One of the great challenges facing Christians is not necessarily what they believe, but how they live.
Healthy Minds, Healthy Christians
By Mark A. Finley
Our thoughts often govern our behavior. We regularly act out what we think. Our actions and attitudes are deeply affected by our thought patterns. Positive, Christ-centered thoughts lead to positive, Christ-centered actions. Healthy minds produce healthy Christians; unhealthy minds result in unhealthy Christians. In this month’s lesson we will study how to develop healthy thought patterns as the motivating force for Christ-like actions.
1. What admonition did the apostle Paul give the believers in Philippi?
Read Philippians 2:5.
2. According to Philippians 2:6-8, what is the mind of Christ?
The “mind of Christ” is the unselfish spirit of self-sacrificing love. Christ’s mind is revealed in His humble birth, His compassionate ministry, and His atoning death on the cross for our sins.
Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel state it well: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Lucifer desired to dominate. Christ desired to serve. Lucifer wanted the highest position to satisfy his ego. Christ chose the lowest position to redeem us. The mind of Christ is the mind of self-sacrificial service for others.
3. How can we develop the self-sacrificing spirit of Christ? How can our thought patterns be changed to reflect the mind of Christ? Compare 2 Corinthians 3:18 with Colossians 3:1-3.
When we behold Christ in His Word, our thoughts will reflect His mind. We gradually and imperceptibly change to that upon which we allow our minds to dwell. Ellen White wrote: “It is a law of the mind that it gradually adapts itself to the subjects upon which it is trained to dwell” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 598).
To the ancient Hebrews, the heart was the seat of affections and thoughts. Solomon admonishes us to guard our hearts—our minds—well, because that is where the issues of our lives are determined.4. Why is it so vitally important to guard our thoughts? Read Proverbs 4:23.
5. What practical instruction did Paul give the church at Philippi regarding protecting our minds from the bombardment of secular, worldly influences?
Read Philippians 4:7, 8 and make a list of the specific things the apostle says to think about, so as to produce healthy thought patterns.
6. In his letter to the believers in Rome Paul discussed two possibilities for the mind of Christians?
What are these two totally different alternatives? Read Romans 12:2 to discover the answer.
Each day we are either being conformed to this world or transformed by the grace of Christ. The Holy Spirit longs to renew our minds through the power of the gospel so we can reflect the love of Jesus in our daily lives.
7. How can we deal with deeply ingrained thought patterns that seem to entangle us in faulty thinking?
Compare James 4:7, 8 with 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5.
As we daily submit our thoughts to God, the Holy Spirit works within us to create new thought patterns. As old, negative, self-centered thoughts rush into our minds we resist in the power of Christ, “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). It is sometimes a great struggle to think the thoughts of heaven. But by God’s grace, and through His power, we can reveal His loving character and become healthy Christians in a sin-sick world.
This is not necessarily a difficult question, but a certain aspect of it is often not emphasized.
Saturday Night or Sunday Morning?
Does Acts 20:7 indicate that early Christians met for worship on the first day of the week?
By Angel Manuel Rodriguez
This passage has been used by Sunday keepers to argue that the first day of the week was already replacing the seventh-day Sabbath in the first century. They also argue that according to this passage the church celebrated the Lord’s Supper on Sunday. We face here in Acts 20 three main issues: (1) the day of the meeting; (2) the purpose of the meeting; and (3) the reference to the first day of the week.
1. Day of the Meeting: The meeting was held “on the first day of the week.” The mention of lights in the room (verse 8) and the reference to midnight (verse 7) indicate that this was a Sunday evening meeting. Identifying the specific moment to which Luke is referring is a little more difficult. If he was using a Jewish calendar, according to which days were reckoned from sunset to sunset, Sunday evening would be what we call Saturday night (the evening after the Sabbath). If he was using the Roman calendar, according to which days were reckoned from dawn to dawn, Sunday evening would be our Sunday evening, and the next day would have been Monday. Sunday supporters tend to argue that Luke used the Roman calendar. The problem is that the first day of the week in that calendar was “Saturn-day,” not Sunday. They are forced to argue that Luke combined the Roman time reckoning (dawn to dawn) with the Jewish calendar, in which the first day was Sunday. This is highly unlikely. The best option is that Luke was using the Jewish calendar (see Luke 23:53-56), and that in this case the meeting took place during what we call Saturday evening (the first day of the week after sunset). As we will see, this is important.
2. Purpose of the Meeting: This was not a regular day of worship. First, the text says that Paul met with them “because he intended to leave the next day” (Acts 20:7, NIV). On their way to Jerusalem, Paul and his companions had decided to spend a few days in Troas; now they were ready to leave. This was a farewell meeting.
