Posts tagged God
Is Your Adventism Beautiful?
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Jewelry.

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

In Isaiah 61:10 the Bible says,

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

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

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

In other words, God wants us to be beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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How Can I Know God?
I often get the question "How can I truly know God?" The answer is found all over scripture, but this morning I ran into a verse that really spoke to this question beautifully. The verse is Hosea 6:3 which says:
"Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring."
Three basic points stand out in this passage:

1) We are called to know God and God would never call us to do something impossible. The call itself is evidence that he can be known. 2) We need to press on to know him. Elsewhere God says, "You will find me when you seek me and search for me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13). Knowing God doesn't just happen. We need to press on and pursue it the same way we pursue our earthly desires. If you are not willing to press on to know God and to continue the search no matter how hard, you will never know him. Will it take 1 day? 30? 60?A lifetime? Who knows? Press on. 3) And lastly the verse says that "He will respond". When we seek to know God we must do so with the expectation and faith that he will respond. If you have already convinced yourself that he wont respond then you will miss his response when it happens. This is why Paul said, "Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Heb 11:6). So when you seek God, seek him with expectation because He will respond "as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring". And if that isn't enough evidence that he will respond, in verse 6 of this same chapter in Hosea God says, "I want to show you love.... I want you to know me." Could it be any clearer? He wants to know you and be known by you. He doesn't hide. He doesn't play mind games with us or tease us with an unreachable ideal. David Asscherick got it right when he said, "People are at different levels of finding [God] because people are at different levels of seeking [him]" (see video below). So today I invite you, regardless of what stage of seeking you are in, to press on to know him, and press on with expectation.


Further Reading:

Jesus Wants "Yada"

How You Can Know God Personally

How Can I Get to Know God More?


Church is Not Just About God


If you go to church or have gone to church you've probably heard this saying before "We don't go to church for other people. We go to church for God." It sounds noble. And if you don't look into it you may end up believing it. But it turns out, it isn't really true. 

The New Testament introduces us to the concept of church. The Greek word it uses is the word ecclessia which literally means "group of people".* So when Jesus says to Peter, "On this rock I will build my church" he is literally saying, "On this rock I will build my group of people". Likewise, when the NT speaks of believers having church it simply means that they were having community. Nowhere in the NT do we get the idea that the church is a building or a location. Not once. Instead, the church is a non-building, non-temple, non-institutional group of people who do life together with God and each other.

With this concept in mind, it's impossible to maintain the old adage that "We go to church for God not people." What we are literally saying is "We go to a group of people for God not for people." I don't know about you, but that sounds really weird.

If the church were a place you go to worship God then yes, it would be exclusively about him and no one else. But the church is not a place! It is a community. It is a group of people. When we go to church we go to connect with God and with this group of people who love him and worship him. Most of the time when people say that church is just about God and no one else, they are trying to convince someone who has been hurt by someone in the church or who is tired of the hypocrisy to come anyways because its just God you are there for. It comes from a good place. But its horribly flawed. People are not supposed to come to church just for God. They are supposed to come for the people as well! The church was made for community. For friendship. For togetherness and withness. It was made for companionship and social support. Its about God and people.

If this is true, then we need to stop excusing our hypocrisy and failures with the "its just about God" cop out. Instead, we should take a good hard look at ourselves and an even longer/ harder look at the cross of Christ. What are the areas in which we are failing to be the kind of community that God has called us to be? And how can we become that ecclessia? 

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* Ecclessia: 1) a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly 1a) an assembly of the people convened at the public place of the council for the purpose of deliberating 1b) the assembly of the Israelites 1c) any gathering or throng of men assembled by chance, tumultuously 1d) in a Christian sense 1d1) an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting 1d2) a company of Christians, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order's sake 1d3) those who anywhere, in a city, village, constitute such a company and are united into one body 1d4) the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth 1d5) the assembly of faithful Christians already dead and received into heaven Synonym [https://lumina.bible.org]

The One & Only Reason Why Anyone Should Follow Jesus


I have often wondered what in the world convinces a Muslim to follow Jesus. In many Muslim countries, the moment you convert to Christianity your wife will leave you, your husband will abandon you, and your friends will betray you. You can lose your job, your house, and everything you have ever worked for. Worst of all you can end up rotting away in a prison or killed for your faith. So what do you say to someone in these countries in order to convince them that they should follow Jesus? In the west we would go on and on about how wonderful Jesus can make your life. We would talk about how he can bless your finances and give you an abundant life and make you happy and fill you with blessings. We will tell you how much God loves us and wants us to have the best in life and we would invite you to the best church in town with an awesome worship band, comfortable seats, and a super cool preacher. The deacons would work hard to make sure the building is clean and the air conditioning is just right because we don’t want to give anyone an excuse for not accepting Jesus. 

Now, I'm not knocking any of this but do you realize that in Iraq there is no cool worship band and there is no trendy preacher or air conditioned, cushion chair, church? Do you realize that in many of these countries saying yes to Jesus means accepting the fact that you could lose everything including your family and your life? I ask again, what in the world convinces these people that they should follow Jesus? There’s nothing in it for them. And I look at my own life and I wonder, do I follow Jesus because I want to get something out of him? Or would I follow him even if I lost it all?

