City Living VS Country Dwelling: A Brief Analysis of Ellen White’s Views

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Some years ago I was sitting in my last Personal Evangelism class at Southern Adventist University. The professor, a traditional Hispanic evangelism-guru, surprised the entire class with a paradigm shift on city evangelism. “People must live in the cities in order to evangelize them” he proposed. No sooner had the proposition hit the air than one of the students pulled out his phone, loaded the Ellen White app, and read the following quote:

He [Enoch] did not make his abode with the wicked. … He placed himself and his family where the atmosphere would be as pure as possible. Then at times he went forth to the inhabitants of the world with his God- given message. … After proclaiming his message, he always took back with him to his place of retirement some who had received the warning. —Manuscript 42, 1900

When the student was done he looked up and added, “that’s how we should do it.” The professor did not skip a beat. “Every time?” he asked, and without waiting for an answer he added, “It doesn’t work!” He then proceeded to explain that with the size of cities today working from a country outpost can, at times, mean one would have to drive for hours and hours in heavy traffic just to get to the area where one wants to do ministry. And when the day is done one would have to endure the same torture in order to get back to the “outpost.” Such a strategy is extremely unpractical he argued. And I would have to agree. But the question is, why is the outpost method seen as the only method to do city evangelism? The easiest answer is “because Ellen White said so.” However, our professor argued that she did not. Was he right?

Before I dig into that question allow me say right off the bat that there is absolutely no doubt that Ellen White favored the outpost method. Having grown up in the city I can see why. I would never want to raise my kids in the environment I was raised in. The crime, gangs, drugs, violence, and corruption were intense. I know kids I went to school with who turned out to be drug dealers, drug addicts, and gangsters. I hated living in an environment where I always had to be paranoid about getting mugged (I was mugged twice and nearly mugged two other times) or assaulted (I was nearly assaulted by a gang of 20+ one night). My high school was harder to get into than an airport. Metal detectors, pat downs, wands, and book-bag inspections were all part of my morning routine. Drugs were sold right outside the front entrance, shoot outs and stabbings were common, and God forbid if you wore the wrong colors to school. Since certain gangs laid claim to certain colors I would always be anxious when getting my clothes ready in the morning. Am I wearing too much blue and grey?[1] I would wonder. Is there too much red in this outfit?[2] This was my life year after year.

In contrast, my country friends tell me of how they spent their teenage years – mud hoping, horse riding, camping, and taking care of the farm. They enjoyed the benefits of an outdoors life while I and my non-criminal friends hid in our apartments from all the garbage outside. I envy them.

Ellen White recognized that this was city life and as such, the consistent pattern of her counsel was anti-city living. She recommended the outpost method, a method in which city workers set up camp outside the city and then enter the city for ministry and exit when done. The idea was to minister to the people living in the city without becoming “city dwellers.”

So was my professor wrong in saying that the outpost method doesn’t always work? Just to be fair, he did not say it never works or that it should be abandoned. His contention was that it is not always the best method and it should not be viewed as the only method to do city evangelism. But again I ask, was he wrong? Rather than answer the barrage of questions being hurled at him he directed us to a newly published book called Ministry to the Cities – a compilation of Ellen Whites views on how to do this whole “city thing.” Just last week I finally got my hands on the book and devoured it within a few days. When I was done it was clear to me that Ellen White was a lot more sensible and rational than many of us make her out to be. She was, as Leroy Moore says, “a paradoxical thinker.” And while there is no mistaking her preference for the outpost method she in no way advocated that it was the only way.

For example, in page 17 of Ministry to the Cities we read, “The example of the followers of Christ at Antioch should be an inspiration to every believer living in the great cities of the world today. While it is in the order of God that chosen workers of consecration and talent should be stationed in important centers of population to lead out in public efforts, it is also His purpose that the church members living in these cities shall use their God-given talents in working for souls.” Here Ellen White clearly states that it is God’s will that chosen workers be stationed in the cities (important centers of population) and that the lay-men living in those same cities work for souls as well. In page 95 we read, “The Lord has presented before me the work that must be done in our cities. The believers in these cities can work for God in the neighborhood of their homes.” In page 95 she speaks directly to Adventist “city dwellers” when she writes, “I address Christians who live in our large cities: God has made you depositaries of truth, not that you may retain it, but that you may impart it to others. You should visit from house to house as faithful stewards of the grace of Christ.” Interestingly enough, in none of these statements does she tell the “city dwellers” that they are wrong for living in the city and neither does she instruct them to leave but to remain and reach their neighbors for Christ.

