Your Best Pathway to Health, a three-day no-cost medical and dental clinic, was conducted April 8-10 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, where the 2015 General Conference session will be held in July.
Three Days That Changed a City
Giving away medical and dental care is one way to get a city’s attention.
By Diane Thurber and Susan Jones
Your Best Pathway to Health, a three-day no-cost medical and dental clinic, was conducted April 8-10 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, where the 2015 General Conference session will be held in July. Sponsored by Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI), in collaboration with the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, and many other entities, more than $20 million in free health-related services were provided by more than 1,700 volunteers to more than 6,000 of those in the medically underserved population of the city.
Free on-site facilities included primary-care visits; women’s health services; consultation with specialists; STD screenings; pediatrics; immunizations; dental care, including root canals, crowns, filings, extractions, and dental cleanings. Pharmacy, eye care, physical therapy, X-ray, and laboratory services were also provided on-site. Even surgical procedures such as hysterectomies, gallbladder and tumor removal, and others were performed by prior arrangement for 360 people, both at the Alamodome and at the nearby Central Texas Medical Center, operated by the Adventist Health System. In addition to medical and dental care, volunteers also provided haircuts, chaplaincy services. Approximately 2,500 free sack lunches were distributed each day.
Some touching stories came out of the event.
One man came for medical services and mentioned that he was engaged to be married, but that he had no suit to be married in. Men’s Wearhouse had donated several hundred men’s suits, including one tuxedo. The tuxedo fit this man perfectly. He also had no connection with a pastor, and no church to be married in. But that connection was made as well.
Another man was devastated because his 15-year-old son had been shot and killed the day before. He was also upset because he didn’t have appropriate clothing for his son’s funeral. He too was outfitted with a suit, and received prayer and counseling services.
One woman came to the vision-care section and mentioned that she had experienced a sudden impairment in her vision just the day before. Her eyes were examined on one of the two reSamanthal cameras in the vision area, which showed that she had a reSamanthal detachment and bleeding in the back of her eye. She was immediately taken where she could get surgery on her eye and save her vision.
Someone who came through the medical line for an examination was discovered to have severe heart problems. An ambulance was called, and he was taken directly to the hospital.
Someone else had a heart attack in the Alamodome and received immediate medical care from the physicians there.
Hundreds had to be turned away. Some cried. One man begged to be seen after the cutoff for the day. A woman ahead of him in line, also waiting to be seen, heard his pleas and gave up her place in line so he could receive dental care. One man, while talking with a chaplain, asked for prayer to reconcile with his brother. He shared that he had carried a knife with him into the Alamodome that day. He had been planning to leave there and stab his brother. One of the volunteers (perhaps someone in registration or hospitality, no one knows) learned that he had a knife and talked him into giving it to her, which he did reluctantly. After he relinquished the knife, he broke down in tears as the chaplain prayed for him.
A 14-year-old girl shared with a lifestyle counselor that she was struggling with depression. She had seen her father murder her mother. She was referred for further services to help her, in addition to receiving helpful tips and prayer. All the people who received services during this event will receive follow-up care if they wish, based on results of lab work and diagnoses, and be referred to church- and community-run seminars such as Depression Recovery, CREATION Health, stop-smoking programs, Healthy Living cooking classes, diabetes-management programs, and others.
In 2016 an outreach such as this one is being planned for Detroit, and in 2017 for New York City. A smaller Your Best Pathway to Health event is being planned for this summer in Spokane, Washington.
Chester Lane* leaned on a camp chair as he shuffled along the triage line, hoping for vision services. His wife, Audra, who needed dental care for an aching tooth, soon joined him.
The Smiths rose early that morning so they could be near the front of the line for these health services. It had been three or four years since Chester’s vision had been checked, and his vision had deteriorated to the point that he needed new glasses.
The couple had recently moved from Alaska, seeking better medical care for Chester. They found the surgeon they needed for his neurological problem, which had remained undiagnosed for 20 years. However, because they live on disability and are without insurance, it was difficult to save for their medical expenses. Audra described how several times she saved enough money to fix her tooth, but the dentist would insist on a course of antibiotics first. Then she would have to save again for dental expenses and the antibiotics. It was a cycle she couldn’t seem to avoid.
As Audra entered the Alamodome, saw the scope of what the event offered, and began to understand how many lives would be improved by the free services offered in the three-day event, she thought of friends back “home.” “You need to bring this event to Alaska,” she said. She explained that many there live under the poverty level and can’t afford health care. As Audra sought help for herself, she was thinking back to the community she and Chester had left and her desire for their good was evident.
“This event renews my faith in mankind,” Audra said. “I was getting to the point of believing that no one really cares.”
Earlier in their life journey Audra and Chester lived in Nevada, Missouri. There Audra encountered a Seventh-day Adventist pastor and his wife. “She saved my life,” said Audra, explaining how the pastor’s wife had insisted she visit the hospital for the abdominal pain she was experiencing. “It was a burst appendix,” she stated. These memories of her encounter with this couple led her to say, “I told my husband there would be nice people here today.”
Later that morning Chester finished his vision screening. “I’m going to pick up my new glasses June 1,” he beamed.
Audra said that she had cut her husband’s hair the day before, and explained how she had also trimmed the ends of her own. “You know how it is when you trim your own hair—the ends are jagged,” she explained. She then told how she was invited to enjoy a free massage and complimentary haircut while waiting for dental services. “It was wonderful!” she sighed.
Renewed vigor was evident in the couple’s steps and the smiles on both their faces as they shared about the special treatment and nice people they had met. “I don’t mind waiting until June 1 for my new glasses; it was all worth it!” Chester exclaimed.
Samantha and David Martinez were watching KSAT in San Antonio on Tuesday afternoon, April 7, 2015, when they heard a news story about Your Best Pathway to Health, a three-day event at which free medical and dental services would be offered.
“As soon as we heard about this event on the news, we came right over,” Samantha said.
She and David arrived at the Alamodome with a blanket and pillow, prepared to spend the night outside. They joined others in the line forming for dental services, so they could receive services as soon as the doors opened at 7:00. But because the parking lot would close overnight, David could not risk having their car impounded. So he left Samantha, who waited patiently through the night.
David returned the next morning, but not alone. He brought his mother-in-law, who also sought dental care.
The Martinezes have waited years for dental care. They attempted to receive services at a smaller dental clinic, but were turned away. Neither Samantha nor David is currently employed. A work-related accident prevents David from driving a big rig, and Samantha cares for her aging mother. Disability checks help the couple make ends meet, but they have no other means to cover dental treatments.
Visible relief and broadening smiles were on the Martinezes’ weary faces as they stood in the triage line waiting to be seen by nurses who would review their health assessments and take their blood pressure. Soon they were on the way to the medical and dental waiting areas.
