Category Archives: Lifelong Learning

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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Every Encounter Matters — Digital Encounters Included

You’ve read the social media posts before — the ones that make you cringe, angry, hurt, sad, depressed, or simply numb. By the way some “Christians” post online, you might think they don’t realize there is a real person(s) somewhere in the world reading and contemplating their potentially destructive words. Every encounter we have with one another matters. READ MORE

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Global Communication from a Computer with a PC

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

The coronavirus pandemic has plunged the entire world into a global health crisis. This is not the first time, however, that an epidemic has shifted the course of world history.  The Spanish flu of 1918-20 infected a quarter of the Earth’s population and is estimated to have killed between 17-50 million people.  Yet, before that event happened, the extraordinary story of a young Irish immigrant, Mary, a cook in early 20th century New York, transpired; and she left in her wake, a trail of death, scandal, and controversy.[i]

Mary Mallon was born in Ireland but left there as a teenager to seek a different life in the New World.  By 1900, she was working as a cook in the homes of wealthy families in and around New York City.  At the time, between one and two million Americans worked in domestic service; and successfully obtaining a role as a cook, earned one the designation of “queen of the castle”.  In the role, Mary managed the kitchen staff, bought supplies, and held the privilege of being called, Miss Mallon.  Eventually, she gained renown for her tasty signature dish, peach ice cream.   

Mary Mallon worked in the ritzier neighborhoods of Manhattan; but things were not as well as they appeared on the surface.  Between 1900 and 1907, she had worked as a cook in the homes of seven different families – the final one located on Park Avenue – and in each home, people fell ill or died of typhoid.  Every time this occurred, Mary managed to quietly slip away and find work elsewhere.[ii] 

Typhoid, as a disease, was a known killer, but many erroneously believed it belonged to another world.  The disease, however, thrived in the overcrowded, unsanitary conditions of New York’s slum neighborhoods, such as Five Points and Hell’s Kitchen.

One victim’s family hired George Soper, a sanitation engineer and researcher, to locate Mary, to determine if she was a carrier of the disease.  When he found her, however, Mary angrily chased him out of her kitchen with a carving fork.  It is easy to empathize with Mary’s rejection of the idea that she was a source of transmission for a disease from which she, herself, never suffered.   But George Soper had correctly identified her as an asymptomatic carrier of Typhoid Fever. Ultimately, Mary was never infected by the disease herself; but she remained infectious to other people for the rest of her life.  Not surprisingly, Mary Mallon

found this concept impossible to grasp.  But New York authorities were desperate to contain the disease, and in 1907 Mary Mallon was exiled to an isolation facility on North Brother Island, located on a river outside of New York.

In that formative time of epidemiology, authorities lacked the knowledge we possess today, about how to slow the surge of an epidemic.  Ancient sources did contain practical guidelines helpful to their immediate crisis, had they only referenced them.  Eventually, however, through trial and error, they adopted and applied those self-same principles.    

In the Biblical book of Leviticus, chapter 13, Moses recorded health laws spoken to him by God, regarding how to contain the spread of leprosy and other contagious diseases.  Note verses 43-46:

            Verse 43,44 – “Then the priest shall examine it. . . The priest shall surely pronounce him unclean.”

            Verse 45 – “Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache and cry, Unclean!  Unclean!”

            Verse 46 – “All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean.  He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”

It is amazing that in this passage we discover:

  • Testing:  The priest shall examine it and decide.
  • Masking:  He shall cover his mustache.
  • Social Distancing:  He shall cry unclean.
  • Quarantine/Isolation: He shall dwell alone outside the camp.

Evidently, the methods recommended by public health officials today are in keeping with God’s instructions to Moses over four-thousand years ago!

Back to our story.  In 1909, Mary Mallon hired a lawyer and unsuccessfully sued the Health Department that had placed her in quarantine.  But in 1910, a new Health Commissioner vowed to free Mary and assist her with finding suitable employment as a domestic, albeit, not as a cook.  Mary, was, subsequently released from quarantine; however, she never intended to abide by the agreement. 

