with Revelation 3:19,  (NKJV): “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent.”  Additionally, she cautioned, “Take reproof as from God, take counsel and advice given in love” (Letters to Young Lovers, p. 54).   So seriously did Ellen G. White take her work that she penned, “I have no special wisdom in myself, I am only an instrument in the Lord’s hands to do the work He has set for me to do.”  “The instructions that I have given by pen or voice have been an expression of the light that God has given me” (Testimonies to the Church, vol. 5, p. 691).

How to Interpret the Writings of Ellen White, Part 11

How to Interpret the Writings of Ellen White, Part 11

 
This week, I continue with some key points in interpreting the writings of Ellen White.
 
6.    Take Time and Place into Consideration
 Ellen White is purported to have said, “our girls should shorten their skirts nine inches today.” However, it is necessary that time and place should be taken into consideration when we deal with fashions. For to shorten the skirt or dress today would lead to indecent exposure, in many instances, as dresses and skirts are worn at knee high or there about. Nevertheless, if she said those words, the time and place would need to be considered. In her day, it was the norm to wear long dresses and skirts that touched the ground.
Another example is noted regarding the education of our girls: “And if girls, in turn, could learn to harness and drive a horse, and to use the saw and the hammer, as well as the rake and the hoe, they would be better fitted to meet the emergencies of life” (Education, P. 216, 1903). Today, her counsel would be “that no girl should graduate from our institutions if they don’t know how to drive a car,” according to George Knight.
“Regarding the Testimonies, nothing is ignored; nothing is cast aside; but time and place must be considered. Nothing must be done untimely. . . ”  (1MS: 57)
 
7.    Study Each Statement in Its Literary Context
In the book, Ministry of Healing, p. 299, it states,It is not well to eat fruit and vegetables at the same meal.Some, taking this statement out of  its  literary context, have made it into a rule applicable to all, contends George Knight. However,  when we read the immediate context, in the same page, we find: “If the digestion is feeble, the use of both will often cause distress and inability to put forth mental effort” (Ministry of Healing, p. 302).
 
8.    Recognize Ellen White’s Understanding of the Ideal and the Real
In her book Fundamentals of Christian Education, she wrote: “Never can the proper education be given to the youth in this country, or any other country, unless they are separated a wide distance of the cities” (3MS: 312). But she wrote later: “So far as possible, schools should be established outside the cities"  (9T: 201).
 Consider another example regarding the age our children should go to school. “Parents should be the only teachers of their children until they have reached eight or ten years of age" (3T: 137, 1872). Nevertheless, in 1902 she encouraged the SDA parents to send their children to the SDA kindergarten at Saint Helena. The ideal here, explains George Knight, is: “If the mothers are both capable and willing.... The children should not go to school until they are eight or ten years of age.”
 
9.    The Use of Our Common Sense
In 1894, seven missionaries arrived at our missionary station in Solusi, Zimbawee.  That year there was an outbreak of malaria as never seen before.  Of the seven who came, four died from malaria because they did not want to take quinine. This substance was the drug of choice for survival.  But since they had read that Ellen White condemns the use of drugs, they did not follow the counsel of their doctors and four of them died.  Two of the other three had to be hospitalized in Cape Town.
One of the seven was unfaithful to the inspired counsel and used quinine and survived. He used common sense.
It is of interest that Ellen White was at one time approached by a South  Pacific missionary who had lost his oldest son to malaria because he had refused to give him quinine  based on her counsel on quinine and other drugs.  Would I have sinned to give the boy quinine? In reply she said: “ No! We are expected to do the best we can " (2MS: 282). Ellen White’s counsel on this is: “God wants us all to have common sense, and he wants us to reason from common sense. Some circumstances alter conditions. Circumstances change the relations of things” (3MS: 217).
 
10.    Discover the Underlying Principle
In July 1894, Ellen White sent a letter to the denomination’s headquarters in Battle Creek, condemning the purchase and riding of bicycles. She explained, “A bewitching and satanic influence seemed to be passing as a wave over our people. . .
Satan works with intensity of purpose to induce our people to invest their time and money in gratifying supposed wants. This is a species of idolatry” (8T: 51).
George Knight clarifies, “Everybody wanted to own a bike. Each bicycle cost about 150 US dollars. One family of five members had to invest almost one thousand dollars. Seventh-day Adventists were ready to pay the price.” Nowadays, owning a bicycle is so common that almost everybody can have one. Its price is not as prohibitive as it was in 1894. Today, there may be other things that keep us from giving generous offerings.  For example, we may have to make payments on the object that today takes the place of the bicycle in the nineteenth century.

How to Interpret the Writings of Ellen White

How to Interpret the Writings of Ellen White

 Pasted Graphic
For the next few weeks, as Spirit of Prophecy Coordinator for the union, I will attempt to share with you a few articles on Ellen White. The first in the series is taken from a power point presentation, given to me by Pastor Leon Wellington, Spirit of Prophecy Coordinator at Inter-American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. It is entitled How to Interpret the Writings of E. G. White. As you well know, there are persons who misquote the writings of Ellen White and as such mislead others. Hopefully, you will find some of observations relevant.
 
1.    Begin with a Healthy Outlook
It is important that you begin reading the writings of Ellen White with prayer. After all, did not the same Holy Spirit who inspired Moses inspire Ellen White? As such one would want the Holy Spirit to guide him or her. Says the Apostle James, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5, NKJV). Observe the following quote by Mrs. White, "Many think it a virtue, a mark of intelligence in them, to be unbelieving and to question and quibble. Those who desire to doubt will have plenty of room. God does not propose to remove all occasion for unbelief. He gives evidence, which must be carefully investigated with a  humble mind and teachable spirit"(3T: 255).
 
2.    Focus on the Central Issues
 It is a mistake of ours to focus on secondary issues rather than the central point. To this Ellen White counsels: ”Beware of these side issues, whose tendency is to divert the mind from the truth"(CW: 47).  For example, in looking at 1 Cor. 15:29, Paul says, “. . . what will they do who are baptized for the dead, . . . .”  A casual look would imply that one can baptize for the dead as a means to change his or her standing with God. However, the Bible does not teach that view. Instead, it teaches that probation closes for a person at death. Therefore a responsible look at the 1 Cor. 15 will show that Paul’s main focus is the Resurrection, and the fact that Jesus died and rose offers hope for the Christian who dies in Christ.
 
3.    Emphasize that Which Is Important
On Nov. 1, 1933, W.C. White received a letter from a lady asking about the use of long or short towels as used by Ellen White in the ordinance of humility.  “There is quite a division in our church concerning the use of the long or the short towel in the ordinance of humility. Personally I am satisfied with the short towel, but the new members are confused when some use one and some use the other. Is there anything in EGW writings concerning this?” (One lady claims there is something in Early Writings.)
The letter is a classic one, as it magnífies a topic of no biblical importance into a point of contention. Additionally, it tries to solve the issue by calling on Ellen White’s personal example. In fact, some of the church leaders during her day wanted to make her example authoritative in health reform. Note her reply, “If what I did was the authority, of your health reform, then I would not give a farthing for your health reform at all (MS 34ª 1901).
 
