Unvictorious Believers in Victory

Idea: A simple thing prevents victory; a simple solution brings it.

What do you think about persons who claim to believe in victory over sin but who obviously and routinely fall under temptation?

Or does that describe you? And if so, how do you cope? Isn’t the thought that you are lost hopelessly discouraging? Don’t you feel a panic at the idea that the Spirit isn’t living inside of you? Aren’t you terrified by the truth?

Hebrews 10:26,27—”For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,  but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”

The gospel promises of victory and cleansing, of holiness and purity, seem to mock many. They have at times mocked me. And no mockery is so cruel as that of God’s promises to the one who fails to reap their rewards.


Culion, Palawan, Philippines

This is why, when I was on the little Island of Culion (in the western Philippines, north of Palawan) only two months ago, I was thrilled to come across a simple statement that helped me see why I have victory at times and have little of the same at others.

Here is the statement:

“The darkness of the evil one encloses those who neglect to pray. The whispered temptations of the enemy entice them to sin; and it is all because they do not make use of the privileges that God has given them in the divine appointment of prayer. Why should the sons and daughters of God be reluctant to pray, when prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven’s storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence? Without unceasing prayer and diligent watching we are in danger of growing careless and of deviating from the right path. The adversary seeks continually to obstruct the way to the mercy seat, that we may not by earnest supplication and faith obtain grace and power to resist temptation” (Steps to Christ 94).

Do you see it simply? Believers in victory experience defeat nonetheless. And why? For the very reason that they do not make sufficient use of prayer to connect with God! It sounds like what Jesus said:

Matthew 26:41—”Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Now men who love to preach against bad theology often have issues with temper and evil speaking (I say this from experience dealing with their teenage children). Why is this?

We need not look for gospel answers in the high-flung reasoning of persons who collect graduate degrees. The gospel was made for common men and the best answers can be understood by them.  Perhaps it is as simple as a neglect of “unceasing prayer” that leads to such moral carelessness.

Believing in victory doesn’t bring it automatically. Faith is the hand that reaches for the vault of heaven’s treasure, but even faith needs a key. And prayer, unceasing prayer, is that key. Prayer—don’t forget it—is the key.

What was I doing on Culion? I was with the Young Disciple Mission Experience team. And though there were two evangelistic series going on (four if you count the children’s meetings separately), I wasn’t preaching to the Filipinos.

Rather, my part was to give worships for the Young Disciple workers about Steps to Christ, giving two or three worship talks per chapter. We covered the book in a month.

Let me testify about that: I had read Steps to Christ previously. In fact, I had done so repeatedly. I had given scores of worships directly from the book. So how did the experience of preaching through the book go for me? Was it like examining the back of my hand anew?


It was a new experience. The Spirit used recent experiences and things I have been learning to magnify the value and meaning of so many sentences. I was revived.

My wife, Heidi, was with me on the trip. When she was a teenager she had a negative view of Ellen White. She had heard things, you know. And though she had never read anything by her, she was braced to not appreciate whatever that lady might have to say.

Idea: A simple thing prevents victory; a simple solution brings it.

But someone friend, a good friend, gave Heidi a Steps to Christ that apparently did not have the author’s name prominently located on the book. As a teen being raised in a “Whiteless” environment, she didn’t recognize the title.  So she read the book.

And it changed her life.

It wasn’t that it has some great complicated formula for spiritual living. No, it was just that it has a simple, straightforward presentation of how much God’s love has done to save us, and of just what we must do to experience all the blessings He has for us.

What I am hoping is that someone reading this will be inspired to give that book another slow reading, have an ‘aha!’ moment, and begin again a lost habit of unceasing prayer.

I am hoping that those who believe in victory over sin will experience it. And I am hoping that will add power and gospel content to their sermons.

That is what simple truth can do.

Sacrificial Saving

As part of the closing charge at GYC 2014, I challenged attendees to give funds for mission work, from $1 and upward per week. I am absolutely convinced that the amount of money raised by young people through sacrificial saving, creative earning, or personal influence would be staggering if everyone were to do faithfully what they can.

In this post we’ll focus on the first of those three ways of funding God’s work: sacrificial saving.