Using an alias, Mary commenced working again for unsuspecting employers.  Employed as a cook at Sloane Maternity (a hospital) in Manhattan, within three months she had infected at least 25 people, including doctors, nurses, and staff, two of whom died.  This time, when authorities tracked her down again in 1915, they offered no sympathy. 

Mary was returned to isolation, where she lived in confinement for the next twenty-three years, until her death in 1938.  She was stigmatized as “Typhoid Mary,” by local newspapers, and became a laughingstock – the butt of numerous jokes and cartoons. In the end, her name emerged in medical dictionaries – as a synonym and designation of a contagious disease carrier.

Significant controversy remains regarding the treatment that Mary sustained at the hands of the Health Department.  Rather than educating her – and guiding her understanding of the health risks she posed to others – she was ensnared as a victim of local health laws instead.  Nevertheless, one valuable aspect of Mary’s legacy to the world may be, increased awareness of the importance of following medical advice, even when you do not clearly understand it. 

The history of Mary Mallon, declared “unclean” like a leper, may provide us some moral direction on how best to protect the ill; and how best to protect ourselves, from illness.  Mary refused the one operation which might have cured her.  “Typhoid Mary” has, indeed, become shorthand when referring to issues of non-compliance with public health laws.  The state’s pursuit of Mary, coupled with her own intransigence, places her at an unfortunate space within medical and social history.[iii]

Why, exactly, was Mary’s signature dish — peach ice cream – so critical to her story, you may ask?   Because, the typhoid bacterium can survive in cold food, but is destroyed during cooking.  If Mary Mallon had taken especial pride in an apple pie recipe, rather than her peach ice cream concoction, we may perhaps have never heard of “Typhoid Mary”.

What, indeed, have we learned?  The risk of asymptomatic contagion is currently a heated topic within health circles, and with the public at large.  The discussion proves to be relevant in a spiritual context as well.  The simple truth is, that we are all contagious!  

The Bible says: “All have sinned.”  Our interpretation of that verse is often, “Y’all have sinned!”  We human beings, particularly Christians, have a keen, innate ability to discern and point out the sins and faults of others, while remaining blind to our own sins and faults.

Some Christians appear to be asymptomatic to the controversy and confusion they often spread within their families and their churches.  They seem unperturbed and undisturbed, by the poison and contagion swirling around their being, wherever they are present.  As they hop, skip, and jump from church, to church, to church, trouble follows in their wake.  They see no need for virus testing.  They see no need for masking.  Or, if they do choose to don a mask, it is because they believe themselves at risk of catching something very bad from you.  Preoccupied by their own preferences, prerogatives, and privileges, they are disinclined to recognize the need of others to be protected from their very infectious state.  They demonstrate little, to no concern, for people within their communities, who are affected by their contagiousness.

I hate to say it, but at times, you do need social distancing from some (so called) saints.  When those persons come through the door, an alarm should be triggered.  Someone needs to yell “unclean!” – (hyperbole fully intended).  Truth be told, we are all too often afraid of the wrong people.  It is not the man with liquor on his breath; or the guy with dirty face and smelly clothes; or the woman with five runny-nosed, rambunctious children; nor the scantily clad, gaudy young woman, requiring more ‘fig leaves’ to cover herself.  No, they are not the problem.  Nor are they the true threat!  Rather, it is the asymptomatic Christian, who, to all appearances, looks fantastic outwardly, but inwardly, breeds conspiracies, lies, and innuendo; and steadfastly resists testing their words and actions against the Word of God. 

Thank God, there is a more positive aspect to being a Contagious Christian”.  As social beings, we humans are constantly carrying, transmitting, and spreading something.  For example:

  • Yawning is contagious.
  • Itching/scratching is contagious.
  • Laughing is contagious.
  • Rudeness is contagious.
  • Curiosity is contagious.

If, in fact, we are all contagious in some manner or other, what, precisely, are we spreading?  Are we spreading hope or fear?  Are we spreading truth or lies?  Are we contagious with logic and reason, buttressed by facts; or conspiracy theories, based on speculation, innuendo, or wishful thinking?  Do we even recognize what an actual risk we are, as asymptomatic contagious spreaders?  Do we ultimately care about the people we are infecting, and the people they will infect – and so on – due to associating with us? 

