From Leader to Leader – A Violent Christmas

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

“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8

While most companies await December to see their product sales skyrocket, we mission-focused, disciple-making Adventists understand that Christmas is a season of the year when some more irreligious or secular folk are often a bit more open to the Good News Gospel embedded in the incarnation of the Son of God. 

Last night, during a conversation with our very likeable heating company employee, I tried to play off my surprise as he told me his perspective on how to solve the worrisome condition of our world and culture. It was late, and he had mentioned this was his last call in a non-stop day of house calls, so I offered him a bowl of delicious tortilla soup my wife had just made. As he ate, this 30-something millennial, unabashedly shared that even though he wasn’t a particularly violent man, he and some other like-minded people had determined that they were not going to cross their arms and watch their planet self-destroy just because politicians were too narcissistic to think about anything other than protecting their own personal interests.  When we asked him what that might look like, he openly admitted he didn’t see anything wrong with using violence against any political leaders that were blocking global efforts to sacrifice personal gain in order to “save our planet,” so that our children and grandchildren could aspire to enjoy sustainable lives. We could not believe how calmly and confidently this talented young man had shared his perspective on how to deal with the evils of our day.

The apostle John eloquently described the fundamental purpose for the Son’s incarnation on that clear starry night: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”  1 John 3:8. This may sound a bit dramatic at first glance, but I invite you to invest a few thoughtful minutes meditating on the context and implications of this short verse; after all, context is highly relevant.

Here is some context:

“In heaven’s council the hour for the coming of Christ had been determined.  When the great clock of time pointed to that hour, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. . .Providence had directed the movements of nations, and the tide of human impulse and influence, until the world was ripe for the coming of the Deliverer.  The deception of sin had reached its height.  All the agencies for depraving the souls of men had been put in operation.  The Son of God, looking upon the world, beheld the suffering and misery.  With pity He saw how men had become victims of satanic cruelty.  He looked with compassion upon those who were being corrupted, murdered, and lost. . .”   (Desire of Ages, 32-38)

So, Jesus was the epicenter of the heavenly invasion that landed on earth wearing the skin of humanity with a focused mission to destroy all the sin (self)-driven, destructive patterns of thinking, feeling, speaking, relating, behaving and being. . . that were exchanged for the spiritual, emotional, physical and relational love, peace, harmony and contentment experienced by our Edenic parents, before their fall.

It’s hard to imagine that about two thousand years had gone by since the incarnation in Bethlehem.  The deception of sin seems to continue evolving into deeper depravity with each passing generation. Yet, it seems that if ever the time is ripe to share the Good News of Emmanuel—God with us—its today.

“By His life and His death, Christ has achieved even more than recovery from the ruin wrought through sin. It was Satan’s purpose to bring about an eternal separation between God and man; but in Christ we become more closely united to God than if we had never fallen. In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken. Through the eternal ages He is linked with us. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.” John 3:16. He gave Him not only to bear our sins, and to die as our sacrifice; He gave Him to the fallen race. To assure us of His immutable counsel of peace, God gave His only-begotten Son to become one of the human family, forever to retain His human nature. This is the pledge that God will fulfill His word. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder.” God has adopted human nature in the person of His Son, and has carried the same into the highest heaven. It is the “Son of man” who shares the throne of the universe. It is the “Son of man” whose name shall be called, “Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6. The I AM is the Daysman between God and humanity, laying His hand upon both. He who is “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,” is not ashamed to call us brethren. Hebrews 7:26; 2:11. In Christ the family of earth and the family of heaven are bound together. Christ glorified is our brother. Heaven is enshrined in humanity, and humanity is enfolded in the bosom of Infinite Love.  {DA 25.3}

I invite you to prayerfully consider the following questions for personal reflection:

  1. In what tangible ways Can I add my efforts to join Jesus in destroying the “works of the devil”?
  2. Can I identify the works of the devil in my own life?  What I can do to stop the enemy’s efforts to destroy my life and those around me?
  3. How different would my influence in my home, family, job and community be if I chose to exchange my learned and inherited patterns of thinking, feeling, speaking, relating and being for those renewed by the Spirit?
  4. Am I willing to surrender Emmanuel’s Spirit? Am I willing to give Him ALL of me?

