Author Archives: Marella Rudebaugh

Jesus in the Outer Court

by Byron Dulan, Vice President for Regional Affairs at the North Pacific Union Conference

(This article is based on a devotional Elder Dulan gave to the NPUC Staff on June 2020)

The United States, indeed the entire world, were shocked, when video of the murder of George Floyd, at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, went viral, on May 25, 2020.  Sworn to protect and serve, Officer Derek Chauvin, instead, pinned his prone, handcuffed victim’s face, into the street; and ignored his repeated, desperate cries, warning that he could not breathe. Heedless, Officer Chauvin continued to kneel on the neck of the 46-year-old man, for almost nine minutes — the now infamous, eight minutes and 46 seconds.

By the time medical help arrived, George Floyd, no longer had a pulse. The official police report — which we have since learned, was fabricated by police officials, as an elaborate cover-up on behalf of the four arresting officers — was filled with false accusations and innuendo against George Floyd.  This unmitigated case of police brutality has sparked large protests and acts of civil disobedience, across cities, large and small, in America, and around the world.

America surely cannot be surprised today, by the regularity of the killing of Black males, given the history of slavery, Jim Crow era laws, and the recent public slayings of Freddie Gray; Tamir Rice; Laquan McDonald; Michael Brown; Eric Garner; Trayvon Martin; Sean Reed; and now, George Floyd.  Who will be next?

But such evil did not originate in America. This evil reflects the “wages of sin”,  which has engulfed the earth since the time Adam and Eve favored the word of the serpent, over the Word of God.  We are witnessing scenes from the ongoing war between good and evil.  The battle between Jesus and Satan, heaven and hell, has entered its final stages.  This battle is not centered solely on the lives of individuals; but rather, for control of the powers, and internal operations, of the communal, corporate, political, economic, and spiritual systems of the world.

Paul said: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, and against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:5, Andrew’s Study Bible).

Since the murder of George Floyd, there have been numerous peaceful marches and public demonstrations, calling for a variety of civic reforms. Anarchists, however, have followed behind these concerned citizens, for the purposes of stirring trouble and raising bedlam; causing some segments of the the media, to label the peaceful demonstrators, as those who are “Disturbing The Peace”

SCRIPTURE LESSON

Our Scripture lesson begins in John 2: 13-15.  Jesus’ behavior in this text, may come as a shock to some.  So, if you are wondering what Jesus would do, in such a time as this, please observe:

“Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.  When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changer’s money and overturned the tables.  He said: “Take these things away.”

In the book, The Desire of Ages, Ellen White describes the cacophonous scene transpiring in the Outer Court of the Temple.  The Temple system and it’s services, were predicated upon the ritual blood sacrifice of animals. The people had been rigorously taught, that if there were no sacrifice, there would be no blessing. So, in the Outer Court, you could observe:

  • Dealers — selling animals at exorbitant prices to the immigrants, who had traveled from around the world to celebrate the Passover Feast.  These “dealers” were required to share their profits with the priests.
  • Sales — which, during Passover, were exceedingly large. You may think of it as, “Black Friday”, for religious leaders.
  • Noise — sounds included: cattle lowing; sheep bleating; doves cooing; coins clinking; and angry disputations.
  • Money Changers — Foreign Coin was forbidden for use within the Temple system, and therefore had to be “changed” into the Sanctuary Coin. This provided ample opportunity for fraud, abuse, and extortion to be perpetrated by the money changers. This also provided an additional revenue stream for the ruling priests.
  • Prayers — occurring inside the Temple, were completely drowned out, by the uproarious commotion emanating from the Outer Court.

Inspiration informs us, that the Jews took pride in their piety.  They worshipped the Temple as an idol. They rigorously performed ceremonies, but the love of money overruled their scruples.  They were unaware of how far they had wandered away from the original purpose of the worship services. (DA 155)

As Jesus entered the Temple Court, his gaze comprehended the entire scene.  He saw, the unholy traffic.  He saw, the lawless, unfair transactions.  He saw, the distress of the poor and the suffering.  He saw, the hearts of the priests and rulers, who though boasting piety, were without compassion or sympathy for the poor, the sick, and the dying.  Jesus saw, that something had to be done!  We are told that even as a child, “Jesus could not witness a wrong act without pain which it was impossible to disguise.” (DA 88).

