I try to read as much as I can about health. Much has been written about vitamin D, and at one point it seemed to be the “miracle” solution for every ailment.
By Peter N. Landless and Allan R. Handysides
I try to read as much as I can about health. Much has been written about vitamin D, and at one point it seemed to be the “miracle” solution for every ailment. Is this so? I am seeing some conflicting reports in some recent articles.
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” plays a key role in calcium metabolism and bone strength and formation. It’s actually a hormone produced in the body that depends on the exposure of our skin to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun (hence the name “sunshine vitamin”).
Initially, vitamin D was thought to be mainly a nutrient that helps to prevent the childhood disease known as rickets. Rickets is a disease in which softening and weakness of the bones occurs because of vitamin D deficiency and the resultant abnormality in calcium metabolism. When this occurs in adults, bones become decalcified and less dense (or strong). This condition is known as osteomalacia, the condition that precedes osteoporosis.
Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium in the small intestine. It also influences the bone cells to release calcium into the blood to maintain normal blood calcium levels and to stimulate growth. Bone is a dynamic tissue that undergoes change and strengthening all the time; this process is termed “remodeling,” and is especially important in the healing and repair of bone fractures. Research has shown that most of the cells in the human body have receptors for vitamin D, where vitamin D attaches and triggers certain processes in the cells.
Vitamin D has a very complex metabolism and numerous related compounds. The substance produced in the skin (and also available in food and supplements) is converted in the liver to 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or calcidiol. This is converted in the kidneys to the active form of vitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3. Vitamin D is fat-soluble and requires fat for absorption. It can be stored for those times we do not have sun exposure (depending on climates, seasons, dress, sunscreen use).
We get vitamin D mainly from sunshine and metabolism in the skin. Only a few foods—oily fish, cod liver oil, egg yolks, and some forms of mushrooms (shitake)—naturally contain vitamin D. Our main dietary sources are fortified foods, such as milk, some soymilks, dairy or soy yogurt, cheese, orange juice, margarine, breakfast cereals, and infant formula.
If you are tested and found to be low in vitamin D after “loading” supplemental doses are given, a typical maintenance dose would be between 800–2000 IU (international units) daily. This must be done under medical supervision; each individual may respond differently to these doses. Follow-up tests are needed to ensure correct dosing.
Exposure to sunlight varies around the world and even within communities. There is also the risk of skin cancer related to excessive sunlight exposure. The following factors may contribute to low vitamin D levels:
less sun exposure in some regions, especially in winter
darker skin (reduces UV penetration)
decreasing ability of the skin to produce vitamin D as one ages
sunscreens (although important in preventing skin cancers, sunscreens can reduce vitamin D production by up to 99 percent)
low intake of fortified foods
obesity (vitamin D may become trapped in fatty tissue)
bowel disorders or surgery
impaired liver or kidney function
Along with bone health, numerous observational studies have connected other diseases and their outcomes to low vitamin D levels. These diseases include asthma, arthritis, various cancers, dementia, depression, coronary artery disease, hypertension, Parkinson’s, and infections. Several large, controlled clinical trials are under way, and the Institute of Medicine is predicting that we will have more definitive answers in 2017. In the meantime, discuss your personal situation and needs with your health advisor.
May God guide you in making wise health choices!
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department. Allan R. Handysides, a board-certified gynecologist, is a former director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department.
Witnessing in the Power of the Holy Spirit By Mark A. Finley
Have you ever longed to share Jesus with a friend, but were at a loss to know what to say? You certainly did not want to offend them by misspeaking, but you felt guilty at not saying anything. Perhaps you have wanted to be a witness for God but felt powerless. Has your Christian experience become stagnant? You long for something more but just do not know how to find it. There is something missing in your spiritual life. There is a sense of emptiness. Maybe you have been thinking that there must be more to Christianity than what you are currently experiencing. Perhaps you have to become actively involved in sharing with others Jesus’ love through your words and actions. Sharing our faith is a “spiritual vitamin” that gives new life to our souls. This month’s lesson will examine the role of the Holy Spirit in empowering us to be effective witnesses for Christ. 1 What promise did Christ give to His New Testament followers? What impact did that promise have upon their lives? Read Acts 1:8. Witnessing is not something we do by memorizing a canned speech or a mechanical formula. Witnessing is the result of Christ empowering us through the Holy Spirit. We witness in His strength, not ours; in His power, not ours; in His wisdom, not ours.
2 What does it mean to “witness” for Jesus? What did New Testament believers do? Compare the following Scripture passages: 1 John 1:1-3; Acts 4:20; 5:30-32. The disciples shared how they had personally experienced Christ. Jesus had changed their lives, and they could not be silent. Witnesses tell what they know; they share what they have seen; they testify about what Christ has done in their lives.
3 Read the story of the Samaritan woman Jesus met at Jacob’s well (John 4:5-42), and the man Jesus delivered from demons (Mark 5:2-20). After they were converted, what did they have in common? What was their first response to the gospel? Ellen White observed, “No sooner does one come to Christ than there is born in his heart a desire to make known to others what a precious friend he has found in Jesus; the saving and sanctifying truth cannot be shut up in his heart. If we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ and are filled with the joy of His indwelling Spirit, we shall not be able to hold our peace.”*
4 What did Andrew do when he found the Messiah? Read John 1:40-42. When we come to Jesus, and our lives are changed by His grace, we cannot help sharing what Jesus has done for us. The Holy Spirit places within our hearts the desire to tell the story of Jesus to those with whom we come into contact.
5 When we are afraid we might say the wrong thing, stumble over our words, or misrepresent Christ because we have nothing meaningful to say, what assurance does the Holy Spirit give us? Read 1 Corinthians 2:12, 13; Luke 21:15; and Isaiah 51:16.
