Posts tagged Bible
How the Church Failed Mo


Mo is a pretty cool dude. I don't say super cool because, after all, he is my brother and so pretty cool will have to do. (I'm sure such a "theorem" would be reciprocated by a hearty "my sentiments exactly" on his part.) Anyhow, the point is he's pretty cool.

Now Candice, my special lady, is awesome. This awesome lady of mine was clever enough to plot a secret reunion between my pretty cool brother and my pretty cool self. She said it was a surprise to celebrate my recent liberation from the tyranny of biblical languages (I just recently finished my last ancient Greek class), but I'm sure having my mother in town for a visit had more to do with it. 

Now onto my main point. Mo and I were raised Seventh-day Adventists all of our life. At the age of 17 I decided to follow Jesus. Mo went a different direction and has stuck to it ever since. For many years I have wondered why he walked away from the faith of his youth. Being highly intelligent, scientific, and analytical would have been a challenge for him especially when my father rejected his scientific explanation of where the wind came from and instead insisted, very dogmatically of course, that God had a room in heaven with wind trapped inside. Whenever he wanted the wind to blow he would open the door. Whenever he wanted it to not blow he would shut it. Though I have no proof of this, I wonder if Mo's brilliant mind wrestled with such an irrational concept thus planting the seed for a growing discontent with Christianity. 

Regardless of what reason (or perhaps reasons) led Mo out of the church one thing is certain: his experience was, to be quite generous, bitter. You see, Mo and I share a craving for authenticity that we acquired from our culture. We want answers, not cliches. We want truth, not opinion. We want a faith that is logical and rational - free from fanaticism, phobias, and unreasonable superstitions. We want Bible not dogma and traditions. We want relationship not religion. And most of all, we want honest and open dialogue not absurd, irrelevant, and simpleminded solutions. Authenticity. That is what we crave. And that is what the church failed to give.

You see, Mo grew up in a church culture that told him it was bad to go to the movie theater even though we could go to the elders house and watch mindless killing and gore. It was OK, was the message, so long as it is in a house. But don't go to the theater! Your angel wont follow you in there and if you die there you will go to hell. Irrational anyone? Mo grew up in a church that told his lady friends it was bad to wear pants to church, or anything too revealing for that matter, even though every Saturday night half of the members were glued to the infamous Sabado Gigante game-show with half naked women parading their curves on the TV screen for all the choir singers, elders, and deacons to enjoy. Hypocritical anyone? Mo grew up in a church where the leaders were only concerned with whether or not you were a good church member. Do you cry yourself to sleep at night because you are lonely and depressed? We don't care. Just make sure you don't let your hair grow too long and you have a tie on when you show up on Sabbath. Absurd anyone? Yes, Mo grew up in a church where the leaders spoke to you when you were in trouble and ignored you the rest of the time. A church that wanted to erase him from membership because he joined the Army even though not a single one of those involved in this proposition had ever sent him a letter of encouragement or called him to offer a prayer. A church where lack of biblical knowledge prompted an "Ellen White said" that was supposed to settle the issue once and for all. A church steeped in simple-mindedness, irrationality, and flat out extremism at times. For a mind craving authenticity, I conclude that the phonyness was simply too much to bear and the highways and by ways of the world, complete with their own set of phonyness, somehow seemed more fulfilling than the dictatorial corridors of his childhood faith.

This, I believe, is how the church failed Mo. This, I believe, is how it fails so many of its youth. It is not because it lacks entertainment. It is because it lacks authenticity. It is not because it lacks programs. It is because it lacks relationships. It is not because it lacks answers. It is because it lacks questions and somehow marginalizes those who seem to have many of them. Yet over the years I have come to shed many of the absurd and nonsensical standards of my upbringing and have come to discover a simpler yet infinitely more complex relationship with God. With all of the cultural baggage that my traditional Hispanic culture brought to Christianity gone I can now see Jesus and his love much clearer than ever before. I no longer believe that a true Christian is only the one who fits into my brand of Christianity. I have met wonderful Christians who are covered in tattoos, who enjoy the bouncy feel of dread locks, and who go to church without a tie on. I have experienced Hawaiians who worship God in Hula shirts and flip-flops. I have experienced theologians who enjoy sporting a fro-hawk. I have experienced Jesus among the real, the genuine, and the broken. I have experienced doubts and wrestled with them. I have come to realize that God, the multiplex deity of the cosmos, is paradoxically simple. He invites me to have a relationship with him and to let my life be an outflow of that relationship. As Jesus once said,
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." - Matthew 22: 37-39.
And as my friend Amir Davis once said, "Do the Ten. Love God. Love Men. Take care of your body. And live your life. That's all God requires of you." It really is that simple.

I wonder where Mo would be today if the church had focused on Jesus' words more than they focused on their own traditional discomforts? What if they had loved the culture instead of demonized it? What if they had shown us a God who cannot be caged, the wild lion of the heavens who cannot be controlled, and taught us to live on the edge with him? What if they had embraced questions? What if they had let go of the pretensions and gone on the journey of doubt, struggle, and pain? What if they stopped misusing Ellen White? What if they had forgotten the opinions of men and taught us to live by the Bible only? What if they had looked past the long haired guys, the braids, the jeans, and the baggy t-shirts and shown us the love of Jesus? And I don't mean shown it to us in a Bible study. I mean shown it to us with a life. I pray I wont have to keep wondering. I pray the era of the Mo's will come to an end. I pray we learn our lesson.

But that is not the only point of this article. I also want to take the opportunity to appeal to the Mo's of today. While the church has failed you, it is still within your reach to recognize that Christianity is extraterrestrial and as such it cannot be defined, contained, or limited by human culture. We may have messed it up, but you can look past our faults in the same way we should have looked past yours. While we may look at the church and find much to criticize we can find neither spot nor wrinkle in the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore, I leave you with a challenge from Christian apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias and it is this: "Look at Jesus and ask yourself the question, Can I find anything wrong with him?" The answer may just revolutionize your life.
Doubting Thomas (Part 5: Falling Up)

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish” (John 21:4-5)?
Jesus was alive. The disciples were back together. Life seemed good. Although they still had lots of questions they knew that everything would be alright. After all, Jesus had conquered death, so why worry about anything else?
It was evening time. Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James and John, and others were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, "'We’ll go with you.' So they went out and got into the boat..." (3).
I can only imagine what that night would have been like. They must have talked about all kinds of things, but one thing must have kept popping up - Jesus. He was alive. How crazy is that? How do you stop talking about that? I don't think you can. Perhaps they were a bit too caught up in conversation because according to the story, "that night they caught nothing" (3).
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” 
“No,” they answered. 
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish (4-6).
Jesus then did something that I totally love. Jesus, who is creator God, said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” The picture that paints of God is to me absolutely stunning. He's relatable. Down to earth. Humble. He likes broiled fish. And he likes to eat breakfast with sinners. How amazing Thomas must have felt. He had doubted Jesus, but Jesus didn't hold it against him. He came near to him and together they ate breakfast. But the joy of his immediate presence would not last forever. "He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3). Then, on the final day he said to them, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (8).

As Jesus spoke these final words, the story says he rose up into the air and "was taken up before their very eyes" (9). What was Thomas thinking at this time? I don't know. But I can imagine him longing for Jesus to stay. Thomas had come so close to Jesus that to see him go would have been almost unbearable. The skeptical, sarcastic, self-interested doubter had fallen in love with Jesus. But Jesus had to go and soon "a cloud hid him from their sight" (9) and they didn't see him again.

But Jesus didn't leave them with nothing to do. He gave them a mission. "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." In other words, their lives were to be poured out into one simple purpose: To tell the story of Jesus to the entire world. There was nowhere they wouldn't go, no land they wouldn't travel to, no tribe they wouldn't seek out. They had experienced the wonder and the beauty that is Jesus. They had discovered the way to heaven. Not a hopeless and futile list of duties but a friend who loved them and wanted them despite all of their flaws. This Jesus had given his life to cleanse humanity from sin and all that was left was to tell the story and let the earth be filled with the story of the sin-bearing God. However, there was more to the story than what Jesus had done.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (10-11).
The story the disciples were to tell was bigger than what Jesus had done. It was also about what Jesus was soon to do! He was gone yes, but he would return someday to establish his kingdom and the disciples knew their mission in life was to prepare the world for his soon return. 
Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers (12-14).
This is the very last time Thomas is mentioned in the Bible. He never shows up again. So whatever happened to Thomas? 
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:1-4).
Thomas was there with the other disciples when the Holy Spirit was poured out on them. From that day forward they were filled with power to do what Jesus had told them to do: Tell the world! And that's exactly what the disciples did. They told the world, and they told the story so loud and with so much passion that the story of Jesus spread everywhere. And everywhere it spread the people there would join the disciples in spreading the story as well. Jesus saves and he's coming back again! And they were so good at it that their enemies dragged them before city officials and said, "These [are the] men who have turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6).

They weren't exaggerating. The disciples really did turn the world upside down. And what of Thomas?
Traditionally, he is said to have travelled outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel, travelling as far as Tamilakam in present-day India. According to tradition, the Apostle reached... India in AD 52 and baptized several people, founding what today are known as Saint Thomas Christians or Nasranis. He is believed by the St Thomas Christian tradition to have established... Seven and Half Churches...[1].
An ancient Assyrian and song writer who lived during the time of AD 300 wrote a song about Thomas which captures it all perfectly:
It was to a land of dark people he was sent, to clothe them by Baptism in white robes. His grateful dawn dispelled India's painful darkness. It was his mission to espouse India to the One-Begotten. The merchant is blessed for having so great a treasure. Edessa thus became the blessed city by possessing the greatest pearl India could yield. Thomas works miracles in India, and at Edessa Thomas is destined to baptize peoples perverse and steeped in darkness, and that in the land of India.[2]
Today doubting Thomas is remembered by a moment of failure. But his life gives evidence to something more than just a doubter. He is known as the Apostle to India, is said to have worked miracles there, and established seven churches. According to tradition, Thomas was eventually killed in India by a man with a spear. Today the site of his death is known as St. Thomas Mount where the "ancient Syrian Christian community of India trace the origin of their church to St. Thomas the Apostle"[3].

How do we experience God? I think if we asked Thomas he would tell us: Don't doubt him. He can do amazing things with your life you would never have imagined. Even when you don't see him trust him anyways. He wants you, he calls you, he accepts you, he guides you, he reveals himself to you, and he leads you along life's way. And you can be guaranteed one thing that so long as you follow him you will make it safely to the fathers house.

So what do you say? The choice is yours alone.

__________

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_the_Apostle#cite_note-Erwin_Fahlbusch-2  
[2] Hymns of St. Ephrem, edited by Lamy (Ephr. Hymni et Sermones, IV), as quoted in: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_the_Apostle#Mission_in_India
[3]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Thomas_Mount 
Doubting Thomas (Part 4: I Won't Believe)

Then everyone deserted him and fled (Mark 14:50).
Episode four begins. The sun has set. A cool breeze adorns the night. As we look we spot Jesus kneeling. He is sweating drops of blood. His body is shaking. His fingers clutch the ground beneath him. He is praying. Talking to God about what is about to happen and visibly terrified. It seems as though whatever he is going through it is literally killing him. "Take this cup from me" (36) he prays, while simultaneously embracing his fathers will. 

In moments he is on his feet and approaches his disciples. They are all fast asleep on the ground. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour" (37)?


Jesus goes back to the place where he was praying. The struggle begins again. His body shudders under the weight of mans sin. Jesus is about to go to the cross. He is about to give his life for all of mankind. And at this moment, the weight and the guilt of our sin begins to create a gulf between he and God. The experience is so overwhelming it crushes him. Once again, he gets up to see if his disciples are awake and praying for him but again they are all asleep. Peter is snoring. Andrew is slobbering. And Thomas is talking in his sleep. Jesus goes back to pray for a third time. The battle ensues. When he is done he returns again to find Thomas still zonking along with everyone else. "Rise! Let us go" (42)! Jesus says.
Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders (43).
What happens from here on out is nothing short of mayhem. An angel knocks all the soldiers to the ground but Jesus stands him down. Then Peter decides to take off where the angel left off and cuts off a soldiers ear. Jesus tells him to stand down as well. The mob rushes at Jesus. Thomas and the rest of the disciples flash back to the Feast of Dedication in the temple and fear grips them. For a moment they freeze not knowing what to do, then their instinct takes over - "everyone deserted him and fled" (50).

A day later Jesus had been condemned to death. He was given a cross to carry after he had been beaten with whips and insulted by the Roman soldiers who pulled his beard, spit on him, and mocked him (Mark 15: 16-20). The beating was so severe that Jesus had no strength left. He collapsed carrying the cross and barely made it to the site of execution. He was dehydrated, exhausted, and crushed by the weight of sin now resting fully upon him. Six hours later, much to everyone's surprise, Jesus hung dead on the cross and the hopes of thousands were shattered. "We thought he was the hero" some said. But now they were sure that Jesus had been just another of the many phony hero's who had met his end at the hands of the Roman state.

With the exception of John, the disciples were nowhere to be seen. They each fled and were now hiding - afraid that the Romans would come looking for them next. Thomas was not with the rest of them, but he was hiding as well. A thousand thoughts sored through his mind. To think that I was ready to die for him? I was really convinced he was the hero, but now? I guess I got tricked along with lots of other people. He was a fake just like the other ones.

The sun set just like every other night. During the hours of darkness the enemies of Jesus celebrated their victory and the friends of Jesus wept. Their lives were over. How could they ever go back into society? They would be ridiculed to no end. Their hopes, dreams, and desires had been crushed. Jesus was gone, and with him went the last three years of their lives. What a waste.

Night two came and went. Thomas got no sleep that night either. He spent his time thinking, imagining, trying to put the pieces back together. But with every passing moment he only got more confused, more angry, and more disillusioned.

It was a Sunday afternoon and Thomas was walking through a field. His mind still racing. A knot in his stomach. And a million questions without end. As he walked he heard voices shouting, but he didn't respond. Then suddenly, a hand grasped his shoulder. He turned to Peter, James, Andrew, and the rest of the disciples standing there. "We have seen Jesus!" They exclaimed. "He is alive. He appeared to Mary first and then to us. You have to come Thomas. He rose from the dead just like Lazarus!"

But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe" (John 20:25).
I. Will. Not. Believe.

