Wednesday, July 4, 2012

4th of July: Freedom

I am blessed. We are blessed. Those of us that live in freedom/liberty are truly blessed. My parents many years ago took the risk to come to this country seeking a better life and having been to a Cuba (in 2005) I have no doubt the risk paid off.

Today our country celebrates its independence. I like the tweet that LifeWay Research missiologist Ed Stetzer tweeted a few days ago:

It has been said, "Freedom is never given, it is won." (not sure who said it, if you know let me know).
So I celebrate freedom, but as a Christian I worship the God who has won the greatest freedom for us all. Freedom from sin.

 Jesus said, "...if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed"(Jn. 8:36 NKJV)

Through Christ we have freedom: Freedom from the sins that entangle us. Lust, addictions, jealousy, hate, envy, and anything you can think of.

Jesus has given you freedom. You are the most beautiful thing that God has created. He loves you and knows every aspect of your life and He has given you freedom through Jesus!

I saw this video this morning...I hope it speaks to it below (if you can't see it click HERE and then believe that Jesus has set you free. Walk in that freedom, celebrating the freedoms we enjoy in this country but worshipping the God that has set you free and has prepared a place where freedom will never cease to exist.

Free - Journey Box Media from journeyboxmedia on GodTube.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Fathers Day Story

I'm not a father yet, but I praise God for my dad. He didn't teach me how to play sports nor take me to my first baseball game, though I love, play and watch sports and remember going to my first baseball game with friends (my first Dodger game was incredible!). He didn't teach me to exercise though I love to stay in shape or try too. No my dad wasn't the all American dad.

For one he was raised in Cuba, though many years ago he did become a citizen of this country. My dad was raised by my grandmother now sleeping in Jesus. His dad was a drunk that mocked him and for the most part never showed him what a true father was.

No my father never had a father that showed him love and obviously didn't show him how to ride a bike, fix a car, or throw a baseball. BUT he (my dad) was a father to me! Was he perfect? Of course not. As a grown man I look back in our journey and realize 'things' that could've gone better/different. Nonetheless he was a father to me. Though he struggled when he came to this country we always had food, a place to live, good clothes, and even got to travel a little.

No my father never had a father but he was a father to me and for that I'm eternally grateful. You see if it's one thing my father showed me is God. In his own way he (along with mom of course) set the foundation that would be part of me for the rest of my life and I would build and make my own.

That foundation, their ongoing support and love has always been something I've been blessed to have.

Yet allow me to tell you a quick story of my father:

I remember as if it was yesterday. My father received the news that his father had died in Cuba. I saw him go to his bedroom and begin to cry in the fetal position on his bed. The news to some extent wasn't shocking. My dad had known that his father wasn't doing well but traveling to Cuba was costly and overall no easy task. Nonetheless when the news came that his father had died it was like an arrow straight to the heart.

I had never before (I was about 9y/o when it happened) nor since seen my dad cry in that manner. It was a scene of intense emotional pain. My father I'm sure had all kinds of thoughts going through his mind, thoughts of anger, frustration, and love. Yes love.

In the midst of everything that my fathers father had not been to him, my dad still loved him.

Today I say Happy Fathers day to all dads. Thanks dad, that in the midst of it all you love me despite all of my mistakes as I grew up and the mistakes I've made as a grown man.

And thanks for showing me in part what God is like...


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sabbath School/Sunday School: Should it continue?

The 2012 2nd Quarter Sabbath School Lesson 
Do you attend Sabbath school? Sunday School? If you don't attend or perhaps attend sparingly, why?
The reasons will vary and they may be legitimate or not but one thing is certain, it's not shocking nor new news. Sabbath school attendance has been steadily decreasing. Last year Barna published a series called The State of the Church  which stated, "Only one out of eight men (13%) attends such a meeting (sunday school) in a typical week." Women's involvement with Sunday school has decreased since 1991 to 17%.

I have attended Adventist churches from coast to coast, pastored for nearly 10 years now and grown up going to church and for that matter attending Sabbath school since I can remember. After saying all that, for the most part, once again I have personally noticed attendance has continued to plummet.