Is it possible, some of our Sabbath afternoon potluck conversations could be characterized as “super spreader” events?  Do we realize it may be beneficial to ‘mask’ our tongues; socially distance ourselves from gossip and speculation; and endure congregational separation or isolation for a brief time, to ensure vulnerable persons in our families and churches are protected from infectious disease? 

Each of us requires testing by the Word of God to determine our own, clean, or unclean status, according to God’s standards.  We urgently need to be inoculated with the vaccine of God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy – the antidote to all our ills – that we may, indeed, be healed.

Praise God, that we are not required to hold celebrity status to receive daily testing and treatment.  Sin is the deadliest disease infecting the world today.  It manifests itself in many forms.  The grace, faith, and love of Jesus Christ comprise the only efficacious vaccine – sufficient to cure. 

The Bible contains numerous stories regarding Contagious Christians.  One of my favorites is found in Acts, chapter 16, about the experiences of Paul and Silas while in the Philippian prison.

You know the story.

  • Paul and Silas spoke truth to power and were arrested as a result.  Speaking truth to power will often land you in trouble.  Almost every prophet in the Bible was opposed, ridiculed, ignored, and persecuted.  They were exiled, stoned, beheaded, crucified, and imprisoned.
  • Paul and Silas were imprisoned, this time, for exorcising demons from the life of a young slave girl, “in the name of Jesus”.
  • Her “pimps” – rhetorically speaking – immediately witnessed their stock portfolios crash.  Say what you will, but “never mess with the money”.  The first century version of the Mafia immediately ordered their arrest.
  • We read Paul’s counsel in Philippians 4: 4,6-7.  “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again, I will say, rejoice!  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
  • Acts 16:25, shows us that Paul truly ‘walked the talk’.  He and Silas had been stripped, whipped, placed in stocks, and thrown into solitary confinement in a maximum-security prison.
  • Every inmate, incarcerated in that specific prison, on that particular night, wanted to know who these two ‘losers’ were; and what precisely, they had done, to deserve such harsh treatment.
  • In prison, as in life, credibility hinges on your story – your testimony.  And to have a powerful testimony, you must have a test.
  • I do not know the exact time the meeting started, but by midnight the prison was rocking, with hymns, prayers, and spiritual praise to God, resounding throughout its halls.  And the entire prison population was on board – caught up in their fervor.
  • Suddenly, a mighty earthquake shook that prison to its foundations.  Every cell-door opened, and every chain was loosed.
  • If those events transpired today, we would witness one of the biggest prison breaks in history.
  • Awakened by the quake and the tumult, the warden panicked as he observed every prison door breached.  He knew he would be held responsible, and likely executed for the loss of any prisoners.  So, he quickly prepared to take his own life.
  • Paul called out and stopped him; reassuring the warden that no one had escaped – every prisoner was accounted for.
  • No question about it – Paul was a Contagious Christian! Silas, too! Their example was so contagious in fact, that the Spirit of Christ constrained every prisoner from seeking to escape (some of whom, no doubt, had been in those dungeons for months and years, without the possibility of parole.) To forgo their one chance to escape, demonstrates how thoroughly they had been “infected” – and powerfully changed – through the example of Paul and Silas.

Yes, we are all contagious.  We are all spreading something, for good or for ill, about life; both, in the here and now, and in eternity.  Daily, we are a living testimony.  Let us, determine, therefore, not to replicate the story of “Typhoid Mary”.  But choose instead, to spread hope, joy, and love, to all whom we encounter.  That is my most earnest prayer.  AMEN.

[i] “How Typhoid Mary Left a Trail of Scandal and Death,” Kevin Connolly, BBC News.

[ii] Ibid., BBC News.

[iii] “Mary Mallon and the history of Typhoid Fever,” Annals of Gastroenterology, Hellenic Society of Gastroenterology.


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How to Amaze God

Unbelievable shocking news! Portrait of stunned brunette man with beard in casual white t-shirt holding face and keeping mouth wide open in amazement. indoor studio shot isolated on orange background

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

Have you ever been amazed? I mean, have you ever seen something and the only expression that can come to mind is…“Wow!” Steph Curry hits a 37—foot jumper, nothing but net. Pat Mahomes eludes seemingly dozens of defenders, Corey Seager hits a 100 mph fastball 450 feet. Amazing!

