A New Beginning

A New Beginning

In just a few days, God willing, we would witness the beginning of a brand new year, 2017, marking the opportunity for a fresh start. For this reason, there is much excitement in anticipation of welcoming the New Year. What a privilege! What an opportunity to be able to start anew! Nevertheless, I pose the questions: “What will you do this year?” “What will you do differently?” “How will you utilize this new beginning?” “What will you do?” Quite frankly, if we recognize that each minute, hour, day, week, month and, yes, each year is a gift from God, we would seriously consider how we utilize our time. Religious writer Ellen White observes, “If every moment were valued and rightly employed, we should have time for everything that we need to do for ourselves or for the world” (The Ministry of Healing, page 208).
 
Making the Best of Each Day
To ensure that we make the best use of the 86,400 seconds that each of us is given every day, I share the following areas for our attention and concentration. Devotion. It is important that we begin our day with that which is likely to inspire and motivate us. For the Christian, that involves reading the Bible and spending time in prayer. It is said of Christ that “a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed" (Mark 1:35, NKJV).
Family. An institution that appears to be crumbling is this one. With successive years of high murder rates, it must be clear to you that numerous parents, spouses, children, siblings and friends are hurting. A story is told of a youngster who asked his father how much he made in an hour. It is needless to say that the father was upset and thought his son was getting into his business. But after some insisting by the son and the father feeling guilty for his poor attitude toward his son, the father gave in to his son’s request and shared his hourly wage. The little boy got his piggy bank and counted his savings, which was less than his father’s hourly wage. He asked his father to loan him the difference to reach the amount his father made hourly. Not knowing why his son wanted the money, the father gave it to him. The boy then placed it with his savings; therefore, he now had enough money to pay his father for one full hour. You get the point! He valued his father’s time. The same may apply to mothers; spouse-to-spouse etc. When we neglect time with family, we leave the door open to television, the Internet and others to do the job. How risky? Start the year devoting quality time to persons and things of importance.
For Self. Hopefully, the New Year will be the time that you commence or resume studies formally or otherwise.
Exercise. What about exercise? We need to engage in some form of physical activity so as to strengthen our bodies and muscles. Health is a priceless commodity, but too many of us are afflicted by diseases that could be remedied by exercise and change in lifestyle.
For My Job. It is so unfortunate that there are persons who short-change and essentially rob companies of hours and still hope to be paid in full at pay date.
Time for Others. We ought not live unto self. It would be wise to devote some time assisting some organization that caters to the poor, abused and marginalized within our community. With a social consciousness regarding the various needs in the community, we can assist many.
 
Redeeming the Time
Apart from the above, it is important that we recognize that we have a responsibility to use our time wisely. As stewards we have different talents, different amounts of wealth, but the same amount of time. Unfortunately, when the day is gone, it is gone never to return; and therefore it is critical that we understand the importance of redeeming the time. The Apostle Paul explained in Ephesians 5:15, 16, "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise," vs.16 "redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (NKJV). Paul is talking about more than time, as we know it chronologically. Instead, his emphasis here is opportunity. Employing the Greek word “kairos,” he speaks to embracing the opportunities that knock at our doors. Too often we see joblessness, roadblocks, recession, and other ills; but through the eyes of Christ, we may see other possibilities and potential opening of doors for the unemployed or for greater use and effectiveness.
More so is the emphasis on preparation for a significant appointment with God. Redeeming the time requires that I recognize that I will stand before a righteous God and give an account of my actions, and then what? However, as a wise person, I can choose, through the leading and directing of the Holy Spirit, to allow God to change me for good.
 
A Weekly and Timely Reminder
Finally, I commend to you a timely reminder that God gives each weekend designed to build self, family, community, and provide rest, perspective and above all reconnect us with our “roots,” or what I choose to call our Maker. It is the Sabbath or, if you please, the Lord’s Day. Rightly understood it is not a burden, it is not Jewish per say; it is God’s doing in man’s behalf, but unfortunately too many are too busy to note it, and some would rather not see it. Stephen Covey makes an interesting analogy or application when he refers to the Sabbath principle as “sharpening the saw.” He penned, “Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree. ‘What are you doing?’ you ask. ‘Can’t you see?’ comes the impatient reply. ‘I’m sawing down this tree.’ ‘You look exhausted!’ you
exclaim. ‘How long have you been at it?’ ‘Over five hours,’ he returns, ‘and I’m beat! This is hard work.’ ‘Well why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?’ you inquire. ‘I’m sure it would go a lot faster’ ‘I don’t have time to sharpen the saw.’ The man says emphatically. ‘I’m too busy sawing!’” “Like the Sabbath,” says Darrell Pursiful, “sharpening the saw” is about taking time we need for self-renewal –physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.
 
Have a Spirit-filled New Year!

We Can Rejoice! We Can Celebrate!

We Can Rejoice! We Can Celebrate!

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The spate of senseless killings, rapes, robberies and untimely deaths on our streets have resulted in much pain, hurt, disappointment and even anger. In some instances, there appears to be an absence of merry making and joy leading some to question: “Why should I be happy?” “Do I rejoice in the season that calls for joy?” In fact, some ask, “Where is the joy?” And yes, this time of the year ought to be one of joy, glee, laughter and happiness; but apart from crime, many other challenges plague our people: joblessness, reduced income and illness (terminal and otherwise) -- not to mention marital and family issues that are plaguing our land, and the erratic supply of electricity at this time only exacerbates the situation. And if that were not enough, the political season is undoubtedly upon us again. Given the aforementioned, “Should I celebrate?” Notwithstanding the reality of situations, we can rejoice and we can celebrate.
 

Joy Is Constant
            The Bible makes no fuss about it, as it simply and unapologetically declares that joy – remarkable joy, wonderful joy, unbelievable joy, real joy has come to this world with the birth of Jesus. Consider the saying of Luke 2:10: “Do not be afraid,” says the angel, “for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” The angel of the Lord adds, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Joy is tied to Christ. His first coming brought joy; His death on Calvary manifested a matchless love; His resurrection assures us of a sound resurrection hope as penned by Bill Gaither, “Because He lives I can face tomorrow.” Additionally, the fact that He is in heaven interceding for us provides an ongoing reason for celebration and rejoicing. In fact, I am reminded of some of His final words to His disciples, “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the ages” (Matthew 28:20). Furthermore, I reference the well-known John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” These declarations constitute joy even in the midst of all the ills, disappointments and issues of our land. We sure do need it!
 
Are You for Real?
            Christians are accused of offering “a pie in the sky” or speaking of some future bliss, but truth be told people are hurting now as already noted, and they need answers today. How does this Christ message apply? The Christ message could not be more relevant. After all, the Bible says, “He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15). Do you know of anyone like that? For some in North America, they will probably point to Donald Trump; some in South Africa will point to the late Nelson Mandela and locally, to the leader of their liking whether the current, past or yet to be candidate. However, they all pale in comparison to Christ the epitome and embodiment of joy, real joy- and He is alive. Wiping away the tears of pain and disappointment, He offers healing, food, shelter, freedom, forgiveness, hope and companionship. These and more He provides through His church and through His people everywhere. Consider the acts of kindness you have experienced all year. Despite some of your setbacks as a result of Hurricane Matthew, consider what God did. You received the favor of someone paying a bill or part of it; someone repaired your car, or appliance, or roof free or at a discounted rate. You received a loan even though you were not qualified. Through some charitable foundation, you received medical assistance. You received the favor of lunch, or better still, groceries when you could not afford it. You have sat your exams owing tuition, and you even graduated this year and possibly you are still wondering, “How did I make it?” Your landlord gave you a reprieve on your rent. Maybe you went all year and did not have any health issues; no unnecessary marital pain; you paid all your bills on time. And even if the opposite applies, aren’t you glad that you are still standing with just a few days to the end of 2016?
 
Joy Today and Always
            Joy was never intended to be a once a year encounter, or even a now and then experience but a daily and hourly one; for Jesus Himself announced, “I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).  The reality of this remarkable gift of joy dispels despair, ingratitude, worry, sleeplessness, revenge and anger. The joy that Christ gives by His presence, His Church and His Word is unquestionably real, practical and enduring. If you have not experienced it, it could be for several reasons. Maybe you do not know Him. Maybe you are looking in the wrong place. Maybe you are expecting to receive when you can be giving time, encouragement and some other form of assistance. Maybe a paradigm shift is needed in your thoughts. The Apostle Paul would tell you that to know this Christ is to experience radical change. Indeed, joy has come and is here and will be here as long as Jesus is alive; and that my friend is forever, so let His joy become your joy today and always. We can rejoice! We can celebrate!

Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church

Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church

empty church
 
Given our focus on youth worldwide, I share with you an article I read about reaching millennial youth (person born between 1977 and 1994) by Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN. (Rachel Held Evans is the author of "Evolving in Monkey Town" and "A Year of Biblical Womanhood." She blogs at rachelheldevans.com). Though some of the views do not sync with Adventism, there are some points that we might find interesting and applicable though coming from a non-Adventist perspective. Ellen White says, “Preachers, or laymen advanced in years, cannot have one-half the influence upon the young that the youth, devoted to God, can have upon their associates” (MYP, p. 204). For easy reference, I have inserted the definitions for Millennials and Generation X.
 
“At 32, I barely qualify as a millennial. I wrote my first essay with a pen and paper, but by the time I graduated from college, I owned a cell phone and used Google as a verb. I still remember the home phone numbers of my old high school friends, but don’t ask me to recite my husband’s without checking my contacts first.
“I own mix tapes that include selections from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but I’ve never planned a trip without Travelocity. Despite having one foot in Generation X (born: 1966-1976 - sometimes referred to as the “lost” generation, this), I tend to identify most strongly with the attitudes and the ethos of the millennial generation, and because of this, I’m often asked to speak to my fellow evangelical leaders about why millennials are leaving the church.
“Armed with the latest surveys, along with personal testimonies from friends and readers, I explain how young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. I point to research that shows young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness. I talk about how the evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules, and how millennials long for faith communities in which they are safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt.
“Invariably, after I’ve finished my presentation and opened the floor to questions, a pastor raises his hand and says, “So what you’re saying is we need hipper worship bands. …” And I proceed to bang my head against the podium.
Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates – edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving.
“But here’s the thing: Having been advertised to our whole lives, we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances. In fact, I would argue that church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular. Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. – precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.”
 
What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance. We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against. We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers. We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.
We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.
We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.
You can’t hand us a latte (coffee with milk) and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there. Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.
Now these trends are obviously true not only for millennials but also for many folks from other generations. Whenever I write about this topic, I hear from forty-somethings and grandmothers, Generation Xers and retirees, who send me messages in all caps that read “ME TOO!” So I don’t want to portray the divide as wider than it is. But I would encourage church leaders eager to win millennials back to sit down and really talk with them about what they’re looking for and what they would like to contribute to a faith community. Their answers might surprise you.

Paying Attention to a Most Needed Emphasis

Paying Attention to a Most Needed Emphasis

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As we are now nearing the holiday season when there is the temptation to overindulge, I thought to share on a most needed topic 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 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 be in health physically, spiritually, mentally and socially.  Thus, when we experience a greater quality of life, essentially, we will have a more positive impact on family, neighbors and friends.  This impact no doubt will serve as an entering wedge in 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!

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

“Who Are We and Why Are We Here”?  Part 2
 
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Continued from last week . . .

I am firmly convinced that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is God’s last-day church, the Remnant Church of Revelation 12:17. This does not mean that only Seventh-day Adventists will be saved. God has his people in all churches. In Revelation 18:2 the fourth angel proclaims, “Babylon is fallen” and in verse 4 he says, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. (Rev 18:4 NKJ). Yes, many of God’s people are still in Babylon. I have always told my students, “There will be many Catholics in heaven, many Protestants, and some Adventists.”

 
Nevertheless, God called this church into existence and has given us a special message, the three angel’s messages of Revelation 14, to proclaim to the world, to prepare it for the Second Advent. In order to do this, we need to understand these messages. And in order to proclaim them we need to be grounded in the Word of God. We need to study it and accept what it says as it reads, and not explain away its plain meaning. According to the Spirit of Prophecy, “If men would but take the Bible as it reads, . . . a work would be accomplished that would make angels glad and that would bring into the fold of Christ thousands upon thousands who are now wandering in error” (GC 598).
 
In other words, when Scripture says, “in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day” (Exod 20:11) it means he created the world in six days and not in six million years. And when God says, “`You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination” (Lev 18:22), It means just that! It means that homosexual practice is a sin, whether it is a loving relationship or not. Friends, take the Bible as it reads, unless there are good reasons to understand it symbolically or metaphorically.
 
From time to time we need to be reminded that we serve a living God. We know from Scripture that Satan is angry with the Remnant Church. He has seen to it that worldliness and pluralism have entered the Seventh-day Adventist Church as never before. Theological pluralism presents a tremendous challenge to the unity of the church today.

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

“Who Are We and Why Are We Here”?  Part 1
 
Today, I share with you an article written in 2014 by Gerhard Pfandl, a former Associate Director (part-time) of the Biblical Research Institute, focusing on our identity and mission, as a church. Because of its length, I have divided it into two parts. Next week, you will receive part 2. I implore you to use the information to help nurture yourself and to ground our new believers.
Twenty Years ago, on March 29, 1994, thirty-nine leading evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics - men like Pat Robertson and John Cardinal O’Connor - signed a document entitled “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium.”
 
Headlines across America proclaimed: “Christians Herald New Era” and “Catholics Embrace Evangelicals - Conservatives of Both Faiths Agreed to Accept Each Other As Christians.” The world was surprised; Seventh-day Adventists were confirmed in their understanding of prophecy. They remembered Revelation 13:3 which says, “his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.” They also remembered the statement in The Great Controversy:
The Protestants of the United States will be foremost in stretching their hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of spiritualism; they will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power; and under the influence of this three-fold union, this country will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling of the rights of conscience (GC 588).
 
Earlier this year, Pope Francis I spoke by video to a conference of charismatic and Pentecostal ministers, hosted by television evangelist Kenneth Copeland. The pope told these ministers he longed for the separation between the churches to come to an end. “The miracle of unity,” he said, “has begun. And God will finish this miracle.” The response of Copeland and the Pentecostal and charismatic ministers was a resounding Amen. They prayed for the pope and blessed him. Many Christians around the world were happy about this development. Seventh-day Adventists were again confirmed in their faith, because for more than 100 years they have been expecting this move towards Christian unity.
 
As Seventh-day Adventists we are privileged to see the fulfillment of prophecy taking place before our very eyes. Why are Seventh-day Adventists privileged to see these fulfillments? Because God Himself has called this church into existence and has given it special insights into end-time events.
           
Brethren and sisters, please remember, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not an accident of history. Our church did not come about by happenstance. We are not just one church among many Christian churches. This church has been prophetically foreseen in Revelation 12:17. And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Rev 12:17 NKJ)
           
This description fits only the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We keep God’s commandments, including the Sabbath commandment; and we have the “testimony of Jesus” which according to Revelation 19:10 is the Spirit of Prophecy or the prophetic gift. And this gift was manifested in the life and ministry of Ellen G. White. Don’t ever forget this brethren and sisters.
 To be continued . . .
 
Gerhard Pfandl, Ph.D.
Associate Director (part-time)
Biblical Research Institute

The Member’s Role in Church Elections

The Member’s Role in Church Elections

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Once again we have embarked upon that time of the year when election of church officers takes place. Accordingly, I share the following based on my understanding of the Church Manual.  I would encourage each member to obtain one and read it.
 
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 amount to a partial report. When it is presented to the church, the report is presented 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 secretary/ 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 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. 
 
 
Accepting the Final Decision
     Once the church votes the Nominating Committee’s Report democratically, in business session, it is necessary that each member accept the outcome and support the pastor and various programs of the church.  It is only when members and pastors are united and committed to the mission statement of the church as noted in Revelation 14 that the church is most effective. Let’s make 2017 a great year for the local church!

