July 28, 2017
Signs of the Times
by Steve Walikonis
Part of our heritage as Seventh-day Adventists includes the familiar words, signs of the times. Those words even became the brand of one of our flagship publications. Rightly so, because our interest in Bible prophecy has led us to believe the appearing of our Lord is approaching because of the many signs in the world. How fortunate we are to be informed by scripture! It enables us to face the future with a fair amount of courage.
by Chad Washburn
Village Church Outreach Coordinator
“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 NKJV).
I grew up in a family where there was a lot of teasing. My older brother was an expert teaser; he knew how to get under your skin and make you cry. Though he thought it was funny to feed his young brothers red hot chili peppers from the yard, he was the only one laughing until mom found out. Now that I’m a father, I often hear my wife quoting this passage to me, don’t provoke you daughter to wrath. “Oh, I’m just having a little fun with her,” I tell her. Then it comes to discipline… Some guidance please! I don’t have very fond memories of the discipline I received as a child. As a child, I often provoked my mom to the point of wrath which led to broken spoons, hangers, and being grounded to my room.
Parenting is not easy, but it is very much a blessing. Eph 6:4: Fathers (parents) do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the nurture and instruction of the Lord. There are four important words in verse 4: ‘exasperate’, ‘bring up’, ‘nurture’ and ‘instruction’.
Paul writes: “Do not exasperate your children.” The Phillips translation says, “And parents, never drive your children to resentment.” Paul repeats this counsel in Col. 3:21: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children that they may not lose heart.” Does this mean I can never let my kids get angry? Does it mean I need to avoid anything that upsets them? No. Paul’s point is, “Don't parent in such a way that they lose heart.”
What can cause a child to lose heart? 1. High Expectations: Expectations need to be high, but attainable. 2. Put downs: Degrading comments and excessive negative reinforcement has the opposite effect from what we intend. 3. Comparison to others: Comparing them with someone else, making them feel that they have to live up to someone else's accomplishments. 4. Not respecting feelings: Feelings are real, so acknowledge them. Don't judge or put feelings down, but talk about them.
So what are the alternatives to “exasperating”? Paul goes on, “instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This verb, “bring up,” literally means “to rear, nourish, raise, cherish, feed.” Paul is using the present active imperative here, giving a command that the parents will continue to nurture their children in the instruction of the Lord. What does it mean to nurture your child? When I hear this word, I often envision a mother bird shoving food down a chick’s throat—the connotation being, “I’m going to feed you good stuff and you have no choice.” However in the Greek, the word translated “bring [them] up” is the same word used in 2 Timothy 3:15-16 in the context of the Word of God being useful for teaching or for making one wise for salvation. And in Hebrews 12, the same word is used in the context of God disciplining those He loves. In other words, this nurture or instruction or nourishment is not simply for the purpose of feeding a child for today or this week; we are to cherish them as God cherishes us and to plant seeds like Scripture that will allow them to grow “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” and thoroughly equip them “for every good work.”
What are some of the practical qualities of a loving relationship that will help nurture children? Here are a few:
i) Unconditional love: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
Your children are not perfect. You’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. But God loves us unconditionally. I love the point made in Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It is hard to love others when they seem unlovable, but the realization that God loves us even when we ourselves are unlovable can compel us to extend the same unconditional love to those around us—especially to our children.
ii) Words of Affirmation: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6)
Words of affirmation can instill in our kids good values, confidence, focus and belief. Positive affirmations can do a lot to assist children in developing healthy self-esteem. Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, authors of the book, The Five Love Languages of Children, say that words are a powerful way to communicate love. And they are not talking about just saying “I love you.” Words of affirmation can be
words of praise
words of endearment
words of encouragement
words of affection
words of guidance
The authors remind us that “children think we deeply believe what we say.” The more we affirm the good, the more we water it so it can grow and blossom.
iii) Quality time: “…redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). The word “redeeming” in the Greek can mean “to buy up, ransom, or rescue from loss.” We have the opportunity to rescue from loss the time that remains in our life and our children’s lives. We can only redeem today and plan to redeem tomorrow, for yesterday is gone! We alone are responsible for using what God has given to each of us—time—to be fully present with our children and to help prepare them for this life and the life to come.
June 1, 2017
The Village Gold-Standard
by Jeff Kinne
The answer is yes; . . . now what is your question?
That sentence was overheard in the corridors of one of the world’s best hotels – the Ritz-Carlton. The excellence of the this brand is the result of what the company calls “Gold Standards” – the values and philosophy that guide their operation. The Ritz-Carlton has very clearly defined, deeply held beliefs that act as kind of moral and behavioral compass. Those core values are so lived out by every employee at every facility, that the chain has become famous for excellence in service.
The word “No” is simply not in the vocabulary of Ritz-Carlton employees because going beyond the expected is what is expected.
The answer is Yes; . . . Now what is your question?
Now imagine how God might be honored if the Village church family really embraced and winsomely displayed our core values? Earlier this year, as a congregation, we identified five highly esteemed, vitally important principles that God would have us do and be. Here they are:
- Lovingkindness: Graciously connecting with others as Jesus would
- Integrity: Humbly affirming God’s inspired Word
- Service: Impartially investing ourselves in helping others
- Worship: Joyfully honoring God in life-changing praise
- Witness: Lovingly sharing the Good News of Jesus and His soon return
Now the question: Are our actions consistent with our values? Is our doing and behaving corporately and individually in alignment with these Bible-based ideals?
Am I treating other people with kindness, respect, compassion, generosity and honor . . . the way Jesus did and would. Am I a person of the Book, honoring and obeying God’s word as His inspired counsel for my life? Is my life about helping others? Do I regularly worship God sincerely, joyfully, respectfully, adoringly? Am I lovingly living God’s love?
Ellen White said it well: “The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian. . . . If we would humble ourselves before God, and be kind and courteous and tenderhearted and pitiful, there would be one hundred conversions to the truth where now there is only one.” The Ministry of Healing, p. 470; Testimonies to the Church, Vol. 9, p. 189
May our church becomes known as the place filled with gracious kindness, humble integrity, impartial service, joyful worship and loving witness.
May 26, 2017
A Final Word
By Kevin McGill
March 17, 2017
Who Are You?
By Dan Solís
Who are you? What are you worth? Basketball players atop the N.B.A. can demand five or ten million. Baseball players face a similar dilemma. In many areas elementary teachers start in the twenty thousands! The fast food worker, whose lack of cleanliness could cause you to be seriously ill or even be hospitalized, probably gets minimum wage. Is your identity determined by your wage or by what others say you are worth?
How do you determine who you are? By how much money you make? By your job position or title? By what others say about you? By how well you do your job? By the amount or quality of the things you own? By how many people have to do what you say? By the number of people who turn their heads when they see your physique, your car, your athletic skills, your companion, your home, or your toys? How do you determine who you are? By your religiosity, by your intellectual achievements, your pious ways, your morally acceptable record? Does you yacht, your large screen television, your luxury import car, your church office, or your social position define you?
All the above are but different ways of saying the same thing: You are what you do. You are your achievements, your annual evaluation, etc. You are because of what you’ve done. If you do not do, you are not. You do not exist. Christ’s gospel has another answer to the question, and to my knowledge it is the only other answer. That answer is, “You are my child. You are my family. You belong to Me.”
When I was born into my family I did not do a thing to qualify for family membership. I did not pay my parents for the privilege. I did not perform so much better than the other little embryos that my parents picked me. Even before my parents saw me, even before I could be detected by ultrasound, I was part of a family, simply because my parents had brought me into existence. I can do nothing to erase the fact that I am the blood relative of my parents. They created me, therefore I am.
God created me, therefore I am. He created you. My identity is that I am his child. I am not my grades. I am not my salary. I am not what others think of me. I am God’s child. My Father is a King who owns the universe and everything in it. He’s a good Father who has put all these things at my disposal. My primary concern is not what others think but rather, what God expects. That sets me free from the tyranny of popular opinion. Performance is no longer a matter of seeking status or favor but an endeavor to do my best from the motivation of love.
Let me illustrate. In college I worked for good grades thinking that this was important for getting a job. I learned many things but my aim was not to learn but to prove my worth in the job market. Upon completing my bachelor’s degree I was hired and immediately sent to graduate school. My attitude changed. Oh what a relief it was! I was no longer worried about academic achievement. At that time I had no plans to pursue a doctorate. I thought that the master’s degree would be the last I would ever earn. I was hired so I was not concerned about proving myself. Without that pressure I became completely motivated by a desire to learn. Because I appreciated my ministerial call I wanted to do my best, but I no longer needed to prove anything to others. My stress level dramatically decreased but my grades remained high.
Today I live for the joy of living. The gospel says that because of God’s grace I’m “in”. Proving myself to God is futile and unnecessary. Who am I? God’s child. Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else.
March 10, 2017
By Pastor Chad Washburn
I heard about these three pastors. They were in a boat together one day fishing. One of the pastors said, "We never get to let our hair down, let's tell the area in which we struggle the most, our greatest sin so that we can pray for each other.” The first Pastor said, “I hate to admit this, but I have a problem with gambling. Sometimes I sneak out at night and gamble.” The second Pastor said, “I'm ashamed to admit this, but I have a problem with cheating, I hardly ever pay my taxes.” The third Pastor sat there silently, waited and waited and waited. He wouldn't even budge. The others said, “We're not leaving until you tell us your greatest sin.” He said, “Alright, my greatest sin is with gossip and I can't wait to get off this boat.”
This is a funny joke. But it touches on something serious. Loose lips sink ships!
Why do we gossip? Is it because we have confidence we’ll get away with it? There could be evil intentions, or maybe we just like to tell others people’s secrets. Sometimes we tell ourselves, “It’s the truth. How can that be wrong?” But the Bible tells us that sooner or later, we'll be found out. Proverbs 10:20 in the Message Bibe says: "Loose talk has a way of getting picked up and spread around. Little birds drop the crumbs of your gossip far and wide." And Jesus said that our hypocrisy would not be hidden forever. What we have whispered to others will eventually be broadcast for all to hear. “Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs’” (Luke 12:1–3 NIV).
There’s serious deception in our thinking when we imagine that what we say in private won’t have serious consequences. Sometimes we might not feel the consequences but others will. If we want to refrain from gossip, we must ask ourselves what is the root of the problem. Jesus said that whatever is in our hearts will eventually come out of our mouths. (See Luke 6:45) Yes, it’s a heart problem! That's why the Lord encourages us to deal with what's in our hearts. In Zechariah 7:10 (NIV), He says, "In your hearts, do not think evil of each other." Only by obeying this command can we successfully overcome our propensity to speak negatively about others. While we can't change our own hearts, we know someone who can. David prayed, "Create in me a new, clean heart, O God, filled with clean thoughts and right desires." (Psalm 51:10 TLB) We can pray this same prayer daily, trusting the Lord to be our heart surgeon, taking out what is stony and giving us a heart like Jesus.
Controlling the tongue is our Christian duty, and failing to do this brings shame to our religion. James 1:26, “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” If we don't make a serious commitment to control our speech, we can't expect to make a real difference for God. In Ephesians 4:29 (NIV), Paul says: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Our words have the power to build up and tear down. Solomon says they can either "pierce like a sword" or "bring healing." (See Proverbs 12:18). And the words we speak can affect us, as well as others. Proverbs 18:21 (AMP) says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life]." That's why Peter wrote, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:10–11).
If you’re a victim of gossip, there will pain. Thoughts of revenge or even hatred might enter your mind. But God has called us to take the higher ground. Peter says, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9). May our heartfelt prayer each day be: “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalms 19:14 NIV).
February 24, 2017
Dealing with Friction
by Pastor Steve Walikonis
February 10, 2017
When, Not If
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
Having the right tool for a project makes a difference. A big difference.
Take the lowly screwdriver, for example. Inserting or removing a screw is basic. But the proper driver is an absolute necessity. Which is why I’ve got an entire drawer dedicated to them. The simple might assume that I’m obsessed. A screwdriver maniac! But a closer look would reveal that they’re all different: square, hex and security hex, pentagon, slot, cross, cruciform, Phillips, one-way, torx, double-square, pig nose (or Spanner head), and more. Attempt to insert or remove a screw with the wrong kind of driver . . . and you get . . . FRUSTRATION!!! Believe me. I’ve tried it more than once.
Then there’s the issue of size. Nearly every different kind of driver comes in multiple sizes. Even the most common – the slot screw drive – has multiple widths. I have them from micro (1.4mm) to a whopping driver that has a shaft nearly two feet long.
The right tool makes a project doable.
Jesus mentions a spiritual device in His Sermon on the Mount that’s important for the project called Christian living, . . . but is rarely found in the Christian toolbox today. It’s an ancient discipline that’s mostly forgotten today which is quite interesting because the list of biblical personalities who frequented this tool reads like a Who’s Who of scripture: Moses, David, Elijah, Esther, Daniel, Anna, Paul, Jesus.
What’s the tool? Fasting – abstaining from food (or some other indispensable in life) in order to focus on a period of spiritual growth. Essentially, fasting involves denying something we regard as essential to daily life in order to go deeper with God and His ways.
Fasting is not a dieting method, but a spiritual growth tool. We temporarily move our focus from common things to Godly things. The object of fasting is not denial – food, media, entertainment, news; but engagement – God, justice, mercy and compassion. The putting aside of fasting provides opportunity to be and become.
According to Isaiah 58, fasting doesn’t merit God’s favor. It helps reshape the self-centeredness of the human heart. The act of denial affords us opportunity to look outside – to God and others, rather than inside – to satisfying personal wants. It’s a temporary abstinence that promotes a lifestyle of servanthood. We don’t fast to get something. We fast to be something - God-directed, . . . God-inspired, . . . God-empowered, . . . God-like in our relationship with others and the world.
I’ll be fasting this coming Monday, February 13. There’s nothing special about that particular day. It’s a matter of setting aside a time to seek God earnestly. And the reason for a day, is so that we can do it together, as a Church family.
Why not join me as we corporately set aside something important – like food or Facebook, and focus on something essential – our walk with God and how He would have us walk in this world and with others.
Jesus fasted. Patriarchs and prophets fasted. The Bible suggest it as tool specifically designed for earnestly seeking Godliness and invites us to participate.
Please join me this Monday, and every second Monday monthly in 2017 as we purposefully chose a temporary lifestyle that will place ourselves before God so that He can make us more like Him.
Being Church vs. Doing Church
by Pastor Kevin McGill
Sometimes I think Jesus gets misunderstood as passive, docile, and disengaged. This is categorically not the case. Jesus was a pacifist but he was not passive. This is a very important distinction to understand. Jesus was engaged in a highly polarized environment but his message was counter-cultural. He challenged the Jewish understanding of politics, power, and religion. The Jews were expecting a King, but Jesus referred to Himself as "The son of man." They were expecting a conquering Messiah, He came as the Prince of Peace.
But being a peacemaker does not necessitate silence. On the contrary it may mean being labeled a "disturber of the peace" or a "troubler of Israel." It may even end up with the peace maker being thrown in jail, or, in Jesus', case hung on a tree. But true peace makers aren't intimidated by threats and they don't mind disrupting the status quo if the status quo is a false sense of peace.
Check out this quote from The Great Controversy page 458 that elaborates:
MLK Jr. made this point when he wrote from Birmingham jail and said, "First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season. Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."
Peace makers are blessed not because they are willing to remain silent. They are blessed because they are willing to speak up. However the way they speak up will be seasoned with grace and empathy.
Jesus was the most radical peacemaker who ever lived. He was willing to challenge the religious establishment. And He spoke up on the side of the oppressed. Sometimes he even used whips to make his case. Jesus was not a passive pacifist.
What about the church today? What is Jesus calling us to be? Blessed are the peacemakers, the peacemakers job is reconciliation and forgiveness. How are we responding to this mission? How is the church engaging with the political and racial polarization in 2017? Could it be that God is not using the church to heal racial tensions, but rather God is using racial tensions as an opportunity to heal the church? When we engage in the necessary work of forgiveness and reconciliation the church may regain its credibility as a cultural change agent operating with the moral authority of Jesus.
The encouraging word is this: We have an opportunity not just to go to church; we have an opportunity to be the church - the hope of the world. That starts by offering the world our own repentance and showing the world the power of God's forgiveness. When our repentance is linked with God's forgiveness the end result is reconciliation and that is a beautiful thing. Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."
January 13, 2017
God's Living Church
by Pastor Chad Washburn
“You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4–5 NKJV).
Every member is a living stone of Christ’s church, a holy priesthood. Christians generally agree on the priesthood of all believers, but many are not clear on what that actually means. I’ve been a pastor for 10 years and have served in five churches and one thing stands out as I think of all the different groups. That is, it often seems as if 10% of the church membership do 90% of the work. I’ve often heard church members say things like, “I’ve put in my time,” or “I’m retiring from service now.” The idea that one is only truly serving when they are the head deacon, or in charge of holiday decorations year in and year out (or any other position) betrays the misunderstanding that only certain members of the church are called to “real” service in the church. But the Bible teaches that you ARE the church.
