Many people are rightly afraid of the damage and potential damage caused by radicalism and radicalization. These are the tragic headlines that have caught our attention over recent years. And we are justifiably appalled by violence and terror in the name of radicalized religion or radicalized politics or just straight-up hatred and greed.
But for most of us, our greatest danger is not that we are too radical. Rather we too easily become apathetic, compassion-fatigued and spiritually “lukewarm,” to use the Bible’s description of it (see Rev. 3:16). Most often, the problem is not that we don’t know what to do, but whether we take the sometimes radical step of actually doing it, even if only at a small cost or inconvenience to ourselves.
It’s a danger that manifests itself in all aspects of our lives, but perhaps it can be most easily observed in our choices in how we invest our time, resources, and energy; how we respond to the needs of others; and how we engage with issues of injustice in our world. The authors of Kingdom Ethics make this observation: “Those who do not routinely suffer injustice frequently get lulled into a lack of concern for others who do suffer it. At the heart of Christian discipleship is overcoming that privileged lull.”
I recently visited the office of Etiko, a small Melbourne-based clothing and sports ball company, and Australia’s first non-food brand to gain Fair Trade certification. Etiko and related brands, Jinta Sport and Pants to Poverty, were three of only four Australian brands rated A+ out of the 219 brands surveyed for the “Ethical Fashion Guide 2015” (see <www.behindthebarcode.org.au>).
While buying a couple T-shirts and a pair of shoes, I asked Etiko’s founder and director Nick Savaidis about the 10-year history of the company. One comment caught my attention. He told me that he had expected that the most difficult part of the business to be sourcing ethically manufactured clothing and materials. But this has proved easier than he feared. It seems that ethical production is not so hard to do, if we make it a priority.
But he did not expect that these products would be so hard to sell. “Everyone has heard or read about the issues of child, sweatshop, and even slave labor in the fashion and sports industries,” he said. “But few actually act on these issues.” He mentioned his particular frustration with many church groups and Christian schools (think, school uniforms and sporting equipment), whose purchasing choices do not seem to reflect their moral beliefs.
It’s the privileged lull: we know our purchasing choices affect people, often in developing countries; we know why we should care; we know what we ought to do; but we don’t do it, especially if it might take time for us to find or cost a little more. It isn’t that Fair Trade sneakers make us somehow holier than anyone else, but that this is a choice, an investment, even a vote for a different kind of world that is a little more fair, just, and right.
And if that’s what we often fail to do when choosing something as simple as a T-shirt or a pair of shoes (available online: <www.etiko.com.au>), what about the bigger things in our lives and in our world? The opposite of the radicalism and radicalization that has been capturing headlines is not apathy but positive radicalism, faithfully choosing love and creatively seeking the good of others. We know what, we know why, we can work out how, but often we don’t.
By definition, such radicalism will cost us: attention, money, time, energy, inconvenience, discomfort, perhaps danger, and more. And even this does not guarantee success, effectiveness, or progress. As Yoder argues in The Politics of Jesus, “The kind of faithfulness that is willing to accept evident defeat rather than complicity with evil is, by virtue of its conformity with what happens to God when He works among us, aligned with the ultimate triumph of the Lamb.”
Jesus risked Himself to serve and save: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28, NLT). That’s our radical model.
The Etiko T-shirt I bought shouts, “Rage against something.” So many things in our world should grab our attention and provoke our angry, radical, creative, and compassionate response. As a disciple of Jesus, choose one, and do something about it. Our world needs more loving radicals and more positive radicalism.
Let’s reclaim “radical.”
Nathan Brown is book editor at Signs Publishing in Warburton, Victoria, Australia, and a Manifest co-convenor.
My husband and I have difficulty managing our conflicts. We knew marriage would be difficult. Ours, however, has turned out to be much more difficult than either of us anticipated. Sometimes our anger spills out in front of the children. Can you share something to help us do a better job of dealing with our differences? —Diane, Honolulu, Hawaii
Real Family Talk
by Willie and Elaine Oliver
We have been married for three years, and my husband has already forgotten how to be romantic. What can I say or do to have him do a better job being romantic?
We are happy to hear that you enjoyed three years of steady romantic practice by your husband. You are a blessed woman. We hear from so many others whose romantic streak ended about six months into marriage.
While romance certainly contributes a great deal to keeping a marriage fresh, alive, and stimulating, it is only a relatively small part of the whole of marriage. Hard-working, gainfully employed, responsible, loyal, committed, honest, trustworthy, and spiritually mature: these are traits you truly want to see in the person you married.
So take a look at the other side of things: Imagine you had a very romantic husband. However, he wasn’t hard-working, didn’t have a job, was irresponsible, disloyal, lacked commitment, was dishonest, untrustworthy, and lacked spiritual maturity. What would you think?
Our point is, if you have a husband you can depend on, one who has demonstrated all the wonderful traits we mentioned, your challenge is not as great as having a husband who is all romance and nothing else.
Back to your concern about the lack of romance in your marriage: It is a legitimate and important matter about which every married person should be concerned and intentional. Many married men and women, once they get into the routine of marriage, tend to forget the little things that make a marriage special.
Now to your initial question: What can you say or do to make your husband more romantic? Well, what do you really want out of marriage? What is most important to you? And what does the Bible say is most important about relationships, and sustaining them?
The apostle Paul wrote under inspiration to the believers in Ephesus, an ancient city about two miles southwest of present-day Izmir in Turkey:
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as beloved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1, 2).
From this Bible verse we see that we should be imitators of God by loving others as Christ loves us. We have to do the same in marriage. Rather than waiting for our mates to do something for us, we have to take the initiative as children of God and do the loving thing first. Rather than wait for your husband to do something nice for you, do something nice for him. When someone does something nice for us, we are much more likely to do something nice for them.
Another reality about which married women are often unaware is that their husbands will never be able to read their minds, no matter how long they’ve been married. So if you need your husband to do something romantic for you, tell him. Rather than waiting for him to figure it out or try to guess, just tell him what he can do to make you feel loved. If you take turns telling each other what the other can do to make you feel loved, you will spend more time enjoying each other and trying to outdo each other in love. We encourage you to try our advice, and in the counsel of the apostle Paul: “Do everything in love” (1 Cor. 16:14). You will continue in our prayers.
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE, an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, and family sociologist, is director for Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, MA, CFLE, an educator and counseling psychologist, is associate director of Family Ministries. You may communicate with them at Family.Adventist.org or HopeTV.org/RealFamilyTalk.
All Bible references are from the English Standard Version.
We live in a world in which the news is far more pervasive than the events it reports. An event happens in one place and is almost instantly repeated and echoed in millions more. And while the event might be shocking, tragic, horrifying in its place, a wider and sometimes greater toll is exacted by its reportage, by the slow-motion replays, by the breathless punditry, and by the never-ceasing cycle that is already looking for the next outrage before any careful analysis or compassionate response can be made in relation to the current “breaking story.”
And if we have any moment to doubt, we will be soon reassured that this is important: “The news you need to know.” Whether it’s hourly news bulletins with more frequent headline updates in between, the headlines crawling across the bottom of the screen, the race of news services to be the first with the story, or the regular TV station promos that urge their news programming—or news channel—as vital to any functional adult life, it’s the people who sell us the news—and the ads in between or across the top—that invest the most in urging the imperative of the news. But the place of the news in workplace, dinner-party, or social-media conversations also remind us of the assumed significance of the headlines of the day.
In The News: A User’s Manual, philosopher Alain de Botton endorses Hegel’s suggestion that the dominance of news has replaced religion “as our central source of guidance and our touchstone of authority. In the developed economies, the news now occupies a position of power at least equal to that formerly enjoyed by the faiths.” He points to morning and evening news bulletins mimicking the devotional rituals of previous generations but, more significantly, identifies the deference we give to “the news” as a source of meaning and even morality for our lives: “Here, too, we hope to receive revelations, learn who is good and bad, fathom suffering and understand the unfolding logic of existence. And here too, if we refuse to take part in the rituals, there could be imputations of heresy.”
As misguided as this might be, all this might have been manageable when it was the newspaper in the morning, occasional radio bulletins during the day, and evening TV news. But now it never stops and the news is on our phones, computers, and other devices. Always with us, always on, always breaking.
Adding to the complexity is the inherent nature of news as a selection of the absurd. Important, valuable, beautiful, and good things happen around us every day. But so many of these will never be “news.” Instead, news celebrates the oddity, the first, the largest, the most shocking; and mixes the most tragic with the trivialities of celebrity, sports results, and tomorrow’s weather, which most days is unremarkable. It’s a bewildering cocktail, selected more for its capacity to catch and hold our attention—ironically, by never holding our attention, quickly shifting from one story or idea to the next—than an attempt to survey what is important for our lives and communities.
