I Need Not Be Afraid!

I Need Not Be Afraid!

No Fear
 
Daily reports of crimes, terrorist threats, economic challenges, unrest and the like, locally and internationally, are enough to drive fear and consternation in the most courageous. One is led to ask, “How does one exist untouched or unfazed by all that the media reports and displays daily?” And to add, the prognostication for 2016 does not appear any brighter when we consider that we are entering the political season, which will carry its share of unrealistic promises and unnecessary political attacks. Yet, some persons are hopeful of employment and a better Bahamas with a significant reduction in crime. Given the aforementioned, how does one maintain his or her composure resisting the temptation to be overcome by fear and anxiety? I know of no other way than in and through Christ, and I add that is not a “light or trite matter” for me. Instead, it is a reality! Says Christ, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” That statement carries weigh and authority because Christ says it, and He is not man that He should waver. What assurance! So why should I be afraid? Why should I fear? Accordingly, I share these few points with you.
 
Basis for “Fear Not”
The expression “fear not”, recorded in Luke 2:10, borne by an angel of the Lord carries much authority and divine backing. Accordingly, it ought to give us some sense of assurance, certainty and hope when we consider the “who”, “what”, “when” and “where” of the text. The Angel is from the Lord, and his message is one of joy and hope for all mankind both hope now and later. That ought to arrest our attention like nothing else.
 
What Does “Fear Not” Mean?
This question is best explained by reading more of the passage as recorded in Luke 2. There the Angel of the Lord exclaimed, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” So the message is for all people, or put another way, it is universal. Usually we do not find a one-gift that fits all, but this remedy is one that addresses the needs of all mankind. Verse eleven identifies the gift by explaining, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christa the Lord.” To know this Christ is to love Him, and to love Him is to prove Him; and to prove Him is to remain loyal to Him and His Word.  However, lest I overlook what is the message of Christ, I go back to verse 10, which is “joy.” Joy is not a now and then feeling but a lasting reality in Christ that enables one to do the unthinkable, compared to human standards, and to survive tough times, or put another way, come through trying situations, while others are collapsing and unable to cope.
 
And Now the Bonus
Some of us get bonuses only at Christmas or periodically. However, this “good news of great joy” extends beyond the current season into January, February -going back to December. It is year-round as noted in the above paragraph. This is why I personally do not see the need to resort to chance, worry, scheming, resentment or jealousy for that matter. With an embracing of the “Fear not” message, one is led to explore those things that tend to dignity, value and self worth. It is of interest to observe the preamble to the constitution of the Bahamas: “AND WHEREAS the People of this Family of Islands recognizing that the preservation of their Freedom will be guaranteed by a national commitment to Self-discipline, Industry, Loyalty, Unity and an abiding respect for Christian values and the Rule of Law.” It is my thinking that self-discipline, industry and hard work are better ingredients for the building of a nation. Again His message is more than a “fear not;” it is “good news of great joy.” And that is lasting even in the midst of sickness, apparent setbacks and trying circumstances, for it is in seeing Christ through the “cracks” of my life that I engender courage, faith, perspective and hope. Said the Lord years ago to His people through Jeremiah the prophet, “For I know the plans I have for you, . . . plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV).  That is still applicable and therefore I need not be afraid, for I know who holds my hand. Yes, I know who has my back and all of me. It is God!
 
Happy Christ-filled Holidays and a Blessed New Year!

WHEN THE DEVIL SMILES:

WHEN THE DEVIL SMILES:
THE CASE FOR SABBATH SCHOOL
BY KEITH L MAJOR

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Introduction
We live in a time when humanity seems to be fast reaching its lowest point. Spirituality is declining significantly. The number of Atheists in the world has doubled, and there is a marked increase in the number of people not associating themselves with a denomination. The Seventh- day Adventist Church has not been unaffected by this. There is a marked decline in spirituality in the church. Some have proffered that institutions like the Sabbath School and its companion the Sabbath School lessons have become outdated, and the program needs to be revamped. We are not meeting the needs of the millennials of this generation. “We need to change to meet their needs,” they say. It is statements like the above that led me to write this article and its topic: “WHEN THE DEVIL SMILES.”
 
KNOWLEDGE OF BIBLE STORIES
Think of it: all the stories you learned in the Bible inclusive of Creation, Peter Rescued from Prison, The Strength of Samson, Elijah at Mount Carmel, Jonah in the Belly of the Fish, Moses, Jesus, Paul and his exploits, to name a few, were learned in Sabbath School at an early age. These are some of the most exciting stories that teachers fed to you. As you got older, you studied more of the details of these stories. This led to your broad knowledge of the stories and memorizing numerous Bible texts that still stick with you. Take away Sabbath School, and it doesn't happen. Therefore, the belief about bringing back spirituality to the church through adjusting the Sabbath School and revamping to meet the needs of the millennials is a treacherous thought.
Before I give you twelve things the Sabbath School does, let me cite a personal experience.
 
MY EXPERIENCE
I resolved to study my Bible every day. I wanted a track to run on- a disciplined way, if you please, to systematically do this. I decided that the study of the Sabbath School lesson, in addition to reading the stated texts, involved much of the texts before and after any subsequent readings. I found I gained energy and excitement; I also found that I wanted to share in the Sabbath School class. I began to share more than anyone else. This led to the leader letting me teach the lesson for a few years without being appointed teacher. I found that my enthusiasm for study spread among the class, as they wanted to know where I got such insight from. Gradually, more and more of the class began to study until one day the entire class of 18 had studied.
The Sabbath School leaders decided to put me in a new smaller class. Soon that class became the biggest class, as others wanted the excitement and power and information that came from this group. The Sabbath School leaders began complaining that my class was too big and was “drowning out” the other classes. For me truly, the Sabbath School is my temperature of spirituality.
 
12 BENEFITS OF STUDYING THE SABBATH SCHOOL LESSONS
1.     An excitement grows within you for the Word of God.
2.     You find answers to everyday problems within the Word.
3.     You look for spiritual solutions to all of your concerns.
4.     You find that the readings for each day help you to deal with a specific problem of that day.
5.     Your review on Sabbath morning is more than a review of the lesson but a reminder of how each text helped you overcome the challenges of the week. Emphasizing the power and triumph of Scripture in everyday life.
6.     You get to feel the power from Scripture more than other readings, and you truly see the Word as an answer to daily survival.
7.     Others look up to you as a source of spiritual help and guidance, and they begin to study.
8.     You begin to develop sermons from your knowledge of the Word.
9.     A peace develops in you regardless of whatever happens in the society during the week. You feel you have the answer or know where to get it.
10.  The excitement that you generate spreads, and others seek to copy your attitude.
11.  Bonus: There is excitement in the church. 
12.  Sabbath School attendance improves greatly; it's contagious.
 
Take away those twelve things and the devil smiles. The Book is not being read. Secularism and materialism creep in. Yes, the Bible may be the most sold book on earth in the most languages, but it may be bordering on being the least read. The 66 books and thousands of chapters and verses can make it an intimidating force to the new reader. The Sabbath School and the lessons provide an inroad into charting the course of reading this large tome (book).
 
Every week when the attendance is sparse,
The devil smiles.
When hands don't go up for the study of the lesson plan,
The devil smiles.
When children come to church and know not their memory verse,
The devil smiles.
When you encounter problems and frustrations and haven't read the Word in a week and you come to church frustrated or stay away...the devil smiles.
When the attendance at Divine hour far outweighs the attendance in Sabbath School,
The devil smiles.
When your faith weakens because the hearing of the Word produces faith and we’re not studying, The devil smiles.

Precious in the Sight of God – Part II

Precious in the Sight of God – Part II


 
Emulating God
            These remarkable indications, in words and action, of our immeasurable value to God, ought to serve as a pattern for the way that we treat each other and a guideline for the way we should expect to be treated. Essentially, the attitude should be one of respect, affirming and building up one another. God does not condone or countenance abuse of any kind (mental, physical, psychological, verbal, sexual, substance, or medical abuse).  These forms of cruelty go against His nature of love, compassion, and genuine care and concern. Current international research points to family violence as a global problem. Nevertheless, a believer of Christ is expected to emulate Him in loving his/her spouse and in being faithful. He or she is committed to family values and consistent in nurturing and providing for the family needs. The quest for material gain does not cause a true believer to neglect his/her family. No legislation is necessary for such persons to be loving, kind, patient, and thoughtful, for the Spirit of God governs them. In fact, it was Christ who said that by “love” all men should be able to identify His followers. Are you a follower? 
 
Of course, this Biblical tenet is unpopular, for societal norms and values have been relaxed and in some instances eliminated. Promiscuity and immoral living are touted, and those who shun such practices are made to feel as though they have done wrong. It is commonly opined, “Everybody is doing it.” This is, no doubt, a part of the reason for many failed marriages and, by extension, untold pain, abuse, and suffering by spouses and children. Is it any wonder that societies and nations seem to be fighting a losing battle?  “As goes the family, so go the nation and the world.”
 
Help for the Troubled
            It is good to know that God does not abandon anyone even when he or she is abusive. Though it is clear that God finds abuse repugnant, He welcomes the abuser, for He says, “Come now, and let us reason together”(Isaiah 1:18, NKJV).  Coupled with this is the message of restoration in the book of Malachi where God seeks to re-attract sons to fathers; fathers to sons; daughters to mothers; mothers to daughters; and spouses to each other. So, even with all the domestic issues, God is still with the family; and the family is still precious to Him.  He desires that none be lost but that everyone is restored to realize his/her potential and usefulness by His grace.
            When we appreciate the inestimable worth God places on each person, follow the example of God in caring for one another, and embrace the power found in the help that God offers, we will find, as Ellen White states, the home will become “a little heaven on earth.”(White, E. G., Sermons and Talks, Volume 2:200, 1994;2002). Consequently, the world, with its lowered values, will marvel at the courage and humble dispositions of God’s people. 

Precious in the Sight of God – Part I

Precious in the Sight of God – Part I

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Like two towering landmarks stand the institutions of the family and the Sabbath in the first two chapters of Genesis. Though they have been around for thousands of years, they are very much relevant and important for the proper functioning of societies in today’s world. Unfortunately, while the family is generally regarded as binding universally, there are many in Christendom who do not hold the same view about the institution of the Sabbath. Nonetheless, these two establishments are God’s gifts to humanity. However, for the purpose of this article, I refer to the family, its worth, and its need to be more greatly embraced for a more stable society; for the saying is so true: “As the family goes, so go the nation and the world.”
 
Of Inestimable Worth
The Bible is replete with statements declaring God’s precious and tender regard for marriage, the home, and family inclusive of each member whether young or old. The well-known song says, “All are precious in His sight.” More so, in the first book of the Bible, God states, “Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26, NKJV). This verse speaks to identity, time, value, and responsibility. Each person has a beginning and a significant value given by the Master Designer, God Himself. That fact ought to engender a sense of belonging and feelings of true specialness. You and I are not after-thought beings; instead, according to the Psalmist, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14, NKJV).
If that were insufficient to ignite one’s sense of value, identity and worth, consider John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (NKJV). And I cannot bypass Jeremiah 31:3 which expresses God’s special love for us: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you” (NKJV).
 In addition to the aforementioned, the Apostle Paul explained in his letter to the Ephesians that a husband ought to love his wife as Christ loved the church, and a woman ought to submit to her husband “as unto the Lord.”  
To Be Continued next week with part II

Thankful Always!

Thankful Always!

thank
 
            Generally, folks regard November as a month of thanksgiving, especially the latter part of the month. However, one’s orientation will determine what thanksgiving means. Accordingly, I offer a few thoughts for consideration.
 
Gratitude - A State of Mind
The Apostle Paul enjoins us “to give thanks always.” What does that mean? Is one being called upon to give thanks under all circumstances? How can one be positive when he or she has been afflicted with pain as result of the murder of a promising son? How can a person be thankful when he or she has been made redundant and Christmas is nearing? How can one be thankful when sickness and attending costs prevail? Notwithstanding the aforementioned, we can be grateful and positive!
 
Gratitude Does Not Condone Wrong Doing
Being thankful is not akin to condoning wrongdoing when one displays gratitude under trying conditions. Gratitude does not mean that one will not experience pain, as it is only human to do so. However, a spirit of gratitude teaches one to look for the good even in every negative case. Consider Paul who advocated thankfulness always. In the book Ephesians he is in prison, a place not known to be a pleasant and welcoming environment, nonetheless he describes it as being “in heavenly places.” It was not the place but the mindset, cognizant of Christ’s presence, adopted by the Apostle that made the difference. The same experience can be ours. Flip the coin and think: had Paul taken the negative approach, he would have risen no higher than his thoughts; and life would have been one of numerous complaints and lacking in fulfillment and purpose as designed by God.
 
Life Is Not Always Predictable
Life does not offer a bed of roses, children without issues, spouse without fault, or perfect church members. Politicians and preachers; maids and mathematicians; athletes and astronauts -all have shortcomings, for they are all human. So the reality is that as long as we live with another person, we will have days of disappointments and frustration. It is possible that if you have not lost a relative, it is likely to happen, as death is real and part of our lot. So if I accept these realities of life –choosing not to dwell on the negatives- I am more likely to find the good all around and certainly in spouse, child, friend and colleagues. Whatever we look for we will find. It is said that gold miners in South Africa sift through tons of dirt to find precious diamonds, but some persons pass precious diamonds looking for dirt.
 
Potential to Change
Change to positive thinking and action is possible in every situation, otherwise the Bible is a myth and Christians are mistaken. I choose to think positively, for within each person, even the ones creating havoc and instilling fear in our land is potential for good. It may require you or me to elevate the thinking of such persons to see their God-given potential as something for good. Each person is designed for greatness, as each has been entrusted with talents and abilities possibly untapped and yet to be recognized and cultivated. Christian writer Ellen White explains, “If human beings would open the windows of the soul heavenward, in appreciation of the divine gifts, a flood of healing virtue would pour in” (MH 116.1). Additionally, White says that, “Nothing tends more to promote health of body and of soul than does a spirit of gratitude and praise” (MH 251.1).
 
Application
This period of thanksgiving can translate into a daily and lasting experience when I begin to embrace a thankful disposition- choosing to look for the good in others and in me. Sometimes we can find it most difficult to forgive ourselves. Can you imagine if many of us would decide to be thankful and engage in thanks-living? Our nation would experience a positive turn-around. Too many persons are angry –angry with parent, sibling or friend, as one might have been betrayed or abused by a trusted one. True, there might be a reason to be angry, especially at the high rate of murders in our country, but being upset unnecessarily and remaining that way stands to ruin our lives. We need to release some things and move on. Medical Research indicates ‘That positive emotions lead to biochemical changes in the body.” St. Francis of Assissi says, “Help me to change the things that I can and to accept the things that I cannot change.”

Self-denial

Self-denial

self denial

 
The above caption is commonly used especially in reference to another, but it is very difficult when it comes to one self. However, it is possible that we all go through phases of self-denial where we indirectly and, at times, directly refuse to acknowledge a situation. More recently this was revealed to me in a sermon I was preparing some time ago on the Apostle Peter.  Within days, it would be repeated through a book that I purchased recently titled Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership, by Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima.
 

What Is a Denial?
Denial is realization of a potential problem or problems which one fails to admit or own up to. Recall the encounter of Jesus with Peter in Luke 22:31-34. Jesus revealed to Peter that he would deny Him not just once but three times, but Peter in response to Jesus said, “I am ready to go both to prison and to death” (verse 33).  While Peter failed to see himself and his vulnerability, it was not hard for Jesus to see; for Peter operated from a sense of false assumptions, believing that he knew himself and his ability. The same could be said of you and me. So essentially, it is necessary that we understand what Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima refer to as our dark side:  A side of us that we do not recognize or seem unwilling to accept.
 
Understanding My Dark Side
According to McIntosh and Rima, “the dark side refers to our inner urges, compulsions, motivations, and dysfunctions that drive us toward success or undermine our accomplishments.”  They continue, “Over a lifetime of experiences,” our dark side “is often revealed in moments of frustration or anger.”  Yet they contend, “The dark side is a normal development of life and can be an agent for both good and bad in our lives.” Truth be told parents, teachers, leaders in and outside the church inclusive of elders, preachers, directors, officers and presidents are affected by it.
As such it is necessary to recognize when something is driving us and driving us beyond reason, beyond the advice of those who mean us well (i.e. spouse, colleagues and friends), to the extent that we are willing to compromise or put personal interest in front of the church. A failure to confront my dark side may lead to my crossing “the line and experience a down hill,” as in the case of Gordon McDonald, Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart.
 
Getting Help for My Dark Side
However, a desire to achieve should not be considered bad. Don’t we all aspire to be the best? We should! What is crucial is that we be open to evaluation and constructive criticisms by others. It is said that Evangelist Billy Graham has been successful, for he has subjected himself to the scrutiny of others. The same is reported of successful church leader Bill Hybel.
Systems within the Adventist Church may appear “to slow us down,” but they are there to protect us and prevent pitfalls.  Systems at the local church include the Church Board and Business Meetings, etc. At the Mission/Conference and Union as well as General Conference levels, are the Executive Committee, evaluations and consultations. It is unreasonable to expect any board or committee membership to agree with the chairman on everything. Equally so, it is unfair to have a committee that opposes everything from a leader.  Challenge to a position may lead us to see other sides that were not considered, or it may lead to seeing the value of the leader’s position. Be open to ways that God may lead, and if your position is shown to be faulty, adopt the attitude of Peter recorded in Luke 22:61, 62: “And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how that he said . . .Before the cock crow . . . thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out and wept bitterly” (ASV). That is owning up!

Overlooking God’s Remedy for Crime and Lawlessness

Overlooking God’s Remedy for Crime and Lawlessness

crime
 
Each day as we tune into the news, there is report of violent acts, unrest and dishonesty engendering a sense of fear. Added to these is the apparent lack of solution to resolving crime, especially murder. With two months to the end of the year, there is report of nearly 130 murders for the Bahamas. From all appearances, the figures are trending toward a record-breaking year in homicides. What is going on in Bahamas?  Is there no solution?
 
Is There no Solution?
New cars and motorcycles have been purchased for the police and yet violent crime is unabated. Additionally, radio-talk shows are bombarded with suggestions, or what some perceive as the solution to the nation’s vexing problems, and yet crime continues to escalate. Is there no solution or way out? Genesis 18:14 asserts, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”  Then Proverbs 14:34 reminds us, “Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” So could it be that there is a shift from godliness?
 
