ADVENTIST LIFE While working at the Titanic Museum in Branson, Missouri, I was able to talk to many of the touring guests. Igenerally started the conversation by asking the guest where their home was. The most frequent answer was either a city or state, or some combination of the two.
WHERE IN THE WORLD IS THIS? *Recently an elderly man passed by my station, and I inquired, “Where is your home?”
His response caught me quite by surprise. He said, “Heaven, I’m just passing through.” I couldn’t help myself in responding with a hearty “Amen, brother!”
What an easy way to witness the “good news” of eternal life with my Father! I encourage every member of our worldwide church to adopt this response when asked where they are from—I guarantee it will cause many who hear this response to pause and consider where their “home” truly is.
—Winfield Scott, Branson, Missouri
WELCOME TO “THE PEOPLE’S PLACE” IN THE NEW YEAR!
We invite our readers from around the world to make this page their special place. We hope you will send photos of interesting places in your part of the world for “Where in the World Is This?” We also invite you to introduce yourself, or a leader or lay member of your church, or a newly baptized member in your church to your worldwide family by sending a photo and profile for our “Meet Your Neighbor” section. If you can’t share a photo or a profile, please consider sharing a quote or a humorous and/or inspiring short anecdote about Adventist life in your church.
Your contribution here on The People’s Place page can encourage and inspire your brothers and sisters around the world to grow in Christ and to share their faith and joy in Jesus in ways they may not have considered before.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“The seed sowing of many years is bearing fruit. But this should not lead us into an attitude of self-complacency and contentment. This is the time to be more alert and active than ever.”
—Elder Matthew A. Bediako, Annual Council 2007
*ANSWER: From Brazil, young adults engage Pastor Jan Paulsen, president of the Seventh-dayAdventist Church, in dialogue at the Let’s Talk event on April 23, 2006, in São Paulo.
Our local church is going through internal misunderstandings. Please include us in your prayers. Also, pray for me as I am struggling to meet my life’s strategic goals.
—Phalula, via e-mail
Pray for me to get a job and be strong in faith.
For a long time now there has been conflict between Christians and idol worshippers where I live. This past June an “Ibono” festival was held in which men and women are not supposed to see each other. We decided to change our worship time so we as a church could meet together but, unfortunately, these idol worshippers got information about our new timetable and stormed our small hall, destroying our doors, windows, and roofs. Some of us were injured. We were too small to fight them, so we left everything in the hands of God. Please pray that we will be able to find a way to repair our hall. Thank you.
I feel hopeless. Please pray that I find help to attend any Adventist college. I want to study theology.
Please pray that God heals my mother.
Please pray for my friend who has blurry vision and breast cancer, which has metastasized to bone cancer.
My husband’s business is not doing well. I experienced a stillbirth early this year. Please pray that our financial standing improves and that my current pregnancy be without any complications.
Please join me in praying for my children. We need to find the right school for them next year. Thank you.
—Sara, United States
Celebrity Culture Revisited I am writing about the article “Celebrity Culture,” by David N. Marshall, in the October 2007Adventist World.
Thank you for this timely article. The allure of “stardom” is rampant in our society today. Unfortunately, it has found its way into the church. In fact, Ellen White stated in forceful tone: “I lift my voice of warning against praising or flattering the ministers. I have seen the evil, the dreadful evil, of this. Never, never speak a word in praise of ministers to their faces. Exalt God. Ever respect a faithful minister, realize his burdens and lighten them if you can; but do not flatter him, for Satan stands ready at his watchtower to do that kind of work himself” (Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 474). That is not to say that we shouldn’t let the pastor know that his comments have helped us in our journey from time to time, if indeed they have.
In addition, concerning Marshall’s statement that the “inappropriate ‘lifting up’ is not the fault of the preacher.… The fault is in the attitudes of the listeners toward the preacher,” let me say that at times the preacher does share some culpability here. As a pastor myself I am aware of the importance of guarding against this mentality while standing in the sacred desk. I need to always be careful not to speak or lead the congregation in such a way that would foster such a response as to call attention to myself rather than to Christ.
Please do not allow my taking issue on this one point to cloud in any way my appreciation for the unique and powerful perspective that Marshall made in his article.