Second, the meeting was not, strictly speaking, a worship service—there is no reference to prayers and singing—but a long seminar during which Paul interacted with the audience. Two verbs describe what Paul was doing: “talking, talked” (verses 7, 9; dialegomai) and “talking” (verse 11; homileo). The verb dialegomai (“to argue,” “to instruct”) expresses the idea of reasoning and engaging others in dialogue. Paul did this in the synagogue (e.g., Acts 17:2; 18:4; 19:8) and in the marketplace (Acts 17:17). Homileo (“to speak,” “to converse”) implies dialogue and interaction (e.g., Luke 24:14, 15; Acts 24:26). In postapostolic times it meant “to preach.” Both verbs indicate that Paul was engaged in dialogue with believers, instructing them and answering their questions.
Third, the phrase “to break bread” does not necessarily designate the Lord’s Supper. It was a common Jewish designation for having a meal (e.g., Luke 9:16; 22:19; Acts 2:42 [cf. verse 47]; 27:35). In the second century the phrase became a technical expression for the Lord’s Supper, but this particular meeting was a farewell meal taken at midnight before Paul left. 3. First Day of the Week: The reference to this specific day is almost casual, used to date the event. Luke liked to date events (e.g., Acts 20:6, 15, 16; 21:1, 4, 15). More important is the implication that the previous day was a Sabbath day, during which Paul would not have traveled. So he waited until Sunday to travel.
We can summarize the sequence of events as follows: During the Sabbath Paul worshipped with believers; during the evening, after sundown (the first day of the week), he met with them to instruct them and answer questions. The death and restoration to life of a young man lengthened the meeting. Paul returned to the meeting hall and continued to teach. Early in the morning they had a meal, and Paul finally departed. Perhaps Luke’s main interest was to report the impact on the church of the miracle performed by Paul. In doing so, Luke placed it within its historical context: it happened in Troas before Paul left on the first day of the week. He was clearly not promoting Sunday observance.
Angel Manuel Rodríguez, now retired, served the church as a pastor, professor, and theologian.
Whenever we read the last two pages of Revelation, we sense calmness. John describes the out-of-this-world gleam of precious stones, plants, and houses that are incomparable to anything we know.
In the Beginning God
Acknowledging God’s six-day miracle
By Clinton Wahlen
I used to be firmly convinced that the universe and all life originated through evolutionary processes open to our study. Then I learned that these processes of macroevolution are not open to study, because millions of years would be required to confirm them by scientific observation.
I also knew about the “missing links” (or “transitional forms”) needed to show how human beings descended from such primates as the ape. Then I discovered that there were countless missing links for all kinds of life, not just one.
Finding the Truth
It was a shocking realization to me that evolution was not really a scientific theory at all, because it cannot be tested; that it was simply the metanarrative used by scientists to form hypotheses and theories that can be scientifically tested and confirmed or invalidated.
As I read for the first time the Bible’s account of creation, it was so elegant and believable—even with all our scientific knowledge. Genesis is unique. No other ancient creation story is remotely credible today.
Nevertheless, some Adventists have begun to include evolution into the mix of those first “six days”—and with it, predation, suffering, death, and a creation “week” lasting hundreds of millions of our years—while claiming to believe “all 28 fundamental beliefs.” Thus, clarifying our statement on creation became a top priority.
Editing Fundamental Belief 6
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has always read Genesis literally, as a creation in six literal days, not as a description of life evolving over millions of years. Revisions made at the 2015 General Conference session do not change the substance of our beliefs; they only reduce potential misunderstanding by clarifying the first three sentences:
The word “historical” was added. Scripture provides the “authentic account” of God’s creative activity, but we also believe it is historical. Genesis 1 accurately describes what God created on each day and the order in which He created it.
Three ideas were clarified:
Since the Bible indicates that God made other “worlds” besides our own (Heb. 1:2; 11:3) and probably earlier than ours (the Greek word ai?nas refers to unbounded time), the sentence begins by indicating that God created the entire universe first, before the six-day creation. More Bible references were added to support our view (Isa. 45:12, 18; Acts 17:24; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2).
Including the word “recent” affirms that the creation of our world took place a few thousand years ago, not millions of years ago. Genesis 5 and 11, which contain the chronogenealogies that show a recent creation, were incorporated into the list of Bible references to support this addition and the first sentence’s claim that this is a historical account.
Now included is the divine interpretation of Genesis given in the Sabbath commandment (Ex. 20:11), which limits the six days to the creation of our world, with its three habitable spaces and “all that is in them”: “the heavens” (sky), “the earth” (land), and “the sea” (water). Biblical support for these three environments (Rev. 10:6) and for the centrality of the Sabbath and a six-day creation to God’s last-day people (Rev. 14:7) were also added to the reference list.
