Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Energizing Your Faith

One of these days I am going to preach a sermon on the subject, but I was alerted to an awesome idea yesterday while listening to a podcast. It was something I kind of already knew, but never before had I actually thought about the implications.

And what was the idea? Paul tells us how faith works. Have you ever wondered? Or have you ever struggled to have enough faith? Well, Paul writes, quite clearly, in Galatians 5:6, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”

The latter part of the sentence is what is most intriguing to me. A few other versions translate it this way: “What is important is faith expressing itself in love” (NLT). “But faith . . . worketh by love” (KJV). Are you getting the picture? The way that faith is expressed and experienced is by agape love. So faith is not some intangible experience. The way that faith is seen is by the agape love that we have for others and for God.

But there’s more to it than this. The Greek word for “work” in this instance is the word energeo—from whence we get the word “energy” and “energize.” So what Paul actually tells us is that our faith is “energized” by agape love—this love actually energizes our faith experience.

So this tells me that if my faith is kind of floundering, the way to have it flourish is by being energized by Christ’s agape love for me. It tells me that each day I need to “study” the cross—and by so doing I will get a jolt of energy to my faith and be motivated to live my life for Christ. This is why, elsewhere, Hebrews admonishes us: “When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story [the cross] again, item by item, that long litany of hostility He plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (Hebrews 12:3).

Do you want that energy and adrenaline shot into your soul? I know I sure do!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Covenants of Promise

Have you ever made a promise to God that you did not keep? Perhaps you wake up one day and feel overwhelmed with a desire to serve God with your whole heart. So you tell God, “I am going to follow You every moment of my life from here on out.” And then what happens? A few hours later you lose your temper and you find yourself doing the very opposite of what you had promised.

Or perhaps you are in a bind one day—you don’t have enough money to pay your bills, or your car breaks down with no hope of soon repair. So you close your eyes and say to God, “Lord, I promise You that if You just work this one thing out, I will start going to church every week,” or, “I will start paying tithe.” And then what happens? Things work out and you forget all about your little promise.

When these things happen, instead of actually binding our hearts more closely to Christ, they actually alienate our hearts from Christ. You know how it is with human friends: when you let someone down it has the tendency to build barriers between the two of you because you feel guilty around him or her for not making good on what you agreed to or promised.

And the devil wants nothing more than for us to feel like we are alienated from God. So he tells us that God wants us to make promises and commitments to Him. But this is the exact opposite of what God wants us to do.

You see, we have mistakenly believed that when God comes to us wanting to make a covenant, it means that God will do fifty percent and then we’ll do the other fifty percent. Or that He will do seventy-five percent and we’ll do twenty-five percent. “God will do His part,” we say, “If we do ours.”

But the Bible tells us something very interesting about God’s version of a covenant: His covenant is actually a one-sided promise. He wants to do one hundred percent! There are a number of places in Paul’s writings that correlate God’s covenants with His promises, but notice what he writes to the believers in Ephesus: “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:11-13). Paul actually calls these covenants “covenants of promise,” all effective through the blood of Christ.

What wonderful news this is. God is not coming to us, hoping to make a bargain with us. He wants us to simply believe His covenant of promise to us. Yes, indeed, as Paul writes, “For all the promises of God in [Christ] are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20). And as Paul writes to young Timothy, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful: He cannot deny Himself” (1 Timothy 2:13).

So why not take God at His word today?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Everyone's Savior

Here’s a question: is Christ the Savior of only those who believe in Him and accept Him as their Savior, or is He everyone’s Savior—regardless of what they believe? I’m sure many of you see this question as a “no brainer,” while others do not see the relevance for it at all.

But let’s get it straight, first. According to Paul, Jesus is the “Savior of all men” and women (1 Timothy 4:10). As we learned a while back, Christ has already saved everyone from the wages of their sins. All of us should have died eternally when we committed our first sin. But because of Calvary, Christ saved us from immediate destruction. And we should all praise the Lord because of this.

So in this sense—and others—Christ is very much everyone’s Savior. He is not merely potentially, possibly, maybe everyone’s Savior. He actually is. Whether a person realizes it or not, Christ is his or her Savior and wants nothing more than for the person to understand it. This should cause all of us to fall down on our knees in incredible gratitude for what Christ has already done for us.

And yet Paul adds another thought to this idea. After saying that Christ is everyone’s Savior, he continues, “Especially of those who believe.” What’s up with that? Why is Christ “especially” the Savior of those who believe? Are they favored of God more?

Not at all. He is “especially” their Savior because they have received the special blessing of recognizing Christ’s saving message and power and their experience has gone deeper than merely living on the “life support” system that the whole world is living on. Not only do they have life, but they have it more abundantly (see John 10:10). And they know their Savior on a deeper and more intimate level.

So what about you? Have you entered into the joy of experiencing your Savior in a “special” way? Or have you been content with living a life that is merely going through the motions? Why not acknowledge His saving grace today and enter into a richer experience with Your Savior.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Set Apart

Sanctification. Now there’s a word that doesn’t come up in normal-non-religious-conversation every day! And yet, somehow, we have welcomed it into our religious dictionary and we throw it around like everyone should know what it means.

But what does it mean—and why should we be so concerned with it? The word “sanctification” or “sanctify” simply means to set apart for holy use. It means that that which is sanctified has been consecrated and purified. There is something special about the person who has been sanctified. God has set him or her apart because He views the person as valuable and He knows that the person can achieve wonderful things.

And Paul tells us point-blank what God’s will is in this area. He writes to the Thessalonians: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? What good news it is. God’s will (and, by the way, there are many times when we struggle to figure out what God’s will is for our lives) for us is that we would be sanctified—that we would be set apart and consecrated and freed from sin.

And this is Good News—no, it’s great news—not bad news. To realize that God wants to do something mighty in our lives—that He wants to eliminate the mundane and status quo—is a wonderful concept to wrap our minds around. He has so much more for us than we could ever think of imagine.

So why not allow Him to bring you to complete sanctification?

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Endless Pursuit

So whose “job” is it to make sure that you have morning devotions and spend time with the Lord? Yours? Surprisingly, the Bible gives us a different answer.

All throughout scripture we find that Christ takes in the initiative in our relationship. This is the very essence of the Gospel. It’s why we celebrate Christmas. Man sinned and Christ, without us even asking Him, came down to earth to pay the penalty for that sin.

But He doesn’t simply leave us there. He doesn’t fold His arms across His chest and say, “All right. I’ve done My part. Now it’s your turn to do yours!”

The Bible tells us that God continues to take the initiative and He continues to pursue and seek after us. There are so many passages in scripture that attest to this, but let me just cite a few:

  1. Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue and chase after me all the days of my life.”
  2. Ezekiel 34:11, “For thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.’ ”
  3. Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

But what about our devotional time in the morning? Aren’t we supposed to set our alarm clocks extra early, force ourselves out of bed as we rub our groggy eyes, and go through the painstaking effort of spending time in Bible study and prayer? Well, as with the rest of scripture, God tells us that He is the one that pursues us in this area also. “The Lord God has given Me the tongue of the learned,” Isaiah writes, “That I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to hear as the learned. . . . And I was not rebellious, nor did I turn away” (Isaiah 50:4, 5).

Did you pick up on it? The Lord awakens us every morning! And only an act of rebellion on our part can derail that which Christ sets in motion every day. Each morning, He knocks on the doors of our hearts, seeking to have fellowship with us.