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From Beyond the Pulpit – Was that God’s Voice that Elsa Heard?

by Dr. 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

Disclaimer:  If you don’t know who Elsa is, you should probably read another article, as the references here won’t make sense!

Last Thanksgiving Disney released the long-awaited sequel to their mega-hit animated movie Frozen.  And it seems that their fans have been rewarded for their patience with another chapter in this princess saga.  The continued success of this franchise is based on solid characters, edge-cutting computer animation and, of course, the amazing music of the Lopez composers.  How many places have you heard “Let it Go” sung over the last few years?  And the marketing of knockoff products has made Disney many millions (I challenge anyone today to go to the local Walmart and find less than 50 Frozen-endorsed products…like duct tape–I’m not kidding!).

But the interesting star of these movies has been the ice queen of Arendelle, Elsa.  The success of Elsa and thus Frozen might be tied to her personal fears of the apparent powers she had in producing ice.  Her “journey” came to a head when she let go of those fears,

“Let It Go” being the anthem, and ended up in a self-induced exile in her ice palace.  The movie ends up happy, of course!

In trying to recapture that moment in Frozen II with more Lopez musical magic, a couple of years later Elsa now feels uneasy about her life, feeling she was meant for more.  She is still afraid of messing things up.  But into that openness comes a distant voice, calling her to leave her world.  “Into the Unknown” is the first of two ballads meant to cover her wrestlings with this voice.  She wonders whose voice it is;  are they like her, will they show her the way to becoming what she thinks she was meant to be?  Do they have the answers to her questions?  But can she leave her current life at the invitation of this voice?  She finally gives in and leaves her comfortable world to find the voice.

The second ballad, “Show Yourself,” has Elsa arriving at the voice’s source and touchingly asking that the voice reveals themselves.  “I’m here,” she sings.  And she beckons, “you are the one I’ve been looking for all of my life.  Come to me now, open your door, don’t keep me waiting one moment more.  Oh, come to me now….”  In the powerful scene she meets the voice and successfully discovers that she (Elsa) WAS meant to be more.  She has a purpose that involves reconciling people and kingdoms that she knows.  She was meant to bring people together.  And in this climactic scene Elsa is… and I know this sounds funny coming from an Adventist, but I think you’ll get it…glorified with a brilliant new look. 

The reason THIS Frozen connects with people is an undeniable truth that all people feel at some point in their lives:  is this all that there is?  Is my life just this day to day existence, or is there a higher purpose I was meant to fill?  And if a voice were to come and invite me to discover that purpose….

Micah 2:10: “Arise and depart, for this is not your rest.”  Then where shall we go?  Is there a ‘still, small voice’ that will lead us?  “Incline your ear, and come to Me.  Hear, and your soul shall live.”  Isaiah 55:3.  “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”  Isaiah 30:21.

That Voice is still calling people today, the Elsa’s of the world.  It might seem to be a scary trip “into the unknown,” but the Voice will never leave or forsake us.  And when we finally arrive, we will find waiting for us all the answers to all of our questions…and better yet, the One Who has made the journey already Himself.

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Changed Lives – God’s Great Timing

by Janroi B. Calley

I grew up in the Philippines and my parents were both Filipinos. l am the third child among my siblings. I remember when my father brought me to a Seventh-day Adventist Church for the first time. I was very confused because most of my childhood friends went to church on Sunday. When I became an adult, I experienced worldly things and stopped attending church.

Many years later, my father contacted me and told me that he wanted to take me to the Oak Harbor Seventh-day Adventist Church. Because of God’s great timing, we heard that Pastor Kevin Scott was conducting a Bible seminar entitled “Keys to Bible Prophecy”. I thought that was God’s great opportunity for me to come back to Jesus Christ so I attended with my father, aunt, uncle, and my grandma.

Pastor Kevin Scott was very passionate when explaining and preaching. God used Pastor Kevin as an instrument for me to be enlightened and know the truth. The first time I attended the meeting, I already felt welcome and comfortable. Then the Holy Spirit made me realize everything. That’s why I decided to be baptized and follow the commandments of God and be one of those who will inherit the kingdom of God for his second coming.

