23 Jun


By Adam Grzeskowiak … The genius of Christianity was the basis for taking the nascent religion out of the narrow, ethnic and provincial context of Palestinian Judaism. It transformed it into a universal religion, relied, among other things, on its absolute simplicity, was permeated with the incredible depth of God’s love expressed in the person of Jesus and was disseminated by his followers.

To a great extent, the life, actions and words of Christ, characterized by simplicity and love, were the realization of the postulates, which had been directed to the nation of Israel by some of the prophets in the previous centuries. They have been accurately synthesized by Micah 6:8 (NKJV): “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you; But to do justly, to love mercy (loving kindness), And to walk humbly with your God.” The fuller meaning of these words, and practical conclusions resulting from them, have come in a natural way when we look at their meaning in the historical and cultural context.

Lessons from the History of Israel

The prophet Micah (c. 740–725 BC) worked in the Southern Kingdom of Judah simultaneously with the prophet Isaiah (c. 745–685 BC), while Hosea (c. 755–725 BC) and a bit earlier Amos (c. 767–753 BC) prophesied in the northern country of Israel. This period, especially the second half of Jeroboam’s II reign (c. 787–748 BC) in Israel and Azariah’s (c. 783–732 BC), Jotham’s (c. 750–735 BC), and the first years of Ahaz’s reign in Judah, was characterized by general prosperity.

In the period preceding the reign of Jeroboam II, Israel experienced some difficulties having their roots in the dominance of Syria (see 2 Kings 10:32; 13:3.7). Jeroboam gained significant political and military power in the region as Syria was defeated (c. 800 BC), and Assyria was ruled by a series of weak kings, who were more engaged in the dangers present on the northern edge of the empire than in the situation taking place in the south-east.

Jeroboam II, through the result of his military conquests, restored the borders of Israel from its era of prosperity in the days of David and Solomon, extending them as far as Hamath in the north (see 2 Kings 14:25). He won a series of victories over the Arameans (2 Kings 14:25-27), and also conquered their capital, Damascus. (14:28) By that, he introduced Israel to a period of prosperity. Restoration of the previous borders and the retrieval of pastures and fields as well as taking over the control of the trading routes again, definitely contributed to the renewed prosperity of Israel and Judah. Besides that, significant tributes were paid by the defeated enemies and the material goods collected during the conquests contributed to their wealth.

The visible improvement of the economic situation of Judah and Israel was reflected in a directly proportional decline in the quality of spiritual experience of the members of the Chosen Nation. It was noticeable in two main areas: (1) absolute religious formalism, as expressed in Isaiah 1:13 (NIV): “Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies”; and (2) through a total ignorance of the needs and problems of their fellow men: “They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them” (Isaiah 1:23 NIV; see also Amos 2:8; 5:12; Micah 6:8-12).

The situation analyzed here points at a close relationship taking place between having a substitute of God—a formal religion—and the treatment of other human beings. The message of the Old Testament prophets clearly presents that the religion of Israel, at its core, in the expression of faith for Yahweh, was based on the attitude of righteousness, respect, honesty, and care for the other man. Used since the ancient times, a principle of making deduction based on analogy, a minore ad maius—from the minor to the major—ays that if the category “minor” is correct, the category “more” is also correct. Apostle John also applies this logic: “For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:10). Faith, which is not expressed with a wise, cordial, empathic attitude toward people you meet on your way (in the family and beside it; in the church and beside it) means infidelity, fiction, and a form of idolatry.

Is Less Sometimes More?

The context of the activity of the prophets mentioned earlier draws our attention to a rather interesting religious phenomenon. From the sociological research analyzing the relation of the economic situation of the society to its faith, it can be concluded that generally, the higher the standard of living, the lower the percentage of people in the society define themselves as the believing and practicing and vice versa. In less well-off societies, a higher degree of religious involvement is noted (this relation changes after going beyond some level of poverty—in extreme poverty the interest in religion disappears).

Let me now use the example of the country I come from. After the WW II, Poland was among the countries which directly underwent the economic policy of robbery run by the USSR. With some simplifications, that reality changed in 1989. Then the political, social, cultural, and economic transformations occurred. In 2004, Poland became a member of the European Union. The economic situation, its standard as well as quality of life, successively got better and better.

The research done in 2020 by the Central Statistical Office shows that in the last 25 years, the decrease in faith in God among the youth was just 20%, while the decrease in religious practices reached 50%. It is a new phenomenon, which might be called a disorder of intergenerational faith transitions. Such disorder and its consequences are the result of the change of priorities and opportunities, which were obtained by the post-’89 generations.