Words were added to remove any remaining ambiguity and to clarify that we do not believe in a long timescale or evolutionary processes for creation:
God did not just complete His work during creation week—as if much of His creative work on this planet happened even earlier and over a longer period of time—He also “performed” it.
God’s work of creation took place “during six literal days,” thus excluding the possibility that the “six days” were symbolic of thousands or millions of years.
These six days “together with the Sabbath constituted the same unit of time that we call a week today.” The seventh day was an integral part of creation week, not separated from it by a gap of long ages. Also, that first week is not just “like” a week today, but “the same unit of time.”
How Our Editing Has Helped
Some have said that our original statement on creation was fine, and it was—for those who hold to a literal interpretation of Genesis. But since that statement was voted in 1980, an astonishing number of Christians, even some who claim to have a high view of Scripture, now read Genesis very differently, so as to make room for evolutionary processes requiring deep time—millions and even billions of years. These revisions are for such a time as this. They leave no room for doubt about what we believe as Seventh-day Adventists, no room for equivocation, no room for waffling. They never intended to before, and these revisions make that clear.
When, as an atheist, I began reading the Bible, three passages about creation profoundly impressed me.
Isaiah 40:26-28 seemed to be speaking directly to me: “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? . . . Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.”* I hadn’t known and hadn’t heard. But once I began to open my eyes and think about it seriously, I discovered the wonder of a world teeming with life best explained by Genesis.
Second Peter 3:3, 4 described my atheism perfectly. I was one of these last-day scoffers. I had, based on uniformitarianism, asked my Christian friends, “Where is the promise of his coming? For . . . all things are continuing as they were from the beginning.” It came as quite a shock to discover that my skeptical thoughts had already been recorded in the Bible!
Revelation 14:6, 7 predicts that faith in the Genesis account of creation and seventh-day Sabbath worship will be at issue in the last days. My heart was won by the amazing love and mercy of a Creator God who saw thousands of years ago the world I would live in today and the evidence I would need to believe in Him. How about you?
God has revealed in Scripture the authentic and historical account of His creative activity. He created the universe, and in a recent six-day creation the Lord made “the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” and rested on the seventh day. Thus He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of the work He performed and completed during six literal days that together with the Sabbath constituted the same unit of time that we call a week today. The first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was “very good,” declaring the glory of God. (Gen. 1-2; 5; 11; Ex. 20:8-11; Ps. 19:1-6; 33:6, 9; 104; Isa. 45:12, 18; Acts 17:24; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2; 11:3; Rev. 10:6; 14:7.)
*All Bible quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version [ESV], copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Mark and Teenie Finley are involved in building a church that will be open seven days a week.
By Andrew McChesney
The church will be unlike any you have ever seen.
Just steps from a fashionable shopping plaza in an affluent town near Washington, D.C., the Living Hope Seventh-day Adventist Community Church is taking shape under the curious eyes of neighbors in a gated community on one side and patrons of a country club with a golf course and bubbling fountains on the other.
Mark and Teenie Finley showing an architectural rendering of the church at the construction site, background.
“The nice thing is that everybody who comes into this community will see this building,” said Teenie Finley, a lifestyle coach who with her husband, evangelist Mark Finley, are the originators of the project. “A woman already came by and said, ‘What’s going up here?’ when we put up the construction sign.”
When Finley replied that the site would host a church and community center with healthy cooking classes, stress management courses, and Bible and archaeology seminars, the woman exclaimed, “I want to come to these classes!” But that’s not all that the church will offer. The community center on the first floor will also have a resource center where people can read books and watch DVDs about health, family, and the Bible. A prayer room will offer a quiet place for busy people to meditate on the things of eternity.
A planned walking club will meet on some Sundays for a vegan buffet breakfast that might include oatmeal pancakes, blueberry-flaxseed pancakes, blackberry cobbler, French toast made with cashews instead of eggs, scrambled tofu, and fruit—enough variety, Finley said, to show that vegans are not limited by their plant-based diet. The meal will be followed by a short, Mark Finley-led devotional and an outing on the 17 miles (27 kilometers) of walking trails near the church.
Longer-term plans envisage possibly opening a juice bar and vegetarian sandwich shop at the shopping plaza and organizing Bible land tours of archaeological sites.
“We see this as really making an impact in the community,” said Mark Finley, Teenie at his side, as he took Adventist World on a tour of the construction site and surrounding community in Haymarket, Virginia. The church also promises to serve as a model for Adventist churches of the future.
The Haymarket church also will function as an evangelism center, with the Finleys and the church’s pastor, Robert Banks, leading four- and eight-day intensive training sessions for Adventist leaders and lay members once a month.
Sabbath services will be held in a second-floor sanctuary with seating for 225 to 250 people. An on-site media center will give the church the capability to broadcast, giving it an international reach.