Because of sin, all of us are vulnerable. We cannot predict when our life will end. While we have some time left to live in this sinful world, I encourage you to spend time, even a minute, to read the Holy Bible everyday of your life for you to discover the truth. l am happy and blessed that I accepted Jesus as my true King and Savior. I pray that my other brothers and sisters, relatives and friends will also be imparted and enlightened by the truth through the word of God in the Bible.

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Lifelong Learning – The Frustrated Leader

Frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure. ~ Ecclesiastes 7:3-4 (NIV)

Wait, come again? How have I never paid attention to that verse before? Frustration is better than laughter? Lets use our frustration to make things happen! Read More

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From Leader to Leader – A Good Shepherd Smells Like His Sheep

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

I was a senior in academy trying to decide what to do with my life and what line of study I should pursue the following year.  At that time, I was attending our Adventist School in Costa Rica.  I had sensed a strong called into the ministry when I was younger, maybe 9 or 10.  I remember that I would stay up late at night daydreaming of the day when I would preach to large congregations.  I used to study every pastor that passed by my church, and since it was the Central church of a large metropolitan city, we had many pastors from all levels of our denomination preaching from our pulpit. I used to observe them from head to toe, noticing all the details of their garments, shirts, ties, shoes etc.  You might say I was infatuated with ministry and excited about becoming a pastor someday.  Fast forward to my senior year; I was now uncertain about my call into ministry. Ten years had passed since my ministry daydreams, and now, as an 18-year-old, I kind of wanted to do my own thing.

That’s when out of the blue, one of the school of theology professors invited nine of us senior boys to go camping with him —Talk about investing time with the next generation of pastors. It sounded like a great adventure; camping in the Costa Rican jungles, it couldn’t get any better.  Full of anticipation, we packed and left, just to spend the whole weekend inside our tent, as tropical storms blew in one after another and poured heaps of water on us. However, as we listened to the rain and wind blowing outside, inside the tent, we sat quietly and attentively as our professor brought the books of Timothy to life.  And then it happened, the thrill and excitement of becoming a pastor reappeared right then and there. Listening to our teacher read about Paul’s work and his counsel to the young Timothy made me want to be a part of their team and work for the Lord and make a difference in God’s Kingdom through my life.

I became a pastor; and I have now been in ministry thirty plus years, and like most of us, I have faced numerous peaks and valleys.  I can even remember a time in my ministry when I would pray every night after returning from my church, that the Lord would grant me permission to leave the ministry.  I couldn’t take it any longer.  I would stay out in my driveway, looking at the starry sky, begging the Lord to allow me to leave.  Church ministry posed several challenges and I felt that remaining was detrimental to my health, my ministry and my family life.

God responded: “I want you to smell like your sheep.  Get involved with my children until you love them and are willing to die for them.”  Wow, that was a tall order, but I didn’t have a choice, so instead of continuing to pray to be “set free” from my ministry responsibilities, I started praying that He would give me deep love for my congregation.  I began to spend more time with them seeking ways to better minister to their needs.  Years later, my heart was broken when I had to leave them behind when I accepted another call.  I still tell my wife that if I were to be called back to that church, I would happily return.

Carolann and I were the blessed recipients of a very thoughtful card this week which included the following spiritual nugget written by HMS Richards, Sr.  Upon reading it, we knew it was one of those thoughts that we would copy and place in strategic places around our work and home spaces. We also knew we would have to share it with our extended family of faithful Kingdom-builders in our NPUC and beyond:

KEEP AT YOUR WORK
By HSM Richards, Sr.

“The Lord has given to every man his work.  It is his business to do it and the devil’s business to hinder him if he can.  So surely as God has given you a work to do, Satan will try to hinder you.  He may present other things more promising, He may allure you by worldly prospects, He may assault you with slander, torment you with false accusations, set you to work defending your character, employ pious persons to lie about you, editors to assail you, and excellent men to slander you.  You may have Pilate and Herod, Annas and Caiaphas all combined against you, and Judas standing by ready to sell you for thirty pieces of silver; and you may wonder why all those things come upon you.  Can you not see that whole thing is brought about through the craft of the devil to draw you off from your work and hinder your obedience to God?