With indignation, authority, and power, evidenced through his countenance, Jesus stood in the midst of the confusion. The throng became riveted to His face.  Confusion quieted. Chaos hushed. Silence grew painful.  Awe overwhelmed the throng, as Divinity flashed through humanity, and divine light illuminated His face.  He said: “Take these things hence!”.  Panic swept the multitude — and they fled.  Priests, officers, money-changers, lowing cattle, and their sellers, ran — scattering in every direction — seeking to escape the condemnation of His gaze.

Soon, they were replaced — as the poor, the sick, the down-trodden, and the children — drew near to Jesus.  The Savior ministered to them all — healing their diseases and comforting their fears.  When the priests and rulers, eventually dared return, they found an atmosphere filled with rejoicing and praise to God.  And they were not happy.  They hated the power and presence of Jesus.  From that day forward, they plotted His murder.

HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?

Let us pause at this juncture to ask: “How could this happen?”  How could religious people, no, religious leaders, consciously plot to murder anyone, much less a prophet, who was doing good in the community.

That very question, belies a misunderstanding of the very nature of evil.  Often, when an evil statement or behavior, is enacted by a person, (or persons) in power, it is brushed aside, and dismissed as a personal propensity, or character flaw, within that one individual. But the fact that these behaviors and flaws, continually reoccur in diverse personalities, throughout history, demonstrates that something more sinister, and more deeply rooted, is at work.  I am talking about principalities, powers, systems, and structures of evil.

Case in point. The “war on drugs”, has yet to be won.  Why is this?  Because the powers and systems, supposedly waging the war, are the self-same powers that fuel and protect the flow of drugs into communities. We have drugs in prisons, for example. I would argue, that you can’t have drugs in prisons, unless someone brings them in, or, knowingly, allows them in.

Another case in point.  Why has the “war on poverty” not been won?  (In fact, this particular war, has long ceased being waged).  It is because the self-same powers, supposedly fighting for fair housing and equity, actually own slum housing units, and profit by the billions of dollars, in doing so.

Another case to consider. Why did major corporations receive the lion’s share of monies from the Covid-19 pandemic related, Paycheck Protection Program?  You know the reason why!  The powers that be! — The Empire Rules!

In his book, City of God, City of Satan, Robert Linthicum posits, that these evil powers continue to plague our cities and our world, due to two things:

The people who provide primary leadership to the systems, are themselves, seduced by the illusion of their own power.  They overestimate their own power, because they are convinced that they are in control.  They believe they are running the system, and don’t realize that the system is running them.  Satan has seduced many elements and systems of our world: corporations; banks; hedge funds; Wall Street; state and federal governments; educational institutions; the criminal justice system (an oxymoron, if ever there was one); sports and entertainment franchises; artificial intelligence technologies; false religions and so-called Christian denominations.  These systems flaunt their power in broad daylight; and few people, ever question their moral authority.

The church is largely ignorant of Satan’s strategies to seduce and use systems, organizations, and structures, to perpetuate his purposes.  The church primarily sees its own mission as converting individuals; and thereby leaves the field wide open for Satan to exert spiritual influence upon the systems and the laws of the land.  The church is fixated on the little boat of personal sins, rather than the rising tide of corporate evil.  Racism is viewed as a personal sin; not as a river of privilege that advantages some, and disadvantages others.

RETURN TO THE STORY

Back to our story.  We left off with Jesus in the Temple, ministering to the poor.  Let’s fast forward, approximately three years later, when Jesus returns to the Temple — just before his crucifixion.

Three years earlier, the Jewish leaders had asked Jesus for a sign, in order to prove that He was called of God.  During the ensuing three years, Jesus had healed the lame; provided hearing to the deaf; given sight to the blind; resurrected the dead; fed thousands of hungry people; walked on water; taught peace and justice; and read the hearts, minds, and motives of corrupt spiritual leaders.  For all of that, and more, they hated Him — and therefore, plotted to kill Him.

The problem the Jews had with Jesus, was that His gospel of love undermined their carefully laid system of economic, political, and spiritual power; upon which they relied, for health, wealth, power, and continued control of the people.  Caiaphas, the High Priest, argued that it was expedient that they murder Jesus, rather than lose their control over the nation.