All About Community
The Adventist world church has placed an emphasis on making every Adventist church a community center over the past few years, with its leader, Ted N. C. Wilson, calling for comprehensive health ministry initiatives that meet people’s physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional needs. Some churches offer cooking classes and others have resource centers, but few have plans quite as ambitious as the Haymarket church.
“We want our pastors and laypeople to see that churches have to engage in their communities,” said Mark Finley, an editor-at-large for the Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines. “The methods may be different in each community, but the principle is the same. You try to do everything you can to make an impact for Christ in that community, just as Jesus did.”
Construction started this spring on the US$4 million building, a dream come true for the Finleys, who have preached and led health seminars in nearly 100 countries over the past half century. Both are now 70 and feel a responsibility to share what they have learned with the next generation of Adventists.
“I know that 10 years from now I am not going to be able to jet all over the world, holding evangelistic meetings,” Mark Finley said. “So the question is: How do you pass on what you’ve learned in 48 years of evangelism? My desire is to pass on to others any skills, any gifts, any knowledge that God has given me.”
The church will function as their base. Slated to open in January 2016, the community center will be staffed by volunteers every day of the week.“Often churches are the least economically efficient buildings in the world because they’re open only once a week,” Teenie Finley said. “Our church will be open seven days a week.”
This is not a case of “build it and they will come.” Although the Finleys keep a busy travel schedule, they also are deeply involved in the community. Mark Finley, for example, lectures on how to improve grades at a nearby community college. His last class was attended by 100 students.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “We talk about the impact of vitamin B on the brain and the impact of a wholesome diet on the thinking process. We talk about exercise and adequate sleep and their impact on study. The students love it.”
“A Project of Faith”
Teenie Finley was impressed to start the project after praying about the lack of an Adventist church in Haymarket, the Finleys’ hometown. One day, on her morning walk, she was surprised to see a sign on a grassy knoll reading “Future Church Site: For Sale or Lease.” She felt an overwhelming need to pray, and she began to pray daily over the sign, pleading with God that this would be the site of an Adventist church.
Then one evening she told a lay-evangelism training seminar she was conducting that every church needed to be a training center. An attendee whom she had never met before pressed her for more information on the sidelines of the meeting. As she spoke with him, she mentioned that she had found the future church site and that she wished she and her husband could open an evangelism training center there.
The next day the attendee told her: “I went home last night and prayed about what you had told us about, and God impressed me to give you $50,000.”
More donations flowed in as soon as the Finleys opened a special fund at the General Conference, the administrative body of the Adventist world church, to deposit the $50,000 and to seek God for further direction in the funding. One friend decided to contribute an additional $50,000, while another gave $7,000. The $107,000 was far from the required amount. But the Finleys took the unexpected seed money as an indication that they should move forward in faith.
About the same time, Mark Finley and Tommie Thomas, an elder at the nearby Warrenton Adventist Church, approached the company that owned the church site and the surrounding community. To their surprise, the company offered them a better site. Teenie Finley had been praying at an undeveloped lot in a corner of the community, but the new site was located right in the heart of the community and boasted a parking lot and other amenities.
Through a series of miracles, God provided the finances necessary to purchase the property and begin the building process, Mark Finley said. The last funds remain to be raised, but he expressed confidence that God would see the project through to the end. “This is a project of faith,” he said. “It’s a miracle.”
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hungary and a breakaway group of hundreds of former Adventists have agreed to put aside past grievances and work toward healing a 40-year schism.
Jamaican Gives Up His Dreadlocks—His All—for Jesus
Rastafarian runs to the barbershop before being baptized.
By Dyhann Buddoo-Fletcher, IAD
Going more than 30 years without a haircut did not disqualify a 66-year-old Jamaican man from baptism.
George Johnson after his haircut. (Courtesy of George Johnson)But his decision to dart out of an evangelistic meeting and find a barbershop convinced the pastor that he was willing to sacrifice all for Jesus. George Johnson, a Rastafarian adherent who had taken a Nazirite vow not to cut his hair, told an astonished audience at a Seventh-day Adventist tent meeting in northern Jamaica that he once believed in the divinity of the former emperor of Ethiopia and had made plans to move to Africa. But now, he said, his loyalty was to the Creator God and he longed to go to heaven.
“Even if I had to cut off my hand to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I would do it,” Johnson, freshly trimmed and shaved, said at his baptism. With his voice choking with emotion, he added: “Nobody forced me to be baptized. No woman seduced me either. I hear them saying that Haile Selassie is God, but my God created the heavens and the earth.”
Because of Johnson’s testimony, several people decided to accept Jesus and get baptized during the recent four-week “Prepare to Meet Thy God” evangelistic series. A total of 15 people were baptized.
