Transient Treasures

Below is my sermon from this past Saturday. If you have 28 minutes and 30 seconds to watch it I hope it will be a blessing to you. And if it is a blessing would you be so kind as to share it through Facebook or some other means. (P.S. the backdrop is due to Vacation Bible School :))

Fireflies

As I walked my dog on this humid night, I watched as the trees, bushes, and grass were illuminated by fireflies. And in the quiet, as my eyes followed the flashing lights my mind took me back to a June night 24 years prior…

June 1994 a dark humid night, the radio playing quietly in the background. On that night I wasn’t walking though, I was in the passenger seat of a car. My mom was driving, my two sisters and my older sisters boyfriend, Jeremiah, were asleep and I was looking out the window as we made our way into the Midwest and then on into Ohio. Ohio our new home. A home I didn’t want to go. A home far away from our real home in California. Far away from my friends. Far away from my school. Far away from everything. Ohio a place I couldn’t even find on a map.

As we drove deeper into the humidity and closer to Ohio I watched as the bushes became illuminated by–I didn’t know at first–then my mom said, “Fireflies.” They were beautiful. It was about the only beauty I saw in this move…it wasn’t beautiful to take a 16 almost 17 year old away from all his friends in the middle of High-School. My older sister she was just coming to see our new home, she’d be going back to California with her boyfriend for college. My little sister. She was young. She could adjust. But me, my heart was broken.

I thought about that tonight as I saw the fireflies illuminating the night, and I said a prayer of thanks to The Lord for “breaking my heart” at 16 because it saved my life.

In Ohio, the home I didn’t want. I found the home I needed. A home I only lived at for three years, but it became the home I still claim. The home where I made my best friends. The home I named my eldest son after (Dayton). Most importantly the home I met Jesus.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding….” -Proverbs 3:5

Do Not Be Silent!

Prior to World War II. Prior to the annihilation of 6 million Jews at the hands of the Nazi Regime. Prior to all this there was a law that stated all Jews must register with the government and wear a visible gold star of David. If these Jewish individuals did not register or did not wear their Stars of David they were subject to monetary fines and or imprisonment.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” –Romans 13:1

In 1938 prior to World War II. Prior to the annihilation of 6 million Jews at the hands of the Nazi Regime. Joseph Goebbels the German Propaganda Minister orders the Storm Troopers (SA) and other Nazi party formations to destroy the homes, businesses, and houses of worship of Jews while fire fighters and police are ordered to stand by and let it happen, it is known as, “The Night of Broken Glass.”

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” –Romans 13:1

Following the Night of Broken Glass, prior to World War II. Prior to the annihilation of 6 million Jews at the hands of the Nazi Regime—The Nazi state imposes a fine of one billion Reichsmarks ($400,000,000) on the Jewish community in Germany. Jews are ordered to clean up and make repairs after the pogrom. They are barred from collecting insurance for the damages. Instead, the state confiscates payments owed by insurers to Jewish property holders. In the aftermath of the pogrom, Jews are systematically excluded from all areas of public life in Germany.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” –Romans 13:1

Prior to World War II. Prior to the annihilation of 6 million Jews at the hands of the Nazi Regime—Jewish children are banned from entering museums, playgrounds, and public pools. They are also expelled from their schools.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” –Romans 13:1

If scripture was ever used to defend such cruelty would we stand by and be silent?

The United States of America, 2018—About 2,000 children have been separated from their families at the border of Mexico over a six-week period during a crackdown on illegal entries, according to U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order,” Attorney General of The United States of America, Jeff Sessions.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” –Romans 13:1

One day in the future my Adventist brothers and sisters—

“There will come a time when, because of our advocacy of Bible truth, we shall be treated as traitors.” –Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6 p.394

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” –Romans 13:1

Do not be silent!