Jesus’ return to the Jerusalem Temple during that final Passover, was meant to provide the Jewish people, and their leaders, a final opportunity to accept Him as the Messiah, — Savior of the nation and of the world.  But His appeal, was not just a personal one. More importantly, it was a corporate appeal.  Apart from Jesus, the Promised Messiah, the Jewish economy and religion, were doomed. They, the nation, were operating under an illusion of power.  Ellen White says, they were operating under the power of Satan.

They were paying so much attention to what needed to happen inside the church, that they had forgotten the mission for justice, outside the church. They tithed mint, anise, and cumin, but omitted the weightier matters of the law.

Matthew tells us that Jesus went into the Temple and drove out the buyers and sellers and money changers.  He said: “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.”  Then the blind and lame came to him, and He healed them.

The next day, Jesus was interrogated by those who claimed to be in authority.  They demanded to know by what authority He had acted as He had.  Jesus responded with three of the most compassionate, yet cutting, appeals for repentance:

The parable of the two sons illustrated to the Jewish hierarchy, that they were the son, who had promised to work in the vineyard, yet failed to do so.  As a result, Jesus informed them, the tax collectors, and the harlots, would enter God’s kingdom ahead of them.

The parable of the wicked vine dressers exposed the evil of those who beat and killed the landowners servants (those who had been tasked with receiving the fruit of the harvest).  And then, going further, brutally murdered His son, (the heir);  rather than relinquish their hold on power.  In answer to Jesus’ question, regarding the landowner’s response toward such evil-doers, they sealed their own doom, when they rightfully responded: “He will destroy those miserable wicked men!”

Jesus’ final illustration referred to the stone, that the builders of Solomon’s Temple, rejected.  The Builders could not figure out where the stone fit, so they set it aside.  Due to its large size, however, it stood in the way of the construction site, forcing them to continually work around it.  Therefore, it became a nuisance, and a stumbling block.  When the time came, however, to setting the chief cornerstone, which would bear the weight of the entire structure, they realized that it was right before their eyes; and had been there, all along.  Jesus, the God of justice and judgement is the Cornerstone. Those who fall on the stone will be broken, but those that the stone falls upon, will be ground to powder.

Jesus’ actions in the Temple, along with His three powerful appeals, convince me, that while God is distressed by individual sins; He is even more distressed, by the unjust collective actions of corporate systems, which have been enticed and seduced by Satan.  Sinners may respond to passionate appeals. Systems, by definition, typically, do not. Systems must be opposed. Systems must be subdued.  Systems must be protested. Systems must be stood up to.  Truth must speak to power.

  • Gandhi said: “Truth never damages a cause that is just.”
  • Ben Franklin said: “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
  • Reinhold Niebuhr said: “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”
  • Frederick Douglas said: “The American people have this to learn: that where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither person nor property is safe.”
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  • Solomon said: “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”
  • Cornel West said: “Justice is what love looks like when spoken in public.”

APPEAL

Micah 6:8 — “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you. But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Could it possibly be, that one main issue undermining the growth of our churches (and denomination), is that we have become so concerned about tithes and offerings, positions and power (while each has their rightful place); yet, have forgotten about “doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God,” within our communities?

Christianity, today, is being challenged to “walk the talk”.  The religious Right has been strangely silent about injustice happening in our streets.  They are loudly vocal concerning the rights of the unborn; but disquietingly silent about the rights, living conditions, and death, of the already born.

Jesus summarized the Great Commandment as love to God and love to our neighbor.  Matthew 25 identifies our neighbors as those who are the hungry; the thirsty; the stranger (immigrant); the naked; the sick; and the prisoner.  I know that some Christians want to interpret this text in symbolic ways.  No!  The literal interpretation is the best interpretation. Besides which, this is precisely what Jesus did, while He walked this earth.  His example remains the only relevant one; and is to be followed by His disciples.

Quoting Isaiah, Jesus said His mission was to the poor; broken-hearted; captives; prison-bound; the economically disadvantaged; and those who mourn.  He declared that He would proclaim the day of God’s vengeance to the oppressor.

