21 Dec


There is always light if only we are brave to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it
– Amanda Gorman

One of my father’s frequent comments was, “if you are alive, there is hope for you.” My memory of what it meant came to me while visiting Tirana, Albania.

I was taking an evening stroll through the central boulevard of the capital of Albania. Cars were hardly to be seen on the streets in those days. Naturally. Walking prevailed.

One could likely run into a prominent Albanian personality. He might be a popular actor, or a politician. And, if you care to stop, meet them, and listen, you are destined for a treat.

On a stroll you could meet and talk. Before then, someone was watching that they would not talk. They lived doomed in a classless society, where someone else decided your own fate.

But the change arrived in 1991.

Sitting in a small, overcrowded, and noisy café, I met Zef Bushati, an actor from the national theater, now an Albanian republican politician. He was running for a parliamentary election, and shared with me his concerns, desires, and vision. Speaking about his country’s future, he told me an Albanian legend. It soon became my own.

In the beginning, God created two people—a man and a woman. First, he created a man. He endowed him with traits and personality. When a woman was created, she equally received certain characteristics. God said to her, “I am going to give you something special. It is locked in this jar. Here it is, take it to the man.”

“What is inside?” she inquired.

“What I put inside is called curiosity. You must not open the jar. Carry it the way it is. If you look inside, it will disappear,” He answered.

She went on a journey to meet the man. But … she could not resist. Her perfectly shaped fingers soon popped the lid open. At this instant curiosity evaporated. She quickly closed the jar, thinking that no-one will notice any change, if there was one.

When she met the man, she handed the jar over to him. It was only hope that remained with her.

Looking around, often I feel like someone whose tomorrow may have been tampered with by someone else or gambled away by myself. Then I remember that, as long as I live, there is hope for me.

Believing Adventists know that their future is guaranteed by Jesus, the purveyor of our faith, guarded by hope and love.

In the words of Apostle Peter: Live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed his coming (2 Peter 3:11-12, NIV).

Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of Mountain Views. Email him at: [email protected]

21 Dec


The years of our lives are about threescore and ten, which is about 70 years. 80, if you are strong enough to last … Psalm 90:10 (Authors Translation).

Psalm 90:10 goes on to explain that most of this life is going to be labor and trouble, and then, essentially, we die.

This is true of all of us, even Adventists. While we well may eke out a few more years due to our lifestyle choices, we still are not guaranteed too much time on this earth. It is but a blip in the wink that is eternity. And yet, we find so much meaning in living those 70-80 years. I have often wondered if being an Adventist, and believing as we do, adds more life to our years than just years to our lives.

I was recently in Jakarta, Indonesia, and was struck by the sheer mass of humanity that roamed its streets. Something close to 34 million people live in Jakarta, the second largest city in the world as of this writing. It was shocking in its size and scope. Thirty-four million people and not many Adventists are counted among its people. Does this mean that our message does not impact that world? Does it mean that these tenets from which we live either fall on deaf ears or are no longer relevant to a population such as Jakarta? Of course, most of the populace is Muslim, but do we have nothing to offer those from a different tradition?

These musings have led me to think further about whether or not these beliefs that we hold make an impact even around us. We believe them so fervently, and they mean so much to us, but statistically, those concentric circles that cascade out from us in the form of influence don’t always seem to make a significant impact. We rarely see a population hungry for what we have to offer through our faith tradition. Does that mean our tradition is bereft of meaning and value, or is something else happening?

Does our orthodoxy fall on deaf ears? Or does it not fall anywhere?

It is a question of orientation in some cases. How are we oriented in our faith lives, and what is it that we are offering a hurt, broken, and breaking world? Are they hungry for the doctrinal statements that make up our orthodox beliefs or something else? And if it is something else, what would that be? Would it be the orthopraxy that we have to offer? The idea that our beliefs lead to a behavior that is attractive and helpful to someone else. Our orthodoxy should be impacting our orthopraxy (right doing), but is there something else that those hurting in this world crave?

Perhaps they are looking for our orthopathy or our right hearts. We may need to begin there. So, we have to ask a particular question: Where is the orientation of your heart? In what direction does it point?

I was recently preaching on Revelation 4 and the glimpse of the throne room of God. If you remember the text, you remember that it is a pretty amazing scene, with the four living creatures, the 24 elders, and the seraphim/cherubim that had been mentioned before in both Ezekiel and Isaiah.

At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was
a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the
one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and
ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled
the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four
other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four
elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of
gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of
lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. In front of
the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven
spirits of God. Also, in front of the throne there was what
looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures,
and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The
first living creature was like a lion, the second was like
an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like
a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six
wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under
its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,”
who was, and is, and is to come.
(Revelation 4:2-8)

As the text continues, we see that when the four living creatures who are the worship leaders in this text sing these praises to God, the 24 elders lay down their crowns and worship God. We see that the 24 elders knew their place, firmly planted under the rule of Jesus.

But what strikes me as most compelling in this text is the orientation of everyone in the room. They are all focused and oriented on the Throne of God. Their focus is on praising Jesus, and they commit themselves to this all day, every day. Do we have such an orientation and focus on our lives? If we did, would all that we believe be received differently by those around us?

The orientation of our hearts makes a difference in the trajectory of our lives.

I was picking up my son the other day from school, and I noticed he was hanging out in a large crowd. A test I do when I see a crowd is to try to notice how the crowd is oriented. I look at people’s feet and see which way they are oriented. This particular day, all toes seemed to point at my son, who was holding court! At that moment, he seemed to be the organizing principle for that set of kids in that group. Of course, as a dad, I was proud that he seemed so popular. But my question for him was simply this: “What were you talking about?”

While he was telling a joke, we can orient our lives, much like in the throne room, toward Jesus and then allow Him to be the most compelling person in any room.

So, to answer the question posed at the beginning of the article, does what we believe have any bearing on our lives, on our witness to others? The answer is a resounding yes but in the right order. First, we need our orthopathy and hearts to be in the right place. Then, our orthopraxy matters to people as they know we care for them, and they see that with our actions. Lastly, as they trust and respect who we are and how we live, they see the beneficence of believing those things we believe to be orthodox. When we flip this order, we create people who know the right things but often don’t feel like they belong, don’t practice what they have assented to be accurate, and cannot be trusted to have their hearts in the right orientation.

One last note on orientation. I have often said from the Crosswalk pulpit that evangelism is not a program or an event but the orientation of the congregation’s heart. And I continue to believe this to be true. Our churches, our faith, and the Kingdom of God grow through the tireless efforts of every person who calls themselves a Christian as they invite, share, and walk with others in their lives toward an understanding of Jesus. This has proven to be true as we have grown churches throughout the U.S. and beyond over the years. As a congregation engages in inviting those they care about to church, with people who have the orientation we have been speaking about, we see the Kingdom and the churches grow.

So, I would admonish you to continue to learn, grow, and believe. At the same time, check your orientation, know where your toes are pointed, and live in that trajectory.

