Snapshots of the World

“I think someone famous might be in town,” conjectured my friend Ryan as we pulled to the side of the road and watched a fleet of police vehicles race past our car. Further up the street, a cluster of people began to form and trickle into a blocked off intersection.

“Maybe it’s the president . . . or Trump. That’d draw a crowd for sure,” he joked. Could it be? But why would either be in downtown Seattle in the middle of July? Wasn’t the Republican National Convention in Cleveland currently stealing the political spotlight? I thought to myself. I craned my neck to catch a glimpse of the crowd in greater detail as we zipped onto a one-way side street.

Ryan’s phone started ringing.

“Hey, did you guys find parking?” asked Stella on the other line. We planned to meet her and another friend for dinner.

“No, we’re still trying to get to the place. We got delayed and rerouted by that police entourage. Did you see it?” I asked on speaker phone.

“I didn’t! What’s going on?” interjected Keri, the other friend.

“Not sure, but I think it might be some type of protest. I’m pretty sure I saw a few people holding signs just now.”

“Oh man. Wonder what’s happening. Call us when you find parking! We just found a spot,” Stella explained. I agreed, hanging up and scouring the congested streets for empty sidewalk space.

With no parking in sight, my eyes wandered beyond the streets and began taking mental snapshots of the city: an old man in a faded white T-shirt mowing his tiny lawn; a 20-something punk rocker covered in tattoos, taking his two, well-groomed collies on a walk; a group of ladies in sundresses, sipping their Starbucks; people playing Pokémon Go in the park, their phones tilted and fingers swiping; a busker with dreadlocks serenading the public, his guitar case peppered with one dollar bills and coins.

“Found one!” exclaimed Ryan as he pulled into a spot four blocks from the meeting place. We hurried to find the others, promptly forgetting the police barricade and protesters.

On the walk back to our cars after dinner, the four of us thought up touristy plans for the rest of our evening in Seattle. We rounded a corner and, to our utter surprise, ran straight into the crowd of protesters. They’d grown in size and had formed a huge circle in the middle of a main road. A man armed with a megaphone stood in the center with people of all ethnicities and genders surrounding him. Some held signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” and others raised images of the Black Power fist. Uniformed police on bicycles dotted the perimeter, supervising the event at a distance. “We need to end this senseless, racist violence! The police cannot keep shooting us. Share your voice!” the man in center urged.

He put the megaphone on the ground and gestured with his arms for people to step forward and speak. I stood frozen at the scene, watching as a tall, shirtless Caucasian man walked into the center and took up the device.

“I am a supporter of the—“ Squeeeak! “Of the Black Lives Matter—“ Squeeeeeak! The megaphone cut in and out, splicing his words and making it impossible for anyone to hear him. He fumbled unsuccessfully with the buttons.

“Mic check!” yelled someone off to the side. The multicultural crowd shifted to a more alert stance and lasered in on the man. He put the megaphone down and started speaking clipped sentences at his normal volume. Those in range of his voice repeated him word for word at a shout, essentially becoming ahuman megaphone. Collectively, they spoke a message of pain but of encouragement, imploring listeners to come together and support their fellow humans, regardless of ethnicity—to acknowledge the race and gender discrimination rampant in society and to counteract it. His segment ended in applause as the next person walked up to take his place.

The subsequent speaker, another Caucasian man, managed to operate the megaphone and also began his speech on a note of solidarity and support. Gradually, however, his speech devolved into a tirade of vitriol targeted at the police, specifically those stationed at the perimeter of the crowd.

“People like them want to keep us from having these marches!” he yelled, pointing a finger at the police on bikes. “They’re blocking our voices from being heard! We don’t need that!” he screamed, concluding with a stream of vulgarities. The crowd cheered and repeated his sentiments, just as they had with the previous speaker.

Standing at the perimeter of the circle, I shot glances at the stoic police officers sitting on bicycles a few feet away from me. Were they really there to block or to protect?

A young, charismatic African American woman walked into the center next, taking the megaphone and validating the previous speaker’s anger; however, she was quick to add, “Let’s not forget: we cannot hate everyone. Otherwise, we’ll be just as bad as the people we’re protesting.” She went on to explain that not all police are “bad”—that some are, in fact, there to protect and support the Black Lives Matter movement. Nods of agreement and cheers followed her as she found her place back in the circle.

Moments later, a final speaker—a lanky, light skinned African American man with a brunette afro—inched his way to the middle, carrying his young son on his shoulders. His two little daughters stood by his side, hands linked. Into the megaphone, he solemnly stated, “I don’t know how to explain all of this to my kids.” He waved his arms around him, taking in the whole crowd. “The simple fact is that I shouldn’t have to. Black lives matter.”

The original man in the middle joined this family at the center and took up the megaphone again, calling the group to march onward. “Whose lives matter?” he asked.

“BLACK LIVES MATTER!” shouted the crowd.

“No justice?” said the man.

“NO PEACE!” answered the crowd.

This call and response continued as the procession marched down the street. From the group’s first step forward, the police on the periphery immediately snapped into action, ensconcing the marchers into a protective bubble with their bikes. Police on motorcycles cleared the streets ahead, and larger police vehicles brought up the rear. My friends and I turned in the opposite direction, once again finding an alternate route to our parking spots.

