Moses’ life is a story of God’s miraculous leading and providential guidance.
Moses God’s Friend
By Mark A. Finley
Moses’ life is a story of God’s miraculous leading and providential guidance. Although Moses revealed character traits common to all humanity, his life demonstrates the glory of God’s forgiveness and power. Moses faced major obstacles, and the challenges he confronted could have overwhelmed him. But he looked beyond the problems and endured by faith because he saw “Him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27).
Through the enormous challenges, obstacles, and difficulties Moses faced, he developed an intimate friendship with God. Near the end of the book of Exodus the record states, “So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11). What could be more rewarding? To know God intimately and speak to Him as a friend is life’s highest joy. In this lesson we will review some of the events that shaped Moses’ life, and how he developed such a close friendship with God.
1 - What events at the time of Moses’ birth shaped His life? Read Exodus 1:7-12, 22. Moses’ life was seriously impacted by Pharaoh’s decree that all Hebrew babies be destroyed. Yet God turned this curse into a blessing for Moses.
2 - How was Moses’ life miraculously preserved? And how was his future life affected? Discover the answer in Exodus 2:1-10. Moses’ life was providentially preserved for a special purpose. Not only was he raised to the age of 12 by his own mother; she was paid from Pharaoh’s treasury to raise her own son. Moses was given the highest education in Egypt at Pharaoh’s expense. God has a way, even when there seems to be no way. God’s plans succeed in spite of humanity’s intervention.
3 - Read Exodus 2:11-15. What serious character flaw did Moses exhibit? Moses believed, based on his background, education, and military training, that he was to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage. He believed he was ready to accomplish something great, but God knew he was not ready. Moses had to learn lessons of humility, patience, and trust; so God sent him to herd sheep.
4 - Moses fled into the wilderness and ended up herding sheep for 40 years. He must have thought that God could no longer use him. How did God reveal Himself to Moses in the wilderness? Read Exodus 3:2-10. Because of his earlier failures, Moses could easily have believed that God had forgotten him, that God could no longer use him. But God watched over Moses in his desert wanderings as a shepherd, and at the right time He revealed Himself. Moses was now ready to lead Israel out of Egyptian bondage and be the leader God wanted him to be.
5 - What was Moses’ response, and how did God answer Him? Read Exodus 3:10, 11; 14-17. Forty years before, when Moses felt he was ready to deliver Israel, God knew he needed more preparation, so He sent Moses to herd sheep for 40 years. When God saw Moses had learned the necessary lessons, Moses felt he was not ready. God uses those who feel inadequate because they are ready to depend on Him. God uses those who sense their weakness, because He can be their strength.
6 - Throughout the book of Exodus God revealed His miracle-working power. Read Exodus 4:1-4, 13, 14; 6:6, 7, and list three miracles God performed to demonstrate His mighty power to both Israel and the heathen nations nearby.
7 - What was God’s ultimate purpose in raising up Moses to lead Israel? Read Exodus 9:16. God raised up Moses for the express purpose of revealing His glory to the world. God has raised up each one of us in our spheres of influence to reveal through our words and witness His glory. We too are to show God’s power in our lives to glorify His name, so that like Moses, we too can be friends of God and represent Him aright in everything we do.
Through Christ’s flesh clearly refers to the blood of Jesus on the cross as the means of access to God, not to the veil in the heavenly sanctuary.
Symbols and Metaphors
By Angel Manuel Rodríguez
Let me quote the passage to which you refer: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place [Gr. ton hagion, “the sanctuary”] by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened [Gr. enekainisen, “inaugurated”] for us through the curtain, that is, his body [Gr. sarx, “flesh”] . . .” (NIV). Bible students have provided three main interpretations of these verses. We need an interpretation that is contextually sound and consistent with the message of the overall letter.
1. The Veil Is the Flesh of Christ: This reading is exclusively supported by the fact that the phrase “that is” in Hebrews often refers to the previous noun or phrase. In this case it would mean that Christ inaugurated a way through the veil, that is to say, through the veil that is His flesh. Let me offer a few comments. First, the explicative “that is” does not always refer back to the immediate noun or phrase (Heb. 7:5; 13:15); the phrase could be related to “through the veil,” or to something else. Second, the idea that Christ opened a way through the veil that is His flesh is, to say the least, extremely obscure. If the veil was an obstacle that had to be removed in order to have access to God, the idea would be that the “flesh” of Jesus had to be removed to access God! Since equating the veil with the flesh of Christ is not found anywhere else in Hebrews, and is not developed in our passage, scholars have explained the concept in different ways. A common view is that the preposition “through [the curtain/his flesh]” is used in two different ways. Through the curtain would refer to moving from one place to another, while “through his flesh” would designate Christ as the instrument of access. This distinction in usage is highly questionable. Third, if the veil of the heavenly tabernacle is the flesh of Christ, the apostle is using a metaphorical or even allegorical interpretation of the heavenly sanctuary. This goes against the apostle’s conviction that there is a sanctuary in heaven with a veil, where the throne of God is located. For these and other reasons this interpretation is unreliable.
2. The Flesh of Christ Is the Way: It has been suggested that the phrase “that is” refers back to “the way”—“the way . . . that is to say, [the way] of his flesh.” This possible reading of the text avoids the pitfalls of the previous one. Christ is identified as the means, the way, our access to God. But the fact that the explicative “that is” is too far from “way” weakens it. However, if we were to assume that the noun “the way” is to be repeated before “of his flesh” the problem would be solved.
3. “That Is” Refers to the Content of the Sentence: According to this view “that is” refers back to the statement that Christ “inaugurated [incorrectly translated “opened”] a new and living way through the veil by means of/through His flesh.” In other words, the new way of access to God is the result of His incarnation that made possible His sacrificial death. This idea is often found in Hebrews (e.g., 2:14; 6:19, 20; 9:12, 24-26). The idea of access to God through Christ is central to Hebrews. This interpretation is also supported, as suggested by a number of scholars, by the verses we are discussing. Some important parallels between verses 19 and 20 help us clarify the use of “that is.” Verse 19 Verse 20 To enter a new and living way the sanctuary through the veil by the blood of Jesus that is, through his flesh.
The idea of entering is further developed by the mention of a new way: access to the sanctuary is through the veil. Through Christ’s flesh clearly refers to the blood of Jesus on the cross as the means of access to God, not to the veil in the heavenly sanctuary. This interpretation appears to be the best one grammatically, contextually, and theologically.
As exciting as the journey of discovery of antibiotics has been, there are some problems to consider...
The Antibiotic Dilemma
By Peter N. Landless and Allan R. Handysides
I was recently diagnosed with pneumonia, and my doctor prescribed antibiotics. I was feeling very unwell, but because I don’t like taking any medications, I took the antibiotics only until I felt better and then stopped. Is it safe to use the balance later?
This question highlights some very important concepts. Antibiotics are helpful medications intended to fight infections and diseases caused by bacteria. They work by either killing the bacteria or preventing them from reproducing. Antibiotics are helpful in bringing infections under control, and assisting the body’s immune system in the process of eliminating offending bacteria from the system. Sir Alexander Fleming discovered the earliest known antibiotic in 1928. Only in the 1940s was penicillin used in the treatment of wounded soldiers in World War II. This successful experience ushered in an exciting era of progress in fighting bacteria with antimicrobials (antibiotics). Since that time many different kinds of antibiotics have been manufactured, even to the extent of the so-called designer type of antibiotic, which aims at very specific mechanisms to control the multiplication and kill the bacteria.