So why not respond to the Lord’s initiative and His pursuit? Why not allow Him “who has begun a good work in you” to “complete it” (Philippians 1:6)?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rich in a Foreign Currency

If God were in competition with the world’s richest people—Bill Gates, Warren Buffet—it would be no competition at all. That is not a surprise to us. What would come as a surprise to us, however, is how God measures wealth. While the likes of Gates and Buffet (who are, together, worth almost $80 billion—yes, that’s an eight with ten zeros behind it) would, no doubt, measure their wealth in money, stocks, and other assets, God would come to the competition with a different currency to measure His wealth.

And Paul speaks of it in the book of Ephesians. Twice, He declares that God is “rich in grace” (1:7; 2:7) and in another place He says that He is “rich in mercy” (2:4). The Greek actually says that He has an “abundance” of mercy and grace—which tells me that if God has an abundance of something, He is not going to run out.

What is even more of a mystery is why you and I don’t take advantage of God’s surplus. The truth is, His grace and mercy can be the currency on which we can run our lives every day. You think Wall Street or the Federal Bank or the President of the United States determines the health of our economy? Think again. It’s all God’s grace and mercy.

But I have to be honest with you: as heart-warming as the thought is that God’s grace and mercy is in abundant supply, I, sadly, so rarely make a withdrawal from His heavenly ATM. Why? Because I have a hard time feeling my need. Maybe I’m the only one, but I feel pretty rich on my own most of the time. I feel pretty self-made.

Fortunately, every once in a while, God allows me to see my true state. And it is at those moments when I fully appreciate the fact that His ATM is always open. His bank account has no limits. It’s exhaustless.

So why not make a withdrawal today? After all, we are always living on God’s currency of grace whether we realize it or not.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Little Bit of Zeal Never Hurt Anyone

Zealousness has gotten a bad “wrap” throughout the ages, it seems to me. We get very uncomfortable when we are around people who are zealous. We think they’re crazy, insane, unreasonable, absentminded, annoying—or whatever other superlative we can come up with that we think somehow justifies our lukewarmness.

But the apostle Paul has something interesting thoughts on zeal—and one of those thoughts is found in Galatians 4:18. He writes, “But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always.” Seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? He declares that is actually “good to be zealous . . . always.” Of course, he sends out a word of caution to us as well: we are to be zealous in a “good thing.”

The Dictionary defines zeal as “fervor for a person, cause, or object; eager desire or endeavor; enthusiastic diligence; ardor.” And what better thing could we participate in than to be completely enthusiastic for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

Of course, we can be ever thankful that Christ was—and is—completely zealous and enthusiastic for us and our salvation. There is no double-mindedness or lukewarmness there for us. He is completely “sold out” for our wellbeing. And when we start to get a glimpse of that reality, that same zeal can’t help but be reproduced in our hearts for Him—and everyone else that He died for also.

So why not allow the Lord to give you a glimpse, a taste, a peek, of His zeal and love and sold-outedness for you? Amazing things will happen in your life. The word “boring” will never again be a part of your vocabulary! And, indeed, you will find yourself “zealous in a good thing always.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lowly in Heart

Since this last Sabbath, I have been pondering—off and on—what Jesus really meant when He said, “I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29). What are the exact implications of this idea?

The first part of the phrase seems fairly straightforward. The Greek word for “meek” means just that: meek, humble, gentle. But what, exactly, does Jesus mean when He says that he is “lowly in heart”? Nowhere else does the Bible use this phrase. And it certainly isn’t a phrase that many of us use today.

So I am not sure that I have an answer. But what I do know is that, obviously, this very phrase reveals God’s heart. It reveals what He’s all about: He’s humble. He’s gracious. He’s approachable.

And that ought to overwhelm—and humble—all of our hearts.

Friday, December 4, 2009

No More Stains

Yesterday morning, while doing my morning devotions, I set the six-inch ruler that I was using down on the couch. Not a good idea. For some reason, that ruler likes to attract ink from the pen that I use to underline stuff in my Bible, and that fresh ink was then transported to the cushion. This has happened to me before in the past, but nothing to this magnitude.

You can imagine my frustration! The color of the couch is tan, and the place where the ink was located was right in the middle. So I immediately tried to rub it out with my saliva-covered finger. That, of course, only made it worse! I had to surrender to the fact that I would not be able to get the stain out and I would have to fearfully inform Camille of what had happened.

When she arrived home from work and I told her what had happened, she wasn’t too excited. And she tried using some different stain removers that didn’t seem to do the trick.

Well, when I came down this morning to sit on the couch for my devotions, the stain was nowhere to be found! I looked everywhere on the cushions, wondering if perhaps she re-arranged them to be able to hide the stain. But the stain has magically disappeared! (All right, it probably wasn’t magic, but since Camille didn’t tell me that she was able to remove it, I’ll assume that the “Stain Fairy” came in the middle of the night and got rid of it.)

All this reminds me of that wonderful passage in Isaiah: “Though your sins be as scarlet,” the Lord says, “they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:8). Though we haven’t had a snowfall yet this year, we can still envision that scene. All the dirt and grime that covers the earth disappears under a blanket of fresh and beautiful snow.

And what’s more is, so often we try to use our own saliva-covered fingers to erase our own problems. We try our different humanistic efforts to get rid of the bad habits and sin in our lives. But God longs to come along and, with His own scarlet-and-blood-stained hands, remove the bad habits and sins and selfishness from our lives.

He sure does a better job than the Stain Fairy, I know that!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Something in Which to Boast

Perhaps there is nothing more troubling than having to converse with someone who simply wants to talk about him or herself ad nauseam. Do you know people like this—they’re always trying to build themselves up and praise their own efforts? I certainly have met my fair share of people like this, and, truth be told, I know that I can fall into this trap myself far too often.

Of course, people who engage in such activity do so because they have feelings of inferiority and little self-worth. Whether conscious of it or not, often times what they feel in their heart about themselves is the exact opposite of what they are audibly sharing.

But the book of Jeremiah gives all of us something to boast about—something to really help us feel good about who we are and the value we have. Through the pen of Jeremiah, the Lord says, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches.” To do so is utter folly! God is the source of all wisdom, might, and riches. If we think we are self-made for one minute, how rudely awakened we would be if God were to remove His grace from us. Then we’d really see. (And sometimes He is gracious enough to do just that, so we are allowed to see our true state.)

But then God goes on to offer this admonition: “But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me.” Now there’s something of which we can boast! We know the King of the Universe intimately. We have a personal audience with Him every day—and we can have it every moment if we so desire.

And then God goes on to help us recognize where our true value and worth find their fulfillment. We are to recognize that the “ ‘Lord exercises lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

You talk about value and worth! God’s character is that of constant and everlasting love towards us. And we can rest in the assurance that He is going to make sure justice and judgment have their day (this is especially good news for those who have been maligned or slandered). And beyond this, we can delight in the fact that all of His actions towards us derive from His righteousness.

So why not “glory” in this today?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

As Simple as 1-2-3

I came across a recent column by Loren Seibold that caught my attention. It did so mostly because he touches upon a topic that I have burdened by for a while but never took the time to write about. Either that, or I didn't have the courage to address it. But since he has opened the discussion (or at least furthered it), I guess it is time for my two cents.

The name of his article is "Can We Adventists Learn from Others?" In my mind, the answer is quite obviously "yes," (though you may be interested in reading my further views here) but his particular reason for raising the question is what piqued my interest. Specifically, he asked the question in response to the Ohio Conference’s now-annual Innovation Conferences. Now in its fifth year, the Innovation Conference is a "three day gathering for hope-filled, faith-inspired individuals with an almost cellular drive for transformation, creative change, and purposeful living. The sharp, daring, and provocative explorations will expand your thinking, stretch your faith, and compel you to live out your values in a bold and revolutionary way."