Dr. Tim Gillespie is lead pastor of Crosswalk Church in Redlands, California. Email him at: [email protected]   

21 Dec


Sabbath is one of the best things we have to offer to the busy, stressed, and weary world around us. In our own lives, we know the value of a day each week that is different, that offers an invitation to rest, and time to catch our breath and focus on the things that are most important. Not only is it an attractive idea, but Sabbath is also experiential, so we can invite friends, neighbors, and others in our community to experiment with this practice in their own lives. Sabbath is a gift, but it must also be more than that.

Sabbath Gift

In our part of the world, the Adventist Church has been promoting sharing Sabbath. As well, online events, a book, tracts, and other resources, church members have been invited to create social media posts and content that share their experiences of the #SabbathGift. And the Sabbath Gift website has invited visitors to sign up for the Sabbath Challenge, to experiment with practicing Sabbath over four weeks and discover the advantages of Sabbath for themselves.1

The Sabbath Gift project was launched in response to market research that found that only four percent of Australians consider that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is relevant today. While it might not have yet connected with the bulk of the Australian population, more than 20,000 people have visited the website and the #SabbathGift posts have received more than 1.4 million views on social media.2  There is more work to be done, but Sabbath is a gift and a wellbeing practice that we can continue to share with our communities.

Wherever they are at in their circumstances or faith, Sabbath is a gift that can bless the lives of those around us. It is a different kind of time that gives permission to disconnect from the always-on world around us, with all its pressures, demands, and noise. Sabbath feels quieter. It can be an experiential introduction to God’s care and provision for all of us, a pause in our busyness that also nudges toward eternity.

Sabbath Command

As much as it is a gift, Sabbath is also a commandment. This is something we have perhaps over-emphasized at times in our Adventist history, but neither should we forget it. Not only is it a command, the fourth is the most detailed for the Ten Commandments and is particular about what it is, how it should be remembered or observed, who it is for, and why. It is clear that Sabbath ought to be regarded as a moral principle. It is not only a matter of wellbeing but a matter of right-doing. In a sense, the commandment protects the gift—for us and for others.

Today we often hear talk of human rights, with an individual able to claim and defend their rights against the encroachments of others. However, in the laws and traditions of the Hebrew scriptures and the Jewish people, the relationships between people, particularly between the powerful and the weaker members of society, were more often governed by the concept of obligations on the more powerful parties as to how they treat and care for those who are disadvantaged. This is something we can see in the fourth commandment in relation to Sabbath. While Sabbath is a gift to all, the commandment focused on those we might be responsible for: your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you (Exodus 20:10).3

The focus on the benefits of the Sabbath to these outsiders is repeated beyond the Commandments: You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working. This gives your ox and your donkey a chance to rest. It also allows your slaves and the foreigners living among you to be refreshed (Exodus 23:12).

In this formulation, the Jewish master was to rest so that the slave, the animals, and the foreigner would also be allowed to rest. It was a day for their benefit, and Sigve Tonstad argues that this focus was unique among ancient cultures of the world—“no parallels have been found in other cultures.” The Sabbath commandment, he explains, “prioritizes from the bottom up and not from the top looking down, giving first consideration to the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. Those who need rest the most—the slave, the resident alien, and the beast of burden—are singled out for special mention. In the rest of the seventh day, the underprivileged, even mute animals, find an ally.” 4  Sabbath is a gift, but perhaps best understood and practiced as a gift for others, which is why it is commanded.

Sabbath Burden

But Sabbath is also a burden. While Isaiah 58 rightly described the gift of Sabbath as a day to speak of … with delight as the Lord’s holy day (Isaiah 58:13), it did so in the context of our call to identify with, stand in solidarity with, and work for the imprisoned, the oppressed, the hungry, and the homeless. Extending from the commandment’s duty on those we employ or care for, this understanding and practice of Sabbath included a burden for those who are forgotten, oppressed, and exploited in our society and our world.

This is one reason why our practice of Sabbath on the seventh day continues to be so significant, so counter-cultural, with a particular link to being Adventist. Theologians have often talked about the reality of the kingdom of God as being both already and not yet. Inaugurated and proclaimed by Jesus in His life, death, and resurrection, we insist that the kingdom of God is a present reality. But it is also incomplete and remains to be fulfilled. While our Adventist-ness speaks to both realities, we have tended to emphasize the incompleteness—the not-yet-ness—and to look forward to the Second Coming when God’s kingdom will be only and always already. To be Adventist is to urge that the world remains broken. Feeling the ongoing weight of not yet is the burden of Advent hope.

In contrast, many Christians explain their worship on Sundays as a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and God’s victory over evil and death. They emphasize the already. At times, we might learn from their focus on the reality, power, and presence of the resurrection, but we ought not be too quick to surrender the burden of not yet, because that is a burden that continues to be felt so heavily by so many people in our world. As much as it is a gift, the Sabbath of the seventh day is a pause in the not yet.

A leading Australian journalist, academic, and Indigenous voice expressed this reality in relation to the ongoing disadvantage of his people in a way that caught my attention: “We come to God in our own way. We read the same scriptures, but they speak to us differently. I have been in White churches, and I have always felt slightly out of place. Not unwelcome, not at all, but as if I am a day out. These are the people of Easter Sunday, the triumphant resurrection, and my people are of the dark Saturday, the day after the crucifixion. On that day, God is dead to the world. This is the darkness of our suffering and, in that darkness, God is with us as he was with Jesus in the moment of abandonment.” 5

This might well be the seventh day at its most relevant. Both as Seventh-day and Adventist, we are “a day out.” We are not yet at resurrection and re-creation. We are a day away. We have hope, but we insist that we are not fully already. And, in that, we cannot help but identify with those who are burdened, those who suffer, those who feel the not yet so keenly, those who cannot yet join in the celebration of resurrection.

Gift and Burden

Sabbath is time for what matters most in what it means to be human, especially human in relationship with God. Sabbath is a gift, a practice of wellbeing and spirituality that we are privileged to know and to share with those around us. Sabbath is a command, a principle of how we relate to others and particularly to those we might care for or employ. Sabbath is a burden, a practice of solidarity with all who suffer and liberation for all who are oppressed as we insist on not yet, at the same time as we look for and work for already. And Sabbath is an affirmation that God is with us even in the not yet.

#SabbathBurden might be more difficult to get trending, but it is no less important than #SabbathGift. The gift of Sabbath is our invitation, but for those who suffer in our world, we are stubbornly “a day out” and the burden of Sabbath is our calling.

Nathan Brown is a writer and editor at Signs Publishing in Warburton, Victoria, Australia. Nathan recently launched Thinking Faith, a collection of his articles in Mountain Views over the past few years, as well as being co-editor of A House on Fire: How Adventist Faith Responds to Race and Racism. Email him at: [email protected]


1  https://sabbathgift.info

2  Adventist Record. (2023, August 28). Sabbath Gift reaches 1.4 million. https://record.adventistchurch.com/2023/08/28/sabbath-gift-reaches-1-4-million/

3  Bible quotations are from the New Living Translation.

4  Tonstad, Sigve (2009). The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day. Andrews University Press. p. 126–127.

5  Grant, Stan (2023). The Queen is Dead. Fourth Estate. p. 277.

21 Dec


For the three of you who have read any of my previous articles, you may have noticed that I’ve been hard on Adventism. To be fair, I am critical of all organized religious groups and if I were a Lutheran or Hindu or Wiccan, I’d be writing articles that were hard on whichever of those groups I was a part of.