6 What word did Jesus use to describe the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Read John 14:16; 15:26; and 16:7. The Holy Spirit is our “helper.” From our New Testament Greek we get the word paraclete, which means “one who comes along side for the purpose of helping.” When we share our faith with others from a sincere heart, the Holy Spirit stands beside us, prompting our words, guiding our actions, and empowering our witness.
7 Read Matthew 28:18-20. What promise did Jesus give all believers to the end of time? As we witness in Jesus’ name, sharing with others what He has done for us and what He can do for them, He promises to be with us. Through His Holy Spirit He stands by our side. Christ, through His Holy Spirit, flows through us to bless the lives of others. There is no greater joy, no higher privilege, no greater calling, than to be transformed by His grace and witness to others the saving grace of our Lord. n
"I like teamwork, especially from church leaders! It shows a Nehemiah spirit." —Robert Gichana Nyamori, Nairobi, Kenya
Top Adventist Leaders Build a Church I’m writing about Libna Stevens’ article “Top Adventist Leaders Build a Church” (March 2015). I like teamwork, especially from church leaders! It shows a Nehemiah spirit. Robert Gichana Nyamori Nairobi, Kenya
Inspiring! I’ve read nearly the entire February 2015 Adventist World, which rarely happens for me with other issues. I give it an “I” rating for inspiring. Thank you for the wonderful stories of how God is working in miraculous ways around the world. It makes me look forward to what He will do in my corner of the world. Donovan Davis Kernersville, North Carolina, United States
Happenings in Iraq I’m writing in regard to the news article “ ‘Many Wonderful Things’ Happening in Iraq” (February 2015). Praise God, this message shall be preached in all the world as a witness, then shall the end come! The devil is like a roaring lion, seeking to devour the people of the Middle East. But God is in control and the three angels’ messages cannot be stopped by the forces of evil. I will continue to pray for my brothers and sisters in Iraq: that God will strengthen, protect, and provide for them. May God bless and provide for the Kurds. Jeannette Beverly via e-mail
Group Dynamics I read Bill Knott’s editorial “The Way of the Cross” (January 2014). Says Knott: “This crucial (cross-bearing) teaching of Jesus cannot be heard often enough among us as we near the decisive conflicts of earth’s final days. Unless we regularly repeat these words to each other—study them, pray them, build this movement’s processes upon them—we will inevitably mimic the painful power structures of this world that already wound and oppress too many.” Many thanks for this article! Sampson Opare Mamprobi, Accra, Ghana
99 Years Ago When I saw W. A. Spicer’s picture in the December 2014 Idea Exchange (see “99 Years Ago”), poignant memories of his kindness and Christian love for a teenage girl came rushing back. I was the Sabbath school superintendent of Takoma Academy and lived across the street from him. Spicer was so gracious and helpful in providing my program with mission stories. He walked everywhere he went—and he was then in his mid-70s. Spicer was the grandpa I never had growing up. He truly was a man of God, one of His saints! Jean S. Murphy Fletcher, North Carolina, United States
One Team, One Mission Thank you for publishing Manuel A. Gómez’s article “One Team, One Mission” (November 2014). It is a great article! As a football follower I was interested in the article. After reading it, I’ve gained understanding in regard to the topic of unity. The article contains a wonderful analogy; and it helps us appreciate our mission on this earth, playing for God’s “team.” Roberto O. Villarreal San Martín, Argentina
60th Session This year’s General Conference session will be held in San Antonio, Texas, United States, July 2-11. Of the first 34 General Conference sessions, 27 were held in Battle Creek, Michigan, United States. The session has been held outside the United States only three times: Austria (1975), the Netherlands (1995), and Canada (2000). Adventists from around the world can attend the meetings in San Antonio, but only official delegates can comment and vote in the business sessions.
Revived by His Word A Journey of Discovery Together Through the Bible God speaks to us through His Word. Join with other believers in more than 180 countries who are reading a chapter of the Bible each day. To download the daily Bible Reading Guide, visit RevivedbyHisWord.org, or sign up to receive the daily Bible chapter by e-mail. To join this initiative, start here: June 1, 2015 • Hebrews 8
The Truth About Hell In Isaiah 14:15 the word “grave” in the phrase “brought down to the grave” (NCV)1 is also translated as “hell” (KJV) and “Sheol” (NKJV). What is Sheol?