Dave Moench Washington, United States
I had just read the chapter in The Desire of Ages entitled “He Must Increase,” and David N. Marshall’s article helped me to apply the principles to myself. I evaluated my recent elation in the presence of two of our “Adventist Greats,” and remember how I felt and acted. I find myself guilty as charged.
John the Baptist had to remind his followers that it was Jesus who was to be lifted up, not John the Baptist. It wasn’t John’s fault that the people idolized him, but he gently redirected their adoration to Jesus. Thank you for redirecting me to Him as well.
Kathy Loewen Oregon, United States
A Concert, Three Girls, and a Preacher I would like to commend Mark Finley for his article “A Rock Concert, Three Girls, and a Confused Preacher” (September 2007 Adventist World). I too believe, as Finley concludes the article, that “we serve a great, big God who works in ways that we cannot understand.”
The Bible is replete with true-to-life stories of God’s people who trusted Him and made it to a rewarding ending. The story of Joseph proves one thing: trust in God is rewarded. Who would ever believe that Joseph would become a great governor and prime minister of all Egypt after his brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites, then the Ishmaelites to Potiphar? From there, as a slave, Joseph was thrown into prison. But God was with Joseph; and in all he did he was guided by the all-powerful God, whom we also serve in these last days.
Joseph’s passion and mission are not different from ours. If we analyze his tumultuous life we can conclude that he passed all the tests and trials he bravely faced. In the end he was rewarded because of his trustworthiness as a man of God.
Larry R. Valorozo New York, United States
The Right Message and the Right Time Thank you for the ministry you provide through Adventist World. It’s great work done! It enlightens me much more of the ministry in various parts of the world, although I am much more interested in the experiences of the ministry in unentered areas.
For that reason, allow me to pass my special thanks for the September 2006 issue to Gary Swanson (associate director of the General Conference Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department) for the article “The Road to Clarity”; Bettina Krause (special assistant to the president of the world church of Seventh-day Adventists) for the church-planting movement in unentered areas and Abraham Henry’s experience, mentioned in “Tell the World”; and Miriam Taylor, who got me thinking with her article “Keep My Feet.”
All these articles were a special blessing, especially since the magazine is rarely received here (or it arrives late). Pray for us as we pray for you.
Geoffrey Lwokyaza Jinja, Uganda
All Are Gifted Greetings to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to you about the February 2006Adventist World article “All Are Gifted,” by Ellen White. If only a lot of Christians were willing to grow in the Word of God as Mrs. White describes! It would help in winning souls. It would also benefit these Christians in carrying out their different gifts as they help build the kingdom of God.
I’m happy to come across such a magazine, and I believe that many who take their time to read it will know what it takes to be in Christ and live for Him, because there is no gain in the things of this world when you don’t have Christ. God bless you for giving us this message. Keep it up!
O. O. Obafemi Via E-mail
Messages of Thanks I would like to thank you for giving me enough knowledge [in the pages of Adventist World] in order for me to strengthen my spiritual beliefs.
Sherwin Sollano Philippines
I think it is such a blessing to have the Adventist World magazine online (www.adventistworld.org). Thank you so much for a job well done.
Marlene Bacchus Maryland, United States
Our planet has become a war zone. All around us there is a struggle between good and evil, a cosmic battle between Christ and Satan.
Throughout the centuries Jesus has always been victorious over Satan. At times it appears that the powers of hell have triumphed, but Jesus is constantly working to accomplish His purposes.
1. How does the apostle Paul describe the reality of this spiritual warfare? Read the text and write your answer on the line below. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
Our spiritual warfare is against:
2. Where did this conflict begin? Read the text below and fill in the blank. “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought” (Rev. 12:7).
The first war began in _______________________________________________________________.
Lucifer, a perfect being of dazzling brightness, rebelled against God. He sowed seeds of rebellion in the universe. The reason there are wars on earth is because there was first war in heaven.
3. What words from the book of Revelation warn the people of this earth about the cosmic struggle in which we are now involved? Read the text below and fill in the blanks. “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Rev. 12:12).
“___________________________________________to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea!
For the devil has come down to you, having ________________________________________ .”
4. Why did Jesus come to this world? Read the text below and circle the answer. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
5. How did Jesus destroy the works of the devil? Read the text below and answer the questions. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
a. Did Jesus ever sin? YES NO
b. Did Jesus become sin for us? YES NO
c. Since Jesus became sin for us, what can we receive from Him? _________________________
Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life. He faced the temptations of Satan head-on and defeated the devil on our behalf. Our wonderful Savior bore the guilt and shame of our sin to the cross. Through His death we receive life.
