Author Archives: Marella Rudebaugh

Clanging Cymbals

by Doug Meharry

My freshman year at Southwestern Adventist University, I took a Bible class called “Life and Teachings of Jesus,” taught by Dr. Rob Sheppard.

One day Dr. Sheppard asked, “Have you ever heard that Ellen White wrote that there will be people in heaven who have not heard the name of Jesus?” He then said, “Let me show you in scripture where that can be found.” He opened the Bible and read Matthew 25:31-46 and explained that the final judgement is based on how we have treated our brothers and sisters.

Initially, I found great comfort in that scripture passage. It changed my mindset regarding all the things I had been told I needed to do in order to be saved. Later, I realized that treating others is not something we can do through our own power.  I also asked myself, “When had I done any of these things—fed the poor, clothed the naked, visited the sick and imprisoned?”

In 2003, Dwight Nelson preached a series on Isaiah 58.  In this passage, God tells Isaiah that even though His people seek Him, humble themselves, and fast, all of it is meaningless because they do not “6 …loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him…” (Isaiah 58:6-7).

As I began to think about Isaiah 58:6-7, I realized that Jesus was saying the same thing in Matthew 25:35-36.  “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”

Several years later in 2013, I was teaching the adult Sabbath School lesson, which covered the minor prophets.  Since the minor prophets are short books, the lesson would include the reading of the entire book. In preparing for the SS lesson, every day I would listen to the entire lesson including scripture, Ellen White references, and notes.  About halfway through the quarterly, I noticed a theme of judgement for Israel and the surrounding nations. God’s judgement was always based on the same requirements. It did not matter what nation the minor prophet was writing about, God’s judgement was based on how they had treated the poor, widows, fatherless, or disenfranchised. I then remembered the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25. I realized that the message of judgement found in the books of the major and minor prophets were the same as the parable Jesus told in Matthew 25.

While thinking on these passages, the Holy Spirit brought the following words to my mind. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1.” I thought WOW! In order to have healthy churches and effective evangelism, we need to be loving. If we are not, then we are just making noise!

So how do we become loving? Is the call to go out and work in soup kitchens, donate clothes, and give money to homeless standing on the corner? In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus says there are those who will say, “Look at all the wonderful works that I have done,” and Jesus will say, “I never knew you.”

Paul is extremely clear about the importance of loving one another. 1 Corinthians 13:1 states we are nothing if we don’t have love.  Galatians 5:22-23 tell us that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.” If we want to be effective in ministry and love is the fruit of the Spirit, we need to be full of the Holy Spirit.

In Genesis 2, when Jesus created man, He breathed in their nostrils the breath of life. Right after the resurrection, in John 20:22, Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” We are to be the new creation full of the Holy Spirit. Jesus still wants to breathe the Holy Spirit into us as we are to be the new creation.

We are to minister like Jesus. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was in Nazareth and was asked to read in the synagogue. He read from Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ is to flow through us. He is the vine and we are the branches, and we are to bear much fruit (John 15). We are invited to be part of the new creation where the Spirit is flowing through us and blessing others.

In conclusion, in order to be effective in ministry, we need to love people the way Jesus loved people.

“If I preach the 3rd Angels message in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

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Everything You Need to Know About Text Evangelism

Close up of a woman using her smartphone indoors.

Imagine using text to bring your church members together, stay in touch with visitors, and initiating Bible study. Jason Alexis, digital disciple, church communication director, and co-founder of Pastor’s Line tells his experience with text evangelism and how it can impact your ministry. Listen here.

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When Should Pastors Spear People?

Spearhead on white background

by Dr. Stan Hudson, Director of Creation Ministries at the North Pacific Union Conference

Now that I have your attention…  Did you know that God so loved a spear-using pastor that He signed him up and his kids up and their kids up to lifelong ministry for His church?  If I’m wrong, please tell me!

The story is based on Numbers 25.  You remember how the Israelites “began to commit whoredom” with the Moabite women, joining themselves to Baalpeor?  This was just after Balaam’s failed attempt at cursing Israel for Balak, king of Moab.  Balaam then thought to induce the Israelites to sexual sin, and he found that successful.  This sexual sin included the worship of the god of Moab, Baalpeor.  And it kindled God’s anger.  He sent a plague that killed 24,000 Israelites.

As Israel was weeping about this at the entrance of the sanctuary, an Israelite leader took a woman of Midian (working for Moab) into his tent in front of everyone.  It was one of those “in Your face, God!” moments in Scripture that never ends well.  This was done in front of Israel’s pastoral leadership, too, including Aaron’s son Phinehas.  This rebellious act so enraged Phinehas that he quickly took a spear and went into their tent, spearing both to death.