On any given Sabbath morning you can attend church during Sabbath school (usually at 9:30 or 10a.m.) and see a handful or two of people depending on the size of the church. Then when the worship service is shortly to begin you see many more begin to show up and even more once the worship service has begun.

So the question should be asked. Is Sabbath school viable? Is it serving its intended purpose? Do we even realize/know what the purpose of Sabbath school is?

Brief history/links of Sunday School & Sabbath School

Some may recall Sunday school was originally started to help young people who at the time (late 18th century early 19th) were working, as the educational system was not in place like it is today. These Sunday schools provided the education for these youths and also to adults.

If you have time read the wikipedia page regarding Sunday school.

Part of the history for Sabbath school can be found here. You can find the official Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath school/personal ministries site here.

Sabbath school seems to have been started as a place where a deeper study of the bible could be done. It eventually also became focused on helping a certain area of a mission field. (read the links above).

Sabbath school objectives:

Sabbath school originally had and still ideally has four main objectives.
1. Bible Study
2. Fellowship
3. Outreach
4. Missions

Thoughts and discussions points:
In taking a brief look at the history and objectives of Sabbath school every church needs to aks itself if Sabbath school is still succeeding with its intended objectives. In todays world many churches are implementing small groups with the same objectives but instead of meeting on Sabbath they meet during the week.

Obviously my church/denomination has invested a lot of time, money, and effort into developing Sabbath school resources, curriculum, and many other tools relegated to this ministry. One of the best things (in my opinion) they have done is create mobile apps and an ipad app for our quarterly lessons for free.

Sabbath school can be and has been a great place where children of all ages can learn about Jesus. Where great discussions have been had in the adult classes in regards to various bible truths. Yet the question still lingers why has attendance been decreasing?

Here's some of the reasons I've heard and or I've come to conclude why people don't attend Sabbath school.
1. They find it boring. (SS teachers aren't that good, can't control the discussions that either become to theological or very little in depth bible study.)
2. They may attend another bible study during the week, so why attend another on Saturday morning.
3. They can study the lesson on their own. They see the SS lesson as a devotional study. No need to discuss it with others.
4. They simply want to sleep in on their day off and come to church for the 'worship service' to 'hear the sermon.'
5. Lazy (not trying to be mean, but don't you think there's some truth to it?)
6. Spiritual apathy
7. Any combination of the above?

Conclusion & a few suggestions:
Though I'm not calling for Sabbath school to be done away with we must realize that the objectives for Sabbath school stated above, taken from the official website can be accomplished in different ways as a church other than Sabbath school. Again though this is NOT a call to do away with Sabbath school, we are to be good stewards of God's money and how we organize as a church. Since for most Adventist churches Sabbath school is still a very viable ministry, although attendance is showing that it may be on a life line in many places, we must re-evaluate this ministry (as we should all ministries) and its effectiveness.

A few suggestions:
1. Evaluate our Sabbath school teachers, how well they prepare and manage class room discussion.
2. Evaluate the children's division.
3. Have teachers get the email/phone numbers of the class to follow up when they don't come
4. Is your Sabbath school meeting the objectives (see above)
5. Perhaps seek to do a local mission project with your Sabbath school

So tell me what do you think about Sabbath school? Do you attend? Why or why not? How can it improve?


Sunday, April 8, 2012

He's Alive: Hallelujah!

"...And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Chirst, and He shall reign forever and ever!...We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because you have taken your great power and reigned." Revelation 11:15-17

Jesus is Alive and He shall reign forever and ever! Go tell everyone...


Friday, April 6, 2012

Free Francis Chan eBooks!

I know several that read this blog don't necessarily follow me on Twitter so I wanted to make you aware of this great deal (as I did on Twitter:) that I learned from my friend and colleague Pastor Rodlie Ortiz.

Francis Chan is a well know Christian speaker and author and today you can get his books FREE!
So click HERE and go get them!

I've only read one of them 'Forgotten God' and recommend you read it, I will eventually be reading the others.


NOTE: Though I recommend you get the books, this does not necessarily state that I agree with everything Francis Chan says. Yet I've heard Chan speak several times (live, online, podcast) read the book mentioned above and have been blessed by much of what he has preached as well as the book I have read.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Seventh-day Adventist Church: Fastest Growing?