Recent Bible translations tend to use the Hebrew word sheol in many of the verses in which it is used in the Old Testament because there is no exact English equivalent for it. “Hell” is no longer the preferred translation, because the Hebrew word, as well as the Greek hades, does not refer to an eternal burning place where the wicked burn forever after death. In general, both terms (sheol and hades) refer to the place of the dead and are used to convey different, interrelated ideas. 1. The Grave: As the place of the dead, sheol designates the grave, where a corpse is deposited. Some Bible translations render it as “grave” (e.g., Gen. 42:38; 44:29; 1 Kings 2:9; Ps. 49:14; 55:15, NLT).2 Good and bad people descend to sheol/the grave or tomb (e.g., Gen. 44:31), although the main emphasis is on the descent of the wicked (e.g., Job 24:19; Ps. 9:17; 31:17). It is “the place [literally, “house”] appointed for all the living” (Job 30:23, NIV; cf. 17:13). In the New Testament Jesus Himself went to hades by being placed in a grave (Acts 2:31). The natural association between grave and death is indicated by using sheol as a synonym for “death” (Isa. 28:15, 18), and by phrases such as “to go down to sheol/the grave” (Gen. 37:35; Job 21:13) and “bring down to sheol/the grave” (1 Sam. 2:6) in the sense of “to die.” Usually a person dies and goes into sheol, but occasionally people “go down alive” into the grave, that is to say, they die in an unusual way (Num. 16:30, 33; Ps. 55:15). 2. The Depth of Sheol: Since the grave is underground, its depth is emphasized (Ps. 86:13; Prov. 9:18). Sheol is described as the “depths of the Pit” (Isa. 14:15) or simply as “the pit” (Ps. 16:10; 30:3, 9; Isa. 38:18), a land of dust (Job 17:16) and darkness (verse 13). In poetic language, the Bible describes sheol as a prison in the depths of the earth from which no one can escape. It has gates (Job 38:17; Isa. 38:10; Matt. 16:18) and is locked with a key (Rev. 1:18). Sometimes sheol is personified as an insatiable wild beast coming out from the pit and making its presence felt through diseases that threaten human life (Ps. 18:4, 5; 116:3; Prov. 30:16; cf. Rev. 11:7). Sheol is the negation or end of life (Prov. 15:24; 23:14; Ps. 30:3). The references to sheol as a place deep beneath the earth is not about geography but about its distance from heaven as the place of life. It stresses death as total alienation from the living God; the farthest place from heaven in the cosmos (Ps. 139:8; 88:5, 11). Those who are in sheol cannot praise the Lord (Ps. 6:5), and their memory is gone; they are dead. Consequently, Israel had no cult of the dead, and consulting the dead (necromancy) was forbidden (Deut. 18:11). 3. God and Sheol: But not all is darkness. God has power over sheol/the grave/death. The Lord “brings down to the grave and brings up” (1 Sam. 2:6). The dead have no access to God, but God has access to the grave. He has power to ransom His people “from the power of the grave; . . . from death” (Hosea 13:14; cf. Ps. 49:15). He is sovereign Lord of both heaven and sheol (Amos 9:2). “Death [sheol] is naked before [God]” (Job 26:6; Prov. 15:11). Sheol is not the final or eternal residence of humans. It is a prison, but one from which we can escape through the power of God (cf. Isa. 25:8; Dan. 12:2). The key to this prison is now in the hands of Jesus, who was dead but is now alive, and has opened sheol to all who find refuge in Him (Rev. 1:18). He was in sheol, but He was not left to decay (Ps. 16:10). The resurrection will bring the power of sheol to its ultimate end. We could say that the term sheol points to the hope of victory over it. n
Angel Manuel Rodríguez is retired, after a career as a pastor, scholar, and theologian.
"From beginning to end, our faith is indeed all about Jesus."
The Incomparable Christ
There’s only one reason to be a Christian, and His name is J-E-S-U-S.
By Harold Alomía
"From beginning to end, our faith is indeed all about Jesus."
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). This text is one of the most renowned and beloved texts in Scripture. It describes in cryptic clarity the essence of our faith. In fact, the entire first chapter of John is a deep Christological treatise that captivates readers again and again.
It describes the Word in His divine and eternal state. The divine Word functioned as Creator, expressed by the simply profound fact that “without Him nothing was made that was made” (verse 3).
But John 1 dives deeper into the description of the Word. It draws us not just to contemplate a majesty of incomprehensible magnitude; it further allows us to see that the Word is not only transcendent but also immanent. The Word is eternal;
He’s not bound by nature; He’s beyond this world, but He breaks that dividing barrier and “pitches His tent” with us.1 The Word comes to His creation and is invested in the life of His creatures in such a way that He lives among us. He doesn’t enjoy an isolated and safe utopia, donning a sterile hazmat suit in order to avoid contamination, but He empties Himself of all that He could rightfully cling on to, so that He can live among those who are in rebellion against Him and thus bring about God’s revelation. In short, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; the eternal is made temporal, and divinity empties itself into humanity.
No Warm Welcome
The tragedy is that the Word’s mission was greeted by indifference or plain rejection. “He came to His own and His own did not receive Him” (verse 11). Happily, there were those who did see Him, for John exclaims, “We beheld His glory” (verse 14).
Those who saw the Word have given us, through word and time, the message that reveals what is the central component of our faith, the main reason we are called “Christians.” With our name we bear witness as to the what of our faith; better yet, whom we follow. Jesus is the central figure of Adventism. If not for Him, His resurrection, the apostle Paul asserts unequivocally, “our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Cor. 15:14, NIV).
Christ comes to the world with a purpose, a mission described by the apostle Paul as the ministry of reconciliation. The staggering fact is that God is the One who initiates reconciliation with humanity, when it was humanity that severed its ties with God in the first place.2 Jesus is the central means by which reconciliation occurs; without Him life is just good intentions and vain imaginations. Without Jesus we have nothing.
Our Approachable High Priest
Furthermore, Jesus is not just central as God, Creator, and Reconciler; He takes the redemption of humanity even further. Christ is not so removed from us that He sits on a lofty pedestal as an unreachable celebrity of sorts. In His plan He becomes the one who empowers us in our faith.
The book of Hebrews discloses the powerful truth that Christ didn’t live a perfect life just for bragging rights, but actually to aid us in living ours.3 Christ is Creator, Redeemer, Reconciler, and Empowering Savior. It is no wonder then that the same author who sketches the picture of Christ as the empowering figure of our spiritual walk also describes Christ as the one who “finishes” our faith (Heb. 12:2).4
The idea of the Finisher, rather than pointing to a certain state of crossing a specific finish line, is a more dynamic growth concept. It highlights a maturing process in which Christ, the One who starts our faith, is the One who brings it to maturity. From beginning to end, our faith is all about Jesus.
