Whenever we read the last two pages of Revelation, we sense calmness. John describes the out-of-this-world gleam of precious stones, plants, and houses that are incomparable to anything we know.
In the Beginning God
Acknowledging God’s six-day miracle
By Clinton Wahlen
I used to be firmly convinced that the universe and all life originated through evolutionary processes open to our study. Then I learned that these processes of macroevolution are not open to study, because millions of years would be required to confirm them by scientific observation.
I also knew about the “missing links” (or “transitional forms”) needed to show how human beings descended from such primates as the ape. Then I discovered that there were countless missing links for all kinds of life, not just one.
Finding the Truth
It was a shocking realization to me that evolution was not really a scientific theory at all, because it cannot be tested; that it was simply the metanarrative used by scientists to form hypotheses and theories that can be scientifically tested and confirmed or invalidated.
As I read for the first time the Bible’s account of creation, it was so elegant and believable—even with all our scientific knowledge. Genesis is unique. No other ancient creation story is remotely credible today.
Nevertheless, some Adventists have begun to include evolution into the mix of those first “six days”—and with it, predation, suffering, death, and a creation “week” lasting hundreds of millions of our years—while claiming to believe “all 28 fundamental beliefs.” Thus, clarifying our statement on creation became a top priority.
Editing Fundamental Belief 6
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has always read Genesis literally, as a creation in six literal days, not as a description of life evolving over millions of years. Revisions made at the 2015 General Conference session do not change the substance of our beliefs; they only reduce potential misunderstanding by clarifying the first three sentences:
The word “historical” was added. Scripture provides the “authentic account” of God’s creative activity, but we also believe it is historical. Genesis 1 accurately describes what God created on each day and the order in which He created it.
Three ideas were clarified:
Since the Bible indicates that God made other “worlds” besides our own (Heb. 1:2; 11:3) and probably earlier than ours (the Greek word ai?nas refers to unbounded time), the sentence begins by indicating that God created the entire universe first, before the six-day creation. More Bible references were added to support our view (Isa. 45:12, 18; Acts 17:24; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2).
Including the word “recent” affirms that the creation of our world took place a few thousand years ago, not millions of years ago. Genesis 5 and 11, which contain the chronogenealogies that show a recent creation, were incorporated into the list of Bible references to support this addition and the first sentence’s claim that this is a historical account.
Now included is the divine interpretation of Genesis given in the Sabbath commandment (Ex. 20:11), which limits the six days to the creation of our world, with its three habitable spaces and “all that is in them”: “the heavens” (sky), “the earth” (land), and “the sea” (water). Biblical support for these three environments (Rev. 10:6) and for the centrality of the Sabbath and a six-day creation to God’s last-day people (Rev. 14:7) were also added to the reference list.
Words were added to remove any remaining ambiguity and to clarify that we do not believe in a long timescale or evolutionary processes for creation:
God did not just complete His work during creation week—as if much of His creative work on this planet happened even earlier and over a longer period of time—He also “performed” it.
God’s work of creation took place “during six literal days,” thus excluding the possibility that the “six days” were symbolic of thousands or millions of years.
These six days “together with the Sabbath constituted the same unit of time that we call a week today.” The seventh day was an integral part of creation week, not separated from it by a gap of long ages. Also, that first week is not just “like” a week today, but “the same unit of time.”
How Our Editing Has Helped
Some have said that our original statement on creation was fine, and it was—for those who hold to a literal interpretation of Genesis. But since that statement was voted in 1980, an astonishing number of Christians, even some who claim to have a high view of Scripture, now read Genesis very differently, so as to make room for evolutionary processes requiring deep time—millions and even billions of years. These revisions are for such a time as this. They leave no room for doubt about what we believe as Seventh-day Adventists, no room for equivocation, no room for waffling. They never intended to before, and these revisions make that clear.
When, as an atheist, I began reading the Bible, three passages about creation profoundly impressed me.
Isaiah 40:26-28 seemed to be speaking directly to me: “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? . . . Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.”* I hadn’t known and hadn’t heard. But once I began to open my eyes and think about it seriously, I discovered the wonder of a world teeming with life best explained by Genesis.
Second Peter 3:3, 4 described my atheism perfectly. I was one of these last-day scoffers. I had, based on uniformitarianism, asked my Christian friends, “Where is the promise of his coming? For . . . all things are continuing as they were from the beginning.” It came as quite a shock to discover that my skeptical thoughts had already been recorded in the Bible!
Revelation 14:6, 7 predicts that faith in the Genesis account of creation and seventh-day Sabbath worship will be at issue in the last days. My heart was won by the amazing love and mercy of a Creator God who saw thousands of years ago the world I would live in today and the evidence I would need to believe in Him. How about you?
God has revealed in Scripture the authentic and historical account of His creative activity. He created the universe, and in a recent six-day creation the Lord made “the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” and rested on the seventh day. Thus He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of the work He performed and completed during six literal days that together with the Sabbath constituted the same unit of time that we call a week today. The first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was “very good,” declaring the glory of God. (Gen. 1-2; 5; 11; Ex. 20:8-11; Ps. 19:1-6; 33:6, 9; 104; Isa. 45:12, 18; Acts 17:24; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2; 11:3; Rev. 10:6; 14:7.)
*All Bible quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version [ESV], copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
I am writing to commend you for publishing the monthly World Health column.
ADHD I am writing to commend you for publishing the monthly World Health column. Peter N. Landless and Allan R. Handysides’ contributions continue to educate and inform Adventist laypersons and physicians as we all struggle through life’s aches and pains.
Their commentary on the very difficult “hyperkinetic disorder” (see “ADHD,” March 2015) was the best I have ever read in current medical literature. The doctors’ concluding paragraph of advice to well-meaning grandparents was a jewel: “Avoid giving advice; give love instead.” How beautiful, and how true! J. D. Mashburn Columbia, Maryland
Creation’s Demise The phrase “creation’s demise” came to mind after I read L. James Gibson’s piece “When Species Change” (March 2015). “Demise,” because this word conveys the “transfer of the sovereignty to a successor.” Adam forfeited his delegated the sovereignty or stewardship of earth to “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4, KJV). Though restrained, Satan has been given significant leeway in injecting disorder throughout the whole of creation.
