From Leader to Leader – The Father’s GIFT

by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference

The drama surrounding the first years of my life could inspire a melodramatic novel. I was very young when my father started courting the daughter of an army General. Of course, no one in his alternate community suspected he was married and already had three children with my mother. As his relationship with the General’s daughter deepened, his visits to this family’s home became very frequent. One day, the General’s wife and my father became romantically involved. Thus, during the day, my father was dating the General’s daughter; shielded by darkness, he was the General’s wife’s secret lover. When the General discovered my father’s bent behavior, he deployed a death squad to kill him. When the General’s wife overheard her husband’s orders, she immediately sent a message to my father and told him to get out of the country right away. My father did. And he never returned. That day I lost my father for good.

There is a Bible text that has always moved me deeply, perhaps because it addresses several factors that are very important to me. Paul wrote: “But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus, we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.” (Galatians 4:4-7, MSG).

This text addresses a reality that is vital to our being. The ultimate Father enters into the lives of His children to actively participate in their perilous journeys. He does this by way of His Son, who has one mission in mind, to redeem those who “had been kidnapped by the law.” The Father, instead of leaving his wayward children behind, sends His Son down to seek and save.

My father left us because he had broken moral and civil laws. The heavenly Father comes down to us, because we had broken the moral law. My father was persecuted by the law enforcers; but we were sought by the Law Giver. Emotionally speaking, I lost everything when my father left; man lost everything when he sinned, however God, through the coming of His Son, not only rescued us from dying an eternal death but came to offer us the right to be called God’s children.

There is something else in this text I find spectacular, that is the fact that God the Father has a time set for His own divine and loving purposes. The text reads “When the time arrived that was set by God the Father. . .” The New International Version renders it: “But when the set time had fully come. . .”. I remember that as a child I would stand at the gate of the fence surrounding my corner house, waiting for my father to return. Sundays were especially difficult. The neighborhood fathers and sons parading by my home on their way to the park across the street to enjoy father-son sports. My father never showed up. He was too busy hiding in another country, afraid of facing the consequences he had sown in his country. Not so with the “ultimate Father,” who when the time arrived, came to seek out His children condemned by their sin-bent actions. In taking their human form, He shared their fate; taking upon Himself their punishment and condemnation so that they could be restored into their original relationship as beloved and cherished children.

May we approach 2019 with the assurance that God remains in control of our time, lives and events. May the indwelling presence of the Spirit encourage and empower us to believe that the Father is still invested saving, healing and restoring His wayward children. May we determine to enjoy all the holistic (spiritual, emotional, physical & relational) benefits that Abba’s fathering experience offers us broken and unconditional love and acceptance starved children. May we keep our hearts wide open to the continual GIFTS of the Spirit, who will help us to cry out. . . Papa. . . Daddy. . .Pápi!

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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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Changed Lives – Pastor, How Can I Get Involved in Ministry?

by Ryan Rogers, Pastor of the Poulsbo Adventist Church

Pastor, how can I get involved in ministry?” That is an exciting question for a pastor. And it’s the question Daniel asked one Sabbath after church that led to discussion, brainstorming, prayer and, eventually, got Daniel and me out on the streets going door to door. We shared a desire to reach the predominantly Hispanic neighborhood across the street from our church. Daniel speaks Spanish and I don’t. He printed off some fliers to offer Spanish Bible studies. As we stood at each door I would silently pray and smile while Daniel talked with the people. It was exciting to see Daniel’s enthusiasm for sharing his love for Jesus.

Daniel is an overcomer. I was reminded of this as we went door to door. Daniel had a cast on his hand that made it difficult for him to pass out fliers and to knock on doors. He had recently had a wood shop accident and it was likely that he would loose a finger. But Daniel’s hand was healing. I was inspired as I watched Daniel serve so willingly, even with these limitations. Overcoming is something that Daniel has experienced a lot of. Daniel just graduated from high school. This was a remarkable achievement considering that he had suffered a major trauma when he was 14 years old. He was in a comma for 2 weeks, had to eat through a feeding tube, he lost his ability to walk and talk. God blessed his recovery and he relearned how to do the basic things of life. Early on in his recovery he experienced a distinct calling from the Lord to serve Him. Daniel’s recovery has been richly blessed and Daniel desires to live out that calling to serve his Healer.