As my appeal, I imagine Jesus, standing in the Outer Court of our churches today.  What does He see?  Does He see a lot of busyness or cold efficiency?  Are our people more concerned about what the preacher says in his sermon, than they are in translating the words of his sermon into action? Does He see a church preoccupied with internal theological arguments, yet, apathetic regarding the needs of the people in the Outer Court?  What would Jesus say to Seventh-day Adventist Churches today, were He to visit?  He is, in fact, about to make His final visit.  Will He find the joy of those healed; and the joyful praise of the children?  Will He see active faith and faithful action?

I know that, because of sin, injustice will hold sway, in any way it can, until Jesus comes.  My fear is that the church will become tone deaf, and indifferent to the cries and pleas of those in the Outer Court — and thereby lose its moral authority.  My fear is that we will fail to confront the systems of injustice that plague our world, and excuse ourselves by saying that, individually, we had nothing to do with it.

Christ, Himself, was wounded afresh, as He observed the knee of oppressive power, willfully compress the neck of a defenseless man.  George Floyd’s death, may have gone unquestioned, were it not for the courageous actions of a seventeen-year-old girl; wielding a cell phone in steadfast witness, against an act of evil.

Jesus, Himself, wept, as He witnessed the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, while out jogging.  Evidence of the perpetrators lies, were uncovered, via their own videos.

Christ was broken-hearted, as He watched Amy Cooper refuse to properly leash her dog in Central Park, at a Black man’s request (Christian Cooper; no relation); and then, (because she knew, her “whiteness” gave her the power to do so) deliberately placed his life in jeopardy, by leveraging a false allegation against him in a call to 911.  Christ ached, as He watched her succumb to the siren-call of white privilege; allowing the river of American racism, to carry her along, amidst its detritus.  Fortuitously, her would be victim, protected himself, by capturing the entire encounter on his cell phone.

Amy Cooper’s actions dredged up the frightful history of Black men in America, being lynched, based on the consequential words of white women.  I do not celebrate,  nor take pleasure in the social judgements which have befallen her. She lost her job; her dog; and what little reputation she possessed. Sadly, she is simply another human being, seduced by the systems of racism in this country.  A system, that, for the moment, more and more people (around the world) have agreed, must be ended.

Jesus is Standing in the Outer Court.   He stands watching and knocking, not only on the doors of individual hearts today, but also on the doors of corporate, political, financial and spiritual systems and structures of injustice.  We dare not keep our Savior out.  We must let His love and His peace come in.

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Why Not Try This? – The Future Church Through Digital Media

We are all eager to get back to normal, but the reality is that the COVID-19 is changing the way we will do the digital aspects of life and ministry going into the future. How will we respond? Read More…

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From Beyond the Pulpit – Monuments

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 is a nationwide movement currently to tear down certain monuments.  Mostly, it is because they are considered to have negative ramifications in the ongoing debates about systematic racism.  Statues of Confederate war generals, representing a large part of America that endorsed and practiced slavery, are coming down.  Images that included stereotypical representations of African Americans or Native Americans are also coming down.  Product brands such as Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben, or Lady of the Lake are being rebranded, in an attempt to clean up such dated views.  These are all genuine attempts to move on from the past into a more positive future.

Some years ago, I was part of an “Operation Bearhug” evangelistic team that went to the then newly-opened Russia.  This was the era of Glasnost, and the country of Russia was in the middle of a complete shaking of their national image.  They had given up the “Soviet Union” (not much was really unified) and they were moving into a realization that they were NOT the superpower they had thought they were.  And in that insecure period they were very open to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Shaking a secure nation is not always a bad thing.

It is also a part of human history that when a new culture or power takes over a nation, sometimes it includes removing old images of the previous rulers.  Ancient Egypt serves as an example.  You will be hard pressed to find many images of Moses’ Egyptian adopted mother, the “daughter of Pharaoh” named Hatshepsut.  Her statues were defaced as were many other representations, apparently done by the successor Thutmose III and his son.  The new rulers wanted to move away from that past.

In the Biblical record, monuments were erected to mark events of God’s grace.  For instance, when Israel marched into Canaan over the dried-up Jordan:  “Then he [Joshua] spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”  Joshua 4:21-24.  I suppose remembering how God had led them out of Egypt would include memories of resistance to His leading?  Nevertheless, they were to remember God’s power in deliverance as foremost.