4.    Study All Available Information on a Topic
Mrs. White writes, “I have received many letters questioning me in regard to the proper attitude to be taken by a person offering a prayer to the sovereign of the universe. Where have our brethren obtained the idea that they should stand upon their feet when praying to God? (2SM, p. 311). Unfortunately, some have taken this quote to mean that prayer should be offered always kneeling and not any other way. However, when we read the same book a little further, we discover the following: “It is not always necessary to bow upon your knees in order to pray. Cultivate the habit of talking with the Saviour when you are alone, when you are walking, and when you are busy with your daily labor” (Ibid. 316). George Knight observes, “It would be ridiculous to kneel down in prayer when we are in a restaurant, in an elevator, or in other public places.”
 
5.    Avoid Extreme Interpretations
Elder S. N. Haskell met people in Australia who were using the Bible and the Testimonies of Ellen White to support strange doctrines such as these: The seal of God cannot  be placed on any person of gray  hair or any deformed person, for in the closing work we would reach a state of perfection both physically and spiritually”  (not sure of reference)
Also, he had to deal with a related extremist teaching that, on the basis of the Ten Commandments, it was wrong  to kill poisonous snakes or harmful insects. Mrs. White cautioned, “There is a class of people who are always ready to go off on some tangent, who want to catch up something strange and wonderful and new" (TM: 227). A case in point is her strong words about playing games. She wrote, “in plunging into amusements, match games, and pugilistic perfomances, I declare to the world that Christ was not their leader in any of these things”  (FE:  378).
However, the very next sentence reads: “Now that which burdens me is the danger of going into extremes on the other side.”  Therefore, in speaking to parents she penned, “I don’t condemn the simple exercise of playing ball; but this, even in its simplicity, may be overdone " (HA: 499).
 
To be continued!

Graduation - a Gift of God

Graduation - a Gift of God

 Darnell Johnson

I doubt seriously that many would disagree that graduation is a gift of God. To explain, God is the Source of knowledge and wisdom, and one who fears or respects and reverences God receives wisdom. So vividly did this reality come to me during last week’s graduation of my daughter from Andrews University with a BS degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. It occurred to me that God not only provided the knowledge for Darnell to complete but the necessary funding and attending assistance during the four years of studies at Andrews.
 
Looking Back
            I recall my daughter in the early part of 2010 expressing a desire to attend Andrews University. Mind you, she had been accepted at both Northern Caribbean University and Antillean University in Jamaica and Puerto Rico, respectively. Owing to the significant cost to attend Andrews, it did not look possible at the time; and I said to her, “No, dad and mom cannot defray studies at Andrews at this time.” So the obvious decision was either NCU or Antillean University. However, upon re-examining the cost of Andrews, Denise (my wife) and I saw where we could cover the expense- and that would require Darnell obtaining a partial scholarship; so we agreed that once her external examination passes were great and she obtained a high GPA, it would be possible.
 
Partnership Works
            Needless to say, Darnell passed a total of 8 BGCSE’s with commendable grades, and with Andrews University’s offer of an attractive scholarship/grant, Denise and I saw the possibility of defraying her tuition. Nonetheless, we ventured out in faith and took Darnell to Andrews in May of 2010. Of course, by this time, she had been accepted and given her I-20 form. At registration, God worked in our favor; and therefore it was a go with all systems in place –scholarship and education assistance. Everything worked well year after year, except for the final year when owing to unexpected circumstances, we wondered if we could continue with our portion. We even alerted Darnell of a possible “financial turbulence;” but once again, beyond our imagination, God performed miracles by opening up “doors,” and the final two terms’ commitments were met with full payments. God is good!
 
Celebration
            During last weekend, it all culminated in Darnell’s graduation. In fact, as Denise and I prepared to attend the consecration service on Friday evening, May 2, the whole scene played out in my mind resulting in my writing Darnell --clearly attributing her accomplishment to God. I did not want her, mom or anyone to overlook the mercies and favors of God. Therefore, on Sunday as she marched and shook hand with Dr. Andreasen, president of Andrews, it was most gratifying for me as my God made all of what was now being witnessed possible; and therefore the caption for this weekly was born: Graduation - a Gift from God. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. It is my prayer that as Darnell moves on to internship and graduate studies, she will never forget her God.

Adventists’ Position Regarding Proselytism

Adventists’ Position Regarding Proselytism

 
A Look at Proselytism
Today, I resume my series on articles from the book 101 Questions Adventists Ask by B. B. Beach and John Graz. In responding to the question, “Where do Adventists stand in regards to proselytism?” Beach and Graz observed that, “we are faced with the problem of the multiple meanings of proselytism.”  They note, “The time-honored definition has been to convert people from one belief (or lack of belief) to another belief.  That is what evangelism is all about.” Given the explanation it must be clear that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not opposed to proselytism- and for good reasons. The Lord’s mandate is clear, “we are to make disciples of all.”
 
Wrong Use of Proselytism
“Increasingly, often in ecumenical ranks, proselytism has taken on a pejorative connotation,” contend Beach and Graz.  They explain, “In this context, it refers to corrupt witness, that is, using wrong methods in evangelism such as offering material inducements (remember the expression ‘rice Christians’), using cajolery, making false statements, and taking advantage of people.” No doubt you may have witnessed some questionable approach to winning others to the faith. We ought to ensure that we are not crossing the line offering “carrot” as a bait. The gospel of Christ possesses the power to convert and change the vilest of sinners.
 
False Proselytism
On the other hand, Beach and Graz pointed out, “in certain Orthodox and some ecumenical circles, any effort to convert to your church or belief a person, once baptized into a church, even as a baby, is viewed as proselytism, using ‘the wrong address.’”  However, I need not tell you that, “Adventists cannot accept the concept that a person, baptized as an infant, who never goes to church, who has no living connection to Christ, is off-limits to evangelism.”  Instead, opined Beach and Graz, “We prefer to stand in this matter with a long line of evangelistic witnesses, including the apostle Paul, John Wesley, and Billy Graham.”  The Apostle Paul says, “woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (I Corinthians 9:16).  After all, “Witnessing to others about the gospel of salvation in Christ is a Christian mandate from God.  While authentic evangelism liberates from intellectual and spiritual drought, false proselytism enslaves and replaces ignorance with subservience to legalism and formalism.” And that we will not subscribe to or have any part there in! Nevertheless, let’s be responsible in our attempts to lead others to the Faith.

Rest, Refocusing and Fulfilling

Rest, Refocusing and Fulfilling

 
Rest and Renewal
            In Mark 6:31, it would seem that Jesus and His disciples were very busy and occupied with the cares and concerns of pastoral ministry that there was hardly time to eat and drink. Accordingly, Jesus gave the command,  “’Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat” (NKJV). During the past weekend, pastors, administrators and spouses paused for a most needed time of relaxation and re-bonding in the first Atlantic Caribbean Union Ministerial Retreat. Though a short weekend, the time was well spent in renewal and rest from the weekly duty and service. Inarguably, this is crucial if one is to pastor and administrate effectively and passionately.
 