The prophet asks rhetorically in Isaiah 55:2, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?”

In our focus on its broader intent, we should not overlook the tremendous practical concern this question raises. How do we, as Seventh-day Adventists tasked with giving the Third Angel’s Message to the world, use our money? Are we making special efforts to economize and give liberally to the work of God or do we merely give sporadically of whatever is left after both our needs and wants have been satiated?

“There is altogether too much self-indulgence among us. Money is spent for that which is not bread. Let those who would please the Master listen to his words, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.’ Let us willingly practice these words, and we shall be blessed. If all that has been invested in self-gratification were counted up, the amount would astonish every church in the land.” (Review and Herald, November 14, 1899)

“We are all members of the Lord’s family, and the Lord would have His children, young and old, determine to deny appetite, and to save the means needed for the building of meetinghouses and the support of missionaries…Many would be surprised to see how much could be saved for the cause of God by acts of self-denial. The small sums saved by deeds of sacrifice will do more for the upbuilding of the cause of God than larger gifts will accomplish that have not called for denial of self.”  (Review and Herald, February 24, 1910)

To help ease you in to a life of sacrificial living, for one month try a few of the following and add up the money saved for Jesus.

1. Next time you go out to eat, do with just a tiny bit less. If you go to Taco Bell, get one less burrito; if you order a pizza, get one less topping. Combine those with an exchange of water for soda and you’ve got several dollars saved right there.

2. Also, drop coffee altogether. Not only is it physically and morally destructive, but in today’s caffeinated culture it isn’t even cheap! For example, eliminating just one drink from Starbucks a week would save you over $15 a month. (For a handy calculator for how much you spend on coffee, click here. Wouldn’t you rather give your money to the Lord instead of to big caffeine?)

3. While we’re on the subject of young people and saving money, let’s not forget entertainment.  If you simply must stream something to watch, swap out Netflix and Hulu for PBS. While public television definitely has shows to avoid, there are far more informative and edifying things there and without that pesky price tag. Of course, HOPE Channel, 3ABN, and many other Adventist media ministries stream and archive content free of charge, all of it positively helpful to your Christian walk.

4. And finally, since movie theaters are just as good for your character as coffee is for your heart, brain, stomach, and nerves, stop wasting your precious time and money there altogether, too.

1013619_10152726889697809_8905546408287417077_nAs you take steps toward a life of greater sacrifice, keep in mind the following promise: “The one who is a faithful steward is constantly giving, and God is constantly supplying that the channel shall not become dried up. But it is not the rich alone that are to sustain the cause of God in our world; those who have been blessed with the light of truth can learn to practice self-denial, and have something to give. All the little rivulets made to flow into the channel of doing good, blessing humanity, will keep the treasury supplied with means.” (Review and Herald, March 8, 1887)

In the comment section below or on the social media of your preference (using #sacrificialsaving and @gycweb), share some of the small ways you’ve found to deny yourself for the cause of Christ.  You can also donate your savings through GYC’s portal HERE; proceeds will go to mission projects in Southeast Asia.

Retreat Report, Day 3

Read about Days 1 & 2 of our retreat here.


After a long run of meetings, we opened the Sabbath with a devotional by one of our ECOM members on the promises God made to Abraham.  We were all sobered by Abraham’s patience for his long-awaited son, buoyed with his belief in the promises of God.  We were inspired to trust God’s Word to us always (even when it means waiting 25 years!).

In themorning, we worshipped together at the Louisville First Seventh-day Adventist Church.  Thank you, Louisville First, for welcoming us so warmly and preparing a potluck for us!  After enjoying a meal together, half of the ECOM attended a Pathfinder Bible Bowl in Bowling Green while the other half of us went door-to-door in Louisville sharing GLOW.  It was a blessing to meet Pathfinder youth as well as community members and to share literature that points them to Jesus.  (If you haven’t joined us already, check out our 1 Million GLOW Challenge!)

One of the best things about GYC ECOM meetings in my opinion is seeing our fellow committee members in person.  We don’t know about you, but it’s just a little harder to make our creative juices flow in teleconferences!  After outreach, we sat around the table at our house eating cereal and leftovers for dinner and brainstorming ideas for our Louisville conference.  Some of our best and wildest ideas have been born in these informal conversations not between ECOM members, but simply friends.


