Author Archives: Marella Rudebaugh

If Only

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

The novelty of doing life and work from home is wearing out and many are wondering how much longer can we continue living like this? When is this situation going to end? No matter how flexible and patient you’ve been so far; If you are honest with yourself, most likely you are feeling a little exhausted from the different life you’ve been forced to live because of the pandemic.

Maybe you find yourself doing; “if onlying,” “If only I didn’t have to keep using protective mask whenever I go out.”  “If only I could travel and go freely where I used to go.”  “If only I could hang out with my friends again.” “If only I could live free from the worry of possibly getting infected.”  We could continue the long list of “if onlys,” however, this mental exercise would only leave us sadder and emotionally wasted.

I remember when my sons were born, I thought, “If only I can live until they are old enough to fend for themselves.” When they grew up and could fend for themselves, I thought, “If only I could be alive and see them graduate from high school”.  Now that they are college graduates I say, “If only I could see them married.”  I’m pretty sure that when they get married, I’m going to say, “If only I could get to see my grandchildren.”  When the Lord grant me the pleasure and blessing to meet my grandchildren, I’m going to say, “If only I could see them graduate from high school.” Well, I think you got the point, the truth is that the “if only’s” never really end. They never end because some of us have lived our life totally focused on a future that is jam-packed with anxieties, fears and perhaps wishes that are out of our control.  Inadvertently we may have missed the simple joy experienced when one is fully present to the daily miracles instead of being consumed by the worries and anxieties of an unforeseen future. 

The pandemic has come to challenge us to think and act differently and to focus on the “here and now”, perhaps because we have an enemy at the gates that has made us more aware of those things that we were doing automatic and sometimes by proxy.  This routine is now gone. Maybe like me, you are lamenting the fact that we didn’t enjoy those things that we once had widely available to and didn’t take advantage of.

The Bible states, “Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses.He sets the time for birth and the time for death, the time for planting and the time for pulling up, the time for killing and the time for healing, the time for tearing down and the time for building. He sets the time for sorrow and the time for joy, the time for mourning and the time for dancing. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4). 

Solomon is reminding us that we should be aware of the factor “time” and the fact that time comes in the form of seasons, and fully embracing every season and living with the appreciation for what is –not what I wish it were; actually help us live richer lives. Each season, the ups and downs, all come together to weave the tapestry of what we call “life”.   

So, I am challenging you as I have challenged myself, to stop wasting precious life energy on “if only-ing.” I challenge you to seek to live fully aware that “time” is in God’s hands, and with this, I invite you to embrace the gifts and opportunities in the here and now. I want to challenge you to make yourself available to be used as a blessing wherever you are. Jesus told us: “For whosoever wants to save his life, will lose it; and whoever loses his life because of me will find it.” (Matt. 16:25,26). I invite you to join me in asking God to daily open our eyes and hearts so we can seize the many opportunities we are granted to benefit others in the seemingly mundane minutes in our lives. An unknown author wrote: “If only our eyes saw souls instead of bodies, how different our ideals of beauty would be.” Today is a great day to appreciate the fact that we exist and have the ability to appreciate the existence of others around us, no matter how they look like.

Comments Off on If Only

Filed under Leadership

5 Steps to Becoming a Digital Evangelist

by Jamie Domm
Source: NAD Ministerial

Only 20% of Americans regularly attend church, and only 2 in 10 millennials consider regular church attendance important. The Church no longer has the option of embracing change or leaving it to the next generation. The time is now; otherwise, we will become irrelevant. Change is never easy, but anything is possible with the Lord (see Matthew 19:26).

People search online for answers to their problems. They turn to the internet for companionship, understanding, information, anonymity, and more. We must be the voice that answers back, online, to share our message of hope and wholeness. Our digital presence may be the only exposure to the Gospel many people receive. We must recognize that the mission field is online, and just as legitimate as traditional evangelism. Continue Reading…

Comments Off on 5 Steps to Becoming a Digital Evangelist

Filed under Why Not Try This?

The Change You Will Not Find on Your Couch

Group of Asia hiking help each other silhouette in mountains with sunlight.

by Troy Fitzgerald, Pastor of the Walla Walla University Church

JT was baptized this year in January. He has always been involved in church and school endeavors, but it was in junior high when he made a decided choice to be a disciple of Christ. Backpacking, sports, photography, –being outside is home for JT. In the outdoors, JT found a way to influence peers and others to draw close to God.  There are many moments where JT makes an unmistakable impact to others for God:

Leading efforts for moving students from a static lifestyle to the outdoor activity has deepened many students to consider God is their Creator. We use the spiritual growth devotional “40 Days Wild” that challenges believers to activate their ideas in action. The Sub-title is “The change you will not find on your couch.” 