Well, I’m not the only person to ever have followed Jesus in order to gain something for myself. Peter struggled with this same exact concept. For many years Peter followed Jesus not out of love but because he wanted something out of Jesus. Have you ever met someone like that? They only call when they want something. They only come around when they need something. And when you have something they need or want they are all over you but when they get what they were looking for they are gone. I suppose we are all guilty of that and so was Peter.

In Matthew 16: 21-24 we read the following story:

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 
Matthew begins this story with the words “from that time on” indicating that something significant had just happened. When we look back we see that Jesus was with his disciples and asked them who people said he was. The disciples gave all kinds of answers and then finally Jesus asked them who they thought he was. Peter stood up and confessed “You are the messiah.” And “from that time on” Matthew says, Jesus began to explain his destiny. 

Peter had finally come to the place where he knew Jesus was the messiah but he still didn’t know what that meant. You see, the Israelites had been under oppression for hundreds of years. First the Babylonians, then the Medo-Persians, then the Greeks, and now the Romans. They were treated with cruelty, abused, exploited, and dictated by the governing power of Rome. The Jews wanted freedom and they wanted a messiah who would deliver them from Rome and establish them as the most powerful nation on the earth. And this is what Peter wanted. To Peter, Jesus was a ticket to success and not much more. So Jesus began explaining to them what his messiahship meant, that he would suffer and be killed. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”  Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

For Peter Jesus' messiahship was about the earthly kingdom. Peter wanted to be a part of that earthly kingdom. In many ways, Peter and the other disciples were following Jesus, not because of what they could give but what they could get. They followed Jesus mainly because they believed that through him they would get political power and prestige. And when Jesus said he would suffer and die Peter said, “This shall never happen to you!” but what he really meant to say was “this shall never happen to me.” And Jesus rebukes Peter saying, “You don’t have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” I like how the Voice Bible translates it. It says, “You are not thinking about Gods story.” 

To the limited eye it appears that Peter was trying to protect Jesus, but the reality is he was merely protecting his own ambitions. He didn’t want Jesus to die because if he did, what would become of his own story? Peter didn’t really care about Gods story. He only cared about his own story. And Jesus was the key to make his own story better. In modern terms, Jesus was nothing more than a product Peter could use to improve his quality of life. For Peter following Jesus was about “What’s in it for me?” And the church today is filled with people who show up asking “What’s in it for me?” And what is the end result of this self-centered Christianity? The life of Peter answers the question, for when Jesus was taken prisoner Peter denied ever having known him. 

Why are you following Jesus? Why are the Christians in Iraq following Jesus? What of those who have been hung, imprisoned, or shot? If someone points a gun at your face and tells you “deny him or die” what will you do?

The sad reality is that today myriads of people are following Jesus, not because of their love for Him, but because they see Him as a product that can improve their quality of life. Jesus has been objectified into a philosophical commodity that makes us “happy.” Christianity has denigrated into a “what’s-in-it-for-me” religion. And church has depreciated into a “what-can-I-get-out-of-it” performance. If that is our view of Christianity, I wonder, what will we do when we are asked to “deny him or die” with the cold barrel of a rifle pressed violently against our throats? Like Peter many of us are living a Christianity that does not have in mind Gods story, but merely our story—human concerns. And this is why Peter freaked out. His story was too important to him and the moment he heard the words suffering and death he was like, “Wait a minute! That’s not what I am here for! I want to be prime minister." And there was no room in Peters Christianity for suffering and death. 

Is there room in your Christianity for suffering and death?

Jesus doesn’t give us much of an option. 

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me…” 

In Jesus’ day the cross was not jewelry or a t-shirt. It was an instrument of execution. To carry your cross means that you die to yourself and your own ambitions and live for him and his glory. This is what it means to follow Jesus. This is what it means to commit your life to him: Suffering and death.

As a church we have got to stop trying to sell Jesus. He is not for sale. We do not bring people to Christ by telling them that if they follow him they will get everything they want. We do not make Jesus more attractive by turning him into our personal genie. We do not lead anyone to Christ by offering them a shallow, cheesy, and easy faith. In his article “Are You Ready? (Thoughts on Iraq’s Christian Genocide)” Pastor Gabriel Johnson says,

“as I listen to the messages being preached by many of the world’s most renowned religious leaders I can’t help but wonder if we are missing the point. Don’t get me wrong I want the big house; nice car and enormous bank account just like the next guy. And I do believe that the promises of God can open amazing doors in every area of life. But when much of what I hear is how God wants to bless my business while children are losing their lives it causes me to question our religion. Will the belief in the promise of success sustain me when they’re trying to kill my family or take my wife? What are we being prepared for in our churches?”
It is not our responsibility to try and make Jesus attractive by presenting only the promises and the blessings while ignoring his radical teachings such as “if you want to follow me, it involves a cross.” Because following Jesus is wonderful. Because following Jesus is the most rewarding thing you will ever do. But it involves a cross. Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends? When my wife became a Christian she lost many of her friends. Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means alienation from your family? I have a friend in New Jersey who got kicked out of his house when he became an Adventist. Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your job? Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means you will miss out on all the wild things your friends are doing? Allow me to make this a little more painful for each of us. Are you willing to follow Jesus when people in church criticize you? Are you willing to follow Jesus when people in church judge you? To the youth: Are you willing to follow Jesus when the old folk in your church reject, criticize, and insult everything you are trying to do? To the elders: Are you willing to follow Jesus when your church is making changes you don’t like? We can’t choose to follow Jesus based on how pleasant it is. We must carry the cross. We must die to self. We must live for his story, not our own—even if it costs us our life.