After sunset and evening vespers, we resumed our meetings with further discussion about Louisville and our departmental reports.  We were reminded once again that we want to simply honor God and not please man in all of our planning—may He find us faithful.

We’ll be up a bit later than usual this evening in order to wrap things up by tomorrow morning, we’ll be flying and driving out to our respective homes.  Would you please continue to keep our meetings, decisions, and travel in prayer?  We are grateful for God’s leading thus far and expect great things from Him.

Retreat Report, Days 1 & 2

Despite an intense snowstorm that blanketed the city last night, the GYC Executive Committee has arrived safely in Louisville for our annual retreat.


We began our meetings yesterday by discussing what has influenced our personal spiritual lives—books, mentors, sermons, and mission experiences.  We then opened up the floor to one of our usual brainstorming sessions, affectionately known as “Green Lighting.”  Among our crazier [informal] brainstorming ideas today: bow ties with the GYC logo…?!   That idea may not get very far in a “Red Light and Implementation” session, which is likely coming later this weekend.

A member of our Board of Directors also joined us for most of the day to conduct evaluations of each ECOM team member.  The feedback we received about our strengths and weaknesses will help us to more faithfully and effectively complete our responsibilities in 2015.

With some of us still reeling from the challenges of delayed flights, lost bags, and long drives, we retired for a restful night of sleep.  This morning, we spent a season in prayer asking for the Lord’s help and thanking Him for His love for us.  As we were reminded in our group worship, it is not that we need to love God more, but that we need to recognize more His love for us.  “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

We then continued yesterday’s discussions about a concrete vision for our Louisville conference—happening live as I write this.  In the afternoon, we’ll visit the Kentucky International Convention Center in downtown Louisville.  We’re requesting your prayers for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and wish you all a happy Sabbath!

Read about the last day of our retreat here.

13 Quotables from GYC 2014

quotable 2

We collected some of the most quotable/tweetable/bloggable lines from the main meetings at this year’s GYC in Phoenix, Arizona.  It was hard to choose only thirteen—there are so many more we could have included!  

13.  “Jesus was not loaned, He was given.” (Pr. Kameron Devasher)

12.  “Today’s mantra is freedom, but it is Jesus Who offers ultimate freedom.” (Dr. Michael Hasel)

11.  “When Protestant leaders are going back to Catholicism, God is calling for a generation of young people to go back to the Bible.” (Pr. David Shin)

10.  “In this culture it is very popular to search and search and search.  But it is very unpopular to find the answer.” (Dr. Michael Hasel)

9.  “Lean hard.” (Natasha Nebblett)

8.  “It’s about time to put your faith into action.” (Esther Caukill)

7.  “It is only through connecting to the Bible that we can be fruitful and faithful in this age of faithlessness.” (Elder Ted Wilson)

6.  “Obedience has nothing to do with legalism and everything to do with loyalty.” (Pr. Kameron Devasher)

5.  “The DNA of our Adventist message is prophetic, not pathetic.” (Dr. Ingo Sorke)

4.  “…nevertheless.” (Pr. Adam Ramdin)

3.  “But God did the opposite of Adam.  He was willing to give up His most prized possession.” (Pr. Stephen Bohr)

2.  “The sanctuary is more than a doctrine.  It is to be a roadmap for doing theology.” (Pr. David Shin)

And perhaps the pithiest of them all:

1.  “It is OK to be SDA.” (Dr. Ingo Sorke)

Didn’t get a chance to attend this year’s conference?  Check out our YouTube channel to hear the messages you missed.  Be sure to also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more exciting updates about GYC throughout the year.

He Was the Desire of Ages

Who is Jesus?

This is the Man regarding whom James Allan Francis comments, “When we try to sum up his influence, all the armies that ever marched, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned are absolutely picayune in their influence on mankind compared with that of this one solitary life.”

By the simple, short record of three and a half years, He changed the world more profoundly than any other.

The Desire of Ages is that record—not through the eye of a historian, a philosopher, or a theologian, though these perspectives, too, are clearly present, but through the eye of a soul that shares in the tensions of the human heart.