The centrality of Christ in our message is affirmed by Ellen White’s brilliant explanation of how we should convey the message of truth to the world: “The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption—the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers.”5 What a stunning statement about the centrality of Jesus in our message and in our lives! From Genesis to Revelation, He is indeed all. And as we make this theological dictum a living, palpable reality that transcends the paper of our commentaries into the experiences of our lives, we do well to remember that Jesus is, indeed, all. n
God the eternal Son became incarnate in Jesus Christ. Through Him all things were created, the character of God is revealed, the salvation of humanity is accomplished, and the world is judged. Forever truly God, He became also truly man, Jesus the Christ. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived and experienced temptation as a human being, but perfectly exemplified the righteousness and love of God. By His miracles He manifested God’s power and was attested as God’s promised Messiah. He suffered and died voluntarily on the cross for our sins and in our place, was raised from the dead, and ascended to minister in the heavenly sanctuary in our behalf. He will come again in glory for the final deliverance of His people and the restoration of all things. (John 1:1-3, 14; Col. 1:15-19; John 10:30; 14:9; Rom. 6:23; 2 Cor. 5:17-19; John 5:22; Luke 1:35; Phil. 2:5-11; Heb. 2:9-18; 1 Cor. 15:3, 4; Heb. 8:1, 2; John 14:1-3.)
Harold Alomía is lead pastor of the College View Seventh-day Adventist Church at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, United States. He is married to Rosie, a freelance photographer.
Go ahead and skip to #1; it’s not cheating. "Evidently there is something that we human beings can share with celestial beings.
Top 10 Reasons I Want to Go to Heaven
Go ahead and skip to #1; it’s not cheating.
By Bill Krick
"Evidently there is something that we human beings can share with celestial beings."
Top Ten Ways to Destroy the Earth,” shouts the headline. “Top Ten Weirdest Objects in Nature.” “Top Ten Ways to Save for Retirement.” Leaving the highest-ranked items for last, top-10 lists have grown increasingly popular in news and entertainment.
Why do you want to go to heaven? Here are my top 10 reasons.
10. Animals: On a recent visit to Africa my family and I had the privilege of observing—in the wild—lions, rhinos, elephants, hippos, a leopard, and a cheetah. In heaven these fabulous creatures will live freely, but with no bloodthirsty predation: “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox. . . . They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain” (Isa. 65:25).
9. Gardening: My wife and I make valiant attempts at gardening, but unfortunately our thumbs are more brown than green. I’m looking forward to planting and actually eating some of the results (verse 21).
8. Learning: Academic pursuits with their constant inquiry and exploration stimulate my mind. Heaven will provide this in limitless quantities, and no hard, intellectual question will be off-limits.
7. “Oh, I See”: Heaven will offer all the understanding and clarity that have painfully eluded us. Those murky, difficult experiences which have confused us, which we have chosen to take by faith without seeing all the pieces, God will satisfyingly resolve for us. We will grin with expressions of amazement as we “get it”—seeing God’s wisdom and love toward us during our most challenging times.
6. Evangelism: Evangelism in heaven? Well, sort of. Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:10 that “the manifold wisdom of God” can be “made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” Evidently there is something that we human beings can share with celestial beings; something they don’t know about God. “What did it feel like to be forgiven?” they will ask. “What was it like to face a pointed and embedded hereditary temptation, and overcome it?” I’m looking forward to sharing, with great fervor, what my Redeemer has done for me, and what it was like to be rescued from sin and from this planet.
5. Fellowship: We will enjoy the sweetest-ever companionship, especially with friends with whom we have walked through many a shared experience. We will know—together—what it means to have faced the devil’s end-time persecution machine, walking right into his worst temptations, and to have overcome by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 14:3; 12:11).
4. The Destruction of Suffering/Injustice/Death: No more malignant biopsies, debilitation, or skinned knees. No more abuse of power or oppression, the strong taking advantage of the weak. No more divorce, abuse, trafficking. No more wars of national conquest. (And no more news reports about all of this.) In fact, John says he watched as “Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14). Death and the grave (all the pain associated with them as realities we experience or observe will cease operations—destroyed by the decree of the Almighty.
3. Meeting the People I Influenced to Choose God: The moment we lock eyes with these people will bring a rush of exhilaration. “The redeemed will meet and recognize those whose attention they have directed to the uplifted Savior. What blessed converse they will have with these souls! ‘I was a sinner,’ it will be said, ‘without God and without hope in the world; and you came to me, and drew my attention to the precious Savior as my only hope. And I believed in Him. I repented of my sins. . . . And now I see Him face to face. I am saved, eternally saved, ever to behold Him whom I love.’ ”1 When I was in academy, a fellow student was about to be baptized. My chemistry teacher approached me and said, “You realize that he chose to commit his life to God because of your influence.” I was shocked. I didn’t feel as if I had done anything at all. But it made me happy to think that I could impact someone else for God. In heaven, tracing the threads of the great web of influence will reveal how we influenced others for the kingdom. We will meet those people who will say to us, “You don’t remember what you did that day, but this is what happened . . . . It was a turning point in my life, and here I am!”
2. No More Snake: There will be no snakes in trees pushing propaganda as to why we should eat forbidden fruit. Since Satan is “the direct instigator of all the sins that caused the death of the Son of God,”2 his absence will make a noticeable difference. I can’t wait to have him off my back. I often just want to enjoy my time here on earth without facing harassment; I sometimes say to him, “Just go away and leave me alone! Give me a break, Satan!” But he provides no such breaks. He specializes in attempts to annoy, bother, tempt, and threaten. But in heaven, it’s over for him. The battles we daily face will disappear. The great controversy will be over. He and his fellow rebels will be excluded from heaven. Here on earth we do at times experience peace. Sometimes God doesn't allow Satan access to us. But usually God grants Satan the freedom to tempt and harass us. In heaven we will finally be able to let down our guard, not fearing any tricks, traps, or ambushes from the enemy. Our days will be filled with pure and uninterrupted peace.