The Village Church is not a building. Yes there’s brick, but it’s just dried stone, not living. The key word that stands out to me in Peter’s address is the word “living.” You are living stones being built up into a spiritual house. Just like the word of God, which Paul describes as living and active, so is God’s church. That means the church, as a body of believers, is dynamic. People serve in different ways, and even change the focus of their service as their own lives change. The body as a whole dynamically responds to the needs of the community. There is nothing prescribed absolutely, accept that everyone is a living stone, actively serving as part of the spiritual house to the glory of Christ. In this sense, as long as you are living, you are serving—as a representative of Christ to those around you, both inside and outside the church.
Practically speaking, it may seem unreasonable for everyone in the church to serve. You know the saying, “too many cooks spoil the broth.” Would 100% involvement mean that chaos would reign? So many ministries going on at once that people were running into each other? Maybe, if everyone stayed in one building. But the church is more than the building, and the ministry of the body of Christ reaches far beyond the church property and into the unique circles of influence of each member. Anyone who is breathing is alive, and therefore any member who has breath in their lungs is a serving part of the living body that is the church. The question is not “should I serve?,” but “how?”
God’s Church is a Spiritual house with no borders, no walls, and no limits on how you can serve him. You don’t need a position in church to serve God! There may not be enough positions in the church building for everyone to serve, but in God’s Spiritual house there are no limits. You are the Church. As Paul wrote, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). The Church is the spiritual body of Christ. You were baptized into one body, Christ.
There’s always a place for you to serve in God’s Spiritual church, a church without walls. You are one part of a living and active body—the body of Christ. I love what Paul says in Col. 1:26 “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” (Colossians 1:26–29 NIV)
Christ in you, the Hope of Glory. Preach it Paul, and to us, “Happy serving!”
January 6, 2017
I Would Be Like Jesus
by Pastor Steve Walikonis
The familiar hymn, I Would Be Like Jesus, speaks a message that we all too casually sing. The words declare a worthy goal for someone in search of a New Year's adventure. Let 2017 be the year you more seriously pursue being like Jesus.
December 23, 2016
The Danger of Familiarity
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
By far the most important, indeed the most significant event in all of human history, will be celebrated, with . . . or without understanding, in a little more than a day.
This year, the towering miracle of God’s visit to this planet will be glossed over by some, brushed aside by others, unnoticed by a portion, and, most unfortunately, rendered largely impotent by some of us . . . because of familiarity.
Familiarity is the culprit. We know this story so well, . . . we’ve know it so long, . . . that the celebration of Christmas becomes not just casual, but impotent.
We believe with all our heart in Jesus Christ – that He lived and died and rose again, that He indeed was truly the Son of God, Savior of the world. We may even have a working experience with Him, a personal daily relationship, and yet be largely unaware of the intense meaning of what we believe, especially at Christmas.
Way back in 1977, the Nobel-winning economist Herbert Simon, commented about the coming information-rich world. He warned that what information consumes is “the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” One of our biggest problems today, says Daniel Goleman in his interesting book, Focus, is “the staggering sea of incoming stimuli.” The cacophony of distractions we call media, internet, etc., says Goleman, is hijacking our minds. And the problem is not so much in the technology we use as it is in our inability to focus on so many things at once - cell phone, email, text messages, twitter, Instagram, Facebook . . . It never ends and is ever increasing!
Some of us are proud of our capacity in this regard. We think we can split our attention – multitask. Cognitive science says that’s fiction. Our attention is not like deploying multiple stretchable balloons. Rather, attention is more like a narrow, fixed, one-hole-pipeline. What actually happens is a rapid switching back and forth. And this continual switching saps attention from full, concentrated engagement. In our modern, digital age, it’s become a continual distraction. The net result is that our experience with God is also subject to distraction and depletion. We’ve become shallow, spiritually. We don’t have the time, energy or the attention to consider the miracle of Jesus’ first coming, or hope deeply in the promise of His second.
According to the old saying, familiarity breeds contempt. An electrician must ever be wary of the voltage carried by the cables he handles. Everyone who loves the ocean will encourage you to love it too, but will also warn you to never lose your respect for it. Whenever familiarity breeds contempt there is potential danger.
The danger we face on the verge of another Christmas isn’t contempt, however. It’s more likely indifference. The problem is that the true wonder and mystery of this season may leave us unmoved. Familiarity may blind us to heart of Christmas light.
We can hardly help being involved in the frantic business that surrounds Christmas. Buying and sending and feasting and decorating and partying permeates the days and nights of this season. But all the wonderful celebrating heaped upon this festival has the potential to obscure and even smother the fact upon which all the rejoicing is founded.
This Christmas, be careful not to miss the sense of awe and wonder of what God has done, the true significance of what happened at Bethlehem so long ago. We live on a God-visited planet! Nothing is greater than that fact . . . and nothing can or should alter that fact. God has been here once . . . in person. He’s coming again in resplendent glory. But He also comes this Christmas, . . . with the same silence, the same devastating humility, into any human heart ready to receive Him.
December 16, 2016
by Pastor Kevin McGill
December, the last month of the year gives us opportunity to reflect. We can remember the highs and learn from the lows. We can try to replicate what was good and reset want went bad. That is why January and New Year’s resolutions are so refreshing. With this in mind I would like to reflect on a key term that was highlighted this year.
Every year the Oxford Dictionary adds a new word that reflects the culture and the current times. The word for 2016 is “Post-Truth." http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-37995600
It is defined as an adjective relating to circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals.
(Desire of Ages 309-310)
December 9, 2016
by Ben Steenfott
Village Church Outreach Coordinator
When I think of the Trinity, I am often confused. It is a paradox of sorts; three being one while one being three. All throughout growing up no one in Sabbath School could explain it. It was clearly there: three divine figures, also one divine figure. “It is a mystery”, I would be told. And that was that. An abstract idea, static, existing in some place where three and one are the same. “Sure, I’ll go with it”, I would say to myself. It affected nothing in the immediate world around me. And this was my general attitude towards the idea of the trinity, until recently, when I came across the word perichoresis.
I must warn you, it is kind of an odd word and also I should also let you know in the same manner as the person I learned the word from, I am not some hippie from California.
Perichoresis translated literally means “circle dance.”
I told you it might be odd and what does this have to do with the trinity? Everything. This is how the early church fathers described the trinity. This is as orthodox as it gets. Their view of the trinity was the three in constant relation with one another, moving with one another. It was not a static communion of three but a movement of the whole through the cosmos. They were seen as very much alive and incredibly present in this world, actively seeking to invite all into their dance.
This is where the dance becomes greater than just a doctrine. It is the infinite God, creator, savior inviting us to move with Him, to follow Him. It is very much a participatory doctrine. While the transaction on the cross is amazing, that isn’t all there is to the story. We do not sit and wait for the transaction to be processed. Instead, we are invited to dance with God, participating in his restoration of the cosmos being transformed with every step.
It’s in our decisions to join that we the finite can experience the infinite. When we let go of the minimal concerns and go in step we see the ultimate. It is because of these moments that the Holy Scriptures were penned. The trinity is no longer a doctrine of paradoxical math but an awareness that something bigger is going on, the God that is love is at work, and we can join in.
 Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance
November 25, 2016
Counting God’s Blessings on Thanksgiving
by Pastor Chad Washburn
So now it’s Thanksgiving day—the time we know we’re supposed to express our thankfulness to God. The Scriptures remind us often of this truth; 1 Thessalonians 5:18, for example, tells us, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Psalm 9:1 says, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” Counting God’s blessings, that’s what Thanksgiving is about.
- “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:3–6 NKJV)
You are blessed of the Father, you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing from heaven that has been pour out in Jesus Christ. God has chosen you to be blessed before the foundation, to be holy and without blame before him in love. How is this possible? It’s because of His good pleasure that he has adopted us as sons and daughters by Christ's.
Have you ever thought of yourself as being spoiled by God? Paul says, you have been “Blessed with every spiritual blessing.” Now we would be a bunch of spoiled Christians if we were to keep His blessings to ourselves and never use them as God designed them, to bless others. God blesses us to bless others. Let’s take a fresh look at Abraham’s blessing from God.
- “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”” (Genesis 12:2–3 NKJV)
The echoing words, “And you will be a blessing…in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” I believe that charge; “you will be a blessing” still applies for the children of Abraham today, “Spiritual Israel.” Yes, you and I as followers of Christ are called to follow in the footsteps of our Master and bless others.
Do you want to be Blessed? There are four laws of receiving God’s blessings.
1. Our blessings should flow to others.
The Bible teaches us that we are blessed not just so that we can feel good, not just so we can be happy and comfortable, but so that we will bless others. God told Abraham in Genesis 12:2, “I will bless you ... and you will be a blessing” (NIV). This is the first law of blessing: It must flow outwardly.
How do you bless others? By serving a need, whether it is physical or emotional support, financial help, or practical advice. “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4).
2. When we bless others, God takes care of our needs.
God promises that if we will concentrate on blessing others, he’ll take care of our needs.
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6–7).
In fact, God guarantees this blessing. In Luke 18,
“So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life”” (Luke 18:29–30).
When you care about helping other people, God assumes responsibility for your problems. And that’s a real blessing, for He’s much better at handling your difficulties than you are.
3. Our blessings to others will come back on us.
The more you bless other people and the more you help others, the more God blesses your life. Luke 6:38 tells us, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”” (Luke 6:37, 38). You cannot out-give God. The more you try to bless other people in the world around you, the more God says, “I’m going to pour blessings out on you. We’ll play a little game here. Let’s see who will win. Let’s see who can give the most. The more you bless others, the more I’m going to bless you in return.”
4. The more we’re blessed by God, the more he expects us to help others.
Jesus said it this way in Luke 12: “…For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12:48 NKJV)). We are blessed to be a blessing.
If you would like to do some more reading on God blessing His people open up your bibles to Deuteronomy 28:1–11 and read it out loud to your family this thanks giving.
We are Thankful, because we have been blessed, and we will be a blessing to others.
Talk About It
- Based on the blessings of your life, what would you say God expects from you?
- What are the needs around you for which you can use your gifts to be a blessing?
November 18, 2016
Is the Church Optional?
By Pastor Steve Walikonis
We live in a multiple-choice world. Options surround us on every side. With the push of a button or the click of a mouse, we can avail ourselves of virtually any piece of information or input that we desire. This characteristic of our culture is having a serious effect on the church. For many years the church growth experts have encouraged churches to become "seeker-sensitive." A good church is judged, in part, by whether or not it appeals to the tastes of those who do not belong to it. I think this has exaggerated a sense that the church must adapt to the general public, not the other way around. A good sermon, a charismatic pastor, a moving worship experience, or a helpful support group--these are what define "a good church." When people become dissatisfied, they move on. The church is only one resource.
November 4, 2016
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
Here are a few words for your cogitation. I jotted them down during a report presented by the North American Division Committee on Mission to Contemporary Audiences.(a.k.a. the Mission Effectiveness Committee) This is a team of committed, creative, insightful, mission-sensitive people began meeting in 2014. The committee was charged with discovering ways to advance the mission of the North American Seventh-day Adventist Church in our challenging and rapidly changing society.
Ellen White was unambiguous. She advocated fresh, creative efforts in advancing the mission of the Church. “As field after field is entered, new methods and new plans will spring from new circumstances. New thoughts will come with the new workers who give themselves to the work.” T6, p. 476. We must heed this counsel if we are to be an effective, mission-advancing church today.
During this excellent presentation, I was moved by a number of the statements made by the presenters. Please take a few minutes to consider them yourself. Ruminate on each sentence in the context of the reaching our neighborhood for Christ.
Single Mothers are the largest unreached people-group in the United States today.
The church exists to create space for the people that matter most to God.
Visual excellence is equated to excellence in general. (print/social media)
Four times as many people would rather watch a video about something than to read about it. (social media)
Social media is global and Facebook is the largest country in the world.
Safe is the new risky.
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. Martin Luther King
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. African Saying
In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends. Martin Luther King
90% of human knowledge is from the last 10 years. Knowledge doubles every 13 months.
"The church," wrote Ellen White, "is God's appointed agency for the salvation of men. . . . . Its mission is to carry the gospel to the world." AAp.9 It has always been God's plan that the church should show the world what God is really like. May we be about that mission ever . . . and always!!
October 28, 2016
Psalm 146: 3 - 9
Pastor Kevin's 2016 Presidential Election Version
3 Put not your trust in Clinton or Trump,
in mere mortals, in whom there is no salvation.
when they leave... thier plans and projects leave with them.
put your hope in God and know real blessing!
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who gives food to the hungry.
he lifts up the humble and the fallen.
God loves Justice and those that speak up for righteousness,
He takes the side of orphans and widows,
the arc of the moral universe may be long but it bends towards justice!
October 21, 2016
by Ben Steenfott, Village Church Outreach Corrdinator
Many have heard the term Shalom. Many already know it means peace. And many know that it is commonly used to say hello or goodbye. But, upon studying the Hebrew language you will find that it means much, much more than hello or goodbye. When shalom is spoken it is not just a simple peace offered to a neighbor as you pass by. The term has a special emphasis on resolve, on completion. It is becoming whole. It is the close of the day, as the sun is setting, where one can relax knowing it is finished. It is a state of being. One author has described it as the way things ought to be.
In Matthew 19, there is a story about a young man who is rich and comes to Jesus seeking information. He asks Jesus, “What must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus responds cleverly as we see over and over again, “Just keep the commandments.” The young man did not seem convinced as he responded saying he already does that. Jesus, turning away from his wit and taking on sincerity tells the man, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all that you have and give to the poor, then follow me.” Stop here and focus on the word perfect. In the Greek, the word used for perfect is teleos. It may seem like a foreign word at first but I assure you that you use it every single day. It is from teleos that we get our words for television and telephone. The word means end, journey, and completion. Jesus is saying, “If you wish to be perfect, to be complete, to find shalom…” He is telling the man if he wants to find the peace that surpasses all understanding, a peace that exists between the creator and creation not found in the material world, then do this, sell everything and give it to the poor, then, follow me.
Now, about here, you may be saying but wasn’t the young man’s goal eternal life, not peace? While at the surface level, literally speaking, in English, yes, those definitely seem like different things but the nuance of eternal life is much more than just living forever, especially taken back to its original Greek language. It is the age of spiritual life, where one is able to experience fully and vibrantly the peace that is shalom. Jesus is offering the young man to experience shalom now, in this age. It is an invitation to experience heaven now.
So does this mean in order to have shalom you must sell everything to the poor? I think there is more to it than that. If this is our only question, I think we are missing the second aspect of the task and that is to follow Jesus, to go with Him on the journey to completion, the journey to shalom.
There is an older, children’s story about a velveteen rabbit and in this story the rabbit has a conversation with another character Skin Horse (perhaps the names give a hint to the age of this story) and I think this conversation is a good illustration of that journey to completion. In this conversation Velveteen Rabbit is having somewhat of an existential crisis wondering what it means to be real and not just a toy. The conversation goes something like this.
“What is real? … Does it hurt?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit.
“Sometimes” said the Skin Horse, “but when you are real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once?
“It doesn’t happen all at once… You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are real you can’t be ugly, except to those people who don’t understand.”
May we depend on Jesus to become real, to come to completion, to find shalom.
 Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin by Cornelius Plantinga—In another book of Plantiga’s, he describes sin as the culpable disturbance of shalom which is my favorite definition as it, to me, fully captures the spirituality of the law calling out anything that hinders the progress towards peace.
 The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
October 14, 2016
Heroes of Faith & Grace
by Pastor Chad Washburn, Village Church Outreach Coordinator
“And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 11:39–12:2)
Looking at the heroes of faith in Hebrews chapter 11, I notice something interesting Paul doesn’t focus on the faults failing of each Bible character, but on their faith in the promise and how they were moved by God do amazing things through Him. If we were to take the stance of the accuser (Satan) we could find faults with most of the characters in Hebrews 11. Just their stories we ould find sin in their lives ut Paul doesn’t focus on that he focus on their faith in the promise God had given them.
In verse 39, we see something powerful about faith. “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,” (Hebrews 11:39 NKJV). Where does their good testimony, or as the KJV says good report come from? It comes through faith or because of faith. I’m reminded of Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:7-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:7–9). The stories of faith in Hebrews 11 are also stories of grace, stories of God’s gifts of strength, salvation, and forgiveness.
One such story is the story of Abram and Sarai who left Haran at the ripe age of 75 in obedience to God’s promise of taking them to a land where they would receive the promise of not only being blessed but also a promise that all the families of the earth would be blessed through them (see Gen. 12:1-3). They waited, and waited25 years t was rial of faith to believe in a promise so long. In these years they had some shortfalls; there was problem with lying, and lack of trust by taking things in their own hands making Hagar surrogate mother. Then you have both Abraham and Sarah laughing at hearing of the crazy promise at the age of 100 and 99 (See Gen.17:17-18, 18:12). The Lord had these words for “Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.” (Genesis 17:19–20). Abraham faith is renewed at this point and he circumcises himself and his whole household.