“This is awesome,” David said. “God is going to bless all these people for what they are doing.”
“I see this as a divine appointment,” Samantha exclaimed.
When David’s number was called for dental triage, he answered a few questions and moved into another waiting area. While there, he made friends with individuals also waiting for dental care. While in this waiting area he met Russ Laughlin, a pastor and vice president for spiritual development at Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas.
A person sitting near David asked, “Which church is doing all this?”
Laughlin responded, “Seventh-day Adventist.”
“I hear you believe in the second coming of Jesus,” stated David. He had met a chaplain in line who had answered questions, shared his business card, and invited David to his church.
Laughlin said, “Yes, it’s all in our name.” Then he proceeded to explain who Seventh-day Adventists are, and how the church’s name shares our belief in the return of Jesus. Other questions followed. “Would you pray for me?” one woman asked, to which Laughlin gladly consented.
“Would you touch me, hold my hand?” she pressed. Again Laughlin complied, reaching out to take David’s hand also.
Laughlin’s prayer brought tears to the woman’s eyes. In addition to the dental relief she and the Martinezes received, they also experienced the healing touch of Jesus through kind volunteers like Laughlin.
Sent From God
Sonja Rojas sat at a table waiting to be seen by a dentist. “I’m waiting for my wife,” she said.
Jill Rojas had arrived at the Alamodome the previous day at 4:00 p.m. to join the line forming for dental services. She waited through the night so she could talk to a dentist and, she hoped, get a desperately needed crown.
The next morning Sonja joined Jill. She half-expected to receive a call during the night with a request to come pick Jill up. It had been just about two months since Jill had fallen from the second floor of their two-story home and broke her L1 and L2 vertebrae. She was in the hospital for more than a month, then moved to rehabilitation.
Jill, a nurse, had not worked since her own injury on February 15, 2015. Then Sonja had to quit her job to take care of Jill. She explained that Jill should have remained in rehabilitation longer, but without insurance, and because of their inability to pay $160 per day to receive physical therapy and nursing services, she was sent home.
Knowing Jill still suffers with constant pain from the accident caused Sonja to worry about how she had endured the wait outside the Alamodome. “She’s a strong woman,” Sonja said. “She won’t let people know she’s suffering and won’t let anything stop her.” Jill endured the long wait, and together they proceeded inside.
Sonja received vision screening. The attending eye doctor knew Sonja also wanted a dental cleaning. She smiled widely and reported, “The doctor said, ‘I like you. I like you a lot. I’m going to take you over to see if you can see the dentist, too.’ ” He was successful, and Sonja’s bright smile was the first thing Jill noticed when she returned from receiving her own dental care.
“It was worth it!” Jill said. “I would have had to spend $1,300; and I got this crown for free.”
“The Lord sees everything. I know there’s a reason for everything. . . . When you feel you’re down and out, then something happens. When you least expect it, He answers your prayers,” Sonja stated.
“This,” described Sonja, sweeping her arms out wide to take in the scene in the Alamodome before her, “is angels sent from God. What all you people are doing. You’re here for us. It’s awesome! It’s passion.”
Photos of the event are on Twitter: #pathwaytohealth, and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/yourbestpathway tohealth.
Diane Thurber is associate director of communication and women’s ministries director for the Lake Union Conference. Susan Jones is a member of the Arbuckle View Adventist Church in Oklahoma.
What a movement! I am referring to Libna Stevens’ article “Top Adventist Leaders Build a Church” (March 2015). As the leaders were moved by the Holy Spirit to move forward with this effort, the leaders and church members were blessed, and so was the community.
Our leaders set a powerful example: to spread the three angels’ messages through works of love to a dying world. As we pray for the latter rain, may we let the early rain remove division on issues that divide us, and, according to His will, let us work as a corporate body preparing people to go home to live with God. Pearl Wise Huntsville, Alabama
Faith Versus Finance
Thank you for printing Julian Archer’s article “Faith Versus Finance” (March 2015). I’ve been waiting for a long time for someone to put these words and ideas on paper, validate my concerns, and offer some suggestions. My family immigrated to the United States two years ago, and even though by the American standard we live rather poorly, we have so many material blessings here!
On the one hand, I love what we have and am grateful for it; on the other, I’ve noticed my faith growing weaker. There is more reliance on self and what I can buy, and less yearning for spiritual things. I still hope this materialistic obsession is temporary, and is more of an “immigrant syndrome” than a permanent heart condition. But I was so glad to read that somebody else observed the same pattern, wrote about it, and apparently came up with some ideas on how to cure it. I hope there is going to be a second article where Archer can elaborate on his ideas for a solution. Yelena Verenchuk London, Kentucky
Of Graphics and Films
Adventist World is an excellent publication. I have always found the information in it good for discussion, contemplation, and general information. Here are two comments I hope will be of service to you:
At the end of articles there is a particular graphic that appears to be a swirl-type that enters from the left and exits at the right (or vice versa). I’m not sure what it is, but this graphic has been used for quite some time. Please consider changing this to something more appealing.
Julio C. Munoz’s story “Christian Filmmakers Seek to Take Down Goliath” (January 2015) was very appealing. I have access to the Hope Channel—and, of course, there is 3ABN and all the rest. Something missing from Adventist channels are the excellent films that have been created by Adventist filmmakers. Millions of Christian film lovers would tune in to a film before tuning in to a sermon or Bible study. Linda Wilson via e-mail
Thank you for your letter! The graphic you refer to is a “horizon,” used to signify the end of an article and biographical information for the author. It is representative of the horizon motif from the cover of the magazine, a motif that carries itself throughout the magazine in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. —Editors.
La Sierra Alum Lands Pistons Job
I know this is old news, but I just had to write! I am writing about the September 2014 article “La Sierra Alum Lands Pistons Assistant GM Spot.” We should applaud Brian White, and be thrilled that he will be bringing his Christian influence into such an organization. God can use him mightily in many ways, and he will have access to people who might otherwise never know Jesus. Lisa Mol Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Among the sounds coming from within the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, a small voice asked a simple question: “Who does this?”
By Dan Weber
Among the sounds coming from within the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, a small voice asked a simple question: “Who does this?”
The voice, and the question, belonged to Lisa Salazar, one of more than 6,000 people who received free health care during the April 8-10, 2015, Your Best Pathway to Health event sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Over a three-day period thousands of desperate people battled long lines, sleepless nights, and rainy weather for an opportunity to receive life-changing health care.
The event, sponsored by Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI), the North American Division, Adventist Health System, and the San Antonio Metropolitan Health Department, among others, not only served as a way of providing needed care to the San Antonio community, but also allowed Adventists to introduce themselves before the sixtieth General Conference session takes place in July.