After witnessing the powerful scene both within and without the circle, I found it ironic that just blocks away, someone was mowing his lawn, walking his dog, sipping her Starbucks, catching their Pokémon, singing for spare change, finding a parking spot—all completely oblivious or deliberately blind to the sobering events happening in their neighborhood. I also found it quite ironic that some in the circle, while bursting with support for the oppressed, demonized the very forces that enabled the streets to be clear, the protest to remain peaceful, the individuals—even the ones spewing hate—to maintain their personal safety. On the other hand, however, it was equally ironic that the same protective forces could so easily and preemptively take the life of a man named Mike Brown, a man named Alton Sterling.

I reflected on these tensions as my friends and I gazed at the Seattle skyline from Kerry Park later that evening. Captured in this last mental snapshot of the city were all of these groups: my party of four, the Seattle neighborhoods, the protestors, the police, the movements and ideologies that superseded us all. Each group had a blind spot and a means for filling that void with something else: blissful ignorance, seething anger, palpable discrimination, a political agenda. While seemingly innocuous or “noble,” the justification for each void suddenly seemed like a mere anesthetic—a temporary fix for an endless cycle of misery. Even the glimpses of hope—the human megaphone and the African American woman’s added explanation, for example—became overshadowed by the overwhelming hopelessness in the world, the “all of this” that the father found so impossible to explain to his kids. Through my human eyes, I looked at the glittering city lights with sadness.

Bible-believing people, however, see with an alternate perspective. While they also recognize the extreme brokenness of the world and should take action to repair it to the best of their abilities, followers of Christ ultimately recognize that no human-made tool or method of (counter) defense will definitively fix the world’s dysfunction. They acknowledge that their human expectation for change will always meet disappointment. Thus, they live seeking not a mere anesthetic or a stance rooted in anger. Neither do they sit idly by in blissful ignorance as the world around them suffers. Instead, they march forward saying, “My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people” (Psalms 62:5-8). With such assurance, they replace their human manufactured hope with one reinforced in divine power. They believe that “power belongs to God. Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy; for You render to each one according to his work” (vs. 11-12). Knowing all of this, their daily lives, their activism, their ideologies fall in step with God-given expectation and become empowered by an unchanging source of divine strength; their actions, regardless of the outcome, find triumph in His glory—not their human efforts alone. Through this lens, they can view their mental snapshots of the world with an everlasting hope.

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Shauna Chung

–Executive Secretary–

Identity

 

In today’s world, identity is everything. Who you are and what you stand for determines the way you are perceived and often can decide the trajectory of your life—unless something steps in to change that. In different circles and to different people, we all have different identities. To our bosses we are employees; to our friends we are a friend; to our families we are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers. To the world, we are strangers. But what kind of strangers are we? Are we truly strange-ers? To the world what is our identity? What do you and I look like to the world and those around us?

Our identity should not be “those people who are health-conscious.” Our identity should not be “those people who are always socially active.” Our identity should not be “those people who go to church on Saturday.” Our identity should not be “those people” at all.

Instead, when they look at us, they should see Jesus. People should be able to say of us… “Mary, Casey, Joe, John, or whoever— if Jesus is like him/her, I might give Him a chance.”

While people may still look at us as “those people,” that is not our identity. Our identity is in Jesus—wholly and completely.

That sounds nice, but what does that mean? To have an identity in Jesus means we live like Jesus. We are associated with Jesus. We are Christians. We literally take on the name of Christ, just like one does in a marriage; and we keep the covenant of that Name. Our identity is not wrapped up in our job, schoolwork, grades, family, or friend group. Our identity is found in Jesus and rooted in His Word.

What does it mean to be SDA? It means that you find your identity, you and I shape our lives, in and around Jesus and His Word.

It sounds easy and hard at the same time. But praise the Lord, we are not alone. Jesus has promised to be with us to the end of the age. Forever.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

— Casey Vaughn —

General Vice President of Internal Affairs

His Love as Seen in Rwanda

Fifteen days, seventeen sermons, two thousand sites, and thousands of dedicated, ordinary people inspired by their love for God and passion for His people. That is how the Gospel transformed every corner of Rwanda and the Holy spirit was poured out in abundance. During the month of May, the General Conference led a very unique mission in the small country of Rwanda. The goal was to reach the people with the gospel through total membership involvement. The results were astonishing, and through the combined efforts of the local churches, laymen, pastors and missionaries from abroad we were able to see more than 95,000 souls come to Christ.

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I had the privilege of witnessing some of the work God was doing through the site where I was preaching. Arriving at my site the first evening, I was nervous and very dependent on my PowerPoint slides for the message. As I began to preach, however, the electricity went out and my perfectly operating laptop refused to turn on. Panicking, I flipped through my Bible hoping a verse would pop out at me, at the moment the one light bulb at the site burnt out. It was then that I realized I would have to speak from my heart. I prayed asking God to completely take over, and He did just that. I preached a thought I had studied in my devotional that morning from John 9 where Jesus stops for the man born blind and heals him. In that moment, I realized that Jesus had once again stopped at our hill and desired to heal each and everyone of us throughout the next 2 weeks. Little did I know just how much healing would take place at that site.