In essence, the conference tries to "foster innovation" and the presenters are trying to be as innovative and edgy as possible. As Seibold notes, "One sometimes suspects" that the presenters are "experimenting with ideas" that "they themselves may not, after all, subscribe to."

And herein lies my problem. To me, the desire to be more innovative, more edgy, more "cutting edge," more insert-your-adjective-here, is a sign of a weak message. Don't get me wrong, we should try to package our message in an attractive way. But when the methods start overshadowing the message, you have to start wondering about the message itself.

It's really simple, folks. There is nothing complicated about it. Over 120 years ago Ellen White declared that "the loud cry of the third angel [had] already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth" (1888, p. 1073). She was saying this in reference to the message of justification by faith that E.J. Waggoner and A.T. Jones had introduced. She described their message as the "third angel's message in verity" (Review & Herald, April 1, 1890), saying that if all those who "had received the third angel's message and proclaimed it in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts. A flood of light would have been shed upon the world. Years ago the inhabitants of the earth would have been warned, the closing work completed, and Christ would have come for the redemption of His people" (The Great Controversy, p. 457).

Again, I want to say: it's very simple. The only reason we need to get more and more innovative and more and more edgy is because we have not "received" the "third angel's message." Obviously, if we had already, the earth would have already been illuminated with God's glory. At least that's what our own prophet has told us.

In the meantime, we try to get more creative, packaging a lifeless message in "attractive" wrapping. We get edgier and edgier with our "worship" styles, hoping to keep our young people in the church. But, it's nothing but a valley of dry bones - all symptomatic of a much deeper ailment. Until we receive the message of Christ's righteousness into our heads, hearts, and hands, we will continue to try to "push the envelope" in being innovative - all the while simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Sound too critical? Maybe. But, as I have said above - and I will continue to say - it's really simple. Just accept the message, and then watch it spread like "fire in the stubble" (Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 118).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Where's the Love?

I am always mildly intrigued when I hear people boasting about how much they love Jesus. Some people go on and on about how much they love Him.

Why am I so intrigued? Two reasons: 1) You can search the whole Bible and you will not find one person who says that he or she loved Jesus, God the Father, or the Holy Spirit. In fact, the only place in scripture that I can see where someone says they loved God, it is viewed negatively. John writes in 1 John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”

“Ah, but what about Peter?” you say. “He told Jesus that he loved him three times!” Well, that is actually the second reason why I am intrigued by people’s boasting of their love for Christ. Upon closer examination, we discover that Peter—boastful, proud, self-confident Peter—could not even say that he loved Jesus. If one studies the Greek of John 21, one would notice there is an interesting interplay that goes on between Peter and Jesus.

After Jesus meets the disciples at the Sea of Galilee, He pursues Peter and asks him the same question two times. He says, “Peter, do you love Me with agape love?” And both times, Peter answers Him, “Yes, Lord, I have affection for You.” Peter does not say that He loves Jesus with agape love. He cannot answer the Lord on His terms. The word that John utilizes for Peter’s answer is philos—a brotherly type affection. Peter knows He has let Jesus down. He knows that when the “chips were on the table” and Jesus needed him most he was not able to keep his promises. So all he can muster up is telling the Lord that he has a strong affection for Him.

Finally, Jesus meets him where he is and says, “All right, Peter. Do you even have affection for Me?” And Peter timidly answers “Yes” again.

What’s the deal with all this? Are we not supposed to say that we love God with agape love? I think the biblical characters and authors were able to come to grips with their own hearts. They realized that claiming to love God was a huge proclamation. And they took note of Peter’s actions and realized that it is better—and safer—to “boast” about God’s love for us rather than vice versa. Our love is far too often a fleeting moment, affected by what kind of hair day we’re having. God’s love for us never changes.

So why not approach God with humility and appreciation for His agape love and rest in that assurance? After all, whether or not we love God will be reflected far more in what we do than what we say. That’s what John was getting at in his first epistle, anyway.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Everlasting Commitment

Are you struggling with a bad habit or addiction? Is there something in your life that you keep tripping over? Or perhaps you are just a little discouraged that your “relationship” with God is not flourishing at this moment.

One of the most beautiful truths in the Bible is the fact that God has made an everlasting covenant with us. The dictionary defines a covenant as “an agreement, usually formal, between two or more persons to do or not do something specified.” We often view the word “covenant” as meaning “contract.” Thus, in our minds, God and we have a contract. God will do His part if we do our part.

But that is not what the Bible teaches about the “everlasting covenant.” The term “everlasting covenant” reveals as much because in the relationship between us and God, only He is “everlasting” and eternal. Thus, this everlasting covenant that He made with us existed long before we ever existed or we could sign the contract. So it must be a one-sided affair.

In essence, this “everlasting covenant” is an “everlasting commitment” that God has made towards us. He takes the responsibility for our wellbeing, for our success.

Ezekiel 36:26, 27, though it doesn’t use the term “everlasting covenant,” says as much. The Lord is speaking here and notice what His part of the “contract” is and what our part of the “contract” is: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you: I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh, and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (emphasis added).

Over and over again in this passage, God says, “I, I, I, I.” He is the one who performs the actions and we are merely the recipient of those actions. He invites us to merely receive the work He wants to do in our lives. Thus, He takes the responsibility for us quitting smoking. He takes it upon Himself to give us the victory over our anger or loneliness or lust.

Today, you and I can simply “choose” to allow Christ to do that which He wants to do in and through our lives.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Savior of the World

So how many people did Christ “save” when He died on Calvary? The answer, if you think about it, is a “no-brainer.” It’s one that I recently discovered. It was kind of like an “aha” moment. The simple fact that you and I were ever born testifies to the reality that Christ saved the whole world on the cross.

The Bible is pretty clear: the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). All of us should be dead. We have all sinned, and thus we should all be dead, suffering the consequences of sin.

But the Gospel tells us that as soon as there was sin there was a Savior. Jesus, as we recently discovered, is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). So His death for the entire world saved everyone from reaping the payment for sin. No one, not even the devil, has yet to receive the wages of sin. Only Christ, Himself, has.

This is why David can wonderfully proclaim that God “has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10). It’s also why Paul can declare that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). This is why Ellen White can say:

To the death of Christ we owe even this earthly life. The bread we eat is the purchase of His broken body. The water we drink is bought by His spilled blood. Never one, saint or sinner, eats his daily food, but he is nourished by the body and the blood of Christ. The cross of Calvary is stamped on every loaf. It is reflected in every water spring (The Desire of Ages, p. 660).

You see, Christ’s death has reached everyone—no matter if people recognize that or not. We have all been given life. We have all been spared the penalty of sin. And so if anyone ever asks you if you are saved, and how you know that you are saved, you can respond, “I’m alive, aren’t I?”

Of course, sadly, most people, in the end, will choose to pay for sin themselves instead of appreciating the gift that Christ has given them. They will choose death instead of life. And Christ will be heart-broken because there is no reason why anyone should have to do that. He died for all and set all on the right path to salvation because of Calvary.

And this reality ought to send us crashing to our knees every morning, thanking the Lord that we have been saved and given life.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Holy, Holier Still

Today, just a thought from The Ministry of Healing. I hope you’re blessed by it.

