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.
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.” 2
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
Does Adventist evangelism still work? Most people say the beasts and images no longer work. However the real numbers, beyond the misunderstandings show differently. USA Today declared the Adventist Church the fastest growing denomination in 2011. The heartbeat is still the very relevant messages of Jesus. In this book, author Roger Walter seeks to provide a level of intelligence that moves beyond the urban myths, and show why it can still work and to give the reader a significant amount of wisdom as they seek to share Jesus in their communities. He delves into the science of evangelism and how to do it so that it’s effective in reaching people for Jesus.
Pastors get depressed? But they’re doing God’s work! Shouldn’t they be immune to the mental problems of the world? That’s not how it works, sin affects us all and pastors are in fact human. Learn some of the reasons why pastors can struggle with depression and by understanding, maybe pastors can find ways to get help and lay-members can be understanding and encouraging toward them. Read More
by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference
I was transferred last week, in light of our world church reports and thoughtful responses, to the story John recounts about the man Jesus came to heal after walking 67 miles on a Sabbath afternoon. This account has moved me since childhood, perhaps because one of my childhood buddies, Rafael, was crippled. As the rest of us kids played soccer, kickball and baseball, Rafael would characteristically stand on the sidelines. Leaning on his crutches, he’d stand content to watch his neighborhood buddies work up a sweat. I also like this story because of the depiction of the extreme situations it recounts, like the 38 years this man had been laying in the same spot, or the sudden, extreme restoration he goes through in the blinking of an eye.
Paradoxically, these “holy leaders” mutated. One proud moment they are fanatical observants of the law, particularly of the fourth commandment, and the next moment they have morphed into ruthless, conniving sixth commandment offenders.
I can only imagine what this formally crippled man may have been thinking: “Don’t you guys recognize me? You must know that I am the same man you’ve seen parked next to the pool of Bethesda for 38 years? You must have noticed me at some point. Look at me! I’m walking for heaven’s sake! I’ve been healed. . .” However, the only response he gets from his spiritual leaders is: “But it is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” (Verse 10). Never mind that this crippled man had just been healed! De-nile is not just a river in Egypt; in fact, it’s a vital ingredient in self-deception which runs deep and wide in our Christian communities.
Under the beguiling mindset of self-deception, the only thing that is vital, is what’s most important to me; never mind the moving of the Spirit in others’ lives. My focus is so exclusively attuned to what is important to me, that I have no interest or curiosity in even acknowledging the possibility that there may be something else of eternal significance occurring right before my eyes. Like the spiritual leaders of old, I may become totally blinded to the profoundly obvious supernatural miracles that the Spirit of God may be empowering. Everything that does not align with my personal agenda or priorities eclipses the phenomenological needs and experiences of others. Let’s just ignore (deny) Christ’s mission and agenda. My AGENDA becomes the only important matter at hand! Sound familiar?
Later that day, when Jesus finds the healed man in the temple, he tells him that He is his healer. The man runs to tell the religious leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him. (verse 14-15). The obsessed keepers of the fourth commandment then began to plot out the murder of Jesus; because after all, the fourth commandment is far more important than the other commandments, right? “For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.” (Ver. 16).
Finally, ALL THE CONDITIONS ARE SET FOR THE NEXT CUT: JESUS HAS SET THE STAGE, LIGHTS ARE ON, CAMERAS ARE ROLLING, THE PEOPLE ARE LISTENING . . . AND NOW JESUS GETS READY TO SAY SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS HE WILL SAY DURING HIS EARTHLY MINISTRY. Are you ready to hear it? Continue reading
There was a German Village where a man and his wife learned to worship on the Sabbath. The rest of the village didn’t like it. There was pressure to conform. The men of the village came and tore the roof off of their house. The man and his wife heard their neighbors up on the roof and wondered what to do. They thought of Romans 12 where it says, “If your enemy is hungry feed him.” They made them lunch. When the men came down off the roof they were invited to sit down for lunch. The man and his wife served them graciously. After lunch, without anything being said, the men went back up and reroofed their house.