It’s because I believe we can do better. It’s because I believe we haven’t been honest with ourselves about who we are as a people and what good we contribute to the world around us. Because, if we are not contributing in a helpful and positive way and are merely existing to sustain our own group, then there is no point to the group. Creating new ways to be isolated and exclusionary is not a great way to help and love our neighbors.

An important question might be, “Do our beliefs make us better people?” As opposed to another equally important follow up question:

“Do our beliefs only serve to make us believe we are better than other people?”

Growing up in Adventism, I remember being taught that we had the best theology, and we were the only ones who were right and that made us better than everyone else. I don’t pretend that my experience was everyone else’s experience. But I also don’t pretend that I was the only one who grew up believing that because of attending Adventist church and school.

There is a lot of evidence past and present that suggests our organizational goal is that second question. So, let’s focus on the first question.

Do our Adventist beliefs make us better people?

Let’s set aside the details of some of the dubious theology still taught from Adventist pulpits and simply focus on the human experience. What do we teach people that makes those people better?

Well, we do believe in the love of Jesus. You might not know it sometimes, but we do. We believe in grace and forgiveness. Not just coming from God but going from us to others. Those are all pretty good things and, when embraced by an individual, could certainly serve to make them a better person.

The only problem is—those beliefs aren’t exclusively Adventist. Literally, every Christian denomination believes those things. And, believe it or not, most Pagan religions have a variation of those beliefs that encourage them to be kind, forgiving, loving, and to care for their fellow people.

So, in the end, not only are those beliefs not unique to Adventism, but the end results of those beliefs aren’t, also, even unique to Christianity.

What else? Does the concept of the Trinity make one a better human? It really does not. And some of the fights I’ve seen take place surrounding that one belief suggests it just might make us worse. But perhaps that’s a false correlation on my part.

Oh, Adventism believes we have at least one prophet in our history. And no, that belief has not made us better people. The people who believe that the hardest tend to be the ones most likely to cause you spiritual harm in the name of that same prophet. They very much need you to believe it with the same fervor and in the same detail as they do. Those people might also be kind at times, but not because of that belief.

We believe in healthy living and good health care. And this is probably as close as we get to a belief that could make us better people, except, again, we are not the only or first people to believe in such things. And for those who have become healthier people by becoming Adventist, healthier is not the same as better in character and does not equate to treating others better. A lot of damage has been done in the name of health reform.

In fact, as I reflected on our beliefs, I couldn’t find one that actually makes us better people as a whole. Oh, sure. Some of you probably know a story of some person who was just an awful human, and then they met Jesus and became a genuinely amazing and loving human and takes care of their community with zest and zeal.

But that isn’t an Adventist thing. That’s a Jesus thing. The spirit of God transformed that person’s life. Adventism didn’t change them even if the change happened in an Adventist community. That community just happened to be one of the tools God used to make it happen.

It could have happened anywhere.

Some Adventist church communities are beautiful and amazing places, full of God’s spirit and love. And I fear just as many, if not more, are not. And, just as many, if not more, loving and amazing spirit filled communities exist outside of Adventism and do way more amazing things than ours generally do within their communities.

Some of you are going to point out that, “doesn’t being saved make you a better person?” My response would be, that may depend on what you believe that means? A pretty standard line in Adventist evangelism is that “… there are many loving and sincere people who are sincerely wrong.” Which is not only an idiotic statement masking as cleverness, but it also doesn’t seem to have a clear grasp of what it is God has been trying to do to humanity.

What it does suggest is that it doesn’t matter how much love you have for people and how much you do to care for your neighbor, the actual things Jesus suggests separates the saved from the lost (see Matt. 25:31-46) if you don’t agree on theological things exactly as the evangelist you will be damned. Especially when you consider those evangelists are rarely evangelizing atheists.

The problems in that last sentence could fill books.

So, Jesus and the Spirit of God can make us better people. Both things are not exclusive to Adventism, and no one is required to be “Christian” to benefit there.

Perhaps this isn’t something I can answer. Perhaps you need to wrestle with this. What is it about Adventism that has made you a better person? And be honest. Don’t attribute things to Adventism that aren’t exclusive to Adventism or aren’t about the beliefs.

So, has it? Has Adventism made you better? Or has simply being in a community of loving people rubbed off on you? Or has having a practice of seeking God regularly with the desire to be a better person changed you?

I have known way too many non-Adventists who have made it their life’s work to help others and live a life of love and forgiveness and compassion for me to believe Adventism alone has anything to do with these things. That’s my position.

But what is yours? You don’t have to agree with me. I’m wrong all the time. Do Adventist beliefs make you a better person? Or do Adventist beliefs just make you believe you are better than other people?

The answer to those questions might just be a little important.

Tony Hunter is a Seventh-day Adventist pastor and a hospice chaplain working for Gateway Hospice in Northern Colorado. Tony, his wife Nirma, and daughter Amryn live in Firestone, Colorado. Email him at: [email protected]  

21 Dec


Discussions of the meaning of life often suffer from one of two deficiencies. Either they imagine a 360-degree vista, but only give the ticketholder a thin slice of it or they put life under such a granular view that we see the monsters living on our skin.

I can’t guarantee that one or the other won’t creep in here, but I’m going to beat a retreat to the playground in hopes that good exercise in the open air can stimulate a fresh look at the promise and paradox of growing up Adventist.

As I write, the Israeli army crouches like a hawk over the Gaza Strip after one of the most horrific mass slaughters of Jewish people since the Holocaust. Hamas, a terrorist group, has added up all the indignities and outrages Palestinians have suffered for decades and has launched a war in which there will be no winners.

As I write, my neighbor follows her two little dogs through the trees that cluster in the park within the oval of our neighborhood. It is cool in the shade and warm in the sun here in Maryland. Some of the trees are beginning to turn colors and we are now referring to the season with confidence as “autumn.”

It is difficult to imagine the suffering that festers in the world if I only look out at the tranquility of my street, but I need only flip open my iPad to the New York Times or The Washington Post to get a full array of the horrors present in our time.

The relative wealth of circumstances I enjoy, the present peace, the abundance of goods and services, the possibilities for change—all these tangibles and intangibles are things I do not take for granted. Why I grew up where I did not have to become a refugee is not something I understand, but it is something I am grateful for. And as much as I am able, it is also an imperative to ease the burdens of others.

As I write, I am reflecting on a series of minor bodily disruptions that have made me newly aware of how Descartes’ mind/body dualism is profoundly inadequate. During this moment when one friend is learning to walk again after a knee replacement and another is facing surgery for breast cancer and still another is trudging through a second swamp of chemo, my passing worries remind me that I’ve regarded my body for years as a reliable, if somewhat battered vehicle which I can jump into, knowing it will start up on cold mornings and not overheat in the dog days of summer. It is more than that.

My problems are minor, but still persuasive in the fact that we are constellations of mind-body-spirit, each of us carrying our own stamp of identity. I have Adventism’s wholistic view of human beings to thank in situations like these, to remind me that just as problems in one area of the system affect the whole, the flourishing of the whole system is as much a spiritual quest as it is a combination of luck, environment, and heredity.