Tolerance or Compassion

Tolerance or Compassion

Compassion
 
         The article which I share today is one that came after much prayer and soul searching. It is about reaching out to all members of society. For Adventists this should not be difficult, as we believe in God's mandate to go to all mankind and preach the gospel. Additionally, Christ affirmed, "come unto me all ye that labor and I will give you rest." Has it occurred to you that “all” includes drunkards, prostitutes, cheaters, and homosexuals, etc.?
 
Reaching Out Does Not Mean Condoning
         How do we separate the two? That is reaching out to people does not mean that we condone their ways and practices. That is a fact! But how will we fulfill Christ's mandate unless we meet and deliberately seek such persons? It occurred to me back in 2014, in a question and answer period a member asked, "Do we have any homosexuals in our church in the Bahamas?"  I responded that I did not know but would not be surprised if there were. Since then I attended a summit in South Africa entitled "In God's Image." There, I was confronted with what should be our response to all people afflicted and struggling with sin? Over the years it has been easier to relate to drunkards, persons involved in drugs, unfaithful marriage partners, and the like but certainly not homosexuals.
 
Position of the Church
         The position of our church is clear —we believe in sexual intimacy within marriage between a man and a woman. Accordingly, we should not knowingly baptize persons who are practicing homosexuality or place in office. On the other hand, that is not to say that as a church we ought not to work with such persons. By that I mean reaching out to such as we would to any person struggling with any deviant behaviour, ill or vice, as God loves all people while He strongly detests our sinful behaviour.  The church’s role is to help all find freedom, healing and deliverance in Christ. For this reason the church exists. I know this sounds a bit contradictory- based on what I said earlier. Nevertheless, I ask that you consider that reaching out to, or embracing one in love is not the same as condoning or ignoring a practice. Could not the church uphold its standards in love and with compassion, recognizing that all are prone to engage in sinful acts outside of Christ?
 
 What Can We Do?
            Admittedly, this is a new venture for some of us. Truth be told, many of us are afraid to work with homosexuals, based on the stigma of society, but we need to manifest a Christ-like spirit. Consider how Christ related to the woman caught in adultery according to John 8. The record shows that when all rejected her and would have nothing to do with her, He reached down and out to her with a non-condemnatory message. At the same time, He did not down play adultery; for He said, “go and sin no more?”  What a remarkable balance and example of love! As followers of Christ, we need to follow His example. This fact was underscored in the summit held in Africa. As opposed to being reactionary, we need to find ways to be proactive towards all people. For instance, in listening to the testimonies of three former homosexuals at the summit, I discovered a similar thread in each story. They all experienced neglect by a parent. In the case of the one female, she was sexually abused, but her mother concealed it; and she was adversely affected and found love and acceptance with fellow women. Thank God! She has experienced deliverance and is actively assisting gays to experience deliverance in Christ. Also, it should be noted that she is active in the church. Praise God! I believe that God timed the following passage in the Adult Sabbath School Quarterly during March 16 – 22, 2014, in an attempt to sensitize His church. The author wrote, “Through teaching and personal example, Jesus taught His disciples to associate with sinners, even notorious ones such as prostitutes and tax collectors. How else would they disciple the whole world? His teaching often focused on these sinners. His characterization of them as lost demonstrates how merciful Christ was. He might have characterized them as rebellious (they certainly were) or depraved. Instead, He chooses lost.”

Seeing the Other Side of a Hurricane

Seeing the Other Side of a Hurricane

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I have yet to meet anyone who loves storms or hurricanes. Persons who appear to have a liking for either seem to like the time off associated with them or the change of things. But as for any disaster, there is simply no fun. With winds packing in at 120 to 140 mph, that is enough to test the bravest and most courageous of humanity. And if that is not enough, it is definitely no fun to have tidal surges reaching up to fifteen feet resulting in flooded homes and having to discard furniture and repair homes. Sometimes houses are flattened or roofs destroyed ruining one’s life investments, and that too is no fun! So what can the other side of a storm be? Can there be anything positive?

 

Looking at the Bad and Good Before and During the Storm
            It would seem that the bad and good manifest themselves during disasters. Bad, in that some shop operators take advantage of the situation and price gouge. This is ungodly and unfair. It is hard to imagine how one can do that to a fellow being. And to add insult, one shows up at the door of the distressed pretending to help but only to rob the occupants. That, no doubt, stirs up our righteous indignation, and want to make an example of such a person on the nightly news, face book and every social avenue.
            However, the good news comes out in many ways. During the preparation for a storm, many a builder and carpenter volunteer to assist the elderly and fatherless secure their homes with their skills, material and time at no or little expense. I have heard, read and viewed some of these locally. I am certain that there are many similar stories not coming to the wider public, and neither do many of them care to make the spotlight as they rendered their assistance disinterestedly.
            Additionally, there are many service personnel who vacate the comfort of their homes and families, and camp out at great danger whether at radio stations, NEMA (National Emergency Management Agency) headquarters, Police Stations and Hospitals just to be in a position to respond and assist. This, to me, is a remarkable community spirit or what some Christians refer to as brotherly love.

 

Looking at the Good Following the Storm
            Radio and television personnel resort to a community help mode by opening up the air wave to encourage a positive attitude; aid callers to locate loved ones and friends as well as confirm their whereabouts, etc. Some residents with high vehicles make them available for use to rescue individuals and clear roads of debris, enabling power, telephone and cable personnel workers to restore necessary services.
            Also, whereas it may be challenging to get all major religious leaders together, except for a special anniversary of the nation’s independence, come together albeit to the request of successive prime ministers to counsel, assess, pray and respond tangibly. Political leaders take on a similar disposition putting aside partisan politics for the good of country. Some businesses donate handsomely as well as churches and citizens.  I never cease to be moved by the pouring out of love and support following a disaster. Well-wishers, friends and concerned ones telephone, text and convey timely words of encouragement backed up by tangible acts. Of course, there is more but time and space would not allow.
            So given the aforementioned, storms are not all that bad, for as already noted the best emerges from people. Some individuals get the necessary repairs to their home, while other receive new homes, new furniture, new friends and a new appreciation for others who truly care. It would even seem that the atmosphere is cleansed. Above all I hope that many will get to see that God truly cares as opposed to blaming Him for the recent act of disaster. Consider that not one casualty was reported. This is noteworthy considering what Hurricane Matthew did to Lowe Sound, Andros and parts of Grand Bahama. To God be glory!

Relations Matter

Relations Matter

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Of late I tend to emphasize more the value of relationships. Relationships, whether one realizes it or not are important and matter.  They can be the source of great blessings or the means of much pain and stress when fractured and not nurtured. Accordingly, I pass on the following to you.
 
The Value of a Relationship
            Among the greatest relationships to me has been that of my family, which includes my wife, children, siblings, and in laws. Additionally, some wonderful friends, spiritual guardians and mentors have been and continue to be a source of much encouragement as well. I am grateful to God for placing such individuals in my path. Time with such is never lost, for so much is gained in the process on both sides. However, as important as these friendships are, I value my relationship mostly with God. Because of it I can have a sense of confidence, assurance, purpose, hope and forgiveness. As I recall, I could not have survived without those benefits in facing challenges, disappointment and frustration. Therefore, my daily devotion with Him is not an option but a necessity.
 
When Relations Are Fractured
            As a leader, I have observed that people are people with idiosyncrasies and issues (myself included). This fact makes the likelihood of misunderstanding and fracture a real possibility, even among professed followers of Christ. As such friends may no longer relate the way they once did; family members may become cold, colleagues may not be so trusting, and marriages may result in divorce, etc. In some instances, inflictions may result, and persons may not speak to each other for years. We can refer to the Biblical example of the Apostle Paul and John Mark.
            Being open and objective as opposed to acting without checking may help in such situations. It is necessary that in listening to a complaint or charge against one to try to get the other side of the story, otherwise it is possible to act in haste and on hearsay. Also, allowing the spirit of Christ to control one’s actions and words may save many a relationship. Is it any wonder that Christ commends the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”  And even when a divorce or a severing of such relationship may occur, persons are not bitter.
 
When Relationships Are Healed
            Relationships may be mended and healed only when there is an adjustment to our thinking, attitude, and when our positions are open to change. Friendships will be restored only when Christ is allowed to control our thoughts and actions as happened with the Apostle Paul towards John Mark. Whereas Paul had serious reservations with John Mark initially, it took a Barnabas who saw potential in Mark to help him and stick with him. Later Paul would come around and see the same as what Barnabas saw, and therefore he referred to Mark as “being profitable” (2Tim. 4:11).
Admittedly, personalities will continue to clash, and some people will struggle with this more than others; however, I believe that it is possible for relationships to improve. It is only the work of Satan to keep persons apart and distrust one another. On the other hand, Jesus has come to heal, restore and make what seem impossible possible. The question is, “Am I standing in His way?” The problem is never God. It is I. It is you. It is us. With God’s help, we must learn to live in harmony here if we would live with Him in the earth made new.

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

 

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

We Are Blessed!

We Are Blessed!

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Every now and then I pause to consider what is happening around me and what am I experiencing. In doing so, I remark to myself that “We Seventh-day Adventists are blessed.” Quite naturally, the “Why?” question arises time and time again. “How are we blessed?” After all, like all others, we have our share of ups and downs, frustrations and disappointments. Like everybody else, we face the daily grind of survival coupled with a need to make things better. Nevertheless, we are blessed. However, we could be doubly blessed if we practice what we know.
 
What a Church to Belong to!
Admittedly, there are thousands of churches all around to fit each person’s likes and dislikes. But examining closely our church, I am awed by an apparent blessing that attends it. We are organized even if there is to some degree an absence or lack in your local church. We possess a network that connects one with another worldwide when it becomes known that you are Seventh-day Adventist. I have experienced this personally both as a recipient and a provider or initiator whether in Haiti, the United States, Guyana, Russia or Mexico. Then there is the academic emphasis. While I do not have the data to prove it-- it would seem as an Adventist that it is expected that one will pursue college or university studies more so than in another church denomination. This emphasis has provided the opportunity for many of us to achieve that which we would not ordinarily have accomplished. That, to me, is not a stroke of luck but a divine design, for did not God promise that He would bless Israel of old if they followed His ways and statues? (Refer to Duet. 28:3-6.)
 
Is There More?
            Resoundingly “Yes!” When I consider the health focus of the church, even though some members scorn it, the benefits are real and far reaching. For me, I consider the simplicity of nuts, grains, fruits and vegetables. That is not to say that I am full vegetarian, as I eat fish. But I extol the virtue of these foods created by our Maker for human consumption. In fact, a parent remarked that it is costly to be a vegetarian. Without much pause, I responded that it is not. Having to purchase vegetarian substitutes can be costly, but learning to make meatless loaves and patties, etc. can be more affordable than purchasing meats- in some instances. And we are so blessed, for the Seventh-day Adventist Church provides free lectures and training, but to my surprise, the attendance at these could be better. Could the poor attendance result from a lack of promotion or a lack of interest? Or do we become serious when our health is threatened? As a side note, in a recent meeting I had with the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, while speaking about the proposed National Health Plan, I encouraged him to consider lowering tariff on fruits and vegetables thus making these affordable for everyone, as they would augment the national health plan insurance. Additionally, I offered the services of the church to do inner city training employing the “I Want To Live Healthy” model at no cost, except for materials.
            Additionally, there is the prophetic message that the church has received. Whereas it may lack appeal to some of us internally, visitors are excited and awestruck by the way how we explain it. The relevance of Daniel 2, 7, 8 & 9 as well as the book of Revelation allows us to see from a perspective that gives assurance and hope, and prevents panic or reacting to every move of the pope, or who is elected president of the United States of America.
 
We Are Accountable
            Unfortunately, with all of the blessings referenced and unmentioned, comes the element of accountability. That is to say – “Am I sharing these truths?” “Am I leading folks to embrace basic and practical principles?” “Am I embracing what I know?” The current Sabbath school lessons challenge me to do more especially in my immediate neighborhood. (Even the lessons that we study weekly can make us educated and wise beyond others. It is like going to a university for life). We, as a church, are blessed. That in itself tells me that this church is ordained of God. Need I say more? Need I do more? Need I be more?

Church Manual Updated After Inadvertent Omission

Church Manual Updated After Inadvertent Omission

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As it is customary, I seek to share with you information related to pastoral ministry, performance and practice. However, for this weekly, I share with you that portion of the Church Manual that was inadvertently omitted. It is good to be aware of that as well as the history and purpose of the Church Manual. In the August 24, 2016 edition of Adventist Review, Andrew McChesney, news editor, wrote, “The Seventh-day Adventist Church has updated the Church Manual after finding that part of an amendment voted at General Conference Session last year was unintentionally excluded.”
 
That Which Was Omitted
Associate Secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Hensley, M. Moorooven, shared with fellow General Conference employees by e-mail, “It has come to our attention that there was omission on p.127 of the current Church Manual. The correction has been made, and a statement has been issued in that regard.” The section which is small but important reads: “Who May Conduct the Communion Service —The communion service is to be conducted by an ordained/commissioned pastor or an ordained elder. Deacons or deaconesses are not permitted to conduct the service.” (Italicized words voted at GC Session 2015)
 
Initial Reactions
            Looking at the responses, comments and feedback in the Adventist Review under the article, it would seem that numerous persons felt that there was some cynical move by the church to advance the female ordination agenda. One person wrote, “Love that sneaky word commissioned. The devil is in the details.”  This is so unfortunate, as it is simply an omission without any hidden agenda. On the other hand, another individual commented that the term “commissioned is not a sneaky word,” noting that “Pastors are not ordained immediately, it usually takes over 5 years for pastors to be ordained.” He clarified that his pastor “is commissioned” and without this section, “my church wouldn’t have someone to lead the communion.” The reality is that the italicized words which are noted in the above paragraph, were voted by delegates of the General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas, in July 2015 and would have to be included. To change or to omit would require another vote, for The Church Manual can only be revised during General Conference Session, which is held every five years. “Many of the modifications in the latest edition were minor edits.”
 
History of the Church Manual
The Church Manual, as noted in the Adventist Review, “was first published in 1932, traces its roots to a 1875 statement by church cofounder Ellen G. White, who wrote: ‘The church of Christ is in constant peril. Satan is seeking to destroy the people of God, and one man’s mind, one man’s judgment, is not sufficient to be trusted. Christ would have His followers brought together in church capacity, observing order, having rules and discipline, and all subject one to another, esteeming others better than themselves’” (Testimonies for the Church, Volume 3, page 445). The article further states in referencing the Church Manual on Adventist.org “that God is a God of order and says the Church Manual seeks to achieve order ‘through principles and regulations that guide the church in its internal operations and in the fulfillment of its mission to the world.’”
 
Both the updated version of the 2015 Church Manual and the statement are available at: https://www.adventist.org/en/information/church-manual/ as well as via the Ministerial Department of Atlantic Caribbean Union of Seventh-day Adventists website at http://www.atcunion.org/ministerial.html.

Accessing Resources

Accessing Resources

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There have been times that I have been asked regarding resources for elders and, in some instances, for pastors. In-arguably 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 to make an initial connection. Personally, I prefer the New King James Version for preaching, but would quote the King James Version 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 uses 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
Fortunately for today’s pastors and elders, there are countless resources. 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. It contains numerous Bible versions, commentaries, concordances, Bible dictionaries, devotionals and practical books. (The South Bahamas Conference will sponsor a Logos Bible Software Training following the Union’s yearend committee in Nassau, on November 16th and 17th. Interested persons may contact Pastor Lynden Williams at the Conference office.)
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 re-emphasize 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. 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 (you can access online via the ministerial department at http://www.atcunion.org/page47/communication.html).  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 is found not in admiring it, or having as many as one can purchase but in reading it daily. A positive change is guaranteed. At the next 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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Back in 2011, I noted that Focus on the Family reported that “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 Focus
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, person 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. Do your best each day, and leave everything to God.

Elder - Title or Function

Elder - Title or Function

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Some time ago, I received an inquiry regarding the function of a local elder within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Additionally, I was asked, “Should elders be addressed as elders or as brothers?” Accordingly, I seek to address the topic of identification, function and title pertaining to local elders.



 

Who Is a Local Elder?


