Friday, October 30, 2009

Reviewing the Adventist Review

October 15, 2009
Vol. 189, N. 29

I read this issue in “one sitting” (actually in “one lying” in bed, from 4 to 5:30 last Monday morning). Instead of putting me back to sleep as I intended, it was so packed with expressions and comments and editorials that so challenged my thinking that I turned off my alarm clock at got up a half-hour early.

I am delighted that The Shack by Wm. Paul Young is being discussed and evaluated by Review readers. Grace Connection, a Chico based, loosely affiliated parish of the Paradise Adventist Church, is sponsoring a Paul Young visit to Chico in May of next year.

Approval for an Adventist University is pending in the Paraguayan Congress. The expected approval will enable Dr. Jan Marie NIck, a professor at Loma Linda University, working with Adventists in Paraguay, to establish a nursing program in a country with one nurse for every 10,000 people. It’s reports like this from Elizabeth Lechleitner and Ansel Oliver that make me proud to be an Adventist.

In BEEN THERE—DONE THAT! Gerald A. Klingbeil, as a new “American”, big city Adventist, explores his reaction to cafeteria Adventism, when members have choices with regard to worship services, study groups, and fellowship lunches. He’s concerned that Adventists have “become like tourists, snapping wildly at different motifs, trying to get the most thrilling, exciting, entertaining menu for our Sabbath mornings, but not staying long enough to enjoy the quietness of God’s gentle whisper or the sometimes jarring but badly needed polishing that God’s Spirit is doing on our characters through the brother or sister sitting next to us in that pew”?

Fredrick A. Russell provides a thoughtful and timely admonition regarding VERBAL ANARCHY. “The danger of the growing incivility in our society. . .can move our culture from verbal anarchy into a societal meltdown that will impact us all. . .Civility in discourse is the bedrock of any sane society; it’s nonnegotiable in the body of Christ.”

I’ve grown to love Andrew McChesney! THE BATTLE IS THE LORD’S is so personal and honest that he’s destroyed my stereotypical idea of journalists, not to mention Moscow journalists!

“Sasha hung up. But Satan wasn’t going to let me off so easily. After an hour, Sasha called again, asking if I had changed my mind. Then he called again. Sitting at home in front of the computer was boring, especially when I could be out [on Friday night] having fun. As I stared at my computer screen, I knew that if Sasha called one more time, I wouldn’t be able to refuse. I prayed desperately.”

SARAH’S SORROW by Jill Morikone, a music teacher, chronicles her encounter with a little girl who was “standing there all alone in the center of the room, those expressive eyes flooded over, the tears making a trail down her face.” (Warning: Kleenex required.)

ARE WE KILLING ADVENTIST EDUCATION by Shane Anderson is just plain wrong in his assessment of Adventist education. His list of primary and secondary causes for the decline of enrollment is simply an extension of the thinking that has made the lives of Adventist teachers, parents, and pastors extremely difficult. It’s the old “blame game” played to a different tune.

Speaking as a Professor of Education, a teacher the three years in an Adventist junior high school, a longtime Adventist school board member, and, for one memorable and humbling year, an acting principal of an Adventist elementary school, “the six primary factors behind Adventist educational decline” listed by Anderson reveal his ignorance rather than his expertise.

Make Adventist education free and/or make “full ride” work-study programs available, and Adventist schools, colleges, and universities would be alive and well overnight. These are tough economic times, and Adventist parents and students, out of necessity, have discovered that public schools aren’t the devil’s playgrounds that traditional Adventist mythology has made them out to be. *

To directly reference Anderson’s “factors behind Adventist educational decline”, let me add that I’ve supervised over 1000 elementary and secondary student teachers in 90+ public and private schools and school districts, and I have never encountered more dedicated, better educated, more Christian teachers; more loving, concerned parents; better church support; better administrative leadership; more responsibly conservative school curriculums; and more passionate community support for education than in the Adventist schools I and my children have attended.

Now that I’ve expressed my opinion, here are the words that elicited that response.

“Now that we’ve looked at some secondary causes of the problem of Adventist educational decline--waning commitment to Adventist institutions, tuition costs, and poor marketing--let’s get to the primary causes. I believe the six primary factors behind Adventist educational decline are:

1. The lack of passion among churchgoing members for being a “conservative” Seventh-day Adventist.
2. A misunderstanding of what constitutes biblical discipleship.
3. Poor pastoral support of Adventist education.
4. Poor parenting.
5. The inroads of postmodernism, secularism, and “liberalism” in Adventism.
6. Poor-quality schools.”