6. What did our Lord promise each of those who accept Him? Read the text and fill in the blank below. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).
To receive Jesus is to become ______________________________________________________.
Jesus is a mighty conqueror. His death rescues us from the authority of Satan and gives us authority to become God’s children.
7. What is God’s promise to His children? Read the text and fill in the blanks. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome theworld—our faith” (1 John 5:4).
Through Jesus we too can be _________________________________________________________.
Victory over the power of Satan comes through ____________________________________________.
The Bible’s last book, Revelation, describes God’s end-time people as overcomers (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). In earth’s final conflict, the Lamb (Jesus) overcomes the dragon (Satan) (Rev. 17:14). Throughout Revelation God’s people are victorious. Satan is powerless against them. Here is the wonderful, incredible good news through Jesus: all the devil’s chains are broken. Through Jesus we are victorious.
Next month we will explore more of God’s promises for living the Christian life.
QUESTION:What biblical symbolism is associated with the four cardinal directions?
Cardinal compass points in the Bible are rich in meaning. Knowing their symbolism can help interpret some biblical passages. We often orient ourselves by facing north. In the ancient world the point of orientation was east. The east was before them, the west behind, the south to the right, and the north to the left. The future wasn’t in front, but behind, that is to say invisible.
1. The East: The importance of the east as the main point of orientation may be related to the rising of the sun and its importance in the religions of the ancient Near East. In the Bible its symbolism emerges for the first time in Genesis. The Garden of Eden was placed in the East (chap. 2:8), and its entrance faced the east (chap. 3:24). After sinning, Adam and Eve left the garden and went toward the east (chap. 3:24). This eastward movement continued with Cain (chap. 4:16) and culminated in the movement of the human race toward the east (chap. 11:2-4).
Within this context the east is symbolically ambivalent. The garden placed there symbolized safety and security. After sin, when it was the direction of the exile, it represented a condition of alienation from God. It was also the place of the wilderness, from which destructive winds came, threatening life (Ps. 48:7; Eze. 27:26). To the prophets the east was a symbol of Babylonian exile and the saving presence of God. He traveled to Babylon and ultimately redeemed His people (Eze. 10:18, 19; 11:22, 23). The east became a place where God intervened on behalf of His people, bringing them salvation (cf. Rev. 16:12).
2. The West: The west symbolizes both negative and positive elements. To the west of the land was the sea, representing evil and death (Dan. 7:2, 3). In fact, the term “sea” often referred to the west (Num. 3:23). It is also the place of darkness because that’s where the sun sets (Ps. 104:19, 20).
The positive meaning is its association with the Israelite tabernacle/Temple. Although it faced east,access to it required movement toward the west. In that sense the west pointed toward restored unity with God; a return to the Garden of Eden. When the Israelites traveled to and worshipped in the Temple they faced the west and had the rising sun behind them. This movement to the west began with Abram, who left the east and went to Canaan in the west in obedience to God (Gen. 11:31). It is a symbol of divine blessing. Once the exiles were liberated from their enemies in the east, they traveled west, to the land of Israel. In that journey, the Lord Himself traveled with them (Eze. 43:2-5).
3. The North: Bible students have suggested that the north is a symbol of the permanent or the eternal, perhaps because the polar stars were permanently visible in the sky. It is the place of God’s celestial dwelling (Isa. 14:13) and from which His glory descends (Job 37:22) with blessings or judgments (Eze. 1:4). He is the true King of the North.
But the north—represented by the left hand—is also a symbol of disaster. The enemy of God’s people came from the north (Jer. 1:14, 15; Eze. 38:6), bringing destruction. In a sense, the enemy was the false king of the north who tried to usurp God’s role and is finally destroyed by the Lord (Zeph. 2:12; Dan. 11:21-45).
4. The South: The south is primarily a negative symbol. But the fact that it is represented by the right hand makes it also a positive one. It is negative because to the south of Israel was the wilderness, a region where life does not prosper (Isa. 30:6). To the south was Egypt, which opposed God’s power and oppressed His people. But the south was also the place where the Lord appeared to Moses, went with Him to Egypt, liberated His people, and appeared to them on Mount Sinai (e.g., Deut. 33:2).