Refocusing on the Call
            As already noted, the objective of the Retreat was not just to rest and relax but also to do so with purpose. Included in that purpose was to refocus on the call to ministry as seen in the example of Christ’s statement of Matthew 20:28: “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (NKJV). It was clearly underscored in the theme for the weekend that Ministry is all about service, and it is to service that each pastor and church administrator is called. When that fact is forgotten, ministry is compromised and lacks focus, passion and compassion. Therefore, the words of Mother Teresa were placed strategically on the program booklet. She contends, “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.” This call is to be faithful in wherever I am called to serve; faithful in preparing and teaching and preaching His word; faithful in providing quality time in reaching out to members through visitation and being accessible to them. Hopefully, the words of Mother Teresa will be transcribed on our hearts.
 
Fulfilling the Mission
            Apart from revisiting the call to ministry is the need to be about our “Father’s business.” That business is clearly enunciated by Jesus in Matthew 28:19, 20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (NKJV). It is possible to be in “ministry” and overlook this mission statement of Christ. The same applies to other professions, as it is possible to just do the daily and weekly duties without a sense of purpose and direction. However, when one is deliberately pausing from time to time to answer the questions, “Who am I?” “What am I doing here?” “What is my purpose?” it is then that ministry; it is then that service takes on purpose and meaning. It is then that one is focused in carrying out the mandate of Christ, which is to “go”, “teach”, “make disciples” and “baptize.” As such we do ministry, not as job per se but in fulfillment to our Lord’s command. We ought to view it as a privilege to be co-laborers with Christ in the greatest service- and that is leading men and women, and boys and girls to know Christ. What an honor! 

Our Only Sure Guarantee

Our Only Sure Guarantee

 
          In an age of obvious disappointments and dashed hopes, the above caption seems a bit presumptuous or trite to say the least. Is there such a thing as a sure and certain guarantee? Is there something or someone whom we can trust unconditionally? Given the collapse of insurance companies, job reduction and loss, and an apparent drawn-out recession, who can we really trust? The picture of the current situation is dismal and bleak. Despair looms large across the landscape of our country. What can I put my trust in? After all, how many times have you been given the promise of a job, a loan, or the prospect of a lasting friendship or marriage only to have your hope dashed and crushed?
          In this article I proffer a surety or guarantee that will not fail. Of course no one does that, and neither do I by and of myself. However, Christ, who is God who made us, has the authority to make such an offer or a reliable and certain declaration and that He does. What is it? How can I know it? Where can I find it? What is in it for me?
 
Christ's Resurrection Offers Hope
          In the well known passage of John14:1-3, Jesus makes a promise to return to earth for the human family. That includes everyone, for John 3:16 says, "God so loved the world." However, the fulfillment of that promise is future, but we live in the now. We need help this instance. We need assurance this very moment, for bills are to be paid, unemployment exists, injustice and abuse are also apparent, and foreclosure is evident. Apart from these concerns is the struggle of wanting to do right and avoiding the temptation to compromise when at times, compromise seems to be the norm.
          Undeniably and unquestionably, the promise of Christ's return offers better in contrast to all that I described and implied above. He offers a better place, a changed state and eternity. These however, are all contingent on Christ's resurrection. And the good news is that the resurrection has happened. It has transpired! It is a reality! And did you know this resurrection carries not only future, but also present significance? I am reminded of a candy I enjoyed as a kid called “Now and Later.” Says the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor.15:14, 19, "And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. . .If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (NKJV).
 
Present Benefits
          So going back to the aforementioned concern, what is there now for me? I declare a present sense of hope, assurance of Christ's presence, victory over sin, and in a real way, His daily provision and protection. There is no false hope. There is no need to depend on luck in “numbers” or in anything, as God is reliable and totally dependable. Now, that does not mean that one will not have obstacles, disappointments and apparent failures. One will have these, but with each challenge one is guaranteed power to face and confront in the strength Christ supplies. The same Apostle Paul who has much to say about resurrection references real struggles and issues. However, I am not surprised that he finds hope in the promise of human resurrection. Consider his words in 2 Cor.4:8,9, “We are hard- pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed." Now I do not know if one would desire to be a Christian after reading this. However, look at the blessing in verse 14: "Knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you." Furthermore, in verse 17 Paul likens our situation as "light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;"
 
Future Benefits
          As for future benefits, Christ promises that our present state of corruption and mortality will be replaced with incorruption and immortality. Additionally, the Apostle Paul contends that even death will be destroyed. Observe this powerful statement in 1 Cor. 15:54-57: “So when this corruptible has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” What could be better? Don't you get tired of hearing about deaths every week? And it’s worse when the death is of a loved one. The benefits of Christ’s resurrection which will be manifested in His return will remedy present ills and irregularities and imbalances. What could be better? Is there any wonder that I posed the caption, “Our Only Sure Guarantee”? Bill Gaither was right when he penned, “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.”

10 Preaching Errors Pastors Can Avoid

Today, I share with you an article sent to me by an elder. It was written by a Baptist Preacher, Jared Moore. For the purpose of my Weekly, I have condensed the article. Nevertheless, I believe that you will find the points interesting and appropriate. 

Ministerial Weekly April 11, 2014

10 Preaching Errors Pastors Can Avoid


10. Abuse repetition. There is repetition for emphasis, and then there is repetition for annoyance. Discern between the two by listening to other preachers. Perhaps you should ask your wife if you over-repeat yourself. 
9. Form your own sermon points first, and then find a text to fit your points. Rarely will you find a text to fit your points; instead, in order to make the text fit, you will pluck the text out of context. The text should form your points, instead of you forcing your points onto a text. 
8. Be overly animated. Everyone will either enjoy you or be terribly annoyed. If they leave the service thinking about you, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative, your sermon failed. Remember that the goal of preaching is to excellently allow the Word of God to stand on its own. So don’t be a distraction.
7. Bore your audience. Do not talk in a monotone voice. The goal is to allow the Word to stand on its own, not to make the most wonderful book ever written the most boring book ever written. You may be so concerned with detracting from the Word that you just want to stand up and read in a monotone voice.
6. Try too hard to be the funny guy. The goal is to get your hearers to enjoy the Word of God, not to enjoy you. If they leave thinking “what a funny preacher,” then you preached a terrible sermon. The Word of God must be on their heart and mind when they leave; and if God is not on their mind when they leave, then they shouldn’t be able to lay this at your feet.
5. Preach your opinion or hobbyhorses instead of the text. How can you excellently allow the Word of God to stand on its own when you ignore how God the Holy Spirit originally inspired the literary makeup of the text in its specific historical context? If the Word of God needs your innovation, then it is no longer the Word of God. The most powerful interpretation is the interpretation that the text demands, not what we can speculate, dream up or spiritualize.
4. Use Greek and Hebrew to impress. Do you know Greek and Hebrew? Do your people know Greek and Hebrew? If not, then why in the world would you use Greek and Hebrew in your sermons? Do the exegetical work during your study time; only use Greek and Hebrew in your sermon whenever it is absolutely necessary in order to communicate the text. 
3. Ignore the audience. Your illustrations should be understandable to your audience. If you are preaching to the elderly, they will not understand a reference to the Twilight Saga, Tupac, 50 Cent etc., but you can probably reference Johnny Cash. If you are preaching in a city, farming references may not be easily understood. Consider these realities when preparing your sermon.
2. Neglect teaching your people to enjoy the Word of God. Teaching children that the value of the Bible is bound up in its literary makeup, cool battle stories or miraculous elements will not help your audience to truly enjoy the Bible; it will merely help them to enjoy the genres or stories of Scripture. Any atheist can enjoy these elements; however, Christians should ultimately enjoy the Word of God because it is the Word of God.
1. Tell a joke or story that has nothing to do with the text. Why would you use a joke or story that has nothing to do with the text? You want your hearers to think on the text, not on something else. Whenever you detract from the text, you are only doing the devil’s and their flesh’s work for them, because they don’t want your hearers to focus on the text either.