While many journalists seek to tell significant and worthwhile stories for our communities, nations, and the wider world, reasonable voices are often swamped by voices that pander to our fears, insecurities, and prejudices. Some commentators make a good living doing just that. But even the voices and stories that try to bring out our best are so easily lost in the mere multiplicity of information that seeks our attention.
De Botton contrasts news with religion in this significant sense: “Exactly like the news, religions want to tell us important things every day,” he writes. “But unlike the news, they know that if they tell us too much, in one go, and only once, then we will remember—and do—nothing.” Here are the key questions about what our over-exposure to the news does to us: Does the news—even if only by the magnitude of half-told stories—overwhelm us into voyeuristic numbness? Does it pummel our hearts, making us more insular, anxious, and entrenched? Or does it prompt us to compassionate response? If news has become our assumed social religion, we must be aware of the values it builds into our lives, and how our responses are lived in our actions.
Ignoring the world around us is not an option. Because of the news, we understand the inter-connectedness of each of our lives in important ways; and there is value in being informed and educated. But we must also recognize the ways in which the news rivals our larger values and colonizes our priorities. And that can be hard to do when we are incessantly called to attention by the louder voices of the media around us.
It isn’t heresy to conclude that some days we can simply turn it off. The world of news will continue without us. We need not feel guilty about not having every detail of each unfolding tragedy, gruesome atrocity, alarming report, or political posture. We can breathe deeply of the world in more positive ways. As de Botton concludes: “A flourishing life requires a capacity to recognise the times when the news no longer has anything original or important to teach us.”
Two of Jesus’ often-overlooked commands were “Don’t be afraid” (see Luke 12:32) and “Do not worry” (see Matt. 6:25–34); and these are difficult to obey if we fill our lives only with the news. While the news might be religion-like, living well and living faithfully are rarely found in the headlines.
Nathan Brown is book editor at Signs Publishing in Warburton, Victoria, Australia, and a Manifest co-convenor.
Alain de Botton, The News: A User’s Manual, Vintage Books, 2014, p. 11.
Ibid, p. 31.
Ibid, p. 255.
Alain de Botton, The News: A User’s Manual, Vintage Books, 2014, p. 11.
Usually at this time of year—for each of the past five years—I have been working feverishly in preparation for the Manifest Creative Arts Festival, hosted and sponsored in Australia by Avondale College of Higher Education and Adventist Media Network. For a variety of reasons, this year the festival is not happening.
But creativity still matters. And these are some of the things we have learned about creativity through our five-year Manifest experience and creative community:
1. Creativity is broad, and we all do it.
In his 2015 “John Peel Lecture” for the BBC, musician and artist Brian Eno described art as “everything that you don’t have to do.” It’s that extra touch that makes a meal special: the flowers that didn’t have to grow in your garden, and when the worship service is more than just filling the spaces on a pre-printed order of service.
So before we abandon creativity to those “artsy” types, let’s recognize that we are all creative, and we all have the potential to be more so. When we make something, think imaginatively, solve a problem, or add that special touch, it is creative and it is good.
2. Creativity is divine, and human.
Creativity is one of the defining characteristics of God, an important component of the Godness of Jesus: “He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation . . . Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together” (Col. 1:15–17, NLT ). As His stewards, we are created and called to be part of the creative reality of God. We are His masterpieces (see Eph. 2:10) and His co-creators. Creativity is essential to our understanding of God, ourselves, and our place in His world.
3. Creativity must be about something.
Creativity merely for the sake of creativity can be fun for a while, but it has a hollowness to it (see 1 Cor. 13:1, 2). We must resist the tendency of creativity to become self-indulgent. Creativity as a celebration of goodness, life, and beauty should take us outside ourselves, connect us with others, and share something of the goodness and hope we believe. Not that creativity has to be only positive or burdened with evangelistic intent, but our best evangelism will be creative and our best creativity will be a witness.
4. Creativity makes space for the creativity of others.
We must find ways to celebrate and support the creativity of others, both as individuals and in our churches. Creativity can be difficult and involve putting oneself at the risk of criticism, misunderstanding, or under-appreciation.
So how can we help those with particular creative passions to grow their gifts, abilities, and opportunities? As churches, our foyers can become galleries, our halls can be practice spaces, and our worship services can invite people to bring their best gifts to help us worship together. We can seek to include and value creativity in all we do, and invite members of our community to be part of it.
5. Creativity requires commitment.
Over the years of Manifest festivals, one of the most gratifying outcomes we have seen is how many regular participants and contributors have grown in their creative abilities, achievements, and opportunities. Creativity requires time and commitment to work and practice. With opportunity and encouragement we can grow our gifts and abilities to find our voice for the benefit of those around us, as a contribution to our church and community, and to the glory of God.
So let’s continue—and grow—our commitment to creativity. While the festival might have come to an end, creativity matters still. Personally and as a church, it is among our greatest resources and opportunities. Faithful creativity matters forever (see Rev. 21:26).
Nathan Brown is book editor at Signs Publishing in Warburton, Victoria, Australia, and a Manifest co-convenor.
*Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Slavery was not a social institution established by God.
A Question of Slavery
By Angel Manuel Rodríguez
Please clarify the law of slavery in Exodus 21:2-6. Wouldn’t God be opposed to slavery?
A number of laws in the Old Testament regulate the treatment of Israelite and non-Israelite slaves. I will provide an overview of slavery in Israel and discuss the legislation to which you refer.
1. Slavery in the Old Testament: Slavery was not a social institution established by God, but a common one found throughout the ancient Near East, including Israel. God did not proscribe it, but He did regulate it in order to protect slaves from abuse and exploitation. God does not uproot us from our culture, but takes us where we are and makes us better persons.
In fact, some of His laws point to a time that there would not be more slaves (the law of jubilee). The Hebrew term translated “slave,” ‘ebed, means “servant, worker, adviser, slave,” etc.
Most slaves were prisoners of war who served those who defeated them, probably for life. In Israel people became slaves because of poverty (Lev. 25:35, 39) or for committing a crime (Ex. 22:3). In such cases they were not devalued but were still considered a fellow Hebrew (Deut. 15:12). Physical abuse that resulted in the loss of limb (e.g. an eye or a tooth) was compensated by freeing the slave (Ex. 21:26, 27). Slaves had the Sabbath free to serve God (Ex. 20:10). For the poor, slavery was not necessarily that bad, because it assured them food and shelter; consequently they often voluntarily became slaves to pay their debts.
2. A Legal Case: Exodus 21:2-6 is a case law that legislates how to deal with a person who has become a debt slave: “If you buy a Hebrew servant . . .” Such persons would work until the debt was paid. They would work for six years, and on the seventh they would go free “without paying anything” (verse 2, NIV). Two possible scenarios are mentioned and regulated: Those who had a family when they became debt slaves leave with their families. If they did not have a family and the owner gave them a wife and they had children, slaves would leave without their wives and children. In that case they could choose to remain a slave by permanently becoming part of the household. This required taking a vow before the Lord and having the ear perforated to indicate that the person had become part of the household.
3. Significance of the Legislation: When placed within the larger context of Old Testament law, this legislation is concerned with the well-being of slaves.
First, the Lord does not want slavery to be a permanent condition. It is limited to six years. In fact, a redeemer could set slaves free by paying their debt. And the six years could be shortened if, during that period, there was a sabbatical year, when the debts of the poor were remitted (Deut. 15:1-6), or the jubilee was celebrated, granting freedom to all Hebrew slaves (Lev. 25:10).
Second, the family of those who were married when they sold themselves to slavery was cared for by the master. This was not a free service, but was paid by the work of the family members.
Third, after the six years the owner was not to “send them away empty-handed” but to “supply them liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and you winepress. Give to them as the Lord your God has blessed you” (Deut. 15:13, 14, NIV). Former slaves were granted a new beginning.
Fourth, although the person who came alone into slavery could not take his wife and children with him, he had the right to redeem them; but this would be difficult for a poor person. Thus a second option was legally available: He could become a member of the household of the owner. Under this arrangement they would not have to worry about their own subsistence as a family.
Obviously, none of this was ideal. But in the imperfect world, the Lord legislated slavery to make it as humane as possible, while at the same time announcing the coming of a final jubilee when slavery, including slavery to sin, would come to an end (Luke 4:17-19).
Daniel’s life is a story of God’s miraculous leading and providential guidance.
Daniel: The Blessings of Obedience
By Mark A. Finley
One of the key characteristics of God’s heroes of faith is a relationship of trust in His goodness that leads to obedience to His will. Obedience is not legalism; it is the fruit of faith. Daniel’s life reveals the blessings of one whose faith led him to obey God’s commands at the risk of his life. This month’s lesson will reveal lessons from one of God’s heroes of faith that we can apply daily to our own lives so that we too can receive the rich blessings God intends to bestow upon each believer.
1 - What tragic event occurred in Jerusalem in Daniel 1? Read Daniel 1:1, 2.
Daniel 1 begins with a defeat for the true God. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, attacked Jerusalem, overthrew Judah, and ransacked the Jewish Temple.