I first met Daniel during an evangelistic series I preached in the Fall of 2018 at my Church in Poulsbo, Washington. God again called to Daniel’s heart during those meeting. Daniel reaffirmed his desire to respond to God’s calling to serve him and in November, 2018 I had the privilege of Baptizing Daniel.

It is a blessed pleasure to baptism a child of God. But that blessing is extended when you get the added opportunity to disciple that person and to serve along side of them. I praise God that I had the opportunity to meet Daniel through evangelism. I continue to praise God that six months after his baptism, Daniel is inviting me to do ministry along side of him.

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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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Health and Temperance – New Year’s Resolutions You Won’t Want to Break

Christmas is over, now let the New Year begin! New Year’s resolutions have been made for some 4000 years. It’s a fun tradition that has passed the test of time, but this fun can also lead to feelings of failure when, inevitably, they are not kept. Read New Year’s Resolutions You Won’t Want to Break from Adventist Health System for four simple tips on how to make your New Year’s resolutions successful.

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From Leader to Leader – A Desert Experience

by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference

Desert experiences . . . we’ve all have heard of these, some turn out to be good and positive, others we are not so sure about; but one thing is for sure, desert experiences change us. They reshape our mindsets and teach us valuable lessons. Take Moses for instance, he spent 40 years in the desert. Some of us may think that perhaps the length of this experience was not necessary; perhaps a bit excessive, nevertheless, we can’t deny Moses’ complete transformation of character and spirit as a result of his desert experience.

Some of us hate the idea of being in a desert because they tend to be painful, disorienting, filled with doubts and unending questions that arrive far before the resultant blessings can be identified. Not to mention the fact that desert experiences seem to come around when we have lost our way and often when we have come to the end of our rope. The idea of having to slow down as we tread in deep sand scares us and forces us into confronting ourselves, which is something we avoid at all costs.

Peter Scazzero in his book, “The Emotional Healthy Leader,” quotes Henri Nouwen, regarding the experience of the third century monk, Anthony the Great of Egypt, “He renounced possessions to learn detachment; he renounced speech in order to learn compassion; he renounced activity in order to learn prayer. In the desert, Anthony both discovered God and did intense battle with the devil. When Anthony emerged from his solitude after twenty years, people recognized in him the qualities of an authentic and healthy man.” 1 Another author describes Anthony this way, “It was not his physical dimension that distinguished him from the rest, but the stability of character and purity of the soul. His soul being free of confusion, he held his outer senses also undisturbed. . . he was never troubled, his soul being calm, and he never looked gloomy, his mind being joyous.”

I found myself in a desert experience during my sophomore year in college. For the previous four years I had canvased every summer in order to pay my tuition for my last two years of Adventist high school plus my two years in our Adventist college. During my sophomore year, I felt impressed that I should complete my theology program in English. The only sustainable option I had to accomplish this goal was to head to the West Indies College in Jamaica. I managed to convince some other friends to join me in this venture. For some reason I still don’t know today, all my classmates were accepted, except for me. I was angry, confused and decided to challenge God and said to Him, “I am not coming back to this college next year, I am going home and will not plan to canvass or do anything until You open the doors of another university for me where I can finish my degree in English. I knew I was shooting myself in the foot by not canvassing, since that was the only way I could finance my education in Costa Rica, Jamaica or anywhere else.

Once at home, I felt restless, confused and anxious. The summer days were whizzing by. I became afraid that perhaps Continue reading

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Why Not Try This? – Strategies for the Alleviation of Stressors in Pastors’ Families

Pastors and their families are facing levels of stress that are simply not sustainable for a healthy life and ministry over the long-haul. Expectations are made, the bar is set high and many have a difficult time keeping up with it all. One of my new favorite quotes is this: “I will not sacrifice my family on the altar of ministry.” Here are some important recommendations on how to avoid that sacrifice.

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From Beyond the Pulpit – What Pastors Want for Christmas (NOT Leadership Skills!)