Can We Approach Secular People?

Can We Approach Secular People?

 
It is a given for us “to approach and talk to people who think as we do,” worship and eat as we do.  Beach and Graz contend that, “it is easier to evangelize Bible-accepting and Christ-following people (though their ‘acceptance’ and ‘following’ may only be sporadic) than those who have another or no specific ideology.  That is why we often tend to orient our evangelistic endeavors toward our Christian ‘cousins’.”
 
Two Challenges
According to the book 101 Questions Adventists Ask, by Beach and Graz, there are two major obstacles in the way of preparing a people to meet the soon-coming Lord:

  • Confusion about what the Bible teaches.

  • A secularized mind-set (especially in Europe and the U.S.) that disavows the essence of Christianity and has relegated the churches to the rubbish heap of history.

Beach and Graz explain that “we have been less successful in dealing with the second hindrance that with false biblical teaching.”  It is no secret that “we have found it difficult to deal with secularization and win people who ask, in effect, ‘Why do we need the crutch of religion when we have gained spectacular control of our lives, the environment, and even outer space?’”
 
How Can We Approach the Secular Minded?
Given the aforementioned, “How can we approach secular people?”  Here are a few simple suggestions, which I have extracted from the book 101 Questions Adventists Ask, by Beach and Graz. I merely list them as time and space would not allow for a full elaboration.
 
  • Provide very basic information about Christianity – many people are religiously illiterate.

  • Help people find meaning, and this will give them identity and security.  The lives of many people make no sense.

  • Be a communicator and engage people in dialogue.  Too many Adventists are great at monologue.

  • Provide opportunities for secular people to meet credible loving people.  This kind of person (not a fanatical, self-opinionated legalist) should make the contact and deliver the impact.

  • Provide opportunities to break out of insulation, overcome isolation, and conquer alienation.

  • Provide opportunities to discover self-worth.  An effective convert must discover self-worth before being able to climb out of the secular, swampy lowlands.

  • Finally, provide hope.  History and its individual protagonists need not be hopelessly out of control.

 
 
Secular People Need to Be Reached
Beach and Graz insist, “secular people ‘need to be needed.’ We must do more than repeat what we did 25 or 50 years ago.  We need to multiply the services of the Church.  It is nice and cozy to be far inside the Church, surrounded by like-minded people, but that is likely to be too far away from secular people.” They say that we should, “Try standing at the door (and risk a cold draft from time to time!) or, outside the door, near enough to God to hear Him, but not so far from secular people that you don’t hear and can’t answer their disguised cry for help.” Is it any wonder that the well-known passage of the Bible (John 3:16) says that God “so loved the world”? That certainly includes the secular minded, and we must reach them!

Tolerance or Compassion

Tolerance or Compassion

 
         The article which I write today is one that came after much prayer and soul searching. It is about reaching out to all members of society. For Adventists this should not be difficult, as we believe in God's mandate to go to all mankind and preach the gospel. Additionally, Christ affirmed, "come unto me all ye that labor and I will give you rest." Has it occurred to you that “all” includes drunkards, prostitutes, cheaters, and homosexuals, etc.?
 
Reaching Out Does Not Mean Condoning
         How do we separate the two? That is reaching out to people does not mean that we condone their ways and practices. That is a fact! But how will we fulfill Christ's mandate unless we meet and deliberately seek such persons? It occurred to me recently in a question and answer period a member asked, "Do we have any homosexuals in our church in the Bahamas?"  I responded that I did not know but would not be surprised if there were. Since then I attended a summit in South Africa entitled "In God's Image." There, I was confronted with what should be our response to all people afflicted and struggling with sin? Over the years it has been easier to relate to drunkards, persons involved in drugs, unfaithful marriage partners, and the like but certainly not homosexuals.
 
Position of the Church
         The position of our church is clear —we believe in sexual intimacy within marriage between a man and a woman. Accordingly, we would not knowingly baptize persons who are practicing homosexuality. Neither would we continue to keep as members individuals who have chosen to embrace homosexuality. On other hand, that is not to say that as a church we ought not to work with such persons. By that I mean reaching out to such as we would to any person struggling with any deviant behaviour, ill or vice, as God loves all people while He strongly detests our sinful behaviour.  The church’s role is to help all find freedom, healing and deliverance in Christ. For this reason the church exists. I know this sounds a bit contradictory- based on what I said earlier. Nevertheless, I ask that you consider that reaching out to, or embracing one in love is not the same as condoning or ignoring a practice. Could not the church uphold its standards in love and with compassion, recognizing that all are prone to engage in sinful acts outside of Christ?
 
 What Can We Do?
            Admittedly, this is a new venture for some of us. Truth be told, many of us are afraid to work with homosexuals, based on the stigma of society, but we need to manifest a Christ-like spirit. Consider how Christ related to the woman caught in adultery according to John 8. The record shows that when all rejected her and would have nothing to do with her, He reached down and out to her with a non-condemnatory message. At the same time, He did not down play adultery; for He said, “go and sin no more?”  What a remarkable balance and example of love! As followers of Christ, we need to follow His example. This fact was underscored in the summit held in Africa. As opposed to being reactionary, we need to find ways to be proactive towards all people. For instance, in listening to the testimonies of three former homosexuals at the summit, I discovered a similar thread in each story. They all experienced neglect by a parent. In the case of the one female, she was sexually abused, but her mother concealed it; and she was adversely affected and found love and acceptance with fellow women. Thank God! She has experienced deliverance and is actively assisting gays to experience deliverance in Christ. Also, it should be noted that she is active in the church. Praise God! I believe that God timed the following passage in the Adult Sabbath School Quarterly during March 16 - 22 in an attempt to sensitize His church. The author wrote, “Through teaching and personal example, Jesus taught His disciples to associate with sinners, even notorious ones such as prostitutes and tax collectors. How else would they disciple the whole world? His teaching often focused on these sinners. His characterization of them as lost demonstrates how merciful Christ was. He might have characterized them as rebellious (they certainly were) or depraved. Instead, He chooses lost.”