Last year an article by USA Today reported that the Seventh-day Adventist church is the "...fastest growing U.S. church" as the headline read. This was heralded as one can imagine by many within Adventism. It was indeed good news at the very least it was a positive article in a well known newspaper.
The Loma Linda University Seventh-day Adventist church is the largest  Adventist church in the U.S. with approximately 6,500 members. 

Yet even within the article Dr. Clouzet who is the director of the North American Division Evangelism Institue at Andrews University (where the Adventist Seminary is located) is quoted saying,
"We don't feel that we're growing very much, and that is a source of concern, especially for North America"
The article goes on to quote Clouzet saying the ones really growing and essentially driving up Adventist membership are Adventist Hispanics. He says,
"the one group that is growing very well...If we didn't have that group, we would look even more dismal."
 When I was in college and in seminary (Dr. Clouzet was one of my professors in both places by the way) in more than one occasion I often heard how are church wasn't growing. So when this article came out I was glad in one sense but really wanted to find out more. Are Seventh-day Adventist the fastest growing church in America?

Now I'm no statistician! Along those same lines I'm just reporting some of what I've come across online so this is not an in-depth statistical study. Plus sometimes depending on the source and what time they're reported, things can shift. With that said let me explain why Adventist may not really be the fastest growing church in America and then give some observations.

First lets go directly to the Adventist statistics website. and allow me to give you some of the numbers that I garnered from the website. The Adventist church in America is known as the North American Division, it includes Canada but for the purposes of this post which deals with the U.S only I have not included Canada's number. No offense Canada we love you:-)

2010 Adventist numbers:
Beginning membership: 1,047,333
New membership (baptism/profession of faith): 38,109
Churches in U.S.-4,926
If we take the above numbers the average church in the U.S will bring in nearly 8 people per year.

Yet the Adventist church as best it can keeps a lot of numbers. So it includes those that have dropped membership are missing and deceased.  That total was: 20,621 in 2010.

So if we take all that into consideration the U.S. Adventist church membership in 2010 started with 1,047,333 and ened with 1,064,256 for a net growth of 16,923. This would actually give the U.S. Adventist church an average growth per church of 3.43.

Next report:
The National council of churches every year does do an in-depth, and my understanding well respected research on church membership. It's called, "Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches 2012" In the report (I have not bought the book but just read what they stated online, you can read it HERE) if I'm understanding it correctly it clearly shows that there several other denominations that have had stronger growth in the U.S. than Seventh-day Adventist, which it states being up 1.61% but here are several other denominations that are reported being up...well...higher.

Jehovah's Witness-up 1.85%
Pentecostal Assemblies of God-up 20%
Assemblies of God-up 3.99%
National Baptist Convention, U.S.A-up 3.95%
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints-up 1.62%

Now interestingly enough Adventist along with the above mentioned were the only churches of the top 25 that reported growth according to the report. Again though it doesn't show us as the fastest growing.

The Adventist Review also reported on this report you can read its summary HERE.

Now again if I've misunderstood something, read reports incorrectly please let me know!
But what does all this tell us? Here are a few observations, thoughts, that honestly aren't new.

1. With the numbers from the Adventist website alone and Clouzet's comments we should be concerned  Seventh-day Adventist as a whole. Certainly there are thriving, growing Adventist churches. Yet according to the numbers there is a lot more work that needs to be done.
2. We must be creative, innovative, but of course biblical as we try to reach those around us with the gospel.
3. Adventist must be intentional in getting involved with the community which they are in and at the same time remain faithful through God's grace to the gospel.
4. Public evangelistic meetings are great, we shouldn't stop doing them, but we must understand this is just one form of evangelism. It has been known in our circles as one of the best methods and it's still a great one. Every church has to evaluate what will work and not work when it comes to public evangelism.
5. Churches need to have areas where people can plug in and become active. For example small groups, outreach ministries such as helping people in the community that are in need.
6. One of the first things that people will see is our worship services. Regardless of 'worship style' it is important, that as best as each church can. Each church must plan, pray, and prepare its worship service(s) so they will be the best they can as we worship a God who deserves the best!
7. It's great to see the spanish work growing as it is. Although perhaps it would be interesting to see (not sure how) how many hispanics have migrated to the U.S and for whatever reason not been able to transfer their membership from the church of their home country so they are accepted by profession of faith.
8. As followers of Jesus, Seventh-day Adventist must live intentional, missional lives. Living out the gospel in their lives where ever they work and play.
9. Though I've put it down here last, this is of first importance. We've been talking numbers. Nothing wrong with that, yet we must remember that behind every number is a soul that needs Jesus.