God’s Remedy
Have you considered the Ten Commandments lately?  Yes, I am aware that we know of them and may be able to recite them, but look at them carefully. Jesus says, in His famous sermon on the mount in Matthew 5, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17, NKJV). In other words, Jesus came to magnify or give the law its freedom to operate. Consider the following commandments:  The eighth commandment says, “Thou shalt not steal.”  This protects one’s possessions. God expects that we respect the rights of others to own and possess things.
The seventh commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” shows God’s value for marriage and the family.  Mark Finley writes, “The seventh command is a call to moral purity.”
The ninth commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” protects the reputation of a person.  It discourages gossiping, slandering and the misrepresentation of facts.  If these things were allowed, can you imagine what our nation would be like? Then there is the sixth commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.”  If only this was adhered to; for it speaks to having respect for the life of all mankind. Has it been considered that life is precious and is a gift from God? This law safeguards against killing by various means inclusive of abortion on demand.  When there is little regard for life, then it would seem that there is little regard for the Life Giver –God.
This same God enjoins mankind each week to keep holy His Sabbath.  He says, “Remember that Sabbath day.” Do folks remember it? Or are there persons fighting against it?  Could it be that many do not recognize what they are doing by disregarding it and teaching men to do so? 
 
Still Relevant
Though in existence for centuries, God’s law is still relevant for the twenty-first century; and therefore the words of Christ, “Think not that I came to destroy but to fulfill,” are appropriate. When God’s law gets its rightful place, then God will have first place in our lives.
            We cannot have a moral society when we shun the truth and glorify gossip.  We cannot have a crime free community when, according to Dr. Frazier in his book, Psycho Trends, we “celebrate mayhem while simultaneously condemning it.”
            Essentially, we cannot take God’s law for granted and expect a peaceful society or nation.  Each week God is calling, through His Sabbath, for His created beings to remember Him.  This is so that men and women may connect with their Creator and thereby know their roots and identity through true worship of the true and living God.  People who do not know themselves are likely to do the unthinkable. If we are serious about eradicating crime, then we must get serious about God and upholding His Ten Commandments, for they are not ten suggestions!

A Privilege to Serve

A Privilege to Serve

serve

 
            The text Matthew 20:28, which speaks to servant leadership, serves often to remind me that it is an honor to serve.  Says Christ of Himself, "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). This statement underscores the true picture of servant leadership. However, a closer look at the passage reveals at least three points: Christ is the model servant leader; leadership is about service, and service is inclusive.
 

Christ the Model Servant Leader
            Following the reelection of my administrative colleagues and me to a second five-year term, to the leadership of the Atlantic Caribbean Union Sunday past, I reminded myself that our reelection was a privilege and in no way an entitlement. To put it bluntly, the church does not owe us anything. It is simply an opportunity to serve the Lord. And the above text presents a perfect example in Christ the model leader. He is the sum total of leadership. No wonder the Apostle Paul explains that Christ, "who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men" (Phil. 1:6, 7, NKJV). What a privilege!
 
Leadership Is a Service
            Unfortunately, the world considers leadership anything but sacrifice or service. Instead, leadership is catered to, served and, in some instances, blindly followed. To clarify, I feel that leadership should be respected but not worshiped. I would imagine that some of you have had to resist the temptation of accepting any unreasonable praise or accolades. In contrast the example of Christ takes precedence. What do we see of Him? In the midst of a cadre of men seeking fame and position, Christ defined leadership by simply serving. John 13 pictures Him filling a basin with water and washing the feet of His disciples. This goes against the grain of what the world regards as leadership. Nevertheless, it is the hallmark of church leaders.  
 
Servant Leadership Is Inclusive
The example of Christ’s leadership is undeniably inclusive. Notwithstanding the misguidedness of His disciples, He stuck with them seeking to help them realize their potentials. Likewise, we are called to assist our members and colleagues and help them realize their capacity for service and usefulness. And this is not baseless, as the Apostle Paul explains that each person is gifted (1 Cor. 12:7). That fact speaks to purpose; and to the extent that we help one another identify the gifts within, while providing opportunities for their use and development, is the extent that we equip the church to fulfill the mission of God. Such leadership does not focus on self or self-preservation but on building others. Accordingly, I express appreciation to those whom Christ has placed in my path to develop me.  I want to enable others to see what God has deposited in them, and at the end of their service, may the words of a Steve Green song be fulfilled: “May all who come behind us find us faithful.”

IAD Leader Responds to Recent GC Vote on Allowing Division to Approve Ordination Without Regard to Gender

IAD Leader Responds to Recent GC Vote on
Allowing Division to Approve Ordination Without Regard to Gender

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Today, with permission, I share with you a letter from Elder Israel Leito, president of the Inter-American Division, sent to administrators and directors. It restates the position of the church toward female pastors, elders and deaconess following a recent vote at the 2015 General Conference session related to allowing division to ordain pastors without regard to gender. Given the vote, what does it mean for the church? I have provided a caption and sub-topics for easy reference. I believe you will find the information helpful.
 
Greetings and Results of IAD Polling
Dear Colleagues in the Ministry:
 
During the height of the discussions on the matter if Divisions should be allowed to approve ordination without regards to gender, the administration of your Division has chosen to remain silent.  We did not want to be involved in this so divisive issue, and therefore lose sight of the mission given us by the Lord.
 
Furthermore, when preliminary polling of the unions’ leadership in the IAD indicated the church was split right down the middle, with 51% in favour and 49% against.  This has guided us to stay out of the debate regardless of personal opinions, for we lead a united church and should not be the reasons of divisions.
 
It has always been and always will be the opinion that whatever the world body says, that is what we will do.  The vote in San Antonio was clear, that the world church is not yet ready to grant the thirteen world divisions the privilege to move in a different way from each other.  Therefore, the church in Inter-America accepts and will abide by the action of the world church, indicating that Divisions are not allowed to move on their own on the matter of ordination.
 
Clarifying the GC Vote
Our World president has made it very clear, however, that this vote does not change anything, and all previous actions limiting or approving anything on this matter remain intact.  This means that:
 

  1. Women can prepare and serve as pastors or any position of leadership in the church not requiring ordination.

  2. That leadership position as president, is the only position specifically requiring ordination to the ministry, and therefore, should remain only for those who have been ordained to the gospel ministry.

  3. That qualified, and prepared female leaders can hold any other position in the church.

  4. That all previous General Conference decisions on the matter of ordination of female elders, deaconesses, etc. is, and will remain in effect, therefore, any congregation that wants to elect a female leader as church elder, is totally free to do so and have such leader be ordained as a church elder, deaconess, etc.

  5. That female pastors have the full backing of the world church to serve as church pastors, departmental leaders, institutional leaders, etc., and they can be commissioned as ministers.

  6. That as commissioned ministers, if also ordained as a church elder, they can perform in all matters of ministry, leaving only two issues that require an ordained minister to perform. These are: organizing of new churches and officiate as presiding minister in a wedding.

 
The rich history of unbiased approach of women in ministry in the Inter-American Division indicates that, we believe and practice the Spirit of Prophecy indication that “There is no limit to the usefulness of the one who, putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon his heart, and lives a life wholly consecrated to God.” –Southern Watchman, Aug. 1, 1905. Christian Service, p. 254.
 
This clear Spirit of Prophecy teaching is also extended to all female members of God’s family, who, having received the call from the Lord, dedicate their all to service.
 
There are so many congregations in our Division, where women are elected and are ordained as church elders, they are holding positions of senior leadership in institutions, and also church organizations, and the IAD is one of the very few Divisions, following the good example of the General Conference, that has elected a female vice president, who is serving the church with great distinction, and effectiveness.
 
Refocusing on the Mission of the Church
On behalf of the world church, and on behalf of our beloved world leaders, we ask all sides of this discussion to remember that the debate is over, and to refocus energies on the mission of the church.
 
Jesus is coming soon, and by God’s grace, we will not allow the enemy to cause distractions from the great work we have to do.  Let us not push where the church has clearly indicated we should not go.  But also, let us not hinder, and be a stumbling block, where the church has clearly indicated it is part of acceptable ministry practices, like the ordination of female elder, etc.
 
Sadly, agitating against this clear indication of the church that, it is OK to ordain female elders is as serious as moving to the ordination of female pastors without world church approval.  The church is clear, we should not ordain female pastors, but neither should we agitate against the clear decision of the world church for ordination of female elders and deaconesses.
 
May the Lord bless you, my dear colleagues, and that your ministry result in what it should always be, a great blessing to the congregations you serve.
 
Maranatha

Is Jesus the End of the Law?

Is Jesus the End of the Law?
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A casual look at Romans 10:4 would suggest that the phrase,” Christ is the end of the law,” means that He is no longer requiring and obligating Christians to adhere to the ten commandments. However, upon serious reflection, without a contextual knowledge of the passage, the following questions quite naturally pop up: “How can that be?” “Is it possible?” It would now mean that Christians are free to live as they desire. For a certainty, we would no longer be required to keep the Sabbath or any law for that matter.
 
Laws of Life
Truth be told, that would not make sense, as law keeping is necessary for the proper function of matters and life.  For example, if I do not eat right or on time, I am likely to be adversely affected over time.  Avoiding sleep or sufficient rest is sure to lead to negative consequences.  The same could be said for ignoring the Traffic Light, as one would endanger self and others. Dressing without consideration to the weather, one will eventually pay a costly price. Airline pilots are no less obligated, for ignoring the laws of aviation will put them and others in great danger.  Accordingly, it must be concluded that laws and regulations are critical to the smooth and effective operations of life and systems. To do otherwise is to invite chaos, imbalance, danger and possibly death.  The same applies to the spiritual life; and hence the following clarification.
 
Goal of the Law
            The Greek word for “end” in Romans 10:4 is “telos.”  It conveys the idea of end in the case of demise or the end of something.  John C. Brunt in his book, Redemption in Romans, explains, “When I take a dish out of a dishwasher and it slips out of my hand and breaks into hundreds of pieces on the floor, I can say, ‘That’s the end of that dish!’ In this case, end means ‘demise.’” According to Brunt that dish exists no more, having come to an end.
            On the other hand, “telos” denotes goal or purpose. Blunt adds, “We’re raising money at church with the end in mind of a new youth chapel.”  In this example demise is not being spoken of but a goal. Given this explanation, one is able to see and understand what the Apostle Paul is saying in Romans 10:4.  For all intents and purposes, he is advocating that the goal of the law is to point to Christ.  After all, man is incapable of saving himself.  Certainly the law cannot save him.  Instead, it points out sin and man’s deficiency, but it cannot do anything about man’s condition. It (law) functions like a mirror pointing what needs to be done but unable to do it.
            If we were to determine that the law has come to an end, we would need to explain what Paul said earlier as noted in Romans 7:12: “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” Additionally, there would need to be an explanation for Romans 3:31 which states, “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.”  Also, when we consider the words of Christ in Matthew 5:17 we would have a challenge for He says, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” Therefore, we can conclude that Romans 10:4 teaches that “Christ is the goal toward which the law points.  He fulfills the law,” or “Christ brings an end to a misunderstanding of the law” (Redemption in Romans, p. 97).
 
Summing It Up
            Pulling all the aforementioned together, it must be clear that Christ is the only means by which one is saved - both Jews and Gentiles. Says Paul, “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Thus, to say or imply that with Christ or because of Him there is no need or place for the law, we are greatly mistaken. Sinclair Ferguson sums it up best by saying, “Our attitude to the law of God is an index of our attitude to God Himself.” Therefore, I conclude, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” The question that begs an answer is, “Do you believe?”

Did You Study?

Did You Study?
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I am certain that the above question is quite familiar to you.  In fact, it is asked each Sabbath in every Sabbath school class to each present member. Essentially, the question seeks to ascertain those who studied the lesson for the week. However, there is more to the question as it indicates whether members are giving attention to that which matters - daily worship and by extension whether the church is growing spiritually. For that reason, I proffer some benefits of daily worship.
 
Benefits of Daily Devotion
            First among the benefits of a daily devotion is that it allows for growth in one’s relationship with God. In Mark 3:14, Jesus is represented as appointing 12 disciples that “they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach.”  So often the phrase, “they might be with Him,” is overlooked, as there is a tendency “to do,” and “to go” as opposed “to being”. Daily devotion provides time for and with God; and that is a definite need of mankind whether he recognizes it or not.
            Additionally, time with God allows for one to gain a sense of his or her sinfulness and seek sincerely forgiveness from God.  We are sinners saved by grace and struggling daily with shortcomings and issues of various types. As I read my Bible, follow the Lesson Study plan, and pray, I am inclined to confess and seek God for forgiveness and His enabling power.
            Also, my days are more manageable. Now that is not to say that one will not have challenges or the unexpected. They are inevitable, but time with God provides the disposition and perspective that might not have otherwise been experienced.
            It does something for my spouse when she hears my intercession in her behalf as I call her by name.  Likewise, our children are encouraged by our prayers, and later, if not now, will have reasons to recall and play back in their minds those morning and evening worships.  Then there is the opportunity to grow in knowledge. As a minister with nearly 35 years of experience, I never cease to be amazed about what I learn just from studying the Sabbath School lessons. What a blessing to study about Jeremiah this quarter, but more so the God who called Jeremiah from the womb! That ought to tell you and me there is a purpose to our lives.
 
When We Do Not Study
            On the other hand, when we fail to make time for God and for His Word, we miss out on opportunities to grow spiritually, resulting in our days seeming to be out of control.  Maybe this explains why we are so busy and cannot point to what we have accomplished.  Or maybe we are accomplishing this and that but feel so empty and so unfulfilled. Are we happy or are we grumpy? Shouldn’t we be exuding the love of Christ?  If we are finding fault with everyone but ourselves, then maybe we might not be spending enough time with God reading His Word and praying.  I cannot speak for you, but I have been there; and it is only when I retreat or pull away from everything and everybody that I regain focus, assurance and confidence. Consider the following description of Christ: “Jesus Himself, while He dwelt among men, was often in prayer. Our Saviour identified Himself with our needs and weakness, in that He became a suppliant, a petitioner, seeking from His Father fresh supplies of strength, that He might come forth braced for duty and trial. He is our example in all things” (SC 93.4).  Consider that “if the Saviour 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” (Ibid).
So as I sum up my update, there is more to that question, “Did you study?” That is necessary for my soul and your soul’s salvation.  For each day the church has arranged a portion of Scripture for you and me to read and study that we may grow in God’s grace and knowledge; and one day, hopefully soon, Jesus will come to take us to be with Him.  And we shall be in the very presence of God. Therefore, I urge that we make time for the “Believe His Prophets” reading and the Sabbath School Lesson. The Lesson Study can make you a learned and spiritual student of the Word of God. Is it any wonder Job exclaimed, “I esteemed Thy word more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). To worship is to live and to live is to spend eternity with God!

Week of Prayer in Advance

Week of Prayer in Advance
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It is the practice of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to observe the fall week of prayer throughout the world church in November. Of course, there are reasons for this annual observance. It accords members the opportunity to renew and and recommit to those vows taken years ago or recently. Additionally, it provides members the chance to refocus on the prophetic nature of our church inclusive of the second coming which is embedded in our name Seventh-day Adventist. As such, I share this summary of the Sabbath reading with the hope of sparking a greater interest and participation in the week of prayer.
 
Power to Finish the Work
The Sabbath reading entitled “Power to Finish the Work,” by World Church leader, Ted Wilson, employs the Three Angels’ messages of Revelation 14 as a base. Elder Wilson calls for the church to receive, believe and be revived. It is a most inspirational article about the mission of the church. Referencing Testimonies for the Church, Pastor Wilson notes, “in a special sense Seventh-day Adventists have been set in the world as watchmen and light bearers.  To them has been entrusted the last warning for the perishing world.  On them is shining wonderful light from the Word of God.  They have been given a work of the most solemn import – the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels’ messages.  There is no other work of so great importance.  They are to allow nothing else to absorb their attention.”
 
Early Adventists Preached the Three Angels’ Messages
Additionally, Elder Wilson writes, “Early Advent believers preached the message of Jesus’ return in 1844 and faced the Great Disappointment as prophesied in Revelation 10.  Their work, however, was not yet complete.  There was an additional message that God wanted them to give to the whole world.  This message is divided into three parts and is outlined in Revelation 14:6 – 12.”
 
Consider the Contents of the Messages
            Pastors and Elders, considering the contents and significance of the Three Angels’ messages, this would make good material for new belivers and members in general to understand. Consider the messages:

First Message:  The first angel’s message (vv. 6 - 7) “announces that the time of judgment has come and calls people back to the true worship of God and to recognize Him as Creator.” Therefore, “The call to worship God as Creator automatically places upon people the responsibility to observe the day that honors His creative act.  Created beings cannot honor their Creator while defying the command to keep holy the Sabbath – the seventh day of the week – which God Himself set aside as a memorial of His creation.”
Second Message:  The second angel’s message, found in verse 8, announcing the fall of Babylon, was first presented in the summer of 1844.  Because this announcement follows chronologically in the prophecy with the preaching of the judgment, and because the churches to which this message applies were once pure, Babylon here refers to churches that rejected the warning of the judgment. Repeated in Revelation 18:1-4, the second angel’s message, calls   God’s people who are still in Babylon to come out so “that they will not be guilty of participating in her sins and will not receive the plagues that are to be poured out upon her.  Therefore, Babylon is constituted by churches that teach many of the theological errors passed down through the church of the Middle Ages.”
Third Message: The third angels’ message, found in verses 9 – 11, contains a clear warning: don’t worship the beast and its image, or receive its mark.  To do so will result in annihilation.  The content of the third message is based on the prophecy of the preceding chapter, Revelation 13. 

Given the above, I encourage us as pastors and elders to ensure that there be a great week of prayer observance as we receive, belive and are revived.

Seventh-day Adventists: A People of Hope

Seventh-day Adventists: A People of Hope

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I vividly recall that in 2010, the world church leadership encouraged the entire membership to celebrate the 150th anniversary of our church’s name, Seventh-day Adventist. Today, some five years later I feel that it is still necessary that we celebrate the name Seventh-day Adventist. In fact, I feel that it is something that should be done each day. As such, it begs certain questions and discussions, for example: “Who are Seventh-day Adventists?”  “What is meant by the name?” or “Why was it chosen?”
 
Looking Back
One hundred and fifty-five years ago, when the name Seventh-day Adventist was chosen, it was done to address certain legal and organizational concerns as the movement was growing. Once it was agreed to choose a name, it was important that the name reflect “the true features of our faith in front” and hence “Seventh-day Adventist” was selected (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p.224). Right away one sees two distinct doctrines coming out namely, the seventh-day Sabbath and the second coming. However, upon closer reflection, one is likely to see more such as the creation of a 7-day weekly cycle, and above all creation’s God.  Essentially, there is a beginning point to man, thus refuting the theory of evolution. For that reason the question of “Who am I?” is addressed. 
 