God’s grace (unmerited favor) is seen the life of Abraham and in the lives of all the heroes of faith. If we recall the stories Noah, Joseph, Moses, children of Israel, Rehab, Samson, David and even our own , we would see God’s grace working along with our faith. In fact without grace it would be hard to keep the faith. Looking unto grace helps us keep the faith. Let’s look again at Hebrews 12, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1–2). Those who have walked the faith before us, the cloud of witness all looked forward to the promise before them nd we are too. The way we are to walk this faith Paul tells us is to lay aside every weight and sin that ensnares and to run the race with endurance looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our aith. It is by looking unto Grace we are to run the race of faith. Looking unto Jesus who for the oy that was set before Him endured the cross. What was the joy that was set before Him? It was the joy of redeeming fallen humanity, you and I. Jesus was able to endure the cross because he looked forward to the prize of redeeming us, thus fulfilling His promises, His everlasting covenant that started with Adam and Eve. Let us look forward in faith; let us look forward in grace, lets to the Author and inisher of our faith, setting aside the baggage and focusing on the promise, the prize before us.
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.” (1 Corinthians 9:24–26 NKJV)
September 30, 2016
Reflections on Christian Stewardship
by Pastor Dan Solis
Stewardship and Godliness
The word godliness and its practice begin with God. We love because God first loved us. We trust because God first showed himself trustworthy. We share because God first shared with us. Godliness is impossible without God’s initiative because humans can originate nothing without God. Just as the flashlight’s reflector is useless apart from the lit bulb so our efforts to achieve Christ-like characters are useless apart from God’s first action. When, however we take the risk of returning God’s love, trust His care, and pass on His blessings, He rewards our efforts with characters which more perfectly reflect His love. As God surprises us with His trustworthiness and as He envelopes us in His love, He invites us to reciprocate His initiatives---His first acts. Those who accept this invitation are entrusted with ever greater opportunities and responsibilities. The exciting part of this arrangement is the expanding relationship with our Heavenly Father that this provides. When earthly fathers spend time with their sons fishing, playing ball, building cabinets for mom, or repairing that son’s first jalopy, their relationship grows stronger. The same is true of our relationship with God. Going through the good and the bad times together strengthens that relationship.
Paul wrote that “Godliness with contentment” was great gain. Why this emphasis on contentment with godliness? Contentment exhibits trust in God. It demonstrates that we trust that He who clothed the earth with grass, who feeds the sparrows and the animals of the field, will care for us too. Who better than Paul to teach this lesson. 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Acts chronicle his unbelievable trials---beatings, imprisonment, hunger, ridicule, etc. Yet, Paul declared that he found contentment regardless of circumstances. How did he do it? He trusted God to supply his needs and to determine what those needs were. Too often we determine what our needs are and our list typically includes more wants than needs. Allowing God---rather than home shows, cosmetic commercials, and car ads---to determine our needs, insures that He will supply them and avoids unnecessary disappointment with Him.
Trust is not only the foundation for contentment and a prerequisite for godliness; it is the clearest indication of authentic love. Infants who happily accept a parent playfully tossing them into the air and securely catching them, demonstrate the security they experience in the parent’s love. They know that parents who feed them, rock them to sleep, and cuddle them frequently, would never do anything to willfully harm them. In a similar way, though we may be tossed around by life’s ups and downs, we trust that a God who has demonstrated His love for us in so many ways will not allow us to suffer permanent injury for eventually “all things work together for good.” If our heavenly Father Was willing to give His Son, and His Son was willing to give His life, how can we doubt His love and fail to trust in Him?
Jesus is the light of the world and his followers are the light reflectors. Followers are not light sources. If the followers are not positioned to catch the light they cannot reflect the light to others. Therefore, the follower’s first priority must always be being in position to catch the light. The second priority for the follower is to be positioned in such a way that the light from Christ can be reflected in one’s neighborhood, workplace, and social circles. While reflectors cannot originate light, there are things which can dim that reflection. Cloudy mirrors cannot possibly reflect light as fully as polished mirrors. Covered mirrors can nearly eliminate the reflection altogether. How often have prominent religious leaders, caught in some public sin, nearly destroyed the positive influence of Christianity? While Christ’s followers can never cherish the thought of originating the light (blasphemy!) they should always guard their ability to reflect God’s love by yielding their selfishness to the cleansing power of God’s Spirit.
September 23, 2016
No Little People
As a Christian considers the possibility of making a difference for Christ in the world, often his or her reaction is, "I am so limited; I am such a small person, so little in talents or energy or psychological strength or knowledge that what I do is not really important." However, one thing impresses me as I read the Bible. It emphasizes over and over that with God there are no little people.
September 19, 2016
by Pastor jeff Kinne
One father, two sons, two tragic deaths, and two vastly different reactions to those deaths. The contrast invites our exploration, understanding and growth.
The father was David, King of Israel. And the first death involved the unnamed offspring of David’s adulterous relationship with Bathsheba. Immediately after birth, the newborn’s life was threatened by illness. The king fasted and prayed for seven days. The infant died. Shock waves reverberated through the palace. Everyone worried about King David. Completely distraught over the child’s sickness, all now feared the king’s reaction at news of death. Contrary to expectations, David’s actions appear cavalier. The Bible says he washed, offered a benediction and enjoyed his first full meal in seven days!
Compare this reaction to David’s response to another untimely death. Absalom coveted David’s throne and died trying to take it by force. Prior to engaging Absalom and his armed devotees, David pled with his militia, “deal gently” with Absalom. Instead, he was mercilessly killed. David’s consequent mourning was both intense and historic. Instead of celebrating the restoration of his kingdom and paying grateful tribute to his faithful supporters, David was despondent. His gloom and protracted public misery over the death of his infamous son created a declension that nearly spawned additional rebellion.
Years ago the Upper Columbia Academy select choir performed a musical rendition of David’s lament. It was moving. In word, harmony and dissonance, the king’s despair was communicated. Over and over they sang the words heard from David’s chamber over the city gate: “O my son, Absalom – my son, my son Absalom – if only I had died in your place”! O Absalom my son, my son.” 2 Samuel 18: 33. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tcW2ChEDhw This is a link to another choir’s rendition of David’s lament.)
Now the question: Why was the reaction of David so different? Why such despair for Absalom and such peaceful resignation over the infant?
Could a portion of the difference lay in David’s personal recognition and unresolved guilt? The infant’s death was tragic, but it represented only the cusp of David’s sin. In Absalom’s demise however, the king likely recognized the protracted degradation that his prideful and selfish act with Bathsheba produced. The infant passed into the sleep of death and the watchful care of God. David trusted that he was secure. Judgment day would bring a new, eternal chapter of hope to a life never lived. Absalom’s death, on the other hand, represented a second generation fruit of David’s unwinding. With Bathsheba he had sown the wind. In Absalom’s rebellion, David, his family and all of Israel was reaping the whirlwind. (Hosea 8: 7) David’s lustful transgression created a “train of circumstances” which resulted multiplied tragedy. (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 728) Ellen White’s analysis is insightful: “With the memory ever before him of his own transgression of the law of God, David seemed morally paralyzed; he was weak and irresolute, when before his sin he had been courageous and decided.” (PP, p. 729)
The lesson? Despite God’s mercy and forgiveness, sin has consequences – some immediate and some protracted. I’ve witnessed and experienced the instant consequences of sin. It never happens without pain. Like David’s earnest pleading for his infant son, the angst at such times is great. I’ve also seen the effects of sin’s shadow as it casts darkness across years and even generations.
David’s lament for treasonous Absalom is a reminder that sin, though confessed and forgiven by God, inevitably has consequences. Influence is often undermined. Character eroded. Insight and perspective is clouded. Personal initiative becomes challenged. This moral paralysis took root in David’s life, and in his son’s rebellion and death he witnessed it’s horrible end. David’s lament was more than sorrow for a lost son. It was also regret over how his foray into sin weakened his character and undermined his ability to see and deal with pride, lust, greed, jealousy in himself and his charge. The incident has given me pause to consider what “train of circumstances” are working their way through my life and family because my moral lapses and consequent paralysis?
God have mercy on us all . . . and may He help us move from self-centeredness to surrender in every area of life.
April 1, 2016
Woolly Mammoth Discovered in College Place
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
A 5110B Caterpillar Power Shovel working on the College Avenue Reconstruction Project uncovered what appears to be the entire skeleton of a giant woolly mammoth. Jon Jennette, a senior theology student at WWU, Outreach Coordinator at Village SDA Church and part-time heavy equipment technician was operating the machine at the time of the discovery. According to Jennette, the Power Shovel’s massive hydraulic pistons collapsed and the 10.6 cubic yard bucket broke completely in two when it encountered one of the 11.2547 meter fossilized tusks. According to witnesses, Jennette immediately jumped from the Caterpillar cab, climbed down into the hole and continued to unearth the entire skeleton by pick and shovel. In a matter of minutes Jennette had exposed the complete remains of a prehistoric mammal that disappeared from earth thousands of years ago. Dr. Dave Thomas, Chair of WWU’s Theology Department and avid archeologist, was conducting biblical research on Facebook and was startled by photos bystanders had uploaded. Thomas immediately joined Jennette in examining what will certainly become the discovery of the day for the College Avenue-Rose Street Reconstruction Project in College Place. According to Jennette, the skeleton measures nearly 17.6531 meters at the shoulder and may have weighed upwards to six hundred and sixty six tons. Dr. David Cowles, Professor of Biology at WWU, conducted an immediate examination of the mammoth’s teeth, stomach contents and dung. “It appears,” said Cowles, “that the giant mammal’s diet consisted of mainly bananas, passion fruit and Nutella!”
Within an hour the entire investigation was complete. College Place Construction officials determined that further examination of the fossil remains would be unethical since it would inevitably delay the street project. Fearing such a postponement, recently retired College Place Police Chief, Dennis Lepiane ordered one hundred and twenty yards of concrete from Koncrete Indistries to encase the mammoth fossil and prevent any instability in the soon-to-be-completed College Ave.
The story of the College Place mammoth is, of course, fanciful. Happy April 1st!!
I’m sure you began shaking your head in disbelief as you read the title.
But the Good News of God’s love for us in Christ is no joke. The world may consider it foolishness, as the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1: 23, but to those of us who have tasted of God’s grace that message is power and wisdom and life – eternal life.
Happy April Fools Day!
And a blessed Sabbath rest to all.
With warm, wooly mamoth regards,
March 25, 2016
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
Recently, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court. In usual weather, the Senate would hold confirmation hearings on his candidacy. Given the stormy condition of politics today, that process may wait until 2017 and a new administration.
The US Constitution requires that the president submit nominations to the Senate for its advice and consent. Since the Supreme Court began its work, most of the nominations submitted have been confirmed. Some don’t make the cut. The deliberations are always intense. Sometimes they’re historic. The hinge point often involves credibility. Does the nominee have integrity? Are they fair, unbiased, trustworthy? Can you have confidence in the decisions they will make?
Several years ago, you may recall, Zoe Baird was nominated for the positon of Attorney General. The confirmation process for this position is somewhat similar as that for our top judges. It was a historic moment. She would be the first woman nominated to that position. With a blue-chip resume and hailed as a dynamic, talented and innovative lawyer, Zoe’s confirmation was virtually assured.
Then came the twenty-nine day confirmation hearings and the revelation that Zoe and her husband had hired undocumented household help and failed to report Social Security or worker’s compensation taxes for these employees. Public concern crescendoed to outrage. Zoe Baird withdrew her name from consideration – the first time that a person nominated to a U.S. Cabinet position had done so in 120 years.
The question of credibility was at the center of the storm. Can you believe in the integrity of a topflight corporate lawyer married to a renowned Yale law professor, who is charged with the nation’s Justice Department, who broke the law and blames her troubles on “bad legal advice”? Can you have confidence in the decisions of the Attorney General knowing that she plays by the rules only when it is in her favor to do so?
The term “credibility gap” describes a lack of trust or believability. The term has special significance this season of the year. If the gospel story ended with Jesus dying on the cross, we would be faced with a credibility gap. If no actual historic event came between Jesus’ death and the church’s conviction that He was enthroned in heaven as Redeemer and King of the universe, questions would be rife.
One crucial event in history provides the hinge between Jesus, the historical man, and Jesus the object of saving hope, faith and worship: the resurrection. The cross of Jesus is like the pinnacle of God’s glory, the ultimate demonstration of His love. But the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the event that validates everything. It was the evidence par excellence that Jesus was who He said He was, and accomplished what He came to do. It is the bedrock upon which Christian faith is anchored. As the apostle Paul said, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile.” (1 Corinthians 15: 17) The resurrection was the sign above all signs that Jesus was what He claimed to be: God in human flesh. This event, says Paul, is was the ultimate declaration of Jesus person and authority: “Declared to be the Son of God with power, . . . by the resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1: 4)
Jesus resurrection bridged the credibility gap. Despairing followers became confident. Discouraged disciples became courageous. Disappointed believers became determined and hopeful.
This Sabbath is a high day. We have the privilege of celebrating the Lord’s Supper, a powerful reminder of what God has done for us in Christ. And we also celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the transformational event that made the perfect Savior our all-powerful Redeemer.
Happy Resurrection Day.
July 24, 2015
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
Last week my wife and I spent a few glorious days in the Mt. Rainier National Park. It was our first time camping . . . without our children. Twenty nine years ago we had our maiden voyage. Evan was just seven months old when we set up camp for the first time. That began a long and enjoyable era of family campouts. La Wis Wis Campground, at the foot of the majestic, snowcapped Rainier became our favorite spot. Mammoth Douglas Fir, Hemlock and Western Red Cedar thrust themselves over one hundred feet skyward. Some of the largest are six-plus feet in diameter and three, four, five hundred years old. They began their climb before most Europeans knew North America existed. Even when the August sun beats harshly, the verdant canopy of these glorious trees makes life at ground floor pleasant.
I guess it was natural for Wafia and me to return to our favorite camping spot for our first time without munchkins. We wondered what it would be like. More quiet? Certainly. Less energetic? Naturally.
We wondered if it would be, . . . if it could be enjoyable. I didn’t say more. Just enjoyable. I wondered.
We arrived on Thursday evening, found a vacant campsite and erected our tent – cozy with five, spacious for two – and sat down by a newly kindled fire. It was quiet, different.
The place had a ton of memories for us. We recalled campsites previously claimed and enjoyed, gazed at fallen giants the boys had ridden mountain bikes on, ventured up waterfalls previously frolicked in and smiled at deep, shimmering, . . . and very cold pools, that had heard their gleeful splashes and laughter.
We scouted and hiked La Wis Wis on Friday and enjoyed Sabbath walking mountain trails and cooling our feet in clear, clean mountain lakes. We reveled in God’s second book.
“O LORD, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom has thou made them all: the earth is full of Your riches.” Psalm 104: 24
“For, lo, He forms the mountains, and creates the wind, and declares unto man what is his thought, that makes the morning darkness, and treads upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of host, is his name.” Amos 4:13
I wondered what our first camping trip without our children would be like. It was different, certainly. But it was good . . . because, although we were less than before, the God of all creation still met us there. His glory was on display.
We smiled. We were comforted. We were renewed and invigorated.
“The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Psalm 19: 1 – 4
We heard those words . . . in the trees, mountains, lakes and streams . . . and were blessed.
July 16, 2015
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
The 60th General Conference Session began on Thursday morning, July 2, 2015. One of the first items on the agenda was to approve the Nominating Committee and allow them to start their important work. On Friday they had their first recommendation. Elder Ted Wilson was reelected to serve the next five years as the General Conference President. Ted and his wife, Nancy, were invited onto the stage as the thousands gathered in the Alamodome applauded enthusiastically. “It is with very quiet respect and humility that both of us stand before you, before God. And we do accept this responsibility.” With those words, Ted accepted the challenge . . . and was more than prepared to engage in the important work of leading this 18.5 million strong world movement.
As tens of thousands of us gathered at the Alamodome the next morning for a glorious Sabbath worship, we were handed a booklet: Reach the World: Strategic Plan 2015 – 2020. The twenty-seven page pamphlet clearly and graphically outlines the mission of the global Adventist Church for the next five year. Included are such important issues as mission statement, strategic issues and specific goals. In this blog I’ll elaborate on the first item. In subsequent blogs we’ll take up other important content in this document.
“The mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” it says in the introductory section of this booklet, “is to call all people to become disciples of Jesus Christ, to proclaim the everlasting gospel embraced in the three angel’s message [Revelation 14: 6 – 12], and to prepare the world for Christ’s soon return.”*
Wonderful!! Awesome Privilege!! Exciting Challenge!!!