Here in America the idea is to remove reminders of the painful past, especially when the reminders seem to glorify those most responsible for it.  I think we all should listen carefully to these voices calling for a new view of the past.  For some Americans our national history is mostly positive, which is where we wish it would stay.  For many others that history is not so positive and images that recall that part of our past should be removed.

Perhaps some images should be left, if for no other reason than to show how the past really was and to learn and grow from it.  Perhaps. 

I am personally grateful that the monument to my painful past, the record of my sin, will forever have been removed and buried “in the depths of the sea.”  Oh, but that’s not entirely true!  For the reminder of my sin will be preserved in the only physical remembrance of this rebellious planet that will endure:  the scars of Calvary on the hands, feet, side and brow of my loving Savior.  These He will bear for eternity.  They are monuments to God’s grace, pictures to remind us of His patient leading of us over the River Jordan.  But instead of drawing tears of regret from millions of sinners it will draw “hallelujahs” and praises from glorified saints..

So, here’s a statement you can take to the bank, something I’ve preached for decades:  “God is far more interested in your future than He is in your past.”  Amen!

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Changed Lives – Washed Clean

by Dustin Serns, Pastor of the Port Orchard Seventh-day Adventist Church

February of 2019, Mitch walked away from his house with a noose in his pocket, a beer in his hand, and a plan to take his life. Mitch had been a severe alcoholic for all of his adult life. Now he had given up… but God hadn’t.

Mitch’s wife took him to the hospital. When Mitch told the lady at the reception desk his plan to kill himself, she acted immediately and got him into an alcoholic rehabilitation program. There, a girl looked him in the eye and said, “Whatever you do, please don’t drink and drive.” She had been hit by a drunk driver and broke almost every bone in her body. It was a miracle she was still alive.

“I’ll do you one better!” Mitch responded. “I’ll never drink again!” God gave Mitch the strength to follow through on his decision. After five days in the program, Mitch came home sober. 

God continued to transform his life. He began reading the Bible and praying every day. A few months later, a couple people showed up at his door with a flyer for an upcoming Bible prophecy seminar. Mitch was interested. At the seminar, Mitch surrendered everything to Christ. By the time the seminar was over, Mitch was attending church regularly, had joined a couple Bible study groups, and was continuing to grow in his love for God. 

He wanted victory over smoking. After decades of being enslaved by addictions, Mitch wanted Jesus to set him free completely. He began asking Jesus for power to overcome. He asked a few friends at church to pray for him and encourage him through the ups and downs of trying to quit.

A few weeks later, one of those friends called, “Mitch, I’ve been praying for you. How long has it been since you had a smoke?”

“You know, I can’t even remember!” Mitch said. He was free.

On October 5, 2019, Mitch was baptized into the Port Orchard Seventh-day Adventist Church. The same man who had wanted to end his life eight months earlier was now “made alive in Christ.” He shared a powerful, joyful and tearful testimony about what Jesus has done for Him and encouraged everyone to put their trust in Him. He was so happy to be “washed clean.” 

We praise Jesus for offering each of us victory and a new life of hope and wholeness!

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Lifelong Learning – Adventists and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

Adventism was forever altered by the 1918 pandemic in far-reaching ways that are largely taken for granted today. This legacy of responsible and balanced action meant cooperating with government officials and other relief organizations, embracing best practices based upon what they knew from medical science, exercising common sense, and prioritizing the safety of both their communities and themselves, with the understanding that all Adventists had a sacred responsibility to help those who became sick. Read More..

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From Leader to Leader – Can you roll with the punches?

by César De León PhD LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, the Covid-19 virus hit all of us like a train.  Last year my wife and I spent one-hundred and fifty-two nights sleeping in hotel rooms and had decided to slow down our travel appointments a bit so we could focus on some backburner projects. So, when the pandemic experts mandated social isolation and we were sent home, we thought, perfect, we will finally have some time to get some long-awaited writing done.  So much for that great idea.  We quickly found ourselves knee deep in the abyss of Zoom.  Administrative meetings began, requests for sermons and seminars followed; invitations to speak to youth, women and men’s groups, then ministry crisis counseling sessions were added; and what first appeared to be a possible respite of a few peaceful days offering the possibility of catching our breath, just never materialized. 