Do We Restrict the Truth in Public Evangelism?

Do We Restrict the Truth in Public Evangelism?
 

Given the previous article about Attacking Other Churches, I thought to present the other side of the coin. So for those of you who questioned and constructively criticized, here is it.
 
Do We Suppress the Truth?
In the response to the above question, the answer is no.  The truth is the truth, and it can stand on its own. Therefore, one does not need to restrict truth, in the same way that you cannot condense light (101 Questions Adventists Ask).  Beach and Graz argue that, in presenting truth, we must take into consideration the cultural background, education, and perhaps the prejudices of those we are trying to reach.  In dealing with evangelistic food, the writer to the Hebrews uses the expressions milk and strong meat, suggesting that some people, in their capacity to absorb solid doctrine, are more like infants who need liquid nourishment more than solid food (see Hebrews 5:12).
 
How Best Do We Present Truth?
It should be noted, the issue is not whether we should restrict or even hide the truth, but rather how best to fulfill the great evangelistic commission. As noted in last weeks weekly, it does not make sense in bullying ones way upon the evangelistic scene like the proverbial bull in a china shop. Damage is certain to result if a wise approach is not pursued. Imagine going into a setting where Local people may have been warned and told all kinds of innuendoes or falsehoods about our Church. Beach and Graz point out that In such a case, a pedagogically sound approach may be to proceed slowly and in stages, first establishing credibility and sincerity, and revealing honest, caring concern for the welfare and salvation of human beings.
 
Lack of Religious Liberty
Another problem that tends to contribute to restriction is the serious lack of religious liberty in some countries.  In such places, the public preaching of our message is severely restricted, and at times it is prohibited to preach at all.  In other countries, great care and sensitivity, almost needing a sixth sense, must be used.  There are countries where talking about false prophets, apostasy, and calling for conversion to authentic Christianity, would immediately result in closing down our work and even perhaps subjecting the preachers of our message and converts to the death penalty, because of what is seen as blasphemy or apostasy or treason. Fortunately, this does not obtain to such severity in the Bahamas, Cayman and Turks and Caicos Islands. Nevertheless, we need to be aware and be responsible.
Ellen G. White in speaking on this matter advised, It is not the best policy to be so very explicit, and say all upon a point that can be said, when a few arguments will cover the groundIt is a better plan to keep a reserve of arguments will cover the groundIt is a better plan to keep a reserve of arguments than to pour out a depth of knowledge upon a subject (Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 56).

Should An Evangelist Attack Other Churches?

Should An Evangelist Attack Other Churches?
 

In some of our outreach meetings some evangelists are minded to attack other churches, especially the Roman Catholic Church. And given certain perceived prophetic interpretations as well as misplaced Spirit of Prophecy quotes, it would seem that there is some degree of justification. However, for this week’s weekly I ask, “Is it necessary?” “Should we attack other churches?” In my attempt to respond, I will once again reference the book 101 Questions Adventists Ask, by Beach and Graz.
 
Attacks Are Likely to Bring on Attacks
Religious Liberty specialists Beach and Graz observe that while an evangelist “probably has the legal religious liberty right to do so, the question is, should he or she?  Is it wise and productive to get involved in scathing wars of words and launching flamboyant cannonades against other denominations?  Every militant attack invites a proportionate counterattack.”  Nevertheless, as we know and have possibly witnessed some persons “thrive in controversy and spoil for a fight – or at least a debate where they can publicly undress the other side.” However, is this the most effective way in reaching others with the “truth”? Was this the practice of Jesus? Can we be faithful to Bible prophecy and yet not attack?
 
The Privilege of Being An Evangelist
Undeniably, the call to evangelism is a great one; and as such, carries significant responsibility.  “There is no higher calling” than to call men and women to accept Christ.  What an honor to bring the good news of salvation and hope to others!  Beach and Graz note, “The Good News, in its time-of-the-end setting, is so wonderful, convicting, and heartwarming that it does not need a pugnacious presentation that inevitably lessens its spiritual impact.  Honey attracts the bees – and the bears for that matter; vinegar is not a pleasant drink.”  Ellen White states that in our outreach, we need to present “the truth…as it is in Jesus” (Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 60).  She adds, “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” (Ibid).
 
The Results of Unnecessary Attacks
We can recall the after effects of some evangelists who employed a confrontational approach. During the campaign they become “the talk of the town, arouse much controversy and conflict, turn people and churches against each other, get some baptisms, and then leave town disliked by most people, never to return.” Unfortunately, pastors, elders and members are left to clean up and still live among these people, neighbors, working colleagues and family members. Are there no better ways? Ellen White contends, “All sharp thrusts will come back upon us in double measure when the power is in the hands of those who can exercise it for our injury. Over and over the message has been given to me that we are not to say one word, not to publish one sentence, especially by way of personalities, unless positively essential in vindicating the truth, that will stir up our enemies against us, and arouse their passions to a white heat. Our work will soon be closed up, and soon the time of trouble, such as never was, will come upon us, of which we have but little idea” (Ibid). Our role is to proclaim Christ, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and remember to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves- never compromising and always mindful that He will do the drawing. Next week, I will address the other side of this week’s weekly: “Do we need to restrict the truth?”

Should Adventists Go to Court Against Other Adventists? Part II

Should Adventists Go to Court Against Other Adventists? Part II

 
This week I find it necessary to add a second part to clarify and expand, in some instances, what I shared last week and therefore this part II.
 
Clarifying Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 6
The focus of Matthew 18:15 is “the exercise of church discipline when issues appear between church members. In the process of reconciliation the wronged person takes the initiative”(Andrews Study Bible Notes, p. 1275).
In1 Corinthians 6, Paul is “presenting the Christian way whereby a member of the church should seek equity when the one who he believes has wronged him is also a church member. There is no sin in seeking to secure that which rightfully belongs to one; for example, for a laborer to seek to secure the wages he has lawfully earned from an employer. But, as Paul has declared, there is a wrong in going before secular tribunals to secure adjudication of differences between brethren. Members of the church are answerable to its authority, and should look to it to adjudicate their differences” (The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 6, pp. 697–698).  
It should be noted that secular magistrates were corrupt during the time of the Apostle Paul. As such he denounced the practice of members, especially the Corinthians who prided themselves in being wise, going to pagan courts to settle differences among themselves. However, is that to say in all instances that we never go to civil magistrates?
 