That has been our mission for the past 162 years and continues to engage every Adventist. Our mission in the Walla Walla Valley is to pursue this mission “through Christlike living, communicating, discipling, teaching, healing and serving.” We trust that someday soon, God will restore this world into “full harmony with His perfect will and righteousness.” AMEN.
That is our hope and desire. To that end we live, and work, and pray and give.
We are “ambassadors of God’s kingdom, . . . messengers of the soon return of Jesus Christ.” That’s right! God enlists us as coworkers. Imagine it. Hand in hand with His Spirit, reclaiming this world from Satan’s grasp one life at a time. To that end I pledge myself. How about you, friend?
Jesus is coming soon. His return is imminent. The earth is staggering from sin’s infection. People are desperate for real answers to life’s challenges. God sends you and me, “in the name of Jesus” to advance His kingdom. Praise God!
This section of the GC mission brochure concludes with the invitation to devote ourselves to six mission-specific ideals. I’ll conclude this blog with this appeal. Its worthy of our consideration and commitment.
“Christlike living” - Embodying the Lordship of Christ in every part of life through moral, ethical and social behaviors that reflects Jesus.
“Christlike communicating” – Speaking of Jesus, like Jesus through every form of communication.
“Christlike dicipling” – Associating with the intention of becoming more like Jesus personally, corporately, repeatedly, completely.
“Christlike teaching” - Promoting growth and maturity in our relationship with God, His word, and His world.
“Christlike healing” – Making healthy living and compassionate helping our forte.
“Christlike serving” – Walking in Jesus footsteps who considered serving the needy His priority.
By God’s strength and indwelling, let us take up this mantle in our world.
(*All quotes are taken from the “Reach the World” GC Brochure)
July 10, 2015
Important News from the 60th General Conference Session
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
Likely you’ve read reports from online and print news sources regarding important events coming from the world gathering of our church in San Antonio, Texas. For two days this week the SDA Church has made the front page of our own Union Bulletin . . . . Something significant is astir!
As important as that reporting and those decisions have been, I’d like to direct our attention to even greater news coming from the Alamodome (where the GC Business Session is taking place): Arise! Shine! Jesus is coming!
That’s it. That’s the most important news. Arise! Shine! Jesus is coming!
That news dwarfs every other issue. That headline puts everything else in proper perspective. That truth organizes, prioritizes, and gives purpose and significance to every other post and every one of our lives.
Arise! Shine! Jesus is coming!
That’s the designated theme of this 60th world session. It points us to our hope and calling as Seventh-day Adventists. Global media may report other issues as this session’s most significant. But everything else is really second to this.
That is not to say that other items, like those reported by our UB, are unimportant. The Church’s deliberations over our fundamental beliefs, the issue of women’s ordination and other matters are vital. But the truth of Jesus return and our role as last-day ambassadors of that reality is primary.
It is so easy to become caught up in other details . . . some of which are very significant and have a noteworthy impact. But this one is the ultimate, the pinnacle. Every speaker, every report, every agenda item, every discussion, every statistic pales beside this one.
Many things impressed us during our stay (Thursday, July 2, through Tuesday, July 7) at the GC Session. I was amazed at the vitality and vigor of the Seventh-day Adventist movement. By God’s strength, we are making great advances for the Kingdom of Light. With a missionary presence in nearly every one of the world’s 195 countries and a global membership of 18.5 million, the SDA Church is, by God’s grace, a preeminently missionary minded organization on earth.
Our church is also a virtual kaleidoscope of cultures. As a Caucasian American, I felt dwarfed by the multitude of colors and languages present at the GC Session. North American Adventists like yours truly comprise just 6% of the world membership. I was a small minority. My church is much bigger than College Place, WA!
Then there were innumerable ministry booths that filled three enormous halls adjacent to the Alamodome. The supportive ministries of the SDA Church are a multitude! There were thousands of dedicated people promoting hundreds and hundreds of God-honoring missionary programs around the world. It was literally mind-boggling. I was deeply impressed with the diversity and dedication of these people and their ministries.
Though not a delegate, I was also deeply impressed by the Christian decorum displayed in every business session. I was able to listen in on the proceedings during the first few days of the GC Session. I was deeply impressed with the dignity, honor and kindness expressed in word and action by delegates who at times differed in opinion and position. Generally speaking, a calm and loving atmosphere presided over the business sessions I attended.
Yes, the media has done a good job of fairly reporting news from the 60th General Conference Session that it deems important. But may we as Seventh-day Adventists never allow our eyes to drift from the greatest news coming from San Antonio. Arise! Shine! Jesus is coming!
June 26, 2015
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
I like that word. It’s warm, safe, comfortable, encouraging, supportive.
Jesus used that word occasionally when speaking of His followers. My favorite is in John’s gospel when Jesus describes the new relationship we are invited to enjoy in and through Him.
“No longer do I call you servants,” says Jesus, “for a servant does not know what his master is doing.” John 15: 15
By nature, masters are separate and separated from servants. They occupy two different spheres. Interaction between them is predictable, confined, regimented. Masters prescribe. Servants oblige, obey. Masters inform, direct, and obligate. Servants are compliant, dutiful.
The two don’t really mix. They are different spheres, different orbits. By office, servants know little about masters. It’s business not companionship, obligation not intimacy.
Jesus changed the entire system.
“No longer do I call you servants, . . .; But I have called you friend, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” John 15: 15
Jesus defined discipleship as obedience plus. Discipleship is doing what Jesus said, and knowing why. No secrets. No hidden agendas. No bait and switch. Just honesty, fidelity, understanding and intimacy.
For nearly two weeks two dangerous criminals have been on the loose. They escaped from the impenetrable Clinton Correctional fortress which, by the way, has never lost a customer in 150 years. Sixty foot walls and cell blocks of steel and brick make it permanent for inmates. Except for those with . . . friends.
No prisoner cuts holes in steel walls and iron steam pipes, breaks chains and bricks, maneuvers through a maze of hidden passages and internal catwalks without friends. What inmate can put his hands on a cutting torch, electric saw, extension cord, drill and more . . . in prison, except through friends?
Authorities have identified two. There will be more, inevitably. There must be.
Friends made an inescapable maximum security facility escapable. A prison, it turns out, is only as strong as the people who work there - people who are inclined to inappropriate and unethical friendships with deceptive and depraved inmates.
While there may be danger in the comparison, I can’t help but picture myself as Richard Matt and David Sweat. My confinement is not in an Alcatraz or a Walla Walla or a Dannemora, N.Y., correctional facility. I’m captive to sin with no escape possible. I have earned and deserve death.
But, thank God, I have a FRIEND. One Friend. He’s all it takes. He’s One of a kind. More aren’t necessary. He is sufficient, capable, powerful, caring, interceding. He came to earth to free me from the prison of sin. His death on the cross liberates me from eternal destruction, now and forever.
Thank you, Jesus, for being my Friend.
April 10, 2015
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
“I never for a moment thought that you owed me anything.”
That’s how Sara’s father responded to Jennifer’s attempt to repay the loss caused by her careless act years before.
Jennifer and Sara were intimate childhood friends. They were also partners in mischief. One day while experimenting with smoking in Sara’s vacant home, Jennifer unwittingly dropped her cigarette between the sofa cushions. By the time they realized what had happened and attempted to retrieve it, a hole had been burned through the upholstery. The girls doused the smoldering embers and assumed all was well. That evening the sofa burst into flames starting the house on fire. The entire Cook home was destroyed.
Jennifer felt personally responsible and silently vowed that she would repay the Cooks. It was a sincere but childish promise. Repayment would have taken a lifetime of savings. And besides, the Cook’s insurance would end up paying for the replacement of the home and all the belongings. Nevertheless, Jennifer remained guilt-ridden over the incident and secretly longed to somehow repay the great loss.
Years later Jennifer had opportunity to do the Cooks a favor. Jennifer had a beautiful singing voice and when she became a Christian as a young adult she soon began recording CDs of her vocal performances. Mr. Cook ordered a couple of the recordings for his daughter’s birthday. Jennifer sent them by mail with this note attached: “No payment necessary. Consider this a down payment on the great debt that I owe you.”
Mr. Cook responded with a check and this message of grace: “I never for a moment thought that you owed me anything.”
Those words are an eloquent reflection of God’s amazing grace for you and me. Like Jennifer, we have a negative balance on our ledger of life that is far beyond repayment. We are guilty of a crime that deserves death. We are sinners. Apart from God’s intervention we are beyond help and hope. As Paul so starkly admits, “We were by nature objects of wrath.” (Ephesians 2: 3) But the apostle goes on to say that God “is rich in mercy.” (vs. 4) He did not abandon us but rather offers restoration and forgiveness as a free gift. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8)
In Jesus, God takes that debt upon Himself. In Jesus He says to us,” I never for a moment thought that you owed me anything.”
April 3, 2015
More than Eggs
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
This week I did a bit of research at an unusual place. With Sunday being Easter and Journey to the Cross (our reenactment of the last moving episodes of Jesus’ life, including Jesus death, burial and resurrection) beginning on the Village campus on Sabbath afternoon, and my Sabbath sermon, of course, focusing on the pivotal teaching of the resurrection, I figured that some current, cutting edge investigation was in order. So I journeyed to a couple local stores to study how the average person celebrates the Easter holiday. It’s an interesting place to research important biblical events.
Although the many people miss the Easter celebration completely in their homes, it’s hard to ignore it in the market place. I was greeted by shelves . . . and shelves of Easter paraphernalia soon after entering. Baskets of every size and color with grass to boot - that doesn’t need mowing (I only wish!!) to fill them conveniently packed in bags right nearby.
Savvy retailers have also eliminated the messy egg coloring menagerie. Why get purple, red and florescent green all over your hands, and clothes. You can buy plastic eggs that open to hold food items more delectable than anything a chicken could produce. And the array of colors and intricate designs are . . . well, staggering. Of course, you can still by color tablets and white vinegar if you prefer the old fashioned method.
Eggs, I have to say, are a premiere feature of the Easter landscape - in stores, that is. They come in more than jumbo size too. There’s goose, ostrich and even dinosaur proportions. I held one that could have easily incubated my son, . . . or a Tyrannosaurus Rex for that matter! They even have piñata eggs.
For the time-harried mom or dad, too exhausted to do much more than use the credit card, there are pre-arranged Easter baskets. As a child, I recall waking up to a lovingly prepared basket of goodies on Easter morning. Now you can buy cellophane wrapped Easter BINS housing more toys and goodies than any child should receive for their first five birthdays. Balls (basket, soccer, football), dolls (Barbie, American Girl, Care Bear, My Little Pony, . . .), cars (Hot Wheels, Tonka, . . .), transformers characters (too many and graphic to name!), handheld video game consoles (Nintendo, Play Station, etc.) and everything else under the sun is enticingly arranged within them.
I made my way to the place where I figured the best source of material on the theology of Easter could be found - the greeting card isle. I was surprised to find too many Easter cards to count. There are cards for grandpa and grandma. Cards for mom, dad, sister, brother. Cards for a 5 year-old son, newborn nephew, niece, friend, some-one-you-wish-would-be-your-friend. There are sentimental Easter cards, romantic Easter cards, and . . . wouldn’t you know it, religious Easter cards.
I wasn’t scientific about this, but a brief survey of the rack left me thinking bunnies, ducks and chicks. Bunnies mostly. And if the card happened to display other creatures, they usually donned rabbit ears. There was a toad with rabbit ears . . . and even a smiling pit bull with floppy rabbit ears drawn above his head. The caption below his powerful jaw said “Some Friendly Advice . . .”. I didn’t open the card to read what kindly guidance a ferocious dog might have for me!
Frequently there was a “Spring is Here” motif with yellow daffodils or white lilies in bloom, as if Easter is about the coming of Spring and the pleasant anticipation of warmer weather and blossoming plants. It’s arrival may coincide with more sun and longer days, . . . but, have mercy, it means much more than that!
The predominate expression I came away with from the greeting card “Easter Section” was wishes for cheerfulness: I hope you have a cozy, warm and pleasant spring. As one card picturing a basket of lavender colored eggs said: Happy Easter! May you find more happiness than can fit in your Easter basket!
I was grateful that the religious section was more substantial in its sentiment. One card, shaped like a bouquet of flowers, displayed these words: “Jesus Christ is risen!” The expressions here were genuine, heartfelt.
If one were to combine the rows of holiday paraphernalia with the greeting card displays from the store I visited, however, one would have to conclude that the resurrection of Jesus is not considered very significant by retailers . . . or shoppers. Easter bunnies and eggs are in the “winner’s bracket”. The risen Christ, the cross of Calvary, and the empty tomb wouldn’t even make it to the “Sweet Sixteen.”
Unfortunately, the significance of Easter is often overlooked or even distorted not only in commerce, but by the place that ought to get it right – the Christian church. Many times “Church Easter” is more a celebration of the rising sun than the risen Son. It’s more about flowers, new dresses, hats and shoes than a celebration of Christ’s sacrifice for sin, victory over death . . . for sinners like me, and conquering of death.
For many congregations Easter is like the “coming out” that happened during my childhood, when I agreed to attend church with my grandparents. On Easter Sunday church was pretty full. The preacher was always amazed at how much I had grown since the last time Momma Bea and Pop had me in tow. Reverend Schwabe (I still remember his name!) was so nice . . . but I absolutely hated Sunday school. I didn’t know anybody, . . . ever. It happened every time I came. Attending once every year or six just didn’t cut it!
Although I can’t recall a single word the Reverend spoke on Easter Sunday, it was likely the common fare – an apologetic sermon attempting to solidify our belief in Jesus and His resurrection so that we’d move from one-a-year-attenders into regular goers. Since those early days I’ve come to believe that the non-Christians who attend church on “high weekends” - Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, etc. – mostly believe in Jesus. Those who come to Sabbath services near the Christmas holiday believe that Jesus was born. Most non-Christians who venture into Village Church on Easter weekend Sabbath believe that Jesus rose from the dead. That fact is easy to believe. I think they’re non-Christian because they don’t recognize the significance of Jesus birth . . . or, this coming Sabbath, the meaning of His resurrection. They don’t grasp what the resurrection can and should mean to them in a personal way.
Unfortunately, Easter displays in the market place aren’t much help in this regard. It’s mostly sweet sentiments and empty calories. There was one greeting card, however, that I think got it right – as much as eternal “rights” can be gotten by a greeting card. Below a stylized drawing of the resurrected Jesus was an Easter Blessing: “By dying He destroyed our death; by rising He restored our life.” I can go with that. That’s what I’m celebrating this weekend!
March 27, 2015
How do you get to heaven?
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
Gregory was born three months premature. He was a twin. Andrew, his brother in the womb, died at birth. Gregory survived. He wasn’t expected to. Five percent chance of living. That’s what the doctors said. “And if he survives, he will be a vegetable.”
Gregory survived and has gone on to have a fairly normal life . . . about as normal as most of the rest of us. His condition is similar to a very mild case of cerebral palsy. The last time I saw Gregory, he was enjoying life as a dormitory student at Upper Columbia Academy. By this time he’s likely finishing up at one of our fine institutions of higher education.
When Gregory was four, he asked His dad about heaven. “Where is it, Dad?”
“Well, it’s up there. It’s up above.”
“Way above? Up in the sky?”
His dad said, “Nobody knows how high.”
Theologians don’t even know the answer to these questions. What do you say when talking to a four year old?
Gregory knew that he was a twin. He knew about Andrew. Sometimes he asked his parents where Andrew was and when he would see him.
About 4 months after that conversation about heaven, the family was going on a holiday trip to the Hawaiian Islands. It was Thanksgiving time. Gregory had a window seat. He was staring out.
When the plane started up, just after it became airborne, he turned to his dad and said, “Dad, where are we now?”
Dad looked out the window. “We’re over Santa Monica Bay, son.”
“Well, how high are we?”
“About 5000 feet.”
“Is that way up?”
Still not fully aware of where Gregory was going with this conversation, Dad replied, “No, we’re going to go a lot higher than this. Probably about 35,000 feet.”
The little boy’s eyes went back toward the window.
The plane shot through a giant cloud. The boy was riveted. He didn’t know what to expect.
When they rose above the cloud and broke into the sunlight, Gregory looked up and asked, “Dad, where are we now?”
“Well, son, we’re up above the clouds.”
He looked out again, and looked back to his father and said, “Dad, where is heaven?”
The boy’s father suddenly realized that his little son had expected that above the clouds maybe he’d see heaven, . . . maybe he’d see God. He talked to Gregory, helping him to have a better understanding of heaven and God. The boy’s horizon was broadened.
Almost a whole year went by. It was Christmas time. Gregory was five. He was playing around the house one day, when he came over to his dad and blurted out, “Dad, how do you get to heaven?”
His dad asked, “Well, son, how do you think?”
Greg said, “Well, it’s not by plane.”
“That’s right, son.”
Greg continued, “And it’s not by boat.”