Local elders are recognized as possessing strong spiritual leadership and good reputation both in the church and the community. In the absence of a pastor, they are the spiritual leaders. By precept and example, they seek to lead the church into a deeper and fuller Christian experience. It is expected that elders conduct the services of the church and minister in both word and doctrine when the assigned pastor is unavailable. However, the SDA Church Manual cautions against choosing elders “primarily because of social position or speaking ability.”  Instead, elders should be chosen “because of their consecrated lives and leadership abilities.” Local elders should be ordained in order to participate in the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, etc. While ordination is for life, “all things being equal,” so to speak, elders are required to be re-elected in order to function at the local church.



 

Function of an Elder


Given the aforementioned, one can appreciate why the church uses the term local elder. The term “local elder” refers to function as opposed to title in that the elder functions within the context of the local church. However, they are not addressed as local elders. Instead, they are commonly addressed as elders; and therein resides the basis for some confusion. How does a member differentiate between a local elder from a senior church administrator? In the December 12, 2012 edition of the Spectrum Magazine, it is observed that “Adventism has one of the most layered and complex hierarchies in all of Christianity.” The article continues, “but at the same time there is not (officially) an office with more authority than the local elder. Thus, even our General Conference president’s ecclesial title of address remains ‘Elder Wilson.’ This middle-ground which Adventism tries to occupy leaves us with ‘presidents’ that function like ‘bishops’ but who are called ‘elders.’ No wonder debates regarding ordination are so volatile.”


So to refer to a local elder, as “Brother” or “Sister” in no way diminishes his or her roles. The focus is on function and not title. Personally, I refer to my Division and General Conference leaders as elders. I picked this up from hearing local conference leaders refer to the same and the then Union president as Elder. To me, this is not so much an issue as much as a matter of respect. Interestingly, when they write me, they sign their names without any title. They are Israel and Ted.  I am in no way suggesting that they be addressed by their first name, for in our culture that would be disrespectful. Again, I think it is safe to keep in mind function as opposed to title. “Brother” suggests respect and closeness in certain cultures. Nevertheless, there are times when occasions may require some official titles.



 

The Work of Elders Is Local


As the name suggests, the authority and work of elders are confined to the church in which their election has been made. It is not permissible for a conference committee by vote to confer on an elder the status that is granted to an ordained pastor to serve other churches as elder. If that need exists, the conference committee may recommend to the church needing an elder that it invite and elect the elder of a nearby church to serve. Thus by election one individual may, when necessary, serve more than one church. Such an arrangement should be made only in counsel with the conference committee. Authority to elect elders is inherent in the local church and not in the conference committee. The only way one may be qualified for serving the Church at large is by ordination to the gospel ministry (See Church Manual pp. 33, 72, 73.).


            On the other hand, the work of the pastor is international, as his ordination allows for service throughout the world.

When Last Did You Try Kindness?

When Last Did You Try Kindness?


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The last thing one is inclined to render is kindness, especially to one or to a system that has been just the opposite: harsh, exacting and unfair. Not to mention if one has been wounded and greatly inconvenienced willfully by another. Forgiveness in the aforementioned poses a challenge for even seasoned Christians, much less for a non-professing believer of God. Is it possible to show kindness or be nice to one who attempted rape, or murdered your brother? Admittedly, I would be the first to declare that this is a bit too much! However, isn’t this response something Christ requires of His followers?


                                                         


What Is Kindness? 


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.



 

Christianity Is not for the Weak of Heart


It takes more than courage to be Christ-like! 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.



 

Kindness Proclamation


From time to time, we read in the newspapers proclamations of one kind or another. How about proclaiming a kindness day, week, month, or better a kindness year? Can you imagine how that would change you and me? Can you imagine a lessening of road rage? Can you imagine no more verbal, physical or emotional abuse? 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. I can assure you that this attitude stands to heal you, too; for it may also be necessary to be kind to oneself.  Christ also taught that we must love others as we love ourselves?  On the other hand, it is possible to love oneself to the exclusion of others. Frankly, that would not be true love. Should we apply kindness or more kindness in our relationships, our society would be a better place in which to live, do businesses and model Christ-like behavior. Let kindness begin today with you and me!

Remembering Pastor Silas Napoleon McKinney

Remembering Pastor Silas Napoleon McKinney

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The recent passing of Pastor Silas Napoleon McKinney, aged 89, has left an indelible void among Seventh-day Adventists, and Bahamians and Jamaicans in general.  Having served the church for over 40 years, Pastor McKinney has touched the lives of thousands of individuals at all levels of the church.  As I reflect on this outstanding preacher, evangelist and church leader, the following come to mind:
 
The Vibrant Church Leader
As a former member of the former West Indies Union Executive Committee, I had the privilege to witness Pastor Silas McKinney in action as an effective chairman.  There were few delays or unnecessary drawn-out discussions and debates.  He surely knew how to keep a committee going without giving the appearance of rushing the discussion or even denying wise contributions.  His sense of humour, coupled with a knowledgeable grasp of church policies and operations, allowed for smooth and lively meetings.  He was passionate about his church and equally so about the then West Indies College (now Northern Caribbean University).  He fearlessly but tactfully and respectfully led the charge in securing additional funding that would normally revert to the local fields from the Inter-American Division, to be given to the college, in order to expand and ready that institution for university status.  It is no wonder that Dr. Herbert Thompson, former president of Northern Caribbean University, remembers him for the magnanimous  support given to West Indies College, as well as the significant role he played in moving the college to university status. Additionally, while Pastor S. N. McKinney could be lively in articulating his positions, he did so with great respect for church leaders at all levels. He was a team player.
Without question, he was a caring and thoughtful administrator.   Who can forget the bold approach of effecting significant salary increases for all church workers in Jamaica at a time when the local economy was greatly challenged? Nevertheless, the increases were voted and field leaders took on the task of promoting faithfulness and most, if not all of them, realized percentage increase in their giving.  Indeed a visionary leader! 
 
The Passionate Evangelist
As an evangelist, Pastor McKinney, along with his companion Pastor L. V. McMillan, formed a duo known as Mac and Mac.  Together under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, highly influenced by the approach and style of the late Evangelist E. E Cleveland, they pioneered the work of public evangelism in the Bahamas, thus increasing the membership noticeably and establishing churches.   Many members can attribute their spiritual birth through one of these preachers. With the support of Pastor McKinney, conference president, Pastor L. V. McMillan conducted the New Providence Crusade, in 1976, which resulted in the largest reaping at that time and the formation of the New Providence Seventh-day Adventist Church. Three members of this new group became pastors.
Of course, Pastor McKinney’s evangelistic skills led him to other places namely Jamaica, the birth place of his dear wife Ruth of 60 years. After serving as secretary of the then West Indies Union for several years, he returned to the Bahamas and accepted a district in Freeport where he continued the work of an evangelist and mentoring young pastors. Later, while he served as union president in Jamaica, many churches were established and hundreds of individuals were added to the body of Christ.
 
The Consummate Socializer
Among the leaders that I have met in my life time, Pastor McKinney stands out as one who knew how to fellowship.   He enjoyed a tasty fish meal and mastered the art of separating the bones from the flesh in a way that made one chuckle and marvel.   During moments of fellowship and laughter, he could debate his favourite subjects of theology, politics and history.  I recall as a young pastor being invited to accompany the then conference president, Pastor Jeremiah Duncombe, to Miami over 20 years ago, with the understanding of going off to purchase a video projector for the then Bahamas Conference (the first video projector for the conference). However, upon my arrival in Miami, I was asked to chauffeur a team of union and field leaders from Miami to Orlando to visit Pastor Tim Walters, former union president, who was convalescing at a nursing home at the time.  The three hour drive was kept lively and exciting with Pastor McKinney leading in the discussion and debates for almost the full duration of the trip.   Indeed he was a man of laughter, fellowship and life.   It could be said in some ways, he lived for the moment.  When you met Pastor McKinney and encountered him, you never forgot him, for he was such an engaging individual. Therefore, my colleagues and I, as well as our families and the entire union staff, pay tribute to him and continue to offer our prayerful support to his wife and children. 

 
MEMORIAL SERVICE: Friday, July 29, 2016, 6 p.m. at the Hillview Seventh-day Adventist Church, 135 Tonique Williams-Darling Highway, Nassau. Homily: Pastor Leonard Johnson (president, Atlantic Caribbean Union)
FUNERAL SERVICE: Sunday, July 31, 2016, at 10 a.m. at the Hillview Seventh-day Adventist Church. Homily: Pastor Peter Joseph (Son-in-law)

Praying with Your Eyes Open

Praying with Your Eyes Open
 

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At the end of 2015, we launched the ATCU’s Prayer’s Initiative 2016.  As such, many of you have begun the process of praying for the various churches, institutions and fields within our union, etc. I am gladdened by this commitment especially when I consider how God directed in the selection of a given church or institution at the most appropriate week chosen before a given need or concern was known. We at the union could only remark that it was totally God’s doing.
Prayer is essential for growth and unity. Therefore, I urge that you keep praying and encourage others to do so as well. Accordingly, I thought to share with you an article of mine on prayer that was printed in the Message and Priority magazines entitled “Praying with Your Eyes Open.” However, I hasten to explain that I am not referring to one’s literal eyes but instead the opening of the mind to God as one communes with Him. This is praying with one’s eyes open.  The thought is one I came across some years ago when I purchased a book with the same caption written by Dr. Richard Pratt, a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary.  Essentially, the book helps one to see what is involved in prayer, and hence this article as I focus on prayer.
 

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

Characteristics That Make For A Great Country

Characteristics That Make For A Great Country

Bahindep
 
Without question, most Bahamians wish for the Bahamas to be the best little country in the region. Fortunately, there are certain features that already make our island nation an object of pride, such as proximity to the United States, favorable climate year round, pristine waters, seas with some of the best marine life, and friendly and gifted people who, for the most part, possess an awareness and appreciation of God.  Nevertheless, as we celebrate the 43rd year as an independent nation, there are a few qualities and characteristics that one would wish were more apparent in the moral fiber of this our Bahamaland.  Accordingly, I share the following from my perspective.
The quality of transparency speaks to the willingness to allow for scrutiny and examination. Facilitating openness builds confidence and trust, while minimizing suspicion and doubt. An issue that has generated much discussion for years is the matter of Campaign Finance Reform. It is about time that both government and opposition commit to this needed reform by enacting the necessary legislation to bring about unrestrained sharing of information with regard to political financial contributions.
Additionally, the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, which is closely related, is long over due.  In a 43-year-old country, citizens have a right to know how their funds are spent and a right to be given an account of how the affairs of their nation are being run. I am often challenged by the prime example of the Bible character, Daniel, as noted in Daniel 6:2. There, the Bible records that a heathen king, Darius, chose Daniel to ensure that “the king would suffer no loss.” Daniel had a reputation of not only being honest, but transparent in his dealings.
Because no powerful country ignores law and order, a commitment to accountability is vital. Accountability means agreeing to hold oneself answerable to others or to a system. No one is lord unto himself. Each of us is responsible to some authority or someone else. Disregarding such breathes chaos.
Respect for God and our leaders is another imperative to which a progressive country adheres. Says the Bible, “Believe in the Lord your God, and so shall you be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chronicles 20:20, NKJV). A high regard must not be reserved for a particular government or political party, or color, or label. Respect is due to all elected personnel. In fact, citizens must learn to hold in high esteem the office of such persons even if there is a preference for an opposing political party. In addition, as a people, we ought to value and appreciate the environment in which we reside inclusive of our beaches, green spaces, cemeteries, public buildings, parks, and communities. Imagine if citizens were to take a personal interest in their surroundings. The Bahamas, then, would not only be clean, green, and pristine, but the envy of many.
Justice and fairness are equally important for a country of 43 years. Obtaining employment ought not to require an endorsement of a parliamentarian or a letter from the same. A great country should not require one’s unquestioned allegiance to a political party or leader to ensure job security. Needless to say, the aforementioned practices stifle creativity and interfere with the advancement of an enlightened country.  On April 4, 2016, one of the dailies observed in its editorial, “In 2014, the Inter-American Development Bank released a report ‘Is there a Caribbean Sclerosis?’ The report noted that The Bahamas loses 61% of tertiary degree holders representing nearly 4.4 percent of our GDP.” The editor continued by asking “Could it be that some Bahamians find political repression, economic stagnation and near criminal warfare as reasons to stay abroad? Absolutely, it is indeed a sad irony that our brightest Bahamians choose to stay away for many of the same reasons that others seek refuge here.”
The “red tape” must be eliminated, and persons ought to be judged on the basis of qualification as opposed to religious or political affiliation, family name, or whether he or she attended a certain school etc.
A great country values its citizens and their abilities. The Bible makes the point that all persons are gifted (1 Corinthians 12:7). In light of this biblical truth, leaders ought to search out indigenous talent and expertise needed in given areas and allow for such to be utilized to the benefit of all. This will certainly minimize the reliance on overseas consultants. While a flourishing country does not exclude input from the global community, it must be careful not to ignore the wealth of local talent.  More must be done to extoll the contributions of one another, be they in sports, education, health, finance, religion etc. So many of our people are being recognized internationally for their great achievements, while in their hometown, they receive little or no honour.
A successful country does not discriminate against its people, for they are all important and valuable. The Bible makes the point that God made male and female in His image and after His likeness (Genesis 1:27). Therefore, to discriminate is not in keeping with the example of God. Also, God made all beings with the power of choice, even to choose contrary to His will. The Seventh-day Adventist Church recognizes this fact and supports the right of all to choose. Of course, one’s choice may not always be in keeping with God’s ideal. Using the Bible as its guide, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, therefore, educates and informs of dangers inherent in certain choices that one may make.  Inasmuch as the Seventh-day Adventist Church supports one’s right to choose, this stance is not tantamount to the Adventist Church endorsing the choice that one may make. These are two different things.  Adventists advocate that supporting a person’s right to choose makes for a democratic society, whereas teaching responsibility and the value of choosing according to the Bible makes for a righteous nation. In a great country, the rights of all people must be respected.
Finally, no prosperous nation develops without a sense of gratitude and appreciation. Thanksgiving must become a way of life for a 43-year-old nation. That disposition will come only when we begin to value what we have. Regrettably, sometimes it requires one to travel outside of the country to have an appreciation for what exists in the Bahamas. Needless to say, we are more than sun, sand, and sea. Were that not the case, many people would not want to visit or live here. Our country offers much more, and we should cherish what we possess, especially the nobleness and strength inherent in our people. Hopefully, gratitude will engender a sense of national pride for who we are and the way we live. Timothy Gibson, composer of our national anthem, clearly understood this pride for he penned, “See how the world marks the manner of your bearing! Pledge to excel through love and unity. Pressing onward, march together to a common loftier goal; . . .'Til the road you've trod lead unto your God, March on Bahamaland.”
God bless the Bahamas! Happy 43rd anniversary Bahamas!

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 that “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.  Additionally, the official statement of our church says, “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
        Furthermore, “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 humans’ 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.  Throwing oil on the ground may seem harmless, but untold damage is being done to our water supply. Allowing old or derelict motor vehicles and appliances to remain in our yards or vacant property certainly do not help the environment; for they may give off oil and other harmful liquids that could seep into the ground. Also, uprooting all of our trees, unnecessarily, to build 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, instead of 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 community leaders with the Pathfinders, other members and concerned citizens to clean up our neighborhoods, or sections of the islands as well as educate persons regarding the importance of protecting Mother Earth.  Also, we could share what we have studied about the environment in our Sabbath School Lesson with others so that the message goes far and wide, for we are stewards of God’s creation.
            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.”

An Honor for the Seventh-day Adventist Church

An Honor for the Seventh-day Adventist Church

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Following the announcement that I was one of the twenty-six Bahamians on the annual Queen’s New Year’s Honours list, I received many calls and notes of congratulation. Named as one of two recipients for the honor, Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG) for services to the church, I have been asked the meaning of CMG. What does the award mean? Like many of you, when first contacted, I had no clue, so I inquired and researched online.
 

