Category Archives: Leadership

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.  

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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…

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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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From Leader to Leader – Family Connections in Social Distancing

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

This is an extraordinary and intense time in our world’s history to be a spiritual leader. Chances are that we, and the those around us are likely to be having extraordinary and intense thoughts and feelings. Some in our homes and flocks may be feeling a little hemmed-in, irritated, or just growing a little more annoyed by those they are sheltering-in-place with.

We have experienced a transition from everyone leaving home for the majority of the day; for various work, study and play endeavors, to everyone staying home, to now do all of life, under the same roof. Before we could foresee the relational challenges ahead of us, our homes suddenly became the epicenters of everything; our continued vocational activities, education, worship, recreation, exercise, and even socialization; as we can only safely socialize with those living under our own roof. Zoom and other sophisticated communication platforms have become our connecting lifelines.

There is something about being trapped together, under one roof, that magnifies the obvious differences, unique character quirks and personalities, and styles of family relating to the forefront. Most of us have never had to spend 24/7 in the same space with anyone—for an extended period of time. At least not since we were babies and pre-school children.

The classic family “rat-race” that came to an abrupt halt a few weeks ago, had essentially aided us in maintaining the distractions that helped us remain in denial—for the most part—of the relationship distance, tensions and challenges present in typical marriages and families. In reality, a large chunk of the relational dialogue between overworked spouses and their overscheduled children is primarily centered on logistical planning. Indeed, many families grew accustomed to keeping their conversations at a functional—albeit, superficial level—and possibly don’t even notice they created family life schedules devoid of any opportunities for deeper heart and soul connections that they were divinely designed to crave and enjoy.

The old idiom, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, may come to mind here, however, the drawback with this thinking is that the way most of culture is doing life and family is actually “broken”; whether we can see it, or not. Maintaining marginally sustainable family life schedules that leave little—if any—meaningful shared time together as a family is not what God intended. God’s plan was that future adults—AKA children— would be nurtured, trained, mentored and discipled within the context of family.
With the passing of time, many busy parents have unconsciously relegated the bulk of these parental privileges and responsibilities to Christian schoolteachers, children’s pastors, and later to youth pastors. All of these dedicated ministers do have a significant role to play as the parents’ “support cast.” And we praise God for the many ways of these devoted Kingdom-builders are picking up the slack that well-intentioned, but overly busy parents have sometimes left undone.

Family Relationships Facilitate Character Development

We were genetically wired and imprinted for relationships, for connection. Formed in the image God, the “Holy Family”—Abba, Son and Holy Spirit—we were originally designed to seek and enjoy comfort in healthy relationships with God and with each other; not in “things” or in “activities”. When we don’t form healthy relationship connections with God and with each other in our family systems, we are highly vulnerable to seek comfort in all the wrong places.

This imposed shelter at home has given all of us a wonderful opportunity to re-evaluate the actual condition of our family relationships and of our relationship skills. If you and your family members have been able to create functional and flexible family schedules that balance time in solitude to complete office work and school assignments, with regularly scheduled periods for “family recess”; and if your family disagreements and conflicts are resolved in ways that show respect to all members of the family, then you can praise God that you are doing quite well.

In healthy families, parents have learned how to handle their personal challenges and are able to set healthy boundaries with others in order to provide the necessary attunement to the emotional and physical needs of their children. They are able to provide an emotionally safe home environment, consistent and patient training, scheduled family time, and the unconditional love and affection every child craves and requires in order to develop into a healthy, functioning adult.

In unhealthy families, well-meaning parents are so stressed and preoccupied with taking care of or enabling a dysfunctional or addicted partner, or the advancement of their own careers or personal projects, that their children—in order to cope with their unmet emotional needs—learn to find emotional comfort in things and/or activities rather than in nurturing people. Sadly, these children learn that humans are not dependable, sometimes unsafe and often unpredictable. They feel highly unimportant, unworthy, unlovable, stressed out and anxious. In order to cope and adapt to their less than ideal circumstances, they learn that compulsive over-achieving, over-working, self-medicating (food, drugs, porn, work, etc.), and/or compulsive electronic use, will aid them in “numbing out” the unnamed pain of relational distance and disconnection that results in the internal isolation and loneliness—that continues to plague an alarming and increasing number of people in all age groups—despite living in the midst of family members.

Carolann and I have grown to understand over the years that our marriages and our families are the divinely appointed laboratory that God uses to create the ideal environment for our continued spiritual growth and maturity.

