Category Archives: Leadership

Why Me? Trusting HIS Heart When Nothing Makes Sense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Until the Nets are Full

Old fisherman is catching fish with fishing net on his boat, Çivril, Denizli, Turkey.

by Sergio Manente, Pastor of the Richland Seventh-day Adventist Church

God has been blessing us with new visitors every weekend. Our church leaders are mission focused and enthusiastic to nurture each current member and serve our community. Growing each member as mission minded disciples and investing personal energy, time, and resources to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and His message to the unchurched in our community has ever been our focus.

We’re ever brainstorming ways of establishing connections in our community and helping the unchurched in the Richland Seventh-day Adventist Church experience Christ. In 2020, we developed a new series on the 11th chapter of Hebrews called By Faith. This was a 3-month Sabbath series, covering 18 sermons that focused on each life and what defined their faith.

The series had a great energizing effect in our congregation. We have baptized six so far, even though covid-19 tried to take the wind out of our sails. We are studying with more contacts and hope to have an even richer harvest.

I am thrilled with how many members are actively involved with the community and how many new connections are being made every day. Our attendance is up and we are continually seeing a stream of new seekers coming through our doors. I’m excited for the next few years growing the amazing leaders we are blessed with here in Richland, collaborating with them in this endeavor, and figuring out new ways to bridge the gap between members in our community. 

I love the everyday evangelism and discipleship that happens at Richland and look forward to the proclamation evangelism series that will bring in the harvest that each dedicated member has worked towards and prayed for. We are all so blessed and enriched by God’s great mercy to partner with us to usher his soon return.

Until the nets are full!

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The Lying Crisis

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

Lying originated outside this planet. It was born before the human race was born. It was made known to the world through a leader who had selfish and deceptive intentions. Lying is a distorted form of truth.

What makes lying dangerous and deadly is its sensitive, metamorphic nature of constantly changing and evolving to make it difficult to be discovered.

Truth is believed to have the power to transform, well, lying has the same power because once accepted, it germinates and propagates distorted thoughts that are intended to destroy trust, reality and love; in you and others.

A lie confuses, convinces, traps and promotes actions usually directed towards evil, violence and self-destruction and that of others.

Truth is constant, lying is mutant; truth liberates, lying enslaves; truth brings unity, lying strife and division. Truth has the power to transform from the inside out. Lying has the power to transform from the outside in.

Truth motivates community action to seek the well-being of others. Lying seeks self-benefit and the action is usually egocentrically motivated.

Truth is eternal. Jesus said, “I am the truth and the life … ” (John 14:6), and according to the Bible, those who practice truth and justice, will live forever.

Lying is temporary. It had a beginning and will have its end. “And the devil who deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone … “ (Rev. 20:10). Those who practice lying will not live forever: “The truthful lip will remain forever; but the lying tongue just for a moment” (Prov. 12:19).

This great country is in crisis, and in the midst of the crisis is the practice of lying and spinning the truth. Lying has been sold as truth and truth as lying. White has been called black and black white. 

As the result for this evil practice, people are outraged, angry and deceived. Negative emotions are running high. Fear, anxiety, depression and hopelessness are all being experienced in the social, political and even the religious arenas.

By lying, Satan brought rebellion to this once-perfect, angelic and harmonious world, and lying will continue to do the same diabolical work wherever it finds minds willing to believe and accept facts without foundation or evidence.

The Bible urges us, “If you think you are standing firm you had better be careful that you do not fall” (1 Cor. 10:12, GNT). This is a warning! It’s easy to fall; it’s easy to be deceived.

Our great-grandmother, Eve, rose one morning as a saint. She was a pure, immaculate woman who had perfect peace, love, joy and a totally intimate relationship with God and her husband. Lies changed that before the day was over.

The moment you believe in a lie, you’re robbed, assaulted and transformed. Eve ended up naked, stripped from everything she loved and valued. That’s what lying does to those who accept and practice it.

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Feeling Stressed Out?

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

Well, after eight months of Covid monitoring, and social isolation, one of the most contentious election seasons in American history, on-going racial tensions and equities, an increasing number of people we know, getting sick or being laid off . . . Feeling stressed out seems to be part of a developing “new normal.”

The most important question we must ask ourselves isn’t “what stressors are impacting my life?”  Rather, How am I responding to or managing the stressors in my life?”   

