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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Sources for Free Visuals for Sermons

GC Evangelism.net – High quality graphics to support your message provided by the General Conference Evangelism Department
Canva.com – A free design suite with a library of backgrounds
Pixabay.com – An artist share catalogue with an option to pay the photographer a few dollars for their photos or clip art
Unsplash.com – High resolution photographs for free with you attribute the photographer

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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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YouTubing for Rookies

Federal Way, WA, USA - Dec 11 2011

by Roger Hernandez, Director of Ministerial and Evangelism for the Southern Union

Click here to learn the following YouTube skills:
How I went from zero to 5K plus subscribers
Tangible steps for you to do the same
The Rs of Success – Resolve, Regular, Relevant, Research, Responders, Rapport
The goal of your channel: Redemption

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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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First Fruits

by Victor Rodriguez, pastor of the Shelton Spanish Adventist Group

Shelton Spanish is a daughter church plant project of the Olympia Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Hispanic population has grown considerably with Mexicans, Guatemalans, and others Latinos and the need for more churches is great. So our new church was started just a few months before the pandemic reached Seattle area in February 2020.

Although the pandemic has hurt church attendance for several months, the Shelton Spanish Group was ready to adapt and get into prayer and intersection mode as well as to do Bible study in a different way. All of these could not be done face to face because of the preventive orders and rules in place in our Washington State to stop the rapid growth of sick people. However, through teleconference and the use of Zoom virtual meetings, the group was able to navigate to a new era to which it was not prepared.

For several months, a group of sisters and brothers in Christ lead intercessory prayer for our community. By the end of August 2020, we finally saw the opportunity to open the church, but it was a completely different environment. Following the recommendations and mandates of the state, everyone in attendance wore masks, and physically distanced. Hand sanitizers were provided and a registration was taken every Sabbath. But, although the service was then shorter and schedule changed to a later time, all those who where able to attend were very happy to be there. Many new friends were gained.

We were then, ready to follow our evangelistic meetings set for every fall, which normally becomes the last reaping meeting of the year. All the members were excited that we could still have a meeting, which could be also be available through digital media to the public who may not be able to attend.

The Shelton group was set for evangelistic meetings dated for the end of October 2020 and beginning of November. Advertising was done every Sabbath and through social media. Our meetings were planed to take place on the weekends. Every night we had people from other places and countries who connected on Facebook to watch the presentation of the series “We will see Jesus,” with speaker Pastor Victor Rodriguez.  The series presented answers for our times of troubles, the love of God, certainty of salvation among other topical presentation which ended with the second coming of Jesus.

We had local people who attended the meeting but within the capacity limitations that were indicated. Every night we had a good response to the calling of the Spirit of God through Pastor Rodriguez and we can say that about 20 to 25 contacts were establish who continue to come to church on Sabbath services. On October 30, three new members were baptized and joined the Shelton Spanish Seventh-day Adventist group.

We have seem the hand of God guiding and leading as we move by faith toward the goal of making disciples for Christ as the Great Commission asks us to: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).

Please pray for us as the new year will bring new opportunities in witnessing for Jesus Christ.

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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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What to Do About Virtual Church – A Two-Part Conversation

In these conversations, pastors, tech experts, and worship leaders from around the North American Division discuss the challenges and opportunities of virtual worship ministry. You can watch part 1 here.

You can watch part 2 here.

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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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