In His divine plan, He foresaw that sin would result in serious relational havoc when two imperfect people, of varying personalities and temperaments, would marry and then raise children, under one roof. The Good News Gospel carries the truth that God, along with all His heavenly agencies, is in the business of re-building characters that will reflect His love, His compassion, His mercy, His grace, His forgiveness, His kindness, His tenderness, His patience. He knows that the only hope for us is to accept His transformational grace to empower us with His heart so we can relate with one another in love, respect and harmony, even while we are so different from each other. In fact, His benevolent plan of salvation includes the reconstruction—by His grace alone—of our unlovely characters. All this, within the context of our respective families. Note the astuteness of His perfect plan:

“Marked diversities of disposition and character frequently exist in the same family, for it is in the
order of God that persons of varied temperament should associate together. When this is the case,
each member of the household should sacredly regard the feelings and respect the right of the others. By this means, mutual consideration and forbearance will be cultivated, prejudices will be softened, and rough points of character smoothed. Harmony may be secured, and the blending of the varied temperaments may be a benefit to each.” 1

Yes, you read correctly. It really is “in the order of God that persons of varied temperament should associate together” in family units. It is not a random accident that we are married to someone who may at times seem to bring out the worse in you; or that you have one or more children who challenge your parenting abilities. Just imagine, if our spouses and children were identical clones of ourselves, there would be few opportunities for us to cultivate “mutual consideration and forbearance.” By the way, the dictionary definition of forbearance is, “patient endurance, self-control; an abstaining from the enforcement of a right.” 2

Can you see how easy it would be for us to spend a lifetime in self-deception, were it not for our actual family members? We might even mistakenly believe that we’d already obtained highest spiritual maturity, as disciples of Christ. You see, our clones probably wouldn’t annoy or irritate us nearly as frequently as our actual family members do, because they would think, feel and do life, pretty much, like us. This is why we are reminded that living with people who are so different than we are, is God’s healing remedy for the unveiling of our true characters. It is difficult to continue denying we have “rough points of character” when our spouses and children are daily witnesses to the easily triggered anger and impatient scolding we cannot seem to control.

Seizing This Opportunity

Have you identified any unresolved marriage or family issues during these last weeks of confinement that need the healing touch of God? Can you identify some character traits that you’d like Jesus to change? When we asked some questions like this at the end of a seminar we were giving, one of our ministry colleagues raised his hand and asked, “Well, what happens if I don’t think that I have any issues?” We smiled. Carolann quickly responded with a question, “Well, what would your wife and children say if I asked them if they thought you have unresolved issues?” He slumped down in the pew a bit and sheepishly responded, “Oh. . . never mind! If you’re gonna ask them, they’ll all say that I do have issues.” Indeed, after the Edenic fall, we all have issues. We all have unresolved issues—AKA sinful, self-centered ways of dealing with our own unresolved pain—that have resulted in emotional distance and disconnections in our family relationships. And no one knows this reality better than our spouses and children. But, there is HOPE! Jesus left His home and Holy Family and took on human flesh in order to show us the way back to the Father! This reality is at the heart of the Good News Gospel!

“Jesus knows the circumstances of every soul. You may say, I am sinful, very sinful. You may be; but the worse you are, the more you need Jesus. He turns no weeping, contrite on away. . . He bids every trembling soul take courage. Freely will He pardon all who come to Him for forgiveness and restoration. . .The souls that turn to Him for refuge, Jesus lifts above the accusing and the strife of tongues. No man or evil angel can impeach these souls. Christ unites them to His own divine-human nature.” 3

What If?

We will eventually transition back to our work sites. Our children will eventually return to their previous life schedules where they spend the majority of their awake hours away from home and their parents. What would happen if we would seize this unique opportunity to deepen our connections with God, with each other, and with our children? What would happen if we were to interpret our marriage and family challenges as providential spotlights that are helping us see how desperately we need Jesus’ grace, daily? What if we seize every opportunity God grants us, to surrender our marred characters to the One who can give us a new heart? What if this extraordinary and intense season of social distancing results in the deepening of our relationships with God, our spouse and our children?

“To those who with steadfast perseverance strive to reveal the attributes of Christ, angels are commissioned to give enlarged views of His character and work, His power and grace and love. Thus they become partakers of His nature.” 4

May God receive the glory and honor for all the hearts He is awakening; for the marriages He is healing; for the children—young and old—who will get to see God’s glory and power through the sermon of a transformed life!

  1. E. White, “Child Guidance” (Washington: Review and Herald, 1954)
  2. Dictionary.com
  3. E. White, “Desire of Ages” (Mountain View: Pacific Press, 1940).
  4. E. White, “God’s Amazing Grace” (Washington: Review and Herald, 1973)

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From Beyond the Pulpit – Quarantining the Devil

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

We are all trying to get used to the new “shelter in place” world.  We are getting extremely acquainted with the experience known as “being in quarantine.”