Here are captured and answered the tensions between hope and despair, shame and acceptance, meaningless and meaningful living, doubt and faith, guilt and forgiveness, the past and the future, false and true religion, and desire and fulfillment.

Who is Jesus? The contrast between the timeless tensions He resolved and the brevity of His life suggests that Jesus must have been more than a Galilean carpenter or a radical rabbi.  He was more than a momentary spark in the chronicles of human history or one of many prophets.  He was the Desire of Ages.

This short blurb appears on the back cover of GYC’s reprinting of The Desire of Ages, which is available for the first time at the 2014 conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

Are you interested in buying your copy of the The Desire of Ages?  Visit the GYC booth at the conference in the Exhibit Hall!  For bulk sales, contact resources@gycweb.org.

Witnessing to the Wealthy, Worldly, and Well-Educated

There is a group of, by some estimates, over 60 million people who need the Gospel, yet are evangelistically neglected. They are among the most difficult to reach, and “traditional” methods tend not to work well with this group. Ellen White describes the situation:

We talk and write much of the neglected poor; should not some attention be given also to the neglected rich? Many look upon this class as hopeless…Thousands of wealthy men have gone to their graves unwarned because they have been judged by appearance and passed by as hopeless subjects. But, indifferent as they may appear, I have been shown that most of this class are soul-burdened. There are thousands of rich men who are starving for spiritual food. Many in official life feel their need of something which they have not. Few among them go to church, for they feel that they receive no benefit. The teaching they hear does not touch the soul. Shall we make no personal effort in their behalf? (6T 78.3)

 At GYC 2013, I presented a seminar entitled “Witnessing to the Wealthy, Worldly, and Well-Educated (W3s),” based on my experiences sharing Christ with MBAs, PhDs, JDs, and other highly successful professionals by engaging in spiritual conversations on a daily basis, some of which turned into personal Bible studies.

I was surprised and gratified by the groundswell of interest that people had in witnessing to this neglected group. It seemed that many of us have W3s in our lives, yet find it very difficult and even intimidating to talk with them about spiritual things.

In response to this need, a small group of us started the Nicodemus Society. We are a fellowship of committed Seventh-day Adventists who have a heart for reaching the W3s in our lives. We take our inspiration from Christ’s example of conversing with and ministering to Nicodemus, “a ruler of the Jews” and member of the Sanhedrin, who first came to Him by night.

Like W3s in our modern society, Nicodemus felt a need for what Jesus had, but was initially ashamed to approach him openly. Yet, Jesus ministered to him personally, and Nicodemus ultimately boldly came forward to bear the expenses of His burial and became a pillar of the early church, exerting his considerable means and influence to help spread the Gospel.

We are just getting started. Our intent is to build a community of SDAs who share this passion, and develop resources, programs, and opportunities to fellowship, learn, and become equipped to be powerful soul winners in the W3 community.

If you also have a heart for winning the Wealthy, Worldly, and Well-Educated, sign up for email updates at our website, visit our booth at GYC this year, and pray for God’s blessing and leading as we develop this ministry.

Nicodemus started out coming to Jesus in secret, but was transformed into a leader of the early church. It is our prayer that we would see this transformation in our own lives, and in the lives of the W3s around us.


Big World, Pale Blue Dot

I distinctly remember my first time traveling outside North America. As I walked along the airport terminal, I scanned at the flights boards—London, Paris, Munich, Moscow, Cairo, Stockholm, Dubai, Beijing—and then the faces of people from these cities all around the world.

I had just come from a summer evangelism program where I’d seen God work in unbelievable ways. But now I was beginning to feel overwhelmed at the utter magnitude of people that still didn’t know Jesus.

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel…”  The world seemed much bigger than I realized before. Slumping down in a corner of the airport, I began asking God how His command was even possible.

Can you relate?

Let’s switch perspectives for a moment.

