Posts tagged Adventist
How to Free Your Local Church from Last Generation Theology (with Mike C. Manea)
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Transforming your church is not simply about changing its structure, methods and leadership mechanisms. If you want to truly transform your church, you have to go deeper into its story. Sadly, in Adventism, many local Adventist churches are plagued by unhealthy theological paradigms that affect its capacity to do mission. Some of these beliefs include perfectionism, how we understand the nature of sin and the law, distorted versions of the gospel and - a shockingly common one - the idea that the battle between good and evil can’t be won until a group of last day believers achieve sinless lives.

This last view is a common idea taught by a theological paradigm within the church known as Last Generation Theology. And until it is addressed and discarded, the vast majority of local Adventist churches will simply never thrive.

 

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But why? Why are these ideas so dangerous to the mission of the local Adventist church?

This week, I share a new interview with pastor Mike Cyprian Manea as we discuss the root of the problem and how a healthy, Biblical alternative is imperative if we want our churches to thrive.

This episode is fire, so don’t miss out!

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Is Your Adventism Beautiful?
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Jewelry.

It’s a word that ruffles lots of feathers in Adventism. Some Adventists believe you can’t possibly be Adventist if you wear it. Other Adventists believe there is nothing wrong with it. And others still take a functional approach that supports the use of jewelry (like watches, tie clips, wedding bands) while rejecting jewelry that only serves adornment purposes (like ties I guess?). But to be honest, I kind of don’t really care. In fact, the whole debate pretty much bores me. But there is an angle on the whole theme of adornment and jewelry that I never hear during these debates, and its the one that I happen to find really interesting.

In Isaiah 61:10 the Bible says,

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Now notice the imagery here. The text is saying that God adorns us like a bride adorns herself in jewels. Picture that for a moment. A bride getting herself ready for her wedding. She is careful to comb and braid her hair just right. Her skin is brushed to perfection. She hangs a necklace around her neck and earrings that match. The jewels themselves can’t be just any old jewel. They have to be just right - not so strong that they steal the show and not so weak that they look out of place. They have to compliment her eyes, her dress - even the shape of her jaw and the length of her neck. It’s a work of art intended to enhance her beauty and draw attention to her joy.

The Bible says that this is what God does for us. He adorns us. He clothes us in his promise of salvation, in a robe of his perfect life and love. The picture Isaiah is painting is clear. God isn’t interested in dragging us into a religion full of rules and weird standards. The exact opposite is happening. God courts us romantically and then, the day we embrace him, he adorns us in all the beauty heaven has to offer.

In other words, God wants us to be beautiful.

David put it best in Psalm 90:17 when he wrote, “let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us…”

In other words, its not simply that God adorns us with his grace and forgiveness. According to David he adorns us with himself. He is like a jewel that enhances our beauty and draws everyone’s attention to his heart. (Too bad this amazing point is often absent in our silly debates over jewelry.)

But it goes deeper than this. God is not simply an adornment upon you and me that others see when they interact with us. Instead, the Bible paints an even crazier picture. Notice what Isaiah says in chapter 62 verse 3.

You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD's hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Not only does God adorn us with himself, Isaiah goes so far as to say that he adorns himself with us!

Did you catch that? Not only does God adorn us with himself, Isaiah goes so far as to say that he adorns himself with us! Imagine God placing a crown on his head, or a royal ring upon his finger. That crown and that ring represent you and me. It’s not that God needs us to make himself more beautiful because he is the height of beauty. However, in some weird way I don’t fully understand God still describes his people as jewels he wears upon himself. I would suggest that because the great controversy is a battle over the character of God - is he good or not? - then the biblical picture of God wearing his people as jewelry has theodical significance. In other words, when we live beautiful lives we beautify God in the eyes of people who think he is ugly. Our lives are the jewels that catch their attention and enable them to see the true beauty of his heart.