Those four words are the most painful words a loving God can ever hear. After all God has done to save us and bring us back to himself there are still people in life who respond to his love by saying "I will not believe." How heart breaking this must be for God! Others respond to God by saying "I will not believe right now" and still others respond by saying "I will not believe unless." Which of those responses best describes you? Are you rejecting God today? Are you putting him off to some distant future? If you are, then I challenge you to pause. Stop the rush of life and just pause. What in the world are you rejecting him for? Is there seriously anything in this world better than God? And if you are not rejecting, then what are you waiting for? What could seriously be holding you back right now? Just go for it. He has given everything for you and hes asking for nothing in return except your love. And if you are putting the ball in Gods court and saying
"Ill do it if" or "I wont do it unless" then my question to you is, what more can God do? He gave his only son to die for our sins, what else do you expect from him before you can embrace his love? Get rid of the "not". Get rid of the "not right now", and get rid of the "unless." Just say yes.

Thomas refused to believe. Instead, he wanted proof that Jesus was alive. He had been hurt too deep and he would not be taken for a fool. If he was going to follow Jesus he wanted evidence. "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe" (26-28).
Wow. Isn't Jesus amazing? He met Thomas right where he was. He met Thomas in his doubt. He met Thomas in his unbelief. He met Thomas in his weakness. And he will do the same for you. And his invitation to Thomas remains to this day, "Stop doubting and believe."
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (29).
Why did Jesus say that? He happily gave evidence to both Thomas and the disciples as well. Why did he say, "blessed are those who have not seen yet believe"? Could it be that when it comes to experiencing God physical sight isn't as important as we think it is? Could it be that experiencing God is something deeper and stronger than a sense experience?

I believe so. And the truth is some of the most important things in life are things we can't actually see. Oxygen is something we cant see with the naked eye, and yet without we would die. Gravity is also something we can't see and yet if you ignore it by jumping out of a window, you can end up dead. And of course, we can't see love. Its not something that is visible to the eye. But without love life is meaningless. Now true, we can see and feel the results of oxygen, gravity and love but we can't actually see them - only their results. But what is also true is seeing each of those things will do nothing to increase our belief or appreciation of them. If I could actually see the particles that make up oxygen and gravity or the essence that makes up love it would do nothing to impact my experience with each of them. My experience with them is stronger than sight, and because of this sight would add nothing.

In the same way, experiencing God is not necessarily about seeing him. Its about experiencing him in such a way that we know he is there, we can see and feel the results of his presence even though we can't see it. And this is super important to experiencing God. Because if we embrace false expectations of what experiencing God is we will miss him even though he is there. So what are those false expectations? They differ but more often than not people are expecting some sort of transcendent or ethereal encounter, a vision or a vivid dream, an emotional high, or some dramatic miraculous event. But those are not the ways by which we experience God. Rather God is experienced by the conviction that we are loved and desired by him, by the sense that he is calling you, by the experience of seeing him active in the world and changing peoples lives, by our life-long walk with him, and by observing in ourselves and others how trustworthy walking according to his way is.

We don't have to see God with the naked eye to know he is real. We can know he is real, we can believe that he lives, and we can have a personal encounter with him without ever actually seeing him. But how? And here is the main point that I want to bring out today. Without this you can rest assured that you will never experience God. But with it, we can be confident that God can be known, experienced, and encountered.

When Jesus rose from the dead, no one was looking for him. The only people who came to the tomb were Mary and Martha who were only there to anoint his dead body, not to see him. Truth is, no one was looking for him. The disciples were all hiding like cowards in a room and Thomas was off somewhere else hiding as well. But they all experienced Jesus because even though they weren't looking for Jesus, Jesus was looking for them. It was Jesus who revealed himself to the disciples and it is because of this that we know that Jesus is a self-disclosing God. He is not interested in hiding or in lurking in the shadows. He wants to be known. He wants to be met. He wants to be encountered. 

So here is the main point for today, you are not the only one wanting to experience God. God wants to reveal himself to you and even when you are far away, hiding, and confused he is approximating himself to you in order to give you an encounter with himself. You don't have to carry the burden of discovering or experiencing God. It is God who is revealing himself to you. All you have to do is "stop doubting and believe."
Doubting Thomas (Part 3: Show us the Way)

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:1-3).
I had a love hate relationship with the Army. There were things about it I couldn't stand one bit. And there were things about it I loved to no end. Among them was that being a soldier to me felt like a privilege. I could defend something that I believed in. All of the training and preparation was geared at one simple task - defending freedom. Sounds cheesy yes, but I loved it. However, it didn't take long for me to realize something that tore me up inside. No matter how much I fought and sacrificed everything I stood for would eventually be gone. Nothing in this world lasts forever. Nations come and go. Political philosophies rise and fall. And soldiers live and die. In my heart I felt I needed to dedicate my life to something that would last beyond a Hollywood flick or a history book. I needed to fight for something that would last forever.

John chapter 14 begins with a promise. Jesus calls it "My Father's house". He speaks of mansions, rooms, preparation, a place. He talks about coming back and he talks about relationship - "I will come back and take you to be with me". It doesn't take a scholar to recognize that Jesus is using heaven language here. He is talking about that eternal home we call the New Jerusalem, the kingdom of God, and eternity. And it is in response to this amazing promise of Jesus that we once again bump into the elusive Thomas.
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way” (5)?

In our last post we saw that the resurrection of Lazarus was a cataclysmic event in Thomas' spiritual journey. And here, just a few chapters later, we start to see a change in Thomas. We no longer see the sarcastic disciple. Now we see someone who is really interested in what Jesus has to say. And he asks one of the most profound questions known to man - "how can we know the way?" And today, if we pause and ask this question we will find a whole slew of answers none of which seem to be satisfying.

The atheist would respond by saying that there is no heaven. The pagan would agree but would go on to argue that we must create our own heaven here on earth by striving to make the world a better place. The religions of the east would also deny the existence of heaven opting instead of a "oneness" or non-relational "reunification" with the divine. In other parts they may refer to their final destination as an escape from desire, nirvana, or "the end" - all of which are achieved through the excersize of the will in the performance of strict religious duties. If Thomas had asked his religious leaders that question he would have gotten two different responses as well. Some would have said that heaven was not real, and others would have said that in order to reach heaven you have to work really hard at keeping the law of God. But no matter which way you turn, it seems like the answer is terrible. Either heaven is not real, or it is real but way out of reach to the average Joe.

But suppose you took the second option. Suppose you decided to try and work your way into heaven. Would you succeed? Not a chance. Even if you managed to do everything perfectly, you can never undo or outweigh the sins you have committed. If you are going to get into heaven, a different way must be made available or else you simply have no hope.

But what is that way? That's what Thomas wanted to know. Jesus, how can we know the way? Is it going to church every week? Is it reading my Bible every day? Is it praying three times a day? Is it doing everything really good? What is the way?

And here comes Jesus response:
Jesus answered, "I am the way... No one comes to the Father except through me" (6).
How weird is that? The way to heaven is not a series of behaviors. Its not a set of beliefs. Its not a way of life. Its not even a religion. The way to heaven is a person and his name is Jesus. He is the door to heaven. He is the path to heaven. He is the entrance to heaven. A person. Not a concept. Not a philosophy. Not an exam. Not a church program. A person.

Entering the kingdom of heaven is not about what you do, its about who you know. Do you know Jesus? Or do you only know about him? Do you talk to Jesus? Or do you only talk about him? Do you walk with Jesus? Or do you only talk about walking with him? Do you know him?

Now don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that you earn heaven by achieving level bff with Jesus. This isn't about measuring whether we know him a lot or a little. This is simply about asking if our faith in Jesus is based on a real relationship or if its nothing more than information in your head. Because the way to heaven is not information. Its Jesus himself. He wants you and he is calling you to go from being a Christian by default, to entering into a real relationship with him.

In this series we have been asking, How can I experience God? We have looked at some answers from the life of doubting Thomas. The first step toward experiencing God for real in your life to is realize that he wants you despite your flaws. The second step is to answer his call over your life. The third is to follow him even if you don't know why. When you do, God places you in circumstances that lead you to experience him more and more. But now comes the fourth step and perhaps the most important one - to actively seek to build a relationship with him by realizing that following Jesus is not about religion, its about relationship.
Doubting Thomas (Part 2: No Idea Why I'm Here)

Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”- John 10:31
It was winter. Jesus and his disciples had gone up to Jerusalem for an annual festival that every able Jew attended. The festival was known as the Feast of Dedication and celebrated a time when the Jews, led by a family known as the Maccabees, had revolted against the Greek invaders and succeeded in fighting them off. The Maccabees had become a sort of legend among the Israelites. They represented the last time Israel had been free from oppression. However, it wasn't long until the Jews were under foreign domination again and by the time Jesus arrived they were well and truly under Romes control. In a sense, the Feast of Dedication was the celebration of short-lived freedom. 

About 200 years after the Maccabean revolt, Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate their short lived victory. As he walks through the temple courts with his disciples people begin to notice him. "There he is" some of them whisper as they point at him, "Hes the one who claims to be the hero of Israel."

"Not exactly" others retort. "He hasn't been very clear about who he is". 

The crowds begin to debate and then they grow. And with every floating rumor the tension in the air grows thicker. Who is this Jesus? Is he the one who will finally end our oppression? Will he pick up where the Maccabees left off?

The disciples begin to feel the tension. Thomas looks around and everywhere he looks there's someone staring at them. Suddenly, Jesus stops. Thomas looks up and sees a group of men standing in the way - some look angry, others annoyed. In seconds the entire group is surrounded. Things don't look so good.

“How long will you keep us in suspense?" Asks the leader of the pack, "If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly” (John 10:24).

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe" (25). 

Thomas gulps. Jesus answer was like a slap in the face. But Jesus didn't seem scared. He continues to talk but Thomas doesn't even hear what hes saying anymore. The men surrounding them are growing angrier with every word Jesus speaks. Then suddenly, they recoil in horror and begin yelling at Jesus. The leader of the pack reaches to the ground and grabs a loose stone on the path. The crowd follows, each of them picking up stones to throw at Jesus.  Thomas and the other disciples freeze, not knowing what to do. Jesus keeps talking but as he does the crowds gather around him even tighter to the point that the disciples are completely blocked off from Jesus. "What in the world is happening?" Peter yells. "I cant see Jesus anymore!" In moments the angry mob grows even larger. They come from every corner of the temple - men with stones dashing madly toward Jesus. The disciples find themselves in this wild mosh-pit and desperately struggle to get out. "Stone him!" The crowd yells. "Hes a fake!" others cry out. Then, suddenly, the crowds begin to yell all at once. Thomas can't understand a single word. But something even stranger happens. The crowds begin to turn and look in every direction. "Where did he go?" He hears the cries. "He's gone! He disappeared!" 

Shortly after the crowds disperse. The disciples gather themselves together again and are found by Jesus. Together they leave Jerusalem and cross the river Jordan to the place where Jesus was baptized. Thomas takes a deep breath. That was close.

Days go by. The disciples are still recovering from their frightening experience. Questions are going through Thomas' mind. Am I really cut out for this? I mean we almost got killed. Am I really ready to die for Jesus? I'm not even sure if he's the one...

But their moment of peace was short lived. A messenger arrived from Judea where the disciples had just barely escaped with their lives. "Lazarus, the one that you love, is sick" said the messenger. "You have to come with me and heal him" (John 11:3). 

Thomas eyes shot wide open. No way, he thought, we just barely made it out of Judea, please don't tell me you are going to do this. Jesus spoke to the messenger and assured him all would be well, then sent him back. However, much to Thomas' surprise, Jesus did not go with him. One day passed. Nothing. Two days went by. Nothing.

The disciples started to feel a little better. Thomas was definitely feeling better. But then came day three and Jesus said to his disciples, "Let's go back to Judea" (7).

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back”(8)?

We can only imagine the fear and anxiety in the disciples hearts at that moment. One by one they desperately tried to reason with Jesus - to persuade him to stay away from Judea. To perhaps use his power to heal Lazarus from afar like he had done with the Centurions servant only a few months before. But Jesus reply was simple, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up" (11).

The disciples didn't give up. “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better” (12). they said. In other words, "Whats the point of risking our lives again if Lazarus is just sleeping? It's not that big a deal. Just let him be."

And Jesus replies, "[Guys], Lazarus is dead" (14).

Oh. 

The disciples aren't through arguing yet. But Thomas had had it. He knows there's no way to dissuade Jesus. So in a moment of cathartic sarcasm Thomas blurts out, "“Let us also go, that we may die with him” (16).

For some, Thomas' words are words of bravery. I am more inclined to think they were said in scorn. "Forget it guys. Whats the use? He's not going to change his mind so fine, lets all go so we can die too."

In other words, Thomas was willing to follow Jesus, to walk with Jesus and even to die with Jesus but the truth is he had no idea why. He was just like, Hey why not? I've got nothing else going on. Let's just do it. Thomas was following Jesus yes, but he didn't seem to really know why.

Why are you following Jesus? Some of you reading this may be just as gung-ho for Jesus as Thomas was and yet not really know why. Some of you may be leaders in your churches, you may be at church every weekend, you may even give time and money to the church but at the end of the day if I asked you why you do it, would you really know why? Apart from the cliche answers we usually give would we really know why we are living for Jesus?

Throughout the years I have met people who are willing to die for Jesus and kill for him too but they don't actually know why. They are patriotic Christians. They are used to the idea of Jesus. Mom and dad took them to church. It's all they have ever known. So why not? Why not follow him? Every one else seems to be doing it. But when you squeeze them hard to find out why they are so hardcore for Jesus they don't really seem to know why. What about you? Are you reading this because it seems interesting? Are you at church each weekend because you enjoy doing church stuff and organizing church events? If I pushed you to the max, could you really tell me why you are here?

Thomas was all out for Jesus but at this point in his life he didn't seem to know why. But let me pause now and say, that I actually think that's OK. I know I just drilled you on the why question, but the truth is, I think its OK to not know why. It's part of the journey. It's part of how we experience God. We have to go through different stages. In yesterdays post I mentioned that the first step toward experiencing God is to recognize that he wants you and is calling you. The second step is to then respond to his call over your life. And here is the third step: To follow him even though you may not have it all figured out.

There are people who miss out on experiencing God because they are waiting to have all their ducks in a row - to have it all figured out. Forget that. You don't need all the answers. You don't need everything sorted. Just give it a shot. You have nothing to lose. Walk with Jesus. Serve with Jesus. Get involved in your church. Get active in ministering to others. Live with Jesus. And if need be, be willing to die for him. It's OK to not know why you are here. God is just happy that you are.

But the story doesn't end there. God doesn't want your faith-journey to be void of meaning. He's happy that you are here but ultimately he also wants you to know why you are here. And Jesus wanted his disciples to know too. He wanted Thomas to know. Notice what Jesus said to them:

"Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe..." (14-15).