The Meaning of CMG
CMG stands for “The Order of St Michael and St George,” and “is awarded to men and women of high office, or who render extraordinary or important non-military service in a foreign country.” It was “Instituted in 1818 by the Prince Regent (later George IV), the Order of St Michael and St George was intended to commemorate the placing of the Ionian Islands under British protection.” Originally it was intended for distinguished citizens of the islands, and also of Malta.
According to Wikipedia, “The Order has three classes. These are:
       Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross (GCMG)
       Knight Commander (KCMG) or Dame Commander (DCMG)
       Companion (CMG)”
It should be noted that it is the third one or lowest that is applicable in this instance. It does not involve any knighthood; though a friend wrote inquiring about the title “Sir,” it is not applicable. Quite frankly, I would be reluctant to accept that award at this stage in my life and ministry. Nevertheless, I humbly accepted the CMG honour at a ceremony on Wednesday, June 22, at Buckingham Palace in London.

cmg
 
Attributed to God
            When I pause and consider my humble beginning and upbringing from time to time, I can only say, “Thank You Lord.” Born on Polemus Street in the heart of the inner city of Grant’s Town in Nassau, I never imagined being a leader of a church, certainly not the Seventh-day Adventist Church, since I was a Baptist at the time. The most I knew about Adventists was mainly through a friend. We were both packing boys at a local food supermarket. As I recalled, he would leave work a certain time on Friday evenings and not show up on Saturdays. Later, I would come to realize why. Nevertheless, the announcement of this award reminds me of many persons God placed in my path to nurture me including my late parents, my dear wife of 32 years, and those in and outside the church. Therefore, this high and significant recognition without question must be attributed to God and by extension, His church. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has afforded me numerous opportunities to travel the world ministering especially in the Bahamas, Cayman and Turks and Caicos islands, as well as serve on boards and committees at all levels of the church. As for my country, one of the most memorable opportunities I value was to preach at the Bahamas’ 39th Anniversary of Independence. To God be glory!
 
The Blessings of Others
            In my attempt to understand this recognition, my research has led me to realize that many Adventists around the globe have received similar awards. To explain, former president of West Indies Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Pastor Patrick Allen, now Sir Patrick Allen, was knighted on June 12, 2009, and Elder Jan Paulson, former GC president was awarded the Norwegian ‘Order Of Merit’ for ‘Service For The Good Of Humanity’ in 2012. Additionally, Queen Elizabeth II presented Joan Saddler, a member of the Hampstead Adventist Church, with the Order of the British Empire on December 6, 2007 for her volunteer work “with mentoring minorities and influencing social health policy.” These three examples coupled with others including two of the former leaders within the Bahamas, who also received high honours, have helped me to appreciate the position of the church toward such awards. As such, I was not surprised when I first learnt of the award and shared the news with Elder Leito, our Division president; he readily congratulated me and encouraged my acceptance of the same.

cmg2
 
The Greatest Award
            And so as I reflect on the rare privilege accorded my wife and me to visit Buckingham Palace a few days ago to receive my award, I determined to prepare for the day when I shall receive the greatest award issued by God Himself saying, “Well done good and faithful servant -enter into the joy of thy Lord.”  What a day that will be! Until then, you and I must keep on serving humanity and remain faithful to the mission of the church, which is to seek and save mankind through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pastoring Made Easy

Pastoring Made Easy

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The above caption may prove to be misleading, especially when one considers the demands of pastoring today. Nevertheless, pastoring can be fun? I declare yes, it can be exciting and fulfilling. Here are a few basic but far reaching steps.
 

Staying in Touch with the Source
Unlike other professions, pastoring is a calling. However, that is not to say that one may not sense a spiritual pull or liking to a given profession. My point is to underscore the need for a deep spiritual conviction before getting into pastoral ministry. Otherwise, one is likely to be unhappy or non-committal in the midst of opposition and pressure. Ellen White notes that “The greatest work, the noblest effort, in which men can engage is to point sinners to the Lamb of God (Gospel Workers, p.18). And the Bible confirms, “No man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was” (Heb. 5:4).
Given this fact, it is absolutely necessary that one who ministers to others engages in meaningful time with God daily, if he or she is to be effective in reaching others. That involves daily devotion and reading to feed one’s soul, praying consistently.
 
Love People and Love to Serve
            It is not easy to love in every instance, but to be a pastor is to model Christ. He demonstrated an unparalleled caring disposition for people of all ages. Recall in Mark 10 that children were brought to Jesus, but His disciples thought that Jesus was too busy to concern Himself with such little ones. But how mistaken were they, for He said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for such is the Kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14, NKJV).
            Not everyone posses an outgoing nature, nonetheless one can still foster a caring attitude for parishioners. Even when he or she is met with opposition and/or coldness, a pastor can determine that he/she will reach out and minister. That involves picking up the phone and calling to inquire how the member is doing. It involves sending e-mails and yes, answering emails, returning calls in a timely fashion. Additionally, it involves visiting members and their relatives at home and in the hospital. Members love it when they know that their pastor cares. You have heard that “people are not interested in how much you know until they know how much you care.”
            To visit requires a bit of discipline. Schedule regular visits on given days, and eventually it will become a pattern.
 
Teach and Preach the Bible
            Teaching and preaching demand study, and study demands discipline. Fortunately, there are numerous resources to aid a pastor in sermon preparation.  However, he or she must pull away and read and pray, and read and pray until God gives understanding. Now that takes time, and hence the need to set aside study time. He or she may not be dynamic or the best orator, but when people sense an anointing upon the pastor’s life, they will trust him/her and call upon him/her for prayer and counsel. Stay with God long enough and He will give you something to say. So you can be a great pastor by adhering to these simple steps.

Remembering Charles D. Brooks

Remembering Charles D. Brooks

cd brooks

Today, I thought to share with you this write-up about the late Dr. Charles D. Brooks from the Adventist News Network, by Andrew McChesney. I can only imagine that like me, so many of you have been impacted by his ministry especially, in the area of evangelism. Indeed, he was a great evangelist. In the Bahamas there is a church that is named after his broadcast –Breath of Life.
 
BROOKS SUCCUMBS TO PANCREATIC CANCER AT THE AGE OF 85
Charles D. Brooks, one of the foremost Seventh-day Adventist evangelists of the 20th century, succumbed to pancreatic cancer on Sunday. He was 85. Brooks, better known as C.D. Brooks, led a 60-year ministry that resulted in more than 15,000 baptisms on six continents and was known for its innovative methods of embracing new media to spread the gospel, including through the Breath of Life television ministry, where Brooks served as founding speaker for 23 years.
Brooks, who disclosed earlier this year that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, died at 4:30 a.m. June 5 in Laurel, Maryland, said his son, Charles D. Brooks Jr. “Please keep my mother and family in prayer,” he said in an e-mail.
Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, paid tribute to Brooks as “an eminent and much-loved senior statesman in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” “He was a highly dedicated and successful evangelist and biblical preacher,” Wilson said. “Elder Brooks loved the Lord, His prophetic church, and the Advent message.” Wilson said he counted Brooks and his wife, Walterene, as longtime family friends, noting that they had worked closely with his own parents. Wilson’s father, Neal C. Wilson, served as president of the Adventist world church from 1979 to 1990. “He and his wonderful wife, Walterene, have dynamically influenced literally thousands and thousands of people worldwide. Elder Brooks has been a great encouragement to me personally,” Wilson said. “The church is greatly saddened by this profound loss, and we wish Mrs. Brooks and the entire Brooks family our heartfelt sympathy and Christian love,” he said. “We look forward with great hope to Jesus' soon coming when we will see Elder Brooks again.”
Charles Decatur Brooks was born on July 24, 1930, outside Greensboro, North Carolina, as the 10th child of Marvin and Mattie Brooks. Six months later, his mother learned about the Seventh-day Sabbath while lying on what she thought was her deathbed after an unsuccessful surgery. A bright light filled her hospital room at night, and a voice said, “Mattie, I want you to keep My commandments,” C.D. Brooks told the Adventist Review in 2006. Mattie Brooks, a faithful Methodist and the daughter of a pastor, was confused. “Lord, which one am I not keeping?” she said. She heard no answer. But suddenly the fourth commandment sprang to mind: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Mattie Brooks made a miraculous recovery and began keeping the seventh-day Sabbath in her home from midnight Friday to midnight Saturday. She knew of no other Sabbath-keepers for the next 10 years.
“Never heard of Adventists,” C.D. Brooks said in the interview. “She had no tracts, no teacher, no Bible study, no anything.”
Her Methodist minister and others church members tried to dissuade her from keeping the Saturday Sabbath. But when the head deacon saw that she would not change her mind, he presented her with a wrapped copy of The Great Controversy by Adventist Church cofounder Ellen G. White. Young C.D. Brooks opened the package with a pair of scissors, and his mother read it with great interest. Then when C.D. Brooks was 10, a Seventh-day Adventist literature evangelist knocked on the family’s door with some books. The very next Sabbath the family was worshipping in an Adventist church for the first time. Brooks recalled that a large copy of the Ten Commandments had hung on the wall of the church, and that it had left a big impression on him. The family began to observe Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
 
How Brooks Became An Evangelist
C.D. Brooks’ own conversion experience came when as a 17-year-old recent high school graduate he attended meetings by Adventist evangelist Earl E. Cleveland in Greensboro. Brooks had been planning to study dentistry in the fall. “Two Sabbaths before Cleveland closed, I was sitting in his tent by myself on a beautiful sunny day, and an overmastering impression came from the Lord that said to me, ‘This is what I want you to do, and I will help you to make truth clear,’ Brooks said. Brooks shook off the impression to become an evangelist as a “stray thought,” but it came again as he walked the mile from the bus stop to his home in the dark that night. His first thought upon wakening on Sunday morning was to become an evangelist, and he had the impression again on Monday. Finally, on Tuesday he told his mother about what was happening. “I didn’t know the power of a mother’s prayers,” Brooks said. “Mother said these words to me: ‘Son, when you were born, I gave you to the Lord. Now He’s calling you.’ Wouldn’t you think she would have shouted, or shed tears, or something? She did none of that. She went on about her business, running a household and serving the Lord. And from that moment I have never looked back.”
Brooks certainly never looked back. With unexpected financial support from his father, who previously had not showed interest in the Adventist message, Brooks enrolled in Adventist-operated Oakwood College (now Oakwood University) in Huntsville, Alabama, and completed four years of studies there. Upon graduation, the Adventist Church’s Allegheny Conference hired Brooks as a tentmaster for J. Dasent, a former conference president serving as an evangelist in Delaware. Dasent asked Brooks to preach his first sermon. “I think it was a test,” Brooks said in a 2009 interview with the Adventist Review. “But the Lord blessed, and when we concluded the campaign and were returning to headquarters, Dasent was kind enough to give me the highest recommendation.” Brooks was asked to run his first full evangelistic series the next summer, in 1952, in Chester, Pennsylvania. “I had a great, exciting summer,” he said. “We had a little church there, 22 members. I love telling young guys, ‘First campaign we doubled the membership.’ They look at me in awe, then I tell them, ‘We had only 22 members.’”
 
"Loving Yet Uncompromising"
Brooks led eight- to 10-week evangelistic meetings for the next dozen years in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Ohio. He then accepted an administrative position as general field secretary of the Columbia Union Conference but continued to lead major evangelistic meetings in big cities such as Chicago, Cleveland, and Philadelphia. “If you have heard C.D. Brooks preach, it was most certainly an unforgettable experience,” authors Benjamin Baker and Harold L. Lee wrote in their 2013 biography C.D.: The Man Behind the Message. “His distinct voice trumpets truth with an authority rarely seen in today's pulpits. The stories he skillfully weaves thrill the imagination and bring conviction to the heart. Loving yet uncompromising, Brooks delivers the Adventist message without apology. His appeals to accept Jesus reverberate in the mind long after they are over.”
In 1971 Brooks become a general field secretary of the General Conference, the administrative body of the Adventist world church, but still led evangelistic meetings, eventually traveling to six continents. “I didn’t want to go to Antarctica because there was no one to preach to,” he said.
In 1974 Brooks was asked to be the founding speaker for Breath of Life, a television ministry being developed for African-American viewers. In that role Brooks led three or four evangelistic campaigns every year, establishing 15 congregations.
His work at Breath of Life and elsewhere put him on the cutting edge of technology, according to C.D.: The Man Behind the Message. “A media trailblazer, Brooks has spread the gospel through every type of media, including cassette, radio, television, and Internet,” the book says. He led at least 15,000 people to Christ, the authors estimated. “When we think of lighthouses, we often forget those who work to keep them shining,” Carlton Byrd, the current speaker of Breath of Life, said by e-mail on Sunday. “Pastor C.D. Brooks kept the light shining. He attended the flame of truth, compassion, and love, and that ministry forever changed the world. He epitomized the words of Jesus, ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16).” Byrd said he would long remember many moments with Brooks but was most astounded at his faith as he struggled with cancer. “The magnitude of his faith in the face of adversity is what I consider most outstanding,” Byrd said. “The most memorable moment for me with this great man of God was when I recently visited him and discussed the health challenges he was experiencing. He assured me, ‘Carlton, if God wills to heal me, He will heal me. If not, I accept His will. “I know in whom I have believed”(2 Timothy 1:12).’”
 
Funeral Arrangements Are Pending
C.D. Brooks is survived by his wife of 63 years, Walterene; two children, Charles “Skip” Jr., and Diedre; and three grandchildren. Brooks retired from active ministry in 1996 because of health issues but kept office hours at the General Conference for years. In 2007, Oakwood University named its Bradford-Cleveland-Brooks Leadership Center in honor of him, Earl E. Cleveland, and Charles Bradford, former president of the North American Division.
Brooks was appointed chaplain of the North American Division in 2013.
Daniel R. Jackson, president of the North American Division, said he had watched Brooks with admiration as he walked the halls of the division, which shares its headquarters with the headquarters of the General Conference in Silver Spring, Maryland. “He was a great preacher and one of God’s true saints,” Jackson said. “I have watched him walk the halls of our office and used to repeat in my head, ‘He is a prince among men.’ I will miss him. But one day soon he will have eternal youth and live forever with his dear wife and family.” 

The Seventh-day Adventist Church Encourages Participation in Gender Equality Referendum

VOTE

Although the following statement was submitted to numerous media houses in the Bahamas, there have been folks inquiring as to the position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church regarding the four bills for the gender equality referendum slated for June 7, 2016. In fact, some individuals have asked, “How should we vote?”
It is not the practice of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to tell members how to vote. Instead, the church leadership has sought to educate its members here in the Bahamas regarding the bills. Now, with the vote due on Tuesday, June 7, each member is encouraged to participate by voting his conscience. As citizens of Christ we are encouraged to respect the different opinions of others and in no way seek to “dis” anyone who may espouse a different view.  Additionally, as this week’s article relates directly to a Bahamian referendum, I crave the understanding of the readers of my weekly articles who do not reside in the Bahamas.
 

The Seventh-day Adventist Church
Encourages Participation in Gender Equality Referendum
 

SDA Church Believes in Gender Equality
The Seventh-day Adventist Church believes and advocates that all Bahamians have the right to exercise with equality their privileges and freedoms as citizens. As it relates to the issue of gender equality, the Seventh-day Adventist Church views both males and females as having been created in the image and likeness of God as noted in Genesis 1:27.
 
SDA Church Commends Bi-partisan Vote of Parliament
Given this fact, the Adventist Church commends the bi-partisan vote of parliament as it sought to address the obvious gender inequality in the constitution of the Bahamas.  Furthermore, the Adventist Church affirms its support for the fundamental principle of treating all citizens (male, female, young, old, religious, non-religious, of whichever socioeconomic or ethnic background) as equals under the law.
 
SDA Church Discourages Politicizing the Issue
Notwithstanding some concerns expressed by some of our church members regarding aspects of the Bills, the Adventist Church continues to believe in the objective of addressing the present inequalities relating to males and females. Additionally, the Seventh-day Adventist Church urges all involved to present, discuss, and educate our citizens without any hint of politicizing this critical national issue.
 
SDA Church Encourages Members to Vote Their Conscience
Accordingly, while encouraging support for participation and discussion in the upcoming referendum slated for June 7, 2016, the Seventh-day Adventist Church respects the rights of its members to exercise their God-given and constitutional freedom to choose based on the dictates of their conscience.

