If we can find creative, engaging, and practical ways to offer Sabbath to people in our communities, we will likely find people who will want to share it with us. And we might well rediscover our calling to “speak of [the Sabbath] with delight as the Lord’s holy day” (Isa. 58:13, NLT).
In the November, 2015 issue of The Victorian Writer, author Andrea Goldsmith describes the challenges as a writer of trying to concentrate and focus in a world of too much information, “too much of everything all of the time.” She expresses her longing “for an off-switch or a safety overload-switch.”
Complaining about this to a Jewish friend, she was reminded of their shared childhood practice of Sabbath. Her article narrates her experimentation with turning off her phone and other devices and deciding not to check her e-mail on Saturdays, choosing instead to live a day each week disconnected and at a slower pace. Her conclusion? “To anyone who wants to reclaim an interior life, who wants quiet and extended periods of creative reflection, I would recommend you take a digital-free day each week. Those of you born into the digital world won’t know yourself, while older people will recognize a self from long ago, one you’ll welcome back—with relief.”
Probably both Goldsmith’s feelings of being overloaded—at least some of the time—and the Sabbath practice she rediscovered are familiar to us. But often our “busy-ness” is not something we give up easily.
A series of psychological experiments conducted at the United States’ University of Virginia in 2014 tested participants with periods of six to 15 minutes sitting alone in an unadorned room without distractions. They didn’t like it. Rather than sit in silence, two-thirds of the male participants, aged between 18 and 77, chose to self-administer electric shocks. They preferred experiencing something unpleasant to being left alone with their own thoughts.
Interestingly, the lead researcher did not necessarily blame modern phones and gadgets for this uneasiness, instead seeing the ubiquity and dominance of such devices as filling the human need to keep ourselves—and particularly our minds—perpetually busy.
That’s why Sabbath is a spiritual discipline, and perhaps why we so quickly fill even our Sabbaths with so many other activities, whether church-focused or otherwise. Even at the same time that we resent their intrusion and recognize the damage that “too much of everything all the time” does to us and to those around us.
So here’s one idea how we might be able to help each other experience a little of Sabbath as part of our worship services and perhaps other church programs: Let’s set up a phone check-in service in our church foyers, encouraging worshippers and participants to disengage their attention—and even detach physically—from their phones or other devices for the duration of the program.
This would, of course, be voluntary, and it would respect the fact that some participants have legitimate needs to be on call. The check-in system would have to protect the security and privacy of these devices. And no, Bible use is not an excuse: simply make printed copies of Bibles available as part of the service. A growing body of research shows that people read better, closer, and deeper when reading from printed pages, rather than on screens. Such an idea would likely feel unconformable for many of us, and even be resisted by some. But that demonstrates its benefit. And with time and practice, it might be something we experience with growing appreciation.
If visiting a church in Southeast Asia, we would find a large rack at the front door, where worshippers are expected to remove their shoes and place them in a pigeonhole before entering to worship. It’s cultural, of course. When entering a temple or pagoda anywhere in these countries, one is expected to remove their shoes as a sign of respect for a holy place. But such an act is also a marker of entering into a different kind of time and experience.
The same opportunity comes with the invitation to let go of our phones and devices, if only for an hour. When we loosen our grip on them, we might realize the grip they have on us and begin to break that grasp. In a world dominated by screens, Sabbath and worship are invitations to a more human kind of interaction and pace; to a deeper kind of “delight,” something to which we might increasingly find worth in inviting others.
Nathan Brown is book editor at Signs Publishing in Warburton, Victoria, Australia.
My husband and I have difficulty managing our conflicts. We knew marriage would be difficult. Ours, however, has turned out to be much more difficult than either of us anticipated. Sometimes our anger spills out in front of the children. Can you share something to help us do a better job of dealing with our differences? —Diane, Honolulu, Hawaii
Real Family Talk
by Willie and Elaine Oliver
What should married people do if they fall in love with someone else?
Your question leads us to assume you are speaking about external qualities that reduce love to a feeling, an experience, or a moment in time. The media have led us to believe that “falling in love” is that feeling of butterflies in your stomach that makes you want to smile, skip, and sing sweet melodies. Truth be told, that’s not being “in love”; that’s infatuation. Let’s examine what true love really is.
Real love pushes past fleeting emotions, digs in its heels, rolls up its sleeves, and gets ready to hang in there “in sickness and in health, for better or worse, in good times and in sorrow.” Remember those vows?
To be sure, we are not speaking about being in an abusive relationship, but in a relatively healthy relationship where you have been taking each other for granted and things have been allowed to become mundane. This is often why people say they are no longer in love with their spouse, or that they have fallen in love with someone else.
Our culture places a high value on falling in love, but not on staying in love. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, the apostle Paul reminds us about true love. All the ingredients for having a lasting, passionate, authentic relationship are found in this passage. Staying in love requires a strong commitment to working hard for the relationship and not giving up.
You may think you’re in love with someone else, because it’s easy to be “in love” with someone with whom you don’t have any “baggage,” someone with whom you haven’t experienced any challenges, or have had any hurdles or obstacles to overcome. You’re searching for those feelings you get when you first fall in love, and you think they can no longer be found in your spouse.
Here’s the good news: you can regain feelings of being in love with your spouse, and build a marriage that is stable and satisfying. First, you have to avoid contact with the person you think you’re in love with as much as possible. Then refocus your attention on your spouse. Remember how you felt when you first met. What attracted you to him or her? This should rekindle some of the emotions you initially felt for your spouse.
Feeling “in love” is nice, however, it’s most important for you to reframe your understanding of what it truly means to be in love. Love is a verb; it is an action. Start focusing on what you can do to be a better spouse, loving your spouse the way Christ loves you (see John 13:34). Examine your expectations and determine which ones are realistic, and which have to be discarded. Focus on working together as a team to fill in the gaps that inevitably appear in marriage.
Also, guard your heart, as the Bible implores us all to do. By nature, our hearts are desperately wicked; and as such they are likely lead us astray. When things are not going the way you imagined, talk to your spouse about your concern. Don’t look for someone else to make you feel better. Openly share your feelings of anger or disappointment (and joy) with your spouse. You will stay in love if your share with one another at a deeply intimate level.
So turn toward your spouse with all the energy and emotions you started to give to someone else. The feelings may not be there right away, but if you start today the feelings will follow tomorrow, or soon after. Trust God with your marriage. Ask Him to give you strength and courage to do the right thing for your marriage and your family. After all, marriage is meant to be a blessing to you, as well as to honor and glorify God. We are praying for your success.
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE, an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, and family sociologist, is director for Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, MA, CFLE, an educator and counseling psychologist, is associate director of Family Ministries. You may communicate with them at Family.Adventist.org or HopeTV.org/RealFamilyTalk.
All Bible references are from the English Standard Version.
Moses’ life is a story of God’s miraculous leading and providential guidance.
The Power of One
By Bill Knott
Nations. Ethnic identities. Tribes. Language groups. Political parties. Hobby clubs. And even congregations.
We are accustomed to thinking of our lives by our connections with so many larger groups, for this is how we are socialized in almost every culture. From birth we learn our identity as a citizen of a particular country, related to millions by our genetic heritage in a people group. We speak a language in common with many others. Sometimes we even “inherit” loyalties to political philosophies or sports teams.
This is by no means bad or wrong. Our connections with so many groups help us understand our place in the world, and provide us support when daily life feels overwhelming or we feel isolated. Certainly Jesus intended that we draw love and encouragement from the fellowship for which He gave His life—the gathered church that meets for worship, warmth, and witness.
But those group identities sometimes lead us to not hear the uniqueness of Jesus’ call to each of us as individuals to join in His great mission to reach those who still don’t know Him. When Jesus addressed His disciples with the Great Commission—“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19)—He wasn’t speaking only to the 12 or the 70 or the hundreds who saw Him after His resurrection. Nor was He speaking to them only as a group.
His call to make disciples is still the duty and the privilege of every believer who takes the name of Christ. Even 20 centuries later Jesus intended we hear it and respond in highly personal terms—where we work, in our play, with family and friends, when we mingle in crowds.
This special edition of Adventist World, the third of three introducing the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s major themes for this five-year span, invites you to find that arena of your life in which Jesus is calling you as an individual to be a servant, a witness, a helper, or a friend.
As you read, allow the Spirit unusual room to prompt and nudge and move you.
A quick and perceptive look at what's going on in the Seventh-day Adventist Church...
Vegan Diet Cuts Risk of Prostate Cancer
Loma Linda University Health releases new study.
By Andrew McChesney
Men who follow a vegan diet are a third less likely to develop prostate cancer, according to a new study by Loma Linda University Health. The study, published in the January 2016 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, saw a reduced risk in both White and possibly Black males who adhered to a vegan diet without meat, dairy, and eggs.
“If you are already a vegan male, be thankful that you will have a lower risk of prostate cancer,” said Dr. Gary Fraser, director of the study. “If you are not vegan, be aware that the lacto-ovo diet and the pesco-vegetarian diet did not give evidence of protection when compared to non-vegetarian Adventists.”