It was February 14,1990, and the Voyager 1 spacecraft screamed through the darkness of space, traveling forty thousand miles per hour away from the Sun. Launched thirteen years earlier, in 1977, Voyager was now beyond Pluto, having successfully accomplished its mission of photographing each of our distant neighbor planets. Amazingly, though the spacecraft was flying past the edges of our solar system, scientists had Voyager take one last Earth-facing image before continuing on its one-way journey away from the Sun through space.[1]

The picture Voyager sent back to earth has come to be called “The Pale Blue Dot”. It’s a much different picture than those taken by Apollo missions, in which the Earth looks like a beautifully designed marble floating in dark night.

For the first time, humanity was looking at the Earth from the edges of the solar system, and it rocked the world of astronomy. Suspended in a shaft of light is a tiny speck.

That speck is us. Not you and me. Not our town, our state, our country, or our continent. It’s the Earth.

The arrow points to the Earth; photo taken from 3.7 billion miles away

The arrow points to the Earth; photo taken from 3.7 billion miles away (Source: Scientific American/NASA)

This picture was taken from the edge of our solar system. The size of our solar system in relation to our Milky Way Galaxy is roughly about the size of a quarter in relation to the entire North American continent. And our galaxy is only one of innumerable others in our universe.

But here’s the kicker: our God breathed this universe into existence.

He’s the same God who came and died for us. He’s the same God who is longing to live inside of each of us so that we become like Him and shed His glory in our world, our pale blue dot.

Maybe the problem isn’t with the impossibility of the command, but with our understanding of the God who has given it.

[1] Louie Giglio and Matt Redman, Indescribable: Encountering the Glory of God in the Beauty of the Universe (David C. Cook, 2011), 59.

Retreat Report: Days 3 & 4

After welcoming the Sabbath together with a short vespers thought last night, we met again this morning at the Rochester Seventh-day Adventist Church for Sabbath School and church.  Dr. Michael Hasel, one of our Board of Directors (BOD) members and professor of archaeology at Southern Adventist University, gave a short presentation on the meaning of seals in the Bible.  We were deeply impressed by the material evidences of Bible truth that he showed us–and I think his presentation may have kindled some secret aspirations to become archaeologists!

In the afternoon, some of us went on a beautiful Sabbath hike at a nearby park.  The crisp air and beautiful trees and fields were reminders of God’s goodness.


The Executive Committee (ECOM) let our creative juices flow in the evening with a lively brainstorming session (or as we call it, a “Green Light Session”).  We use these sessions to share new ideas we’d like to implement throughout the year and at our conferences.


ECOM and BOD wrapped up a few more agenda items on Sunday morning.  We were reviewed how what has given GYC its influence is its simple presentation of the Word of God–and we believe that such a presentation will be the secret to the success of any other youth movement around the world.  While the ECOM and BOD do not always meet together, I have been particularly blessed by the reflections and wisdom that some of our older BOD members have shared throughout the weekend about the history of GYC as well as how God has used them individually in their professional careers.

We want to give all the glory to God for how He has led this weekend.  Please pray for us as we travel back to our respective locations, and as we follow up on the exciting things we have discussed.

Read about Days 1 & 2 of our retreat here!

Retreat Report: Days 1 & 2

Greetings from Minnesota, where we are currently in our second day of GYC Executive Committee (ECOM) and Board of Director (BOD) meetings.  Some of us have arrived quite late in the evenings from various locations around North America, but God has been giving us energy as we talk and brainstorm together.

Yesterday, the ECOM learned the power of prayer once again as we tackled a difficult item on the agenda.  After a season of prayer asking for God to collectively impress us with a solution, we were able to come to an agreement in a single hour–in comparison to the much longer discussion we’d anticipated.  We know that sometimes God leads us through longer processes, but we are very grateful for the way He guided yesterday morning.


Several departmental heads also had an opportunity to update the rest of the ECOM on our plans for the upcoming conference in Phoenix in December.  (We hope you’re going to join us!)

Today, the ECOM was joined by the BOD, who flew in yesterday, for joint-meetings.  After breakfast and worship, we began by reviewing how God led the beginnings of GYC.  We were blessed to remember the Holy Spirit’s leading in this movement.

Please pray for us as we continue to meet this afternoon and the rest of this weekend.  Happy Sabbath, GYC!

Read about Days 3 & 4 of our retreat here!