Your Best Pathway to Health was the second such event to be held in the past two years, the first being Bridges to Health, which served the needs of people in the San Francisco and Oakland, California, areas. That event provided more than $5 million in free health care to 3,000 people, as 600 volunteers donated their time and expertise to serve as Christ’s hands and feet.
Bridges to Health fulfilled a dream that Lela Lewis had for meeting the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of people living in large urban areas. The success of the first event gave Dr. Lewis a bigger dream of providing care on a much larger scale. Thus the San Antonio event was born, and more than 1,700 volunteers decided to dream with her as they worked long hours to make the dream a reality.
What if more of us dreamed dreams like Dr. Lewis? The true success of the Bridges and Pathway events wasn’t the health care that was provided. It was that people from all over the world came together to seek a common goal: the betterment of those in need. Those efforts were blessed by the Holy Spirit, resulting in healing rarely seen in the church before.
What would happen if we, as a united church, put our differences aside and, instead of focusing on each other, turned our efforts toward helping those in need? As a church we have to realize that our differences make us stronger when we combine them in a concentrated effort to reach our local and global communities.
It was amazing to walk the floor of the Alamodome and see the vast variety of Seventh-day Adventists working together to provide loving, healing, and compassionate care to people they had never seen before. No one questioned each other’s beliefs about issues that have filled the pages of this publication over the years. Instead, the focus was put on the needs of others. Suddenly barriers set up to protect ourselves fell down, and the result was a living example of Jesus’ love played out on a massive scale. All because someone dared to dream big.
Lisa Salazar came to the Pathways event at the coaxing of her sister. They had been told about it by a young Adventist selling literature in their neighborhood to raise funds so he could attend college and become a pastor. When Salazar told him she didn’t have money to buy books because she had spent it all on medical bills, he gave her a free book and offered to pray for her. Before he left, he remembered the Pathways event and invited her to attend. She agreed, as her dental care had been neglected for many years because of a lack of insurance.
As I listened to Salazar’s story, tears came to my eyes as she answered her own question. “Who does this? God does!” she said. “I came here to get my teeth cleaned, but I received so much more. I found out there is an Adventist church within walking distance of my house. I now have a new church home to attend. God is good!”
Yes, God is good.
Daniel Weber is communication director for the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.
One of the hardest things about being a pastor’s kid is that we have to move a lot and leave our friends behind,” confesses 11-year-old Jasmine Ramirez.
Pastors Convene in Austin, Texas
CALLED Convention highlights all aspects of pastoral ministry.
By Dave Gemmell, North American Division Ministerial Association
One of the hardest things about being a pastor’s kid is that we have to move a lot and leave our friends behind,” confesses 11-year-old Jasmine Ramirez.
“That’s why we’re excited about the pastors’ convention, where we will see our old friends and make new ones,” chimes in her 15-year-old sister Elennie.
Jasmine and Elennie are two of more than 4,000 registered for the CALLED Convention for North American Division (NAD) pastors and their families to be held June 28-July 1, 2015, in Austin, Texas. The CALLED convention is actually several conventions occurring simultaneously at the Austin Convention Center. Pastors, spouses, youth, and kids will each have their unique time together.
“This has been prayed over for many months,” wrote Ivan Williams in his invitation to pastors. The director of the NAD Ministerial Association promised: “You will grow spiritually: you will be informed professionally and personally. It’s going to be a rich time.”
The name CALLED says it all. This is a chance for pastors who may have had a few bumps along the way to reaffirm their call to ministry. “Most of my ministry has been spent as a local pastor,” said Dan Jackson, president of the NAD, “and I know how important an event like this is.”
The CALLED convention is also a time for professional development and continuing education. Ralph Watts, president of the Hawaii Conference, noted, “In Hawaii we are quite isolated, living out in the middle of the ocean. But we’re committed to send every pastor to the convention for growth, study, learning, and to become more effective in our leadership and ministry.”
NAD pastors will be introduced to seven core qualities that contribute to effective pastoral ministry. These qualities will undergird the general session presentations featuring effective pastors and leadership experts, and more than 200 educational breakout seminars for pastors, spouses, and administrators. Innovation leader Gary Hamel asks, “How do you build a church where innovation is happening everywhere, all the time? What does it mean to lead that kind of church?” Denise Hayden looks forward to the convention for pastoral spouses. “I saw the lineup of speakers and was excited to register.”
Patti Hoover reflects, “After 35 years of ministry, my husband and I know how important it is to take advantage of times when we can get together with other pastors and minister spouses. We can encourage each other and share. We can renew old friendships and make new ones.”
Jerry Page, Ministerial Association director for the General Conference, agrees. “Gatherings like this can be a time when friendships and marriages are refreshed, minds stimulated with exciting new concepts and opportunities, and our relationship with Jesus becomes so much deeper.”
CALLED is for preachers’ kids, too. “PKs can have a spiritually privileged life, growing up in the center of church life,” says NAD children’s ministries director Sherri Uhrig. “Yet with privilege also come challenges.” Many PKs have to deal with frequent moves and with unrealistic expectations from church members and classmates, and have to share their parent with the entire congregation.
Children and high school students will both have a place at the convention where they can develop skills to thrive in the pastoral home. James Black, director of youth ministries for the NAD, sees CALLED as “an opportunity to inspire, challenge, and encourage PKs for God’s kingdom.”
The CALLED convention will begin Sunday evening, June 28, and conclude at noon on July 1, allowing those who wish to make the 80-mile trip to San Antonio to arrive in time for the start of the General Conference (GC) session. International pastors are invited to come a few days early, attend CALLED, and look over the shoulders of their NAD colleagues.
CALLED is a major financial undertaking. Five different groups pulled together to make it possible: the NAD and its union conferences, local conferences, congregations, and pastors. If the end result of the CALLED convention is anything like recent NAD division-wide teachers’ conventions, the financial sacrifice will be a good investment. The intent is to have pastors return to their congregations renewed, refreshed, empowered, and ready to lead more effectively. Ted Wilson, president of the GC, wants “to encourage you during this ministerial convention to take time to fellowship with and encourage each other as together we seek to grow in the wisdom and grace of our Lord, seeking for the most effective ways of carrying out His calling to tell the world of His soon return.”
Kettering College students, faculty, alumni, and staff worked behind the scenes to support federal legislation that would protect funding for nursing schools nationwide.
Kettering College Mobilizes to Support Legislation
Kettering College students, faculty, alumni, and staff worked behind the scenes to support federal legislation that would protect funding for nursing schools nationwide. Their grassroots efforts paid off. Legislators from both sides of the aisle have introduced related bills in the United States Congress.
At issue is funding for hospital-based nursing education programs like the one at Kettering College. In order to receive funding from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), such programs must be part of a hospital. However, new standards issued by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)—the largest accrediting body for higher education—require hospital-based programs to become separately incorporated in order to retain accreditation.