The Importance of the Holy Spirit

The Importance of the Holy Spirit

dove
 
       Daily, in my devotional reading, I come across various statements and thoughts. Sometimes I have to read them over and over to grasp the deeper meaning. However, there are those that strike me at first glance, speaking directly to my soul. Such could be said as I read Acts of the Apostles Chapter 5 entitled, ‘The Gift of the Spirit.” The author, Ellen White, wrote, “Wherever the need of the Holy Spirit is a matter little thought of, there is seen spiritual drought, spiritual darkness, spiritual declension and death. Whenever minor matters occupy the attention, the divine power which is necessary for the growth and prosperity of the church, and which would bring all other blessings in its train, is lacking, though offered in infinite plenitude” (AA 50). Given the preceding statement, it is clear that we need to aggressively seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit daily.
 
The Importance of the Holy Spirit
     I must confess to you that I am learning to pray for the Holy Spirit and His guidance, especially when faced with meetings where I least know what to expect. “Why?” you may ask. It is because I have discovered that when I have this sense of over confidence, I tend to pray little; and it is then that what was supposed to be an easy and predictable situation turns out to be just the opposite of what I expected. It could be that God is showing me that, in every situation, I need to be more dependent on Him - even in situations that I may consider of little challenge. Accordingly, I ask that you revisit the above statement by Mrs. White, for we cannot afford to experience “spiritual declension and death.” 
 
Seeking Sincerely the Holy Spirit
     Given the fact that “Wherever the need of the Holy Spirit is a matter little thought of, there is seen spiritual drought, spiritual darkness, spiritual declension and death,” shouldn’t we pray earnestly for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit? In this vein, Ellen White contends, “Since this is the means by which we are to receive power, why do we not hunger and thirst for the gift of the Spirit? Why do we not talk of it, pray for it, and preach concerning it?”  In fact, she points out, “The Lord is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who serve Him than parents are to give good gifts to their children. For the daily baptism of the Spirit every worker should offer his petition to God.”  Furthermore, says Mrs. White, “Companies of Christian workers should gather to ask for special help, for heavenly wisdom, that they may know how to plan and execute wisely. Especially should they pray that God will baptize His chosen ambassadors in mission fields with a rich measure of His Spirit. The presence of the Spirit with God’s workers will give the proclamation of truth a power that not all the honor or glory of the world could give” (AA 50).
 
The Need for Intentionality
            Given the above statements, I need to be more intentional in my daily walk with God. Like you, I want to know that God is directing in every phase and aspect of my life. In short, I must have a greater dependence on Him- and yet the privilege is ours to get to know Him better and to know His will.  The secret is found in Acts 1-2, which speaks about the disciples being of one accord and seeking the fulfillment of that which Christ promised –the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  What about us? Isn’t there the promise of Joel 2 that apply to us? "I will pour My Spirit upon all flesh." Until we realize the need and importance of the Holy Spirit, it will be business as usual.

Understanding the Terms Part II

Understanding the Terms Part II

meanin
INTERSEX:
The term “intersex” is relatively new in medical science. Centuries ago medical science used the word hermaphrodite. Now it correctly called intersex. One dictionary states that “Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. Medline Plus online states “Intersex is a group of conditions where there is a discrepancy between the external genitals and the internal genitals (the testes and ovaries).” Further definition is intersex is an infant born with tissues from both sex organs. The older term for this condition is hermaphroditism. This is of Greek origin. The Greeks taught that the persons with both sex had mysterious powers.
 
BISEXUAL:
“Bisexuality is romantic attraction, sexual attraction, or sexual behavior toward both males and females, or romantic or sexual attraction to people of any sex or gender identity; this latter aspect is sometimes alternatively termed pansexuality.” Wikipedia
 
SEXUAL ORIENTATION:
According to Wikipedia, many know the meaning of the acronym LGBTQ. However, many do not know what “Q” stands for.
L—Lesbian (female homosexual)
G—Gay (male homosexual)
B---Bisexual                 
T---Transgender
Q--Queer or Questioning
Sexual orientation describes a person's enduring physical, romantic,
and/or emotional attraction to another person (for example: straight,
gay, lesbian, bisexual), while gender identity describes a person's,
internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or someone outside
of that gender binary).

LGBTQ:
“The “Q” can stand for Questioning and/or Queer: Questioning refers to individuals who are unsure of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Queer is an umbrella term encompassing a variety of sexual orientations and gender identities excluding heterosexuality.” Heartland Alliance International
 
MY LAST WORDS:
We do have all of these kinds of individuals in our country. I could remember as a teen my father sharing with us about intersex person -that’s over fifty years ago. Homosexuality is not in the closet anymore in our country. However, individual homosexuals might be, but transgenders and transsexuals are still in the closet. Could it be because they fear that they will not be treated fairly? Today we do have a more open society. Technology and free speech are opening the floodgates of information. This is good. More people are feeling free to express themselves or their views openly. We must learn to live harmoniously with all of these individuals and views. This is a part of a pluralistic, free, democratic society. The healing of our society is not by the removal of these individual but instead embracing the difference among us. We do not have to “accept” or “agree” with the behaviors, but we can be civil and respect the rights of individuals. All human beings in The Bahamas have the right to be treated with respect, fairly, access to services, protection, free from harm and harassment. Christians have a mandate to love unconditionally. If there is anybody who should show unconditional acceptance and unconditional love, it should be the Christian. All people are deserving of this even if we disagree with their lifestyle or behavior.

Understanding the Terms Part I


meanin

Today, I share with you an interesting article by a pastoral colleague Pastor Barrington Brennen. The article relates to understanding various terms such as transgender, transsexual, transvestite, etc. It occurred to me a few weeks ago, when contacted by a newspaper reporter concerning the church’s position on transgender, I realized that I needed more information. Therefore, when I received an article on “Understanding the Terms,” I thought to share it with you. It is my hope that we will all have a better comprehension of the terms. Because of the length of the article, I will share it in two parts.

 
Understanding the Terms Part I
By Barrington H. Brennen, May 3, 2016
In this article today, I am simply defining terms that have been used widely in the public these past several weeks. I have noticed that many do not understand the terms and are using them out of context. A clearer understanding of these terms should facilitate a healthier discussion and hopefully better treatment of these individuals.
I will seek to clarify and define the terms transgender, transsexual, intersex, hermaphrodite, transvestites, homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, LGBTQ. I will seek to give a simple, accurate definition of each term with little comment.
 
TRANSGENDER:
The term transgender has been the most misused and most misunderstood word
within the past few months in our country. One expert says that “For transgender people, the sex they were assigned at birth and their own internal gender identity do not match.” Bahamian psychologist, Dr. Edrica Richardson, an American certified marriage and family therapist, who teaches the subject of Sex and Gender Identity in a Florida college states that “Transgenders are not homosexuals by definition. Transgender persons feel they are psychologically born in the wrong body. Yet they are fully biologically male or female. Transgender is not about sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is about who you are attracted to sexually. Transgender is about gender identity—whether or not one biologically feels like a male or female.” It is also imperative to understand that a transgender person is not interssex or transvestite. Note the definitions later in this article.
As indicated earlier many are confusing transgender with homosexuality (gay). Joanne Herman, retired transgender advocate in the United States, wrote an article in the Huffington Post in August of 2011 entitled “Some Transgender People Are Not Gay.” I think it can give some clarity on the topic and will help us understand why so many, even transgenders and homosexuals themselves, are so confused. Here’s the quote: “Back in the 1990’s, lesbian and gay organizations started adding transgender people to their missions. It seemed to be a reasonable expansion — transgender people face many of the same prejudices that gay people do. But much like the general population, most people in the gay and lesbian community did not understand that, while the prejudices were similar, the underlying issue is quite different. Many still don’t understand this. So when the missions were expanded, many gays and lesbians innocently continued saying that their organizations “serve the needs of all gay Americans.” Many still do say this. The result is that many Americans who have heard the word transgender think it means another kind of gay.
The problem is that some transgender people are not gay. Take Chaz Bono for example. Chaz came out as a lesbian in 1995 because, living as a female since birth and being attracted to other females, that made him a lesbian in society’s eyes. It took Chaz until 2008 to realize that he was truly a man. Now, living as a man who is in a relationship with a woman, Chaz is considered by society to be straight.”
 
TRANSSEXUAL:
Often the terms transgender and transsexual are used interchangeably by
some. As stated earlier, a transgender is a biological male or female who feels the opposite. A transsexual is one who goes through the sex re-assignment surgery to match the gender identity. Note that this is different from homosexuality or lesbianism. Transgender is about what someone feels or think he or she is. Being a homosexual/lesbian is about whom or what gender one is attracted to.
 
TRANSVESTITE:
The Wikipedia Online Dictionary states that a transvestite is a “person who sometimes wears clothes traditionally worn by and associated with the opposite sex; typically a male who cross-dresses occasionally by habit or compulsion.” One author states that Transvestite/Cross-dressers don’t associate with the LGBTQ community and don’t see themselves as anything but
straight/heterosexual. Understand clearly that some transgenders dress to match their gender identity (the way they feel sexually) and not their biological sex. These are not transvestites.
                                                                                             To continue next week

Part II - The Pulpit

Part II - The Pulpit


This is a follow up to my April 22nd Ministerial Weekly. Please note that this article by Merle L. Mills, was printed in a November, 1955 edition of the Ministry Magazine. Though many years old, I believe, like I did, you will find the article interesting and relevant in some respect. Part I relates to the Platform and part II to the Pulpit.
 
The pulpit is the most sacred and exalted place in the church. He who occupies this position stands as the representative of Christ. This is the minister's first line of offense. From this honored and dedicated place he boldly denounces sin and courageously challenges the devil. From the sacred desk are heard the truths of God, which cut as a two-edged sword, bringing both conviction and contrition to the worshiper. Words of life and death flow from this fount. To this vantage point the penitent looks for the heavenly balm of Gilead. Is it not important then that one's comportment in the desk give no cause for needless offense and bring no reproach against the name of Christ?
 
Here are a few suggestions that should be followed as we stand in the pulpit:
 
The occupant of the desk should have good posture. He must not stand in a slouched position, leaning over or on the desk. He should stand erect, with both feet on the floor. To stand first on one foot, then the other, and to lean on the desk does not impress the congregation that the speaker has any fire and enthusiasm or that his message is of any great import. Nor should we be guilty of pounding the desk or the Bible in order to be emphatic. There are other ways of expressing emphasis.
It is both repugnant and a violation of pulpit etiquette to introduce one who is to occupy the desk in a protracted and flattering manner The pulpit is not to be desecrated by indulging in superlatives and hyperboles. To introduce someone as the "world's greatest preacher," a "nationally" or "internationally known figure," et cetera, is to exaggerate as well as to flatter and ought not to be—of all places—in the pulpit. A true minister of God does not appreciate such remarks and becomes embarrassed. If a speaker of some repute is introduced, a few modest statements concerning his position and work are sufficient.
The pulpit is not a place to boast of or to praise the members of the speaker's family. There may be occasions when it would be fitting to refer to the family in the pulpit, but to exalt them and talk frequently of their merits meets with the disapprobation of the congregation. To say publicly that your wife is the best and most beautiful woman in the world is not the subject or language to be heard from the desk. Tell your wife in private as often as you wish how beautiful and wonderful she is.
Jesting, joking, and telling gruesome stories are out of order in the pulpit. It is not the place to display one's humor and make people laugh. There is a time and place for wit and genuine humor, but seldom should it be used in the pulpit. If done at all, it should be with moderation and restraint. To tell funny stories, paint word pictures, and describe repulsive scenes is to degrade the pulpit and weaken its influence.
Announcements that are made from the desk should be in keeping with the spirit of the service. Those who make the announcements should do so briefly and concisely. The worship service is robbed of its dignity when an announcement is made and someone speaks up from the congregation to make a correction, or when the pastor or local elder who makes the announcement speaks directly to someone in the congregation, requesting a clarification or additional information.
Prayer offered in the pulpit is formal in style. To use the personal pronoun—you, your, et cetera—in addressing God certainly sounds disrespectful. Our prayers need not be stereotyped or flowery, nor should they be informal or crude. They should be simple and uttered in true prayer form, addressing God in the solemn style as Thee, Thou, Thine, et cetera.
Public prayer need not be long. The invocation prayer should consist of but a few sentences. This is also true of the offertory prayer and the benediction. The main prayer is longer, but even that should not be protracted. There are few occasions when the main prayer should exceed two or three minutes in length. Long public prayers are an abomination unto the Lord, are unacceptable to the children, and do little good for the adults. "The prayers offered in public should be short and to the point. God does not require us to make the season of worship tedious by lengthy petitions. . .. A few minutes is long enough for any ordinary public petition."—Ibid., p. 175. "Long prayers are tiring to those who hear, and do not prepare the people to listen to the instruction that is to follow."—Ibid., p. 176. "Prosy, sermonizing prayers are uncalled for and out of place in public. A short prayer, offered in fervor and faith, will soften the hearts of the hearers; but during long prayers they wait impatiently, as if wishing that every word might end it."—Ibid., p. 179. Most of our ministers pray too long. This should be corrected.
Our church elders should also be cautioned in regard to this matter. Not only should prayers be brief, formal, and simple, but they should also be reverent, free of vain repetition and any profanation of the name of God. "Our Father," "Jesus Christ," "God," and "Lord" should not be repeated too frequently in prayer, and when used, should be spoken in reverent tones. "Some think it a mark of humility to pray to God in a common manner, as if talking with a human being. They profane His name by needlessly and irreverently mingling with their prayers the words 'God Almighty,'—awful, sacred words, which should never pass the lips except in subdued tones and with a feeling of awe."—Ibid., p. 176. Let us also eliminate the organ music during prayer.
An error of which some ministers as well as local elders are guilty is to begin the offertory prayer before the pianist or organist has been given the courtesy of completing the offertory number.
            The offertory is a part of the worship service, and should not be considered unnecessary or an unimportant part even though the deacons have received the offering before it has been completed. In all probability the musician has spent considerable time practicing and preparing for the number, and the pastor or local elder should not feel it his prerogative to stand up as soon as the offering has been received and cut off the music for the offertory prayer or begin praying as the offertory number is continued. This is a discourtesy to the musician and an insult to God.
            The offertory number should not be long, and the musician may be so instructed, but it should be played in its entirety before the offertory prayer is given, provided it is the practice to have this prayer after the offering, which would seem the most logical place for it. The call for the offering from the desk can be done with dignity. To resort to lightness and humor in calling for the offering is sacrilegious. We stand in dire need of solemnizing, beautifying, and embellishing this part of our church service. A few appropriate remarks are in order, stating clearly what the offering is for that day and quoting a brief statement from the Spirit of prophecy or the Bible that would encourage and inspire the people to participate in this phase of the service. The deacons are then asked to wait upon the congregation as they worship the Lord with their tithes and offerings. The call for and the receiving of the tithes and offerings are as sacred and essential a part of the service as the prayer, and should be done with as much thought and care.
Our denomination does not believe in or follow a liturgical form of church service. This is as it should be. God is to be worshiped in spirit and truth. We are not required to follow a punctilious ceremony in approaching God. The supreme Sovereign of the universe is quick and eager to respond to the faintest cry of the sinner. But we must not go to the other extreme and permit the church service to degenerate into an informal, ill-planned, and undignified service. When we come into God's holy temple and He speaks through His servants in the pulpit to the people, it is an awesome and solemn occasion. We should therefore beautify and exalt the service and conform to an accepted standard of ethics and procedure where His name is wont to be proclaimed and praised.
Our attitude, mood, and demeanor in His house, especially on the platform and in the pulpit, will have its influence on the degree of reverence and inspiration that will prevail in the service. Let us, as ministers and conference workers, be exemplary in our manners and behavior, both on the platform and in the pul­pit, ever remembering that whatever impression we make by our deportment will tend either to elevate or to offend the worshiper in the pew.
God holds His ministers responsible for the influence that the pulpit exerts over the pew. Let us then be conscious of that responsibility and make certain that the ethics, manners, and procedures we follow in our church services will exalt Christ and do credit to His name.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church Encourages Participation in Gender Equality Referendum

The Seventh-day Adventist Church Encourages Participation in Gender Equality Referendum

VOTE
 
The Seventh-day Adventist Church believes and advocates that all Bahamians have the right to exercise with equality their privileges and freedoms as citizens. As it relates to the issue of gender equality, the Seventh-day Adventist Church views both males and females as having been created in the image and likeness of God as noted in Genesis 1:27.
Given this fact, the Adventist Church commends the bi-partisan vote of parliament as it sought to address the obvious gender inequality in the constitution of the Bahamas.  Furthermore, the Adventist Church affirms its support for the fundamental principle of treating all citizens (male, female, young, old, religious, non-religious, of whichever socio economic or ethnic background) as equals under the law.
Notwithstanding some concerns expressed by some of our church members regarding aspects of the Bills, the Adventist Church continues to believe in the objective of addressing the present inequalities relating to males and females. Additionally, the Seventh-day Adventist Church urges all involved to present, discuss, and educate our citizens without any hint of politicizing this critical national issue.
Accordingly, while encouraging support for participation and discussion in the upcoming referendum slated for June 7, 2016, the Seventh-day Adventist Church respects the rights of its members to exercise their God-given and constitutional freedom to choose based on the dictates of their conscience.