You know, I am heart broken when I hear about people who became Christians and then they left the church because someone said something mean or did something wrong. Don’t get me wrong, as a church we need to bend over backwards to make sure our youth and new converts feel safe and welcome. But at the same time, who told you no one will ever insult you in church? Who told you there wouldn’t be hypocrites? Who told you there wouldn’t be hard times? Jesus sure didn’t say that. And when we are concerned with our own story we walk away when something unpleasant happens. But when we are concerned with Gods story we can’t walk away because we know it’s all about him.

Some of you are probably asking right now: This is all good and everything Marcos, but if following Jesus involves so much suffering then why follow him? I have enough problems in my life at the moment. Why should I commit myself to something that is going to bring more problems? First of all allow me to say that God does bless his children. I am not saying that he doesn’t. There are many benefits to following Jesus and I am not denying any of those. Jesus does bring peace and comfort and joy to our lives. He does heal the brokenness of our families and he does forgive our sin and transform our lives. But I find it interesting that of the 22 times that Jesus said “follow me” in the New Testament not once did he say "you should follow me because if you do you’ll get this." Twice he mentioned a benefit of following him such as, “whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” But not once did he say, “I am Jesus. Follow Me and you will receive all of these benefits.”

For the most part, Jesus invitation of follow me is not preceded or followed by any sales pitch. He doesn’t market himself like a new refrigerator. He doesn’t promote all the benefits of having a Jesus-membership. 

To Peter and Andrew he said “follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.” Peter and Andrew had no idea what he was talking about. But they followed him. Why? 

To an unknown man Jesus said, “follow me and let the dead bury their own dead.” To the rich young ruler Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The rich young ruler decided “you ask for too much.” 

And then we come back to our story. Peter didn’t want to suffer and die. So in the end he denied Christ. But that wasn’t the end. Jesus came back to life. He found Peter and their conversation is recorded in John 21. 

Look at what was said,

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me…”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

And look at what Jesus says next. Pay close attention. Here it is:

And to Peter he said, “when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
No benefit. No discounts or coupons. Death. "Peter, you will be killed because of me. Now, follow me." And years later Peter was indeed crucified upside down in Rome. What changed? Why did Peter choose to follow Jesus when the cost was so high? Because Peter now understood what it was all about. It wasn’t about his story. It was about Gods story. Peter got lost in Gods story and he discovered it is a romantic and breath taking love story. “Peter, do you love me?” Yes, I do Lord. I love you. And that love was so strong he was willing to carry any cross, suffer any loss, and give his very life so that God’s love story could be told. Peter experienced Jesus. Peter tasted the love of Jesus. And Peter loved Jesus. 

I have discovered that this love is the only reason why anyone should follow Jesus. This is the only reason why a Muslim who stands to lose it all would be willing to follow Jesus. Because they saw him. Because they tasted his love and like Paul they cry out, “everything is trash compared to him!” I don’t want what he has to offer as though he was some sort of philosophical commodity or some kind of product off of the shelves in a super market. I just want Him! Love for Jesus. Live for Jesus. Die for Jesus. No matter the cost. No matter the cross. Follow him.
How to Be a Christian in an Anti-Christian World



Being a Christian is difficult, especially when you are surrounded by anti-Christian hostility. Sometimes, the hostility is due to misconceptions of who and what Christians are. Other times, the hostility is due, not to misconceptions, but to truth. So how can we be faithful Christians in a culture that grows increasingly intolerant of who we are? Below are some points to get you thinking in the right direction.

Recognize Your Identity

The Bible says that those who have accepted Jesus as their King belong to a new family. God adopts us as his own children. This means that the moment you accept Christ you are no longer a member of earth-family, but a member of heaven-family. Your identity is no longer attached to this planet. Your identity is now in heaven. This means that you will live forever with all those who love God. But it means something more. It means that that "forever" has already begun. So when you encounter intolerance and bigotry because of your faith, remember you are a traveler in this world. You do not belong. So don't expect to always be treated as though you do.

Embrace Anti-Conformity

Because of your new identity life does change. Your life will now be in harmony with your identity. This means that you will no longer fit in to the status-quo of earth culture. You will swim against the current. You will go against the wind. You will walk opposite the crowd. You are an anti-conformist: one who refuses to conform to the norm. Embrace it. And if you really think about it, its pretty cool. The most memorable people in history were often anti-conformists. Moses who chose to side with slaves instead of empire, Daniel who refused to pray to a King, John the baptist who was not afraid to challenge authority, Jesus who stood against everything the religious powers of his day lived for and you. You who belong to a family of wayfarers. Sojourners at variance with popular culture. Your heritage is steeped in non-conformers. Brave men and women "who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and... who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated - the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground" (Hebrews 11:33-38). This is your heritage. These are your ancestors. Anti-conformity.

Live with Fearlessness

Being an anti-conformist is not easy. Jesus lived a counter-cultural life and if we follow him we too will be counter-cultural. This doesn't mean we reject or demonize culture, but it does mean that we influence it in a different direction. Where the culture is intolerant, we embrace. Where the culture is exclusive, we include. Where the culture is indifferent, we stand up. Where the culture objectifies, we uplift. Where the culture is sinful, we are holy. This kind of life requires courage. And God has promised all of his children that he will give them a spirit of "fearlessness". So live with fearlessness. Its a gift from God. 

