Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why not use some of your stimulus money to save a life?

Comic from Mutts by Patrick McDonnell
(click to enlarge)

You can go home again!

Modified from the comic Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

April 23, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 12

Issues like this one may be one of the reasons why Lucy Butcher “was saddened to learn that only about three Sabbath school members out of about 25 subscribe to the magazine on a weekly basis”. (Love That Review! Letters) Things started out well with a CREDIBILITY, a MUST READ editorial by Roy Adams, but even the news that Oakwood University repeated as National Champions of the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge, didn’t inspire me to stay intellectually engaged as I continued reading.

The reading level in KID’S VIEW was uneven, and when I read that the magazine was being sent to “all third through sixth graders across North America”, I cringed. The third graders I know are breezing through Watership Down and the Harry Potter series. Winona and Kimberly, I suggest that the magazine as currently constituted should target a second grade audience.

TINY DISCIPLES, MIGHTY SERVANTS OF GOD, by Joel Henderson, asks the question, “How does the Kids in Discipleship ministry turn out Warriors for Christ?” Turning kids into “warriors” or “evangelists” is not my idea of a healthy thing for children or parents. Time would be better spent playing soccer or softball or going on picnics and camping trips with friends.

Jimmy Phillips continues suggest practical ways to keep young adults involved in the Adventist Church. In UNFORGETTABLE LEADERSHIP, he asks pastors and church leaders to get to know us, empower us, and position us so that we can learn necessary leadership skills. “By giving us responsibilities in the church you offer us the chance to gain—and share—a different perspective.”

Life has never been easy!

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

April 16, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 11

This issue has a lot to recommend it: two Stephen Chavez pieces and a great dog story. The rest of the issue deserves above average marks.

Stephen Chavez’ editorial, INTERSECTIONS, makes the Gospel message personal and relational.

“Could it be that sometimes we have such a rigid view of “witnessing” that we miss out on opportunities to reflect Christ’s character to the people we meet routinely, week after week, month after month, year after year? Could it be that we see ourselves as successful at witnessing only if someone is baptized? Or could it be that merely modeling Christ’s love and concern to those around us is part of our commission to take this gospel to the entire world?

“For Adventists many of our ideas about witnessing are bound up in the notion of the communication of information. But at its heart the gospel is about how a relationship with Jesus changes lives.”

The Cover Feature, I KNOW HE WATCHES ME, is another Chavez gem. His candid biographical sketch of Del Delker is a MUST READ. Delker is a living Adventist icon.

Jennifer E. Layton has written a dog story you won’t soon forget. JESSIE: ALL-AMERICAN DOG is, without a doubt, an angel with four legs. It’ a MUST READ.

THREE ADVENTIST FAMILIES ARE MONTANA PLANE CHRASH VICTIMS is particularly heartbreaking because it includes pictures of the families who died.

Montte Sahlin is back with review of an important book series by Nancy Alcorn that should be in every church library. These are “practical books about ministry for teenage girls. . .Each focuses on a particular application of the spiritual gift of mercy—Starved: Mercy for eating Disorders; Cut: Mercy for Self-Harm; Trapped: Mercy for Addictions; and Violated: Mercy for Sexual Abuse.

Andrew McChesney writes a fascinating column. His testimony revolves around the difficulties of keeping the Sabbath as a Russian journalist. ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE describes his decision not to meet informally with then President Putin on Saturday and the consequences of that decision. While I admire his determination not to compromise his convictions, I wish he could be convinced that Jesus did not forbid good works during the Sabbath hours.

In NIGHT NURSE by Sherilyn D. Gibbs, a labor-and-delivery nurse gives her patients more than medical attention.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Christ's Parables for Today, by Sakae Kubo

I first heard the name, Sakae Kubo, when I was on sabbatical, teaching at Chester College in the United Kingdom. At the time he was the president of Newbold College. Steve Thompson asked me to be part of an education seminar there and offered his home for my family's weekend stay. Sakae was out of town, so I was not able to meet him. Steve was very impressed with Sakae's leadership. He also informed me that Dr. Kubo was not only an outstanding president, but that he had a wonderful wife; was the author of a Greek grammar, in addition to a number of Bible based books for the lay reader; a brilliant linguist; and a highly respected New Testament scholar. In addition, and most important to me, he was beloved and highly respected by students and faculty. Steve's admiration for Sakae made a deep impression.