Keep about your work. Do not flinch because the lion roars; do not stop to stone the devil’s dogs; do not fool away your time chasing the devil’s rabbits. Do your work. Let liars lie, let sectarians quarrel, let corporations resolve, let editors publish, let the devil do his worst; but see to it that NOTHING hinders you from fulfilling the work that God has given you.

He has not sent you to make money. He has not commanded you to get rich. He has never bidden you to defend your character. He has not set you at work to contradict falsehood which Satan and his servants may start to peddle.  If you do these things, you will do nothing else; you will be at work for yourself and not for the Lord.

Keep about your work. Let your AIM be as steady as a star.  Let the world brawl and bubble.  You may be assaulted, wronged, insulted, slandered, wounded and rejected; you may be abused by foes, forsaken by friends, and despised and rejected of men, but see to it with steadfast determination, with unfaltering zeal, that you pursue the great purpose of your life and object of your being, until at last you can say, ‘I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do.’”

We pray these timeless words of encouragement will revive you if you are weary, renew your hope if yours is under the weather, and will remind you that we are one year closer to hearing the words of our Master: “Enter, you who are blessed by my Father!  Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom.  It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and your stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me. . . whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.” Matt. 25:34-36,40; MSG. 

May you continue to experience the abundant grace of the Father over your life, your marriage, your family and your ministry!  You are indeed very appreciated!

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Why Not Try This – Should We Ignore Halloween?

Pastor Jose Cortes, Associate Director for Evangelism at the North American Division, recently posted this article on his facebook page with some very helpful ideas on how we, as Christians, can handle Halloween:

Halloween seems to be the one holiday in American Christianity that we just don’t know what to do with. We happily celebrate cultural or historical holidays like the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, or New Year’s Day. We love religious holidays like Easter and Christmas. But Halloween has quite a dark history, and we don’t know how to approach it. As Christians we can either pretend that it doesn’t exist (even though it does) or we can seize a great opportunity right in front of us to reach out to our neighborhoods, friends or colleagues. Here you will find some tips on how to use this Holiday as a ministry opportunity:

1. Be present: Don’t hide out all night. Open your church, and if families stop by, have some cider, get to know their names and where they live in the neighborhood.

2. Think of the Parents: Consider having some hot chocolate and pumpkin bread out for the parents who are bringing their kids around the block. Make church’s entryway inviting so they want to come closer or inside and hang for a bit if possible.

3. Pass out Christian goodies: Halloween is the one night of the year when strangers literally will show up on your church or home doorsteps looking for handouts. Why not make sure they walk away with something meaningful? If you’re planning on handing out candy this Halloween, you could hand out a few tasteful tracts as well. 

4. Host a Light Party! How can we be the light if we are hiding in our homes; with the lights out, not answering the door? We are to be the light, not hiding in the dark. You can host a Light Party in your home or in your church. Turn on all the lights in your church, hang up some bright Christmas lights, play Christian music, and hand out candy with handwritten notes saying, “Jesus loves you”. You can offer free hot chocolate and free prayers. Be the brightest place on the block, not the darkest.

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From Beyond the Pulpit – What the Beatles Could Teach Our Church Leaders

by Dr. 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

There were two huge events in my childhood and youth that I will never forget:  the day my mom told me “Daddy isn’t coming home anymore” (and the divorce followed) and about eight years later, the news that the Beatles broke up!

Both were losses, and I could imagine on a psychologist’s couch it would come out that the latter one was so impactful because of the former one.  Why can’t people stay together?  Why can’t they work things out for the benefit of those who care about them?

In the case of the Beatles, John Lennon never got it.  He would later say to the fans, and I paraphrase, “Hey!  What’s the big deal?  We are each still producing music individually that will sound similar to the Beatles.” But they were not the same apart.  Would John’s anthem to atheism (“Imagine”) have been done with George (a believer in God) present?  Wouldn’t there have been some softening, some blending, some strengthening, some balance?  But we will never know.