1. Seeing God Face to Face! The Bible presents its climax in Revelation 22:4: “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.” The entire history of redemption reaches its apex as we meet our God and see His face. This is the moment for which we were created. It fulfills our very existence. Though “no one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18), and though He dwells “in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16), yet He will give us the privilege of living with Him and being with Him (Rev. 21:3).
Prayer ministries will cease to exist. No more prayer chains, no more fasting and prayer days, no more prayer weekends. As the poet wrote: “Farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer!” Instead, it will be “face to face with Christ my Savior.” “For now we see in a mirror, dimly” (1 Cor. 13:12). Paul here did not have in mind today’s sparkling mirrors carefully wiped with glass cleaner, but rather the mirrors of first century A.D. Palestine: polished metal. The incomplete and sometimes distorted images that they provided the viewer make for a perfect illustration of how little we know, how little we see, of God. “But then,” he continues, we shall see “face to face.” The top of the charts—the top reason I want to go to heaven—is to see Jesus face to face. Why do you want to go to heaven?
Bill Krick serves as director of literature ministries for the Central California Conference in the United States.
To Wound or to Heal The power of words By Ted N. C. Wilson Words are a power for good, or not.
The Lord asks us to pass everything—every thought, every word—through the filter of His grace.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” goes the childhood nursery rhyme that many a child blurts out through tears at their tormenters. But as we all know, this little saying isn’t exactly true. Words can and do hurt, often for a long time. Take a moment to think back to your childhood: how many times did you get hurt by something someone said to you? And how many times did you lash out, hurting others without really intending to because you just wanted to defend yourself? As we grow older and become more mature, we learn that we need the Lord to defend us, and not we ourselves. “Do not take revenge,” we are told in Romans 12:19, “but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (NIV).
Importance and Power of Words Words are important for communication. Have you ever tried to go an entire day without speaking? It’s hard. But either words can heal or they can hurt, if not controlled by the Holy Spirit. One of my favorite books of the Bible is Proverbs because it’s so practical and true. For example, Proverbs 12 is filled with such gems as: “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health” (verse 18); “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight” (verse 22); “A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims foolishness” (verse 23). Not only are these words of wisdom, they are filled with promise, such as: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1); “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends” (Prov. 17:9); and “He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive” (verses 27, 28). The book of Proverbs frequently links wisdom and compassion, encouraging us not to follow our natural inclinations, such as: “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back” (Prov. 29:11); “He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly” (Prov. 14:29); “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Prov. 25:21, 22).
Proverbs and the Sermon on the Mount In the Beatitudes, Jesus shows us that if we follow heavenly wisdom, it will bring blessings, and encourage us to have a sweet relationship with people: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. . . . Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. . . . Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:5-9). Wisdom and compassion go hand in hand. The story is told of a man dying alone in a Brooklyn, New York, hospital. He sent for his son, who was working in the state of North Carolina—more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) away. The young man came and sat the entire night, holding the hand of this dying man, talking to him and encouraging him. The old man died in peace, unaware that a mistake had been made with the contact. As soon as the young man walked into the room that night, he realized that the person lying in the bed was not his father. Nevertheless, rather than just turning away or saying something hurtful, he had compassion and encouraged the elderly man during his final hours. As Christians we are called to be like Jesus. Everything we say and do has to be cushioned by the Lord’s guidance. We are told, “The religion of Jesus softens whatever is hard and rough in the temper, and smooths whatever is rugged and sharp in the manners. It makes the words gentle and the demeanor winning. Let us learn from Christ how to combine a high sense of purity and integrity with sunniness of disposition. A kind, courteous Christian is the most powerful argument that can be produced in favor of Christianity.”1
Filter of God’s Grace In today’s culture social media is pervasive in many developed areas, and nearly instantaneous. It’s so easy to respond immediately to something we find upsetting on Twitter, Facebook, a Web site, or blog, or in an e-mail we have received. We’re insulated from the person: all we see are letters on a screen. But the Lord asks us to pass everything—every thought, every word in response—through the filter of His grace. Living in an increasingly digital age makes actual person-to-person conversations even more important, and it’s vital that we ask God for guidance as we speak. At times I have to check myself when I respond about something. I could respond in what appears to me a calm way, but to others I might appear to overact. Even the inflection of the voice, or intonation, or how something is said, can hurt people or put them into a combative mode.2
Heavenly Peace and Christian Tact With the General Conference session approaching, this is an important time to consider the wise counsel given to us and to pray for the approximately 2,700 delegates who will have voice and vote. Those voices have to be used to bring glory to God, even in discussions in which there are differences of opinion. We are earnestly asking all church members to pray that God will grace our lips and our attitudes with heavenly peace and Christian tact and respect for each other, even though we may not agree. In preparation for the 2014 Annual Council last October, our leaders made a fervent appeal that everyone speak in the most Christlike manner: “We General Conference and division officers appeal to all Annual Council attendees to accept each other as brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of some differences of opinion that may be evident on certain subjects. We ask for Christlikeness and humble respect for each other in our words and activities during this Annual Council and beyond.”3 We praise the Lord that we saw the Holy Spirit moving on the hearts of people in their speeches and responses at the Annual Council. We give God glory for His presence, even though we had strong differences of opinion. The General Conference and division officers will be making a similar appeal to the General Conference session, asking the Lord for this same Christlike spirit. Regardless of the outcome, the process may be the greatest testimony to the world of the power of the Holy Spirit to control our lives, of how we can approach items of difference with a Christlike spirit.