When I learned that Sakae and Hatsumi had moved to Chico, I made it a point to get acquainted. To my delight, everything Steve Thompson had said was true. I consider it a great honor to have been given permission to serialize Sakae's book, Christ's Parables for Today, in Grace Connection, the Magazine.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

From Russia, With Love

This memorial "Tear Drop" is a gift from the Russian People. More information can be found here.

Now You Know The Rest of the Story.

Modified from the comic Non Sequitur, by Wiley
(click to enlarge)

Give Before It’s Too Late to Get Credit

Modified from the comic Dilbert, by Scott Adams
(click to enlarge)

A Theological Solution

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

April 2009
Vol. 5, No. 4

This issue contains four of the finest articles it has been my pleasure to review in the year and a half I’ve been doing this. All four are MUST READS.

The CHURCH WORKS section of this edition does a nice job of keeping readers up-to-date with Adventist world events. Of special interest in this section is Jan Paulsen’s A CLIMATE FOR GROWTH. The following are excerpts from The Boss’s BOUQUET winning essay.

“When the Landowner says ‘Leave the weeds for now,’ He is not questioning that there are people within the church who are strangers to the Lord. To ostracize these people, or for you, as the keepers of the garden, to conduct a general cleanup, is not a good idea. I will do it Myself in my own time. For you to do it is fraught with too many risks.”

“And we may ask: ‘Surely cleaning up is a good thing—it makes sense, doesn’t it? What’s so risky about that?. . .

“The risk is too high because of my own humanity. Is it not possible that I might make a terrible mistake in assessing another person. . .

“The risk is too high because today is still the day of salvation. We may have been able to accurately identify and label the “tare,” but we must not forget that God has not yet finished His work. . .

“The risk is too high because the church herself is harmed by people probing, even delicately, into the lives and opinions of other people. . .

“Weeding in the garden is too risky because I, the investigator, am myself harmed by these activities. . .

“Listen to these words from the inspired pen of Ellen White:

“’There is to be no spasmodic, zealous, hasty action taken by church members in cutting off those they may think defective in character.’

“Our congregations are meant to be places of healing and renewal. They must be attractive places for unbelievers to be drawn to. And they must be places where the believer feels at home: valued and accepted. They aren’t meant to be battlefields, but cities of refuge. . .

“Our churches are not exclusive clubs for those who are good enough or worthy. . .I would hate to spend my time surrounded only by people who think they had everything worked out just right. They become arrogant, clinical, and judgmental of those who still have growing to do. . .

“It is within our reach to create and shape the spiritual environment of our communities for the future. My appeal is that we create a good home, a warm family in which people can communicate, understand each other, respect each other’s space, and acknowledge that the Lord is ever at work making something better of that which, in our opinion, may be flawed.”

Roy Adam’s cover story, INTERPRETING THE TIMES is the second BOUQET winner. His introductory story is both instructive and funny as it relates to the times in which we live and evidences regarding last day events.

“The legend about the pope and an elderly Jewish man named Moishe comes in several versions. Here’s one of them:

“About a century ago the pope decided that all Jews should leave Rome. But seeing the uproar in the Jewish community, and wanting to appear conciliatory, he came up with a novel idea. He would have a debate with any member of the Jewish community they chose. If that person won the debate, then the Jews could stay. But if the pope won, the Jews would have to leave.

“With all the educated, high-powered Jews shying away from confronting this Christian Goliath, the community eventually turned to an old janitor, named Moishe.

“Very concerned about his speaking abilities, however, Moishe agreed to the debate on one condition: that the event would proceed in total silence. Incredibly, the pope agreed.

“As the big day arrived, Moishe and the pope sat down opposite each other. For a full minute, they stared at each other in motionless silence.

“At last, the pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. Moishe looked back at him and raised one finger.

“The pope then waved his finger in a circle around his head. Moishe vigorously pointed to the ground where he sat.

“The pope then pulled out a wafer (the communion bread) and a glass of wine, and set them on the table. Moishe pulled out an apple and placed it down in front of him.

“At this development, the pope stood up and said, “I give up. This man is too good. The Jews can stay.”