In page 112 we read that “Some must remain in the cities to give the last note of warning…” and while this statement is followed by the admonition that this will become more dangerous, it nevertheless captures her paradoxical thinking on the matter. The fact that “some must remain” is clear evidence that she did not view the outpost method as the only viable method and in fact, viewed it as limited. If “some must remain” in the cities to give the final warning, it is clear that the final warning cannot be adequately given via the outpost method. Instead, it must be given by “city dwellers.” The most shocking statement comes in page 113 where she actually encourages Adventists to move to the city. She writes, “Close around us are cities and towns in which no efforts are made to save souls. Why should not families who know the present truth settle in these cities and villages, to set up there the standard of Christ, working in humility, not in their own way, but in God’s way, to bring the light before those who have no knowledge of it? … There will be laymen who will move into towns and cities, and into apparently out-of-the-way places, that they may let the light which God has given them shine forth to others.”

Her paradoxical thinking is also seen in her counsel for building schools in relation to the cities. In page 117 she says, “Especially should our schools… be located outside of the cities…” and yet in page 115 she writes, “Church schools are to be established for the children in the cities…” This she says even though she maintained that “‘Out of the cities’ is my message for the education of our children.” Thus the paradox seems clear. When it came to boarding schools Ellen White maintained that they should not be established in the cities but that did not mean that standard schools such as the church school could not. This demonstrates her practical thinking on the matter. Not everyone living in the city can afford to send their kids to a boarding school in the country. In order to minister to the city kids then, church schools should be established in the city. We see this balanced approach most clearly in Testimonies Vol. 9 page 221 which says,

So far as possible these schools should be established outside the cities. But in the cities there are many children who could not attend schools away from the cities; and for the benefit of these, schools should be opened in the cities as well as in the country.

Ellen White was also clear that churches should be established in the city. In page 114 we read that “In every city there should be a city mission that should be a training school for workers.” And in the same page she clearly states that “in every city where the truth is proclaimed, churches are to be raised up. In some large cities there must be churches in various parts of the city.” If there are churches in the city, clearly there is a demand for people to live in the city as well – especially if the church fits into her vision of a vibrant training center as opposed to just a Sabbath morning club. In addition, locating churches in the city means that the city will not be reached exclusively by outposts but by established churches within the cities themselves.

Ellen White was also consistently clear that sanitariums should never be established in the cities. This makes perfect sense since Sanitariums are intended to be a type of health retreat. However, in page 120 she also said “God would have restaurants established in the cities. If properly managed, these will become missionary centers.” Again she emphasized that “Our restaurants must be in the cities; for otherwise the workers in these restaurants could not reach the people and teach them the principles of right living.” In page 121 she adds, “I have been instructed that one of the principal reasons why hygienic restaurants and treatment rooms should be established in the centers of large cities is that by this means the attention of leading men will be called to the third angel’s message.” She continues this chain of thought in regards to assisting the addicts when she says, “In every city a place should be provided where the slaves of evil habit may receive help to break the chains that bind them” (134).

So what are we to make of all this? Is Ellen White contradicting herself? How can she say that we should leave the cities and then say “Some must remain in the cities…”? How can she praise the outpost method and then encourage “families who know the present truth [to] settle in these cities”? With the size of modern cities, was she not aware that establishing churches, vegetarian restaurants, and church schools would demand that many people live in the city in order to practically operate these entities? Sure she was, and this is why she never maintained that the outpost method was the only method that God would bless. Ellen White was a paradoxical thinker. She was balanced. She was sensible. She recognized the ideal was to work from outposts and to avoid living in the cities altogether, but she also recognized the real – that it was not always practical to use the outpost method.

So if Ellen White had such a balanced approach to city evangelism, why then have Adventist’s traditionally frowned upon “city dwelling”? The Ellen G. White Encyclopedia provides a helpful answer:

…we find in Ellen White’s writings two sets of parallel counsel—one related to institutions, advocating outpost ministry; and a second dealing with local church work, advocating missionary work from within the city. Unfortunately, only one set of counsel has received much publicity. The reason for that imbalance is that statements from the one perspective have been collected and repeatedly published in compilations, while the other even though equally valid and important, has been neglected. Thus Adventist’s have traditionally highlighted only one half of Ellen White’s perspective on city mission (716).