Gibson, in referring the Flood, calls to my mind a text in Amos 9:5, 6, which I believe is best translated in the New King James Version. It describes geological change: “The Lord God of hosts, He who touches the earth and it melts. . . . He who builds His layers in the sky, and has founded His strata in the earth; who calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out on the face of the earth—the Lord is His name.” There is an obvious parallel between the layers in the sky (stratosphere) and the layers in the earth (as in stratification). It is within these sedimentary layers that we find the fossilized remains of many of the species that prevailed in “the world that then was” (2 Peter 3:6, KJV).
The Bible does have something specific to say about the “corruption” of all flesh prior to the Flood. It describes aberrant, adverse, and antagonistic changes in some plants and animals after the entrance of sin (Gen. 3:18; Isa. 11:6-9; 65:25). Kent Knight Hermiston, Oregon
Righteousness In the February 2015 article “Christ’s All-encompassing Righteousness,” Ted N. C. Wilson wrote: “God declares us righteous through the sacrifice of Christ. . . . As we humbly submit to Christ’s control over our lives, His power than begins to sanctify us. This entire change is the all-encompassing righteousness of Christ.”
Yes, glorification, the final stage of that righteousness, happens at the second coming of Jesus. But glorification (the “shining”) also takes place now.
The final phase of the “all-encompassing righteousness of Christ” is the reciprocal glorification that identifies God’s people to discerning observers. “In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’ ” (Zech. 8:23). Max Hammonds Hendersonville, North Carolina
Thankful I am so thankful for Adventist World. It is my favorite church publication. I especially like the appeals contained in the articles by Ted N. C. Wilson and Daniel R. Jackson.
A thought came to me (actually, it is both a wish and a prayer): that every delegate to the General Conference session and all the attendees take Psalm 51:10 as their personal guide of speech and action. “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (KJV). David Manzano Harriman, Tennessee
Are you ready for an adventure? One of the most exciting things we Christians can do is to share the wonderful message that God has given us. And one of the simplest ways of doing this is by handing out a piece of literature!
Not long ago a man purchased several religious tracts. One of those tracts—which talked about what happens after death—ended up traveling to another country. There the tract was passed from hand to hand, until it ended up with a Baptist pastor who translated it into French and read it to 80 people at a funeral.
Another person, a young woman, simply laid one of the tracts on a table. A jail chaplain happened to pick it up and read it. He later ordered more than 2,000 pieces of literature for the 900 inmates in his jail.
Another woman timidly handed a tract to her seatmate on a bus one day. To her surprise, the man said, “I was just praying for God to send me a sign if He didn’t want me to commit suicide. I think this is it.”
“We know not what may be the results of giving away a leaflet containing present truth.”*
So, once again, are you ready for an adventure?
In this month’s magazine we’ve included a GLOW tract for you to cut out, fold up, and hand out. As you do this, you will be joining more than 1.5 million Adventists across the globe who are doing the same thing! Take time to pray that God will guide you to a divine appointment or give you a creative idea. Then simply give the tract away or leave it somewhere to be found.
This is not necessarily a difficult question, but a certain aspect of it is often not emphasized.
A Perfect Reflection
This is not necessarily a difficult question, but a certain aspect of it is often not emphasized. Although there may be a connection with Genesis 1:27, where we are told that Adam and Eve were created in/as the image of God, there is hardly any question that Jesus is the image of God in a much grander and unique way. Christ is called the image of God in only two passages (2 Cor. 4:4 and Col. 1:15). We will also look at passages in which Christians are called the image of God/Christ.
1. Christ: Image of God. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul discusses why some people reject his gospel. In answering, he contrasts the work of the god of this age and the work of the true God. On one hand, people reject the gospel because the god of this age has blinded them “so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays [i.e., that is] the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (verse 4, NIV). The passage suggests that Christ, being the image of God, has His own glory, and that it is revealed in the gospel.
On the other hand, God is the God who created light out of darkness. This light ends human blindness, causing light to shine “in our hearts.” This light illumines our whole being and enables us to see “the light of [that consists in] the knowledge of the glory of God in the face [or person] of Jesus Christ” (verse 6).
“The face of Christ” is another way of referring to Him as the image of God. In this case Christ as the image of God reveals the glory of God, i.e., God’s character. In these verses the designation of Christ as the image of God points to both His nature—He is divine—and His function: He reveals the glory of God in a world of sin and in conflict with the god of this age.
2. Christ: Image of God: Colossians 1:15 belongs to what is considered to be two parts of a Christian hymn (Col. 1:15-20). The first is about the cosmic significance of Christ (verses 15-17), and the other about His work of redemption (verses 18-20). It is a narrative that depicts cosmic harmony, then moves almost unperceptively to rebellion and its resolution. It is about the cosmic conflict. Often overlooked is the reference to Christ as the image of God placed in the cosmic section of the hymn. In the context of the creation of the cosmos Christ is introduced as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (verse 15). The title “firstborn” indicates His preeminence over creation. The title “image of God” clearly points to His cosmic role as mediator or revealer of the “invisible God” to all creation. In other words, when everything was created, the Son was instituted as the only means of revealing God’s character to the cosmos. Here, the term image does not mean “resemblance” but designates Christ’s nature as the exact manifestation of the invisible God. In Him dwells “all the fullness of the Deity” (Col. 2:9, NIV), and He was in His “very nature God” (Phil. 2:6, NIV). Only God can reveal God. It was as such that “in him all things [the cosmos] hold together” (Col 1:17, NIV). He was the cosmic image of God before sin, and He came to this world of sin as the image of God in human form.
3. Believers Reflect the Image of God: Humans by nature bear the image of Adam (1 Cor. 15:49). By contemplating the glory of Christ they “are being transformed into his image” (2 Cor. 3:18, NIV). Our new self is “being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Col. 3:10, NIV), meaning that the image of God that we almost lost is being restored to us through Christ. This is a present experience, but it is also a future expectation (1 Cor. 15:49). By reflecting the image of Christ now, we become His brothers and sisters (Rom. 8:29), part of the family of God.
Angel Manuel Rodriguez is retired after a career as a pastor, professor, and theologian.
After James White’s death in 1881, Ellen White moved to California.
God’s Messenger: Growing Church, New Challenges
A look at Ellen White’s life and legacy
By Theodore N. Levterov
After James White’s death in 1881, Ellen White moved to California. Feeling alone and discouraged, and not being able to write much, she immersed herself in attending General Conference sessions, speaking at camp meetings, visiting churches, and dealing with various church enterprises.
The first European camp meeting was held in Moss, Norway in 1887. Tents were used for living quarters and meetings. Ellen G. White is seated at right center with her back to the tent.