The ambivalent nature of the symbols of the four cardinal directions seems based on the fact that evil was perceived to be present everywhere and that God’s saving presence was always accessible to His people from any corner of the world (Ps. 139:7-12). In a sense they pointed beyond the points of the compass to the cosmic conflict between good and evil.
My doctor diagnosed me with interstitial cystitis, but I am having considerable difficulties. Do you have any advice? Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a chronic inflammation of the bladder that is poorly understood. Study of its epidemiology, or patterns, has given some insight, but the essential question about cause has not been identified. For example, people who have a family history of IC are at greater risk for developing the disorder, and even people who were bed wetters past the age of 5 years have a greater possibility of having it. IC occurs much more commonly in women. It is characterized by bladder problems of urinary urgency, frequency, and pain in the lower abdomen. Many people are diagnosed initially as having a recurrent urinary tract infection, but such a diagnosis requires a urine culture, not just a positive dipstick. So if cultures are not done, the true diagnosis can be missed.
Newer understanding of the condition is leading doctors to believe it is a more common problem than was earlier thought to be the case. As many as 200 of a 1,000-patient group may have a degree of the disorder. It is often associated with other symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome, or a condition in women called vulvodynia (or pain). It is believed that the longer a person has pain, urgency, frequency, and bladder dysfunction, the harder it is to get cured.
A mechanism exists by which chronic pain sensitizes the nerves in the spinal cord to increase in number and activity, and there may be a spillover of sensitivity into other organs in the area, causing irritability and pain. About 80 percent of patients with interstitial cystitis develop an irritability of the pelvic muscles, called the pelvic sling, or levator ani muscles. These may become spastic, resulting in chronic pelvic tenderness, and can interfere with sexual function. The muscles may be palpably tense and felt by a doctor as tight bands. The longer a patient goes untreated, the more difficult it is to get a good response.
Many persons benefit from dietary and fluid changes. Spicy, acidic, and heavy citrus intakes may irritate the bladder. Caffeine and coffee irritate the bladder of many with this syndrome. Some people reduce their fluid intake in a desire to cut down on the number of times they void, but this may result in an increased concentration of irritating substances in the urine.
A urinary diary will permit documentation of how many times a person actually voids in 24 hours (which is normally about eight times on average).
Management of IC is not always easy because it takes patience and discipline. The first step is to modify the diet and regulate water intake. A diet that is more alkaline, such as a vegetarian diet, may well be helpful.
It is also important to have your doctor be certain of the diagnosis. He or she may wish to perform some tests, which may involve a questionnaire, the instillation of potassium chloride into the bladder, or even an anesthetic solution. Cystoscopy used to be the gold standard test; but while it can confirm classic cases, it may miss the early ones—which respond best to treatment.
Treatment aims at preventing the up-regulation of the pain pathways, and so avoids a widening of the discomfort zone. This often uses a medication called amitriptyline in low doses. Another medication helps make the bladder wall less permeable to irritants, but this medication, Elmiron (pentosan polysulfate), may take weeks to work. Muscle-relaxing medications may be used to relax the pelvic sling muscles, and in this area massage or even electrical stimulation at high frequency has often reduced the pelvic pain and discomfort dramatically. A team approach of gynecologists, urologists, physical therapists, dieticians, and nurse practitioners is often required to give the best results.
Thailand is a nation with natural beauty, a rich culture, and a distinct religious heritage. Inhabiting “the Land of Smiles,” the people of Thailand are known for their warm hospitality and polite manner.
Thailand is the only nation in southeast Asia that was never colonized by a European power. It has been ruled by the Chakri dynasty since 1782, although in 1932 the nation became a constitutional monarchy. The year 2007 marked the sixtieth year of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s reign. Although the king does not preside over the day-to-day affairs of government, the people look to him with affection and respect.
While the majority of Thai are Buddhists, other people groups live throughout the nation. The southern part of Thailand is predominately Muslim. This region has experienced violence during the past few years as tension between various groups has erupted. The current government is negotiating with leaders of various groups in the south to bring peace to the region.
The largest ethnic minority group in Thailand is Thai-Chinese, and many Thai-Chinese play a large role in the businesses of the nation. An estimated 49 percent of the residents of Bangkok are of partial Chinese heritage.