“After the meeting, the cardinals gathered around the pope, asking what happened. The pope said: “First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that there is still one God, common to both our religions. Then I waved my finger around my head to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground, showing that God was also right here with us. I pulled out the wine and the wafer to show that God absolves us from our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of original sin. He had an answer for everything. What could I do?”

“Meanwhile, the Jewish community had crowded around Moishe, amazed that this old, uneducated janitor could do what all their scholars had insisted was impossible. “What happened?” they asked him. “Well,” said Moishe, “First he raised three fingers to tell me that the Jews had three days to get out of Rome. I lifted one finger to tell him that not one of us was leaving. Then waving his hand around his head, he told me that this whole city would be cleared of Jews. I pointed my finger to the ground to let him know that we were staying right here.”

“’And then?’ asked a woman.

“’I don’t know,’ said Moishe. ‘He took out his lunch and I took out mine.’

“The moral of the story: we might all be looking at the same events, the same signs, the same evidences. But these events, these signs, these evidences are all silent; they do not speak. And the interpretation we bring to them often arises from our own personal presuppositions. . . Let’s remember that our pious predictions of the nearness of the coming, based on the latest calamity, do not influence the time of the event.”

The third BOUQUET winner, A PLASTIC—POLLLUTED PLANET by Allan R. Handysides, is a terrifying reminder of the effects of pollution. Consider the following:

“’Every bit of plastic manufactured in the world for the last 50 years or so still remains.’ That is more than 1 billion tons of the stuff!

“Even countries considered small are producing thousands of tons of plastic bags every month. As for those “nurdles,” (little uniform rods some two millimeters in length that are the raw materials used to create plastic products) 250 billion pounds of them are produced each year.

“Plastic is only one among the myriads of waste products our consumer world is producing. With spreading industrialization worldwide, the amount of waste products is accelerating. Just the debris from our “obsolete” computers is massive. Carbon dioxide is warming the planet as it befouls the atmosphere. Radioactive waste that has a half-life of thousands of years is still being produced.

“As the planet becomes “shrink-wrapped” in plastic, all life is squeezed and distorted. As the world becomes more and more like a trash heap of pollution, God must look with horror at our ways. Once more we are frantically engaged in “cure,” having disdained prevention.

“It might be easy to say, “Oh, Jesus will someday make it all right,” but I don’t want to be among those who make it all so wrong! Surely, we respect God enough to honor His handiwork.”

William G. Johnsson’s essay, ADVENTISTS AND MUSLIMS IN CONVERSATION has earned the final BOUQUET. This kind of respectful dialogue is evidence that Adventist leaders are moving the Church, albeit slowly and carefully, into the 21st century. I’m impressed!

“Thus almost anywhere on the face of the globe, Adventists and Muslims occupy the same ground. Muslims are our neighbors, not just followers of a far-off religion. As servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is incumbent on us to interact with Muslims on all levels, from the neighbor next door to official contacts.

“Muslims tend to paint all Christians with the same brush: in lifestyle, as pork eaters and alcohol drinkers; in geopolitical stance, as pro-Israel and anti-Arab. A major goal for Adventists is to show and explain that we are not just another Christian denomination; that our lifestyle is similar to Muslims’ in key areas; and that we are an international, global community of faith whose agenda is not driven by the winds and directions of secular politics. We also want to convey that our convictions about religious freedom—a topic of keen interest to Muslims in some countries—lead us to encourage leaders of all nations to permit adherents of minority faiths to build places of worship and assemble together.

“While the differences of belief between Adventists and Muslims—particularly over the person and work of Jesus Christ—are major and are not to be “dumbed down,” there are significant points of contact that invite dialogue. Among these are the high regard we each have for holy writings; belief in creation rather than evolution; the expectation of and preparation for the Day of Judgment; the Second Coming of Jesus Christ; and belief in prophetic messengers. Thus, Adventists have openings for fruitful conversations with Muslims that other Christian churches do not.

“We have developed an excellent relation with the directors of the Royal Jordanian Institute of Interfaith Studies, based in Amman, Jordan. The first of a series of official conversations has been planned for the near future.”

LIKE ALL THINGS LIVING by Victor A Schultz is an excellent commentary on Growing in Christ, Number 11 of the 28 doctrinal statements of the Adventist Church.