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

For 38 years people called me “pastor,” as well as some other things. “Pastor” means “shepherd,” which often connotes sheep feeding. And while I’m on that, let me elucidate that no one feeds sheep! The proper translation of Jesus’ command to Peter is “tend My sheep.” Guard them while they feed themselves, which is what sheep and shepherds do. Literally, “pasture them!”

Which gets me into the subject of the day: Leadership is not, repeat NOT, the single missing piece in our churches in North America, the part that most often (were it present) would lead to continual, God-blessed growth. And this despite every Conference-supported leadership seminar that has come down the road and been urged upon us. Then, what IS missing?

In a word: “Followership.” Conference administrations love to promote good leadership techniques among the pastors and make this sound critical to success. Goals, you simply must have goals! And this is understandable, as pastors are employees, and conferences can’t exactly order congregations around. So perhaps there’s a wish for a trickle down effect or something?

An often-quoted aphorism is “want to know if you’re a leader? Turn around and see if anyone is following!” So, let’s see how that has worked in various Biblical stories. ‘And they all forsake Him and fled.’ Poor leadership? ‘And the dragon drew a third of the stars (angels) away from God.’ Was God having a poor day leading angels?

Let’s see among God’s appointed human leaders. Did they ever want to stone Moses? Or David? How many did Noah attract to his ark-based church plant? And we could go on. What’s missing in all of these examples? Good followership. People and angels have to cooperate with leadership for things to get done.

I, like so many young pastors, came out of college bound and determined to help usher in Pentecost II. But what killed that dream? Laodicean people. And I’m not saying I don’t have my share of that spiritual laziness. But I’ve known many very capable pastors, young and old, who are ready to see the work finished. And when they have presented their plans to their churches often there are yawns and people checking their watches. Want evangelistic meetings where all the church members attend and support this Jesus-directed call to ministry? Then what you want for Christmas is followership!

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Changed Lives – Soaking it All In

by John Miller, Pastor of the Winlock Seventh-day Adventist Church

By God’s grace our fall meetings went really well! Our little church was excited to hold another evangelistic series and my wife and I appreciated the support and prayers of the members. Many of our members committed to helping in various ways and it was encouraging to see their enthusiasm and dedication.

A few months back one of the couples attending our church had taken the initiative to follow up one of the It Is Written Bible study leads that we had received back from our recent mailing. This couple met the Peters family; a dear family of seven. After doing Bible studies with them for quite a while, they were able to bring the Peters to our evangelistic series.

We started our meetings off with 13 non-Adventist adults and 8 children. The Peters family and several individuals faithfully hung in there with us through the entirety of all 24 presentations.

Brandy was a lady in her mid-thirties who gave her life to the Lord in the last five years. She came to this series because she got a flyer in the mail and was interested in learning about the prophecies of the Bible. One evening after I sent out a group text to those attending, she responded with the following message:

“Great. I plan to be at all the meetings. Thanks. I don’t really have any questions.. , I’m just soaking it all in at this point. It is very interesting to me and I am enjoying everything I’m learning. It’s really helping me to understand many of the difficult-to-decipher verses I have read in the past, but now make much more sense.”

We were thrilled to see her excitement and openness! Brandy continued to regularly attend each meeting and readily accepted the Sabbath along with other testing truths.

Not only were non-Adventists blessed by the truths presented. We also had two recently baptized couples from the Castle Rock Seventh-day Adventist Church who faithfully attended each meeting. Every night they sat in the front row and loved hearing the messages they were understanding better and becoming more grounded in.

In the book Evangelism page 5 we read: “Evangelism, the very heart of Christianity, is the theme of primary importance to those called to herald God’s last warning to a doomed world. We are in time’s closing hours, and the Advent message, proclaimed to make ready a people prepared for our Lord’s return, must swell to a loud cry reaching the uttermost parts of the earth.”

I want to be a part of that “loud cry” here in my little communities of Winlock and Onalaska. Pray for us as we continue to work and make disciples of those who attended our meetings. May God continue to help us all to be faithful and sharing God’s last-day message with the world.

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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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