Category Archives: Lifelong Learning

Gratitude: Medicine to the Mind, Body and Soul

The light in young woman hands in cupped shape. Concepts of sharing, giving, offering, taking care, protection

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

I don’t remember ever taking a course in gratitude. Do you? Yet, I suspect that all I have continued to learn about the holistic benefits ruminating on gratitude is probably more important to my health and well-being than most can imagine.

Our alternative is grim. We can choose to graze on the awfulness of all around us. A 10-minute stop to watch any news channel will give us 1001 reasons to worry, to get upset, to raise our blood pressure, to increase the cortisol levels in our bloodstream and to ensure a decline in our mental, emotional, physical and relational well-being.

I have learned from personal experience that when I begin my day in a quiet, personal reflection on God and His Word and even before opening the Word, I write out 7 things for which I am grateful, it jump starts my mind and soul and sets me off on a winning trajectory that helps me face the challenges the day will inadvertently give me.

Indeed, multiple studies are showing how expressing gratitude (to God and others) reduces stress, increases optimism and changes our brain.

More and more, even unchurched people that are seeking out a lifestyle that afford them mental, emotional and physical healthy are practicing daily (and moment by moment) gratitude and finding the holistic benefits to their lives.

As you know, I always rejoice when modern scientific studies validate the ancient wisdom we have at our fingertips in the word.

Paul, in Ephesians 5:15-20 invites us to walk in wisdom:

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as WISE, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be UNWISE, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for ALL THINGS to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. . .”(NKJV—bold and italic applied by author).

We are living in trying times. Now—in the midst of what we are being told will be a “dark winter” due to Covid fallout, I invite you and yours to consider the medicinal effects of living in gratitude as we celebrate some unique and unusual upcoming holidays.  Let’s make some time to spend counting the blessings we are enjoying while we continue to find ways to serve those less fortunate in our circles of influence. 

I found a great article written by Courtney Ackerman where he divides 28 benefits of gratitude into five different categories (emotional, social, personality career and health benefits) and offers the proper scientific data for his conclusions:

https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-gratitude-research-questions/

“I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole hearts; I will tell of all Your marvelous works, I will be glad and rejoice in YOU; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” Psalm 9:1 (NKJV).

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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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What are You Afraid Of?

Courage - Fear signpost with forest background

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

When I was still pastoring, my personal counsel sessions with members would really get into gear when I asked, “What are you afraid of?”  Fear is a powerful motivator in so many of our actions and choices.

And it’s never been more true than today.  Are you afraid of Covid 19?  How will you choose to act in that fear?  Are you afraid of going out?  Or if you do go out, are you afraid to cough?  Are you afraid to mention doubts about the dangers that are reported in the media, for fear of having an unpopular view?  Or even a “dangerous” view?  But if you really do infect someone….

How about the “Black Lives Matter” issue?  No one says black lives DON’T matter.  But how you line up with this movement probably is affected by fear.  You can be afraid for blacks dealing with a typical police force.  Or you might feel that typical police forces are fine…but if you say so, are you afraid of being labeled as a racist?  There aren’t too many fears worse than that.  But many Blacks do fear for their lives.  Can we sympathize with that fear?

Are you afraid of the November election?  If the Republicans are elected, will there be more protests and riots?  Will the political divide in this country get worse, or will it get worse if Democrats take over?  Take a look at their ads in the media;  they are all calculated to make you afraid unless you vote for their guy or gal!

How about global warming?  [Hey, I just noticed that “warming” and “warning” are pretty similar words!  OK, never mind]  Some say it is the number one thing we SHOULD be worried about!  If we don’t so something right now our children and the planet are doomed.  Media sources feel constrained, as though it’s their evangelistic mission, to warn in the harshest terms.  Take a look at the Oregon fires lately.  They are all because of global warming.  It’s all bad.  In fact, when the apparently wonderful truth of serious rain approached, what did they say about that?  Oh, no… look out for flooding and landslides!  Apparently, if they don’t scare you, they’re not doing their job.