The relation presented here suggests that Christians living in highly-developed countries (such as Scandinavia, the USA, Canada, Australia, or Great Britain) and those well-developed (majority of the European countries), are to a greater extent prone to religious formalism and lack of sensitivity to the other man.

The Christian religion, which grew out of Judaism, in its essence, can be expressed as loving God, loving oneself, and loving other people. The loss of these determinants, especially in their practical dimension, must undoubtedly result in the stagnation of the church, a lack of close human relationships, lack of community involvement, and finally, their disappearance. Such a status has been achieved by the so-called historic churches in most of the Western European countries. We can say that the loss of a sense of reliance on God and the simplicity of faith expressed in human love, deprives the church of its special feature, a kind of ‘magic’, taste, and enforcement power.

The Perverse Reform?

Since the time of Martin Luther, the Christian world has been emphasizing, with all its power, the meaning of saving faith and deeds, which cannot ensure salvation. This is an unquestionable fact! (See: Ephesians 2:4-9). The Scriptures state clearly that divine grace results in salvation and precedes all the signs of good works. “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).

However, in a sense, the igniting of a spiritual flame in the life of individuals and the church, is the result of a practical involvement. “I, by my works, will show you my faith” (James 2:18 NRSV). Leaving the comfort zone, practical signs of goodwill and affection include an open house, time devoted to someone, sharing a good word, physical or material help, encountering and meeting human need. All of these evoke kindness and compassion in the Christian life, and evoke other, fuller, and more altruistic attitudes. These bring with them a special kind of satisfaction and happiness. Gift-giving makes happy not only the recipient but also the gift-giver!

Moreover, difficulties encountered while fulfilling good purposes cannot be avoided because of human weaknesses and hopeless situations, but can stimulate Christians to pray, to look for God’s solutions, to read the Bible, and in the end, to feel gratitude for experiencing the Holy Spirit. Deeds of love arouse and build up faith.

In practice, what the church needs is not bonding over the theological nuances, endless disputes, getting the points across, and belittling the views of those who believe differently (which can be regarded as a sign of spiritual pride and arrogance), but the work of love for others, in which, according to the Scriptures, the real relation to God is expressed.

Practical faith is also a natural foundation for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That brilliant simplicity of biblical Christianity, in its program aimed at meeting the other man, meeting them in their everyday reality, constituted the dynamic expression of the Early Church. The favorable conditions in which we live, make the church fall asleep. Practical Christianity is a form of antidote, a strong espresso, which makes spiritual energy free, through which God saves the world.

This is also expressed by Ellen G. White: “The spirit of unselfish labor for others gives depth, stability, and Christlike loveliness to the character, and brings peace and happiness to its possessor. The aspirations are elevated. There is no room for sloth or selfishness. Those who thus exercise the Christian graces will grow and will become strong to work for God. They will have clear spiritual perceptions, a steady, growing faith, and an increased power in prayer. The Spirit of God, moving upon their spirit, calls forth the sacred harmonies of the soul in answer to the divine touch . . . The only way to grow in grace is to be disinterestedly doing the very work which Christ has enjoined upon us—to engage, to the extent of our ability, in helping and blessing those who need the help we can give them. Strength comes by exercise; activity is the very condition of life” (Steps to Christ, p. 80).

–Dr. Adam Grzeskowiak is director of the Department of Theological Studied at the Polish College of Theology and Humanities, Podkowa Lesna, Poland. Email him at: [email protected]

23 Jun


By Nathan Brown … Some of the commands of the Bible seem straightforward. Consider “Do justice” (Micah 6:8); “Learn to do good. Seek justice” (Isaiah 1:17); or, more poetically, “Let justice roll down like waters” (see Amos 5:24)—among many other Bible verses we could cite that urge us in this same direction. Of course, this does not mean it is easy to do, but it seems we would need to squirm quite a bit to wriggle our way out of these direct commands. And so, we do—squirm and wriggle, duck and weave—to try to diminish this call on our lives of faith. Or we simply don’t know where to start, so we move on to a different Bible study.

But, giving us the benefit of the doubt for a moment, it seems our language can also let us down when we try to talk about justice. Author of Pursuing Justice, Ken Wytsma, points out that our first thoughts on hearing about justice often take us in one of two different directions, either thinking about criminal justice or charity. Unless we work in related fields, criminal justice is not something most of us have regular contact with, nor do we want to, nor would we know how to relate in a meaningful way if we wanted to. But our default to charity is easier.