Protest

Today 1000’s of young people participated in a #NationalStudentWalkout, including some from Spencerville Adventist Academy, the school of The Spencerville Adventist Church of which I am the Senior Pastor, and the school my three sons attend. I have heard some within our nation agitating for the inappropriateness of this walkout and also that the students should face some level of punishment from their respective schools. I would suspect that most, not all, but most of these appeals come from those that hold a position that is in opposition to the students that walked-out. I do not write this post to discuss my views for or against the issue, you can read some thoughts on that here or here. But I write to encourage everyone, no matter where you stand on the “gun debate” to support the proactive movement these young people are taking. Supporting a young persons passionate expression to the extent it is done in peace, and is not in opposition to a clear “thus saith The Lord” is a good thing. The reason I feel this way is because I experienced that support first hand as a child and have never forgotten it.

Here is my story:

When I was in 4th grade in Loma Linda, CA one of the required classes we were to take was Spanish, in 3rd grade we took German, in 4th grade Spanish. Shortly after the class began that year I began to have some run-ins with the teacher, to the extent that I felt she had begun to call me out unnecessarily and took joy in embarrassing me. I was good at losing my temper, by that point in my life I was already on a first name basis with the office administrators and the school principal. But this time I decided not to go my usual route, instead I decided to attempt something productive

I wrote a petition!

It was a petition of protest against my need to be in that class.

It was only about half a page long, but it clearly laid out my reasons for my belief that this teacher was causing undue harm to my psyche.

When I first took the petition to the office to submit it I learned two things: first a petition needed signatures and secondly a student could not submit a petition unless they had the support and signature of at least one teacher or faculty member.

With that information and without their support they sent me on their way, I would suspect thinking they had effectively squashed this 4th graders protest.

They were wrong!

I immediately began to get signatures…over 100 of them as I remember, mostly from my own grade, but a few of the 5th and 6th grade girls signed it as well as I explained my plight and batted my eyes.

But I still needed a teacher or a faculty member to sign.

Loma Linda was (is) a large for an Adventist school and in the 4th grade there were actually 4 different teachers. We had our primary room and then we would rotate a few subjects between the other three teachers. I can tell you I remember the names of two of those four teachers. Mrs. Sell, my main teacher and Mrs. Smith, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to remember the other two and I’m coming up completely blank. Could it be I remember those two teachers because out of the 4 they were the two that read my protest and agreed to sign my sheet so that I could turn it in?

Their support had a major impact on me and now 30+ years later I still remember their support and remain grateful.

Looking back on the entire incident from an adult perspective I doubt that they signed my paper out of agreement, but rather to affirm my initiative and willingness to express myself.

Also looking back I believe their support was part of my development as a leader. It was one of the first major “leadership” initiatives I accomplished.

So let us support our children even if we don’t agree on the issue. If The Lord hasn’t called for silence on this issue in His Word and the young people are being peaceful in their protest let us affirm their outcries!

We may just be helping to develop future leaders.

Oh, by the way, they let me drop the Spanish class…go figure a protest really can change things  😉

How Many Deaths Will It Take?

The answer is not in the Wind…but we ignore the answer…

One Tweet Too Far

There have been a lot of tweets that have raised my blood pressure over the last year, but there was one I read today that was one tweet too far and I could not hold my tongue any longer. But no it wasn’t from President Trump, rather it was a tweet about President Trump by a man who is the progeny of one of my Spiritual hero’s.

That a minister of the Gospel would lower the denominator of the Christian faith to a presidential speech because he publicly uses the name of Jesus and because he says, “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays” is beyond repugnant.

Brothers and sisters let me share with you a statement by one of my favorite authors,

“The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts.” -Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 57

A few words in a speech here and there do not qualify as a strong outspoken stand of the Christian faith, it is the consistent actions of ones life. It is the “habitual words and acts.”

Any individual, that consistently refers to other individuals created in the image of God in a derogatory or demeaning manner is not standing strong for the Christian faith, they are undermining the Christian faith.

Any individual that consistently lies or attempts to deceive others is not taking a strong stand for the Christian faith they are undermining the Christian faith.

