Category Archives: Lifelong Learning

Beyond the Pulpit – God’s Gemstones

“Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,
And the Lord listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the Lord
And who meditate on His name.

‘They shall be Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts,
‘On the day that I make them My jewels.’”  Malachi 3:16,17

I am a rockhound.  I am coming out of the closet and admitting such.  I’ve had occasion to search for God’s mineral artwork.  One time I was digging in a mine dump near Pala, California, looking for tourmaline crystals of red and green.  One particular rock yielded some gem-quality crystals.  Pretty cool!  The difference between regular crystals and gem quality ones are readily seen. It’s not my thing to wear these beauties, but I can understand why some do.  They are amazing.

What makes a gem valuable?  Several things do:  clarity, lack of imperfections, color and desirability.  From this I get a lot of sermon illustrations.  Let’s look at “color” for example.  Here’s a picture of the famous “Hope Diamond” in the Smithsonian today.  What sets its great value is color.  How did it get that unusual blue tint?  The same way any growing crystal gets color:  it depends upon the chemical environment it grew in (some would negatively call it “impurities!”).  The color simply shows the unique experience that the crystal had in its growth.

WE are called “God’s jewels.”  Each of us will have had a unique growth in God’s grace, colored by the environment and experiences we had that only we had.  The Bible talks about songs that only certain saints will be able to sing.  Same thing!  And what will make us particularly valuable to God as His jewels is our very personal views of His love.  We will have stories to share with the universe full of our own special color.  We will be living jewels!

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From Beyond the Pulpit – Why Superheros Don’t Have Power

It’s pretty easy to write a script for movies today. Establish a villain early, spend some time developing star characters, set a course for the plot, add in some tensions in key relationships… but by ALL means give the hero or heroine superpowers to combat evil!

Why do these movies with very predictable story lines make hundreds of millions of dollars at the box offices? Why do they attract people like magnets? How about this for a possible answer: people want power! We dream of being able to do things we can’t currently do. In our everyday lives, there are just too many things we are powerless to deal with. Oh, to have real and tangible power. So we live out our fantasies via the big screen.

Add to that dynamic the low-lingering fear of being not all we can or should be. If we only had power. But where to get it?

It’s kind of funny that more people don’t take the Lord’s offer of power more seriously. For one thing, He is the only one Who has it to give! And for another, He wants to give it away. Jesus said we would “receive power” (“dunamis” in Greek) “after the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” Power to move mountains! Superman power.

This divine power wouldn’t think mountain-moving difficult at all. At the latest count the University of Nottingham in England now believes we need to increase tenfold our previous ideas of the size of the universe…from 200 billion galaxies to 2 TRILLION galaxies! All spoken into existence by God simply speaking. Just by God’s word.

So, this divine creative power is available to us, again at the command of the Creator. What evil shall be defeated in this story line? Monsters? Supervillains? No, something much bigger and scarier…our rebellious human heart.

This evil has knocked me around for quite a while now. I certainly have tried to fight back, but I can’t claim any victories. I must cooperate with the Source of the power, Who apparently has one condition before the power is unleashed—the human heart must be surrendered to Him. Free will, God’s great gamble in giving His created beings like us options as to whom we will serve, has the incredible ability to block the power of God in us. We remain mere mortals with no super powers should we refuse to cooperate with our heavenly Father.

I am waiting for a movie script where the hero takes on the greatest evil he has to face, his own sinful heart, and uses superpowers to win. That’s the story line I want for myself. It’s the story line God wants to write for me, too. All other powers aren’t so super.

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From Beyond the Pulpit – My Little Blue Book

by Stan Hudson who served as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor for 38 years and is currently the Director of Creation Ministries at the North Pacific Union Conference

I have finally decided what I want to give to God this Christmas. It’s pretty costly, too. Stay tuned….

This last week I took a short vacation to, drum roll (please), San Diego. Tough duty in December. I got off the plane and walked to the outside of the airport: blue skies and palm trees. Part of my time in SoCal I went to see my sister. She wanted me to look through some things of our mom’s (she’s been gone since 1994). We found her daily journal from when we were little kids (1960).

Mom and Dad were fighting. We rarely figured that out, as Mom must have shielded us from those pains. Still, we tracked the separation and divorce through that year. Mom was strong to deal with all of that; however, she suffered from clinical depression. So does my sister, so does my daughter. Why don’t I? How did I cope with the stresses of my family falling apart?

Collecting! Whereas it was a common hobby back in the day, I took it to extremes. It was apparently my way of finding something I could control, a portion of my world not subject to the vibrations of stressed out adults. I collected coins, rocks, stamps and so on. Stamps!

When I was a young associate pastor in Ventura, California the Lord told me to back off from my stamp collecting, because it was becoming too big of a part of my life. I tried to work out a compromise. “Okay, Lord, how about I get rid of (sell) off all my collection EXCEPT what I can put in this little blue stock book. You can have all the rest except for these few (that happened to be my favorites, of course).