Everything around us seems to be preaching worries about the nearness of death and destruction.  But there is one place I go regularly, and it’s kind of like putting on a Covid mask, to not breathe in the virus of fear:  it is the realization of what the Book of Daniel reminds us of.  The great Empire of Babylon was in apparent control of the world then, with God’s people in subjugation to that power.  But this was only the outward appearance.  God was in control.  And He was able, through Daniel, to convince even the king of Babylon that He was able to raise up and bring down kings and kingdoms.  He was in charge of directing all of Satan’s devices to ultimately bring in circumstances that would lead to God’s kingdom being fully established.

And that fact helps me deal with all of the noise of this world.  He really does have the whole world in His hands…Republicans and Democrats, blacks and whites, even nature is subject to the God of love.  And that thought brings me peace.

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“Just Us” Podcast on Racial Reconciliation

by Bill Roberts, Ministerial Director for the Washington Conference

I was meeting with a multi-ethnic panel of pastors when the question was asked, “how can we continue to build bridges and work towards racial reconciliation?”  We can’t always solve societies issues, but how can we clean up the garbage on our side of the street.  The three angel’s messages are to go to every nation, tribe, language and people.  To be faithful to this mission, racial unity is essential.  If the world is racially polarized and sees us as the same, it will hurt our credibility and turn the volume down on the “loud voice” of the first angel. The Adventist Church is the most racially diverse church in North America and also the most structurally divided. A suggestions was made to create a podcast.  It was felt that this was a valuable way to communicate with today’s generation.  Perhaps this would allow us to grow in understanding and reconciliation.

We gathered a team that met, planned and prayed for months as “Just Us” was created.  The panel for the podcast consists of Hanz Jouissance, a young black pastor, Mimi Weithers-Bruce, a black mother, John Brunt, a veteran white pastor and educator, and myself, a white pastor.  Two others, Sheri Crooker, a white educator and Randy Maxwell a black pastor served as advisors. Our intent is to model unity by working together and listening with empathy.  We recorded an introductory episode in which we tell our stories relating to our interest in racial reconciliation.  Our second and third episodes will deal with four crucial terms to make sense of today’s racial issues.  They are all things I had never heard of a year ago.  They are: sundown towns, green books, redlining, and black wall street.  For example, sundown towns are communities where it was illegal for blacks to stay past sundown.  Ironically my own mother and John Brunt both grew up in Glendale, California which was a sundown town until 1964.  Each of these terms describe a dynamic of our nations history that shaped the racial reality of today.  For example many sundown towns remain almost exclusively white.  It is vital to understand and have empathy for the pain and trauma many blacks are experiencing today. 

We take as our mandate Malachi 3:16 “Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.”  Often racial tension is not discussed because we don’t know what to do with it and hope it goes away.  We felt that starting with prayerful dialogue would be helpful. 

Our theme verse for the podcast is 2 Corinthians 7:2 “Make room for us in your hearts.”  Our dream is that we can embody John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Only when Jesus is present and powerful can bridges be built over racial tensions and centuries of pain. 

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The Risk of Debit Cards

stack of multicolored credit cards on black background

by Andrew Moll
Source: Adventist Risk

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

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

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A Slave Named ‘Six’

by Dr. Stan Hudson, who served as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor for 38 years and is currently the Director of Creation Ministries at the North Pacific Union Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Early Adventists and Social Justice

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

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Jesus in the Outer Court

by Byron Dulan, Vice President for Regional Affairs at the North Pacific Union Conference

(This article is based on a devotional Elder Dulan gave to the NPUC Staff on June 2020)

The United States, indeed the entire world, were shocked, when video of the murder of George Floyd, at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, went viral, on May 25, 2020.  Sworn to protect and serve, Officer Derek Chauvin, instead, pinned his prone, handcuffed victim’s face, into the street; and ignored his repeated, desperate cries, warning that he could not breathe. Heedless, Officer Chauvin continued to kneel on the neck of the 46-year-old man, for almost nine minutes — the now infamous, eight minutes and 46 seconds.

By the time medical help arrived, George Floyd, no longer had a pulse. The official police report — which we have since learned, was fabricated by police officials, as an elaborate cover-up on behalf of the four arresting officers — was filled with false accusations and innuendo against George Floyd.  This unmitigated case of police brutality has sparked large protests and acts of civil disobedience, across cities, large and small, in America, and around the world.