In the East and Midwest she ministered at camp meetings in Vermont, Maine, New York, Nebraska, Michigan, and Indiana. Back in California, she helped establish Healdsburg Academy.1 Healdsburg also became her permanent residence. She bought a house “with two and one-half acres of land closely set with choice fruit,” finding much pleasure in working in the garden and canning fruits. By July 1882 she had finished writing Testimony 31, exploring Adventist education, parental training, issues related to youth, and others.2 Being constantly engaged, it seemed, was one way she dealt with her grief.
Prophetic Inspiration The early 1880s saw new waves of opposition to Ellen White’s prophetic gift, including the charge of “suppression” (intentional hiding) of parts of her earlier writings. The issues surfaced after a decision to republish her early visions and experiences in a new book called Early Writings (1882). The book’s intended purpose was to silence growing criticisms against Ellen White’s earlier revelations. For some church members the opposite occurred—at least initially.3 Ellen White used the opportunity to point out that biblical inspiration was dynamic, not verbal or dictational.
A year later she also supported the decision of the General Conference to revise and reprint her Testimonies in a new and updated four-volume format. “Where the language used is not the best,” she wrote, “I want it made correct and grammatical, as I believe it should be in every case where it can be without destroying the sense.”4 A few years later she noted that it was “not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired.”5
Going Abroad From 1885 to 1887 Ellen White, together with her son W. C. White, his family, and Sara McEnterfer, her secretary, went to Europe on Ellen’s first overseas mission trip. They embarked on the trans-Atlantic journey on July 13, 1885, and stopped first in England, where she visited the mission headquarters in Grimsby and spoke to numerous Adventist congregations. Mrs. White participated in several public “evangelistic” lectures. One Sunday evening she lectured to about 1,000 people in a rented hall in Southampton. Impressed with her message, the public press asked her to write it up for publication, which she did.
After two weeks in England she left for Switzerland just in time to meet with European leaders of the church at their annual council in September 1885. She made her home in Basel and, for the next two years, traveled extensively from Italy to Scandinavia, providing guidance for both church leaders and members. At the same time, she became exposed to some issues unique to the European context, such as serving in the army and Sabbath observance, compulsory school attendance of Adventist children on Sabbath, and other administrative issues related to the establishment of conferences for spreading the Adventist message.6
The 1888 Great Controversy White returned to the United States in 1887. She was trying to finish one of her most significant book manuscripts, the 1888 edition of the Great Controversy.7 Based on her vision from 1858, she had written several other times on the topic.8 Her decision to have an updated and more complete version, however, resulted from her visits to many of the places associated with the Reformation and the history of Christianity in Europe.
The enhanced edition would become one of her most renowned volumes. The book’s introduction also became known as one of the best elaborations on the nature of biblical inspiration. In part, this introduction was her response to a new controversy about her prophetic ministry caused by D. M. Canright, a Seventh-day Adventist minister and personal friend who left Adventism in 1887 and became one of its harshest critics. As with the earlier suppression charges, Canright’s doubts of Ellen White’s prophetic gift were based on a “verbal” view of inspiration. Ellen White (and Adventists) reiterated their understanding that while God inspired the thoughts of His messengers, He did not dictate their actual words.9
Minneapolis General Conference In 1888 Ellen White dealt with another theological issue that came to a head during the Minneapolis General Conference session. The old guardians of the movement, Uriah Smith and G. I. Butler, were confronted by A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, younger theologians from California. The points of contention were theological issues related to biblical prophecy and traditional interpretations.
While Ellen White was aware of the different theological positions, she became greatly disturbed by the sharp feelings that the two groups began to show toward each other before and during the conference. At the end she had little to say about her theological position (although she endorsed Jones’s and Waggoner’s emphasis on righteousness by faith), but addressed the importance of tolerance, understanding, and manifestation of a Christlike attitude even in the midst of theological disagreements.
“My burden during the meeting,” she wrote, “was to present Jesus and His love before my brethren, for I saw marked evidence that many had not the spirit of Christ.”10 It is not an accident, therefore, that her most Christ-centered books, such as Steps to Christ (1892), Thoughts From the Mount of Blessings (1896), The Desire of Ages (1898), and Christ’s Object Lessons (1900), were written after Minneapolis. Ellen White did not see righteousness by faith as “new light.” It was rather an “old” but neglected truth that needed to be brought back to the “core” of the third angel’s message.
Soon after Minneapolis Ellen White, together with A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, began a campaign to take the message of righteousness by faith to the Advent believers. Beginning in Battle Creek, Michigan, they traveled across the country and spoke to church gatherings and camp meetings.
The End of the 1880s The 1880s concluded with Ellen White publishing two other significant volumes: Patriarchs and Prophets (1890), and Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene (1890), a comprehensive work on health and a precursor of The Ministry of Healing (1905).
Although the 1880s were challenging, Ellen White continued working tirelessly. Facing the personal grief of losing her husband, dealing with a variety of church issues, and going abroad as a missionary only added to the wealth of her experience. Now she was ready for new challenges as the growing Adventist denomination was nearing the new century. But before that, she headed to another missionary venture: Australia.
1 See Arthur White, Ellen White: Woman of Vision (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 2000), p. 215. 2 W. C. White, “Health of Sister White,” Review and Herald, Sept. 26, 1882, p. 616. 3 For more detailed discussion, see Theodore N. Levterov, The Development of the Seventh-day Adventist Understanding of Ellen G. White’s Prophetic Gift, 1844-1889 (New York: Peter Lang Pub., 2015), pp. 143-146, 155. 4 Ellen G. White, Selected Messages (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958, 1980), book 3, p. 97. 5 Ibid., book 1, p. 21. 6 Arthur White, pp. 225-244. 7 Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan During the Christian Dispensation (Oakland, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1888). 8 The 1884 version of the book, for example, was published by both the Review and Herald and the Pacific Press publishing houses and sold thousands of copies. See Ellen G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy: The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan From the Destruction of Jerusalem to the End of the Controversy (Oakland, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., and Battle Creek, Mich.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1884). 9 Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (1888), author’s preface, pp. c-h. 10 Ellen G. White, “Looking Back at Minneapolis,” manuscript 24, 1888. In Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases (Silver Spring, Md.: Ellen G. White Estate, 1981-1993), vol. 12, p. 192.
Theodore Levterov is director of the Ellen G. White Estate Branch Office at Loma Linda University in California, United States.
Lord, I long to see Your face, to see the love You have for me. Please, let me see You.
To See His Face
Christ’s love is demonstrated in some unusual situations.
By Diana Dyer
Lord, I long to see Your face, to see the love You have for me. Please, let me see You.