Johnson asked to be baptized after deciding that his decades-long search for a church that taught biblical truth had ended at the tent meeting. He had lived for more than three decades as a devout Rastafarian, a religious movement that emerged from Jamaica’s slums in the 1920s and 1930s. Rastafarians are united in their pride in African heritage and belief in the divinity of the late Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I. Their lifestyle often includes wearing their hair in dreadlocks, the ritual use of marijuana, avoidance of alcohol, and vegetarianism.
Dreadlocks Versus Jesus
Johnson said he had visited many churches before attending the evangelistic meetings in the city of Falmouth.“For 60 years I have been in the dark,” he said. “When I went to the campaign, I heard the evangelist preach. My eyes were opened. The good news filled my heart. I found my church, and I am not leaving it!”
The path toward baptism was not easy. Johnson decided to give his heart to Jesus at the start of the second week of the meetings. But the local senior pastor, Carlington Hylton, was uncertain if Johnson was ready. The two spoke before the evangelistic meeting opened on a Sunday evening. “I went to the tent early, about 6:30, to get acquainted with the candidates presented by the Bible instructors,” Hylton said. “George was shown to me as a prospect sitting in the front seat of the tent, waiting for his baptism. I asked the Bible instructor if there was any discussion with him about his hair, and I was told, ‘No.’?”
Hylton spoke with Johnson about his religious beliefs.“I asked him if he was a Rastafarian or if his locks were just a hairstyle,” the pastor said. “He told me he was a Rastafarian and was hoping to go back to Africa, where his forefathers are from. He said that he had taken a Nazirite vow, and his hair was his covenant, and it should not be cut.”
Hylton said he realized that Johnson needed more time. He assured Johnson that he was not being denied baptism, and made arrangement to meet the next day for further Bible studies.
“Who Is This Man?”
But that same night, after listening to evangelist Livingston Burgess preach, Johnson went missing. He reappeared in line with the baptismal candidates.
George Johnson before his haircut. (Courtesy of George Johnson)
“Who is this man?” asked Clavour Tucker, a local pastor who had just led the candidates in completing their baptismal vows. “I didn’t recognize him, nor did anyone else,” Tucker said. “So I asked Elder Burgess to find out who he was. To our astonishment, it was George! He had gotten a haircut, a clean shave, and was ready for baptism.”
He said the excitement grew under the tent as the audience realized what had happened, and many began to clap with joy. “We all couldn’t believe what had taken place,” Tucker said. “You see, at that time of the evening most barbershops are closed. But George found someone to cut off his dreadlocks just in time to be baptized.”
Hylton said he was amazed, and his concerns were laid to rest.“There was nothing I could do. The man wanted Jesus so badly that he went and cut off his locks,” he said. “The cutting of the hair for me was a public statement that George may not know much, but he knew that God wanted him. I could not deny him baptism.”
Evangelist Livingston Burgess speaks with George Johnson on Sabbath, April 4.
Johnson said in an interview that he had no regrets about giving up his hair.“When I listened to the sermon that Sunday night, I reflected that I had been in the dark all these years,” he said. “I couldn’t wait another day. I wanted to be baptized now. After hearing all that good news in the Bible, I realized that I needed Jesus now. That is why I cut off my hair.”
We all know the conversational quiz by which we try to clarify priorities. It typically begins, “If you could only say one thing about _______, what would it be?”
A Ministry of Healing
By Bill Knott
We all know the conversational quiz by which we try to clarify priorities. It typically begins, “If you could only say one thing about _______, what would it be?” Reducing all the possible answers down to one somehow convinces us that we are getting at the most essential thing.
But when we turn that process to the life and ministry of Jesus, we find ourselves confounded by the sheer variety of things that we must say of Him. Among so many others, we need to say of Jesus that He is “truth,” that He is “love,” that He is “judge,” that He is “Savior.”
Had you asked that question across Judea and Samaria in the first century A.D., however, the favorite answer would have undoubtedly been “healer,” for that is how the vast majority of people encountered Him. Even those who had but little idea of His teachings or His kingdom nonetheless discovered Him in hands that once again could grasp a tool, dread diseases that miraculously disappeared, and blind eyes that now could see a human face—His human face—for the first time. And they loved Him for the healing; followed Him because they had been healed; joined His cause because they glimpsed in Him a power to heal the world of more than physical afflictions.
So it is that all who intend today to build up the kingdom of Jesus must ultimately commit themselves to the work of healing that was so central to His earthly ministry. Preaching, urgent as it is, will never be enough: teaching, wise and timely as it can be, will never have the greatest impact. Truths become truly life-giving when they find a home in bodies that have been restored. This is why for 150 years, God’s remnant church for the endtime has uniquely underlined how preaching, teaching, and healing always move together. In every place where Seventh-day Adventists share the Bible truths that heal the heart they also share the ministry of health that makes the wounded whole.