We need constantly a fresh revelation of Christ, a daily experience that harmonizes with His teachings. High and holy attainments are within our reach. Continual progress in knowledge and virtue is God’s purpose for us. His law is the echo of His own voice, giving to all the invitation, “Come up higher. Be holy, holier still.” Every day we may advance in perfection of Christian character.
Those who are engaged in service for the Master need an experience much higher, deeper, broader, than many have yet thought of having. Many who are already members of God’s great family know little of what it means to behold His glory and to be changed from glory to glory. . . .
Ever before Him, Christ saw the result of His mission. His earthly life, so full of toil and self-sacrifice, was cheered by the thought that He would not have all this travail for nought. By giving His life for the life of men, He would restore in humanity the image of God. He would lift us up from the dust, reshape the character after the pattern of His own character, and make it beautiful with His own glory (The Ministry of Healing, pp. 503, 504).

Friday, October 23, 2009

"He will rejoice over you . . . "

I’m sure most parents can identify with this, but one of Camille and my favorite things to do is to simply watch Camden as he sleeps in his crib at night. Last night we enjoyed that for a minute or two before we went to bed. We just stood next to his crib, looking down at his tiny, motionless body—oblivious to any worries, anxieties, or cares of the world. Such innocence!

One of the other things that warms my heart, for some reason, is when we are driving in the car late at night and he is fast asleep in his car seat. Last Sunday evening, we drove back from Maine fairly late and the weather was less than ideal—to say the least. There was rain mixed with a little sleet crashing down upon our windshield, but as I steered the car in the direction of home, Camden was in his car seat, fast asleep. He had nothing to fear. Whether he realized it or not, it seemed as though he simply trusted his father to bring him safely to his destination.

All this reminds me of a wonderful passage in Zephaniah. “In that day,” Zephaniah writes, “it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak. The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save: He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

I can just picture God right now: much like Camille and I standing over Camden at night, rejoicing over him, so God does the same with us. Every night. He quiets us with His love. He rejoices over us with singing. And, of course, He saves. He steers the “salvation car” in the right direction and gets us safely to our destination.

Such an image is what you’d call “priceless.” And it softens my heart to the wonderful overtures of my Savior.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Beginning of the Universe

There is an interesting phrase that pops up 10 times in the New Testament that is very insightful. It is the phrase “foundation of the world.” Breaking it down, the word for foundation essentially means “the beginning” or the starting point, and the word for world is the Greek word kosmos. In many senses this word has a broader meaning than simply “world.” It reaches beyond that to include the whole universe and all that exists. So this phrase is literally talking about the very beginning of all that exists (outside of God, of course, who has always existed).

In particular, whenever this phrase is used in the New Testament, there is always one of two words that precede it. Those words are “from/since” or “before.” Thus, either something has been happening “from/since” the foundation of the universe, or something happened “before” the foundation of the universe.

There are two verses, in particular, that draw this contrast which are very intriguing to me. The first one is found in Ephesians 1:4, where Paul informs us that God “chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the kosmos.” This idea, in and of itself, is quite remarkable. Before anything else existed in the universe—before time existed, angels existed, planets existed—God had us in mind and He chose us to be His children. In fact, Paul goes on to say in the next verse that He predestined us to be “adopted” into His family.

To allow our minds to dwell upon this concept alone is quite overwhelming. Why would there be any room to doubt God’s love and mercy for us if, even before time and space existed, God chose us and made a decision that we would be in His family? All anxiety, fear, or discontentment would subside if we allowed Christ to impress upon our minds this reality.

Of course, the anxiety creeps up when we begin to realize our sinfulness and the fact that, from the very beginning, this human race has tried to “divorce” itself from God. After all, Adam and Eve messed up and we continue to do so on a daily basis. So even if God did make a decision to choose us before the universe existed, we have forfeited that. Or so we get fooled into thinking.

But that’s where our other text comes into play. It is in Revelation 13:8 that we are told that Jesus is the “Lamb [who was] slain from the foundation of the kosmos.” In other words, as soon as sin entered the universe—as soon as creatures rebelled—at that very instant Christ died in our place. He took upon Himself the penalty that we deserved. He took on the wages of sin.

And thus, there is no reason why anyone should not enjoy the full benefits of God choosing him or her before the foundation of the universe. Since day one, Christ has been the sacrifice for all of us.

So we need not fear. Not only did Christ choose us before this universe existed, but when we tried (and continue to try) to divorce ourselves from Him, He took our place and bore the penalty that we deserved. And He invites us to respond to that wonderful reality today.

Did You Know?

Today is October 22, 2009. This date has special significance for millions of Christians around the world. One hundred and sixty-five years ago, to the very day, thousands upon thousands of Christians gathered together in fields, on rooftops, on hillsides, eagerly awaiting Christ’s return. Most of those were in this part of the country—New England and New York.

Of course, Christ did not come and October 23 (not October 22) became known as the “Great Disappointment.” And it was out of that “Great Disappointment” that the Seventh-day Adventist Church was borne. Since then, 165 years later, we still eagerly await the return of Christ. We have come to realize that there is no way to know the day or the hour of Christ’s return, but we still do recognize it as being “soon.”

And the question is: are we still eager about His return? More significantly, do we realize that God is eager to return? Do we understand that, in all likelihood, every subsequent October 23 has been a “Great Disappointment” to God as He realizes that His people have allowed another year to go by without enjoying full “at-one-ment” with Him?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Putting on Our Nikes

(Note: I have started writing a short daily devotional thought for my churches that I send out via e-mail. It includes announcements that are relevant to my churches. But this is the devotional thought portion of the e-mail. It is my intention to post the thought to this blog on a regular basis - thus killing two birds with one stone!)

Have you put on your Nikes today? Or maybe you’re a Reebok person.

The truth is, the shoe company Nike has loose ties with the Bible. Named for the Greek goddess for victory, this same Greek word pops up in the New Testament a handful of times. The noun literally means “victory,” while the verbal form of it (nikao) means “to conquer,” or “to overcome.” And this is what God’s people are described as doing. They “overcome” and “conquer” and gain the “victory.”

And how is this achieved? There are only three verses in the New Testament that talk about God’s people achieving victory, and the insight into how that is accomplished is intriguing. Is it through our concerted effort? Is it through reading our Bibles more? Spending 15 more minutes in prayer a day? A little faith and works combined? Notice what the biblical witness says:

  • “For whatever is born of God overcomes [nikao] the world; and this is the victory [nike] that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4).
  • “Who is the one who overcomes [nikao] the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5).
  • “And they overcame [nikao] him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11).

So based on these three verses, the Bible sets forth four ways in which we can overcome: 1) By being born of God (i.e., being converted) 2) Faith 3) The blood of the Lamb 4) The word of our testimony. All four of these could be unpacked a lot more, but that will have to wait for another day.

But the point is, if we want victory—over doubt, discouragement, fear, anxiety, loneliness, guilt, temptation, sin, bad habits—we can look to the cross and, by faith in the blood that Christ shed there, conquer and overcome. The one common theme among these four verses is the word “faith.” Conquering and victory comes by faith.

I was delighted to come across this quote from Ellen White this morning as I was in my personal devotions—looking at a different theme. It goes along beautifully with this subject as well:

It is God's pleasure and will that the blessings bestowed on man shall be given in perfect completeness. He has made provision that every difficulty may be overcome, every want supplied through the Holy Spirit. Thus He designs that man shall perfect a Christian character. God would have us contemplate His love, His promises, given so freely to those who have no merit in themselves. He would have us depend fully, gratefully, rejoicingly, in the righteousness provided for us in Christ. To all who come to God in His appointed way, He freely listens (7BC, 932—emphasis added).