2 - What instruction did Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, give to one of his princes, Ashpenaz? Read Daniel 1:3, 4.
Nebuchadnezzar used a common strategy in times of war. When he overthrew Jerusalem, he instructed Ashpenaz, one of his commanders, to seize some of the most handsome, intelligent, and gifted young men as captives to be educated in the University of Babylon. It was the king’s intent to so “brainwash” these young men so they could be sent back as “puppet rulers” to represent Babylon in Jerusalem.
3 - How did Nebuchadnezzar attempt to shape the thoughts of these Hebrew teenage captives? Discover the king’s strategy in Daniel 1:5-7.
Nebuchadnezzar’s strategy included changing the names of these young Hebrews, awing them with the splendor of Babylon, inviting them to a banquet in honor of the Babylonian gods, and educating them in the most prestigious university in the land.
4 - What was Daniel’s response to the king’s invitation to eat his food and drink his wine? Read Daniel 1:8, 11-15.
Daniel “purposed in his heart” to serve God. The word “purposed” means “decided,” “determined,” or “chose.” The wise man said, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23).
5 - What was the result of Daniel’s faithfulness? Read Daniel 1:18-20.
6 - How did Daniel face a similar test at the end of his life? Read Daniel 6:5-9.
In the scheming of the princes we discover that jealously leads to envy, envy to lying, and lying to the willingness to put an innocent man to death. Cherished sin strangles all goodness. It leads people to do things they never imagined they would do.
7 - What was Daniel’s response? Read Daniel 6:10.
For Daniel, prayer was a way of life. He knew that if he neglected his prayer life he would lose his spiritual strength.
8 - How did God honor Daniel’s faithfulness? Find the answer in Daniel 6:21, 22, 25-27.
As a result of Daniel’s faithfulness, God shut the mouths of the lions, delivered Daniel from the lions’ den, and influenced the entire nation for the kingdom of God. Faithfulness to God, which leads to obedience, brings with it the blessings of heaven. It was true for Daniel; and it is true for each of us as well.
An Austria-to-Indonesia flight carries on his father’s work.
By Teresa Costello, Southern Asia-Pacific Division
Mission pilot Gary Roberts has flown airplanes from the United States to destinations in the Philippines, Angola, and South America. Once he even airlifted an ill baby elephant for medical treatment in Chad.
All those experiences helped prepare Roberts for the delivery of a mission plane from Austria to its new home at Adventist Aviation Indonesia in Papua, a complex trip that involved stops in nearly a dozen countries, obtaining permits from 17 countries, and more than 80 hours of flying time.
The flight was also personal. Roberts was piloting a plane to replace a plane that had crashed 20 months earlier, killing his father, veteran mission pilot Bob Roberts.
It was not only his father’s legacy, however, that compelled Roberts to make the 16,335-kilometer (10,150-mile) flight over the Middle East and southern Asia, countries located in the so-called 10/40 window (between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator) that have the highest level of socioeconomic challenges and least access to the gospel message.
“There is still a great need in many of the countries,” Gary Roberts said of the countries that he flew over and prayed over during his trip. “I just ask you to continue to uplift them and our church administration there.”
He also expressed gratitude for people around the world who had prayed for him during the sometimes perilous journey filled with setbacks but also opportunities to share God.
The Pilatus PC-6 Porter airplane will be used for mission outreach in the 10/40 window of southeast Asia.
Acquiring the Plane Obstacles always seem to accompany trips of great magnitude, and Roberts faced the first when he carried out an initial inspection of the aircraft in Vienna and found corrosion in the engine. “It was bad enough that we thought we would have to send the engine to a shop to be opened up, cleaned, and inspected before we could bring it here,” said his wife, Wendy, who closely followed the flight from their home in Papua.
The plane’s owner, a resident of Jordan, called off the sale when he found out about the rust. But several months later he contacted the Adventists and offered the plane at a significantly lower price, taking into account the reality that the required repairs would cost an estimated $150,000.
Then the Adventists learned that the plane’s paperwork had not been kept up-to-date, and they spent considerable time sorting that out. After that, Gary Roberts traveled to the owner’s home in Jordan to seal the deal.
Following the purchase, Roberts decided to fly the Swiss-built plane to its factory in Switzerland to have the work done on the engine. That’s when a big miracle occurred, his wife said. “When he arrived, they put their scope, the camera, into the engine, and it was clean!” she said.
The factory inspector had seen the engine photos sent earlier by the Adventists, and he asked Gary Roberts with astonishment, “Are you sure this is the same engine?” “We believe God healed the engine,” Wendy Roberts said.
Up and Away Many months passed while the Adventists processed the paperwork and importation permission to bring the plane into Indonesia. Gary Roberts finally headed to Vienna in mid-November to pick up the plane. The plan was to meet his copilot, Dwayne Harris of Philippine Adventist Medical Aviation Services, and fly out of Vienna on November 19, 2015.
Harris’ flight from Manila to Vienna, however, was delayed by an ill passenger, so he and Roberts agreed to meet instead in Athens, Greece. Harris arrived in Athens on November 20, only to learn that Roberts had faced a delay getting a visa for India and would only arrive with the plane on November 22.
It was vital to stay on schedule. Roberts had started planning the itinerary and securing permits for the trip in February 2015. Some permits were valid only for a certain time period, and any unexpected delay could require him to submit a new application.
Roberts landed as planned on November 22, but strong winds forced them to wait until November 23 to leave for the next planned stop, Egypt.
Early the next morning, November 23, Roberts and Harris flew to Egypt with minimal complications. At an airport on the Mediterranean shore a young woman who helped refuel aircraft asked Roberts what he was doing with the plane. He told her that he worked for God. “God?” she replied with surprise. “Is there even a God?”
Roberts said he was reminded that Christians have a duty to share their faith wherever they go. “We still have a lot of work to do, even in modern countries,” he said.
The next day, November 24, the pilots encountered unexpected ice as they flew over Saudi Arabia en route from Egypt to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. “Across the desert, you’d think it would be nice weather because you’re over a dry desert,” Harris said. “But it was the worst weather of the whole flight.”
The plane started picking up dangerous ice as it cruised at 3,050 meters (10,000 feet). The pilots requested and received permission to change their route and descend to about 2750 meters (9,000 feet). The bad weather and resulting diversion caused the plane to land several hours after sunset.
The Last Leg In Abu Dhabi the two pilots parted ways. Harris, who hadn’t secured an Indian visa, applied at the Indian embassy, and Roberts took off on a commercial flight to Indonesia to attend the previously scheduled year-end meetings of the East Indonesia Union Conference, for which he was a delegate. Ultimately, Harris wasn’t able to obtain the visa, and he flew home to the Philippines.
Roberts returned to Abu Dhabi after four days. Technical issues delayed his departure by one day. From there Roberts flew almost nine hours with good weather to India. Next he flew to Chittagong, Bangladesh.
Bolstered by many people worldwide praying for the journey, Roberts continued on to Thailand, to Borneo, and then to several stops in Indonesia before reaching the Adventist Aviation Indonesia headquarters on December 8. Roberts became the first known Adventist mission pilot to fly around the world longitudinally in a small aircraft.
At the airstrip he was met by his wife, Wendy, and daughter, Cherise.
Roberts and his family moved to Indonesia after the death of his father to continue his work with Adventist Aviation Indonesia. The elder Roberts and one passenger died on April 9, 2014, when the Quest Kodiak plane he was piloting struggled to become airborne on takeoff and crashed into a bridge at the end of the runway at the headquarters of Adventist Aviation Indonesia. Gary Roberts now flies in the same areas his father once flew.
The arrival of the new plane means that Adventist Aviation Indonesia will be able to expand its work of spreading the gospel in practical ways. The plane will be used to transport pastors, Bible workers, missionaries, and literature to areas inaccessible by vehicles. In addition, the plane will act as an ambulance, ferrying people from remote areas to medical care in larger towns.
“We pray that many will be saved for eternity because of this tool God has given us to reach those in remote places,” Wendy Roberts said.
Some people talk about unity; some people live it bearing a powerful witness to others...
Our Greatest Strength (Number 14)
(Which we often see as a weakness)
By Jordan Stephan
In the center of the lobby of the men’s dormitory at Walla Walla University stands a stone monument with a Bible verse engraved into it: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1, NIV 1984).
Adventists would stand firmly against a congregation that didn’t keep the Sabbath. A church that preached an incorrect view of the state of the dead would cause an uproar. But what about a church that is in disunity? That certainly wouldn’t make headlines on the Adventist Review Web site, or would it? If unity in Christ is a fundamental belief of our church, why are we so indifferent when this unity is challenged?
An African Illustration Few people travel to Africa without taking an opportunity to see the incredible wildlife unique to this part of the world. I’ve had the chance to see many animals while living in Kenya, from regal lions to lumbering rhinos.
