There is no price too high. Sooner or later we will be confronted with all kinds of problems in this world.
Life God’s supreme miracle
By Ariel E. Noltze
It’s morning on a cold winter day, and I’m driving down the road. Misty winter landscapes pass by my window, devoid of any sun or greenery. For a moment the image of what must have been the beautiful perfection of the Garden of Eden comes to mind. How much beauty has been lost through sin! What a contrast between the freshness of that perfect creation and the dull winter colors!
My thoughts revolve around a man I met a week ago. Desperate, he had decided to end his life. After locking himself in his car, he soaked the interior and his clothes with gasoline and lit a match. A helicopter brought him to our burn care facility and a near-impossible mission began. We tried to bring back a life that had already decided to give up. In the end we lost the battle. How desperate must a person feel to see suicide as the only way out of their misery! Today we would meet for the last time in an autopsy room.
I am mentally reviewing the patients who are under my responsibility in the intensive burn care facility. Each room presents another tragedy. I am especially worried about the woman who has not yet regained consciousness since the night a fire consumed her home. How am I going to explain to this mother when she wakes up from the coma that she lost her three young children in the fire that disfigured her?
What a world, what pain! How disastrous when humans discover personally the secret of the knowledge of good and evil! Were Adam and Eve able to imagine the consequences of their sinful choice and what the terrible cost would be?
All of a sudden, a dangerous situation on the road forces me to let go of my thoughts and focus on the traffic. A driver approaching from the opposite direction has miscalculated while overtaking a truck. A violent turn of the steering wheel, several braking maneuvers—it could have ended tragically. But, once more, all is well. I can only thank God for having protected me from a serious accident. Moreover, I feel a deep gratitude for His care in a world in which death is the major rule of the game.
“Sooner or later we will be confronted with all kinds of problems in this world.”
Lost in these thoughts, I decide to listen to some music. I put a CD into the car stereo, and a song plays whose text exalts Christ as the Lord of life. It’s a nice song, and I enjoy it whenever I listen to it. But this time it’s different.
Today, somehow, I catch a glimpse of the magnitude of what God offers: Life! God offers life in a world marred by death. He offers life to me: to me, a mortal being with a body destined for death; to me, who cannot contribute anything to redeem myself from sin. He wants to reverse the countdown that began the day we were born and put us on the path to life. He who is life, “for in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9), has by His death on the cross put us once more within reach of the divine breath that breathed life into mud, which ultimately became Adam. He came to this world of dried-up raisins to invite us to become vines bursting with life. We no longer need to receive the wages of a fallen world. When we accept Christ, we have passed from death to life, because “the world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17, NIV).
Clinging to this faith can help us face the worst tragedies without falling apart. While others despair, we have the assurance that God has a plan and that suffering will not last forever. Hope in the fulfillment of God’s promises makes all the difference. The certainty of living on the threshold of Christ’s second coming opens our eyes to a reality that goes far beyond the problems we experience right now.
As no marathon runners abandon their race a few meters from the finish line because of blisters on their feet, God’s children go forward in spite of trials. They may have their vision blurred by tears, but they keep their eyes fixed on the goal. Trusting in the Lord of life is how they receive the strength to continue.
Sooner or later we will be confronted with all kinds of problems in this world. Sickness is one of the most dreaded obstacles. Faced with serious health issues, we often cry out: “Lord, will You heal my loved one? Will You do a miracle? Is it Your will to heal me from this disease?”
Sometimes it seems that God does not answer our prayers. But God does answer! He has already given the definite answer: “Whoever has the Son has life” (1 John 5:12, NIV). It is almost too easy to believe. If we do not grasp this, we may pray for a miracle; and when no miracle comes, we will be discouraged by God’s apparent silence. We may even be tempted to think that God simply doesn’t hear our prayers, or even doubt His existence.
This is a trap, for He certainly always hears us. And if it sometimes seems that He remains silent it is because He has already given the answer: “She is not dead, but sleeping” (Luke 8:52).
It’s vital that we human beings possess this kind of “life insurance,” which guarantees life in the face of death (cf. John 11:25). Our insurance policy is to have the Son of God, the authentic resurrection and life. Christ is the wonderful formula that transforms death into a slumber.