Do Charity?

Charity is good. I do not want to discourage anyone from giving. Give generously, regularly, intentionally and maybe sometimes recklessly. When someone is hungry, they need to be fed. When disaster strikes, we need to respond and to help. It is one aspect of the other action of Micah 6:8, that God also requires us “to love mercy.”

Churches and church people tend to be good at charity. We give donations and raise funds, we hold bake sales and take up collections, we donate clothes and household goods, we praise those who volunteer at soup kitchens and homeless shelters and tell stories of our mission trips and outreaches to neighborhoods across town. These are common markers of what it means to do good in our communities. I am old enough to remember when we used to mark Sabbath school attendance with recording “persons helped,” “food parcels delivered,” and “items of clothing given” as part of our reporting system for measuring our collective impact on those around us.

Again, much of this can be good. And many of these actions will be commended by Jesus, according to Matthew 25:31–46. But it can feel like we can never give enough. There are so many needs in the world and so many different causes we could support that we can despair of ever being able to give to the degree that feels like it truly makes a difference. While this might be because we don’t give enough—only rarely do we give in a way that actually costs us, rather than giving from our excess—it can also be because charity itself is not enough. If we only do charity, this brings two serious risks to fulfilling our justice calling as the people of God:

Charity does not always bring out our best.

Most of us like to be thought of as generous—and we like to be able to think of ourselves as generous. Our motives for doing good are always slippery and fickle. This was something that Jesus warned about (see Matthew 6:1–4). When our sense of generosity gets mixed up with our charity, it changes what we are doing and, according to Jesus, it changes how God views our supposed generosity. It can also change our relationship with those who might benefit from our giving. Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr cautioned that charity could work to entrench the obvious power imbalances in our world: “philanthropy combines genuine pity with the display of power and that the latter element explains why the powerful are more inclined to be generous than to grant social justice.” (Moral Man and Immoral Society, p. 127).

Many of us have experienced the awkwardness that can arise in the donor–recipient relationship. Giving can create unstated or assumed expectations. It can be a way in which the relatively wealthy and powerful can flex their privilege, and economic disparity can be styled as a societal good—all with the veneer of generosity and benevolence. Even for those of us who do not consider ourselves among the super-wealthy, making occasional donations can be a way to salve our consciences and perpetually defer the call to justice.

Charity is not a substitute for justice.

Partly for the reasons above—no matter how large the donation, perhaps even exacerbated the larger the donations become—charity can undermine justice. It can make the status quo seem necessary and side-step the questions of why some are perennially marginalized and vulnerable. Feeding a hungry person today is necessary and important; feeding a hungry person—or a succession of hungry people—every day for months and years must prompt questions about the systems that make this necessary, while such generosity seems to make that system possible. “Charity is no substitute for justice. If we never challenge a social order that allows some to accumulate wealth—even if they decide to help the less fortunate—while others are short-changed, then even acts of kindness end up supporting unjust arrangements. We must never ignore the injustices that make charity necessary, or the inequalities that make it possible” (Michael Eric Dyson, “Voice of the Day,” Sojourners, December 9, 2019).

Doing Justice

Charity is good—too often, it is necessary. Charity can be a contribution towards justice. But justice is more. Doing justice requires a deeper engagement with issues and people, as well as the systems that create and perpetuate injustice. Doing justice demands that we take action.

In the history of our church, we can see many good examples of this. We have been outspoken and led campaigns for freedom of conscience and religious liberty. We have championed broad access to education and health care. Early Adventists defied unjust laws in relation to fugitive slaves and campaigned for the abolition of slavery. At our best, we have advocated for peace, created inclusive communities, and spoken out against the evils of racism.

Today, we continue in all of these actions, as well as expanding our activism in new ways. As people of truth, we must find ways to confront and dismantle the disinformation that has come to blight our societies, risk our public health, and poison our politics. We must speak up to expand access to voting, making it easier rather than more difficult for as many people as possible to be engaged and heard in our political debates and in electing our leaders. We must use our choices as consumers to support companies and products that work in ways that are better for people and our environment. And there are so many more ways in which we can live justly and conscientiously, in our individual lives and through exercising our collective voices and influence.