Any individual that does not see the importance of seeking forgiveness from God or others is not taking a strong stand for the Christian faith, they are undermining the Christian faith.

If Christians want to support President Trump as a politician that is their business between them and Jesus; but please do not try and justify this support by claiming that he is bulwark of the Christian faith. Such statements as the above by “Christian” leaders leave our collective faith looking foolish and our collective witness weakened.

I am not a minister with anywhere near the status of Franklin Graham but to those few non-Christians that read this blog please know there are many of us out there that do not deem what our President is doing as representing or even helping the cause of Christ. There are many of us that know the greatest testimony of Christianity is, “a kind and courteous Christian.” And many of us still desire to see those we hold up as Christian pillars, individuals that live by the scriptures which teach our “speech should always be gracious.” (Colossians 4:6).

What Is Your I.Q.?

Years ago I googled…actually I think this was before google…so I searched in AOL and found a free online IQ test. I started the test and within a few questions I quit, why because I could tell by those first few questions I didn’t want to know my IQ. I also rationalized, “I’ve made it this far without knowing my IQ I should be good for the rest of my life.”

I have a great family. Good friends. I love my job. I’ve achieved some success in school. I believe I was correct in the above assessment. But there is one IQ test out there I believe all of us should be aware of.

It is not your Intelligence Quotient it is your Invitation Quotient.

There is an old book I came across by Gary McIntosh & Glen Martin, and when I say old I mean it was written when I was in 7th grade; in my reading of this book I came across a test that helps us asses if we are being faithful individually in inviting people to Jesus.

I want to share this test with you and invite you to take it:

  1. Have you spoken to anyone in the last month to share with them what Jesus and His church mean to you?                                     YES     NO
  2. Did you speak to someone in the last month who has been absent from your church services to express your concern for them? YES     NO
  3. Have you invited a newcomer to your community to come with you to church any time in the past four months?                           YES     NO
  4. Have you encouraged or invited anyone who does not attend any other church to visit yours with you in the last month?             YES    NO
  5. Did you speak to someone last Sabbath you did not know personally who was in the church services to extend your personal word of greeting and welcome?                                                                                                                                                             YES    NO
  6. Have you taken time to greet the people who sit next to you in the pew before or after church services?                                          YES    NO
  7. Do you pray for opportunities to be abel to speak about Christ and His church to others?                                                                 YES    NO
  8. Do you pray that the Holy Spirit will burden you with the souls of the lost people around you?                                                           YES    NO

Now the purpose of this little I.Q. test is not so that I can know your score. In fact it is not important for me to know your score. What I am hoping is that if you are unable to answer “YES” to all 8 questions that you will ask God to help you begin to work on the areas where your invitation quotient is a “NO.”

There are people out there that YOU are the best opportunity God has to reach them. It is true. That is a big responsibility and one we cannot turn away from. So take the test and then begin living out the questions within the test.

I don’t care if my Intelligence Quotient is high. I do care if my invitation quotient is high.

“And you shall be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.” Acts 2:8

The Best Argument for Women’s Ordination Without Using Words

Let me speak directly to those who stand firmly in the belief that women should be ordained. In the course of the last 5 years I believe one of our greatest weaknesses in our “struggle” to affirm the rightness of women’s ordination (WO) is the use of too many words!

As I studied Acts chapter 5, specifically verses 33-42 I realized the answer to proving the validity of our cause is not primarily in trying to fight policy with words or vote, or to try and convince others with words of the justice of our position. Our position would be greater served if we grew!

Gamaliel in verses 35-37 points out the many causes that had arisen over the years and how each of those causes had ultimately failed as they failed to grow and the followers of these movements were eventually scattered. He then makes the famous statement,

“So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God you will not be able to overthrow them, You might even be found opposing God!” -Acts 5:38, 39

I will confess I have read this text many times over the last 5 years and I’ve applied this text to Elder Wilson and others that seem so set against WO. This week as I read it my heart was reminded, “the easiest application of any text is to apply it to someone else.” So today I want to apply this text to me and my position.