Zechariah also captured a similar picture when he wrote, “The LORD their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown.” (Zech. 9:16) and speaking through the prophet Haggai, God said to Zerubabbel, “I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you…” (Haggai 2:23)

So let me ask again. Is your Adventism beautiful? Is your faith like a jewel that God would want to wear? Because buried beneath endless ping pong battles over whether jewelry is cool or not lies a narrative significantly more meaningful and important for us to ponder. I have never met a lost person who rejected church or Christians because they wore too much jewelry. But I’ll tell you what I have met - countless people who have turned away from God because supposed believers live lives that make God look ugly. Judgmental, arrogant, disconnected, sectarian, holier-than-thou, argumentative, critical, fault-finding, condemnatory, negative, obsessed with rules, traditions and mindless customs, tossed around by conspiracy theories and full of hatred toward those different from themselves. That’s the sort of stuff that makes God look ugly. Not your necklace or wedding band but your character.

So my question today is, is your Adventism beautiful? Is your life beautiful? Are you adorned with the character of Jesus? Are you kind, fun to be around, and encouraging? And on the flip-side, if you were a jewel would he put you on? Would your life be filled with care for the poor, the vulnerable and the lonely? Is it the kind of life that would make others say - “wow, God really is beautiful.”

The answer to these simple questions is the difference between a life of missional effectiveness and failure. So today I want to invite you, regardless of what your convictions on jewelry are - stop and think if you are adorned in the beauty of God and if, in turn, God would adorn himself with the beauty of you.


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Ellen G. White and Conspiracy Narratives

I recently shared an article titled The End Times and Conspiracy Narratives. In it I shared some thoughts regarding the relationship between Christians in general and the ever increasing popularity of conspiracy narratives. In this post, I would like to focus more on Seventh-day Adventists and their relationship to conspiracy narratives/theories by sharing some thoughts from the life of church co-founder and prophetess Ellen G. White.

The first thing to point out is that Ellen White didn’t really deal with the issue of conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories, while growing in her day, where not as widespread as they are today. However, she certainly lived in a time when indulgence in conspiracy theories was growing. The Illuminati and Free Masons were already on the scene, and strange narratives regarding their agenda, power, and political control were spreading. In an article in Publiceye.org titled “The Illuminati Freemason Conspiracy” the author states that “[t]he idea of a widespread freemason conspiracy originated in the late 1700's and flourished in the US in the 1800's.”[i] Nevertheless, Ellen White herself never engaged in such activity. 

For example, the Illuminati was founded in 1776, just fifty-one years before Ellen White was born. If knowledge of the Illuminati and their inner workings were necessary then apparently God didn’t see fit to tell Ellen White about it. In all of her writings there is not one syllable devoted to the Illuminati. The Free Masons were also born late in the 16th or early 17th century. During Ellen Whites day, Free Mason conspiracy theories abounded. Yet once again, Ellen Whites writings are void of such conspiracy theories.

Ellen White did talk about the Free Masons. Nevertheless, when dealing with the Free Masons it’s important to note what she said and what she didn’t say. Ellen White counseled, under Gods direction, that Christians stay away from the Free Mason society for practical and obvious reasons. She even worked personally with an Adventist who was involved in the fraternity and God gave her special knowledge of their inner workings in order to impress upon the mind of this man that he was indeed speaking through her. However, not only did Ellen White never go on to share the inside knowledge God gave her in any of her work, but even the reasons she gave in opposition to joining the fraternity were simply practical and void of any promulgation of conspiracy narratives.

So far we have seen that Ellen White, though certainly having had opportunities, never engaged in conspiracy theory talk. This should in and of itself cause those of us who value her prophetic example and are nevertheless fascinated with such things to wonder if perhaps we are wasting our time with pointless investigations. However, I would also like to point out some quotations from Ellen White (with personal comments in brackets) that give us principles to keep in mind when dealing with this issue.

“We need far less controversy [a characteristic of conspiracy theories], and far more presentation of Christ. Our Redeemer is the center of all our faith and hope” (EV, 172).

“Our work is not to make a raid on the Government but to prepare a people to stand in the great day of the Lord. The fewer attacks we make on authorities and powers, the more work will we do for God....[Conspiracy theories do exactly what we are told not to do in this quote] Do all in your power to reflect the light, but do not speak words that will irritate or provoke” (EV, 173).