The mob in Jerusalem weren't the only ones wondering if Jesus was really the hero. The disciples were wondering as well. Jesus was glad they were there. But now he wanted to give them a reason why. He wanted them to go from knowing about him to truly knowing him. To knowing his heart, his power, and his purpose for them. So he said to them, "Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go..." (John 11:14-15, The Message).

Days later, the disciples stood by as Jesus stood before the tomb of Lazarus. The stone had been rolled away, and then Jesus said a prayer:
Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me (41-42).
Jesus' prayer is awesome. He's asking God to give the people around him who don't believe a reason to believe. He wants them to have a moment with him where their faith goes from being a head thing to a heart thing. Thomas was included in this prayer. And so are you. Jesus was giving Thomas and all those doubters a new ground to believe, a new experience with him. And then it happens. 
"Lazarus, come forth! The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus *said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go” (43-44).
The story doesn't say, but something tells me Thomas was one of the ones Jesus was talking to when he said, "Unbind him...". In those days, the dead were wrapped up in cloths. Lazarus had come out of the tomb yes, but he was still wrapped up in cloths. Jesus calls those around him to go unbind Lazarus. But why? Why not do it himself? I think the answer is clear. As Thomas reached out to Lazarus and began taking the cloths off of him, loosening and untying, the whole thing became awfully real to him. With ever bit of cloth that he removed, Thomas came face to face with the wonder that is Jesus. There before him stood a man 3 days dead. He didn't stink. His skin was bright and healthy. His smile was real. I wonder, what was Thomas thinking at that moment? Was he still doubting who Jesus was? Or was he beginning to rethink his doubts? Did the act of unbinding Lazarus rock his world to the core? Did Thomas finally have a reason to follow Jesus? Did his faith go from knowing about Jesus to knowing him? I think so.

Why are you here? Some of you believe. Some of you don't. God's just glad you're here. But he's also excited to give you a whole new reason to believe. So if you want to experience him, don't wait until you have it all figured out. Realize that God want's you. Respond to his call. And start following Jesus even if you don't understand it all. And as you follow him, walk with him, and listen to him he will take you to the place where he will rock your world to the core. He will do amazing things and call on you to be a part of them. He will transform the life of a drug addict and call you to pray for him, he will deliver a child from abuse and call you to be there to comfort them, he will rescue a friend from alcohol, from suicide, from brokenness and he will call you to be there to unbind him from that left over mess that lingers on. And as you do that your faith will come alive. Because experiencing God is not about seeing a vision of angels, its about walking with him and working with him. 

When I was 17 I started following Jesus. I had no idea why. I just knew he was calling me. I started preaching and I understood very little of the Bible. I knew nothing about theology or any of that other stuff. I hadn't even graduated High School yet. But I knew Jesus was calling me and that was enough. And God brought me from one crazy journey to another. I have never seen a man walk out of a tomb that needed to be untied, but I have met all kinds of people from convicts and addicts to broken and empty people and in each case I have had the joy of working with Jesus in unbinding their mess and through that, experiencing how real Jesus is and how good he is at changing lives. So I ask you today, don't wait to have it all figured out. Just walk with him and work with him and he will rock your world.
Doubting Thomas (Part 1: The God Who Desires)

So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” -John 20:25 
Over the next week I am going to be exploring the life of Thomas with the students at a local High School and figured I might as well share it here. However, rather than doing this as some dry Bible study, I want to treat portions of the journey as a mini-series on TV. So if you are reading this, I invite you to put away your analytical self and instead embrace the child within. Children love stories, and that's what I want to do as I explore the life of Thomas. 

The first episode kicks off. A group of ancient, middle-eastern men are running as fast as they can. In the distance they spot the man they are looking for. "Thomas!" They each yell. But he doesn't hear them. He's walking through a field only a short distance away now, but is lost in thought. In his mind, scenes from recent years play themselves over and over as if a person had hit "repeat" on the DVD player. There's a mix of emotions in Thomas' heart, a knot in his stomach, and a confusing web of thoughts flowing through his mind. For the past three years, Thomas had given up everything to follow a Jewish carpenter named Jesus. Thomas thought that Jesus was the hero that he had always dreamed of. The superman who would deliver him and his people from the evil Roman empire. So he believed Jesus' stories about coming to earth from another world. About being the son of God himself. He got excited when he saw Jesus read men's thoughts and control the weather like X-men characters Xavier and Storm. But he saw Jesus do even crazier things like multiply food, heal diseases, and raise the dead. So Thomas stuck close to Jesus with the hope that at the right time Jesus would use his power to overthrow the Roman army and take the throne of men. But two days before, just when Thomas expected Jesus to take control he was captured by his enemies, arrested, tortured, and finally murdered on a cross. The entire time, Jesus did nothing to defend himself and now he was dead. Thomas' hopes were shattered and in a sad attempt to gather his thoughts together he went into isolation where he could think and pray. But the isolation only made things worse. "Thomas!" The group of men continued to yell. At last, Thomas turned to see a group of his friends running toward him.

"We have seen Jesus!" they said.

Thomas paused, No way he thought. Then replied, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." And with that he turned to walk away. The screen goes black and we read: "3 Years earlier". And so our story begins.
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give (Matt. 10:1-7).
Thomas is forever remembered as doubting Thomas because he refused to believe Jesus was alive without proof. But there is more to Thomas' story I think we have missed. The first time we run into Thomas in the Bible is Matthew 10. Thomas, we learn, is one of the 12 disciples of Jesus and is sent out by Jesus to preach, to heal the sick, to raise the dead and to go toe to toe with demons and win. In my time as a pastor I have had people approach me with all kinds of issues including the demonic. A couple of years ago I was asked to join some of my church mates to go to the home of a boy who was having demonic issues. The family had come to the point that they didn't know what else to do. And I remember going there and thinking, "boy this is scary". All kinds of things go through your head when you are faced with this type of reality. The presence of evil is something we naturally recoil from as human beings. But here we have Thomas who has Jesus look him in the eye and say, "Go toe to toe with them. Drive them out." How cool is that?

Thomas certainly seemed to think it was cool. When they returned from their mission this gang of Jesus followers came up to Jesus and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name" (Luke 10:17). But notice Jesus' response: "do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (20).

So what do we know about Thomas? We know this: He was a Jesus-follower, a preacher, a healer, he had power to raise the dead, he could go toe to toe with demons and win, and his name was written in heaven. But the most interesting part about Thomas is found in Matthew 10:2-4. Here is what the text says, 
Jesus called His twelve disciples to Him. He endowed them with the authority to heal sickness and disease and to drive demons out of those who were possessed. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Now lets look at that text again and zoom in a little more:
Jesus called His twelve disciples to Him. He endowed them with the authority to heal sickness and disease and to drive demons out of those who were possessed. These are the names of the twelve apostles: Simon [the swearing fisherman who would soon hack a guys ear off] and his brother Andrew; James and his brother John [the angry thugs who wanted to kill all the Samaritans]; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas [the doubter] and Matthew [the con-artist]; James, son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the [terrorist] and Judas Iscariot [the traitor].
Not a very impressive list is it? The text doesnt say that Jesus chose Peter the body builder, James and John the male runway models, Thomas the brave ninja, Simon the hip-hop artist, and Judas the Freo Dockers captain. No! It was Thomas the doubter along with a traitor, a terrorist, two thugs, and a loose cannon who eventually denied ever knowing Jesus. Why were they casting out demons? Better yet, why were their names written in heaven? Even better, Why did Jesus choose these guys? They were a gang of nobodies. And Thomas was one of them.

As you read this I want you to pause and ask, who are you? What is your story? Your identity? Would you fit in with the rag tag 12 misfits that Jesus called to follow him? Are you a rebel? Never do your homework. Fall asleep in class. Do you come from a broken home? Are you poor? Do you have anger issues? Are you a skeptic, a hypocrite, or a troublemaker? Have you ever betrayed, abandoned, or denied a friend? Are you prone to violence, depression, anxiety, fear? Are you arrogant, conceited, or a phony? Are you a misfit? An outcast? Or perhaps popular for all the wrong reasons? Do you find it hard to believe that God could love you?

Why did Jesus call Thomas? The clearest answer to that question is given to us in the book of Mark which says:
Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him (Mark 3:13).
"...and called to him those he wanted".

Wow.

That's it.

Those he wanted.

He wanted them. He wanted Thomas.

Doubter? Yes. Skeptic? Yes. Ugly? Maybe. Poor? Most likely. Uneducated? Most definitely. But Jesus wanted him. And Jesus wants you. God called Thomas, a nobody, and I am here today to tell you that he is calling you. He wants to give your life purpose, direction, and drive. He wants to fill you with his power to change this world. And most of all, he wants you to know that he has written your name in heaven. Despite what you may think you remain the object of Gods supreme desire.

Throughout this series on the life of Thomas I am going to explore one basic question. How can I experience God? And the first step to discovering the answer to that question is to realize that you are wanted by God. To see that God is overwhelmingly interested in who you right here right now. So at this moment I invite you to put aside the preconceptions and lower the walls. Allow yourself to be swept away by your father. Allow yourself to enter into community with him. He has already called you. Answer him.
Jesus' First Words & Why They Matter (A Christmas Devotional)




Christmas is here! Aren't you excited? I hope so, because this is seriously "the most wonderful time of the year". And as we all enter our celebration modes, I would like to take a moment to share a devotional article to help keep your gaze on Jesus during this festive season.

Sadly, the Bible doesn't tell us what Jesus first words as a baby were. I would love to know, but something tells me none of the biographers thought it was that important. However, the first recorded words of Jesus give us a lot to think about as we celebrate his birth.


“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” – Luke 2:49

The Passover
Chronologically speaking, these are the first words Jesus ever spoke recorded in scripture. At this time, Jesus was only twelve years old. His parents Mary and Joseph had taken a trip from their home town in Galilee up to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. Now what was the Passover? It was one of the many festivals that the Jews celebrated throughout the year. The Passover began when they were slaves in Egypt. The story goes that the nation of Israel had been slaves in Egypt for about 300 years. Then one day, the Egyptian Pharaoh decided to kill of the male Hebrew newborns because he wanted to control the Israelite population. However, one mother hid her son in a basket and placed the basket in the Nile River. That sons name was Moses. Pharaoh’s daughter ended up finding Moses and he became her son. God used Moses to deliver Israel from Egyptian slavery. Moses became Gods ambassador to Pharaoh and requested that Pharaoh set the people free but Pharaoh refused. Every time Pharaoh refused God sent a plague on Egypt. First, all of the water in Egypt turned to blood. Then swarms of frogs invaded the country. After that the dust in Egypt became gnats and tormented the people. This was followed by swarms of flies, diseases on the livestock, boils, thunder and hail, locusts and darkness. After all of this Pharaoh still refused to let Israel go so God had to resort to something He never wanted to do: Death. God instructed the people that He would come and all of the first born in Egypt would die irrespective of persons. The only way to avoid this was to take the blood of a lamb and paint the door posts of the house with it. When the Lord came through and saw the blood on the door posts He would pass over that house and nobody would die. If He didn’t see the blood the first born would die. Moses then told Israel, “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance.” Shortly after this final plague Pharaoh let Israel go.

The Lamb
Over a thousand years had passed and the Israelites still celebrated the Passover. It was a reminder of Gods power to save. However, it was also a reminder of something more profound. God didn’t show up to kill the firstborns of the Egyptians. No. Anyone who had the blood on the doorposts of their house was passed over. If an Egyptian believed this and put blood on the door posts of their house God would pass over them. If an Israelite didn’t believe this and refused to put blood on the door posts of their house their first born would die. In other words, God didn’t choose who to bless and who to curse based on their race or nationality. No. God chose who to bless and who to curse based on who had the blood. In reality, it’s more accurate to say that God didn’t do the choosing. The people did. Those who chose to accept the blood chose life. Those who chose to reject the blood chose death. God simply carried out the result of the choice. However, the message remains the same: the only hope was the blood. But not any old blood. It had to be the blood of a lamb.

According to the Bible, that lamb in Egypt represented Jesus. And in the same way, as God judges this world He doesn’t do so based on race or ethnicity. He does so based on the blood. If you have accepted Jesus as your savior the blood He spilled on the cross covers you like the blood covered the door posts. When God judges you, you don’t have to be afraid because of the blood. However, there was one more thing. It wasn’t just about putting the blood on the door posts. It was about eating the flesh of the lamb as well. While the angel of death was searching in Egypt, those who had put the blood on their door posts were also instructed to cook the lamb and eat it. So what does this mean for you and me? We can’t use the blood of Jesus as “magic” to escape judgment. When we claim the blood of Jesus we automatically claim his flesh as well.

Now what in the world does that mean? I’m going to use an old word to explain it. The word is “partake.” To partake means “to be active in. [To] have, give, or receive a share of.”[1] When we accept the blood of Jesus over our life we automatically chose to partake of him as well. He is the lamb that was slain so that others could live. He is the God who gave his life so that I could have it and have it forever. When I choose Jesus, I don’t just choose a ticket to heaven. I chose an experience. I partake of him. I walk with him, talk with him, share with him, grow in my relationship with him, and become the kind of person he created me to be. A lot of people want the blood to cover them but they don't want to eat the lamb. In other words, they want Jesus to forgive their sins but they don't want Jesus to live inside of them. But it doesn't work that way. You cant have the blood without the flesh. You can't have the forgiveness without the experience of Jesus within, This is salvation. It’s God covering me with his own blood and then coming inside of me and changing my life for his glory.

Back to the Story
The time for the Passover had come. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate as they did every year. However, something was different this year: Jesus was now twelve years old. For a Jew, this is a really big deal because at the end of the twelfth year they pass from childhood to youth and are given more responsibility.[2] So Jesus is now on the verge of a new experience. With that in mind, the family goes to Jerusalem and celebrates the Passover with countless other Jews. When the festival is over they head back home. On the way home however, Mary and Joseph are shocked to discover that Jesus is not with them. Now allow me to clarify. It’s not that Mary and Joseph were blind. When they went to Jerusalem for the Passover they didn’t just go in the family minivan. No. They walked there with their families which probably numbered high in the double digits. Joseph most likely walked with the men and Mary with the women. All the uncles, aunts, and cousins were there along with many other relatives like Joseph’s other sons. Under such circumstances it would have been easy to leave Jesus behind. Mary could have assumed he was with Joseph, and Joseph could have assumed he was with Mary. Or perhaps they both figured he was with his cousins or half-siblings. Whatever the case, when they had gone a day’s journey they found out he wasn’t with them at all. Immediately mom and dad did a 180 and high-tailed it back to Jerusalem. The story says that they looked for him for three days. I can’t imagine what those three days would have been like. The stress. The anxiety. The sleepless nights.