America surely cannot be surprised today, by the regularity of the killing of Black males, given the history of slavery, Jim Crow era laws, and the recent public slayings of Freddie Gray; Tamir Rice; Laquan McDonald; Michael Brown; Eric Garner; Trayvon Martin; Sean Reed; and now, George Floyd.  Who will be next?

But such evil did not originate in America. This evil reflects the “wages of sin”,  which has engulfed the earth since the time Adam and Eve favored the word of the serpent, over the Word of God.  We are witnessing scenes from the ongoing war between good and evil.  The battle between Jesus and Satan, heaven and hell, has entered its final stages.  This battle is not centered solely on the lives of individuals; but rather, for control of the powers, and internal operations, of the communal, corporate, political, economic, and spiritual systems of the world.

Paul said: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, and against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:5, Andrew’s Study Bible).

Since the murder of George Floyd, there have been numerous peaceful marches and public demonstrations, calling for a variety of civic reforms. Anarchists, however, have followed behind these concerned citizens, for the purposes of stirring trouble and raising bedlam; causing some segments of the the media, to label the peaceful demonstrators, as those who are “Disturbing The Peace”

SCRIPTURE LESSON

Our Scripture lesson begins in John 2: 13-15.  Jesus’ behavior in this text, may come as a shock to some.  So, if you are wondering what Jesus would do, in such a time as this, please observe:

“Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.  When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changer’s money and overturned the tables.  He said: “Take these things away.”

In the book, The Desire of Ages, Ellen White describes the cacophonous scene transpiring in the Outer Court of the Temple.  The Temple system and it’s services, were predicated upon the ritual blood sacrifice of animals. The people had been rigorously taught, that if there were no sacrifice, there would be no blessing. So, in the Outer Court, you could observe:

  • Dealers — selling animals at exorbitant prices to the immigrants, who had traveled from around the world to celebrate the Passover Feast.  These “dealers” were required to share their profits with the priests.
  • Sales — which, during Passover, were exceedingly large. You may think of it as, “Black Friday”, for religious leaders.
  • Noise — sounds included: cattle lowing; sheep bleating; doves cooing; coins clinking; and angry disputations.
  • Money Changers — Foreign Coin was forbidden for use within the Temple system, and therefore had to be “changed” into the Sanctuary Coin. This provided ample opportunity for fraud, abuse, and extortion to be perpetrated by the money changers. This also provided an additional revenue stream for the ruling priests.
  • Prayers — occurring inside the Temple, were completely drowned out, by the uproarious commotion emanating from the Outer Court.

Inspiration informs us, that the Jews took pride in their piety.  They worshipped the Temple as an idol. They rigorously performed ceremonies, but the love of money overruled their scruples.  They were unaware of how far they had wandered away from the original purpose of the worship services. (DA 155)

As Jesus entered the Temple Court, his gaze comprehended the entire scene.  He saw, the unholy traffic.  He saw, the lawless, unfair transactions.  He saw, the distress of the poor and the suffering.  He saw, the hearts of the priests and rulers, who though boasting piety, were without compassion or sympathy for the poor, the sick, and the dying.  Jesus saw, that something had to be done!  We are told that even as a child, “Jesus could not witness a wrong act without pain which it was impossible to disguise.” (DA 88).

With indignation, authority, and power, evidenced through his countenance, Jesus stood in the midst of the confusion. The throng became riveted to His face.  Confusion quieted. Chaos hushed. Silence grew painful.  Awe overwhelmed the throng, as Divinity flashed through humanity, and divine light illuminated His face.  He said: “Take these things hence!”.  Panic swept the multitude — and they fled.  Priests, officers, money-changers, lowing cattle, and their sellers, ran — scattering in every direction — seeking to escape the condemnation of His gaze.

Soon, they were replaced — as the poor, the sick, the down-trodden, and the children — drew near to Jesus.  The Savior ministered to them all — healing their diseases and comforting their fears.  When the priests and rulers, eventually dared return, they found an atmosphere filled with rejoicing and praise to God.  And they were not happy.  They hated the power and presence of Jesus.  From that day forward, they plotted His murder.

HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?

Let us pause at this juncture to ask: “How could this happen?”  How could religious people, no, religious leaders, consciously plot to murder anyone, much less a prophet, who was doing good in the community.