Sadly, virtually every great band has broken up.  Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Eagles, America, ABBA, the list is a surprisingly long one.  I saw recently interviews of David Crosby and Graham Nash (who wasn’t MORE for world peace and harmony than Crosby, Stills and Nash?).  They can’t stand each other.  ABBA, arguably one of Europe’s greatest bands ever, was offered one billion dollars to reunite.  That’s billion with a “b!”  Couldn’t stand each other in the studio.

Yet at one time these bands’ members each complimented the skills and talents of their fellows and what they produced corporately was better than what they could do individually.  When the obviously upset Mick Jagger was asked what he thought of the then recent Beatles breakup, he simply exclaimed, “Egos!”

Egos do get in the way.  I’ve always felt musicians tended towards having sensitive ones.  But what can these grand breakups like the Beatles teach us, the Adventist Church? 

I think it’s this:  our highest achievements will take place only as we work together.  We all have sensitive egos that can get in the way.  What was the biggest hindrance of the disciples becoming what Jesus felt they could become while He was with them?  Ah, yes:  the spirit of ”who would be greatest.”  But what did they accomplish when they became of one spirit?  They became accused of “turning the world upside down!” 

Swallow egos, let the Spirit of Almighty God humble us all and let it be us that will turn OUR world upside down. 

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Momentum – The Storyteller

by Sergio Manente, pastor of the Richland Seventh-day Adventist Church

I am constantly humbled and encouraged with the dedication each lay-leader approaches ministry, to both nurture each current member and also minister to the community.

Developing each member as mission-minded disciples and investing personal energy, time and resources to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and His message to the un-churched in our community has been our focus. We are constantly brainstorming ways to forge relationships with the community through several outreach endeavors ranging from their Community service/diaper bank ministry to partnering with the local public elementary school tutoring reading for children as risk. We are involved with Rebuilding Mid-Columbia projects throughout our county, and several other volunteer based organizations, constantly partnering and connecting with the needs of the community.

As a way to bridge all of this wonderful work of establishing presence and credibility in our community and helping the un-churched in Richland across the threshold of eternity, we developed a teaching/preaching series entitled “The Storyteller.”  We wanted to introduce Jesus and some of His most powerful teachings through the medium of His parables. We were able to address several key doctrines as well as what salvation through the person of Jesus Christ looks like. We invited them to participate in a community weekend leadership event called Both/And. We had a “full capacity crowd and the series was a huge success. We baptized 9 so far with the amazing follow up work of our Bible Worker. We are looking forward to a celebration Sabbath when we hope to baptize other candidates from ongoing harvest.

I love the everyday evangelism and discipleship that happens at Richland and absolutely look forward to the proclamation evangelism series that harvest all of the hard work each dedicated member has worked towards and prayed for. We are all so blessed and enriched by God’s great mercy to partner with us to usher His soon return.

Until the Nets Are Full!!

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Changed Lives – Your Influence Matters

by Hugo Villalobos, pastor of the Hermiston/Pendleton Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Churches

This year we held an evangelistic series that taught our church an important lesson, the fact that we never know the impact and influence our choices make to those around us.

Two brothers began attending our church for several months and had decided to take their next step and get baptized in this series. As they were getting up to get prepared for baptisms, they walked down the hall and saw a friend who was visiting our church for the first time. His name is Carlos. Carlos was going through some rough moments in his life and was looking for God that day. He recognized these two brothers and was surprised to see them in blue robes getting ready to take an important step.

He saw something different in them. Last time they saw each other they were under the influence of alcohol. But now they were sober and had accepted Jesus as their personal Savior. Their faces reflected peace, joy, and happiness. He was touched by these brother’s testimony so much that he too decided to receive Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit through baptism that day. God surprises us every time. He is good all the time. They are currently being equipped and trained to become servant leaders.

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Lifelong Learning – The Long Reach for Authenticity

Last Sabbath, after the service was over, I was pointing out a child to a visiting friend and said “he’s the blond boy over there standing on the stage, not the one who just jumped into the baptismal tank, that’s the pastor’s son.” She knew I wasn’t being judgemental, I found it funny. Pastor’s families are not perfect and shouldn’t have to be, but feel overwhelming pressure to be so. What churches need is authenticity. Read this article from NAD Ministerial by Kumar Dixit.

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