The term is from the old Venetian language meaning “forty days.”  It comes from the horrific days of Europe’s Black Plague.  During the 14th Century as many as 200,000,000 people died from that bacteria.  To try and blunt its spread visiting ships would have forty days to remain isolated before disembarking. 

The method of using quarantine (isolation) to stop the spread of a communicable disease is Biblical!  Leviticus 13 is full of regulations on how to keep a skin disease from spreading.  Quarantining victims would help.

Let’s go further into stopping the spread of a deadly contaminant.  Whereas hundreds of millions died from the Black Plague, millions more in the 1918 Spanish Flu, billions will die as a result of sin.  When this killer plague hit this world some 6,000 years ago, our planet was put off limits to the rest of the universe ever since.  This rebellion is restricted strictly to this world.  And we see things playing out. 

The ultimate way that sin will be eradicated is for the universe to be vaccinated with the “knowledge of sin.”  That is, the universe will have experienced it and will not want to see it rise again. 

Interestingly, Satan himself will be under quarantine for 1,000 years.  I have wondered what might be accomplished by this.  The best reason I can think of would to answer a question some might have:  “If the devil would be granted a lengthy time to reflect on his past, would he ever show regret and repentance?”  As soon as he will be released, according to Revelation, the contagion spreads and billions of resurrected infected victims try to storm the New Jerusalem!

Sin kills.  The disease killed the Creator at Calvary.  The quarantine of sin is effective, but better yet, the Great Physician has a treatment plan that is bound to be permanently effective.  The active agent He is using…is love.

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From Leader to Leader – A Fearless Movement… Not Just Another Church

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

According to the prophesies of John the Revelator, we are not merely a church, we are a movement, “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6). A movement doesn’t just have members, only people that are on the move. . . This explains why we are the fastest growing denomination in North America today.  Most denominations in America are declining and they continue to ask the fundamental and existential question: “why are we dying?”  The Seventh-day Adventist Movement, with our unique beliefs such as the Sabbath rest, Old Testament dietary codes, the soon return of Jesus; is asking, “how can we grow faster?”  Our doctrines are challenging the popular constructs of denominational growth and popularity in our times.  With our atypical denominational doctrines—experts reason that we should be fizzing out and eventually disappearing, however we are growing 75% faster than the Mormons, which are the second fastest growing denomination in America. 

 If you are just sitting in one of our church pews today and are not “in movement” because you’re spending your time being a mere member, then you have it all wrong.  We are not merely an alternative denomination, we are God’s remnant people, the tail in a tale of a long list of movements God has used “To keep men calling on the name of the LORD” (Gen. 1:26).

Post modern ideologies and the narrative perspectives of our times which propose that reality does not exist, that truth is relative, that the past does not matter, that the only thing that matters is the “here and now”; can’t understand how the Seventh-day Adventist movement keeps growing.

I saw an angel”, this angel represents a movement made out of people on the move because they have the everlasting gospel, the story of redemption, the Golgotha drama, the story of “Narnia”, that begins with a God that decides to play Russian roulette with his own Son by creating humans beings on this planet, thus begins the sacred testimony, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was[a] on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness (Gen. 1). 

Our story begins with movement, dynamism, creativity.  Fast forward, we find Seventh-day Adventists moving, building a boat, we see a man called Abraham moving far away leaving his country and family because God wanted Abraham to get to know Him better. Good news, indeed! We see Joshua moving his forces all around the promised land, conquering and taking possession of the “good news” territory.  I will give this land for possession to you and your generations forever. Joshua 1: 7-8 7 Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses, My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1)   The people of God throughout generations have been people in movement because they have been recipients of good news. 

Water stagnates when it stops circulating. Mechanical parts rust away when they stop moving. Eli, the priest lost his sons by surrendering to lazy complacent fathering. Whenever God’s people stop moving they lose sight of the mission; they pervert their ways and begin to mirror the nations around them.  Thus, our archenemy constantly works to stop the dynamism of this movement.  There have been pivotal points in our history when the church was supposed to move and did not do so, and the results were dreadful. After listening to the report of the ten spies, the armies of Israel stopped moving and failed to enter the Promised Land, they won themselves a 40-year tour back to the desert.  Forty years later Moses tries again.