Please note God’s reaction at this point. He stopped the plague!  Apparently, God was able to step in again and stop removing His protective presence, which could keep them from experiencing the natural result of their sin (the plague). Such aggressive action was what was needed to limit the spread of sin in Israel.  And God said that He wanted Phinehas and his posterity to be His pastors!  “Wherefore say, ‘Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace:  And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God,…’”  Numbers 25:12,13.  A covenant of peace!

This story reminds me of the classic wishful teenager who went to a ballpark one day and hit a mile long home run, only to discover that there was a major league scout in the audience.  “Sign that kid up!” And his career was set.

So, do any of you remember, from Andrews Seminary training, how to spear people?  God certainly praised Phinehas for knowing how. 

But the subject of this story that I’m wanting to think out loud about is the touchy subject of…church discipline.  Remember when that used to happen?  Invariably someone had a bad story where it led to a member leaving the church or worse…like, leaving God altogether.  I’m sure heaven has recorded, sadly, true stories along those lines.  And some that were exaggerated.

But is there NO time when it should be done.  I know, I know…there is plenty of inconsistency in the church in these matters.  Even different cultures look at sin differently.  But I would argue the only time we can achieve total consistency is when no one ever disciplines in the first place.  But thinking of I Corinthians 5, even the New Testament Church took part in disciplining members at times.

In my 38 years of pastoring, I only sought a major discipline, like disfellowshipping someone, on two occasions.  Only one was successful, as church members hesitate to vote that way, since “we are all sinners and who are we to judge?”  Both of my stories involved sexual affairs, both blowing up beautiful families with small children.  I will never forget the looks in the eyes of two girls, who once were springy, happy little things.  After their father had left them for another woman and family, they had no spark left.  They looked comparatively like zombies.  But my church wouldn’t disfellowship that dad.  We were all sinners, you know.  And no one had any spears.

So, how should we approach this controversial subject?  A couple of things come to mind.  First and foremost above all; if your motivation isn’t love, then you are spiritually disqualified to proceed!  Here’s a real case for “hate the sin, love the sinner.” People forget that the famous “second commandment” of Jesus, “Love your neighbor as yourself” comes from Leviticus 19:18, which follows verse 17’s “You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.” That is, IF you love your neighbor and they have a problem of sin, do not overlook his sin problem.  Rebuke him if you care for him!  And discipline them if it’s called for.  The Church Manual lists possible situations where it’s appropriate.

My “successful” disfellowshipping, if you can call it that, was when I was more seasoned and knew better how to proceed.  The adulterer in question (can I call them that nowadays?) was more than unrepentant, feeling God had led them to this and that it was appropriate to have two spouses (like in Bible times).  And they said that their two children “would be fine.”  Such self-centeredness is a very ugly thing to see in person.  May God deliver each of us from self-deception like that!

So, I told them that it would be covered in a business meeting.  Did they want to “fight it” or would they rather just submit their name to be removed?  With great anger they decided to submit their name.  Meanwhile I had met with the elders, who all knew about it (it was very publicly known). They needed to be supportive for this to get done.  When I presented it to the business meeting, it was no surprise.  But the amount of tender concern was very nice.  Some of it wandered into a “let’s vote no to show them we care” misunderstanding of love.  To let irresponsible behavior to that level go without consequences is not love, according to Leviticus.

There is also the sense of justice here.  If we care about the widows/widowers and their children, shouldn’t we respond to such painful attacks on them?  Do Christian Adventists remain as faithful members after inflicting such pain? Those two precious girls I mentioned at the start? I was able to see them years later.  And one of them particularly looked spiritless, ghostly.  They had the life knocked out of them.  It still bothers me.

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Three Stages of Evangelism

by Juan Pacheco, Pastor of the Hillsboro Hispanic Adventist Church

Our evangelistic program for the year was severely affected by the pandemic so we had to reinvent our plan. This year we talked about the crisis we were experiencing and planned for many resources in order to be effective as a church. We came up with three stages for evangelistic series to reach new converts.

Outreach

First, a program to help entrepreneurs who have been affected by this crisis. Several small business owners were forced into unemployment or had limitations as a result of the pandemic. Thus we began a series of topics on leadership, stress management, marketing, and how to trust God in difficult times.