That very question, belies a misunderstanding of the very nature of evil.  Often, when an evil statement or behavior, is enacted by a person, (or persons) in power, it is brushed aside, and dismissed as a personal propensity, or character flaw, within that one individual. But the fact that these behaviors and flaws, continually reoccur in diverse personalities, throughout history, demonstrates that something more sinister, and more deeply rooted, is at work.  I am talking about principalities, powers, systems, and structures of evil.

Case in point. The “war on drugs”, has yet to be won.  Why is this?  Because the powers and systems, supposedly waging the war, are the self-same powers that fuel and protect the flow of drugs into communities. We have drugs in prisons, for example. I would argue, that you can’t have drugs in prisons, unless someone brings them in, or, knowingly, allows them in.

Another case in point.  Why has the “war on poverty” not been won?  (In fact, this particular war, has long ceased being waged).  It is because the self-same powers, supposedly fighting for fair housing and equity, actually own slum housing units, and profit by the billions of dollars, in doing so.

Another case to consider. Why did major corporations receive the lion’s share of monies from the Covid-19 pandemic related, Paycheck Protection Program?  You know the reason why!  The powers that be! — The Empire Rules!

In his book, City of God, City of Satan, Robert Linthicum posits, that these evil powers continue to plague our cities and our world, due to two things:

The people who provide primary leadership to the systems, are themselves, seduced by the illusion of their own power.  They overestimate their own power, because they are convinced that they are in control.  They believe they are running the system, and don’t realize that the system is running them.  Satan has seduced many elements and systems of our world: corporations; banks; hedge funds; Wall Street; state and federal governments; educational institutions; the criminal justice system (an oxymoron, if ever there was one); sports and entertainment franchises; artificial intelligence technologies; false religions and so-called Christian denominations.  These systems flaunt their power in broad daylight; and few people, ever question their moral authority.

The church is largely ignorant of Satan’s strategies to seduce and use systems, organizations, and structures, to perpetuate his purposes.  The church primarily sees its own mission as converting individuals; and thereby leaves the field wide open for Satan to exert spiritual influence upon the systems and the laws of the land.  The church is fixated on the little boat of personal sins, rather than the rising tide of corporate evil.  Racism is viewed as a personal sin; not as a river of privilege that advantages some, and disadvantages others.

RETURN TO THE STORY

Back to our story.  We left off with Jesus in the Temple, ministering to the poor.  Let’s fast forward, approximately three years later, when Jesus returns to the Temple — just before his crucifixion.

Three years earlier, the Jewish leaders had asked Jesus for a sign, in order to prove that He was called of God.  During the ensuing three years, Jesus had healed the lame; provided hearing to the deaf; given sight to the blind; resurrected the dead; fed thousands of hungry people; walked on water; taught peace and justice; and read the hearts, minds, and motives of corrupt spiritual leaders.  For all of that, and more, they hated Him — and therefore, plotted to kill Him.

The problem the Jews had with Jesus, was that His gospel of love undermined their carefully laid system of economic, political, and spiritual power; upon which they relied, for health, wealth, power, and continued control of the people.  Caiaphas, the High Priest, argued that it was expedient that they murder Jesus, rather than lose their control over the nation.

Jesus’ return to the Jerusalem Temple during that final Passover, was meant to provide the Jewish people, and their leaders, a final opportunity to accept Him as the Messiah, — Savior of the nation and of the world.  But His appeal, was not just a personal one. More importantly, it was a corporate appeal.  Apart from Jesus, the Promised Messiah, the Jewish economy and religion, were doomed. They, the nation, were operating under an illusion of power.  Ellen White says, they were operating under the power of Satan.

They were paying so much attention to what needed to happen inside the church, that they had forgotten the mission for justice, outside the church. They tithed mint, anise, and cumin, but omitted the weightier matters of the law.

Matthew tells us that Jesus went into the Temple and drove out the buyers and sellers and money changers.  He said: “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.”  Then the blind and lame came to him, and He healed them.

The next day, Jesus was interrogated by those who claimed to be in authority.  They demanded to know by what authority He had acted as He had.  Jesus responded with three of the most compassionate, yet cutting, appeals for repentance:

The parable of the two sons illustrated to the Jewish hierarchy, that they were the son, who had promised to work in the vineyard, yet failed to do so.  As a result, Jesus informed them, the tax collectors, and the harlots, would enter God’s kingdom ahead of them.