As you read this month’s cover feature, “Zimbabwe Leads the Way,” pray for your neighbors and your friends who will discover Jesus as you demonstrate His kindness for their physical well-being.
One of the great challenges facing Christians is not necessarily what they believe, but how they live.
When God Surprises
By Mark A. Finley
I recently followed the footsteps of the apostle Paul on a journey to Greece. What impressed me most was the power of the gospel to change lives. Paul courageously preached in some of the most influential, sophisticated cities of his day. Hearts were touched. Lives were changed. Entire cities felt the life-transforming grace of God. In this month’s Bible lesson we will journey with Paul to some of the political, intellectual, and commercial centers of the ancient world, and study together the power of the cross.
What prompted the apostle Paul to travel to the European continent? Read Acts 16:6-10. Paul was sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Although he must have been perplexed initially when the doors to preaching the gospel in Asia were closed, he had confidence that if God closed one door, He would open another.
Where were Paul’s first evangelistic efforts in Europe? Read Acts 16:11, 12. Philippi was a city in Macedonia, northern Greece. It was on the Egnatian Way, the road that connected East and West. This influential city probably had a population of more than 100,000 people. Paul knew that if the gospel was going to make a difference in Europe, he must begin in its great population centers.
Who were the first three converts as the result of Paul’s ministry in Europe? Read Acts 16:13-34. What are the characteristics of these three individuals? What are their similarities? What are their differences? The gospel changed the lives of a wealthy businesswoman, a demon-possessed slave girl, and a middle-class Roman jailer. The gospel changes lives, all kinds of lives. In Paul’s first evangelistic endeavor in Europe we have a demonstration that the power of the gospel reaches all humanity.
How did Paul describe the believers in Berea? Read Acts 17:11. What are the implications for our own personal Bible study?
What was the impact of Paul’s teaching in Athens? Did he have any converts in this center of intellectual and philosophical thought? What do you discover as you read Acts 17:22-34? Paul carefully reasoned with the philosophers of Athens on Mars Hill. He met logic with logic, and the Greek intellectuals were amazed at his clear reasoning. One of the city’s most influential men, Dionysius, a prominent judge, was converted to Christ, as were a number of other men and women.
In Athens Paul used a more intellectual, rational approach. What were his tactics in Corinth? Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.
Although Paul faced major challenges in Corinth, what was the result of His preaching there? Read Acts 18:8-11. There were miracles of God’s grace everywhere Paul preached. The gospel transformed the most desperate lives. Light penetrated the darkest minds. Grace reached and delivered men and women caught in the grip of sin. Paul’s message of God’s love and grace speaks to our hearts today. Nothing is too hard for God. His power for us is still available through His Word. He is still in the business of changing lives. He still surprises us with the majesty of His love, the power of His grace, and the glory of the gospel.
This is not necessarily a difficult question, but a certain aspect of it is often not emphasized.
God Still with Us
Does the ascension of Christ mean that He is no longer with us?
I will use your question to share a few thoughts about the significance of the ascension of Christ. The return of Jesus to the Father is an important chapter in the history of the cosmic conflict between good and evil, and it deserves much more attention than it usually receives.
1. Ascension and Incarnation: At His ascension the incarnate Son of God did not abandon His human nature. The disciples saw Jesus taken to heaven (Acts 1:9-11), and even there He still is “the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). It was not a disembodied mind that went up to heaven, totally divested of the materiality that defines humanity. Jesus took with Him His human body because it is an inseparable component of His human nature. In fact, Jesus’ bodily resurrection testifies to His bodily ascension. His ascension did not mean the end of His incarnation.
2. Ascension and Absence: It is impossible to speak about the ascension of Christ without affirming His absence. He left His disciples behind: “I will be with you only a little longer,” He told them (John 13:33, NIV). Any attempt to locate Jesus among us here on earth distorts the biblical teaching of His ascension. This is particularly the case with respect to the teaching of the real presence of Christ in the bread of the Eucharist. He ascended, and no one can bring Him down to earth. Yet Christ is present among us in the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Although Jesus was going away, He promised to send His disciples “another Helper” (John 14:16). He went so far as to tell them that although absent, He would come to them through the Spirit (verse 18). Absence does not mean abandonment.
3. Ascension and Exaltation: Christ’s ascension led to the exaltation of the Son of God. This was the moment when He “was taken up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16, NIV). Since this is the glory that was His “before the world began” (John 17:5, NIV), the ascension affirms the preexistence of the Son of God. He who descended also ascended (John 3:13; 6:38). The incarnate God now sits at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33) “crowned with glory and honor” (Heb. 2:9). He rules with the Father from the cosmic throne of God. He has “all authority . . . in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18; cf. Phil. 2:9-11). The ascension proclaims Christ’s cosmic victory.