With all of this said there is one other thing I would like to highlight and that is that while Ellen White was not against city dwelling we need to be aware of our motivation when we do in fact decide to live in the city. As I mentioned before, I hated living in the city. However, I must also admit that I absolutely love the city. I am a city boy at heart and there’s nothing I enjoy more than cruising through the city at night with my wife while listening to Michael Buble. I love the café’s, the liveliness, and the vibe of Manhattan, Boston, downtown Chattanooga, Honolulu, Pearl City, and Waikiki, and currently – Perth, Western Australia where I live. And in some ways I think this type of city living is why I haven’t always liked Ellen Whites outpost method. I don’t want to be told to leave the cities because I love the city. But that’s not entirely true. I don’t actually love the city. I just love the nice parts of it – the skyscrapers glimmering against the night sky, the elegant restaurants and shopping centers, and the hustle and bustle of a busy street. If this is what a city was then I don’t think Ellen White would have ever recommended an outpost method, but that’s not all a city is. The city is also the part I hate – the gangs, the prostitution, the drugs and violence. City is the slums and the ghettos, the rough neighborhoods and the hoodlums. Anyone who lives in the city – enjoying its cafes and skyscraper while never noticing the decadence and brokenness around them – is living in a self-deluded bubble. The city is not simply the beautiful; it is also the ugly reality of poverty and crime. And for those who want to live in the city and do ministry there – don’t think you’re just there to have interesting Bible studies at Star Bucks with university students. That’s part of it yes, but you are also there for the addicts, the convicts, and the perverted who linger on its streets night after night searching for satisfaction. City ministry is dangerous, scandalous, and wild. Not everyone is designed for it. It is missionary work in every form and demands that those who engage in it not become comfortable with the pretty side of city life, but that they confront the dreadfulness of the degenerate side as well.

So is the outpost method the only viable method for city evangelism? Not according to Ellen White. In her paradoxical view God’s people should leave the cities, and God’s people should move to the cities. The church should not launch establishments within the city and the church should launch establishments within the city. Both are true at the same time and it is the context of the situation, be it corporate or personal, that determines what the best course of action is. However, Ellen White also warned that the time will come when we will have to leave the cities and while I am certain that there will always be a few who God calls to remain we should always be prepared to leave when he calls us to. But no need to worry city lovers! The Lord has promised us a city as our eternal home.

To read the book Ministry to the Cities online click here.

Note: This article was originally published at www.pomopastor.com

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[1] Blue and Grey are the colors used by the Crips, “one of the largest and most violent associations of street gangs in the United States” (Wiki).
[2] Red is one of the main colors worn by the Bloods, a gang “widely known for its rivalry with the Crips” (Wiki).

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Greeting Might Be Ruining Things

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In Denmark, Madagascar, Mexico, the United States–
In black suits, tee shirts, or calico dresses–
Three at every entrance or one crammed into the tiny foyer–

In every Adventist church I have ever been to anywhere in all the world there have been greeters. These are the faithful saints who hand you the bulletin, say “Happy Sabbath” with a smile, and watch you wander toward what you think is the sanctuary. They are Team Friendly and their presence might be the very reason people don’t feel welcomed at your church.

There is an enormous distance between greeting a guest and welcoming them. Like, a Grand Canyon-sized divide between greeting and welcoming.

Greeting is happy to see a new person walk through the door. Greeting acknowledges your arrival with courtesy and a show of friendliness. Greeting probably says “Welcome” when you arrive. Greeting smiles at you and subtly reassures you that you have made it to the place you intended to visit that day. Greeting hands you a bulletin to read.

But Welcoming learns your name. Welcoming cares about who you are and is glad that you in particular walked through the door. Welcoming wants to know if you have lunch plans and invites you over. Welcoming introduces you to another friend. Welcoming tells you about the frisbee golf outing you read about on the announcement slide and personally invites you to the park tomorrow afternoon to join a team.

Because all of our churches have greeters posted at the door, we feel confident that every visitor who walks into church this Sabbath has been smiled at and spoken to and been wished a happy Sabbath. And that confidence that we have in the effectiveness of our greeters makes us feel like the visitors have gotten all they need and we’re off the hook. We have basically outsourced our Christian obligation to welcome the stranger.