This seems too simple. I can neither provide scientific evidence nor explain this medically. But God has said so, and we trust Him by faith. “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope,” writes Paul. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. . . . For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess. 4:13-16). What more could God give His children?
So I continue driving with a renewed hope in my heart. I sense that, today, God helped me to see something important more clearly. And because I believe unshakably in the superabundant sufficiency of God’s power I follow the advice of the apostle Paul when he adds: “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18).
Ariel E. Noltze, M.D., is a specialist in plastic surgery and hand surgery. He works at a center of reconstructive surgery in Vienna, Austria, where he lives with his family.
Freedom in Christ is more than a concept. A paradox on freedom and captivity, Jeremiah always knew he had it coming: it was the Lord’s promise
A paradox on freedom and captivity
By Lael Caesar
Jeremiah is in trouble: he’s doing time in Judah’s maximum security facility, a place that is literally a mess, a cistern where he’s sunk into the mud.
Jeremiah always knew he had it coming: it was the Lord’s promise. From the time he called him as a kid the Lord had told him that he’d be in trouble—in trouble with kings, priests, and people without titles. But he would prevail because of the Lord’s promise, “I am with you to deliver you” (Jer. 1:19). So the trouble had come. But what about deliverance? Jerry wasn’t feeling very delivered in the mud and the darkness.
Except for one thing, a contradiction about his being locked up: his captors don’t seem to be able to put him far enough away to isolate him. “The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah . . . , while he was still confined in the court of the guard” (Jer. 33:1). It’s worth asking: how come prisoner Jerry is talking with people outside? We’ve arrested Jerry, handcuffed him, booked him, and put him away. He doesn’t have any landline in his cell, and he doesn’t have a cell phone concealed on his person, and we have jammed all the satellite transmissions and scrambled all the signals to make sure people in this high-security place don’t make any more trouble for us or themselves. But Jerry is still in steady contact with Someone outside.
It’s a paradox we can’t miss: Jeremiah is freer than the ones who have locked him up. He has means and levels of communication that they seem to have no access to, and that they seem incapable of controlling. The Lord who communicates with Jeremiah is under nobody’s control. He doesn’t depend on unjammed satellite communication. He needs nobody to help Him decipher or break Apple encryption codes. He is communication, the Word, and free to move as He chooses: He sweeps into a Philippian jail in rage and storm and breaks up all the manacles and releases all the chains; or He slips so quietly into a Herodian dungeon that Peter continues in unbroken slumber until he is awakened. Sin alone obstructs His communication with us, and hides His face from us (Isa. 59:1, 2). The real issue is not with God’s power to communicate, but with our disposition to listen. And the freedom that truly matters requires more than extraction from a mudhole in ancient Judah. Instead, it is about deliverance from sin’s slavery (Rom. 6:17, 20).
Why Jeremiah Is in Jail
You must be wondering, though, why Jeremiah is in jail. He is there “because Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, ‘Why do you prophesy, saying, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I am about to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will take it” (Jer. 32:3). Jerry is in jail for preaching doom and gloom. King Zedekiah, his counselors, and the general citizenry will not believe naysayers’ stories about the end of Jerusalem, the end of their kingdom, and the end of their world. Preaching about the end of the world often enough engenders a rather poor reception from the people who live there. The solution, in Jeremiah’s case, is to imprison him for speaking the truth rather than affirming their lie like prophet Hananiah does (Jer. 28). Jeremiah is remembered as emotionally soft, but when it comes to truth he doesn’t bend.
The lie they believe is that Jerusalem will not fall to Babylon. It is a most astonishing lie, one that denies the facts before their eyes. The fact that they could believe something so outrageous, and deny something so obvious, should give serious pause to people today who balk at warnings about the end of their world: from “the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah” (Jer. 25:3) to this day that finds Jeremiah in the mud, the prophet has wept and thundered against king, priest, and people for their choice of apostasy over revival and reformation. The price of rejecting their God would be death, the sword, famine, and captivity, he warned (Jer. 15:2).