When Should We Involve the Courts of the Land?
Notwithstanding the explanations of the above, there are certain matters or cases that may not fall within the authority of the church to adjudicate or settle given the requirements of local laws. Additionally, the church is counseled to “constantly be on guard against turning from its gospel mission and taking up the duties of a civil magistrate” (Church Manual, p. 60). The Manual observes that there are “decrees to cases that are clearly within the jurisdiction of the civil courts and not within the authority of the Church or for which the Church agrees it has no adequate process for orderly settlement” (Ibid). Examples of such civil cases may include, but are not limited to, the settlement of insurance claims, the issuance of decrees affecting boundaries and ownership of real property, the deciding of some matters involving the administration of estates, and the awarding of custody of minor children” as well as incest, rape, child abuse and spousal abuse and violence, etc.
 
God‘s Ideal for Members
            According to Romans 12:18 members are encouraged to “live peaceably” with one another, but some of the examples noted above would imply that the principle of brotherly love and kindness was not being practiced in some instances. One in Christ would not knowingly defraud or abuse another. Unfortunately, these things happen and the church should not appear to cover up or ignore such actions. It has a right to address the issues even if that involves referring the matter or encouraging the matter to be turned over to the authorities of the land. And doing so does not eliminate the need for the church to minister spiritually with the view of seeking to restore the brother or sister to the values and practices of Christ. For all of this to take place, it is necessary for members to submit themselves to the authority of the church. After all, the church is not a building but the people of God.

Should Adventists Go to Court Against Other Adventists?

Should Adventists Go to Court Against Other Adventists?

The above question is one that arises from time to time and as such demands an answer. Fortunately, the book, 101 Questions Adventists Ask by Dr. Bert B. Beach, retired director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and current PARL Director, Dr. John Graz, addresses the issue. Given this fact, I will share their view, which essentially is the official position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Looking at the Counsel of the Bible
The biblical counsel in Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 6 clearly discourages members from going to court to solve their problems. Instead, it is recommended that church members resort “to use the procedures and authority of the church to reach a settlement.”  In fact, the Apostle Paul “uses rather strong language to denounce the practice of running to pagan courts to accuse fellow church members.”  Paul essentially says, “Christians should make every effort to safeguard the unity and honor of the church.”
 
Looking at the Counsel of Ellen White
Ellen G. White gives similar advice: “Lawsuits between brethren are a reproach to the cause of truth.  Christians who go to law with one another expose the church to the ridicule of her enemies…. By ignoring the authority of the church, they show contempt for God, who gave to the church its authority” (the Acts of the Apostles, p. 306).  However, “for this to work, those involved in disputes must accept the authority of the Church,” contend Beach and Graz.
 
When Members Refuse to Seek Counsel of the Church
In cases where a church member does not accept the decision of the Church or rejects the biblical ideal, then the biblical answer is clear: “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault…but if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more…. witnesses…And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglects to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man” (Matthew 18:15 – 17).
“In this case,” state Beach and Graz, “the logical option is civil litigation.  Having exhausted the biblical procedure, and the decision-making authority of the Church having been rejected, the opinion is to deal with such individuals as one would with any non-member.”
 
When Should We Go to the Courts of the Land?
Beach and Graz further observe, “some civil legal matters” can be “extremely complex, convoluted, and time consuming.” Accordingly, “some of these matters may go well beyond the capacity of normal church authority to deal with.”  On this matter, the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual states that there are “cases that are clearly within the jurisdiction of the civil courts and not within the authority of the church” (p. 165, 1995 edition). “In such cases, there may be little choice – call it a necessary evil if you wish – but to call upon the expertise of the legal profession to gain an equitable solution, including the adjudication before a secular tribunal.”  Examples of such cases may include, “insurance claims, custody for minor children, boundaries and ownership of real property, and product liability.”  “In any case,” add Beach and Graz, “it is hard to see how in such intricate, often quite impersonal issues the Church could be ‘exposed to ridicule’ by Adventists appearing in court on opposite sides, when their Adventism would in all likelihood not be a public issue at all.”  For the Church “to get involved with a lack of competence, and no adequate process for just settlement, could risk exposing the Church to ‘ridicule’.”  Furthermore, “some of these legal matters are so drawn-out and at risk for moving to center stage, that the Church must ‘constantly be on guard against turning from its gospel mission and taking up the duties of a civil magistrate’” (Church Manual, p. 165).
Ideally, every Seventh-day Adventist should, as far as possible, live at peace with one another, but unfortunately that does not always work. Nevertheless, let’s encourage each other to make all efforts to pursue peace, goodwill and unity.

The Importance of a Spiritual Life

The Importance of a Spiritual Life

 
Naturally Spiritual!
It is a bit presumptuous to ask pastors and elders to give attention to spirituality.  After all it is assumed that those involved in spiritual work will be spiritual. However those of us who are pastors and elders know too well that spirituality is not automatic. It is daily experience so much so that the Apostle Paul argues that “I die daily”.  As for Jesus Ellen White said that “while He dwelt among men, was often in prayer.” He did this so “that He might come forth braced for duty and trial. He is our example in everything.” Additionally, she remarked “And if the Savior of men, the Son of God, felt the need of prayer, how much more should feeble, sinful mortals feel the necessity of fervent, constant prayer” STC p. 93. Accordingly, it is crucial that each servant of God gives priority to time with God, as this is absolutely critical for ministry and more so for life. By this I speak of a structured devotional life.
 
Take Nothing for Granted!
            It is said that Songs of Solomon 1:6 is possibly the saddest verse in scripture as it says, “They made me the keeper of the vineyards. But my vineyard I have not kept”. Put another way the Apostle Paul writes “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Co 9:27).
As pastors and elders we need to pay attention to our own souls as well. It is necessary to give and minister to the needs of others but to do without addressing one’s soul could be risky, irresponsible and deadly. Recall the Apostle Peter who explained to the lame man at the Temple gate in Acts 3 “Such as I have give I unto thee”.  Essentially one can deduce that a person can only impart what he or she has. Says Peter “such as I have”. What is it that we have? It must be more than just ability it must be a spirit-directed life and that comes as a result of quality time spent with God each day in personal devotion.
 
The Minister’s Devotional Life
            It is fundamental that we study the Sabbath school Lesson as a part of our devotion. It does not look good for pastors and elders not to raise their hand to the question “All who studied –please indicate by raising your hand.” Also the study of the Quarterly shows that it is important, as members tend to look to us. Another benefit is that it allows for pastors and elders to study and review church doctrines, positions, themes and various books. In fact the quarterlies should be kept, as they constitute commentaries. Prayer is a must and by that I speak of prayer that involves praise and thanksgiving; penitence or confession for sin (yes we are sinners but saved by grace) and intercession for our family, members, community and government.  Of course the Bible will be used in the process. Also personally, I find that reading some other book can be quite inspirational and supplying to the soul.

Relating to New Light

Relating to New Light

 New Light
From time to time individuals come with what they consider as “new light.” Accordingly, the question arises, “How should the Church deal with such?” In my response, I reference again the 101 Questions Adventists Ask by B. B. Beach and John Graz.
 