A personal story: My husband and I were new to town and just a mile from a church (that actually had a website!). We show up one Sabbath and are enthusiastically greeted by two ladies at the door. They hand us a mug with the church name and logo, and it has a few pencils and a notepad sitting in it. We find our seats for the service and it’s not long before the song leader asks the question no visitor wants to hear: “Do we have any visitors here this morning?” We probably would have tried to pretend we weren’t visitors, but the two of us were obviously of a different skin tone than everyone else in the congregation. After seeing our hands sheepishly raised, we were asked to stand and wave to the congregation, who was staring and clapping for us. [Note: Please don’t do this to visitors. It is objectively the worst.]

When the service ended, I and my husband smiled at a few of the people milling about and we made our way into the foyer. Where we stood alone for 15 minutes. Not a single person approached us or engaged us or acknowledged us with a handshake. It was awkward and finally we couldn’t take it anymore and we left.

It was obvious that we were visitors. If our skin tone and pencil-holding-mug weren’t a dead giveaway, then the embarrassing public display during the song service sure was. Every single person who passed by us or looked through us in that foyer after church knew that we were visitors and they chose not to meet us or learn our names or invite us for lunch. Why would these (probably well-meaning and otherwise nice) people leave us standing alone in their full church? Because they knew we had been thoroughly greeted and so there was no need for them to welcome us.

People who visit your church are looking for more than a greeting; they are looking for a church family, they are looking for friends, they are looking for a spiritual home, they are looking for a place to get connected and integrated, they are looking for a welcome. Be the one this Sabbath who offers it to them.

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The Dawn of Political Ben Carson

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The first time I remember hearing of Dr. Ben Carson was in the fifth grade. My teacher read to us “Gifted Hands” for our devotionals in the morning at my Adventist elementary school. I sat in awe of his story and how it seemed he allowed God to use him. Wow! For me, the idea of a Seventh-day Adventist that was famous, like really famous…not even just “Adventist celebrity famous” was incredible. His rags-to-riches tale seemed super human. When I found what I took to be the sequel to “Gifted Hands,” “Think Big” in my grandmother’s bookcases a couple of months later, I fervently read it as well.

When the media was abuzz with the name “Ben Carson” after he spoke for the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013, my ears perked up. It was one of only a handful of times I’d heard the name outside of Adventist circles. I remember being quite stunned that all of the discussion was surrounding “our” Dr. Ben Carson, the renowned Seventh-day Adventist pediatric neurosurgeon.

For Adventists, Dr. Ben Carson has long been heralded as a symbol of the heights to which we can attain for God if we humbly submit ourselves to Him. God can use us to do anything, mighty or small. Whether we like to openly admit it or not, he’s become somewhat of an archetype, a modern-day Old Testament figure.

Even with such an enthusiasm for Dr. Carson and his work, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of trepidation when I learned that he was running for president. Can this be for real? How far can he really last? I watched the grassroots of his campaign and poll numbers as somewhat of an odd curiosity, thinking there probably would not be much need to take it too seriously. After all, an Adventist in the White House? Highly doubtful.

And it could still be highly doubtful. However, as months pass and Dr. Carson continues to do well enough to stay in the discussions, I find myself having to question more about how I as a young Seventh-day Adventist feel about him running. Where do I stand on this question? What types of attention will this draw to my religion? Is this a good thing? Could I vote for him? Should I vote for him? Or, rather, am I more comfortable with him losing?

These are the questions Adventists across the country are asking right now. What does Ben Carson’s campaign mean for Seventh-day Adventism? The General Conference released a statement almost as soon as Carson announced his plans to run, stating the church’s official position on politics. If you haven’t seen it, you can check it out here. And even while Carson doesn’t emphasize his Adventism, he also can’t escape it.

I see people across the board. Many of my college friends simply laugh at the idea that Ben Carson is running for president. He’s become the end of every joke. However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, my newsfeed is filled with people who literally repost EVERYTHING Ben Carson in a show of solidarity. It’s as if Ben Carson has fulfilled some unspoken pinnacle of Adventist achievement.

And I’m over here like, I don’t know how I feel about this… I’m listening and watching, and I just don’t know what to think. And it’s raising all of these questions for me about religious liberty.

This is a first for the Seventh-day Adventist church. With every passing week, Carson’s run is bringing more and more attention to Adventism. After his statement on Muslim leadership and Sharia law, many questions have been raised about our denomination. Adventism has a long-held stance of not associating our denomination with any sort of party. The church certainly does not endorse any particular candidate. Reading numerous articles this week, I was reminded yet again that many aspects of religious liberty were legally defined in part because of Seventh-day Adventists.