IMG_0674Throughout the first weekend, my heart began to soften and fill with love for those attending every night. The faces became familiar and the shy smiles were soon replaced by warm hugs. Night after night after the meetings, those with special requests or burdens would line up for prayers, and as I held them and prayed for them I was amazed by their faith. They believed that God would hear and answer their prayers and so they prayed the impossible and they prayed with earnestness and transparency. In their prayers my faith was strengthened. Yet God had more in store. As we began the second week, they began to share how God had already begun to answer their prayers. Broken families were somehow being mended, and the Great Physician had visited the sick and given children to the barren. But the ones that truly touched me were those who received hope for the first time—those that realized that heaven was a reality and that sin did not have to overcome them forever.

There was a bar nearby that played a lot of throwback music. Their music was so loud at times that when I paused for emphasis in my sermons, the music would overpower. Unfortunately, in my “Before Christ” days, one of my greatest struggles was music, so I not only recognized the music but also knew the lyrics. I cannot describe the feeling – it was one of joy as I realized that God had not only saved me from my past but had also given me something better. But yet in the midst of the joy there was a vivid reminder of the reason why I could not continue to entertain that music and serve Christ, because in that moment I realized that they served two opposing forces.

Rwanda is an experience that I cannot even begin to describe, the miracles were many and God truly revealed Himself more clearly to me. As I watched many walk away from all they had as they stood for Jesus in baptism, I recommitted myself to Christ.

Despite the painful history that I often connect with Rwanda, God rewrote the story. It was in Rwanda that I saw ordinary church members give all they had to the gospel and it is here that I saw the extraordinary, transformative power of the plain word of God. It was in Rwanda that Christ revealed His love not only for me, but also for humanity, and leaving Rwanda I am inspired.

Lastly, the Total Membership Involvement model really left an impact on me. It was amazing to see how God works through the dedicated and combined forces of church members. Every effort is noted in the books of heaven, and coming home I am inspired to make sure that the miracles don’t end in Rwanda. The gospel is not an African remedy – it has the power to transform lives in my local church, my campus, my home, and everywhere else I go. God took me to Rwanda to teach me His unconditional love and impress upon my heart the urgency of His soon return.

IMG_0208Coming home I am inspired. I see the importance of my local church and the role each member has to play in the commission of spreading the gospel. Many times I was tempted to wonder, where are the miracles nowadays? Where are the great manifestations the Bible describes? I realized that I was not seeing miracles because I was not actively engaging in God’s work; I had not taken a risk big enough to necessitate a divine intervention. I appeal to everyone to take part in the exciting work of winning souls for Christ, take an active role in your local church, and make goals that require divine aid and you will see God’s mighty power daily and experience His amazing love.

—Chantal Kayumba

 

 

Focus in Europe

 

GYC is more than just a conference: It is a global movement. The Holy Spirit is moving upon the hearts and lives of young people around the world, mobilizing them for ministry. One of the parts of the world where young people are at work for God is Europe. GYC Europe recently held a powerful rally in Romania, and what follows is a report of that rally and GYC Europe’s plans to continue reaching out in Europe:

 

GYC Europe is focusing on three main areas of ministry: Local rallies, Active missions and the Europe-wide conference. In February of this year we held our first local rally in Stupini, Romania, with the theme “Coming to Christ.” The name we have chosen to give to our local rallies is “Focus.” That name was birthed from the aim of the local rally, which is to focus on the local community where we have been invited. Focus rallies aim to call the local youth to an event where they will be encouraged, inspired and revived. The vision of Focus is for young people to reclaim their Adventist identity and have a missionary mindset to reach out to all in their sphere of influence. The small size of these events also allows the GYC Europe team to connect with the local young people so that rather than merely putting on a program, we are growing and learning together. This allows us to encourage them in their walk not merely from the podium, but in our interaction with them as well.

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In Stupini we saw over 300 young people come together to study, pray and fellowship. The program was arranged to provide these opportunities by allowing time for group prayer, workshops, sermons and testimonies. Every evening attendees were seen rushing to their small groups where they discussed specific questions and signed up to implement an evangelism spiral. The evangelistic spiral encourages individuals to follow a commission of evangelism throughout the year, which falls under the ‘Active Missions’ segment of GYC Europe.

During the Sabbath we saw many young people going out on buses to reach out to the local community. Many people in the community responded by requesting personal Bible studies. The following quote comes to mind when thinking of this experience:

“All over the world men and women are looking wistfully to heaven. Prayers and tears and inquiries go up from souls longing for light, for grace, for the Holy Spirit. Many are on the verge of the kingdom, waiting only to be gathered in.” Acts of the Apostles, p.109

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As Focus came to an end, hundreds of young people made their way home. Some traveled by train, some by car, and some by plane; but all left with a deeper relationship with Christ.

At every Focus event GYC Europe works with a local team of volunteers who help in the planning and organization of the weekend. This allows us the opportunity to grow our network across Europe while at the same time working effectively in any given culture.

The themes of Focus for the first three years in Europe are: (1) Coming to Christ, (2) Searching the Scriptures, and (3) Moving into Mission. At each event we are emphasizing the importance of being a helping hand to church leadership in the local conference and union.

Our next Focus rally will be taking place in the UK in a town called Leicester. We are looking forward to this and many other opportunities. The work must go on.

Keep up to date with us on our website www.gyceurope.org and our facebook page ‘GYC Europe.’

God bless,

Craig Gooden

President, GYC Europe.