When Pashhur had him beaten and put in stocks for his truth telling, he announced that God had changed his name from Pashhur (probably liberation) to Magor-missabib (trouble all around [see Jer. 20:3]). Beyond that, Pashhur would watch impotently as the Lord gave his friends to the sword. And the Lord promised, “I will give over all Judah to the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will carry them away as exiles to Babylon (verse 4). Jerusalem’s wealth, all its produce, all its treasures, would be plundered and taken to Babylon” (verse 5).
The years have vindicated Jeremiah’s warnings. Nebuchadnezzar has come and come again, each time for further plunder, destruction, and enslavement. Spiritual giants Daniel and friends, no doubt along with other ignoble compromisers whose names we shall never know, were marched away nearly two decades earlier. King Jehoiachin and prophet Ezekiel have lived in exile now for a full decade themselves, following another of Babylon’s devastating raids. Four disastrous reigns have followed Josiah, and this, the fourth, will be the most disastrous of all.
Hamstrung by indecision and perverse counsel, Zedekiah sits upon the throne of David facing the truth with his eyes closed. This, his tenth year (Jer. 32:1), will turn to 11 and no more. In the prison of his own cowardice, his fear of his own citizens and advisors, he will summon the prisoner to secret consultation about the course he should follow (Jer. 38:14-18).
Who Then Is Free?
Our human capacity to believe and follow a lie can be its own unfathomable mystery, and the vacillating farce of Zedekiah’s person and reign stand witness to that mystery. For it is not for lack of evidence that he and his counselors dismiss Jeremiah as false or insane or, on some other account, dangerous. At the end, when the time comes, the wall is breached, and the words of the prophet come true, Zedekiah still does not find it possible to heed the prophetic counsel.
King he may have been, but he has always been bound—bound by his weakness of character, bound by his cowardice, bound by his inability to take a stand for truth. King he may be, but he never finds freedom. They slaughter his sons before his eyes, then gouge out his eyes and drag him to Babylon (Jer. 39:6, 7).
Jeremiah the prisoner gets the run of the land: Nebuchadnezzar’s officer tells him, “Look, the whole land is before you; go wherever it seems good and right for you to go” (Jer. 40:4). Jeremiah, it turns out, despite his stocks and dungeons, has always been free. For the truth has always made him free (John 8:32).
Lael Caesar, Adventist World associate editor, loves freedom in Jesus.
As the book of Ruth portrays the account, Ruth’s life clearly captures the sorrows as well as the joys that one may encounter as a refugee. Starting life as a poor widow in a foreign land was a seemingly insurmountable challenge. Yet, as the journey continued, the Lord “under whose wings” (Ruth 2:12) she had come to take refuge filled her empty basket through the generosity of Boaz. Indeed, Boaz was a tangible refuge for Ruth and epitomized the ultimate Refuge—the Lord Himself.
Interestingly, the image of God as a refuge is found in the book of Psalms nearly 50 times. In fact, as part of His covenant laws, God clearly revealed how His people should treat the refugee (or stranger) in their midst. One of these laws is the law about the firstfruits ceremony in Deuteronomy 26:1-11.
The principles underlying this ceremony help us discover God as the ultimate Refuge for any refugee. Perhaps she had an empty basket in her hand and the following question on her mind. Will I, a foreigner, be able to find favor in someone’s sight and fill my basket today?
In it we find a basket; a basket filled with the firstfruits of the harvest; a basket brought to be presented before the Lord first, and later to be eaten together with the priests and strangers. Certainly the principles underlying this ceremony help us discover God as the ultimate Refuge for any refugee. Commenting on this law, Ellen White writes, “These directions, which the Lord gave to His people, express the principles of the law of the kingdom of God, and they are made specific, so that the minds of the people may not be left in ignorance and uncertainty. These scriptures present the never-ceasing obligation of all whom God has blessed with life and health and advantages in temporal and spiritual things.”*
The following paragraphs point out some of these principles:
RECOGNIZE. The law about the offering of the first fruits begins by indicating when it should be done, i.e., “when you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it” (Deut. 26:1). This was the time sojourners finally reached the Promised Land. All their hopes and dreams and wishes were about to become a reality in their own land.