As exciting as the journey of discovery and refinement of antibiotics has been, it has also been fraught with numerous problems. Some individuals are unable to tolerate certain antibiotics; this intolerance ranges from severe allergy (anaphylaxis)—which may even cause death—to skin rashes; mild to moderate diarrhea; and superadded infection with fungi, such as Candida. In addition, numerous bacteria have developed the ability to create resistance to the antibiotics being used; Fleming himself noted this characteristic in the earliest days of penicillin. This has resulted in the need for the use of combinations of antibiotics, and also for the development of what have become known as third- and fourth-generation classes of specific antibiotics. The mechanism by which bacteria develop resistance has been recognized for many years; these microorganisms undergo genetic changes, which are mediated by phages and plasmids. These small molecules, or “packages,” of DNA (genetic material) can be transferred from one bacterium to another. Recently Chinese scientists have noted a very significant and extremely worrying development: the ability of certain bacteria to transfer this resistance horizontally between different bacterial strains. This was noted in routine surveillance of food animals, such as pigs, and signaled the first time that such resistance to the polymyxin antibiotic colistin was observed. This has caused great consternation in the scientific world, with fears that if such resistance continues to develop, the practical and helpful use of antibiotics may be coming to an end! Although the resistance described above is currently limited to China, it is anticipated that it will spread throughout the world.
Back to your question: Always complete the course of antibiotics, even if you feel better before the treatment is completed. This will decrease the amount of antibiotic resistance. There should never be leftover antibiotics in your medicine cabinet. Encourage those over whom you have influence to do the same.
Seeing faithfulness to God through different lenses and experiences from the Bible...
Snapshots of Faithfulness
By Chantal J. Klingbeil
“Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, ‘Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us.
For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few’ ” (1 Sam. 14:6).
Jonathan, how did you get it right? (I often find life so complicated. It sometimes seems impossible to be faithful to the people around me when they are not meeting my needs.) How were you able to be faithful to your father, King Saul, who even tried to kill you twice? You always remained loyal and faithful to your family. And, at the same time, you were faithful to your friend David, who was being hunted by your father. You remained best friends and swore loyalty to David, even when you realized that he would take your throne. How did you do it?
“And he said to his men, ‘The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord’ ” (1 Sam. 24:6).
David, you were given a golden opportunity in that cave. King Saul, who had been hunting you for so long, entered the cave completely oblivious to your crouching men. (I hate waiting. I hate waiting for things that I consider my right. Waiting and waiting and not seeing God actively working the way I believe He should be is a real test of faith for me.) It would have been so easy; it even seemed providential. The sword would have found its mark, and all your months of living in the wilderness like a hunted animal would have been ended and the path to the throne wide open. And yet you chose not to take Saul’s life. You waited for God’s timing. Being still and waiting—being faithful to God’s timing. How did you do it?
“And Uriah said to David, ‘The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing’ ” (2 Sam. 11:11).
Even though you are known as “the Hittite,” you were faithful to your adopted country and faithful to your God. (I find being faithful difficult when it means going against the flow. Being faithful means holding on to something even when others let me down, even when others try to manipulate or bribe me.) You were loyal and brave. You set high standards, and you kept to high standards. It was so much a part of the fabric of your being that gifts, bribery, or even perfectly permissible pleasures couldn’t distract you from that loyalty and faithfulness. Nothing could persuade you to go home and take a break as long as the ark of God and the Lord’s army were on the battlefield. You paid for your faithfulness with your life. How did you do it?
“Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word’ ” (Luke 1:38).
With just a flash of an angel’s wings you were ready to have your life turned upside down. (I am more inclined to look for a tame faith. I prefer something that I think I can control. To be faithful to God when I don’t see any immediate benefits is hard.) What about all your carefully laid plans for your wedding? What would Joseph say? What would the neighbors say? What about a lifetime of living with the shame? You just simply said “yes” to a lifetime of whispers when you entered a room, a lifetime of being misunderstood and judged to be someone you were not. What made you simply say “Behold the maidservant of the Lord”?
“And Elijah said to her, ‘Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son’ ” (1 Kings 17:13).
You were a poor widow from the city of Zarephath. He was asking for your last bit of oil and flour. You had a son to think of. What was it about this foreign man of God that gave you the assurance that what he said was true? Why did you go home and make him that last bread? I suppose you didn’t have too much to lose. It was the last meal anyway. (I sometimes hang on very tightly to things. Being faithful often involves letting go of the stuff that my life revolves around. Having too much can be a curse and not a blessing.) You gave up your last bit of material security and threw your family into the arms of this unknown God. What made you take this leap of faith? Jonathan, David, Uriah, Mary, Joseph, the widow of Zarephath, none of you were perfect.
I’m sure that you all had your moments of doubt, and yet the story of your lives could be titled Faithful. Your faith was a reaction to meeting the Faithful One.
You caught glimpses of your Creator, who was not constrained by the visible but could look at a formless empty world and see trees and animals and then speak them into being.
You understood that here was Someone who loved you so much, who saw such potential in you, that He would be willing to die rather than spend eternity without you.
You were prepared to let go of how you thought things should be, and you chose to trust this God even when the outcome was so different from what you had ever imagined.
Thank you for sharing your faith. The testimony of your lives challenges me.
“How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9).
Joseph, you were far away from home. You were on your own in Egypt. Your brothers had sold you. (It’s one thing being faithful when everyone is watching. I find it so much harder when no one will ever know. It is hard to be faithful when duty and desire go in opposite directions.)
You had to watch out for yourself, and then Mrs. Potiphar made her move. She represented an opportunity for you. She made an offer that would be so hard to refuse, and yet you turned from it and fled, even leaving your coat behind. What made you faithful to your pagan master? How could you still be faithful to a God who had let you be torn away from everything that had made life worth living?
When traveling to the mission field was as perilous as being a missionary of the Truth.
Faithful Unto Death
Ordinary people who answered God’s call in spite of uncertainty
By Merle Poirier
When John Tay met Jesus, everything changed. As a teenager John loved the sea, sailing ships, and a small South Sea island called Pitcairn. Now his love was the same, but different. For Tay, loving Jesus meant telling everyone about his new Friend.
Tay went regularly to the wharf to meet the large ships. He used to talk to sea captains about faraway places, but now he talked about Jesus. He gave them books to read. He still thought of the island of Pitcairn. Did the people there know about Jesus?
The Beginning of an Adventure
In 1886 Tay could resist no longer. He left behind his wife and home in Oakland, California, finding passages on different ships until he arrived at Pitcairn Island about four months later. John stayed on the island until the next ship arrived, about five weeks later. During that time he preached about Jesus. When he ate with people, he shared Jesus. He conducted Bible studies. When he left, every single individual on Pitcairn was keeping the Sabbath and requesting baptism! Tay promised to send a minister to baptize them and organize a church.
In April 1888 the Seventh-day Adventist Church agreed to send a minister. Church leaders asked Andrew John Cudney, 34, a minister from Nebraska, to accompany Tay back to Pitcairn. They told both men to find their own way there. Cudney wanted to share Jesus and didn’t hesitate. Leaving his wife and two young sons behind, he answered the call, even though it was 5,000 miles away, and he had no idea how to get there. He would go so that people could learn about Jesus.
Cudney and Tay arrived in San Francisco, California, in May 1888. They waited several weeks, but found no ships leaving for the South Pacific. Church leaders counseled them to separate; Tay would remain in California waiting for a ship sailing to Tahiti. Cudney would sail for Honolulu, Hawaii, on May 20. There, he would take a ship to Tahiti to meet Tay, and together they would proceed to Pitcairn.
It seemed like a good plan, but Cudney’s arrival in Hawaii found no ships destined for Tahiti either. He was uncertain about what to do. Returning to California seemed unwise. Yet no way forward seemed possible. N. F. Burgess, a believer, offered to purchase a previously owned transport vessel that was up for auction. He would repair and fit it for sailing as long as it was used to go to Pitcairn. Encouraged, Cudney agreed. While waiting, Cudney shared Jesus with people in Hawaii. He encouraged them, conducted Bible studies, and, before leaving for Tahiti, organized the first Seventh-day Adventist church in Honolulu with nine members.