Then finally on the third day they found him in the temple sitting with some of the religious leaders listening to them and asking them questions. The Bible says that, “Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.”[3] Can you imagine? A group of seasoned religious scholars and theologians who were amazed at what a twelve year old boy, who was the son of a carpenter and lived in a small town, had to say. This isn’t because Jesus was God though. When Jesus (who is God the son) came to this world and became a man he emptied himself of all the power and knowledge he had beforehand. He never stopped being God, but all the advantages available to him as God were put aside. Jesus mother Mary had to teach him the Bible and tell him who he was and what his mission was. Therefore, Jesus' astonishing answers in the temple that day were partly due to how Mary had raised him.

But now we come to the climax of this story. Here is Jesus at his first Passover. The Lamb represents Him. The blood represents his blood. The entire feast is a celebration of his future death for the sins of mankind. He is the son of God, the spotless lamb that takes away the sin of the world. Now I don’t know how. Maybe Mary told him. Maybe the Holy Spirit revealed it to him. Maybe he discovered it by studying the Bible for himself. Or perhaps it’s a combination of all three, but somehow at twelve years old Jesus got it. He figured it out. He was the lamb. All throughout the festival Jesus watched as the lamb was killed. He pondered as they ate the flesh of the lamb. He stayed up at night staring at the stars and talking to God. It all made sense now. People in town said he was an illegitimate child. They said Joseph wasn’t really his father. They made fun of Mary’s so called “angel” story. But Jesus knew her. He knew she wouldn’t lie. Joseph wasn’t really his dad. So who was? Now as he lay in Jerusalem during the Passover festival it finally made sense. His father was God – not in a literal sense because He was God too – but in a temporary sense. The Holy Spirit had miraculously implanted God the son into the womb of a human woman. How? I don’t know. It’s a mystery. Jesus probably didn’t know either. But he believed it by faith. Just as you and I have to accept that he is Gods son by faith, he also had to accept that he was Gods son by faith. Once Jesus had this epiphany he couldn’t wait to go and talk to the religious leaders. He probably wanted to know how much they knew about the prophecies and types concerning the savior. He also remembered that in the Bible it said that Gods presence was in the temple. In his twelve year old mind he probably figured, maybe I can find my father if I go to the temple. He was so enthused by this he didn’t even notice his family leave. God was his father. He wanted to be in his Father’s house. He wanted to meet him. Jesus was probably disappointed to find that Gods presence wasn’t in the temple as it had been in the old days. Wanting to know why he approached the religious leaders and asked. From there the conversation progressed. I don’t know where Jesus slept that night. Most likely he slept somewhere around the temple grounds, but he hung around the temple for at least five days. Why five? Well, he was there during Joseph and Mary’s journey back. They had gone for a whole day when they noticed he wasn’t with them. Then, they came back which would have been another whole day. Then it took them three days to find him which adds up to five. When they finally found him Mary said, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” Jesus turned. He smiled. Immediately after, his very first words recorded in the Bible are spoken. I bet he said them with confidence. With joy. “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Why Should I Care?
These are the very first words of Jesus recorded in the New Testament and they say something powerful about Jesus: That he was the son of God. Deity. God made man. He was and is and will forever be God. How amazing that God would make himself a man, empty himself of all his power, and live with humankind in order to win them back to him. What other god is like that? What other god has ever gone so far to save mankind? What other god has ever gone so far to save me?

The words of Jesus also show us something else. When Mary asks him why he had gone missing, Jesus’ reply was, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” In other words: “It shouldn’t have been hard to find me. You know this is the only place I would be.” Why? Why was Jesus so fascinated with the temple? Because in Jewish times the temple wasn’t a place to go sing songs and hear a sermon. The Jewish temple was specifically designed to reveal to the world the entire plan of salvation. The Jewish temple announced the foundational reality of salvation and it’s this: “You can’t save yourself. I will do it. So I’ll come down. Become a man. Live a perfect life. Die a sinner’s death. And by doing so, I will make salvation available to everyone who believes."

This was the message of the Jewish temple. And Jesus was its fulfillment. The lamb came down and gave his life for mankind. Before sin even entered the world God had a plan to save humanity. Jesus was that plan. He was “the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.”[4]

So as you celebrate Christmas this year, keep in mind the little baby boy, born to live, to conquer, to suffer, to die, and to rise again - the perfect sacrifice that makes our eternal salvation secure.

Merry Christmas!

___________

[1] Rhymezone.com. http://rhymezone.com/r/d=partake_in
[2] SDA Bible Commentary
[3] Luke 2:47
[4] Rev. 13:8
What I Hate About Memorizing Scripture



Every Jesus-follower knows that memorizing scripture is super important to spiritual growth. Paul the apostle said "the word of God is alive and active" (Hebrews 4:12). As such, when we memorize the words of this book we are memorizing living words. These living words have many benefits such as power over temptation (Psalm 119:9, 11), prosperity and success (Joshua 1:8), spiritual growth (2 Timothy 3:16), spiritual life (Matthew 4:4), inner peace (Psalms 119:165), wisdom and the knowledge of God (Proverbs 2:1-5), spiritual light in the midst of darkness (2 Peter 1:19), and the list goes on. Even Jesus memorized scripture and used it in his fight against Satan (Matthew 4:1-11). Clearly, memorizing scripture is essential to the spiritual journey of the Christian.

As true as all this is, lets be real. Half of us don't memorize scripture. Many have not even memorized a new verse in the last year. How come? Why is it that something as important to our spiritual development is left undone? A million answers can be given to this such as wrong priorities, spiritual indifference or "coldness", daily distractions, business, etc. And while all of these are true I would like to propose the reason why I have always hated memorizing scripture: The reference.

Yep. That's it. The reference. For some reason I cant seem to remember that stuff. And when I finally manage to get it in my head a few weeks later its gone again. Growing up my friends always struggled with this. I struggled with it. We all struggled with it. But we kept being told that the reference was important because without it you would not know where the text was found. True as this may be it led me (and I'm sure many others) to an unfortunate conclusion: Memorizing scripture is worthless if you don't memorize the reference and since I can't memorize the reference I won't bother memorizing scripture anymore.

I lived with this unfortunate conclusion until one day the Bible slapped me (remember, this books alive) with something I had never noticed before. Jesus and the New Testament writers quoted the Bible all the time without any referencing. Now of course, chapter and verse divisions didn't exist back then. However, don't you think God would have inspired them from the beginning if they were so important? He didn't because they aren't. Allow me to give some examples:

When Jesus was tempted by Satan (Matthew 4) he used the scriptures as a defense. Three times he quoted the Bible by saying "It is written". Not once did he say where. While there were no chapter and verse divisions back then he could have at least mentioned what book the texts came from. He didn't.

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5) are loaded with Old Testament allusions (not a word for word quote but very similar). For example, in verse 5 Jesus says "Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth." This is an allusion to Davids Psalm where he says "But the meek will inherit the earth; and will delight themselves in the abundance of peace" (Psalm 37:11). Jesus doesn't reference David. In fact, he hardly ever references the scriptures he quotes.[1] 

Jesus is not the only one. The strongest example of this is Paul himself. Paul, a former Pharisee, would have known the Old Testament more than the average Joe. And yet notice how he quotes the Old Testament from time to time:


But there is a place where someone has testified: "What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? (Hebrews 2:6) 
For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "On the seventh day God rested from all his works" (Hebrews 4:4).

Couldn't Paul have said "David wrote in the Psalms 'What is mankind...?'" or, "In Genesis Moses wrote 'On the seventh day...'"? Instead Paul says, "Somewhere he has testified" and "From somewhere he has spoken". Like Jesus, Paul does not even make an attempt to reference where these texts come from. All he says is that they are "somewhere" in the OT. In the same vein, the NT quotes the OT tons of times and it hardly ever references what its quoting.[2]

So what am I saying? This, I'm sure, is a question most of you are asking. Am I suggesting that we throw away references and just memorize Bible verses without them? Yes and no. I'll deal with the no first and then the yes.

No.

In case you haven't noticed, this blog post is loaded with Bible verse references. It would be ridiculous for me to use them in a blog about not using them wouldn't it? But that's not what this blog is about. The chapter and verse divisions, while not inspired, where nevertheless permitted by God and they make finding relevant texts much easier. In a day and age where the Bible gets misused and misquoted people appreciate being able to see the text for themselves. Knowing the reference makes it easier for us to do so. However, I quote the Bible to non-Christian friends all the time without using the references and I have never been asked "Where is that?" So ultimately, I see the references as helpful but not always necessary. 

Yes.

As mentioned above, references are helpful, but here is my point: they are not necessary for spiritual growth. When it comes to memorizing scripture for spiritual growth you don't have to know where the text is found. I know many verses that I meditate on or quote when in need and I have no idea where they are found, and yet, they are just as effective. The power of living words do not rest on where they are found in a book but on where they are found in your heart. So if you shy away from memorizing scripture because of those pesky references that you just can't seem to grasp, then forget the references and memorize scripture anyhow. The power is in what God said, not the chapter and verse number that we added decades later.

So in conclusion, Bible references are a commodity not a necessity. If they bog you down, then don't get discouraged. Forget the references and start memorizing scripture anyhow. Perhaps, as you mature, the references will become easier to memorize (or maybe not). But the point is hide Gods word in your heart anyhow.


"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." - David

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[1] This is not to say he never does. For example in Matthew 24:15 Jesus says "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet..." This is a clear reference to the OT book of Daniel. The point is not that Jesus never referenced the texts but that he hardly ever does.

[2] Again, this is not to say it never uses the available references. For example, In Peters sermon recorded in Acts 2 Peter references David (34-35) when he quotes him.

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The Fallacy Behind our Preaching


I don’t know about the rest of the Christian world, but if you are a Seventh-day Adventist chances are you are no stranger to some pretty exciting preaching. I’m not talking about the Henry Wright type of exciting (such passionate preaching is clearly found in every denomination). Instead, I am referring to the kind of preaching that makes you say, wow, I never thought of that before. I call it the wow-sermon. Grant it, this kind of preaching is good. There is nothing better, in my opinion, than hearing a preacher open up a text in a whole new way. It’s as if you walked into the church blind and left with sight. Who wouldn't want that?

Having gone to an SDA church all my life, I was no stranger to wow-preaching. However, it wasn't until I was in my twenties that I was introduced to certain preachers who took this to a whole new level. The wow-sermons I was used to certainly shared fresh ideas but somehow those ideas remained simple. It was as if, upon hearing them I would think Oh yeah! How’d I miss that? But these new sermons were way beyond “wow”. These were super deep and breathtaking expositions on the word of God. At times the sermons were on present truth, at other times they dealt with broader topics, but regardless of the theme one thing was guaranteed: I would hear something I had never heard before and see something I would never had thought of in a million years. Far from the simple newness of the wow-sermon, these sermons tended to be more complex in their newness, or dare I say, more sensational. I call this kind of sermon the toy-sermon (you will soon see why).

I was mesmerized. Amazed. Dumbfounded at times and downright intoxicated. Toy-sermons were the stuff of Bible gurus and because most of them were based on present truth I began to believe that Adventist preachers where the greatest preachers on earth. As a preacher, I too began to mimic their fresh and astonishing approach to Bible truth. When preparing sermons I would pray for new insight and pour through the text searching for something different and exciting that had never been seen before. I was no longer satisfied with the simple story of scripture. I wanted something new.

In case you are still confused allow me to give you an example of wow-sermon versus toy-sermon. A wow-sermon would look at the parable of the lost coin and, following Jesus own interpretation, would identify the lost coin as our lost world, or as individual people. One preacher I admire interpreted the lost coin as “those who are lost but don’t know they are lost”. He then proceeded to interpret the lost sheep as “those who know they are lost but don’t know the way home”, the lost (prodigal) son as “those who know they are lost and know the way home” and the elder brother as “those who are lost but think they are saved.” This is a perfect example of simple new. Now a toy-sermon is more like the sermon I heard which interpreted the lost coin as the Sabbath. There were 10 coins and the woman lost one, so she swept the whole house until she found it. There are 10 commandments and one has been lost but the woman (church) has found it. The first time I heard this sermon I was floored. "This guy is amazing!" I said to my wife. "How does he get this stuff?"

I continued to be amazed, that is, until my first day studying biblical exegesis. For those who don't know, Biblical exegesis is the process of studying to determine what the text meant to the original reader and writer before attempting to interpret it for today. The process requires a study of the literary, historical, and cultural context surrounding the text, among other things. Once the Bible student has determined what the text meant to the original audience he is then safe to apply the text to his own context provided none of the original meaning is lost or contradicted in the process. While I had already begun to question the veracity of the toy-sermon prior to this, it was then that the spell was broken. The toy-sermon was exciting, yes. It was fresh and invigorating. But it had one major flaw – it used the Bible as a toy to be played with instead of a holy text to be revered. Literary, historical, and cultural context were often ignored. It wasn’t what the Bible clearly said that was interesting; it was the obscure and mysterious. The goal was to find something new and exciting, something sensational and riveting. As a result textual integrity was sacrificed at the altar of innovation and the end result, while not necessarily heretical, was a sermon that played games with the Biblical text, misused the Hebrew and Greek, “word-smithed” the English translations,* made interpretations that bordered on allegorical drivel, linked verses together that were never meant to be linked, proof-texted flippantly, and drew new and exciting interpretations that impressed the audience but did little else.

I have studied a lot in life. I have learned a lot in life. And I have forgotten a lot in life. But if there is one thing I will never forget, it’s the words of my exegesis professor Dr. Martin Klingbeil. “Don’t preach sensational sermons that get people excited” he said, “preach the simple truth that changes lives.” Whether he knew it or not Dr. Klingbeil hit me hard that day. In fact, he echoed the words of Peter when he said,

Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Saviour through your apostles (2 Pet. 3:1-2).
Peter uses two powerful words in this text: “remember” and “recall”. It wasn’t something new that his readers needed. It wasn’t something fresh or exciting. It was the same old truth. The same old sermon. The same old message. Peter’s goal was to influence their thinking. He wanted to lift their minds up and lead them to think balanced, healthy, and wholesome thoughts. And the tool he used to perform this transformational shift was not a sensational and exciting sermon – it was a simple admonition to remember. Somehow, the act of remembering the old truths that God has shared through the prophets and apostles is all his readers needed to be renewed in their minds.

I am not here to question the sincerity of those who preach or enjoy a good old toy-sermon. When I preached them I was sincere and was simply eager to share something new. But now I know that it’s not new that I need. All I need is to be reminded. Reminded of God’s love. Reminded of God’s grace. Reminded of God’s power. Reminded of his will for my life and of the soon return of Jesus. These simple reminders are all I need to be renewed.