Part I - The Platform

Based on numerous responses that I received from last week’s Ministerial Weekly, I thought it necessary to clarify that I am not advocating or supporting a drive to allow pastors of other denominations to preach from our pulpits. I sought to question the discrimination regarding the use of the pulpit by those who are allowed to speak in particular, at funerals. From my position on the platform, it does appear discriminating the way that we relate to the various ones allowed to speak. I also drew reference to dress and decorum. Accordingly, I share a two-part article by Merle L. Mills that was printed in a November, 1955 edition of the Ministry Magazine. Though many years old, I believe, like I did, you will find the article interesting and relevant in some respect. Part I relates to the Platform and part II to the Pulpit.
 
Part I - The Platform
platform

“Decorum on the platform and in the pulpit can do much to set the tone and establish the mood for the church service. It is important that the ministry as well as others who participate in such services observe the ethical conduct that should prevail under such circumstances.
“Because those who are on the platform are under constant observance, their mannerisms should be such as not to offend the worshiper or to detract from the service. While an ostentatious display is to be deplored, one's conduct before the public should not be considered lightly.
“Let us consider some of the essential points of this subject and ascertain whether we are doing all that is expected of us to inspire a reverential atmosphere and to establish a setting that will contribute to the efficacy of the service of worship.
“Those who are to go on the platform should meet in a designated place, usually the pastor's study, in sufficient time to become acquainted with the order of service, the arrangement of seating, and the part each one is to have on the program. Such a practice will avoid confusion, embarrassment, and awkwardness. It should be made certain in advance that there are a sufficient number of platform chairs, that they are properly arranged, and that the right number of church hymnals is available.
“The pastor can plan with the organist or pianist to be given a signal when the prelude is about to be concluded, which, incidentally, should not infringe upon or delay the worship service. If there is no choral introit, the ministers at the close of the prelude should step onto the platform and bow in unison for silent prayer. This genuflection of the ministers on the rostrum should be done in order and with grace. The austere and clumsy way in which some kneel for this part of the service is to be deplored. Each should kneel on both knees and at the same time. It would be well if the one in charge of the service would say Amen just loud enough for the platform group to hear if there is no choral Amen. This is a signal for all to rise together with grace and dignity. If the ministers kneel toward the platform chairs, as in some places they still continue to do, it should have been agreed before that all turn in unison either to the right or to the left in facing the congregation.
“If the congregation has been seated during the silent prayer and it is the plan to rise to sing the doxology, either the choir director or the pastor may make a gesture for them to rise for the song. The one designated to offer the invocation prayer should be in the pulpit by the time the singing is completed and should either gesture with the uplifted hand or say, ‘Let us pray.’ Many times one begins to pray without informing the congregation. This encourages irreverence on the part of the stranger or those unfamiliar with the order of service, and they are not properly prepared to enter into the prayer.
“The platform chairs should be so arranged that the speaker's chair will be directly behind the pulpit. The platform chairman is seated next to the speaker. The one who is chosen to speak should occupy the center chair regardless of what responsibilities or positions are occupied by any who might be invited onto the platform for the service.
“Inconspicuous and conservative dress is essential to good platform etiquette. Bright-colored ties, socks, and suits, and sports apparel are definitely out of order. ‘Carefulness in dress is an important consideration. The minister should be clothed in a manner befitting the dignity of his position.’—Gospel Workers, p. 173. A mirror in the pastor's study aids one in making a check of his personal appearance before going onto the platform.
“Proper dress for local church officers who are called upon to participate in the services can be stressed by having a meeting with your elders and deacons at the beginning of the year in which is discussed with them the importance and necessity of dressing on the Sabbath day in an attire that would be in keeping with the dignity of the service. Even then there may be times when an officer will come to church without a coat or tie, or be attired in a suit and loud tie that make him conspicuous and out of order on the platform. In a few cases, I have refused to take a person dressed in this manner onto the platform, and have in a kind way explained to him the reason. Another suggestion that has been helpful in solving this problem, especially if there are a number of elders, is to give them advance notice of the time they are to go onto the platform and the part they are to perform. Not only does this alert them as to how they should be dressed, but it enables them to be prepared for what is required of them. This is especially important for the one who is to offer the public prayer. He should be notified beforehand.
“Posture is also an important factor to be considered with platform manners. One should sit erect with both feet on the floor. To sit in a slouched position with the legs crossed is a gross impropriety. To encourage interest in and attention to the speaker, the eyes of all those on the platform should be kept on the speaker. To allow the eyes to wander about the auditorium, sizing up the beams, scrutinizing the light fixtures, looking out of the windows, et cetera, during the preaching is a breach of good platform manners. The same can be said of closing the eyes and dozing. No matter how soporific the sermon might be, this is inexcusable. It is indecorous for anyone on the platform, including the pastor, to whisper. This can no more be condoned there than in the congregation. Whispering and talking on the platform are disrespectful and irreverent.
“The speaker and those who share the platform with him should sing with the congregation. Singing is as much a part of worship as praying and preaching. How strange that people go to church for the ostensible purpose of worshiping the Lord and yet refuse to do so while there, by not singing with the congregation!
“All those on the platform should participate in the offering. This too is a significant part of our worship to God. It may be true that the pastor or the visiting ministers have contributed earlier that day in another church they have visited. But this cannot be explained to the congregation. Even if it means that one must divide his offering, or sacrifice more, in order to give when he is required to be on the platform several times in one day, he should give willingly.
“Those seated behind the speaker can set a good example of supporting him. As the pastor makes a solid point or enunciates a solemn and pregnant truth, why not express approbation by a hearty Amen! It is to be lamented that in many of our churches this practice has become almost extinct, and the Amen corner of the church has become silent. It is recognized that this could be carried to excess, but a few Amens during the sermon will not give cause for offense and could do much to contribute to the inspiration and fervor of the speaker.
“Admittedly, one of the prevailing sins in our churches today is irreverence. What is seen and heard often times in the house of prayer is an insult to God and must cause the angels to hide their faces. We stand indicted, and, as conference workers and leaders, we ourselves have been guilty of contributing to this laxity by our personal example. Realizing our solemn obligation, could we not improve our platform manners and by example help to develop an atmosphere that will dignify our church services so that they will inspire awe and reverence in all who come to worship God in His sacred presence?”

Who Should Be Allowed in the Pulpit?

Who Should Be Allowed in the Pulpit?

pulpit
 
How many times do we witness deacons denying persons of other church denominations access to the main pulpit or podium especially at a funeral service? Before you blame deacons, it may be appropriate to conclude that they do so under instructions. And aren’t they being obedient to the Church Manual which discourages the practice of having unauthorized persons ascend the pulpit? Having watched this on several occasions, I thought to do a research, and therefore I share with you the following regarding the use of the pulpit.
 
A Look at Podium in the Bible
In the Bible, reference is made to the term “pulpit” in Nehemiah 8:4: “And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose” (KJV). This is probably the only place where the English word “pulpit” is used in the Bible. However, in looking at the Origins of the “Pulpit,” I discovered that the English term “pulpit” is derived from the Latin pulpitum (Sacred Desk or Sacred Cow? Perspective on the Pulpit January 31, 2013), which seems to be in keeping with what is found in Nehemiah.  It “referred to a raised platform on which a speaker would stand.”
Additionally, research has revealed that “the next extant reference to a ‘pulpit’ doesn’t occur again until the third century A.D. when Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, uses the term pulpitum to refer to a physical structure within a church building” (“The Social Origins of Christian Architecture,” Harvard Theological Studies 42, 1990, 2:23).
 
Purpose of the Pulpit
As for the use of the pulpit, the Wikipedia records, “the pulpit is generally reserved for clergy. This is mandated in the regulations of the Roman Catholic Church, and several others (though not always strictly observed).” Additional, it is noted that “Many churches have a second, smaller stand called the lectern, which can be used by lay persons, and is often used for all the readings and ordinary announcements. The traditional Catholic location of the pulpit to the side of the chancel or nave has been generally retained by Episcopalian and some other Protestant denominations, while in Presbyterian and Evangelical churches the pulpit has often replaced the altar at the centre” (Francis, Keith A., Gibson, William, et al., The Oxford Handbook of the British Sermon 1689-1901, 2012).
Could the above be the basis for the use of upper and lower pulpits in some of our churches? However, the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not have a hierarchy of bishops per se. All pastors, elders and other church officers use the same platform and pulpit. So is it necessary to discriminate between members and non-members when it comes to the use of the pulpit?
 
Counsel Regarding the Use of the Pulpit
While there is reference to deny unauthorized persons to conduct services, this applies to “strangers” and “individuals who have been removed from the ministry or who have been removed from membership in other places, or designing persons” (Church Manual 2015 p.120). As for those who are to speak, it is necessary that they produce “proper credentials” (Ibid).  However, “At times it is acceptable for government officials or civic leaders to address a congregation, but all others should be excluded from the pulpit unless permission is granted by the conference. Every pastor, elder, and conference president must enforce this rule” (Ibid pp. 120/1).
Given the counsels, should not greater attention be paid to pulpit dress and behavioral decorum? It is not a sin or sacrilegious to permit non-SDA religious leaders and government leaders to speak from the pulpit. While it is of concern as to what may be said and the time allotted, we could provide some guidelines as to address these. The purpose of the platform was and is for the proclamation of the word. To have others ascend the pulpit speaks to the fact that we respect their office. However, respect does not mean that we agree with their theology. Nevertheless, I am open to further input on this topic as it warrants more discussion.

The Importance of a Spiritual Life

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

Lord Transform Me Alert #3

Lord Transform Me Alert #3

LTM
 
Approximately 6 weeks ago, I shared two articles on “Lord Transform Me” (LTM) as an aim to acquaint pastors and elders as to the “What” and “Why” of “Lord Transform Me.” However, this coming Sabbath, April 2, is the date that has been set aside throughout the Division to officially sensitize members in each local church regarding LTM. Accordingly, it is anticipated that in each church throughout the Union, members will learn more about LTM and its five components as it is promoted. This initiative is essential as it will guide the Division in its evangelistic direction for the next five years. Therefore, I seek to share the following information.
 
What Is Expected on Sabbath, April 2, 2016?
Sabbath, April 2 - "Lord Transform Me" (promoted in local churches)
This has been a day chosen to promote the "Lord Transform Me" program throughout local churches. A video is available with a special message on behalf of the IAD to invite members from local fields to be part of this great movement. For this video and other resources, visit www.lordtransformme.com.
 
What Is Expected on Sabbath, April 16, 2016?
Sabbath, April 16 - "Lord Transform Me" will be launched officially by the Inter-  American Division in Caracas, Venezuela. To ensure that we all have access to this initiative, it will be televised throughout Inter-America. Church members are invited to connect to the transmission where Pastor Ted Wilson, our General Conference president, will be the guest speaker. Additionally, I am asking that each church or church district seek to have at least one baptism to mark the event. In this regard, the field LTM Coordinators for Cayman and TCI Mission are to contact Pastor Dannie Clarke at 242- 457-3648, and the coordinators for North and South Bahamas conferences are to contact Pastor Leonardo Rahming at 242- 376-7857 to report their baptisms. Please note the time for the televised transmission.
 
LTM SAT eng
Times and transmission channels:
 
SPANISH
Esperanza TV
11:30 AM - 2:30 PM (Miami Time)
 
ENGLISH
Hope Church Channel
11:30 AM - 2:30 PM (Miami Time)
 
FRENCH
Hope Church Channel
3:30-6:30 PM (Miami Time)
 
What Is Expected on Wednesday, May 25, 2016?
Wednesday, May 25 - "Lord Transform Me" will be launched officially in a joint symposium service at the Hillview SDA Church in Nassau, Bahamas. Notwithstanding the previous launch of IAD and the earlier promotion of LTM, ATCU will do its launch by having each field leader share their approach to how they will carry this initiative in their field. Also, we can expect to receive an update to their baptisms for the first 5 months of the year as well as projections for the rest of 2016 and the quinquennium. The service from Hillview will be carried live via the internet to all of the ATCU region. The administration of ATCU seeks the total involvement of each member.

Alive Today and Always!

Alive Today and Always!

alive 

The above caption is more than a catchy phrase or more than a nice caption, as it depicts an unmistakable reality, and that is Jesus died, rose again and is alive for evermore. And these facts, my friends, offer tremendous hope for all people in every nation and situation. As such, I use this space to remind you of these realities and their implications for today. This is so necessary given many let downs and disappointments we experience in this life. 
 

Jesus Died!
The Apostle Paul declares that Jesus,
Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond servant, and coming in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:6, NKJV). Additionally, Paul continues by stating that Jesus "humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:8, NKJV). It is unthinkable that one would give his life for another, but Christ did, and did so willingly, as noted in the New Testament book Titus: Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed (Titus 2:14, NKJV). Consider that the human race should have been put to death for their sins, but instead Jesus took the death that was ours and gave us the life that was His. That is remarkable and unthinkable but was absolutely necessary. You and I can have hope, a positive outlook, a way out and a where with all to survive any situation because of this death, and that which makes His death bona fide, is that which follows --the resurrection. 
 
Jesus Rose!
It is unknown for one to lay down His life and pick it up. As we know, once you are dead, that is it; for no person possesses the power to raise himself from the grave. Not so with Jesus, for He declared,
I lay down my life that I may take it up again (John 10:17). So on the first day of the week, when Mary Magdalene and later Simon Peter went to the tomb where He was laid following His death, they found it empty, and rightly so, for Jesus predicted that resurrection would happen on the third day (Matt. 20:19). Now He lives and lives for evermore; but more so He lives that we may live and live eternally. Says Jesus in John 14:19: Because I live, you will live also. What does that mean? There is resurrection power and hope, which inspire us, notwithstanding our circumstance or besetment, causing us to rise up in pursuit of our goals and to fulfil Gods plans for our lives. No matter the situation; no matter how dark and dismal your present state may be inclusive of a divorce, joblessness, lack of finance, terminal illness, Christs resurrection denotes that there is an escape or solution clause. For if Christ could rise from death, there can be nothing that I face more hopeless than death, so He can help in any situation. 

Jesus Desires Permanent Residence
Because Jesus died and rose and is alive for evermore, He desires a real and meaningful relationship with us. Certainly not one in which He is called on when there is some issue, or need such as a grocery list. He is not desirous of
a sweet heart relationship but a permanent one where He is allowed to take up residence in the heart and in the home, becoming more than Saviour but Lord and Master. I believe that the analogy of The Vine and the Branches in John 15 clearly describes the closeness He desires with us, being present in good times and bad times. What a privilege! 
And for whatever strange and unknown reasons, we seem to doubt Him, His love and His desire to have that lasting and meaningful relationship. No wonder we suffer such unnecessary pain and forfeit much needed peace, because we do not take Jesus seriously. We simply fail to appropriate the present benefits of His death, burial and resurrection. Unfortunately, it will get no better until we realize what it means to have Him as Lord and Saviour. Succinctly put in the words of Will L. Thompson, 
Jesus is all the world to me, My life, my joy, my all; He is my strength from day to day, Without Him I would fall. And just by asking Him to come into your heart today it will happen and happen now as you pray. Why not pause and pray?