The study—a new analysis of 26,346 men who participated in the landmark Adventist Health Study-2—examined the association between prostate cancer and the diets of men who ate meat (nonvegetarians), some meat (semi-vegetarians), dairy and eggs but no meat (lacto-ovo vegetarians), only fish (pesco-vegetarians), and no animal products (vegans). Vegans differ from other dietary groups by consuming more fruit, vegetables, nuts, and soy. The other major difference is their nonuse of dairy and eggs.
“It would be reasonable to consider minimizing use of dairy products and maximizing fruit, vegetables, nuts, and soy—particularly if there is a family history of prostate cancer,” Fraser said. But, he cautioned, “this message about dairy is at the present time a logical deduction rather than a tested result.”
He said his team planned to soon put this message to the test directly and report on it.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men, accounting for 27 percent of all cancer cases among men, according to the American Cancer Society. But male subjects in the Adventist study experienced about one-third lower incidence of prostate cancer if they were vegan, said Loma Linda University Health, a Seventh-day Adventist institution located in southern California.
“In total, 1,079 incident prostate cancer cases were identified. Around 8 percent of the study population reported adherence to the vegan diet. Vegan diets showed a statistically significant protective association with prostate cancer risk,” said an abstract of the study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The precise relation between diet and prostate cancer is unclear. “Because people do not consume individual foods but rather foods in combination, the assessment of dietary patterns may offer valuable information when determining associations between diet and prostate cancer risk,” Loma Linda University Health said in an e-mailed statement.
But other recent studies have found a link between meat and cancer. An analysis from Adventist Health Study-2 published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine in March 2015 showed that a vegetarian diet might reduce a person’s risk of colorectal cancer by 22 percent. Previous work from Adventist Health Study-1 linked meat consumption to a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
The World Health Organization made international headlines last fall when it declared red meat and processed meat to be a cancer hazard.
Dr. Peter N. Landless, director of the Health Ministries Department of the Adventist world church, said the outcome of the latest study was not surprising. “There is robust evidence supporting the many benefits of a balanced plant-based/vegetarian diet,” Landless said in a statement. “It is interesting and exciting to see different protective properties of different diets, even among the various so-named vegetarian diets (total vegetarian or vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, and pesco-vegetarian).
“We see statistically significant protection against prostate cancer in the white vegan group of the AHS-2, with a nonsignificant trend among Black vegans, and wrestle with the protective benefit of dairy consumption regarding colorectal cancer. The epidemiologists and statisticians are facing almost as many questions as answers that are generated by various studies. There is no doubt that a meat-free diet is healthier than one that includes meat. We have long recommended that dairy products should be used sparingly and as a condiment, as it were.” Landless even posed the logical question that many might expect: “Why would we not just recommend a total vegetarian diet for all?”
“Human beings are dependent on dietary sources of vitamin B12; in many parts of the world, dairy is the only source of this essential vitamin for the vegetarian,” Landless said. “Where vitamin B12 is readily and affordably available, where adequate B12 fortification of dairy equivalents is practiced, the total vegetarian diet is very healthy. I strongly urge that all categories of vegetarian supplement their B12 intake, even more intentionally as they grow older, as B12 absorption processes slow down. The current study is a North American-based study; although the results are able to be extrapolated to a global population (White and Black males, as specified above), the socioeconomic circumstances cannot.” Landless summed up his response to Loma Linda University’s new report, saying: “As far as a general recommendation is concerned, we believe it safe and healthy to consume a balanced (supplemented), vegan diet; we urge those who consume dairy products to do so sparingly and use low- or no-fat preparations. We underscore that a balanced, plant-based diet is optimal. We strongly encourage supplementation of vitamin B12 as outlined above. These recommendations hold true for men and women. We keenly await more answers as the research unfolds.”
Division President Succumbs to Rare Disease
Asoy was elected to office just six months ago.
By Andrew McChesney
Leonardo R. Asoy, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD), died after a months-long struggle with a rare bone marrow disease. He was 56.
Asoy was elected SSD president at the General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas, in July 2015, replacing the ailing Alberto C. Gulfan, Jr., who died of cancer on September 26, 2015.
Asoy, who was hospitalized about two months after the General Conference session, died on January 12, 2016, at the Adventist Medical Center Manila, Philippines, from complications resulting from myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare disease in which the bone marrow is unable to produce adequate healthy blood cells.
Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, called Asoy “a dynamic promoter and supporter of evangelism.”
“He was a valiant guardian of the eternal truths of Scripture and the marvelous Advent movement God has entrusted into the hands of Seventh-day Adventists,” Wilson said.
He offered condolences to Asoy’s wife, Elma, and two adult children, Elnardz and Shawnette.
SSD’s executive secretary, Saw Samuel, has been appointed acting president until a new president is elected, in accordance with the General Conference’s Working Policy.
Leonardo Remulta Asoy was born on November 18, 1959, in Mindanao in southern Philippines, and graduated from the Adventist-owned Mountain View College in 1983 with a degree in theology. He first worked as a district pastor in Ozamis City in the church’s Western Mindanao Conference and later as its youth director from 1988 to 1990.
In 1990 he earned a master’s degree in pastoral studies from the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) in Cavite, Philippines. Whatever knowledge Asoy gained from his Adventist education, he returned hundredfold, friends said.
Felixian T. Felicitas, dean of the School of Theology at Mountain View College, recalled traveling with Asoy on numerous evangelism outings early in their 15-year friendship.
“On most of our trips, Pastor Asoy would turn our long travels into mentoring sessions,” Felicitas said. “At times he would park his blue pickup truck and we would sit in the back, resting. He would simply share his ministry experiences with me. Little did I know then that this was his own little way of teaching and mentoring me.”
Asoy served as president of the South Philippine Union Conference from 2011 until last year, turning it into one of the best-managed unions in the Adventist Church, said G. T. Ng, executive secretary of the Adventist world church and a friend of Asoy for more than two decades.
Ng said he would long remember the one day that Asoy briefly left the hospital to attend the opening of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division’s year-end meetings on November 6. Asoy had been confined to his hospital room for 47 days, but he made it a point to be discharged from the hospital in time to attend the morning worship of the opening session. “He spoke with resounding gusto, saying how grateful he was to be present in the midst of fellow leaders from the unions,” Ng said. “He was fully committed to the Lord and to the full restoration of health.”
Ng described Asoy’s life as “a celebration of piety, humility, zeal, and unflinching courage.” “Like the apostle Paul, he could say, ‘This one thing I do,’ in his lifelong commitment to the mission of the church,” he said. “Here is a valiant soldier of Christ waiting to see his Master face to face soon.”
My Straight A’s Friend, Bob Folkenberg
Remembering the late General Conference president.
By Jim Gilley, evangelist and former 3ABN president
It was a strange place to begin a friendship.
Bob Folkenberg and I were very nervous as we stood in line waiting for our final grades before graduation from Andrews University in 1962. Bob shared with me his reason for concern. “I’ve made straight A’s on every report card since the first grade. But I am concerned about this last report card, because I may have slipped to a B in Greek II with Blazen,” he said, referring to Ivan Blazen, the professor of Greek and New Testament.
I shook my head in mock sympathy. I also was worried, but my concern was whether or not I had passed Greek I. All I needed was a passing grade. When Bob received his grade, he jumped, nearly hitting the ceiling, and shouted, “Whoopee, an A!” Then he ran down the hall. Wow, well done! I thought. Straight A’s since first grade!
Bob was long gone when I received my grade and erupted in similar celebration, announcing “Whoopee, a D!” with even more exuberance. We went on to graduate that weekend, Bob with honors, and I—just barely! Both of us were eagerly looking forward to embracing that which the Lord had given us a love for: sharing Jesus with the lost.
A Heart for Evangelism
The next thing I knew, Bob was the singing evangelist for the Roger Holley evangelistic team in the Columbia Union. And because no one else would take the job, they made me the Southern New England Conference evangelist.
Bob learned evangelism from Roger Holley, a man who had studied at the feet of Fordyce Detamore, who knew more than anyone about the “science of soul winning,” as the pen of inspiration calls it. And Bob learned it well during his two years with the team from 1964 to 1966. When he left Pastor Holley to accept a call to the Inter-American Division, the practical knowledge God had blessed him with proved key to the unprecedented growth of that division. “Thousands were baptized because Bob had the faith to hold big meetings for the Lord,” evangelist Kenneth Cox told me.
Cox, working with evangelist Benny Moore, held evangelistic meetings with Bob in Panama, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. “Anytime we had an opening, Bob would ask for our team to come,” recalled Moore.
Bob served as evangelist for the Panama Conference, then as president of the Honduras Mission and president of the Central American Union. Soon he was elected assistant to the president of the Inter-American Division, where his emphasis was on evangelism.
In 1985 Bob returned to the United States with his wife, Anita, and two children, Bob, Jr., and Kathi, to serve as president of the Carolina Conference. The Carolina Conference soon led the Southern Union and North America in soul winning. Bob often called me, and we would discuss some new soul-winning idea that he had, always on the cutting edge of technology. I was amazed at his great personal energy and his total commitment to spreading the gospel.