I could say more, but would love to hear what you have to say. Do you believe the Seventh-day Adventist church is growing the way it should? Tell me why? I know there are people who read this blog of other faiths. Would love to hear what you have to say. Respond here, hit me up on twitter, or email me!


Monday, April 2, 2012

Why I'm a Seventh-day Adventist Christian

Why are you Baptist? Catholic? Methodist? Presbyterian? Let me tell you why I'm a Seventh-day Adventist.

The reason I am a Seventh-day Adventist is because after studying for myself the bible I have found that what Seventh-day Adventist have come to develop as their doctrines, belief system is the closest to the bible of any denomination/religion that I have seen, heard, and read about. It is the denomination that I believe follows the teachings of Jesus the closest. 

Now I know...many will read this and find it boisterous, prideful, arrogant, and perhaps even stop reading at this point. Certainly you can, but, I hope you stick with me...

Now let me ask you this. As a bible believing Christian (if you are one) shouldn't you be able to say this about your church/denomination? You may say will I go to a non-denominational church. Ok, fine, then shouldn't you be able to say this about your non-denominational church? 

Biblically, aren't we suppose to find a church that most closely follows the teachings of Jesus? Right? 

Now with that said let me clarify. 
The fact that I believe the Seventh-day Adventist church most closely follows the teachings of Jesus is not:
1. Because I was raised Adventist.
2. I'm a paid pastor in the Adventist church.

Surely you can say, 'well your bias' and well I wouldn't disagree with you. Yet many years ago I essentially left the church but through God's grace and mercy as I started to respond to God's call in my heart I came back. I came back to the studying the Bible! I honestly wanted and still want to know and understand as best as I can this issue we often hear in Christian circles of 'following Jesus'. I'm still on that journey, it's not like I've reached some static point where I've mastered everything. Through God's grace and mercy I strive through to be more like HIM. 

Now let me clarify a few more things. Just because I believe that Seventh-day Adventist follow the teachings of Jesus most closely to the bible it doesn't mean:
1. That every person who says they're Adventist necessarily follows everything Adventist believe (I use to say I was Adventist mainly because I was raised Adventist)
2. That Adventist Christians don't make mistakes (I certainly have)
3. We can't question our beliefs and doctrines (we should study all things for ourselves)
4. That every Adventist church exemplifies the love of Jesus (could write many posts' on this)
5. That we shouldn't continue to study and dig deep into the things of God
6. We believe that we are the only people with truth
7. There aren't sincere bible believing (to what they have studied) Christians in other denominations/churches
8. Only Seventh-day Adventist will be saved

Now you may ask, 'what are some of the truths/beliefs that helped you come to this conclusion?' Good question, here are some:

1. The essence of the plan of redemption
2. The Seventh-day Sabbath
3. What happens after we die
4. How Jesus will return

Again the above are just some. 

Lastly, remember if someone who is a Seventh-day Adventist is meaner than the devil that doesn't take away the truth of what we believe any more than an unloving Baptist for example, makes all Baptist' unloving.

So why are you a ____________________?


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Interview with Rabbi Cohen

Recently I had the honor of sitting down and talking with Rabbi Valerie Cohen who leads the only Jewish synagogue in the Jackson, MS area where I live. I was excited to get to know her and want to thank her for being so kind in answering my questions. I also want to thank her secretary for giving me a little tour as I waited.

Living in the heart of the bible belt some probably wouldn't even think there would be a Jewish synagogue. The reality is Beth Israel just celebrated 150 years in the Jackson, MS area! Below you can see a short video they prepared for their anniversary last year. Take a moment and watch the video as it also gives a short synopsis of its history.

The Statue of Moses that survived the bombing as mentioned in the video!