I have only been to one Broadway-style musical, but there was one I had to go to. While pastoring in Spokane, “Fiddler on the Roof” came to a local venue and featured the 1971 film’s original star, Chaim Topol. When he sang “If I Were a Rich Man…all day long I’d bidi-bidi-bum.” Wow! And when he sang “Sunrise, Sunset” about the years rolling by and his daughters growing up…well, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. Absolutely amazing. A standing ovation was the result. 

Since we are created in the image of God, we can assume that our feelings are feelings that He also experiences. God can be amazed, too. However, we often think that to be amazed there has to be an element of surprise in it. Not so! All of the examples I gave above were very anticipatable. Even though you expected something awesome, when it does actually arrive…it can still be amazing to see.

With that in mind, did you ever think about how God experiences amazement?

During my morning devotionals I noticed from the gospels that Jesus displayed amazement at times. You might even say that Jesus could join us in expressing “wow” at the things He saw in His ministry. And like us, He was amazed at negatives things, and at other times He was amazed at positive things.

An example of a negative time was when He healed a man’s hand on Sabbath and saw the attitude of the religious leaders who were present. Mark 3:4,5: “Then He said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.” It was a hard thing to comprehend for the Lord. Why would someone oppose a healing act of mercy, especially on Sabbath? It didn’t compute! At its core, their mischaracterization of God and His willingness to heal was astounding to the Savior. There was no faith and to see it in person was amazing.

So, let’s get personal. Has my or has your attitude about God’s character ever surprised God? Have we ever doubted His willingness to heal, to answer prayers, to meet needs? As a pastor, I wonder if there were many times when I “should have known better?”

On the other hand, there were times when Jesus was genuinely amazed by a person’s faith. Remember the Centurion’s request, the one where he sought Jesus to heal his beloved servant? Matthew 8:5-13 records the story. The Roman officer knew all about authority and recognized that Jesus had it. He knew Jesus could order the miracle, even from distance. Such faith brought this response from Jesus: “When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed,

‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!’” Matthew 8:10. When Jesus saw faith like this, which had at its core a correct understanding of God’s character (to put it in today’s vernacular, “somebody finally has got it!”), Jesus was amazed and pleasantly soSince I seriously doubt that angels in heaven do anything more than yawn at Steph Curry’s shots or Patrick Mahomes’ skills, I would love to do something that can bring a “wow” from heaven’s courts. That is, a positive one, of course!

Dear Lord, when I am around Jesus, let my actions show that I have faith to move mountains. May I show that I “get it” about your loving character and desire to answer my requests for help and healing. May I believe so strongly in my Savior’s authority and power that it brings a “wow” of approval. Grant me, Lord, that kind of faith!

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2020—It was a VERY Good Year!

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

In 1965 Frank Sinatra recorded a song that won him a Grammy Award. It’s title? “It Was a Very Good Year!” In this melancholy song he reminisces about years past. I’ve been reminiscing about 2020 and all that we’ve experienced.

So, was 2020 a very good year? I think so. Despite riots, forest fires, race issues, politics and a pandemic, let me tell you why 2020 was good for me. Primarily, it was in what the year taught me.

Riots in Portland and Seattle: There are a lot of very angry people, many with very deep hurts. The riots are a negative way of coping with their pain. The Bible predicted there would be a loss of love in the time of the end. We can expect that unhappy people will become remarkably violent, despite our civilized ways. 2020 taught me to not be surprised to see this coming.

Forest fires: Oregon suffered under a terrible season of forest fires, wiping out several communities and causing many to lose their homes and possessions. This was a reminder that this world is not our home, “we’re just passing through.” We should be prepared to possibly lose everything. 2020 taught me that.

Race issues: As a white man “of privilege,” a term which appears to me to be increasingly pertinent, I was able to see that racial inequality still rears its ugly head in our “land of liberty.” Hatred and mistrust still are present in the fallen human heart. 2020 reminded me of the great creation truth that we are “all of one blood” and in Christ there is no division. If the world is to truly unite, it needs Christ. Another lesson of 2020.