WHERE HAVE ALL THE GROWN-UPS GONE? By Kameron Devasher is accompanied with one of the most nauseating pictures on record. It’s an adult, middle-aged man sucking his thumb and attempting to look like he imagines a petulant two-year-old would look when asked to eat his string beans.

Devasher wants Adventists to “reclaim the distinction of being “people of the Book”. He references “the commands of the Lord, through Moses, to ‘impress [his instructions] “on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deut. 6:7).

As Moses discovered, this kind of admonition worked only occasionally with the Israelites, even when God was on record as killing off thousands of them when they didn’t get the message.

SO WHERE DID DEATH COME FROM? by Deryl Corbit claims support for the notion that God’s law “requires the death of those who sin”, and that same law required God to kill (I’ll admit “sacrifice sounds better.) part of himself, if you are a Trinitarian, a.k.a. Jesus, who “died in our place, that we might live”. [Corbit’s], “truth’s trump card is not ultimately found in scientifically determining the origin of life, but rather in correctly understanding the origin of death.” Words fail me.

HOW GOD GENTLY LEADS by Esther Block begins with a meaningless but oh so pious cliché that Review editors should banish forever. “Our Sabbath school leader challenged us to let go of the control of all areas of our lives and allow God to be in charge.”

* In the meantime, how about considering before and/or after school religion classes taught by local pastors for students who can’t attend Adventist elementary and secondary schools, and Adventist dormitories for students who attend selected secular colleges and universities?

The Good Old Days

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

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

October, 2009
Vol. 5, No. 10

This issue is thoughtful, informative, and worth reading. As usual, I have some critical comments along with some MUST READ endorsements. (A quick reminder. Because Adventist World is free to the online audience, there are a number of excellent pieces that I will not review. There are, unfortunately, important articles in the print Adventist World that do not appear online. STILL FISHING by Eldyn Karr, a Voice of Prophecy biography, along with some great early pictures, is one of them. Also not available online is THE PLACE OF PRAYER, prayers from around the world that regularly break my heart.)

Keeping youth and young adults engaged in the church must be one of our highest priorities, according to .Jan Paulsen. WHY DO THEY WALK AWAY? Is a very important MUST READ.

“Many teenagers choose to leave the church primarily because they feel “picked on.” They are made to feel unworthy; they have no useful role; they have no safe place within the church to work through those questions of behavior and standards with which they and their peers struggle.”

“Function and trust. Young adults and professionals also walk away because they are filled with ideas, opinions, and energy, and yet find no room to release this within the church. It’s not that they believe the church is irrelevant to them, but rather they believe they’re irrelevant to the church! So they may stay on for a while—for family or social reasons—but they’ve already ‘checked out.’”

THE GROWING CONCERN ABOUT FOOD ALLERGIES by Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless once again deliver the goods. This is a MUST READ if a child or young person you know might be allergic to something in their diet.

In BETWEEN NATIONS AND THE KINGDOM, Ellen G. White issues a [timeless] warning in Basel, Switzerland, on September 24, 1885.

“Though some are decidedly French, others decidedly German, and others decidedly American, they will be just as decidedly Christlike.”

“I warn you, brethren and sisters, not to build up a wall of partition between different nationalities. On the contrary, seek to break it down wherever it exists. We should endeavor to bring all into the harmony that there is in Jesus, laboring for the one object, the salvation of our fellow men.”

George T. Javor’s CELEBRATING CREATION makes the case that,
“God’s work is beyond fantastic, beyond incredible!” I agree. However, in our biosphere, in this “very good creation”, life can only be sustained by death. Javor does not deal with this troubling theological question.

“The ingenuity, resourcefulness, and sheer elegance of the way the living world is put together are beyond the human capacity to describe. Its contemplation forces the beholder to put their hand on the mouth (see Job 40:4); for whatever could be said would be unworthy and amount to a trivialization of this grand subject. Silence here is eloquence.

“Is it possible ever to doubt the goodness, love, and wisdom of the Being responsible for this vast, magnificent, and ‘very good’ creation? The answer can only be a resounding NO!”

WHY I DON’T DRINK ALCHOHOL by Tom Shepherd is a thoughtful attempt to justify Fundamental Doctrine 22 of the Adventist Church. His most convincing argument is “The Moral Imperative”. However, Shepherd’s biblical argument for abstinence is a bust. It’s pouring new wine into an old Adventist wineskin.