Beth Israel Jackson is lead by Rabbi Valerie Cohen you can click here to read her bio on their website. Below I've highlighted some of the points of our conversation they are not direct quotes unless noted with quotation marks. Though I asked direct questions it was more of a conversation that at times jumped topics a bit which was great. I wrote down as much as I could. (RC=Rabbi Cohen)

What is Reform Judaism?
RC: There are essentially three different branches:
1. Orthodox-Believe both Hebrew scripture and Oral Traditions are from God
2. Reform: Which began in the 19th century as Judaism was trying to adapt and be relevant to the needs of the day.
3. Conservative: These felt that Reform Judaism had to some degree gone too far, and felt that there needed to be more of a middle ground between the Orthodox and Reform movements.

Rabbi Cohen made an interesting point that it was not Reform(ed) but Reform. Reformed gives the meaning that it has achieved and reached a final point of reformation. Yet this is not the 'Reform' belief as they believe that it will continue.

Beth Israel is part of the Union for Reform Judaism. You can click HERE (this website will give you more info instead of me posting it all here:) and read what they say is Reform Judaism.

Part of the difference in Reform Judaism as stated by Rabbi Cohen and the just mentioned website. Is the fact that they were the first to ordain women Rabbi's. "First women ordained was in...1972" stated Rabbi Cohen. Their website also states, "Reform Jews are also committed to the full participation of gays and lesbians in synagogue life as well as society at large."

How do you become a Rabbi?
RC: You get a four year degree, then 5-6 years of graduate work (seminary). Spend a year in Israel. Pastoral care internship and mentoring. Also of course intensive text study in Hebrew.

Rabbi Cohen mentioned that at the end of seminary essentially they are ordained. Their graduation is in part an ordination service.

What happens at a Reform Jewish service?
Beth Israel has two services. One is on Friday evening when Shabbat starts and the other, a more traditional service takes place on Saturday morning.

RC: There is a fixed liturgy about 50/50 being in Hebrew and English (friday nights). There is Rabbinic and Biblical text . The themes of the service are creation, revelation (God's gift of Torah) and redemption (the exodus with some allusion to future redemption). We will have Sabbath prayers, personal prayers, silent prayer, prayer for healing, and mourners. 

Music is a big part of the service. Rabbi Cohen mentioned the importance of the music in the service. The sermon (which lasts only 10-15min) may not always go well but if the music is good everything works out. Yet if the music is off, then the service didn't go well even if the sermon did. Most of the readings are set to music, its chanted or a melody. 

RC: In essence the service is lots of liturgy, 10-15min sermon, lots of singing. The service will last a little over an hour.

At his point I asked RC about the Sabbath:
Rabbi Cohen was obviously aware that I am a Seventh-day Adventist pastor. I spoke to her a little about our view of the Sabbath and then she gave me her perspective.

RC: Sabbath is seen as a gift. "The Sabbath is the most important holiday. In the Hebrew Shabbat means to stop or cease not to rest." She went on to mention how the world would be if everyone would stop their work and spend time with family and God. 

Rabbi Cohen mentioned many will celebrate Shabbat differently. "Some may not choose to come to the temple on Shabbat" Some may choose to spend it with their families at home or somewhere else. This is fine because it's in part what Shabbat is about. 

RC: "Judaism is complicated, multi-dimensional..."so it will vary what the Jewish person says the reasoning behind why one keeps the Sabbath. Yet the Sabbath as previously mentioned is obviously key. 

What is your belief in regards to what happens at death?
Rabbi Cohen mentioned some interesting points regarding this question but being as I've gone pretty long in this post. I will go with her short and simple answer:

RC: There is basically three main answers:
1. Nothing
2. I don't know-"most Jews don't know"
3. I don't care-"...just live your life now according to your understanding of God"

She mentioned and believes that there's really not a 'after life theology.'(in the Hebrews scriptures)  It seems to have come mainly from Rabbinic writings.

What is your view of Jesus?
Being the obvious fact that Jackson, MS has a high Christian culture and most I would venture to say believe in Jesus or have at least grown up hearing about Jesus. I thought it would be interesting to hear her perspective.