So why not put on your Nikes this morning? Why not claim the victory today that is already yours in Christ?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Love of the Father

One of my former seminary professors started a chapel talk by saying, “No one has ever doubted the love of Jesus.” The statement certainly caught me off guard and sent my mind racing as I thought of the numerous people I had encountered who were challenged by God’s unconditional love. “But,” she clarified, “the love of the Father is a whole other matter.”

She is right, of course. Many—if not all—of us view Jesus as a warm, cuddly, lovable Guy. He is the One who loves us so much that He died for us. But His Father? That’s the One who obliterated whole nations in the Old Testament; He’s the One who required the death of His own Son just so He could be appeased and we could be on good terms with Him. Or so go the theories.

But the funny thing is, Jesus has a different take on things. And through the pen of John, we are mercifully clued in to this reality. In John 16, Jesus gives His grandest exposition on the Holy Spirit. But then He shifts gears to talk about prayer, saying that we can pray directly to the Father ourselves. And why is this? “For the Father Himself loves you,” (John 16:27) He declares.

And such a thought was revolutionary. It was unheard of. The Father—the One who holds the universe together—loves us personally. Rather than being an exacting taskmaster, all of our Father’s actions are motivated by His love and affection for us. We need not fear Him. We need not worry that He accepts and forgives us. He didn’t need to be convinced to love us through His Son’s death. He “Himself loves” us.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Does Truth Come From Many Sources?

It seems as though there are two attitudes when it comes to gleaning truth from various sources. And for a while now, I have been grappling with the issue as to how to come to terms with these two attitudes. The first attitude is summed up nicely by the following quote from Mahatma Gandhi:
Since my youth upwards it has been a humble but persistent effort on my part to understand the truth of all the religions of the world, and adopt and assimilate in my own thought, word, and deed all that I have found to be best in those religions. The faith that I profess not only permits me to do so, but renders it obligatory for me to take the best from whatsoever source it may come (quoted in Ari L. Goldman, The Search for God at Harvard, p. 82).
Simply put, this view proposes that there is truth to be gained from anyone and anything. No one person or group has the "corner market" on truth. This view, by the way, does not in anyway suppose that the person who has this attitude does not believe in the supreme authority of scripture. One can be a committed Bible-believing Christian and still maintain that there are truths and insights that others outside the Bible can offer. Even Ellen White seems to promote a version of this concept when she writes in Steps to Christ, "Christ is the source of every right impulse. . . . Every desire for truth and purity, every conviction of our own sinfulness, is an evidence that His Spirit is moving upon our hearts" (p. 26).

The second attitude is not necessarily on the opposite end of the spectrum, but it is quite a bit more conservative. This attitude essentially maintains that, although there may be truths that extra-biblical sources put forth, we need to be overly and extremely careful in relying upon them because there is error mixed with every truth. This last week, I listened to a sermon that - for the most part - took this attitude. The speaker said that only the Bible is 100% accurate, and even if a speaker or book we're reading is 99% true while 1% false, we should exercise caution to the nth degree. The speaker stopped short of saying we shouldn't spend our time listening or reading such people, but that seemed to be the underlying attitude.

And so, reflecting on these two attitudes, these are some of the reactions I find myself grappling with.

On the one hand I am open to reading widely and gaining insights from many different sources, but on the other hand I am leery of the pluralistic sentiments that may creep up from taking on such a posture. To be honest, I read quite a few books by authors who may not subscribe to the same theology or worldview I take. I was just given a Book of Mormon that I am going to read, and I think it would be fruitful to read a Koran - as just two examples.

But some people's attitudes border on the pantheistic, it seems. It definitely has an underlying pluralism about it. Too much exposure to "good ideas" in other theologies or worldviews subtly starts to give the reader/listener the idea that the other person's views are every bit as legitimate as his/her own. And while they may have individual components of legitimacy, Christ seems to be pretty exclusive in His claims about truth and salvation.

On the other side of things, I am very open to the idea of the "slippery slope" and "trojan horse" argument. That is, we sometimes may be lulled into thinking that we are accepting views that are beneficial objectively speaking, but they are simply "trojan horses" that Satan is using to introduce aberrant views. One example that the above speaker mentioned was new concepts on prayer. He used "centering prayer" as one example. Such prayer may seem objectively all right (though I even question that), but by allowing it through our doors, we may be unwittingly opening the door for other errant practices and views.

I am very open to this "trojan horse" concept because I believe Satan, in these ends times, is desparetly trying to "dupe" us into unknowingly accept wrong views about God. That has always been his method, ever since the beginning. He doesn't just come right and say, "This is a Satanic practice, do you want to believe or engage in it?" There is no doubt that truth and error is going to be a huge issue in these last days, and Satan will do all he can to mix the two so as to lull us to sleep.

But, at the same time, I then have to ask the question: how much do I have to agree with somebody in order to listen to them? What's the percentage? Ninety percent? Seventy-five? Twenty? Nobody bats a thousand. And, from my specific theological paradigm, there are many other Seventh-day Adventists that I probably disagree with more than some non-Adventists. But does it make it all right to listen to them and not the non-Adventists simply because we're wearing the same label? Or perhaps I should just lock myself into a monastery for the rest of my life and read only my Bible - something the biblical authors, let alone Jesus, never did.

Of course, what further complicates the matter is, aside from my personal practices, how do I, as a minister of the gospel, present my findings from sources that I may not agree with 100% of the time? When I preach a sermon, for example, and I want to quote a certain author, does this unwittingly indicate to the audience that I endorse everything this author maintains - thus causing some of them to let their "guard down" with such authors? Another pastor shared with me last week, for example, that someone came up to him after a sermon and said, "You shouldn't quote Philip Yancey; he condones homosexuality." Now, whether or not Yancey "condones" homosexuality - or simply promotes a higher tolerance towards homosexuals - is another issue altogether. But I think you get the point.

When I stand up and quote Mahatma Gandhi or Pope Benedict or George Knight - or whomever - does this indicate to my audience that this person is "all right" in the pastor's eyes and that I am giving the individual a carte blanche endorsement? I am sure that for many of the "stronger" persons will understand that I am doing no such thing, but some of the "weaker" persons may not pick up on that.

So, with all this being said, I think I have come to this conclusion: no matter who I read or listen to, I need to be very prayerful. I used to think that I simply needed to pray for the Holy Spirit's guidance and wisdom when I read the Bible. Now I understand that I need to pray very seriously for the Holy Spirit's guidance whenever and whomever I read. I can't assume that in my own mind I am able to sort out the good from the bad. Jeremiah tells us that the "heart is deceitful." So there may be times that I might interact with an idea that I think is truthful when, in reality, my heart may simply be deceiving me into thinking that it is truthful.

The other conclusion I have drawn is that I need to make sure that I glean about 90% (if not more) of my knowledge and truth claims from the prime source: the Bible. This is my ruling authority and I cannot judge other books or sermons against the Bible if I do not, first of all, have a good grasp of the Bible. So the balance of my reading and listening time needs to be spent in God's word, not the other way around. Far too often the roles are reversed in my experience. And I am pretty sure that those who take an extreme approach to the first attitude (in the above two scenarios) probably spend about 90% of their time in other sources and 10% in the Bible.

So this is kind of where my thinking is on this subject right now. But it's a work in progress. And I would certainly enjoy hearing other people's perspective (indicating, of course, that I am open to listening to truth from other sources outside the Bible: yours!).

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Theology of a New Father

I have started writing a regular column for the Adventist Today website. My first one, entitled "The Theology of a New Father," was posted last week. I would encourage you to check it out here.

As always, your feedback is encouraged - preferably there.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Personal Psalm 136

While enjoying my personal devotional time this morning, I came across a wonderful passage that helped me understand just how much God loves, cares, and provides for me. I have been studying certain themes throughout scripture for my devotional time, and this morning I decided to look at the term "everlasting/eternal lovingkindness" in Hebrew.