Is Abstinence a Moral Imperative?
“Some may concede that, given these explanations, one could logically support the value of a Christian life devoid of alcoholic beverages. But is it a moral imperative? Several lines of evidence combine to suggest that it is. First, World Health Organization statistics present the heavy toll alcohol produces. It accounts for approximately 1.8 million worldwide deaths annually (3.2 percent of total deaths) and 58.3 million disability-adjusted life years (4.0 percent of the total). It accounts for 20 to 30 percent of worldwide deaths from esophageal cancer, liver cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, homicide, epilepsy, and motor vehicle accidents. Its consumption is on the rise in developing countries with mostly no infrastructure for prevention and treatment of the problems associated with alcohol’s effects. If for no other reason than Christian concern for our neighbors, we have a moral responsibility to preach and teach total abstinence from alcohol.”

Is Abstinence Biblical?
There are 183 references to wine in the Old Testament and 32 in the New, and while the Bible condemns drunkenness, it hardly demonizes alcoholic beverages.

Melchizedek king of Salem, priest of God Most High served wine. (Genesis 14:18) It was counted a blessing from God. (Genesis 27:28) Along with the offering of a lamb, wine created “an aroma pleasing to the Lord”. (Numbers 15: 4-7) It could be given alone as a freewill offering (Deuteronomy 12:17) or a tithe (Deuteronomy 14:23) It was a ceremonial party drink. (Deuteronomy 14:26) Wine was to be given to the priests in Jerusalem upon request. (Ezra 6:9) Ester drank it (Ester 5:6) as did Job’s sons and daughters. (Job 1:13)

Wine “gladdens the heart of man”. (Psalms 104:15) The honored wife served it (Proverbs 9:2) and wise men recommend giving “beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish”. (Proverbs 31:6) Solomon counseled “drink your wine with a joyful heart, (Ecclesiastes 9:7) it makes life merry. (Ecclesiastes 10:19) He also considered it a potent love potion. (Song of Solomon 7:9) Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and Zechariah include wine in their celebration of the coming utopian kingdom of Israel. (Isaiah 25:6, Jeremiah 31:12, Amos 9:14, Zechariah 9:17)

In the New Testament, Jesus creates wine, (John 2) Paul counsels Timothy to “stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses”, (1 Timothy 5:23) and the “living creatures” of Revelation warn: “Do not damage the oil and the wine!” (Revelation 6:6)

SALVATION BY CHILDBEARING? is a tortured attempt to make Paul politically correct. Angel Manuel Rodriguez fails miserably when he attempts to answer the question, “What did Paul mean when he wrote: ‘Women will be saved through childbearing?’” (1 Tim. 2:15)

“If that [my] reading of the text is correct, it would be better to take the preposition ‘through’ to mean ‘despite,’ describing the circumstances under which salvation takes place (cf. 1 Cor. 3:15). The woman will be saved despite the fact that she continues to experience pain in childbearing—a reminder of her sin. That salvation is not through childbearing is indicated by the use of the passive verb (‘she will be saved’), implying that God is the One who saves (the implied subject of the action). Fourth, the last part of the verse states that ‘they’ will be saved ‘if they continue [persevere] in faith, love and holiness with propriety’” (2:15b, NIV).

Laodicean Update

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

Friday, October 23, 2009

Reviewing the Adventist Review

October 8, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 28

This issue features two timely articles on depression, its causes and cures. A discussion of this disease is important for Seventh-day Adventists because, according to Raquel Arrais, the General Conference’s Associate Director of Women’s Ministries, “Admitting to depression is difficult. . .because [church members] fear having their spirituality judged.”

Ric Trion, in his letter to the editor, gives “The Shack” a positive review. I have only a comment and a question after offering paragraph teases from Katia Garcia Reinert’s and Jennifer Jill Schwirzer’s MUST READ articles on depression.

According to Katia Garcia Reinert, a family nurse practitioner and health ministry/coordinator for Adventist Healthcare and specializes in working with people struggling with depression:

“It is estimated that 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression, and more than 20 million of them live in the United States. It costs the U.S. more than $70 billion in treatment, disability, and lost productivity each year. In addition, studies show that women are two to three times more likely than men to have depression, and one in four women will suffer from clinical depression sometime during their life, versus one in eight men.

Some Adventists may mistakenly think these disturbing statistics represent only those “in the world”—not in the Adventist Church. After all, Adventists are known to be among the healthiest people around and outlive many others. . .Ironic as it may seem to some, depression does not discriminate against race, color, or religious affiliation, and many faithful children of God today are suffering from this disabling disease.

General Conference Women’s Ministries director Heather-Dawn Small and associate director Raquel Arrais travel throughout the world meeting and talking with faithful Adventist women of all races. They have noted that most women are afraid of talking about their depression and emotional pain.

“I’ve met with many of my sisters who suffer from depression, and yet no one wanted to talk about it,” Small says. “It seems there is a misconception that those suffering from depression and other mental problems are suffering due to spiritual problems, as if a lack of a good spiritual life leads to mental problems.”