Should We Expect Additional Light?
Should we expect new light? Are the days of new truths in the past? Based on our understanding of the Scriptures and the writings of Ellen White, the Church ought not to think that God will not reveal additional or new light. Beach and Graz observe, “As Christians, we have, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, an expanding understanding of truth.  It is arrogant micro-religion to think one possesses all the truth; only God knows all the truth.  Without the concept of a growing and expanding truth (and the universe for that matter), eternity becomes a bore.”
 
What Should Be Our Approach to New Light?
We are admonished as church leaders “to promote consensus rather than controversy.”  Nevertheless, it is critical to understand that in “reaching out for consensus implies uninhibited search for truth.” Additionally, Ellen White contends, “New light will ever be revealed on the word of God to him who is in living connection with the Son of Righteousness.  Let no one come to the conclusion that there is no more truth to be revealed”(Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 35).
On the other hand, as pointed out by Beach and Graz, “new truth does not invalidate established truth.”   They explain, “What it does is add new dimensions and luster. More often than not, the Church will need to work on the plan of addition or multiplication rather than subtraction.”
 
Additional Advice on Dealing with New Light
In 1888, at the Minneapolis General Conference Session, Ellen G. White made the following astounding statement: “That which God give His servants to speak today would not perhaps have been present truth twenty years ago.”  And to ensure that the aforementioned is not taken out of context to provide freedom, support or endorsement “for all kinds of rash, speculative individual doctrinal views” as pointed out by Beach and Graz, they referenced the following statement by Mrs. White: “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.  Lay it before them in a humble, teachable spirit, with earnest prayer; and if they see no light in it, yield to their judgment” (Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 293).  If only we would subscribe to such sound advice, we would avoid unnecessary debates, arguments and wasted time and funds. Beach and Graz put it best when they penned, “Those who do not follow this prophetic counsel easily become a plague-spot within the Church.” As such, I encourage us to follow and adhere to the counsels given by the Spirit of the Prophecy.

The Value of Time

The Value of Time
 

Time is a Gift from God          
     Unlike treasure and talents, which God determines we receive according to our abilities, time is distributed differently. He apportions to each of us the gift of 24 hours every day.  Therefore, God expects that we use time wisely.  The Bible Writer James grasped this fact and cautioned: " Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’" (James 4:13-15, NKJV).
     In defining this 24 hour period, Eugene Peterson, in his book, Working the Angles, pointed out that in the Bible “a day does not begin with sunrise; it begins when we go to sleep” or rather what the Bible refers to as sunset—“The evening and the morning were the first day.”  Now the book of Genesis explains that God gives seven (7) days each week. Six (6) are for work as enjoined by Him: “Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work,” and of course the seventh is the Lord’s Day that is set aside for worship. So if we are to make the most of our stewardship of time, we need to learn the art of prioritizing.
 
The Need to Prioritize
          Jesus declared in the book of John: "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4, NKJV). Given the need to prioritize, Jere Patzer, former president of The North Pacific Union of Seventh-day Adventists, said, “leaders (and members) must have an ‘intentional’ ministry.”  Time management expert, Edgar Mills, defines the concept of “intentionality” as: “Purposely directing one’s life as much as possible rather than allowing it to be determined by external pressures.”    Accordingly, I share areas that require our focus, though not necessarily in order of importance.
            •     Time with God.  We find in Mark 1:35 "Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed" (NKJV).
            •     Time for Family --Regarding family, the Apostle Paul observed: "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8, NKJV).
            •     Time for Church --In Hebrews we are admonished: "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25, NKJV).
            •     Time for Self (rest) Noted Christian Author, Ellen White wrote: “If every moment were valued and rightly employed, we should have time for everything that we need to do for ourselves or for the world” (The Ministry of Healing, page 208).
•     Time for Job (vocation) -- ensuring that put in the time we are paid for by faithfully reporting on time and not departing before the time.
 
 
Redeeming the Time
     Given the aforementioned, it is necessary that we redeem the time.  According to Ephesians 5:15, 16, Paul says, "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,"  "redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (NKJV). To walk circumspectly is to walk “strictly,” “accurately,” “diligently,” “carefully.”  Let’s seek to do so!

Relating to Other Churches

Relating to Other Churches

                                       
From time to time we hear and read of statements by Ellen White purported to attack and/or discourage relationships with persons and leaders of other churches. Accordingly, I pose the question, “Do the writings of Ellen White discourage interchurch relations?” In my attempt to respond to this question, I declare that I will reference the book 101 Questions Adventists Ask by Dr. Bert B. Beach, retired director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL) of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and current PARL Director, Dr. John Graz.
 
Consider the Context
            When Ellen White wrote of end time events, she “portrayed the official churches as opposed to religious freedom and to the faithful remnant.” However, it should be noted that she made “a clear distinction between systems, organizations, and sincere members.” She noted that individuals are not saved because they are “Protestants,” “Catholics,” or “Adventists.” To the contrary, she explained that individuals are saved because Jesus died for us. Nevertheless, she wrote that, “the religious organizations will become part of ‘Babylon,’ when they will unite their power to persecute those who do not accept their creed.” She regarded such acts as “wicked,” for these groups are wrong in doing the devil’s work in persecuting those “who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”
 
Encouraging Good Relations
            On the other hand, Ellen White encouraged good relations with those not of our faith. Says Mrs. White: “Our ministers should seek to come near to the ministers of other denominations. Pray for and with these men, for whom Christ is interceding. A solemn responsibility is theirs. As Christ’s messengers, we should manifest a deep, earnest interest in these shepherds of the flock” (Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 78). Certainly, this is not an anti-relations position calling for Seventh-day Adventists to isolate themselves from other religious groups. In fact she adds, “The Lord has His representatives in all churches” (Ibid., p. 70).
            Additionally, she warned pastors and lay members who attack other churches: “Be cautious in your labors, brethren, not to assail the prejudices of the people too strongly. There should be no going out of the way to attack other denominations: for it only creates a combative spirit, and closes ears and hearts to the entrance of the truth. We have our work to do, which is not to tear down but to build up” (Manuscript Releases, vol. 20, 136.3).
 
Isolation Is not Encouraged
            In 1911 Ellen White penned, “The Lord has not given His people the work of making a tirade against those who are transgressing His law. In no case are we to make a raid on the other churches”(Review and Herald, April 20, 1911, par. 21). Therefore it cannot be concluded that her writings encourage isolation and aggressiveness towards other churches and as such should not be misquoted or taken out of context. We are not alone on earth, and we will not be alone in heaven as noted by Beach and Graz. Having good relations with others does not mean that we favor “the current focus of ecumenism.” We should seek to have good relations with neighbors, colleagues and others, as this does not mean that we are compromising our faith. Good relations are likely create strong and positive testimonies of our relationship to God, which could augur well in wooing others to our faith. Let’s reach out in 2014.

Encouragement for Tough Times

Encouragement for Tough Times

 
For this week’s Weekly, I share with you a letter from our Division president, Elder Israel Leito, written back in 2009. Though written in Advance Life as a result of the economic recession back then, you will still find the words encouraging and applicable nearly 5 years later. This letter is most interesting and appropriate for this time.
 