Meet Me on Pitcairn
John Tay, seated first row, far right, served as part of the first crew of the Pitcairn (seen below) as the ship’s carpenter.
On July 31 Cudney left Honolulu on the newly refitted Phoebe Chapman to rendezvous with Tay in Tahiti. Just before leaving, he wrote of his desire to share Jesus: “An English captain, of extensive experience, whose wife is a Sabbathkeeper, goes as sailing master. He speaks the principal languages of the South Seas. A Swede goes as mate, who can speak five languages. Two men go before the mast as far as Tahiti without wages. . . . It does seem God’s hand is in the work. The crew are strangers; but most of them seem to be exceptionally goodhearted men, and I trust that some of them will learn to love the truth before the voyage is over. We sail at noon today, going first to Tahiti, where I expect Brother Tay is waiting for me; thence we shall go directly to Pitcairn, as fast as the wind will carry us.”*
Meanwhile, John Tay left San Francisco for Tahiti on July 5, arriving there August 8, where he waited for Cudney to arrive. Each day found him at the harbor inquiring of ships, but Cudney’s vessel never arrived. Those at the General Conference were also waiting word of the ship’s arrival. Cudney’s anxious wife wondered and prayed for her husband’s whereabouts. Minutes of meetings recorded prayers and actions that revealed the church’s anxiety for the missing ship and its crew.
Tay attempted to find a ship to take him to Pitcairn, thinking that Cudney went on without him. Once captains found out his intentions to talk about Jesus, no one would take him. After waiting in Tahiti for six months, he finally sailed for home. A year later, with no word from Cudney or his crew, it was decided they must have been lost at sea. Cudney’s wife kept his clothes for many years, hoping he would one day be found, having run aground on another island.
A Call to Action
In response, the church did not waver on the request of those in Pitcairn still waiting for baptism. Because of the challenges faced by Cudney and Tay, the church decided to build its own ship. The Pitcairn was launched in the fall of 1890, carrying three missionary couples, including John Tay and his wife. Upon their arrival on Pitcairn, 82 people were baptized into the newly organized church.
The remains of the Phoebe Chapman were found on the west coast of Tahiti in 1891. A. J. Cudney, while close, never reached his destination. Cudney wanted to share Jesus despite any obstacle set before him, sailing out in faithfulness to his call. Now he awaits the Second Coming, when the Life-giver will call him again, this time from his watery grave, where he will hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant. . . . Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matt. 25:21).
The Chapman family was one of the first in Petaluma, California, to accept the Adventist message from John Loughborough. Several male suitors were seeking the attention of their daughter, Phoebe, a popular and beautiful young woman. The family tells the story of the day when one young man approached Phoebe, interested in making an impression. He shared with her that he had named the first Adventist missionary ship after her—the Phoebe Chapman. Hearing that, she tossed her head and said, “I hope it sinks.”*
Later, upon hearing the news of the lost vessel, she regretted her careless words. While her words did not cause the tragedy to occur, there is wisdom in being faithful and true in our speech. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
Living a life of faithfulness means different things to different people, but all of them have something in common: Trust in God.
Journeys of Faithfulness
The concept of “faithfulness” is intricately woven throughout the fabric of a person’s lifestyle and belief system, particularly that of a Christian. Some describe it as remaining loyal to someone or something regardless of the circumstances.
Others say it entails “standing firm” for convictions and principles. Synonyms include fidelity, devotion, dependability. Faithfulness evokes an image of what is best in humankind as we relate not only to one another but also to our Creator.
Stories of faithfulness to family, friends, country, and God abound, inspiring and encouraging us to become better people—more caring, more courageous. Sadly, inour weakness and in spite of good intentions, humans often fail.
We don’t reach that pinnacle of “greatness and goodness” we may long to achieve. God, however, has no such limitations. Faithfulness is part of His character (Ex. 34:6, NIV); it helps define who He is. “Great is [His] faithfulness” (Lam. 3:23, NIV).
In describing those in the Bible who suffered reproach and persecution for “His name’s sake,” Ellen White doesn’t laud the faithfulness of these men and women, but gives the credit fully to God: “These examples of human steadfastness bear witness to the faithfulness of God’s promises—of His abiding presence and sustaining grace.”* After all, it is He alone who is truly faithful. The short narratives that follow come from West Africa,
New Zealand, Malaysia, Tchad, and the UnitedStates.
They describe personal journeys of faith that reveal the character and love of the God whom the writers believe in and worship. May these stories inspire you to love and trust Him more.—Editors.
*Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 575.
Faithfulness in Adversity
By Julene Duerksen-Kapao
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5, 6).
August 19, 2009: The date changed my life, my plans, everything. The weeks leading up to August 19 included a family trip from New Zealand to California to visit my family, and a weekend trip with my 4-year-old son to Melbourne, Australia, to speak at a women’s conference.
During the conference I got a headache that no matter what I did—sleep, medication, water—would not budge.
The days following my return from Australia were a blur of bizarre symptoms, including blurry vision, light sensitivity, headaches, exhaustion, balance issues, lack of appetite, and weakness.
On August 19 a colleague where I taught walked with me upstairs and noticed I could not lift my right foot without tripping. “You’d better go to the emergency room” were his words after hearing the other symptoms.
Eye exams, X-rays, EKGs, and an array of tests did not bring clear answers. “You may have had a stroke” or “It may be a fast-growing tumor,” I was told. The final stop was an MRI. As I lay in the noisy machine, head held firmly in place, I prayed Psalm 23. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” I had no idea what the future held, but I knew God’s hand was on my life. I asked God for the MRI to show answers, so no matter what the outcome was I would know what I was facing.
About 8:00 p.m. the emergency room doctor asked me to go to a private room. “You have multiple sclerosis.” And there it was, my answer. Literally “many scars” on my brain and spinal cord.
I cried. I prayed. I questioned. I went home. I rested. I cried some more. My husband, Rouru, and our two small children prayed a lot. We had no idea what this meant and how this reality would impact our lives.
Within 10 days I was admitted to the hospital for extreme nausea, balance issues, and muscle weakness. I lost my ability to walk and talk. I could not move my head. I was overcome with sadness and loss.
For the next nine weeks Rouru would hold my hand, sing and laugh with me, and pray. Through the chaos, the not knowing, the fear, and the sense of loss I heard God.
One night I had a dream in which I awoke to a bright light. I jumped out of my hospital bed—even though I couldn’t walk at the time—and ran to the window. It was the Second Coming! I was overwhelmed with peace and the warmth of Jesus’ love.
His clear words washed over me: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51, 52).
In that moment I began a new life—a life of peace and total acceptance of the chaos now consuming me. God showed me that we all have scars, some seen and others unseen.
I determined to live and live well, and so my neurologist, my family, and I chose the most aggressive approach: six-month chemotherapy treatment starting October 2009. For the first treatment I was in the hospital; the second, my husband pushed my wheelchair; third, I pushed a walking frame; fourth, crutches; fifth and sixth—I walked!
The oncology nurses gave me a standing ovation! The journey has been chaotic, traumatic, frustrating, blessed, and hope-filled. During the past more than five years my faith has been tested and grown dramatically. I am blessed to experience my human brokenness and have had an opportunity to live knowing my scars. I am better now.
I work full-time in a fulfilling and challenging job. I am on daily staying faithful Against the Tide By Melodie Roschman medication to prolong remissions and decrease severity of relapse. I play with my kids. And I live in the hope of the Second Coming.
Staying Faithful Against the Tide
By Melodie Roschman
They’re everywhere.” Our guide gestured dramatically at the city surrounding us. “And they’re targeting you. So look out for each other. And be careful.” We were on a three-week tour through Europe, taking in incredible historical buildings, eating delicious food, and making stumbling attempts at learning at least a little French.