Revelation Series

Our second stage, we presented an online 7-track Revelation series. After the presentation, interested people wrote me for questions and answers.

REAPING

Then in our third stage, we had a series of 15 harvest themes that was distributed in 2 weekly presentations by zoom. So far we have 2 professions of faith and 2 baptisms and recently started another series with 15 people studying the Bible.

Baptisms

Marcela and Julio were baptized after a series of meetings. Doctors gave Marcela 6 months of live because of an advanced case of cancer. She decided to surrender her life to Jesus, knowing that He can be her healer, but if His will is for her to rest, she knows that He already saved Her and will have a beautiful gathering in heaven when Jesus returns.

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Filed under Changed Lives, Soul Winning

Second Coming Surprise

by Cristian Barrera, Pastor of the Central Valley District in Eastern Washington

This has been an interesting experience where, even in the middle of a pandemic, God has been moving. We started an online series of evangelistic presentations every Monday. Each night a biblical truth was presented in a practical and easy-to-understand way, especially for those who had no prior knowledge of the word. We had special guests such as Dr. Minner Labrador, Dr. Cesar De León, Mike Rosario, among other renowned speakers who accompanied us on different nights.

The idea was to not only ensure that viewers would get connected to the broadcast, but to also follow-up with them after. Bible studies began to emerge and God worked in a powerful way resulting in five souls for the Kingdom of Heaven.

One of the most interesting cases was the story of Abel, a Jehovah’s Witness and husband of a member from one of our churches. To reach him took a lot of work and prayer on the part of his wife and church leaders as he was still very attached to his beliefs. Yet, as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit, Abel made the decision to surrender his life to Jesus and accept Him as his personal Savior. On July 26, he was baptized in a very pleasant family ceremony, celebrated in the middle of nature.

Another experience that we also enjoyed seeing was the case of Esmeralda and her family. She is the daughter of Benjamin, one of the leaders and pioneers of our church in the Yakima Valley. He passed away at the end of last year and one of his greatest wishes was to be able to see his children again in the second coming. His prayer was answered when Esmeralda, together with her husband and children, made the decision to follow Jesus and give their lives to Him through baptism. The best part of this is when Christ returns and raises brother Benjamin from the dead, he will be overjoyed to see his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.

There is no doubt that the Spirit of God has not been in quarantine during this pandemic, but has moved and will continue to move to transform hearts and bring them to Jesus.

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Why Me? Trusting HIS Heart When Nothing Makes Sense

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

Over the weekend, my wife and I had the privilege of attending an unusually inspiring funeral of an NPUC retired pastor. He had been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer that took his life in a matter of a few months.  Though we both attended the same church as children, we never really got to know one another. This was likely because we were 10 years apart, which is a big gap when one is a child and the other a young adult.

Since he retired shortly after our arrival to the Pacific Northwest, I didn’t have the privilege of getting to know him. After listening to his family, friends, and colleagues describe their personal stories, interactions and memories, I was left wishing I would have had the chance to know him. 

This pastor’s only daughter shared that she considered her father her best friend. He had also been a very loving, dotting grandfather who enjoyed spending time with his beloved grandchildren. Hearing this, I knew that this wise man had choreographed his life in such a way that he had served His God with passion and faithfulness, while not neglecting his relationship with his family. An additional side note is that this precious ministry couple had provided full-time care to their only son, disabled after a tragic accident.

The climax of this moving funeral was the moment when his sweet widow stood before us with an unusual degree of serenity. She calmly shared that she was recently diagnosed with stage four liver cancer and was currently undergoing chemo. She has been given six months to live. She peacefully shared that she knew God’s love and mercy were with her and with her family. Her faith in God was sustaining her until the day she would see her Savior face to face.

While my wife was sobbing softly beside me, this hope-infused widow glowed with a heavenly aura that testified how she truly knew God and that nothing happening to her, or around her, could shake her deep conviction that God IS GOOD. Her carefully chosen words did not even hint at a desire to gain pity. Rather, she was so at peace that she seemed to desire nothing, other than to offer bursting glory and honor to the God who had sustained her and her family thus far.

What makes the difference between people who can go through such cruel circumstances and respond in such different ways?

This past year has been a particularly difficult year for us as spiritual leaders. We have either personally experienced painful losses or have offered our presence to those who have. It would seem we were wired to repel any semblance of human distress, discomfort or suffering. Yet, in his description of the coming Messiah, Isaiah wrote, “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. . .” 