“That’s right too.”
He said, “It’s not by car. It’s not by train.”
His dad could tell that Greg had made a whole list of things.
Gregory said, “It’s not by walking. It’s not by bus.”
“Dad, I know how you get to heaven.”
“How’s that, Greg?”
Puzzled, his dad asked, “By hand?”
Gregory said, “Dad, the only way anybody can get to heaven is by the hand of God.”
This coming Sunday, April 5, 2015, the world pauses to recognize what could be considered the greatest event in human history – the resurrection of Jesus. The event is foundational to human hope. Paul said, “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. . . Your faith is futile, you are still in your sins!” The apostle goes on to say that without the resurrection Christians are “false witnesses,” liars, without hope in this life, and “of all men the most pitiable.” (1 Corinthians 15: 14 – 19)
Next Sabbath Village Church will remember this astounding, life-transforming miracle of God. When Jesus overcame death, it “declared” (Romans 1: 4) that Jesus was God and that everything He said is true. All His promises, predictions, wisdoms, insights were authenticated, absolutified,(I know that’s not a word . . . but I’m using it anyway!) verified, true. The conquered grave became the foundation of human hope and belief. It “declared” that God does have the power of life and death. He does have the authority to offer eternal life to any who believe.
There IS only one way to heaven. Its by hand. Jesus’ hand.
“For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4: 12)
Reach out. Take the hand of the risen Lord. He’s reaching out to you.
Whatever your need today friend, won’t you take the hand of this One who offers you living hope and eternal salvation?
March 20, 2015
“The old is better”
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
That’s true, isn’t it? It’s better because, . . . well, it just seems better. Old is comfortable. Old is safe. Old is reliable. Old is what I’m used to. Old is me. And mine always feels better than anything that’s not mine. Me is who I’ve been. It’s customary. It’s what I know. It’s what’s right . . . eternally right, it seems.
And change? Well, that’s hard . . . especially when it comes to important issues . . . issues of eternal consequence. They’re fraught with potential danger. When something “unright” happens in the eternal sphere, big red flags appear. Lots of them.
Let me illustrate the point I’m trying to make with a story far enough removed from the Walla Walla Valley to be safe. On March 9, 47 Republican Senators sent an open letter to Iran’s leaders warning that any agreement signed with the current executive administration was only temporary. Congress has the power, they said, to make it null and void. Big threat! Red flag!!
My point is not to criticize their act, but to highlight the human tendency it illustrates. We naturally esteem our perspective and, at times, vilify opposing views.
It’s a universal problem. Republicans do it, as do democrats, independents, anarchists, socialists, libertarians, and pirates. Muslims are guilty of this narrow mindedness, as are Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and, yes, even Christians.
As rancorous as the political “my thinking is right” attitude has become, I would venture that the atmosphere which currently exists within Christianity, and particularly in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is more pathetic. Divine revelation raises the stakes markedly. It adds an element of clout and heightens the importance of any perspective. Jesus said loving relationships hallmark Christianity. Unfortunately, our witness is polluted by discord and dissention.
The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke record the parables of the garments and the wineskins. The stories give us an important perspective on the one-upmanship of which I’ve just spoken: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”(Luke 5: 36 – 38; see also Mark 2: 21 – 22; Matthew 9: 16, 17)
In context, the parable contrasts Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God with the staid and formal teaching of Judaism as practiced by the scribes and Pharisees. The old garment and the old wine represent their approach. The new cloth and new wine characterize Jesus’ teaching. Now, mind you, Christ’s “new wine” was not opposed or in contradiction to Old Testament teachings. It was, however, in conflict with the “old wine” version propagated by Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day. Jesus said the two were incompatible.
At the conclusion of the parable, Luke includes a verse that neither Matthew nor Mark mention. It’s a capstone to these two parables and particularly relevant to our “my-thinking-is-right” discussion. Here’s the verse: “And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’”(Luke 5: 38)
“The old is better.” Jesus is making a simple statement of fact in this verse. People comfortable with, steeped in the “old wine” of institutional Judaism naturally favored it to Jesus approach. They found it more comforting, safe, reliable, and understandable than the pictures Jesus drew of God and His ways. The “old wind” codified expansive religious regulations and carefully prescribed the approach to God. That’s valuable, . . . to a certain extent, but only insofar that the religion being prescribed remains living, vibrant and truthful in its application. By Jesus’ day, however, Judaism had become cold and impersonal.
The word, “old,” in verse 38 designates something whose time has passed, has lost its usefulness or is worn out. Such was the lifeless religious formalism of the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day.
But what about that last phrase? “The old is better.” At first glance it appears a bit confusing. Jesus is not doing an about face. He’s not embracing the religious formalism He’s just criticized as “old wine” and “old cloth.” What He is doing is warning against the tendency to sanctify the old, to make it preferable, . . . sacred. He’s saying that once you’ve done a certain amount of mileage with the “old wine” it takes on an air of sacredness. It becomes preferred. Exclusive. Untouchable.
It’s easy to do that, to hold on to the old patterns and preferences, as if they were sacred truth. It’s easy to resist change. That’s natural. The older I get, the more comfortable I become with what I am and how I believe. That makes it especially easy to over-value the old and to find false security in it. It also makes it easy to conclude that old is right and new is wrong . . . just because one is old like me and the other new, like I’m not.
Many Christians, . . . many Seventh-day Adventist Christians are satisfied, . . . no, intoxicated with “old wine.” It’s “better,” they think. And since it’s “better” to me, it must be “better” for everybody. However, the “better” we’ve codified is often times not eternal truth but personal preference that we’ve come to associate with eternal truth. That’s the danger.
The gospel of Jesus is the “new wine”. . . the “new cloth” we need to experience. It is, by the way, new daily. The question we must ask is, Am I experiencing it? Or has tradition become my gospel? Am I so convinced that “the old is better” that I vilify “new wine” and consider it my mission to root out the different, uncomfortable “new wine”?
Jesus said that “no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new.”(Luke 5: 38) His words suggest that it is possible to reformat our thinking. It doesn’t happen immediately. Old habits, patterns and preferences die hard, especially those dear to our heart and associated closely with eternal truths. But it is possible for someone addicted to “old wine” to, over time, purge the old self-centered, self-focused, self-satisfying, self-perpetuating old for the new. It is possible for even a pharisaic Jew to be born again. The “old wine” bibber Nicodemus eventually experienced the “new wine.” So can you and I.
March 13, 2015
It’s all in your head
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
I’ve used that phrase, and thought that phrase, and been told that phrase, . . . more times than I can count.
Honestly, it’s not a very pleasant assessment. In fact, it’s rather derisive. It’s about the same as dismissing someone’s aliments as fabrication. The heavy congestion, lingering aches, deep angst and a load of other aches and pains all stem from an overactive imagination.
“There’s nothing wrong with you,” the doctor announces. It’s all in your head.
Ouch! That would be cause for finding a new doctor!
There’s another application of the saying, It’s all in your head, however, that’s neither contemptuous nor sarcastic. I’m thinking of when we use it to describe the deepest spiritual problem we face in life: the hostility we have toward God that took no less than the death of His Son to remedy. It is all in our heads. And the ongoing distrust and lies about God that even believers fall prey to: the old habits we take up, the hoary attitudes we reassume. It is all in our heads.
The New Testament says a lot about the depravity of the human mind . . . and its renewal. Paul says that our separation from God is a battle a between our ears. “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled.” (Colossians 1: 21) When Peter pulled Jesus aside because of His disturbing and sordid words about suffering and dying, Jesus responded that Satan had confused his mind. “You are not mindful of the things of God.” (Matthew 16: 23)
Scripture is clear. Renewal comes as the Spirit of God transforms our minds. Paul nailed that truth in his counsel to the church in Rome: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12: 2) Thinking is primary. Thinking is destiny. Thinking is a main component of being a Christ follower. “Keep your heart[mind] with all diligence,” said the wise man, “for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4: 23)
That being the case, my primary object as a Christian is heart-keeping, or, more accurately, mind-thinking and character-making. I must be about living a life of ongoing directing and infilling by the Spirit. Every day I need to dig deep in God’s word, receiving fresh resources of His truth. I mustn’t be satisfied with a cursory reading . . . as if God were somehow in the doing. He is the living Word, and through prayerful study of His word, my thoughts connect with His. Every day, several times daily, I need to invite the Holy Spirit to lead me, hone me, guide me, rebuke me, save me, envelop me, and be glorified in me.
It is all in your head when it comes to spirituality and discipleship.
Remember that . . . and make what you put in your head a priority.
February 20, 2015
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4: 19
I’ve never had much interest in fishing for fish. As a boy, I fished a bit, mostly for trout. My grandparents enjoyed steelhead fishing. The entire fishing business seemed far too boring for my childhood interests. It’s likely been forty five years since I baited a hook!
When I became a believer in Christ, however, my life became oriented toward another kind of fishing. It happens that way for every Christian. All believers are trolling, constantly, incessantly.
Soon after Jesus began His public ministry He saw two professional fishermen working their trade. “Follow Me,” He said to Peter and his brother Andrew, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Good words for fellas who smelled of the sea. Important words for every follower.
Whether you enjoy fishing for fish or not, Jesus’ words are yours. You’re called to fish. That’s what happens when you follow Jesus.
Following Jesus is what every Christian does. And the “following” includes the fishing. Its part and parcel of following. It doesn’t happen any other way. It’s what Jesus was about while on earth. He’s still about the same purpose – inviting the irreligious to find joy, meaning and salvation in God through Christ.
Everyone is called to fish. You are. I am. And the fishing is good. There are lots to catch. But you’ve got to fish to catch fish.
Pastors fish, but they struggle at it. The fish are wary of them. They look and smell fishy . . . and people expect fishy words and fishy activity.
The best at fishing are the non-professional fishers. Fishy words and actions from the likes of these are less suspect. And the joy of the catch . . . is like none other. When someone comes to know of God’s saving grace in Christ and says yes to a life-long saving relationship with their Creator and Lord . . . well, there’s just nothing like it.
Village Church is all about fishing. The pastoral staff fish a bit, but mostly train and mentor followers to fish. Every Village activity is about fishing. Every Sabbath service. Every social meeting. Every meal served. Every word of comfort given.
Because following Jesus is about fishing.
January 9, 2015
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
While a student at WWU, my son Nolan and two classmates spent nine months volunteering as student missionaries at Gimbie Hospital in Ethiopia. The boys lived together in a simple home and hired locals to do house cleaning, wash clothes and prepare meals. Several weeks into their stay, Fletcher began to notice that coins and bills were disappearing from his dresser. He asked Nolan and Justin about it. They claimed innocence. Fletcher became careful, deliberate and systematic. He paid close attention to how much and when cash came up missing. A few weeks later Fletcher declared, “It’s the house cleaner. I’m sure of it!”
Politely and respectfully, the young men confronted their employee. She acted surprised and said she knew nothing about it. The pattern stopped for a few weeks and then gradually resumed. Coins and bills disappeared again. Not many, but it amounted to a sizable chunk over several months.
Not to be outwitted, Fletcher devised an ingenious plan to catch the thief. He hid a video camera in his bedroom, left it on Record while the house cleaner was in . . . and he was out, and . . . poof – er, a, I mean, PROOF! The cash was missing and the video captured the act.
Fletcher confronted the house cleaner but she was as resolute as before. “I didn’t take the money.” When shown the video “evidence”, surprisingly her denials persisted. The unremorseful thief had to be relieved of her duties. Another, more honest housekeeper, was sought and hired.
Most of us think of ourselves as honest. We’re nothing like the untrustworthy Gimbe employee. She stole and lied blissfully, . . . unabashedly! To be ruthlessly honest, however, we all, when the situation warrants, cheat, or lie, or steal . . . a bit. Just a bit. Just a wee bit. Never blatantly and rarely grossly enough that we’d have to publically confess our thievery. Unless, that is, things really unravel more than ever expected or imagined, as happened to former Virginia Governor.
On Tuesday, January 6th, the up-and-coming politician and aspiring 2016 Presidential hopeful, Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison for public corruption, the first in Virginia’s history. By all accounts McDonnell is a great guy – a model citizen and upstanding man. Over 400 people wrote letters enumerating his virtues during his trial and the sentencing courtroom was packed with supporters. Nevertheless, Judge James Spencer said public corruption (McDonnell and his wife accepted gifts totaling $177,000 in exchange for promoting a product) is a crime. “Unlike Pontius Pilate,” said Spencer in an interesting twist, “I can’t wash my hands of it all. A meaningful sentence must be imposed.”
McDonnell was sorrowful, humiliated, repentant, but guilty. “I allowed my life to get way out of balance,” said the former Governor.
I’m not suggesting that our slight missteps even begin to approach the malfeasance of McDonnell. But anything less than honesty is still dishonesty. Right? It’s lying! And dishonesty doesn’t just happen in the political world. It happens everywhere – in sports, business, education . . . and yes, even in the church. None of us are immune. As happened with McDonnell, life at times just unravels. Good and bad, right and wrong, honesty and dishonesty get all out of balance. Suddenly, the person that appears in the morning mirror is not the one that went to bed the night before.
So, why are we bad? Why are people dishonest? Why do we cheat, steal, lie and all the rest . . . just a little bit? One theory contends that the issue comes down to a “cost-benefit” analysis. “What are the benefits? What’s the probability of getting caught? How will I be punished if I am caught?” It’s known as the rational model of crime. Interesting. Unfortunately, the theory doesn’t describe life in the real world very well.
A more likely scenario is that honesty or dishonesty is less the result rational calculations than it is a personal struggle of identity. What kind of a person do I see myself as? Want kind of a person do I want to be?
God’s blessing on sinful Adam and Eve placed an ingrained sense of integrity or rightness within every human being. The Bible calls it “enmity.”(Genesis 3: 15) No human being, from his or her mother’s womb, is wholesale bent on destruction. Nor are we, unfortunately, indiscriminately good. From deep within comes a God-implanted urge for honor and honesty . . . and for self-seeking gain. By God’s gift we want to be people of integrity, who can look in the mirror and know that we’re alright.
On the other hand, there resides within us a conflicting urge to promote ourselves. We want to be good, I recall someone once saying, but we’re naturally inclined accomplish it in the worst sort of way. I’ve seen that in myself. And I’ve been the recipient of that kind of “goodness” from other “good,” well-meaning people. I’ve concluded that this peculiar worst-kind-of-goodness multiplies when I’m most convinced of my goodness. It’s a dangerous, hurtful combination.
Ok. We’ve gone a bit deeper than I’d expected . . . but it’s still the same point. The struggle to be good and successful (whatever that means) is at odds within. Here’s one reason - there is a distinct benefit to be gained from dishonesty and truthfulness. Why else would we be attracted toward dishonorable ways and inclined toward integrity? Have you noticed that a mere, ever-so-slight fudge moves you toward richer, faster, smarter, greater, better? That’s a personal boon. And it comes so easily! Just a small untruth frees us from that snag of less.
But the ever-so-slight untruth creates another snag! You see, I don’t want to be a liar. The Spirit of God testifies against dishonesty and inclines me toward honor. But, when it comes down to it, all of us “fudge” just a bit. Just ever-so-slightly. But only insofar as I can remain honest and honorable in my own eyes.
Social scientist and Duke University Professor, Dan Ariely, calls this interplay between dishonesty and honor the “fudge factor theory.” Not a very noble description, but it does cast an interesting light on deliberations that occur between our ears. It’s a balancing act, says Ariely in The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, between our esteem for honor and our yearning for approval and status.
Here’s the theory in action. My action. This fall I entered a long distance running race. Long before the race I mentioned my plans to some pastoral colleagues. Several weeks after the race one of these friends asked how I’d done. Honestly, I wasn’t proud about my results. In truth, I was faster than the tortoise, . . . but not much. Although I knew my finishing time to the minute, my first thought was entirely mathematic . . . and deceitful.
Early in life I learned that a three digit number could be rounded down if it is less than half way to the next hundred. My time was four hours and seventeen minutes (plus some “seconds” change). That was closer to four hours than to five. Four hours was more athletically respectable. And it was mathematically legitimate . . . kind of. But not really. Especially when it comes to race results. Rounding would be quite beneficial in this case . . . and wouldn’t have stretched the truth . . . too far.
In an instant my mind processed all those thoughts and more. I don’t particularly care for tortoises – at least when it comes to speed comparisons, . . . or sloths, . . . or caterpillar tractors. A little faster, even just a little, . . . is a little better. Where can I draw the line(truth) and benefit from dishonesty(a slightly faster race time) without damaging my self-image(that I am, actually, a very slow . . . but honest person). As Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Morality, like art, means drawing a line somewhere.” The question is, where? Often my struggle consists of some permutation of the following: how much can I stretch the truth . . . No. How much can I lie before it goes beyond who I am and want to be and makes me absolutely, morally sinful?