The parable of the wicked vine dressers exposed the evil of those who beat and killed the landowners servants (those who had been tasked with receiving the fruit of the harvest).  And then, going further, brutally murdered His son, (the heir);  rather than relinquish their hold on power.  In answer to Jesus’ question, regarding the landowner’s response toward such evil-doers, they sealed their own doom, when they rightfully responded: “He will destroy those miserable wicked men!”

Jesus’ final illustration referred to the stone, that the builders of Solomon’s Temple, rejected.  The Builders could not figure out where the stone fit, so they set it aside.  Due to its large size, however, it stood in the way of the construction site, forcing them to continually work around it.  Therefore, it became a nuisance, and a stumbling block.  When the time came, however, to setting the chief cornerstone, which would bear the weight of the entire structure, they realized that it was right before their eyes; and had been there, all along.  Jesus, the God of justice and judgement is the Cornerstone. Those who fall on the stone will be broken, but those that the stone falls upon, will be ground to powder.

Jesus’ actions in the Temple, along with His three powerful appeals, convince me, that while God is distressed by individual sins; He is even more distressed, by the unjust collective actions of corporate systems, which have been enticed and seduced by Satan.  Sinners may respond to passionate appeals. Systems, by definition, typically, do not. Systems must be opposed. Systems must be subdued.  Systems must be protested. Systems must be stood up to.  Truth must speak to power.

  • Gandhi said: “Truth never damages a cause that is just.”
  • Ben Franklin said: “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
  • Reinhold Niebuhr said: “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”
  • Frederick Douglas said: “The American people have this to learn: that where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither person nor property is safe.”
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  • Solomon said: “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”
  • Cornel West said: “Justice is what love looks like when spoken in public.”

APPEAL

Micah 6:8 — “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you. But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Could it possibly be, that one main issue undermining the growth of our churches (and denomination), is that we have become so concerned about tithes and offerings, positions and power (while each has their rightful place); yet, have forgotten about “doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God,” within our communities?

Christianity, today, is being challenged to “walk the talk”.  The religious Right has been strangely silent about injustice happening in our streets.  They are loudly vocal concerning the rights of the unborn; but disquietingly silent about the rights, living conditions, and death, of the already born.

Jesus summarized the Great Commandment as love to God and love to our neighbor.  Matthew 25 identifies our neighbors as those who are the hungry; the thirsty; the stranger (immigrant); the naked; the sick; and the prisoner.  I know that some Christians want to interpret this text in symbolic ways.  No!  The literal interpretation is the best interpretation. Besides which, this is precisely what Jesus did, while He walked this earth.  His example remains the only relevant one; and is to be followed by His disciples.

Quoting Isaiah, Jesus said His mission was to the poor; broken-hearted; captives; prison-bound; the economically disadvantaged; and those who mourn.  He declared that He would proclaim the day of God’s vengeance to the oppressor.

As my appeal, I imagine Jesus, standing in the Outer Court of our churches today.  What does He see?  Does He see a lot of busyness or cold efficiency?  Are our people more concerned about what the preacher says in his sermon, than they are in translating the words of his sermon into action? Does He see a church preoccupied with internal theological arguments, yet, apathetic regarding the needs of the people in the Outer Court?  What would Jesus say to Seventh-day Adventist Churches today, were He to visit?  He is, in fact, about to make His final visit.  Will He find the joy of those healed; and the joyful praise of the children?  Will He see active faith and faithful action?

I know that, because of sin, injustice will hold sway, in any way it can, until Jesus comes.  My fear is that the church will become tone deaf, and indifferent to the cries and pleas of those in the Outer Court — and thereby lose its moral authority.  My fear is that we will fail to confront the systems of injustice that plague our world, and excuse ourselves by saying that, individually, we had nothing to do with it.

Christ, Himself, was wounded afresh, as He observed the knee of oppressive power, willfully compress the neck of a defenseless man.  George Floyd’s death, may have gone unquestioned, were it not for the courageous actions of a seventeen-year-old girl; wielding a cell phone in steadfast witness, against an act of evil.

Jesus, Himself, wept, as He witnessed the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, while out jogging.  Evidence of the perpetrators lies, were uncovered, via their own videos.