Two African animals help make an important point: zebras and ostriches. Undoubtedly, these two animals are not the superstars of African safaris. They’re the animals you delete from your full memory card to make space for more elephant and lion photos. Zebras are little more than pretty donkeys, and it is a proven scientific fact that ostriches aren’t terrifying. But the way these two species interact is remarkable.
Zebras have poor eyesight, but they make up for it with an incredible sense of smell and hearing. Ostriches, on the other hand, have limited hearing and smell, but with their big eyes they have sharp vision. The two animals will often graze in similar areas to help protect each other from predators, relying on the other species for what they lack.
Just as these animals work together using each other’s strengths, so too should we look for strengths in others to strengthen our church as a whole. But does that happen?
If there were a career to be had pointing out flaws in others, many people would bring home a hefty paycheck. (And if you read that and thought of someone in your life, then maybe you would bring home a nice check as well.) In our churches, do we see a certain woman as the one who is best at organizing service projects, or do we see her as the one who leads the worst praise team each month? Does the teenager get encouraged for bringing his friends to church, or do we call him out because those friends have tattoos and earrings? Like film critics and art collectors looking for originals, we are experts at finding imperfections.
What Unifies Us Most Paul makes the best comparison for what church unity should be like in his letter to the Romans. “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Rom. 12:4, 5).1
Look at the circle of believers in your home church. We all know those who are gifted to be the legs, willing to go wherever God asks. Others are certainly chosen to be the eyes, blessed with the ability to see people in need. Some are the ears, able to bite their tongues and simply listen, while others still are the hands, able to fix and heal. And we each have that one friend who proudly claims to be the mouth.
Christ-centered unity does not come when churches cultivate same-minded people with a singular gift. Diversity, rather, is what brings healthy, unified growth. What ties us together is often the very thing we think is tearing us apart: differences.
A Question for You Do you think the Seventh-day Adventist Church is unified? Yes or no? Many Seventh-day Adventists, especially from my generation, might say “no.” I myself would even have said no before starting this article. But I recently had a conversation with a Roman Catholic student here at Maxwell Academy that changed my perspective.
After discussing Catholic practices that I find interesting, I was curious to hear what he thought of Adventism. Being at an Adventist school, he is required to study our curriculum and attend our Sabbath services. I asked if there was anything about Adventism that he admired. His answer surprised me: “You guys all seem really close, like a family.”
This conversation served as an eye-opener for me. We can often be oblivious to something about ourselves until someone else points it out. Is it possible that we as a church are more unified than we think we are? The unity of our church has been under attack by some in the past couple years.
The most divisive topics bring with them the most ardent opponents with strong (even extreme) convictions.
I always saw this as a sign of weakness in the church. But this conversation caused me to rethink this stance. If few things are being shaken more violently than our unity, and Satan targets areas where he feels most threatened, then what does that say about our church’s unity? Is it possible that Satan targets our unity because it’s on the brink of being our greatest strength (read John 17:20-23)?
This idea is hard to imagine because we tend to focus on the wrong things. Christian unity is not about agreeing with one another or thinking the same way. We can disagree and still be unified. The point of unity is not to be unified with each other, but rather to be unified in Christ. Ellen White spoke to this when writing about the disciples:
“They would have their tests, their grievances, their differences of opinion; but while Christ was abiding in the heart, there could be no dissension. His love would lead to love for one another; the lessons of the Master would lead to the harmonizing of all differences, bringing the disciples into unity, till they would be of one mind and one judgment. Christ is the great center, and they would approach one another just in proportion as they approached the center.”2
The things that divide us today will soon fade as we look to Christ. That’s true unity, and it can be our church’s greatest strength.
The young couple between me and the airline window smiled as I slid into my aisle seat.
After I buckled my seatbelt, the husband leaned forward. “We’re Jim and Amy,” he said, offering his hand. “Glad we’re flying together.”
Unaccustomed to such graciousness from airline seatmates, I returned the smile, and murmured a question about their reasons for making this three-hour flight.
“Oh, we work for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. We’re on our way to a convention,” Amy said cheerfully. “What are you headed to?” “A speaking appointment,” I said wearily.
I wasn’t eager to launch into a theological conversation when I was already tired and hoping to sleep.
In moments, they had deftly extracted from me my identity as an Adventist pastor and editor, and my plans to preach at a camp meeting far from my Maryland home.
“Really?” they said, eyes widening with obvious delight. “Would you mind terribly if we asked you some questions about your faith? You see, we’ve never actually met a real, live Seventh-day Adventist, and there’s a lot we’d like to know.”
So unfolded my favorite airline conversation ever—a thoughtful interchange that ranged from the seventh-day Sabbath to the Second Coming to Adventist lifestyle practices. We even talked about the Spirit of Prophecy—after a grinning 20-year old two rows back (who had obviously been listening) urged Jim and Amy, “Ask him about Ellen G. White!”
Three hours later, after many questions and earnest prayer, we parted in the airport terminal, sensing that we had done something Jesus very much wanted us to do.
There are millions like Jim and Amy out there—dedicated followers of Jesus who just now are gathered in some other faith, but still fully attentive to the Great Shepherd’s voice.
“Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice” (John 10:16) Jesus says. How will they hear unless we start conversations, build friendships, and share faith?
As you read this month’s feature on how the wider Seventh-day Adventist Church talks with other world faiths, pray for those whom the Spirit is even now leading into a conversation with you.
The best way to share our faith is to reflect Christ’s character in our own lives....
Being Like Jesus
Speaking the truth in love.
By Ted N. C. Wilson
One of the most important verses in the Bible is found in 1 John 4:8: “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus repeatedly stressed the importance of love. When asked, “Which is the first commandment of all?” (Mark 12:28), Jesus responded by quoting a well-known passage from Deuteronomy: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30, 31).
After washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus told them, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34, 35).
The beloved apostle John echoes this important theme in 1 John 4:7, 8: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
John continues in verse 16: “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us” (verses 16-19).
A Beautiful Diamond Like a beautiful diamond, God is multi-faceted. The God of love is also the God of truth. We read in Deuteronomy 32:4 that “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.”
The changelessness of God’s love is balanced by the changelessness of His truth. “For I am the Lord, I change not,” He says in Malachi 3:6. God doesn’t change, so His truth remains the same.
In His prayer to the Father, Christ stated, “They [His followers] are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through Thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world” (John 17:17, 18, KJV).
God’s Word—the Bible—is His truth, and because it is His truth, it is changeless. Jesus sends His believers out to share His truth. And because His truth runs contrary to the world, it’s often met with hostility and rejection. Nevertheless, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor. 13:4-6).
Speaking the Truth in Love Jesus gives many examples of how to speak the truth in love. One of the best known is in John 4, where Jesus speaks with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.
The Jews avoided interactions with Samaritans because they considered them to have an impure, twisted form of religion. But Jesus reached out to everyone. He knew He had a work to do in Samaria and trusted God to lead Him. Furthermore, He wanted to set an example for the disciples, revealing that their work would be broader than just to Israel.
When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, He thirsted not only for a cup of water, He longed to heal her soul. Because Jesus was not afraid to speak the truth in love, an encounter that began with a simple request turned into an effective two-day evangelistic outreach.
A Difficult Conversation The conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well wasn’t easy; Jesus had to say some hard things. He wanted her to see her need of the living water He had to offer, and how the way she had lived her life up to that point had been keeping her from Him.
After the woman expressed a desire for the living water Christ was offering, He gently brought her need to the forefront. “Go, call your husband,” He said, “and come here” (John 4:16).
Admitting that she didn’t have a husband, Jesus responded, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband” (verses 17, 18).
The truth hurt, and the woman didn’t want to talk about what she had hoped would remain secret. Seeking to divert the conversation, she brought up a long-standing theological controversy: “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship” (verses 19, 20).
Jesus didn’t dismiss the diversion immediately, but instead watched for an opportunity to again bring the truth home to her heart. “Woman, believe Me,” He told her, “the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father” (verse 21).
But Jesus goes farther, stating: “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews” (verse 22).
This was a hard truth for a Samaritan to hear, nevertheless it was important. Paul acknowledged this truth in Romans 3:1, 2: “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.”
In Spirit and Truth As Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, he sought to lift her thoughts above form, ceremony, and controversy. He longed to free her from the bondage of sin and prejudice.
“The hour is coming, and now is,” Jesus continued, “when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23, 24).
True worship, Jesus said, is in spirit and truth—you can’t just have the spirit or just the truth. You must have both. “In spirit” means to be in accordance with God’s spirit of love and following His way. Truth is always according to His Word; that’s where truth is defined.
Those who worship in spirit and truth are the true worshippers that the Father seeks. God is the focus; He’s the source of truth, and it’s His Spirit that draws us to worship, know, and love Him.
Essential information we need to know about Zika virus and its major effects on health...
Can anything we do make a difference?