Amen! The  need in Europe is very great, and the work there is challenging. But Mrs White wrote, “I saw that many souls might be saved if the young were were they ought to be, devoted to God and to the truth….” Messages to Young People, p. 206. Praise God for the work that is happening in Europe, and for the young people who are sacrificing their time and effort in order to strengthen the church and save souls for God’s kingdom. Let us keep our brothers and sisters in Europe in our prayers, that God will greatly bless their ministry and work through them to spread the light of the Gospel.

San Francisco GLOW Outreach Testimonies

One Week. One Goal. One Million.

It is amazing to see what God can do through a generation of young people who are willing to take time off work and school to be involved in reaching out to others.

In preparation and response to the major sports event happening in San Francisco, GLOW (Giving Light To Our World) planned to distribute one million GLOW tracts before and during the Super Bowl. A special tract about the Sabbath was created just for this event and with much prayer and the dedication of 30+ GLOW missionaries this goal was accomplished.

Here are two testimonies about what God has done in San Francisco just a few weeks ago.

Cheyna’s Testimony:

After entering a fast food restaurant, I asked the one of the waitresses, “Do you know what Southern Hospitality is? Well in honor of your southern hospitality, I’d like to present you this honorary gift!” It was a packet of GLOW tracts I had on me, and the tract entitled “Where is God when I’m hurting?” was on top.

The waitress replied under her breath “I need this!” She started mentioning to us about her son being suspended from school that day.

I responded by telling her that as Christians we believe in something called the “Great Controversy,” and that Satan is trying to attack us simply because we were created by the One he despises most. She nodded in agreement and said she was also Christian and agreed wholeheartedly that we are in a war.

We then asked her what church she went to and she started explaining how she isn’t really going to any church now because she just can’t seem to get Sunday’s off. My friend Nidia asked her which day she did have off, and she replied that the only day she could seem to get off was Saturday. When she said that everyone on our GLOW team started hooting and hollering; she was overwhelmed and started asking, “What happened? Did I say something?” So right then and there we gave her a little Bible study on which day was the Sabbath. While quoting the fourth commandment, I held up my fingers and started going through the days of the week and their order. When we got to seven and Saturday, she stopped and said, “Wait, so Saturday is the sabbath?”

In the end we invited her to come to church with us. She was very excited to do so, and was also very excited for the Bible studies. We took a picture with her and she started to get teary eyed. She said “How does this happen? How do people meet like this?” We know the answer! God’s providence is always on time and he sends the right people to meet the right people at the right time! We exchanged contact information and are keeping in touch with her.”
— Cheyna Ashe

Vonée’s Testimony:

One day when I was GLOWing a tall, muscular, tough-looking man named Micah came out to his driveway. With an intimidating, stern face he said to me, “I really wish you wouldn’t do that.” He took the GLOW tracts away from where I had placed them and attempted to hand them back to me!

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I am a petite and timid girl, and here was a scary big man. I was scared at first, to say the least! But God had been teaching me to not fear man and to be bold for the cause of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit came over me, and I started to push the GLOW tracts right back toward Micah. I was shocked at myself as I said, “Oh, I’m so sorry sir, but you see, we are just sharing helpful information for the community! This tract here is about heart health! And this one is about where God is when we are hurting. And this one is interesting; it asks the question, “Can the dead speak?”

To my surprise Micah replied firmly, “No they can’t!”

“Exactly! You’re so right!” I said.

“What church are you from?” he asked.

“I am a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, have you heard of us?” I said, with some confidence from the Lord.

“Oh yeah, I have. You all…you’re alright, you’re alright,” he said in a slightly playful way as he started to warm up and let his guard down. I laughed, and to make a long story short we quickly became good friends!

We had a lot in common to talk about. It turns out Micah was on his way to church with his wife. He was a Christian, and He also shared that he was a former marine and just was a bit defensive about people being near his property. He mentioned that he was a “recovering Catholic,” and shared how he was against the teachings of purgatory and indulgences because they were unbiblical. He also said that he was going to be preaching on the streets around the location of pre-superbowl game activities on one upcoming night. He even started to share tips with me on evangelism and reaching souls for Christ. And on top of it all, it even turns out that his brother’s girlfriend is Seventh-day Adventist!

This same man who scared me at first and tried to give me back the GLOW tracts, was now my friend, taking pictures with me and taking those same tracts back home with Him. Had I given into fear and taken back those tracts and timidly walked away, Micah—who God had already exposed to our church and convicted about the precious truth of the state of the dead and much more, and who also loves to share the gospel with others—would not have gotten those tracts which can help to lead him into greater light as he prepares himself and others for the soon coming of Jesus!” — Vonée Hemans

Just like Cheyna and Vonée, you too can be a missionary right where you are. Pick up a few tracts and let Jesus GLOW through you!

Blessed By Sharing: A GYC Pre-Conference Report

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What comes to your mind when you hear the word, “canvassing”? Knocking on doors? Talking to hundreds of upset strangers? Perhaps even terrifying dogs and angry, armed citizens? To hundreds of young people, “canvassing” stirs in the memory dozens of divine appointments, hungry souls, and overall amazing experiences.

Just one week prior to GYC Conference 2015 in Louisville, KY, over one hundred young people gathered in Pewee Valley, KY to participate in GYC Pre-Conference. Here are three testimonies from this outreach, featuring an amazing prayer-answering God and His willing servants!