A Miracle at the 1990 General Conference Session
In 1990 I was chosen as a delegate to the General Conference session in Indianapolis, Indiana. When I arrived at the airport, I saw Richard Barron, a great youth leader who had also served as a conference president, and he said to me, “Gilley, there’s change in the air.”
He was so correct. I soon saw what he meant.
Only three people were chosen from the Southwestern Union Conference delegation to participate in the Nominating Committee, and miraculously I was one of them. Initially Bob was not chosen to represent the Southern Union Conference. But one of those selected to serve declined, and Bob was picked as the replacement—another miracle.
When the Nominating Committee was organized, Bob was quickly elected as chair, to the surprise of everyone. We immediately saw his strength with that committee, and it suddenly occurred to me that he could be nominated to the office of General Conference president.
I pointed this out to several people, and the next morning I told Bob that I thought that he would be asked to be president before the day was over. He looked at me as if stunned and said, “Jim, you’re the second person to tell me that this morning.”
But things didn’t go that way. The Nominating Committee ended up choosing George Brown, president of the Inter-American Division, as General Conference president. However, Brown declined the position after a time of prayerful consideration and because of his concerns about his wife’s health at the time.
When we reconvened, Charles Dudley arose and nominated Robert S. Folkenberg, Sr. Delegates on the floor elected Bob, and at the age of 49 he began his presidency at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Bob hit the ground running, putting Global Mission into action worldwide and adopting the suggestion of then-Lake Union Conference president Don Schneider and his committee to launch World Wide satellite evangelism in partnership with the Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN). The Seventh-day Adventist Church entered a time of great growth, with Bob leading the way in opening evangelism in the former Soviet Union and parts of the world known as the 10/40 window.
Problems arose during Bob’s second term of office, and he decided to resign in 1999. It was a dark time of his life. But the Lord still had much work for him to do.
Greatest Ministry Comes After GC
Bob returned to the Carolina Conference, where Ken Coonley, who had served as executive secretary during Bob’s presidency there, was now president. Bob began a project he called Global Evangelism but later changed to ShareHim, which organized lay members and youth to hold evangelistic meetings all over the world. ShareHim is owned and operated by the church as a department of the Carolina Conference, but is funded exclusively through direct donations.
The other day I contacted Benny Moore, who joined ShareHim after retiring from denominational work, to ask about the results of ShareHim under Bob’s leadership for the past 10 years. Not all totals are known. But ShareHim conducted almost 6,000 evangelistic series resulting in 300,000 baptisms in the 11 years from 2000 to 2011. An average of 50 people were baptized per series.
On December 24, 2015, Bob went to sleep in Jesus after a long struggle with cancer. When Bob, Jr., called to tell me, I was driving with my son, John, in my pickup. I stopped the truck and reflected on Bob’s life. I thought back to Andrews University and standing in line for our grades.
One day we will once again stand in line, and Bob will hear the words “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” Bob may have worried that he had slipped to a B, but once again I believe he made an A.
People with a great message to share like us do not have to be persuaded at all...
Sharing the Wealth
Are You the Millionaire Next Door?
By Ted N. C. Wilson
In 1996 university professor Thomas J. Stanley and his former student, William D. Danko published a book entitled The Millionaire Next Door. Their research-based work has sold more than 3 million copies and has become a classic on finances. In their book the authors explain that most truly wealthy people don’t live the way the rich are portrayed on television or in films: in big houses, driving fancy cars, dressed in expensive clothing. Instead, the truly rich live much more frugally, work hard, live in ordinary houses, and don’t continually give money to their adult children. It’s possible, they say, that people living next door to a millionaire may be unaware how wealthy their neighbor actually is.
But what about those who are spiritually wealthy? What about those who are sons and daughters of the King of the universe, the one who owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (Ps. 50:10)? What about those who “have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Cor. 4:7)?
Could it be that those with whom we come in contact, those living beside us, are unaware of the spiritual treasures God has bestowed upon His people for these last days to share this eternal wealth with others?
A Weighty Responsibility
“We have a message from the Lord to bear to the world, a message that is to be borne in the rich fullness of the Spirit’s power,” wrote Ellen White.1 “Upon us rests the weighty responsibility of warning the world of its coming doom. From every direction, from far and near, are coming calls for help. God calls upon His church to arise and clothe herself with power. Immortal crowns are to be won; the kingdom of heaven is to be gained; the world, perishing in ignorance, is to be enlightened.”2
Jesus challenged His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matt. 9:37). James admonishes believers to be “[doers] of the work” (James 1:25). Jesus Himself said, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).
I challenge you to become involved in the daily mission of the church far more than you ever have before. Pastors and lay members, young and old, are to work together in soul winning. We are counting on you! God is counting on you! Evangelism is the lifeblood of the church. All of us are to be in involved in it—through personal witnessing, small group evangelism, or public evangelism in its various forms—even if you think it won’t work in your area. Adapt your methods, but reach out. Do something for Jesus! Every effort under God’s guidance to reach the hearts of people will bear fruit. Let the Holy Spirit revolutionize your thinking. Take the church’s mission of outreach into your hands on a daily basis, working closely with church leaders and pastors. Let it be total participation, no one left out, everyone a missionary.
You Are God’s Messenger
You don’t need to be a minister in order to win people to Christ. Ellen White wrote: “Every one who names the name of Christ is expected by God to engage in this work. The hands of ordination may not have been laid upon you, but you are none the less God’s messengers. If you have tasted that the Lord is gracious, if you know His saving power, you can no more keep from telling this to someone else than you can keep the wind from blowing. You will have a word in season for him that is weary. You will guide the feet of the straying back to the fold. Your efforts to help others will be untiring, because God’s Spirit is working in you.”3
Let’s do something for Jesus and for others. Rather than look inward and criticize the local church and its activities, reach out to others for Christ, and don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t needed. Work closely with your pastor, local church, and conference. The Holy Spirit will empower you as heaven’s messenger to your neighborhood. As you work with Him revival and reformation will become something very personal and real.
That marvelous volume, Testimonies for the Church, volume 9, tells about our special work in Total Member Involvement. Note these urgent reminders: “The most solemn truths ever entrusted to mortals have been given us to proclaim to the world.”4 “Let us remember that a Christlike life is the most powerful argument that can be advanced in favor of Christianity. . . . Men will believe, not what the minister preaches, but what the church lives.”5 “Christ’s work is to be our example. . . . His life was one of unselfish service, and it is to be our lesson book.”6 “If every church member were a living missionary, the gospel would speedily be proclaimed in all countries, to all peoples, nations, and tongues.”7 “God’s people are to be so earnest and faithful in their work for Him that all selfishness will be separated from their lives. His workers will then see eye to eye, and the arm of the Lord, the power of which was seen in the life of Christ, will be revealed. Confidence will be restored, and there will be unity in the churches throughout our ranks.”8 “It is not learned, eloquent speakers that are needed now, but humble, Christlike men and women, who have learned from Jesus of Nazareth to be meek and lowly, and who, trusting in His strength, will go forth into the highways and hedges to give the invitation: ‘Come; for all things are now ready.’?”9
A Mighty Example
Andressa became a mighty example of Total Member Involvement at the age of 13. Her first contact with the Adventist Church was through her grandmother and a small Bible study group. She enjoyed it so much she decided to start a small group herself. “But first,” she said, “I need to get baptized [and] give my life to Jesus so the children that I’ll teach will also follow my example.”Andressa was baptized, and the very next Thursday she started her small group. The number of children coming to her Bible study continued to grow rapidly, up to 45! There were so many that Andressa encouraged the group to split into smaller groups. One young person said, “Andressa showed me I could create my own small group. . . . Everybody should create a small group; it’s an extension of the church. It’s an extension from God.”
In addition to her small group ministry, Andressa was involved in many more outreach activities. In a video interview she described her week: “On Sundays I go to the radio station and start with a devotional. There’s a segment for children, where I tell Bible stories. On Mondays I go to school, and in the afternoon we do a lot of missionary work. On Tuesdays I visit the nursing home. We sing, play, and pray. Some of the people there are lonely, and sometimes they open up to us. On Wednesdays [a group] meets at my house to make crafts that we can sell, and that’s good, because the people in this group don’t have a lot of money. On Thursdays in the afternoon I preach to the children in my home. In the evening we go to homes of some of the church members and play music for them. On Fridays [I have] a small intercessory prayer group. Intercessory prayer is really interesting because a lot of prayer requests are answered. Prayer is powerful. On Sabbaths I wake up earlier and invite some children to go to the church with me. This is what my week is like!”
Andressa is certainly an example of Total Member Involvement! Her schedule might intimidate many adults. Despite her age, it would seem as if she’s done more than people who are older. “Jesus is coming,” Andressa said. “He is showing us the signs. The prophecies—they are being fulfilled. If we do not do our part now, maybe tomorrow time will run out.”
