Category Archives: Leadership

Clanging Cymbals

by Doug Meharry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When Should Pastors Spear People?

Spearhead on white background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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