Jennifer Jill Schwirzer, a practicing mental health counselor, author, and musician based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, provides the following information:

“There’s a difference between depression and grief. Grief is normal sadness felt in response to loss, and an important part of a well-rounded life experience. A time of sorrow is healthy—it’s sobering, deepening, and refining in its effect. For people who are concerned with developing a beautiful character, grief is a friend and not a foe. Depression is a related but different animal. It is characterized by prolonged rumination over an event or loss, leading to compromise in relationships, work, and hobbies. Grief is healthy and normal, but depression is neither. Whether sadness develops into this chronic and debilitating form of illness can depend upon how we process loss.”

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. He’s also featured on the Hope Channel’s program CLIFF! In spite of these impressive credentials, he occasionally needs reminding that the biblical creation stories are not literally true.

In his editorial, GRACE AND JUDGMENT IN GENESIS 3, Cliff seems to go along with the notion that God is responsible for the deaths of women in childbirth, their second-class citizenship, and the specter of worldwide famine, all because Eve got tricked into eating an apple and Adam took a bite, too.

“Notice, too, that only after this promise, only after hope of grace and salvation is given in verse 15 (known also as the ‘first gospel promise’) does the Lord pronounce judgment on Adam and Eve: “To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing. . . .’ To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife. . . .’” (Gen. 3:16, 17).”

Goldstein doesn’t include the entire curse, so here it is.

To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband; he will rule over you.”

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, you must not eat of it, Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."

The STATEMENT OF OWNERSHIP that appears on page 28 announces that there are currently only 25,500 paid subscribers to the Adventist Review, the self-proclaimed “flagship” publication of the Adventist Church. Editors, why so few?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Words That Still Provoke a Fight!

Greek definitions can be Googled or supplied by Graham Maxwell, “Servants or Friends”, Pineknoll Publications, Redlands, CA, p. 90.

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

September 24, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 27

The words of Jan Paulsen and Ellen G. White are worth the subscription price. The rest of the issue is a disappointment. It turns out that Paulsen’s disclaimer, “The readings for this week are not doctrinal expositions,” is an important one. But first, Jan and Ellen.

“We have the privilege of being involved with our Lord in a mission of hope. This mission is not the result of human creativity but the work of God, who out of love Himself embarked on a mission of hope and salvation for the fallen human race. Love is the fuel of mission. Any other motivation for mission diminishes the value of the mission itself and impoverishes our spiritual lives.

“The readings for this week are not doctrinal expositions; they are sermons that seek to describe our mission, strengthen our faith, and motivate us to be part of that mission. Once again, pray for the world church as it fulfills the mission of hope entrusted to it by our glorified Lord.”

“The mission of the Son consisted in giving His life for others, hence His mission was not to deliver a message that was unrelated to Him. He was in His own person the message God sent to us: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us (1 John 4:10). . .He was sent by the Father ‘into the world that we might live through him”’ (1 John 4:9). He proclaimed salvation by giving it out of His own life. His mission and His person were inseparable. In that self-sacrificial act, He revealed the loving character of the Father.”

“The rainbow above the throne, the bow of promise, testifies to the whole world that God will never forget His people in their struggle. Let Jesus be our theme. Let us with pen and voice present, not only the commandments of God, but the faith of Jesus. This will promote real heart piety as nothing else can.

While we present the fact that men are subjects of a divine moral government, their reason teaches them that this is truth, that they owe allegiance to Jehovah. This life is our time of probation. We are placed under the discipline and government of God, to form characters and acquire habits for the higher life.”

KARL HAFFNER’S SUNDAY THROUGH SATURDAY SERMONS are based on the following Morris L. Venden quote. “Our only unique contribution to the religious world has been the three angels’ messages and the connection they made for us with the sanctuary and judgment teaching.”

These sermons are a tortured exegesis of The Third Angel’s Message that includes Daniel and Revelation, the 2300 days, false doctrine, investigative judgment, mark of the beast, end of the world, and punishment of the wicked. Haffner talks a great deal about “mission” and “hope”, but no matter how his message it’s packaged, it’s the stuff of childhood nightmares, adolescent dissolution, and adult disinterest.

In THE URGENCY OF THE MISSION OF HOPE, Haffner showcases this quote from 2 Peter 2:4-9 “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men . . . if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.”

In MISSION OF HOPE AS WORSHIP, he maligns his fellow believers.
“Far too often, people confuse worship with self-gratifying entertainment. Thus, they will say things like “I’m going to worship at First Church today because they have a funny preacher from out of town. Next week I’ll worship at Main Street Fellowship because they have a hot worship band.” The result? We’re raising a generation of junkies that scurry to the most electric worship one week and then to the most titillating preacher the next week, never anchoring to any local church. They whine about how the worship service fails to meet their needs—as if the church exists to cater to the entertainment whims and emotional cravings of selfish consumers.”