Time Is Running Out
Sadly, time did run out for Andressa. One Sabbath morning when she was going to preach at her church, the car she was riding in collided with a truck. Four women died, including Andressa, who was 14 years old. She accomplished a lot in her short life. More than 100 people were baptized because of her witness, and countless others continue to be inspired by her example. What about you? Are you willing to be totally involved for Jesus? Are you ready to share the treasure you have? As we see the end of time approaching, let’s renew our efforts to be involved in all that God intends for His remnant church: every member involved in lifting up and sharing Christ, His Word, His righteousness, His sanctuary service, His saving power in the great controversy, His three angels’ messages, His health message, His last-day mission to the world, and His soon second coming.
Reach the World for Jesus
Soon we’ll look up and see Jesus appearing in the clouds of heaven, as He said he would. He will come to take us home. It will be the culmination of His redemptive work using every willing follower to reach the world for Him. I appeal to each of us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to be part of Total Member Involvement. The latter rain of the Holy Spirit is approaching, and with it the great proclamation to every person on earth in anticipation of Christ’s soon return. By God’s grace, let’s be a part of it!
If you’d like to learn more, I encourage you to watch the five-minute video in which Mark Finley, Duane McKey, and I explain more about how you can be a part of Total Member Involvement. It’s available on Vimeo at: vimeo.com/144789637 or on YouTube at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxNfaJO-Hqk.
1 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 7, p. 18. 2 Ibid., p. 16. 3 Review and Herald, Nov. 24, 1904. 4 Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 19. 5 Ibid., p. 21. 6 Ibid., p. 31. 7 Ibid., p. 32. 8 Ibid., p. 33. 9 Ibid., p. 36.
A golden opportunity for each church congregation to be a community health center...
Community Health Expos
By Peter N. Landless and Allan R. Handysides
We hear a great deal about church members being medical missionaries and working with the health needs of the community in which we live. How may we practically implement this approach?
Health is pursued and desired by all nations and peoples of the world. Some territories have very advanced health-care programs, and generally, health care is focused within systems that are designed to diagnose and cure diseases. Because health care is expensive, in many places its availability to all is a challenge.
Public health measures of clean water, sewage, and immunization programs have made a major impact on decreasing infectious diseases and increasing life expectancy. But even these measures are not equally available around the world. Additionally, while there has been much emphasis placed by governments on public health measures, the so-called noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) have increased dramatically and are related largely to lifestyle factors. The NCDs include mainly heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases. These are diseases that affect all people and communities.
The main risk factors are well known and are similar globally: n tobacco use n consuming foods high in saturated and trans fats n excessive salt intake n alcohol consumption n excessive sugar intake—especially in sweetened drinks n physical inactivity n obesity
NCDs have become such a challenge that the World Health Organization and the United Nations have held high-level global meetings to bring attention to these diseases and to try to eliminate them or at least decrease the number of incidences. Many of the NCDs are totally preventable. Individuals at risk can be readily identified. This is a golden opportunity for each church congregation to be a community health center and each church member a health promoter.
How do we go about making a difference in our communities and making friends? We can start by organizing walking and fun-run events; for example, the five-kilometer fun-walk/run event is very popular and a good place to start. In conjunction with the walk, a health expo, or health fair, can be organized. Such health events generally have various health stations that demonstrate different aspects of health and measurements of physical health and well-being. Blood pressure, blood sugar, and even cholesterol checks can be done cost effectively and efficiently. Body weight and body mass index (BMI) measurements are very informative; between this and an awareness of the blood sugar level, many who have been through health fairs have been alerted to their being diabetic or prediabetic. Basic vision testing can be done without expensive equipment.
Such events are excellent opportunities for public education on healthful nutrition, quitting smoking, the reasons to avoid alcohol, the importance of exercise, use of water internally and externally, responsible exposure to sunshine, balance in life (temperance), breathing deeply, and the need to get outdoors. Because so much of the world’s population is sleep-deprived and “hooked” on the almost-incessant use of electronic devices, the station emphasizing rest and sleep is always a needed and appreciated stop for most visitors.
Cooking demonstrations and vegetarian cooking classes may be advertised and conducted as a follow-up. We were deeply impressed by a station with a difference at Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe, which was a cooking school for deaf individuals! So thoughtful and wonderfully received! This type of health endeavor is being done around the world and is making friends and sharing the grace-filled message of health and hope. It truly meets people’s needs in a practical way and demonstrates God’s love and compassion.
What will the outcome be? We’re not sure. But we know that those whom we meet and serve will know we are Christians by our love!
Carl Chin is a businessman; but his first priority is sharing the gospel of salvation...
My Soul-winning Business
Meet a travel agent for heaven.
By Halsey Peat
Carl Chin keeps trying to convince people that he isn’t a pastor. But sometimes his love and service to them for the sake of the gospel seem to challenge his words.
The constant comparison with a pastor disappoints Chin. “I’m simply doing what every layperson is called to do,” he says. “Soul winning is not supposed to be left to the paid clergy. As a church, we believe in the priesthood of all believers so we must all go out and talk to others about how God has been good to us.”
Chin was gripped by the conviction to talk about Jesus when he first learned about salvation nearly 40 years ago. “This is just too good to keep to myself,” he told himself, and asked his pastor, Rick Bacchus, if he could accompany him on Bible studies. Soon Chin was giving Bible studies and looking out for visitors to his church who wanted to study the Bible. “One of these,” he recalls, “was a prostitute. My wife, Cindy, and I worked with her. Imagine our joy when we witnessed her being baptized! Meanwhile, she had introduced us to a number of her former colleagues, and for nearly two years I gave Bible studies to a group of prostitutes. I witnessed changed lives, and I knew that this was just the beginning. No one is so sinful that God cannot save them.”
International in Canada
At his present church, Willowdale Adventist Church, in the Canadian city of Toronto, Chin helped Cambodian believers develop from a small group into an established congregation with their own pastor. After 20 years their congregation still refuses to allow Chin to leave their fellowship. He regularly attends two worship services on Sabbath: one with his own congregation, and another with the Cambodian group for three hours in the afternoon. Through an interpreter he leads a regular Bible study and often preaches as well.
“My time with the group is precious,” he says. “They say that I’m helping them, but I’m the one being blessed as I hear of their struggles back in Cambodia under earlier despotic rule.” The group gains at least three new converts every year. Chin also has a close relationship with the Chinese Seventh-day Adventist Church in Toronto that began more than 30 years ago when a group of 10 then met for worship in a classroom at Crawford Adventist Academy, adjacent to Chin’s local church. Chin was with them every week, until they erected their own church building. He is their annual guest speaker for Chinese New Year service, usually introduced as one of those who helped make them what they are today.
Chin seems to be perpetually involved in a new evangelistic project for Jesus. With the Cambodian and Chinese churches firmly established and growing, he turned to missionary agitation at his home church. His pastor shared his vision, and within a few weeks Chin was appointed chairperson of a church plant committee.
“We soon discovered the nucleus of a small group looking for a sponsoring church,” Chin explains, “and it was not long before we began working with them and made them an official church plant.” They became the first South Asian Adventist congregation in Ontario. Pastor Rick Bacchus, who many years earlier had given Chin his first Bible studies, worked very closely with the group and, though retired, continues to oversee the group.
One on One
Chin prays daily that God will keep using him. God answered by leading him to Susan, an immigrant to Canada from mainland China who was paying her first visit ever to a Christian church of any sort. Chin takes up the story:
“As usual, seeing a new face, I approached her to welcome her and to introduce myself. Her English was fairly basic at best, but she understood me. As soon as I learned that it was her first visit to a Christian church, I asked if she’d like for Cindy and me to give her Bible studies. She was very happy and agreed for us to visit her.
“Our first visit was fairly challenging because we had never met someone who had absolutely no knowledge of the Bible. We had to change our usual approach to Bible study. By the third visit I suggested that she learn the sequence of the books of the Bible. It would give her some familiarity with the Bible. I suggested that she try learning them three at a time.
“By our next visit Susan was able to faultlessly recite the sequence from Genesis to the Psalms. In no time she was able to recite the 66 books in correct sequence and showed voracious hunger to understand the Bible’s message.
“Susan read The Desire of Ages in just two weeks. We gave her the entire Conflict of the Ages Series, which she completed in three to four months. As the Bible studies came to a close, she said she wanted to be baptized but was hesitant to do so. We soon learned that her sister in China was questioning her journey into Christianity, and Adventism in particular. Susan had been teaching her sister everything we had been teaching her about Jesus. We kept praying for her.
“She had also been worried for another sister, who had been diagnosed with cancer. We began praying for the sick sister and encouraged Susan to do so also. When news arrived from China that her sister was recovering, Susan attributed it to God’s power and enthusiastically told her skeptical sister so. The skeptical sister became more receptive, and soon her daughter began attending a church in China.
“We were so happy to witness Susan’s baptism at our local church. She is very much part of our family now.” Reflecting now on the far-reaching impact of his work with Susan, Chin is quick to say: “I realize that if we allow ourselves to see God’s Spirit work through us, we will see how the results of our efforts will mushroom. Even though I know this, and I’ve seen how God has worked, yet somehow He still surprises me with people like Susan!”