Because of these conflicting standards, more than 100 nursing education programs are at risk of losing crucial funding, a problem that could result in significant tuition increases and program cuts. In mid-2014 Kettering Health Network’s Jarrod McNaughton, vice president of missions and development, and P. J. Brafford, manager of government relations, began working with others in the network to make lawmakers aware of this problem.
A first step was for Kettering College president Nate Brandstater to call and visit numerous congressional offices in Washington, D.C. Brandstater wasn’t the only one: people affiliated with other nursing schools and health-related organizations also voiced their support of legislative action. In July 2014 the Making the Education of Nurses Dependable for Schools (MEND) Act was introduced in the House of Representatives, which would revise CMS requirements so that the agency could continue to support hospital-based nursing schools that reincorporate independently to maintain HLC accreditation.
The next step was to encourage the Kettering College family to speak out through two “call campaigns.” “Students were the first group that came to mind because they are impacted in the most direct and immediate way,” Brafford said. “Bringing Kettering College faculty and staff into the mix, along with network executives and employees, was a natural next step. Everyone at Kettering Health Network recognizes the importance of affordable, high-quality medical education to ensure that we have enough professionals to meet the long-term needs of a changing population.”
School officials set up a communications area on campus, and invited students, faculty, staff, alumni, and network employees to stop by and make phone calls to legislators’ offices and tweet their support of legislative action.
“Students were nervous, but once they realized how easy this was, they quickly became comfortable with the idea,” says Brandstater. “It was empowering for them to play a role in influencing our elected officials to address this important issue.”
Hundreds of calls and tweets later, significant progress had been made. Many new cosponsors have added their names to the House of Representatives bill. That bill is awaiting a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee. On March 3, 2015, Ohio senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown introduced the MEND Act in the U.S. Senate. They are gathering support for the bill, which mirrors the House bill and has six cosponsors.
Brandstater says he is optimistic that lawmakers will enact legislation to preserve the vital funding. “This experience has highlighted to me how important it is to nurture relationships with our elected officials, who can be extremely helpful when critical needs arise,” he said. “The fact that the issue we’re trying to address is well understood, broadly supported, and not controversial makes it easy for elected officials to get behind it. We are extremely grateful for their support of affordable education for our nation’s future health-care providers.”
—Jessica Beans, Kettering College
Tour de Youth: Ride for the Future
The Tour de France bicycle race is one of the most challenging endurance events in the world. It consists of cyclists riding for two weeks, more than 2,200 grueling miles, with brutal mountain ascents and unpredictable weather. Cyclists brave these conditions for a chance to wear the coveted maillot jaune (yellow jersey). Many who start the race are unable to complete it, because it is truly a “suffer fest.”
On June 28, 2015, cyclists from around the United States—pastors and lay members—will join members of the Southwest Region Conference in a Tour de Youth (TDY) cycling event. Team Southwest will ride from Dallas, Texas, to the sixtieth General Conference session in San Antonio. This ride is not for the maillot jaune, but for a far more precious prize: children and youth. TDY will be a five-day, 325-mile journey to raise awareness of youth and adult obesity, promote healthful lifestyles, and raise funds for Adventist education.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during the past 10 years obesity rates in children ages 6-11 have doubled, and for children ages 12-19 rates have tripled. Higher obesity rates are often found in minority communities. Elizabeth Landau, CNN.com Health, reported that adult and youth obesity rates have risen in 28 states during the past few years and are projected to continue. “Ten out of 11 states with the highest rates of obesity are located in the South,” she reported.
In addition to highlighting health challenges facing Adventist youth, TDY will raise money to help make Adventist education more affordable. Adventist schools play an important role in the health and lifestyle choices of children. Yet they also face significant challenges. Larry Blackmer, vice president of education for the North American Division, wrote: “Formal Adventist education . . . is serving fewer than 40 percent of the children in our churches.
“It’s obvious that we must find ways both to make Adventist education affordable and to provide Adventist educational services to those who can’t or choose not to utilize the formal Adventist school system.”*
The Tour de Youth Ride for the Future will be an expression of support, offering at-risk boys and girls an alternative environment in which to grow physically, spiritually, and academically while pursuing the American dream.
As spring emerged from the cold of a northern winter, hope sprang up in the hearts of many people in Alberta’s “Gateway to the North.”
A three-year-long citywide evangelistic project reached its crescendo as It Is Written speaker/director John Bradshaw presented Revelation Today, a monthlong study of many of the major themes of the Bible. Conducted in partnership with more than 20 local churches and companies, the city of Edmonton experienced an exciting harvest, the result of several years of careful sowing and cultivation. Four new church plants have been established, two of which worked directly with the series.
“While Edmonton is known as a difficult city to reach with the gospel, we’ve seen here an openness, a strong response to the invitation to know and accept Jesus,” Bradshaw said. “The churches have been working for some time, and the seeds that have been sown are starting to grow for the Lord.”
Yves Monnier, director of evangelism at It Is Written, was encouraged by the strong emphasis on planting new churches in Edmonton. “Many of those attending Revelation Today will become involved with the new church plants,” he reported. “We hope each church will have more than 100 members.”
During the first week of the Revelation Today meetings, Fountainview Academy Orchestra and singers from the British Columbia Conference entertained seminar guests with music performances. During the day, students visited Edmonton’s Light Rail Transit stations and invited people to attend the series: others were invited through street ministries in Edmonton. Several people attended Revelation Today on the strength of these invitations alone.
Keith LaRoy, outreach coordinator in Edmonton, managed a team of seven full-time Bible workers and assisting pastors and churches during this three-year project. He feels that the Revelation Today series came at the perfect time in Edmonton.
“This city is young and affluent compared to the national average. As a result, the vast majority of folks are just not interested in spiritual things,” LaRoy said. “Politically, economically, socially, religiously, this series could not have been better timed. We sense that God is trying to get people’s attention in this city.”
Bible study enrollment cards were distributed throughout Edmonton, and more than 300 people have been baptized.
Many of the Bible workers reported providential, positive experiences. Many encouraging testimonies about the activity of the Holy Spirit were heard throughout the series.
A Bible worker responding to a request for Bible studies was immediately buzzed into an apartment building when he stopped to visit. He was confused when a woman handed him a $20 bill. The woman he met was confused because he didn’t have the Chinese food she had ordered! When the misunderstanding was corrected, she began Bible studies and started preparing to for baptism.
A woman who received a Bible study enrollment card began taking Bible studies and attended the meetings, the first time she has ever attended anything related to the Bible. Her husband, a self-proclaimed nonbeliever, also attended. A man who mailed in an It Is Written Bible study request card decided against pursuing the studies, and told the Bible worker he wasn’t interested in attending Revelation Today. However, he showed up on opening night with his whole family and attended the meetings every night.