Looking Ahead
There is also a future application to the name. Implied and underscored in the term “Adventist” is a pointing to the Lord’s return. Therefore, we have not only a beginning but also a future and thus Seventh-day Adventists ought to be people of hope, for we know the answer to “Where am I headed?” There is a sense of expectation and assurance. Equally, there is a sense of responsibility and accountability; for to be a Seventh-day Adventist is to live what is implied in the name.
 
Living the Name
Back in 1860, after the name Seventh-day Adventist was chosen, Ellen White explained to the members that the name would “convict the inquiring mind” (ibid.). I pray for the same result now.
Today, there are many who make inquiry about Seventh-day Adventists. They ask, “Who are they?”  “Why do they worship on Saturday?”  “Why do they not eat pork?” “How is it that they live longer?” “How is it that they keep out of prison to a large degree?” Shouldn’t these be opportunities to proclaim our reasons for all of the above? Could they not be summarized by a true focus on God and the way He has established and led this movement?  Essentially, people are seeking hope and meaning in a world where there are so many people who apparently give little value to life. There is no need to be apologetic or timid, as God will do His work if we would but cooperate with Him.
The numerous health and family seminars, revivals and crusades provide us opportunities daily to explain who we are and whose we are thus pointing to God.  Then there are the daily opportunities in our homes and work places.  Do folks know that we are Seventh-day Adventists? To be a Seventh-day Adventist is to be what is implied in the name.  I think this is a good time to ask the question, “Am I truly a Seventh-day Adventist?”  “Do I support the church with my presence, my finances, and otherwise?” “Do I support Adventist Education?” “Do I value the ‘Spirit of Prophecy’ as manifested in the life and writings of Ellen White?” “Do I believe in healthful and wholesome living?” “Do I manifest a spirit of gratitude, considering God’s grace toward me?” “Do I truly look forward to the second coming of Christ?”
If my answers to these questions are not in the affirmative, it means that I need to address the issues that they highlight; otherwise it is possible that I could be a hindrance to the spread of the gospel. Ellen White observes, "Had the Sabbath always been sacredly observed, there could never have been an atheist or an idolater” (PP 336.1). My prayer is that God convicts our hearts to be Seventh-day Adventists in name and more so in practice. Says Christ “by this (love) shall all men know that you are my disciples.” 

Reactions to Busyness and a Lack of Prayer

Reactions to Busyness and a Lack of Prayer

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            It is not usual that I print the weekly reactions to a given Ministerial Weekly. However, in reading the responses to last week’s weekly on Busyness and a Lack of Prayer, I felt compelled to share the responses as you may find them pointed, applicable, challenging and or encouraging. To avoid any misunderstanding or prejudice, I have withheld the identity of those who have responded.
 

Response 1
There have been a number of times in my life as the wife of a minister when I identified with Martha more than with Mary! There were so many expectations!   I was always busy.  A pastor’s wife should never say, “no” to a request.  I did not want to let anyone down.  Yet, a person can only be stretched so far.  My children said I was a workaholic.  Even the doctor told me I was a workaholic. I did not go to him for any stress-related issues.  I was fine – not on any medication or anything.  It was just a regular checkup.  What he said made me stop and think.  It took quite a long time for me to realize that “I can’t be all things to all people.”  Sometimes it is all right to decline some requests – just get your priorities straight.
 
Response 2
Dear Pastor Johnson,
 
I have been reading your weekly messages for some time now, and this is the first time I have chosen to comment on any of these messages.
 
I sincerely believe God has inspired you to write this message at this time, because I personally have been asking the question as to what is the ultimate objective of the church in recent times. I believe the church might have to do a serious inventory of the new concept of church, and reestablish a clear understanding of its mission soon, or we might be surprised by our own zeal blinding us to the spiritual need of the members in the church.
 
“Busyness and a Lack of Prayer” is timely, and I could amplify my reason for exposing myself to trouble for raising my concerns on the subtle activity frenzy at the possible expense of spiritual growth in the individual members of the church. However, I will restrain myself from commenting any further and just thank God for leading you to raise the point in such a timely manner.
 
Best regards,
 
Response 3
Good morning and thank you, Pastor, for solidifying your suggestions with a quotation from the Spirit of Prophecy. The inclusion of a solid Bible text would have made it perfect.

Busyness and a Lack of Prayer

Busyness and a Lack of Prayer

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Back in 2008, I came across a series of articles on leadership, which I considered then valuable to leaders. Needless to say, that in 2015, I still value the emphases of those articles from 2008 taken from the Adventist Review.  Here are two points for consideration.
 

The Epidemic of Busyness
The first I share comes from one of the article titled “The Epidemic of Busyness Among Christian Leaders,” by Michael Zigarelli. Michael likens uncontrolled busyness to an epidemic, which inhibits a “relationship with God among those who are in the best positions to be ambassadors of the faith.”  He explains, “tragically, as we Christian leaders sink further into that sand (of busyness), those who advance competing worldviews are marching ahead.” Being too busy also affects us in other ways; for it “hinders one’s ability to be a God-honoring spouse, parent, son, daughter, grandparent, friend, neighbor, church member, volunteer, and so on.” Furthermore, it is observed that “an over-extended life leads to less God in one’s life, culminating in a less consistent witness—less love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and other virtues—as a leader and simply as a Christian.”
          As such, I ask, “Are you and I too busy to attend to those persons and things that require our time and attention?” The answer is likely to be “yes,” but the question of all questions is, “Are we too busy doing the Lord’s work and not making time or adequate time for the Lord of the work?” It is possible that some of us have experienced that fact –I know that I have. However, I am learning to prioritize my days and balance my schedule to ensure that I spend quality time with God and family, and not neglect my work-related responsibilities.
 
What Happens When We Don't Pray?
            The other article is closely connected, as it speaks about prayer. Titled “What Happens When Leaders Don't Pray,” by Gavin Anthony, it stresses the importance of prayer. Gavin asks, “When people look at us and those we lead, is the presence of God the thing that they can't help noticing? Indeed, could there be anything more irresistible to the watching world than the visible presence of God?” That to me is fundamental –to reflect Jesus; for as noted by a colleague of mine, “God has not called us to success but to faithfulness.” Prayer assumes our dependence upon God for guidance in everything. So often we talk about our skills and ability, but these, as we know, will fail us or become meaningless without a relationship with the Lord. However, a life wholly consecrated to God through prayer and the reading of His word will result in a sense of calm assurance and wisdom from without. Ellen White summarizes the importance of reliance upon God as in the case of Moses: "the assurance that God would hear his prayer and that the divine presence would attend him, was of more value to Moses as a leader than the learning of Egypt or all his attainments in military science. No earthly power or skill or learning can supply the place of God's immediate presence. In the history of Moses we may see what intimate communion with God it is man's privilege to enjoy" (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 533).

The Member’s Role in Church Elections

The Member’s Role in Church Elections

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Know Your Role
Once again we have embarked upon that time of the year when election of church officers takes place. It is also that time of year that tends to generate questions regarding the process and fitness of persons for office. Accordingly, as Ministerial Director, I thought to share a few points with pastors and elders with the hope of assisting. Additionally, I suggest that you consult the Church Manual which would prove most beneficial.
 
How Members Are Elected
            Many of you already know that there is the option of appointing a nominating committee or using the existing church board along with a few other members appointed from the floor. Either way the process of electing members should be carried out prayerfully and objectively. While persons may be nominated to serve for up to two years at a time, my experience has shown that many prefer to commit to one year.  Once the task of nominating appropriate persons is complete, and they having consented, it is now time to present the report to the church in a business meeting. The report with a complete officers’ list is presented.  Less than a complete report would constitute a partial report. In presenting the report to the church, the pastor presents it as a whole and not entertaining a vote name by name.  Copies of the report should be provided for members.  If this is not done, then it should be posted so that all can see.  The Church Manual allows for a one to two weeks wait, unless members request to vote the report just after it is read.  It is good to allow members time to look carefully at the report, for it is possible for the nominating committee to overlook “something.” 
 
Members Have Rights
            Should a member have an objection or question regarding the report, the whole report is referred back to the committee to prevent embarrassment regarding anyone in an open business session.  The objector is allowed to meet with the chairman and or nominating committee.  If the point of objection is valid, the chairman ought to give consideration to the matter and have the committee make the adjustment or changes. The point of objecting ought not to be a trivial matter. On the other hand, a member or members should not knowingly sit back and say nothing if there is information that may guide the nominating committee.  To keep silence and then report or complain to someone else is not right.  Neither is it right to blame the pastor or committee when one had opportunity to do something about the matter. 
 
Prepare! Prepare!
            It is also important that preparation be taken seriously, even if the pastor or elder is well acquainted with the Church Manual, for preparation may lend to a smoother and shorter meeting.  A prior meeting with elders before major meetings is a good thing, as it allows for the local church leadership to discuss and clarify matters and thus at the Board or Business Meeting present a united front.  Of course some members may feel that this is a manipulation of the process.  There is no need to think or feel that way; for many of our elders are capable and professional in church matters and procedures.  

Paying Attention to a Most Needed Emphasis

Paying Attention to a Most Needed Emphasis

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Among the topics that receive less focus and balance attention is that of health reform.  Unfortunately, there are those of us who shy away, and on the other hand, there are those who have a tendency to go overboard.   Accordingly, I attempt to share a balanced article regarding health reform and its obligation and implication for us as leaders. 

 
The Need to Focus on Health Reform
Ever since I read Counsels on Diet and Foods, I have been reminded to give attention to health especially as it relates to diet, exercise and rest.  Additionally, I was re-admonished that “The health reform is closely connected with the work of the third angel’s message” (CD, 74).  Also, Ellen White explained that, “The proclamation of the third angel’s message, the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus, is the burden of our work” (CD, 75).  However, she cautioned in the same context that the Health Message is not “the message;” instead, it is a part of the message; and preachers “should not make this the leading theme in the place of the message” (CD, 74). This statement in no way discredits health reform, but it seeks to give balance. As God’s servants, we must proclaim the total message of our church, which includes health reform. Equally important is that we practice and seek to model what we teach.
 
Health Reform Challenges Us
 Admittedly, many of us would say there are some counsels regarding health that tend to challenge us. Personally, I have felt uncomfortable when I came across certain statements. Nevertheless, I know that God would not send counsels that are not good for His children.  It is His will, as noted in 3 John 2, that His followers are in health physically, spiritually, mentally and socially.  Thus, when we experience a greater quality of life, essentially, we will have a more positive impact on family, neighbors and friends.  This impact no doubt will serve as an entering wedge in terms of reaching others with the good news of salvation. Mrs. White observed, “Much of the prejudice that prevents the truth of the third angel’s message from reaching the hearts of the people, might be removed if more attention were given to health reform. When people become interested in this subject, the way is often prepared for the entrance of other truths” (CD, 76).
 
The Need to Do More
As Seventh-day Adventists, we have been blessed with the health reform message for over 100 years.  Unfortunately, we have not always aggressively and responsibly promoted the health message as we ought to, and in some instances, when we have promoted it, as already noted, some of our presentations have been lacking in balance.  However, today’s diseases and poor examples of lifestyle call us to be more aggressive and accountable. To whom much is given much is expected. We must not be trite or flippant with health reform, and neither must we see health reform as just becoming non-meat eaters. Balance is the key as we practice and teach. Also, we must be extremely careful not to misrepresent or misquote Ellen White, who was very pragmatic and balanced.
 
Make a Start Today
I use this medium to encourage those of you who are advanced in your approach to health principles, to continue to demonstrate what Adventist Christians ought to be; and for those who are in need of added reform, that we will begin to make gradual and incremental steps in improving our eating, drinking and exercise.  Essentially, there is a call for temperance in all that we do.  For even that which is good can be abused.  The many diseases that are common among us and among the people outside the church are very much treatable and manageable, if we would simply subscribe to the diet prescribed for us. 
I urge that as we reform in Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, and in our relationship with our family, that we must not exclude the area of health, if we are to experience a total and meaningful life.  Together, we can do much more to encourage healthful living at our church functions, homes, church schools and certainly our headquarters. Let’s make a start today!

Sharpening the Saw

Sharpening the Saw

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Stephen Covey makes an interesting analogy or application when he refers to the Sabbath principle as “sharpening the saw.”  He penned the following: 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!” So often we fail to pause or stop to sharpen the saw for that which is necessary. Accordingly, I share just three suggestions with you.
 

Sharpening the Saw of Daily Devotion
 According to Mark 1:35, Jesus rose early in the morning, “a great while before day” to commune with His Father. And Ellen White adds, “if the Saviour 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” (SC 93.4). Prayer meant much to Jesus, as He valued His time with God. Therefore He would not miss out on the opportunity to spend such quality time with His father.  So what about us?  How often do we pray? Time spent in prayer will prove beneficial in many ways.  To put it bluntly, I cannot get along without it; so each day, therefore, I pause to talk with God so as to sharpen my saw.
 
Sharpening the Saw of Time for Family and Others
            The Bible says that a man who fails to provide for his family is worse than an infidel (1 Timothy 5:8, NKJV). Many of our societal ills unfortunately stem from a poorly managed family, or a family where mom or dad is too busy for children or each other.  The demand of earning is real, as there are bills to pay and a standard of living to maintain.  However, if we fail to learn how to manage time or create balance, we will make the funds; pay the bills but risk losing our children or marriage.    I am reminded of a story I heard of a youngster who asked, “Daddy how much do you make an hour?”  The father thinking that it was not his son’s business quipped, “Why do you want to know? Go to your bed.”  A few minutes later the father’s heart was touched, so he decided to tell him, “I make $10 an hour.” In response the boy asked his father to lend him $5, and he got his piggy bank and took out $5 to make up the difference to pay for one hour.  The point has been made; children and spouses need quality time.
 
Sharpening the Saw of Church Attendance
The writer to the Hebrews says that it is important that we make time for church attendance. He states, "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). Many are the benefits to be derived from church attendance. Among them are spiritual growth, nurturing and having the opportunity to engage in a useful ministry of serving others and the community. This can be very fulfilling.
So “sharpening the saw” is essential for life.  It is like oxygen to the soul.  The follower of Christ cannot survive without it. Furthermore, consider that each weekend humanity is presented with a day comprising of 24 hours known as the Sabbath. To some, it is called the Lord’s Day. Unfortunately, there are many who feel that to take time off for worship on God’s Sabbath will disadvantage them. Such persons have yet to understand the way and manner God works.  Instead of time lost, one will see time gained in taking the time off “to sharpen the saw.” It is when we pull away from the mundane that we grow in grace and in favor with God. Are you pausing to sharpen the saw, or are you too busy to stop?

Leadership…Church…The One Thing a Leader Must Have

Leadership…Church…The One Thing a Leader Must Have

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Today, I share with you an article sent to me earlier this week by an elder. It is an excellent article for pastors and elders, written by Jamaal Williams (Focus on the Family).
 
Navigating through the call to preach as a young man was incredibly difficult. Questions like “What makes an effective minister?” and “How do you lead and inspire others?,” along with growing into your own leadership and preaching style, can be humbling. One question that I continued to return to was, “How do I influence the people that I’m called to minister to in an effective way?” In their book Spiritual Leadership, Henry and Richard Blackaby argue that leaders seek to influence people too often through three illegitimate ways: “Position, Power, and Personality.”
It can be easy for us to think these ways are not illegitimate because they’re the most common ways that we see people lead. Unfortunately, this is true in the church as well as in secular society. Too often, the church celebrates men with outgoing personalities and prominent positions in such a way that younger ministers seek to imitate them and believe that’s the best way to lead. As the Blackabys point out in their work, ministers need the presence of God more than anything else.
My prayer for my own soul is that I would get to, and remain at, a place like Moses in Exodus 33. In that passage, Moses determines that he and Israel could not move and go forth to inhabit the land God promised them without the Lord being present. In Exodus 33:15, Moses said to him,” If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” Herein lies the one thing that we need as pastors: the presence of God. What we build by our own intellect, giftings, and personality can be taken down in a day. Here are three ways to cultivate and protect the presence of the Lord in our ministries:
 

First, spend undistracted alone time with God.
Moses had an intimate relationship with God. So much so that God called Moses his friend and delighted in speaking to him personally. It is in the early moments of morning or late at night when the kids are in bed that we can especially get away to hear from God. His presence will not manifest itself with us if we’re leading on spiritual emptiness and aren’t making time to spend with Him. In fact, throughout the ministry of Jesus we see him going into isolation so that He can rest and hear from God. We must pray like Solomon did in 2 Chronicles 1:10, “Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people.” As we pray and go before the Lord, we want to fight against our time with Him becoming routine and mundane.
 
Second, remind yourself that living for the approval of others will lead you to despair.
Sometimes, we forfeit God’s presence by being overly concerned with what other people think about us. As a result, this fear causes us to close our ears to God’s will. Suddenly we’re making decisions to be accepted by others. When things turn sour and don’t go the way we think they should, we often forget about or minimize the fact that we didn’t follow the Lord’s voice. Read and mediate on these verses:
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Proverbs 29:25
“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” Luke 6:26
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
 
Finally, Don’t move without confidence that God is with you.
Moses got stubborn in Exodus 33 and refused to move into the promise land without the presence of the Lord. In reading the passage, the reader can sense that Moses was not going to be moved. As leaders, we must see having the Lord’s manifest presence with us as a non-negotiable. When we don’t hear from God, we’re to wait on Him until we do. Many times the presence of God is forfeited through presumption and impatience; both are evidences of pride. Just like King Saul forfeited his throne through impatience, we too will forfeit seeing God’s power at work through us if we’re not careful. David prayed in Psalm 19, “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.” If we move before God calls us to or before we receive direction from him, we move without his presence. Instead of being presumptuous we must pray and wait knowing that God’s thoughts and plans are different than ours.

Praying with Your Eyes Open

Praying with Your Eyes Open
 
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Most of us grew up in homes where we were taught to close our eyes when praying. However, today’s topic is “Praying with Your Eyes Open.” Such a caption is bound to stimulate some reaction sparking some of you to ask, “Is it possible to pray with one’s eyes open?”  In many of the local religious settings, it is not something that is practiced.  However, I hasten to explain that I am not referring to one’s literal eyes but instead the opening of the mind to God as one communes with Him. This is praying with one’s eyes open.  The thought is one I came across some years ago when I purchased a book with the same caption written by Dr. Richard Pratt, a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary.  Essentially, the book helps one to see what is involved in prayer, and hence this article as I focus on prayer.
 