RC: "Jesus was a man who had great vision, rebelled against the institution of the time and obviously was a Jew. He lived an observant life, was not a Rabbi, but was a good teacher/leader."

In your time here have you had someone convert to Judaism?
RC: Yes...(I then asked, 'How does one convert?)
RC: "It's at least a year long process, must attend services, immerse yourself in the Jewish community." The individual will be mentored, must walk in the shoes of a Jew. (At this point I asked how does one know if they have walked in the shoes of a Jew?)
RC: There is a ritual 'Beit Din' where three people sit with the conversion student to determine if they are ready. Finally they go through 'Mikvah' which is essentially baptism by emersion. Important note is that the individual is completely naked for the baptism. (yes you read that correctly, it is of course done very discretely) Men of course must be circumcised.

Why I decided to meet with Rabbi Cohen?
First I again want to thank Rabbi Cohen for meeting with me. I sensed in her a love and purity for what she does and the community she ministers too. I learned a lot more than what I could possibly write in this one post. If I by chance mentioned and/or quoted something incorrectly I hope she will let me know and I will correct. 

Here are three quick reasons why I took this initiative:

1. I want to learn and interact more with my community. As mentioned Beth Israel has been around a long time, they have done much in the Jackson, MS community. I/we as a church can learn from that.
2. I enjoy interacting with others of different faiths (not just different denominations). It's great to be able to discuss, learn, and fellowship with other spiritual leaders.
3. I want people to know who Seventh-day Adventist are: In this context I'm not saying it in a way as to proselytize the people I meet but to get to know a bit of the individual, their beliefs and enter into a faith dialogue. Rabbi Cohen also had some great questions for me and what I believed. We simply had a great discussion. She was honest with me as she mentioned that fact that at first knowing a 'Seventh-day Adventist' was keeping she wasn't sure what to expect and didn't know a lot about us specifically. Yet know she knows a little more about who are Seventh-day Adventist as I know a lot more about Reform Judaism. 

 So I know this was one of my longer posts', but I hope that you were blessed and perhaps it might lead you to get to know (if you haven't already) more people in your community that are different than you. I'm not planning on stopping here as I want to hopefully interview several other faith leaders in my community.

Would love to hear what you think...


Monday, March 12, 2012

Ed's Story: Following Jesus

A few days ago the video below caught my eye on CNN.  As I looked into who Ed was as It seemed that I had heard/seen him before, I realized that he was the person that wrote "The Year of Living Like Jesus" A book I had wanted to read several years ago when it was released but honestly never got around to actually putting it on my 'to read' list.

Then when I saw this short video, it spoke to me. I hope you take a moment (video's less than 10min.) to watch and listen carefully to what Ed mentions in the video.

Lately, perhaps more than ever in my life as a follower of Jesus I've been wrestling with what it really means to 'follow Jesus.'

So what does it mean for you to follow Jesus? Do you feel, believe that you are following Jesus as He would would want?


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I Hope You Fail

Have you ever been told, "I was hoping you failed?" Or perhaps someone didn't directly make a comment like that, but by their actions and words you instinctively knew they hoped you failed at whatever you were setting out to accomplish.

When it happens in the secular world, one can understand, when it happens in the Christian world it's...well...unChristian.

Now let's clarify, we're not talking about setting out to do that which is unbiblical, but going forward in following God's call to reach people for the Kingdom.

Sometime ago I was on the receiving end of statements and/or implications as mentioned above. As a leader people are going to talk about you, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. Yet when I heard this I have to admit I was a bit shocked. It was simply stated, sad.

Essentially the sentiment went like this. I hope you fail so that I can be right because I don't like how your doing things. So I hope you fail because it's more important that I'm right and you're pride is torn down.

Again those weren't the exact words mentioned but without a doubt implied (how I felt).

Wanting anyone to fail as they set out in ministry, in an earnest and intentional manner to win people for God's kingdom is for lack of a word wrong. Here's what I've observed though:

1. People want you to fail because you're not doing things the way they want you to do them. So if you fail they can tell you, 'see it didn't work'

2. People want you to fail because it makes them feel better about their own failures. They'll be like, 'hey you see he/she failed so they're not better than me'

3. People want you to fail because they're jealous.

4. People want you to fail because they simply don't like you.

This is not always the case but I've also noticed that people who want others to fail is often because they aren't doing much themselves and are probably afraid to try and Personally I prefer to try and fail then to sit down and never try anything to increase God's glory and His kingdom.