Today I want to appeal to all the young-up-and-coming SDA preachers out there. Though the trend is increasingly fading, there still remain way too many Adventist preachers who use the Bible as a toy. This is the fallacy behind our preaching. People love them. People rave about them. People follow them. But at the end of the day they don't preach what the Bible says; they only preach what they want it to say. Don't fall into that trap. The Bible was not designed to give us paint for oratorical art nor was it written to provide a platform to show off our cleverness. It was designed to tell us a story – one that is meant to be repeated over and over again for with each repetition our hearts are changed. Don’t feel the need to be new and innovative. Don’t go wild trying to be exciting. Don't sacrifice sound Bible exposition just to make people say "wow". Instead, I challenge you to tell the ancient story over and over again. It is then, and only then, that broken lives will find healing and new birth.



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Why I No Longer Believe the Bible Has "All" The Answers
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A few years ago US Airways Flight 1549 struck a flock of geese during take off and lost engine power. The plane would have crashed were it not for the skilled pilot who managed to land on the Hudson river sparing the lives of everyone on board. The event became known as "Miracle on the Hudson" and everywhere you went you could hear people thanking God. Months later Air France Flight 447 bound from Brazil to France crashed into the Atlantic leaving no survivors. Why didn't God spare them? Did he love the people on Flight 1549 more than those on Flight 447? Did he use up all of his miracle power at the Hudson and had none left for the Atlantic? Or did he simply have nothing to do with either event?

Questions like this plague many Christians. There is so much about God we don't understand. Why do we praise him for healing Mary of cancer but then have nothing to say when John dies? Did he really heal Mary? Why do bad things happen? Why so much suffering and pain? These questions, and many others lead many to abandon their faith in God trading it for the seemingly more attractive pessimism of a skeptical worldview. 

As a Christian, theologian, and Jesus-follower I have often struggled with deep questions which the Bible doesn't seem to give a direct answer for and have come to a simple open-ended conclusion. Contrary to what I once believed, the more I study the Bible the more I am convinced it doesn't have all the answers - in fact, I don't believe it was ever intended to. Historically, people have used the Bible as a prescription magazine for all of life's problems and questions. It has worked for some, but not for others. But rather than seeing the Bible as an encyclopedia with hidden answers to humanities deepest philosophical questions I now see it simply as a GPS.

Allow me to explain. A GPS is a modern device used to get from point A to point B. Using satellites in space the GPS identifies your current position and then gives you detailed directions on how to get to your destination. Now suppose I told my GPS that I wanted to go from Perth to Sydney. I put the destination into the computer and in a few seconds I have a detailed map complete with vocal instructions on how to get to Sydney. I start driving and after a few miles I run into a car accident. An hour later the road is cleared and I am on my way only to be met by a flat tire. I pull over on the side of the road to fix my flat tire and it starts raining. Drenched, I hop back in, blast the heater, and drive to the nearest rest stop so I can get into some dry clothes. As the journey continues I get caught in the wonderful "road-work traffic jams", see homeless on the side of the street, and countless other things. Eventually I get so fed up that I throw my GPS out of the window. When you ask me why I did that I say, "This GPS is worthless! It didn't tell me what happened to the people in the car accident or why it happened. It didn't warn me that a flat tire was coming. It didn't give me the reason why there was road-work on the road. It doesn't answer any of my questions about all the things I am experiencing in this trip. So I got rid of it because its worthless. If there really was a satellite up in space guiding me why wont it answer my questions? From now on I am just going to drive aimlessly and find my own way. I think Ill have better luck doing that."

How would you respond? A slap on the side of the head would probably be most appropriate. A GPS is not meant to answer those questions, but without it you will never get to your destination. You will get lost and have no idea where you are. Similarly, the Bible is not meant to answer all of our "why" questions. While the Bible gives more answers than any other book in the world,[1] it simply is not meant to be an encyclopedia that we go to to find answers about every deep philosophical inquiry that we have. What the Bible is is a GPS, a map, and a guide. If we follow it faithfully we will arrive at our destination and the awesome part is this: At the destination we find God and it is he who will answer all of our questions.[2] So in short, its not the Bible that gives us all of the answers its God[3] but the only way to ask him is to follow the directions the Bible gives us to get to him. So don't throw your faith away simply because the Bible doesn't answer every question. It's not meant to. But what it promises is to get you to the one who has the answer to every question you will ever ask.

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[1] It is super important to remember this point: The Bible does in fact provide a myriad of answers not found anywhere else in the world. It provides answers about the past, the present, and the future and those who make it their study have found that it satisfies their deepest longings. The point, however, is not that it doesn't provide answers. It most certainly does. The point is that it is not intended to answer every minute question. 
[2] This is not to say that we can't experience God in the here and now. We most certainly can. God connects with humanity in real time and we do not have to wait to go to heaven before we can experience his presence, love, and power in our lives. All of that can be experienced in the here and now. Nevertheless, there are questions that will not be answered in our present experience but in the world-made-new.
[3]There is a prevailing theology that the Bible is not the guide, the Spirit is. As a result those who teach and believe this don't place their trust in the Bible but in what they feel is the "Spirit" guiding them. I reject this notion. I believe that the Bible is our guide and that the Spirit will never lead us contrary to what it says. So when I say "Its not the Bible who has all the answers, its God" I am not suggesting that the Bible is inadequate and that we must therefore rely on a subjective sense of "Spirit" leading instead of the Bible. What I am suggesting is that we must rely fully on the Bible until we arrive at God's literal presence (heaven). It is at that time that we will have all of our questions answered. 
Enigma (part 5): Dear Method, Farewell
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Before I write today's post I want to do a quick recap of what I have shared so far with regard to the challenges and opportunities the church has in light of the post-modern affair. The first thing to note is that in order to reach this generation we cannot continue to do the same things we have done for the last 50 years. To do so would be disastrous and unwise. New methods must be introduced without redefining Christian identity or tampering with the very foundations and pillars that make Christianity what it is. Secondly, along with new and radical methods we must also (and foremost) seek a new and radical connection with God through prayer and the study of his word. Third, we must not allow post-modernism to scare us and neither should we feel helpless in its presence. Post-modern culture contains many redemptive qualities and, as history has proven, they are willing to forsake their philosophy if they discover a truth worth dying for. But how exactly do we help them see that that truth is Jesus?

I know that's what everyone has been dying to read about but I wont be going there just yet. Enigma (the current blog series) is not intended to go into "how to's". This series is merely setting the philosophical foundation for the next blog series I will be co-authoring with friend and "post-modern outreach guy" Nat Tan (sorry Nat, I couldn't think of a better title). That series will be titled Bricolage?[1] and will deal more with the how to's. But for now allow me to propose two more concepts that I find absolutely necessary as we embark on the search for the "how to's." The first deals with what blueprint or method would be most effective in reaching post moderns (today's post) and the next one will deal with the post-modern challenge and eschatology (next post).

So what method is best for reaching post moderns? How do we, as I mentioned in yesterdays post, help them see that Jesus is the absolute truth and scripture the metanarrative that is worth suffering for? Before I answer that question allow me to present the post-modern culture to you once more. In the post-modern culture there can be seen a break down of walls and distinctions that separate and alienate cultures, ethnicities, religions, and worldviews. Due to the influence of relativism post-moderns do not feel threatened by differing points of view. As a result post-moderns are very accepting of a multi-cultural society and are open to all sorts of "new" and "different" expressions of faith, art, culture etc. Thus in his paper, "Street Art as an Expression of Post-Modern Consciousness"[2] Christopher M. Suzuki could write, In this respect it [street art] is truly an expression of post-modern consciousness, drawing from all eras and all worlds without regard to traditional boundaries of discipline or taste." Suzuki then goes on to hit the nail on the head when he says, "Part of what defines Post-Modern thinking and art is the belief that all boundaries are constructions and not absolute realities. In reaction to this truth much of post-modern art is a mismatch of different styles, mediums, and disciplines."

Due to this eclectic worldview it is apparent that post-moderns are extremely diverse, random, and undefinable as a culture. While there are foundational values that all post-moderns share the reality is that there is no structure, style, or absolute framework by which one can define or even comprehend this culture. With this in mind I will now return to the question: "What method is best for reaching post moderns? How do we help them see that Jesus is the absolute truth and scripture the metanarrative that is worth suffering for?" And the answer is straight forward: there is no method. There is no blueprint. To take it further, not only is there no method; there can not even be a method. Pre-moderns were reached by a mass evangelism method that worked wonderfully. Moderns were reached by apologetics and reasonable arguments that helped them see the truth behind the faith of Jesus. But in order to reach a post-modern the church can no longer rely on a "blueprint" or a "method". Instead, we must take the foundational values that post-moderns share (authenticity, community, tolerance etc) and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the best way to reach the particular post-modern community closest to us. However, because no post-modern community is the same that one method cannot be successfully used with post-moderns all over the globe. The only solution then is for Christians to do what they are most afraid to do - leave the comfort of their homes and churches and connect in an intimate way with their community all the while seeking to discover the most Biblical way to reach that particular group. Gone are the days when we could just send out flyers and expect a huge gathering. Gone are the days were we could pay some evangelist to fly out and sit on our pews while he and the elders did all the work. That may have worked in the past but it can no longer work. The only way to reach post-moderns is to become acquainted with the culture in our immediate vicinity and ask God for wisdom on how best to connect with them. No blueprint is coming. No method will arise that will give us worldwide success if it is followed faithfully. Each church needs to discover its own method and its own way of reaching the post-moderns within their reach and this can only be accomplished by leaving our comfort zones and connecting authentically and intimately with this generation.

However, this doesn't mean that there are things that wont work and things that will. There most certainly are principles that we can follow that will work on a global scale, but the point is that there is no one blueprint that will work everywhere. Each city, town, and nation needs to connect with its own culture, speak Christ in their language, and reach them in their own unique way. 

The next post will deal with post-modernism, the book of Revelation and how what it says can influence our outreach and evangelism attempts. This post will bring Enigma to a close. We will then dive into more practical concepts in the series Bricolage?

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[1] In Post-modernism: A processes by which traditional objects or language are given a new, often subversive, meaning and context. [http://www.onpostmodernism.com/terms/#Bricolage]
[2] http://www.cejournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/StreetArt.pdf 
How "Hyper-Humility" Hurts Our Witness
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“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." - 1 Cor. 11:1

I have often felt as though, in our attempts at humility, we try and minimize the role we play in the lives of others. Preachers can often be heard asking Jesus to "hide" them "beneath the shadow of the cross" or saying “it wasn't me, it was Christ.” I have no problem with this outlook. It certainly is commendable in that it seeks to glorify God and not man. However, I think we often run the danger of being “hyper-humble” by pretending that we have absolutely no role whatsoever in the work of the gospel. 

The reality is that no matter how much we ask God to hide us beneath the shadow of the cross we will still be visible and no matter how much we give the credit to God people will remember our faces. Paul did not seem to shy away from that. He did not say, “don’t look at me, it’s all about Jesus” instead he said, “follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Paul recognized that it was not about him, and yet he was there. He could not ignore the fact that others saw him and that he mattered in the work of the gospel. Had Paul been hyper-humble as some are today, rather than honor God, he would have damaged his witness. 

Likewise, I believe Christians should not be afraid to be seen, heard, and recognized. It is through our personalities, characters, and stories that Jesus is lifted up. Jesus is not glorified in spite of us as though we were just an unfortunate tool he had to use. He is glorified because of us and he finds great joy in partnering with us and using our individuality for his glory. 

When we attempt to hide our individual worth and value under the guise of humility, we are not really honoring God. Instead, we are allowing our insecurities to prevent Gods work in and through us from shining forth. I once heard of a church that had a huge cross in front of the pulpit so that when the preacher spoke all that was seen was the cross and not the speaker.  As noble as this may sound it missed the real beauty of the gospel. The beauty of the gospel is not simply in the cross but in what the cross has done and continues to do, and that can only be seen in people. It is through our stories, testimonies, and personalities that the power of the cross and of the savior is fully recognized. So let’s be humble and always be careful to lift Jesus up and give him all the praise. But let’s also be careful to not go to extremes by acting as though we don’t matter. God didn’t commission angels to preach the gospel, neither does he do it alone. He commissioned women and men to do so because he recognized that it was through their lives, personalities, characters, stories and smiles that he would reach the world.

10 Bible Promises that Mean Alot to Me

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Here is a list of 10 Bible promises that mean a lot to me (apart from the oft cited John 3:16 and Revelation 21 which are, of course, amazing). Feel free to share your own in the comment box below!

"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." - John 16:33

"Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me." - Micah 7:8


"Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; But you will forget the shame of your youth..." - Isaiah 54:4


"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." - Ephesians 2:8-10

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" - 2 Corinthians 5:17

"Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." - Psalm 51:7

"Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die." - John 11:25

"If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything." - 1 John 3:20

"As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." - Psalm 103:12

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned..." - Isaiah 43:1-2
Guest Post: Why I Gave Away My Entire Library of Ellen White Books
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Until recently, I possessed a fairly extensive library of books, the majority being classic Adventist books written by Ellen White. Among that prized collection was a flawless set of the Testimonies donated to me in, 2007.  When I was in college, I read the entire Spirit of Prophecy  books including the manuscript releases on my computer while waiting for opponents to move on chess games and listening to music on Napster!   Since that time, I think I have read most of her books at least 5 or 6 times and have been blessed by new insights each time I’ve read them.
God has blessed me with very good recall abilities.  I can remember whole passages from the Spirit of Prophecy and I also remember what position the quotation or passage is on the page in the book.  This allows me to quickly find the appropriate quotation and use it in a discussion.  This wonderful skill has some definite drawbacks as well.
I’ve noticed in my discussions with people of other faiths (especially Christians) my mind brings up quotations of the Spirit of Prophecy faster than it does the Bible.  I find myself arguing from an Adventist position rather than from the Bible.
Let me pause here to explain what I mean.
Some of you might wonder, isn’t being biblical distinctly adventist? Yes, and no.  Every ‘faith community’ has its own frame of reference.  For example, when discussing the heavenly sanctuary in Hebrews, I remember Hiram Edison’s view of Christ in the Sanctuary in heaven. Or when talking about the antediluvians I cannot but help remember passages about Enoch’s life that are very dear to me but are not in the Bible.  I find that my reading of the Spirit of Prophecy sometimes becomes a convenient crutch for me.  Worse, my evangelical friends are unable to understand my line of reasoning because it is intermixed with the Spirit of Prophecy.  Now some hardliners among us will insist that I should introduce Ellen White to my friends so that they can see ‘light’ and understand the Bible more fully.  I firmly believe that we sometimes (at least me for sure) forget that Mrs. White is the lesser light and the Bible is the Greater Light.  The Bible informs us of God’s Supreme Will and His workings on our behalf.  Mrs. White always pointed to the Bible.  Later in her life she deplored the use of her writings when discussing Biblical points of view.  I resolved to rid myself of this self-made crutch and rely on the Bible alone for my knowledge of God.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Mrs. White’s writings.  When I compare her work to the Bible, I find her emphasis, and use of the Bible, to not only be masterful but inspired. I still hold them in the highest regard and believe everything written in them.  But my reliance should always be on the Word of God in times of need.  My existence should depend solely on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
So I gave away my entire Spirit of Prophecy collection to a friend.
Since then I’ve read the Bible by itself.
One of the things, I resolved to take up after chemotherapy was learning how to write clearly.  I am painfully aware that my writing is not as precise and clear as it should be. I enjoy reading the Bible all the more now, because I can see the literary resonance of the passages.  I have newfound appreciation for the rhythm in biblical sentences such as these:
And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal (1 Sam. 15:33). 
But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. Amos 5:8
And he shall judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Is. 2:4
I find my reasoning has become sharper.  I have resolved to memorize the entire New Testament in the next three years using trained memory techniques that I’ve used to great success in college and business. I hope someday to memorize the entire Bible like Pastor Randy Skeete.  I dream of being able to effortlessly recall text upon text and understand the context of whole passages in the Old Testament and their proper bearing in the New.
Now, when I discuss biblical topics with my evangelical friends, I find myself arguing from the text rather than from Adventist tradition and in the highest sense I know that I’m fulfilling our high calling to be people of the Book.