1 Then the children of Israel moved, and camped in the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan across from Jericho. (Numbers 22)

They found themselves on the side of the Jordan, across from Jericho.  Almost there, ready to cross. Moses is preparing the last detail of the invasion. Leaders and the people are resting, taking “siestas”. Time goes by, day after day the people rest and Satan sees a window of opportunity. 

Balaam told Balak, I know how to stop these people: “If they depart from the divine principles of heaven and if they brake God’s law, they will become vulnerable and then we will be able to stop them. Sure enough, they deployed beautiful Cannanite women, in enticing attire, who invited the men, especially the elders, deacons, departmental directors, secretaries, assistant directors and led them to participate in sexual orgy worship that honored Baal and Ashtoreth. They ended up burning incense to the dead. In other words, they practiced sorcery.

21 And you shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. (Lev.18)

9 “When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. 14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you. (Deut 18)

Why?  Why is Satan so opposed to God’s people?  Because we give God something He so badly wants . . . adoration, exaltation.  God has something Satan doesn’t have and desires very intensely; your worship, your adoration, and your exaltation.  Satan hates to see God being loved, adored, worshiped, being recognized as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, that is why he waged war in heaven. This is why he wages war against you.  Because you love God, Satan will hate you.  Satan hates your love-affair with your Creator, this is why he is coming after you time and again, since he can’t touch God. 

Years ago, I was called to serve in a large church to replace the youth pastor who was leaving.  The group of young people asked me if we could have a farewell party for this pastor who was on the move.  At that time, we had a big pool in our home, so we agreed.  That Sunday there were about two hundred young people at my place. Everybody was having a great time, people were swimming, playing games, eating tacos and enchiladas, when a group of daredevils approached me and asked me if I wanted to join them in throwing the outgoing youth pastor— who was transitioning into another position, into the pool.  I thought for a moment, but not long enough. . . Have you ever kicked yourself for saying yes at times when you know you should have said no? This was one of those time for me. 

The pastor was short, but muscular and strong, and it took eight of us to finally jump him, remove his valuables and throw him into the water. We all felt proud of ourselves. We had conquered the “beast”.  Well, truth be told, a beast is what we saw when my colleague came out of the water.  His eyes were fuming with anger and bitterness.  He was furious . . . we pastors can become furious sometimes, right?  Well, my colleague friend pastor began jumping every member of the group that had thrown him into the water and one by one began to throw each one into the water, without the slightest regard for any valuables such as wallets or watches. Some were holding onto the iron fence around the pool with all their might, but to no avail. They were yanked off with so much fury that they felt their hands and arms were being broken. Once he finished with the rest of the guys, he began looking for me.  I, upon seeing the devastation going on, ran into my house, locked it, went up to the second floor and watched from the window facing the pool.  Suddenly, I saw it.  My poor wife who was innocently passing by, nicely dressed and seven-months pregnant with our younger son, was passing by with a plate of food in each one of her hands. She was picked up— with her new wrist watched that I just had bought her, with the two plates of food in her hands, with my precious son inside her womb, and was thrown into the water. . .  Ooouch. . .!

Satan hates God; but he cannot get to Him, so he will get to you, God’s most wonderful, valuable and precious possession. You are a part of God’s people; you were given the precious Good News that needs to go to all the world and now you’ve got to move with it. Yes, the enemy will come after you, but our Commander in Chief has not left us alone or abandoned us, He said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).  We need to keep moving, the Advent movement has a tremendous responsibility towards the inhabitants of planet earth. 

The prophet Isaiah encourages us “1 Arise, shine; For your light has come!  And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.  2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. (Isa. 60:1-2).  All around the world there are people on the move, in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe, there are people on the move, in San Francisco, New York, Seattle, San Diego, Houston and Denver, there are people on the move. 

You, child of God, that has been sitting around, arise and shine, you can do it. John saw you getting up and shining and spreading the everlasting gospel to every nation, tribe, tongue and people.  The spreading of the gospel is a reality in the mind of God, it’s a reality in the annals of the history of this earth.  It is a fact, it will happen because it is a precursor to the coming of Christ. Jesus will come again, John wrote:  “I saw a people on the move . . .”  Did John see you?

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Why Not Try This – Sick of Being Fat

Pastor Phil White of the Simi Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church had a problem. In his own words, he said, “I was fat, exercise challenged, and not very happy with the road my health was taking.” His wife Jan, had similar concerns, especially when she got the results of a blood test. Phil and Jan decided they wanted to improve their chances of watching their grandchildren grow up. What they did had a spill over effect in their church.

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From Leader to Leader – A Violent Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

Here is some context:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KEEP AT YOUR WORK
By HSM Richards, Sr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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