Yet, at the same time, Adventism has this way of feeling like a cultural ethnicity. I can be anywhere in the world, and I feel at home when I’m with other Adventists. They get the way I talk, the way I eat, the things I believe in. So, it’s hard not to feel that way when you see Dr. Ben Carson up there on the debate stage and meanwhile know that he’s also (theoretically) having the same haystacks you are. There’s a sense of similitude and brotherhood innately within that connection.

Meanwhile, all of these “Adventist ideas” run through my head. Can you even be president and be Adventist? Like do those two things contradict each other? Then, I really let my mind run away with all sorts of ideas. Is Ben Carson even all that Adventist? Is he campaigning on Sabbath? Is that really allowed? You probably won’t have a lot of Sabbath rest as president. Then again, doctors, nurses, firefighters, etc. all work on Sabbath. It’s probably the same thing. King David would have had to run his kingdom on Sabbath. If I get super carried away, I’ll begin to wonder about the end of times. Would an Adventist president in any way usher in the end time sooner? And on and on…

So, does it matter that Ben Carson is a Seventh-day Adventist? Is that a reason to vote for him? Is that not a reason to vote for him?

While GC may tell us to ignore it, that feels somewhat impossible. I think we all have to ask ourselves these questions and how we feel about them. However, the true danger lies not in whether or not there’s a Catholic candidate running for president who may or may not enforce some sort of Sunday law or whether the presidential nominee is an Adventist who may or may not protect religious liberty. What matters most is our ability to think critically. While our beliefs should set the groundwork in place for our vote, there are numerous issues to also weigh.

The whole point of religious liberty is that there should be a separation of church and state. The Israelites had a theocracy. They did it differently, and they had God directly leading them. We, however, live in a vastly different world than the Israelites. We have to remember the important distinction between church and state, even if Adventists are the ones governing the state.

That doesn’t mean your religious convictions shouldn’t motivate you. You may feel like a candidate that shares your religion and beliefs has enough in line with your perspective to vote for. However, what it does mean is that we have to be more cautious than ever in working to maintain the lines between religion and government.

Non-Adventists and Non-Christians deserve their free will just as much as we do. As Adventists, we cannot suddenly lose sight of the importance of our denominational history of neutrality as a church. Religious liberty is what gives us the freedom of worship we so heartily value. It’s what gives us the opportunity to serve the God we believe in on the day we believe He set aside for that purpose. The cornerstone of God’s gift to us is free-will. How can we deny that for others?

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Stop Eating C.R.A.P.

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Stop eating C.R.A.P.

Hi. My name is Roger. I work out 6 days a week, drink plenty of water, and still struggle with my weight. The culprit?

C.R.A.P.

It stands for:

Carbonated drinks and coffee

Refined sugars

Artificial preservatives and additives

Processed foods

I want to share my story of weight loss and gain, and loss and gain, with the hopes of encouraging you in your journey.

It’s been close to a year now, since my wife and I started putting the desire to get healthier into action. We have lost around 32 pounds and KEPT IT OFF. We are exercising regularly and eating better. Not perfect. Better. Here is how we are doing it:

  1. Guilt, shame and imposition did not work.

I’ve always been a vegetarian so that part was easy. But it is perfectly common to see vegetarians that are unhealthy. I know. I was one of them. I was out of shape, and added a couple of pounds every year. That doesn’t seem like a lot, except that it went on for around 15 years. I don’t aspire to know all the answers as far as what works, but what I do know what DOES NOT and that is shaming, guilt and imposition. I had an acquaintance who was extremely involved in veganism. His approach was to make me feel less than, stupid and incapable. I ran the other way. If you want to change someone, explain and set an example, leave the enforcing to the Holy Spirit,

  1. Desire and goals are two different things.

Desire is what you want. Goals have timelines, deadlines and are:

Specific.

Measurable.

Reachable.

We did not set out to lose 100 pounds. We just took it day by day, doing T25 this week, then the next week, then the next. We haven’t stopped.

  1. I decided.

That phrase was key. If you notice, most of the conversations with people that achieve something important, forgive, or overcome obstacles have that phrase somewhere in there. We decided to start working out. It wasn’t our anniversary. Birthday. New Year’s resolution. It was 17th of December. A day just like any other. We don’t promise. We decide. Promises keep you living in the future, frustrated about your past. A decision involves the present. Today. Whether I feel like it or not.