On the playground at recess, some of us ran to the teeter-totters, straddling the aging oaken planks and gripping the iron handles worn smooth and dark as coffee grounds. It was best to have two partners of approximate weight and height so that the violence of the see-sawing could be balanced. We would push up from the ground with all the spring in our knees we could to make our partner bounce in their seat. Then came the swift descent, blocking the crash to the ground with our legs, and the pattern repeated. Sometimes we could achieve equilibrium, both of us suspended in air, each reliant on the other to keep the illusion of perfect balance.

This strikes me as a good analogy for the relation between the organization and the individual, especially when one employs the other. As individuals, we bring to denominational employment our energy and our commitment. We want to make a difference, to contribute to the cause. At the other end of the teeter-totter is the church or school or hospital or institution, amplifying our efforts with its weight and providing the means for us to keep going.

It’s a pleasurable relationship, almost familial, both of us facing each other, flushed with the joy of exercising our talents and commitments for something greater than either of us. But often there comes a moment—so many of us have seen it and experienced it—when the organization at the other end suddenly hops off, slamming the individual to the ground, stunned. What we thought was family is revealed as business—nothing personal—and the balance that was so fulfilling and invigorating is roughly upended.

The paradox here is that the very elements which drew us to the cause—a sense of purpose, our personal identity, the good use of our talents—are also some of the most vulnerable. To young people dedicating their talents to the church I would caution: remember your gifts are given by the Lord and returned to the Lord in good measure. Don’t think they fully define you nor are they only good for one cause. Create some daylight between you and the organization so that you can maintain some balance in your life. Realize you can be of service in many other places in the world. And, if you’re married, make sure one of you is not reliant on denominational employment.

On the playground, the merry-go-round always drew in the most children. Some of the bigger kids would stand at the circumference, pushing and yanking the wheel as hard as they could. The smaller children clung to the handrails, screaming with delight and fear. To be on that machine after lunch was to risk vertigo, nausea, and possible projectile hurling.

It’s a metaphor for life. The excitement, the spinning, the delicious strain as you lean back against the centrifugal pull. As a child you discovered the only way off was to leap. Or you could drag your feet and risk immediate censure by everyone else.

It’s so easy, even rewarding, to get caught up in that merry-go-round. In fact, it’s expected. None of us building towers using bricks without straw could think of anything else but the whirl and the force. One thing you discover in working for any organization, even the church, is its boundless expectation of your complete dedication and energies. If that is what you’ve set yourself to do and you find satisfaction in it, then it can be fulfilling. But it wears you down and the paradox is that all that energy and dedication can be spun off so easily if you’re not paying attention.

This is what Sabbath is for. Stepping off the whirly-gig for a day to regain your balance and help you see where the stillness at the center truly is. And it’s not just for the Sabbath day itself. Entering the Sabbath gives us a clear-eyed view of priorities. We labor and then we rest. It’s a rest that extends even to animals and to the land. It’s a wholistic vision of how interrelated our lives are with the seasons, the land, its animals, and plants.

There is a still point in the widening gyre. It’s not just a holy day—although it certainly is that—and it’s more than a holiday. It’s the healing balm in the week that rejuvenates us and realigns us to our purposes once again.

Of all the playground equipment, the swings were my favorite. You could pump yourself off the ground and into the air alongside a friend in the next swing. Or you could enjoy it by yourself. An adult could get a little child ticking with pushes that quickly increased the height of the swing.

Older children pumped up to the apogee so they could be upside down for an instant. Or, like a pendulum, you could swing up, down, up, down, until you finally came to a stop.

I’m thankful for all the mentors who gave me that push to get me going. I’m grateful, too, how they stepped back and allowed me to swing to the possible height of my arc. For an introvert who deeply enjoyed friendships but still needed time alone, the playground swing was an ideal metaphor of life in a community.

The paradox here is that it was a solo activity made easier when aided by a friend or mentor. Once you were pumping on your own the friend moved away to watch. Within the bounds of inertia, gravity, and other laws, you could increase your altitude and your motion. Of course, the best thing was to eject at the height of the swing, so for a moment falling with style looked like flying.

Barry Casey has published in Adventist Society for the Arts, Brevity, Faculty Focus, Lighthouse Weekly, Mountain Views, Patheos, Spectrum Magazine, The Dewdrop, and The Purpled Nail. His collection of essays, Wandering, Not Lost: Essays on Faith, Doubt, and Mystery, was published by Wipf and Stock in November 2019. He writes from Burtonsville, Maryland. Email him at: [email protected]

21 Dec


In my first church, one of the members regularly told me that he had been attracted to Adventism when he heard about the different time periods in our prophetic explanations. He was a bookkeeper, and figures and graphs were the kind of thing he could relate to! I thought of him when, the other day, I saw on Facebook an extremely convoluted schema of dates, lines, and arches indicating the beginning and the end of several periods of prophetic days, equaling as many literal years.

I had not seen anything like that for a while, but, after a bit of Googling, I found that the fascination of our brother-bookkeeper with numbers, and this schematic approach to our doctrinal heritage is still very much alive in many Adventist circles. It points to an aspect that was very characteristic of our church life in the past and has left its stamp on the excessively rational approach of many Adventists to their faith, even today.

Seeing this, it brought again to my mind a question I have increasingly been asking myself: Supposing all Adventist teachings are correct, what difference does my belief in them make to my life every day? Does knowing when the 1,260 “days” began and ended make me a better Christian? Does my ability to explain the meaning of the 2,300 “mornings and evenings” make me a more balanced and pleasant person?

This question does not just apply to the Adventist explanations of apocalyptic numbers and other symbols but to all “fundamental beliefs.” How do I become a more lovable person by my ability to carefully separate and define the different stages of my faith journey: justification, sanctification, and glorification. And how to explain to others how imparted righteousness differs from imputed righteousness, and how a pre-fall concept of Christ’s human nature differs from a post-fall concept? And so on.

By saying this, I am not suggesting that theology and doctrines are unimportant, and that genuine faith has nothing to do with statements of fundamental beliefs. But, in this short article, I want to emphasize that the role of doctrinal statements is often misunderstood.

A Christian Worldview

First of all, it is important to recognize that knowing a lot of Bible facts and being astute with regard to doctrines and theological fine print, has only limited value if it does not fit into a larger framework and does not provide an overall perspective for viewing life, its goal, and values. To be a genuine Christian requires having a Christian worldview.

There are many definitions of the concept of worldview. One may define it simply as a set of presuppositions which we hold about the makeup of our world. It is “a collection of attitudes, values, stories, and expectations about the world around us, which inform our every thought and action.” 1

Our worldview is the lens through which we view reality. It has to do with our convictions about the nature and the source of knowledge; with our beliefs about the origin of the universe, the world and us as human beings; and with the meaning and purpose of life. It also relates to our values: what is good and bad, what is right and wrong.

Many people have a materialistic worldview, which has no place for God or for ideas and ideals that surpass the purely human sphere. A Christian worldview, however, places God in the center of everything. It provides a specific framework for all our thinking about past, present and future. Our worldview guides us in making political choices, and in the way we spend our money. It gives us a particular perspective on our work and the kind of career we pursue. And it furnishes us with a basis for making ethical decisions and determining our priorities regarding how we use our time and talents.