Some will object that these actions and priorities will move us into the realm of politics. It will. Rather than being reluctant to do this, we need to learn to do it better. Yes, we must be careful and discerning in this engagement. We must also be careful not to be drawn into assuming that all “doing justice” is merely political. Politics is just one of the tools for doing justice, but when confronting systems that are unjust, racist, oppressive, and exclusionary, our political influence can be a key tool for changing these systems more for the benefit of the most vulnerable and marginalized. As people of faith, we need to get involved—or, as Proverbs 31:9 (NLT) puts it, “Speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”

Writing about the ongoing and necessary work of antiracism—as compared to merely claiming to be “not racist”—Ibram X. Kendi urges that we should prioritize working to change unjust policies and systems: “To fight for mental and moral change as a prerequisite for policy changes is to fight against growing fears and apathy, making it almost impossible for antiracist power to succeed. . . . Critiquing racism is not activism. An activist produces power and policy change, not mental change. If a person has no record of power or policy change, then that person is not an activist,” (How to Be an Antiracist, pp. 208–9).

Such a focus on policies and systems is not only about national politics, but also calls us to speak and act in the context of our cities and communities, where we should seek to cooperate with community leaders, other community groups and people of good will, working with and on behalf of those who most need our communities, policies, and systems to be different. This takes work, focus, listening and learning. Writing a check or submitting credit card details to make a generous donation can be helpful and important—it can even sometimes have an influence in larger justice causes—but we are also and always called to more, committing our energy, influence, and resources as we are able.

Most of the ancient Hebrew prophets urged their people to the faithful work of “doing justice.” To this, Jesus added a valuable promise: “God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). As such, doing justice is a necessary expression of the hope we claim to live by and response to the goodness of the God we claim to serve, and it contributes to the necessary change in the world around us.

–Nathan Brown is a writer and editor at Signs Publishing in Warburton, Victoria, Australia. Nathan is co-host of a new podcast series called “Moe and Nathan Go to School” as part of the Adventist Peace Radio podcast: http://www.adventistpeace.org/podcast. Email him at: [email protected]

23 Jun


By Bob McAlpine … I am an active member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (and a pastor too!) because of the adults who shared their lives with me as a teenager and showed me that a real, life-changing relationship with Jesus is possible. They wanted me to play guitar in the praise band with them even though someone had to teach me every lead part. They wanted me to go play laser tag with them on Saturday night even though I wasn’t old enough to drive. They wanted me to go with them on church retreats even though I was a know-it-all Bible nerd. They did not preach at me. They did not browbeat me or manipulate me. They showed me with their lives that Jesus was more precious and more powerful than any distraction offered by the world.

This group of young adults—college graduates just getting started in their careers—shared how their lives had been changed when they met Jesus. As a shy, nerdy teenager, I heard stories about how partying during college led to misery instead of happiness and how career “success” was worthless without Jesus. I listened while my friends talked about Jesus turning their despair into peace. I got to see firsthand how their lives were filled with joy no matter what their circumstances were. When I was sixteen, I did not wonder if God existed or if church was important because I was surrounded by friends whose lives demonstrated that He does and that it is.

I knew as much about the Bible as my friends who were at least ten years older than me, but their experience with Jesus was far more valuable than whatever biblical or doctrinal knowledge I had managed to cram into my head. My thoughts, attitudes, desires, and actions were not changed by what I knew about God and the Bible. It was not until I had my own encounter with Jesus and began to surrender my life to Him that change became possible for me. I persisted in both learning about God and pursuing a relationship with him because what I could see in the lives of my friends made me confident that my persistence would be rewarded.

Sadly, my experience seems to be the exception rather than the rule. As a pastor, I hear from many church members whose adult children no longer attend church because of negative experiences when they were teenagers. Sometimes those children, who are often close to my age, are attending a church on Sunday and simply want nothing to do with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Although every person’s story is unique and each person is responsible for their own choices, I believe that many people—especially those raised in Adventist families—leave our denomination because they do not experience any connection between what they learn from us and the power of God to change lives. Imagine attending church for your whole life, learning “the truth” about Sabbath, the state of the dead, and the investigative judgment without ever encountering Jesus! Many people my age report that this is their experience. I do not think that I would want to hang around that church very long once I left home.

For too long, it seems to me, Seventh-day Adventists have been laboring to convince both our young people and our evangelistic prospects to believe all the same things we believe while neglecting to introduce them to the God who loves them and offers them salvation. The problem facing the Seventh-day Adventist Church today is not a lack of truth or of theological depth. It is not a departure from our prophetic message or from our lifestyle standards. No, the problem facing the Seventh-day Adventist Church today is that we have forgotten how to introduce people to Jesus.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has always struggled to keep Jesus at the center of our preaching and practice. Many point to the controversy surrounding Waggoner and Jones at the 1888 General Conference Session as a turning point in this regard, but it seems more accurate to say that 1888 simply identified the problem and we have spent the last 130 years trying to turn the ship of our faith.