How would Jesus answer my prayer?
An “urgent” sticky note notified me that Corky would be transferring to my district within 24 hours; she would need intensive home health services. Corky’s brief referral throbbed with words like noncompliant, combative, maladjusted, unmanageable, and terminal.
Corky’s new address was in a trailer park nestled into the hillside above lush pastures and the Pacific Ocean. Mike answered the door. I was surprised; the referral papers made no mention of a resident male. “Is this Corky’s place?”
“Yeah,” he said. “You the nurse?” He opened the door and motioned me inside. The living room was bare. Brown carpet was covered with a layer of chalky-white dust. “Sorry for the drywall mess,” he said. “I had to get this place fixed up so she could move in. I’ve been workin’ all night. She’ll be here tomorrow.”
I took out my pen, hoping to start on the necessary paperwork. Mike kept talking. “I think she’s gonna like this,” he said. “She’s never lived in the country before. Said she always wanted to live by the ocean. I’m giving her this room with the window so she can look out and see it.” He answered a few questions, then continued talking about Corky. “I don’t think she’s gonna live long. She’s hard to manage; she didn’t get the treatment she needed. She’s in a lot of pain, and I think she might have an infection. Can you help me with that?”
Arrangements were made for home health aides to come and tidy up. They would do some housekeeping and assist with Corky’s personal care.
“I’ll be back in the morning to make sure everything is in order,” I said. “Once Corky is here, we can adjust her pain meds and determine what nursing care she needs.”
A Difficult Case Back in the office I reviewed Corky’s medical history. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer and scheduled for treatment. But she did not take well to the plan and “fired” one doctor after another when the side effects of the treatment made her uncomfortable. Various physicians had treated her with remarkable tolerance, considering her abusive language and failure to cooperate. Finally, only one physician was willing to assume responsibility for her care, and he provided only long-distance service, basing his decisions on reports from the nurse. Corky apparently did not appreciate nurses, either.
I arrived for my first visit with Corky filled with dread. Mike greeted me at the door; worry and sleeplessness had deepened the lines on his face. “She got here late last night and hardly slept at all,” he confided. “The pain medicine just doesn’t seem to help. I have to fight to get it down her. I promise her ice cream just so she’ll take it.”
Mike led me to the bedroom. The smell of decay challenged my gag reflex. Mike seemed too preoccupied to notice. “Wake up, Corky.” He spoke gently. “The nurse is here to see you.” He tugged on the mound of blanket. Slowly a tousled head emerged, followed by an enormous body. I had expected Corky to be emaciated.
I began asking questions. Her grunts were unintelligible. Her right arm was swollen, taut. On the right side of her torso, front and back, the flesh was swollen and hard.
“Where’s the sore that needs dressing?” I asked Mike.
He responded by pointing to Corky’s right arm. “There, under her arm.”
The flesh was so tightly swollen that Corky could not raise the arm. When I attempted to help her, she screamed obscenities and rocked in pain. Mike finally talked her into cooperating. A deep, black crater the size of a cantaloupe oozed thick, sticky fluid and an unpleasant odor. Mike appeared calm and unconcerned, confident that we would find a way to make things better.
When the job of irrigating the wound and packing it with gauze was finally finished, I drove back to the office exhausted and apprehensive. That same treatment would have to be repeated two or three times a day. She really needs to be in a skilled nursing facility of some kind, I thought.
“Absolutely not!” Mike said when I approached him with the idea. “I’ll take care of her here.”
Faithful to the End Twice-daily nursing visits were scheduled, and aides provided bed baths and light housekeeping services. Mike was there 24/7, giving her pain medicine, comforting her tenderly, and urging her to eat and drink. Many times the promise of a spoonful of ice cream cajoled her into cooperating. Though she frequently made remarks about their special relationship, abusive swearing was usually the only reward Mike received for his tenderness.
Still Mike refused to consider placing Corky in a nursing home. “They couldn’t put up with her,” he said. “The first thing you know, she’d ‘fire’ them and cause so much trouble that she’d be out on the street again. I understand her. I can take care of her.”
So Corky remained in the trailer with Mike. The rest of us involved with her care did what we could to help, following the care plan and providing occasional respite. But Mike carried the lion’s share of the load. When I stayed with Corky, I discovered 10 minutes was about the maximum amount of time she would rest before calling for Mike. I was exhausted after an hour or two; Mike did it around the clock, day after day.
I have seen death many times, and I recognized its approach. “How soon do you think it will be?” Mike asked.
I gently walked him through the process, describing the usual scenario. “Within the next day or two you’ll notice long pauses between breaths, with a sort of gasping when she breathes again. Then she’ll just stop breathing; she won’t experience any pain.”
We talked a bit more before I carried my bags to the car. Just as I pulled out of the driveway, Mike came running out the door. Gesturing wildly, he shouted, “She’s doing it; she’s doing what you said!”
Corky took one last gasping breath. I looked at her still form, totally peaceful at last. Her ordeal was over. I looked at Mike. He stared at her silently, tears running down his cheeks and dripping from his chin. His suffering affected me more deeply than Corky’s death.
Choking back sobs, I mumbled some sort of condolence and finished by saying that he had done more than most husbands would have done under the circumstances, that she could not have doubted his love.
“Husband?” He looked at me sharply. “I’m not her husband. I hardly knew her.”
Seeing my startled look, he went on: “She lived on the street; that’s where I found her. She didn’t have anyone who cared about her. I knew she was dying, and I bought this place so she’d have somewhere to go. If I hadn’t taken care of her, who would have? She had no one else.”
Mike was standing there, but I saw the face of Jesus.
Diana Dyer lives with her husband, Richard, in Adams, Nebraska, United States. She enjoys talking to people about Jesus.
Are there hidden agendas within the animation industry to implant spiritualism and other dark, subliminal influences into their productions?”
Christian Creativity in a Secular Society
What’s true and what’s not about the entertainment industry?
By Hendel Butoy
Are there hidden agendas within the animation industry to implant spiritualism and other dark, subliminal influences into their productions?”
This is a common question I am asked by many Adventists when they learn I was an animator at a major studio for nearly 25 years. They are either disturbed by what they’ve seen, have heard of animation’s dark side from someone, or were directed to an Internet video presentation purporting to provide overwhelming evidence that diabolical agencies are at the controls, insinuating signs and symbols to communicate immoral influences.