Other groups include Hmong, Shan, Khmer, Karen, Mien, Akka, Lahu and other tribal groups that inhabit the northern reaches of the country. Missionary outreach has been most effective among these groups, while the ethnic Thai majority remain difficult to reach with the gospel, remaining loyal to their Buddhist heritage.
Adventists in Thailand The first Adventist pioneer, R. A. Caldwell, arrived in Thailand in 1906 to distribute Adventist literature. More than 10 years later other colporteurs arrived and discovered Sabbathkeeping groups in Bangkok. A Chinese businessman, Tan Thiam Tsua, settled in Bangkok and helped establish the first Adventist church in the country. The early work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church grew among Chinese living in Bangkok. The Thailand Adventist Mission was established in 1919 by missionary families, those of E. L. Longway and Forrest A. Pratt.
Thai, English, ethnic and regional dialects
Buddhist 94.6 percent, Muslim 4.6 percent, Christian 0.7 percent
ADVENTIST TO POPULATION RATIO
35 ordained, 34 licensed
CHURCHES AND COMPANIES
40 organized churches, 81 companies
The development of Adventist institutions has played a key role in the growth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Thailand. Mission College offers four-year degrees in both Thai and English, and has added a master’s program. Several secondary and elementary schools operate in various parts of the country, with an active English language school in Bangkok. There are two hospitals: Bangkok Adventist Hospital and Mission Hospital Phuket. Mission Health Foods operates a factory that produces and distributes various health food products. Following the December 2004 tsunami, both ADRA/Thailand and Mission Hospital Phuket played key roles in the recovery efforts.
One of the biggest challenges to mission is in the Bangkok region, where only seven organized churches reach out to more than 10 million people. In 2006 several community outreach centers were opened to teach English to nearby residents. Each outreach center has a team made up of one foreign English language teacher and one Thai church planter.
Today more than 11,000 church members serve God in Thailand. The Thailand Mission, in partnership with Global Mission and other supporting ministries, has started 81 new congregations or companies throughout the nation. The new congregations, along with the outreach done by members, institutions, and churches, indicate that the future for the church in Thailand is bright with the hope of eternity.
Prepared by Rick McEdward, Adventist Mission director, Southern Asia-Pacific Division
This article is adapted from a sermon given by Pastor Jan Paulsen, General Conference president, on Sabbath, October 13, at Annual Council—a gathering of church leaders from every division of the world church.
The apostle Paul is confronted with a dilemma that he describes in 1 Corinthians 8 to 10. It’s a dilemma faced by every church leader, whether their assignment is within the local congregation or church administration. It’s a dilemma that goes to the heart of church unity.
The question before Paul is this: how do you counsel people about eating meat that has been offered to idols? His conclusion is this: “As for me I don’t believe in idols—they are nothing to me—so, I can eat meat offered to idols without doing damage to myself.”
But, he says—and this is the critical point—if the exercise of my freedom causes damage to you, then it is wrong and not in harmony with the will of Christ. My exercise of freedom and the choices I make must be disciplined by love and concern for those who may be affected by it. This biblical principle must define the actions of all who exercise church leadership. “Everything is permissible,” Paul says, “but not everything is beneficial.” And he adds: “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others” (1 Cor. 10:23, 24, NIV). And then he concludes by saying: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (11:1, NIV).
Clearly, for Paul the issue is not food. Food is just the illustration. The real issue is: What values should govern our decisions and actions? His answer is clear: consideration and deference. It is about being willing to forgo rights rather than assert them. It is about asking: if I do this—which I think I have every right to do—how will others be impacted? It is a recognition that our duty to others is greater than our duty to ourselves. This passage is about discovering what it means to be part of something larger than any of us and our immediate communities. And it’s a principle that is critically important to us as a global church.
I would like to draw out, perhaps using some license, a few thoughts that we can take from this passage.
1. Learning to trust. It is good to be able to share resources while at the same time letting go of the controls. Without trust, we cannot function as a church. You and I have our designated areas of responsibility. Let’s do our best there, and trust others to look after the life and mission of the church where they are. All of us will eventually be held accountable—perhaps in this life, but certainly in the one to come—for how we have performed.
2. Accepting differences. Paul’s words also offer counsel about accepting that which is different from me and my way of thinking. “Acceptance” does not necessarily mean that I take it on as mine, but that I refrain from judging its value to others who live in different circumstances and cultures. We are not all children of the same culture, but we all share the same family ties. We are bonded in unity, and we have to trust each other to do right.