We are not where we would like to be. I still eat C.R.A.P. on occasion. But it’s improving. Understanding that I am after progress and not perfection, after my goals and not yours, has helped.

Pray for us. Share your story and tips about what worked for you.

I decided.
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The Only Reason Why I’m A Seventh-Day Adventist

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“Potlucks”

“Family-feel”

“Haystacks”

“My parents”

“My teacher”

“Sabbath”

“Sam’s chicken”

And the list goes on when one’s inquired about why they are a Seventh-Day Adventist.

In light of the recent notoriety the denomination has been getting through media and news networks, I had to revisit this question myself:

“Why are YOU a Seventh-Day Adventist, Kevin?”

I am not going to lie. This was a tough one. When I reflected on my 25 short years as an Adventist, however, I was able to boil it down to a single reason onto a single sentence.

The only reason I am a Seventh-Day Adventist is because I believe that we have the clearest, richest, and fullest picture of the love of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

How we understand the Scriptures ( the Bible ) presents Jesus as a serious BOSS. He is the Writer, Editor, Compiler, Creator, Presenter, and Protector of this meta-narrative that my friend calls the “God-Story.” The Old Testament points forward to the coming of Jesus and the New Testament looks back at the Jesus who’s already come.

How we understand the Trinity exalts Jesus as One with the Father and the Spirit – distinct yet equal in authority. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit live out their lives in each other, through each other, and this other-centered love has been poured out full strength to the human race through the person of Jesus Christ.

How we understand creation presents Jesus as One through whom all things were made and in whom all things hold together. I believe that He is the soundtrack of all nature, and the sustainer of all life.

Howe we understand the seventh-day Sabbath reminds me of what was created through Jesus and what was redeemed by Jesus. This is a time where I can fully rest from my need for validation and rest in the love of God.

How we understand the nature of humanity let me know that I am known, valued, understood, appreciated, and enjoyed because I’ve been created by Jesus. Because I’m fearfully and wonderfully made, my life finds its purpose, joy, and function in and through Him.

How we understand the “God-Story” or the Great Controversy, presents Jesus as the conquering hero who has successfully completed the ultimate rescue mission in earth’s history. I find my place in this story as a beloved, victorious son of God who’ll one day see the face of his Creator, Redeemer, and Friend.

How we understand the life, death and resurrection of Jesus elevates Christ as the theme and song of all Biblical history. We believe that His account isn’t localized within just the first four books of the New Testament, but from Genesis to Revelation, every chapter and every verse, echoes His love ultimately manifested through His sacrifice on the cross.

How we understand salvation magnifies Jesus as the Author, Provider, and Finisher of our salvation. We are justified by His blood, sanctified through His Spirit, and will one day be glorified through his grace.

How we understand our spiritual growth transforms every waking moment of our existence as a spiritual experience through the spirit of Jesus. The dichotomous relationship between the “sacred” and the “secular” is decimated through Him. The more I’m aware of His presence in my life, the more I grow into his likeness so I can treat others as He did – with compassion, justice, and mercy.

How we understand the church honors Jesus as the foundational ‘adhesive’ who unites all His children together. This is a context where everyone is entrusted with embodying and telling someone the God-Story. It is a refuge in the midst of this stormy world where we pray together, play together, and process together all the while praising Him who has our back.

How we understand the mission of God’s remnant finds its reason and method in Jesus. We are to introduce others to His love, experience joy in Him, and live out our lives in him as we approach the end of this sojourn on earth.

How we understand Baptism as a symbol of our new birth, finds its impetus and rubric in the life and death of Jesus. As I raise up from the ‘watery grave’, it’s an outward expression of an inward change that has taken place because of Him.

How we understand the Lord’s Supper as an emblem of Jesus’ experience invites all His friends to authentic service, brotherly love, and faithful community in Him.

How we understand the gift of prophecy highlights Jesus as its theme of contemplation and admiration. The ministry of this prophetic gift through Ellen White has brought me closer to Jesus than anyone has ever done.

How we understand the law of God honors Jesus as the mode and purpose for relational faithfulness between God and us. Because of what He did for me on the cross, I no longer work towards victory but from it.

How we understand stewardship acknowledges Jesus as the Provider of my time, talents, and resources. I am entrusted with them to better the environments I find myself in, whether it be within the community of God or outside of it.