As a director of production I was accountable to the top departmental and corporate executives. I knew and worked with many of today’s industry leaders since art college. In our early days we played volleyball and softball together; we went out for dinner, and dreamed of someday becoming good at our craft. A few of my colleagues had Christian leanings; others certainly did not.
Many of them knew me as an Adventist, with peculiar habits and observances. Some were curious, others were respectful; many really didn’t seem to care. Here’s what I observed behind the scenes.
What It’s Really All About It’s 5:59 a.m. About a dozen lead animators sit in a small screening room ready to view a storyboard sequence from the studio’s next animated feature. There’s a sense of anticipation as we await the arrival of the executive who will either approve the latest installment or send us back to the drawing board.
The executive bursts through the door looking as though he’s had the best night’s sleep ever. “Good morning, good morning!” he says as he grabs some fruit and pastry and quickly sits down. He has a busy schedule today, and we’re first up. “Let’s roll!”
The projector runs, and everyone focuses on the screen. The executive responds with occasional laughs or throws out a brief positive/negative comment, but mostly remains attentive. When the screening ends, he might say, “Great, we’re almost there. But you guys need at least three more gags here and there. It’s a bit heavy. Can we lighten it up?”
The rest of the day is spent excitedly discussing and sketching among ourselves to satisfy the meeting’s notes and to make things clearer. Not every meeting happened just this way, but the number one thrust at every gathering was exactly the same: “Is anyone going to want to see this movie? How can we make it so that they do?”
There were never closed-door conspiracies or indoctrinations from dark masterminds on the techniques for embedding messages through subversive imagery for morally destructive purposes. No one ever spoke in those terms, nor were we ever instructed to use visual hints or other symbolic gestures with the characters or their environment for dark purposes. Everyone genuinely wanted to make something of high quality they could proudly show their own families.
The company was vitally concerned about its image with the public, because animation, like the rest of the entertainment industry, is first of all a business. The product is consumer discretionary, and the objective is to make a profit.
In some instances the studios take the philosophical view that animation has a unifying effect, crossing national and cultural barriers as people enjoy together something of high narrative and aesthetic quality.
It was not unusual to hear a speech at a wrap party emphasizing that animators were goodwill ambassadors to society and the world. Consequently, those who run the show look to produce whatever they perceive an audience is willing to watch and pay for. Entertainment is the watchword, and the product becomes as much a reflection of society as it is an influence.
Two Opposing Forces So where do the more overt depictions of spiritualism come from, as well as allusions to disrespect for parental authority, irreverent humor, sexual innuendo, etc.?
Scripture is clear that there are divine and satanic agencies competing for the minds of humanity where various mediums can be employed, including the arts (Ex. 35:30-33; Hosea 13:2), and that Christians should carefully avoid what is inconsistent with new life in Christ.
The purpose of this article is not to identify these occurrences in animation, but to give perhaps another perspective than what is commonly presented within many Christian forums today. We have to take care not to give unbelievers, and even some of the faithful, the impression that Christianity’s sense of mission is to find the devil lurking behind every rock, frame, or pixel.
Based on the situations I observed, there are two primary sources for disturbing subject matter, not only in animation but within the entertainment industry in general:
The first is what might be called a “subconscious guard” against anything having to do with God or religion. The second has to do with the fallen nature and unregenerate hearts in the lives of those who produce the work.
The secular mind-set that dominates much of the animation industry applies an unwritten premise that most things having to do with God or religion are generally considered lame, unpopular, limiting, potentially controversial, and, therefore, bad for business.
For example, I recall one meeting in which someone tried to pitch a well-known biblical story as a possible feature film. Producers adept at recognizing great narratives responded positively that this would make a great movie if there was some way to leave God out of the story. That, according to them, would get more people to see it.
One animated feature in particular had a cathedral as its primary location. I recall the artists bemoaning the challenge they faced in trying to tell their story without showing overtly religious symbols in stained-glass windows, architecture, and furniture.
Such were the challenges of a secular-minded approach to art and business: notions that God had no place in the creative product. If such perceptions ever did make it into a story, they were usually relegated to a peripheral, nonconsequential presence.
It was not so much intolerance toward God and religion; there were times producers expressed appreciation for the principles they perceived from my faith, and even made extraordinary accommodations for my observance of such practices as keeping the Sabbath. They didn’t mind what you believed or how you lived; they just didn’t want your faith depicted in the work. The perception was that religion and entertainment just don’t mix, and that religion is generally bad for business. Hence the subconscious guard.
Right Without God When fallen, unregenerate human hearts leave God out of anything, they essentially becomes godless, left to rely on humanistic versions of morality that are relative in nature: right and wrong based on feelings.
For example, in one of our creative meetings, when a conscientious artist expressed the view that perhaps less emphasis should be given to using trashy humor in our movies, another equally sincere artist responded, “One man’s trash may be another man’s entertainment”—the implication being “Let’s not censor trashy humor at the expense of entertainment.”
Interestingly, everyone in the room knew what trashy humor was; they just had varying opinions about using it. There is a consciousness regarding good and bad, but no absolute standard for determining its proper or improper use, and, much less, no power to perform it. Whatever appeals to secular tastes becomes the standard if it gets applause and is good for business. God and His Word are simply left out of the picture.
But when God is left out of anything—as in a vacuum—something else fills the void; and sometimes it may appear to look just as good. So the quest to discover and trust in one’s own deep intrinsic strength to overcome all odds (the theme of many hero stories) takes the place of dependence and faith in God’s wisdom and strength.
“Trust or follow your heart, or feelings” (another common theme), becomes as reasonable as trust in divine principles; fate becomes as believable as providence; human opinion as logical as God’s Word; magical powers as acceptable as miracles; and the creature as omnipotent as the Creator.
From this reference point, ideas, images, and content that tend directly toward spiritualism, along with their associated values, come quite naturally without the unction of any secret order or diabolical agenda. It is the inevitable result of unregenerate human hearts leaving God out of the picture.
Having an Influence So what is the Christian creative role in secular society? How can we be in the world but not of it? Christian artists entering such an environment should do so prayerfully, because their faith is not likely to be nurtured; it will be challenged in many ways.
Nevertheless, if we start with the motivation for why we would want to be anywhere as Christians, we would remember that entertainment is not just about pursuing a career, but about reaching people. Many secular people are unmindful of the blessings available to them in Christ, and hunger for something better. God wants to reach them as much as He wants to reach those in foreign lands.
Christians entering this environment can study and look for ways by which God and His Word might be reintroduced in unobtrusive ways through casual contact and influence. It calls for conscious effort to maintain one’s own personal connection with God in order to be used as a channel to impart rays of truth that awaken interest toward eternal things. Opportunities are there, and people do sense something from individuals in whom Christ lives.