The book of Acts has a great line by a well respected person named Gamaliel. Here's what he said to the council that was frustrated with Peter and the others preaching Jesus.
"And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest you even be found to fight against God." (Acts 5:38,39 NKJV)
Gamaliel was right, God is in control. There have been times when I and others have set out to do something for God and it has not worked out the way we would have like and other times when amazingly we felt we didn't do 'enough' and yet God blessed.

Ultimately God will bless what He will bless! If something we are doing isn't proving to be what we had hoped, then surely we need to re-evaluate (pray, have discussions, etc.). We should always be evaluating what we are doing  (even if what one is doing is being blessed) as a church locally as well as an institution/denomination.

You see the reality is that we don't always know what God is going to bless or not bless. Therefore we must move forward knowing that failure is a risk we must take. Also we must not forget that sometimes what in human eyes may seem as a failure actually works out to be the greatest success ever imagined.

When Jesus hung on the cross it may have seemed as failure but praise God that it was THE greatest success story in the history of the universe.

I don't know who said it but I recently read this quote:
"In order to succeed you first must be willing to fail"
So I hope you fail...


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Christian videos gone viral-(Videos)

'Kanazawa jesus' photo (c) 2004, Chris Gladis - license:

Jefferson Bethke. Perhaps you've already seen both of his YouTube videos that have gone viral. If I'm not mistaken he attends/is a member of  Mars Hill church pastored by well known  Mark Driscoll.

The first video he made has been seen over 18 million times in less than a month. The second video on the subject of sex and marriage has been seen over 3 million times. The videos though haven't gone, of course, without it's critics.

Also check out Jefferson Bethke's Facebook page.

Watch the videos and let me know what you think.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Family Guy, Adventist & The Sabbath

By now it's made it's way through the social media sites, blogs, emails, and word of mouth. What I'm talking about is the video below from the television show 'Family Guy' I first saw it on A Sabbath Blog check out the blog to get some background and how some Adventist reacted.

One of the issues brought up from the video is the fact that the Sabbath the only difference between Adventist and Methodist (and evangelicals as a whole). A colleague of mine Pastor Shawn Brace wrote a good blog post (click HERE to read it) pointing out and expanding on the issue. He makes some great points.

Allow me to expand on the question:
Is the Sabbath the only difference between Adventist and Evangelicals?

Let me start by affirming much of what Pastor Brace stated in his blog. We as Adventist along with Evangelicals believe that we are saved by grace alone through faith in Jesus. With that said we have various other beliefs (as he stated only some were mentioned) that differ from evangelicals.

I've been a minister for nearly 10 years. Except for two of those years in Seminary I have spent them all pastoring in the bible belt. Meeting some incredible people many of them faithful Christians (of different denominations) and also some great folks who are not Christians.

I obviously love theology but the reality is that most Christians (again speaking in general) really aren't living their lives focused on the theological issues/differences. Many Adventist can't really explain the investigative judgement, the nature of God, and the nature of man (though Adventist are clear about not have an immortal soul) and how that applies to the death of Christ. Be clear these are some of the differences, they're important, and should be taught.

I get asked often what is the difference between Adventist and Evangelicals. Honestly most of the time what ends up being the main 'issue' or point of discussion guessed it the 'Sabbath.'

Though some speak of 'our Adventist' gospel being 'deeper', 'wider in scope', 'complete' and many other words that are used. I've met some incredible Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterians, and other Christians that have been transformed an incredible ways. The gospel of Jesus that He came, died for our sins, and resurrected so that we now have an incredible hope, joy, and power to overcome in Him I've seen change lives of people from these different Christian denominations though they may not know all the deep theological issues! Praise the Lord! The gospel is simple though not simplistic.

Surely as an Adventist we'll talk about the issue of what happens when you die which is a big one where I live (and for many) everlasting hell (which we've covered in the blog before and do not believe hell last forever) along with the others mentioned above. BUT the Sabbath at the end of the day is to some degree the most practical one (along with being deep theologically).