The Ethics of Chin’s Witness
To those who insist that religious faith must be private, Chin warns that Seventh-day Adventists must not fall victim to that lie. There is nothing private about faith. Jesus’ life was one of reaching out to people, and we should live as He did, demonstrating love to people in their situation or circumstance, not simply praying for them from the comfort of our homes. He says, “It is as we engage with people that we are able to talk to them about the love of Jesus and invite them to meet Him.”
Chin, who runs a travel agency, is committed to the privilege of witnessing for Christ as long as he is able. He lives by a missionary principle: “Being a travel agent is my work, but soul winning is my business!”
In a special sense Seventh-day Adventists have been set in the world as watchmen and light bearers.
Your Neighbor Is Waiting
By Ellen G. White
In a special sense Seventh-day Adventists have been set in the world as watchmen and light bearers. To them has been entrusted the last warning for a perishing world. On them is shining wonderful light from the Word of God. They have been given a work of the most solemn import—the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels’ messages. There is no other work of so great importance. They are to allow nothing else to absorb their attention.1
God expects personal service from everyone to whom He has entrusted a knowledge of the truth for this time. Not all can go as missionaries to foreign lands, but all can be home missionaries in their families and neighborhoods. There are many ways in which church members may give the message to those around them.
One of the most successful is by living helpful, unselfish, Christian lives. Those who are fighting the battle of life at great odds may be refreshed and strengthened by little attentions which cost nothing. Kindly words simply spoken, little attentions simply bestowed, will sweep away the clouds of temptation and doubt that gather over the soul. The true heart expression of Christlike sympathy, given in simplicity, has power to open the door of hearts that need the simple, delicate touch of the spirit of Christ.2
My brethren and sisters, give yourselves to the Lord for service. Allow no opportunity to pass unimproved. Visit the sick and suffering, and show a kindly interest in them. If possible, do something to make them more comfortable. Through this means you can reach their hearts and speak a word for Christ.
Investing in Eternity
Eternity alone will reveal how far-reaching such a line of labor can be. Other lines of usefulness will open before those who are willing to do the duty nearest them. It is not learned, eloquent speakers that are needed now, but humble, Christlike men and women, who have learned from Jesus of Nazareth to be meek and lowly, and who, trusting in His strength, will go forth into the highways and hedges to give the invitation: “Come; for all things are now ready.”3
There is earnest work for every pair of hands to do. . . . There are so many that need to be helped. The heart of him who lives, not to please himself, but to be a blessing to those who have so few blessings, will thrill with satisfaction. Let every idler awake and face the realities of life. Take the Word of God and search its pages. If you are doers of the Word, life will indeed be to you a living reality, and you will find that the reward is abundant. The Lord has a place for everyone in His great plan. Talents that are not needed are not bestowed. Supposing that the talent is small. God has a place for it, and that one talent, if faithfully used, will do the very work God designs that it should do.4 Church members, let the light shine forth. Let your voices be heard in humble prayer, in witness against intemperance, the folly, and the amusements of this world, and in the proclamation of the truth for this time. Your voice, your influence, your time—all these are gifts from God and are to be used in winning souls to Christ.
Visit your neighbors and show an interest in the salvation of their souls. Arouse every spiritual energy to action. Tell those whom you visit that the end of all things is at hand. The Lord Jesus Christ will open the door of their hearts and will make upon their minds lasting impressions. . . . Tell them how you found Jesus and how blessed you have been since you gained an experience in His service. Tell them what blessing comes to you as you sit at the feet of Jesus and learn precious lessons from His Word. Tell them of the gladness and joy that there is in the Christian life. Your warm, fervent words will convince them that you have found the pearl of great price. Let your cheerful, encouraging words show that you have certainly found the higher way.5
There are many who can and should do the work of which I have spoken. My brother, my sister, what are you doing for Christ? Are you seeking to be a blessing to others? Are your lips uttering words of kindness, sympathy, and love? Are you putting forth earnest efforts to win others to the Savior?6
Consecrate yourselves wholly to the work of God. He is your strength, and He will be at your right hand, helping you to carry on His merciful designs. By personal labor reach those around you. Become acquainted with them. Preaching will not do the work that needs to be done. Angels of God attend you to the dwellings of those you visit. This work cannot be done by proxy. Money lent or given will not accomplish it. Sermons will not do it. By visiting the people, talking, praying, sympathizing with them, you will win hearts. This is the highest missionary work that you can do. To do it, you will need resolute, persevering faith, unwearying patience, and a deep love for souls.
Find access to the people in whose neighborhood you live. As you tell them of the truth, use words of Christlike sympathy. Remember that the Lord Jesus is the Master Worker. He waters the seed sown. He puts into your minds words that will reach hearts. Expect that God will sustain the consecrated, unselfish worker. Obedience, childlike faith, trust in God—these will bring peace and joy. Work disinterestedly, lovingly, patiently, for all with whom you are brought into contact. Show no impatience. Utter not one unkind word. Let the love of Christ be in your hearts, the law of kindness on your lips.7
Heavenly angels have long been waiting for human agents—the members of the church—to cooperate with them in the great work to be done. They are waiting for you.8
1 Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 9, p. 19. 2 Ibid., p. 30. 3 Ibid., p. 36. 4 Ibid., p. 37. 5 Ibid., p. 38. 6 Ibid., p. 39. 7 Ibid., p. 41. 8 Ibid., pp. 46, 47.
Spiritual gifts go further when we share them with those around us who need our help...
What God Has Joined Together (Number 23)
By Gaspar F. Colón
Jesus is talking to Nicodemus by lamplight one dark night. Jesus explains that the mark of citizenship in His kingdom is a new birth. This new birth is not a birth of the flesh, but a birth of the Spirit. This Spirit (or wind) blows those who are born of the Spirit wherever He chooses (John 3:3-8).
Later, toward the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus spends time with His disciples to prepare them for the next phase of their ministry, when they will no longer have His physical presence with them. He promises them that they will have another Comforter. This Comforter, the Holy Spirit, will teach them all things. He will remind Jesus’ followers of everything Jesus has said, and give them peace (John 14:15-27).
In 1 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul shares his desire that the members of the body of Christ should not be ignorant of spiritual gifts. He emphasizes, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (verses 4-7, NIV). Simply stated, the Holy Spirit is the administrator of the spiritual gifts in the body of Christ, and each gift is given for the good of that body.
Unwrap the Gifts
Now, what does this mean in practical, everyday life? First, we need to recognize that every Christian is given spiritual gifts. Each of us has a cluster of gifts, with one primary gift and one or two secondary gifts. But although the gifts are given to us as individuals, our spiritual gifts are really given for the church. The Holy Spirit is the administrator of the spiritual gifts, but the local church leadership has a responsibility to match the spiritual gifts of its members to the ministry plan of the church. Each church has the responsibility to depend on the leading of the Holy Spirit in the development of the ministry plan.
Second, regardless of whether our gift is faith, healing, proclamation, teaching, administration, reconciliation, compassion, communication, or self-sacrificing service; or whether we are called by God and recognized by the church for pastoral, evangelistic, or teaching ministries; our primary motivation for service must be tied to our commitment to Christ and the love that He seeks to pour out through us to others in ministry through our church. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13 that regardless of the gifts we are given by God, those gifts are useless if the execution of them is not rooted in love.
Third, part of our stewardship responsibility as members of the body of Christ is to cultivate a passion for the discovery and nurture of the spiritual gift granted to us. We should prayerfully reflect on what occupies our thinking most when it comes to the ministry of our church. What issues or needs do we perceive and feel most passionate about? When thinking about our passions for that particular issue or need, how might our spiritual gift(s) be used in the ministry of our church? Some pastors provide a spiritual gifts inventory that you can use to narrow down your spiritual gifts. Fellow members of the church who know you best can share with you what spiritual gifts they perceive as they observe your involvement in the church. Think back on the most memorable “ministry” experiences of your Christian life. What inspired and excited you most? What was happening in your walk with God at the time? What was happening in your church during the time? The result of these reflections will help you to understand better what motivates you and what kind of environment you shine best in.
Fourth, pastors or members of the leadership team of a church must focus on developing a ministry plan that is comprehensive enough to draw out and employ the spiritual gifts of the members of the church. This plan should take into consideration the community the church is called to serve. Assess your community to discover what is already happening. The leadership team needs to discover specific needs in the neighborhood that can focus the church in ministries that make a difference and help to reflect Christ’s method of ministry. Ellen White’s famous quote captures Christ’s ministry method wonderfully: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’?”*
Share the Gifts
Pastor Frank attended a spiritual gifts seminar early in his ministry. He got so excited about the concept and the process that he immediately went back to his church and preached a series of sermons on spiritual gifts. He followed this with an invitation to the members of his church to fill out a spiritual gifts inventory, and followed that up with small group sessions in which the members could verify and experiment with the gifts they had discovered. Members of Pastor Frank’s church got so excited that they came to him, eager to put their spiritual gifts to work. Alas, Pastor Frank was at a loss to employ the gifts of his church members because he hadn’t led his church in the development of a contextualized plan for ministry in the community around the church. Planning for ministry is also a spiritual gift.