One clear illustration of this problem is the truly dreadful state of the material available to prepare someone for baptism. Whether designed for children or for adults, nearly every resource is focused entirely on doctrinal or lifestyle instruction with very little attention paid to growing in a relationship with Jesus.

Believe in the Bible
Believe in Jesus
Believe in the Sabbath
Believe in the investigative judgment
Believe in the literal, visible return of Jesus
Stop smoking
Start tithing
Stop drinking
Start eating a vegetarian diet
Stop wearing jewelry

“. . . Even the demons believe that—and tremble with fear!” (James 2:19, NET) It is no surprise that many people leave the church within a few years of their baptism when they get baptized knowing a lot about the Bible, but almost nothing about Jesus. Knowledge of the truth matters much less than being changed by an encounter with the Truth.

So, what can we do as a denomination to get better at leading people to Jesus? First, we have to clean our own house by making Jesus first in our hearts; then we will be ready to help others grow in their relationship with Jesus.

If Adventists want to get better at sharing Jesus with others, we must ensure that we are making every effort to know Him for ourselves. Simply put, I am calling for revival. Pastors, evangelists, administrators, and members must all confess to and repent of our impulse to gain more knowledge of God without seeking to gain more intimacy with Him. We must combine the knowledge we already have—sound doctrine, principles for healthy living, etc.,—with a burning passion for a deep relationship.

Think about how you would behave if your favorite celebrity became your neighbor. You already know lots of facts about them: their favorite foods, music, and books. You know their political opinions and what they think is most important in life. Now you can get to know them as a neighbor. You can share a meal together. You can chat with them about daily life and ask what they think about current events. You can see how they treat their spouse, kids, and friends. You can help them with their home projects and ask them to help you too. You might even find out that you have completely misunderstood this person you have admired from afar. Adventists should be approaching Jesus just like this! He is not an unapproachable celebrity, but a next-door-neighbor who wants to know us and be known by us.

Practically speaking, this calls for renewed emphasis on both corporate and individual prayer and Bible study. While this is hardly a novel prescription its efficacy is well-established. To fully embrace this path, members of local congregations must demand that their pastors teach them to pray before they teach them any more prophecy. Pastors must gently lead their congregations to seek Jesus in Scripture rather than seeking answers or the best proof text. Administrators must prioritize spiritual growth above numerical or financial growth.

God has promised in Jeremiah 29:13 that we will find Him when we seek Him with all our hearts. When Adventists reconnect to Jesus, we will be empowered to introduce others to Him. Our connection to Jesus, and the resulting changed life, will be what attracts others to us and persuades them that Adventists might have something to add to their lives.

Introducing others to Jesus means more than teaching doctrine. Think back to my analogy of your favorite celebrity who suddenly becomes your neighbor. Learning everything about a celebrity by reading interviews is like learning doctrine; no relationship is required. Relationship develops in the context of sharing life together. So, helping someone grow a relationship with Jesus means sharing life with them and showing them how we share life together with Jesus. It means that we must, like Philip in John 1:46, invite people to “come and see.” In my mind, this requires us to prioritize passing on the practices of prayer and Bible study over doctrinal instruction. Both are important, but only one can be our highest priority.

Finally, when we seek to introduce others to Jesus, our posture matters. Christ left His throne in heaven to serve humanity (Phil 2:5-7; Matt 20:26-28) and Adventists must assume that same posture of service toward the world. This means refusing to consider ourselves superior to outsiders and instead, embrace our calling to serve them as Jesus serves us. We must demonstrate our willingness to leave our comfort zone and pour out our lives for others, instead of demanding that others leave their comfort zones to hear us preach to them.

True change is only possible when Jesus is central to our lives as Seventh-day Adventist Christians. When the power of the Holy Spirit is obvious to everyone because they can see the changes, He has wrought in us, our teaching on doctrine and lifestyle will be full of life and hope. Here is my final word: to close the gap between our profession and our practice, we simply need to make Jesus, all.

–Bob McAlpine is a pastor in the San Luis Valley district in Colorado. Email him at: [email protected]

23 Jun


By Ron Price … A cowboy rode into town on Friday, stayed three days, and rode out again on Friday. How did he do that?

To those of you who came up with the answer, congratulations. For the rest of you, stay tuned.