- This post was originally written by Adrian Zahid on his website www.adrianzahid.com
The Uniqueness of Adventism (and Why We Should be Proud of It)


Adventism has lots in common with the evangelical world. We stand on the shoulders of the apostles and the great protestant reformers. We trace our doctrines and lifestyle practices to many of these champions of the faith. As a denomination we are indebted to the Seventh Day Baptists for teaching us the truth about the Sabbath. We owe our belief in sola scriptura to the Catholic theologian Wycliffe. We owe our understanding of justification by faith to the Catholic professor Martin Luther who became the founder of the Lutheran church. Sanctification by faith comes to us from the great reformer John Calvin, the founder of the Presbyterians and Congregationalists. We thank the Anabaptist's for leading the way in the doctrine of the believers baptism. We thank the Baptists for reclaiming the biblical concept of immersion as Gods only true method of baptism. We are indebted to the doctrine of perfection in love as taught by John Wesley, the father of the Methodists.* And the list goes on and on. Adventists certainly have lots in common with the denominations that surround them.

However, there is a growing tendency among Adventists to act as though being an Adventist is really no different to being a Baptist, Presbyterian, or non-denominational Christian. Perhaps this tendency is a response to the narcissistic attitude of many of our Adventist forefathers who treated all other denominations as inferior to their own and in extreme cases even demonized them. In that sense, I am glad that the pendulum is swinging to the other side. However, could it be that the pendulum is swinging too far? In other words, are we going from being an arrogant "we alone have the truth" church to an insignificant movement with no unique reason for its existence.

While I gladly reject the pride and narcissism that many Adventists embrace regarding their denomination, neither do I believe the Adventist church to be simply another church. We are unique. We are different. If that troubles you, allow me to give you a different perspective that may be of help. This church, united as it may be with the whole of Protestantism, is indisputably distinct. Not weird, but certainly different. Here are a few examples of how I, as a Seventh-day Adventist, consider myself to be different from all other denominations:

1. As a Seventh-day Adventist I do not believe that God will torture sinners in hell fire for all eternity. I believe God will bring justice and closure to the perpetrators of his law and that each person lost will receive a just punishment. God is not a sadist, a torture artists, or a pyromaniac. He is a loving and just God who will give eternal life to those who love him and eternal death to those who would rather die than be around him.

2. As a Seventh-day Adventist I do not believe that God created some people to be lost and burn in hell for ever and others to be saved and go to heaven. I believe everyone has a choice in where they want to spend eternity. God is not some arbitrary dictator who controls the universe like a psychopathic control freak. He gives us the freedom to chose and desires that all will come to repentance.

3. As a Seventh-day Adventist I do not believe that the dead go straight to heaven or hell. Instead, I believe that they cease to exist until the resurrection when everyone receives their just reward either for eternal life or death. While some would say this belief removes hope and comfort from many I do not apologize for it because that hope and comfort for some comes at the expense of sorrow and heart break for many others. In order for me to believe my grandmother is in heaven to comfort myself I must be willing to accept that my neighbors atheist teenage son who died of a drug overdose is currently in hell writhing in agony with no possibility of escape. Would it be nice to think my grandmother is in heaven? Sure. But not a the expense of my neighbors comfort. Thankfully, I don't have to make that choice because the Bible teaches that the dead are asleep and will be judged at the last day. No one is dancing in heaven right now and no one is suffering in hell either. As a Seventh-day Adventist I believe that.

4. As a Seventh-day Adventist I do not believe in human dualism which divides the body from the spirit and claims one is important and the other is not. Because we reject this common evangelical view Seventh-day Adventists tend to care for their physical health as much as their spiritual health. As a result we live an average of ten years more than our American counterparts. That's ten more years to tell people about Jesus and share our wisdom with our grandchildren.

5. As a Seventh-day Adventist I do not believe that every day is created equal but that God blessed, sanctified, and made holy the seventh day of the week Saturday which the Bible calls the Sabbath. It is a day of rest and recovery from the wild craziness of everyday life. While I am an every day Christian the Sabbath is a special day of rest that reminds me that I cannot create myself for God is my creator and I cannot redeem myself for God is my redeemer. I believe this day matters for God never blessed any other day besides the seventh day and those who keep it experience a wonderful blessing.

6. As a Seventh-day Adventist I can answer questions other denominations struggle to answer. For example, "You Christians have been saying that Jesus is coming back for over 2,000 years, why isn't he back yet?" No problem my friend! Allow me to give you a bible study on the 2300 day prophecy which culminated in 1844 marking the beginning of Christs final work on behalf of man. When he finishes that final work he will come. Or what about "You Christians are always talking about what Jesus did 2,000 years ago but that was forever ago. Is he doing anything relevant to my life today?" Sure! Allow me to give you a Bible study on the sanctuary system beginning with the Old Testament and moving on into the new. How about "I hate organized religion. Christianity has done nothing but cause pain and suffering. Just look at the crusades!" I agree entirely! Would you like a Bible study on the little horn power of Daniel and the Beast of Revelation? I think you will be surprised! "Why didn't God destroy the devil?" Great question! Allow me to give you a Bible study on the great controversy. "Church is full of hypocrites and that's why I don't go!" Really? Would you like a Bible study on the Investigative Judgment which teaches that God began his work of judgment on the church and will not judge the wicked until he is done judging his church? And so on and so forth.

7. The Seventh-day Adventist church is the only united church body that upholds the historicist method of interpreting Bible prophecy as taught by Martin Luther, John Calvin, Isaac Newton and many other protestant reformers. As such our prophetic narrative is unique and distinct from any other denomination. Therefore, while we are thankful for the teachings that we have learned and embraced from other denominations our eschatological uniqueness places a more urgent value on each of those teachings. One example is the rapture. Adventists do not believe that the church will be raptured just before the days of tribulation but that we will go through the tribulation. Many denominations teach that the church will be delivered from the final crisis through a "secret rapture." Such a teaching, found nowhere in scripture, is preparing myriads of believers for a great disappointment much like what the early Adventists (Millerites) experienced in 1844 when they thought Jesus was coming. After the disappointment many gave up their faith in Christ. Likewise, I believe that many who expect to be delivered from the final crisis will be so disappointed when they find themselves in the midst of it they will give up on their faith in order to escape the persecution. With such a terrible scenario ahead I have, as a Seventh-day Adventist, the unique mission to sound the alarm and help prepare as many as possible for what is coming. Some call this doom-and-gloom preaching but if it is, it is no different than Noah's warning of a flood, Jeremiah's warning of and invasion, and Jesus' warning of Jerusalem's destruction.

I could go on and on but I think I have made my point. Being an Adventist means something. We are not simply another denomination in the mix of all denominations. We are unique and we bear a powerful and distinct message to the world. I fear many Adventists are, as a backlash to the narcissism of their forefathers, attempting to erase any and all distinction between Adventism and other denominations. We want to be considered evangelical. We want to be part of the club. We want to be accepted. Please don't call us a cult any more, don't you see? We are just like you! No difference! And while we certainly are evangelical, while we certainly are a Bible believing, Jesus uplifting church we are indisputably different. To be an Adventist is to stand for an offensive, foolish, and unpopular message. But do you know what I have discovered? There are only four groups of people that generally hate Adventisms message: disgruntled Adventists, former Adventists, ultra-conservative evangelicals, and other Christians who simply misunderstand our message. But go out and share this message with the lost, the post-moderns, the "church haters" and sinners and you will find that our message carries healing in its wings. It is the story of Jesus as told by scripture. And I said before, "Is our God-story perfect? Do we have a flawless theology with no room for improvement? Not at all. We have much to discover. But I do believe, in the most politically incorrect way, that Adventism approximates the biblical story of Gods love, grace, and work for mankind in a much finer way than any other theological system around."**


Fellow Adventist, don't be ashamed of your message. Stand up and be proud. We don't have to apologize to anyone for our beliefs. They are awesome. They are satisfying. They are Bible. While we are not greater than any other church, no holier, no smarter, and certainly no better looking we have a message to preach that no one else is preaching. True, all of our doctrines (even the investigative judgment) can be found outside of our church in one form or another, but there is not a single united body of believers, not a single denomination or movement, that is preaching this message besides the Seventh-day Adventist church. The uniqueness of Adventism is nothing to be ashamed of. It is who we are. Being an Adventist is an invitation to be a part of something epic. I am a Seventh-day Adventist and I am proud of it. Take it or leave it. Love it or hate it. Embrace it or reject it. That's your choice. As for me, I'm all in.
Southern Adventist University Faculty Statement on the Emerging Church Movement


Southern Adventist University's (SAU) school of religion released a statement on the emerging church movement October 23, 2013.* I am thankful for this statement that shows SAU is committed to Biblical Christianity and rejects the religious syncretism inherent in the emergent church movement. Here is the statement:


A Reaffirmation of Seventh-day Adventist Faith and Practice
October 23, 2013

Introduction

The Emerging Church movement (EC) began as an attempt to be relevant to a postmodern and post-postmodern culture. The EC in its various forms seeks creatively to reinvent church in the twenty-first century, “emerging” in protest from traditional Christianity to form a new “post-Christian” worldview.1

Like postmodernism, which defies clear lines of definition, the EC is eclectic and diverse, focusing less on distinctive biblical teaching and emphasizing the authenticity and spiritual experience of the individual. How a person lives is more important than what he or she believes.2  This emphasis that “faith without works is dead” and that true Christianity will display itself in a life which is consistent with the truth is commendable. However, this emphasis also betrays one of the drawbacks of the EC--that experience very easily becomes the essential standard of authentic spirituality without the framework of Scripture or the guidance of an organized faith community.

The EC is committed to accepting philosophical pluralism, denying that any system (or religion) offers a complete explanation of God or truth. Rather than bouncing between arguments of relativism and absolutism, EC leaders insist on a “Third Way” that dialogues and ultimately embraces the multi-faith world and does not judge faith issues and movements within traditional lines of Christian interpretation. While theological humility is laudable, within the EC this view seems all too often to lead to positions which are relativistic in fact, if not in name.3
The EC reduces Christianity to “one voice” among many and is strongly ecumenical, seeking to experience God in dialogue and by adopting beliefs and worship practices in the multi-faith world of religions such as Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Eastern mysticism, and even non-religious atheism.4  EC leaders embrace such practices as symbolic, multi-sensory worship; centering prayer; prayer beads; icons; spiritual direction; labyrinths; and lectio divina.5  While some of these practices have merit, the semantic elasticity of many of these terms, as used by proponents of EC, contributes to the problematic nature of the movement.6  For instance, “spiritual formation” is a key term which has been enlarged by the EC to encompass mystical practices.7  The worship of the EC may include charismatic and post-charismatic elements, and its music varies from hymns to contemporary Christian music and secular forms.8

The EC is disillusioned with the organized church and seeks to deconstruct modern Christian worship, evangelism, and community by providing a new theology for post-Christianity. Within our own denomination and in many others, the lack of emphasis on personal spiritual experience has left many faithful believers hungering for a deeper relationship with God. It is this reasonable desire and genuine need that the EC attempts to address. However, despite some positive contributions, we must be cautious of its theological views and spiritual recommendations. 

In response to the growing impact of the EC in Seventh-day Adventist churches, colleges, and universities, we, the faculty of the School of Religion at Southern Adventist University, wish to encourage spiritual revival and reformation and to offer this affirmation of authentic biblical belief as expressed in the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

  1. We affirm that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the infallible revelation of God’s will. The Bible has authority in all areas of Christian teaching, life, and practice because it is the inspired Word of God, and all truth is consistent with this revelation (Is. 40:8; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; 2 Tim. 3:16).
    The Bible is not merely a “library of diverse voices making diverse claims.”9   On the contrary, it speaks inrldmonyand rldmony to rld. We therld. We therefore cannot accept that “faithful interaction with a library means siding with some of those voices and against others,”10  for “Scripture cannot be broken” (Jn. 10:35). While we acknowledge and appreciate the role of God’s Spirit in guiding the church, we insist that the Spirit confirms and conforms to the Scriptures. Therefore, we believe in the unique authority of the Bible and understand that it is not merely one way among many to understand Gthe standard of charipture is the standard of charauthorrustwoest of experience, the authorve reve rev of doof doctrines, and the trustworthy recort “Sola scrip actcts in history. We cannot accept tt “Sola s scriptura . . . tends to downplay the role of God’s Spirit in shaping the direction of the church,”11  as some in the EC assert, or that sacred texts outside of the Bible are metanarratives of equal authority to that of the Bible. Personal experience; culture; and ancient, modern, and postmodern philosophies cannot replace the Bible as the basis of all “doctrine, for reproof, . 3onorrection, and fo” (2 Tim. 3on in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).
     