3. Understanding the essentials. There is a hint in this passage that tells us to be sensitive to what is at the heart of the Adventist faith, and what is not; that we must not unduly elevate a particular perspective that occupies me and impose it on others; that I must not overrate the value of my particular culture as I relate to others.
4. Nurturing family ties. Very fundamentally, this passage has to do with nurturing the bonds that hold us together as a “family,” for that is what the global Seventh-day Adventist Church is. You support this family because of your love and loyalty to the Lord and His people. You will give no support to those who seem bent on offering—or perhaps even more dangerously, feel “called” to give—judgmental statements and messages of negative criticism, which become an offense to the Lord and harassment of the church and its leaders. That habit is harmful and destructive to the church as a family.
5. Representing Christ and His values. In everything I do, says Paul, I want Christ to look good. Although I am free, I make myself a slave—I discipline myself—for the sake of Christ, the gospel, and His people. Whatever I do, says Paul, I do it “so that I might win as many as possible,” and so that the voice of Christ and His love for the church may be clear and compelling.
How do we do mission in an imperfect world, surrounded by legal and social values we cannot accept? This mind-set of shared responsibility and shared trust, for the sake of Christ and the unity of the church, defines Adventist leadership. The church is far from a perfect community. But the church is God’s people, the body of Christ, and looking after the church is an act of worship.
Whatever our sphere of responsibility, there is always a temptation to become distracted by tasks given to someone else, or by interesting challenges out there that we wouldn’t mind taking on. You may receive unsolicited requests for intervention in something that is happening elsewhere in the world church. You may feel drawn into it because you feel you have the solution. My counsel is: “Don’t.” You probably haven’t got the full picture. I frequently get what I call “10 percent stories”—it is in the 90 percent that I am not told that the true substance of the issue is found. Focus instead on the tasks you have been chosen to handle. Allow others to deal with the responsibilities they have been entrusted with. To the extent they succeed or fail, they will have to answer to the Lord, as will each one of us.
What you do as a leader in the church, do it with love for the Lord and His people, do it with integrity, and keep your heart clean. And, somehow, I think that is all the Lord expects of any of us.
Commitment to unity The church is unique. It is not only God’s idea, but it is a community of the highest value to God. Ellen White wrote: “Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard.”* The church is deeply loved by God. It is the “theater of His grace,” and He has an unwavering commitment to it. The message from Scripture, from the pen of Ellen White, and from our own history tells us that God wants this church to stay united.
From time to time issues come up that test our commitment to unity. And this is when shared trust and shared responsibility provide guideposts for moving forward.
Shared belief I know of nothing that has the potential of dividing the church more than theology itself. It has always been like that. Some of you who are students of church history may remember from your reading that many centuries ago a controversy arose that split the church of the East from the West, Constantinople from Rome, and the Orthodox Church and Western Christianity parted ways. The heart of the issue became known as the “filioque” controversy. It had to do with the procession of the Holy Spirit after Christ’s ascension. Eastern Christianity said that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father; the Western Church added “and from the Son.” And that divided the church.
As Seventh-day Adventists we have strong convictions regarding doctrines and theology. That should not surprise any of us. It has to do with our roots and our self-understanding. It has to do with eschatology, and it has very much to do with preparing a people to be ready for Christ’s return.
I say to all church leaders: we have the statement of 28 Fundamental Beliefs. They hold together our core identity in terms of faith and doctrine. Resist any tendency to pluck out strains from any of these and make them into a separate and new doctrine that will divide the Seventh-day Adventist global community! We are in such rapid global growth today as a church, and to me it is important that we have the 28 Fundamental Beliefs, as stated, understood and held to by all the new members who are joining us. That in itself is a monumental task. The wonderful fact that we are growing rapidly around the globe is also our great challenge, and we cannot afford to become distracted.
Finding consensus There are also such challenges as the oft-discussed matter of the role of women in ministry. It is a concern that keeps surfacing from time to time, whether in my conversations with young adults or during a recent televised conversation with a group of pastors from North America. And some ask: “Do we have to keep talking about this?” Well, it seems so. We may well be of the opinion that we should have handled it differently from the beginning. But we consulted together as a global family and we came to a decision. We shared in the process and we share the outcome, and we cannot step out of our shared past and say: “I don’t like it! Whatever others may think, I will correct in my little corner of the vineyard what I think was a mistake.” It does not work like that in the church. Before we embark on a new course, particularly in a difficult and potentially divisive matter, a broad-based consensus of leadership must, listening to each other, conclude that the time has come to think differently.