Certainly I’m not alone in my musings, am I? You’ve experienced the same, haven’t you. To argue otherwise would be tantamount to . . . well, even darker places. All of us recognize the importance of honesty. We’re also aware of its complexity and the deep, malignant urgings to be otherwise. It happens in our relationships with our spouse, our employer, our friends, our God.
Our struggle to be honest and honorable can be helped. For this point I’d like to return to Ariely’s study on honesty and dishonesty. Although His research was secular in nature, there were clear religious implications. I’d like to conclude with an important one.
Ariely set up an experimental situation that allowed him to measure human honesty and dishonesty. I’ll tell you more about the particulars in a future blog. For this particular experiment, they took a group of 450 participants and split them into two groups. Half were asked to try to recall the Ten Commandments and then they were tempted to cheat. The other half were asked to recall ten books they read in high school before sitting down to the same experiment where they also had same opportunity to be dishonest without the possibility of being caught.
This truth and honesty experiment(without the preliminary moral recall), by the way, was conducted on thousands of people throughout the United States. The results were statistically consistent. When given the opportunity to cheat, on average, everybody cheated a little bit. Not a lot. Not beyond their “fudge factor,” even though they easily could have, since there was no chance of being caught. Subjects cheated enough to be beneficial . . . if not culpable.
However, when Ariely and his team administered this hybrid experiment, asking subjects to recall either the 10 Commandments or 10 books read years before, one group cheated as much as had become the norm, while no cheating at all was observed in the other.
Which group do you suppose refrained from cheating?
The group who took the test after trying to recall a moral standard.
By the way, none of the subjects in the experiment were able to recall all 10 Commandments. Some struggled to write even one or two. Nevertheless, none of them cheated after thinking about them. It appears that merely deliberating over the issue of moral standards is enough to improve ethical behavior!
Ariely decided to test this effect further. He selected a group of self-declared atheists to do his honesty experiment.(No one, in any of the experiments, by the way, was told the test was about honesty. They were led to believe that it was about memory.) The atheists were asked to swear on a Bible and then asked to take the test. None of them lied!
Imagine that. A hand-on-the-Bible-promise changed the behavior of atheists!
Were the subjects forced to honesty? Of course not! They had no idea the experiment was really about lying. They thought they were part of an experiment testing intelligence. However, a mere moral reminder, even in a manner contrary to their personal preference, raised the honesty of their response.
Although this surprising result created interesting educational fodder for Ariely and his social science colleagues, I’d like to conclude this week’s blog with a one that’s spiritual - the importance of daily quiet time with God through the study of His word and prayer.
A few moments of moral recall shifted the ethical bent of unwitting subjects. Even atheists were inclined to integrity after merely swearing on the Bible . . . a book that means nothing to them! How blessed we are to not merely recall the 10 Commandments, or to place our hand on God’s book, but to open its sacred pages and, with the guidance of His Spirit, read the words of truth and life! Wow!! What a blessing . . . not just for the moment, but throughout our day as we net the lasting effects of recalibrating our thoughts, desires, ambitions and plans according to God’s infinite wisdom and beautiful character through morning devotions. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3: 18)
Start this year . . . begin each new day . . . by immersing your being in His sacred book, allowing His living word to penetrate deeply and refashion you in His image. Who knows, maybe we’ll be more honest – with ourselves and others! That would be a good beginning.
January 2, 2015
New Year’s Resolutions
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
It’s the second day of 2015. If you’re like most in the Western Hemisphere, you’ve spent a bit of time reminiscing the bygone year . . . and personally forecasting the new one.
The media is full of 2015 resolution suggestions. Twitter and Time posted their Top Ten. Even the US government has a list of thirteen that are popular every year. (With information for helping you achieve them!) You’ve likely seen or read a few New Year’s Resolution lists. This week I thought I’d offer a few (counter)suggestions of my own for you to consider.
Gain Honor (vs. Lose Weight)
Forget about losing weight. Eat dozens of cookies!
No, that’s not what I’m suggesting. Here’s what I would recommend. Instead obsessing over ounces and pounds in 2015, approach each day with the ambition of becoming more God-honoring. Partner with God to make your words, actions, plans and ambitions most admirable, respectful, honest and sincere. He’ll be blessed and you’ll be a blessing. What a great way to spend the year!!
Drink More (vs. Drink Less Alcohol)
Lest there be some misunderstanding, allow me to finish this resolution: Drink More Water! There’s nothing like it!!
Alcohol, on the other hand, is a killer. Have nothing to do with that destructive pursuit. If you are facing challenges in this regard, don’t hesitate to seek help.
However, most of you reading this blog don’t have an issue with drinking alcohol. You may, however, have an issue with drinking enough water. Our bodies are mostly water. (60+%) This pure fluid is essential to health. It’s better for you than the best caloric or non-caloric beverage. It energizes your muscles. It keeps your skin looking good, your bowel and kidneys functioning efficiently, and your brain thinking clearly. Drink six to eight glasses daily in 2015. You won’t regret it!
Also, Drink More of the Water of life. Jesus is living water to a thirst-quenched man or woman. Drink from His fountain daily, and, as He promised, it will become in you “a fountain of water springing up into eternal life.” (John 4: 14)
Get Stationary (vs. Get Fit)
No, don’t become a couch potato in 2015! Physical fitness is the natural elixir. God created us for action. Exercise gives us greater vitality, boosts positive emotions and adds abundance and years to life. However, as Paul admonished, “bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” (1 Timothy 4: 8)
So, for 2015, I’d challenge you to the “sofa resolution”. Spend time daily in quite, reflective study of God’s Word. Read a section of scripture, asking God to instruct you and grow you in His image. I would also encourage you to read from the inspirational writings of Ellen White. If you don’t have a daily devotional plan, you may want to follow the Village Church Devotional Plan accessible on our website under Resources.
Give Money (vs. Save Money)
At the beginning of a new year most people’s financial resources are at low ebb. For many of us December’s spending consumes more than our income, and, for some of us, our savings.
It’s good to make personal/family budget and live by it. Indebtedness should be avoided like the plague. Managing our finances so that we have funds to cover “rainy day” circumstances and adequate savings for retirement are important.
However, good financial stewardship includes more than saving. Jesus insightfully admonished that our hearts are inclined toward those things we treasure most. (Matthew 6: 21) Wealth has an allure that is destructive. It easily becomes treasured in the human heart.
When I return 10% of the increase which already belongs to God, and freely contribute an additional portion of my income to worthwhile charities, God is honored, His work advanced in the world and the self-centered longings of my heart are kept in check. So, in 2015, Give Money! After all, Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
Do Better at Your Job (vs. Get a Better Job)
The lust for success and fulfillment has a debilitating and demoralizing effect on our present circumstances. Granted, some occupations are challenging to the human spirit, to put it mildly. However, complaining, griping or quitting only makes us crankier and life more unbearable.
Granted, you may need to look for a new job . . . something more fulfilling, engaging and rewarding. In the meantime, however, give yourself to doing your best at your work. The admonition Paul gave slaves two thousand years ago is good for employees today. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3: 23 – 24) By being the best employee, no matter how mind-numbing or spirit-depressing your labor, you witness to the sovereignty of God and power of His kingdom. That worth living for in 2015 no matter what occupation you use to do it!
Be More Stressed (vs. Be Less Stressed)
Chronic stress is a serious health problem in America today. Many of us feel inundated and overloaded. Meeting deadlines, paying bills, juggling family and work responsibilities and a multitude of other factors combine to create chronic stress. It can have damaging results: fatigue, anger, ulcers, hypertension, heart attack.
I’m not recommending that you increase your stress by adding more to an already overcrowded life. I am suggesting, however, that you reprogram your thinking so that you allow stress to be a positive force in your life, motivating you to God-honoring action.
Properly handled, stress is beneficial. It helps athletes compete, musicians perform, and executives lead. Properly focused, stress can move followers of Jesus from apathy to action.
In 2015, ask God to transform your stressors. Instead of considering finances, work obligations and other typical factors as worthy of becoming frazzled about, ask God to help you become sensitive to issues that really matter - things like injustice, poverty, oppression, bigotry, slander and sin. Those kinds of wrongs are worth a bit of stress . . . and action.
Learn Something Old . . . Again (vs. Learn Something New)
Our culture begs us to learn something new. Smart phone apps promise conversational French in weeks. Online education courses lure us with new and exciting information about the cosmos that is only a mouse click away.
While the world cries “new”, in 2015 I would challenge you to learn again something old, . . . from a book that’s been around for two thousand years. In the pages of scripture are ancient, timeless lessons about honor, integrity, love and loyalty that deserve our most devoted attention. In 2015, read it again . . . . as if for the first time. And learn something ancient . . . but infinitely valuable.
Don’t Buy a Selfie Stick
OK. I know this last resolution doesn’t match the pattern established in the previous ones . . . but I couldn’t resist.
Apparently, one of the hottest selling items this Christmas season has been the selfie stick. Stores can’t seem to stock enough to keep up with the demand.
In case you’re wondering what in the world a selfie stick is, let me explain. Cell phones have created a new craze in photography. A selfie is just what it sounds like – a picture that I take of myself with my cell phone. Even those gifted with an enormous wingspan can’t hold their cell phone cameras more than a couple feet from their face. Thus, the selfie stick. It allows a person to transcend the limits of the human arm when taking a photo of himself or herself.
If you got a selfie stick for Christmas, return it.
Here’s a better idea for 2015: Do something for someone else . . . every day. Instead of thinking of new ways to take photographs of yourself, consider what small acts of kindness you might do for others that would fill your life with grace and the world with love.
There it is. The Village Church New Year’s Resolution List for 2015. Let me know how it goes this year for you!
God Bless You.
December 12, 2014
Reraching Adventist Millennials
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
Last week I completed my report on how Adventist adults between the ages of 20 and 40 responded to four questions about the church. (Why are young adults staying in the church? Why are young adults leaving the church? What do young adults need from the church? What are young adults willing to give the church?) This week I’d like to share some insights I learned about engaging the Millennial generation from an article recently published in Ministry Magazine (a professional journal for Adventist pastors) entitled “Engaging Adventist Millennials”.
The North American Division enlisted the help of the Barna Group, a well-known Christian research firm, to survey Adventist Millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000) regarding their views of the church. They conducted nearly 500 online interviews with adults, 18 – 29 years old, who were currently attending or had attended the Adventist church during childhood.
The researchers discovered that Adventist in this age category had six basic criticisms of the Adventist Church. By the way, these criticisms are not unique to Adventism. Millennials in general see the Christian church as a whole similarly. Millennial Adventists, however, are more skeptical of the Adventist church, than their non-Adventist counterparts. The six disappointments with the church are as follows: The Seventh-day Adventist Church is . . . 1) repressive of differences (37% shared this sentiment); 2) exclusive (34%); 3) overprotective (36%); 4) antiscience (47%); 5) intolerant of doubt (28%); 6) shallow in its teachings (29%).
Based on the answers give to the survey researchers were able to tell whether the people were “engaged” or “disengaged” from their local church. Interestingly, those who were “disengaged” were more likely to have had a negative experience with the adults(leaders & members) in the church during their childhood, while those who were “engaged” as 18 – 29 year generally remembered their childhood interaction with adults as positive and supportive.
The study concluded with three suggestions for helping to create a positive church environment for children and younger adults. It would be well for us to try on these ideas ourselves as we seek to make the church a welcome community for the younger generation.
The first suggestion was to foster positive intergenerational relationships. In this regard, it is the responsibility of older adults in the congregation to go out of their way to interact with, support and mentor younger members of the congregation in non-judgmental, supportive ways. Practically speaking, this means seeking out younger adults to befriend, interact with, encourage and mentor.
Secondly, the study concluded that younger adults and children need to be carefully treated with abundant doses of love, forgiveness and acceptance. It is the job of older and more mature members of the congregation to be warm, welcoming and accepting. Too often, those of us who are older congregants judge youthful attendees according to outward appearances. Judgments are rendered about character and spirituality based on shallow, external indicators like dress, adornment and cosmetics. Such externals are often merely temporary growing pains. We need to engage in meaningful, supportive, non-judgmental relationships with younger generations and allow the Spirit of God to shape them rather than us.
Finally, the church needs to become a healing community where members, young and old, can share their stories of victory, growth and struggles, and know that they are safe. A non-judgmental, accepting environment creates a space where younger people can engage and be enriched by supportive relationships and positive mentoring.
Village Church is blessed with hundreds of mature, dedicated members who have grown deep in wisdom and faith though years of experience. It is now our privilege to gracefully embrace the younger generations, invest our lives in supporting, encouraging and mentoring them in Christ.
December 5, 2014
NAD Report on Young Adult Ministry (Continued)
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
Several weeks ago I wrote about the growth, and in some areas decline, of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America. At the North American Division Year-end Meetings recently held in Washington D.C., Pastor Alexander Bryant, NAD Vice President, presented a number of enlightening statistics, some of which exposed the aging of our church. There is one particular group who are largely missing from the church in North America - people who are 20 – 44 years old. They’re alive and well in the United States and Canada . . . but, proportionately speaking, there aren’t many attending the Adventist church. I mentioned in that article that adults 25 to 34 years old are particularly noticeable . . . by their absence. The church has almost two and a half times less people that age than society in general. We can excuse that statistic, or explain it away . . . but the fact remains – a large portion of adults exit the church during their early adult years. Some come back. Most never do.
In my previous article I reported on a survey compiled at a Young Adult Summit where 20 – 40+ year old church members were asked four questions: Why are young adults staying in the church? Why are young adults leaving the church? What do young adults need from the church? What are young adults willing to give the church?
I gave the answers to the first two questions in my previous blog. This week I will report on questions three and four.
Take some time to think about the responses . . . and how we, the Village Church congregation, might respond so as to address this alarming exodus from church life by these wonderful younger adults.
Next week, God willing, I will conclude this focus with a review of an article recently published in Ministry magazine.
By the way, I’d love to hear from you. I read every email I receive from you.
Contact me at email@example.com
(The responses are listed in order of priority as determined at the Summit.)
3. What do young adults need from the church?
- The church needs to see young adults as a mission field by prioritizing the finances for education and by putting young adults in leadership positions at the local church, conference, union, division, and GC.
- Young adults need a church family who accepts and values their input and questions, but also holds them accountable in their relationship with Christ.
- The church needs to value young adults the same way Christ values His children rather than valuing them according to materialistic appearance.
- Young adults wish to hear the church say, “the prayer warriors, the doubters, the artists, the analytics, the musicians, the introverts – any and all are needed and wanted in our church family.”
- Young adults wish to hear the church say, “We are all broken and we will find healing together in a judgment-free environment through Christ.
- Young adults need to be engaged with the church through responsibility and ownership and need to be treated as an equal part of the body of Christ.
4. What are young adults willing to give the church?
- Young adults are saying, “I am willing to invest in you, to learn from you, to humble myself before Christ, and to admit when I am wrong and , by the grace of God, grow together until kingdom come!”
- Young adults want to give their talents, creativity, and open minds, in order to take ownership of the church and speed the return of Christ.
- Young adults will pioneer again through risk, passion, creativity, their story, their mistakes, and their love.
- Young adults are willing to give their curiosity and impulsiveness to create a passionate church environment and go where God sends them.
- Young adults are willing to collaborate with all generations to bring the hope of Christ to reality.
- Young adults are willing to give all the facets of their being to seek truth, to be transparent, and to live with passion and love.
November 21, 2014
One Additional Request
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
About this time of year over a quarter-century ago my wife and I dined out for breakfast. For us, that’s an unusual event. Not dining out, but dining out for breakfast. It’s not our favorite time to order food. What made this occasion even more unusual was the particular restaurant at which we dined. We weren’t attracted by the menu offerings or the ambiance. We weren’t there because of outstanding cuisine. . . but because of outstanding service. We needed a restaurant that offered a delivery room on the side. Wafia was about to give birth to our second son, Nolan.
It was Sabbath morning, November 5, 1988.
My lovely wife had been laboring all night. For some reason, the sterile-looking eggs, bland hot cereal and three shriveled prunes floating in brown juice the friendly waiter brought into our private dining room didn’t appear appetizing to Wafia. When I removed the sterile cover from the hospital tray, she turned her head. I was concerned for my wife’s wellbeing, . . . but not so much so that I didn’t recognize an opportunity to satisfy my own. Food has always hade a special appeal. The night’s labor was hard for me too. I reasoned that my own effort as dedicated coach and moral support was somewhat akin to my wife’s . . . or something like that. Wafia may not be hungry, but I needed nourishment!
Anyway, I thanked God for the food (it looked like it needed His blessing). And I thanked Him for the miracle of birth that I hoped would soon take place, and dove in.
Five seconds later (I’m exaggerating. It was more like six.) as I polished off the last piece of wrinkled laxative . . . er, . . . I mean prune, . . . and wishing for three more plates more like the kind served at Denny’s, . . . the words printed on the napkin caught my attention: “Our Father, You have given us many things; However we would ask for one more . . . give us a grateful heart.”