One Bible worker struck up a conversation with a man he was sitting next to in a public library. Eventually they started studying the Bible together. The young man not only attended the series, but also helped with registration as a volunteer. As spring heralds new life, so new life is being experienced by many who responded to the invitation to know Jesus personally.
One of the great challenges facing Christians is not necessarily what they believe, but how they live.
Living in the Holy Spirit’s Power
By Mark A. Finley
One of the great challenges facing Christians is not necessarily what they believe, but how they live. Beliefs are important, because what we believe shapes our understanding of life and leads to changes in our lifestyle. Biblical truths, rightly understood, change our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. If our beliefs make little difference in how we live, we have misunderstood their purpose. In this month’s lesson we will discover how the Holy Spirit empowers us to live godly lives by applying the truths we believe to our daily lives.
1 Compare Isaiah 42:1-4 and Matthew 12:18-21. Describe the impact of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ life and ministry.
Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35), ministered in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14), and faced the temptations of Satan in the wilderness in the strength of the Spirit (Matt. 4:1). Jesus lived a Spirit-filled life and invites us to do the same.
2 What effect does the Holy Spirit have on our daily lives? Read Romans 8:11-14.
A careful reading of these verses reveals that the Holy Spirit does three very practical things for each believer. First, the Spirit gives us spiritual life (verse 11). Second, the Holy Spirit enables us to triumph over the inclinations and desires of the flesh (verse 13). Third, the Holy Spirit leads us to the reality that even while living in this world we are children of God (verse 14).
3 Read Ephesians 3:14-21. What was Paul’s great longing for the believers in Ephesus? What role did he see the Holy Spirit playing in their lives?
4 Read Galatians 3:1-5. What was the apostle’s concern with the church at Galatia? What tragic mistake did some Galatian Christians make? How can we apply Paul’s counsel to our own lives?
Evidently some Christians in Galatia were attempting to live their Christian lives in their own strength rather than in the power of the Holy Spirit. Any attempt to face the temptations of the evil one in our own strength is doomed to failure. Battling evil in the Holy Spirit’s power ensures victory.
5 What do the following Bible writers tell us about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of each believer?
Read James 4:5; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 3:24.
6 What did Jesus say is one of the functions of the Holy Spirit? Read John 14:17; 16:13.
The Holy Spirit leads us to understand the truth about Jesus and His Word. The Spirit guides us into an understanding of the Bible and the truths it contains. The Spirit works within us to live in harmony with those eternal truths. We can praise God that His Spirit not only guides us into all truth, but strengthens us so we can apply these truths to our lives.
Our hearts can rejoice that the One who reveals truth changes our lives through the truth He reveals, so we can represent His love before our friends and neighbors. It is one thing to know truth; it is quite another to have our hearts broken by the Holy Spirit and our lives transformed through His power to live in us.
Invite the Holy Spirit into your life today. Ask Him to strengthen you to live the truth you believe.
The answer to your question is somewhat technical because it involves issues of Hebrew syntax and grammar.
The Difference Between Wealth and Desire
The answer to your question is somewhat technical because it involves issues of Hebrew syntax and grammar. For a long time this passage was considered a messianic prophecy, announcing the coming of the Messiah. But most Bible commentators have given up this reading of the text, as reflected in more recent translations. I will try to explain some of the difficulties of the text, and offer arguments to support one of the translations.
1. The Problem: In Hebrew the verb translated “they will come” is in the third person, masculine/feminine, plural. The noun translated “wealth/desire” (khemdat) is feminine singular. There is no agreement between the number of the verb (plural) and the noun (singular). This means that “desire/wealth” could hardly be the subject of the verb. So the best translation may not be “and the desire . . . will come.”
There is a second problem: The noun khemdat could be translated as “desire” or as “valuable, precious.” How do we decide which one is correct for this passage? These problems open the door for different interpretations and translations.
2. Possible New Translations: To solve the problem of a singular noun versus a plural verb it has been suggested that the noun “desire/wealth” has a collective sense. In other words, it is singular in form but plural in meaning. This is a possible solution, but the translation “the desirable things/the wealth of the nations will come [to the temple]” is unclear. Others find the suggestion too weak and prefer to follow the Greek translation, in which the Hebrew noun was translated as plural. In this case the Hebrew khemdat is changed to khamudot (plural). Notice that only the vowels were changed. This is also a possible solution, but since it emends the Hebrew text, it is not “desirable.”
Such difficulties have led others to argue that the best translation should be “They [the nations] will come/bring the wealth of all the nations.” This is a little better. But the question is whether khemdat means “desire” or “wealth.” They argue that “wealth” is supported contextually because it is specifically mentioned in the next verse (verse 8). So the Lord is promising His people that the nations will, as an act of homage to Him, provide financial resources needed for the construction of the temple (see Isa. 60:5; Zech. 14:14, 17).
3. The Desire of the Nations: I suggest that it is better to work with the Hebrew text as we have it, and render it as follows: “They [all the nations mentioned in Haggai 2:7] will come to the desire of all the nations, and I will fill this temple with glory [the glory of the Messiah].”
Let me explain. First, the noun khemdat designates what is of value, and therefore desirable. It not only applied to things but also to Israelite kings as the “desire” of the people, i.e., the king they want (1 Sam. 9:20; contrast 2 Chron. 21:20; cf. Dan. 9:23; 10:11, 19). Second, contextually Haggai 2:7 is preceded by a description of a manifestation of God (a theophany) that shakes the cosmos, including, in a particular way, the nations of the earth. God is coming with power, and the result is that the nations will find in the Messiah the true desire of their hearts. Third, the reference to gold and silver in Haggai 2:8 indicates that for the Lord these things are not that important. What is important is that His glory, manifested in the Messiah, will fill the new temple and result in peace (verse 9). Fourth, the combination of a theophany and a messianic prophecy is also found in Haggai 2:21-23. The powerful presence of God that shakes the cosmos is used to introduce another messianic prophecy. Zerubbabel, who was of royal descent, was a prototype of the new David, the coming Messiah, who will become the “signet of God,” i.e., He will have royal authority as the chosen servant of God (Haggai 2:23).
May Christ continue to be the Desire of our hearts!
Prior to his retirement, Angel Manuel Rodríguez was director of the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference.
Seventh-day Adventists have long looked to our pioneers for inspiration.
The Spirit of ’63
The First General Conference Session
By David Trim
Seventh-day Adventists have long looked to our pioneers for inspiration. As we prepare for the sixtieth General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas, United States, in July 2015, there are lessons to learn and points of inspiration to take from the first, founding session 152 years ago, when Seventh-day Adventist leaders met in Battle Creek, Michigan, in May 1863.