Commitment to the Spirit through the Word of God will protect us from many a spiritual peril. It will produce results from God in us, our churches, and our communities. It will transform us into agents in this kingdom of grace used by God to change the world through faith and love. It will allow us to be part of a global effort, administered by the Holy Spirit, to prepare those around us for the kingdom of glory to be ushered in at the second coming of Christ.
*Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), p. 143.
Moses’ life is a story of God’s miraculous leading and providential guidance.
Moses, A Life of Trust
By Mark A. Finley
This month we will continue our study about the life of Moses. In our last study we focused on Moses’ intimate relationship with God as a close friend. In this lesson we will explore Moses’ commitment to trust God in the challenges and difficulties of life. We will discover a God who honors the positive choices His people make and glorifies His name by working miracles for those who trust Him. These miracles may not always come in the form of spectacular, supernatural wonders (although sometimes they do), but God always supplies the miracle of divine grace to strengthen us to face the challenges we all must meet.
1 - What life-changing choice did Moses make in the courts of Egypt? Read Hebrews 11:24-27 and describe what Moses chose to do and what he chose not to do. Moses chose to “suffer affliction with the people of God” rather than to enjoy the pleasures and wealth of Egypt. By faith he grasped the divine reality that this life has little to offer in the light of eternity. The passing pleasures of earth fade into insignificance compared with the eternal treasures of Christ.
2 - How did God reward Moses’ faithfulness? What amazing promise did He make to both Moses and the children of Israel? Discover the answer in Exodus 6:5-7. Moses’ trust in God opened the door for God to work unusual miracles for the children of Israel. God’s greatest miracles are reserved for His friends who trust Him explicitly.
3 - What crisis did Israel face at the Red Sea, and what counsel did God give Israel that revealed Moses’ trust in God? Read Exodus 14:13, 14.
4 - How did Israel respond to the miraculous deliverance at the Red Sea? Compare the Song of Moses in Exodus 15:1, 2 to Revelation 15:3, 4. What is the spiritual lesson in each of these songs? When the Israelites passed through the Red Sea, and their oppressors, the Egyptians, were drowned in the raging waters, God’s people burst out rejoicing in a song of deliverance. Their victorious strains of praise echoed throughout the camp. One day at the end of time, when God’s people stand rejoicing on the sea of glass, we too will sing a song of praise and victory. The Song of Moses, the song of God’s mighty hand of deliverance, will echo throughout the universe.
5 - Although God repeatedly worked miracles for His people as they wandered on their wilderness journey, they often bitterly complained of the difficulties that confronted them. When they had little to eat, they murmured against God. But Moses, once again, exhibited His trust in God. What counsel did he give? Read Exodus 16:6, 7.
6 - In Exodus 20 God gave the Ten Commandments—principles of His divine government—to His people. What promise did He also make to those who lovingly obey His commands through His power? Read Exodus 34:1, 6, 7, 10. One of the things God longed to teach His people in the Old Testament is that there is a blessing in obedience; disobedience forfeits these blessings. God works in special ways for those who trust and obey Him.
7 - When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, what condition clearly indicated that He had been in the presence of God? Read Exodus 34:29. God reveals His presence in marvelous ways to those who trust Him. Today, no matter what challenges we face in our lives, if we live lives of trust we will see His miracle-working power and reveal God’s glory to others.
In seeking to answer your question, I will comment on the context of the passage, examine how it is interpreted in the Gospels as it refers to Christ, and discuss how it might be fulfilled in the last days.
1. Contextual Considerations: Malachi 4 begins with an announcement of divine judgment and its effects on the fate of the wicked (total extermination) and of those who revere/fear the Lord (victory, salvation, and joy [verses 1-3]). This is followed by a call to “remember [i.e., keep] the law” God gave to Israel on Sinai (verse 4). In this context the coming of Elijah is announced and dated (verse 5): He will come “before the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (verse 5; cf. verses 1-3; Joel 2:31). The prophet’s mission will be to “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (verse 6). A literal reading of the text is possible, but the context suggests the need of the new generation to be as faithful to God’s law and covenant as were their faithful forefathers. In other words, Elijah was to prepare God’s people for the coming of the Lord by calling them to return to the faith of the fathers.
2. Christological Interpretation: The kingdom of God forcefully interrupted human history in the person and ministry of Jesus. He was the Messiah. The Jews argued that He could not be the Messiah because Elijah had not yet come (Matt. 17:10). Affirming His messiahship, Jesus answered that Elijah had already come in the ministry of John the Baptizer (verses 11-13). John denied being the incarnated Elijah (John 1:21), though he came “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:15) and “in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just” (verse 17). Through his ministry John would “bring back . . . to the Lord” many of the people of Israel (verse 16, NIV) in order “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (verse 17). His prophetic task was to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Matt. 3:3).
3. End-time Interpretation: The partial fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi in the ministry of John the Baptizer will find its ultimate fulfillment before the coming of Christ. A brief look at the book of Revelation points, first, to the coming of a false Elijah who will cause “fire [to] come down from heaven” (Rev. 13:13; cf. 1 Kings 18:36-38) in order to gather the kings of the earth in preparation for the “battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Rev. 16:14). Second, this false Elijah is not an individual but an apostate movement claiming to have the spirit of Elijah, when in reality deceptive miracles are performed through the power of demonic spirits (Rev. 16:13, 14). Third, the work of a false Elijah points to the end-time mission of the true Elijah as summarized in the messages of the three angels (Rev. 14:6-12). It refers to a movement raised by God to invite His people to come out of Babylon (Rev. 18:4). This movement is called the end-time remnant (Rev. 12:17); they are “faithful followers” of the Lamb (Rev. 17:14, NIV). Fourth, their message, in agreement with Malachi, announces the judgment of God that will bring salvation through the eternal gospel to those who “fear God” (Rev. 14:7), and destruction to the wicked (verses 10, 11). Those who fear the Lord obey/keep God’s commandments (verse 12). They restore the faith of their apostolic fathers as found in the New Testament, calling God’s people to return to Him. Fifth, they are, like Elijah and John the Baptizer, possessed by the power of the Spirit. They listen to what the Spirit said to the church (Rev. 3:14-22), and, empowered by the angel of Revelation 18:1, they will illuminate the earth with God’s glory in a last attempt to prepare the world for the coming of the Lord. They receive the outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord, announced in Joel 2:28, 29, and that will happen “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Joel 2:31, NIV).
We can use our connections, time, and gifts in order to bring people to Jesus Christ...
Meeting God Face to Face
By S. Joseph Kidder and Kristy L. Hodsonl
The Bible includes the stories of a handful of people who met God face to face.
Perhaps the clearest record of such a life-changing encounter was recorded in Isaiah 6:1-8. Isaiah saw a heavenly worship scene. Angelic beings surrounded God, giving Him adoration and praise. These angels hovered by the throne of God, singing of His holiness and glory. Overwhelmed, Isaiah felt unworthy of this vision. He felt ashamed and ruined because of his sinfulness.
But this was not the end of the experience; one of the angels touched Isaiah’s mouth with a live coal from the altar, taking away his guilt and pronouncing forgiveness. God then offered Isaiah an opportunity to serve by asking, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” (verse 8).
The prophet did not hesitate. This encounter with the glory of God prompted Isaiah to make himself available: “Here am I! Send me” (verse 8).
Catching a Glimpse of God
Like Isaiah, before we can be available to God, we must first catch a glimpse of God. God must minister to us; only then can we hear God’s voice telling us what He wants us to do. We are to respond with an attitude of gratitude, not obligation, because He has cleansed us through the blood of Jesus. There is a sense of healing in our lives. We want to serve God because of who He is and what He has done for us. The wonder of the sacrifice of Christ must be the driving factor in all we do. When we rediscover God’s grandeur, we are compelled to minster on behalf of the only One who can offer atonement for sin.
An experience with God affects how we see the world. Isaiah heard God’s heartbeat for a lost and dying people. We too must hear God’s summons to reach out to broken people in our community. God called; Isaiah answered. This unconditional response comes only from the heart of one who has seen the vision; one who has met with God. Once we’ve seen the Lord, we go where He sends us.
Isaiah did not say, “What’s in it for me?” He signed over his whole life. Because he had seen God’s nature and character, Isaiah reprioritized his life and put God’s mission first. He came to see service for God as worship.
We See—Then We Serve
Ellen White also connected worship and service. “True worship consists in working together with Christ. Prayer, exhortation, and talk are cheap fruits, which are frequently tied on, but fruits that are manifested in good works, in caring for the needy, the fatherless, and widows, are genuine fruits, and grow naturally upon a good tree.”* Service is the result of becoming overwhelmed with appreciation for the One who heals brokenness with love.