How we understand marriage as a heavenly institution finds its reason for existence in Jesus. His selfless love poured out to his bride – the church – gives me a model from which I can learn to love my spouse.

How we understand Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary elevates Jesus as not only my Savior and Friend, but also as my Judge, Advocate, and High Priest who prays for me even right now!

How we understand the end of life honors Jesus as the Conqueror of death! Death is not the end, but a sleep! The real and living hope of reuniting with loved ones energizes my life’s pursuits.

How we understand the millennium, the new earth, and the second coming lauds Jesus as the King of a new kind of existence – one where there will be no more sickness, no more pain, no more death, and no more sorrow. A place filled with inexpressible joy and unfathomable happiness and peace. A place where I can finally see my ever faithful Friend face to face.

There it is. The package and its contents.

I don’t have 28 reasons as to why I’m a Seventh-Day Adventist.

I have One. And He’s all I need.

This post first appeared in Kevin’s personal blog www.crossculturechristian.com 
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Why You’ll Never Reach Your Full Potential By Doubting Yourself

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If you’re like me, you tend to second guess yourself a lot. Sometimes, you find yourself asking the following questions:

  • Was that the right decision or not?
  • Should I have said that or should I have stayed quiet?
  • Am I the right person for this task?

In mid-September, I found myself at the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference Headquarters as part of some meetings to suggest ways that pastors can receive more practical training at the Masters level through the Seminary and the North American Division Evangelism Institute (NADEI). These are exactly the kind of meetings where my self-doubt tends to run wild. What are some tips that help me fight against this negative self-image? Well, the following ideas are not from someone who’s figured it all out; these are truths I have to repeat to myself over and over again, even as I’m writing this.

  1. You’re never “just” anything.
    The first day, as we were going around the room introducing ourselves, I felt like a little fish in a big pond as everyone introduced themselves as “President, Vice President, Chair, Dean or Administrator of this, that, or the other.” Being the last person to introduce myself, as well as one of two active pastors and the only millennial in the group, I said “Nelson Fernandez, just a pastor in the Carolina Conference.”I quickly realized what I’d said. Someone else realized what I was implying with that and said something along the lines of, “No, you’re not just a pastor; as a pastor, you’re one of the most important voices in here!”Oftentimes, it’s these “I’m just” messages that start chipping away at our trust in God and His ability to use us.The young prophet Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 1:6, “O Sovereign Lord, I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”  I’m just a kid. I’m just not good enough. I’m just not educated enough. It’s important to pay attention to the words we use to describe ourselves and be willing to be positively corrected.
  2. You’re never as good as people say you are but you’re also never as bad as people say you are.
    Those negative messages that you tell yourself can come from a variety of sources. Maybe you had a bad experience with someone in the past. Maybe you had what you thought was a great idea that got shot down. Maybe you don’t want to embarrass yourself or the people you’re representing. Maybe you weren’t hugged enough as a child, who knows! The point is that the extreme voices that tell you, “You’re the best thing since sliced bread” or “You have nothing useful worth contributing” are both distortions of our true identity as children of God. I love what Philippians 2:3-4 says on this in the New Living Translation:  “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”
  3. You’re never unprepared when you fight in the armor God has given you.
    You may remember the story of David and Goliath from 1 Samuel 17. Before the two faced off, King Saul thought that the best option for David’s success would be for David to fight Goliath in the king’s royal armor, an option that was quickly abandoned when David couldn’t move properly in it.David realized a truth we must all internalize. Namely, that we must be willing to fight in our own armor because when God calls you to do something for him, he gives you His own armor. Yet, unlike Saul’s armor, God’s armor comes custom fitted for each of us. Fred Bruce said, “Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement.” So maybe your life experiences, both your past successes and failures are exactly what God can use to fulfill the task you’ve been called to undertake. Even those experiences that we would rather forget can be used to help teach us something about ourselves or others. How does the Apostle Paul say this?”And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Leadership has a strange paradox. The truth is that as a leader, you have to get used to (and even comfortable with) the idea that you will constantly be second guessed by others. However, the moment when you start second guessing yourself, you undermine your ability to lead yourself and those around you as well. And yet, to doubt yourself is healthy to a degree because you are reminded that success isn’t ultimately all about you.

Success ultimately lies in God’s hands.

So go forth and remember these truths!
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