It was nearly a paradise, except, we were advised, for all of the pickpockets and thieves. “Marseille is a city where they’ll steal your wallet as fast as they look at you,” we were told. Later, in Paris, we were ever vigilant: on the metro, in the markets, even at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Pickpockets, it seemed, would hunt you to the ends of the earth. Most troubling were street beggars. Holding out their children, asking for directions, begging on the steps of buildings. We were warned that they would prey on your generosity and rob you blind.
It felt wrong, but we got used to avoiding eye contact, huddling together, walking past outstretched and empty hands. For the most part, people were never as persistent as we had been told they would be. No babies were thrust into our arms. No one was ever robbed.
When they held out their hands, we shook our heads and stepped around them. We pretended they were invisible.
One day, though, leaving a church, my friend Matt couldn’t take it anymore. I looked up to discover that I had left him behind on the steps, where he was stooped, handing a few euros to an old woman wearing a shawl. Soon he jogged to catch up with me. “I couldn’t say no,” he said simply.
Instantly I felt ashamed, humbled by his instinctive generosity regardless of counsel. Matt’s simple act reminds me of evangelist Tony Campolo’s words: “God puts the wealth in our hands, without any guarantee from us that we will use what
He gives us in a way that pleases Him. He trusts us.
Ought we not to do to others what He has done for us? On that great day when I stand before Him, He will ask if I gave to the needy. I do not think it will wash if I say, ‘I thought about it, but they did not look trustworthy.’ ”* While the rest of us, out of fear, obediently treated these people as less than human, Matt reached out.
He bent down and smiled, and he gave to the least of these. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matt. 25:35, 36, NIV).
A Reckless Faith
By Olen Netteburg
Walking from our hospital in Bere, Tchad, to Nigeria, you traverse tribes speaking Nangere, Maraba, Lele, Mesme, Moussaye, Keira, Toupouri, French, Arabic, and that’s before reaching the Cameroon border. A woman came to our hospital.
Nobody could understand her, but she brought her sick baby girl.
We rapidly diagnosed her with malaria and started intravenous quinine. The mother clearly had no money, but we did what we always do: we treated the child for free and gave mother and child food to eat. Her baby required three days of continuous IV treatment before she started eating again.
We kept mother and baby at the hospital for four days while trying to figure out what to do with this family.
One day I noticed the mother reading her Bible and saw the word “Hausa,” a language in northern Nigeria. I cautiously put forth the only Hausa word I knew, “Sannu” (hello). Her eyes lit up in amazement, and she replied vigorously, “Sannu! Sannu! Sannu!” shaking my hand like I was her long-lost friend.
Imagine a land with more than 120 languages and nobody understands you! Providentially, one of the women who works for us, Naomie, spent years in Nigeria and speaks fluent Hausa. I immediately called for
Naomie, who came and talked to the mother.
We learned that her name was Nagodé, and we heard her incredible story.
A man from the Tchadian Nangere tribe moved to Nigeria for work. He met and married Nagodé. They had a girl, whom they named Blessed. Boko Haram, a terrorist group, began targeting and killing Tchadians. Caught in an ambush, the husband fled into the wilderness, disappearing for months.
And that’s when Nagodé’s optimism became apparent. Absolute, reckless optimism. Nagodé wondered if her husband had returned to Tchad, so she did what any recklessly optimistic person would. She set off to look for him. She crossed into
Cameroon and went from church to church, asking for just enough money to get to the next church.
She arrived in Tchad and tried to ask where she could find the Nangere tribe. As she traveled farther from home, it became progressively more unlikely to find people speaking Hausa. She began spending days in each village, seeking people who spoke Hausa.
Nagodé arrived in Kelo, a village 42 kilometers (26 miles) from Bere, and learned she was close to the epicenter of the Nangere tribe. So she trekked the 42 kilometers to Bere the exact same way she had covered the previous hundreds of kilometers, on foot and with her two possessions strapped to her back: Blessed and her Hausa Bible.
Through it all, Nagodé’s foolishly optimistic belief in that which she had no evidence—her faithfulness—never wavered. Once she was in Bere, she found that her troubles were just beginning. Nagodé spent three days living and sleeping in the market, searching for somebody who understood her.
She did not eat the few crumbs she found, but gave them to Blessed. When Blessed fell ill with malaria, a stranger brought them to our hospital. We fed Nagodé. As she started to get her strength back, she began to smile as well. Life returned to her eyes, as it did to the eyes of Blessed.
Through it all, Nagodé continued to read her Hausa Bible every day. Naomie, herself a single mother of four boys, came to me in tears on Nagodé’s behalf. She begged me to allow her to take Nagodé and Blessed to her house.
I don’t know the ending to this story. I don’t know if Nagodé will find her husband. I don’t know if he’s been killed by Boko Haram, hiding in the African bush, or looking for his wife and child in Nigeria, Cameroon, or Tchad. But I know God put
Naomie in Nagodé’s path at exactly the right time.
I know Blessed would have succumbed to malaria without the free lifesaving medications given by our faithful donors. Nagodé’s optimism, determination, and faithfulness saved Blessed’s life, and probably her own as well. Nagodé has a reckless optimism put into action. Would Peter agree that’s an alternative definition of faithfulness?
Buoyed by a mother’s instinct and a Hausa Bible, Nagodé took off blindly in search of what she had confidence and assurance in, despite the lack of what any logical person would consider a decent plan or evidence of success. Mother and child are well-fed, healthy, and happy.
Nagodé thanked me endlessly, ceaselessly wishing God’s blessings on me for the free care Blessed received at our hospital, care made possible by the faithfulness of our supporters. But little did Nagodé know that her own faithfulness, her reckless optimism, had already blessed me.
Faithful to Sabbathkeeping
By Raymond Adivignon Hounnonkpe
The biblical story of Daniel and his friends—their commitment to live according to God’s principles—has been a powerful support for me. Following Jesus means carrying His cross, including when it comes to keeping the Sabbath.
I grew up in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). In 2001, I traveled to Benin, where I stayed with two of my older brothers while I continued my education. The younger brother was an Adventist. I began attending the Adventist church, and was baptized in May 2007.
Even though I was now an Adventist I continued taking exams on Saturdays until I earned my diploma to enter university. Then I took the entrance exam for a teacher’s college, and was accepted. So in November 2009 I left for Natitingou in northern Benin to continue my university studies. We had classes and exams on Sabbath.
I managed to miss classes in order to go to church, but when it came to tests, I missed church to write the tests.
My conscience was troubled, but I didn’t know what to do. I went to church irregularly. I asked some brothers in church to pray for me, but the prayers didn’t seem to help. Midway through my second year in university, however, God helped me make one of the most important decisions of my life. A calculus exam was scheduled for Sabbath. I hesitated.
Should I take the test on Sabbath or not? A testimony by our pastor about his daughter’s decision to stay faithful to the Sabbath greatly strengthened me. I also reread the story of Daniel and his friends, as well as stories of the Reformers in The Great Controversy.
I decided not to take the test, not only this one, but all future tests as well. I was ready to give up even my studies for the glory of God. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but God’s Spirit helped me. When the Sabbath came, I went to church.
My friends couldn’t understand it. Several of them asked me questions.
It was an opportunity for me to share my faith with them.
I didn’t write the test, and God showed me His power. My teachers decided to give me the same grade I had received so far in the class. This miracle encouraged me to be even more faithful to God. Until the end of my studies in Natitingou,
God strengthened me to be steadfast in my decision to keep sacred His holy day.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last of my Sabbath challenges. Graduation ceremonies at the end of my three years of study were held on Sabbath. But I chose not to attend, even though, by God’s grace, I was the head of my class. Again, this was a chance to explain about the Sabbath to my friends and teachers.
In 2014 I was given the opportunity to take an entrance test to study statistics in Senegal, West Africa. When I learned that there would be classes on Sabbath, I didn’t go. Some of my relatives didn’t agree with me, but for me, only God’s will was important. I decided to continue my studies nearer my home.