By Peter N. Landless and Allan R. Handysides
I am worried because my daughter is pregnant, and all the news about the Zika virus and microcephalic babies is making me nervous. What advice do you have to offer?
The Zika virus was isolated in 1947 from a rhesus monkey in the Zika Forest near Entebbe, Uganda. The recent explosive outbreak of Zika virus infection in Brazil, and the temporally associated spike in the incidence of microcephaly and of the Guillain-Barré syndrome (a paralytic disorder), have caused tremendous anxiety and concern.
Epidemics often have a “tipping point,” where the background rate of an infection is higher than the norm. With the Zika epidemic, this probably corresponds to the increased numbers of infected mosquitoes and, consequently, humans.
The virus belongs to the arboviruses, or arthropod-borne diseases, such as dengue. Additionally, and of concern, the virus may be transmitted by sexual contact.
A large number of infected individuals remain asymptomatic, making control more challenging, because documentation of the disease’s progress in a community becomes difficult.
The symptoms are of a viral infection—with fever, rash, and joint pains—and might have permitted the infection to remain obscure. An association with Guillain-Barré (paralysis) raises significant concern. The potential to damage babies (teratogen) has caught global attention.
Zika is associated with abnormal brain development (microcephaly) in the fetus, which may later be associated with convulsions and learning disabilities.
Many questions have not yet been answered. For example, does the infection have to occur at a specific time in the pregnancy to be associated with fetal damage? What percentage of mothers infected at such a specific time have babies that are affected? Does prior infection offer long-lasting protection, and if so, for how long?
We shall learn a great deal about this Zika virus now that its association with major problems has been described. But for now, what does one do?
Avoidance of mosquito bites becomes the number-one priority. This is particularly true for anyone contemplating pregnancy. This would have been to simply defer going to places where mosquitoes are known to carry the virus. The problem now, however, is that mosquitoes in our own backyards may be carrying the virus.
Public health measures of cleaning up the environment and removing even small amounts of water sufficient for the breeding of mosquitoes need to be implemented.
This reduces the number of mosquitoes. Individual householders may consider spraying the walls of their houses inside and out with a permethrin-containing spray to kill mosquitoes. Insect screens should be checked and repaired.
Programs that include spraying or even the introduction of genetically modified male mosquitoes that produce nonviable larval forms need to be considered by regional health authorities.
Experience with malaria has demonstrated the difficulty of mosquito control, so avoidance of bites is a major strategy. Insect repellents are recommended, especially those containing DEET. A pregnant woman, however, may wish to have more of this on her garments than on large areas of skin. Permethrin-impregnated mosquito netting could become a feature of living even in nonmalaria areas.
The concern for pregnant women also affects their partners because of the potential of person-to-person sexual transmission.
The Brazilian health minister suggested couples might even defer having a family because of present uncertainty. Microcephaly may be associated with cognitive handicap, and this is a lifelong challenge.
In the long term, a vaccine may become available and help to contain the epidemic; in the short term, the concerns we have discussed are important. Some may feel the size and importance of the problem may be exaggerated, but “better safe than sorry.” n
An epic story in seven acts that gives us the chance to reach others in a powerful way...
A Story to Tell
By Ty Gibson
The Bible is not a textbook of systematic theology, nor is it a proof-text manual; it is not even a book of good moral advice.
The Bible is, rather, a story.
It’s a grand narrative rich with intersecting characters in an unfolding saga of infinite love, horrific loss, and glorious restoration at last.
At the center of the story is a singular, towering figure. Every prophecy and parable, every song and symbol, every wailing prayer for justice and weeping plea for mercy, every cry for help and longing for love, every episode and act of the story, whispers His name.
The entire Old Testament basically says, He is coming. The entire New Testament says, He has come. A promise made and a promise kept! That’s the whole Bible, the whole story, in a nutshell.
In the Old Testament we hear God saying, I will faithfully love you at any and all cost to Me. No matter your posture toward Me, I will never stop loving you. I will come to your world and enter into your pain. I will bear your shame. I will absorb your sin into My love and overcome its power to destroy you.
In the New Testament we hear God saying, See, I am here, and I will fulfill every aspect of My promise to you. I will love you to the utter end of Myself. All the rage and hatred you can heap upon Me will not conquer, nor even weaken, My love for you. And when I am lifted up on the cross in self-sacrificing love for you, I will draw you back to Me.
Summing up the relation of the two testaments, Paul brilliantly observed, “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Cor. 1:20). In Christ, God has shown His love to be faithful and true by fulfilling every promise He made through the prophets.
The story unfolds in seven epic acts:
1 Pre-Creation: Once upon an eternity, God was all there was. Before all of creation, for eternal ages past, God existed as an expression of other-centered love: Father, Son, and Spirit, the eternal Three as One. The God of the biblical story is not a solitary self, but rather a self-giving friendship, a social unit of nonstop outgoingness. Selflessness defines God and is the foundation of reality.
2 Creation: The physical universe, with all of its rational, thinking, choosing beings, was born from divine love as an expression of God’s character. Creation is simply the demonstration of God’s love in material form. We exist because God is love, and in order to love as God does. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually human beings were engineered to reflect God’s self-giving love back to Him and to one another.
3 Fall: Sin entered the picture as the desire to live for self above and before others, thus generating mistrust, which led to isolation, which led to death. The fall of humankind was basically a falling out of love with God and one another. Sin is not the breaking of arbitrary rules imposed by a controlling God, but rather is anti-love, resulting in breakdown of relationships.
4 Covenant: In response to the Fall, God remained true to His character. The key concept of the biblical story is God’s faithfulness. The story in Genesis reveals how God’s relationship with His people is summed up in the word covenant. In its various forms, the covenant is God’s pledge to continue loving fallen humanity in spite of our rebellion. He will follow through with His plan to save us at any cost to Himself. To accomplish the covenant plan, God establishes in Israel the biological and theological lineage through which His plan will be fulfilled. The prophets of Israel become the channel through which a series of covenant promises and prophecies are proclaimed, all of them pointing to Jesus.
5 Messiah: The Christ event—His birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension—constitute the complete fulfillment of God’s covenant promise. Jesus is God’s love embodied in human form. In Him, covenant is kept from both the divine side of the relationship and from the human side. As God, Jesus was faithful to humanity. As human, He was faithful to God. Salvation is historically, objectively accomplished in Christ as the complete fulfillment of the covenant.
6 Church: The body of Christ is His covenant community. Its mission is to bear witness, through words and actions, to the transforming reality of God’s love. As the good news of God’s faithfulness is communicated to the world, salvation, liberation, and healing happen for every person who says “yes” to the message. Saying “yes” is what the Bible calls “faith,” which is exercised when individuals identify with Christ and live for Him. This is the subjective experience of redemption in Christ Jesus.
7 Re-Creation: As the Bible story reaches its climax, everything contrary to God’s love will be eradicated. Only that which is good and beautiful will remain for all eternity. The story promises the final removal of evil and the restoration of all things to God’s ideal. Redeemed humanity will finally enter into the eternal bliss of other-centered, social integration God had planned from the beginning. God’s love will reign supreme in every heart as the only motive behind every thought, feeling, and deed.
This is the whole Bible at a glance, and this is the message God raised up the Advent movement to proclaim to the world. Our understanding of the Bible serves its true purpose only when we tell this story. It is the most enchanting and moving and mind-blowing story that can be told, because it tells of a God who loves each of us more than His own existence; one who would rather die forever than live without us.
If we tell this story, our own people, as well as those we try to reach, will spontaneously jump into the narrative to play their part.
Ty Gibson is lead pastor of the Storyline Adventist Church in Eugene, Oregon, United States. He has authored eight books and codirects Light Bearers, an international publishing, teaching, and media ministry.
During my first visit to Europe many years ago, I tried to give a brochure to a person in the subway. She rejected it. That shocked me. In my home country this would rarely happen. People here, it seemed, were not as receptive to the gospel. So I wondered, How can I break the cultural barriers and reach people’s hearts?
Soon after, while traveling on a train, my 2-year-old-daughter was “reading” a book about the Flood and the creation of the world. A couple beside her were enchanted with her enthusiasm and listened to her attentively while she showed them the pictures and explained to them their meanings. When we arrived at our stop, we said farewell to the couple with affective and spontaneous smiles, which in other circumstances we would likely not have experienced. That event helped me understand that we can reach the hearts of those who apparently seem “closed” to the gospel message if we use the right “key.”
A Church Is Born In 2011 I went to Madrid, Spain, to continue my postgraduate studies. I began meeting with a small group of Portuguese-speaking Adventists, most of whom were Brazilians. The group organized initially in 2008, was growing slowing, and dreamed of building a church. I offered to help.
We began our campaign with prayer, and God answered our prayers. The European Portuguese Advisory (EPA) (in Portuguese, Conselho Europeu de Língua Portuguesa), a supporting ministry that helps coordinate and foster the creation of Portuguese immigrant churches in Europe, began dialoguing with leaders and pastors of the Spanish Union of Churches Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (SUCC), and meetings were held to discuss the possibilities.