He goes on to describe authentic “worship” as a kind of ecstatic “happening”. “Worship means surrendering every compulsion to God’s control and fully submitting ourselves to Him. The result of worship, then, is always a life of radical obedience. When we truly worship God, everything we do becomes an offering of surrender and praise.”

In TRUE WORSHIP vs. FALSE WORSHIP, Haffner uses The Third Angel’s message to describe what happens to you if you “fail to live in an intimate dependence upon God alone. “A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.”

In ACCEPTING THE MISSION OF HOPE, Haffner states that the message of salvation by faith “is important because the eternal destinies of all human beings hinge on this central issue brought to bear by the third angel—the issue of worship. . .In God’s kingdom, salvation comes freely to all who accept what Jesus did on the cross. In the counterfeit kingdom of the evil one, salvation must be earned by works. ‘But beware,’ says the angel, for ‘there is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast.’”

In MISSION OF HOPE AS REVELATION OF GOD’S CHARACTER, the reader is admonished not to “skim over the line about punishment coming to those who ‘do not know God.’ At the end of time, the difference between life and death, heaven and hell, is our relationship with Jesus. The key question at the time of accounting will be this: Do you know God? If the answer is yes, then on the day of judgment you will find mercy.”

MISSION POSSIBLE: THE CHILDREN’S READINGS FOR THE WEEK are written for third graders, but the Applications and Discussion topics require fifth grade sensibilities. The Activities suggested are generally boring but unobjectionable. However, the Memory Gem for Thursday, “Loyal to the End” brought back memories of the nightmares that haunted me after memorizing “gems” like this one as a boy:

“Be faithful, even if it means you must die. Then I will give you a crown. The crown is life itself” (Rev. 2:10).

Times, They are a Changin!

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

Reviewing the Adventist Review

September 17, 2009
Vol. 186, No. 26

This is a solid issue. I have a couple of comments and a question or two, but on the whole, the editors have produced a thoughtful balance of informational and devotional thought, along with a MUST READ cover feature and a classic mission story.

In a June 18, 2009, editorial, “What Determines Where We Go?” Roy Adams “hoped that some reader, somewhere, would embrace the challenge of taking the gospel to some dying place—even to Vardø. We’d clearly failed, I hinted in the editorial, since Sister Juliussen had now died and the church was sold. But two responses to my editorial lament demonstrated I hadn’t heard THE REST OF THE STORY.”

WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM FACEBOOK by Catherine Lester is a MUST READ. She believes “there is a unique feeling of freedom when interacting online. People are trending toward lots of self-revelation. Sounds like the perfect place to talk about matters of the heart, matters of salvation.” TTYLIH by Kimberly Luste Maran agrees that “virtual friendships connect people on the most basic, human levels. . .The opportunities for churches and members alike to minister to needs and help others accept their invitation to heaven. (TTYLIH is the text message, “Talk to you later in Heaven.”)

NOAH, THE FLOOD AND YOU by Marcia Mollenkopf provides “seven coping strategies from the story of Noah that are useful in the storms of life.”

It’s always fun and a bit unnerving to read the adventures of Andre McCesney, our living on the edge, SDA Russian journalist. His ALL THE WAY TO DAVOS doesn’t disappoint. It begins, “I didn’t want to attend future Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s preinduction party in the same black corduroy slacks and rumpled blue-striped shirt I had worn for the past four days. But I didn’t seem to have any choice.”

TOOLS OF THE TRADE, Monte Sahlin’s book reviews, are always offered in the spirit of Christian ministry. The material he recommends is worth checking out, as are his latest suggestions: Strategic Disciple Making by Aubrey Malphurs, Youth Ministries from AdventSource, and Why I am a Sabbath-keeping Christian by Dan Jarrard.

RUBY FERRIS: PIONEER MISSIONARY by Laurie Falvo is a MUST READ recounting of the mission life of Rubina May Ferris who was born in 1899 in rural Australia. Together with her husband, Norman, Ruby helped pioneer the Adventist work in the South Pacific’s Solomon Islands. When Ruby passed away at 103, she left behind a diary called Nana’s Memoirs. Selections from this memoir are included in this biographical account of her experiences.

Why KIDSVIEW included a weird piece about William Miller adapted from a Junior Sabbath School lesson, accompanied by a beast infected prophetic chart predicting the Second Coming in 1843, is beyond me.