The greater concern of many women who feel called to the ministry, and who have pursued professional training, is not the ordination issue, but just being employed in ministry. Local churches are reluctant, and conferences find them difficult to place. This I think is a most unfortunate failure. Young people, both men and women, must follow the calling God has placed within them. We are going to need everyone to finish our mission and for God to usher in eternity.
Mission in an imperfect world Secular society and the church share the same world, but are divided by some important values. And society will test our conduct in some of these areas. Marriage, cohabitation, and same-sex partnerships are already issues within both the larger society and the church. Laws will increasingly impact our conduct as a church, perhaps particularly in employment matters and in the way we run our institutions. I see tension ahead between our being fair to all and not attracting litigation on the one hand while, on the other, holding fast to important biblical values. We are a law-abiding people, obedient citizens of any country; but obedience to God takes first priority. It is important that we do not lose sight of that when the values of two different worlds collide.
But even when that happens and things get difficult, we have to ask ourselves: how do we do mission in an imperfect world, surrounded by legal and social values we cannot accept? In such a scenario I believe we have to remember that we are called to do mission in a world where sin abounds. In some instances, the laws of the land may restrict us in our public response to that which we do not condone or share. This is difficult, but this is the world in which we live, and we cannot step out of it. This is where we have been placed to do mission.
Obedience So, what is it that really matters, when all is said and done, to us individually and personally, as well as to us as leaders of the church we believe is God’s community in these last days of earth’s history? If I were to express it with just one word I would probably use the word “obedience”—obedience to God. For obedience expresses the practical side of faith; its reference point is always someone or something outside my own person. Faith has no other way of expressing itself.
How should those who lead the church respond to difficult issues; how should we approach decisions where the consequences are uncertain or unpredictable? If, after we have talked the matter through and prayed about it, and our mind finds rest with what we believe is right, it is important that the prospect of uncertain consequences does not hinder us from moving forward. If you are clear about what is right, just do it. Don’t be political. Keep your heart clean. Be self-critical with reference to potential conflicts of interest and then just do what you know is right. You will sleep better for it, for you did your best to be loyal and obedient to God. In an uncertain world with an uncertain future, that is, I believe, the only safe stand church leaders can take.
CUBA: Standing Room Only for “House of Light” Church Dedication World church president visits island, division holds meetings
By Rajmund Dabrowski, director of communication, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, writing from Buey Arriba, Cuba
When church officials and guests joined a 500-strong crowd for the opening of a new house of worship in Buey Arriba, it was Raul Alvarez who received the loudest applause.
PACKED OUT: A crowd of more than 500 at the Buey Arriba House of Light filled every available seat and even a few windowsills during the sanctuary’s dedication November 4. The house of worship is one of many in Cuba that serve as both pastors’ residences and sanctuaries.A recently retired pastor, Alvarez was given a hero’s welcome for his contribution to a Seventh-day Adventist congregation, which on Sunday, November 4, officially dedicated a new sanctuary.
Once a political advisor to the leaders of the Cuban revolution, in the early 1960s Alvarez embraced Adventism and answered a different calling. Until recently, he served as president of the church in the region.
Joining hundreds of others for a standing-room-only ribbon-cutting ceremony, Alvarez couldn’t hide his emotions. Years of trying to build a sanctuary with limited resources culminated on that Sunday evening with joyful tears and embraces.
Referred to as the “Buey Arriba House of Light,” the church—a pastor’s home in which the living room can seat a 200-member congregation—celebrated in style.
Heavy rains on the day of the celebration delayed the arrival of leaders from U.S.-based Maranatha Volunteers International (MVI)—an organization responsible for building the sanctuary—along with officials of the Adventist Church. When they arrived at 6:00 p.m., they were already two hours late for the ceremony. But a crowd of more than 500 people packed into the sanctuary built to seat just 250.
Laura Noble of MVI remembers visiting the Buey Arriba house of worship a few years ago. In her many travels, this was one of the few places that really scared her, she recalled. The roof was made of very heavy red tile held up with a framework of sticks nailed at the apex with a single nail at each joint. Worse yet, she remembers, every stick was absolutely riddled with termite holes.