The Euro-Africa Division (now the Inter-European Division) released resources of the project His Hands* to facilitate the foundation of the new church, the first Portuguese Adventist church in Spain.
A Church and a Mission The Lord blessed our efforts. We were able to obtain—free of charge—a small facility in which to meet and worship on Sabbaths. This strengthened our faith in God’s leading, and we continued to move forward in faith. The official inauguration of the small group was held on March 23, 2012. EPA representatives from London and Switzerland, as well as church leaders from SUCC, attended.
At first weekly attendance hovered around 30, but the members enthusiastically embraced their mission to reach as many as possible of the more than 20,000 Brazilians and others living in Madrid who spoke Portuguese. They happily greeted Sabbath visitors and welcomed them into their group.
The Key to Success Every human being has spiritual needs, as well as a need for fellowship and companionship with others. A genuine and vibrant Christian group that is biblically oriented can help satisfy these needs. A community of immigrants such as ours can also offer practical assistance, such as providing food to those in need and helping them find jobs or places to pursue their education or learn a second language.
A support network was developed through small-group meetings in church members’ homes. Four small groups prayed with one another and shared sorrows, joys, and dreams. They developed friendships with one another and shared their faith with neighbors, relatives, and others. Sharing Sabbath meals also provided fellowship.
The spontaneity and joy in our social meetings and religious services in the church created an attractive environment for visitors.
A Dream Realized The small groups, visits to members, frequent phone calls, Bible studies, and daily church life fostered friendship and confidence. When I visited other community churches, I shared the story of the fledgling congregation. Eventually the news spread throughout the region, resulting in many prayers and messages of encouragement.
Adventists from other churches soon began to migrate to our congregation. Former Adventists and people interested in learning about the gospel started attending as well. Before long we outgrew our meeting facility and began looking for something larger.
One day, while talking to a church brother at his automobile repair shop, I mentioned that we were praying and looking for a new meeting site. He showed me a place for rent in front of his shop. It was the size we needed and in a good location, close to a subway station and in a Brazilian immigrant neighborhood. It seemed God was leading. We signed the lease in October 2012.
The new meeting place needed much work and renovation. Church members volunteered both time and resources. Refurbishing the place included constructing a second bathroom, acquiring new chairs, organizing a children’s room, updating the heating system, and, of course, cleaning and painting. The SUCC approved the opening of the new church on November 13, and its official dedication was held January 19, 2013.
All those initial months of hard work, sweat, and tears were finally crowned with the slow but sustainable development of the first Portuguese Adventist church in Spain.
Lessons Learned Here are 10 things I learned from helping to plant this new congregation: 1. Success depends on both the heavenly rain and the sweat of those who work in it. 2. Negotiations and administrative formalities can sometimes be dry, slow, and challenging, but they are the inevitable way to plant a new church. 3. Pleasing everyone should not be the goal. But respecting different opinions is a sign of maturity and wisdom, and helps avoid a lot of problems. 4. Words of encouragement can lighten the exhausted soul and strengthen a person’s faith. 5. God often uses humble, weak, and unskilled people to teach us to depend on Him. 6. If we use lack of money as an excuse to do nothing, we don’t understand that God is truly in control. 7. Unless we spend time with people, strive to be close them, and love them, it’s impossible to share our knowledge and experience of God with them. 8. Every pastoral ministry is beyond human capacity, but with God all things are possible. 9. God’s mercy and love toward lost souls allow us be instruments of salvation, independent of our personal strengths and weaknesses. 10. We sometimes need to unlearn things in order to be able to understand other lessons God wants to teach us.
Practical Love The central gospel message is practical love. After breaking through the numerous artificial and cultural barriers that people use to protect themselves, we find hearts in need of love and understanding. Sincere Christians can provide genuine friendships through which others can experience a true encounter with God.
* His Hands is an initiative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. For more information, go to www.adventistvolunteers.org/HisHands/
It’s always rewarding to see how faithfully God has led us in the past...
Another Native Son
There are many ways to become a pioneer.
By Gibson Caesar (with Lael Caesar)
For the first 10 years of my life I was a little boy in a little village on a big plain: the magnificent, wide-open, undulating plains of Venezuela’s Gran Sabana in South America’s northern region.
Beautiful Land My name is Gibson Caesar. I am one of the original inhabitants of my region: Taurepan, Akawaio. Pemon-speaking Amerindians inhabit a land of splendid beauty shared with Spanish-speaking Venezuelans, English-speaking Guyanese, and Portuguese-speaking Brazilians. Many of us speak all those European languages and several of our own as well.
Our land features dramatic ancient rock formations called tepuis (or tepuys) that suddenly rise from the savannah floor in awe-inspiring isolation from one another. They make for spectacular waterfalls, one of which, Ayuantepui, is the source of Angel Falls, at 979 meters (3,212 feet) the world’s tallest waterfall, with one uninterrupted plunge of 807 meters (2,648 feet). Its river, the Gauja, is but one of the area’s wild rushing currents that sweep over these falls.
The indigenous word “Guayana” (“Guyana”) goes far in explaining the lush profusion of this (at times) inaccessible interior. Its meaning, “land of many waters,” describes the fertility of hinterland earth in Guyana, Surinam, Cayenne, Venezuela, and Brazil. The deep jungles of these lands have provided exotic flora and fauna for many of the world’s zoos.
My own Taurepan-speaking relatives still freely move across the fluid international borders at the base of Mount Roraima, where Brazil, Venezuela, and Guyana’s borders meet. For me, as a 10-year-old, moving from the land of my birth to Guyana would give me a new land, language, name, and life.
Paruima, Waramadong, Georgetown Paruima is an indigenous Amerindian village across the Guyanese border where the Seventh-day Adventists operated a school, with Riley Caesar as teacher. School drew me there. But within a short time teacher Riley and his wife, Lucy, drew me further in. They took me into their home and gave me their name. I could not know then how big a step this was into God’s future for me.
Two years later, in 1948, we moved to the village of Waramadong, where my dad served as teacher in the Waramadong school. But Daddy Caesar soon realized that his firstborn son needed more schooling than he could get in hinterland Akawaio villages. So after about two years in Waramadong, he sent me to Guyana’s capital city of Georgetown. By then he was not as lonely as he had been when he took me in as his first son.
Now there were four kids: me, 14 years old; Val, 4; with Theron and Lael trailing behind. And though there were no Adventist schools in Georgetown in 1950, there was an Adventist headmaster. Daddy Caesar entrusted me into Bruce Dummett’s care.
Coming of Age Georgetown was still not enough for my thirst for learning, or Daddy’s dreams for me. So after being there three months, I sailed across the Caribbean Sea to Caribbean Training College on the island of Trinidad, where my teacher-parents, Riley and Lucy Caesar, had themselves been trained.
I spent three years in that school, learning to fill Daddy’s shoes. For that was just what the Lord had destined me to do: return home to make history for my native people.
When Daddy Caesar was transferred to Guyana’s Essequibo Coast to take up pastoral duties, I took his place in Waramadong. At just 17 years old, I became the first indigenous teacher in Adventism’s history of my people in Guyana.
Back in my school days at Daddy Caesar’s Waramadong school there was a girl named Anita. She was one year my junior. Her dad, William Frederick Kenswil, traveled a bit. So for reasons of her stability, he let her spend much of her time in the care of Pastor and Mrs. Roy Brooks, missionaries living and teaching in the village of Paruima.
Mr. Kenswil paid his daughter weekly visits in Paruima, but one day when she was 13, he decided to have her come visit him instead: “You are growing up my daughter,” he said. “You need to find a good husband . . . Gibson, perhaps, or someone like him.” It was the only father-daughter conversation of that kind she would ever have with her dad. He died that same week.
Far away in Trinidad, I was doing my own thinking: “I have nobody,” I told myself. The solution would be to write to Mrs. Brooks. I did, and told her to keep Anita for me.
But life isn’t always that simple. After I came home to teach, I found myself aware of more than one charming, Christian young woman in my world. I kept thinking of Esther, who liked me a lot, and of Anita at Pastor Brooks’ home away in Georgetown.
One day I made up my mind to go see Anita. It was enough. A week later Pastor Brooks brought Anita to Waramadong to join us in marriage, March 18, 1954—me and my old schoolmate; the girl whose father, when she was 13, had encouraged her to think of me just days before he died; the girl I had asked Sister Brooks to keep for me. Amazing, isn’t it, or at least amusing, that none of us ever thought of asking Anita what she thought of all this? Blessedly for me, Anita was in full agreement with having me as her life companion.
Life Together I taught for seven years in Waramadong, the last six of them with Anita at my side as teacher and loving wife. Later we moved to Kako, some eight hours away, to open a new school. Kako put all my capacity as a leader to the test. God helped me persuade the village community to join me in doing it all. We built everything from classroom blackboard, to school furniture, to the schoolhouse itself.