In A STRANGE KIND OF FELLOWSHIP, Fredrick A. Russell must mean “relatively minor trials” when he writes, “There comes a precise point in the midst of the trial that we begin to delight in the trial and what God is doing with us while we’re in there.” Psychiatric counseling would be recommended if Russell’s “delight in the trial” involved the murder of a family member.

SEVENTH-DAY COMMITMENT, reported by Jimmie Tramel is the story of Louie Bishop, a 24-year-old golfer who is so talented that he earned a scholarship to the University of California, Davis and an invitation to compete in the U.S. Amateur Tournament, even though he does not play golf on Saturday. His Adventist upbringing regarding Sabbath observance has made it impossible for him to conscientiously compete on Sabbath. He has been taught that he must renounce his faith if he competes in sanctioned amateur events that require play on Saturday or decides to become a professional golfer.

It’s ironic that lots of Adventists work on Sabbath without “renouncing” their faith,* but athletes can’t. Athletic events can be mentioned from the pulpit and discussed in the hallways after church, but playing professionally or just playing is “sinful”. Paul, in his letter to the Romans,** condemns this kind of arbitrary “my way or the highway” theology.

* This list is intended to be illustrative not exhaustive: doctors, medical support personnel, nurses, vets, administrators, preachers, elders, deacons, Sabbath school teachers, musicians, diplomats, missionaries, armed forces members, Adventist radio and television technicians, employees of Adventist hospitals and medical facilities

**Romans 14

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Evidently, the ordination of women is long overdue!

Cartoon source unknown
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

September 10,2009
Vol. 186, No. 25

Bill Knott takes his “first born” to an Adventist university and hopes the experience will be worth the money. (He doesn’t mention an Adventist daughter-in-law, but I’m sure it’s in the back of his mind.)

Wilona Karimabadi offered a reminder of a miracle FROM LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY. WORLD NEWS AND PERSPECTIVES provided timely information about what’s happening, tragic and inspirational, world wide. In this issue there are reports of a Typhoon in Taiwan that claimed the lives of four church members and two pastors, a Religious Freedom Festival in Peru, and an Adventist pastors’ and teachers’ conference in Rhode Island. John R. Nay, an Adventist diplomat was named Ambassador to Suriname.

CONNECTION RESTORED by Daryl Martin offered a reminder that the discovery of a long lost friend is a priceless treasure. EVANGELIZE? WHO ME? By Whitney Von Lake Hopler is a practical step-by-step guide to personal evangelism. Casey Wolverton reveals THE BEST DEFENCE against territorial magpies and the devil’s lies.

Clifford Goldstein’s THE SOMBRERO GALAXY reminds us that we are only an insignificant “speck of creation with so much in our view but so infinitely beyond our grasp. The only thing that can save us from this absurdity is the gospel, the hope of redemption, the promise that are lives are of infinite value, and that one day everything will be resolved, made right.”

CONSPIRACIES by Reinder Bruinsma declares in no uncertain terms that, “The message of the Advent hope is not to be correlated with theories about. . .the spread of New Age thinking or the alleged development of some form of world government.”

The Cover Features, DROWNING IN A SEA OF GRAY and WILLING BUT WEAK by Erica Richards are attempts to understand why young adults in North America are leaving the Adventist church in droves and provides strategies to stem the tide. Unfortunately, both analysis and prescription are unhelpful. North American young people and many adults haven’t time for a religion that, in the words of Karen Armstrong, “no longer evokes a profound conviction of life’s ultimate value”*. In other words, the rituals, traditions, mores, and beliefs required to remain “Adventist” have become meaningless.

I’d like to believe that many of the young people who leave our church have become adult Christians, far more concerned with the Gospel of service and love than legalism and conformity to a cultic creed.

For what it’s worth, here’s my solution to the “problem”. Adventists should celebrate the diversity of Christian beliefs and life styles of young people instead of making them uncomfortable and unwanted. In other words, it should be official church policy that every baptized Adventist is an Adventist in good standing until individual members request that their names be “taken off” the church books.

*The Case for God, p. 9

Men at Work in the Geoscience Lab

Cartoon from Big Science, by Nick Downes
(click to enlarge)

Someone in the Crowd

When you asked as you were dying

Father forgive them, they know not what they do

While you were taunted by passers-by and chief priests and scribes and elders and even a bandit crucified with you
Someone in the crowd was listening and was forgiven

When you cried out as you were dying

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me

While they ridiculed you and called you a madman, “For did he not say ‘I am God’s son?’”
Someone in the crowd knew the difference between a desperate cry for help and a declaration of abandonment

When you said as you were dying

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit

While the cynical commented “He has put his trust in God; now let God rescue him if he wants him”
Someone in the crowd understood that Jesus’ trust was not misplaced

When you spoke as you were dying, hanging there under that cruel sign, JESUS—KING OF THE JEWS,

I am thirsty

Someone in the crowd put a sponge soaked in sour wine on a hyssop stick and held it up to your mouth

When you knew as you were dying, that you had finished the course, that you had kept the faith
It wasn’t only the centurion who struggled to understand what it meant when you whispered

It is fulfilled
It is finished

Someone in every second of every minute of every hour of every year of every century since that day has made the transition from fearing God to loving Him because you loved us. Someone has always understood the ironic, terrible, glorious, eternal truth spoken by those who mocked you.