Christ was broken-hearted, as He watched Amy Cooper refuse to properly leash her dog in Central Park, at a Black man’s request (Christian Cooper; no relation); and then, (because she knew, her “whiteness” gave her the power to do so) deliberately placed his life in jeopardy, by leveraging a false allegation against him in a call to 911.  Christ ached, as He watched her succumb to the siren-call of white privilege; allowing the river of American racism, to carry her along, amidst its detritus.  Fortuitously, her would be victim, protected himself, by capturing the entire encounter on his cell phone.

Amy Cooper’s actions dredged up the frightful history of Black men in America, being lynched, based on the consequential words of white women.  I do not celebrate,  nor take pleasure in the social judgements which have befallen her. She lost her job; her dog; and what little reputation she possessed. Sadly, she is simply another human being, seduced by the systems of racism in this country.  A system, that, for the moment, more and more people (around the world) have agreed, must be ended.

Jesus is Standing in the Outer Court.   He stands watching and knocking, not only on the doors of individual hearts today, but also on the doors of corporate, political, financial and spiritual systems and structures of injustice.  We dare not keep our Savior out.  We must let His love and His peace come in.

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From Beyond the Pulpit – Monuments

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

There is a nationwide movement currently to tear down certain monuments.  Mostly, it is because they are considered to have negative ramifications in the ongoing debates about systematic racism.  Statues of Confederate war generals, representing a large part of America that endorsed and practiced slavery, are coming down.  Images that included stereotypical representations of African Americans or Native Americans are also coming down.  Product brands such as Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben, or Lady of the Lake are being rebranded, in an attempt to clean up such dated views.  These are all genuine attempts to move on from the past into a more positive future.

Some years ago, I was part of an “Operation Bearhug” evangelistic team that went to the then newly-opened Russia.  This was the era of Glasnost, and the country of Russia was in the middle of a complete shaking of their national image.  They had given up the “Soviet Union” (not much was really unified) and they were moving into a realization that they were NOT the superpower they had thought they were.  And in that insecure period they were very open to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Shaking a secure nation is not always a bad thing.

It is also a part of human history that when a new culture or power takes over a nation, sometimes it includes removing old images of the previous rulers.  Ancient Egypt serves as an example.  You will be hard pressed to find many images of Moses’ Egyptian adopted mother, the “daughter of Pharaoh” named Hatshepsut.  Her statues were defaced as were many other representations, apparently done by the successor Thutmose III and his son.  The new rulers wanted to move away from that past.

In the Biblical record, monuments were erected to mark events of God’s grace.  For instance, when Israel marched into Canaan over the dried-up Jordan:  “Then he [Joshua] spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”  Joshua 4:21-24.  I suppose remembering how God had led them out of Egypt would include memories of resistance to His leading?  Nevertheless, they were to remember God’s power in deliverance as foremost.

Here in America the idea is to remove reminders of the painful past, especially when the reminders seem to glorify those most responsible for it.  I think we all should listen carefully to these voices calling for a new view of the past.  For some Americans our national history is mostly positive, which is where we wish it would stay.  For many others that history is not so positive and images that recall that part of our past should be removed.

Perhaps some images should be left, if for no other reason than to show how the past really was and to learn and grow from it.  Perhaps. 

I am personally grateful that the monument to my painful past, the record of my sin, will forever have been removed and buried “in the depths of the sea.”  Oh, but that’s not entirely true!  For the reminder of my sin will be preserved in the only physical remembrance of this rebellious planet that will endure:  the scars of Calvary on the hands, feet, side and brow of my loving Savior.  These He will bear for eternity.  They are monuments to God’s grace, pictures to remind us of His patient leading of us over the River Jordan.  But instead of drawing tears of regret from millions of sinners it will draw “hallelujahs” and praises from glorified saints..

So, here’s a statement you can take to the bank, something I’ve preached for decades:  “God is far more interested in your future than He is in your past.”  Amen!

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Lifelong Learning – Adventists and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

Adventism was forever altered by the 1918 pandemic in far-reaching ways that are largely taken for granted today. This legacy of responsible and balanced action meant cooperating with government officials and other relief organizations, embracing best practices based upon what they knew from medical science, exercising common sense, and prioritizing the safety of both their communities and themselves, with the understanding that all Adventists had a sacred responsibility to help those who became sick. Read More..

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