No one actually knew what to expect when the pandemic crashed into our lives, nor could we begin to imagine the immediate personal, family and professional adjustments we would need to make to meet the demands to adjust, reinvent, accommodate and to continue to serve our respective communities while rapidly adapting to our changing life rhythms.  One thing is for sure, this pandemic has introduced a cascade of difficult situations for many. There is a sense of impending doom that many are experiencing as they face the possibilities of losing an income or the ability to pay the rent or mortgage. People are afraid of not being able to secure food and other essentials for their families, or worse, of falling prey to the virus and not being able to recover. Stress levels have skyrocketed and many now are dealing with mental health issues such as high levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and a vast sense of loss; others are even experiencing suicidal thinking.  We are hoping and praying that this pandemic and its residual consequences will soon pass, and that we will soon return to our “new normal”; but until that happens, we need to find ways to strengthen our spirits, fortify our bodies and boost our mental attitudes.  

Resiliency is the capacity to “roll with the punches” and adapt or adjust to unexpected circumstances in order to turn a difficult situation into a growth experience. It is turning all this negativity and adversity into something positive—to become stronger and more resourceful, and to build toward a healthier future, says Froma Walsh, codirector of the Chicago Center for Family Health and author of Strengthening Family Resilience.1   The idea is that we can recover as quick as possible and continue to be in control of our lives.  People who are able to be resilient are able to control the levels of stress in their lives and better cope with stressors that threaten their mental health.  These individuals tend to view the difficult moments in life as challenges and invitations to respond in adaptive ways rather than surrender to panic.  In other words, they do not think of themselves as victims, but as warriors, as fighters that need to accomplish something in the midst of crisis situations. By choosing this mental re-frame, our hearts function more efficiently, blood vessels expand, and our bodies becomes more productive.  When we see things as a threat, blood vessels contract, the heart works less efficiently, and many vital body functions are impaired, including the brain.  In the long term, viewing difficult episodes as unmanageable threats is associated with accelerated brain aging.2

The phrase, “He who overcomes” is repeated multiple times in the book of Revelation. It is clear that God expect us to endure, to persevere. Paul talks about resilience when writing to the Corinthians, But remember this—the wrong desires that come into your life aren’t anything new and different. Many others have faced exactly the same problems before you. And no temptation is irresistible. You can trust God to keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it, for he has promised this and will do what he says. He will show you how to escape temptation’s power so that you can bear up patiently against it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (TLB). God empowers us to practice resilience, to be able to stand in the midst of negative circumstances and patiently bear enemy assaults.  While this text is addressing temptation in particular, it can also apply to any situation that crashes into our lives threatening our safety and well-being.

Matthew repeats the same idea, “Staying with it—that’s what God requires. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry, and you’ll be saved” (TLB).  The Message version simply says: “13 But those enduring to the end shall be saved.” (Matt. 24:13, MSG) It is clear that perseverance, having staying power, or the more contemporary term, resilience is something our Father calls us to sustain in the face of adverse circumstances which we will all face while on our earthly trajectory. No one knows how long or to what degree this pandemic is going to continue to affect our lives, but if we want to ensure that we are going to sustain mental, physical, emotional and spiritual stamina, we will do well to follow some simple practices.

Speak to yourself

It is to our advantage to remember that we are adopted children of God and that through Him we are capable individuals.  Repeating to ourselves, “I am a beloved child of God and I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me,” can be very beneficial.  As we face terrible circumstances and our existence is threatened, we must remember that we are never alone. There is a God in heaven watching and walking each step of our journeys with us. Repeating and memorizing favorite Bible promises can remind us that we serve an omnipresent and omnipotent God who offers us His ongoing comfort and security.

Be aware of your emotions

It is important for us to be aware of our emotions and feelings.  When we feel anxious, fearful, mad or angry and we don’t know where these emotions are coming from, our levels of stress will increase, creating higher levels of cortisol, which will result in a compromised immune system, which in turn, will affect our ability to fight pathogens.  It is imperative that we understand exactly why we feel angry, anxious, or fearful. Writing out our fears and worries through some form of journaling and taking the time to prayerfully analyze and then release them into the hands of God, will help us cope and manage them in a more productive and efficient way.