He saved others; himself he could not save


These Cartoons were endorsed by James Dobson.

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Walking the Dog on Sabbath Morning

I thanked our neighbor Debbie
for carefully placing the Sacramento Bee and Enterprise Record
on our doorstep—she is an early riser and likes doing it.
She was planting flowers next to her front door.

I paused to listen to the cries
of the Red Shouldered Hawk twins
on top of the Maple tree
in our neighbor’s back yard.

A long narrow puddle on the road
reflected the bright blue sky.

I wondered how Muggins, our Boston Terrier,
could wind himself around a holly bush
and remain unstuck.

I noticed a tiny spider
flying an impossibly long strand of web.
when she drifted out of the shadows of the trees.

Rene, a frail, eighty-one-year-old cancer survivor,
was putting out pots of red geraniums
next to her garage.
She said she was late getting them out.
I told her I had missed them.
I said they were beautiful
and at the same time thought
that her tremulous smile
was far lovelier.

Even though the sunlight had penetrated my bones
and made me smile,
I was happy to get home,
to walk though my front door one more time
to Claudia
and banana toast with blueberries
and strawberries and walnuts.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

September 2009
Vol. 5, No. 9

This is an outstanding issue of Adventist World. Jan Paulsen’s rhetoric has never been better, and the recurring theme is reflected in the title of Martin Weber’s piece, CHANGE OR DIE. (Note: Not all the articles and readers’ comments found in the NAD magazine edition and in this review can be found on the Adventist World website.)

Bill Knott’s editorial, HEALING—ABOVE ALL is a paean to song.

“Adventism, at its core, is about changed lives and healed spirits, not only changed ideas. Let’s covenant to tell—and sing—the stories of Christ’s healing when we gather in His name. Worship, at its heart, is our weekly celebration of the love that finds and heals us. And it’s our anticipation of the day when Jesus will make all things beautifully new.”

CHRIST’S HEALING IN A CHANGING WORLD is a July 7, 2009 address given by Jan Paulsen at the Global Conference on Health and Lifestyle in Geneva, Switzerland. This is a MUST READ.

“Quite simply, we cannot express our faith—our desire to imitate Christ—in seclusion; our values and our beliefs find their true meaning only within the context of human relationships. In the words of my former teacher Jürgen Moltmann, “Likeness to God cannot be lived in isolation. It can be lived only in human community” (J. Moltmann, God in Creation, p. 222).

“So what does it mean to live in connection with others? It means that your problems are not yours alone; they are also mine. It means having a sense of solidarity with humanity that makes me vulnerable, also, to its hurts and pain.

“Living in connection with others means seeing the large problems of society as collective human problems. I begin to see that poverty, for instance, is not just the result of random circumstances or arbitrary luck. If I live in comfort and someone else lives in distress, could there be a material relationship between these two conditions? Perhaps there is. In admitting this, my sense of isolation diminishes and my sense of responsibility for others grows.”

CHANGE OR DIE by Martin Weber is a sober assessment of possible Adventist futures.

“’If the rate of change inside an organization is less than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight. The only question is when.’ That warning from corporate guru Jack Welch is more than a principle from the business world. It’s also true that religious organizations cannot thrive, or even survive, without making changes necessary to fulfill their God-appointed purpose.”

In CLASSES, CULTURE, AND CHRIST, Sandra Blackmer reports on the unique ministry of Arizona’s Holbrook Indian School.

“Unlike most other schools off the reservations in the U.S. state of Arizona, Holbrook Seventh-day Adventist Indian School not only allows but encourages its students—most from the Navajo tribe—to embrace their Native American culture and keep alive their traditions.

“’Even though academics are very important, Holbrook’s main mission is to teach the students about Jesus,” says principal Janet Claymore-Ross. “But we also promote respect for their native culture.’

Claymore-Ross, a member of the Lakota tribe and the first Native American principal since the school was established in 1946, says that many of the values held by Native American people are the same as those cherished by Christians.

“’They value honesty and respect for each other as well as for nature,” she says. “If we really are Christians, if we really follow what Jesus says in the Bible, our beliefs blend with much of what they have learned.’”