That expression, “Seventh-day Adventist leaders met,” sounds so simple. But just 32 months earlier it could not have been said. For it was only as recently as October 1, 1860, at an earlier meeting in Battle Creek, that believers had agreed “that we call ourselves Seventh-day Adventists.” Before then, the term Seventh-day Adventist had been used as often by enemies, as a term of abuse, as by the few members of the yet-unorganized movement that had emerged after the Great Disappointment of 1844, based on belief in the seventh-day Sabbath, in conditional immortality, and in the high-priestly ministry of Jesus Christ in the heavenly sanctuary.
At that 1860 meeting it took four days of debate to reach a consensus that if God’s remnant people formally organized their local churches and adopted a common name for themselves, they would not be retreating into Babylon. But those few steps were as far as Adventists would go. The prospect of any organization above the local congregation was unacceptable.
Conferences and General Conference Yet, remarkably, within two and a half years Seventh-day Adventists in Michigan, Iowa, Vermont, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and New York had organized seven separate associations of churches into what they calledRELUCTANT LEADER: James White, a founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was elected president at the first General Conference in 1863, but turned it down. Above, right: IT’S OFFICIAL: Handwritten credentials for J. N. Andrews from the 1864 General Conference session. conferences—two in Iowa, one covering Illinois and Wisconsin, the others each covering one state; then the two in Iowa merged into one. But what was recognized by many Seventh-day Adventists was that, in effect, this meant there were six Seventh-day Adventist denominations—not one. So in March 1863 James White, the unofficial (but undisputed) leader of Seventh-day Adventists, published, in the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, the journal that bound the widely scattered believers together (usually known then simply as the Review and Herald and today as the Adventist Review), a call for a “General Conference.”
The term general conference had been used by the Millerites in the early 1840s; indeed, Joseph Bates had been chair of one such conference. In the 1850s the seventh-day Sabbathkeeping Adventists used the term for meetings that were open to all adherents of the Sabbatarians’ distinctive doctrines—that is, a conference, or meeting, that was general rather than local. However, by 1860 several Protestant denominations in the United States were using the term conference for a permanent association of congregations, and it was this use that the state conferences had borrowed. Moreover, Mennonites, Baptists, and Methodists, used general conference for an association of such conferences. Seventh-day Adventists, many of them former Baptists and Methodists, would have been aware of this use.
Still, James White’s announcement in the March 10, 1863, issue of the Review probably seemed to some Sabbatarians to be calling just another general meeting, though it did hint that important matters of common interest might be discussed. He wrote: “We recommend that the General Conference be held in connection with the Michigan State Conference at Battle Creek, as early as such a gathering can be convened. . . . We suppose that it would be the pleasure of the brethren in other States, and the Canadas, to send to the General Conference either delegates or letters setting forth their opinion of the best course of action, and their requests of the Conference.”
White suggested late May as the best time, and soon after a date was agreed upon.
The First Day of the First Session
So it was, on Wednesday, May 20, 1863, that 20 leaders of the embryonic Seventh-day Adventist movement gathered in Battle Creek. Some arrived only during the course of the day, so it was not until 6:00 p.m. that they assembled in the Second Seventh-day Adventist Meeting House in Battle Creek.
There were 18 delegates from five of the six existing state conferences: Michigan, New York, Illinois and Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. The Vermont Conference (which included churches from across the Canadian border in Quebec) dispatched no delegates to Battle Creek, but two delegates were sent from the Seventh-day Adventist churches in Ohio, which had yet to organize into a conference. Also present were a number of members of the Battle Creek church, who were not official delegates of the Michigan Conference but interested observers of the proceedings. All the official delegates were men, though at least one woman, Ellen White, was among the locals who attended as onlookers. Two official delegates were laypersons, holding no ministerial credentials—and constituted two-thirds of the General Conference’s very first Nominating Committee!
The 20 delegates’ first action was to elect a temporary chair and secretary. The chair was Jotham M. Aldrich; the secretary, Uriah Smith. Aldrich was 35 and had only become a Sabbatarian Adventist in 1860; Smith was just 31 and, remarkably, was not a delegate, but one of the observers from Battle Creek. These two facts tell us something about the founders of our church. Many of them were young, and they were pragmatic. Where they saw talent, they would use it to spread the third angel’s message.
Having elected a chair and secretary, delegates and onlookers then joined in singing hymn number 233, “Long Upon the Mountains,” by Annie R. Smith, from the hymnbook James White had published in 1861 (itself a revision of a hymnal he had first printed in 1849). Then John N. Loughborough, of Michigan; Charles O. Taylor, of New York; and Isaac Sanborn, of Wisconsin, were chosen as a committee to inspect and verify the credentials of the delegates. This tells us something else about the men who founded the General Conference: they liked to sing hymns, and they valued proper procedure and committees. Some characteristics of our church go back to our very origins!
Delegates then duly presented their credentials for approval. None of the originals survive, though credentials for the 1864 session do survive, and one is pictured. Once the General Conference’s first committee had completed its business (which, with only 20 sets of credentials to review, could not have taken very long), the session adjourned until the following morning.
Founding the General Conference
The next day, Thursday, May 21, 1863, was the big day. The first step was the selection of eight men to draft a constitution: Sanborn, of Wisconsin; Loughborough and Joseph H. Waggoner, of Michigan; John N. Andrews and Nathan Fuller, of New York; B. F. Snook, of Iowa; Washington Morse, of Minnesota; and H. F. Baker, of Ohio. They reported back so promptly that some preliminary work must have been done before the session and the constitution was then approved unanimously. The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists was thus formally founded. More than a periodic meeting, it was a permanent association that would have annual sessions, with a constitution, three officers (president, secretary, and treasurer), and an executive committee.
Elections were then held. John Byington was eventually elected president (and took the chair from Aldrich); Eli Walker (another Battle Creek local who was not a Michigan Conference delegate) was voted in as treasurer; and Uriah Smith was chosen as secretary. George Amadon, a Michigander, and John Andrews were elected to make up the executive committee with Byington. A committee was then formed (J. N. Loughborough, I. Sanborn, W. H. Brinkerhoff, J. M. Aldrich, and W. Morse) to draft a model constitution for all state conferences and the session then adjourned until Saturday night, May 23. Meeting after sunset, delegates approved the model constitution (which all conferences that wished to join the General Conference would have to adopt), and set up another committee (White, Andrews, and Smith) to report back to the 1864 session on rules for local churches to follow when organizing. Then the 1863 session concluded. Whereas the “general conference” late in 1860 had lasted four full days, the first GC session transacted its business in one full day plus two short evening meetings.
Honesty, love and humility
The fact that so much was achieved in such short time is striking, for our pioneers were capable of blunt, plainspoken debate when they disagreed. When they differed, they said so straightforwardly. But our forefathers’ tendency to express themselves frankly shouldn’t be misunderstood.