On occasion I had to work side by side with avowed atheists. There were those with varied lifestyles with whom I had opportunity to share my thoughts and convictions. In most cases they were the ones who came up with spiritual questions; it was not the other way around.
I don’t know where these people are today, or where their spiritual journeys will take them, but I saw evidence that God was speaking to them in those moments. Christian artists can have the same influences that Joseph, Daniel, Mordecai, and Esther had in their workplaces if they maintain a consecrated effort to remain connected to the Holy Spirit.
Like the Waldenses, we may be skilled at a craft and grounded in faith, venturing into the world with truth from the Word hidden away in our minds, ready to impart it to those ready to hear it.
Gaining respect from supervisors and colleagues through common courtesy and good work ethics is another influence. At one commercial company two of our graduates tell how their supervisors passed up a lucrative project when the students expressed concern about the content. In some cases people admire those who stand for something when it is presented respectfully and is in harmony with other values in their lives.
Apparently these graduates had gained enough respect from the quality of work and the life exemplified that their employers were willing to change course for their sakes.
When Christian artists are placed in leadership positions, there may also be opportunities to convey thoughts into the products themselves. On one occasion I became interested in depicting the principle expressed by Ellen White that “all our good works are dependent on a power outside of ourselves. Therefore there needs to be a continual reaching out of the heart after God.”1
At the beginning of this article I observed that the number-one thrust behind every production meeting was whether the movie being produced would be worth watching. The same is true of the Christian life. If Christian artists earnestly seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, their lives and work will testify of this in the workplace. They may sometimes have to make decisions about what they are working on, while other times they can be the voice of conscience to influence production choices and content.
Ellen White wrote: “It requires more grace, more stern discipline of character, to work for God in the capacity of mechanic, merchant, lawyer, or farmer, carrying the precepts of Christianity into the ordinary business of life, than to labor as an acknowledged missionary in the open field. It requires a strong spiritual nerve to bring religion into the workshop and the business office, sanctifying the details of everyday life, and ordering every transaction according to the standard of God’s Word. But this is what the Lord requires. Religion and business are not two separate things; they are one. Bible religion is to be interwoven with all we do or say. Divine and human agencies are to combine in temporal as well as in spiritual achievements.”2
This is not something inherent in us, and comes only as we deliberately seek to connect with God.
Scripture is clear: Divine and satanic agencies strive for the minds of humanity, and various powerful media are employed in this struggle. Christian artists can influence the secular workplace if their motivation is centered on God’s will and they are empowered with His indwelling Spirit.
We must be mindful about what we create, and what we allow our senses to absorb. We should remain keenly aware of the secular worldview, but careful about portraying the devil as hiding behind every frame or pixel, because he doesn’t have to.
If we are distracted from reading the Bible and meditating on themes of eternity; if we are not praying and contemplating the life of Jesus; if we ignore the regenerate life and walk in the way of our own choosing, we too will end up leaving God out, and something else will fill the void.
But this phenomenon works the other way, too. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Apparently the more our tastes, desires, and admiration for things change, the closer we get to Jesus.
Maintaining this relationship should therefore be the Christian artist’s top priority. There is a need for consecrated, creative people. By acquainting ourselves with God and His Word, the promise is that we will be continually transformed and guided by the Holy Spirit, receiving both the presence and power of Christ to live a life that testifies of Him in the workplace and in every other place.
1 Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1900), p. 160. 2 Ellen G. White, God’s Amazing Grace (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1973), p. 64.
Hendel Butoy is a professor of animation at the School of Visual Art and Design at Southern Adventist University. He studied animation at the California Institute of the Arts before accepting a position as an animator and director at the Walt Disney Company in 1979.
I once stood with a friend next to a gravel pile. Among the crushed rocks we saw an unmistakable stone arrowhead. The arrowhead’s specifications were unlikely to be matched by the randomly broken stones surrounding it. So we both concluded it was designed, not simply a product of chance or natural laws.
Design and Natural Laws Experience tells us that chance is an unsatisfying explanation for improbable objects that meet certain specifications, such as those of an arrowhead. But if chance is insufficient, why not invoke natural laws to explain the origin of things that use them, such as arrowheads, machines, or living organisms? Machines ranging from molecular motors inside cells to cars exploit natural laws. Cars do not run on miracles; they are machines that convert energy from oil or electricity into kinetic energy to transport us. Like other machines, cars use natural laws to achieve our goals. Operating according to natural laws is not the same as being a product of natural laws.
Cooperation Within living organisms, as with cars, the parts essential to the processes they perform sometimes come from diverse suppliers. One example can be found in the roots of legumes, plants that make protein-rich beans. In the cooperative process of extracting nitrogen from air to make proteins, the plant provides energy and creates special low oxygen conditions necessary for a bacterium to “fix nitrogen.” To soak up oxygen, which prevents nitrogen fixation, an “oxygen sponge” called leghemoglobin is used.
It was once thought that the protein part of leghemoglobin is made by the plant, while the bacterium supplies the heme molecule that holds the oxygen-binding iron. Now it appears that at least sometimes the plant makes the entire leghemoglobin complex.* This process beautifully illustrates the cooperative nature of creation. It is similar to the way well-designed factory departments cooperate together to produce cars or bowling balls, candy or electronic gadgets. If each production step didn’t fit an overarching plan, nothing would be made.
The necessity of a plan is true for all organisms, because organisms cannot survive alone. Cooperation does not benefit just the organisms directly involved; in the case of nitrogen fixation, it benefits all life. Rare breakdowns in this cooperation illustrate why it is essential for life; for instance, when non-native organisms are introduced into a new setting, they may disrupt ecosystems. Even normally benign or helpful bacteria, such as staphylococcus or E. coli, can cause sickness or death. Yet these are exceptions, not the rule.
The question should not be whether or not nature appears designed. From the trillions of nonhuman cells that live in our bodies cooperating with us in various ways that keep us healthy and happy, down to the molecular machines that keep each cell running, all the way up to the cooperation between plants and animals that keeps animals fed and plants pollinated, the real question is “Who is responsible for the marvelous designs we see brought to life all around us?” Who came up with the necessary plans? The Bible provides a compelling answer that also accounts for the, thankfully uncommon, exceptions to the beautiful design that pervades creation. Design in nature is far more amazing than a simple stone arrowhead, and has far more profound implications. The Bible liberates us to see it and praise the Designer.