In this column, I intend to challenge your thinking without giving too much direction on what your thinking should or should not be.

Some years ago, I saw a statistic that said 21% of atheists claim they believe in God. Say what? That got me to wondering what percentage of Christians believe in God, and whether their lives give evidence of their belief?

How many professing Christians, Seventh-day Adventists for that matter, are intentionally walking with, living for, and serving the Lord Jesus Christ? How many would describe their Christian experience as joyful and an integral component of their lives?

Lest you fear this will be a Seventh-day Adventist-bashing read, let me assure you that is not the case. We all have seen or heard of “Christians” from many denominations whose lives indicate their profession is shallow or misguided. Or we know of others who seem burdened by their faith rather than buoyed.

I believe this problem is due in part to two main factors: how people view God and how they view themselves.

Do you view God as a supernatural tyrant who must be worshipped or else? Perhaps you see Him as a scorekeeper who jots down your few successes and numerous failures? Do you view God as a big buddy in the sky who only wants you to live in complete peace, joy, and happiness?

In my opinion, neither of these views is correct or justified. They will, however, profoundly impact how you worship and follow Him. False beliefs of God should come as no surprise since our common enemy has spent millennia seeking to distort, minimize, and degrade His true nature.

Have you heard the song “I’m just a sinner saved by Grace?” I don’t believe that is true. Oh, it is undoubtedly true that I am a sinner and in need of God’s grace. But, since I have accepted that grace, by His definition, I am now a saint and no longer “just” a sinner saved by grace. I can walk in joy for the “joy of the Lord is my strength” (Neh 8:10). I may now revel in the Truth that I am not condemned (see Rom 8:1).

As a believer in, and follower of, the Lord Jesus Christ, it is now my privilege to come boldly and confidently into His presence and find grace and comfort to help me in my journey (see Heb 4:16). I do not ever need to think that I am a bother to my Heavenly Father or that He is not interested in me or my concerns. I have ample proof from the Bible and my personal testimony that this is just not the case. And, I dare say, so do you!

It is not sufficient to know these truths. We must accept them and apply them to our lives regularly. I say it’s time we take God at His Word and believe that He wants us to experience love, joy, peace, etc. I say we can believe Him when He says we are His “masterpiece” (Eph 2:10, NLT).

We do not need to grovel and ask God to love and lead us. We just need to accept the reality that He does. Then we can live in continuous communion with Him each day. We can read His Word with joyful expectation and pray to Him as though He genuinely cares about us and our concerns.

I fear that as Seventh-day Adventists, we sometimes focus on how imperfectly we obey God at times and therefore condemn ourselves as a result. If our walk with God is focused on guilt for failing to measure up, our witness will be severely curtailed if not eradicated altogether. Such an attitude will also limit our prayer life and connection with Him. As Pastor Craig Groeschel of Life Church in Edmond, Oklahoma, says, prayer should be our first line of offense, not our last line of defense.

We are in a battle with an enemy who only seeks to steal, kill and destroy. But praise God, Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly! (John 10:10)

By the way, the horse’s name . . . was Friday.

–Ron Price is a member of the RMC Executive Committee and lives in Farmington, New Mexico. Email him at: [email protected]

23 Jun


By Karla Klemm … It is interesting to hear about how church members come into the Adventist faith. The term “unequally yoked” is how we started our marriage as my husband was not baptized as an Adventist. Yet, he embraced my faith community with enthusiasm and attended Cradle Roll when our daughter was old enough. He felt this was important to do for her and I have always loved him for that. He was then asked to be a deacon and then head of the social committee. He told them he wasn’t a baptized member of the church and they said it didn’t matter, which to us showed great love and acceptance. And thus began his journey into Adventism.

As the years went by, and after a move across Colorado, his responsibilities increased after being baptized. When he became the school board chairman, things became more political, and the balance of responsibilities became more difficult as he attended committees into the wee hours of the night, occasionally missing family activities to fulfill his duties. He often endured verbal barrages and the tasks seemed endless and sometimes thankless. While he was glad to serve, it made me wonder why we treat those we should be the most patient and loving with in a divisive way—not the way our Christianity instructs us.

Our words do not always match our actions. Dare I admit, as a dietitian, I remember years ago, teaching a nutrition class about portion sizes with a bag of potato chips as an example. I then proceeded to my office to eat handfuls of potato chips with abandon out of the bag I had used for demonstration. I ate more than one portion!