Love, not Religion

There is only one Biblical reason to be faithful to God - love. God doesn't accept obedience based on fear, or self-preservation. Only the service of love is acceptable to him. Living as a Christian in a secular world is hard. You can get bullied. You can be ostracized. You can experience moments of intense loneliness. Its not easy. But you'll do it anyhow because of your love for God. That love-relationship far outweighs anything this world has to offer. This is something those who don't know God will never understand. It's like a guy falling in love. All his friends think he's suddenly gone all weird. He stops hanging out with them as often. He sings silly songs. He spends all his time thinking about and talking to this girl. Her photograph is his cell-phones wallpaper and he might even get a tattoo of her name (bad idea!). None of his friends get him. But it doesn't matter. He's in love. This is what Christianity should be like. Love, not religion. It is that love - and that love alone - which will give you the drive to sacrifice anything and everything for God.

Thirst for God


Abraham is the father of anti-conformists. Why did he live his life this way? Paul says, "He was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Hebrews 11:10). For Abraham this world was nothing. He literally didn't desire it. He lived each day longing for another city, one not found in this world. He lived each day yearning to live in the very presence of God. The more we immerse ourselves in him and long for him the less we will care what other people think, say, or do to us. We thirst for God, not men, and that's how we live our lives.
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John 15:18 If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you. 
John 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you...
2 Timothy 3:12 Yes, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
1 Peter 4:16 If any man suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God...
Matt 5:11-12 Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The Church Was Never Meant for Four Walls, Anyway


The Church Was Never Meant for Four Walls, Anyway
by Rachel Dymski

We didn’t go to church this weekend.

We told people who asked that it was because Andrew was sleeping off a migraine, which was the partial truth. The whole truth was that we were tired and just plain didn’t feel like it. The truth is that the word “church” has had a sour taste in our mouths lately, the kind we try to brush away with fresh words of “community” and fellowship” and “learning from the scripture,” all the while wondering why we actually haven’t experienced any of these things at the building labeled “church” for quite some time. We wonder why it is that we feel more like outsiders at church on Sunday morning than we when we’re out on Saturday night, why park picnickers two tables over have whole conversations with us but members of the pew behind us have never asked our names.

The truth is that we’re in between moves and in between churches, and so in between trips that we forget it’s Sunday. And we try to reason and assuage the guilt we feel, all the while wondering, why do we even feel guilty about this in the first place?

When did our church, we wonder, become small enough to fit inside four walls?

We didn’t take notes in leather-bound books as we listened to a Sunday sermon, but as we drove to the river my head was teeming with thoughts from a discussion earlier this week. Early in the morning in the middle of the week, five other girls and I drag ourselves out of bed while the sky is still dark, and, dew on our skin and sleep in our eyes, we open the Book of Life together, discussing and learning and praying together. We leave, each carrying burdens of the other and yet somehow feeling lighter, and as the world wakes up I wonder if this is how the early church felt— meeting in secret and brimming over with joy.

We didn’t recite the ancient literatures or sing beautiful hymns this week. Our words, instead, consisted of “I love you’s” and “You make us so proud’s,” an outpouring of love for a brother and sister who graduated on Saturday. We witnessed the tradition of commencement, overheard the ancient literatures of “we’ll be in touch” and “I’ll see you soon,” the prolonged farewells of the graduated. I watched my sister walk across that stage, heart swelling at a woman both beautiful and good, so that if you turned her insides outward she’d be exactly the same, and could there be any greater testament to the gospel than that? I watched Andrew’ s brother, a man so kind and warm he can’t help but exude it, accept his diploma, a reward for his faithful years of hard work.

Later we took pictures and braced our bodies from the wind, celebrating, hearts singing, perhaps, a different kind of hymn. I looked at my parents, Andrew’s parents, the parents of other friends, and thought on the gifts they had given their children.Our parents, who gave us opportunity but also grace, who raised us up on the literature of Chicken Licken and hymns of Jesus Loves Me, who grew us up in the church, yes, but also in the home. It is these people, I thought, watching the happy crowd, who I want worshipping with me when I one day cross the river of Jordan; these people, singing me into eternity and greeting me at the other end. With a church family like that, it’s hard, really, to be anything outside of thankful.

Sunday morning found us not in our best, but in our rags, hiking through a forest in Western Pennsylvania. We carried scripture, not in our hands but in our hearts: over a picnic lunch rich with thick brie and strawberries so ripe the juice trickles down, and we could “taste and see that the Lord is good,”  not only in his faithfulness but the depth of his flavors. We watched the muddy river flow, thinking about the “river of the water of life, as clear as crystal”  flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb.

We listened to the calls of crickets, of bullfrogs, of swallows and magpies, all able to be only exactly as they were created, all answering the command to “praise the Lord” with their breath.

We observed “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” through too many species of plant and tree to count: wild geraniums, honeysuckle, cherry trees, all with a different print, smell, and texture; so many, in fact, that I had trouble sleeping last night, wondering what kind of God this is, who gives us such diversity in things that at first appear the same.