Politics: It seems that it’s getting darker and darker every year. Elections reveal the real character of people, despite their pleas for unity. And fear is the main weapon in advertisements. 2020 taught me the blessings that big elections only come every four years. All kidding aside, 2020 taught me the value of being in the kingdom of God’s grace. No earthly leader can provide the healing He alone can.

Pandemic: As if this year wasn’t full enough! 2020 will forever have the pandemic, front and center, of what the year was all about. Imagine…something too tiny to see causing so much suffering in the world. The entire world coming to an economic halt. Governments struggling as to how to combat this unseen terror. Churches locked down. Everyone was affected. How quickly events can shake a world! 2020 taught me how to get along without theaters, sports and travel, too. It also taught me to look past this world to times and places of unspeakable glory. Finally, it taught me that I should help others to prepare.

So, in hindsight, Frank got it right. “2020…was a very good year.”

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Holding On to Positive Habits Developed During COVID-19

HABBITS - medical concept on a white background. Wooden cubes and flower in a pot.
Photo by Aksana Kavaleuskaya on iStock

After emerging from a few months of stay-at-home orders, we may be able to find some silver linings. Here are some tips to holding onto the positive habits you have developed. Read More

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Jesus STILL Breaks Through the Darkness

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

In a few days most of us will be celebrating a somewhat “modified version” of our traditional Christmas holiday in what has been predicted will be a dark winter.  This Covid pandemic has in many ways turned out the lights of our previously normal lives. Everything has changed. Nothing seems to be the same.

While many may be resenting the recommendations to restrain from traditional holiday travel to gather with loved ones, others are experiencing deep grief as they face their first Christmas holiday with an empty chair or empty bank accounts as tangible reminders of what they have lost this past year  Still others may be experiencing some guilt-laced relief as they look forward to a much less stressful option to the obligatory and strained gatherings with folk who share little more than some DNA. Any of these groups may still be considered within the class of “lucky ones” who at least are not lying in an overcrowded and understaffed hospital unit, struggling to not die.

Much like today, human hearts were experiencing the darkness of debilitating grief, relentless despair, and ruthless hopelessness which had all but eclipsed the promise of a Messiah babe whose LIGHT would burst into the dark recesses of our gloomy planet one starry night in Bethlehem. The prophetic voice eloquently describes this long-awaited moment:

“In heaven’s council the hour for the coming of Christ had been determined.  When the great clock of time pointed to that hour, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. . . Providence had directed the movements of nations, and the tide of human impulse and influence, until the world was ripe for the coming of the Deliverer. . .

The deception of sin had reached its height.  All the agencies for depraving the souls of men had been put in operation.  The Son of God, looking upon the world, beheld suffering and misery.  With pity He saw how men had become victims of satanic cruelty.  He looked with compassion upon those who were being corrupted, murdered, and lost. . . It was demonstrated before the universe that, apart from God, humanity could not be uplifted.  A new element of LIFE and POWER must be imparted by Him who made the world.

With intense interest the unfallen worlds had watched to Jehovah arise, and sweep away the inhabitants of the earth. . . But instead of destroying the world, God sent His Son to save it. . .At the very crisis, when Satan seemed about to triumph, the Son of God came with the embassage of divine grace.  Through every age, through every hour, the love of God had been exercised toward the fallen race.  Notwithstanding the perversity of men, the signals of mercy had been continually exhibited.  And when the fullness of time had come, the Deity was glorified by pouring upon the world a flood of healing grace that was never to be obstructed or withdrawn till the plan of salvation should be fulfilled.

Satan was exulting that he had succeeded in debasing the image of God in humanity.  Then Jesus came to restore in man the image of his Maker. None by Christ can fashion anew the character that has been ruined by sin.  He came to expel the demons that had controlled the will.  He came to lift us up from the dust, to reshape the marred character after the pattern of His divine character, and to make it beautiful with His own glory.” White, Desire of Ages, 32-38.

Colleagues, this dark winter may very well create an ideal opportunity in which to share the Good News that inexplicable LOVE not only became flesh one Bethlehem night, but that this highly relational Emmanuel still bursts into the darkness of this planet to continue bringing the light of hope, mercy, compassion and healing LOVE to all who will surrender their despair and disbelief . . . and will believe He longs for transformational oneness with them.