Both of these words are translated differently, depending on the verse and version of the Bible. But the Hebrew words are 'olam (eternal, forever, everlasting) chesed (steadfast love, mercy, lovingkindness). And as I searched the 45 usages of this phrase in the Old Testament, I was thrilled when I came across Psalm 136. Out of 26 verses in the chapter, every single verse uses the phrase. The basic formula for the chapter goes something like this: "Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindess is eternal; to Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn, for His lovingkindness is eternal." This is the formula that the Psalmist follows in this whole chapter.

And the formula is basic. The Psalmist invites the reader to give thanks to the Lord at the beginning and end of the chapter, and then lists reasons as to why the reader should give thanks to the Lord. But then he goes further. Not only does he list reasons for why the reader should gives thanks to the Lord, but he shows in every verse that those precise reasons stem from the reality that God's lovingkindness and steadfast love are eternal. In other words, precisely because God's love towards us is eternal does He bless us with all of these things.

And so I got to thinking: what would my personal Psalm 136 look like? If I looked back on the course of my life, what would I identify as proofs that God's love toward me is eternal and unchanging and everlasting? And so I scribbled down a few of those things that I am going to share. Perhaps you can do the same thing in your own time.
Give thanks to the Lord,
For He is amazingly good,
Because His lovingkindness towards me is eternal.

To Him who gave me life,
Because His lovingkindness towards me is eternal.

To Him who placed me in a Christian home,
Because His lovingkindness towards me is eternal.

To Him who drew my heart from a very young age,
Because His lovingkindness towards me is eternal.

To Him who saved me from rebellion when I was a child,
Because His lovingkindness towards me is eternal.

To Him who blessed me with the privilege to attend Christian schools,
Because His lovingkindness towards me is eternal.

To Him who has kept me safe and healthy all my life,
Because His lovingkindness towards me is eternal.

To Him who has protected me from a car accident during all my many miles of driving,
Because His lovingkindness towards me is eternal.

To Him who spared me from too many heartaches in my romantic life,
Because His lovingkindness towards me is eternal.

To Him who gave me a beautiful and wonderful wife,
Because His lovingkindness towards me is eternal.

To Him who has blessed me with an awesome son,
Because His lovingkindness towards me is eternal.

To Him who has allowed me to live in the most beautiful part of the world,
Because His lovingkindness towards me is eternal.

To Him who has always placed food on my table,
Because His lovingkindness towards me is eternal.

To Him who has placed me in a position to talk about Him all the time - and get paid for it,
Because His lovingkindness towards me is eternal.

To Him who has provided enough money for my family - even though my wife is not employed full time anymore,
Because His lovingkindness towards me is eternal.

O, Give thanks to the Lord!
Because His lovingkindness towards me is eternal.
Two things: obviously, this is a work in progress. And secondly, when I look back at all the blessings God has bestowed upon me, it makes me realize that God is up to something in my life. He must have something special for me to do for him.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Too Much Logic

It's no secret that Clifford Goldstein is enemy #1 for many on the left side of the Adventist spectrum. So this post will not mean much to them. But it's incredibly unfortunate that they essentially scoff at his logic. Because he recently wrote one of the most logical and well-reasoned articles I have ever read. It was in the August 20 issue of the Adventist Review.

Really, the article makes too much sense. And, as my dad points out, that may be its fault in the mind of those who are allegedly more intellectually "astute." The logic is too simple - going together just about the same way that two plus two equals four.

Unfortunately, I do not believe that the article is available online - so I will reproduce it in its entirety here. And as you read the column, which is entitled, "One Lord or the Other," I hope you appreciate the brilliancy of Goldstein's rhetoric (resting assured that I do not throw out compliments like this regularly).
Let's begin with two assumptions: first, God employed some form of Darwinian evolution to create humanity. Second, knowing that the ancients couldn't understand complicated evolutionary science, the Lord waited until the nineteenth century A.D. to use Charles Darwin in order to, finally, bring our origins to light.

To accept those assumptions means believing that for thousands of years the Lord purposely kept all His people under a veil of ignorance regarding Creation. It means accepting, too, that God used Darwin to reveal these truths, even though Darwin worked from a fundamentally flawed premise:

"There seems to me," wrote Darwin, "too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly create the [parasitic wasp] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that the cat should play with mice."

Of course, "a beneficent and omnipotent God" did none of those things. Ignorant of the great controversy and the consequences of the fall, Darwin began from a fatally wrong premise about the creation he sought to explain.

Those who accept these assumptions must accept, too, that the Lord used Darwin to reveal crucial theological truth about God the Creator even though Darwin was not even close to being a worshipper of that Creator. "But I had gradually come, by this time," wrote Darwin, "to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world . . . was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian."

Now, there's nothing contradictory about the Lord using someone like Darwin to teach the world about how He created it. But it does raise this question: When using Charles Darwin to pull back the veil of ignorance on origins, why did the Lord raise up - at about the same time - a prophet, Ellen White, only to keep her wrapped under that very veil of darkness and ignorance He was using Darwin to pull away?

Even if one rejects the every-word-of-Ellen-White-as-verbally-inspired-terminal-eternal-truth, shouldn't a woman who helped found a church with a message about creation - "worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water" (Rev. 14:7), etc. - have been clued in, one way or another, about the startling new light being uncovered by Darwin about creation? Wouldn't it be reasonable, if nothing else, for the Lord to have tapped His messenger lightly on the shoulder and told her to cool her vehement opposition to the very truth He was now revealing to the world?

Instead, all through her ministry, Ellen White was uncompromisingly anti-evolution. "It is," she wrote, "the worst kind of infidelity; for with many who profess to believe the record of creation, it is infidelity in disguise" (The Signs of the Times, Mar. 20, 1879). "Evolution and its kindred errors are taught in schools of every grade, from the kindergarten to the college. Thus the study of science, which should impart a knowledge of God, is so mingled with the speculations and theories of men that it tends to infidelity" (Education, p. 227). "Shall we, for the privilege of tracing our descent from germs and mollusks and apes, consent to cast away the statement of Holy Writ, so grand in its simplicity, 'God created man in his own imagine, the image of God created him him'? (Genesis 1:27, [KJV])" (ibid., p. 130). "When the Lord declares that He made the world in six days and rested on the seventh day, He means the day of twenty-four hours, which He has marked off by the rising and setting of the sun" (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 136).

Of course, who's naive enough to think that anyone who believes in evolution would take Ellen White seriously? After all, they don't take the Bible seriously. I bring up this point simply to provide more evidence about the absurdity of the notion that evolution can be harmonized with Adventism.

Choose the God you're going to serve: the one who raised up Darwin, or the One who raised up Ellen White. But let's end the farce of thinking you can do both.
Is the man on to something, or what? (I suppose the rebuttal to his argument will bear a striking resemblance to some type of Postmodern or Eastern paradigm where God can use two opposing views at the same time.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

La Sierra and the "Lunatic Fringe"

If there has been any doubt whatsoever in people's minds as to where La Sierra University - and its professors - stands in relation to the controversy surrounding the promotion of Darwinian evolution, a secular website that discusses the issue should clear the fog. Aside from the fact that the student in the article may or may not have followed the instructions of his professor perfectly, it is apparent that La Sierra is in no way interested in promoting a literal six day creation (which in no way contradicts the evidence of good science) unambiguously.