Tests scheduled for Sabbaths still continued, but I always chose to keep the Sabbath and not take the tests. The final exam was also scheduled for Sabbath, but the Lord intervened, and my teachers allowed me to take it on a different day.
Keeping the Sabbath holy is a challenge for many people.
My experiences have helped me understand that we must not be afraid to commit ourselves fully to God. Despite all the obstacles, God has consistently sustained me. I am now studying for my doctorate in mathematics, supervised by a professor who previously was disappointed in me because of my stand for the Sabbath. Our God is marvelous and powerful.
Nothing is impossible for Him. Let us choose to trust Him.
Giving Away God’s Blessings
By Faith Toh
In the hills of Sabah, surrounded by the mountains of Malaysia, lies a little village. To get to this village, you have to navigate a bumpy 36 kilometers (22.4 miles) off road to a river. Crossing the river is uncertain.
During drier months the crossing is smooth. When it’s monsoon season, the water level rises too high, and crossing is impossible.
If you make it across the river, there is another bumpy ride up to Bambangan village. It’s a beautiful place, and if you climb up the tallest hill, you can see the back of Mount Kinabalu in the distance. The people of
Bambangan are subsistence farmers. One school serves them and a neighboring village about a 40-minute trek away.
The school, called Sekolah Rendah Advent Bambangan (or Bambangan Adventist Primary School), employs three instructors who teach grades 1 to 6. This year 53 children are enrolled, but actual attendance can drop to 20 during harvest season, planting season, and rainy season.
In a place where parents barely have enough to feed their children, paying school fees is sometimes a luxury they cannot afford.
For the past 13 years Ester Gerber has been faithfully supporting the work of Bambangan School, and tirelessly mentoring its students. Ester was born in a tiny village in Germany, the sixth child of a poor family. It wasn’t easy for her parents to make ends meet, yet they made sure she completed her education.
Ester is passionate about education. For her, supporting the school means more than just contributing financial aid to help pay teachers’ salaries or sponsoring school fees. She says, “Making the world a tiny bit better for someone else is not just giving one push and then saying ‘OK, it was nice meeting you. Goodbye.’
People need to be treated with respect, fairness, and justice, regardless of whether they are rich or poor, educated or uneducated. . . . No matter where someone comes from, they should always know they are princes and princesses of our heavenly Father.”
Stephen* is a graduate of Bambangan School. Influenced by wayward friends at secondary school, he was on a slide down the wrong path. He had so much potential, but he didn’t seem to be interested in learning. Ester was adamant.
She told him, “OK, young man, I will not force you; it will be your own free will. But I would love for you to change schools for your last year. Would you please consider?” Stephen ended up switching schools.
“For the first couple of months, he sent me one message after another,” Ester recalls, “begging me to please allow him to go back to his old school because he was so miserable.” But eight months later Stephen started to tell Ester how his life had changed bybeing at the new school.
He became a spiritual leader, involved in church activities. “He still has some ways to go, but God will lead him,” says Ester. “We can improve their lives; we can even improve their physical wellbeing,” adds Ester. “But unless we manage to bring them the good news and help them accept Jesus as their personal Savior, what have we achieved?”
Ester, who continues to mentor students,is quick to assert that “it is not my faith that keeps Bambangan going. Bambangan is keeping my faith going. “Sometimes I feel like I just don’t have any energy left. But then God gives me strength, and I can fly and soar on wings like an eagle. God has really blessed me, blessed my family.
I need to pass the blessing on to others. I’m not really giving something away, because I’m getting so much more back.”
Rain pummeled the metal roof and siding of our home as gusts of wind whipped the treetops outside my window. A blaze of lightning cast skeletal shadows on my bedroom wall. As thunder clapped I quaked and pulled the covers around my face. God must be angry tonight, I thought.
The journey from faith to assurance
By Cheyenne Francis
Rain pummeled the metal roof and siding of our home as gusts of wind whipped the treetops outside my window. A blaze of lightning cast skeletal shadows on my bedroom wall. As thunder clapped I quaked and pulled the covers around my face. God must be angry tonight, I thought. No doubt I had been the one to stir up His wrath. “God,” I whimpered, “go ahead and take me like Jonah, so that my whole family doesn’t have to die.” Long after the summer storm subsided, my young heart still quivered. What if a tornado had ripped our house apart, or I had been struck by lightning? Surely I would awake in the wrong resurrection, only to be consumed in hell. That’s what happens to people who don’t obey God, and I surely hadn’t figured out how to keep from disobeying Him.
Searching for God’s Love The Bible stories Mom read us at bedtime said God loved people; but He also seemed rather free with His punishments. For example, the stories of Jonah, the Flood, and Sodom and Gomorrah told about those who experienced God’s wrath. My Sabbath school teacher talked about God’s love, and I’d grown up singing “Jesus Loves Me”; still, I couldn’t quite figure things out. For all His professions of love, God certainly did have strict rules. I was supposed to obey because I loved Him, but so far I hadn’t been able to generate enough love to keep me from even the simplest infractions, such as bickering with my brother. Outside Sabbath school and children’s books, love seemed often ignored in my circle of Adventist friends and family. Everyone, it seemed, knew about God’s love, but the people I looked up to felt that those who harped on love also had a tendency to downplay obedience. Not wanting to be guilty of that, they focused instead on pertinent “present truth” topics that pointed out the signs of the times and helped us get our act together. They didn’t waste much time on such basics as love.
Recognizing God’s Love In the middle of all this I read the book My Life Today, by Ellen White, and subscribed to a junior-teen magazine called Young Disciple. Through them I began to understand salvation and God’s true intentions toward me. I saw in the lives of Bible heroes, reformers, martyrs, and missionaries that following God brings the best kind of happiness. I learned about surrendering my will to His will, and the power He gives to overcome. To my great surprise, it actually worked in real life! I learned how to study my Bible to understand God’s true character. As I pondered the cross and Christ’s earthly life, I understood why we sang “Jesus Loves Me.” Slowly God revealed Himself to me, and slowly I gave myself to Him. With a new perspective on love and obedience, I began to believe I could be saved. Now that my view of God had shifted, I even found myself wanting to please Him. I’d never been happier! Soon I noticed God’s love surfacing in everyday life. I started seeing His love in nature, in answered prayers, in small daily blessings. Now that I understood that Jesus wasn’t asking something impossible of me, that He overcame for me and now enabled me to live victoriously, His love seemed more relevant and, frankly, more genuine.
Fundamental Love Still, wasn’t love elementary, and shouldn’t I be moving on to something more complicated and challenging? That’s what I’d been taught. Yet I began to see that “elementary” also means “fundamental.” Love isn’t merely beginner’s stuff—it’s the foundation that gives stability, meaning, and purpose to every aspect of life. Love is the agent that enables us to understand God and become like Him. Ellen White wrote: “The first step toward salvation is to respond to the drawing of the love of Christ. . . . It is that [men and women] may understand the joy of forgiveness, the peace of God, that Christ draws them through the manifestation of His love. If they respond to His drawing, yielding their hearts to His grace, He will lead them on step by step, to a full knowledge of Himself, and this is life eternal.”1 She also wrote: “Such love is without a parallel. . . . Theme for the most profound meditation! The matchless love of God for a world that did not love Him! The thought has a subduing power upon the soul and brings the mind into captivity to the will of God.”2 Yet how little I let God’s matchless love subdue the barriers locked around my soul. How often I went to secondary sources for approval, acceptance, and a sense of well-being. How much I belittled and sabotaged myself when I could have experienced worth and stability built on the strongest foundation imaginable.