HOW we respond to life stressors—real or imagined—is a life or death matter.

If we tend to respond to our changing life circumstances with a mostly positive, optimistic attitude and are experiencing a growing faith and confidence in a loving God, even in the midst of growing unknowns, then, our positive mindset is aiding our immune system so that it will optimally and efficiently fight threatening invaders.   

If, on the other hand, we are one of the tens of millions of people who were imprinted (in their earliest years) to respond to unpleasant events and circumstances with negative or pessimistic thoughts (for example: “Only bad things happen to me;” “I’ve always been unlucky and I’ll never be happy”), or if our default emotions in uncertain circumstances are debilitating fear, generalized anxiety, or uncontrollable worry, then it is urgent that we take a few minutes to ponder upon the very pivotal relationship that exists between experiencing chronic stress and dis-eases leading to early death.

As a result of the sin originating in the garden of Eden, many of us grew in homes where fear, anxiety, and worry reigned freely. Without realizing it, our thought patterns, although we are now adults, follow the same patterns with which they were stamped during our early brain and emotional response development.  Now, whenever we are faced with a new (or chronic) stressors, our habitually pessimistic thoughts and responses ignite a process in the hypothalamus, that instructs our adrenal glands to secrete a cocktail of substances (including adrenaline and cortisol) that will activate the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system to equip us fight against any circumstance, event or person we perceive as a threat to our existence.

Cortisol and adrenaline are the substances that prepare the body to respond in immediate action to a threat (real or imagined) and are intended to help us with an immediate solution so that we can immediately change or modify our current conditions to preserve our life. This immediate reaction is referred to as acute stress.  These two substances are our friends as long as they remain in our bloodstream for a short time.  They are designed to help us find immediate solutions to our acute problems.

The problem begins when cortisol and adrenaline begin to have an enduring presence in our bloodstream and instead of clearing out, hang around for an indefinite amount of time.  This experience is called chronic stress.

When we have learned—often in our childhood—to react to any change or situation over which we have no control with fear, anxiety, or chronic worry, cortisol and adrenaline levels in the blood actually disrupt almost every system in our body. 

The hippocampus attempts to defend against increased levels of cortisol and secretes a substance that begins to affect our cognition, our ability to reason and think clearly, including our ability to have good judgment and make good decisions.  Cortisol actually has the ability to change the composition and functioning of our brain due to the chronic stress that interferes with the growth and development of dendrites. 

But cortisol doesn’t stop there, it also destroys the function of our cardiovascular system by hardening the arteries, decreasing or increasing the rhythm of our heart, and by creating muscle tension in the neck, face or shoulders. The delicate endocrine system that has to do with regulating the functioning of all organs is gravely affected. Increased levels of cortisol also affect the gastrointestinal system, contributing to ulcers, heartburn, and changes in bowel habits common to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), colitis, Crohn’s disease and other autoimmune diseases. 

In the end, chronic stress kills! An overtaxed immune system is exhausted and vulnerable because T cells and other cells that defend against attacks by microbes and viruses begin to die, leaving our bodies exposed to all kinds of diseases, including various types of cancers.

It is almost unbelievable to realize that the deadly phenomenon of chronic stress begins with a learned thought pattern. Indeed, each of us holds the power to determine the quality of the thoughts (pessimistic or optimistic) that we will have in reaction to the adverse events or circumstances that will invade our lives—sooner or later. Once we understand this, we can begin to monitor and change our learned pattern of responding to life stressors.

How we choose to respond to the “irregularities” (large or small) in our environment over which we have no control, really does matter!   

If we can determine in our hearts to respond to the challenges in our lives with positivism, with confidence in God, with a cheerful courage and we choose to believe that whatever happens to us can be recycled by an all-loving God into an eternal blessing, then we can begin to live the abundant life that Jesus came to exemplify.

No wonder Paul’s words, inspired by the Author of our nervous system, continue to resonate over the centuries: “Be anxious for NOTHING, but byprayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6; NKJ). 

Jesus Himself emphasized the directive that we shouldn’t worry about ANYTHING. As our consummate Creator, God programmed our bodies perfectly so that we can respond to life’s crises without having to suffer the harmful aftermath of chronic stress.  Because God knew that living with chronic stress—manifested in chronic states of worry, fear, and anxieties—destroys the human system in installments. No doubt that is why He uttered instructive phrases that protect the obedient disciple: “Therefore I say to you, DO NOT WORRY about your life. . .” (Matt. 6:25) “Do NOT WORRY about tomorrow…” (Matt. 6:33).