JT has developed his photography and video skills to enhance the stories of our Week of Prayer revivals at Walla Walla Valley Academy. Some stories are told and some testimonies are only captured well in images and interviews. JT and friends have made the ordinary journey of faith in an engaging way.   

It was at a mission trip to Zambia, with his dad, classmates, doctors, and university students, where he put his mind and the heart in service. It became evident that JT connected theory into practice by tirelessly working with the dental clinic and leading children to joy and hope in Christ through worship. 

JT Harris is a respected leader among his peers as well as others in the community of faith.   

Comments Off on The Change You Will Not Find on Your Couch

Filed under Changed Lives

The Risk of Debit Cards

stack of multicolored credit cards on black background

by Andrew Moll
Source: Adventist Risk

As financial stewards, we must be cautious of the resources entrusted to us in our church ministries and how they are used. This includes taking steps to prevent fraud and embezzlement. Many churches are now using debit cards in their ministries. If you are doing this, it’s essential to understand the risks and take the correct steps to prevent losses with their use.

The Federal Reserve Bank’s 2019 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice highlights that in 2018 a debit or credit card was used for 51 percent of financial transactions, while cash or checks were used for only 32 percent of transactions. The prior year Continue Reading…

Comments Off on The Risk of Debit Cards

Filed under Lifelong Learning

How to Grow in the Midst of a Global Pandemic

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

This pandemic arrived, and before we knew what hit us, our life, work, and relationship rhythms were disturbed.  Unfortunately, many have lost work hours or jobs and with them, the ability to cover personal expenses.  While many haven’t lost health or loved ones, we’ve all lost our former sense of “normal” along with the sense of security (actual or imagined) in the way life is supposed to flow.  Some may ask, is there anything good that can come from this pandemic?   We’d like to suggest that one of the best things that can result from this pandemic is the personal growth that can take place, thanks to the array of emotional, physical, vocational, relational and even spiritual challenges this crisis has gifted us with.

Discovering meaning in the midst of crises  

What is the most surprising discovery you have made about yourself in this experience? Have you become more patient or impatient?  Have you enjoyed being sheltered at home in the company of others or do you miss your alone time? Have you been able to sustain a peaceful and content spirit or has growing fear or anxiety about the future unveiled previously unidentified vulnerabilities?  Who are the people in your support network you have you been able to rely on during this season?

It is important to create some sense of what is going on. This is not an easy task, given the diverse opinions surrounding this particular pandemic.  While we may never fully understand the complex undercurrents undergirding what is going on, we can choose to use this time to

reflect on the life lessons we are learning about ourselves, about others and about God’s sovereign love and care. We’d like to suggest that making a list of things you’ve identified about yourself that you’d like to change, is a helpful beginning.  If nothing comes to mind, we suggest you may want to ask your spouse, workmates, or even your children regarding the changes they would like for you to make. Ask God to show you how you can improve your family or social relationships, your diet, your exercise program, your marriage. Ask yourself, “How can my life and my relationships actually improve throughout this season?”    

Perhaps one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves are regarding the personal beliefs that sustain us.  What do you value above all else?  Our core beliefs and values can offer us experiences that will continue to give meaning to all the circumstances that life on earth may present to us.

Identify what’s still working

What aspects of your life have kept you stable so far? What areas of your life, have you already improved or changed for the better? What life rhythms have you maintained despite the ever changing external factors?

What resources do you still have?  Do you still have your family, friends or partner in your life?  What resources have you managed to develop so you feel more resilient? It has been said that resilient people continue to function and thrive despite external factors, while people who see themselves as victims, feel incapacitated.  

Each of us must ask ourselves, how we are surviving this crisis? One resilient survivor wrote:

“7  Never after all, we have this treasure in clay vessels so that the excellence of power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are troubled in all but not distressed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not helpless; despondent, but not destroyed. ” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9).

The apostle Paul flourished despite his multiple crises by his faith and hope in Jesus, for the tender love he had for his spiritual family spread throughout the known world; and for the passion and commitment to his work, ministry, and spiritual calling. These powerful motivations can also be the foundations for your personal growth and maturity during this global crisis: your faith, love, and trust in a God who is far too merciful and compassionate to withhold anything that He can recycle for our edification.  