What Is Prayer?
For starts, I note that prayer is not a gift of the Holy Spirit, as it is not listed among the spiritual gifts found in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12 and Ephesians 4. I feel that it is for a good reason that God arranged it this way.  It is no secret that there are some persons who believe that they cannot pray and should not pray, preferring to call upon others as such persons who are perceived to be gifted in the area. However, Ellen White, an inspired author, says, “Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him --SC 93”.  So simply put, prayer is communicating with God as to a friend, denoting a sense of intimacy that God desires with us.  Is it any wonder that Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father?” That speaks to a father-child relationship. An understanding of this lends to praying with one’s eyes open. So it is possible for anyone to come to God in prayer, for it is not our words that impress God but the contrite nature of our heart, and therefore any and everyone can get the attention of God.
 
Aspects of Prayer
In Psalm 54.2, we find three important points: the One to whom prayer ought to be directed, and that is God.  Also, we find the one who ought to pray, and that is each human being; and what is involved in our prayers namely our words.  Observe the passage, “Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.”  Praying with our eyes open involves knowing to whom we address our prayer.  It is not as the Pharisee who prayed thus within himself (Luke 18:11). Instead, it is like that of the Publican who prayed to God (Luke 18:13). Also, David explains that it is us, and not special Prayer Warriors praying to God; and this we do by our words (no negative thoughts intended regarding Prayer Warriors. They serve a useful purpose). We do not need to impress God, for He already knows our hearts.  Through this passage, David helps us to understand that we have a God who is eager to have us come to Him. John Scriven, the old Hymn Writer, captured this idea when he penned, “What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear; What a privilege to carry everything to God in pray!  O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”
 
When Last Did You Pray with Your Eyes Open?
Praying with one’s eyes open is praying with the understanding, knowledge and confidence that God is not only our Creator, but that He is also our Friend.  He is One in whom we can trust with any and everything.  I know that this may not seem so, as some time there may be those who feel that their sins are so heinous that not even God can forgive.  So many are misled and mistaken regarding God’s nature! I need not tell you that this is the work of the devil in getting us to harbor such negative thoughts.  Truth is –we may come just as we are, for God will not reject or ignore one of a contrite heart as already noted.  We need God, because without Him we could not survive. And the good news is that He has made it possible through the means of prayer for all people to reach Him. So let us pray for our nation, as there seems no solution for crime and the fear of crime; let’s pray for those who lead our nation, for they need more than ordinary wisdom; let’s pray for our youth that they will make wise choices; let’s pray for abused spouses and children; let’s pray for the sick and afflicted; yes, let’s pray prayers of thanksgiving; for it is in praying that we begin to see God and understand His will and love for us.

HOMOSEXUALITY

HOMOSEXUALITY

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For the past 2 weeks, I have sought to share the official statements of the church regarding Same-Sex Marriage, and the issues that are likely to confront the church today as a result. However, I conclude the series by sharing the official church’s position on homosexuality. Though voted back in 1999 and revised in 2012, the statement is still relevant for today. The sub topics have been inserted for easy reading and do not take away from the intent of the official statement.
 
Every human being is valuable in the sight of God
The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes that every human being is valuable in the sight of God, and we seek to minister to all men and women in the spirit of Jesus. We also believe that by God's grace and through the encouragement of the community of faith, an individual may live in harmony with the principles of God's Word.
 
Sexual intimacy belongs only within the marital relationship of a man and a woman
Seventh-‑day Adventists believe that sexual intimacy belongs only within the marital relationship of a man and a woman. This was the design established by God at creation. The Scriptures declare: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Gen 2:24, NIV). Throughout Scripture this heterosexual pattern is affirmed. The Bible makes no accommodation for homosexual activity or relationships.  Sexual acts outside the circle of a heterosexual marriage are forbidden (Lev 18:5-23, 26; Lev 20:7‑21; Rom 1:24‑27; 1 Cor 6:9‑11). Jesus Christ reaffirmed the divine creation intent: "'Haven't you read,' he replied, 'that at the beginning the Creator "made them male and female," and said, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?" So they are no longer two, but one'" (Matt 19:4‑6, NIV). For these reasons Seventh-day Adventists are opposed to homosexual practices and relationships.
 
To reach out compassionately to persons and families suffering the consequences of sin
Jesus affirmed the dignity of all human beings and reached out compassionately to persons and families suffering the consequences of sin. He offered caring ministry and words of solace to struggling people, while differentiating His love for sinners from His clear teaching about sinful practices. As His disciples, Seventh-day Adventists endeavor to follow the Lord's instruction and example, living a life of Christ-like compassion and faithfulness.
 
This statement was voted during the Annual Council of the General Conference Executive Committee on Sunday, October 3, 1999 in Silver Spring, Maryland. Revised by the General Conference Executive Committee, October 17, 2012.

ISSUES RE: SAME SEX UNIONS AND HOMOSEXUALITY

ISSUES RE: SAME SEX UNIONS AND HOMOSEXUALITY

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In response to last week’s article on same sex unions, some of you posed questions regarding the topic and how it is likely to impact the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Accordingly, I share this additional statement, which hopefully should address the questions raised.
 
THE CHALLENGES OF STATE LEGISLATION
In a growing number of nations, governments enact special legislative or judicial protection to prevent what they consider discriminatory behavior. Those protections sometimes appear to impair the religious-freedom rights of Seventh-day Adventist pastors, leaders, and Church organizations to employ persons, perform weddings, offer employment benefits, publish missional material, make public statements, and provide education or educational housing on the basis of the Seventh-day Adventist teaching about the sinfulness of sexual behaviors prohibited by Scripture. Conversely, in a number of nations, homosexual or alternative sexual practices result in harsh penalties imposed by law. While Seventh-day Adventist institutions and members may appropriately advocate for preserving the unique and God-given institution of heterosexual marriage in their societies and legal codes, it is the position of the Church to treat those practicing homosexual or alternative sexual behaviors with the redemptive love taught and lived by Jesus.
 
THE MORAL AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS OF THE CHURCH
The Seventh-day Adventist Church will encourage all its congregations, employees, ministry leaders, organizations, and entities to uphold church teachings and faith-based practices in Church membership, employment, education, and marriage ceremonies, including officiating at weddings. These teachings and faith-based practices, built upon the Bible's instructions about human sexuality, are equally applicable to heterosexual and homosexual relationships. It is inconsistent with the Church's understanding of scriptural teaching to admit into or maintain in membership persons practicing sexual behaviors incompatible with biblical teachings. Neither is it acceptable for Adventist pastors or churches to provide wedding services or facilities for same- sex couples.
In upholding these Scriptural standards, the Church relies upon the faith-based exemptions usually and customarily extended by civil government to religious organizations and their affiliated ministries to organize themselves according to their understanding of moral truth. The Church will also attempt to provide legal counsel and resources to Church leaders, organizations, and entities so that they operate in harmony with its biblical understanding of human sexuality.
Congregational leaders, Church employees, ministry leaders, and institutions are advised to review carefully the Church's existing policies with regard to membership, employment, and education to ensure that local practices are in harmony with the Church's expressed teachings about sexual behavior. Consistent expression and application of organizational policies and teachings regarding such behavior will be a key feature of maintaining the faith-based exemptions customarily allowed by civil governments.
 
FAITH-BASED DECISION MAKING IN EMPLOYMENT AND ENROLLMENT
The Seventh-day Adventist Church asserts and reserves the right for its entities to employ individuals according to Church teaching about sexual behaviors compatible with the teaching of Scripture as understood by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. While each institution and ministry operates in its own society and legal climate, each also expresses the worldwide belief system and teachings of the global Church. The Church maintains the right of these ministries and institutions to make decisions based on the teaching of Scripture and will provide legal review of relevant law and ordinances. Wherever possible and feasible, the Church will continue to advocate, both legislatively and in courts of law, for faith-based preferential hiring and enrollment practices for itself and its ministries.
 
THE CHURCH AND PUBLIC SPEECH
The Church asserts the right to express its commitment to biblical truth through the communication it makes available to its members and to various publics, as well as to defend the free-speech rights of its employees to express the Church's teaching about sexual behavior in public environments, including worship services, evangelistic meetings, educational classrooms, and public forums. Church leaders accept the responsibility to keep themselves and Church employees informed about government regulations regarding acceptable speech, and to invite periodic legal review of how those regulations should affect the Church's mission. Those responsible for the Church's official communication and those who preach and teach should emphasize the importance of surrendering all behavior, including sexual behavior, to the transforming power of Jesus Christ. The standard for both published material and public statements about sexual behaviors must be that they are widely understood as both "clear and respectful," expressing biblical truth with the kindness of Jesus Himself.
 
THE CHURCH'S COMMITMENT TO TRAINING AND LEGAL REVIEW
To achieve a consistent application of a "clear and respectful" standard in its ministries, the Church urges all its ministries, including pastoral and evangelistic ministries, educational ministries, publishing and media ministries, and health and medical ministries, among others, periodically to provide training and counsel to employees who interface with the public through media and public presentations. This training should include a review of current national or community law pertaining to public speech about sexual behaviors, and examples of appropriate ways to communicate the Church's beliefs and teachings.
[1] See the Seventh-day Adventist Church's Official Statements about "Same-Sex Unions" and "Homosexuality."
[2] Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists, "Marriage and Family," No. 23.

SAME-SEX UNIONS

SAME-SEX UNIONS

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Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States of America, ruled in favor of granting permission for same sex marriages. As a result, questions have been put to me regarding the church’s position on the same. Consequently, I thought to share two basic positions of our church regarding Same–Sex Unions, and Homosexuality. Therefore, I share with you the following: Same-Sex Unions today and Homosexuality next week. This document was approved and voted by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Executive Committee, October 17, 2012.
 
Over the past several decades the Seventh-day Adventist Church has felt it necessary to clearly state in various ways its position in regards to marriage, the family, and human sexuality. These subjects are at the heart of many pressing issues facing society. That which for centuries has been considered to be basic Christian morality in the marriage setting is now increasingly called into question, not only in secular society but within Christian churches themselves.
 
The institutions of marriage and family are under attack and facing growing centrifugal forces that are tearing them apart.  An increasing number of nations are not only debating the topic of "same-sex unions," but some have already passed various pieces of legislation, thus making it a world issue. The public discussion has engendered strong emotions. In light of these developments, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is clearly restating its position.
 
We reaffirm, without hesitation, our long-standing position as expressed in the Church's Fundamental Beliefs: "Marriage was divinely established in Eden and affirmed by Jesus to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman in loving companionship."1 Though "sin has perverted God's ideals for marriage and family," "the family tie is the closest, the most tender and sacred of any human relationship," and thus "families need to experience renewal and reformation in their relationships" (An Affirmation of Family, 1990).2   God instituted "marriage, a covenant-based union of two genders [male and female] physically, emotionally, and spiritually, spoken of in Scripture as 'one flesh.'" "The monogamous union in marriage of a man and a woman is . . . the only morally appropriate locus of genital or related intimate sexual expression." "Any lowering of this high view is to that extent a lowering of the heavenly ideal" (An Affirmation of Marriage, 1996).3 
 
Homosexuality is a manifestation of the disturbance and brokenness in human inclinations and relations caused by the entrance of sin into the world. While everyone is subject to fallen human nature, "we also believe that by God's grace and through the encouragement of the community of faith, an individual may live in harmony with the principles of God's Word" (Seventh-day Adventist Position Statement on Homosexuality, 2012). 4
 
We hold that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are loved by God. We do not condone singling out any group for scorn and derision, let alone abuse. Still, God's Word that transcends time and culture does not permit a homosexual lifestyle. The Bible's opposition to same-sex unions/marriage is anchored in God's plan at creation for marriage (Gen 1:26-28; 2:20-24), in divine legislation (Lev 18:22; 20:13; 1 Cor 6:9‑-11), and in Jesus' explicit confirmation of a permanent, monogamous, and heterosexual marriage relationship (Matt 19:4‑-6).
1. Seventh-day Adventists Believe: An exposition of the fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Doctrine 23 on 'Marriage and the Family."
2. Public Statement, An Affirmation of Family, released July 5, 1990, at the General Conference Session, Indianapolis, Indiana.
3. Statement voted by the General Conference Administrative Committee on April 23, 1996.

4. Statement voted by the Annual Council of the General Conference Executive

Reflections on 60th General Conference Session

Reflections on 60th General Conference Session
 
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GC - A Proud Moment for ATCU
            It was gratifying to hear mentioned or to read about the Atlantic Caribbean Union (just nearly five years old), on several occasions during the past 60th session of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, in San Antonio, Texas. Seventh-day Adventists will long remember the morning devotion of Monday, July 6th, by Pastor Shiann O'Connor, president of the Cayman Islands Conference, the second largest field of ATCU. In fact, a sense of satisfaction was felt among the entire Inter-American Division delegation in the Alamodome. Pastor Israel Leito, who was returned as Division president, commented: "Shiann did us all proud."  Additionally, I was privileged to present the devotion on July 5th, for the nearly 250 members nominating committee on which I served as one of the 40 delegates from the Inter-American Division. Also, ATCU was honored to have as a delegate Waylon Johnson from the North Bahamas Conference. Having emerged as the overall winner of the IAD Bible Boom, Waylon was rewarded with an all expense paid trip as a youth delegate to the GC session. He was featured on television as well in the Adventist Review magazine. However, a most significant moment was the election of Pastor Al Powell as youth director for the Inter-American Division. Though serving in the St. Andres Island Mission, Columbia, Al is from ATCU specifically, Cayman where he was born. He, together with his Associate Director Louise Nocandy, will have oversight for millions of youth throughout Inter America.
 
Position of Church Regarding Female Pastors
            Since the recent vote at the General Conference session to deny divisions from ordaining female pastors, the question has arisen: "What will happen to current female pastors?" The official position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the same- meaning that female pastors will continue to serve, and female students will continue to study theology and religion, but the church does not ordain them as pastors. Following the vote on Wednesday, July 8, Pastor Ted Wilson, GC president, told delegates at the General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas, that "Wednesday’s vote simply barred the church’s world divisions from making decisions on the ordination of women."  Wilson added, “So let us be clear on what was voted on Wednesday . . . . We are now back to our original understanding, and I would strongly urge all to adhere to what has been voted. But do not place into the vote other things which were not listed in the vote. We need to be fair, we need to be open, and we all need to accept what is voted at a General Conference session." As the Atlantic Caribbean Union is part of the world church, the same applies to the union. We have one female pastor in our union, and she is doing a wonderful job. She as well as any of our female students pursuing theology will continue to be accorded the respect and opportunity to serve where needed by the church.
                                                                                                
Position of Church Regarding Female Elders
            The recent vote did not affect the ordination of female elders and deaconesses. The action of the church to ordain female elders adopted over 20 years ago and a recent decision to ordain deaconesses remain intact. In responding to the GC vote, Pastor Dan Jackson, president of the North American Division, explains, “It is vital to understand that the NAD will continue to follow the directions found in the General Conference Working Policy allowing conferences and unions to license women as commissioned ministers in pastoral ministry. We will also continue to encourage utilizing the services of women as ordained local elders and deaconesses.”
 
 
Appealing Through the Various Levels of the Church
             Regarding amendments to the Church Manual on referring an appeal, Elder Wilson, sought to squash concerns from some church members that a revision to the Church Manual that delegates approved earlier Friday might limit the authority or activities of the General Conference. “The reason for the wording is to limit any … frivolous appeals from coming up through the system,” Wilson said. Essentially, "the amendment gives divisions the right to stop a dispute from reaching the level of the General Conference. The levels where an appeal can be considered in a division include the local church, conference, and union."
 
Where Do We Go?
            Now that the GC session has ended, the Atlantic Caribbean Union forges ahead with its mission agenda in the light of Revelation 14:6-12. In this vein, I note the upcoming mission to the city in South Bahamas Conference beginning in September.  Also, there will be various efforts in North Bahamas, Cayman and the Turks and Caicos Islands during the final quarters of 2015. Your support in terms of your prayers, participation and presence will go a long way in fulfilling the mission. Furthermore, I ask that you take note of the upcoming sessions in our union. Union Session - December 6-7 at the Centreville Church, and the Cayman Islands Conference Session December 9-10 in George Town, and ATCU year-end committee December 11-12. Finally, I urge you to subscribe to the newly launched “Revived By His Word’ initiative under the caption “Believe In His Prophets.”

Forty-two Years Later – What Does that Mean?

Forty-two Years Later – What Does that Mean?

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As the Bahamas prepares to celebrate its 42nd Anniversary of Independence, it comes at a most unsettling  time in the country given the unabated crime dilemma, unemployment, declaration of bankruptcy of a major investment affecting the employment of thousands. Additionally, the news of the recent United States Supreme Court ruling in favor of same sex marriages reverberate in this nation.  Given the aforementioned, how does one celebrate this 42nd independence? In fact, what should independence signify? In light of the questions a few observations are proffered.
 

Independence Calls for a Backward Look

Each year the country is accorded the opportunity to reflect on its past and those factors and happenings that led to the birth of an independent Bahamas back in 1973. Hopefully, this year a deliberate and an intentional look would recapture some of the core valuse that helped to guide the framers of the nation’s constitution. In fact, some 42 years ago the late Carlton Francis noted, “We are a small nation that can be easily permeated by any pernicious influence.” Furthermore he said, “I am saying that [while] we are aspiring to the disciplines of hard work and industry, we are not yet off the ground.”  Though speaking to the casino gambling, the essence of his words is most fitting calling for an evaluation of where the country is today in values and morals. And, of course, that means us, the people, as the country is not a country without people. Are we still courteous and friendly? Do we take pride in our surroundings such as our cemeteries, parks, public centers, as well as public buildings? A current look at the situation would seem to infer that independence means freedom to do as one pleases. That cannot be right!
 

Independence Is not Adverse to Responsibility and Accountability

A nation of 42 years suggests more than growth but, hopefully, maturity marked by responsibility and accountability. There is too much “finger pointing” and blaming especially in government- successive governments. When will the youth of this nation hear leaders admit to wrong doing or missteps? When will they see responsible politics –putting aside party colours and party line for the sake of country? The time of blaming must cease, for maturity teaches accountability and nobility. Equally important is the need for respect for all persons, religious groupings and voted actions. Disregard for law, authority and established mores threatens the stability of a nation, and certainly ours is not excluded. Pastors, teachers, legislators, parents, all must be answerable to authority. Conditions in the country will only get worse if the people and leaders refuse to look at the person in the mirror and address what needs to be corrected.
 