* M. A. Santana, K. Pihakaski-Maunsbach, N. Sandal, K. A. Marcker, and A. G. Smith, “Evidence That the Plant Host Synthesizes the Heme Moiety of Leghemoglobin in Root Nodules,” Plant Physiology 116, no. 4 (1998): 1259-1269. Online at www.plantphysiol.org/content/116/4/1259.
Tim Standish, Ph.D., is a senior scientist at the Geoscience Research Institute and lives in southern California, United States.
That’s the stuff of “real mission stories.” For us, “real mission stories” spoke of daring and transformed lives. We grew up in South Africa, and hearing mission stories ignited a desire to embrace missions as our life calling. This is the story of our journey into missions.
Early Lessons Our first cross-cultural mission experience was with a group of college friends in the mountains of Lesotho. We gave a mission school a facelift, painting and fixing the buildings. We also conducted a church service. Our first mission lesson: “Adapt to the situation!” Only much later did we fully comprehend the importance of that lesson.
Later we went to serve as student missionaries in Lesotho. Pam taught for two years at a village mission school. Gideon assisted with Bible outreach and community development, installing wells and doing construction work. It was while working in the Tsoinyane Valley that we decided to unite our lives for the service of others.
In Cape Town, while finishing our university studies, we had a few short-term experiences that kept the mission flame burning. These allowed us to be open when God called us to a cross-cultural church plant among an unreached people group, the Himba, in northwest Namibia. It was a dream come true: We would serve as frontline missionaries.
Learning And Unlearning In 1995 we loaded our pickup and traveled with our two cats 2,500 kilometers (1,560 miles) north to Opuwo, Namibia. A seasoned missionary had given us valuable counsel: “Take time to be with the people.” With this and other counsel we ventured into a new life, one that would last for 17 years.
We arrived in Namibia knowing that we faced an enormous task. Like other missionaries before us, we were convinced that the Himba ways were wrong and that we had to correct them. This assumption, we later learned, was detrimental to our interaction with the people. It implied that we approached the people with answers before taking the time to listen to their questions.
In addition, our interactions with the people were based on our worldview. They focused on the fundamental beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists in a Western context, not about issues that would matter to someone who was a Himba. We had no idea what it meant to be a Himba, yet we dared to correct their behavior.
We did not really understand the counsel we had received: “Take time to be with the people,” suggesting we approach the people as learners, not teachers. As missionaries, we assumed our role was to teach; in reality, it was to be taught. We encountered people with totally different ways of doing things. The Himba are cattle farmers. Being nomadic, they are always in search of grazing and water for their animals. (Gideon was raised in a city, and Pam comes from a rural community.)
Recording stories for evangelism in a portable Studio
Ellen White says Jesus took time to be with people for the purpose of understanding them.1 Taking time to learn and understand people is an essential principle. This can be done through books, but not exclusively. Learning is best done in community. Tom and Betty Brewster call this community the classroom.2
We assumed that because the Himba could not read and write they needed an education. This is just one of the challenges we addressed without understanding. Learning about the people we serve is an essential mission principle. In fact, it’s a basic public speaking principle: know the audience. We learned only later how to apply it in our ministry.
The second assumption we made was that once they knew about God, their ways would change. After one year of preaching to 10 families with no resulting baptisms, we realized something was amiss. Either our persuasive skills were lacking or the people were not interested.
A missionary friend enquired about our experience. After listening to our frustrations, he asked: “Do you love the people?”
That question forever changed our ministry. Our focus had been on disseminating information (“sharing the truth”). But God wanted us to have a relationship with the people. For the first time, we understood why God’s greatest desire is to dwell among His people. We finally understood the implication of the question: “Do you love the people?” We were representing a God who desired to be with His people and have a relationship with them. This is the Advent message: God coming to humanity through willing instruments.
We spent our first vacation in the library, where we studied as much as we could about the Himba. We returned determined to change the way we did ministry. By taking time to be with the people, loving them became natural. We understood them as they shared with us about themselves and guided us in our understanding of their culture.
New Communication Skills In 1997, while teaching a literacy class, an older woman said: “Help me write my name.” She wanted to see her name by reading it. She struggled for almost five minutes.
Another Mother: Pam with a friend from Ovinjange who they called "Mama"
This experience forced us to ask ourselves: “Do we really expect these people to read the Bible from cover to cover if they can’t write their own names?”
The response was direct and quick. “No!” We were challenged to learn more about their oral culture. This took our journey in a new direction. In the book Christ’s Object Lessons Ellen White wrote about how Jesus used things with which people were familiar to lead people to understand spiritual things.3 When communicating the gospel, we discovered, it’s important to use genre, language, and images familiar to the audience.
We determined to understand Himba communication. We packed away our felts and other visual aids, because they were foreign, unfamiliar to our Himba audience. We wanted to use Himba communication styles to share the gospel.
To affirm the value of what we were learning, God guided us to a Web site that promoted an orality conference. In 2003 we attended our first International Orality Network (ION) conference. Here we saw how other missionaries were using oral communication methods. We identified with Elijah when he learned that 7,000 others had not bowed to Baal. God was using other missionaries in a similar way. We returned refreshed and excited about what God was going to do for the Himba.
For the next five years we developed oral evangelistic material. Oral evangelism is based on stories. Yet it’s not merely telling the Bible story. It’s placing the Bible story within the worldview of the Himba and challenging that worldview.
Oral evangelism isn’t just talking; it’s using genres familiar to the audience. In the case of the Himba it meant using praise songs (ombimbi, omuhiva), poetry (omiimbo), proverbs (omiano), and drama. With Himbas our Western hymns and gospel songs had little relevance. We had to use familiar genres to guide people to understand eternal lessons.
It took a long time to develop these lessons. God’s timing, however, is always best. We were challenged to share the oral evangelistic material with the people.
Family Matters: Gideon with his Himba father Tate Job Katundu
With the coming of technology (and after attending another ION conference) we learned about the “Godpod,” a solar-powered MP3 player. Unfortunately, these were expensive. God, however, had the answer long before we asked. We were invited to participate in the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering. Thanks to that offering, the world church assisted us in purchasing and distributing Godpods, into which we loaded our oral evangelistic presentations. (Thank you for your mission offerings of August 2012!)
Although we are no longer in the area, God has provided workers to continue the work. We established a church in the area, with a trained minister who worked with us and understands the value of using oral methods.
God’s Heart for Missionaries These experiences transformed our understanding of mission. For us, mission was about going; it was about giving. Our journey from Cape Town, South Africa, to Opuwo, Namibia, was transformational.