4. Ascension and Space: The ascension means that Christ’s work on behalf of the human race was not finished. Otherwise, He would have established His kingdom on earth after His resurrection (cf. Acts 1:6). Where did He go? He ascended to be our high priest in the heavenly temple (Heb. 6:20; 8:1, 2). The ascension tells us that Christ left one space/place—our world—to go into another—the heavenly temple, to minister on behalf of His people. These two places are deeply connected in that what takes place in heaven impacts God’s people on earth. There is no disconnect between what happens in His space and what happens in ours. The Lord still cares for our planet.
5. Ascension and Time: His ascension did not take Christ into a timeless realm disconnected from ours. It was a historical event that intersected earthly and heavenly realms of existence. Christ’s enthronement marked the moment when the Spirit was poured out on His church (Acts 2:33). These two different events, in different places, occurred at the same time. Prophetic time points to this time connection. Events in heaven and earth occur at the proper time as indicated by the prophecy (e.g., Gal. 4:4). For instance, the beginning of Christ’s work of judgment in the heavenly temple is connected to our time through the 2300-year prophecy (Dan. 8:14). What Christ is doing before the Father is related to the history of His people. While He intercedes for us (Heb. 7:25), we are here on earth fulfilling the mission of the church (Acts 1:7, 8). When His high-priestly ministry closes in heaven, the mission of the church closes on earth. Then the absent Christ will come back in glory. His ascension anticipates a moment of permanent reunion.
Angel Manuel Rodriguez is retired after a career as a pastor, professor, and theologian.
Church leaders have approved a completely new, Internet-centered encyclopedia to replace the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, first published in 1966.
Adventist Church Will Release All-New Encyclopedia
The Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventism will debut online in 2020.
By Andrew McChesney
Church leaders have approved a completely new, Internet-centered encyclopedia to replace the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, first published in 1966. The new Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists will debut online in early 2016 and be overseen by the General Conference’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research (ASTR). The General Conference’s Executive Committee has earmarked US$1.6 million for the five-year project.
“Unlike its predecessors, no future major revision process will be required, because of the continuous updating of the encyclopedia’s Web site,” ASTR said in a statement. “Thus, while the production of a new encyclopedia will be time-consuming and not cheap, it means a similar outlay of resources will never be necessary again.”
ASTR is also partnering with the Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines, which developed an early model for a Wikipedia-style online Adventist encyclopedia.
The two magazines will work to encourage congregational and crowd-sourced histories of local churches, Adventist institutions, and individuals, while the ASTR effort will focus on scholarly contributions to understanding Adventist history and experience. “We’re excited at the prospect of involving thousands of Adventists—laypersons, retirees, and members of congregations—who have unique knowledge they can share with this world-embracing project,” said Adventist Review/Adventist World editor Bill Knott.
In addition to text, the online edition will feature video and audio and draw on the expertise of thousands of Adventist scholars worldwide. It will be available in all major languages, including English, Spanish, French, and German.
“We are working with divisions to translate the encyclopedia into the major languages spoken by church members,” ASTR director David Trim said.
The idea for a Seventh-day Adventist encyclopedia was first raised in 1959. The Review and Herald Publishing Association initially decided against the idea, but, upon completing the nine-volume Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary in 1962, voted to publish the encyclopedia as a complement to the series. The project was announced at the 1962 Spring Council, and the single volume Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia produced by a staff of eight was released in January 1966. A revised edition was published a decade later in 1976. A substantial revision began in 1993 that resulted in the publication of two volumes in 1996.
In last month’s World Vista column, we looked at God’s call to faithfulness, faithfulness to Christ, to His Holy Word, to His church and prophetic movement, and much more.
A faithful Mission
Answering the call
By Ted N.C. Wilson
In last month’s World Vista column “Called to Faithfulness: Now Is the Time”, we looked at God’s call to faithfulness, faithfulness to Christ, to His Holy Word, to His church and prophetic movement, and much more.
Jesus Christ is our role model and Savior. Through His righteousness and grace we can be faithful because He is faithful.
Praise God He has called us to be a people, a church, with a mission. And what a wonderful mission it is, a mission to bring hope and healing to a dying world, a mission to proclaim the Three Angels’ Messages, a mission to share the wonderful news of Christ’s soon return.
This divinely-appointed mission is the reason the Seventh-day Adventist Church exists, and it is a calling given to everyone—women and men, young people, children—regardless of age or gender.