In his essay, CHRIST AND SALVATION, Angel Manuel Rodriguez does a respectable job of answering the question, “ Is it possible for people who never hear about Jesus to be saved?” Angel, keep up the good work!

Note to Hans Olson
The Maoris of New Zealand were never defeated. They signed a peace treaty in 1872.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Laodicean Farmer

Modified from Wulffmorgenthaler, by Mikael Wulff and Anders Morgenthaler
(click to enlarge)

Change is always a tough sell.

Comic from Rubes, by Leigh Rubin.
(click for enlarged image)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reviewing the Adventist Review

April 9, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 10

Clifford Goldstein’s essay, NECESSARY BUT NOT ENOUGH, is a MUST READ. He recounts his experience in the streets of Pune, India, in language that will simultaneously break your heart and remind you once again that compassion is the fundamental expression of a Christian life. Brilliant.

THE INBOX readers’ forum is excellent. I too share Cynthia Nkana’s concern about the conclusion of the Lucy Byard story by Benjamin Baker in the Review online article, DEATH IN D.C..

Lucy Byard was a light skinned African American who died because after she was admitted to Washington Adventist Hospital, she was refused treatment when it was discovered that she had identified herself as “Negro” on an admission form.

Baker concludes, “The Lucy Byard incident turned out to be the last tragedy that would occur before the church took decisive action and aggressively sought to address racial inequities. Shortly after this incident Black-administered conferences were instituted. Immediately things were done to set the regional conference system in motion. Although the Lucy Byard event was atrocious, God used it to serve His divine purpose.”

The “decisive action” required to set the “regional conference system in motion” aggressively addressed “racial inequities” and served God’s “divine purpose”? Both Cynthia and I aren’t so sure.

The report by the Adventist News Network, ADVENTIST SCHOOLS SHAPE NATION’S EDUCATIONAL LANDSCAPE, is the story of a successful partnership between the government of Romania and Adventist education which allows “Protestant denominations in Romania to access state funding for salaries and operational expenses for schools that teach grades 1-10”. Question: Should Adventists consider the possibility of qualifying some of our largest elementary and secondary schools for state funding as Charters? Adventist schools in Australia have been state funded for years.

The cover story, A PLACE TO BELONG, by Shoshannah Guerrero, is a straightforward, honest assessment of Adventist communities. Her “on the ground” report makes clear which communities attract and which repel Adventist young people. She also suggests ways for young people to find a congregation that meets their needs.


Three things continue to trouble me. One is the way Ellen White’s commentary is stated as Bible fact. This occurs in Norman R. Bulley’s A CRY OF ANGUISH. Christ’s “agony in Gethsemane made Him tremble near the finish line. An angel came from heaven to strengthen Him. . .”

Bulley’s article also makes the evangelical assumption that God was somehow required to “sacrifice” his Son in the most horrible way possible to clear up the sin problem. That argument is irrational, given the Trinitarian doctrine of the Adventist Church. It also lends credence to the notion that the sacrifice of an "only begotten son" is required to appease a vengeful God, when the ritual sacrifice of human children is condemned without exception in the Biblical record.

Finally, this focus on the cross as the most important aspect of the life of Christ is a distraction from the contemplation of His life, what He had to say about discipleship, and what it means to be a citizen of His kingdom.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Jeremiah Redux

Modified from the comic Non Sequitur, by Wiley
(click to enlarge)

When Will We Ever Learn?

Modified from the comic Non Sequitur, by Wiley
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

March 26, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 9

Pastor Erick Cerritos, 33, was murdered in Guatemala, a place where 12 church members have been murdered, 100 extortions and 10 kidnappings have taken place since 2008. All of us should daily and prayerfully remember Adventist pastors and believers whose dangerous, unflagging and confident faith inspires the world.

Even in this excellent issue, the following six pieces deserve special mention. Ray Adams’ editorial, FOUR ELEGANT WORDS, elucidates the subatomic world of the Higgs boson.

The SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH TURNS 150 reported by Megan Brauner, is accompanied by six historic pictures that bring to life “the way it was”.