On the first day of the 1860 conference James White began his first speech by addressing the chair, which was proper parliamentary procedure; but he did so in a unique way. For the chair was Joseph Bates, whom White had known for 20 years. These were his opening words: “Brother Chairman (you will permit me to call you brother chairman as Mr. is so exceedingly cold).” White’s use of “Brother Chairman” instead of the orthodox “Mr. Chairman” reflects that our founders had invested everything in the Great Second Advent movement. They were bound together by bonds of deep affection. At times, they disagreed with each other vigorously, but they sang hymns and prayed together, too.
There was less debate in 1863 than in 1860, partly because a Christlike spirit prevailed, but partly because delegates had largely reached consensus on key points before they arrived. Reporting in the next issue of the Review, Uriah Smith wrote with satisfaction: “Perhaps no previous meeting that we have ever enjoyed was characterized by such unity of feeling and harmony of sentiment. In all the important steps taken at this Conference . . . there was not a dissenting voice, and we . . . doubt if there was even a dissenting thought.”
This was one reason so much was accomplished in just over a day. Surely, too, as suggested earlier, some of the eight members of the constitution committee had done some drafting in advance. That was entirely proper, for all those who met at Battle Creek in 1863 knew that they needed to be more united and more organized, if, in words they voted on May 23, 1863, “the great work of disseminating light upon the commandments of God, the faith of Jesus, and the truths connected with the third angel’s message” was to be accomplished. As the preamble to the General Conference constitution stated, it was founded: “For the purpose of securing unity and efficiency in labor, and promoting the general interests of the cause of present truth.”
From this we learn something else about our founders: Whatever the debates of the 1850s, by 1863 they were clear: they needed to be united if they were to fulfill their divinely assigned mission. This mission was truly uppermost in their minds, rather than personal factors. We can be confident of this because, Uriah Smith’s comments notwithstanding, there was one moment of disagreement in 1863.
James White was unanimously chosen president, but he declined to serve. After a considerable time spent in discussion, the believers urging reasons why he should accept the position, and he why he should not, his resignation was finally accepted, and John Byington elected as president in his stead.
No reason was given why James White refused, but we can guess, I think. He had championed organization for several years and surely wanted it to be clear that he had done so because it was what the movement needed, not so that he could become president. With Ellen White as his wife, he almost certainly also wanted to avoid any comparison to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young of the Mormons, presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. but also self-
proclaimed prophets. White’s personal qualities were never better displayed than in this moment, arguing at length with his brethren so that they would not make him their leader. He put the unity and mission of the new denomination above all personal factors.
Between the session’s adjournment on Thursday evening and its resumption on Saturday night, Adventist leaders turned to their favorite activity: evangelism. On Friday, May 22, the Michigan Conference’s evangelistic tent (what later generations of Adventists would call a “big tent”) “was erected on the green” near the Review and Herald office, as Uriah Smith reported. Eight evangelistic meetings were held, with delegates participating, broken by a church service on Sabbath, May 23, also held in the Second Meeting House. The session’s proceedings finally concluded with a baptism of eight new believers on the morning of Sunday, May 24.
Here is a last point about our founders. They valued committees, parliamentary procedure, and organization, but only as means to an end. The end they had in sight was the end of time, and the second coming of Christ, and a reaping of the harvest.
The Spirit of ’63
The spirit of ’63 is still relevant for Seventh-day Adventists as we look forward to the sixtieth session in San Antonio, and to the future of the Great Second Advent movement. We need the same commitment to unity and to mission; we need to continue to follow proper, well-established procedures; and we need the same willingness to utilize all church members, finding ways to affirm all their talents and commitment.
We need, too, the same willingness to speak plainly to each other; but we also need the same love for each other, as brothers and sisters in Christ; and the same willingness to put the prophetic mission of this church above any considerations of self.
Without these characteristics, the General Conference would not have been founded in 1863; without them, our church would not have expanded around the world. And only if we have them, and have strong personal relationships with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, will we be able to fulfill the prophetic mission God gave to Seventh-day Adventists, who united for mission at the first General Conference session in 1863.
David Trim is director of the General Conference Department of Archives, Statistics, and Research in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.
A great work is committed to those who present the truth in Europe.
Giving Our All
Counsel on early mission work in Europe can inspire us today.
By Ellen G. White
A great work is committed to those who present the truth in Europe. No branch of our work has a more important field that the Central European Mission. There are France and Germany, with their great cities and teeming population. There are Italy, Spain, and Portugal, after so many centuries of darkness, freed from Romish tyranny, and opened to the Word of God—opened to receive the last message of warning to the world. There are Holland, Austria, Romania, Turkey, Greece, and Russia, the home of millions upon millions, whose souls are as precious in the sight of God as our own, who know nothing of the special truths for this time. The population comprised within the limits of this mission alone is four times that of the United States.
A good work has already been done in these countries. There are those who have received the truth, scattered as light-bearers in almost every land. We have nearly three hundred Sabbathkeepers in Switzerland. There are little companies in France, Germany, and Italy, and two hundred souls in Russia, who are obeying God’s law; and there is a church of forty members away in the far east, almost to the line of Asia. The foundation has been laid for a church in Holland. In Romania and Corsica there are a few who are seeking to keep God’s commandments, and to wait for His Son from heaven. . . .
Obstacles to Overcome
There will be obstacles to retard this work. These we have had to meet wherever missions have been established. Lack of experience, imperfections, mistakes, unconsecrated influences, have had to be overcome. How often have those hindered the advancement of the cause in America! We do not expect to meet fewer difficulties in Europe.
Some connected with the work in these foreign fields, as in America, become disheartened, and, following the course of the unworthy spies, bring a discouraging report. Like the discontented weaver, they are looking at the wrong side of the web. They cannot trace the plan of the Designer; to them all is confusion, and instead of waiting till they can discern the purpose of God, they hastily communicate to others their spirit of doubt and darkness.
But we have no such report to bring. After a two years’ stay in Europe we see no more reason for discouragement in the state of the cause there than at its rise in the different fields in America. There we saw the Lord testing the material to be used. Some would not bear the proving of God. They would not be hewed and squared.
Every stroke of the chisel, every blow of the hammer, aroused their anger and resistance. They were laid aside, and other material was brought in, to be tested in like manner. All this occasioned delay. Every fragment broken away was regretted and mourned over. Some thought that these losses would ruin the building; but, on the contrary, it was rendered stronger by the removal of these elements of weakness. The work went steadily forward. Every day made it plainer that the Lord’s hand was guiding all, and that a grand purpose ran through the work from first to last. So we see the cause being established in Europe.