And one of the professors, in particular, does not exactly do a great job of instilling confidence in the minds of potential students - and especially their parents. I will quote the last portion of the article:
Bradley says he’s felt no pressure to change anything about his course, and says bluntly that he doesn’t plan to turn his class into a theological seminar, or to present evolutionary theory only to then dismantle it for students. While he’s fine with helping students work through struggles of faith, Bradley says he won’t undercut decades of peer reviewed scientific research in the interest of religious consistency.

“I am not OK with getting up in a science course and saying most science is bullshit,” he said.

Neither Bradley nor Greer have the protections of tenure. Bradley had tenure, but willingly gave it up in a deal to scale back his responsibilities in a phased retirement. Greer, who did not respond to an interview request Monday, is on the tenure track.

Faculty at La Sierra do not have to be members of the Seventh Day Adventist church -- unless they want tenure.

“I hope this will change,” Bradley said. “One cannot be tenure-track if they’re not a member. I’m embarrassed to say that, but it is true.”

Bradley joined the church as a boy, but when asked if he was a practicing Adventist, he said “On record, yes. You can read into that whatever you want.”

“It’s very, very clear that what I’m skeptical of is the absolute necessity of believing that the only way a creator God could do things is by speaking them into existence a few thousand years ago,” Bradley added. “That’s where my skepticism lies. That’s the religious philosophical basis for what I call the lunatic fringe. They do not represent the majority position in the Church, and yes I’m skeptical of that. But I want to say to kids it’s OK for you to believe that, but it’s not OK for you to be ignorant of the scientific data that’s out there.”
My first reaction is to want to believe that the professor was proverbially misquoted. Or that this whole article was made up. That's what I really want to believe. But, unfortunately, I do not think that this is the case.

And, the sad reality is that it is incredibly unfortunate that this type of stuff is going on in a Seventh-day Adventist school. And it is incredibly unfortunate that a man who receives money from God's storehouse - money which is for the purpose of gaining souls for the Kingdom - has to resort to vulgar language to express his dismay - as if the use of such vulgarity solidifies his sincerity in an apostle-Peter-sort-of-way.

May we all engage in sincere soul-searching at this time.

The Neglected Word

Sadly, I have found that the area in my life that has suffered the most since becoming a father is also the most important area: my time with God. Even now, as I write this at 5:48 in the morning, I am on pins and needles as I watch my baby monitor to see if Camden stirs. And in fact he is right now.

I find myself having to wake up earlier and earlier if I want any time with the Lord. My wife and I have this "deal" that since she takes care of Camden all through the night, I get him in the morning when he won't go back to sleep while my wife gets another hour or two of sleep. And when Camden is awake, especially in the morning, he usually needs to be entertained or held or bounced around or something or other. In other words, when I have him in the morning there is little else I can do.

And that's part of the challenge: my devotional life suffers greatly if I cannot spend a huge chunk of uninterrupted time in the Word and in prayer. Some people, I suppose, can spend five minutes here and five minutes there throughout the day and still have a vibrant and thriving relationship with God. I cannot. Unless I have at least a good hour or more in uninterrupted time with Him, I cannot get any momentum going and my whole day gets off on the wrong foot - and just digresses from there.

I am greatly looking forward to the day, hopefully very soon, when Camden gets on a very consistent schedule and I know he wakes up at a certain time. Because, that is the main problem right now: one day he'll wake up at 6, the next day at 5:30, the next day at 5:45, etc. And so I have to go to bed the night before guessing as to which time he is going to wake up, and thus basing my wake-up time on what I think he is going to do.

I wonder what other people have done in their own experience to remedy such a dilemma. Any advice would be timely.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Time Lapse

This is what I was involved in for the past few weeks at our place in Nova Scotia. I now officially "own" a "house." (Mine is the second one from the left - but don't be fooled by the color; we will be painting it next summer.)

As per this video, my life kind of feels like it's been going in fast forward for the last few months. I hope you enjoy our creation.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I Shall Return

I have a number of things on my mind that I would really like to blog about, but in case you didn't notice, I've been a little busy this summer. Some would probably chalk it up to the fact that I'm a new father. That would be a mistake, however. Summers are very busy for me and I am away from home more than I am home.

Just to give you an indication of what my summer schedule has been thus far, here is what I've been up to and will be up to for the next month or so:

May 24: We welcomed Camden Shawn into the world
June 19-24: Camp Pitch - Freeport, Maine
June 24-July 4: Northern New England Camp Meeting
July 5-6: Camp Strike
July 7-11: HOME
July 12: Performed a wedding at one of my churches
July 12-18: Camp Pastor for Junior Camp at Camp Lawroweld - Weld, Maine
July 18: Drove three hours to Vermont in the afternoon to perform a baptism (a wonderful one at at) and then drove three hours back to Maine to finish serving as camp pastor
July 19-25: HOME, but stayed relatively busy, enjoying the company of my mother-in-law at our place for the week. Was also joined by my sister-in-law and brother-in-law midway through the week as well
July 26-27: Spent time on Cape Cod with family on Sunday (was supposed to go to Martha's Vineyard), and went to Red Sox game on Monday night for Camille's birthday present
July 28-August 1: HOME
August 2-5: Atlantic Union Pastors' & Teachers' Conference - Providence, Rhode Island
August 9-19: Vacation to Nova Scotia, Canada

And there are three other things to consider: 1.) I don't have a functioning laptop as of right now (though this is being remedied soon). Thus, my Internet access is limited when I'm away from home. 2.) When you are home on and off, and for only a few days or a week at a time, you have to do all the "catch-up" things that comes with returning home (mail, e-mail, unpacking, re-packing, trying to connect with my members again, etc.). 3.) Most significantly, we are in the process of moving out of our current residence and moving closer to our churches by August 23. That takes up a lot of time and energy!

All this is to say that come September, I should be back to the "normal" routine of life. Usually from about September to May, things are normal, but when summer comes around, all bets are off.

I hope you don't lose any of my audience on the meantime.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

It's Me Again!

If anyone is interested, here are a few links to the presentations I did last week at the Northern New England Camp Meeting. For the most part, the presentations are similar to my book, though they are a little more in-depth with less "fluff."

I had a great time with the seminar and God really blessed. I don't get the chance to "teach" very often. Usually I am in more of a homiletical mode. But I really enjoyed this format and I don't think many people in the audience had glazed eyes.

The first presentation, "The Delayed Wedding," is here.

The second presentation, "The Waiting Groom," is here.

And the thrid presentation, "The Responsive Bride," is here. For my money, I think the last presentation perhaps went the best. There certainly was a lot of interaction - mostly positive.

I would love to hear anyone's reaction to the presentations.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Checkin' In

For all of those faithful readers of my blog, I just wanted to check in and give you an update as to my whereabouts. It has been quite a while since I last wrote. And it's not all because of the arrival of my little guy. I have been in rainy Maine for the last week and a half for Camp Pitch and Camp Meeting. I've been very busy. And even now I gotta run! But I will be back in the saddle in a week or so.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Life is a Mission Field

I came across these thoughts this morning in my devotional time. I was extremely blessed by the reminder. This is definitely something I need to keep at the forefront of my mind as I think about what life is all about - and what should fill my day.
True education is missionary training. Every son and daughter of God is called to be a missionary; we are called to the service of God and our fellow men; and to fit us for this service should be the object of our eduction. . . .

Let the youth be impressed with the thought that they are not their own. They belong to Christ. They are the purchase of His blood, the claim of His love. They live because He keeps them by His power. Their time, their strength, their capabilities are His, to be developed, to be trained, to be used for Him. . .

God desires them to become all that He has made it possible for them to be, and to do their very best with the powers He has given them. . . .