Unfortunately, in moments like these many of us tend to forget the journey we took to reach the pinnacle of our success. But the opportunity this ceremony offers to reflect on our life’s journey helps us to remember two important things: (1) who we were; and (2) how we reached the place we find ourselves. This will ultimately lead us to recognize that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
EXPRESS. This ceremony highlights the important concept that recognition must be more than mere mental assent. The recognition was expressed by offering a basket full of the firstfruits. Apart from being the first chronologically, firstfruits symbolize a desirable product quality. Hence, no matter how eager a farmer is to test the fruits of his labor, yielding the first of his harvest is a fitting expression of putting first things first. Just as the Lord abhors a heartless offering, He appreciates a sacrifice that overflows from a grateful heart (see Luke 7:36-50).
FOCUS. The focus of this ceremony should be on God. The name Yahweh (or “Lord”) appears 14 times in this section, depicting Him as the focal point of all the details of the ceremony. It should be noted that the basket was first placed in front of “the altar of the Lord your God” (Deut. 26:4). Here is a crucial lesson: any religious practice should be focused on God if we hope for a lasting impact.
UTTER. With the presentation of the basket before the Lord the participant had to utter what is known as the “firstfruits recitation” (verses 3, 5-10). These utterances that God prescribed are loaded with important messages. Worshippers recall publicly the dismal state wherein their ancestors found themselves as foreigners. This is an experience with which all humanity under the bondage of sin can identify. In addition, the utterance mentions how the oppressed cried to the Lord and how the Lord heard their voices and looked on their affliction. This divine intervention put a ray of hope on the horizon. As the redeemed continue to utter the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light, they become reflectors and allow the same light to shine into the darkness that many others around them experience (1 Peter 2:9).
GLORIFY. After presenting the basket of the firstfruits and uttering the testimonies, the participant would worship (literally, “prostrate”) before the Lord (Deut. 26:10). This worship gesture demonstrates the attitude of humility and self-denial that we have to experience when we truly want to glorify God. As we worship in humility we are reminded that we were created from the ground; nothing in us warrants pride. In reality, only a life lived for the glory of God by sharing His blessings with others has lasting worth.
EMBRACE. Celebration marks the end of this ceremony. Participants rejoice by sharing their blessings with family and two specifically mentioned groups of people—Levites and strangers. It is important to note how strangers are embraced in this celebration. They are what the host of the feast used to be. During the presentation of the basket before the Lord, the stranger’s physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs are addressed. They too now have the opportunity to experience the blessing of Yahweh as their refuge.
Where Is Our Basket?
There are many baskets out there. Some are full of the “firstfruits” of fortunes, while others are empty in the hands of the unfortunate. Recognizing the true source of our blessing and expressing our gratitude by focusing on the Lord, uttering His testimony, glorifying His name, and embracing the unfortunate will place the overflowing basket and the empty one on the same table.
Remember, we are called to be a refuge for refugees.
* Ellen G. White, “ ‘How Much Owest Thou?” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Dec. 25, 1900.
Would you like someone to write a book about your next holiday trip? Let’s just hope it won’t be Michael Patrick Ghiglieri.
Half a Bottle Won’t Last
By Judith Fockner
Would you like someone to write a book about your next holiday trip? Let’s just hope it won’t be Michael Patrick Ghiglieri.
I came across his book about 10 years ago, as a newlywed, while on an adventurous trip through the American West. We had been admiring the most magnificent natural wonders and had finally pitched our tent at the Grand Canyon. After a short hike I was browsing through the souvenir shop and stumbled over a 400-page book titled Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon. A thriller? No. I was actually holding a collection entitled Gripping Accounts of All Known Fatal Mishaps in the Most Famous of the World’s Seven Natural Wonders. There had been 683 since the establishment of the national park.
Morbid Summer Reading
Undoubtedly, that’s the type of bedtime story every camper is looking for, I thought. What a find. Here are 683 ways to stay forever. Merely reading the table of contents gave me the creeps. One horror story followed another horror story, all of them true. I never bought the book. But it was meant seriously. Lurid, yes; but at the same time aiming to be educational. Michael Ghiglieri had been a tour guide for many years und therefore knew best how many of those tragic stories could have been prevented.