Not Just Political Politeness Christian tact and grace, of course, aren’t to be confined simply to public forums: they actually begin in the home. With what kind of tone do we address our spouses and our children? Are we hard-hearted and demanding, or are we sweet and forgiving? And in the workplace, do we allow the pressures to create responses that are terse and disconnected from the human recipient? On the telephone, do we use Christian tact, not just political politeness? Are we truly using Christian tact in the way we respond to e-mails and other forms of communication?
It’s important to remind ourselves that once words leave our mouths, our fingertips, they’re gone forever, and it’s almost impossible to pull them back. It’s helpful to pray and think three times before writing something that might hurt, or saying something that might cut. So when you’re ready to give that speech, submit your mind and tongue to the Lord and let Him filter what you were going to say, giving accurate and important responses, but in a Christlike manner. “Christ Himself did not suppress one word of truth, but He spoke it always in love. He exercised the greatest tact, and thoughtful, kind attention in His intercourse with the people. He was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word, never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul.”4 As we see world events forming to create the last prophetic scenario, it’s so important that each of us represent our Lord—publicly and privately—with the right demeanor and a sweet, humble spirit. This can come only as we are in daily communion with the Lord, asking His indwelling Spirit for revival and reformation. As we face the closing events of earth’s history, may it be written in the books of heaven that each of us spoke in tones of conviction, but with Christian tact and grace, all through the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. n
Ted N. C. Wilson is president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The Experience of Pain Lessons learned from life’s hard knocks "There are lessons God can teach us only in the center of the flames." By Maria Lombart It takes a special God to walk us past the pain.
Sometimes God allows us to go through painful experiences, not because He finds pleasure in our suffering, but because there are lessons He can teach us only in the center of the flames.
Painful Lessons I find I am closer to my Father when I’m hurting. I know instinctively that even though I cannot run to Him and physically feel His arms around me, I can pour out my heart to Him through tears, unheard words, even angry questionings, and He is a safe place for me (see Ps. 62:8). To be closer to my heavenly Father is something for which I constantly strive. And while I do not relish the experiences of sorrow, pain, and grief, I recognize that He uses these to help me to develop a closer companionship with Him than before.
Not Always What We Want God doesn’t promise that He will grant our wishes once we’ve endured the hardship. At times, we have difficult lessons to learn, which include not always having the outcome we might hope for. I tend to be someone who looks for the reward after the testing. I can be patient and deal with hard times as long as I know I’ll receive what I want after everything is all over. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Or, perhaps, fortunately. God knows our hearts. Sometimes our desires line up with His plans for us; sometimes they don’t. We may have to learn to live in a place of emptiness for a while until we’re ready to accept the far more beautiful gift that God has waiting for us. We must walk by faith, believing that God wants the very best for us, and not try to run ahead and attempt to create our own destiny based on our feeble efforts to understand ourselves.
Developing Empathy When I find myself facing pain, my instinctive reaction is to push it away until it has subsided. I am learning, however, that we should push through the pain, accepting it and holding it close instead of hiding from it. Personal pain and suffering can soften our hearts to the pain of others: a mother who has lost her child; a young woman who has lost her husband; a grandmother who has lost her spouse of 50 years. Or perhaps the pain isn’t caused by the death of a family member. Perhaps instead it comes from the loss of a beloved pet, a culture, an identity, a job, a dream, a home, a love. Each of these losses creates pain that is unique in its experience. So while we can empathize with someone who has felt loss, we cannot truly walk with them emotionally unless we too have experienced the pain to the degree they have. Not long ago a mother I know lost her daughter to death. I put my arms around her, said I was sorry, and expressed words of regret and comfort. I have suffered my own losses to death; some of the people were very dear to me. Yet I knew I could not feel one iota of the anguish this mother feels every time she imagines living without her daughter, every time she wonders whether she could have prevented her death from happening, every time she reaches out to connect and then realizes her daughter is no longer there. Only another mother who also has lost her child can truly identify with the pain she feels.
Pain as a Gift? I don’t believe that pain is a gift in itself. But I do believe that God turns pain into a gift when we use our understanding born through suffering to comfort another person in their despair. My own experiences in suffering are preparing me for something I don’t yet know. Everyone carries sorrow in their lives and is searching for understanding and comfort in the midst of pain. So I’m learning that pain turns my quick ability to judge into sympathy and concern. On the other side of pain we can experience joy, peace, strength, and healing. As I look back on my own life, I realize that I have found myself to be a stronger person after trials of suffering. It may not have been perceptible growth, but each time my heart was glued back together with time, understanding, and comfort it became just a little stronger. The experiences weren’t easy, but we can either fall apart from the pain or hold on to God for strength. We make the choice.
Jesus the Pain Bearer Jesus experienced the worst kind of pain imaginable when He went to the cross. The physical pain was immense, but humans, too, have been exposed to that kind of torture. The pain that tore at His heart was that of complete separation from the One He loved the most: His heavenly Father. God the Father had to remove His presence, His beams of light, one by one, in order to fulfill the demands of the law that He had established even before the creation of the world.* But praise God, Jesus was the victor over sin. He now identifies with us in our sorrows in a way that we can understand, because He has experienced our pain to an even greater degree than we ever will. Pain and suffering are experiences foreign to our original natures. We were created for joy, peace, and wholeness. We were created to be in close communion with God and with one another. Pain steals those beautiful experiences and replaces them with brokenness. Because of His amazing grace, our heavenly Father, who foresaw the hurt we would have to go through, offered us His dearest One so we could have the hope of one day seeing pain forever eradicated. God has promised to wipe every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4). And as He wipes away those tears, I believe He will also wipe away the memories of the pain, replacing them with unutterable love, for we will no longer need the experience of pain. n
Maria Lombart grew up in the mission field in West Africa, Egypt, and Lebanon. She now works in the mission field of North America.