Growing up, I never understood why people said they felt “alone” in the church. The church, for me, was a watering hole: a place of community, resource, worship, and inter-generational friendship. It’s hard, I think, when you feel at home to imagine that maybe another person doesn’t.



Living in four states in four years, and on the verge of another move, I feel like I finally understand what people mean when they say they feel unwanted at church.  I’ve entered too many churches where the doors profess “All Are Welcome” but the hordes of turned backs tell me otherwise. I’ve listened to too many sermons that use scripture selectively, opting for relevancy over truth. I’ve been overdressed, underdressed, and excluded more for it, whether innocently or intentionally I’ll never know. You are my brothers, my sisters!  I want to shout, indignant enough to forget that they, too, are human. I am fragile and weary and you are the watering hole, but I’m starting to think you’ve run dry.


The problem with the church, I’d wager, from my own narrow experience of it, is not that it is too big, but too small. We’ve become narrow, small-minded, eager to place God in a box of Sunday mornings on tight schedules of: opening hymn, prayer, sermon, closing hymn, coffee and exit. If we are not finding, seeking, discovering God— all his love and diversity—  in our day to day living outside the church, how can we ever hope to be a light to others in it? Maybe the soft chairs and coffee cups are blurring our memories to a time where, we too, were lonely, lost, in need of a friend. Maybe we’ve stopped realizing that there is more to Christian living than sitting through a sermon, more to fellowship than coffee hour. Maybe the spirit of American Individualism has invaded even this place so that instead of love thy neighbor our mantra is every man for himself.

Andrew and I, in the past two years, have met more people dissatisfied with the church than we ever thought possible. We’ve met people who have felt excluded, abandoned, like they didn’t fit it, uninvited from small groups and refused Communion. This, I think, nothing like the church I knew in childhood, nothing like the fellowship I’ve found in my family and friends, nothing like God I’ve found in the Bible or nature. They are made to feel guilty for not attending, and ostracized when they do. The church, it would seem, has become a selective club, requiring the right dress and doctrine for admittance. A club from which those too loud, too quiet, too old, or too different are excluded.

I’m not giving up on the church; I know that it is broken, bruised, as in need of redemption as the rest of us. I know it can be powerful, encouraging, a place of hope for many— and we hope and pray for a church to call home. (If any of you are reading this from downtown Pittsburgh and know a place like this, please let us know!) But this weekend, I was also reminded that the real church is much, much more than a building, that God can be found far away from its pews. That church, is, above all, people who love greatly because they’ve been forgiven a debt, who sing songs of gratitude from dawn to dusk: at work, at graduation, among friends, in the woods.

On Sundays, yes, but they also know gratitude on all the days in between. Because they know that the church was never meant for four walls, anyway.

Rachel Dymski is freelance writer living in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. You can read her blog at rachaeldymski.com


Why I No Longer Believe the Bible Has "All" The Answers
photo credit: Eric Fischer via photopin cc
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.

_____

[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. 
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.

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.


_____

Note: All texts quoted from John 15: 1-5, NIV
Guest Post: I Hate Church







A friend of mine shared this blog post on Facebook this week. I was so blessed by reading it that I just had to share it. The author, Andrew Alleyne, runs his blog at andrewalleyne.com. Enjoy!



I Hate Church

If you’ve seen me preach in the last few months you might have noticed a bit of a change in my attire. Instead of a nice pair of jeans and a blazer you might have noticed my hat worn backwards coupled with earrings in my ears. What I’m about to share with you is the reason why.

My wife and I have made a habit of randomly showing love to strangers wherever we go. It could be a waiter/waitress at a restaurant we’re visiting or a homeless person on the street asking for money. We’re not always the most consistent with this, but we have quite a few stories we could share. One of these stories is about this time when we decided to go on an adventure downtown and we saw this beautiful young lady sitting on the ground asking for money. Immediately we were moved with compassion and decided to invite her to come with us to get something to eat and then proceeded to give her some money. While we were sitting down getting to know this amazing young lady it came out that we were Pastors and she went on to mention how there have been times when she’s walked into a church and people have simply stared at her because of her piercings, tattoos, and how she was dressed, ultimately making her not want to immerse herself in that kind of an environment.

Another time I had the incredible opportunity to share the gospel with 100+ bikers inside of a Walmart Parking-Lot. Closer to 80% made decisions to do life with Jesus, but then afterwards several of them came up to me and made statements like “I would never step foot inside of a church, but I would come to your church,” or “I’m not welcomed in churches,” etc. Keep in mind many of these guys and girls were saying they came from pretty hard backgrounds and if I can be stereotypical for a moment, they also looked like it.

Then I would hear outrageous statistics about abortion rates within the church and how studies have shown that abortion is highest where religion is highest… (insert screeching car sound effect here). Say what??? How does that happen? I thought church was supposed to be a safe place. I’d walk through downtown Toronto and see “Christians” on street corners yelling at people with signs in their hands telling them they’re going to hell. I’d even engage a few of them in conversations asking them how effective they’re evangelism attempts had been, often times they didn’t have much fruit to speak of. I’d get into conversations with young people in bars about me being a Christian and at first I was written off because of their previous experiences/encounters with people who profess Christ.