Being an Adventist Christian means, first and foremost, that we have a view on the world and on our life that is based on the underlying values of God’s Word and that is nurtured by our relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. Doctrinal knowledge is important, but what counts most is that we are able to connect our theoretical beliefs with the praxis of life.

“What does it do for me?”

Adopting a Christian worldview is closely connected with a statement of Christ about the essence of Truth. In John 8:32, Jesus tells his followers that the truth will set them free. I especially like the rendering of this text in the MESSAGE paraphrase by Eugene H. Peterson, which captures the meaning of these words in an incomparable way: “Then Jesus turned to the Jews who claimed to believe in Him: ‘If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourself the truth, and the truth will free you.’ ” 2 In other words: biblical truth and doctrinal propositions must be integrated into the activities of daily life. If that happens, this will affect our life in a very concrete way.

Learning about the truth should not just be an intellectual exercise and a matter of absorbing a quantity of theological knowledge, but the truth must do something for us. It must change us into better, more balanced, happier, and more fulfilled human beings.

As we think about our doctrinal heritage, this one question must be uppermost in our minds: What does it do for me? How does the doctrinal content of my faith help me to become a more faithful follower of my Lord and a more caring neighbor? If doctrine remains only a matter of mental assent and does not translate into a way of life, we have sadly missed the mark!

Christ told us: The truth will make you free! But let’s face it: the faith of many Christians—Adventists most definitely included—is more closely associated with a lack of freedom than with the actual enjoyment of freedom. Regrettably, many Adventist Christians in past and present have allowed themselves to be locked into a legalistic frame in which faith deteriorated into a system of do’s, and especially of don’ts. And while they claim(ed) to be obedient to the Word of God, their actual conduct was/is more conditioned by traditions than by a Spirit-infused freedom, with social control (what other people would think) severely restricting them.

The life of a true Christian is characterized by freedom. The apostle Paul tells us that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17). Contrary to what many believe, God’s law does not force us into a straitjacket of limitations but provides us with freedom (James 1:25). It just depends, the apostle Peter says, on how we use our God-given freedom. Do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but live as free people (1 Peter 2:16).

Our belief in God as our Creator should remind us every day anew that we are his creatures, with freedom of choice. Created in his image, we can enjoy the creativity with which He has endowed us. Our conviction that Christ is our Savior and that He stands ready to forgive our countless mistakes and shortcomings, makes it possible for us to be free from guilt. Our past failures no longer hound us, as God’s grace opens up a future of freedom. The Holy Spirit guides us in our life of discipleship and stewardship. He does not force us into a particular regime but helps us to bear personal responsibility for the free choices that we make.

As Seventh-day Adventist Christians we enjoy the gift of the weekly Sabbath, which helps to distance ourselves from the stress and pressures of daily life and, thus, to experience a special kind of physical and spiritual freedom.

The church in the Galatian region of Asia Minor faced challenges that were similar to what many Adventist churches are still struggling with today. Factions in the Galatian church demanded that all members would abide by particular rules and traditions, which they considered essential if one wanted to be a true Christian. Paul told them, in no uncertain terms, that they were wrong. Read Galatians 5:1: It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Surely, doctrinal teachings are important. But they must be far more than theory. They must do something for us! They must inspire us to stand in the freedom that Christ, who is the Truth, has opened up for us.

Reinder Bruinsma, PhD, has served the Seventh-day Adventist Church in publishing, education, and church administration on three continents. He writes from the Netherlands where he lives with his wife Aafie. Among his latest books is I Have  a Future: Christ’s Resurrection and Mine. Email him at: [email protected]


1  Sire, J. W. (2004). Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept. Intervarsity Press.

2  Peterson, Eugene H. (1993). The Message. NavPress.

21 Dec


You may need to leave the church to find Jesus.

I do not say this lightly. I say it with sincere sadness and deep regret. But I have heard countless stories and have witnessed many examples of those who have experienced a lack of grace, love, respect, or honesty from someone representing the church. You may have been cheated financially, abused mentally, damaged spiritually, misrepresented theologically, or molested physically by someone you felt was trustworthy. Your pain, guilt, anger, bitterness, or fear may be crippling and overwhelming.

Seeing beyond it may not be feasible. The barriers you have built for self-preservation may make it impossible for you to find the love of God in your current relationship with the church. To you I say, with great sorrow, go. But don’t stop searching, for He is there, and His love is unconditional.

Unconditional. That’s a word we bandy about as if we think we understand its meaning. I question that we do. In the context in which I’ve used it, it means that there is nothing—no act, no behavior, no thought, no mistake, no sin, no sexual involvement or orientation, no substance use or abuse, no broken relationship, no unethical motive, no level of doubt, no attitude, no criminal behavior, no doctrinal belief, no church council, no academic censure, no judgmental humiliation, nothing—that can separate you from the love of God. It’s a biblical promise (Romans 8:38, 39).

The problem with most large organizations, like churches and the people in them, is that their delivery does not always live up to their promise or their intent. They harbor leaders and members who are cruel, self-centered, and manipulative. And so, I say, even to those in my own denomination, if you need to leave this church to find the unconditional love of God, go quickly. And I pray with all sincerity that you find it.

It’s a good thing I didn’t work for the church. Because I would have missed out on many wonderful friendships, I don’t always play well with others, and, as you can see from my comments thus far, I’m not very good at sales. Whether we wish to admit it or not, much of what a church does resembles marketing and sales.

There are at least three conventional ways to make a sale. The first is to unveil something new that is highly attractive. Think Apple iPhone. The second is to identify a fear, a need, or a desire, and show how you can resolve it. Think toothpaste or deodorant. The third is by threat. In January 1973, the cover of the counterculture magazine, National Lampoon, had a picture of a man holding a gun to the head of a dog with the caption, “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog.” I bought a copy. I hope the dog survived.

Historically, churches have used all three of these methods. Christians claim that their mission is to spread a new and improved understanding of the Good News about God as revealed by Jesus in His life and death. To do this, they have held out on one hand the promise of eternal bliss for those who believe them. On the other hand, they have threatened a fearful judgment and the fires of hell for those who do not. Just like Job’s friends, they have also implied that God will hurt or kill you, or your children, or your livestock, or your dog, if you don’t buy what they are selling.

This approach has worked fairly well for some. St. Peter’s Basilica, Notre Dame, and many other medieval cathedrals, hospitals, and orphanages bear witness to the effectiveness of playing on fear and guilt and selling forgiveness. So do the mansions, jet airplanes, and fleets of luxury automobiles of some of today’s most successful pastors and televangelists. Tickets to heaven and protection from calamity now, as well as from a hell to come, are great assets for both consumers and suppliers.

Attempting to work, or buy, one’s way into heaven may now be out of style theologically.  But the transactional attitude of “what’s in it for me” still appears to be a prevalent religious philosophy. So, perhaps the question we must answer is, what does our church have to offer, since eternal life is now agreed by most to be a gift of grace?

Well, what is it that people want?