If I read this story in Acts chapter 5 with me in mind I must then ask myself, “what would be the application of Gamaliel’s words to me. To the cause I stand for.” And the answer that convicts my heart: GROWTH!

Let us acknowledge one of the greatest reasons the territories that oppose WO have the upper hand is GROWTH! I don’t mean that they just have a larger voting bloc than we do, but they are growing and in the majority of territories where we affirm WO not only are we often times NOT GROWING, we are shrinking!

Imagine this, what if 5 years ago when Mid-America Union voted (and then rescinded) their position on WO, and then Columbia Union voted to ordain women and then Pacific Union voted to ordain women–we didn’t change any of our votes but rather than fighting a defensive battle trying to defend our position we simply committed in our hearts that we are not going to fight, we are not going to try and prove our just position (that has already been done in committee after committee since 1973), we are not going to get in the debate. We’ll keep voting our conscience, but we’ll expend our energies only on growing. And what if now 5 years later we could look back and see exponential growth in our territories and we could stand before the body and as they condemn the votes on WO we could say like the South American Division reported the other night,

“We have three state capitals where there is a church in every neighborhood.” “We have started 91 centers of influence in our major cities.” “We have planted 440 churches in our urban centers alone in 2016.”

Would that not be a better argument based on Acts 5:38, 39 for WO than an abundance of words to try and convince people we are right?

Now I know already some people have discredited what I just said because they would point out that places like Brazil and Africa are different cultures and “growth” is easier there. But before you get to comfortable in that position of defense, let me say that argument, which I have also used, is only valid if we never mention the growth of the Seventh-day Adventist movement in China as position of support for the cause of WO.

You see we in the core of our beings we understand GROWTH is powerful evidence for the cause of WO, which is why Spectrum, Adventist Today, etc. have made videos & written articles on the women pastors of China and the evidence of GROWTH in support of our cause; it is why so many of us have shared on Facebook and retweeted on Twitter so many of those videos and stories about women pastors in China. GROWTH is the greatest evidence in support of the cause of WO.

After Gamaliel made his speech the Bible tells us that the disciples were beaten and told to stand down, “they charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus.”  And what did the disciples do? Did they argue for another hearing? Did they try and convince the leaders to accept what they were doing? No they went out and GREW!

“And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number…” -Acts 5:42-6:1a

No matter what happens today (October 9th, 2017) or tomorrow or at Spring Meetings or at the next General Conference Session. Let us make a commitment to reserve our words for voting and requesting TIME and TIME and TIME again for WO to be on the agenda, but beyond those meetings let the argument of our cause be the GROWTH of each territory that stands for WO!

Scripture Memorization 15 of 52: Psalm 139:13, 14

“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.” -Psalm 139:13, 14

This is the rejoicing of my heart today. At various stages in my life I have not taken very good care of the wonderful contraption known as my body…one of those stages were the two years after we moved to Maryland. In those two years I gained 22 pounds which led to many issues the least of which disturbance in my wife’s sleep with all my snoring 🙂 I lost some weight for my neck surgery in January (surgery not related to the snoring ;)), but almost immediately put it back on. Then in March I received word that my name had been drawn, after I randomly entered the New York City Marathon. That was a ‘bit of the kick in the pants I needed to get going!

Well today I’m 16 lbs lighter than I was at my highest point. Today I also had the privilege of checking off one of the items that was high on my list to things to do when I moved to Maryland, I ran D.C.. Eight miles around all the Capitol, The White House, all the monuments and back up to the Supreme Court and over to Union Station.

I am glad that I have a body that though it moves a lot slower than it did a few years ago and has more aches after all I’ve put it through, at the end of the day it can still get out there and pound the pavement…truly wonderful are God’s works, my soul indeed knows this very well!

“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.” -Psalm 139:13, 14

WATCH THIS! PLEASE!

This sermon is by one of my dear friends and one of the best preachers. Find an hour and watch this message…I have not been moved, convicted, rebuked, encouraged more by a message in years!

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