What a relief! We do NOT have to worry!  What hope and health (mental, emotional, physical and spiritual) is ours when every cell in our bodies assimilate that Christ has already overcome death—one of humanity’s primary, universal fears.

Christ promises to travel with us through every stage of our earthly journey and offers us just the perfect amount of grace, courage, faith, and trust that will open the floodgate of His incomprehensible peace; even in the midst of the increasingly common vicissitudes and crucibles that are part of our earthly sojourn.

It is my prayer that each reader will continue to investigate and study the issue of stress and God’s antidote. May He aid us in identifying and shattering patterns of thoughts and emotions that may be undermining our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. When Jesus spoke, “My peace I leave you, my peace I give you…” (John 14:27; NKJ), He was speaking to you and to me.

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Science Falsely so Called

Science and medicine, scientist analyzing and dropping a sample into a glassware, experiments containing chemical liquid in laboratory on glassware, DNA structure, innovative and technology.

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

“I have been warned that henceforth we shall have a constant contest.  Science,  so-called, and religion will be placed in opposition to each other, because finite men do not comprehend the power and greatness of God.”  Ev 593.

Duh!  Ever since Charles Darwin received his Bachelor’s Degree in Religion from Cambridge in England, religion has been threatened by “so-called science.”  People forget that Darwin’s primary training was in religion.  He was thinking of becoming a country parson, able to delve into his hobbies, like the study of nature, without much trouble.  A religion degree in the 1830s, I think, was the equivalent of a general studies degree.  It often was the degree for those who simply wanted a college education, but weren’t sure of their career future.

But the religion department of Cambridge was full of professors heavily influenced by the fairly recent trend of “higher criticism” of the Bible;  that is, the belief that the Bible was not inspired nor historically accurate.  Nature and its laws were becoming more prominent in the eyes of the educated, leaving less room for the presence of a super-natural God.  Thus Darwin had a poor education in religion, even though it was at Cambridge.

Add to that the comparatively poor biological science of the early 19th Century and the theory of evolution took deep root.   Though I rarely say it this bluntly (publicly, that is!), the theory of evolution is an outstanding example of 19th Century science!  Though we have moved well past the discovery of genetics, the theory has stubbornly held on. 

“Science,” from the Latin for “knowledge,” has always been a popular thing to try to acquire.  Think of the tree in the Garden of Eden!   But how rare true knowledge is.  If people REALLY wanted truth, would they not seek it from God, Whose Son came as the embodiment of truth?  The more I study Scripture, the more I realize how desperately messed up we all are.  I wonder at times how God has revealed Himself to me as the loving Creator He is, despite all the garbage in my brain!  “The heart is desperately wicked….”

We believe that we have been blessed with “the Truth.”  And we have.  Despite this, Wikipedia loves to define Scientific Creationism as a “pseudo science.”  It’s funny that they use those terms because that is exactly what I Timothy 6:20 warns the church about avoiding:  “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.”  The Greek literally says in that last phrase to avoid “antitheses of pseudo science!”

We live in a world where “fake news” is common.  And when it comes to origins, we also see “fake science” proclaimed with religious fervor.  Look at the opening statement in this article by EG White from the book Evangelism.  She predicts a “constant contest.”  It’s about light and darkness, the truth from God versus the lies from Satan.  At the Creation Study Center we are trying to shed light on the greatest truths ever revealed to mortal man, despite the contesting forces.  Man is not animated pond scum, nor a walking mutant.  Instead we are all royalty, children of the King.  And the King loves us!

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Does Anybody Care?

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

Sheila Frederick, a flight attendant with Alaska Airlines, noticed that there was a girl seated next to a well-dressed, older man.  In comparison to him, she looked disheveled, scared and just didn’t look right.  So, while passing along flight beverages, she found an opportunity to whisper in the young girl’s ear to go to the bathroom, where she had left a note.  In the note, Sheila asked the girl if she was ok.  She responded, “I need help”. Sheila immediately notified the pilot who arranged to have police waiting for this man once the plane landed.  The girl was found to be a victim of human trafficking.