The heart of worship is being available to God on a daily basis. It is not a onetime act on Sabbath morning; it is a day-to-day experience. Therefore, for Christians there is no such thing as sacred and secular. Everything belongs to God. Whether we eat, drink, play, or work, we do it all in the presence of God and for His glory (1 Cor. 10:31). Worship is a lifestyle.
A life of worship makes us available to the Holy Spirit and eager to see His work done in us.
Once we come to understand the gospel, the sacrifice Christ has made for us, and the grace of His enduring love, then we will realize that renewal and cleansing come from above. We will be led to a response of service. Such was the case for Ann.
Overwhelmed and Available
One day I [Joseph] received a card in the mail from a woman asking for Bible studies. When I knocked on her door, she said that she was not interested in studying the Bible and had not sent the card. I asked if she would allow me to pray for her, and she consented.
She then told me about her neighbor across the street who might be interested in a Bible study. When I went across the street, a woman, 73 years old, drunk and smoking, opened the door. I asked her if she would like to study the Bible. She did not have anything to do, so she said “yes.” I started to study the Bible with Ann. After some time she accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior.
During a study on the greatness of the power of God, Ann became overwhelmed. She broke down crying and asked how she could experience that power to overcome her smoking and drinking. We arranged a time for the church elders to come for an anointing service. After that service God gave her victory over those bad habits.
A few weeks later she was baptized. I visited her the next day. I wanted Ann to consider how she could incorporate worship and service into her life. How would she live out a response to the greatness of God and His forgiveness? What mission was God giving to her? “Ann, do you have a family?” I asked. “I have a huge family.” “God has a mandate for you. He wants you to win your family to Him.” “How am I going to do that?” “Pray and make yourself available to be used by God.”
About three and a half years later the union communication director came to shoot a video of Ann on Sabbath morning. Picture the scene: Ann stood in the middle of the platform surrounded by 57 people that she had led to the Lord, including Jena, the woman who had refused to study the Bible with me.
The communication director went around asking the 57 people, “Why are you an Adventist today?” He always got the same answer: “We saw the change in Ann’s life, and we wanted it.”
Then he turned to Ann. “What did you do to win your family and friends to the Lord?”
“I prayed for them day and night. Then the Lord showed me many ways to strengthen my relationship with them and meet their needs. When the time was right, I invited them to church, a Bible study in my home, or an evangelistic meeting. Every time one of them became a Christian, that person joined me in praying for the rest. God has been so good to us.”
This is the power of prayer, relationship, and ministry, the power of an ongoing process. It is the power of personal spirituality and seeing God. When we have an experience with God, we are overcome with a desire to share Him with others. Isaiah and Ann met with God and had a revelation of His greatness, and it changed their lives. The same living Lord is anxious to meet with us. In true worship we experience the presence of God, and it changes us and leads us to service.
Have you had a “throne room” experience? Have you heard God’s voice? accepted His call to service? Open your heart to Him today. Worship Him through praise and service. Meet God face to face and allow yourself to be available to Him.
*Ellen G. White, in Review and Herald, Aug. 16, 1881.
Once we understand the “why,” the “how” and the “what” are easy.
By Merle Poirier
The story of Balaam (Numbers 23; 24) might seem an odd place to begin an article on Total Member Involvement. It is remembered most for a talking donkey, but a closer reading reveals more.
Balak, king of Moab, had a problem. Balak has offered Balaam riches if he will agree to curse the Israelites. Balaam accepts cautioning to say only what God tells him. Fast-forward to the end, and Balaam does not curse the nation, but instead, speaks three blessings. Angry, the king refuses to pay him for his service.
Before leaving, Balaam offers one more prediction—this one for free. “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Num. 24:17).
Learning the Why
Promoter Simon Sinek recently developed three words— what, how, why—into a marketing concept. He arranged them into a “golden circle,” where the center circle is “why,” the middle is “how,” and the outer circle is “what.” These three circles moving from the outside circle to the innermost circle represent Sinek’s theory on how people think. First, they ask “What?” followed by “How?” and finally “Why?” Sinek’s point is that inspiring leaders or organizations think, act, and communicate differently—that is, upside down or inside out. Successful leaders begin with “Why?”
Look again at Balaam and Balak. Together they look at the “what,” they develop the “how,” but they never reason the “why.” What they wanted to do was rid the earth of Israelites. How to do it rested in cursing them. Never once do they speak about “why” the Israelites are there in the first place. After Balak’s frustration and Balaam’s ambivalence, God gives Balaam one last prophecy and in it reveals the why: I love them. I want to spend eternity with them. I have a plan.
Applying this concept to God becomes an eye-opening experience. Throughout Scripture, God, from a human perspective, is an upside-down communicator. Think about Jesus and His disciples. During most of His ministry the disciples are scratching their heads. They’d ask a question (what or how), and He’d answer (why). Nicodemus asks Jesus what and how—Jesus answers why (John 3:16). The woman at the well asks what; Jesus answers why (John 4:26).
On the road to Emmaus Jesus reveals the “why” throughout Scripture—I created you. I love you. I want to be with you forever. The “how” is sending His Son to die for you. The “what” becomes easy—living with Him for eternity. The excited disciples run all the way back to Jerusalem. When you understand the “why,” hearts and perspective are transformed. Upside-down thinking changes the world.
“Why” Can Change Everything
Churches can be guilty of thinking more about “what” than “why.” We tell others what we are, we describe how we work, but often don’t communicate why. Does this sound familiar? “You should know Jesus as your Savior” (what). “To know Him, you need to [attend church, become a vegetarian, reform your lifestyle, read more of your Bible, . . .] (how). The implication is “This will make your life better” (what). Some will join, but many will not. It isn’t inspiring.
But what if the order is turned upside down? “I believe that Jesus is my Creator, Savior, and Best Friend” (why). I believe that Jesus is coming soon, He’s creating a home for me so I can live with Him forever, and He grants me an abundance of blessings because He loves me” (how). “Wouldn’t you like to know Him?” (what). This doesn’t suggest that the other method is incorrect, but highlights that it doesn’t necessarily lead to a full heart conversion. Upside-down thinking communicates passion, love, mercy, and grace—and people respond.
When the Bible is read with upside-down thinking, it changes everything you might have thought about God. The “why” of God is found from Genesis to Revelation. The message is about saving you because He loves you. And when you grasp that, you are moved to tell others. You’re inspired to change the world.
Total Member Involvement
Total Member Involvement is about evangelism. It’s about enthusiastically telling others about Jesus. It should be easy, but it isn’t. Mostly because we’re stuck in our thinking. When the “why” of Jesus is understood, things happen. When the “why” of the Sabbath is understood, the day is amazingly joyous. When the “why” of worship is understood, you want to be with fellow believers.
One church in Maryland, U.S.A., was transformed by “why” thinking. Those from outside perceived the church as large and unfriendly. Members decided it wasn’t their problem, but everyone else’s. Pastors now and again would endeavor to fix the issue, but nothing endured, and membership support was lackluster. Yet one day something changed everything—upside-down thinking.
During nominating committee about a dozen individuals were placed together in a room with the challenge to create a plan for a friendlier environment. The leader repeatedly spoke to them about discovering the “why” of hospitality. The group continued to respond: What is hospitality? How about doing this? But the leader continued to encourage their “why” thinking—“Why be friendly? Why are we here?” Three weeks later it clicked. That day they got excited. Twelve members changed their church.
In less than three months these 12 individuals recruited more than 300 members to participate in a new program called HIS Team. HIS Team members help, inform, and support their church and each other because Jesus loves them (why). They do this in a variety of creative ways incorporating every person’s gifts from the moment a person enters the campus (how). And the what? Former members are returning, an evangelistic series resulted in baptisms, youth and young adults are talking about their church to their friends, and pastors from other congregations are asking how they can make this happen in their church. The success comes from thinking like Jesus—upside down.
A church in Massagno, Switzerland, had a similar experience. They had dwindled to six members. They lacked vision, leadership, and church growth. In May 2010 one of the youngest members decided, with God’s help, to take the lead. Having no experience as a pastor, but having studied principles of business, he decided to apply them, along with prayer, to church growth.
The new young pastor put the well-being of the people over the programs. He delegated responsibility to the members according to their giftedness. He increased communication to the members offering spiritual encouragement. Sabbath mornings were transformed by offering a genuine welcome to each person. In three years the group grew from five to 40 regularly attending, with nine baptisms and members of all ages. In March 2015 the small group was officially established as a church.
Certainly the Lord has blessed these churches. They transformed their thinking from “what” and “how” to identifying “why” then developing the “how.” Both were so successful that they didn’t need to define the “what”—people were encouraged and inspired, so they joined and committed.
Total Member Involvement is about using the gifts that we have been given for Jesus. It is, however, more than that. It is identifying the “why” of our Christianity. When we do this, we transform not only ourselves but also the world.
When the Holy Spirit gives us a gift, that's all the permission we need to use our gift for God... work...