The quote pierced deep into my soul. That’s what I needed – to be more appreciative of God’s amazing kindness toward me and my family.
There I was, witnessing one of the most mysterious and miraculous blessings granted humankind – the birth of a child – and I was disgruntled about the food!
That’s what I needed. “God, . . . you have been so generous with me. But I do need one more thing: a grateful heart.”
Someone once quipped, “If you want to find gratitude in this world, you’ll have to look for it in the dictionary.” Thankfulness is a scarce commodity. There’s not enough thanks expressed in this world, . . . or in my life, then . . . or today.
At Thanksgiving we think about a food and special fixins’. We think about traveling, family gatherings, and good friends. But there’s one thing we just don’t think of enough – gratefulness to God and others for all that they do and mean to us. In the days leading up to this special holiday, spend some time contemplating the ways God has showered His blessing on you. And take some time to measure the ways other people have made your world happier. Then, say THANKS.
Gratitude. It’s what I needed twenty-six years ago. It’s still my need this Thanksgiving season. How about you?
“One more thing, Lord. That’s really all I need . . . . A grateful heart.”
November 14, 2014
NAD Report on Young Adult Ministry
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
The North American Division Year-end Meeting included reports from numerous ministry initiatives, including a particularly innovative and engaging presentation by the Young Adult Ministries leadership team. Before I tell you some of the highlights, let me share some statistics I also recorded which made this segment of the six-day session so engaging. Pastor Alexander Bryant, Vice President of the NAD, lead out in this portion. His presentation was very enlightening and included numerous informative slides reporting on the growth, and, in some cases, the decline of the church in North America. I captured the information with the camera on my cell phone. It was important stuff and I wanted the opportunity to chew on it bit. One slide compared the average age of church members with the U.S. and Canadian population. Two things were blatantly apparent. First, the Adventist church in North America has proportionately more senior citizens than our society. The chart divided the 60+ group into four categories: 60 – 64; 65- 74; 75-84; 85 & older. In every case the church had more than twice the percentage of people in each age bracket as compared to the general population. The 74 to 85 age category had three times as many people, proportionately. It’s apparent that we are doing well with those of us who are on AARP’s mailing list.
The second observation is not so encouraging. Compared to the rest of society, the church membership in Canada and America is missing more than half of the 20 to 44 age group. In other words, over the last 25 years, an alarmingly large portion of younger adult church members have left the church. In the 25 to 34 year category, the church has almost two and a half times less people than society in general. That is alarming! Young people are leaving the church in droves.
Later in the NAD Year-end Meeting agenda, the Young Adult Ministry directors presented their report. Their presentation included the results of a survey compiled at a Young Adult Summit where 20 – 40+ year old church members were asked four questions: Why are young adults staying in the church? Why are young adults leaving the church? What do young adults need from the church? What are young adults willing to give the church?
The answers given by the Summit attendees are very enlightening and deserve our close attention. This week my blog will conclude with the responses to the first two questions. Next week I’ll include answers to the questions three and four.
Take some time to think about the responses . . . and how we, the Village Church congregation, might respond so as to address this alarming exodus from church life by these wonderful younger adults.
By the way, I’d love to hear from you. I read every email I receive from you.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
(The responses are listed in order of priority as determined at the Summit.)
1. Why are young adults staying in the church?
- The church creates a safe environment in which young adults can come as they are and search for God, choose God, share God, pray to God, and live out their love for God. In other words, young adults stay in the church when there is a safe place to be real, ask questions, and be broken.
- Through relationships and doctrine, young adults have seen Jesus at the center.
- Young adults stay when, through the church’s encouragement and openness, they find their identity and purpose as children of God.
- Young adults stay when all generations of the church fulfill their mission together.
- Young adults have accepted that they are God’s legacy.
2. Why are young adults leaving the church?
- Young adults do not see the enactment of God’s character within the church.
- Young adults do not take responsibility in the church because they are not permitted ownership in the church.
- Young adults do not grasp the vision of the church because the church community does not see them as equals and, at times, refuses to acknowledge that they are valuable, needed, and vital members of the church.
- Because of a lack of meaningful relationships, young adults do not feel as if they belong in the church.
- The church has neither understood nor accepted the complete role God has called young adults to. Often, young adults are causalities of the church’s inability to portray God’s love.
- Young adults feel as if they are not allowed to ask questions.
November 7, 2014
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
Yesterday I returned from the Silver Springs, MD, where I attended the Year-end Meeting of the North American Division(NAD) of Seventh-day Adventist. Over the next few weeks I’ll have the opportunity to talk about a few of the many issues upon which we focused our attention. Today, however, I’d like to highlight something other than a core agenda item or hot topic of discussion. I’d like to share an aspect of the Year-end Meeting that was not a matter of church business . . . but is likely more of what actually is the business of the church. Prayer.
As I squirmed in my seat during the last afternoon of the last day of our session, anxious to complete the few remaining items on our long, involved agenda, one overarching impression settled deeply in my mind. If this day, and the last five before it had been about anything, they had been about dependence upon God in prayer. The atmosphere of prayer pervaded, permeated and encompassed the NAD Year-end Meeting . . . entirely.
The first item of business Dan Jackson, President of the NAD, invited the delegates to consider was our dependence on God and the privilege of our communion with Him through prayer. Elder Jackson then introduced Ruthie Jacobson, the NAD Prayer Coordinator, and four members of her prayer team. He called on this group to be continually vigilant and particularly sensitive to the moving of God and the need for prayer during every moment of the ensuing proceedings. Then Jackson outlined the executive privileges this prayer team was being afforded during the session.
In the General Conference Assembly Hall there were five microphones stationed at the front of each isle during the Year-end Meeting. Delegates who wish to speak during the session approach a microphone, are recognized by the chair in order, and are invited to speak. Some would entertain motions, others would express concerns, suggestions and recommendations, and a few would register complaints, ideas, reflections, and, among other things, lift up praise to God. The meeting, said Jackson, would be managed respectfully, cordially and systematically.
There is necessarily a good deal of order and organization at such gatherings. There would be proposals and reports and financial reviews and much more. But through it all, Jackson appealed, there should necessarily be prayer. If and when, said Jackson, any member of the prayer team stepped to any one of the five microphones, intercession with God would be given priority. Prayer would be the next item of business. Prayer superseded everything else. And it did.
There were prayers of surrender, confession, dedication, commitment and intercession.
When we finished the NAD finance report we prayed.
At the conclusion of the exciting and innovative presentation regarding NAD Young Adult Ministries and the Adventist Learning Community we prayed. (These two components are, by the way, part of six Building Blocks which comprise the NAD’s current initiatives. The other four include Emerging Immigrant Populations, Transformational Evangelism, Media and Women in Ministry. There were, by the way, special seasons of prayer interspersed throughout all these reports.)
Sometimes we were invited to join with several others sitting near us to pray for God’s blessing. Other times we were led in prayer by someone on the prayer team or an individual called from the floor to intercede before God for the entire group.
We paused to pray for church leaders who were wrestling with life-threatening disease and faith challenging dilemmas.
When the discussion of an issue appeared potentially polarizing, a member of the prayer team appeared at the mic and we paused to pray. Ruthie Jacobson and her team stepped to the mic, to the front of the line, and we prayed . . . again, and again, and again, and again.
Several times, during the discussion of women in ministry, we prayed for God’s guidance and blessing. When Dan Jackson announced on Friday, October 31, that the day marked the end of operations at the Adventist Media Center in Thousand Oaks, CA, we stopped to pray. On another occasion we prayed for the Adventist publishing work in North America as restructuring and consolidation occur. (The Review and Herald Publishing House in Hagerstown, MD, is being consolidated with the Pacific Press Publishing Association.)
We gathered in groups for prayer after the NAD President and lead administrators reported on the “Future of the Church” meeting at the Dulles Airport for three days in May this year. Huge issues challenge the church today. At the Dulles meeting NAD Church leaders wrestled with important opportunities facing Adventist education, church growth and structure today. They prayed then. We prayed again.
Even as we pressed toward the Year-end session’s conclusion and the pressures of time constraints and remaining items challenged us, we took time for prayer. With over 200 administrative leaders and delegates gathered from throughout North America, you can imagine there were plenty of eloquent speeches, impassioned appeals and challenging perspectives voiced from the floor. Eventually, speaking times at the mic were limited, . . . but there was never a constraint put on time for prayer.
The North American Division Year-end Meeting began with prayer. The business was bathed in prayer. And we ended the gathering with a song of dedication and prayer of consecration.
It was interesting and enlightening to be a part of church business at the NAD. But above everything the church is about, I came away from the meetings in Washington, D.C., with the overarching impression that we need to be about prayer.
“We have come to serious times,” said Ellen White. “Events in our world call upon every follower of Christ to be totally in earnest in our relationship with God. To strengthen this relationship and satisfy our emotional and spiritual needs, we must learn to power of prayer.” (Prayer, p. 1)
Now it’s time for you and me to pray.
October 31, 2014
Higher Ground by Pastor Jeff Kinne
This Friday finds me in Washington D.C. attending the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists Year-end Meeting. Approximately 400 delegates gather each year at this time to “consider budget requests, make appropriations, adopt policies necessary in the operation of the Division, and transact other business necessary.” A large portion of the delegates in attendance are here by virtue of their positions of leadership in the Adventist Church. Some of us, yours truly included, are here by special appointment/invitation. This is my second year that I’ve had the privilege to attend.
The theme for this year’s gathering is “Higher Ground.” As head of the North American Division, Dan Jackson delivered his “President’s Report” this morning. It was a passionate call to be focused on the task we have been given as God’s church in these important, challenging days of earth’s history. The “Higher Ground” Elder Jackson called us to was Jesus Christ and His soon return.
“We have sinned,” said Jackson. And then he became very personal: “I have sinned.” What came next was a litany of ways that Elder Jackson, . . . and I, . . . and I suppose most of us in the church, have allowed other, important things to become the most important thing. Have mercy on us, O Lord! Such important things as the discussion about ordination, the NAD media ministry, (Today, October 31, 2014, is the last day of operation for the SDA Media Center in Thousand Oaks, CA.) the publishing work in North America, (The Review and Herald Publishing Association will no longer be involved in printing. The Pacific Press will be the North American Division’s only printing press.) and an assortment of other items, have too easily become our consuming focus. As important as those issues are, they are not the ultimate focus of our work. Jesus and His return is, said Jackson.
Then, quoting the first paragraph of Acts of the Apostles, by Ellen White, Jackson invited every person in attendance to be the conduit through which God’s glory and character is displayed to the world. Here’s the quote: “The church is God's appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world. From the beginning it has been God's plan that through His church shall be reflected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency. The members of the church, those whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light, are to show forth His glory. The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to "the principalities and powers in heavenly places," the final and full display of the love of God. Ephesians 3:10.” (AA,p.9)
Carefully consider those words, friend, as we did this morning in the General Conference Assembly Room. Especially reflect on the closing ones: “Through the church will eventually be made manifest . . . the final and full display of the love of God.”
Imagine that! God’s final and full display of His love before Jesus’ return is reflected through the church. That’s you and me!! What a privilege! What a high calling!! To that end Elder Jackson challenged every delegate to commit. And I would ask you as well, friend and member of Village Church - Would you, would I allow God to so inhabit, possess, indwell, empower me that His full and final display of love is radiated to the world?
Would you say, as I did this morning, and again at this writing, I’m yours, God.
October 24, 2014
170th Anniversary by Pastor Jeff Kinne
“Do you know what today is?” My mother-in-law’s query came early Wednesday morning as I scurried about the kitchen shoving food down the hatch before I scooted off to the office.
“Ground Hog Day?” No. Couldn’t be. Although I was already weary and somewhat annoyed by the sun’s increasingly shortened circuit through our sky, I knew a lot more darkness would have to be endured before that creature would show his furry head.
Speaking of ground hogs and annoyance, if I have my way, there will a few less pesky creatures sticking their heads from mounds of dirt in my lawn come Gopher Day, 2016!
Honestly, although I’m generally aware what day of the week it is, I rarely keep track of days in the month. What day is today?
“No, what day is it?,” I asked.
“Today is October 22. We’ve been waiting for Jesus to return for one hundred and seventy years!”
“And you’ve been at it for nearly half that time!” No, I didn’t say that. Of course I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t even think such a thing. . . .
Wow! One hundred and seventy years. That’s a long wait. Dola and I enjoyed a short exchange about the significance of this day.
One hundred and seventy years since as many as 100,000 earnest Millerite believers gathered in fields, on hill tops and in meeting places breathlessly, joyously expecting Jesus return. Heads lifted, eyes focused, they constantly surveyed the horizon. It was October 22, 1844, the day William Miller and other fervent preachers proclaimed the Jesus would break through the clouds with power and might, bringing an end to sin, taking the hopeful to heaven and cleansing the earth with fire.
As the day passed into evening, and the hours of darkness slipped away, the stunned crowds dispersed, discouraged, despairing. Jesus had not returned. Hiram Edson, a careful Bible student and fervent Millerite, described the disappointment: “Our fondest hopes and expectations were blasted, and such a weeping came over us as I never experienced before. It seemed that the loss of all earthly friends could have been no comparison. We wept and wept, till the day dawn.”
One hundred and seventy years later the Great Disappointment is history . . . but Jesus’ return is still our “fondest hope.” After two thousand years it is still the “blessed hope” – the “glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2: 13) Our hearts burn bright with that hope. That’s what faith is. Four thousand years ago Abraham exemplified that same trusting, waiting attitude: “being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.” (Romans 4: 21)
Two thousand years ago the disciples and early church considered Jesus’ return imminent. One hundred and seventy years ago the fervent Christians predicted it. Today we still anticipate it.
He will come . . . on time, in God’s time. The rumblings announcing His approach grow daily. Even now God is preparing hearts to hope . . . and wait.
It will be glorious - “in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21: 27)
It will be dramatic – “the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat.” (2 Peter 3: 10)
It will be unexpected – “as a thief in the night”; “no one knows about that day or hour.” (2 Peter 3: 10 & Matthew 24: 36)
It will be purposeful – “He will come to bring salvation to all those who are eagerly and patiently waiting for Him.” (Hebrews 9: 28, TLB)
It’s His final promise – “Surely I am coming quickly.” (Revelation 22: 20)
And so my heart sings in tandem with John the Revelator and in concert with every expectant believer: “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22: 20)
One hundred and seventy years and counting. But still counting on His return.
Still sure of it.
Still anticipating it.
Still fully convinced of it.
Because He promised.
Nineteen days after the Great Disappointment in 1844, William Miller wrote a letter to one of his closest friends and fellow believers. Instead of despair and discouragement, Miller expressed hope and encouragement. His words, his spirit, his resolve is exemplary one hundred and seventy years later: “I have fixed my mind upon another time, and here I mean to stand . . . and that is Today, TODAY, and TODAY, until He comes and I see Him for whom my soul yearns.”
October 17, 2014
More Dangerous than Ebola by Pastor Jeff Kinne
Ebola is a gruesome, dreadful disease. It attacks from the inside, eventually causing internal organs to break down and bleed out. The infection has claimed the lives of nearly 5000 in the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Within two months, health officials say there could be 10,000 new cases every week.
Last week the U.S. saw its first victim. The treatment of Thomas Duncan, who brought the disease to America, has now infected two others.
Our nation, West Africa, the world is on alert.
As the deadly virus spreads its threatening tentacles, it has ignited an even more dangerous human malady – fear. Ebola spreads through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people. Fear multiplies without physical, objective, or rational externals. It spreads by sight, by sound, by tweet, by posts, by pictures, . . . at the speed of light.
Thousands will die from Ebola. But fear of the disease will result in the tragic, residual deaths of millions. The Ebola virus destroys the physical body. The Ebola fear infects and distorts the psyche. Whole swaths of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are being abandoned as people run from the disease. Many health clinics and hospitals have been marginalized because health care workers fear for their life. Whole neighborhoods and villages lie vacant. Farms are left uncultivated, business boarded up, millions of children are kept from school and already fragile economies are being devastated.
Famine accompanies the disease. Food prices spiral, meals become scarce for the marginal and orphans of the virus perish from hunger. The World Health Organization warns that if urgent action is not taken, ¾ of a million people may die from malnutrition alone.
The Ebola virus is life threatening to those it infects. Fear has no physical boundaries . . . and it can lead to bizarre and destructive assumptions. Historically, life-threatening epidemics have victims and villains. In the 14th century Black Death swept through Europe resulting in the deaths of some 100+ million people – 30% to 60% of the total population. At that time in history no one understood how people became infected or how the disease spread. Human reasoning said that a crisis of such proportion must have a cause. Some people pointed to the stars or wind. That was a bit too vague for uninformed but inquiring minds. Most found it easier to blame someone rather than something. Foreigners, beggars, . . . Jews . . . were blamed. “They’re poisoning our wells.” Jewish communities were attacked and exterminated.