Develop a Locus of control

Elizabeth ScottMS explains that resilient people believe that they have the control of their lives3, and that even though they cannot control what happens to them and the events that disrupt their daily lives, they can develop a locus of control and determine how they want to respond and react to these events. Jesus is an excellent model of a resilient individual with a remarkable locus of control in his life. Time and again, we see him facing adverse circumstances, constant criticism and accusations, ridicule, ostracism, unjust treatment, judgement, punishment and finally, even death. Yet, Jesus always remained in control, and decided how he was going to react to all of these adversities. The apostle Paul reminds us that “. . .God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Tim. 1:7, ESV).

Connect with others

We were wired to connect. I like to think that one of the reasons we all have a “monument,” aka: a belly button in the middle of our body, is to remind us that we were created to develop optimally within the context of connections that are vital for our survival.  Our initial infant-mother connection is eventually shared with other emotional connections as we transition through our developmental stages as we connect with siblings, friends, spouses, and relatives who will bring love, joy, companionship, and will challenge our brains to develop neural connections that will actually help us maintain our mental abilities sharp and in optimum condition. Avoiding prolonged isolation is fundamental to being able to adjust and accommodate to adversity. The Scriptures remind us that, “One man is able to have power over him who is alone, but two can stand against him. It is not easy to break a rope made of three strings.” (Eccles. 4:12 NLV). We can all benefit from learning how to make use of the current social media platforms available to nurture our relationships with family and friends during this season of social distancing. Our brains, hearts and immune systems will benefit greatly from an increase in relationship connections.

Have Faith in God

God promised that nothing was going to come into our lives that we wouldn’t have the ability to withstand; that includes the Covid-19 pandemic. (1Cor. 10:13). He also said, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).

And as if Jesus knew that at some time we were going to be very concerned about our personal survival and worried about being able to obtain food and shelter, He shared the following directions, “25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? 31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matt.6:25-34 NLT). What a sense of security is offered to us. Jesus offers a blank check that will come our way when we need it the most.  Now, this obviously doesn’t mean that God will provide or solve our problems in the way or moment we may expect or request.  It may be that we are going to be short on food or perhaps we won’t have the means to pay for our rent, however, that doesn’t mean that God will not provide ways and means for us to be fed and have a roof over our heads, even if it’s not in the way we would have chosen. God may provide individuals who will share their food with us or open their hearts and homes for us to stay with them for a while. Whatever means God chooses to use, one thing is for sure, He will never leave us nor forsake us.  

Reading the following thought as often as necessary can also renew our trust in God’s attunement to us: “Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God.  You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. . .His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them.  Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind.  Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe.  Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice.  There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read, there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel.  No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. . . The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son.” 4

Individuals who have a growing faith in God, who refuse to see themselves as victims, and who see life as a challenge rather than just a series of unwelcome, complicated circumstances, are more optimistic, have a good sense of humor in spite of the adversities that surround them, and get regular physical exercise to keep their bodies and minds in optimum condition. 

Indeed, when we understand just how attuned God is to each one of His children, we are strengthened to stand, resiliently, until the end. Enduring requires making a conscious decision to walk, in faith, with God daily, knowing that He will grant us the final victory, “Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.” (Revelation 3:21 NLT). I love this inspired promise, “All heaven is at our command.  If we are obedient children of God, we may draw daily supplies of grace. Whatever temptations, trails or persecutions may come upon us, we need not be discouraged.  Neither man nor Satan can close the door which Christ has opened for us. . . No power can hide from us the light of the glory which shines from the threshold of heaven along the whole length of the ladder we are to climb; for the Lord has given us strength in His strength, courage in His courage, light in His light. . . If we only realized that the glory of God is round about us, that heaven is nearer earth than we suppose, we should have a heaven in our homes while preparing for the heaven above.” 5

Friends, by His grace alone, we can daily deepen our trust in Him. We can learn how to cope more wisely and intentionally with the stressors of this life, and we can cultivate an unshakable resilience in the midst of any and all punches we will receive while we await His soon return.   

References:

1.      Froma Walsh, Strengthening Family Resilience. New York: The Guildford Press, 2016.

2.      Jessica Migala, Your Coronavarius Teaching Moment. AARP Bulletin. May 2020 Vol. 61 No. 4

3.      Elizabeth Scott, “How to Cope With Stress and Become More Resilient” https://www.verywellmind.com/cope-with-stress-and-become-more-resilient-3144889

4.      Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, Washington: Review & Herald Publishing Association, 1956, p. 100

5.      Ellen G. White, “Our High Calling”, Washington: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1961, May 2, p. 128

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From Beyond the Pulpit – Why I Would Consider Pastoring for a Career

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

Were I wearing a younger man’s clothes, pastoring as a career choice would appeal to me in many ways.  I will list those ways in two categories:  practical reasons and emotional/spiritual reasons.  First, the practical ones….