How often do we give our unhelpful opinions about how others should behave? There are assumptions made about each other that recall the term “familiarity breeds contempt”. Of course, a church is made up of many different personality types, generations, and political views. It’s a wonder we can all balance this “family.” My husband and I remember having get-togethers with new friends from our church and when they realized our political leanings in conversation, it was said “Well, we won’t have much to talk about . . .” and then our interactions dwindled.

We would like to be a part of a church body where if somebody is eating or drinking something we don’t agree with, we don’t judge them for it, where when public health is saying that wearing a mask helps decrease the spread of disease to others, it isn’t met with reasons why it is OK to alter those recommendations, where when we have Bible study, we allow for the hard questions to be asked and not state why we shouldn’t ask those questions, where we can share how we feel about the concerns of the world and not be met with disdain about our convictions, where we don’t use Bible verses to prove and shame each other.

In other words, where love is the driving force for each action and interaction.

Paul says in Romans 1: 11-12, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”

Mutually encouraged.

How can we make that concept a part of our lexicon?

In her book, The Turquoise Table: Finding Community in Your Own Front Yard, Kristin Schell shares the concept of having a turquoise table in your front yard or neighborhood, sharing the table and a meal with your neighbors, and sharing your story. Loneliness is at epidemic proportions now, with approximately 33% of adults worldwide sharing that they are lonely. How can we put our Christianity into action that builds each other up and make a difference?

As I walk through my neighborhood, a mixture of condos and patio homes with empty lawns, I wonder what it would be like to have garden boxes that would provide produce or lovely flowers to families like a community garden, instead of the thirsty lawns that are rarely walked on, how we might talk to each other more often and have a renewed sense of community, just showing respect and love to one another, not trying to convince each other of anything. Could I be part of the solution by sharing with the neighborhood HOA my idea rather than just musing?

A song by Babbie Mason, titled, “I’ll be standing in the gap for you,” is meaningful to me.

I heard that you were hurting
That you were suffering pain
But I didn’t dare just turn my head
And look the other way

For when your heart is aching
My heart is aching too
Let me help you bear your burdens
That’s the least I can do

I’ll be standing in the gap for you
Just remember someone somewhere
Is praying for you
Calling out your name
Praying for your strength
I’ll be standing in the gap for you

I would also add other verbs to “praying for you” in this song that involve actions. For example, make you a meal, help you clean your house, fix the brakes on your car, listen to your story. The list would be endless. Shall we make sure that when we talk about something, our actions square up as well. The results will be worth it.

“The dichotomy of the human spirit is that we long to be more but we also long to be the same.” (Victorious Living). This conundrum can paralyze our efforts. Let’s not let it. Let’s work to turn our longing into acts of service. I think it will be worth it!

–Karla Klemm writes from Grand Junction, Colorado, where she and her husband David are members of the Adventist Community. She is a certified dietitian and works for Mesa County Public Health. Email her at: [email protected]

23 Jun


By Becky De Oliveira … Recently, I visited a beautiful big city with a few of the all-too-common big city problems on display in big cities everywhere. Addiction. Poverty. Homelessness. Mental illness. Wealth disparity. Violence. Filth. On a street with all these problems on display simultaneously, I saw a young man, shirtless, passed out against a wall on a pile of garbage, the sun beating full on his chest and face. He was pale, like me. I’ve had skin cancer. I see the dermatologist often; she knows my kids’ names. “That guy is going to get fried,” I said aloud, from the passenger seat of the car. What I should do, I thought, is cover him up with something. What? I didn’t have anything. I could go somewhere and buy something (a thin blanket maybe?) and come back. But I didn’t. I tried to envision stopping the car on this particular street, getting out. There was no way to imagine it that didn’t seem extremely ill-advised. Even driving too slowly tempted fate. This was the kind of street you blast though, eyes fixed a hundred yards ahead, windows rolled tight, jaw clenched. In and out, thankful you have somewhere else you can go tonight.

I developed a series of arguments to support my intuition, most of them pretty compelling. Maybe the man would not want to be covered with a blanket. His friends (?)—a menacing group arranged in various alarming poses—might take issue with my covering him. Perhaps he would awaken of his own accord sooner than I imagined and stagger off to find shade. He was a grown man, not a toddler. He’d kept himself alive this long, without any assistance from me. Not a single friend or family member would agree that I should intervene in this situation, fearing for my safety. We can blame them. Or how about my relative powerlessness within the, um, system? You know, the social system. Or the system that governs the universe. I can’t fix anything. I’m not anyone’s savior. Duh. Sunburn is really probably the very least of this guy’s problems. His problems, judging from the setup on that street, are vast and unsolvable. Thinking about them makes my head hurt. A melanoma, I think, not without a twinge of guilt, would probably be a mercy. Argument with self quite easily settled. Drive on by, end up somewhere far more beautiful and soothing to the soul. Fly home the next day, never to see that man again. I went to a Big City and all I brought home was this anecdote—a should-have story—of the kind that Christians so often use to illustrate all the ways in which they (we) fail to live up to our calling.