I think I know. They want to be loved. They want to be free and independent. They want to be creative and productive. They want to live a healthy, safe, and financially secure life. They want to live in a community of loving friends and family members. They want a worldview that makes sense. They want to find meaning in their life and feel that they have served a worthwhile purpose. They want to die young at an old age from a painless cause of death. If in the afterlife there is a wonderful paradise, that will be nice, but even more than that, they want the assurance that there is no painful punishment awaiting them. Moving from fear of the unknown to fear of a judgment is not great progress.

Through research and the work of such projects as National Geographic’s Blue Zones, we have learned that the Adventist way of life can fulfill many of these widely held desires. Our emphasis on mission and volunteerism addresses the need for meaning and a worthwhile purpose in life. Our focus on educational achievement, combined with abstinence and a strong Protestant work ethic, supports a creative, stable, productive, and financially secure career. Our emphasis on nutrition, exercise, rest, and other health-related activities has garnered worldwide attention for our increased longevity. And our relatively close-knit community potentially provides a place of belonging and social stability.

But you don’t need to join our church, and you certainly don’t have to give tithes and offerings, to reap most of the rewards of our lifestyle. Volunteerism and educational achievement can be found elsewhere. Social cohesion can be found in many places, including sports leagues, political parties, taverns, and country clubs. And we have struggled in our attempts to capitalize on the significant wisdom we have on a healthful lifestyle. We have in large part lost the marketing edge on this to many other interests and organizations outside of our church. Even the unique properties we placed in our very name, a Sabbath-day rest and an emphasis on Christ’s return, are now ideas and beliefs that many others share.

But what about the more profound needs, wants, and wishes that we identified? Those such as love, freedom, a coherent view of the universe, and a fair and righteous accounting in the end for how we have lived. I believe Adventism is uniquely prepared to address these fundamental human desires, too. In fact, I believe Adventism is the ideal religion for a secular world because, at its best, it emphasizes sanctified reason.

While all Christians share the Great Commission of Christ to go everywhere and make disciples for Him, each church takes a slightly different approach to the assignment. I believe the central Adventist focus is meant to be on the truth about the character and government of God that was revealed by the life and death of Jesus. That He is not the kind of person his enemies have made Him out to be—arbitrary, unforgiving, and severe. That the Father is just as loving and trustworthy as Jesus, just as willing to forgive and heal. That He is mighty and powerful, but equally gracious. That He values nothing higher than the freedom, dignity, and individuality of His intelligent creatures. That He is actively searching for loving, trusting, and trustworthy friends with whom He can share infinite freedom for eternity. And that the results of living a rebellious life are natural consequences, not imposed punishments.1

We have too often focused on “what.” The comprehensive Adventist “package” can be seen as requiring a lot of “whats” from its adherents. It can be very attractive to people with strong wills and over-developed guilt complexes. It’s a great church for people who abstain from everything unhealthful, who, through sheer determination, refrain from sinful activities, who floss every day, and run marathons, attempting to prevent plaque in all the wrong places.

I believe God is more concerned with why. The comprehensive Adventist “package” can then be seen as full of helpful promises rather than grueling demands. Even weak and struggling folks can find rest, health, forgiveness, and freedom. Instead of focusing on a life of work and servitude, it can lead to a life of repose and friendship with God. No force, no guilt, no drudgery. And no fear that God may kill your dog if you do something that displeases Him.

Mark Johnson, MD, is a retired public health physician and the chairman of the Boulder Vision Board. Email him at: [email protected]


See Maxwell, A. Graham (1992). Servants or Friends: Another Look at God. Pineknoll Publications.

21 Dec


Sometimes people do important things for reasons other than the obvious. I started wearing glasses in the third grade because my eyesight required it, but I have met people with 20/20 vision who wear them for reasons of fashion. That doesn’t work for me, or perhaps not you either, but let’s not judge.

So, is it possible to be a Seventh-day Adventist for reasons other than what would seem obvious? Sure. Some reasons I have heard are keeping the family together (relationships); I like the worship service/pastor/potluck (culture); I don’t know enough about any other religion (inertia).

None of those are particularly bad reasons, but I have to say that none of them would do the trick for me. Leaving would be a hard thing because it would disrupt my family and, yes, I would miss the potlucks. In my case it is also an employment matter, which, in some ways, is bigger than family or cultural concerns. But none of those factors have ever mattered enough to me to keep me in the faith. I think it is good sometimes to reflect on my honest and true reasons for being a Seventh-day Adventist, and I appreciate being asked to write this article, which takes me down that path once again.

This issue is all about things that strike at the heart of why I chose, and continue to choose, being a part of this denomination. It focuses on whether it matters on a practical level, apart from (but not necessarily unrelated to) whether I buy into our belief system. But that is where it begins: the simple fact that I believe our message, all 28 fundamental points of it, and neither my study of the Bible nor my study of other beliefs has shaken me on any of those points.

For me, and I hope for you as well, it is important that my justification for being a member goes beyond my acceptance of it as true, so that it has meaning in the here and now. Karl Marx famously referred to religion as the “opiate of the masses,” and by that he meant all religions, Christian or otherwise. He proposed that the promise of paradise induced people to tolerate suffering now, and, since he didn’t believe in any type of afterlife, he saw religion as nothing more than a way for one class to exploit another. What he observed was that for the vast majority, believing in something good tomorrow didn’t translate into better lives today.

Let me be clear that I am not a Marxist, beginning with my conviction that there is a God and there is a very real heaven. But he had a point that the promise of heaven, while it matters a great deal to me personally, doesn’t get me out of the toil and trouble during my threescore and ten and perhaps more (see Psalm 90:10). What does my faith, both as a Christian in the broad sense and as a practicing Seventh-day Adventist in the narrow sense, do for me now?

My answer is, Plenty. On one level, I have the culture: worship services I enjoy, a pastor I like, and potlucks. On a higher level, I have improved family relations and a career that has been meaningful to me. I have my cultural concepts challenged regularly had have been forced to adjust, and family relationships are always evolving, but my beliefs have provided structure and comfort even during those times of change.

On a still higher level, don’t discount the very real benefits that come from belief itself. Knowing truth brings peace because it gives me a lens for viewing world events, a promise of something better (Marx couldn’t understand it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real), and a sense of purpose.

Those things don’t come cheap. Adventism may be my heritage, but for it to really be mine, at some point I had to consciously choose it. That point came while I was in an Adventist college, fully believing that I was already an Adventist and would remain so. Then I got blindsided with a challenge that changed everything.

There is always some wind of doctrine blowing through the church that strikes at our fundamental beliefs on one or more points. In the early 1980s, it was Desmond Ford challenging our interpretation of Daniel, which spilled over into our Christology, understanding of salvation, and other key points of doctrine. Someone I thought of as a committed Christian invited me to join in that challenge to our prophetic understanding and presented material containing the arguments.

I am happy to say that, from the outset, the arguments looked weak and easily answered, and, subsequently, I have seen that our church answered those questions long before Dr. Ford was even born. From that experience forward, Adventism was not just what I had been taught. It was what I believed, down to my very core, in a way that approaches what Jesus defined when he said that to be worthy of him, we have to place our love for him, our faith in him, our belief in him, higher than family, work, or life itself (see Matthew 10:37-38).