Called to Care
General Conference president Ted Wilson summed up the concept of Total Member Involvement in a Facebook post not long ago. “Every follower of Christ is given the responsibility of reaching out to people—individually—with the hope that we ourselves have found in a soon-coming Savior.” That is indeed the crux of Total Member Involvement: the idea that all of us, no matter our calling in life, can do something to reach the world for Christ. Our efforts need not be grand to be effective, but with the Lord’s help, we can be His hands and feet in the world. The following stories offer a glimpse into the many ways ordinary Adventists in different parts of the world are doing exactly that.—Editors.
Fleur Duke (Australia)
Though I hadn’t had any connection with the difficulties confronting girls in the sex industry, I felt the call to reach into my area on the New South Wales Central Coast with God’s love,” says Fleur Duke.
“Lord,” I said, “I have little experience and minimal education to qualify me, but I am willing to answer Your call. Use me.” Duke’s first step to becoming involved in this ministry was to join those who were already ministering to the prostitutes in Kings Cross, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
“We started Rahab Ministries Outreach in February 2012, partnering with Rahab South Australia (a nondenominational Christian organization). The team of about 30 meets together and prays before and during our visits,” Duke says. “Once a month each brothel is visited by a group of two or three of the girls on our team. We explain that we are Christians and there to offer support through prayer and conversation, building relationships, offering Bible studies and English classes, and leaving a contact card.”
“Each girl could be your sister, daughter, friend, aunty, or mother,” she adds. Many of the girls have shared their longing for their homes and families in China or Thailand. God’s Holy Spirit speaks through language barriers, and His love reaches each one in their darkness.
All visits are topped off with hugs and prayers showing that God has not forgotten them.
“At first I thought our aim was to take God into these places, but it was not long before I realized that He was already there. My part in this journey is to meet Him in the women who have struggles just as I do,” says Duke.
—Adapted with permission of the South Pacific Division Record
The Navales Family (Philippines)
Two years ago 3-year-old Vincent befriended five children from his neighborhood and invited them to his home. Vince’s mother, Aireen, didn’t know what to do with them, but with prodding from her son, she offered what food they had, taught them a song, and told them a story.
Aireen saw how some of the kids treated each other roughly and realized they did not have the most positive home environment. “I decided to set a few rules,” she recalls. These rules were simple: everyone would use gentle hands and soft voices. “Because these rules were easy to follow, the children obeyed, but it also created a big difference, because we were able to get rid of the grabbing, shouting, and all the unacceptable street words and other behaviors.”
The following Sunday Aireen and Vincent found a larger group of children on their doorstep and realized God was giving their family a unique opportunity. From her little son’s desire to offer underprivileged children a safe place to be kids, Play, Learn, and Serve (PLS) was born.
After one month, the group had outgrown the family’s living room. Vincent’s father, Rey, transformed the sound and lights showroom on their property into a classroom.
A typical PLS Sunday gathering consists of singing, discussion of the week’s theme, prayer, a values lesson, an art activity, and snacktime. Over time, PLS earned a reputation that has attracted schools and non-profit organizations whose leaders want to learn how to use the program in their own fields. As the number of children increased, the family had to register their program as a charitable organization.
While they may not know how God will continue to expand their involvement in the future, the Navales family trusts in how He has worked through one child’s dream to empower the dreams of the many children around them.
—Adapted from original written by Gay Deles
Paolo Giametta (Italy)
It began in 2008 in a Sabbath School Action Unit in Bergamo, Italy. A young elder named Paolo Giametta had a dream to start a family group, and submitted a list of people in the municipality of Merate for whom to pray.
After a few weeks Judith, a young woman from Merate, decided to open her house to the family group to study the Bible. The number of people attending Bible studies increased week after week. Soon, a second family group was formed in the nearby town of Olgiate. In 2012 Judith was baptized. The following year the group began Sabbath worship services in her home, and by 2013 the group was officially organized. Each Sabbath morning, before the program begins at 9:00, church members and guests have breakfast together. The worship service is followed by potluck and fellowship, with friends from the community also invited. On Sundays the group often hikes and picnics together in the countryside. Often close to 80 people gather, and it’s proved to be a great opportunity to make new friends.
Individuals studying the Bible are taught by six church members from the group, which is the result of person-to-person evangelism. Recently, because of the arrival of refugees from Syria to the region, church members have assisted local authorities by caring for about 40 refugees. But Giametta hasn’t stopped there. He and a coworker named Savino became friends and started studying the Bible together after work. As a result, Savino decided to become an Adventist. Two months before his baptism he began studying the Bible with a friend he met at the gym. Now Savino also leads a midweek family group. Savino also has a list of people for whom he is praying, including his wife and their son.
Like a domino effect, individuals have been won to Christ in this Italian community, all because Giametta, a young elder with a burden on his heart to plant a church, actually did something about it.
—Adapted from original written by Paolo Benini
New Jacob (St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands)
New Jacob was baptized as a result of an open-air meeting. From then on he has been stirred with a thirst to share God’s love.
Beginning with his parents, Jacob invited his family to attend an evangelistic effort in their neighborhood. This resulted in the baptism of his stepfather and sister. “It was a thrilling moment for me; the experience was great. I felt joy knowing that God used me,” Jacob recalls. He soon joined his church’s prayer band and for three decades saw God open doors of opportunity to reach others. To encourage the ailing, he joined his congregation’s hospital visitation team. “I am like any Christian who would like to do God’s will,” he said. Feeling the need to accomplish more, Jacob joined the church’s prison ministry. “Through the prison ministry I serve those often forgotten by society,” he reflected.
At first Jacob spent about four days each week doing missionary work while still managing his business. But he felt that God required more of him. “I was thrilled when I received an invitation to join ShareHim International and did not hesitate,” he said. This ministry is affiliated with the North American Division, and members travel internationally to share the message of life in Jesus.
Jacob remains involved in church ministries and serves as an ordained elder. He sacrifices to travel annually and share hope, using his own resources. With more than 300 persons baptized through his efforts, Jacob often places his life and his business at risk to meet people’s needs. At a time when many people are self-absorbed, he reflects Christ’s love around the world. “I encourage any member, if they are going to make any choices, [to] err on the side of the Lord. It’s so rewarding serving the Lord; it completely alters your path.”
—Adapted from original written by Royston Philbert
Cindy Tutsch (United States)
When I retired, I looked forward to ‘warming a pew’ at church,” says former Ellen G. White Estate associate director and pastor Cindy Tutsch. Now, two and a half years after retirement, I’ve definitely enjoyed some travel and absolutely enjoy playing with our grandkids. But to my surprise, I’ve also enjoyed participating heartily in the life of our local church!”
Tutsch was first asked to shepherd the youth Sabbath School. “I’ve loved getting to know the youth in our church,” she says. We’ve hosted the youth at our house for a party or planning session. A couple teens come to our house weekly for Bible studies.”
Soon Tutsch was asked to serve as an elder. “I’ve pastored a couple churches, and I know that a ‘good’ elder does a lot more than just be the presiding platform leader. In the end, though, God nudged me to agree,” she recalls.
Recently Tutsch was driving to a local retirement center where she gives Bible studies to a handful of elderly people. “I remonstrated with God about this particular assignment,” she says. “God,” I complained, “I really don’t want to do this anymore.”
Almost immediately God impressed a text on her heart. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these . . . , ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40, KJV).
“In that moment God gave me a heart transplant regarding those precious elderly people. Now when I go to teach them, I see Jesus. And when they hug me and tell me how happy they are that I come to pray and sing with them every week, I can answer honestly, ‘I’m glad, too!’?” she says.
Tutsch knows she can’t meet every need in her community, but she can do something. “By God’s grace, when He asks me to serve, I will continue to say, ‘Here am I, Lord. Send me!’?”
Matilda Radge (Malaysia)
Being in the entertainment industry has helped me spread the gospel,” says Matilda Radge. “My first priority in life is to spread the gospel; the second is my music.”
As a producer and songwriter Radge composes positive songs that speak of love for others, nature, and love in its purest form. “When clients come to us,” Radge says, “they trust us because they know we fear God. They know we will give them more than they ask for. We bring out the best in their voices. Our integrity is our testament of the God we worship, and we make sure they learn that from our character and work ethic.”
“Malaysia is a Muslim country, but because of the principles we hold, radio staff, clients, and even our fans/listeners who follow us on social media know about the Sabbath,” adds Radge. “When my husband and I did a Valentine’s Day interview for a top radio station, we used that opportunity to speak about the biblical principles we practice in our marriage. Every time we are called for TV or radio interviews, we give credit to God.” “We have fans and listeners who follow us [on social media] and want to know more about us,” Radge says. “I use this to share the gospel. I post statuses and testimonies that glorify God. Many who comment and ‘like’ my posts are not Christians. But when they go through tough times, they message me and ask me to pray for them.”
Before starting production on new projects, Radge prays that they write and produce songs that honor God. “We ask Him to bless our work. From beginning to end, we pray, pray, pray. We seal the production with a dedication prayer. What usually happens is a hit song! We make sure our clients know that the song’s success belongs to God.”