He desires that we shall constantly be growing in holiness, in happiness, in usefulness. All have capabilities which they must be taught to regard as sacred endowments, to appreciate as the Lord's gifts, and rightly to employ. He desires the youth to cultivate every power of their being, and to bring every faculty into active exercise. He desires them to enjoy all that is useful and precious in this life, to be good and to do good, laying up a heavenly treasure for future life.

It should be their ambition to excel in all things that are unselfish, high, and noble. Let them look to Christ as the pattern after which they are to be fashioned. The holy ambition that He revealed in His life they are to cherish - an ambition to make the world better for their having lived in it. This is the work to which they are called. (Ellen White, Ministry of Healing, pp. 395-398)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

For the Love of . . .

I think it was Big Bird who said, "Everyone . . . is always talking about love." He then promptly added, "Yuck." He was right. Everyone does talk about love.

And rightfully so. What it all boils down to is love. And it's precisely what God requires of us.

Those of us who like to debate theology and promote our beliefs can sometimes forget that. And those of us who like to emphasize overcoming sin and reaching perfection - yours truly included - sometime betray ourselves by neglecting this important component.

I was delighted to read, when I first came across Colossians 3:14, how important love is in the pursuit of perfection. As Paul writes, "But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection." In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter how I keep the letter of the law to a "T," so long as I am neglecting love. Quite simply: no love, no perfection.

Unfortunately, as often happens, when we get quite zealous about our beliefs, our opinions, our understanding, we can get downright nasty (this, of course, is true of people on either side of the debate - including me). I am not implying, as many seem to suppose, that saying someone is wrong necessarily means you are being unloving towards him or her. But I will admit that there are times when many of us lose the "love" part of perfection. As John McVay asks, "What if victory in theological disputes were judged by the Christlike behavior of the disputants rather than the ferocity of the rhetoric?" He then adds, "And who's to say it isn't?"

I have had a number of people remind me of that all-important principle of love when I am emphasizing the importance of beliefs or doctrines. They are right, of course. In the end, love is what really matters. Christ calls us to love. He says it is non-negotiable.

But let's allow love, as the Bible treats it, to have its full place at the table. Because, as much as the Bible - and specifically Jesus - talks about loving our fellow human beings, we are also invited to love the truth. In fact, loving the truth seems to be an integral part in determining if one is saved or not. The same Paul who writes about the importance of agape love in the pursuit of perfection also informs us that those who are lost will be so "because they did not receive the love [agape] of the truth, that they might be saved" (2 Thess 2:10). What happens with these people is that, instead of receiving the love of the truth, they are swept away with deception.

Elsewhere, Paul achoes this idea in the great "Love Chapter" when he says that "love . . . rejoices in the truth" (1 Cor 13:6).

So truth - and a love for that truth - does seem to matter to God. And He places a premium on human beings pursuing that truth.

Now, I have had many people tell me - especially recently - that "truth" has its place but, utlimately, it is not going to really matter if we have the correct information or not. After all, there are so many ambiguities in the Bible - which people have argued over for centuries - and God doesn't expect us to have all the right answers. Others have also expressed the sentiment that God is not going to ask us if we "believe in the Trinity," or whether we can "explain the 2300 days accurately" or whatever other particular doctrine they seem to be upset about or unconvinced of.

Maybe not. And maybe God doesn't expect us to have all the answers before we can be translated (then again, maybe He does). But what He does require of us is to at least (a) believe that there is absolute truth and (b) have a love for that truth. Anything less than that will result in us being swept away with deception.

But God doesn't simply expect us to have a love for the truth for truth's sake. This is not an arbitrary requirement He places upon us. He understands that a love for the truth and a love for our fellow man are inseperable. So, no, God may not ask us at the Pearly Gates, "Explain the postlapsarian view of the nature of Christ," but He will be able to tell whether we know the information based on how we act. So, essentially, our beliefs will be reflected in our behavior and how we treat others (and Him). This is why He has such a huge concern for truth - and that we not only have a love for it, but an understanding of it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

In Support of David Asscherick

I don't really know David Asscherick. We've corresponded via e-mail a few times. We have a number of mutual friends and acquaintances. And, in the grand scheme of things, I am just a "nobody" whose voice is hardly heard. But I do want to voice my support for him.

By now, many people have, no doubt, read the letter he wrote to Jan Paulsen, Don Schneider, and Ricardo Graham about his concern that La Sierra University - a Seventh-day Adventist institution - is openly teaching and promoting Darwinian evolution. It is not that they are presenting it as one scientific theory. They are presenting it as the authoritative theory, with little mention of any alternative views (ie., intelligent design or creationism).

Asscherick never meant for the letter to get a public viewing. And it is too bad that it has seen the light of day. But now that it has, his thoughts and sentiments are open to debate, I suppose. And many people have and will address them.

What he basically argues is that it is unethical and dishonest for a professor at a Seventh-day Adventist university to be paid to teach one thing, and yet teach another. When people sign their name on a piece of paper that says they will uphold the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (with number six being the belief in a literal, six day creation), and then they turn around and teach the opposite, such is a grossly unethical practice which would be grounds for dismissal or legal action in any other corporation or setting.

And, contrary to popular opinion, the idea of a literal, six day creation (which, as mentioned above, is officially affirmed by Seventh-day Adventists in our statement of 28 Fundamental Beliefs) is not a "minor" issue. We are not talking about women's ordination here, or whether or not a person should be able to wear a wedding band. The belief in a literal, six day creation is foundational to our Adventist identity and mission.

Of course, there will be many who try to claim that Adventists are a people of "new light" and progressive truth - and if this weren't the case, we would still be practicing indulgences and worshiping on Sunday. Fair enough. But we want "new light," not some stale scientific theory that is heralded by a community whose agenda is to do away with God.

And, aside from that, though I am no scientist, the more I understand about Darwinian evolution, the more I realize it is simply bad science, fraught with philosophical and theological agendas and presuppositions. And it is hardly "objective" at all (Darwinian naturalists declare, before they even begin, that there can only be "naturalistic" answers. Limiting the field by 50 percent before one even starts can hardly be classified as "objective." Excuse my gross analogy, but it would be like a detective, starting on a murder case, declaring that only a Canadian American could have committed a murder before he even looks at one shred of evidence).

Since Assherick's letter has gone public, the president of La Sierra sent out a formal letter addressing his concerns (click here for a text version of the letter - which is below Asscherick's letter) four days ago. Essentially, what I got from it is that, at La Sierra, they are baptizing a number of students this year, and they go on a lot of mission trips, but there was scant mention of the issue at hand. The only thing that seemed to come close is that, for some reason, professors at universities are allowed the privilege of so-called "academic freedom."

But I wonder: is it really "academic freedom" when you're simply regurgitating what 98% of biologists in the world are already saying? It sounds more like "academic slavery" to me than freedom. Of course, if those same biology professors would ever dare try to teach intelligent design in a biology class at a secular university, they would find out just how quickly "academic freedom" is not a two-way street (see Expelled as Exhibit A).

All in all, what Asscherick is hoping is that someone in a position of significant influence will step up to the plate and say "enough is enough." And I applaud him. He has put himself out there - especially now that his letter has become public. But we need more people who are in positions of influence within our church to confront this issue. It is not going to die quietly in the night. Unless it is addressed head-on, the teaching and promoting of Darwinian evolution is just going to gain more and more momentum. (And, again, we are not talking about shutting down the teaching of good science. We're talking about putting an end to the promotion of bad science that is saturated with subjective presuppositions.)

So will someone step up to the plate? Someone? Please.