Ellen G. White’s pivotal role in Adventism’s early camp meeting years
God’s Messenger: A Leading Influence
A look at Ellen White’s life and legacy
By Reuel U. Almocera
HORNELLSVILLE, NEW YORK: In 1880 Ellen (center, front) and James White (white beard to her left) pose with some of those who attended camp meeting.Ellen White was recognized as God’s messenger for the Seventh-day Adventist Church since its founding in the early 1860s. How did this messenger’s life impact the church during its maturing years?
During the May 1869 General Conference (GC) session in Battle Creek, Michigan, the assembly resolved to practice a “more careful reading of, and a more strict compliance with, the Testimonies to the church.”1 This leading influence was sustained through Ellen White's public speaking ministry, and the publication of her articles, pamphlets, and books by the church’s publishing enterprise. But GC leaders' emphasis on the significance assigned to Ellen White’s prophetic ministry caused a temporary setback. Early in 1871 the Seventh-day Adventist Church recorded a 12.8 percent decrease in membership, mainly because of the lingering attitude against the prophetic guidance of her ministry. Yet God intervened. In a dream on April 30, 1871, the Lord described to Ellen White the relationship between the Bible and her testimonies. Reporting on this impressive dream, Ellen White wrote, “The Lord designs to warn you, to reprove, to counsel, through the testimonies given, and to impress your minds with the importance of the truth of His Word. The written testimonies are not to give new light, but to impress vividly upon the heart the truths of inspiration already revealed.”2 Her vision on December 10, 1871, in Bordoville, Vermont, triggered a spiritual revival and led to increased confidence in Ellen White’s prophetic ministry. The influence of Ellen White through her published works continued to flourish as James White, for health reasons, relinquished the office of GC president to G. I. Butler during the December 1871 GC session. With an opportunity to expand their ministry, and for Ellen to write more, the Whites moved west.
The “Guiding Hand” and Revival
While living in both California and Colorado in 1873, Ellen published more than 20 articles for Review and Herald, Health Reformer, and Youth’s Instructor. Most focused on the life of Christ.3 By August she had published Testimony 23, in which she described the state of the Laodicean church. Attached to that pamphlet was James White’s “earnest appeal,” enumerating an agenda to be considered by the church for an assertive expansion program. In response to its publication, G. I. Butler called for a second GC session in 1873. Encouraged by a “Guiding Hand,”4 James and Ellen White left Colorado to attend the session, in November. In Battle Creek during the Sabbath morning worship Ellen preached a sermon on the temptation of Christ. Many hearts were touched. The church experienced revival; and significant initiatives were launched for the growth and progress of the church. Experiencing physical and emotional problems, James White felt that he should have more influence over the work of God’s messenger. Ellen White decided that it would be best for them to work independently.5 So in the summer of 1874 Ellen left James, who was working on the first issue of Signs of the Times, in California and traveled east to participate in camp meeting tours and raise funds for the growing work on the West Coast of the United States. James became GC president again in August 1874. This gave Ellen an opportunity to influence the church’s strategic progress. Here are two examples: a January 3, 1875, vision charted some major strategies for the worldwide mission of the church (sending missionaries to foreign lands and establishing publishing houses in many countries); and a September 12, 1875, dream in Rome, New York, showed Ellen White the colporteur ministry, which birthed the literature evangelism ministry—one of the most successful worldwide missionary programs of the church.
Times of Progress
The marital anxiety experienced in 1874 seemed to reappear. Ellen White, in California for the winter of 1876, did not travel back east with James. She was determined to finish writing a volume on the life of Christ. Later Ellen, however, did join James in the east, attending 14 camp meetings. The most memorable of these was in Groveland (near Haverhill), Massachusetts, with an estimated attendance of 20,000 people. A report of that camp meeting states that “special trains were run from the cities of Lawrence, Newburyport, Haverhill, etc., and at 9:00 a.m. the auditorium was filled with intelligent people. . . . Still the people poured in from the towns about, and the trains came loaded with their living freight. . . . Mrs. White ascended the platform, amid the profound stillness of that vast multitude and addressed the people on the subject of Christian temperance. Her original and comprehensive manner of handling this subject elicited the highest commendation of all that heard.”6 Ellen White’s influence expanded with each passing year. From 1875 to 1878 she published more than 250 articles in the church papers. She even helped organize a local conference in Oregon, and actively participated in the organization of the Texas Conference. In Texas she met 21-year-old A. G. Daniells, who later became GC president and, to date, has served the longest (1901-1922). During the fall of 1878 Ellen White received several visions, including the solemn judgment vision (October 23); and another on November 23. Major resolutions adopted by the GC session in response to these visions.
Times of Distress
But the “rebuke” and “chastening” contained in the 1878 visions caused distress. Members reacted negatively. Some influential leaders defected. Ellen White went to California in 1880 with S. N. Haskell and W. C. White to manage the crisis. She later reported, “The tangled condition of affairs here are distressing.”7 She was in California when she penned a pointed testimony to James regarding his erratic judgment and autocratic leadership style.8 She even hinted that it might now be time for him to retire. During the 1880 GC session James White turned the GC presidency over to Butler. In December the Whites moved to their “retirement” home a mile from Battle Creek, near Goguac Lake. But the turmoil in Battle Creek did not subside. Ellen wrote, “I dare not give counsel, even to my brethren. It is a perilous time. There was never such a state of things as now in Battle Creek.”9 Just after 5:00 p.m. on Sabbath, August 6, 1881, James died in Battle Creek Sanitarium. During his funeral service on August 13, at the Dime Tabernacle, Ellen, after nearly 35 years of marriage, said, “I shall be alone, and yet not alone, for my Savior will be with me.”10 It was clear to Ellen White that she would continue to minister as God’s “leading influence” for the church in times of distress and progress.