Life After Kako I did many things in life after Kako. There was mining, logging, and many years of work in agriculture. Daddy and Mommy’s preparation, and my years at Waramadong and Kako, stood me in good stead.
Beginning at the Mon Repos School of Agriculture in 1973, I served as a career educator, teaching in eight of my people’s communities, places with musical Amerindian names like Paruima, Waramadong, Kamarang, Kako, Jawalla [in the Upper Mazaruni], Imbaimadai, Chinauyen, and Philippi. Anita left teaching to become a certified midwife. From her base in Waramadong she worked from 1973 to 2001, and earned the astonishing record of never losing a baby through 28 years of midwifery in Guyana’s hinterland.
But my history-making years at Waramadong and Kako will never be forgotten. God has been good to this little boy who wandered across an international border to find his family and purpose in life. Life has had its sorrows along with its joys. But I am thankful that God let us see seven of our children, three girls and four boys, grow to adulthood and do very well.
Considering their success, the growth of Adventist education among Guyana’s historic Davis Indian community, and the way God has led throughout my life, I shall always be grateful for the privilege He granted me of being the pioneer in the Christian education of my people.
Across the next border in heaven’s promised land my children and students and I will all learn from Jesus in the school of eternity.
A quick and perceptive look at what's going on in the Seventh-day Adventist Church...
Brazil’s Player of the Year Stands for Sabbath
Soccer goalkeeper stuns the country’s sporting world.
By Carolina Félix, South American Division
An up-and-coming soccer goalkeeper has stirred up a storm in Brazil’s sporting world by announcing that he will no longer play matches scheduled from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
Carlos Vítor da Costa Ressurreição, 30, who was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church last month, disclosed his decision at a news conference, sparking a wave of surprise, sympathy, even anger from fans and sports commentators who struggled to understand his rationale.
The furor is in no small part linked to the fact that Ressurreição has made a number of important saves in the past year that moved his Londrina Esporte Clube up from Serie C to Serie B in the Brazilian National Championship, the main soccer league championship in the country. Ressurreição was named player of the year, resulting in a job offer from Serie A team Chapecoense that would have doubled his salary. Ressurreição turned down the job because it wouldn’t have allowed him to observe the seventh-day Sabbath as mandated by the fourth commandment, according to the newspaper Lance!
Moreover, Ressurreição’s future is up in the air because a number of Serie B matches are held on Friday nights and Saturdays. His team has announced that it will not renew his contract when it ends in May. But Ressurreição is clinging to his convictions, telling the news conference on January 20 that he wouldn’t even be playing soccer if it weren’t for God.
A year before his baptism, he said, he spent four long months at home in Salvador, in the state of Bahia, without a signed contract with any team. During that time his wife, Gabriela, was approached by a friend at a hair salon and offered a partnership in producing handbags. The two women subsequently created their own label and formed a business that grew quickly, Ressurreição said. “In a short amount of time the profit grew larger than my salary had been in the soccer club,” he said. “That was the moment I understood that God had several possible ways to care for my family.”
After this realization, Ressurreição set aside his fears about not being able to land a soccer contract and instead began a process that he called “intimacy with God.” He started to study the Bible and pray every day. “My faith is not based on words said by a pastor or anything like that,” he said. “I studied the Bible and came to the conclusion that I needed to grow spiritually.”
As he studied, he became convinced that his mother-in-law, Tânia Rocha, a Seventh-day Adventist, had been right when she had told him about the Sabbath 12 years earlier. He was baptized on December 27. The uncertainties that Ressurreição now faces may be as daunting as those that he had when he didn’t have a soccer contract a year ago. But he expressed calmness about the future when a reporter asked him at the news conference whether he was prepared to choose between his faith and his career. “Without any doubt, I choose my faith,” he said. “Many others came before me, giving me this opportunity to choose.”
But he isn’t sitting around. As the clock ticks down on his current contract, he has started a Bible study group with his teammates.
“I’m at peace because my life is in the hands of God,” he said. “As long as there are teams that respect my beliefs, sports will always be an option. If not, the Lord has already shown me in the past that He will take care of me.” Ressurreição’s stand is winning admiration from some sports commentators. “I’m not religious, but I’m touched by Vítor’s choice,” said Ayrton Baptista, Jr., a sports blogger with Globo Esporte, one of the best-known sports Web sites in Brazil. “His faith speaks loudly.”
Willing to Die for Their Faith
Two married couples tell why they moved to the Middle East.
By Andrew McChesney
Large tears welled up in Juanita’s eyes. She drew her young daughter close in her arms. But her voice remained resolute as she spoke about the possibility that she might die for her faith in the Middle East.
“When you are sure of the call of God and the call of the church, it is easier to go to dangerous places because you know that God will be with you,” Juanita said. “He will help us.”
Her husband, Carlos, nodded his head solemnly. He said he had been thinking about Arabs who made international headlines giving their lives for a cause they believed in, no matter how wrong the cause might be. “Why can’t we believe in our cause and be willing to give our lives, too?” he said. “This is the true cause; it is the cause of Jesus.”
Carlos, Juanita, and their daughter are among 17 Seventh-day Adventist families who arrived in the Middle East from South America in February 2015. The highly-trained professionals gave up comfortable jobs in their home countries to spend the next five years working in one of parts of the world where it is most difficult to share the gospel. The past year has been filled with Arabic lessons, intensive planning, and complicated paperwork as the couples inch closer to securing jobs in restricted-access countries. Their goal is to serve as tentmakers: front-line, self-supporting Adventists who share their faith in the workplace. Juanita and Carlos spoke about their efforts in a candid interview. Adventist World is not using the couples’ real names nor disclosing their location because of the sensitivity of their work.
Tears formed in Juanita’s eyes when she was asked how she had weighed the risks as a mother. Before leaving South America, she said, she and Carlos signed a document granting custody of their daughter to her maternal grandparents in the event something happened to them. Juanita said she had no doubt that God had called not just her and Carlos but also their daughter to serve in the Middle East. “God has called us as a team, the three of us,” she said, holding her cooing daughter on her lap. “The call is for her as well, even though she doesn’t know it.”
The girl has already helped her parents make inroads in a culture where it’s difficult for foreigners to make friends with Arabs. Not only are men and women strictly segregated, but Arabs and foreigners often live in their own worlds as well. The other day, Carlos was playing with his daughter at an outdoor playground when her antics caught the attention of an Arab father who had a child of the same age. The two men started conversing and ended up exchanging phone numbers. Soon Carlos’ new friend invited him to a one-on-one game of ball.
“My daughter is making a lot of connections,” Carlos said. Personal relationships are especially important in the Arab world, where literature evangelism, public meetings, and other outreach efforts common elsewhere are banned, church leaders said.
No Adventist believers have been killed for their faith in the Middle East in recent memory, said Homer Trecartin, president of the Adventist Church’s Middle East and North Africa Union. “We have had some close calls, but I am not aware of any who have died,” he said. But Trecartin openly tells potential volunteers that they must be willing to die if they accept a call to serve in the Middle East. “I don’t want people to come and help us for the adventure and thrill,” he said. “I want them to come because they really believe that God has called them and they are willing to go, even if it means they never return home.” All the self-supporting families who arrived in the Middle East last year were selected in a process that involved being screened by the church’s South American Division and approved by the Middle East and North African Union. The South American Division is covering many of the families’ expenses as they settle down to work.
Meanwhile, Carlos said he didn’t know whether God would call him and his wife to make the ultimate sacrifice. He said he didn’t know whether they were ready to die. But he said he believed that God would prepare them if that time came. “We know God will give us the strength to face any difficulty,” he said as his daughter, now off her mother’s lap, joyfully toddled around the room. “If He calls us to make that sacrifice, it would be an honor, of course. We are at peace. If we are within the will of God and serving Him, we are happy.”
Dialogue helps us to understand the different perspectives from others and also gives the wonderful opportunity to be understood effectively...
Talking Faith, Protecting Freedom
Dialogue + religious liberty = unique witness
By Ganoune Diop
Seventh-day Adventists shower me with questions when they learn that I represent the Adventist Church at meetings of Christian ecumenical organizations. “How exactly do Adventists view Christian unity, interfaith relations, and ecumenism?” they ask. “Why do Adventists choose to accept and maintain only observer status and not membership among Christian ecumenical organizations?” My answer is simple: It is legitimate for all people of goodwill to unite to save lives, to protect lives, and to affirm the importance and sacredness of life. It is even urgent for all people to partner to make this world a better place for all human beings, contributing to better health, education, and humanitarian work in all dignity, freedom, justice, peace, and fraternity.