Challenged to Hold On I didn’t recognize the chasm in my heart until I experienced a year that shook my inner foundations. God used common events (albeit traumatic ones) to show me that I had been depending on others rather than on Him. That year I broke off a serious relationship, moved away from my home and workplace of eight years, and began examining my childhood family experiences in an objective light. With supportive friends and church family members now hundreds of miles away, my family ties in a jumble, and a state of shattered, aching confusion in my heart, I found my soul desolate and tattered. As I floundered for peace and inner stability, begging Christ for help, a glowing theme started shining through Scripture. It had always been there, but now I paid attention to the best, most unfathomable news in the Book: I have incalculable worth, based not on my performance, talents, or circumstances, but on the devoted, abiding, unshakable love of God. “Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you” (Isa. 43:4). “The Lord delights in you” (Isa. 62:4). What else could matter in view of that? In amazement and gratitude I began highlighting in pink, like little love notes, every Bible verse that showed me God’s love and my worth to Him. Old, familiar passages quickly took on new, radiant beauty. It took me more than a decade to realize it, but now I know that while I’ll never comprehend my worth to Him, I can believe it and build my life on it. “Live in contact with the living Christ,” wrote Ellen White, “and He will hold you firmly by a hand that will never let go. Know and believe the love that God has to us, and you are secure; that love is a fortress impregnable to all the delusions and assaults of Satan.”3 Now when I’m discouraged, tempted, or lonely, I open my Bible and look for pink texts, or for new verses to highlight. I trust those promises more than my feelings, more than my circumstances, more than anything else in the world. I know without doubt that I am cherished. This is the message we are called to live. Even though we can’t explain His love, can’t describe its vastness and tenderness, we can show those around us—our families, friends, coworkers, even the people we meet in shops and businesses—how much they are loved. Love flows from Christ’s heart, melting indifference and making everything relevant! The awesome love of God is the most powerful message we have to share with the world. And the best way to share it is to live it.
1-God’s Amazing Grace (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1973), p. 99. 2-Steps to Christ (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), p. 15. 3-Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1896), p. 119.
I am scheduled for major but non-urgent surgery in the next few months, and I may need a blood transfusion. Do Seventh-day Adventists agree to blood transfusions? Are they safe?
Adventist pastors Bogdan Scur and Shawn Brace are ecstatic about Christ’s presence in their lives. This interview shares that thrill with you. You may also listen to the podcast,1 where Scur, Brace, and Elizabeth Talbot (Jesus101.tv) discuss this subject together. Brace and Scur first explained why, in a world of many moral teachers, they are so fascinated with Jesus Christ.
Brace: I am so fascinated with Jesus Christ because He is so fascinated with me. And all humans, including me, are supremely loved by Christ. He values us more than He values Himself. We owe our very existence to Him—through both creation and redemption. And after you taste this love, you cannot help being fascinated and drawn to Him. Scur: Indeed, Jesus is so superior to every other moral leader. He is the only perfect, faultless human being and flawless moral leader. His wisdom is original, while the wisdom of all other moral leaders is derivative. But I am even more fascinated by who Jesus Himself was and is. He is both the true God and a full human being. He is the beloved Son of God and the Savior of the world.
What does reading your Bible have to do with believing in Jesus? Brace: The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, reveals the heart of Christ and the heart of the Godhead as a whole—a heart of love. Reading it helps me understand His love and respond better. Paul says that “with the heart one believes” (Rom. 10:10). When I encounter Christ through His Word, my heart is stirred to respond to His love by faith. The Bible is a way for me to continuously encounter Christ’s love and be compelled by it. Scur: Jesus Himself tells me that all of the Scripture testifies about Him. This key principle lets me see all of Scripture as either preparation for the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of Jesus Christ itself, or implications of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Does everybody have to be converted? When you think about Christ’s righteousness, what about all the good people who have obviously dedicated their lives to good causes, such as peace, but don’t care about Jesus Christ? Aren’t they all on the same side? Jesus is the Prince of Peace, isn’t He? Scur: Yes, He is. And precisely because He is, He is the one who defines what peace is. Without Him we do not know what life is, or how to love God and each other. Without Him we do not understand what peace is and how we should work for it. Brace: Instead of thinking about “should” or “shouldn’t,” we need to ask what will bring an individual the greatest happiness and fulfillment. We know that there will be people in heaven who never consciously heard of or responded to Christ’s love (Rom. 2:12-15). But why rob them of the opportunity to experience the great joy, peace, and fulfillment of meeting and surrendering to the loving Christ? Of course, it isn’t for me to decide who is or isn’t converted. But I can always share the hope within me and pray that everyone who hears will be attracted to a deeper understanding of and encounter with Christ and His ways.
I once heard a member of one of my churches say, “I brought myself into this church.” Is it OK with you that people bring themselves into God’s church? Brace: The reality is, as sinful human beings, none of us have even an ounce of natural inclination to come to God, much less know how to do it. Scur: We are much too occupied pursuing our own selfish interests and building our own kingdom. Any inclination to God and faith is a gift of grace and the work of God in our lives. We do not bring ourselves into the church. We are led there by God. Brace: John Wesley, to whom Adventists owe a great deal of theological understanding, called this “prevenient grace.” Such a teaching—which is a very biblical teaching—says that, if left to ourselves, we would never even concoct the idea or inclination to seek God, much less go to church. Note this from Ellen White: “Christ teaches that salvation does not come through our seeking after God but through God’s seeking after us.”2 Scur: Very often God uses other people to lead us to faith. We see somebody who beautifully, though not perfectly, exemplifies the life of a disciple of Jesus, and we get the overwhelming desire to live such a life ourselves.
I wonder, is this what you’re saying? Salvation is all of God. There really is nothing humans can do. My earnest church member was probably sincerely wrong because it’s all automatic. People should neither brag nor worry, because everybody is going to be saved: Jesus turned on the salvation switch on the cross. Is that it? Brace: The word “yield,” and such other kindred words as “let,” “allow,” “surrender,” etc., are words Ellen White uses a great deal. Yielding is our “part,” if we can put it in such terms. Our “job” is not to resist what Christ has already started for us at the cross. Through the cross, Christ justified our lives (since we should all be dead right now because of our sins) and draws us all to Himself (John 12:32). If we do not “resist [we] will be drawn to Jesus” and brought to repentance.3 It takes greater effort to run away from God than it does to let Him draw you. Many will be lost at last because they choose to resist and reject the drawing power of God’s grace. Scur: There is a role for human behavior. We do not save ourselves, but we accept or reject what God has done to save us. We still have a free choice. Our salvation is not automatic. Even though Jesus did everything to save us, He does not stifle our will.
What does trusting in Christ do for you today? Brace: Trusting in Christ does everything for me! When I realize that faith works by love (Gal. 5:6) and that “the love of Christ compels us” (2 Cor. 5:14), I recognize that Christ’s love and faith is the fuel that propels all my actions. My life now becomes the way in which I express my gratitude, love for, and faith in Christ through limitless cooperation with His desires for me—call it obedience, if you wish. Scur: Trusting in Christ is changing my marriage, my parenting, my relationship to my colleagues, and many other aspects of my life. Jesus Christ is reordering my thinking, my communication, my attitudes, my feelings, and everything else that I bring into my relationships.
A final question: where do you think this passion of yours for Christ will take you? Scur: I fully expect that this passion will take me deeper into the mystery that is Jesus Christ. Jesus is too good a Savior and too benevolent a Lord not to take me closer to Himself. Brace: Believing in Christ is not simply a good life insurance policy. I’d like to think that—like Moses, like Paul, like Jesus Himself—I would even be willing to give eternity up if it meant someone else’s gain. I follow Jesus not for what He can give me in the future, but because of the incredible gratitude I have for what He’s already given to me in the past. I don’t covet future reward or even present safety, because I don’t deserve anything else good. So, ultimately, I have no idea where this passion will take me! And that’s kind of neat!
1-Soundcloud.com/adventistworld/fascinated. 2-Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1900), p. 189. 3-Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), p. 27.