We want to be like Jesus, but given a choice, we’d rather bypass any life circumstances that will result in any degree of personal distress.  Some Christians have even wrongly believed that love and obedience to a Good God will result in a life devoid of deep pain and losses. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Paul emphatically reminds us that our troubles are not meant to crush our faith. Rather, they are recycled into growth enhancing “fertilizers” of our faith and hope in our Good God!  “…And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character, and character, hope…” Romans 5:5 (NKJV).

I am sobered by the words: “It is coming in contact with difficulties that will give you spiritual muscle and sinew.  You will become strong in Christ if you endure the testing process, and the proving of God.” (White, RH August 6, 1889, par 8).  Some of us have gym memberships to ensure that our muscles won’t atrophy. Our Good God does not want our faith and hope to atrophy.  Our Good God allows the natural consequences of a sin-bent planet to touch our lives in different ways, all with the purpose of helping us grow and develop our faith and our character.

Let us keep a clear perspective during our times of distress: “In seasons of temptations we seem to lose sight of the fact that God tests us that our faith may be tried and be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus.  The Lord places us in different positions to develop us.  If we have defects of character of which we are not aware, he gives us discipline that will bring those defects to our knowledge, that we may overcome them. . .”  (White, RH August 6, 1889, par 3).

Our Good God loves us so deeply that He will not keep from us any trying circumstance that will mature and develop our faith and hope in Him! 

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How to Grow Kids as Spiritual Champions

When the COVID-10 pandemic hit, our children’s programming shut down, but God lead our team to create Compass to Christ. It includes monthly challenges, prizes, weekly virtual groups, family activities, resources and support. It’s more than a program or a resource. Click Here to learn why it is being effective in growing spiritual champions.

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Walking Together

by Florencio Bueno, Pastor of the Mabton and Grandview Adventist Churches

The beginning of the year 2020 was a powerful occasion to launch our evangelistic Series “Walking Together,” inspired by the idea to walk together with Jesus. This spiritual journey was intended not only for church members, but also for non-Adventist friends.

During our 15 part presentation, eighteen people showed up to participate in this powerful experience. As a result, several absent and no longer engaged members decided to return to an active and systematic attendance. Several visitors, church friends and community neighbors agreed to receive literature, event announcements, and some of them accepted Bible studies.

At the end of the evangelistic series, two precious souls were joined to our church through baptism another two were accepted by Profession of Faith and re-baptism.

One of these families kept their distance for a long time. For several months they had been far away from church, struggling with personal health, family, and legal issues. Their was an excitement throughout the church when they came to the meetings with their family and members were vibrant with joy when they were baptized.

The second story is about father of four. He had been running away from Jesus for around two years. He decided to leave his family and abandon his Christian faith. Nonetheless, Jesus had a different plan for him, he accepted the gift of restoration and renewal. Finally, he came back to his Savior, showing his commitment to Christ and returning to the faith by baptism.

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Heavy Conviction

Feeling free. Success and happiness. Happy young man with arms raised with blue sky in the background

by Scott Tyman, Pastor of the Tacoma Central Adventist Church

2020 has been quite a year as it relates to evangelism. We started out as usual with a number of interests from community events and evangelistic series interests from 2019.

Evangelism is truly a cycle. As usual I started out with my four Revelation classes scattered throughout the Tacoma community with 30 plus interests attending. Then COVID-19 hit toward the end of the series. I was forced to do individual Bible studies and work around their schedules.

I had been working with Robert for nearly five years. He and his wife had attended at least three or four evangelistic meetings in the past, initially coming to the church through a handbill. They had been into heavy drugs and alcohol. Robert had been under heavy conviction that the things he was learning was true, but he would never move forward. I wasn’t exactly sure why. I thought maybe it was the addictions he was fighting.

Then Robert’s wife died last year and again I came in contact with him. He was still searching and desiring a closer relationship with Jesus. He was still struggling with different addictions, but one he had given up was alcohol. I found out that his wife had really been a huge influence on him in not making a decision for Christ and baptism.

After a lot of prayer, Robert finally decided to accept the gift of salvation through baptism. He is now a very active church member, attends Sabbath school and church every week and is volunteering at the local Tacoma community center.

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Filed under Changed Lives, Soul Winning

Every Encounter Matters — Digital Encounters Included

You’ve read the social media posts before — the ones that make you cringe, angry, hurt, sad, depressed, or simply numb. By the way some “Christians” post online, you might think they don’t realize there is a real person(s) somewhere in the world reading and contemplating their potentially destructive words. Every encounter we have with one another matters. READ MORE

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