Not Because You Do Not See It

Not Because You Do Not See It
Last week I shared with you some daunting statistics such as the population of the world, which is approximately 7.4 billion people, and of that amount about 32.5% represents Christianity, and of that amount 50 % represents Roman Catholics.  The balance stands for Islam 21.5%, Hinduism 14%, Buddhism 6% and Non-Religious 16%. How do we reach these people with the gospel of Christ? Just thinking about these massive masses of people is enough to discourage us, but again I go to the word of God, in particular the Parable of the Leaven. It helps me to understand how the kingdom of God will mushroom. Accordingly, I make three points drawn from the parable.
 
You Don't See It
Through the parable of the leaven Jesus makes the point that just because one does not see the leaven does not mean that nothing is happening. Likewise the same could be said of His church or kingdom. Is it any wonder that the Apostle Paul says, “We walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7, NKJV). Sight can be good, but it can be misleading or delusional. So let’s consider the genesis of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Going back to 1844 that was a time of great disappointment. Many individuals had sold land and disposed of material possessions in anticipation of the imminent return of Christ, but it did not happen. As a result, some gave up on Christ; and others returned to their former churches. Nonetheless, a core or small group decided to hang in there, as they felt that there was something sincere and genuine about their experience. Later they would find out that they had the right date but the wrong event. Therefore, from that small beginning, the Seventh-day Adventist Church got started.
So from 1844 I fast-forward to 1863, and according to the GC Statistics, the church had only 3,500 members. By 1899 there were 64,003 members, and by 1955 – 1,006,218 (our first million)!  Now today, some approximately 61 years later, we are nearing 19 million. Looking back then you could not see it, but like yeast when mixed with dough, it started its work.
 
You Will See It
Today, you can see a difference compared to when many of us became members. According to the leaven, which the woman took and hid in the dough, the Bible implies that the dough would eventually rise. One does not have to guess as to the growth and development of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Bahamas, Cayman and The Turks and Caicos Islands.
Consider that in 1950 there was just one field in the Bahamas –The Bahamas Mission with 19 churches, 718 members and a total of 40 baptisms for that year. Cayman Mission had 4 churches with a membership of 182 and 4 baptisms for that year. The Turks and Caicos Mission was known as Salt Cay Mission. It had a small membership of 44 with 2 churches and had 11 baptisms that year. That was a significant growth in membership. Today, there are two fields in the Bahamas with a book membership of nearly 24,000 members and 60 churches. As for Cayman the membership has exceeded 5,000 and there are 16 churches; and in the Turks and Caicos the membership is approaching 3,000 with 9 churches. This ought not be surprising, for didn't Jesus say, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32 NKJV).
So like a baby that has been birthed, the church or God’s kingdom is advancing but certainly not to the extent that many of us had hoped. Ellen White contends, “If we would humble ourselves before God, and be kind and courteous and tenderhearted and pitiful, there would be one hundred conversions to the truth where now there is only one” (9T 189.4).                                                                                                                                                         
You Will Experience It
The other aspect of growth is personal. This is what takes place within the individual. In commenting on this aspect of growth, Ellen White explains, “As the leaven, when mingled with the meal, works from within outward, so it is by the renewing of the heart that the grace of God works to transform the life” (COL 97.1).

This is heightened by the admonition to Nicodemus by Jesus seen in John 3:3: Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

With this kind of conversion taking place, there is bound to be an inward and outward change being manifested as a result. Ellen White got it right when she wrote, “The natural inclinations are softened and subdued. New thoughts, new feelings, new motives, are implanted. A new standard of character is set up—the life of Christ. The mind is changed; the faculties are roused to action in new lines. Man is not endowed with new faculties, but the faculties he has are sanctified. The conscience is awakened. We are endowed with traits of character that enable us to do service for God” (COL 98.3).
My dear brethren the world desires to see these changes. This to me is the most positive change of growth. Someone has said, “I would rather see a sermon than hear one.” Can you imagine a church with this kind of growth? If you would keep in tune to the “Lord Transform Me” initiative to be launched officially in ATCU May 25th, you will see what the Lord will do.

The World Will Be Reached With the Gospel

The World Will Be Reached With the Gospel

world

 

Stating the Challenge
Have you taken time to consider that the current population of the world stands at approximately 7.4 billion people, and of that amount about 32.5% represents Christianity, 21.5% Islam, Hinduism 14%, Buddhism 6% and Non-Religious 16%, and some small groups make up the difference? When you do the math in the light of Christ’s mandate to carry the gospel message to the entire world, it can be daunting to say the least. In fact, one can feel overwhelmed and intimidated given the statistics.
With a world membership of fewer than 20 million Seventh-day Adventists, how do we reach the world? Come closer home and you will note that the current population of the Atlantic Caribbean Union region is less than half a million (477,000 -Bahamas 377,000, Cayman 63,000, TCI 37,000). To compound the situation, our region is heavily influenced by the United States - fast becoming secularized and given to worldly pleasure, it would seem.  Therefore the question is begged, “How do we reach our section of the world with the gospel with a membership of approximately 32,000?” “How will the fulfillment of Christ’s commission be realized?”
 
Confronting the Challenge
Apart from the promise of Christ, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached and then shall the end come,” is the record of two parables recorded in Luke 13:18-21.  The first, which is the Parable of the Mustard Seed, refers to the significant growth of the kingdom from a small beginning to a major development. Additionally, the Parable of the Leaven relates to the internal or transforming growth of the church working from within. Given that these two parables originated with Christ lends to much credibility. Therefore, there is no need to doubt what Christ predicts in terms of His church/kingdom. Says Christ, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God to?”
 
Defining the Process
Employing the object of a mustard seed, Jesus teaches three important lessons: Don't despise small beginnings. Success is not the result of chance and Success results from total dependence upon God. So, given the principles of the parable, it is clear that the growth and expansion of the kingdom of God is guaranteed. So when I am confronted with the 7.4 billion figure with a high percentage of Islams, Hinduism, Buddhism and non-religious ones, I remind myself of what Christ promised. The successful spreading of the gospel is predicated on God and His promises. Therefore in keeping with this fact, the implementation of Total Member Involvement (TMI) and Lord Transform Me (LTM) are most relevant and timely. We can fully support these initiatives, knowing that our leaders’ decision to introduce them is in keeping with not only our Lord’s mandate to go, teach and make disciples, but also the assurance that the growth and expansion of God’s church is guaranteed by Him. Given this reality, we are guaranteed success. Let’s keep believing and acting upon our belief!

Leadership Training In Russia and Ukraine

Leadership Training In Russia and Ukraine

ukraine

 
A rare but rewarding opportunity was recently accorded my wife and me to visit the Euro Asia Division of Seventh-day Adventists (ESD) to participate in leadership training for union and local field officers.
From February 17-28, I was privileged to present a total of seven seminars such as “Effective Team Relationship,” “Time Management and Planning,” “Managing a Church Organization,” and “Succession Planning,” etc. in the Ukraine and Russia of the Euro Asia Division with headquarters in Moscow, which comprises of 13 countries and 2000 churches.  Expressions such as “Your messages were good,” “Was what we needed,” “Great blessing!” “Thank you so much!” and “Hope you can come to my area” came from some of the more than 100 leaders representing the 9 unions, who managed to muster up enough English to express themselves. In fact, the president of the Division, Pastor Michael Kaminskiy, who assisted with translation commented, “The presentations were on point and addressed the needs of our leaders.” At the conclusion of the training, he expressed publicly his gratitude for not allowing the challenge of acquiring our visas to deter us from coming.
In looking back, I vividly recall the day in October 2015 while at the Annual Council of the General Conference in Washington, Artur Stele, a vice president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, who visited the Bahamas nearly two years ago, introduced me to the leader of the Euro Asian Division of Seventh-day Adventists, Pastor Michael Kaminskiy. It was then that I received one of the most intriguing invitations of my 34 years in pastoral ministry. Pastor Michael Kaminskiy asked, “Would you be willing to come to ESD to assist us with our leadership training for local field and union officers in The Ukraine and Moscow?” Initially, there was a feeling of excitement, however, as the time neared to travel and we encountered some challenge in obtaining visas for both places, coupled with not so pleasant news from Russia and Ukraine in the media, we wondered if it was God’s will to travel. In fact, out of concern, some of our friends questioned the timing of our visit.
However, believing that wherever the people of God are they are to be reached, I reasoned that, “If God protects my fellow colleagues there in Russia and the Ukraine, certainly He can protect my wife Denise and me.” So with the assistance of Mr. Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Bahamas, as well as the direct representation of Ambassador Alma Adams and Consul Deborah Saunders at the Bahamian Embassy in Cuba, the Russian visas were secured in Cuba.  The Ukrainian visas were eventually obtained in Washington.
Upon arrival in the former Soviet Union, we were warmly welcomed and hosted. Really, there was no time that we did not feel safe. We thoroughly enjoyed the visit to Red Square, Lenin Mausoleum, Orthodox churches and other places we had only seen on television.  More so, we enjoyed visiting our local churches and institutions. We spent a total of 10 days in the Euro Asia Division and are most grateful for the experience and privilege to serve and represent our union. We shall long remember the friendships made and especially the enthusiasm of our brethren in attending Sabbath school so early in large numbers.

Keep Mentoring Alive

Keep Mentoring Alive

KMA

 
As I prepare this article today here in Moscow, participating in a leadership training for leaders of various levels from local fields, union as well as directors of the Euro Asia Division, I have been led to contemplate that which led to my being here in Russia this week and, part of last week in Ukraine. I simply attribute this rare privilege to God and the people, whom He has positioned to impact, assist and mentor me, for no one is self-made. However, until I get to the story one day, I share a few points on mentoring.  One of the greatest blessings as an elder, intern, pastor, director or even a union administrator is having someone who listens, collaborates with you, helps you in problem solving and achieving certain objectives.  Essentially, it is someone that you can look up to as a guide. As noted, that can be a real benefit in many ways, for each one of us faces challenges and situations never imagined or anticipated, and having one to stand by your side can be most re-assuring. This is basically mentoring, and as one reads the Bible, he or she will see several examples of this in both Old and New testaments.
 

Examples of Mentoring
Biblical examples that come to mind include Eli and Samuel, Elijah ad Elisha, and Ruth and Naomi in the Old Testament. As for the New Testament, there were Jesus and Peter, James and John; Barnabas and Saul, Barnabas and John Mark, Paul and Silas, and Paul and Timothy.  In observing these one is led to see close relationships, information sharing and on the job experience designed to make the mentee better prepared for given assignments.
 
Mentoring Takes Time
Looking at the above examples, it is obvious that time was a necessary ingredient for both mentor and mentee. I recall in the example of Barnabas in relationship to Saul, who would become the Apostle Paul (in Acts 11:25, 26), Barnabas is pictured going to Tarsus for Saul, and upon finding him, he takes Saul with him to Antioch- and there spent one year preaching and teaching. During this period, Saul was being mentored.  Of interest, one would read in the book of Acts up to this point, when the two names are mentioned, it is Barnabas then Saul- in that order, but there after the order is Paul and then Barnabas, pointing to a great job done by Barnabas- even though much is heard about Paul in comparison to Barnabas.
 
Mentoring Is Vulnerable
In becoming a mentor,  it is possible that the mentee will become better than the mentor. That ought not to prevent one from giving his or her best in mentoring another.  What is most important is that both mentor and mentee understand their roles within the plan of God.  It would seem that John the Baptist though not a true mentor of Jesus, understood this principle, for he pointed out that Jesus must increase and he decrease. Unfortunately, some administrators, pastors and elders are not always willing to open up to another colleague for fear of having one’s weaknesses or sensitive matters exposed.  This is rather unfortunate, for it may be that very person that God intended to encourage or assist.
            In the case of Barnabas, senior to Saul, he put his reputation on the line by associating with Saul (as Saul was not trusted at this time, for he was perceived by some as pretending to be a Christian, but his intention was to arrest and kill those of “the way” as implied in Acts 9: 26, 27.  Nevertheless, Barnabas “took him, and brought him to the apostles,” and thereby legitimized him.
 
Mentoring Must Nevertheless Continue
            Don’t we all wish that we had mentors? Maybe some of you do. Be grateful for it is a blessing. Ellen White says, “Those who undertake this training of young workers are doing noble service. The Lord Himself co-operates with their efforts” (PK 222-3).  Furthermore she adds that,  “the young men to whom the word of consecration has been spoken, whose privilege it is to be brought into close association with earnest, godly workers, should make the most of their opportunity” Ibid.
            Quite frankly, I also value the God given opportunity to mentor others especially young pastors and elders. Keep the ministry of mentoring alive!

Lord Transform Me

Lord Transform Me

 LTM

Last week, I introduced the Lord Transform Me initiative so as to sensitize you as fellow leaders to become knowledgeable and involved in this dynamic, comprehensive evangelistic undertaking of our church in the Inter-American Division, but particularly in the Atlantic Caribbean Union. Accordingly, I implore you to re-read the article sent out last week, which explains the initiative. As for this weekly, I share important dates. Additionally, please note that Pastor Peter Kerr, the executive secretary, who is the assistant to the president for evangelism, is responsible for Lord Transform Me. You can expect to receive further updates and instructions from him via your local field LTM person. I am really excited about this initiative, as we seek to get each member involved in the mission of the church. You will also receive information from Pastor Dannie Clarke, our personal ministry director.
 
For starts, note that the month of February is the month for emphasizing Lord Transform Me in all of our local churches in the Union. By that we want to explain what is LTM.  Again, you will find last week’s article helpful.
 
April 2 is the day to officially launch the program in all churches across the Division.
 
April 16 is the day when the program will be launched at the Division level from Caracas, Venezuela. On this day, we would like all churches across the Division territory to connect through the internet, 3ABN or Hope Channel, to access the program from Venezuela. It will be from 8:00-11:00 a.m. Venezuela time.
On April 16, each church should be a Lord Transform Me Worship Center where, among other activities, the following three things will be expected:
a. Each church should have at least one soul for baptism
            b. Each member will sign a Lord Transform Me participation pledge sheet
            c. Each church should have a number of small groups organized, where members will study the Righteousness of Christ and how to make personal application.
 
Finally, I am happy to report that Pastor Kerr and Pastor Steve Cornwall will represent the Union during the LTM short outreach in Caracas, Venezuela from April 9-15, 2016. Let’s pray and become involved. In the meanwhile, note that there is a web site for LTM as well. It is www.lordtransformme.com

What Happened to Vision One Million?

What Happened to Vision One Million?

v1m
 
I would imagine that some of you have been asked, “What has become of ‘Vision One Million’?” After all - it was the catchy phrase and expression of our division for years. Now, there is talk of Total Member Involvement (TMI), Lord Transform Me (LTM) and P.U.S.H (Pray Until Something Happen). Yes, the name ‘Vision One Million’ has been replaced but certainly not its emphasis on soul winning. In fact, there is an even greater focus on evangelism geared at involving the full membership, all church departments, local field, institutions and unions through a comprehensive initiative known as Lord Transform Me.
 
What Is Lord Transform Me?
            Lord Transform Me is a comprehensive undertaking of the Inter-American Division, designed at getting all workers and members to embrace a total transformation of person as a means to fulfilling the mission of the church, which is the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus’ salvation. Based on Romans 12: 2, “Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God,” it is anticipated that a renewed mind will result in a “reformation in the way that [we] live, interact and serve.”  Therefore, there will be a deliberate effort to influence others in accepting Jesus as their Savior and become His disciples.
 