The need for a new house of worship became acute as the congregation grew to 200, according to Adalberto Gonzalez, church pastor. Instead of approving the plans for a church building, however, the Cuban government extended permission to build a “House of Light.”
CUBA DISCUSSIONS: During a four-day visit to Cuba, Adventist Church world president Jan Paulsen discussed the church’s position in the country with Daniel Fontaine, president of the Adventist Church on the island nation, which this November hosted regional church meetings for the first time in 62 years.A Maranatha House of Light acts as both a home to the pastor and his family and as a house of worship. “But it looks suspiciously like a church!” Noble said. Following the dedication ceremony, 10 new candidates were baptized.
Daniel Fontaine, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Cuba, expressed gratitude for the House of Light in Buey Arriba. “It is very meaningful for us. We at least can have one place, one light, where people can go in search of the peace and hope that only Jesus Christ can give.
“And for our country to let us have a place like that,” he said, “we are very thankful.”
Across the island, in Havana, the Adventist Church in Cuba welcomed Jan Paulsen, president of the Adventist world church. On Friday, November 2, Paulsen joined 80 delegates of the church’s Inter-American (IAD) region attending an annual meeting of its executive committee. Caridad Diego, the head of the country’s Religious Affairs Office, welcomed Paulsen at the Havana airport.
Speaking at a Sabbath worship service in Havana’s Vibora Adventist Church, Paulsen told church members, “I feel the strength of your commitment and spirituality. There is so much fire in your soul.”
Israel Leito, president of the church in Inter-America, said, “This visit to Cuba is very significant, especially for the church and the government in Cuba.”
Although Cuba is one of the 15 major territories in the region, it has not hosted the IAD Executive Committee meetings in 62 years, according to church sources. For two years, in the mid-1940s, the Inter-American Division was headquartered in Cuba. With more than 3 million members in 36 countries, Inter-America represents the largest region in the Adventist world church.
POLAND: Adventists Join Other Protestants in Denouncing Attacks on Martin Luther
Protestant leaders in one of Poland’s largest cities have condemned a poster campaign denouncing Martin Luther, the 16th-century German Protestant leader, as a blasphemer and heretic, a news release by Ecumenical News International reported.
SUPPORTING THE REFORMATION: Mariusz Maikowski, a pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Lublin in eastern Poland, voiced the concerns of many Protestants in the country when he said a recent ad campaign linking Protestant reformer Martin Luther with a devil was “shocking” and “deeply offending.”“What would happen if someone hung placards outside a Catholic church attacking the ‘blasphemy and heresy of John Paul II,’ or the ‘blasphemy of Muhammad’ at a mosque?” asked Mariusz Maikowski, a pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Lublin in eastern Poland. “These actions are clearly illegal [in Poland], yet the local council has said and done nothing,” Maikowski told ENI.
According to the release, the posters were captioned: “The blasphemy and heresy of Martin Luther,” and pictured a devil whispering in the Protestant reformer’s ear.
They were displayed throughout Lublin to advertise lectures by Ryszard Mozgol, an official with Poland’s National Remembrance Institute, the body charged with handling the records of the country’s communist-era secret police.
The lectures were held on October 15 and 31, the four hundred and ninetieth anniversary of Luther’s Protestant Reformation, and were planned by the Organization of Polish Monarchists. Founded in 1989, the group claims to have several thousand members and seeks to establish a “Catholic State” within Poland.
Of Poland’s 38 million people, 95 percent are Catholic.
“It’s shocking and unbelievable that depictions of Luther as anti-Christ could still be appearing in the 21st century,” Maikowski told ENI.
Maikowski said the campaign had “caused deep offense” to Lublin’s Protestant and Orthodox communities. He also said local prosecutors should mount an investigation.
The Rev. Dariusz Chwastek, a Lutheran pastor from Lublin, described the posters as “highly damaging.” Chwastek, who overseas Lublin’s Holy Trinity parish, said, “I think too much blood has flowed, and too many stakes been burned, to reignite these disputes again centuries later.”
The monarchist organization’s president, Lukasz Kluska, refused to apologize and was quoted by Poland’s Dziennik Wschodni newspaper as saying that minority church representatives could have presented their opinions during the lecture.
—by Jonathan Luxmoore, Ecumenical News International, with Adventist News Network Staff