DIVIDE AND CONQUER by Frederick Dana, suggests that it is possible, even desirable, to go back to a New Testament Model in which, according to Ellen White, “God calls for workers who will be producers. There is a world to be warned. Why are the ministers who should be laboring in special service earnestly to open new fields and raise up new churches hovering over the churches which have already received great light and many advantages which they do not

BORN IDENTITY by Jimmy Phillips suggests that as the church works to “retain and reclaim” young people it must “build a spiritual identity grounded in Jesus. Form a social network of believers. . .Start a softball team, host a cookie decorating night, or plan a midweek pizza outing. Connect the church to real life, and emphasize practical service. Applying the principles and values of the kingdom of God means being actively involved in mission work”.

The two articles, INTELLIGENT DESIGN by Leonard Roy Brand and TRUE SCIENCE OR DOGMA? By Sean D. Pitman provide thoughtful and rational arguments for “the possibility that there is a Creator”.

Hyveth Williams’ PUTTING AWAY CHILDISH THINGS is an essay badly in need of editorial direction. Too many ideas are crammed into too little space. The result is cliché driven confusion. Editors, all published writers should be able to count on a professional “second look”!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Remembering the families of those who died in the March 22 Montana plane crash

Death Be Not Proud

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.

Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;

One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

John Donne

Comics from Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
(click individual strips to enlarge)

Why not a statement of beliefs?

ELLEN WHITE’S CONTRIBUTION TO ADVENTIST DOCTRINE by Kwabena Donkor, an Associate director of the Biblical Research Institute, is an authoritative, eye-opening MUST READ. (Adventist World, NAD Edition, March 2009) His words suggest a way for the Adventist Church to examine, review, and/or update existing beliefs in a way that would reflect the biblical scholarship that has taken place since our founders, working from the King James Bible, established Adventist theology back in the last decades of the 19th century.

“It may come as a surprise that in spite of her prophetic status, Ellen White did not have much direct influence over the development of our doctrinal beliefs. For example, the seventh-day Sabbath doctrine came through the influence of Seventh-day Baptists; and the doctrine of conditional immortality came principally through George Storrs, a member of the Millerite movement. The doctrine of the sanctuary, the preadvent judgment, and the significance of the seventh-day Sabbath for the end time came through pioneers such as O. R. L. Crosier and Joseph Bates. The Millerite movement even addressed the three angels’ messages.”

“As a general rule, the pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist church arrived at their distinctive beliefs through intense Bible study. The period between 1848 and 1850 witnessed about 23 Bible conferences, during which our unique beliefs were forged. At these conferences the pioneers met to study and pray, sometimes the entire night. Ellen White remembers that for a few years she could not understand the reasoning of the “brethren” and the meaning of the Scriptures they were studying. “I was in this condition of mind,” she writes, “until all the principal points of our faith were made clear to our minds, in harmony with the Word of God.”

What about a new round of Bible conferences that review the “principle points” of our faith? Committees of laypersons could again be called on to examine the foundations of our beliefs in the light of current information. They would report to the General Conference in session on topics such as inspiration, the theological impact of biblical scholarship and archeology, questions of authorship, conflicting Bible stories, the significance and interpretation of biblical literature, the relative importance of Old Testament vs. New Testament theology, revelation, end time events, Sabbath keeping, and women’s rights.

After these lay committees reported their findings, it would be up to pastors, theologians, and administrators to provide a statement of belief, NOT A SERIES OF DOCTRINES, that would be ratified by a General Conference Committee of the Whole. The ratification of these beliefs would be the primary task of all subsequent General Conference Committees of the Whole.

This is the way our beliefs were established initially. It is also in harmony with the views of Ellen White.

“There is no excuse for any one in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed, and that all our expositions of Scripture are without an error. The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people is not a proof that our ideas are infallible. Age will not make error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair. No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation. Review and Herald, Dec. 20, 1892 (RH 623:1:1); CWE 37

We cannot trust the salvation of our souls to ministers, to idle traditions, to human authorities, or to pretensions. . .The Lord positively demands of every Christian an intelligent knowledge of the Scriptures.,” Review and Herald, March 8, 1887 (2RH 117:1:1-2.0)

A Meeting of the Minds

Modified from the comic Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis
(click to enlarge)

A Tweet for Today

Modified from the comic Non Sequitur, by Wiley
(click to enlarge)