Reuel U. Almocera is director of the Ellen G. White Estate Branch Office at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies in the Philippines.
A Place of Worship for All Balancing cultural and ethnic congregational life By Don W. McFarlane Our cultural preferences can be used by God for His kingdom.
Thirty years ago the word “diversity” was not used much within the Seventh-day Adventist Church community in the British Isles. The one cultural distinction, often highlighted, was the difference between those referred to as Anglos and those referred to as Caribbeans. Whenever that subject was discussed, various negative motives were often attributed to one group for not wanting to worship with another. Much of the behavior that was blamed on prejudice and intolerance was largely the result of cultural preferences. Some underestimate the importance of culture, holding to the view that all people, if they are children of God, should worship together. If they choose not to, the conclusion is clear: They are not truly children of God. But the truth may be more complex.
Worship Matters Worship is most meaningful within the context of one’s own culture. And reluctance on the part of members of one population to fellowship with another may be nothing more than a desire to worship in circumstances with which they were familiar. Several Adventist churches in the British Isles have been loosely described as Caribbean churches. However, in numerous cases, these churches are made up largely of members from a particular country, a particular parish, even a particular village. So that just as Caribbean people coalesce according to their particular mores and folkways, it is reasonable that people from other cultures may also wish to do the same, and worship with people who sing like them, eat like them, pray like them, preach like them, and understand their way of life.
The Ghanaian Example In 1992 a group of Ghanaians asked the South England Conference to recognize a Ghanaian fellowship, and organize the fellowship into a church for the purpose of nurturing Ghanaian Adventists and evangelizing the wider Ghanaian community. So was born the era of what are generally called “ethnic churches.” Since the London Ghana Adventist Church was established in London in 1992, several other ethnic churches have been set up; among them are congregations that have services in Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, Bulgarian, and Romanian, not to mention congregations from other African nations and the Philippines. The conference recognized that if the church was to be even mildly effective in London, it would need to shift from being monocultural to multicultural. It needed to broaden its appeal and provide different congregations for different kinds of people. It would have been ideal for existing churches to become multicultural churches, not merely in membership but in the manner in which things were done. But that was easier said than done. In nearly all the churches, a long pattern of worship and witness was already established. Changing that to accommodate the needs of multiple cultures was a tall order. Further, forcing different cultural or ethnic groups to worship together, even regardless of color, could result in an approach to worship that would frustrate many. Many would cease attending church, as many had before the advent of the ethnic churches. Some might say that having ethnic churches is religious apartheid, but the facts do not support it. In the British Union, people are free to worship where they wish. People worship where they prefer the style of worship they encounter, where they are treated with love and warmth. In fact, worshippers from all ethnic groups can be found in congregations of other cultural groups. Ethnic congregations provide a wider choice to worshippers and would-be worshippers. They provide a bigger platform for presenting the gospel in a diverse and sophisticated community. Ethnic churches are among the fastest-growing congregations in the British Union.
Demographic Earthquake Since the year 2000 thousands of Adventists have arrived from Southern Africa and Eastern Europe, seemingly overnight. The arrival of these new members, the greatest number being from Southern Africa, has brought several visible benefits to the British Union: small churches that were struggling have been revived; the musical ability of the new members has enhanced many a service, and their commitment to the mission of the church has been refreshing; their warm and friendly disposition is also a particular blessing. When I first entered church administration, leaders were concerned primarily about nurturing members of the church’s majority population. Today its concern is to minister to a wide spectrum of members, without being partial to any particular cultural group. The church will never be the same again. Nor should it be. We are still very much concerned with reaching the majority population with the gospel, in that they compose more than 90 percent of the people who live in the British Isles.
General Observations The church in the British Isles has become much more conservative, particularly with respect to other forms of diversity. One that comes easily to mind is gender diversity. What was once a growing acceptance of the equality of men and women in ministry has slowed down. The task of reaching the majority population with the gospel has become more challenging. The British Union is one of the few places in the world in which the composition of the church is in reverse proportion to the composition of the general population. In most other countries witnessing comes naturally, as people share their faith with others like themselves, while in Great Britain sharing faith involves more cultural bridging. Additionally, the traditional evangelistic approaches emphasized do not appear to be the most ideal methods for reaching the majority population. Managing growing diversity requires that: n all newcomers be warmly welcomed, and everyone made to feel part of the family. n ongoing diversity seminars provide opportunities for leaders of various culture groups to dialogue so as to understand one another. n ministers be employed to meet the needs of different culture groups—most pastors taken on in the past 10 years are originally from Africa, Eastern Europe, India, and South America. Local churches have been asked to involve new members in the life of the church to heighten their sense of belonging.
Major Implications The Adventist Church in the British Isles has become irreversibly multicultural. In this new context, all cultures represented in the church share the responsibility for caring for all other cultures. By way of example, no more than 20 percent of Seventh-day Adventists in the British Isles are British. In the same way that Portuguese, Russians, Bulgarians, and Ghanaians are now able to, the British also care about worshipping in a manner they find comfortable and appropriate to their culture. For the church to have its most significant impact on its society, emphasis must be placed on cross-cultural evangelism and outreach. Pastors and members have to be trained and encouraged to witness outside their own cultures. The church has to be sensitive in its appointment of leaders, and ensure that the broad cultural makeup of the church is considered, as well as the makeup of society. As we celebrate the richness and variety that people from nearly every country in the world bring to our spiritual table, we may also explore and appreciate the complex interplay between people of different cultures and marvel at the wisdom of God that makes us all so different and yet all one in Him. n
Don W. McFarlane is pastor of administration for Sligo church in Takoma Park, Maryland, United States. Before that, he was president of the British Union Conference.