  2. We thsus crus us createdeatedthil thithat that He was and is forever truly God and also betrulytruly man to live and perfectly exemplify the righteousness and l. We a Gorm th affirm that He died a substitutionary and expiatory death, was bodily dead,r the from the dead, and ascended to heaven to minister there in the presence of the Father in the heavenly sanctuary (Jn. 1:1-14; 8:58; 10:30; Heb. 1:6; Phil. 2:10-11; Gal: 4:4; Matt. 1:1; Jn. 1:30; R; 1 3:25; Isa. 53:5-12; 1 Cor. 15:3, 14-17; Luke 24:36-43; Heb. 8:1-2).
    Jesus was noty a gly a good moral leader: He uly truly the divine Son of God.12  It was an act of unfathomable love for God to send His Sonie o Jesus to dihe crohe cross and for he Son to consIt wtodivie. It w “divi an act of “ed abuse,”use,”1se,”13  asassertin the EC have asses’ death ogh Jesus’ death on the cross was indeed an example to humanity of authentic, missional living, it cannot be limitedIthe atoniIthe atoninglso the atoning sacrifice which redeems us from our slavery to sin, as well as the unique basis for the reconciliation of humans to God. God’s grace is channeled to the world through Christ and cannot be found where enlightenment is sought within the person. As revealed in God’s Word, it is a gift bestowed by Jesus Christ and cannot be acquired by the skill of humanity or merited by human goodness. Though Jesus, as God, is ever-present through the Holy Spirit, the pantheistic notion that Jesus is a Cosmic Christ “woven into Creation and all of life”14  misrepresents the fundamental distinction between creature and Creator.
     
  3. We affirm that this world is the focus of a great cosmic controversy between Christ and Satan over the character and government of God, His eternal moral law, and His sovereignty over the universe (Ezek. 28:12-17; Is. 14:12-14; Rev. 12:4-9; Job 1:6-7; 1 Cor. 4:9; Matt. 4:3).
    Satan is not simply a metaphor for evil. He is a fallen personal being, working actively today to confuse humanity into believing that there are many avenues to God other than Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6). To the extent that other philosophies and faiths identify alternative links between God and humanity, they are mistaken. Just as the means of access to God are d’s law nd irreplaceable, so also God’s law is chan a mutable me and place. Isuwas t to change over time and place. It was a p writtenn by Godensown finger in stone as a permanent, compr lonsive mora cha and spiritualty 3elation of His loving character to humanity 31:. 31:18; Deut. 10:1).
     
  4. We affirm the biblical revelation of the fall of humanity after a perfect creation, and we acknowledge that sin is the transgression of God’s eternal law (1 Jn. 3:4; Gen. 3:1-10; Jas. 2:10; 4:17). Obedience to God’s law through the empowering of the Holy Spirit is Christ’s command to His followers: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. :18; ; Jn. 15:10; Matt. 5:18; 19:17; Heb. 8:10). 
    Although personal experience is an essential element in Christianity, it is not the standard by which we test truth. Christianity is not all about us or our subjective experiences, for it was humanity, relying subjectively on the senses, which disobeyed God and plunged the earth into sin. The work of the Holy Sp tit is to lead sinners tn tosus Christ, rather than to self.15  Our faith must rest in Christ, as revealed in Scripture, anur own s our own spiritual inclinations, feelings, or expe thnces: “Test the spirits to see whethehn, ey are from God,” says postapostle John, “because man (1 Jse propheve gone gone out into the ld” (1 Jn. 4:n. 4:1).
     
  5. We affirm that the church is the nity nity of believers whoess Jess Jesus rist as Loas Lord and Saviour, who are called out from the world to join tohip, felor worship, fellowe, proruction, proruction,n, instruction, and celebration of the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 16:1 Eph. 2:h. 2:19-22; 3:8-11). 
    The church is not an amorphous and unbounded gathering of persons who hold dissimilar views of the Bible and Jesus Christ. Scripture teaches that there were clear and non-negotiable expectations, both of belief and of practice for members of this community, and it specifically warns us of the danger of false teaching (2 Pet. 2:1-2). Church organization is vital to accomplish the mission which Christ has entrusted to His followers. While diversity of means and methods is vital to the church (1 Cor. 12:12-20), this does not imply that any doctrine, any spiritual practice, or any ethical standard espoused by a person claiming Christ is approved by Him or should be accepted by the church. The church is sent to all nations (Matt. 28:19) and strives to become “all things to all people” (1 Cor. 9:22), but the church expresses this diversity within Scriptural guidelines, being commissioned by Christ to teach all. 1:8-9) has commanded (Matt. 28:20) and not “another gospel” (Gal. 1:8-9).
     
  6. We affirm that in the last days, a time of widespread apostasy, a remnant has been called out to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. a The remmnant arivances the arrival of the judgment hour, proclaims salvation through Christ, and heraldsHihe approach of His second advent. This pr is sy ton is symbolized by the three angels of Revelatith the it coincideh the the work oof repeent in heaven and resof repe a work of repe repentance and reform on eartave a py believer is called to have a personal part in this worldwide witne7; 14:6sy (Red’s peo7; 14:6-of error and apostasy (Rev. 12:17; 14:6-12; 1:10; J 2 Cor. 5:10; Jude 3, 14; 1 Pet. 19; 219; 2 Pet. 3:10-14; Rev. 21:1-14.).
    The message of Christ is uniq is not jusot just one metanarrative among the maativetaof oatives of other world religions, all of which lead to truth. God’s end-tillll faithfaithfulthful people is to leave all ls and sin sin anin and to unite themsels faithful m abedHis faithful y d pholding bit people by upholding bibli16l doctrine and he v6 Thhe v6 Thhe Seventh-e Seventh-day Adventist Church c minister  minister astoor with postmoderns, but muut must, rather, minister for postmoderns, calling them out of the confusion of relativism into God’s eternal truth.17  We must not blur the boundarih and error, nd error, whether through the revisionist critique of Protestantism and thocacy for “pos for “post-Protestantism and post-Christianity,”18  or by returning to any historic Christian tradition (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant,19  or Celtic,20  or even sdis1) indisdistinct blending of these21) or by any syncretistic merging with world religions that woulplaisplace or redefine the everlasting gospel.
     
  7. We affirm that the final test of humanity at the end of time will be over the issue of faithfulness to God and obedience to his expressed will, ding a t uding a to the return to the observance of t seveiginal seventh-day SabbatCreatCreatiEx. 20:8 2:1-3; Ex. 20:8-11; Rev. 14:7-9, 12). 
    The seventh-day Sabbath is not a transitory expression of religious practice, but from Creation it has been a memorial of God’s power and love and a sign of faithfulness to Him, and it will remain the test of worshipful allegiance at the end of time. God’s truth is unchangeable, and His will is immutable. Those who are recognized by heaven as God’s own people at the end of history will conform to the same standards of belief and practice which have characterized the righteous in all ages.
     
  8. We affirm that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth” and that our spiritual practices e thoseo be those taught by the Lord, directed by the Holy Spirit, and confirmed by the Scriptures (Jn. 4:23; Luke 11:1; Rom. 8:26-27, 2 Pet. 1:3-4; Ps. 1:2; 119:97). 
    True worship must be defined biblically.22  No doctrine, behavior, or spiritual practice, however great its antiquity or wide its acceptance, oved, except by oved, except by its conformity to the Word of God.23  Regular study of Scripture, unceasing prayer, constant attention to the leading of the Spi, and God, and fretualt spiritual conversatiosation with fellow believers, both in daily life and during weekly Sabbath rest, are indispensable elements of true biblical spirituae form disciplitian cich leads to the formation of Christian charaes (su4  Other spiritual practices (such as centering prayer, contemplation, meditation, lectio divina, eucharistic tion, icons,inthsinthsinths), whhether of non-Christiantian or medieval origin or of recent devising, must be evaluated by Scripture.25
     
  9. We affirm the movement of history toward the final culminating event of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, who will return literally, personally, and visibly with the heavenly hosts to take up the elect for an eternal kingablishet will be established in heaven during the millennium, followed by the descent of the New Jerusalem on a restored new earth (Matt. 7:22-23; 16:27; 24:30; 25:11-12; Jn. 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:16; Jude 14-15; Rev. 1:7; 19:12-16).
    The Kingdom of God is not merely a better life to be established politically or socially on this present earth through an ecumenical movement where all religions “are revelations of the same reality.”26  Though it has begun on this earth through the teachings of Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit, the hope in Jesus is that its culmination will be in a world that will be cleansed of all evil and perfectly restored by Christ after the millennium. The final message of the “everlasting gospel”27  must be faithfully preached to all the world to fulfill Christ’s mission. God desires all to be saved, but those who reject the Son and show themselves unfaithful to God will be lost (Jn. 3:35-36).
     
School of Religion Faculty, Southern Adventist University
 

Endnotes
1 For a primer on the EC, see Leonard I. Sweet, Brian D. McLaren, and Jerry Haselmayer, A Is for Abductive: The Language of the Emerging Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003; for critiques of the EMC movement, see D. A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005); Roger Oakland, Faith Undone (Silverton, OR: Lighthouse Trails, 2007); Jeremy Bouma, Reimagining the Christian Faith: Exploring the Emergent Theology of Doug Pagitt, Peter Rollins, Samir Selmanovic, and Brian McLaren (Grand Rapids, MI: Theoklesia, 2012); Fernando Canale, “The Emerging Church – Part 1: Historical Background,” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 22/1 (2011) 84-101; idem., “The Emerging Church – Part 2: Epistemology, Theology, and Ministry,” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 22/2 (2011) 67-105; idem., “The Emerging Church – Part 3: Evangelical Evaluations,” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 23/1 (2012) 46-75.
2 Scot McKnight, “Five Streams of the Emerging Church,” Christianity Today 51/2 (February, 2007); accessed online Sept 29, 2013.
3 For the impact of relativism in EC, see the extensive discussion by Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, 125-56; and most recently, in general, Carson, The Intolerance of Tolerance (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012); cf. Canale, “Emerging Church – Part 2,” 79-80.
4 Samir Selmanovic, It’s Really All About God: How Islam, Atheism, and Judaism Made Me a Better Christian(San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010); and his website on Faith House Manhattan, where a “Christian Buddhist” is a member the Board of Directors: http://www.faithhousemanhattan.org/about-us/leadership/board-of-directors, accessed Sept. 23, 2013.
5 On Lectio Divina, see David Foster, Reading with God: Lectio Divina (London/New York: Continuum, 2005); Basil Pennington, “Lectio Divina: The Gate Way to the Spiritual Journey and Centering Prayer,” in Centering Prayer in Daily Life and Ministry, ed. Gustave Reininger (London/New York: Continuum, 1998), 20-25.
6 Many of the terms employed for spiritual practices, including “contemplation,” “meditation,” “spiritual reading,” “spiritual direction,” and even “prayer,” are vague and can be accompanied with major redefinition and new application. Both the Bible (Luke 5:16; 11:2; Ps. 55:17; 1 Tim. 4:5; Jas. 5:13) and Ellen White provide extensive commentary on the importance of meditation on God’s Word and prayer (Acts of the Apostles, 424;Gospel Workers, 127). Ellen White writes, “Let the truth of God be the subject for contemplation and meditation. Read the Bible, and regard it as the voice of God speaking directly to you. Then will you find inspiration and that wisdom which is divine” (Testimony Treasures, 3:188). See especially White’s statements in Desire of Ages, 83, 363 and Education, 260-61.
7 On spiritual formation from an EC perspective, see Doug Pagitt, Reimagining Spiritual Formation: A Week in the Life of an Experimental Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004); Richard Foster, “Spiritual Formation Agenda: Three Priorities for the Next Thirty Years,” Christianity Today, Feb. 4, 2009; accessed online Sept. 23, 2013.
8 For an analysis of the relationship between charismatic worship and EC worship, see Canale, “Emerging Church – Part 2,” 74-75.
9 Brian McLaren, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World (New York: Jericho Books, 2012), 204.
10 Ibid.
11 Will Samson, “The End of Reinvention: Mission Beyond Market Adoption Cycles,” in An Emergent Manifesto of
Hope, 
ed. Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007), 156.
12 For an analysis of McLaren’s views on the divinity of Christ, see Jeremy Bouma, The Gospel of Brian McLaren: A New Kind of Christianity for a Multi-Faith World (Grand Rapids, MI: Theoklesia, 2013), 47-51.
13 McLaren, The Story We Find Ourselves In (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003), 102.
14 Selmanovic, All About God, 76-82.
15 John Markovic, “Emergent Theology: Voices of Confusion,” Ministry (May, 2010).
16 Stanley J. Grenz, a key theologian of the EC adopts “open theism” which restricts God’s ability to predict the future and limits the gift of prophecy which is central to the prophetic voice of the faithful remnant at the end of time (Grenz in Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times, ed. Millard J. Erickson, Paul Kjoss Helseth, Justin Taylor [Wheaton IL: Crossway Books, 2004], 19).
17 On these categories, see McKnight, “Five Streams.”
18 McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), Chapt. 7; on other revisionist works, see Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008); Diana Butler Bass, A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story (New York: HarperCollins, 2009).
19 McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, 221-225.
20 Selmanovic, All About God, 22-23.
21 See the discussion by Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, 172-77; Canale, “The Emerging Church: What Does it Mean and Why Should We Care?” Adventist Review (June, 10, 2010); accessed online Sept. 14, 2013, states, “The emerging church is going back to Rome. If we continue to play follow the leader, new generations of Adventism will go back to Rome, as well.”
22 Canale points out that “the center of emerging worship is no longer Bible preaching, but the Eucharist,” (“The Emerging Church – Part 2,” 72). For many “preaching is no longer the authoritative transferring of Biblical information” (Dan Kimball, Emerging Worship: Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations[Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004], 87), but has been replaced by storytelling. Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe Geisler critique the EC’s limiting view of Scripture in “A Postmodern View of Scripture,” in Evangelicals Engaging Emergent: A Discussion of the Emergent Church Movement, ed. William D. Henard and Adam W. Greenway (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 107.
23 Grenz places the community and tradition over Scripture as the basis for doctrine, “Our Bible is the product of the community of faith that cradled it . . . the writings contained in the Bible represent the self-understanding of the community in which it developed” (Grenz, Revisioning Evangelical Theology A Fresh Agenda for the 21st Century [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993], 121; see the critique by Canale, “Emerging Church – Part 2,” 79-80). In Renewing the Center: Evangelical Theology in a Post-Theological Era([Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006], 347), Grenz quotes Michael S. Horton favorably maintaining that the new center for evangelicalism is to embrace a consensus view of tradition (“What Still Keeps Us Apart”? in Roman Catholicism: Evangelical Protestants Analyse What Divides and Unites Us, ed. John H. Armstrong [Chicago, IL: Moody, 1994], 253). This is a reversal of the biblical and Protestant hermeneutic of sola Scriptura, see discussion by Norman Gulley, Systematic Theology, Vol. 4: Church, Final Events (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2014).
24 On spiritual discipline, see Ellen White, Christian Education, 136; on the formation of character,Fundamentals of Christian Education, 254. In contrast it should be noted that in the EC “Spiritual Disciplines are a very important part of the ‘vintage’ Christianity that emerging leaders retrieve from medieval Roman Catholic spirituality” (Canale, “The Emerging Church – Part 2,” 73).
25 On the use of monastic mysticism in the EC, see Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (New York: Crossroad, 2009), 12; Nanette Sawyer, “What Would Huckleberry Do? A Relational Ethic as the Jesus Way,” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, 41–50; Selmanovic, All About God, 130-141.
26 Selmanovic, All About God, 288, note 3.
27 Ellen White writes, “The messages of Revelation 14 are those by which the world is to be tested; they are the everlasting gospel, and are to be sounded everywhere” (Selected Messages, 2:111); cf. Great Controversy, 311.
 