Comments Off on How to Grow in the Midst of a Global Pandemic

Filed under Leadership

Mobile Intergenerational Bible Studies

by Aaron Chancy
Source: NAD Ministerial

We have all felt the impact of Covid-19! This pandemic has acted paradoxically, bringing people together while simultaneously causing separation! It has left leaders from all walks of life trying to cope with and adapt to the “new normal”, and for pastors, to figure out how to engage with and minister to our members through social media platforms on our personal mobile devices.

Adjusting to these new norms is a challenge for all of us. The days of coming together in person for Prayer Meeting, Sabbath School, the Divine Hour, fellowship dinners, Sabbath afternoon Bible study, AYS have now been replaced, for the foreseeable future, with technology as the “middle man.”

Within the context of this current world situation I became interested in finding ways to bring together the generations of our church family on their cell phones. Thus was born Mobile Intergenerational Bible Studies.

The Idea

Small groups are an essential part of church life. They provide important fellowship connections and foster spiritual growth. In my quest to create intergenerational online small groups, I had to first of all decide which Continue Reading…

Comments Off on Mobile Intergenerational Bible Studies

Filed under Leadership, Why Not Try This?

A Slave Named ‘Six’

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

The national movement sparked recently by the “Black Lives Matter” protest has gotten a lot of us thinking.  Although I grew up in the L.A. area and went to racially mixed schools, like many whites in America, I wonder about how deep racism is.  And all I can really look at…is me!

My dad’s family, the Hudsons and their in-laws, are from the South.  And if you go back far enough you will find a lot of Confederate blood.  In virtually every line I find men who went to war.  In one case, a direct ancestor was killed in battle (fortunately for me, not before he had had kids).  Many were wounded.  My great-great grandfather Albert Hudson was captured by the Yankees and kept a prisoner, walking hundreds of miles after being released at the end of the War and surprising his family in their Mississippi farm; they had been fearing the worst.

Among those children rejoicing in their father’s return was my two year-old great-grandfather Allen Hudson.  He was named after his father’s brother, Allen Hudson, who had been recently killed at Spotsylvania.  Years later he gave that name to his son Edgar Allen Hudson, and my dad gave the name to me:  Stanley Allen Hudson.  So, I bear the name of someone killed while fighting for the South.

It gets deeper.  As I studied my grandmother’s line, the Beard family, I find in the will of another ancestor something very disturbing.  The Beard family owned a slave.  The wording of William Beard’s (c.1773-1832) last will and testament includes this personal wish:

It is my will and desire that my wife Mary Ann shall have during her natural life my Negro woman Six and after her death I will and bequeath said Negro woman to my daughter Adna Mariah.

This is mentioned among his other possessions.  Two sons each got a “filley.”  There were cows, pigs and furniture to distribute.  This slave woman was nothing more than property!  And how dehumanizing is it to have a number for a name?  When compared with the 1830 Federal Census, it appears that “Six” had three sons and one daughter.  She had children, but they weren’t legally hers.  How do you deal with the idea that the “masters” own and can thus lawfully remove your children from you whenever they wish?

The beginning of the will states “In the name of God.  Amen.”  Almost all that I can find out about my Southern ancestors is that they, like me, professed to worship Christ.  The “Bible Belt” in America is aptly named.  Most were too poor to own much property, let alone slaves.  But they certainly fought for the institution of slavery.  And that’s a thought I’m finding hard to process.  Yes, they also were fighting because they had been invaded, but it was evident by the end of the War what the main issue truly was.

“White Guilt!”  So, when I’m looking at some of these protests, might some of these people be descended from Six?  Is it possible or even proper to apologize for what my ancestors did?  True, they were products of their times…but that doesn’t get them off the hook.  Nor will it me in all matters moral.

Ezekiel 18:20 reads “The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son.  The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

God, help me to be righteous in my dealings with all peoples.  We are of just one human race, all cousins who should not be fighting each other, but rather fighting the real enemy who seeks to divide and enslave us.  Christ desires there to be just one sheepfold where all find comfort, safety and respect.  To the extent that I live and promote Christ, I am promoting reconciliation and equality. 

It is hard for me, a White, to completely understand the typical Black experience in America.  One time I was driving a guest speaker from a workers retreat to the airport.  We were pulled over by a local policeman for a minor traffic violation.  As we drove off the speaker said, “Do you think that was because of me?”  That remark comes from a life experience that is foreign to me.