“One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other—Christ our righteousness.”1
For all we like to use the term, there probably is no such thing as a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
The circumstances we label with that phrase are often those that might more aptly be titled “the power of an idea whose time has come.” God’s gift of prophecy, invading human history and experience, nonetheless invites and sometimes even requires human participation. The prophet hears and accepts God’s call upon the life: he or she responds in faithfulness, and God’s message is preached and taught. Listeners recognize the divine source of the words proclaimed, and by their cooperation help to set in motion the revivals and the reformations that change the course of nations, reshape institutions, and share the gospel in places it has never been heard—all as predicted in prophecy.
One hundred twenty-five years ago God’s messenger to this movement—Ellen White—passionately predicted the theme that would dominate the conversation of God’s end-time remnant. And while the Lord has always had among us witnesses who held high the light shining from the cross, there can be no doubting that the past decades of our history as a people have been marked by a growing spotlight on the righteousness of Christ. From pulpits, in our evangelistic outreach, in personal conversations and correspondence, one interest has, in fact, begun to prevail—the all-sufficiency of Jesus, what Ellen White so frequently termed “the loveliness of Jesus.”2
Your church has made this theme the foremost of its emphases for the next five years, and thus this issue of Adventist World is specially focused on that “subject [that] will swallow up every other.” Read with an open heart. Expect the best as you trace again the best news ever told.
1-Ellen G. White, “Be Zealous and Repent”, Review and Herald, Dec. 23, 1890.
In 1904 American composer Will Lamartine Thompson told of his love for Jesus in the hymn “Jesus Is All the World to Me.”
Jesus is All the World to Me
In 1904 American composer Will Lamartine Thompson told of his love for Jesus in the hymn “Jesus Is All the World to Me.” In doing this, he voiced, in words and music, the precious and personal sentiments that millions of Christians have shared through the millennia since the resurrected Christ entered upon His program of mediating to us His priceless merits, so that we might live heavenly lives even in the midst of earth’s fierce challenges (Heb. 7:25).
The compelling interest in this month’s testimonies from Adventists around the world is in the way they show Christians living out Christ’s life on a day-to-day basis in widely differing circumstances. Here are the earnest words of a high school teenager who loves Jesus, and there, the story (two, in fact) of how a wife learns, through bitter bereavement, a deeper sense of the preciousness of knowing Christ’s righteousness is real and personal. These testimonies help us appreciate greater spiritual, emotional, and ethical dimensions that belong to the third angel’s message in verity (see Ellen G. White, Last Day Events, pp. 199, 200).
The viewpoints expressed in these testimonies are those of the respective authors as they reflected on their journey with Christ.—Editors
Only Jesus Can Truly Satisfy
By Sicelicile Ndlovu
My parents encouraged us children to go to church every Sabbath, though they themselves never attended church.
In Church Without Jesus
I got baptized at the age of 15. I had anticipated some magical change to take place in my life as a result of being dipped in water. I thought baptism would automatically transform me from the sinner I was into a saint. But that did not happen.
The first 20 years of my life I went to church, but I was unconnected to the God of the church. I served in the house of God, yet I never knew the God I served. Repentance and forgiveness of sin were all foreign to my Christian experience.
When I went to university, I was not yet anchored in my Christian experience. I developed an addiction to fashion and parties. I was obsessed with my looks, and I would spend any amount to decorate my body. I knew this was ungodly, but I could not resist the temptation.
Outwardly I looked lively and happy, but deep inside I suffered much from guilt, and I felt empty and desolate.
I got busy with church work thinking that it would bring me peace and righteousness. I desperately needed peace, but the more I toiled, the more empty I felt. My good works could not expiate my guilt. They could not purchase righteousness.
In October 2008 a guest came to our church and spoke about Christ’s righteousness. For the first time it dawned on me that Christ could actually justify me regardless of my past. I felt so thrilled to know that as a repentant sinner, I now stood before God as one who had never committed a single sin. My struggle with guilt was over. For the first time I went home after church feeling happy and at peace with God. Soon after that, I started reading the book Steps to Christ. The book pointed me to the Scriptures.
I remember how my soul delighted to read the assuring words of the apostle Paul in Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
My deepest desire was to be in Christ Jesus. I understood from my study of Steps to Christ that not only had Christ dealt with my past sins, but He had given me a clean heart and gives me power to live a life of obedience.
Today I thank God for delivering me from my bond to fashion and parties, which never really satisfied. I am still learning to live a life of daily surrender to Him.
Sometimes it’s hard when my faith gets tried by the cares of life. When I fall, I know in whom I have believed, and that I can always go back to Him. His grace is ever sufficient. He gives me strength to do all things, and has given me a peace that passes all understanding.
Jesus Has My Folder
By Alareece Collie
In the skit “The Good-O-Meter,”* people stood in a line and one by one approached what I believed to be angels. Each individual would hand over their folders with all the deeds they had done in life. Many had red sheets of paper indicating bad deeds. The angel would do a quick review, then ask the person to step on a scale that ranged from “bad” to “good.” Regardless of the professed good deeds, each scale reading displayed “bad,” and the person was rejected. One unfortunate individual even tried to buy his way in with a credit card. Finally someone turned in a folder filled with red sheets.
However, Jesus appeared and submitted a folder that read “child of God.” Shocked, the angel declared to the gentleman, “Sorry, I didn’t know He was with you.” Jesus proceeded to step on the scale in place of the man, and the “Good-O-Meter” at last measured “good.” Then Jesus and this “child of God” happily walked away and took their seats in what I would call the “righteous” side of the room.
The skit is a simplified portrayal of the concept of righteousness. Sometimes it is easy for concepts or scriptures to remain one-dimensional and never impact the way a person lives. To me, righteousness is about a relationship, and this influences daily living. A key passage is 2 Corinthians 5:17, which reads, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, [she] is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Yet what does it mean to be “in Christ”? Verses 14 and 15 provide greater insight; they read: “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge this: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
In other words, when Christ died, we all died. It can then be said that if we symbolically died because we were “in” Him, we were also resurrected when He was resurrected. This is the new creation. His actions for us were not just an outlier event, but rather an essential part of being in relationship with Him.
Being “in” Christ is deserving of an emphatic sigh of relief, because no amount of my good deeds would have ever been enough. This new creation does not seek my righteousness through my good deeds. It relies on a relationship with the One who is good. In my twenty-first-century world people think I’m more successful because I do more. For myself, I’m glad to enjoy success by stepping aside and allowing my Jesus Christ to turn in His folder for me and step on the scale for me. He fills my place with His righteousness. I’m thrilled about that.
*Central Films, “The Good-O-Meter,” YouTube. Online video clip: https:www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrLzYw6ULYw (accessed Oct. 6, 2015).
His Righteousness, My Peaceful Beach
By La Verne Tavarez
Growing up in Antigua, I loved to look from the beach at the glasslike sea that caressed my island’s shores. However, we learned to fear the beaches when the hurricane season visited us and the sea became a monster that could swallow anyone who dared to leave the safety of higher ground.
Drowning in Fear
As a child, many times I felt as if I had been pulled into wild waters and was hopelessly drowning in an ocean of brimstone. In the Anglican tradition we were taught that if we did not live a good life, hell was waiting for us. I learned that Jesus was God and was in heaven, but that He was part of the punishment was what scared me so much.
Every Sunday I felt that the priest was talking to me, convincing me of my unrighteousness. It was almost as if he knew all my sins. I did not want to go to the sea of fire! But I always felt that hell was waiting for me.
I did not find any comfort attending a Catholic school: I was scared that if I died I was going to burn forever. I do not recall learning any specific Bible verses, only creeds, the liturgy that we repeated, and some Bible stories. Somehow I always knew that our lives needed to be Christ-centered, but the waves around me did not allow me to find that much-desired peace I needed.
An Amazing Change
I moved to New York and met a Seventh-day Adventist who brought me to his church. I learned about righteousness by faith.