All good and well to truly believe, and some might even say that would be enough. But there’s more! The most meaningful part of being a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, in the here and now of all this toil and trouble, is that it has been and continues to be a medium through which I know my Savior better and better. You may well achieve that in other belief systems, but not only does this one square with the scripture in ways that others do not, I have found that it presents Jesus clearer, more accurately, and more deeply than anything offered anywhere else.

That even includes my own personal study of the Bible. Passages that might have given me struggles are clearer due to the understanding brought to me by my denomination. For example, I would never have comprehended the prophecies of Daniel on my own. Scholars, not all of them from our faith tradition, have interpreted the various parts of it in a way that makes sense. And while there remains even within our church some debate over certain points of prophecy, the accepted parts fit together perfectly. I may have been confused on my own, but I see it clearly as explained by our church. By contrast, my study of how those parts are interpreted by other religions has left me unconvinced.

That goes for many passages beyond the prophetic parts of the Bible. Believe me, I have taken skeptical approaches to our beliefs, trying to see if I could knock any of them down. Not from a desire to turn my back on my religion, but rather like a plumber who checks for leaks after a repair. He doesn’t want to find any, but he has to be sure they aren’t there. I’ve checked for leaks in our beliefs, and I can’t find any. Through them I have a closer walk with Jesus, and that walk changes me.

Even when I am not aware of it. As a graduate student in a public university, I was not shy about who I was and what I believed. I can’t say I was actively proselytizing, but people knew, and questions were asked and answered. One day shortly before I was to graduate, some question arose about whether I had done all the requirements. It turns out I had, but, since the outcome was uncertain, the department chairman said he would look into it, then left the room.

As soon as he was out of earshot the administrative assistant went into a rant about how unfair this was to me, that I only followed the directions of my advisor, and they were responsible to get me through on time, and on like that. She ended by saying, “And you just take it all calmly, and I know why. Your faith works for you. I don’t get it, but it works for you.”

I didn’t know it was obvious. You may not know it’s obvious in your life. But this walk that we have with Jesus, enhanced as it is by knowing the Bible truths that we share, changes us.

Is it worth it? I can only answer for myself, and hope that it gives you something to think about, but, yes, absolutely, it is worth it. Here and now, during my threescore and ten, and hopefully more, amidst the toil and trouble. The truth that I know, the church that I serve, and the people I fellowship with give me a culture I love, belief that brings peace, and assurance of paradise. It helps me know Jesus better, and that makes me a better person than I can be on my own. All of it improves my life, and none of it comes from within me.

Karl Marx should have been so blessed.

Doug Inglish is RMC vice president for administration. Email him  at: [email protected]  

21 Dec


Does being an Adventist make you happy? Does it give you assurance and confidence? Does it provide hope for the present and the future? How does it affect your view of the world? How does it impact your personal relationships?

And we could continue with such questions. Because what you truly believe affects who you are. You may say you hold to a particular system of beliefs, but only what you are really committed to will make a difference in the way you live.

Thomas Fuller, a 17th century clergyman, recorded in his book Gnomologia the saying, “Seeing is believing, but feeling’s the truth.” Probably most Adventists would want to argue both phrases. Seeing is not always believing. What we believe cannot be solely based on what our eyes can see. Nor are feelings the basis for truth!

But having said that, being an Adventist should make a difference in the way we see the world, and we cannot deny the role of feelings in how we approach beliefs and truths. For if we are unhappy or discontented with our beliefs, especially religious ones, then our lives will be negatively impacted. The fundamental question is what does being an Adventist mean in practice?

So, let’s consider a few “Adventist aspects” that are different to the way most people today view “truth.”

God. And, here, let’s be very careful not to accept one of the many distorted pictures of God that are out there. Jesus said very clearly, Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NIV). Our relationship to a loving, saving, healing God is a major determinant of who we are.

Created by God as His Children. We are not some random products of an unthinking Universe, a mass of cells that have somehow developed into sentient beings. As beloved children, we experience our Father’s goodness and care and respond accordingly.

Heaven and Hell. For Adventists, there are no disembodied souls looking down from heaven on the trials and tragedies of those family members who are still alive. Nor do we believe in an eternal torment committed by a God who tortures his sinful children. A true perspective of what lies ahead is surely one to be thankful for.

A True Hope. Not some wishy-washing aspiration for something better or utopian, but a “sure and certain hope of the resurrection.” Jesus promises to be with us until the end of the world, and then to welcome us into eternity when he returns. Such a belief makes a difference in how we live and gives us a very different perspective on meaning and purpose.

God’s Special Day. The opportunity to rest on God’s Sabbath brings many benefits in terms of mental, physical, and spiritual health. What difference does this belief make in practice? Not only is it in contrast to the “rat race” experienced by so many in this consumerist world, but through prayer and worship we come closer to our saving God.

A Healthy Lifestyle. Meaning you can truly enjoy life to the fullest without being damaged by smoking, drinking alcohol, or a bad diet. In this case, the difference has been calculated—Adventists, on average, live ten years longer than most because of their better lifestyle.

A Supportive Community of Faith. Not that other religious organizations don’t have something similar, but in contrast to most secular people, Adventists enjoy the possibility of being supported by an integrated community that is not divided by race or other tensions.

So, let’s put it all together and ask the questions we began with, particularly what difference does it make being an Adventist Christian?

Our beliefs ground us in knowing who we are. This sense of identity and purpose is what many people struggle with today. While we are still affected by life’s problems, we can find help and comfort in our trust in God.

In Psalm 90, ascribed to “Moses, the man of God,” we have a summary of the kind of difference our beliefs should make in the way we live.

He begins by a firm acknowledgment of the eternal God: Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! (Psalm 90:1, NLT). You are God (Psalm 90:2, NLT). This is where we begin—just like the book of Genesis and the gospel of John. Everything else follows from this conviction of God and his role in our lives. We are not homeless and purposeless, because God is our home.

Moses admits that, in contrast to God, our lifespan is all-too-brief: Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away (Psalm 90:10, NLT). We look for peace, security, and happiness, but these too are temporary. Even our best years are flawed, and they don’t last for long.

Here is the age-old question—how to live fulfilled lives. In this our Adventist beliefs really should make a difference. We can look for happiness in many things, but what is truly satisfying? Abd Er-Rahman III, a Moorish king who was ruling Spain in 960 A.D. wrote this:

“I have now reigned about 50 years in victory or peace, beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honors, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation, I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot. They amount to fourteen.” 1

Fourteen happy days out of fifty years? What a tragic admission! For those who are committed to God and his ways, life brings a sense of contentment despite its many troubles and challenges. I hope to live a happy, rich, and meaningful life enjoying God’s good earth through creative arts and culture that may enhance and not take away from my love for God and for God’s creation. Jesus says, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27). What we hold as being essential truth makes all the difference as an Adventist Christian.

Consequently, Moses asks God, Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12, NIV). This means that we should use our time wisely and well, not looking to indulge our selfish desires but to look for what is of eternal value.

So, what are the differences exactly? Well, our beliefs mold the way we treat others, how we deal with conflict in the family, how we relate to those who are hostile towards us. They influence our views about war and violence and criminality. They give us a perspective on the limit to human plans and legislation. Most of all we see the difference as we face the greatest leveler of all: death.