I have a mostly positive view of America, its past and its accomplishments.  We could boast that we have historically pushed back whenever and wherever we saw oppression in the world.  But it took a long time to see our own oppression sins.  Hopefully, we have seen them now more clearly.  Just what to do about them though….

Comments Off on A Slave Named ‘Six’

Filed under Lifelong Learning

Seeds of the Word

by Barry Kimbrough, Pastor of the Brookings Seventh-day Adventist Church

Brookings, Oregon is the site of the only World War II bombing on American soil.  On September 9, 1942 a small Japanese floatplane—transported in a submarine from Japan to a spot 20 miles offshore from Crescent City and then assembled on the deck—flew to the mainland and dropped a 170-lb. thermite bomb in the forest near Brookings.  Imperial Navy Pilot, Nobuo Fujita, thought he had scored by starting massive fires that would distract the American military from the Pacific Theater.

The bomb exploded, but wet conditions put the fire out.  Total damage was a small crater and some burned trees, however it was soon overgrown and forgotten.

This event is an example of the power of God’s creation.  Seeds are small and seem to be much weaker than any bomb; but nourished by rain and nutrients from the soil, they grew and overcame the damage done by war’s destructive force. 

The seed of the Word of God can also overcome the damage of sin in our lives.  Over the past year, a miracle of spiritual renewal through the power of the Scripture was implanted in lives of interested seekers. 

The evangelism season commenced even before I arrived in the district. Brookings church decided to host the Voice of Prophecy “The Appearing” series, October 11-15, 2019, which attracted many attendees.  Local Sabbath School teacher, Bob Biegel, led the Bible study portion of the meetings.

Three weeks after I arrived, I began a series of weekly prophecy lectures, ‘Ancient Discoveries in Revelation,’ that were hosted on Wednesday nights at the church, beginning November 7, 2018.  The meetings continued through April 17, 2019.

Church members invited friends.  Advertising was by personal invitations, and a large sign posted outside the church.  

The meetings were simple and direct with Bible study as the main feature.  Several responded to the calls for decision. 

Four new believers were baptized on Sabbath, December 21, 2019.  Marian grew up in a Christian home, but lost interest in church as she went out on her own.  Later she tried different churches.  None seemed to keep her interest.  A few years ago she attended an evangelistic program, Christianity and Islam, hosted at Brookings church.  She continued to attend services.  She made her decision for baptism during the prophecy series last year. “The Adventist emphasis on Bible studies drew me in,” she said.

Megan’s grandmother invited her to church when she was a teen.  Over the years she attended and her spiritual interest grew as a result of the worship services and her view of the faith of her grandmother.  As the prophecy series came to a close, Megan made her decision for baptism. 

Marilu has believed in Jesus for most of her life, although she never had a church home.  Mostly she discovered spiritual truths by watching Trinity Broadcasting Network.  As she listened to the Seventh-day Adventist speakers on TBN, her interest in deeper Bible study of last day truths grew.  Soon she discovered Three Angel’s Broadcasting Network and began watching the messages.  Entirely as a result of this TV ministry, she decided to become a Seventh-day Adventist even before she met one church member.  She found a city bus that took her to Brooking  church and she announced to the greeters at the door that she wanted to be baptized.  Pastor Kimbrough reviewed the Bible teachings with her for several weeks before her baptism.

Kristofer is seven and he has raised his hand at every baptism for the past few years, wanting to be baptized himself.  Because he was so young, he was encouraged to learn about the Bible and salvation from family worships and Bible studies with his parents.  When he heard that a baptism was coming up, he asked to be included.  He is excited about being a follower of Jesus.

The cross is still mightier than the bombs of the devil. May the seed of the Word of God continue to grow in the lives of all who are seeking Him.

Comments Off on Seeds of the Word

Filed under Changed Lives, Soul Winning

Early Adventists and Social Justice

Adventist leaders from Light Bearers recently met via live video to discuss Adventism’s historic legacy of engaging with the social political issues of the world. They explored the Adventist pioneers’ engagement with, and protest against, the violations of human dignity in the United States of America. Watch part 1 of this fascinating series here.

Comments Off on Early Adventists and Social Justice

Filed under Lifelong Learning

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.

Comments Off on Jesus in the Outer Court

Filed under Lifelong Learning