Fast forward a few months and my wife and I find ourselves deciding to visit some prominent churches in our city, as well as churches that we have preached at in the past. She would wear a mini-skirt, I would wear some baggy jeans with a hat put on backwards, with big diamond earrings in my ears, and we would pretend like we didn’t know much about how “church worked.” In almost every single church no one would say hi to us, people would simply stare at us, I had people in services tap me on my shoulder and tell me to take my hat off… Some of my Pastor friends didn’t even recognize it was me and were absolutely shocked when I revealed myself. All in all… most places left me not wanting to ever come back. I remember in one service I couldn’t even focus on the message because I was so infuriated as to how this one lady treated me. I wanted to tell her I’m an ordained minister and read off my rap sheet out of some misplaced sense of pride, but I managed to keep it together. Then I got it.

I began to understand why an entire generation can feel more loved and welcomed in a club than in a church. We preach revival, we talk about the harvest, but how many Christians are really stepping into the dark places of our city and shining their lights? How many Christians only have “Christian” friends, go to “Christian” events, and speak “Christianeze.” Are churches really ready for the day the prostitute walks into church after she just finished her night shift? Or when the back of the church smells like weed because broken people are coming in through the doors? Or the day when they can’t leave their purse on their seat during worship because that visitor might just steal their wallet? For the first time as a minister of the gospel I poorly attempted to put my feet in the shoes of “non-christians” and I confess… I would have probably written off church/organized religion if I wasn’t already a Christian.

I think Ghandi said it best, “I would have become a Christian until I met one.” The will of God is always displayed in Jesus but not always in his followers. We as Christians do a really good job of screwing that up. It’s as though church has become about good meetings and good music, and unless you look like, talk like, and act like me, then we cannot walk together, be seen together, or hang out. We’ve created this movement, this culture that is so anti the very world we are called to reach. We’ve demonized celebrities, stepped out of society, and we’re afraid to come close to “darkness.” Show me Jesus in that. Can you imagine if they had social media in Jesus’ day? Instagram, facebook, or twitter? Someone would have taken a picture of a prostitute washing Jesus’ feet and someone would have posted it online and it would be an absolute media frenzy. Jesus wasn’t afraid to touch that which was unclean, sit with sinners, or be their friends. By the way, I’m pretty sure he dressed like a modern Jew in his time.

Now… I don’t hate church, and not all churches in Toronto are like the churches I described in this blog. This is just a title to catch people’s attention. I love church. I find myself falling in love with this awesome church plant downtown called C3 Toronto. A church filled with broken people, who don’t have it all together, but genuinely love Jesus and are allowing him to transform their lives and the lives of those around them. I’ve realized that some of the sweetest worship doesn’t come from the most perfect people, but from some of the most broken people who need him the most. I’m not sure where the invisible wall we’ve created in churches that says “unless you act like us and dress like us, you don’t belong,” but it’s so far from anything I see in the life of Jesus. This blog isn’t an attempt to bash churches, or speak negatively of organized religion, but to some of my friends who are Pastors, I hope it’s more of a challenge. When we preach this message of unconditional love do we live it when people step through our doors? When was the last time we decided to go and hang out where the “Zacchaeus’” of our day hang out? Would we even go to their home if they invited us? This is why some of my modern day heroes are guys like Carl Lentz, the pastor of Hillsong Church in New York City, who we just had the privilege of visiting during our stay in New York. Thousands of misfits, x-gangsters, celebrities, hipsters, gather together for 7 services in rented out clubs right in the hub of the concrete jungle. He’s got alot of haters, but religious people always despise people who do things they are afraid to do. I’ve gotten emails from people and had conversations with individuals who think I’m crazy, are concerned with the way I dress, and I find myself feeling a bit more like Jesus, and to me they’re beginning to look alot more like Pharisees :s.

Something has to change in our city. Before revival comes to a city or region, God puts his finger first on the church. I hear people say “we’re waiting on God” but I believe God is waiting on the church. To all those who wouldn’t consider themselves Christians and are reading this post, on behalf of the church, I want to apologize for the way you’ve been treated. I hope that our actions don’t serve as a barrier that stop you from being able to receive the authentic and unconditional love of Jesus. You are loved, you are wanted, and you belong. To the Christians reading this post, take a look inwards and evaluate your life. Your city needs you to communicate and display the truth in love. If it is truth without love it isn’t the truth, and it isn’t the gospel.
Betrayed. Abandoned. Denied. Which Would You Prefer?
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“I am telling you the truth: one of you is going to betray me.” - Jesus, John 13:21

Think with me for a moment. Would you prefer your wife (husband, girl/boy friend, or whatever) to betray you, abandon you, or deny you? Those are your three options. You have to pick one. Which of those three would you prefer? My wife's immediate response was "None! They are all just as bad." And I have to agree.

True. We can engage in a philosophical dissection of each of those activities and their implications but the reality is that if we had to pick it would be hard. Would I prefer for my wife to betray me by running off with another man? Abandon me by leaving me with an "I'm out of here" note on the fridge and never coming back? Or deny that she ever even knew me? In a sense, each of those is betrayal.

The interesting thing is that when it comes to Jesus betrayal we only ever focus on Judas. Yes he betrayed Jesus. But the Bible also says that the disciples abandoned him when he was arrested. One even ran away naked. It also tells us that Peter denied ever knowing him with swearing and cursing. Whose sin was the worst? Judas for betraying Jesus? The 11 other disciples for taking off when the guards came to arrest him? Or Peter for swearing he had never even heard of him? 