What Is Involved in Lord Transform Me?
There are five principle components of Lord Transform Me. They are:
  • Transform and Live - aimed at engaging the total membership to read the Bible, the Spirit of Prophecy writings, the 28 Fundamental Beliefs and materials related to Righteousness by Faith and Faithfulness to God. I guess you would have recognized a definite correlation with the daily reading plan of Believe in His Prophets and the United in Prayer focus inclusive of ATCU’s P.U.S.H.
  • Explore and Learn - trains and assists members to identify, use and develop their talents in fulfilling the mission of the church.
  • Connect and Share – helps members and non-members deal with their social, physical and emotional issues as a means to befriending others and leading them to Christ.
  • Proclaim and Reap – trains and equips pastors to enable and empower members to engage in ministries aimed at reaping souls for the Kingdom of God through various evangelistic campaigns and approaches.
  • Conserve and Disciple – devises appropriate methods and strategies to retain members and disciple them into productive and active members thus, strengthening and adding to the Kingdom of God.
 
Get Involved
            Given the aforementioned, it must be obvious that the principles of Vision One Million have not been discarded. Instead, Vision One Million has been expanded to include the total membership of the church in keeping with the General Conference TMI. Just as there was a given union where the division targeted for training and reaping each year, Lord Transform Me will do the same beginning this year with the East Venezuela Union focusing on the theme of the Righteousness of Christ. In 2017, the focus will be on Doctrinal Study Part 1 in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union in Mexico. Then in 2018, we will focus on Doctrinal Study Part 2 in the Haitian Union and concluding in 2019 in the Bahamas, our very own union, with a focus on Faithfulness to Christ. Essentially, Vision One Million has not gone anywhere. It has been subsumed in Lord Transform Me. Accordingly, you can expect to hear more about this in your field, local church and institution. LTM is more than a catchy phrase; it is a strategic focus for the entire division, and the leadership of ATCU is thrilled to be a part of this exciting and all encompassing plan involving the total church in the work of the Lord, as we look forward to Christ’s return. Let’s embrace LTM personally and corporately! 

I Believe In My Church

I Believe In My Church

kyc

Almost daily the Seventh-day Adventist Church is accused of wrongdoing or objectionable practice. Admittedly, the church, which comprises of you and me, is not immune to missteps. In fact, it does err. However, I have learned from experience to apply the principle of “not rushing to judgment,” but instead “checking the credibility of the source of the accusation” and “researching the charge.” A case in point relates to a recent email widely circulated last week by Andrew Henriquez, via his Prophecy Again ministry, captioned: “First Open Transgender SDA Elder under Pastor Stoltz, Hollywood Church! Is this the First of Many?” Through the presentation on You Tube, it appears that Henriquez is indicting the Seventh-day Adventist Church generally with wrongdoing. There seems to be no attempt to isolate an issue associated with a local church. In fact, if one were to view some of Henriquez’ video clips on You Tube, he would see this trend of broad brushing. Accordingly, I thought to research this latest accusation. In doing so, I have applied the principles mentioned above.

Don’t Be Quick to Judge
For starts, yes, there is a Seventh-day Adventist Church by the name Hollywood SDA Church and the pastor is Branden Stoltz. In my attempt to verify the information, I tried reaching the union president for California where the church is located, but I was unsuccessful. A pastoral colleague, Barrington Brennen, unknown to me, was researching the same issue and tried to reach Pastor Stoltz by both telephone and email without success as well. Upon further inquiry, I checked with another pastor who resides in the United States and was acquainted with the church. He informed me that while he knew the church he did not have any information about the matter in question. However, he was aware that the church has a specific ministry, which reaches out to gays and lesbians with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Still not satisfied, I pursued a 21-page document purported by Henriquez to be the basis for the Hollywood’s decision to choose transgender/gay/lesbians as leaders, for he claims that the document reveals that the Seventh-day Adventist church accepts the LGBT lifestyle.

Do the Research
Therefore, I researched and located the 21-page document and examined it. Titled "An Understanding of the Biblical View on Homosexual Practice and Pastoral Care," it is a Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary Position Paper voted on October 9, 2015.  Consider the following excerpt, "Scripture condemns heterosexual immorality no less than homosexual practice and warns against any harboring of lustful thoughts and desires for such practices. While homosexuality is a distortion of the Edenic ideal, ‘there is no condemnation’ for homosexually oriented persons as long as they ‘are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8:1) and do not harbor or act upon their orientation and propensities. The same principle applies to those who struggle with heterosexual immorality (see Matt 5:27–28; Rom 6:1–23; 8:1–4; Col 3:1–10; James 1:14–15). Even as some individuals may experience a miraculous deliverance from sinful heterosexual and homosexual urges, others may have to wrestle with such tendencies all their lives (see Gal 5:16–25). One is not culpable for these involuntary tendencies, but for acting upon them either in imagination or actual practice."
However, on page 16, the following section has been misquoted to sanction placing homosexuals in leadership of the church, but observe the statement for your-self. It says, “All persons, including practicing homosexuals, should be made to feel welcome to attend our churches while non-practicing gay persons should be welcomed into membership and church office. All should receive spiritual care from the Church (Gal 6:1).” The keyword is “non-practicing” but unfortunately Henriquez and others apparently ignore this and seek to profit their ministries by sensationalizing parts of the article, albeit irresponsibly, to their advantage, but we must be persons who search and enquire always believing in God’s church. The focus here is reaching to all; after all, did not Christ say, “I came to seek and save that which was lost?” How can the church of Christ do any less for those in any sin be it adultery, stealing, dishonesty and the like? Reaching out to such persons affected is not the same as condoning.

Check the Source – Examine the One Bringing the Charge
Quite frankly, I do not know Henriquez and could not find a biography of him on line. One pastor told me that he is considered to be an off-shoot-like Adventist member.  I could not confirm this, but I do view some of his teachings as extreme, irresponsible and sensational, which beg the question of his intention or objective. Nevertheless, I implore you to have confidence in the church, its leaders and take the approach of not rushing to judgment, but research carefully the charge and the one bringing the accusation, as the truth stands on its own feet.

A Prayer Appeal to Leaders

A Prayer Appeal to Leaders

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Half way through the first month of 2016, I thought to remind you of the importance of our annual prayer initiative, “Pray Until Something Happens” (P.U.S.H.). Five years ago, our union family commenced this prayer initiative recognizing that as a fledgling organization we needed to stay connected to our Divine Leader, Christ Jesus, for His enabling power.  And, He did not fail us! Undeniably, through much prayer, we have experienced His stabilizing force as He helped us to confront and overcome challenges, obstacles, and limitations in the pursuit of our objectives. However, in going forward, we need to keep praying. Accordingly, I implore you field leaders, directors, pastors and elders to ensure that attention is given to this prayer initiative. If you need additional prayer cards, you may download from the Union’s web page.
 
Why a Union-wide Initiative
Prayer keeps us focused on God, as He alone can supply our needs and give solutions to the many issues we face. Also, through prayer we are accorded a special privilege of communing with God.
Additionally, prayer serves to unite us awakening a sense of concern and interest in one another. To explain, during the first two weeks of 2016 thus far, we spent the first seven days praying for a General Conference initiative, “Total Member Involvement” (TMI). And during the latter period, the concentration was on the IAD’s initiative, “Lord Transform Me.”  Next week, the focus will be on our local fields, beginning with the Cayman Island Conference. Our union in terms of its fields, institution, personnel and resources will only be known to the extent that you share and promote it.  I am requesting that as leaders you become more intentional in promoting this initiative beyond your newsletter and or bulletin. I call for you to take the lead in ensuring that prayers are offered for the various emphases in your fields, conventions, committees, boards, churches and workers’ meetings, etc.
 
We Must Be Growing
Some of the happenings at our recent union session underscored the need for added maturity. Even our Division president stressed that fact in remarks he made on the floor of the session during a question and answer period. It is so important that we respect one another and the structures of the church. Five years later we must demonstrate that we are not only grateful for our union, but we are capable of managing our affairs having come from our mother union, the former West Indies Union. Therefore, our deliberate attention to daily and sincere prayer will bring us closer thus creating a sense of family and belonging. Thereby, we will not only respect one another but the wider organizations such as the Division and General Conference. It is not “us and them” but one people, one church, and our members at the local church must have this understanding. Also, you as officers, directors, pastors and elders can assist by your example.
 
Keeping Focused
Above all, I remind you, my fellow colleagues in service that it is absolutely necessary that we remind ourselves why we exist as a church, field, union, division, or GC. It is clearly stated in Revelation 14:6-12. We must be about uplifting Christ, His high priestly role, His judgment, His law, His call to separate from salvation by works, His call to grace and His second return. What a privilege! and I add, the ATCU Prayer Card 2016 reminds us of this fact. Therefore, I encourage you to pray, pray, pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).  P.U.S.H!

An Honor for The Seventh-day Adventist Church

An Honor for The Seventh-day Adventist Church

Independence


Following the announcement that I was one of the twenty-six Bahamians listed on the annual Queen’s New Year Honors, I received many calls and notes of congratulation. Named as one of two recipients for the honor, Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG), for services to the church, I have been asked the meaning of CMG. What does the award mean? Like many of you, when first contacted I had no clue, so I inquired and researched online.
 

The Meaning of CMG
CMG stands for “The Order of St Michael and St George” and “is awarded to men and women of high office, or who render extraordinary or important non-military service in a foreign country.” Also, “Instituted in 1818 by the Prince Regent (later George IV), the Order of St Michael and St George was intended to commemorate the placing of the Ionian Islands under British protection.” Originally it was intended for distinguished citizens of the islands, and also of Malta.
According to Wikipedia, “The Order has three classes. These are:
       Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross (GCMG)
       Knight Commander (KCMG) or Dame Commander (DCMG)
       Companion (CMG)
It should be noted that it is the third one or lowest that is applicable in this instance. It does not involve any knighthood; though a friend wrote inquiring about the title “Sir,” it is not applicable. Quite frankly, I would be reluctant to accept that award at this stage in my life and ministry. Nevertheless, I most humbly accept the CMG honor. The actual award ceremony will take place later this year.
 
Attributed to God
            When I pause and consider my humble beginning and upbringing from time to time, I can only say, “Thank You Lord.” Born through Polemus Street in the heart of the inner city of Grant’s Town in Nassau, I never imagined being a leader of a church, certainly not the Seventh-day Adventist Church, being a Baptist at the time. The most I knew about Adventists was mainly through a friend. We were both packing boys at a local food supermarket. As I recalled, he would leave work a certain time on Friday evenings and not show up on Saturdays. Later, I would come to realize why. Nevertheless, the announcement of this award reminds me of many persons God placed in my path to nurture me including my late parents, my dear wife of 32 years, and those in and outside the church. Therefore, this high and significant recognition without question must be attributed to God and by extension, His church. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has afforded me numerous opportunities to travel the world, ministering especially in the Bahamas, Cayman and Turks and Caicos islands, as well as serve on boards and committees at all levels of the church. As for my country, one of the most memorable opportunities I value was to preach at the Bahamas’ 39th Anniversary of Independence. To God be the glory!
 
The Blessings of Others
            My research, in my attempt to understand this recognition, has led me to realize that many Adventists around the globe have received similar awards. To explain, Elder Jan Paulson, former GC president was awarded the Norwegian ‘Order Of Merit’ for ‘Service For The Good Of Humanity’ in 2012. Additionally, Queen Elizabeth II presented Joan Saddler, a member of the Hampstead Adventist Church, with the Order of the British Empire on December 6, 2007 for her volunteer work “with mentoring minorities and influencing social health policy.” These two examples coupled with others including two of the former leaders within the Bahamas who also received high honors, have helped me to appreciate the position of the church toward such awards. As such, I was not surprised when I first learnt of the award and shared with Elder Leito, Division president, he readily congratulated and encouraged my acceptance of the same.
 
The Greatest Award
            And so as I prepare to accept the actual insignia later this year, I do so humbly looking forward to the day when I shall receive the greatest award issued by God Himself saying, “Well done good and faithful servant -enter into the joy of thy Lord.”  What a day that will be! Until then, you and I must keep on serving humanity and being faithful to the mission of the church, which is to seek and save mankind through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Year 2016 - A Welcome Change

Year 2016 - A Welcome Change

2016

Each new day marks the end of the previous day and the beginning of a new one. Likewise does each week, month and New Year. Aren’t you glad to know that there are ends and new beginnings? I would imagine that not in each instance is there such a welcomed change especially when things are going well.  However, life is not the continuation of profit making, extended honeymoon, good health and just good news with no disappointment. Life is a mixture of good and bad. Nevertheless, the thought of a new day, week or month surely makes for good news after a challenging one. And more so the entrance of a brand new year represents a chance to fix some things of the old year, start all over again, make some changes and/or hopefully experience what some would prefer to say, “better luck.” Quite frankly I do not believe in luck, as I believe that God has a plan for our lives, which carries a sense of hope now and tomorrow. Therefore, notwithstanding whatever unfortunate circumstance of the past year, one can be assured that there can be a difference, not necessarily a year devoid of trouble and challenges but a positive outlook and hope of just knowing that I am in God’s protective care. He is watching over me, or in today’s vernacular, “He has my back.” So let the New Year roll in. Let the change take place. To ensure that we make the best of 2016, there must be a deliberate effort of ours.
 
Consecrate Yourself to God Each Day
For starts, I suggest that we begin each day in the New Year with God. If you are doing so then continue to make this a priority. Noted writer Ellen White counsels, “Consecrate yourself to God in the morning; make this your very first work” STC p. 70). A consecration of such recognizes one’s dependence on God and also one’s gratitude to God for life and opportunities. The Bible character Job understood the importance of time with God. He declared, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food” (Job 23:12 ESV). Time spent in daily consecration to God is not time wasted or lost. In fact, the benefits outweigh whatever sacrifices one makes. Certainly, this time spent lends to a new outlook on life or situations such as disappointment, illness or whatever comes. Connected to God enables one to see a way out and even blessings while others see despair. That is perspective for me. That is not being aloof to what is happening around me or indifferent. Instead, it is sensing the presence of God, which gives a calming assurance and remarkable hope. I can better appreciate Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (ESV). 
 
How Do We Consecrate Ourselves?
In consecrating oneself to God, begin by reading the Bible- preferably the book of John. You may start with just a few verses and move to a chapter. Next, just pray. Prayer is talking to God as “you would to a friend.” Don't worry about the fancy words, as you need not impress God. In fact, He already knows your heart. However, prayer changes us by transporting us into the very presence of God. Thereby your thoughts are bound to change. Your outlook on life can no longer be the same notwithstanding all the issues of life. It is not that you become immune, but you see God and the fact that He is still in control. Additionally, becoming connected to a church is important for nurturing. Choose one that will help you to grow spiritually and strengthen your faith in God.
 
Give Attention to What Is Important
Although we are busy people, we must make time for self-development, family, others and the job within the 86,400 seconds given to us each day if the New Year is to be better. Says a favorite author of mine, “If every moment were valued and rightly employed, we should have time for everything that we need to do for ourselves or for the world” (The Ministry of Healing, page 208).  Given the recent lay- offs at Bahamar and elsewhere, it is clear that persons need to be open to retooling and ongoing training to meet the needs of today’s employment. As for time for family, it is crucial as this is what many spouses and children need as opposed to the lavish gifts. I recall the following story of the little boy who asked his father, “Dad how much do you make in an hour?” Though reluctant, the father finally revealed the amount. The little boy got his piggy bank and counted his savings, which was less than his father’s hourly wage. He asked his father to loan him the difference. The boy then placed it with his savings and gave to his father the total amount for one hour of his time. I need not say more. Could it be that many of our young men wreaking havoc on society are lacking that emotional connection and feel devoid of love, appreciation and acceptance? Where did we as parents go wrong? Quality family time is a must!
Hopefully, in the New Year we will commit to regular exercise and a wholesome diet. A lot of the diseases prevalent among us could be avoided with basic lifestyle changes. I hope that with the proposed introduction of a National Health Insurance, a basic component would include educating citizens and residents of simple health steps. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is not only committed to working with the government in this regard but launched in 2015 the initiative “I Want To Live Healthy.” Scores of persons have been trained to assist others in living healthy.
 It is equally important that we give an honest day’s work for an honest pay; and finally we need to get back to being communities. The more modern we become, we seem to lack a sense of community. We must remember that we are our brother’s keeper. I believe these simple but basic steps and principles, if embraced, will make for a great 2016.  Have a Spirit-filled New Year!