So although we may have 'other' differences than the Sabbath with Evangelicals. I would venture to say that without neglecting the others, the Sabbath holds a very special place and it should.

You see though I've already gone longer than I'd like allow me to briefly explain why the Sabbath is perhaps (I know this can be debatable) the greatest difference we have. At the very least one of the greatest. For sure I would say the greatest difference in praxis.

1. Adventist for the most part keep the Sabbath as sacred. Therefore we keep it more than just a day we go to church for a few hours, as many Christians keep Sunday. We keep it from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday and devote that time to our God, the family God has given us and the goodness and love that God has bestowed upon us.

2. We believe the Sabbath will play a key role before Jesus comes in all of His glory.

3. The Seventh-day Sabbath reminds us that Jesus Himself created us and then rested after creation (don't think Exodus commandments yet, think Genesis 2:2) on the 7th day. Hence it leads us to know that we are created beings, awaiting our Creator who has recreated our hearts and will recreate all things by making them new (our bodies and the world we'll live in!).

So when people ask me: What's the difference between Seventh-day Adventist and "___" yes one of the very first things I say is "we worship on Sabbath..."

And no I've yet to get a response like the Methodist in the Family Guy clip :-)

What do you think, is the Sabbath one of the greatest differences?


Monday, January 23, 2012

Fudge & The Doctrine of Hell

Would an all loving God torment people in hell forever? It's a question that many sincere, bible believing Christians have asked, wondered and pondered about.

Recently I had the privilege to hear and meet Mr. Edward Fudge. Mr. Fudge is known for writing a book that would essentially change his life and that of many that have truly wanted to seek and find truth regarding the topic of hell. The book is entitled: The Fire That Consumes (Click HERE to buy the digital book) and was first published in 1982 after he was contacted to search what the bible truly says about hell. It is one of the most profound books on the topic of hell.

Author of The Fire That Consumes Edward Fudge and Me.

Obviously the book has been out for some time and is now in its third printing. Yet it caused a stir in the evangelical world when it first came out (and to some extent still does) because most evangelical Christians believed and still believe that hell was/is a place of eternal torment where God puts people that oppose him after they die or when Jesus comes again and makes all things new, they would stay in hell burning eternally.

When Rob Bell's book Love Wins came out, I did a series of posts', in one of them I stated in short what I, we believe as Seventh-day Adventist Christians. You can click HERE to read the post.

Essentially though I believe as Mr. Fudge that there will not be an eternal, never ending hell that God puts people in. Some may find surprising that there are several scholars, some well known that also believe the same that are not Seventh-day Adventist. Below is a recent lecture given by Mr. Fudge on the topic. If you have time it will be worth your while to check it out!

Also you'll be interested to know that there is a movie coming sometime this year regarding the struggles that emerged as he became submerged in the study of hell. Check out the movie trailer:

I praise God for his leading in the research by Mr. Fudge. This doctrine of eternal hell gives a dark, malice picture of God. God is love, He does want all to be saved (sadly many will choose not too be saved), all to come and know His great love for you!

Let me know what you think...


Monday, January 16, 2012

In Honor of: M.L. King Jr.

To a great degree he changed history and/or some have said he made history. This weekend the life of Martin Luther King jr. is celebrated. In reality his dream is celebrated. The dream that all men are created equal and therefore all should be treated the same. Below are some incredible quotes from Mr. King taken from this website.

"Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: - 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

"Segregation is the adultery of an illicit intercourse between injustice and immorality."

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

"Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men."

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

Below is a clip of one of my favorite speeches, which was given shortly before he was assassinated. 

What are your thoughts about the life and works of Martin Luther King Jr. has his dream been realized?


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ever feel like quitting? (Video)

The first week of 2012 is in the history books. Do you already feel like quitting on some of your resolutions?

Forget about resolutions, at some juncture during 2012 you will most likely feel the need to quit. I hope this video gives you a little inspiration. Always give it all you got until you honestly can say I got no more.

Watch the short video below and let me hear from you...



Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year-2012!

Wishing everyone a great 2012!

My new years resolution: 

nothing more~nothing less

Will you  join me?


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