Independence Calls for a Look at the True Framer

While it is true that the Bahamas is built on Christian values, we must not use that to discriminate against Muslims or others who may not subscribe to Christianity. The true nature of Christianity is to demonstrate love for mankind as Christ did. Nevertheless, it is hoped that one’s Christianity will manifest itself in more responsible actions and behavior. The level of committing millions of precious dollars to chance and luck daily makes one wonder where is God in the picture? The drawing of large crowds to a carnival, and staying up all night and day to frolic and party, and the apparent endorsement by a religious leader make one wonder about our claim of Christian values. And now the ruling in the United States regarding same sex marriage confronts us. What influence will the Christian underpinnings have upon the nation? Will our nation yield to the bigger nation? Or will there be a goodly number of persons who will cast a Christlike influence upon the land that legislators will not feel so comfortable in encouraging that which is contrary to God’s plan? On the other hand, Christians must be responsible even in that which is good and acceptable to God. Otherwise, people will lose respect for the church. We must not preach against some sins and condone others.
 

What Do We Do Now?

For starts, let’s engender a sense of community and concern. Development and so called modernization seem to be distancing and disconnecting us in some useful ways. Marble playing and ball playing led to action and movements, but ipads, cell phones and computers could confine us to a spot, albeit contacting one another but not moving around. Technology is wonderful with its inventions, but without deliberate actions, our gadgets can interfere with quality time with one another. Look at a couple at a dinner; look at persons at an airport; look at parents and children. What do you see? In many instances, some device is sharing that space and time. Mind you, the devices are also serving to conect grandpa with grandson though miles apart. The point is --don't let them replace the touch, the look in the eyes as we converse. Beware of the disruption when listening to the word of God. We say we must answer a call or respond to an email. Yes, there will be those necessary times, but don't let them become the norm.
Happy Independence Bahamas! May God bless the Bahamas!

As GC Session Nears - God is in Control

As GC Session Nears - God is in Control

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The above expression has almost become a cliché for Christians. However, the expression is more. It is a statement of confidence, hope and assurance of knowing that God is alive, and genuinely has the interest of all His people and His church under His control.
 
The 60th General Conference Session
As the Seventh-day Adventist Church embarks upon its 60th General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas, it will be confronted with several major decisions relating to the Fundamental Beliefs of the church, resolution on the Holy Bible, confidence in the writings of Ellen White and amendments to the Church Manual. However, it would seem that the main item would be the following question: “Is it acceptable for division executive committees, as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry? Yes or No.
 
Cause for Much Debate
Without question, the latter item has generated much discussion and debate. Some members foresee a division should there be a “yes” vote and “a break away” if there is a “no” vote. This perception has led to individuals becoming proactive in contacting delegates by emails and other means, ensuring their position is advanced. Employing scriptures and the writings of Ellen White, they seek to prove why their position is correct and should be embraced. The feeling is that the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC) should have arrived at their position conclusively. However, the group came to 3 conclusions: one saying “no” to women ordination, another saying “yes” to women ordination and a 3rd position, while reaffirming male headship, is not opposed to the ordination of women if it is to promote unity and advance the mission of the church. Nevertheless, how does the church relate to a post decision reaction once the vote is taken?
 
Towards Unity
In this regard, one may find a presentation by Pastor Mark Finley to the 2014 Autumn Council of the General Conference to be most fitting. Under the caption “Toward Unity in the Body of Christ,” Mark referenced three examples in the book of Acts regarding the manner and response of the early church to settling issues. They are replacing Judas in Acts 1, relating to an apparent neglect of the Jewish Greek widows in Acts 6 and the matter of Gentile conversion in Acts 15. As a result, he observed five essentials that held the church together.
1. Total commitment to Christ. 2. Dependence on the continual guidance of the Holy Spirit.
3. Faithful obedience to the Word of God. 4. Passionate proclamation of a prophetic message. 5. Recognition of the authority of church organization. 
 
Concluding the Matter
Given the attitude of the early church members, current members and delegates may wish to reapply the same principles as the 60th session of the GC kicks off, remembering that God never ceases to be in control. It is crucial that personal position be open to the way that God may choose to lead His church. It behooves the body of Christ to continue to pray sincerely for the will of God to be done; and that the church continues to fulfill its mission in light of the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14. 

A Look at Weddings

A Look at Weddings

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Among the most delightful and joyful celebrations performed by a pastor is that of a wedding, as it affords him the opportunity “to minister in a joyful and spiritual celebration for couples and their families and friends.”  However, it can also turn out to be most embarrassing and disappointing for the same should certain and key guidelines be ignored and not adhered to.  Accordingly, I attempt to share the following suggestions. 
 

Purpose of a Wedding
The purpose of a Christian wedding is to unite in a legal and spiritual manner a man and a woman in holy matrimony as noted in Genesis 2:24. The legal requirement recognizes the laws of the land or a given jurisdiction which are not to be ignored, as God never advocated a disregard for the laws of the land, except for where they conflict with His laws. Spiritually, marriage is ordained of God, and a couple in “tying the knot’ recognizes God and His gift of love and marriage.  Therefore, a couple requests the presence of a pastor. Additionally, careful attention should be given to simplicity and affordability.
 
Prior to Marriage Ceremony
To call upon a pastor to perform a marriage without sufficient notice for counseling is unfair to both the pastor and the couple. The pastor is charged by God to perform diligently and honestly before God and man, and how can he/she when he/she would not have sat with the couple to counsel? The couple does an injustice to themselves and the pastor when he/she is not contacted in a timely manner.  Essentially, they deny themselves the opportunity to intelligently and prayerfully examine each other’s ways and motives.  A couple through counseling may determine that marriage with each other is not for them, and maybe there may be reasons to delay the process.  So omitting counseling can have serious consequences, which are likely to result in a separation and/ or divorce.
Pre-marital counseling addresses subjects such as temperament, finance, family background, religious background, communication, intimacy and -- where deemed necessary -- recommendation of a blood test, etc.
 
Legal Requirement
As marriage is not just a spiritual matter, it is necessary that all relevant forms are completed and required documents supplied to the appropriate government agency, to ensure that all requirements are met prior to the actual ceremony.  Of course, during the counseling, the pastor will see to it that the marriage form is signed and a receipt of the same with an issued license is provided, which is used in preparing the marriage documents to be signed at the end of the ceremony.
 
Church Requirement
Equally important is attention to church procedures involving use of church, permission to move furniture, use of appropriate music and counsel regarding attire as well as availability of the sanctuary. Paying little or no attention to any of these could result in embarrassment and disappointment.
 
Plan in Advance
Essentially, it is necessary that a couple planning to unite in marriage sit with their pastor some time in advance to allow for all of the above mentioned to be attended to. Unfortunately, there would seem to be greater emphasis today on what one wears, guest attendance list and where the reception may be hosted. It should be noted that simplicity and sound judgment regarding affordability are critical; for it is after the crowd would have dispersed that life for the couple begins, and unfortunately for many, it begins with significant bills that tend to stress a couple when they should be enjoying themselves and the extended honey moon. Instead, bills consume their thoughts, time and discussion. This provides a formula for frustration and, at times, for one partner to resort to various means seeking to repress the stress.  The key is to plan and plan in advance seeking the guidance of God.

Funeral Etiquette

Funeral Etiquette

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The passing of a loved one results in grief and in some ways much stress having to relate to insurance companies, place of employment, funeral home, cemetery, family members, and in no way least, a pastor, priest, or elder, etc. And yet, these interactions do not constitute the end of the ordeal for family members, as the funeral service itself can take on the unexpected, turning into a long and drawn-out sitting.  Accordingly, I share a few observations and suggestions.
 
Condolences, Remarks, and Tributes
Pastors and elders should assist the family of the deceased in preparing the program. Thereby, counsel could be given with regard to the number of persons to bring condolences, remarks, and or tributes. My observation is that after two or three persons would have spoken, there is repetition and there seems to be a challenge to stick to the time of 2-3 minutes allotted. It appears that there is an aura about funeral services that influences even the shiest of persons to speak longer than required, especially if encouraged on by hearty “Amens!” from the congregants.  Even pastors and elders could extend the time with each speaking. It is not necessary for all pastors and elders to offer condolences. The conference president, ministerial secretary and /or a church pastor could represent the other pastors and or elders. There is a need to assist the family of the deceased in avoiding the pressure to yield to some last minute requests to speak or sing.
 
Special Music or Musical Selection
Musical selection implies just singing or an instrumental rendition. However, if you have attended a few funerals, you may have witnessed persons giving remarks or a “sermonette” prior to singing or playing, oblivious to the fact that time is moving and that others are to follow, including the pastor with the sermon or homily. In some churches, just before the musical item, an usher escorts the musician/singer to the front and reminds him/her of what he/she is expected to do. Then, as soon as the person before him/her leaves the podium, he/she (the musician/singer) is in place to sing or perform without unnecessarily extending the song or the service. As a footnote, we need to be careful of the message that we are sending when we allow some persons to speak from the main lectern or pulpit and others from below. It may be better to have all persons, except for the platform participants, operate from the lectern below (inclusive of remarks, tributes and musical).  
 
Reading the Obituary
Most persons read the obituary during the funeral proceedings or as soon as they sit down to await the commencement of the service, especially if they are on time and fortunate to obtain a copy of the funeral brochure. So when someone reads the obituary aloud from the podium during the service or requests that everyone reads it silently together, time is being utilized that could be used for another item.
 
Sermon/Homily
It is unnecessary to preach a long sermon, especially after the family and others have been sitting for a long time; neither is it fair to the pastor or priest to have to cut short his or her sermon because persons speaking or performing before the sermon consumed the time, and as a result, a good number of persons leave before hearing the message.  This raises a question: “What is the purpose of a funeral service?”
 
Follow-up
            Following the burial of a loved one is the time when it really counts to stay in touch with the family. Visits, telephone calls and assisting with meals and chores could be very helpful. Of course, while there is no spotlight on them, these acts may be necessary. Pastors and elders, let us do our part to make funeral services shorter and on point. And above all, pay attention to post funeral care and support.

When the Devil Smiles

WHEN THE DEVIL SMILES:
THE CASE FOR SABBATH SCHOOL
BY KEITH L MAJOR

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Introduction
We live in a time when humanity seems to be fast reaching its lowest point. Spirituality is declining significantly. The number of Atheists in the world has doubled, and there is a marked increase in the number of people not associating themselves with a denomination. The Seventh- day Adventist Church has not been unaffected by this. There is a marked decline in spirituality in the church. Some have proffered that institutions like the Sabbath School and its companion the Sabbath School lessons have become outdated, and the program needs to be revamped. We are not meeting the needs of the millennials of this generation. We need to change to meet their needs, they say. It is statements like the above that led me to write this article and its topic: WHEN THE DEVIL SMILES.
 
 
KNOWLEDGE OF BIBLE STORIES
Think of it: all the stories you learned in the Bible inclusive of Creation, Peter rescued  from prison, the strength of Samson, Elijah at Mount Carmel, Jonah in the belly of the fish, Moses, Jesus, Paul and his exploits, to name a few, were learned in Sabbath School at an early age. These are some of the most exciting stories that teachers fed to you. As you got older, you studied more of the details of these stories. This led to your broad knowledge of the stories and memorizing numerous Bible texts that still stick with you. Take away Sabbath School, and it doesn't happen. Therefore, the belief about bringing back spirituality to the church through adjusting the Sabbath School and revamping to meet the needs of the millennials is a treacherous thought.
Before I give you twelve things the Sabbath School does, let me cite a personal experience.
 
MY EXPERIENCE
I resolved to study my Bible every day. I wanted a track to run on- a disciplined way, if you please, to systematically do this. I decided that the study of the Sabbath School lesson, in addition to reading the stated texts, involved much of the texts before and after and any subsequent readings. I found I gained energy and excitement; I also found that I wanted to share in the Sabbath School class. I began to share more than anyone else. This led to the leader letting me teach the lesson for a few years without being appointed teacher. I found that my enthusiasm for study spread among the class, as they wanted to know where I got such insight from. Gradually, more and more of the class began to study until one day the entire class of 18 had studied.
The Sabbath School leaders decided to put me in a new smaller class. Soon that class became the biggest class, as others wanted the excitement and power and information that came from this group. The Sabbath School leaders began complaining that my class was too big and was drowning out the other classes. For me truly, the Sabbath School is my temperature of spirituality.
 
 
12 BENEFITS OF STUDYING THE SABBATH SCHOOL LESSONS
 
1.     An excitement grows within you for the word of God.
2.     You find answers to everyday problems within the Word.
3.     You look for spiritual solutions to all of your concerns.
4.     You find that the readings for each day help you to deal with a specific problem of that day.
5.     Your review on Sabbath morning is more than a review of the lesson but a reminder of how each text helped you overcome the challenges of the week. Emphasizing the power and triumph of Scripture in everyday life.
6.     You get to feel the power from Scripture more than other readings, and you truly see the Word as an answer to daily survival.
7.     Others look up to you as a source of spiritual help and guidance, and they begin to study.
8.     You begin to develop sermons from your knowledge of the Word.
9.     A peace develops in you regardless of whatever happens in the society during the week. You feel you have the answer or know where to get it.
10.  The excitement that you generate spreads, and others seek to copy your attitude.
11.  Bonus: There is excitement in the church. 
12.  Sabbath School attendance improves greatly; It's contagious.
 
Take away those twelve things and the devil smiles. The Book is not being read. Secularism and materialism creep in. Yes, the Bible may be the most sold book on earth in the most languages, but it may be bordering on being the least read. The 66 books and thousands of chapters and verses can make it an intimidating force to the new reader. The Sabbath School and the lessons provide an inroad into charting the course of reading this large tome (book).
 
Every week when the attendance is sparse,
The devil smiles.
When hands don't go up for the study of the lesson plan,
The devil smiles.
When children come to church and know not their memory verse,
The devil smiles.
When you encounter problems and frustrations and haven't read the Word in a week and you come to church frustrated or stay away...the devil smiles.
When the attendance at Divine hour far outweighs the attendance in Sabbath School,
The devil smiles.
When your faith weakens because the hearing of the Word produces faith and were not studying,
The devil smiles.

Baptism in Grand Style

Baptism in Grand Style

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In 2011 when I attended UNDECA, the Adventist University of Central America in Costa Rica, to pursue a short Spanish intensive, I witnessed a baptismal service that continues to echo in my mind. As I recall, it was at the end of a Week of Prayer, conducted by two pastors in the University chapel, one speaking in the morning and the other in the evening. As a church pastor and administrator, acquainted with baptismal services, I observed with keen interest, and to my liking I note the following points that caught my attention:
 
Baptism Was not ad Hoc
It was clear to the worshipers, at least to me, early in the service that a baptismal service was to take place. At the point of baptism, it did not seem an intrusion but very much a part of the divine service. It was also encouraging to see the support for the three candidates as they walked toward the front of the chapel. It appeared to me that these dear ones were fully aware of the service and were ready for the occasion. Equally impressive and touching was the taking of the vows.
The two pastors, who conducted the Week of Prayer services, presented the vows. Sitting and watching, I got a chance to objectively observe what I would have done over the years, and to objectively consider similarities and possible dissimilarities. Listening to the vows allowed me to place myself in the position of a candidate and not the usual role of pastor. This is good, as one is presented with the opportunity to listen and internalize. Do we really think about what it means to live for Christ and to help others be ready for His return? Internalizing the vows forces us to consider what we are doing.  For those of us as elders and pastors, it may be a good thing to take out the baptismal certificate and look over what we pledged.  Hopefully, reviewing the pledge will lead to a renewal of that initial commitment. As a footnote, I noticed that those who stood with the candidates in support did not raise their hands in response to the vows. I am noticing in some instances that more and more persons are raising their hands in response to the vows. While some may argue that it is for support, I ask, “Should anyone other than the candidate raise his/her hand, or just the candidate?”
 
In the Pool
In the baptistery, which could be seen by all worshipers, the pool is elevated with a transparent glass allowing the audience to see the baptism. And guess what was in the pool? - -rose petals, at least that is what they appeared to me, floated on top of the water. But also impressive was the manner in which the pastors were dressed. Yes, adorned neatly in white robes and buttoned shirts with neckties, two pastors conducted the baptismal service. What a sight!  They were smartly dressed for this service. Here is an example for us as pastors and elders. We should ensure that we are always well dressed for the occasion. Observers should be able to tell the difference between the pastor and the candidate.
 
The Lord's Supper
Now if that was not enough, a communion service followed. A short sermon followed the baptism, and the audience was separated for foot washing. That was extra special for the new believers who participated in the foot washing. I was happy to be a part of a group that washed the feet of one of the newly baptized.
So what is the point? It is simple! Let us ensure that we make each baptismal service special and not something to get done or get out of the way. It should be a blessing to the candidate/s, their family, and the wider church body. It should be a service that one never forgets. Above all, it should signal a marriage to Christ. Therefore, let us begin planning because it may be for a son or daughter, relative or friend.  Make it Christo-centric and Christo-friendly.

The Anointing Service

The Anointing Service

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Among one of the special services of the church is that of anointing the sick. In fact a reading of the Book of James would seem to encourage it. However, in recent times there seems to be a move in some places to anoint for every ailment, more frequently and even in mass.  Therefore the following questions are asked: Are these practices in harmony with the Book of James and or even other scriptural references? What is the position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church pertaining to anointing for the sick?  As such I reference two articles taken from the Biblical Research website by Herbert Kiesler and Angel Rodriquez.
 

Looking at James 5:13-18
Herbert Kiesler observes, “Until recently pastors and elders have performed an anointing service in response to a sick member's request. Only in rare cases have they suggested that the ill member consider an anointing service for divine intervention in his behalf. With the new approach it is no longer the sick person who calls upon the elders of the church to pray for him and anoint him with oil. Pastors or elders take the initiative and appeal to large audiences, inviting people to avail themselves of this rite in order to experience healing.”
       Keisler contends that from a critical look of James 5:13-18, “The passage begins and ends with prayer. Furthermore, the admonition to pray runs like a golden thread throughout. From this one gets the impression that the author, James, a brother of our Lord, was a man of prayer. “  However, James' prescription for the sick in the congregation states, "If anyone suffers ill [kakopathei] among you, let him pray. Is anyone cheerful, let him sing a psalm" (vs. 13). "Is anyone ill [or delicate]?[1]  Let him call to himself the elders of the church and let them pray over him anointing him with oil" (vs. 14). Accordingly, Keisler concludes that there are two prescriptions: “First the ill person is to take the initiative to call on the elders of the church.[2]  In some cases the elder(s) may suggest to the ill person to consider the option of anointing, but then leave it up to the sick member actually to call on the elders of the church.”
 