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“It was the end of an exhausting day. I had knocked on door after door only to discover that either people weren’t home or wouldn’t listen. It had come down to the last fifteen minutes and I had just 16 more doors to knock on. As I came up to the last door, I heard people inside and prayed that they would answer. A man opened the door and quickly referred me to his wife. She was so excited about the cookbook, but said that they didn’t have the money. I decided to show her Peace Above the Storm (Steps to Christ), and she was thrilled! Flipping through the book, she began reading the chapter titles: “How to Have a Clear Conscience” “Freedom from guilt.” “Oh,” she exclaimed “I really need this book!” I shared with her the donation range and she reiterated that she had no money. Sad that I couldn’t help, I left her with a free Happiness For Life (also Steps to Christ).

As soon as I left the house, I met up with another canvasser who had gotten donations from people who didn’t want books and was only too happy to let me give a few to this precious lady. We went back and knocked on the door. Long story short, she was so excited! She shared that she had just converted to Christianity three weeks ago. “When you left this other book,” she said, “I knew it was Jesus. Because I’ve been praying to Him every day and I know He answers prayer.” She became even more thrilled about the prospect of someone coming and studying the Bible with her. What an amazing last-door experience! I came back that night praising our Almighty God for His awe-inspiring goodness.”

—Samantha

 

“Apartments. The word sent chills down my spine. I was so scared. “We have to go inside too” I thought. First few doors, nothing. Then finally at the third door a lady answered and I saw her little son, so I handed her a Storytime and canvassed her on Storytime. She seemed really interested and asked what religion I was. That was the first time that I was able to explain what I believe without stumbling over my words. She said she only had a twenty, so I said, “Oh, here’s the second book in that set.” And handed her Prince of Peace and canvassed her on that. She said that she really would enjoy reading this to her children because she was “sort of Christian.” They didn’t go to church or anything, but she wanted to know more about God and she wanted her kids to grow up knowing about God. So I prayed with her and sold her both books.

I was really thankful that God put into my mind the words to say, because normally I’m not able to say what I believe without stuttering. But while I was at Pre-Conference I wanted to be able to give an answer, so I studied passages that prepared me to be able to do that. I was thoroughly blessed by the experience!”

—Zion

 

“Follow your curb, comb to your T, cross over and work back until you meet somebody.” These were the instructions that were given to me as I jumped out of the van. “Okay! Sounds great,” I harped as ran to my first house praying for a divine appointment. Little did I know exactly how quickly this prayer would be answered. First house, no answer. Second house, quick rejection. “Okay Lord,” I prayed, “I know your promise is sure, I know that you will answer my prayer in your way, and in your time.” The third house that I went to was answered by a gentleman maybe in his 60’s. “Good afternoon, my name is Jerico….” as I went into my canvas. “I am not interested,” was his reply, and then he lowered his voice to a mere whisper as he began to explain his situation. His mother was dying of cancer, and and with six weeks left to live, she had just spent her last Christmas with her family. Tears began to flow as he related his story, and my heart went out to this gentleman. I asked if I could pray with him, and he agreed. After the prayer, I gave him a free Happiness for Life, and bade him farewell. As I headed for the next door, I was praising God for the wonderful divine appointment and answer to prayer.

However, there was another surprise in store as I knocked on the next door. The lady that answered the door was quite friendly, and after graciously listening to my canvass, she remarked, “I am not interested in these books, but do you mind me asking what religion you are?”

“No problem,” I replied, “I am a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian. Have you heard of us?”

“Actually not,” she exclaimed, “Can you explain to me what you believe?”

“Sure!” I answered. “We believe in…..” As I explained to her the gist of our beliefs as SDA’s she ask me to explain the Sabbath to her in a little bit more depth. After about a 10 minute bible study on the Sabbath, I came to a close and challenged her to further inquire about bible questions with the local SDA pastor, reassuring her that she would not be disappointed. I closed with prayer, and handed her an invitation to a prophecy seminar that would be happening in the area pretty soon. I left with my heart rejoicing because of God’s goodness and mercy that he had shown me.

However, who said that I was done, because at the very next house, the young man that I canvassed, was quite uninterested and reluctant. That is, until I canvassed him on the Great Controversy. His eyes widened, as he exclaimed, “I have that book, I bought a Great Controversy back in 1998! He even proceeded to describe the book to me as being the one that had a picture of the globe on it with all of the nations flags encircling it. “I have been praying for these missionaries that have been selling these books ever since I purchased mine 17 years ago. I have read the Great Controversy myself and loved it, and I want everyone to get this book too”
—Jerico

As you have read this article I pray that your heart is stirred, and that you too have a desire to join in the Lord’s work of taking the 3 Angels message to the entire world in this generation.

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My Response to An “Old” Book

Things get old in life. Phones become outdated and “slow,” clothes and shoes are no longer in style, and those old college textbooks from the 1800s just won’t cut it anymore in the modern classroom. This is a part of life as we typically know it. However, when this  concept of “old things don’t matter so much” invades our spiritual lives, it becomes very dangerous.

Sadly, in our generation, more and more Christians are not spending time studying the Bible. “LifeWay Research surveyed more than 2,900 Protestant churchgoers and found that while 90 percent ‘desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do,’ only 19 percent personally read the Bible every day.” [1] Why is this the case? I suggest that for most Christians the Bible is… well, kind of old. It is thought of as a book written back in a different time for a specific male dominated Jewish culture, and we live in a modern society about 1,920 years after the last book of the Bible was written. It just doesn’t make sense that the Bible is at all relevant to our practical day-to-day lives today. This is the question we will be asking: Is the Bible really relevant for me today?