PLUGGED IN by Amy Prindle asks the question, “What if a church were measured by GE’s principles of success?

“Businesses, charities, churches, schools, even social groups face dissipation or disbandment if th3 world changes around them and they fail to adapt. . .What if a church were measured by GE’s principles of success? A denomination’s strength and commitment might be gauged by its presences in areas of need.”

EMBRACING INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE by Brad Forbes describes how AdventSource is meeting the challenges of the twenty-first century.

TWO L.A. CHURCHES COLLABORATE WITH NEIGHBORHOOD HEALTH FAIR, reported by Betty Cooney, chronicles that happened when Central Korean and Central Spanish matched their resources and their communities’ needs to serve 2000 low-income people.

Pedro Kalbermatter was God’s mighty warrior in the highlands of South America. He was THE NURSE WHO COULD FIGHT.

“Pedro and Mina got married and had two sons, but when they were invited to work in the Peruvian highlands, they gladly accepted. After days of traveling by train, truck, and boat, they got to their new workplace in the winter of 1919.

“The situation they found was far from ideal. The Kalbermatters saw that the Indians were mistreated and suffered destitution and neglect. However, every attempt to improve their condition was met with fierce opposition. The first mission school in the town of Saman was destroyed. Then Pedro went to Azangaro, where we find him on the day he went to meet an angry mob, armed only with the Scriptures.

“The crowd could not believe their eyes. The Protestant heretic was walking toward them, unarmed. He was smiling. They told him they would kill him, and started firing into the air. But Pedro did not retreat. On the contrary, he assured them the school was there to stay. Finally, the mob rode away, victim of a strange fear.

“That evening, Pedro conducted a thanksgiving service for being alive. From then on, the mission thrived.”

Angel Manuel Rodriguez answers the question, “ Where are the GLOOMY DUNGEONS FOR EVIL ANGELS?”

“Peter uses vivid language to describe the fate of evil angels. God “sent them to hell, putting them in gloomy dungeons.” In the Bible “hell” is the realm of the dead, the tomb. The common Greek word for “hell” is hades, which designates the place of the dead, the underworld. But in this case Peter uses a different word, a verb: tartaroo, “to cast into/to hold captive in tartaros.” In Greek mythology tartaros designated the deepest area of hades, reserved for the punishment of disobedient gods. Peter uses this image to express the idea that fallen angels are now in prisons of darkness and death, separated from the divine source of life. This is not a literal prison, because demons are still active in the world of humans (e.g., 1 Peter 5:8; Jude 9).”

“Something to Think About” a comment from Calvin Acuff from Morgantown, North Carolina, makes an important point.

“The Spirit of Prophecy is the Holy Spirit, not any writings, even those inspired by Him. . .This [reference] gives our critics reasons to claim Adventists think they have exclusive possession of His inspired writings. . .It would be more accurate to refer to them as prophetic messages of Spirit-inspired writings, identifying them accurately rather than calling them what they really are not.”

A letter in WORLD EXCHANGE provides an example of the extent to which careless words* and innuendo** create a disturbing false reality! Consider these words from reader Marilyn Morgan in Kettle Falls, Washington.

“What should Adventist leaders do to stop professors from teaching that God did not create the world as told in Genesis? It seems they must be held responsible for hiring evolutionists and allowing them to teach their beliefs in classes of Adventist schools.”

*“Every Thought Captive” an article in the May 14, 2009, Adventist Review by Roy Adams.
**“Honoring the Creator God”, an essay by Manuel Rodriguez in the July 2009, Adventist World.

The Lord’s work is never done!

Comic modified from Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis.
(click to enlarge)

Wasted Tears

By the powers of sentiment
Out of a river so calm
To cast I begin
Tears of utter desperation

Marred so much I am
With Life's struggles and cares
Next to oblivion is I
In the pathetic state I am

Carried are mine tears
From a river soon going dry
Regretful I am over my tears
Oh! Wasted tears

Wish I had known
Would've shed them when praying
For God would've pitied me
And saved me from my agony
And my tears to waste would not have gone

Kevin Ndemo.

I am a student in Kenya, Africa at Multimedia University. I am a member of the universal Body of Christ, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, working for the Lord and holding onto that blessed hope, Christ's soon return. Maranatha.

The Secret Jesus

The following is a talk presented to Grace Connection on June 2, 20024, by Heather Isaacs-Royce, a graduate of San Francisco Theological Seminary.

“Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ.’ Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’ Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a person to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Mk. 8:27-36

Click here to read the rest at Grace Connection

Dangerous Words

Comic from Pearls Before Swine, by Stephan Pastis.
(click to enlarge)