A large number of the accidents included people falling off cliffs or crashing in airplanes. Hikers drowning or being hit by lightning bolts also seemed to be rather common. Eventually I started wondering about the most frequent cause of death. What was the biggest hazard? Rattlesnakes? No, not a single deadly bite. The answer was much less spectacular.
It was the weather. Most people still fall victim to the high temperatures year by year. “Almost routinely—despite the canyon’s infamous heat, its lack of water . . . hikers underestimate levels of thirst,” writes Ghiglieri. A malicious trap: the giant difference of temperature. It’s possible that you start your climb at the upper rim with a comfortable 26 degrees Celsius (approximately 79 degrees Fahrenheit) and reach the bottom of the canyon at 41 degrees Celsius (or 106 degrees Fahrenheit). Remember, the steep climb back to the top lies still ahead!
The second trap: extremely low humidity. Your sweat evaporates immediately. So you feel as if you’re not sweating at all while losing a lot of water without even moving!
Guidebooks say: Keep drinking all the time. Even start a day before your hike! Take at least 3.8 liters (one gallon) of water per person. Ghiglieri recalls his record, an unbelievable 11 liters (three gallons) of water on a single trip! There are, however, still people who pack a tiny bottle of energy drink, and suffer from dehydration after a few kilometers.
I thought about Ghiglieri’s book recently while facing a stressful situation. You keep going about your daily business with the same greenness as those tourists, I wondered. You get up in the morning, your mood is at a comfortable 26 degrees, and you think: This is going to be an easy tour—half a bottle will do.
The more I thought about it, the more the similarities between a water supply for a major hike and our emotional state hit me: our sense of being loved; the sense that someone understands and appreciates us; the recognition that someone carries us and cares for us.
This is a hot topic in my life. It’s precisely this awareness that provides my whole being with energy and power, such as water does for the human body. I haven’t found the source for this “sense of being loved” within my own being, though, despite having many helpful advisers. So, like in the canyon, I depend on a constant external liquid supply.
And, to paraphrase Ghiglieri: Almost routinely, despite the infamous heat and lack of water, hikers underestimate their levels of thirst and their need for water.
We live in a world and culture that is not exactly known for its overflowing friendliness, care, and acceptance. In fact, competition, selfishness, and indifference are quite normal. People do not naturally love us; they use us. They challenge us. They ignore us. All of this scorches us like the blazing canyon heat and burns up our confidence faster than we realize.
That’s how I feel. I jump into the day with a small positive thought in the morning, a little kindness for the people around me, and a tiny buffer against emotional injuries. After less than three hours of the day’s heat, however, my wonderful attitude has evaporated.
Over the Edge
Here are some indicators of emotional dehydration I have recognized in my own life. I can’t handle people; I find them exhausting, irritating, or obnoxious. And in case they are smart and beautiful, I feel stupid and ugly myself. Sometimes I become easily discouraged and blame others for everything negative in my life. There are many variations to the same theme. I end up missing out on all the good things because of my parched, selfish condition.
The Grand Canyon guidebook says: At the first symptoms, immediately seek some shade, pause, and drink, drink, drink—if you have enough water at hand, that is. I usually expect my basic emotional supply to come from my husband. He has two disadvantages, though: He is neither almighty nor omnipresent. Which means that mostly his mailbox is answering when I need counsel, comfort, or encouragement. There I am, then, sitting at the bottom of the valley, pressing the last drop out of my small bottle, with the climb up still ahead!
At the Source
Honestly, the only One who has proven to be a reliable source of strength in my life is God, the omnipresent one. He’s been there before I was; He’ll always be there. Since I know that He loves me, I don’t need to make myself believe anything. My “sense of being loved” has a totally different quality. The daily heat remains the same, but I live at the source. I drink.
God assures me that He won’t allow me to dehydrate emotionally. He tells us: “Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life” (Rev. 22:17, NIV). I am fascinated how simply and accurately this sentence describes my life. God loves me with a never-ending devotion. Sometimes I avidly drink His words. Sometimes I underestimate my thirst and come crawling back parched. Love! Give me love!
But I gain experience. Remember what they say about the toughest canyon days? Start drinking plenty before your hike.