The Bible is the inspired Word of God. When the Prophets and Apostles spoke, Paul said “you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God.” (1 Th. 2:13) We are not to think of the Bible as the thoughts of Jewish men dealing only with circumstances that existed during their time. We are to remember that the Bible is God’s Word and since it is His Word, we also need to remember that He “knows the end from the beginning.” When God spoke to His people during the Bible times, He had all people from all time in mind. Notice the following passage.

“Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Co. 10:1-4)

Here Paul is describing the experience of the children of Israel during the time of Moses. Verses 5-10 explains why many of the children of Israel sinned and died in the wilderness. Then we come to verse 11. It says, “ Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1 Co. 10:11) Notice, who was their experience written for? It was written for those who would be alive at the end of the world. That means the Word of God doesn’t become less relevant as time moves forward but the opposite is true. As time passes by and we get nearer and nearer to the Second Coming of Jesus, the Bible becomes more relevant because it was especially written for the group of people alive at the end of the world. Also Paul, when talking about the Scriptures, says, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4) God had you and me in mind when He inspired the writings of the Bible. He knew the spiritual struggles we would go through, the trials of this would we would face, the promises we would need, and the dangers of last day events that we would need to be prepared for. God is love and because He loves us He gave us all that we need for life God has given us in His Holy Word.

Do you spend time every day studying the Bible? Let me rephrase. Do you spend time listening to the words of God that He desires to speak to you? This is the reality of studying the Bible. It is sitting at the feet of the King of the Universe and hearing Him speak and then responding back to Him in prayer. It isn’t an outdated religious exercise. It is essential to having a healthy and vibrant walk with God. The Bible is more relevant today and demand our attention.

“An intensity such as never before was seen is taking possession of the world. In amusement, in moneymaking, in the contest for power, in the very struggle for existence, there is a terrible force that engrosses body and mind and soul. In the midst of this maddening rush, God is speaking. He bids us come apart and commune with Him. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. Many, even in their seasons of devotion, fail of receiving the blessing of real communion with God. They are in too great haste. With hurried steps they press through the circle of Christ’s loving presence, pausing perhaps a moment within the sacred precincts, but not waiting for counsel. They have no time to remain with the divine Teacher. With their burdens they return to their work.” (Education, p. 260)

[1] Weber, Jeremy. “80% of Churchgoers Don’t Read Bible Daily, LifeWay Survey Suggests.” Gleanings. September 2012. http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2012/september/80-of-churchgoers-dont-read-bible-daily-lifeway-survey.html.

Thoughts on Manhood from the Hijab

The original version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog, where he writes about Biblical views on relationships and manhood.

Have you ever studied the practice of veiling among Muslim women?

In the United States, many believe that the hijab, most commonly known form of veiling, functions to oppress women; that the veil is a symbol of the subordination and backwardness of women in Muslim cultures.

Scholar Rachel Anderson Droogsma, however, asked a group of Muslim women living in the United States to articulate the meanings that they ascribe to the veil. Her findings overturn much of the popular perceptions regarding the hijab and other head coverings worn by Muslim women.

Based on her conversations with these women, Droogsma argues that the veil is an “object” that becomes a “sign” of Muslim identity.  In other words, an ordinary object like a piece of cloth transforms into a sign laden with social, cultural, and religious meaning.  Moreover, how that sign is interpreted will vary according to the standpoint of the one doing the interpreting.

Droogsma found, for example, that among Muslim women in the United States, the veil functioned or was interpreted as a visible marker of Muslim identity, a behavior check, a means to resist sexual objectification, and a source of freedom. The meanings that these women give the veil are highly empowering and complex in contrast to the constraining and oppressive readings that are typical of many non-Muslims.

In many ways, the modern concept of manhood and masculinity is about objects that become signs of manhood—about things and practices that come to signify what it means to be a man.

Think about it.  How many men associate masculinity with the colors worn in clothing, the amount you can bench press, ability to fight, the make and model of your car, interest in sports, number of sexual partners, the level of emotion displayed, and how dominant he is over his wife and children?  Do these tangible and intangible objects really reveal what it means to man up?

I am not suggesting that a man can’t or shouldn’t be able to bench press two times his body weight, drive a Porsche 918 Spider, remain calm in tragedies, protect and lead his family, enjoy watching Stephen Curry break his own records, or wear finely tailored Armani suits with a fuchsia shirt.

But I would argue that manning up is much more about responsibility, integrity, and character.  In my opinion, many of the “objects” we seek to obtain as a sign of our manhood can often serve to veil our insecurities as men.  These objects are sometimes our escape from the tenacity, discipline, humility, and inner qualities that truly make us men.  Great men.

When the servant of the Lord wants define the kind of man needed in the world, notice the modern measurements missing:

“The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall” (Education 57).

In fact, in her counsel to young men, she makes it even more plain by stating…

“It is manly to do right, and Jesus will help you to do right, if you seek to do it because it is right” (Messages to Young People 175).

From the very creation of man, the Divine intention was not to define man by what existed around him, for in the creation of man the Creator looked at Himself and said, “Let Us…” (Genesis 1:26). The standard for man’s creation and purpose were to be found in God Himself.  Godliness, God-like-ness, was the very essence of manhood—and everything else was peripheral.