Scriptural Implications
The anointing service is to be conducted for believers, more specifically those who have accepted the third angel's message.  
      While the sick person ought not to hesitate to call upon the elders to intercede for him, his desire to be anointed should be motivated by the Holy Spirit. Since such an experience touches on the most intimate relationship of an individual with God, we hold that this service ought to be conducted in an atmosphere of privacy free from the group dynamics at work in large gatherings.
      Since we are deeply concerned that this current trend of group anointings may draw its inspiration from charismatic circles, and since there is always the danger that such a practice may end up as routine exercise, we hold that ministers and elders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church should abide by the guidelines given to us in the Scriptures and in the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy. As we have seen, in one case of severe illness, Mrs. White deferred making a request for the anointing service for an extended time. This indicates her respect for the sacredness of this rite. She turned to the anointing service only as a last resort.
      Therefore, we discourage the practice of making general appeals in large gatherings for people to participate in an anointing service. It does not fit the scriptural and Spirit of Prophecy pattern.
      We suggest that pastors, evangelists, and elders consider the following procedure instead:
      1. Elders meet at the home of the ill person or at his bedside in the hospital.
      2. After a word of greeting one of the elders should read the passage James 5:13-18.
      3. It is in order for one of the elders to briefly yet very gently ask the sick person whether he understands the meaning of the passage, the nature of his illness and whether he has made things right with God and his fellow men, including confession and reconciliation. He should be asked if he senses that the Holy Spirit is directing in this service and that ultimately God's will is to be done.
      4. The sick person is then anointed with oil and the elders lay hands on the ill while one prays.
 
Anointing the Masses
Ángel Manuel Rodríguez also discourages the practice of anointing in masses.  He argues, “There is no biblical support for the practice of anointing the sick in large or small numbers during public religious meetings. James made clear that this was a private religious ceremony. A misinformed practice of anointing could easily lead into an overemphasis on the miraculous and the emotional. When that occurs, the reliability of a religious experience is usually determined by a supposed encounter with the Spirit of the Lord, independent of the witness of Scripture. We are people of the Word, and we should continue to give it its central role in the life of the church. Faith and practice must be judged by the clear instruction of the Holy Scripture.“

Accessing Resources

Accessing Resources


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(In light of the Year of the Pastor, I thought to share a few articles on ministry. Today, I present the second in a series.)
There have been times that I have been asked regarding resources for elders and pastors. Without question, there are numerous books and tools for such persons electronically and otherwise.  However, for this weekly I will attempt to recommend certain basics or essentials. You may wish to add to my list.
 

Considering a Particular Bible Version
The question of Bible Version generates much discussion from time to time. Some persons hold strongly to the view that it must be the King James Version or nothing else. As such the question arises: “Is it wrong to use other versions such as the New International Version, the Revised Version or the English Standard Version?  Really, it depends on you and your liking. Given the research one will find some of those versions quite useful, especially the Interlinear Hebrew and Greek English Standard Version.  It is a gem and easy to read.  However as a rule of thumb, it is wise to consider what the majority of members use in a given church as to make an initial connection. Personally, I prefer the New King James Version for preaching but would quote the King James Version as to make the connection with my audience and to show the distinction in some verses.  For example, in 1 Thess. 4:15 of the KJV the word “prevent” is used in speaking of the righteous living at the time of Christ’s second coming, whereas in the New King James it says that those that are alive shall not “precede” them that are asleep. In this instance, the NKJV provides a stronger and clearer meaning according to the original language.
I would also advise that one use as many versions as possible in preparation, but in delivery of a sermon or Bible study, keep it simple. Also, I would encourage wise use of paraphrases such as the Good News and the Message Bibles. While these may appear appealing in modern language, they may not accurately reflect the original meaning.
 
Related Tools
For today’s pastors and elders, there are countless Bible softwares. Nonetheless, I recommend the Logos Bible software as it is upgradable, expandable and interfaces thus allowing the inclusion of the Ellen White collection as well as the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentaries. In fact, there is an Adventist version consisting of many of the works of leading SDA scholars and writers. Additionally, it contains numerous Bible versions, commentaries, concordances, Bible dictionaries, devotionals, practical books and more. Fortunately, we no longer need to import teachers for logos as we are able to teach this software thus making training accessible for the entire union.
In addition, elders and pastors would want to have in their possession The Church Manual, The Minister’s Manual and the Elder’s Manual. These are essential tools for understanding the church and the roles and function of pastors and elders within the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
I need to reemphasize the Ellen White collection or commonly referred to as the Spirit of Prophecy books. It would be irresponsible of a pastor or elder to neglect the inspiration, counsel and commentaries provided by one inspired by God. The evidence of proof is found in reading such books prayerfully and applying their principles and instructions. I would also caution against the temptation to use these in place of the Bible or as a means of chastising and lambasting anyone or group. The author, were she alive, would strongly discourage such use, for she regarded her writings as the “lesser light” to lead to the Bible, “the greater light.”
            Also, the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is a must.  This book provides a concise study of each doctrine.
 
Additional Tools
One would also wish to consider the local newspaper, news journal and periodicals such as the Ministry Magazine for pastors and the Elder’s Digest for elders. In short, these are all wonderful, but supreme to all of the above is the Bible. It is the book of books. Prayerfully sought and read, it will make one wise and rich in practical knowledge. There is simply no replacement for the Bible; and the beauty that is found is not in admiring it or having as many as one can purchase, but in reading it daily. A positive change is guaranteed. At the upcoming Book Day throughout our Union, make plans to add to your library and more so enrich the life of another in procuring a good book from the local Adventist Book and Nutrition Center.

Overcoming the Hurdles of Ministry

Overcoming the Hurdles of Ministry

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In light of the Year of the Pastor, I thought to share a few articles on ministry. Today, I present the first in a series.
A Focus on the Family reports “a whopping 1,500 pastors will leave their churches . . . due to moral failure, burnout or contention within the congregation” (Pastors and Wives at the Breaking Point - Adventist Review online). Essentially, the above reference underscores problems and challenges within pastoral ministry. Given this reality, how does one handle the challenges and woes brought on by parishioners and colleagues? In this regard, I share the following points:
Remind Yourself of God’s Call
To remind oneself of God’s calling is to reassure oneself of his/her purpose and reason for being in ministry.  It is like asking the questions, “Who am I?” “What am I doing in ministry?” “Why should I continue?” It is human to be affected and experience hurt and even failures, but it is crucial to know why one is in ministry and why one should continue. The Apostle Paul referred to his calling to the Gospel Ministry about three times in the book of Acts, chapters 9, 22 and 26. Additionally, this allows for refocusing and a deeper sense of commitment. It also allows for a sense of fulfilment and meaning as one engages in ministry to the church. 
Expect Criticisms
Admittedly, no one enjoys being criticized, even at times if the criticisms are constructive. We would rather receive praises, accolades and even flattery.  However, that would not be right, especially flattery, as it fails to confront honesty. Hearing week after week, “That was a great sermon” may lead one to expect this always; and when it does not come, it may be disappointing.  Personally, I enjoy when members remark, “I have been touched,” or “I never thought that was in the text,” etc. 
By your anticipating criticism, it tends to cushion the blow. Also, if a pastor can accept the criticisms objectively, he or she may discover some good advice for free. And except for the discomfort of the criticism, he/she will be better off for it (depending on one’s personality, for some of us handle criticism well and some not so well).  I am tempted to share one experience, but to do so would be to give away the person and setting. Nonetheless, I note that on one occasion when I was criticized, I went to the member’s place of employment; and upon confronting the person, I discovered that the information given was true, but the manner in which it was presented was not pleasant. However, I learnt a valuable lesson that works for me even to this day.
Establish a Prayer Ministry
It is no secret that one of the most effective weapons that a pastor has is that of prayer.  Prayer enables one to elevate his or her thoughts on a power bigger and higher than self, as opposed to focusing on problems, issues and the mundane.  Develop the practice of praying for difficult persons by name. It is hard to pray for one and wish a person evil. More so, it is in praying that one depends on God to grant wisdom, solution and courage if required to confront albeit tactfully or in a Christ-like manner. In praying for those who criticize and give you a difficult time, you will find that you are in good company, as Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Stephen, one of the seven deacons, prayed a similar prayer.
Plan Your Days
To leave your day open is to leave time to pity self and situation.  On the other hand, strategizing to have an effective ministry allows for freshness, innovation and a sense of structure. Ensuring that I make time for personal devotion, exercise, family, sermon preparation, visitation, and personal development is important. There is some truth to the expression, “the devil finds work for idle hands.”
Finally, observe that when one does his/her best, he/she must accept that and not allow others to place guilt trips on him/her. Do your best each day, and leave everything to God.

Seventh-day Adventists and the Environment

Seventh-day Adventists and the Environment
 
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Stewards of the Environment
In Genesis 2:15, it is observed, “God took man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (KJV). By implication, it would seem that God intended that mankind should treat nature with respect and not abuse it.  In accordance with this, “Seventh-day Adventists believe that humankind was created in the image of God, thus representing God as His stewards, to rule the natural environment in a faithful and fruitful way” (Voted at the General Conference session in Utrecht, the Netherlands, June 29-July 8, 1995). The statement also notes, “Increasingly, men and women have been involved in a megalomaniacal destruction of the earth's resources, resulting in widespread suffering, environmental disarray, and the threat of climate change.” 
 
Human Selfishness –a Basis for Environmental Destruction
        Besides, “it is clear from the accumulated evidence that the increasing emission of destructive gasses, the depletion of the protective mantel of ozone, the massive destruction of . . . forests, and the so-called greenhouse effect, are all threatening the earth's eco-system.”  Unfortunately, these problems are “largely due to human selfishness and the egocentric pursuit of getting more and more through ever-increasing production, unlimited consumption and depletion of nonrenewable resources.”  These issues result from human’s failure to be good and responsible stewards in “dressing and keeping” that which God has entrusted to us. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to do something to help reverse or minimize further negative effects to planet earth.  What can we do?  I suggest some ideas that were shared with me.
 
Practical Ways of Caring for the Environment
            For starts, let’s ensure that our surroundings are kept clean.  Failing to rightly deposit our waste can do damage to nature.  Allowing oil to be thrown on the ground may seem harmless, but untold damage is being done to our water supply. Having old or derelict motor vehicles and appliances certainly do not help the environment; for they may give off oil and other harmful liquids that could seep into the ground. Uprooting all of our trees, unnecessarily, to build also is unfortunate, especially if we fail to replant some trees.  Thank God for the celebration of Earth Day, for we are reminded to go green in our paint selection and also to use paper bags or green bags as opposed to plastic ones.
            When we go to the beach, we want to ensure that we collect our garbage. Leaving them on the shore does not only pose a problem to the ecosystem, but also the marine
life is put at great risk when plastic bags and empty cans get into the sea.
            Likewise, it is important that we service our cars regularly to minimize harmful emissions into the air that we breathe. Essentially, it may do us good to note that our lives are tied to protecting nature and the environment. So we can team up leaders with the Pathfinders, other members and concerned citizens to clean up our neighborhoods, or sections of the islands as well as educate persons to the importance of protecting Mother Earth. Finally, I note again from our official statement, “Seventh-day Adventists advocate a simple, wholesome lifestyle, where people do not step on the treadmill of unbridled consumerism, goods-getting, and production of waste. We call for respect of creation, restraint in the use of the world's resources, reevaluation of one's needs, and reaffirmation of the dignity of created life.”

Is Adventist Education Worth It?

Is Adventist Education Worth It?

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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 supplied 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:
1.     They are very clear and unapologetic about their mission.
2.     Their goals and objectives stimulate attitudes and processes of operation that convey academic and behavioural expectations which are consistent with their mission.
3.     Their personnel (faculty and staff) exemplify institutional ideals and are selected with this in mind.
4.     They provide their students with opportunities for service and outreach, and inspire them to make a contribution to society and to the church.
5.     Their programs are strong in quality and content.
6.     Parents, constituents, and church leaders perceive the education as excellent and well worth the cost, and provide solid financial support.
7.     The school, the local community, and the church constituency collaborate for success.
8.     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.

Adventist Education –Is It Optional?

Adventist Education –Is It Optional?

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A Must Read!
            In 2009 I was introduced to a book titled How to Kill Adventist Education.  The caption really got my attention; and thus I obtained the book, and read it. The author, Shane Anderson, an Adventist pastor, shows from studies and surveys how to kill Adventist Education, but more importantly, he explains how to give it a fighting chance.
 
A Growing Membership but a Waning School Enrollment
            Pastor Shane explains at the time of his writing that while the North American Division (NAD) membership has grown by 79% (from 606,430 members to approximately 1,082,900) over a 28 year period, from 1980 to 2008, unfortunately, during the same period K-12 enrollment in the NAD decreased by 33% (18, 157 students).  I imagine that this reflects a similar trend for other divisions of the world church. Locally, within the region of the Atlantic Caribbean, I suspect some similarities. Like you, I asked, “Why?”  It was in examining this work that I noted some similarities between Shane’s findings and my assumptions. More so is this seen in the chapter of the book where Shane lists what he refers to as secondary and primary causes based on the NAD studies.
 
Looking at the Causes
            The secondary causes arrived at in talking with parents point to tuition costs and poor marketing. However, Pastor Shane prefers to consider the primary causes, which I believe are essentially the main reasons for a decline in enrollment. He lists six of them:
1.    A lack of passion among churchgoing members for being what he termed “conservative”
Seventh-day Adventists
2.    A misunderstanding of what constitutes biblical discipleship
3.    Poor pastoral support of Adventist education
4.    Poor parenting
5.    The inroads of postmodernism, secularism, and “liberalism” in Adventism
6.    Poor quality schools
            Looking at these reasons objectively, one would recognize some or at least one, two, three or all of these as possible reasons where he/she is. However, some would rather say that the jury is still out. Some of you will recall that there was a time when Adventist education got full attention and promotion by both pastors and elders. Truth told that is not the case today. Years ago, at least in the West Indies, it was rare for elders and pastors (and church officers in general) to send their children outside the church education system. Not the same anymore.  Could it be that the postmodern thinking has impacted our church? Could it be that there is a lack of passion among churchgoing members for “conservative” Seventh-day Adventism? Could it be that parents are listening to their children as opposed to the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy counsels? Then could it be that our current education facility is inadequate?  Is our academic offering meeting the needs of the students? As noted, it could be all or any of these; and we need to address them. I think we ought to start by refocusing on the purpose of Adventist education.
 
 
Purpose of Adventist Education
            The primary objective of Adventist Christian education is to lead our young people “into a saving relationship with Jesus” (Anderson).  Ellen White puts it another way by saying, “the primary purpose of education is to lead students to God for redemption” (Education, pp.15, 16). No wonder she penned that, “the work of Education and the work of redemption are one” (ibid p. 30). The goal is to bring every person “back to at-one-ment with God, his fellowman, his own self, and the natural world” (Anderson).  Essentially, Adventist Education is not geared just to make scholars; however, when God’s blue print is followed, students will excel and achieve their potentials. Nevertheless, its main aim is to save our young people.  But this can never take place without the aid of the Holy Spirit. So it is important that all stakeholders (the School Board, administration, pastors, elders, the entire school staff and church members) understand and accept this concept.
 
Not an Option but a Must!
            When the true aim is comprehended, I would imagine that one would conclude that Adventist education is not an option but a must. Readers, when we take the position that it does not matter, or we pursue prestige and bypass God’s plan, how can we expect God’s favor? George Knight in one of his many works (Myths in Adventism) explains the church’s reason for spending millions of dollars to support Adventist education. “The answer . . . has of necessity a link to the purpose of Adventist education. If Adventist schools serve a sufficiently distinctive and important purpose, the achievement of that purpose is worth their cost. Establishing and clearly understanding the true object of Christian education is therefore crucial to the continued support and operation of Adventist schools. In fact, the most important educational understanding a Christian can arrive at is related to the purposes, aims, and goals of education . . ..”
            For Adventist education to gain its rightful place, it is going to take a response to the six points noted by Shane Anderson. Yes, it will take school administrators, staff, union, conference and church leaders (pastors and elders) to buy into and provide adequate funding. We cannot afford to lose our future (meaning our children).  It will require members to see more than just the present world but the world to come. Yes, it will require patience, or should I say conversion to God and Adventism and staying on course with what is outlined in God’s word and the Spirit of Prophecy writings?

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?

He’s Alive and Alive Forevermore!

He’s Alive and Alive Forevermore!

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Bill and Gloria Gaither are known for writing and producing such songs as “He Touched Me,” “Something Beautiful,” “Let’s Just Praise the Lord,” and “The King is Coming” among others.   Another of the over 400 songs written by this musical duo that strikes a responsive chord in many is “Because He Lives.”  Since 1970, its lyrics have engendered hope and assurance, and at this special time in Christendom, such emotions are even more potent, as the song speaks to the certainty of Christ’s resurrection.
            The timing and occasion of the writing of “Because He Lives” was characterized by “great turmoil” due to the prevailing drug culture. And if that were not enough, the Vietnam War was being waged. Also, it was at this time that Benjy, their first son, was born. With two girls already and now a son, the Gaithers wondered about the turbulent times.  Uncertain and somewhat discouraged about what was happening during the period of the late 60s and the beginning of the 70s, they were inspired to pen the words: “How sweet to hold our newborn baby and feel the pride and joy he gives, but better still the calm assurance this child can face uncertain days because He lives.”  So heartened and reassured, they reasoned that because Christ lives, they and their children could embrace the future unafraid. 
Given the difficulties and uncertainties of the present, we, too, may be fearful about what lies ahead.  But, just like Bill and Gloria did, we need to find solace in the fact that we “can face uncertain days [with some assurance] because Christ Jesus lives.” Not only is He alive, He is here and everywhere, supplying grace, forgiveness, eternal life, and strength to overcome our daily struggles. And there is more: He is capable of supplying our every need just because He lives! Let me explain.
 

Facing the Uncertainties of the Present and Future
            We all love the feeling of confidence derived from knowing that there is someone who knows the way or understands a situation we are about to face.  Realizing that we are not alone and that we have some indication as to how the matter is likely to turn out reassures and gives a sense of calmness. We have that assurance in Christ.  The writer of the book of Hebrews noted, "We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin" (Hebrews 4:15, The Message). Is it any wonder that in the next verse we are given the invitation, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16, NKJV)?
            Few would deny that these are the days that require the help of one who knows the times and what to do. That person is definitely Christ.  As God, He knows everything! He is all-powerful and, as noted already, possesses everything we need or could ever need! Essentially, He is in control, for nothing takes Him by surprise. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians contends, "And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:17, NKJV). Christ is alive and now intercedes on our behalf before His Father, and, therefore, like Bill and Gloria Gaither, we can face the present and the future with certainty “Because He lives.”
 