I Am the Electrical Outlet...
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“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener." 

This statement is almost too bizarre for my modern Jersey-boy ears. Vine? Really? Why would anyone say they are a vine? But when I think about it, it makes perfect sense. A vine is a plant that has branches that produce fruit. The vine is the part of the plant that provides all of the nutrients to the branches so they can grow fruit. A perfect example is a grape vine that produces grapes. . No vine and the branches dry up and die. Its pretty straight forward. No vine, no grapes.

If Jesus were telling this story at a coffee shop in Chattanooga today he would probably say something like, "I am the electrical outlet..." Similar to a vine, the electrical outlet provides all of the electricity that my appliances need to produce what they produce. A perfect example is how the computer I am using is plugged into an outlet. Because it is plugged into an outlet I can produce a blog. But without the electricity that comes from the outlet the computer would be useless. The outlet is the source of power. No outlet, no blog. 

Jesus also goes on to say that his father is the gardener. In other words, he is the one that does everything necessary for there to be some huge grapes come harvest time. Jesus goes on to say that, "He [the father] cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." In other words, the father is intensely interested and invested in getting some juicy grapes. So think about it. Jesus is the outlet and God is like an electrician that is consistently involved in making sure that everything is just right so that my computer can produce great blogs. He keeps all of the cables fresh. He replaces all of the blown out fuses right away. He makes sure that my equipment is getting the right amount of amps and even hooks me up with a generator in case of a power outage. He is interested, not in my failure, but in my success. Or better said, his success. 

Many of us fail to realize just how intensely interested God is, not in our failure, but in our success. He wants us to be victorious. He sets us up to be "more than conquerors." If we fail we cannot say it is because God let us down. No way! Not only has he provided a never ending source of power in his son Jesus (the vine) but he himself (the gardener) is constantly at work to make sure everything is just perfect so that we can produce some awesome fruit. 

Jesus goes on to say, "Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

Plug into Jesus today. Let his power surge through you. Let his life flow through your veins. You and I have, in him, everything we need to be satisfied, joyful, and complete. In him we find our perfection, our righteousness, our holiness. In Jesus we have the true source of power for being overcomers in a world full of sin. Not only that, but we also have the father, our heavenly electrician, making sure all of our cables and wires are working at maximum output so that we can be on our A game. It's almost as if all of heaven is interested in our victory. Its almost as if all of heaven wants us to succeed. Its almost as if God actually wants whats best for us. No vine, no grapes. No gardener, no grapes. Praise the Lord, we've got them both.


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Note: All texts quoted from John 15: 1-5, NIV
Why Do People Leave the SDA Church? (Revisited)
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The following paragraphs are from an article featured in the latest edition of GLEANER. The article is a response to the article "Beyond Belief"  which deals with why people leave the SDA church. I am quoting the start of the article here and share some thoughts below.

Its Beyond Belief Revisited 
...His article, first published in the Adventist Review (March 21, 2013) and reprinted in the North Pacific Union Conference GLEANER(June 2013), is in large part predicated on a study conducted by Southern Adventist University’s School of Business and directed by Lisa Goolsby.
While the responses of those surveyed in their study are forthright and heartfelt about how they relate to Adventist theology, based on how this study was conducted,* it does not establish a new leading reason for why people leave the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Relational and personal issues are still the primary reasons why people leave the church according to every other North American Division (NAD) retention study conducted across Bermuda, Canada, Guam/Micronesia and the United States.
Through the years, leaving because of doctrinal reasons has hovered around 9 percent. Recent data shows an uptick to 14 percent. This is data we can rely on that represents the trends over more than three decades collected from stratified random samples of people identified by third parties (pastors, church clerks, etc.) as former or nonattending members. Read More
14 GLEANER • September 2013
*The “Former Seventh-day Adventist Perceptions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church” study used a nonprobability sampling method, which means one cannot scientifically make generalizations about the total NAD population from this sample because it would not be representative enough.
So here's the deal. Good article. Thought provoking. Balanced. Healing-based. Charitable. The whole schmear. However, the article does unintentionally present yet another thing to argue about - retention studies. This one is valid that one isn't. This one is scientifically sound, the other isn't. The one saying "A" is false, but the study that says "B" is true. Pretty soon someone will print an article about how this article got it all wrong and the first one was the one that had it right. Then some new guy or gal will pitch in with a "they are both wrong" article that presents yet another study which supposedly reveals the "truth." And so on and so forth. As far as I am concerned, we have enough things to debate. We don't need another.

Lets keep it simple. Do people leave church because they are changing beliefs or because they have had a bad experience? My answer is: Who cares? The point is they are leaving and those are the reasons why. Regardless of which is more prevalent people leave for one of three primary reasons: Bad experience, change of beliefs, or both and we need to respond appropriately especially when the issues are doctrinal. Richardson stated it well when he said that we should "not ignore their legitimate questions but accelerate our responses to them in reasoned and redemptive ways." 

Unfortunately, ignoring questions, giving cliche answers, quoting Ellen White, and proof texting has been the way in which we have historically approached honest questions. Perhaps the real problem is most Adventists don't really know their Bibles. What they know is the Bible according to Amazing Facts. Or they have purchased one of our wonderful Ellen White study Bibles and have built their faith on that.* Then when someone comes with a real question that requires real answers we're bankrupt. Feeling threatened we respond with a cultish "don't question the truth" and walk away with a renewed sense of self-righteousness (or with a nagging feeling of hopelessness that we choose to ignore). 

The solution? We need to get into our Bibles and dig deep. We need to get rid of the proof texts and build our faith on the rock Jesus Christ not on the ministry of a modern prophet. We need real answers that satisfy modern minds, not stuff from the 50's. We need to realize that no amount of "niceness" or "friendliness" is going to make up for unanswered questions. While we may never be able to convince and satisfy everyone we need to be intentional in being truthful and biblical. And ultimately we need to exercise charity toward everyone regardless of whether they agree with us or not. It is this conviction that has enabled me to form good relationships with many former Adventists. And by relationships I don't mean an inauthentic gimmick to get them back into our church but a relationship that embraces their spiritual journey and honors it even where it differs from our own.

One of the greatest experiences I have had on this blog is the opportunity to connect with and talk to former Adventists. Many are not apostates. They are not "rejecters of the Spirit" And no, they are not heretics who are lost unless they return to the "true remnant." Instead, I have found many of them to be honest, brilliant people who are wrestling with faith and truth. They love Jesus. They love the gospel. And we have failed them. Some have been hurt by our attitudes, yes. But many others have had real questions that we failed to answer or, as in the case of Eliana Matthews, have been raised with such a distorted and perverted version of Adventism that the only way to heal would be to start over from scratch.

But there is no need to despair. The reality is that people leaving a church because of bad experiences or changes in belief system is not unique to Adventism. Ask anyone who left the Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, or Presbyterian church and 9 out of 10 will most likely tell you they left because of a bad experience of a change in belief system. Books like Crazy Love by Francis Chan and The Naked Gospel by Andrew Farley reveal that Adventism is far from alone in its legalism and lukewarmness. In addition, lost in this debate is the amazing work that Adventism is doing all over the world and gained is the misconception that all of Adventism is beset by these issues. The issues are real and need attention but the church, while in need of a spiritual reboot, is daily moving in the right direction. Of that I am truly happy.

___________

* Adventists should not be ashamed of Ellen White study Bibles. After all, there are C.S Lewis study Bibles so why not Ellen White? The problem is when we think Ellen White was an inspired commentary of scripture and that if we read her comments we have no further need of study. This is a misuse of the prophetic gift and breeds less, not more, biblical knowledge and spiritual growth. We must always remember Ellen Whites own words, quoted in the above article, which state:
“There is no excuse for anyone in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed, and that all our expositions of Scripture are without an error... 
“[A]s real spiritual life declines, it has ever been the tendency to cease to advance in the knowledge of the truth. Men [and women] rest satisfied with the light already received from God’s word, and discourage any further investigation of the Scriptures. They become conservative, and seek to avoid discussion. 
“When God’s people are at ease, and satisfied with their present enlightenment, we may be sure that God will not favor them. It is God’s will that they should be ever moving forward, to receive the increased and ever-increasing light which is shining for them” (Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 35, 38–41).
Why Do People Leave the SDA Church?
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"People leave the Adventist Church only because they've had a bad experience, right? Not anymore. A new study indicates that more and more church members are leaving because they have changed their beliefs." - Adventist Review article, Beyond Belief by Andy Nash. Click Here for the article.
My Response: Nash's article on the contemporary reasons why people leave the SDA church was long overdue. I really enjoyed reading it and felt that it was about time someone shared this with the world church. Although the SDA church  is still the fastest growing church in north America and has, in my estimation, the most beautiful message of Jesus and his work of salvation, we are definitely not perfect. For everyone who walks in the front door we have another who walks out the back door - and these days its for a different reason than what it used to be: doctrine.  Nash offers five suggestions on how to deal with the issue. His suggestions were excellent especially number 3:


3. We should clear up false understandings. For a myriad of reasons, many former Adventists seem to have serious misunderstandings of Adventist beliefs. One survey respondent wrote: “Keeping the Sabbath does not save anyone.” Another respondent wrote that she believed Ellen White was inspired by God—but that she is not our way to salvation. “I don’t think you have to believe in her to be saved,” she wrote.
It’s truly sad that these former members were taught so erroneously....
Many survey comments falsely reflected an impression that Ellen White dreamed up Adventist beliefs—when in reality her own study and writing complemented, and often trailed, that of other Adventists.

I really resonated with this suggestion because in my experience, people who leave the SDA church because of beliefs have misunderstandings, sometimes serious ones, as to what the church actually believes and teaches. Growing up I used to think that the New World Order conspiracies were all part of our message. I could have easily walked out and said Adventists are nuts. But when I dug deeper I discovered I was simply influenced by the nutty people around me whose views did not represent the SDA church. I also used to think the Investigative Judgment doctrine was inherently legalistic until I studied it for myself and found it to be the Bibles strongest affirmation of salvation by grace through faith. I used to think that salvation was "What Jesus did + what I do = eternal life" until I discovered the church doesn't teach this at all! And failure to understand Ellen Whites view on this left me confused when reading many of her books. When I discovered salvation is what Jesus did alone, I didn't even want to believe it. I thought it was too good to be true. So I went on the official SDA church site and checked what I had learned against our fundamental belief, and to my surprise - it was there! And I could share countless more stories of the times I have come to the edge of leaving the Adventist church only to discover that the problem isn't the church at all but my own misunderstandings (often influenced by highly conservative Adventists or extremists within the church). My wife has her own share of stories like being told that one little sin like drinking coffee or eating a steak could keep her out of heaven. Or, as I wrote in my paper on the Investigative Judgment, 

Growing up, my wife was taught that she did not know when her name would come up in the judgment. If it did and she was found not “worthy” of eternal life because she was sinning at the moment (or some other reason), then she would be lost forever and not know it. She could continue to strive to follow Jesus for the rest of her life, but this would be in vain since she was already lost. - The Pre-Advent Judgment and Righteousness by Faith. 

I wonder how many people were raised like my wife and I were, with extreme ideas and misunderstandings, who still think that this is what the SDA church believes and teaches. My only suggestion is that we clear up misunderstandings, not only with those outside the church, but with those still inside of it - especially the youth. Many of them have as their teachers people who have grown up with the same misunderstandings and errors that point us away from Jesus and his grace to legalism and self.

In conclusion, this article really gives me hope. Hope that we can right the wrongs. It's OK for people to leave the SDA church. But if they leave because of doctrine, let it be for doctrine that we actually  teach and not false ideas of those doctrines.
Why "Sola Scriptura" Is Not Enough
I recently came to the realization that Sola Scriptura, the Bible and the Bible alone, is not enough. Now before you head down to the comment line and demolish me allow me to explain. Trust me, its not what it sounds like.

A few days ago I was doing some research for a blog I was writing called "Is Phony Theology the Result of "New" Bible Translations?" During my research I came across a sermon by a man named David Koresh. Now for those of you who don't know who David Koresh is, here is a bit of back ground. David Koresh was a Seventh-day Adventist who left the church and started his own movement known as the Branch Davidians. I wont go into details here, but if you would like to learn more about the teachings of David Koresh then I recommend you read this article.

Now back to my post. David Koresh was, to put it simply, a cult leader. He led his cult, the Branch Davidians, into a complex in Waco Texas that was eventually raided by the authorities and burned to the ground killing everyone inside including children. Koresh himself was killed. Now what does this have to do with my blog title "Why 'Sola Scriptura' Is Not Enough"? As I mentioned earlier, I had the opportunity to hear a bit of an excerpt from one of Koresh's sermons and I couldn't believe my ears. Although the recording was bad, it was good enough for me to clearly hear him say, "if you are going to be in this message you're gonna be in your Bible." Koresh was advocating to his followers - study the Bible. Don't just study it, know it. As soon as I heard this it became clear to me that the easiest way to lead someone into a phony church is to patronize them with cliches about how they have to study their Bibles, defend everything they believe from their Bibles, and follow the Bible alone. 

But shouldn't we do all of the above? Absolutely! But under one condition. Sola Scriptura doesn't mean "the Bible and the Bible alone points to me (ie. David Koresh or anyone else) as the only one who knows the truth." It would be so easy to tell someone, "I believe in the Bible alone and that's why I follow Koresh because the Bible tells me to." This is exactly how David Koresh deceived the people that followed him into their fiery deaths. He convinced them that the Bible and the Bible alone was the truth and that the Bible pointed to him as the prophet/messiah that they should follow. Therefore, Sola Scriptura only works when it points you back to Sola Scriptura and not to some so called spiritual leader. The word of God exalts Jesus Christ as our guide and no one else. Koresh was able to trick his followers by preaching Sola Scriptura that points to me. Today I would like to suggest that the only safe guide is this formula:


Sola Scriptura that points to Sola Scriptura.

Thus. I conclude that Sola Scriptura is not enough. What we need is Sola Scriptura Monstrantem Se Sola meaning "Scripture alone pointing to itself alone." This is our only safety.

Further Reading: Ellen White vs. David Koresh

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