It only takes a moment to realize that things are not ok in our world today.  The political environment of our country has become an open circus where deception, suspicion and a myriad of conspiracy theories are at the center of so many of our current thoughts and conversations.   The exposed, long-standing systemic racism in our country, along with the social and ethical divisiveness that is plaguing our society has brought a tremendous sense of unrest and insecurity to many.

This pandemic has taught us that we can somehow survive disconnected from one another; we can apparently survive on our own.  Church leaders are already worried about the hard time they are going to have getting members to return to their places of worship. We just aren’t processing things the same way we did before Covid-19 interrupted our lives.  The wave of uncertainty and the generalized fear and insecurity continues to roll over our lives as so many continue to lose jobs, homes, savings, relatives. Many continue to wonder if anybody cares.

This might be a little like what the Jewish community might have been thinking when King Xerxes signed the order that all the Jews in the Persian kingdom would be killed.  We can’t fathom the horror that parents might have felt as they imagined their entire families wiped out.  Mothers crying over their innocent and totality vulnerable children, all victims of the jealousy and obsessive hatred of a madman, the second in command in the kingdom. 

Does anybody care?  Is there anyone watching? Like the little girl sitting in that Alaska airliner, fearful and wondering about her fate and future, many are asking the same questions today. Then, when everything seems to be lost and the future hopeless, out of the blue we read the words of Esther 6:1: “That night the king could not sleep.”

A series of concurrences had to take place that night.  First, the king could not fall asleep.  God needed the king awake.  Sometimes when you can’t fall asleep, it could be that God needs you awake.

Here is the context of this text:

1. Haman has convinced the king that the Jewish people must be annihilated from the Persian kingdom and has already convinced the king to sign a Persian law to destroy the Jewish community.

2. Haman has prepared the gallows to annihilate Mordecai.

3. Esther prepares to intervene and asks her Uncle Mordecai to ask the people to pray and fast for three days and nights.

4. Esther invites King Xerxes (Ahasuerus) to a banquet.

That same night; that is, the night before the banquet, the king loses his sleep. . . “That night the king could not sleep; so, he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes.

“What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?” the king asked.

“Nothing has been done for him,” his attendants answered.

The king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the palace to speak to the king about impaling Mordecai on the pole he had set up for him.

His attendants answered, “Haman is standing in the court.”

“Bring him in,” the king ordered.

When Haman entered, the king asked him, “What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?”

Now Haman thought to himself, “There is no one else that the king would rather honor than me?” So he answered the king, “For the man the king delights to honor, have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!’”

10 “Go at once,” the king commanded Haman. “Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.”

Can you imagine Haman’s dropped jaw and shocked expression as the color drained from his face?  Drowning in emotional disorientation, he must have wondered how in the world Mordecai’s name got into this conversation. The king must be asleep, tired or dreaming!

Haman knew at that moment that he was in deep trouble. Mordecai is suddenly a national hero, he is a man honored by the king, he’s a Jew and . . . a member of the ethnic group he is trying to annihilate.  

11 So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!” (Esther 6:1-11 NIV).

God will use a series seemingly inconsequential situations—”coincidences”—to master and convert the direction of evil plans for your life and ultimately save your life.

It so happens that the king loses his sleep. It so happens that the king doesn’t turn the TV on to catch a game or go to the kitchen to have a snack. It just so happens that the king requests to read the annals of the history of his empire, (laws and procedures and legal decisions carried out in official courts and meetings of the king). It just so happens that the king’s assistants “choose”to read—from all the possible stories in that huge volume –the story of the king’s liberation by Mordecai. It just so happens that this particular sleepless night, the King gets curious about what type of reward was given to Mordecai for his honorable act. It just so happens that Haman “randomly” comes to visit the king late at night and because he is so diabolically consumed with killing Mordecai, he cannot wait until morning to see his King.

Not so random circumstances that add up one after the other, to protect God’s children and put the devil in check.

Does anybody care? You may be asking in the midst of all the social injustice, restlessness and suffering.  The God in heaven responds with a short Bible story about an uncle, Mordecai, and his niece Esther and shows us how He is able to bring salvation and liberation through the modest movements of insignificant “coincidences” to show you that He is in control.

He does care. He is watching.  He will bring deliverance to His children in due time.  David was so convinced of this reality that he wrote:

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.


May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.


May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings.[b]

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.


May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests.

Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.


Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.


Lord, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call! (Sal. Ps.20:1-9 NIV)

Friends, God is still in control!

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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.

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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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