We realized that our understanding of God was too small. We learned that God is bigger than the little box with which we defined Him. We had to expand our concept of God. This is where we understood the name God used to identify Himself to Moses, I AM. He truly is I AM. He is God to the Himba, as well as God to city dwellers. We stand in awe of such an amazing God.
We believed ourselves to be agents of change, but God wanted to change us. His purpose was for us to be instruments of His peace, and for us to learn how to experience His peace and love. We learned that mission is indeed a “two-way street,”4 where missionaries enter the presence of the Almighty so He can send them into the world.
First Fruit: Some of the baptismal candidates from 2002, picture from left to right: Belinya, Pastor Sabyn Ndjamba (current Pastor at Opuwo), Wapahurwa Tjposa (Himba from Okapawe), Daniel Ndjamba (brother to Psr. Sabyn), Gideon Petersen, and Pastor Mumbonenwa (Namibia Conference President)
The most transformational lesson we learned was about ourselves. As missionaries we were called to serve the Himba. We were asked to introduce the Himba to Jesus. The more we engaged the people, the stronger the bond became. And the more we fell in love with the people, the more God transformed us as His children.
Mission is transformational when we surrender to the One who sends us daily into the world. Mission begins in worship, and it ends in inviting others to join us in worship. We thank God for the experience of being part of His mission. It was truly our rendezvous with God.
1 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn.,1905), p. 143. 2 Tom and Betty Brewster, Community Is My Language Classroom (Pasadena, Calif.: Lingua House Ministries, 1986). 3 Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1900), p. 17. 4 Jon Dybdahl, Missions: A Two-way Street (Boise, Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1986).
Gideon and Pam Petersen spent 18 years doing church planting in Namibia, and served as training consultants for Adventist Frontier Missions. They now serve at Zurcher Adventist University in Madagascar.
Whenever we read the last two pages of Revelation, we sense calmness. John describes the out-of-this-world gleam of precious stones, plants, and houses that are incomparable to anything we know.
At Home With the Lamb
By Judith and Sven Fockner
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. . . . And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful’ ” (Rev. 21:1-5).
Whenever we read the last two pages of Revelation, we sense calmness. John describes the out-of-this-world gleam of precious stones, plants, and houses that are incomparable to anything we know. Everything is stunning, picture-perfect! Then, in two climactic verses, John comes to the very core of the new beginning: “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light” (verses 22, 23).
In the midst of all the glory and the splendor, this description shines out. It touches us more deeply than all the crystal-clear rivers and sapphire-colored palaces. He will be there. Jesus. The Lamb. He will always be there, and never go away. And He will be all we need.
Free From Ourselves Do you know the feeling of having missed out on something or the worry of coming up too short? “No, I want to have that; no one else should get it.” You can see this play out at the entrance of large retail stores just prior to opening when there are special discounts. People queue outside and wait to clinch a bargain. They may appear calm on the outside, but on the inside they have switched to predator mode. They position themselves strategically and watch the store’s entrance. We call it selfishness and laugh about fistfights over an LCD TV. But ultimately, all of us as sinners care only for ourselves.
Recently we were looking for a home. After 10 viewings we finally found something useful and affordable. But suddenly there was this slightly panicky feeling. What if someone would strike before us? We wanted that house—for us. We did not ask if someone else needed it more, or for whom it would be most appropriate. We didn’t care about the other buyers.
Have you experienced something like this? It will be no more. Foremost, of course, because the Lamb cares for us all, and we will lack nothing. Second, and this is really the decisive reason, because the Lamb has freed us from ourselves (Rom. 7:24; John 8:36). He showed us by example that true happiness comes from giving instead of receiving (Mark 10:43-45; Acts 20:35). Finally, we can let go and learn that we no longer have to fight for ourselves. What an awesome sense of freedom that will be! How much strength will suddenly be available to pay attention to one another, to reach out to others, and to care for them!
Free From Futility Have you ever felt like this? You experience something beautiful—sunshine on your skin in early spring, a tasty beverage, some meaningful and stirring music—yet it only reminds you of better times. Somehow it cannot make you happy now; instead it makes you sadder still, because you cannot feel it. Others around you live happily ever after (at least it seems like this), but to you all seems so meaningless. It wasn’t always like this. You can’t remember exactly when it started, but life is not like it used to be. You have been deeply disappointed. Someone has left you. Or you have lost someone. Or something failed. Darkness and anxiety seem to be constant companions. You just know that you suffer more than others in your life. You can find no sense or joy in who you are and what you do.
Does that sound familiar? Here is the good news: You will never feel this way again, because it is an emotional reflex to the senselessness of suffering, a reaction to our separation from God. However, in the new earth we will never be apart from Him—and never be disappointed again. We will never lose someone, and we will miss nothing. We will live united—strong and secure (John 10:10). Life will have meaning. We’ll know where we come from and where we are going. We will finally be home.
Free of Uncertainty Have you ever taken part in a conversation at school or at work, and you actually had no idea what it was all about, but you did not dare to ask? Lightning-fast processes happen in the brain: Huh? What now? H’mm. Should I say something now? Better not—it may be about something fundamental. I don’t want to embarrass myself. I can always google it.
Why is such a situation embarrassing to us? Because we want to make a good impression on others; because we do not want to appear to know less or be able to do less than others. We don’t want to bare it all. We could get hurt. Our self-esteem may suffer. And we are already insecure enough. That’s why we protect ourselves and pretend. When at home, if we hit our head on a door frame, we scream out loud and hold our forehead in pain. Yet at the store, if we happen to run against a glass door, we smile and continue as if nothing happened.
Responses like this will no longer exist. We won’t have to pretend any longer; we won’t have to hide anything. It will no longer be necessary. We’ll know we are accepted and valuable (Isa. 43:1-5). We’ll know it when we see the Lamb (Rom. 5:8). We can just be who God made us to be, without feelings of inferiority.
And suddenly we’ll no longer have to ridicule others to make ourselves feel better. Real intimacy and openness will be possible! The new world will be full of people who accept themselves because they constantly live in the presence of the One who loves them and who died for them.
God’s future awaits: Never fear the dark again; never shout angrily at someone; never again be tempted to do something immoral; never feel awkward and lonely; experience a whole new respect for others. This is the life we were created for—forever. And yes, we will be at home with the Lamb.
Judith and Sven Fockner live and work in Germany, where Sven serves as director of the Hope Institute of Bible Study, located at the Media Center of the Inter-European Division. They have two sons.