I'm not even going to attempt answering that question. Quite honestly I don't care. The point is, they all turned their backs on Jesus. Is there anything I can learn from this? I believe so and here it is: Every person in this world will ultimately do one of three things: Betray him, deny him, or abandon him. 

Betrayal. This seems to be the most intentional of the bunch. Those who betray Jesus often, like Judas, do so intentionally. They purposefully and consciously turn their back on Jesus.

Abandonment. This seems to be the least intentional of the bunch. Most people who abandon Jesus don't do so because they hate him or have anything against him. Most of the time the abandonment is due to negligence more than intentionality. They neglect their relationship with Jesus and one day they wake up and realize that they are far away from him. Sadly, many others never wake up.

Denial. This one is neither intentional nor neglectful. Instead, it seems to be related to self confidence. Peter swore he would never deny Jesus. He wasn't lying. He really did think he never would. Many Christians, like Peter, think they are firm as a rock and would never deny their Jesus. But the story of Peter shows us that we should never get cocky in our spiritual walk. Many have done so but when the crisis came they denied Jesus in a heartbeat. 

So if all of these are so bad why did Jesus not say, "one of you will be tray me, one of you will deny me, and the rest of you will abandon me"? The reality is he did. In Matthew 26:31 Jesus said to his disciples, "You will all fall away because of Me this night..." in verse 34 he says to Peter "you will deny me..." and in John 13:21 he said, "one of you will betray me". Jesus expected all of it but he also knew that all of them, with the exception of Judas, would repent. And this is the key. While we may all have betrayed, abandoned, and denied Jesus in the past God still gives us the gift of repentance and forgiveness. The disciples accepted that gift and had an amazing relationship with God from then on. Judas denied it and his life ended in suicide. 

Betrayed. Abandoned. Denied. Which would you prefer? If I had to pick I would say it doesn't matter. They are all terrible. Jesus experienced them all. And yet he was loving enough to forgive and restore those weak men to friendship with him and they turned the world upside down. Have you betrayed, abandoned, or denied Jesus? Don't end up like Judas. God loves to forgive. Accept His gift of forgiveness and repentance. Come back to him. He will welcome you with a smile.
The Pre-Advent Judgment 14: Conclusion on the Investigative Judment


In conclusion, it is clear from the Bible and the Bible only that the doctrine of the pre-Advent judgment is fully supported and that this doctrine does not contradict the foundational truth of righteousness by faith. An analysis of Ellen G. White shows that many of her statements, though seemingly legalistic, are no different from the many warnings in the Bible with regard to the day of judgment and when balanced with other statements are in fact not legalistic at all. Lastly, the pre-Advent judgment reveals to both men and angels that God is trustworthy, and it protects sinners from both careless Christianity and legalism. The message is clear, God is our judge and “If God is for us, who can be against us?”[1] “That’s investigative judgment.”[2]

Further Reading: 

Various Articles on the Investigative Judgment

Various Articles on the Gospel from an SDA Perspective





[1] Rom. 8:31.
[2] Marvin Moore, The Case For The Investigative Judgment: Its Biblical Foundation [Nampa: Pacific Press, 2010], 21.


Bibliography



Anderson, John T. Investigating the Judgment: A Revolutionary Look At God’s Total Fairness And Relentless Effort To Save Us. Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 2003.

Arnold, Bill T. and Brian E. Beyer. Encountering the Old Testament: A Christian Survey, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2008.

Bear, James E. “Bible and Modern Religions, Part 1 :The Seventh-Day Adventists,” ATLA Religion Database [1956]: [accessed April 1, 2012].

Beem, Teresa and Arthur Beem. It’s Okay NOT To Be A Seventh-Day Adventist: The Untold History and the Doctrine that Attempts to Repair the Temple Veil. North Charleston: BookSurge Publishing, 2008.

Davidson, Jo Ann. Principal Contributor. Glimpses Of Our God: Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. Nampa: Pacific Press, 2012.

Doukhan, Jacques B. Secrets of Daniel: Wisdom and Dreams of a Jewish Prince in Exile. Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 2000.

Goldstein, Clifford. 1844 Made Simple. Boise: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1988.

—. False Balances. Boise: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1992.

Graham, Billy. The Holy Spirit: Activating God’s Power in Your Life. W Publishing Group, 1988.

Hardinge, Leslie. With Jesus in His Sanctuary: A Walk Through the Tabernacle Along His Way. Harrisburg: American Cassette Ministries, 1991.

Knight, George R. I Used To Be Perfect: A Study of Sin and Salvation. Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 2001.

—. The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism: Are We Erasing Our Relevancy? Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 2008.

Lake, Jud. e-mail to author, January 31, 2012.

Moore, Marvin. The Case For The Investigative Judgment: Its Biblical Foundation. Nampa: Pacific Press, 2010.

Pfandl, Gerhard. Daniel: The Seer of Babylon. Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 2004.

Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 17th ed., 18; emphasis added. quoted in Marvin Moore, The Case for the Investigative Judgment, Its Biblical Foundation. Nampa: Pacific Press, 2010.

Shuler, John L. The Great Judgment Day: In the Light of the Sanctuary Service. Washington: Review and Herald, 1923.

Treiyer, Alberto R. The Day of Atonement and the Heavenly Judgment: From the Pentateuch to Revelation. Siloam Springs: Creation Enterprises International, 1992.