In Bible study classes, on social media, during the course of friendly conversation, Christians tend to exchange thoughts and opinions about what we, as Christians, should be doing. It is never the thing we are doing. I can’t even give a numeric estimate of how many Saturday morning discussion groups have segued from whatever the topic happens to be to the topic that is really on everyone’s mind: What we should be doing. Instead of sitting here, we should be out on the city streets helping the poor and homeless. But we never are. We should be the most loving, amazing people anyone has ever met. For my money, I’d say some of us are—but those of us lamenting the state of Christians will never admit to that. We (they? us?) are not living out the true mission.

Now, I don’t necessarily agree that Christians have a certain duty to humanity that other people don’t have. My humanity compels me to compassion, not a specific belief system into which I was born and have been educated. When I look at someone on the street and wonder what I should do, I’m not wondering what I should do as a Christian. I mean as a person. A woman. An American. An individual with a certain amount of problem-solving ability, under the right circumstances. And yeah, sure, also as a Christian. Problems will not, usually, solve themselves. I don’t believe in magic. None of us do. We know that we are the hands and feet. There are things we could (should) be doing.

But how do we decide what they are, let alone begin doing them rather than talking about doing them?

I am well aware that many readers of this magazine do an enormous amount of good—practical, tangible deeds that require a lot from them, financially and emotionally. I do these kinds of things too, at least sometimes. I do not do every good deed that occurs to me on impulse, nor even everyone I think about carefully. Is this a problem? Sure. I try to be loving and non-judgmental, but I do not always succeed at that either.

One thing I think about occasionally is how we are all at very different places in our lives, with widely varying capacities—financially, emotionally, temporally. The discussions about what we “should” be doing rarely take into account individual capacity. They are one-fit magic bullet solutions. If we were all doing X, things would be better.

I believe it is important to consider your actions from the vantage point of the future: How will this action appear to me in ten years? To what extent does it contribute to helping me be the kind of person I would like to be? From that point of view, constantly talking about what you should do rather than doing it is not very efficient. But it is also important to communicate your feelings, even those of regret, and maybe these conversations help move us, if ever so slightly, in the right direction. Keep trying to close that gap between should have and did.

–Becky De Oliveira is a doctoral candidate in research methods at the University of Northern Colorado. Email her at: [email protected]

23 Jun


By Rajmund Dabrowski … A story from our own church courtyard can offer a lesson to ponder.

Many of us remember the pre-Internet era when classifieds were prominent in printed church magazines. They offered fascinating reading. What follows was sent to such monthly magazine I was involved with in the seventies. Emi wrote:

I am ugly, fat, badly built, and an unattractive 30-year-old widow with three children. I am an Adventist, too. I am wondering if women like myself can still have a chance in life. Believe me, I am not interested in receiving letters that only include good advice. Authors of such should not bother. What I am looking for is acceptance, not a slimming diet. Neither am I looking for a guidebook for those who have been knocked about in life. Write to me. EMI.

Whew! Emi revealed much about herself in those few lines. She also painted a picture of her fellow churchgoers. She was looking for love. She was seeking acceptance. She was very candid with us, her readers, about her very low self-esteem. How many of us would admit that we look . . . ugly? And say it so publicly?

Of course, Emi was looking for a husband and a father for her young kids.

But where the problem lies is her statement that she is an Adventist Christian and a member of a faith community. She belongs, we believe, to a caring, accepting group of people! However, she sees it as frozen. Her experience puts the words and deeds of this group at odds with each other.

I am sure her fellow church goers offered to pray for her and even made what they considered as helpful suggestions. She needed more than that. She was looking for something deeper. She was seeking acceptance.

Emi was looking for answers. In her own church. In her own community. Could she find a solution? Will she meet you or me, who can give her a hug of acceptance, saying: This is what I believe, and this is how I believe.

The meaning of all this is: Let’s talk and put a strut to our beliefs.

Will the sermon of your life and mine help Emi find a place in life?

There may be an Emi looking for love in your world, in mine. Let’s begin with giving her a hug.

Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director. Email him at: [email protected]