I think that I still emotionally have that little blue book. I have compromised a lot with God over the years, giving Him sizable portions of me…but perhaps always holding on to a bit of self. And because of that, my spiritual growth in Christ has been stunted at best.

So, this Christmas and certainly this New Year, I want to give God my little blue book. Nothing held back, no compromises. This costs me a lot (of self), but I don’t think I will miss it.

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Lifelong Learning – What Not to Say, What to Say

There are so many tragedies in the world. Too many hurting people. The fires in Paradise are an example of this. How can we give comfort. What can we say to help and are there things we say that may hurt? Read some thoughts on What Not to Say, What to Say by Krystalynn Martin, vice principal for spiritual life at Auburn Adventist Academy.

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Lifelong Learning – I Thought My Brother Died

In the midst of inner church turmoil comes a devastating natural disaster. What, if anything, can this teach us? Read one thought here by Jonathan Russel, Assistant to the President for Multimedia Communication at the Oregon Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

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From Beyond the Pulpit – Creation Sabbath is October 27th—Why Does That Matter?

by Stan Hudson who served as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor for 38 years and is currently the Director of Creation Ministries at the North Pacific Union Conference

Many of you have received an NPUC gift in the last week or so:  a DVD set of lectures by, uh, me!  “In the Beginning” is a series of programs we recorded at this cool, old 1920s-era Elsinore Theater in downtown Salem, Oregon.

Gallup Polls taken in recent years show that Americans are slipping in their knowledge of creationism.  That is, fewer people know what the Biblical account is and, more importantly, what it means.  And with the call to worship the Creator being central to Revelation 14’s First Angel’s Message, it’s time we use that “loud voice.”

Some people who lean towards theistic evolution (that God created lifeforms via evolution and millions of years) do so because they haven’t seen the objective science that supports design and refutes evolution.  For instance, when has PBS or National Geographic quoted Dr. Denis Noble, of Oxford University, as stating that “all of the assumptions of Neo-Darwinism (mutations or copying-errors drive evolution) have been disproved.”  Noble was hoping some of his colleagues could discover a better explanation than the currently accepted one of how evolution must work.  This is because all that could be tested of Neo-Darwinism was not being supported in the laboratory.

The truth is that we are not mutants!  We are not animated pond scum, like John Lennon sang, “oozing up slowly.”  But if our young people only hear this pseudo-science theory over and over again, how can suicide rates among them ever get lower?  If we are all biological accidents what is the point to life?

I once gave a lecture to secular folks on this and got a written comment by one.  They said, “Doesn’t it give you a wonderful feeling to know that your DNA would live on?”  In other words, the evolutionist’s idea of eternal life (or at least a LONG life) is when we make kids and they make kids and our DNA lives on!  Does that message give you a warm hope?  Not me, thanks!  I’d like my DNA to live on by carrying it personally in me, thanks—

So, what message of hope would you like to share with your congregation on October 27th, the official “Creation Sabbath” so designated by the General Conference?  It could be a fulfillment of Revelation 14.  How about this:  that God knew us while we were in our mothers’ wombs…and loved us even then?

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Lifelong Learning – Why Americans Skip Church

In recent years, the percentage of U.S. adults who regularly attend religious services has been declining, while the share of Americans who attend seldom or never has been growing. Many stay away not because of a lack of faith, but for other reasons. Nearly 40 percent of them say they don’t go because they practice their faith in other ways. Find out more from a recent study by the Pew Research Center. Read More

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From Beyond the Pulpit – Does God Save Our Pets?

by Stan Hudson who served as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor for 38 years and is currently the Director of Creation Ministries at the North Pacific Union Conference

Will God save our pets? Will we see again our beloved furry family members in the earth made new? Great questions, but with no clear affirmative or negative “thus saiths” we will need to do a little harmless speculation….

As you may have guessed already, I am leaning towards a “yes” answer. And here’s why: I base it on several character traits of God. First of all, God understands sentimental value. The lost coin parable of Luke 15:8-10 illustrates this. It was a parable for the women present, imagining the loss of a silver drachma. An archaic coin term, it was part of the woman’s bridal dowry, probably her mother’s and grandmother’s as well. The value wasn’t in the silver. A husband would offer a replacement, but it would not be the same. God understands that sentimental value trumps intrinsic value.

Secondly, God loves animals. The ark, a symbol of Christ’s salvation, contained animals as well as Noah and his family. God told Jonah of his care for the animals of Nineveh. Most of all, Matthew 10:29 reveals the amazing love of God for His sparrows, in that not one of them falls to the ground “without your Father.” The word “will” has been added; it was not in the original Greek. Quite literally Jesus was saying that “not one sparrow falls alone; the Father is present and feels the loss of that sparrow.” This is a clear refutation of theistic evolution which holds that God’s plan to create life and new species called for millions of sparrows to fall.

Finally, God is into restoring originals. Think of how easy it would be for God to copy more cooperative versions of us to replace us! Yet, He knows it’s not the same. Ellen G. White tells us that God salvaged the original Garden of Eden to present to Adam in the new earth. He understands how Adam would feel in getting back the original vines he dressed…so why not the original animals, too?