When my father died in the mid-1980s in the former Yugoslavia, many of my atheist schoolmates and friends came to the funeral and expressed a genuine sentiment how they envy my family and me for having a hope of reunion with our father at the second of Christ. This surprising expression from those who have no such hope and regard death as the absolute end have kept me many a time within a horizon of the blessed hope when faced with many more consequent deaths of family members and friends, or in moments of suffering, sickness, and pain. While we don’t look forward to the time when life ends, we know this is not the End.

Moses concludes this Psalm with the words: May the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful (Psalm 90:17, NLT). Only in our relationship with God can we say that this is what makes all the difference.

Zdravko (Zack) Plantak, PhD, is professor of religion and ethics at the School of Religion at Loma Linda University. Email him at: [email protected]


1  https://wisdomquotes.net/happiness-quotes/

21 Dec


A few months ago, I found myself in a delightful situation that I realized could likely only come as a result of being a Seventh-day Adventist. Needing to travel to the UK for my doctoral studies, I decided to go a few days early so I could—among other things—go to Newbold College to worship on Sabbath with the Adventist community there and connect with some old and new friends I’ve made along the way.

On Friday night, I was hosted by a couple who I’d met during my previous trip, with them graciously allowing me to stay in their guest room. That, in itself, was quite remarkable, since I was welcomed into the home of a family—with the husband from eastern Europe, and the wife the daughter of missionary parents who’d lived all around Europe and Asia—I didn’t even know existed 12 months before.

On top of that, we went to their friends’ home—both of whom were from Brazil—for dinner that evening. And as we crowded around their small table, in their tiny apartment in Newbold’s student housing, all eating pizza together and laughing, it suddenly hit me: in what other religious community could this experience be replicated?

There we were, some of us relative strangers to each other a few minutes before, experiencing the gift and joy of Sabbath, all from our various parts of the world—Brazil, Europe, Asia, America—eating Italian food together. It was the quintessential Adventist experience, a community in which you can go anywhere in the world and immediately find family.

And that, to me, is one of the gifts of Adventism—a faith community whose theology implicitly and explicitly appeals to and seeks to reach those from every nation, tribe, tongue, and people (Revelation 14:6).

It was the result of many converging factors—some theological, some cultural, some missional.

The Sabbath unites Adventists around the world, as we all commit to setting aside the seventh day of the week in order to celebrate God together and fellowship with one another.

Also, because we have strong institutions and annual gatherings—academies, universities, hospitals, camp meetings, prayer retreats—we all seem to know each other, or know someone who knows someone.

Similarly, because we have a worldwide mission, believing we’re called to share the gospel with everyone, there’s hardly a corner of the globe you might travel to where you won’t run in to someone who at least knows someone you know.

This is Adventism at its best—at least one way in which Adventism is at its best. When we can all sit at the table together, having a common understanding, a common language, a common mission, and a common belief in the sufficiency of God and his message of love to the world, it’s a powerful experience.

Of course, sometimes it can also be Adventism at its worst—promoting insularity, exclusiveness, arrogance, and navel-gazing. Instead of inspiring us to reach out to others, seeking to extend that same powerful community to them, it can often encourage us to stick to ourselves, as we congregate in Adventist “ghettos,” and criticize the culture around us (and especially ourselves).

But that is, I’d submit, a corrupted version of the beautiful message and mission of Adventism—and not its most authentic expression. When properly understood and embodied, the Adventist message and mission propels us into the world as we attempt to live out and extend a safe and Jesus-centered community to others.

The Koinonia of God

One of my favorite passages of Scripture of late has been the words John starts his first epistle with. There, he launches right into his message, sharing with his audience, That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:1-3, NKJV).

This is a thought pregnant with meaning. John testifies to the reality of God’s incarnation in Christ. He was a real person, whom the apostles heard, saw, and touched. He was also the center of their theological reflection, as they sought to pass along the Jesus-story to others.

But sharing the Jesus-story was for a specific purpose, he notes.

That, John says in verse 3, using a Greek word that signifies purpose, you also may have fellowship with us. In other words, they weren’t simply sharing the Jesus-story so others could hear it, accept it, and be saved. They weren’t merely preaching it so people could accept abstract teachings and check off doctrinal boxes. They weren’t merely sharing it so people could be safe against deception.

The purpose of John’s preaching of the Jesus-story was so that others could be drawn into fellowship with him and with other Jesus-followers.

The word for “fellowship” is the Greek word koinonia, which denotes the idea of communion or commonality. It’s coming into true community and experiencing a shared life. It is, to use a phrase that is quite popular today—and the recipient of an eye-roll or two—“doing life together.”

And that’s the whole point of the whole Jesus-story!

Not only that. John goes on to say that koinonia was not only to be shared amongst themselves, but it is, actually, to be shared with the Father and with the Son!

This is the end for which we were created and redeemed. It’s the reason we do evangelism or preach anything. The goal is not simply to get people to agree with us doctrinally. The goal is to draw people into community—safe, rich, beautiful, authentic, vulnerable, diverse, other-centered community—with the triune God and God’s family.

And I think that’s what Adventism—at its best—has the capacity to do.

Through our wonderful message centered on God’s character of love, which expunges false pictures of God (like an ever-burning hell, for starters), we have the chance to draw people into communion with God to greater depths than have been experienced in earth’s history before. They no longer have to run away from God out of fear but can allow His Spirit to draw them deeper into his heart of love.

And as we explore the depths of God’s love to greater degrees, it draws us into safe and authentic community with each other to greater degrees.

This is the precise point my good friend, Tihomir Lazić—who, quite incidentally, teaches at Newbold and also did his doctorate at Oxford—made in his doctoral dissertation, which was a reframing of the remnant concept within Adventism to have it focused on koinonia.

“The ultimate cause and basis of the church’s existence,” he thus writes in his dissertation, “is the whole-life response of the community of believers to the continuous presence, words, and actions of the Triune God, who dwells among them and draws them into mysterious union with himself and with each other.”

Indeed, he goes on to propose, echoing what I’ve outlined above, the whole purpose of mission and evangelism is to spread koinonia—to extend a safe and loving community to others, sharing life with them as we point to the God with whom they can ultimately share life.

I believe this is what God has always been after—seeking to help us recognize that he is chiefly defined as a relational being, whose ultimate hopes and dreams for us is to experience the warm, safe, and loving community of the Triune God for all eternity.

After all, this is eternal life, Jesus said, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3).

This is, I’d submit, the end toward which our theology, our beliefs, our mission aims. And the degree to which we understand and embrace it, is the degree to which we will fulfill God’s purposes for Adventism.

Let us, therefore, find ourselves around those tables, sharing life with those from “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people,” doing what Adventism at its best so often does.

Shawn Brace is a pastor in Bangor, Maine, whose life, ministry, and writing focus on incarnational expressions of faith. The author of four books and a columnist for Adventist Review, he is also a DPhil student at the University of Oxford, focusing on nineteenth-century American Christianity. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @shawnbrace and sign up for his weekly newsletter at: shawnbrace.substack.com