Judith Fockner, originally from Austria, lives with her husband, Sven, and two sons in Alsbach-Hähnlein, Germany.
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.
Followers of Christ are faithful to His Word. This is the real commitment we must have.
Because He Is Faithful.
By Ted N. C. Wilson
Last month in this column we looked at the foundation of our salvation—Christ our righteousness. This is one of three components of a healthy Christian life that we as a church will be focusing on during the next five years. The other two components are faithfulness and total member involvement.
You may have read my article “Called to Faithfulness: Now Is the Time,” in which we discussed how God is calling His remnant people everywhere to be faithful to Him through our connection and communion with Him each day (published July 2015; www.adventistworld.org/2015/july/called-to-faithfulness.html).
In this month’s article I would like to focus on one especially important aspect of faithfulness—being faithful to God’s Holy Word, the Bible.
Our Sacred Responsibility
One of the biggest battles we face is over the authority of the Word of God. The devil has always hated God’s Word and does everything to neutralize its effect. As Seventh-day Adventists, it is our sacred responsibility to protect, lift up, and promote the lifesaving power of the sure Word.
The world around us is falling apart. People are distraught about security and personal safety. They wonder what horrible event will next take place during normal daily activity. Millions of migrants are trying to escape the brutality and uncertainty of ruthlessness and total confusion. The unknown has become the enemy.
People don’t think the world around them is going in the right direction, and they are right. We’re living in the end of time according to Seventh-day Adventist prophetic interpretation and correct hermeneutical application of Scripture. What is needed isn’t a political, military, or social solution, but a return to a sure foundation—God’s sure Word.
Certainty of God’s Word
The apostle Peter shares tremendous encouragement about the certainty of God’s Word: “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. . . . And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:16-21).
People have always needed a sure foundation. The sure word of prophecy is something we can count on, and it’s needed today more than ever. The Bible provides the only hope for the future as it points to the gospel message of Christ, His righteousness, His salvation, His ministry in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, and His final redemption of His people at His second coming. It’s our enormous privilege to share this message through the power of the Holy Spirit.
People of the Book
Seventh-day Adventists have long treasured the Bible and have been known as “people of the Book.” However, in this age of relativism with no absolutes, are we still known as “people of the Book”? Of course, we don’t believe in “bibliolatry.” We don’t worship the Bible: we worship the “Word” that was made flesh—Jesus Christ, our Lord. He is the “Word,” and what’s in His book is important. What a privilege to hear the Word of God, to listen to its instruction, to understand its directives for living the victorious life through Christ’s justifying and sanctifying power.
How We Read God’s Word
The Word of God, however, is being ignored more and more. It’s becoming fashionable to misinterpret and misapply what is plainly indicated in Scripture. It’s being reinterpreted by those who participate in the higher criticism or historical-critical approach to Scripture—those who place themselves above Scripture as they interpret according to their own standards and approaches.
How we read God’s Word is important because how we read it helps us to know truth from error. The church will be deluged with apostasies and false doctrine. But the Word of God stands sure, and His church will be triumphant against the attacks of the devil.
As Seventh-day Adventists, we should carefully adhere to the Bible study methods outlined in this document. We’re to follow the historicist view of prophecy and biblical understanding. Don’t let anyone turn you from the historicist understanding and the historical-biblical interpretation of Scripture. Be faithful, and stand firm for God’s Word.
Note the following inspired instruction about accepting the Bible as it reads: “God requires more of His followers than many realize. If we would not build our hopes of heaven upon a false foundation we must accept the Bible as it reads and believe that the Lord means what He says.”*
Products of Heavenly Inspiration
As we face the last days of earth’s history, we know there will be a determined effort by Satan to destroy the effectiveness of the Bible—and the Spirit of Prophecy. We see the neutralization of God’s Word all around us. The historical-critical method applied to the Word of God reduces its effectiveness as authoritative. It’s Satan’s plan to undermine God’s plain “Thus saith the Lord.” We’ve seen determined efforts by some to attack the Spirit of Prophecy and make it “of none effect.”
The Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy are both products of heavenly inspiration and are thus accurate accounts describing the great controversy between good and evil—between Christ and Satan. This is why the devil is determined to destroy the truth found in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. Thankfully, the devil will not succeed, but in the process many people will be deceived. God has given us a mandate from heaven to be faithful defenders of His Word because it’s been shown to be true and changes people’s lives. The dilemmas of this world tell us we are at the edge of eternity. God wants to work in and through us.
We are living in the Laodicean last-day period when Christianity is often very superficial. The devil will try everything to distract us from the Bible and the truth. Every possible means will be used: recreation, media, amusements, work, music, disagreements and internal fighting, false teachings, family discord, economic problems—anything that will take time away from God’s Word.
Responding in Faithfulness
Nevertheless, God is faithful to us. Through His power, let’s respond in faithfulness to Him. He calls us to be faithful in our personal relationship with Him, faithful to His Word, faithful in daily Bible study, faithful in the study of the Spirit of Prophecy, and faithful in our constant prayer life. In a world filled with ever-increasing violence, bombings, shootings, and tragic death all over the globe, let’s be faithful to God’s plan of restoration at His soon second coming. Jesus tells us: “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
By God’s grace, let’s champion the Word of God and lift up Christ, who is the Word. Let’s make the Bible come alive and make it the foundation of our belief. We are facing a battle, and we must know what we believe in. There are absolutes, and they are found in the Word of God. Now is the time for faithful adherence to His Word. Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Rev. 3:11). Let’s be faithful to God and His Word!
*Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif., Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 5, p. 171.
A few months ago two missionaries moved to my village. They told me that they were Christians who believed in Jesus. What is a Christian? Who is Jesus?
“I Knew of Thunder and Harvest Gods but Never Heard of Jesus”
Testimony: A newly baptized church member tells how she came to know about the Lord of the Sabbath in China.
By Sister M, via Audrey Folkenberg, development department director, Chinese Union Mission
A few months ago two missionaries moved to my village. They told me that they were Christians who believed in Jesus. What is a Christian? Who is Jesus? I had never heard these terms before.
The missionaries rented a house and set up a place for meetings. They called it a church, explaining that it is a place to worship the Lord of the universe. I knew of many gods, like the god of harvest and the god of thunder.
But the name of Jesus was new to me. The missionaries opened their Bible, sharing how the earth, the sun, the moon, and the rest of nature were created.
They also told me that Jesus is coming to this world very soon, and that He will bring us to heaven, where there is no more death, natural disaster, and sorrow.
After spending a few months with these missionaries, I came to know that they are good people. They loved and cared for our villagers.
After participating in their Bible study group for a few months, I understand the truth and decided to follow Jesus. He is the only God of the universe. We have worship in a house church every Sabbath. I guess it is common for you to attend a church on the last day of the week. However, this practice was strange to me.
I had to fight for the privilege of worshipping the Creator every Sabbath. My husband, a traditional Chinese farmer, believes in the god of the harvest. He disagreed with my religion, challenging the notion that Jesus could give him a good harvest. I did not want to argue with him, because I love him. The only thing I could do is to pray for him.
The missionaries told me that the Holy Spirit would lead my husband and me. When harvesttime came, it washard for me to worship on Sabbaths.
My husband needed me to reap his crops rather than to attend a church. But I really wanted to go to church on Sabbath! One Sabbath morning my church had a Communion service planned. This would be my first time to experience this special event. Before leaving home for church, I prepared myself and left quietly. I was worried that my husband would come to my church and bring me back to the farm.
When I left the house to get on my bike, my husband was standing there at the front door of our house. He hit and condemned me. He snatched my Bible and pushed over my bike. I cried because I could not go to church. I prayed silently that the Holy Spirit would soften my husband’s heart.
Suddenly a man called my husband to help him. His angry eyes stared at me as he went to lend a hand. I could go to church and worship after all. I was so thankful for the opportunity to worship that Sabbath. My husband is still very rooted in his traditional beliefs. I have explained to him that I am not superstitious, and that church is a good place for people to learn the truth.
I tell him that Jesus always loves him, begging him to accept the real God who protects him. He now allows me to go to church on Sabbath. During weekdays I work hard to help him with his farmwork.
I continue to pray that my husband will understand me and someday come to accept Jesus.