Mission and Theology
Our unique, God-given mission springs from Revelation 14:6-12—the Three Angels’ Messages—God’s important messages for these last days of earth’s history. Some people may say these messages are politically incorrect and not advisable to preach. But I tell you that the Three Angels’ Messages are the most important messages to share. They are our theology and mission, and the reason for God’s wonderful remnant church. Seventh-day Adventist theology and mission are inseparable.
Everyone Is Needed
To reach the more than 7 billion people in the world for Christ and the important truths revealed in His Word, every Seventh-day Adventist is called to play an important part in God’s final mission of mercy to this dark world.
We are told, “The light that God has given His people is not to be shut up within the churches that already know the truth. It is to be shed abroad into the dark places of the earth. Those who walk in the light as Christ is in the light will co-operate with the Saviour by revealing to others what He has revealed to them. . . . In the world today men and women are absorbed in the search for worldly gain and worldly pleasure. There are thousands upon thousands who give no time or thought to the salvation of the soul. The time has come when the message of Christ’s soon coming is to sound throughout the world. Unmistakable evidences point to the nearness of the end.”1
This work is not just for ordained ministers, but for everyone who believes and knows the truth. We are called to work together in fulfilling this important mission. Lay members are vitally important in carrying forward the truth for this time.
In your places of work, in social interactions, in your day-to-day activities, reveal the attractiveness of Christ and others will be drawn to know the source of your peace and happiness. Be willing to share the hope that is within you: the hope of Jesus’ soon return.
We must remember that the ability to accomplish this work is not in human beings, or in programs or policies. The power and truth presented are found in the Word of God, in the Spirit of Prophecy, in earnest prayer, and in the Holy Spirit. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6)
Our biblical message unites us as a worldwide people and guards us from isolating ourselves from society and from each other.
People of the Book
We are living in a time when many people do not want to hear the straight Word of God. They want to hear only what sounds good to them. Church members, preach the Word in season and out of season. Live like the Lord is coming soon, because He is!
We are to rely completely on the Lord and His precious Word. Let’s increase the understanding that we are “people of the Book,” accepting God’s precious Word with the clear hermeneutical understanding that we use the historical-biblical approach for interpreting its messages. We do not accept the historical-critical method, which places human interpretation above the Bible interpreting itself.
As historicists, we believe that the Bible explains biblical prophecy with the understanding that the waymarks of history and the fulfillment of prophecy are clearly indicated and permeate history. We stand on the sure Word of prophecy.
We also accept fully the wonderful counsels given to us through the writings of Ellen White. The Holy Word and the Spirit of Prophecy empower us to accomplish our great work in announcing Christ’s return.
Agents for Christ
As ministers and lay members work hand in hand, let’s share this heavenly message in every way possible; through small groups, personal witnessing, public evangelism, publications, social media, and many other ways, including through the effective comprehensive health-ministry. Let’s prepare people for Christ’s soon coming by doing what God has asked, empowered, and equipped each of us to do.
An amazing promise is found in Christ’s Object Lessons: “It is the privilege of every soul to be a living channel through which God can communicate to the world the treasures of His grace, the unsearchable riches of Christ. There is nothing that
Christ desires so much as agents who will represent to the world His Spirit and character. There is nothing that the world needs so much as the manifestation through humanity of the Saviour’s love. All heaven is waiting for channels through which can be poured the holy oil to be a joy and blessing to human hearts” (p. 419, emphasis supplied).
Challenging Times Ahead
As the conflict between truth and error intensifies, a shaking will take place in God’s church. Ellen White predicted, “As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side. . . . They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren.”2
Those who hold fast to their Savior, and refuse to abandon the truths found in the Three Angels’ Messages, realize that they must perform their duty in presenting these messages and leave the results with God. With “faces lighted up” they will “hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven. . . . Miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and signs and wonders will follow the believers. . . . Thus the inhabitants of the earth will be brought to take their stand.
The message will be carried not so much by argument as by the deep conviction of the Spirit of God. . . . The rays of light penetrate everywhere, the truth is seen in its clearness, and the honest children of God sever the bands which have held them. . . . Notwithstanding the agencies combined against the truth, a large number take their stand upon the Lord’s side.”3
My brothers and sisters, this is the exciting future for which you and I are being empowered and equipped to finish God’s great work as we proclaim these mighty messages. Only by relying completely on Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit will we be able to accomplish anything. God is preparing us for something unusual: the outpouring of the latter rain of the Holy Spirit.
Mission-minded fellow believers, all heaven is waiting. Are we ready to answer heaven’s call? Are we willing to dedicate ourselves fully to the Lord and allow Him to work through us to reach those who are perishing? Jesus is coming soon!
1 Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, pp. 24, 25. 2 The Great Controversy, p. 608. 3 Ibid., p. 612.
Ted N.C. Wilson has been president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists since 2010.