I was shocked to learn that I had been deceived about the character of God, and became angry that I had lived in a system based on fear. I resolved to accept this truth of righteousness by faith. I was not yet ready, but at the same time, I cannot describe the emotions of being overwhelmed by joy; there are no words to describe the emotion of feeling Jesus’ righteousness. On the other hand, I met Adventists whose lives also confused me for a while, but not too long.
I accepted fully the righteousness of Jesus, but I had to overcome the discouragement of my experience with people for whom I expected Christ’s righteousness to have made a change in their lives. When I made the decision to be baptized, I knew it was the right thing; it was the public expression of accepting salvation in Jesus Christ. I had to make the decision regardless of what I had experienced with some people around me; I had to make my choice: “As for me, I am going to follow Jesus.”
At that moment I felt that if I died, I was safe in Christ for eternity. His righteousness is so perfect! I felt that I was sitting at the beach and saw one of those peaceful sunsets: the light and warmth gave me peace, the promise of the sea of glass in the new earth.
Saving My Marriage and Me
By Craig Bardo
I joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church as an adult who had come through a series of failures and disappointments. A childhood friend introduced me to the Bible, and I realized that if the Bible was the basis of doctrine, then Adventism made intellectual sense.
Not That Quickly
But my failures and disappointments didn’t end with my new faith. I looked forward to Sabbath, but was unable to reconcile my thoughts and behavior with my faith. I wondered why my efforts weren’t being rewarded if
Christianity was supposed to be a striving toward Christlikeness. Why was I always at odds with my wife and in a contentious relationship with my children? The whole Christian thing wasn’t working for me, and it clearly wasn’t working for my family. My wife was ready to divorce me.
Then the pastoral leadership team at my church began to lead us in a study of Romans 5. As I listened and read, I saw that Paul was describing me: without strength, ungodly, a sinner and an enemy of God (verses 6, 8, and 10). But all of the action fell to Christ! In fact, Paul declared that without confession, without repentance, without even going to God at all, I was reconciled to God by the death of His Son, and that the life of Jesus would save me (verse 10).
A Stunning Difference
The words stunned me. I looked at the Bible with new eyes. But it got better. Paul detailed how we were all condemned in Adam (verse 18), but Jesus set the record straight (verse 19), justifying everyone. This notion that all are justified freely continued an argument that Paul had started in Romans 3:24.
I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. Jesus did not wait for me to come to Him. He came all the way to me!
As I study more, a scriptural pattern is becoming clearer to me. God has saved and delivered us all from the penalty of sin as a gift before we confess, repent, or even believe. He frees us from the hold of sin when we believe and confess (Rom. 5:19, 1 John 1:9). He frees us from the dominion and service of sin by what Paul describes as the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5) and through our faith in Jesus (Gal. 2:20). The obligations and penalties of Scripture fell on Jesus, and the benefits of His acceptance of those obligations are ours, so long as we believe.
No longer do I stress out about reconciling my thoughts and behaviors with my profession of faith; growth in grace is not a matter of stressing out about personal inadequacies. My “sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5). My Sabbaths are filled with worship to God and service to others. Heaven fills my heart with love for my wife and children. I pray that my activities glorify God. I rest in the assurance that it is not my life but Jesus’ life that saves me.
Here I Stand
By Sharon Pergerson
My husband, William C. Pergerson II, a Seventh-day Adventist evangelist, was killed in a plane crash on August 27, 2015. My two teenage children and I were privileged to attend his last sermon series about Christ’s righteousness in Tobago, West Indies, about two weeks before the accident. Every one of those sermons prepared our family for what was shortly to happen. I remember thinking, Wow, he is preaching so powerfully, so clearly, and with such urgency.
Preparing Us for Tomorrow
Without a doubt, God was speaking to us and giving us a highly concentrated dose of His mind and soul-soothing medicine: righteousness by faith. God knew the dosage we needed to be able to endure the traumatic experience and to continue to hold on to Him.
One point that my husband underscored in his sermons that has grown more personal to me since his death is how close Christ is to each of us. Hebrews 7:26 says, “For such an high priest became us.”1 Jesus Christ has come much closer to us than many of us were raised to believe. He found it fitting to become one with us, even closer than a Siamese twin. My children and I appreciate Proverbs 18:24: “And there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
Christ became one with us and gives us the opportunity to receive all that is His, including His righteousness. That’s why Isaiah 54:17 says, “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.”
He Shares My Pain
Oh, what a kind God! I can’t help loving this Friend God, who condescended to be with me in my pit of heartbrokenness. I am drawn to this Great Brother who feels my loss, because it is His loss, too. I cherish this “I AM” God who was in that small plane with my husband as His never-failing helper, holding him tight, and reminding him of His love as he circled the airport in Battle Creek, Michigan, seeking to make an emergency landing shortly after takeoff.
I don’t know why the plane suddenly plummeted to the ground, instantly killing Will, the only occupant, but God will explain everything when He wakes my husband up soon.
I am indebted to this heavenly Father God, who I’ve watched succor my fatherless children and give them resilience, joy, and a determination to ever live to honor Him. I am sold out to this Savior God, who has filled our lives with the riches of souls transformed by beholding Him.
Satan hates this message of the righteousness of Christ. He’s read Ellen G. White’s words, “One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other—Christ our righteousness.”2 He’s noted Romans 9:28, where the apostle Paul wrote, “For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness.” He knows that the revelation and heart reception of Christ’s perfect righteousness will break the chokehold he has on God’s people. He’s very aware that this message will mature us to be able to stand fearlessly in these last days, even in the face of persecution and death.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have chosen to respond to Christ and His righteousness with love, gratitude, repentance, faith, humility, and surrender. My heart is fully open to Him. I am all His and at His service. Like Paul and my husband, I too say, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). On Christ the solid rock I stand.
1-Bible texts are taken from the King James Version.
2-Ellen G. White, Sons and Daughters of God (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1955), p. 259.
Who Is Christ?
By Jorge Mendoza Alvir
God uses difficult situations to show who He is. When we think there are no other answers but our own, God shows His power to make us see who He is and what we are as humans. People often ask: If there’s a God, why doesn’t He show Himself to us? If there is a God, why is there so much evil in this world? But one of the questions most often asked is Why, if I pray, doesn’t He answer me? I used to think that if I prayed I needed an answer to know that God was with me. This misunderstanding was the actual start of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
God Is My Friend A personal relationship with Jesus is being His friend and knowing that He is your friend in good times and in bad times. Throughout the Bible we see people whose faith was put to the test, and who were often the ones that God blessed after tribulation. Once we humans are brought out of our comfort zone, we often seek God. This was my case. I used to think I had a good relationship with God. But when I look at what God has helped me through in life, I see that I didn’t know a lot that I needed to know in order to have the best relationship with Him. Yet Jesus stayed with me through those times and helped me to learn to love Him more and grow in Him. I used to pray for five minutes when I woke up, pray again when I was eating, and one more time before going to bed. I thought this was what it meant to have a close, personal relationship with God. But when God used tribulation to wake me up, I understood that I was really far from knowing God. From what I have been through, I can tell you that a personal relationship with God is not only praying five minutes three times a day. Prayer is one of the most important things to do if we want a good relationship with God. Talking to God and thanking Him for what He has done in our life; understanding that whatever He says and whatever He does is for my own good, this is what God wants me to realize that a relationship is. I didn’t understand this until I put it into practice. I started to learn more and study more of God’s Word; I keep understanding more and more things that I didn’t understand before. I am learning to listen to His voice, and although at first it was really hard to pray without an answer, I learned that just as human relationships need time, a relationship where we can actually hear God needs dedication and time. Now I appreciate that God will not answer if I pray only for selfish reasons; but if I pray for others, and for His will to be done, He will answer. Since I have understood what a personal relationship is, I have really learned to appreciate God’s care for me. I have learned to let Him be first in my life, and He always provides.