Weber, Martin. “Never Before Published Desmond Ford Dialogues About the 1844 Judgment, Ford And Weber Dialogue, Section II: Ford’s Critique Of Weber.” Scribd. http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/17458843 [accessed Feb 1 and Mar 31, 2012].

—. “Pre-Advent Judgment.” SDA For Me. http://www.sdaforme.com/issues/judgement/judgment.html [accessed January 31, 2012].

—. “What's the bottom line relevance of the judgment in my life for Christ today?” SDA for Me.  http://www.sdaforme.com/FAQRetrieve.aspx?ID=38272 [accessed March 29, 2012].

—. More Adventist Hot Potatoes. Boise: Pacific Press, 1992.

White, Ellen G. Christ Object Lessons. EGW Writings. https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012].

—. Early Writings. EGW Writings. https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012].

—. Our High Calling. EGW Writings. https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012].

—. Selected Messages, book 1.  EGW Writings. https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012].

—. Selected Messages, book 2,  EGW Writings. https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012].

—. Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5. EGW Writings. https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012].


—. The Great Controversy. EGW Writings. https://egwwritings.org [accessed Apr. 1, 2012].
The Pre-Advent Judgment 13: Character of God


As noted earlier, the judgment also exonerates the character of God. Marvin Moore sums this aspect of the pre-Advent judgment well. Moore writes that the “doctrine of the investigative judgment tells us that we serve a very transparent God.”[1] Imagine that God were not transparent but that instead He hid everything from His creation. Would that not imply that He had something to hide? The judgment however, shows us that God has absolutely nothing to hide.

Further Reading: Why The Critics of the Investigative Judgment Have Failed




[1] Marvin Moore, The Case For The Investigative Judgment: Its Biblical Foundation [Nampa: Pacific Press, 2010], 337
The Pre-Advent Judgment 11: Benefit for the Angels



Seventh-day Adventist’s believe in what they call the Great Controversy. The Great Controversy is the panoramic view that scripture gives of the battle between Christ and Satan. The Great Controversy points out that before there was sin, heaven was in perfect harmony. This was the state of things until Lucifer rebelled.[1] The rebellion of Lucifer centered on the character of God.[2] Lucifer accused God of being unjust, unfair, and that His law was arbitrary.[3] Lucifer was then cast out of heaven and came to the earth where he continued His rebellion.[4] We notice this in Satan’s temptation of Eve which was based on questioning the character of God. 

From there, Satan deceived Eve and both she and Adam sinned. The result of their sin is the sinful world that we now live in. Today, many people ask the question, Why didn’t God just kill the devil when he first rebelled? The Great Controversy has the answer. Had God killed the devil, what would all of the other angels have thought? Scripture shows that Satan’s campaign against God was so deceptive that he took one third of the angels of heaven with him.[5] Had God simply killed Satan the other angels would have thought that God was trying to silence him and that perhaps Satan was on to something. Therefore, it was necessary for God to allow Satan to reveal to the angels who he truly was so that all of the angels could see that God was, is, and will forever be trustworthy. This revelation was fulfilled at the cross when every angel of God saw the self-sacrificing love of God come face to face with the self-centered malice of Satan. However, the battle is not over. Satan is “the accuser” and he accuses God’s people of being “unworthy” of salvation.[6] Even though God “knows them that are his”[7] the angels don’t. 


Therefore, the pre-Advent judgment is an opportunity for heavens angels to examine Gods decisions versus Satan’s accusations and see for themselves that God’s decisions are right and that Satan’s accusations are without foundation. “Heaven's pre-advent judgment does not investigate whether we are good enough but whether we have accepted our position in Christ's new humanity. God does not question our salvation but displays and defends it against the accusations of the devil. Therefore the judgment for believers is not a threat but a favor.”[8] In this way, the judgment is a benefit for the angels not for God. “When the unfallen beings in the universe examine the records of the saints during the pre-Advent judgment, they will conclude that God has indeed been just and merciful in each case. In this way the character of God, which has been at the center of the great controversy between Christ and Satan, will be exonerated.”[9] 

The official position of the Seventh-day Adventist church with regard to the pre-Advent judgment says, “The investigative judgment reveals to heavenly intelligences who among the dead are asleep in Christ and therefore, in Him, are deemed worthy to have part in the first resurrection.”[10]



Further Reading: Why Does God Need to "Investigate?"




[1] Isa. 14:12., Eze. 28:12-19.
[2] Gen. 3:1-5., Job 4:12-18.
[3] Job 1:6-11.
[4] Luke 10:18., Rev. 12:9.
[5] Rev. 12:4.
[6] Rev. 12:10., Zec. 3:1-4
[7] 2 Tim. 2:19.
[8] Martin Weber, “What's the bottom line relevance of the judgment in my life for Christ today?” SDA for Me,  http://www.sdaforme.com/FAQRetrieve.aspx?ID=38272 [accessed March 29, 2012].
[9] Gerhard Pfandl, Daniel: The Seer of Babylon [Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 2004], 73.
[10] Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 17th ed., 18; emphasis added. quoted in Marvin Moore, The Case for the Investigative Judgment, Its Biblical Foundation, [Nampa: Pacific Press, 2010], 44. Note: The term “worthy” refers to Christ’s righteousness, never our own.