One of the great difficulties there is the poverty that meets us at every turn. This retards the progress of the truth, which, as in earlier ages, usually finds its first converts among the humbler classes. Yet we had a similar experience in our own country, both east and west of the Rocky Mountains. Those who first accepted this message were poor, but as they set to work in faith to accomplish what they could with their talents of ability and means, the Lord came in to help. In His providence He brought men and women into the truth who were willing-hearted; they had means, and they wanted to send the light to others. So it will be now. But the Lord would have us labor earnestly in faith till that time comes.
The word has gone forth to Europe, “Go forward.” The humblest toiler for the salvation of souls is a laborer together with God, a coworker with Christ. Angels minister unto him. As we advance in the opening path of His providence, God will continue to open the way before us. The greater the difficulties to be overcome, the greater will be the victory gained. . . .
God is the source of life and light and joy to the universe. Like rays of light from the sun, blessings flow out from Him to all the creatures He has made. In His infinite love He has granted men the privilege of becoming partakers of the divine nature, and, in their turn, of diffusing blessings to their fellow-men. This is the highest honor, the greatest joy, that it is possible for God to bestow upon men. Those are brought nearest to their Creator who thus become participants in labors of love. He who refuses to become a “laborer together with God”—the man who for the sake of selfish indulgence ignores the wants of his fellow-men, the miser who heaps up his treasures here—is withholding from himself the richest blessing that God can give him.
Brethren, “ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” As we recount the numberless mercies of our God, and meditate upon His matchless love; as we behold the wonderful sacrifice of the Redeemer, may gratitude awaken in our hearts, till it shall kindle a flame of sacred love that shall flow out to souls even in far-off Europe.
This is taken from the article “Our Missions in Europe,” published in Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Dec. 6, 1887. Seventh-day Adventists believe that Ellen G. White (1827-1915) exercised the biblical gift of prophecy during more than 70 years of public ministry.
In religion—as in love—there is no enduring relationship without admiration.
In Awe of You
True belief begins with a Creator we can look up to
By Marcos Paseggi
In religion—as in love—there is no enduring relationship without admiration. Just for a moment, put yourself in the shoes of a wife-to-be. You find your fiancé amusing, attractive, and talented. You are positive that sticking to him will substantially improve your prospects in life. People consider him “a good catch.”
Yet, imagine deep down that you despise him. Nobody knows it but you. It may be the condescending way he treats you. Or that he is conceited or snobbish. Or that he has all his priorities wrong. The cause is not important. But the fact is that you despise him. Even when you smile at him and call him “honey.” And there is nothing you can do about it.
Well, chances are your relationship is bound for failure.
Without admiration, love is a sham. You may go through the motions, do “the right thing,” but never reach that stage when love springs up naturally and forcefully.
In church terms, you are part of the faithful few who never miss a church service, or a meeting, or a program. But you are there out of fear, or a sheer sense of duty. You may not be better than a sizable chunk of Jesus’ contemporaries, who in their forced obedience misrepresented “the character of God,” and caused “the world to look upon Him as a tyrant.”
If we truly believe in a God whose utmost desire is “to make His children happy,” there must be a better way of relating to Him. And while there are various avenues, one way would be when we learn to admire the fruits of His workmanship (see Rom. 1:20).
Throughout history a sense of awe before what we cannot fully apprehend has often triggered great inventions, discoveries, and theories. Just think of Galileo or Newton. But without an overarching frame of reference, our best creative efforts, marred by our sin-tinted glasses, may very soon take us adrift from the Creator. We begin to worship pitiable “gods” of our own making.
Consider the ancient Greeks: In deep awe before phenomena they were not able to rationally explain, they created the most intricate universe of revenge-thirsty, lust-driven incestuous gods, a pathetic lookalike of mere human beings who pursue their own twisted ways.
Our worship loyalties are often misdirected and contradictory. Indeed, there is no wisdom in praising “the wisdom of Mother Nature.” And certainly no kindness in celebrating “the kindness of Mother Earth.” Awe in itself is as pointless as trying to quench our thirst by memorizing the properties of water. Without an underlying “metanarrative”—which for Seventh-day Adventists is the great controversy theme—we are bound to eventually conclude that our best efforts are nothing but “utter futility” and “pursuit of wind” (Eccl. 1:2, 14, Tanakh). And once again, we may end up misplacing our awe in fleeting fruits of our own hands.
The Wonder of It All
We live in a time when devotion tends to be too narrow. Our hearts jump at the last technological gadget, while we blindly run past the wonders of the natural world, the amazing workings of our bodies, and the mind-boggling vastness of the universe. Constantly surrounded by miraculous wonders, we resign ourselves to secondhand, lackluster experiences instead.
Have you ever read Matthew 6:29—“Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of [the lilies of the field]”—and thought Jesus was exaggerating a little? Have you ever thought of King Solomon as a wise judge and a clever statesman, while ignoring his description of trees, birds, creeping things, and fish (1 Kings 4:33)? Have you ever considered Ellen G. White’s famous statement—“ ‘God is love’ is written upon every opening bud, upon every spire of springing grass”—just as a “nice” metaphor?
As “the Sea of Faith” steadily retreats to “the vast drear edges . . . of the world,” those who still dare to voice their trust in an Almighty Creator find themselves too often entangled in apologetics, to the detriment of a proactive approach to God’s workmanship. But as a joyous people who “look for new heavens and a new earth” (2 Peter 3:13), we are called to reflect on the pristine state of the Creator’s creation and His ongoing care of the natural world as a way of announcing the restoration to come.
Worshipping the Creator
The last book of the Bible seems to zero in on the messages of the three angels (Rev. 14:6-12). Those messages are to be proclaimed by the Lord’s messengers, those “upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11). But even those solemn last warnings are driven by a clear-cut call to “worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water” (Rev. 14:7).
This single injunction may be the most important in God’s final call. Because without a primal acknowldgement of a Creator, there is hardly any use in sharing the rest of the messages. Everything else—from the announcement of the judgment to the fall of Babylon to the command not to worship the beast—is mirrored in that first Creation week, when God made everything “very good” (Gen. 1:31). It is to this ideal we must often look back, and even more often point toward.
Reclaiming the Wonder
As we strive to reclaim our battered sense of awe, we may find that in God’s creation, big answers are often found in the simplest pleasures in life. God still draws us to Himself through “the sunshine and the rain,” “the hills and seas and plains.” He does talk to us through “lovely birds,” “delicately tinted flowers,” and “lofty trees.”
So, I invite you to go for a walk in the park, caress your favorite pet, play with a chubby baby, or work in your garden. You could also take some scenic pictures, prepare your favorite natural recipe, or stare at the sunset. As you do it, do not forget to admire the infinite wisdom of the One “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Tim. 6:17, NIV), and who, very soon, according to His promise, will “make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). Then our awe will be eternal.
Marcos Paseggi is a pastor, translator, and author living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.