 
 
Christ’s Resurrection Gives Meaning
             It is a known fact that if one can find meaning or a reason to live, he or she is likely to shun despair and suicide.  It is when a person perceives that there is no reason to live that he feels inclined to let go and quit; but with Christ infusing hope, one now has a different outlook. What once seemed dismal and gloomy now appears to be optimistic and promising. Although the situation is still likely to be the same, looking unto Christ changes a person’s viewpoint or attitude toward his or her seemingly hopeless condition.  As one who has had many challenges and who continues to face daily hurdles, I have discovered that the secret to rising above them is keeping my focus on Christ and trusting in His promises. Indeed, the advice found in these words of the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” is worth heeding: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face; And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
            Maybe this explains why some persons who know not Christ view Christians as being weird people; for they question, how can they be so cheerful or positive in such tough economic times with these imposed new taxes? How can they still praise the Lord when they have been laid off or diagnosed with cancer?  Truth be told, it is not the Christian, it is Christ and His resurrection.  Like Bill and Gloria Gaither declared, “Because He Lives, we, too, can live.” 
Inspired writer Ellen White encourages all Christians to “spend a thoughtful hour in prayer each day on the life of Christ especially the closing scenes which take in the resurrection.” In the face of the increasingly tumultuous times, this hour of prayerful reflection will certainly give one inner peace and quiet joy. Therefore, I ask that you read about and meditate on the life of Christ and rejoice in His resurrection, recognizing that “Because He Lives, you can face [today and] tomorrow.”

No Need to Bypass the Book of Daniel

No Need to Bypass the Book of Daniel

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When last did you read the Book of Daniel? It was possibly a long time ago, recently or never. Some persons may ask, “Where is that book found?” Persons tend to shun the books of Daniel and Revelation, as they appear hard to understand. “There are simply too many images lacking relevance for us today,” admit some individuals. Even some Christians bypass these two books preferring to read the gospels, psalms and proverbs, for they make for easier reading. However, if we are to gain an understanding of the past, the present and the future, then Daniel and Revelation are a must. We will certainly understand some of the current issues and ills. Therefore, I encourage a study of the Old Testament book of Daniel.
 
Looking at Daniel 1-6 (Narratives)
            For starts, let's consider the author. Who wrote this Old Testament book? It was Daniel, a young Hebrew captive taken to the city of Babylon in 605 B. C. When Babylon overpowered his nation of Judah, he and some of his Jewish friends were removed from their home and taken as captives to Babylon, then the strongest nation of the world under the leadership of King Nebuchadnezzar. Christ recognized Daniel as author as noted in Matthew 24:15. There He says,  “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, (whoever reads, let him understand:)...." These words of Christ not only confirm the authorship of Daniel, but they again underscore the need to read and understand the book of Daniel. It is to be known for more than just some of its familiar stories. It is also known for its relevance for the present.
 
Breaking Down the Book of Daniel
            The Book of Daniel is divided into two sections: Daniel 1-6 and Daniel 7-12. Daniel 1-6 is regarded as the narrative section. It comprises of those familiar stories such as the capture of Daniel and his Hebrew friends in Daniel 1; and also their faithfulness and loyalty to God in not compromising their principles even in a foreign place. Daniel 2 speaks of a dream by Nebuchadnezzar, which he could not remember. However, God would expose the so-called magicians and elevate Daniel and his companions by making known the dream and its interpretation to Daniel. Chapter 3 is even more familiar. It records the well-known story of the golden image erected by Nebuchadnezzar and the refusal of Daniel’s Hebrew companions to worship it or (by extension) Nebuchadnezzar. In Chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar is humbled; and in chapter 5, there is a new ruler namely, the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, who holds a feast ignoring the true God; and finally, Daniel 6 which comprises possibly the best known story of the Bible --Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Therefore, it can be argued that the Book of Daniel is not that difficult thus far.
 
Looking at Daniel 7-12 (Visions)
            In order to comprehend this section (chapters 7-12), it is important to refer back to the themes of Daniel chapters 1-6. You will discover that they are paralleled in chapters 7-12. For instance, the destruction of the temple, the persecution of God’s people, the longest time prophecy, judgment, and finally God standing up for His people and delivering them. However, you will discover that there is a repeating of the prophecy of Daniel 2. Instead of one image as noted in Daniel 2, in Daniel 7 there are 4 great beasts referring to the kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. Likewise in Daniel 8, there is the vision of the Ram and the Goat. The Ram with the two horns, one being higher than the other refer to Medo-Persia. Additionally, the male goat with a notable horn between his eyes refers to Greece, but the large horn was broken into 4 pieces pointing to the dividing of the kingdom of Greece into 4 kingdoms. Then finally, there is reference to the little horn growing “exceedingly great”. Persecution is associated with this little horn. This was troubling to Daniel, and rightly so, as this system persecutes the saints of God and attempts to change God's law. Whereas Daniel 2 speaks about pagan Rome or imperial Rome, there is clear reference to Papal Rome in Daniel 7, 8 and 9.
 
What Is the Point?
           God wants us to know what is happening, what will happen in our world, and the importance of being ready for His return. More importantly, the book of Daniel offers the present generation a sense that God is in control; and while it may appear that our world is spiraling out of control, the events of these last days will usher in the eternal kingdom of God - one that will stand forever. It gives the church a perspective that otherwise would lead men and women to despair for example the feet of the image of Daniel 2, refer to the divided kingdoms of Europe. This period precedes the kingdom of God. Daniel therefore provides a knowledge of the future today, and based on what has been fulfilled, the prophecies of Daniel can be trusted. Is it any wonder that the enemy would seek to prevent persons from reading and understanding Daniel and Revelation? People fear and despair for a lack of knowledge, but this needs not be the case for us. Our loving God is not willing that any be lost; therefore, He has prepared a plan whereby we might know and be aware of the situation in the world. No matter how dismal current affairs may appear, God's word teaches that there will be an end to it, and we will have a new experience in Christ. Shouldn't this motivate followers of God to be eager in sharing this knowledge?

The Joy of the Judgment

The Joy of the Judgment

gav

 
Have you heard “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10), and “And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27)? Admittedly, judgment tends to evoke a sense of fear and consternation with many - and for obvious reasons. The very name judgment conjures up trial, investigation, sentence, and of course the attending questions, “How will I look?” “Will I pass the scrutiny?” Nevertheless, my topic is “The Joy of Judgment.”  Is that possible?
 

Looking at the Judgment
            The Bible refers to different phases of the judgment such as the pre-Advent phase (Daniel 7:9, 10), the judgment by the Saints referred to as the millennial judgment (1 Corinthians 6:1-3), and the executive or final phase (Revelation 20;5, 6). And some add another judgment, which takes place during a partial resurrection of those who pierced Jesus. According to Revelation 1:7, they are being raised up to see Him.
 
Bring It On
            Doesn't this sub topic, “Bring it on,” sound a bit presumptuous? Who asks for judgment? I would imagine that few persons would think to do so. However, as I read Psalm 7:8 and Psalm 26, the Psalmist, with much boldness, is asking God to judge him. Essentially, he is saying, “Bring it on.” To some this would seem ludicrous, but not when one knows the purpose of judgment, who is in charge, and who will represent him in the judgment. Without a doubt, David knew the answers to all these questions.  The judgment allows for the truth to be known as it vindicates God’s people. Secondly, while God the father is Judge, according to John 5:22, He has committed all judgment to Jesus the Son, who is our advocate or defense attorney. That undoubtedly is good news!
 
Good News
            It is highly unusual for the same person who represents you to sit as judge. It is unthinkable in our court system. It would not work.  Of course, there are those who pull strings and pay under the table, but with God none of that is possible, for David refers to Him as the “Righteous Judge.” I have come to realize that the key is to know Him; and that we do through a daily relationship with Him. Prayer, Bible study, church attendance and Christian witnessing allow for growth in understanding and appreciating Jesus. Thereby we are able to approach the judgment with much confidence, for we know in whom we believe; and we know that He is able to deliver us. And just in case a further point of assurance is needed, consider these poignant words: “He who dwells in the heavenly sanctuary judges righteously. His pleasure is more in His people, struggling with temptation in a world of sin, than in the host of angels that surround His throne” (Christ Object Lessons, p. 176). Given the aforementioned, I say, “Bring it on!”

Responses to the Articles on Visitation

Responses to the Articles on Visitation

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It is not that often that I generally share feedbacks and reactions received weekly, in response to my articles. Nevertheless, I posit some of the responses related to my two most recent articles on visitation.

Response 1
Great article sir! But two points.
First of all the drive for new members is fueled by the organizations baptismal objectives which in some cases pastors are rewarded for baptisms.... Leads to baptism at all costs...
Often bible workers are used to assist in this attainment of baptismal goals... The only relationship the newcomer has with anyone is the bible worker.... So the members have no established relationship from a babe...
To then ask members to befriend them????
Second point:
We live in a time when people aren't neighborly and friendly.... People no longer invite people home. I think the best solution is for each church to have fellowship dinners every Sabbath and have people cater to them..
These are my views sir.

Good Morning Sir,
Great article as always, One of the points that are left out could be the reduced level of worship and soul winning activities.....let's face it, during an evangelistic campaign if you have a Mark Finley or CD Brooks, there is a huge letdown of quality of preaching and also effort to produce quality service.....everyone is happy and excited over you becoming baptized.... This wanes immediately after baptism.
Secondly, many new converts aren't given welcome packages that should include hymnal, bible, quarterly, and steps to Christ along with named ministries that they should enjoy.
Thirdly, I attend the formation of members at the last crusade by pastor Peter Joseph.
On that evening, a Wednesday, which meant limited turnout, the pastors were paraded in front of the members and told of their churches.....was a long process that made no sense.....
It is my belief that in the day of the big baptism, they should be allowed to go home and change and come back for a big feast.... Each church should have a grouping of the pastor, elders, Sabbath school leaders, auxiliary leaders and they move through the new believers selling them in the benefits of their church.
Fourthly, our recent focus in the last ten years in children's ministries is very good seeing the best age of between 4- 14 is focused on for conversion..... Many of our youth who grow up in the church just like new believers, leave silently for thirty years..... Almost every family has one or more or all of their children no longer attending church....

Response 2
Bull's eye Pastor Johnson. As you are fully aware, while some remain at the newborn and toddler stage others hit the ground running by participating, witnessing and even bearing immediate fruit by "winning" a family member or friend.

Response 3
Mark Finley has some interesting points that each Pastor and Church Leader/Member should give heed and consideration to.

But I would like to add to the list proper indoctrination of people before baptism.
We have moved into fast baptism age, like fast food, place your order at this five to ten day series and you are kingdom bound, because The Truth has been preached. Some who are baptized have not attended more than three meetings.

But the minister is given a quota for the year. Falling that he have not earned his keeps.
So he is not a good minister.
So in they come through the front door, and the back door is wide open because the very things Mark wrote are not in place.


Response 4
Thank you Pastor Johnson for your continued effort to address this very important matter of conservation. Permit me, if you don't mind sir, to quickly add, THAT WE ALSO NEED TO FOLLOW CHRIST'S UNFAILING DIRECTIONS: Mat. 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Please note, dear Pastor Johnson, HOW MANY TIMES AFTER BAPTISM DO YOU SEE THE WORD "T E A C H"??????
Technically TWICE. "BAPTISING" is only mentioned ONCE. The pronoun "YOU" or "YE", referring to the EVANGELIST or PASTOR is mentioned THREE TIMES. "I", referring to CHRIST or GOD, along with FATHER, SON and HOLY GHOST are mentioned FIVE TIMES!!!

PLEASE! Sir. DO THE MATH: BAPTISING ONCE; TEACH/TEACHING, TWICE: YOU/YE, TWICE; GOD, FIVE TIMES.

Conclusion: if the NEW BELIEVERS are properly TAUGHT and the TEACHING CONTINUES (from the PULPIT) as well as WEEKLY BIBLE CLASSES, by the "YOU" meaning Pastor/Evangelist or "LEADERS" who KNOW DOCTRINE, GOD, CHRIST AND THE HOLY SPIRIT will KEEP THEM IN THE CHURCH!!!!

While Mark Finley's pointers are good, they run miles behind the CONTINUAL TEACHING OF TRUTH/DOCTRINE!!!

May Almighty God continue to bless you, your wife and children, the Union team and His Great Remnant People!


Response 5
Important truths in this article, Pastor Johnson, but critical points are missing.

It is my view that an over emphasis on doctrine to the expense of loving relationships is a problem. Legalism is a pain in the neck in our church. Judgmental attitudes, failure to understand, failure to express unconditional love are some of our key problems. This is why my philosophy of evangelism is wrapped up in these words: "those we keep will win others." This is different from "let keep on winning soul and they will win others.” Note this: those who are encouraging have been encouraged. Those whose are loving have been loved. Those who are understanding have been understood.

I have serious concerns about the direction of our church in Nassau. The extremes in styles of prayer and the use of the charismatic term "prayer warrior". The influx of charismatic style of preaching by our pastors, the pressure from the charismatic style of singing. I also have concerns about the essence of pastoral ministry. Including no church office hours. No church secretary. Many people wonder how we do ministry.

There is very little "loving modeling" in our church. So how can we keep the soul? Ministry is a dull picture.

Well, that enough for now.

Thanks Pastor Leonard

Four Major Crises New Believers Face

Four Major Crises New Believers Face
 

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In a previous article, I underscored the importance of preventing dropouts by pointing to some practical steps to avert dropouts. However, in this article, I elaborate more on the topic by referencing some four (4) points explained by Evangelist Mark Finley, an experienced soul winner, in his book, Fulfilling God’s End-Time Mission. Says Mark, “After carefully evaluating the experience of new converts to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, we have discovered that there are often four major crises in the lives of new believers. Just as the early stages of a baby’s life are critical, so are the first two years of a convert’s life. These years set a pattern of spiritual growth and development for the rest of his or her life.”
 

The Crisis of Discouragement
            It is observed that, “this crisis occurs when individuals fail to live up to the high standards that they have espoused immediately previous to their baptism.” The baptism signals “a public commitment to accept certain biblical truths and live by certain biblical standards.”  But following baptism, they are challenged, discovering “tendencies from their old life still present.” Accordingly, impatience, unkindness and a lack of Sabbath commitment may result thus leading to discouragement. The natural reaction is to isolate themselves from the church, for the church stands for commitment to standards and a lifestyle they feel incapable of maintaining.  Therefore, guilt takes over resulting in absenteeism at church, and loss of excitement in the Christian life.  To prevent this, it is important keep in touch with new believers by regular phone calls, reassuring words of encouragement, prayers and pastoral visits.
 
 
The Crisis of Integration
            Finley notes, “This crisis takes place when a new convert fails to replace the old friends in their life with new ones.”  It is not always easy to make new friends and assimilate into a new church, Sabbath school and /or young people’s meeting without the support of friends and others.  Symptoms of this crisis may be seen with late arrivals at church, leaving immediately after the closing hymn and rarely attending the social activities of the church. 
To address this, Mark suggests that “active attempts” need to be made to develop “new friendship within a church,” “to invite them to church, social functions,” and “to Sabbath dinner.” Without deliberate efforts to reach and maintain contact with new believers within the first six months after baptism, it is likely that they may leave the church because of the crises of discouragement and integration, argues Mark. 
 
The Crisis of Lifestyle
             “This crisis,” explains Mark, “generally takes place from a year to a year and a half after baptism. It occurs when an individual fails to integrate the value system of Scripture and the Seventh-day Adventist Church into their lifestyle.” Symptoms of this crisis may include absence from Sabbath school, prayer meeting; and persons tend to speak in generalities regarding the church, and there is little involvement.  To counteract, there is the need to encourage a daily devotional life, provide adequate Adventist literature and encourage small group Bible studies.
 
The Crisis of Leadership
            In this crisis, Mark notes that it “occurs after an individual has demonstrated faithfulness to Christ and His church.”  Unfortunately, in this crisis, he points out that, if the church is small, it is likely that new believers would be chosen to serve on the nominating committee and, even placed into leadership roles.  Thereby, they are exposed to the inner workings of the church, and soon discover that the members are not really saints when there is “frank evaluation of church members elected to office.”  This can be shocking and perplexing for a new believer. 
The obvious counteraction is not to place new believers in offices and in situations where they will likely to be affected negatively without being assimilated first.  Additionally, it is good to counsel new members concerning the weakness and inadequacy of human leadership as well as the frailty of human beings in general.

Preventing Drop Outs

Preventing Drop Outs

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So often pastors and church administrators are questioned and criticized about the retention of new believers. There are those who feel that the same energy and enthusiasm that go into bringing persons to baptism need to follow post baptism. Some observe that there would seem to be a cut off period. In some instances, the observation and criticism are true. As pastors, leaders and elders we can do more and need to do more even with the training of members to assume their role in helping to nurture and anchor new converts. Therefore, in this article, I will seek to make some observations that may prove beneficial in this regard.
 

Looking at New Believers
As the caption denotes, new believers are new believers just like new babes needing love, food, changing and attention again and again and again. Noted Evangelist Mark Finley states, “Baptism is not a panacea to solve all spiritual problems.” In fact, from my personal experience and observation, the act of baptism may result in problems and difficulties for new converts.  From unwarranted criticism to isolation of family; to transitioning to a new church and making new friends, pose challenges and difficulties, to say the least. Then, adjusting and living up to the high standards of the new faith are not easy! Compounding the situation is the lack of acceptance or tolerance of “old members” – Old, not so much as in age, but as persons who have been in the church for some time. With a slip here and there, or a failure to maintain a certain “walk” may draw uncalled-for remarks such as “I told you he was not ready,” or “They are not serious.”
 
Time and Attention Are Needed
It takes time to assimilate and adjust to new ways, practices and make new friends. Have you ever visited a new church, or attended a new school or university? That calls for serious adjustment for some of us. Becoming a member of the Adventist church can be radical. For example, up to three weeks ago, you went out on Friday evenings and did house chores on Saturdays. Now three weeks later, you are attending church, and with the crusade having ended, there is no Friday night meeting, and you are at home with a non-Adventist spouse and possibly children. The television channel is turned on to basketball or some weekly sitcom that you watched. If only the world could come to a stop and all observe the Sabbath, but that does not happen. And if you are without family and friends to assist, it gets really unsettling. Of course, your appetite has not necessarily changed. It may be changing, so if the conch or pork is being cooked, or your spouse desires that you continue preparing his favorite dish of “pig feet,” you have real issues. How does one transition? These are not imaginary questions; they are real.
 