Think for a moment on a pursuit of our own hijab as men.  An authentic, trans-cultural sign of manhood.  Something that functions as a behavior check, a means to resisting sexual objectifying, and a source of freedom.  A sign that would be highly empowering and contrast society’s oppressive readings that are typical of boys who have not yet become men.


 

Sebastien Braxton is a speaker for this year’s GYC conference in Louisville, Kentucky, to be held December 30 – January 3.  He is the former program director for CAMPUS and the founder of STRIDE, a public campus ministry training program in Boston, and, more recently, R3.  R3 is a non-profit think tank that seeks to mobilize youth into meaningful service around the world.

Earn

“There are many ways in which children can earn money themselves and can act their part in bringing thank offerings to Jesus, who gave His own life for them.” – Adventist Home, p. 387.

This is the second installment of a three-part series encouraging people–particularly young people–to financially support the cause of God. Last time we mentioned a few practical ways to save money in your daily life. Today we’ll do the same for earning.

Sell Your Stuff
Mark 6 records the miraculous feeding of the 5,000. When the disciples wanted to send the multitude away to buy food for themselves, Christ challenged them saying, “You give them something to eat.” Incredulous, the disciples asked, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?” In response, Jesus simply asked, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” What Jesus was able to do through the small store of goods on hand should be a lesson for us today.

Liquidate your assets by selling stuff you already have. Garage sales, consignment shops, and online vendors like Ebay can turn otherwise unused clutter into the very means needed to further God’s work. Emilie and I have saved and made literally thousands of dollars on Craigslist alone.

“The means in our possession may not seem to be sufficient for the work; but if we will move forward in faith, believing in the all-sufficient power of God, abundant resources will open before us. If the work be of God, He Himself will provide the means for its accomplishment. He will reward honest, simple reliance upon Him. The little that is wisely and economically used in the service of the Lord of heaven will increase in the very act of imparting.” – The Desire of Ages, p. 371.

Get Crafty
“Many a child who lives out of the city can have a little plot of land where he can learn to garden. He can be taught to make this a means of securing money to give to the cause of God.” – Adventist Home, p. 387 For some, gardening and selling produce at a roadside stand is still possible, while for others, being part of an army of youth gardeners just isn’t really a viable option. Nevertheless, take that same gardening spirit and do something equally enterprising. Make decorative mason jar crafts to sell door-to-door or at flea markets, like soup mixes, homemade laundry detergent, or glow-in-the dark gak. (yes, those last two are actual things- look them up!). While they were mere teenagers, Ellen Harmon and her two sisters exemplified this godly entrepreneurial spirit, determining to raise money for the cause of God through personal industry.

“Our father was a hatter, and it was my allotted task to make the crowns of the hats, that being the easiest part of the work. I also knit stockings at twenty-five cents a pair. My heart was so weak that I was obliged to sit propped up in bed to do this work; but day after day I sat there, happy that my trembling fingers could do something to bring in a little pittance for the cause I loved so dearly. Twenty-five cents a day was all I could earn. How carefully would I lay aside the precious bits of silver taken in return, which were to be expended for reading matter to enlighten and arouse those who were in darkness!” – Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, p. 47

If a sickly teenage girl in the 19th century could make 25¢ a day knitting socks, what on earth can you do today? Set up the proverbial–or even maybe even literal–lemonade stand and see how the Lord blesses!

Sweat Equity
If not wealthy in material goods, shift your focus to services. What things can you do that other people can’t or would rather not do for themselves? You don’t need expensive equipment to do many of the routine tasks people avoid. Armed with just a little wagon of supplies, go door-to-door in area

subdivisions. Offer, for a nominal fee (or better yet, a donation to a particular mission project) to clean houses, weed gardens and flowerbeds, or wash/detail cars. If you raised even $10 in an hour, that’s still the equivalent of a $10/hr job that required no interview process, uniform, long-term commitment, or really any overhead or start-up costs!

Even in a dormitory situation, this type of service industry could be fruitful. Watch a bunch of YouTube instructional videos, buy a set of clippers and shears from Walmart, and turn your dorm room into a low- cost, high-profit barbershop. Or how about this: iron and starch shirts for 25¢ apiece or 5 for $1. Literally anything people can do but don’t enjoy doing is an opportunity to forward the cause of God.

A non-commercial yet equally equitable use of your time and talents could be to have several of your friends put together a mission and music program that you put on for local church vespers. Have some special music numbers interspersed with testimonies of the creative ways you’ve saved and earned for the cause of Christ and at the end collect a love offering that will be added to those funds.

Reading Revenue
“In many instances if promising youth were wisely encouraged and properly directed, they could be led to earn their own schooling by taking up the sale of Christ’s Object Lessons or The Ministry of Healing. In selling these books they would be acting as missionaries, for they would be bringing light to the notice of the people of the world. At the same time they would be earning money to enable them to attend school where they could continue their preparation for wider usefulness in the Lord’s cause.” – Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 526

I’m encouraged by the thousands of Adventist young people who continue to heed this call for youth colporteurs by participating in summer literature evangelism programs. Ask almost anyone who has taken up this challenging work and they’ll tell you it not only raises money for the cause of Christ but helps develop a Christ-like character as well. If you’ve never done literature work, its never too late to start.