“You should have a clear apprehension of the gospel. The religious life is not one of gloom and of sadness but of peace and joy coupled with Christlike dignity and holy solemnity [Those fascinated with conspiracy theories often exemplify a doom and gloom version of Christianity and not the peace and joy that should be had]. We are not encouraged by our Saviour to cherish doubts and fears and distressing forebodings; these bring no relief to the soul and should be rebuked rather than praised [Conspiracy theories nourish doubts, fears, and distressing forebodings. Rather than praise these things by our focus on them we should rebuke them by ignoring them]. We may have joy unspeakable and full of glory. Let us put away our indolence and study God’s Word more constantly” (EV, 180).

“I have been shown that it is the device of the enemy to divert men’s minds to some obscure or unimportant point, something that is not fully revealed or is not essential to salvation [a classic description of conspiracy theories]. This is made the absorbing theme, the “present truth,” when all the investigations and suppositions only serve to make matters more obscure and to confuse the minds of some who ought to be seeking for oneness through sanctification of the truth” (EV, 182).

“A noble, devoted, spiritual worker will see in the great testing truths that constitute the solemn message to be given to the world, sufficient reason for keeping all minor differences concealed, rather than to bring them forth to become subjects of contention. Let the mind dwell upon the great work of redemption, the soon coming of Christ, and the commandments of God; and it will be found that there is enough food for thought in these subjects to take up the entire attention [If we spent more time getting to know Jesus we wouldn’t have time for speculations. Conspiracy theorists often have much knowledge of many things but they are lacking in the preciousness of Jesus. Rather than allure they repel those around them]” (EV, 183).

“Satan is pleased when we magnify his power [This is the nature of conspiracy theories]. Why not talk of Jesus? Why not magnify His power and His love” (MHH, 43)?

While these statements may not be directly dealing with the issue of conspiracy theories I don’t see how one can engage in entertaining such things without violating the principles they advocate. With this in mind, it is clear that Ellen White did not see conspiracy theorizing as a necessary element of preparing for last day deceptions.

However, Ellen White is not our example – Jesus Christ is. In Jesus we find our pattern, one that focused on showing mercy, love, and empathy to the suffering and whom wasted no time engaging in such fruitless things as conspiracy narratives. Ellen White wrote,

Millions upon millions of human beings, in sickness and ignorance and sin, have never so much as heard of Christ’s love for them. If our condition and theirs were to be reversed, what would we want them to do for us? All this, so far as lies in our power, we are to do for them. Christ’s rule of life by which every one of us must stand or fall in the judgment is, “‘Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.’” Matthew 7:12[ii]

In conclusion I ask, what would you want a Christian to do for you if you were lost? Would you want him/her to share with you how the shirt you are wearing has masonic symbols, a DVD on how the Bush administration plotted 911, or how the music you like has satanic lyrics recorded backwards? Or would you like her to tell you of Jesus love for you? What would you want him to say? When your heart is bleeding, when your debt is overwhelming, when your marriage is ending, when your guilt is so strong its crushing you, sitting there in your living room with your world falling to pieces around you – what would you want to hear? I don’t know about you, but I would want to hear that there is a Savior who “regards with infinite tenderness the souls whom He has purchased with His own blood. They are the claim of His love. He looks upon them with unutterable longing.”[iii] I would want to know that there is one whose name is Jesus who can save the worst of the worst. When my heart is broken, speak to me of His love! When sin has me bound in iron chains, tell me of His power! When I am lost, nowhere left to go, talk to me of the “One who can calm the raging seas, give sight to the blind, pull the lame up to their feet”.[iv] Tell me “God loves you Marcos," "[w]ith a love so strong he'll never let you go... you [are] not alone”.[v]

Seventh-day Adventist, I appeal to you – speak of Jesus. Tell of His love. Tell of His grace. Tell of His power. Tell of His soon return! Talk of how He longs for us to be with Him. Talk of how He can save the worst of sinners. Let Him be your theme and song. Let Him be your every breath. If you and I would do this, if we would choose daily to lift Him up we would never go wrong. Never.

______________

[i] http://www.publiceye.org/tooclose/masons.html
[ii] White, Ellen G. The Ministry of Health and Healing, p 48.
[iii] ibid, p 20.
[iv] Wickham, Phil. Safe. http://www.elyricsworld.com/safe_lyrics_phil_wickham.html
[v] ibid.