Since copies of the originals wouldn’t be the same, which are the best candidates to return to a restored earth with us? How about these: the original creation week animals, the ones on the ark, Elijah’s ravens, the talking donkey, the colt that Jesus rode on…and maybe our companions of youthful days as well as the ones who comforted us in our later years? I wouldn’t be surprised.

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From Beyond the Pulpit – Offshoots and Fleas…

by Stan Hudson who served as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor for 38 years and is currently the Director of Creation Ministries at the North Pacific Union Conference

What IS it with these offshoot movements anyway? We have the 2520 people, we have anti-Holy Spirit people, we have vegan or die people mostly on the right, we have evolutionists and God doesn’t kill anybody people on the left. And they all have some sort of claim of new light.

One of the really rare perks of aging (I mean, experience) is having seen these movements come and often go, but also having seen what they accomplish. I now offer a few observations….

These movements always start with a discovery of something that heretofore had escaped serious notice, things that carry a look of “knowledge.” We all know that knowledge puffs up (except in the case of yours truly). And I note a few puffy people in these experiences.

Generally the knowledge is based on something somewhat obscured in Scripture. That is, the clear understanding should not be taken in favor of the more obscure newer understanding. This runs counter to a couple of key points: the correct way to study any Biblical topic is to use the vast majority of texts that are clear (the soul that sins shall die, the dead know nothing, Lazarus sleeps) and THEN go back to the few texts that say something different (the smoke of their torment ascends forever) and look at the context and key words. Those different texts can then be moved back into the body of clearer ones. You never base an understanding upon the tangential statements over against the clear ones. Secondly to do so assumes God isn’t very good at communicating truths. All doctrines fundamentally say something about God, and that He hides truth from seekers is not my image of a loving Creator.

Then there is the powerful lure of knowledge. We remember how it worked for Eve. To know something that others don’t yet puts a person in a place of power. And we all are born with a craving for this. And it is especially true for a church like ours that rightly is blessed with rich truths. We can out-argue most anyone. These movements attract arguers.

Which brings me to Jesus’ great council of “by their fruits you will know them.” What is the fruit of these movements? Greater and richer images of Jesus? Is He the center of their lives, the One who is the Desire of Ages? Or instead is there bitterness, division and name-calling?

Once I visited a group of church builders who were going to come and do a project for my church. They were preparing for lunch and had been arguing about a topic (1888). A woman said to me, “Pastor, when you pray the blessing for our lunch would you also pray that we have unity?” I joked, “Sure, but a lot of time people who want unity are really asking that God would make people believe like them!” She glared at me with a look that was startlingly demonic. I remember thinking God’s Spirit was not very present in their ruminations.

Hear this from 5T 291: “God has not passed His people by and chosen one solitary man here and another there as the only ones worthy to be entrusted with His truth. He does not give one man new light contrary to the established faith of the body. In every reform men have arisen making this claim…. The greatest harm to God’s people comes through those who go out from among them speaking perverse things…. Let none be self-confident, as though God had given them special light above their brethren.”

I think of the famous image from EGW that the Adventist Church is like a dog barking at a fast-moving train (representing this world), trying to get its attention. These offshoot reform movements can then be likened to fleas biting and distracting that barking dog from its mission.

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From Beyond the Pulpit – Sufferer of E.B.S.

by Stan Hudson who served as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor for 38 years and is currently the Director of Creation Ministries at the North Pacific Union Conference

OK, I’m thinking it’s fairly official: I’m an old guy. There are fewer things I can think of that are more difficult to admit. I’m a sufferer of what I call “E.B.S.:” “Excessive Birthdays Syndrome.”

I’m part of the glorious generation’s kids, a baby boomer. Actually I’m an early one, part of the subgroup affectionately labeled as an “Ozzie and Harriet baby boomer.” That’s over against the real kids called “Brady Bunch baby boomers.” I have a Medicare card. I get “post-adult” discounts. Were I mentioned in a news article I’d likely be listed as elderly.

Sigh. Yes, I remember when JFK was shot. I remember watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan (can they still get back together…please??). And I definitely remember my sixth grade teacher announcing emphatically that Jesus would come back within the year!

All water long gone under many bridges. So, now what? I’m near the end of my “career.” I can see retirement from here. Frankly, this is a question I ask myself: “What good am I now?”

A couple of days ago for morning worship God showed me this from Psalms 71:18:

‘Now also when I am old and grayheaded,
O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to everyone who is to come.’

Maybe there is still things to accomplish, stories to share, wisdom (the only perk of aging?) to impart. In particular, I am more motivated than ever to be as useful to God as I know how. For all that He has done and continues to do for me and for those I care about, I am forever His servant. Even as a sufferer of E.B.S., a post-adult. My son has said that I lived “back in the day,” a sad truth. But maybe I can still be useful beneath gray hairs.

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