Pastoring is one of the very few “generalist” careers left in the world.  By that I mean the world has evolved into specialism.  In medicine the country doctor used to do most any kind of medical procedure, including delivering babies.  Now those areas are largely left up to specialists.  But a pastor must be at least adequate (and preferably good) at various kinds of counseling, finance, public speaking, teaching, understanding theology, displaying leadership skills, short- and long-term planning and much more, all the while demonstrating positive people skills. Every day will be different.  There will be crises and there will be victories.  It is totally cool.  And you might even be able to develop spiritual interests or specialties that can contribute to the larger work, a very fulfilling possibility.

And then there are the emotional/spiritual reasons why choosing a career in pastoring is an appealing one.  You get to be a combat officer in the Great Controversy.  You are on the front lines, where Jesus is most connected with people.  You are in the center of where it’s really happening in this universe (not Hollywood, not politics, not sports, all which cause angels to stifle yawns!).  There is no higher calling on this planet.  You are present where angels tred.  When people invite you into a hospital room where life’s greatest pains are faced, you stand on ground as sacred as the ground Moses stood on at the burning bush. 

You must like people for this career to work for you…and I don’t just mean “love” them.  You have to show up front a natural interest in people.  A rule I’ve tried to follow is to find that most interesting and positive characteristic of a person and keep that in mind when you think of or interact with them.  People always respond positively to anyone appearing to be genuinely interested in them.  If you don’t like people, don’t waste your time and theirs trying to pastor them.

After these 40-plus years of ministry, I can see a bonus I never had thought of when I was choosing this career.  If you are like me, one who is sometimes caught up in the attractions of this world, pastoring can (if you don’t hinder it) lead you into a much, much deeper relationship with the Lord.  There are times where I feel like saying “the Lord called me into ministry in order to save me!

What recruiting officer can offer such attractive reasons for signing up?  When I heard like Isaiah the words “who will go for us, whom can I send,” I had to say “here I am.  Send me!”  And in this life I have already received a rich reward.

Do any of you young people out there hear that call, too?

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Changed Lives – Miguel

by Vidal Mendoza, Pastor of the Federal Way Hispanic Adventist Church

Miguel has lived very strong experiences where he has questioned the presence of God in his life. For many years he was addicted to alcohol and drugs, he was hopeless and his life had no meaning. Many times he asked himself what his reason for living was.

One year ago he had the first encounter with brothers of our church and they introduced him to Jesus and the hope that we have in him. Miguel was invited to join a small group and he attended all meetings for four months. He had many questions about the care and protection of God in his life, but what worried him the most was if God could still forgive him. When we showed him the word of God in 1 John 1: 9 that says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” he started to cry. It was there that he experienced the great love of our God.

Since that day, 1 John 1:9 is his favorite Bible verse. He continued studying the Bible and when we had our evangelistic meetings he asked to be baptized and leave his whole bad life behind. And when we baptized him, he told us that he had never felt so much peace and purity in his life as that day.

Today Miguel is a faithful brother in Christ and, before the lockdown, was in training to be a deacon for the honor and glory of God. We are so thankful to know that WE are the church and will continue doing God’s work faithfully, but are also anxiously awaiting the reopening of our church building.

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Articles You May Have Missed

The pandemic is affecting us in so many different ways and there are many things to be aware of and continue learning about. Here are several articles you may have missed.

Guidelines for Reopening Churches

The Pandemic Needs to Go, But These Need to Stay

Adventists and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

Mobile Intergenerational Bible Studies

Working with Kids Online

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Resources – 4 Steps for Reopening Churches Webinar

If you are considering reopening your church soon, don’t miss “4 Steps to Reopening Churches,” a free webinar presented tomorrow by Adventist Risk Management, Inc. and the North American Division.

Thursday, May 28, at 4:00 pm Eastern Time

Each webinar is limited to 500 attendees. Register today at http://adventistrisk.org/webinars-videos.

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