Ingathering
There was a time when Ingathering was a highlight of local church life. I vividly recall tagging along with our little singing bands roving through nearby neighborhoods in the freezing cold to knock on doors and solicit donations for mission work, after which everyone would head to the gym to thaw out and drink hot cider. For a great many, Ingathering, like an Adventist lithograph from Courier and Ives, still evokes fond holiday memories of days gone by.

If your church no longer has an active Ingathering program, get a few friends together and volunteer to breathe new life into the ministry Mrs. White declared in Christian Service p. 167 to have “proved a success, bringing blessing to many, and increasing the flow of means into the mission treasury.” (For a handy compilation of Mrs. White’s counsel in this area, click here.)

Clearly the Lord doesn’t need our nickels, dimes, and quarters. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He declares in Psalm 50:12 how “the world is Mine, and all its fullness.” But His purpose in using us as His agents is as much for our salvation as it is those we’re trying to help. Just as the Lord taught the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 8:18, I believe He is still teaching us today that His blessing in material wealth is to be a continual reminder of His covenant of peace: “And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

5 Ways to Respond to the GC Vote

Last Wednesday, fifty-eight percent of General Conference delegates from around the world voted against the motion that would have allowed individual divisions to decide whether to ordain women to the gospel ministry.

The outcome of the much-awaited vote has been welcome news for many.  For others, it has brought sadness, dismay, anger, and frustration.  The explosion of emotion on Twitter alone in the aftermath of the business meeting has attested to how invested those of us on all “sides” have been in this debate.

And while last week’s vote has officially settled matters, it is clear that the question remains for many: where do we go from here?  How will we, or I, or they, respond to the vote?  Here are a few suggestions.

1.  Study it out:

How has this vote evoked both disappointment and affirmation?  Why does the Adventist Church care enough to devote an entire day to this topic?  Why is my Facebook feed blowing up?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, now is the time to study the topic yourself.  It’s time to own our church and form informed, Bible-based views on the issues of ordination and women in ministry (and many others).

2.  Hold the applause: 

Elder Mike Ryan’s steely handling of the Wednesday business meeting has forever endeared him to many of us.  In the wake of Wednesday, it would be wise to continue to heed his appeals to hold the applause: to eschew competitive or “my side won/lost” attitudes.

Rather, we’ve sought the Lord’s will together and we must trust that this outcome is an answer to our sincere prayers for guidance—not the score for an Adventist Superbowl.  Trust that He never withholds His guidance from those who sincerely seek.  “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

For all those who’ve ever received a “no” to a genuine and heartfelt prayer request, perhaps you can relate to the disappointment that some feel now.  Rejoice simply because the Lord has led His people; this, publicize.  But there is no Biblical support for indulging competitive attitudes, biting comments, or bitterness.

3.  Be a missionary:

As discussion and debate continues about Wednesday’s vote, we may find ourselves failing to demonstrate concretely why this issue matters at all.  Any principles regarding the order of the church facilitate its ultimate goal: mission.

That’s hopefully why we all care so much.  It’s time to get off Facebook and Twitter and make real sacrifices to share Jesus with those who are dying for lack of an Everlasting Hope.

Need ideas for how to reach out?  Check out some of the opportunities we’ve listed on our website:

GYC 1 Million GLOW Challenge

INTERmission

Mission Service & Training Opportunities

4.  Believe in your church: 

Many have remarked that it is God’s calling or ordination that matters, not “manmade” policies.

But consider this: the church is God’s beautiful bride.  Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, tells us that the union between man and woman is analogous to the union between God and His church (Ephesians 5).  And Jesus is the “head of body, the church” (Colossians 1:18).

Believe and trust that God works on this earth through His church as embodied in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the remnant church of Bible prophecy.  The organization and order of our body reflect the leading of God.  As Ellen G. White noted in the context of the early organizational efforts of the church,

“[This church structure] has been built up by His direction, through much sacrifice and conflict.  Let none of our brethren be so deceived as to attempt to tear it down, for you will thus bring in a condition of things that you do not dream of.  In the name of the Lord I declare to you that it is to stand, strengthened, established, and settled” (CET 197).

The General Conference assembly is a part of this divinely-built church structure.  Note the authority which is invested in its decisions:

“Never should the mind of one man or the minds of a few men be regarded as sufficient in wisdom and power to control the work and to say what plans should be followed.  But when, in a General Conference, the judgment of the brethren assembled from all parts of the field is exercised, private independence and private judgment must not be stubbornly maintained, but surrendered.  Never should a laborer regard as a virtue the persistent maintenance of his position of independence, contrary to the decision of the general body” (9T 260).

It is time to thoughtfully reconsider how personal opinion and the wisdom of the “general body” relate.

Take hope: God loves His church and leads His church.  Ellen White’s remarks on the disappointment of 1844 give us courage that Jesus knows the pains and disappointments of the church, “Not one cloud has fallen upon the church that God has not prepared for; not one opposing force has risen to counter work the work of God that He has not foreseen” (CTr 340).  He is leading.

5.  Trust in Jesus:

Surrender your “truth” to Jesus, Who is the “way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).  We need to worry less about seeing this debate to our desired end and entrust it to the Savior.  Jesus’ death has guaranteed that truth will prevail in this universe.

If you believe that Jesus is on the side of truth, and if you believe that the Lord is leading this church, you’ll join me in supporting the decision of the world church last Wednesday in word and deed.  Pray for unity, that the world may know Jesus and His love (John 17:23).

We’re up for more suggestions on how to respond.  Tell us in the comments below.