All the services and activities of the Seventh-day Adventist Church seek to promote life, and life in abundance. In the fulfillment of the church’s mission, Adventists mingle with other Christian organizations. In reference to its position in global Christian organizations, the Adventist Church has held observer status at meetings and been open to cooperation with other churches in areas that do not compromise its identity, mission, and message. The rule of thumb is not to hold membership in any ecumenical body that eradicates or erases the distinctive Adventist voice in reference to the sovereignty of God the Creator, the Sabbath, and the Second Coming. In principle, Adventists choose not to be involved in doctrinal alliances with other churches because of the Adventist adherence to a wholistic and integrated approach to biblical doctrines and because of that seeks to uphold doctrines that Adventists consider to have been sidelined, changed, or forgotten in the course of church history.
That said, “unity” is not a bad word. Adventists value unity just as God does. Unity is grounded in the existence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Adventists promote unity for the sake of mission, to make Christ known to all people groups, languages, tribes, and nations. Christians can also unite to make the world a better place through the promotion of health, education, humanitarian work, and the promotion and protection of human rights.
But Christians must keep in mind that they will miss their primary calling if they do not unite to uphold and model spiritual values grounded on the everlasting gospel. The theological virtues of faith, hope, and love are paramount in the Christian mandate and gift to the world. These virtues can best flourish when religious liberty is a reality.
Religious liberty for Adventists is the antidote to syncretistic ecumenism. It is a call to embrace truth with the inalienable freedom of conscience, freedom of religion or belief, freedom to express publicly one’s beliefs, freedom to invite others to share one’s convictions or to join one’s community of faith.
Ecumenism Up Close A subtle cluster of interrelated topics in the arena of interchurch and interfaith relations that needs much clarity is the issue of unity, visible unity, and ecumenism. Other words are sometimes brought into the conversation as if they mean the same thing. They are “collaboration,” “partnership,” and “interchurch (or interfaith) dialogue.”
The word “ecumenism” is used differently in various contexts. The word can refer to unity among the world’s Christian churches, but people usually use it to describe a general sense of cordial relations, dialogue, or partnership for a project. Historically, the first church councils were called ecumenical in the sense that many churches interacted to define orthodoxy. This is not the sense it is given today. Some denominations, such as Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, use it in this sense because they believe they are the guarantors of orthodoxy. But to label any partnership among Christians as doctrinal ecumenism may be uninformed, uneducated, and far-fetched. Spiritual honesty is also needed in identifying and evaluating the real content of interchurch relations.
Defining Unity The concept of unity has a solid biblical and theological foundation. The blessing God intended to spread through Abraham and through his descendants was destined to all the families of the earth. God wants all His people to experience doctrinal unity. This never materialized among His covenant people, Israel. The belief in the resurrection of the dead, for example, was not shared by all Israelites. The New Testament mentions that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.
Today unity is understood differently among various Christian churches. For Roman Catholics, for example, unity includes the concept of the communion of saints, meaning both those who are alive and those who are dead.
In the Catholic Encyclopedia the communion of saints is described as “the spiritual solidarity which binds together the faithful on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven in the organic unity of the same mystical body under Christ its head. . . . The participants in that solidarity are called saints by reason of their destination [heaven] and of their partaking of the fruits of the Redemption.” With this example in mind, global church unity could be a reality only if all Christians adopted the Roman Catholic worldview or understanding of reality or if all Catholics gave up their deeply held beliefs.
Nevertheless, there is much that unites Christians, beginning with the foundation of unity itself. Unity is dear to the heart of God. The whole plan of salvation demonstrates God’s determination to unite His divided and dispersed family, which He created in His image. Unity is grounded in the being of God who is Trinity: a unity in Trinity.
Jesus’ death was purposed to gather people into one. In John 17 Jesus prayed for unity for the sake of mission so that the world might believe. The Holy Spirit was given to seal the unity in mission.
Adventists and Unity Adventists join God in all that God is doing in the world for its salvation. God evangelizes (Gal. 3:8); so do we. God is committed to unite the whole world under the lordship of the Savior, Jesus Christ. We join God to fulfill His purposes to lift up God the Son so that the world might be saved. Adventists are committed to call all peoples to fix their eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:1, 2). They remind all Christians of what constitutes a core belief since apostolic times and is also present in the earliest Christian statement of faith: the second coming of Jesus.
The principle that informs Adventists’ relations to other Christians has two inseparable aspects: truth and religious freedom. Adventist Church cofounder Ellen G. White underscored this in The Acts of the Apostles, writing: “The banner of truth and religious liberty held aloft by the founders of the gospel church and by God’s witnesses during the centuries that have passed since then, has, in this last conflict, been committed to our hands.
The responsibility for this great gift rests with those whom God has blessed with a knowledge of His Word. We are to receive this Word as a supreme authority. We are to recognize human government as an ordinance of divine appointment, and teach obedience to it as a sacred duty, within its legitimate sphere. But when its claims conflict with the claims of God, we must obey God rather than men.”1
More fundamentally, Adventists understand their mission as their name intimates—highlighting the truth of the Second Coming as the hope of the world to finally embrace freedom from death and from evil, bringing with it justice and peace. These convictions are the reasons that Adventists emphasize the Second Coming and a message of healing. Adventists understand that the words of Jesus calling His disciples “salt” and “light” (Matt. 5:13-17) apply also to them.
Every aspect of Adventist engagement with any institution, agency, or organization, whether ecclesiastical or political, built primarily upon the reason for the existence of the church: bringing hope to humankind entangled in all kinds of evil. To fulfill this mission, Adventists participate in Jesus’ method as articulated by Ellen White: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’?”2
Jesus served people, healed them, and fed them with no strings attached. He made them know and feel they were free to choose their future with or without Him. Freedom of conscience matters to Him. Without this freedom, no covenant is genuine. This is because love cannot be forced.
Interchurch Relations Adventists recognize other sincere Christians who confess the truth of Jesus as members of the body of Christ. But Adventists do not hold formal structural membership in ecumenical organizations primarily for freedom of religion purposes. Membership in an ecumenical body would limit the freedom to share one’s convictions with everyone else and thereby jeopardize a universal end-time mission as Adventists understand it.
Adventists are not part of the ecumenical organizations that require membership, but they do enjoy guest or observer status at meetings. Cooperation with other Christian denominations is in accordance with the Adventist Church’s view of other Christians. Ellen White, writing about temperance, said this about leaders in other denominations: “In other churches there are Christians who are standing in defense of the principles of temperance. We should seek to come near to these workers and make a way for them to stand shoulder to shoulder with us. We should call upon great and good men to second our efforts to save that which is lost.”3
In reference to prayer, White said: “Our ministers should seek to come near to the ministers of other denominations. Pray for and with these men, for whom Christ is interceding. A solemn responsibility is theirs. As Christ’s messengers we should manifest a deep, earnest interest in these shepherds of the flock.”4
In accordance with the above counsel, the General Conference, the administrative body of the Adventist world church, has inscribed in the General Conference’s Working Policy that church leaders “recognize every agency that lifts up Christ before men as a part of the divine plan for the evangelization of the world, and . . . hold in high esteem the Christian men and women in other communions who are engaged in winning souls to Christ.”
Rejecting Ecumenism Unity, though clearly willed by God, is not the supreme value. Loyalty to God’s truth takes precedence.
The Adventist Church and several other denominations that have not joined organized ecumenical bodies object to ecumenism as doctrine or as an objective to fuse Christian churches into one world church, leading to loss of distinctive denominational identity. Also, Adventists and other believers do not adhere to syncretistic alliances that would diminish the importance and weight of truth, especially when beliefs in some churches may not be in harmony with revealed biblical truth.
The main concern of Adventists is that they will be restricted from sharing their convictions with every person regardless of religious or philosophical persuasion. This is fundamentally an issue of religious freedom. How could Christians question the right to freedom of religion or belief while even the secular world has accepted this fundamental human right and value?
The Bottom Line While considering other Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ, the principle that prevents the Adventist world church from being a member of an organized union of churches such as the World Council of Churches is that of religious freedom. Religious freedom implies the unrestricted right to share one’s religious convictions and the right to invite others to join one’s own Christian tradition without being accused or labeled as a proselytizer.
Seventh-day Adventists support Christian unity as they join the triune God, who is determined to gather people He created in His image. The purpose of the whole plan of salvation is the restoration of God’s image and the gathering of those He saves. Unity is grounded in God. It was for this purpose Jesus Christ came to earth to unite all the families of the earth.
Doctrinal unity among Christian churches is elusive and unreachable unless churches lose their distinctive beliefs and join one of the church traditions, be it Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Reformed, Evangelical, Pentecostal, etc.
Freedom of religion or belief is a nonnegotiable gift of God that should characterize the freedom of every Christian person or community to share his or her convictions with others, to invite others to join his or her Christian tradition. Obviously, for the sake of mission Christians can join to witness to Christ to a world that needs Him most urgently.
1 Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), pp. 68, 69. 2 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), p. 143. 3 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 6, p. 110. 4 Ibid., p. 78.