Who might there be in your circle of influence who desperately needs their darkness to be eclipsed by a highly relational, loving, Jesus Christ?  Many in our culture—including our children—will have a difficult time believing in a benevolent, relational God without seeing and/or experiencing highly relational, loving people (parents) who exhibit the loveliness of Christ’s character within loving marriage relationships and in loving relationships with others.  The exponential POWER of home religion cannot be underestimated as we think and pray about relevant methods to evangelize those in our communities.

Following are just a few ideas that may help your own creative ideas flow as you and yours celebrate the incarnation of Emmanuel—God WITH us:

  1. Consider making some time to read—as a family—the Christmas story from the Bible in different versions. The Message version by Eugene Peterson is one your children & young adults may especially enjoy.
  2. Consider making some time to read—as a family—the Christmas story from the Bible in different versions. The Message version by Eugene Peterson is one your children & young adults may especially enjoy.
  3. Consider making some time to read—as a family—the Christmas story from the Bible in different versions. The Message version by Eugene Peterson is one your children & young adults may especially enjoy.
  4. Consider making some time to read—as a family—the Christmas story from the Bible in different versions. The Message version by Eugene Peterson is one your children & young adults may especially enjoy.

Whatever you do, during and beyond this holiday season, I pray you will lift up the person of Jesus Christ, not only as the Light of this world, but as a highly relational, loving Friend who deeply desires to find room in our hearts so He can influence and imprint His lovely character on each one of us as we shine light into the lives of others!  

Christmas blessings to you and yours! 

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Vaccine’s A-Comin’

Doctors develop COVID-19 vaccine

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

I am SO tired of 2020. Please, Lord, send us that vaccine. Having to wear masks, not touching anyone or practically anything, we all long for the day to get past this. And the vaccine for Covid is finally here. Since I’m an old guy, maybe I’m closer to the front of the line?  But it won’t really matter until millions of people get the vaccine. Then, and only then, will things get back to normal.

Some time ago a far worse pandemic hit God’s creation, spreading like crazy and causing unbearable suffering wherever it went. And it started…in heaven!  I speak of that deadly disease of sin. “Sin” is a very religious term, but I have often defined it as “that which causes harm.” Self-centeredness devastates on contact. Would that masks would help!

What was needed was a vaccine. And just what IS a vaccine? According to Wikipedia: “a vaccine is a biological preparation that provides active acquired immunity to a particular infectious disease.” How does it work? “A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe, its toxins, or one of its surface proteins. The agent stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize the agent as a threat and destroy it.”

Let me rephrase this: a vaccine provides a clearer picture of the infection’s threat to the body’s defenses, which then go on the attack and destroy the infection’s present and future ability of doing harm.

So what is the remedy for this world’s pandemic of sin, whose “wages” are death? A vaccine. We needed help to identify this deadly selfish nature we are infected with. Jesus accomplished the work of vaccination for us all.

First of all, we saw in His perfect life what perfect love was. It was so different than anything we knew. By comparison to that perfect life we see how dangerous our own nature is. When He died on the cross, we saw both what love could do (in His unselfish sacrifice and what sin does do (kills all things good).

The next illustration comes from Pastor Randy Roberts’ recent sermon about blood. We are familiar with old hymns that portray Jesus’ blood as a cleansing agent. We are “dipped in the crimson fountain,” and our “sins are washed away.” Sometimes it’s a gruesome illustration, but biologically it’s accurate. It is the blood that literally takes away the toxins (to the kidneys) and keeps things clean. It is the blood that defends the body from biological threats. So the cleansing effects of Jesus’ bloody sacrifice provides immunity from the infection of sin. Jesus’ blood as an overcomer provides us with powers to resist.

Finally, as we think in universal scales, the long term immunization of all of God’s creation against the virus of sin will have been accomplished. No one will ever want to tread that road again. Looking at it’s devastating effects of whatever it touched (and on the Creator Himself), we will be fully vaccinated and sin and suffering “will not rise again.”

Now THAT would really be something. I miss not wearing masks and not being so separate from people. I long for the universe to return to normal.

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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:

“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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