Financial Turmoil
“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.
 
Conclusion
            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.
 
Maranatha!”
 
Israel Leito
President of the Inter-American Division

Violent Crime -- Who Is to Blame?

Violent Crime -- Who Is to Blame?

 crime2

In the wake of the unacceptable level of homicides and the barefacedness in which they are committed, especially within recent years, the fear of crime has escalated. Unfortunately, the blaming game or finger pointing has also increased --within recent weeks. Almost daily, there is the pointing of the proverbial finger at someone or institution for the spike in violent crime- be it the judiciary, government, police, church, parents, or others.  However, blaming does not solve crime, as it tends to spotlight one or two segments and exonerates everybody else, even the one doing the blaming. If we are to arrest or minimize violent crime, it will require that we cease the finger pointing and assume individual responsibility. Fighting crime calls for a comprehensive approach.

 
Crime Is Complex
I agree with a regular columnist in one the news dailies, Front Porch Simon (though I am not sure I know the writer). In this weekly column dated Thursday, January 2, 2014, it states, “Crime is complex in its causes and the responses, requiring action by many parts of society.” So true! The home/parents, judiciary, church, government/politicians, law enforcement agencies, the media, civic groups, school, talk shows, citizens and others must all weigh in to make a meaningful and recognizable dent to crime. Instead of advocating a fragmented approach by highlighting one’s approach and downplaying another’s point of view, we need to see value in each. There is no magical formula, but networking I feel will yield positive result.
 
Failing to See Value in Other Approaches
            Some individuals resent marches and rallies, because they do not see their effectiveness. Does it make them ineffective and useless in the war against crime? I do not think so. In fact, I am inclined to believe that they are effective and as a result should be included. Likewise, prayer has its place. Prayer does work and has worked for untold numbers of persons, even for those who fail to pray. The Apostle James wrote, “The prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Now to a non-churchgoer that does not make sense, but it has its role. A greater police presence inclusive of more police cars –one positioned on each block or corner of known hot spots, is likely to make residents feel safe and reduce crime. Likewise, the presence of CCTVs at strategic locations must also be embraced in tackling the ugly nature of crime. Swift justice on the part of the courts is absolutely necessary. Neighborhood watches must also factor in the plan; and radio talk hosts as well as the media must play a role. Governments must ensure that the laws are carried out and be willing to make tough decisions, even at the disliking of some citizens or even supporters, as long as the decisions stand to benefit the country as a whole, especially in combating crime and the fear of it.
 
Working Together
            Having pointed out the value of the above and by implication those of others not mentioned, each of these must play its part; for crime is complex as already noted, and any approach must take that into consideration. To focus on a part or segment of the solution would prove deficient. Each contribution must be considered as a part of the crime fighting equation. And so, the dialogue started by the Ministry of National Security must continue and followed up by implementation. Answers are there but will only be found and embraced when we approach crime fighting objectively and openly, devoid of personal biases. Crime reduction calls for all hands on deck.

“Called to Be Faithful”

“Called to Be Faithful”

 Faith and Success
The caption for this week’s article forms a part of some of the most poignant words I have come across in my life: “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.” These words credited to Mother Teresa were uttered in response to those persons who were appalled in some ways by what they considered as less than acceptable conditions of the Home for The Dying in Calcutta, India. In no way ignoring the cleanliness and order of things, Mother Teresa was more concerned in giving persons dying a sense of hope and peace; and thus the words of not being called to be successful but faithful.
 
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 not 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.

Why Pray –Does It Make Sense?

Why Pray –Does It Make Sense?

 
Over the years, I have heard many negative expressions about prayer such as, “We use that crap called prayer to say that we are seeking God’s favor when we have our own plans.” Another said, “Prayer rallies really do not address crime and curb its effect.” Still another asserted, “Christians use prayer as an excuse for doing something.” While there may be some truth to some of these expressions, do they lessen the need for prayer? Certainly not! Jesus admonished that we pray, and the Apostle Paul implores us to prayer always; therefore, it is against this premise that I encourage you to pray even more in 2014. Pray as never before, and pray responsibly.
 
Pray More in 2014
            Throughout our four fields within the Union, there are several prayer emphases supported by prayer warriors and pastors. These are good and ought to be supported. However, I wish to submit that we also give attention to the Ten Days of Prayer initiative of the General Conference. In fact, I was pleased to see this being promoted already in some of our fields’ newsletters. Commencing on January 8 – 18, it will be our privilege to pray for specific concerns and needs. This is most appropriate as 2013 has been a challenging year in all three countries of ATCU. Actually, you can get started this Sabbath, January 4, 2014. Pastor Peter Kerr, Union Prayer Coordinator, reminded me that this Sabbath is a day of Prayer and Fasting. On this first Sabbath, the focus will be on “pastors and elders and for the success of Vision One Million Evangelistic initiative.”  Pastor Kerr also explained that, “each field may include other concerns or needs.”
 
Pray As Never Before
            There is no question that prayer works; and by that I mean it is real and effective. That is best understood by those who pray, sense the presence of God, and experience calmness and assurance amidst all the vicissitudes of life. Essentially, prayer links me with My Creator daily. Each day and throughout the day I am given the opportunity to connect and stay in touch with God. I consider this a privilege. Also, there are specific persons that my wife and I pray for daily. We call these individuals by name and follow up to ascertain whether or not the situation and or need had been addressed. Now that is not to say that we do not pray generally for members and people throughout ATCU. We certainly do, as the Union’s Prayer Initiative P.U.S.H. (pray until something happens) ensures this fact. Each day for the past two years ATCU has had a specific focus for its territory inclusive of leaders, workers, members and non-members. In fact, I am excited about the 2014 Prayer initiative. Using 2 Peter 1:5-11, we will focus on spiritual virtues such as faith, goodness, knowledge, temperance, patience, Godliness, love, etc. All of these are geared to help us to live out and practice our Christianity daily and, thereby, be ready for our Lord’s return.
 
Pray Responsibly
            Sincere prayer or praying enables us to connect with God; and that very fact enables us to see self and also others. Recall the vision experience of young Isaiah in chapter 6 of the book bearing his name? His encounter with God allowed for a glimpse of God’s greatness and power so much so that Isaiah declared, “Woe is me!” in seeing his sinfulness. But observe that in the process, he also saw the people around him and their state of doom. However, what stands out is that he became convicted of the need to do something about it and therefore volunteered to go and minister unto them. The point is simply this –when touched and awakened by God through our prayer life and His word, we will sense the need to bless others with that which is needed, or that which we can cause to happen. As Christians, we are to do more than just pray but feed, assist, visit with one another and others. Thereby, it will be seen that Christianity is practical and would never use prayer as an alibi to do good. As we develop a stronger and more consistent prayer lifestyle, our churches, fields and countries would be in a better state. So let’s pray without ceasing and support the various initiatives of the church and its leadership. Have a great 2014!