What Can the Church Do?
Ellen White makes the point: “Those who have newly come to the faith should be patiently and tenderly dealt with, and it is the duty of the older members of the church to devise ways and means to provide help and sympathy and instruction for those who have conscientiously withdrawn from other churches for the truth’s sake, and thus cut themselves off from pastoral labor to which they have been accustomed” (Evangelism, p. 351).
As pastors and elders, we must teach our members to share the load and responsibility of caring for one another. There by not every eye or person will be focused on the pastor to do evangelism and conserve new believers following crusades.  Also, we need to teach them how to be practical and patient; so with certain dress styles worn by some recently baptized ones, the older members need not hit the roof and say the first thing that comes to mind. Instead, place a loving arm around the young brother or sister in the faith and offer to assist. Take the person home regularly, or if this is not possible, ensure there is a meal at church in order to assimilate and establish the new member. Also, invite him or her over to your house on Friday evening to welcome the Sabbath, or if situation allows, go to their house for the same. Call regularly and visit. Just as it takes time to nurture an infant, it takes time to nurture babes in Christ. We can do better, and we need to.

The Value of Personal Visitation

The Value of Personal Visitation
 

Biblical and Spirit of Prophecy Basis for Visitation
The word “visit” is recorded 36 times in the King James Version and 26 in the New King James Version of the Bible. This amount of times underscores to me the importance of visitation. In fact, Christ states in Matthew 25:43, “I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.” Additionally, the Lord’s brother James explains in James 1:27, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Given the aforementioned, one can appreciate the example of the Apostle Paul in Acts 15:36 when he said to Barnabas, “Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.” Furthermore, in the book Evangelism Ellen White stressed, “Not only is the truth to be presented in public assemblies; house-to-house work is to be done” (Evang. 431). Therefore, in keeping with the biblical and Spirit of Prophecy mandate to visit, the Ministerial Department of the Atlantic Caribbean Union, in light of the “Year of the Pastor,” has launched Operation Contact.
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What Is Operation Contact?
Operation Contact is an initiative of the Ministerial Department of the Atlantic Caribbean Union, aimed at aiding and encouraging pastors to make contact with each other, each other’s family and each member as well as non-members within the Atlantic Caribbean Union territory.  Also, it carries the objectives of nurturing and solidifying the pastor’s call to ministry; encouraging personal time with the Lord through daily prayer and Bible study; strengthening the pastoral family; fostering strong biblical preaching; embracing opportunities for ongoing professional growth and development and empowering members for effective service.
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Visitation Is a Must!!
Undeniably and unarguably, pastors and elders cannot be effective in ministry without personal contact. Neither can churches be vibrant and mission driven without inward and outreach visitation. In considering Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, it can be said that it had a positive impact on them and others in Bethany. Even throughout the following years down to the current period has this positive impact continued. Personally, I have been blessed through the ministry of visitation. Therefore as an administrator, I am deliberate in carving out time for visits in the home and hospital with my wife, reaching out to members and non-members. However, with the launch of Operation Contact, my administrative colleagues and I have linked up with field leaders and pastors, in visiting members in the Turks and Caicos Mission, the Cayman Islands Conference and in the Bahamas. Accordingly, visitation gives a sense of satisfaction when we pastors and elders are able to minister to others especially, the seniors, retirees, sick and also members in general. Within the context of Operation Contact, I am able to encourage and affirm fellow pastors and, in some instances, mentor young pastors and interns. We actually learn from each other. However, members express “wow” and gratification that they are remembered and thought of. And that is what we want, among other blessings, for members to feel valued and appreciated. Without them there is no church. But more, we get to fulfill and address some of their needs whether for encouragement, understanding of doctrines and clarification of issues. It helps us to be sensitive and considerate of their needs. After all, Jesus was master at this and still is through us today. Therefore, let’s prove faithful in doing His biddings. Our church, mission, conference and union will be stronger.

The Importance of a Spiritual Life

The Importance of a Spiritual Life


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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 a daily experience so much so that the Apostle Paul argues, “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! 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, church 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.

Putting Church Above Personal Position

Putting Church Above Personal Position

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From time to time we are faced with the challenge of adhering to a position or subjecting our thinking to certain positions and policies of our church. Admittedly, our thinking or conclusions may differ and therefore the question arises, How do we reconcile issues or matters? It would seem to me --for resolution there must of necessity be an agreed reference point. That is, what do we subscribe to in order to guide us and steer us in ensuring that we operate in accordance with acceptable and best practices? Accordingly, I proffer a few points that may be beneficial.
 

Relating to Personal Views
It is possible to have personal views and positions that may at times not comport or line up with established positions of the church’s practice. That in itself is not necessarily wrong. However, what I do is equally or more important. The steps I take may lead to compromise, chaos or reform. So it is crucial for one to weigh carefully all that he or she does.  I can recall that, some years ago,  I strongly resented the idea of dedicating infants born out of wedlock in a pastor’s study or away from the main sanctuary, unless requested. This was the practice of the local Adventist church in the Bahamas  -and for acceptable reasons to many over the years. However, I decided to research the practice and discovered in the 90’s that the Church Manual did not support this practice. Therefore, I researched further and came to understand a principle as to why many of the then church leaders held to it. Nevertheless, I met with my then conference leader and shared my position and was given the opportunity to present a position paper at a Ministerial Retreat in Cuba. This position was accepted generally, but it took some persons years to change the practice of what appeared to be discrimination. It is possible that some pastors still struggle with praying for babies born out of wedlock in the sanctuary. Nevertheless, I am happy that I sought advice from my leader.
 
Not Going Ahead of My Church
            Had the then leader disagreed with me, I could have decided to do the extreme: resign, or, research the subject a bit more. But I did not take it upon myself to disregard authority, as this would have been irresponsible and possibly viewed by some as un-Christ-like.
The current debate regarding female ordination and what decision should be made at the upcoming General Conference session has been of great interest to some. The decision is likely to have mixed reactions, regardless to whichever position is taken. Nevertheless, I should not lose faith or confidence in my church if my personal position is not embraced. Neither should I feel victorious or superior if the position I held is accepted. It would be good to remember that persons have strong convictions regarding the different positions. Therefore, it would be wise for me to accept the position of my church even if it is not my conclusion, remembering that the church is still God’s. As pastors, elders and church officers, we ought to remind ourselves that we are a part of a worldwide church, notwithstanding that we belong to our local church/field and union. Quoting Lowell Cooper, one of the vice presidents of the GC, “each [entity/church/conference/union] is seen to be a part of a sisterhood which cannot act without reference to the whole.”  These are “separate but not independent organizations,” says Cooper.  Additionally, in reference to the Working Policy, Cooper says that it “is the recording of our agreements as to how we will work together to do the Lord’s work and mission, serves as one of the practical unifying agents that the Holy Spirit uses to bind the church together. Policy is not inflexible. It can be changed but it reflects the understanding of the collective group, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
 
What We Can Do in the Interim
In the meanwhile, as we await this year’s GC session, we as pastors and elders could visit www.adventistarchives.org and read all of the study papers produced by the Commission on the Theology of Ordination. I can assure you that these will be quite enlightening and informative. Following this, or while doing so, we could engage one another in dialogue and in writing respectfully notwithstanding differences of opinion. Additionally, we could sincerely pray for our church to come to a position reflective of the Spirit’s leading. Until such time, let us continue the dialogue but never preempting the session. I hold to the view that we all believe in our church. Then let’s trust the process in place. To take it upon oneself to go contrary to policy and the church’s position is to say I will not wait; I will go it my way. That is to open the gate to our personal feelings and individuals doing as they feel.

What a Privilege to Belong to the Church of God!

What a Privilege to Belong to the Church of God!

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From time to time, the church is evaluated on how well it is fulfilling its mission, function and purpose. To some members, it is viewed as having gone way of course while others think that it has yet to take off. Then, there are those who feel quite comfortable with the church. Notwithstanding your opinion, it would be good to take another look at the church --“Who is the church?” “What are its role and purpose?” Answering these questions would give rise to an objective assessment.
 
The Church – Who Is the Church?
It must be noted that the church is not the building located on a given street per se, but a group of believers. The Greek word for church refers to the "called out ones.”  So, essentially, the church is a group of individuals whom God has redeemed from the world to be part of His kingdom to represent Him. The Apostle Peter grasped this, for he declared, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, NKJV).
 
The Purpose of the Church
According to Ellen White, “The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world.”  In fact, she adds, “From the beginning it has been God’s plan that through His church shall be reflected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency. The members of the church, those whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light, are to show forth His glory. The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to ‘the principalities and powers in heavenly places,’ the final and full display of the love of God” (Ephesians 3:10; Acts of the Apostles p. 9).
Therefore, when the state of the church is questioned and examined, it is an evaluation of the people who make up the church. The questions, then, should be “How are we living?” “Do our lives comport with God’s ideals and standards?” “Have we lost sight of our mission and role?”
 
Fulfilling Its Purpose
Of the church, Jesus says that we are to let our light shine. That is a call to stand out in morals and principles and more so in love. And the darker it is, the brighter the light shines. Light was made to illuminate, and likewise, the child of God was made to reflect God’s character.
The Christian lifestyle will make some persons uncomfortable, but Christians ought never to apologize for that. At the same time, the church is never to force its lifestyle and/or principles upon others. Doing so is contrary to God’s thinking. Instead, the church is to aggressively, but lovingly, invite individuals to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, we must remember that folk have a right to say “no” to Christ’s invitation.
What a privilege to belong to God’s church! In response to this honour, our prayer should be, “God help me to rightly represent Your church, for by so doing we are representing You. If my witness is negative, then the church will be perceived likewise; but, if positive, then a right picture is presented.”
            Ellen White says of the church, “It is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to reveal His power to transform hearts . . . 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).

The Church in Perspective

The Church in Perspective

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The more I travel from place to place (being involved in church activities) and the more I participate in various church meetings at all levels, I keep arriving at one conclusion; and that is, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, whether in Cayman, Washington, Haiti, or Italy, is the same –the Church of God. A sense of mission drives us to be about the business of preaching, teaching and living the word of God. Though strangers in some ways when in a new area, the fact that we are Seventh-day Adventists peels through what would be obvious barriers and blockage. It must be our love for Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit that propels us to welcome and receive strangers almost immediately into our homes. I can only imagine what heaven will be like.

The Danger of Pride
As I reflect upon this disposition, I am heartened. Furthermore, as I behold our various structures and facilities at the General Conference Headquarters in Washington, the IAD Office in Miami, Florida, or the new Union Offices in Honduras, Chiapas, Mexico, Nassau and other territories, I have to resist seriously the temptation to take extreme pride in these- overlooking that these are but means to an end. The mean thing is to have the wherewithal to proclaim the gospel, inclusive of Daniel and Revelation, with a clear ring. The end is the salvation of people- culminating in the return of Christ. We look forward to that day as noted in our name. As long as we keep these facts and realities before us, we are safe. For this reason, I advance to my next point.

Not to Miss the Point
Jesus is very clear in Matthew 28:19-20, as He enjoins His people to go into the entire world and make disciples of all His people; for according to John 3:16, He is interested in the world. Additionally, Ellen White explains, “The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world.” In fact, she adds, “From the beginning it has been God’s plan that through His church shall be reflected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency.”
As members of God’s church, having been called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, we “are to show forth His glory. The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to ‘the principalities and powers in heavenly places,’ the final and full display of the love of God” (Ephesians 3:10; Acts of the Apostles, p. 9).


Evaluating the Church
Therefore, when we look at God’s church, we must never forget to go back to that mandate of Matthew 28:19, 20. As for a church board, should not the first business be to a revisiting of that mandate? This also applies at the local field and Union levels. If we are not strategic in this regard, we are likely to take pride in the means and forget the end. At the end of the age, God’s question will be one of faithfulness. How faithful have we been in fulfilling His will and purpose for all people? In this vein, it is crucial that we evaluate ourselves daily to ensure we are faithful to our call to mission. We must be about employing our talents to fulfill the church’s agenda. In the lyrics of a song sung by Steve Greene, I say, “May all who come behind us find us faithful.”

Reflecting Christ in Speech, Writing, and Attitude

Reflecting Christ in Speech, Writing, and Attitude
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From time to time there are those who write and speak in such a way to correct and “set straight” others. These (the ones being “set straight”) include fellow members, church leaders at various levels of the church and, of course, non-members. Unfortunately, at times such criticisms tend to be conveyed in a derogatory manner. Additionally, it appears that such persons seeking to “set straight” come across as having “a holier than thou attitude,” possessing privileged information and understanding of new light. The impression is further conveyed that they are being called by God to purify the church and “straighten” others. In the process, the writings of Ellen White are often misquoted and taken out of context to support cherished positions. Against this backdrop, I seek to establish a few principles from the writings of Ellen White that may prove beneficial.  (Before sharing those points, I admit that pastors and members, I’m included, are not exempted from criticism; however, let them be constructive. If one refuses to accept, God will judge him or her accordingly).
 
No Sharp Thrusts
          Ellen White states, “Let not those who write for our papers make unkind thrusts and allusions that will certainly do harm and that will hedge up the way and hinder us from doing the work that we should do in order to reach all classes, the Catholics included” (LDE 90.2). While she speaks to persons who write for our papers, the principles may apply otherwise. Furthermore, she explains: “It is our work to speak the truth in love and not to mix in with the truth the unsanctified elements of the natural heart and speak things that savor of the same spirit possessed by our enemies. . . .” Ibid. Additionally, she points out, “We are not to use harsh and cutting words. Keep them out of every article written, drop them out of every address given. Let the Word of God do the cutting, the rebuking; let finite men hide and abide in Jesus Christ” (9T 240, 241, 244, 1909).  [LDE 90.3].
 
Beware of Side Issues
            A point to be noted is, “God has not passed His people by and chosen one solitary man here and another there as the only ones worthy to be entrusted with His truth. He does not give one man new light contrary to the established faith of the body.” She adds, “In every reform men have arisen making this claim. . . . Let none be self-confident, as though God had given them special light above their brethren. . . .”  (Italicized for emphasis) [LDE 90.6]. There is the tendency for one to accept “some new and original idea which does not seem to conflict with the truth.”  Dwelling upon it, “it seems to him to be clothed with beauty and importance, for Satan has power to give this false appearance. At last, it becomes the all-absorbing theme, the one great point around which everything centers, and the truth is uprooted from the heart. . . ” [LDE 91.1].
 
Emphasize Unity, Not Differences
Mrs. White clarifies that “There are a thousand temptations in disguise prepared for those who have the light of truth, and the only safety for any of us is in receiving no new doctrine, no new interpretation of the Scriptures, without first submitting it to brethren of experience.” This is an excellent point, and she counsels, “Lay it before them in a humble, teachable spirit, with earnest prayer, and if they see no light in it, yield to their judgment, for ‘in the multitude of counselors there is safety.’ . . .” [LDE 91.3].
            As followers of Christ, clergy and laity, we must be willing to subject ourselves to legitimate authority, the word of God and the policies of the church. In addition to being submissive, we should seek to model Christ in our pronouncements, writings and attitude. Thereby, our lives would be reflective of Christ’s life in all that we say and do.

I Can Be Kind – I Can Forgive

I Can Be Kind – I Can Forgive
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The January 6th, 2015 edition of the Nassau Guardian records a moving story on forgiveness. Family members of a police sergeant, “who was believed to have been shot and killed last year in what police believe was an armed robbery said that they cannot understand or make sense of his death, but have already forgiven those responsible.” Said the family, “We want the persons who are responsible . . . to know that we have forgiven them and pray that God would touch their hearts and minds.” Admittedly, this is not a normal reaction following the brutal slaying of a loved one. It must be a manifestation of Christ’s spirit and attitude. And, it is this very disposition that is needed to heal and reduce deaths in our communities, towns, islands and country. It would seem that resolving conflicts is bypassed by the playing out of anger. As such, I appeal for forgiveness and kindness instead of retaliation.
 
What Is Forgiveness? 
Forgiveness is releasing the debt, anger or hurt as opposed to retaliating in an attempt to inflict wound, hurt, get even, or cause death for that matter. Says Martin Luther King Jr., “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.” Similarly, kindness is a favorable disposition or treatment towards another or oneself in ways undeserving or unexpected. Quite frankly, society would seem to promote vengeance. Now, while this article is not intended to interfere with justice in the manner practiced by law enforcement agencies, Christ teaches an exceptional form of human forgiveness and kindness. Observe a scriptural passage set within the context of Christ’s sermon on the mountain: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 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 5:43, 44). Truth be told, it is much easier to do just the opposite of “love,” “bless,” “do good,” and “pray for” one’s enemy. One might prefer to hate, “bless” as in curse, do harm instead of good, and pray for one’s demise as opposed for one’s benefit. I am sure you and I can identify with this, but Christ calls for a higher and nobler form of behavior surpassing the norms of society.
 
Kindness Is not for the Weak of Heart
Mahatma Gandhi observes, “The weak can never forgive.  Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Furthermore, Corrie ten Boom explains, “You never so touch the ocean of God's love as when you forgive and love your enemies.” It takes more than courage to be kind! It takes Christ Himself through the medium of the Holy Spirit living within individuals to model and display the qualities of “love,” “blessing,” “doing good,” and “praying” for people who mean you no good. 
Imagine if these teachings were fully embraced, we would see a significant reduction in conflicts that lead to violence and death. Imagine, if we practiced more of Christ-living, we would be more caring and thoughtful. As the world focuses on love or romance, in the month of February, it is also a good time to show Christian love. Beyond the roses, chocolate, and candle light diners will be a demonstration of genuine care and consideration for spouse, friend and children.
 
Kindness Proclamation
From time to time we read in the newspapers proclamations of one kind or another. However, it would be so refreshing to proclaim a kindness day, week, month, or better a kindness year? Can you imagine how that would change you and me if embraced? Can you imagine a lessening of road rage? Can you imagine no more verbal, physical or emotional abuse? Utopia! Maybe I am dreaming too much or expecting too much. However, how will we put a dent into the day-to-day evils, hurts and injustices? Yes, we must uphold the law, but could we not do so in kindness and with respect for others? So, today look for someone whom you resent and do something good for that person, even if you start by just praying for his/her wellbeing. Now be certain to call him or her by name. Should we apply kindness or more kindness in our relationships, our country would be a better place in which to live, do businesses and model Christ-like behavior. John Bunyan argues, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who cannot pay you back.” Let kindness begin today with you and me!