The same thing happened when the cholera epidemic spread through New York City in the 1800s. Irish and German immigrants were blamed for that outbreak.
We are often guilty of the same dangerous reasoning today. When the devastating earthquake leveled buildings and homes in Haiti in 2010, rumor had it that the island’s ruin was linked to devil worship. And when Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans in 2005, then mayor Ray Nagin argued that God was punishing the U.S. for our intervention in Iraq.
Kurt Gray, a psychology teacher at University of North Carolina, calls this skewed, panic-induced reasoning “dyadic completion.” “We think of evil,” said Gray, “involving a dyad – a villain and a victim.” “So when we have a victim” from Ebola . . . or Hurricane Katrina, we look “for an evil entity to blame for the suffering.”
The Ebola virus has claimed thousands. The devastation has left us, the survivors, looking for something, someone to blame – Liberians, the World Health Organization, foreigners, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President Obama, . . . the Illuminati.
Because of our love for God, His truth, and our prophetic world view, Seventh-day Adventists should be on guard and wary of such irrational reasoning. Revelation 13 predicts that the last historic movements on earth will be marked by a vicious and unjustified attack on Christians who are singled out because of their unswerving allegiance to God and His teachings. (Revelation 13: 11 – 18)
Unfortunately, our own history as a denomination . . . and my own heart as a God-follower . . . has revealed that we are, I am, prone to similarly faulty “dyadic” reasoning. When fear is allowed to camp out in my mind, unconditional love and compassion are jettisoned. Justice and mercy give way to self-protection. I protect “my camp” at the expense of “yours.”
Fear is primal. It connects to our most basic drives. God’s plan is that the default pathways which take us in such dishonoring directions be reshaped and refashioned by a settled confidence in His power and provision. Hear His voice speaking to us through the prophet Isaiah: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41: 10
October 10, 2014
Treasure by Pastor Jeff Kinne
If someone were to ask you, What’s the most treasured possession you own? What would you say?
We all have things that we treasure. The way you can determine the relative importance of some possession, some treasure, is that when it is threatened or damaged, you go ballistic.
For my story, I have to push the rewind button . . . to way, way back. Nearly forty years ago I purchased a guitar while I was enrolled in a foreign study program in Guadalajara, Mexico. I was a junior at Western Washington State College searching for adventure . . . and an alternative to the daily university grind in Bellingham. Fall in Jalisco! It was impossible to resist.
Knowing the value of the U.S. dollar abroad, the relative cheap prices of hand-made goods in Mexico, and the history of expert craftsmanship in a particular town south of Guadalajara, I made plans to purchase a my very own classical guitar. I still remember strolling through the artisan village, meeting the craftsman/owner of the best guitar shop in town, selecting an absolutely beautiful, hand, crafted, delicately inlayed, rosewood, spruce, ebony instrument and negotiating the price. It was expensive, for me, for those days. But it was an amazing instrument and I loved it.
Back home that December, the Kinne clan was gathered for our annual Christmas celebration. The living room was bursting with family, young and old. We were singing a few beloved carols to welcome Christmas Eve. I was strumming chords on my guitar. It was special.
Choruses concluded, I stood to carefully place my precious, new, beautiful guitar in its case. Lifting the delicate instrument above my head to clear the crowd, I failed to compensate for the broad chandelier that hung from the ceiling. There was a piercing sound of shattering wood. I looked at the side of my gorgeous guitar. The delicate rosewood body had been punctured by the chandelier finial. A one inch hole marred my here-to-for perfect guitar!
For me, Christmas was over. I mourned my wounded guitar for . . . well, too long. It still played wonderfully, sounded melodious and, from nearly every perspective, looked beautiful. But it was forever marred, battered, pierced and wounded. I replayed that tragic moment again, and again, and again.
That guitar was my treasure. I cared for it deeply.
You have things, . . . I have things, . . . we all have things we treasure. What do you treasure most?
The Bible is quite clear about what we should be at the top of that list. It’s not our musical instruments. Nor is it the car we drive or the house we live in, even when those items rank as the most valuable things we own.
The thing we should treasure most, according to the Bible, is our soul. Jesus stated it clearly: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16: 26) Jesus says you can place all the money, power, status, reputation, fame, and possessions of earth on one side, and your soul on the other. If you get all that . . . and lose your soul, you’ve made a tragic mistake. Nothing is so important as the soul.
Why is your soul of such immense worth? Why does it matter so much? Because your soul, biblically speaking is the essence of your life. It is that aspect of your whole being that integrates and enlivens every part of your being – the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social. The soul could be called the life-center of a human being. It is the deepest part of you. That’s why the Bible often addresses the soul as if it were another person. “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” says the psalmist. (Psalm 42: 5, 11; 43: 5) Your soul is basically your deepest you. The soul is the essential you. We care for our soul by tending to all the other parts of our being – our mind, our emotions, our body, our relationships – so that our entire life is surrendered to God.
Is there any place where you have been clinging to disobedience? Are there patterns of thought that are opposed to God? Are you feeding your mind trash or things that are just, true, good, honest, upright, and noble? How about your body? Do you have habits and appetites that are running rampant? Paul encourages us to submit our bodies as living sacrifices to God. (1 Corinthians 3: 16; 6: 19, 20)
So, just one question: Do you treasure your soul? You do that by surrendering your entire being - your will, your mind, your body, and relationships to God so that your soul can be saved.
October 3, 2014
Holy, Holy, Holy by Pastor Jeff Kinne
Someone once said that “what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
So, what comes to your mind when you contemplate God?
It’s likely that the question brings to mind any number of attributes you associate with God. There are numerous verses you’ve read in the Bible that describe Him. Words like gracious, kind, understanding, just, true and loving come immediately to mind. Additionally, our thoughts about God are also formed from the way we’ve seen Him act in our lives and throughout history. For example, God’s treatment of Israel in their exodus from Egypt displays His mercy.
Over the years Bible students have categorized God’s attributes. That list includes such descriptions as eternal – having no beginning or end; immutable – never changing in His being or promises; impassable – totally self-controlled (i.e. not overwhelmed by any emotion); infinite – not subject limitations; and, among numerous others, omnipotent – all powerful.
Each attribute describes something about God that is crucial to His character and important to His understanding. It would be incorrect, however, to think that these attributes are distinct parts of Him, as though He could be divided up into a loving part and a just part. Rather, each attribute is part of His whole. His love is not different from His justice. God’s character and identity include all that His attributes reveal.
It is also important to know that each of His attributes includes all the other attributes. In other words, God’s love is good, merciful, just, true, powerful and wise. And Similarly, His power is merciful, wise and loving.
While all God’s attributes are helpful to consider and important to understand, I would like to spend the rest of this article musing over just one. The attribute I have in mind happens to be the only description of God used three times in immediate succession - and happens in two separate places in scripture - once in the Old Testament and once in the New.
While my knowledge of ancient Greek and Hebrew is sketchy at best, I understand that both written languages were much more static in expression than our modern written communication. Today we can make a word bold or capitalized, increase the font size, or any number of other techniques to add emphasis and importance. Back in the days of Jesus and Moses, the options for emphasis to a story hand written in Hebrew or Greek were much more limited. One sure way to highlight the importance of an idea, concept or word, however, was to repeat it. For example, on a number of occasions Jesus addressed people by using their name twice. “Simon, Simon.”(Luke 22: 31) “Martha, Martha.” (Luke 10: 41) If Jesus said your name twice, it was time to listen. Repeating the same word or name twice placed emphasis and importance on the point being made.
As I mentioned previously, all the attributes of God are important. They combine to make up His perfect character. However, as I mentioned previously, only one attribute is repeated thrice. In vision, Isaiah saw God arched by six-winged seraphim hovering just above His throne. They called back and forth to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of host.” Isa. 6 3
Similarly, John the Revelator saw God encompassed by four living creatures who never ceased to proclaim, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4: 8)
The term holiness in Hebrew and Greek communicates a distinctness of sacredness. To say that God is holy, is to say that He is unique and eternally separate from all impurity. Repeating it three times gives it emphasis and importance. It’s as though the seraphim and living creatures are declaring the absolute perfection of God’s character, the unqualified purity of His being. By repeating the attribute, in a never-ending fashion as done by the living creatures of Revelation, scripture seems to be telling us to keep this attribute of God’s divine character constantly before us. He is holy, pure and separate from all sin. That is also the work His has committed Himself to in our behalf. Praise God! Peter declared that believers in Christ are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” 1 Peter 2: 9 And Paul assures us that “God . . . Himself [will] sanctify you completely [make you holy].” 1 Thess. 5: 23 Then he concludes with this promise: “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” 1 Thess. 5: 24 “Do” what? Sanctify you completely. Make you entirely holy.
Holy, holy, holy. That’s what God is. And it’s an attribute He has promised to accomplish in us . . . through our Savior, Jesus Christ. It’s a continuous work. Just as the heavenly creatures never stop proclaiming it, God, through His Spirit, never stops forming His holy image in us. God has committed Himself to our holiness. He can bring it about. But it requires something of us. Continual surrender to the holy-making work of God’s Spirit within.
Let’s join the heavenly creatures in celebrating God’s holiness by allowing Him to work that attribute in and through us today, tomorrow, and until Jesus returns.
September 26, 2014
Life Lessons from Grass Growing by Pastor Jeff Kinne
Although it seems like ages past, it was only last fall that I was devoting every Sunday to my yard. With the help of a tractor offered by Village Church family, I cultivated and leveled the ground surrounding my home. With the expert counsel of another fine man I installed a sprinkling system. And in October I planted my lawn!
This past spring I was excited to see my lawn growing tall enough to mow. (That excitement quickly faded after a couple weeks!) Unfortunately, luxurious grass wasn’t the only thing growing in my yard. I likely had every variety of weed that roots in the Walla Walla valley multiplying exponentially from the ground that was designated “my yard”. By April I seriously wondered if the grass I had planted would survive the battle with the weeds that voluntarily took root.
This last week in September, as my lawn approaches its one year anniversary, I’m happy to say that the grass is now winning. In this week’s blog I’d like to make a few comparisons between the success yard care and flourishing as a follower of Jesus.
First, I made sure that the ground was being adequately watered, fertilized and drained. Lawn seed thrives when conditions are right. In fact, if a lawn is healthy, weeds have a difficult time getting established and growing. So, I initially concentrated on making sure conditions were right for my preferred vegetation. I monitored and adjusted the newly installed sprinklers, carefully applied fertilizer appropriate for the season and even tested the soil to make sure it had the right pH level.
Similarly, Christianity naturally flourishes in the human heart. Belief in God is designed into us. Undeterred, every human being longs for a meaningful connection with his or her Maker. That relationship satisfies, fulfills, completes and energizes us.
Unfortunately, life is not perfect. Adam and Eve’s choice to disregard God in Eden introduced pervasive tentacles of destruction into everything on earth. Initially, our yard appeared to be overrun by those tentacles. Unwanted vegetation thrives in good soil! Tender lawn shoots were quickly overrun by aggressive, fast growing weeds. Large sections were completely inundated by knapweed, puncturevine, cordgrass, crabgrass, thistle, buttercup, yellow nutsedge, and a myriad of other nice and nasty noxious fellows. There were too many to pull . . . and the pulling would have uprooted the good grass that was struggling to survive.
I purchased enough “Weed Stop” concentrate to endanger the underground water supply. Although I questioned whether the lawn could bear the assault, I began a cycle of spray applications. The spray applicator I had used from time immemorial proved to be inadequate for warfare this massive. I purchased the biggest tank I could carry and continued the systematic plan of weed destruction. Although the advertisement on the concentrate claimed that the results would be “visible in 8 hours” it actually took months for the weeds to die and the lawn to spread. At times I thought the entire lawn, or at least major sections, would have to be cultivated under and reseeded. Some areas were so infested with lawn-lookalikes and other dastardly growing things that there was barely a blade of the real thing to be seen.
Despite my initial forecast, our lawn did survive . . . and, in a large part due to the two torrential downpours we’ve experienced this past month, it now appears to be prospering.
As disciples of Jesus, the weeds of our sinful nature and our fallen environment also present us with major challenges. Sometimes it may appear as though our lives are unsalvageable. Our mistakes are too many, the pattern of our thoughts and attitudes too self-centered, our destructive behavior too persistent. But God’s promise of forgiveness and restoration is sure. “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2: 4, 5 He is powerful to root out the cultivated and inherited tendencies that divide us from others and Him. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3: 20 The Christian life is one of constant vigilance, endeavoring to remain in a saving, life-restoring relationship with Him every day. The change may not be immediate. It may take a season – longer than expected. But the change comes – by His power and might.
Now, as I mow my verdant lawn, I pause occasionally to pull out unwanted vegetation. I throw it aside and mulch it into lawn compost. There’s not a section without any weeds . . . but it’s definitely a lawn now . . . and no longer a glorified weed patch.
It’s the same in the Christian life. God is bringing about a complete transformation in our lives into His image. Have we arrived? No! Is anyone without a struggle against the weeds of sin? Absolutely not! But, as Paul said, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3: 14
God’s image and power has the upper hand. He is on display. Enjoy your yard . . . and Praise God!
September 19, 2014
Show & Tell by Pastor Jeff Kinne
When I was in grade school I loved Show and Tell. (Come to think of it, I still enjoy the exercise.) Tommy brought his six foot boa constrictor. It hadn’t eaten for several weeks. Susan brought a candle she helped make at home. Mike brought a boomerang his uncle gave him from Australia.
I enjoyed our Show & Tell much more than the usual school offering. Tell &Tell is most of what I remember from most of my classroom instruction. That was never quite as interesting. Seeing how a Boa constricts and a boomerang flies was much more exciting than merely having someone describe it. (In case you’re wondering, all the details of the Show & Tells I’ve described above are imaginary. I can hardly remember what I spoke about last week!!)
Show & Tell. It was a memorable grade school activity. It also summarizes how the early church did church . . . and did it so well. It’s a good pattern to follow today too.
Jesus actually set the Show & Tell pattern of engagement from the earliest days of His ministry. John and Andrew were disciples of John the Baptist until the day after their master baptized Jesus. Seeing Him again, John the Baptist pointed to Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1: 36) That was all the encouragement these two men needed. They began following Jesus instead of the Baptizer. Jesus questioned their desires and then said, “Come and see.” “They came and saw” . . . “and remained with Him” for the rest of their lives. (John 1: 35 – 39) They saw where He lived. They heard Him talk. They witnessed His actions. It was enough. They were convinced. While it’s a bit of a stretch to call that Show & Tell, it comes pretty close.
The same thing happened for Simon Peter. One of the first things Andrew did was to do repeat the same “game” with his brother, Peter. “We have found the Messiah,” he told Simon. “And he brought him to Jesus.” (John 1: 41, 42) That was all it took. Jesus called Simon “Stone” and the rest is history. Show and Tell.
The next day Philip saw his friends Andrew, Peter and John with Jesus. A bit of Show & Tell, plus an invitation . . . and Philip threw in his hat too.
Philip immediately found his friend Nathanael. “Come and see” the one all the ancient prophets predicted would come. Nathan came and saw . . . and believed. (John 1: 43 – 51) Show & Tell.
The pattern happens again and again. Jesus has a personal conversation with a disgraceful woman about water and worship at a well. She leaves that exchange convinced Jesus was the Christ. Returning to her town, she told all the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did.” (John 4: 29) A crowd of Samaritans went and saw. They invited Jesus to stay two more days. It was another case of Show & Tell. Check out their confession: “Now we believe, not because of what you [the woman] said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” (John 4: 42)
Unfortunately, we are more inclined to follow a Tell & Tell model. We’re into telling . . . as if telling is all that is necessary. We think that telling, knowing, explaining, indoctrinating and the like is the summation of our calling. We also much prefer having other tellers do the telling. We can’t do it well enough, . . . we think, so we hire professional tellers. It needs to be done with precision and accuracy . . . doesn’t it? Telling must be the good tellers job. Our is to watch, occasionally cheer, . . . and wait.
That’s not the way it happened for Jesus or the early church. It was Show & Tell every day. Tens, hundreds, thousands, came, saw and believed. By the way, once we do the “show” part, the tell is relatively easy. After all, “show” is a lot like a picture. We all know that a picture is worth . . . well, lots of words.
Today, we have the privilege to Show & Tell. A life transformed by God’s grace is the show. Peace in the midst of a storm is the show. When people see that show, the tell becomes easy and exciting. It also becomes simple, because the living Word of God, the life-giving Spirit of God, directs and informs.
Every Sabbath we have a Show & Tell extravaganza at Village Church. Tell your friends: Come and see. Meet a Man who knows all about me . . . yet loves me. Could this be the Savior?
September 12, 2014
Anterior Cingulate and Prayer by Pastor Jeff Kinne
Using either hand (one or the other . . . or both if using both hands doesn’t leave you dangerously compromised) place your fingers on the side of your head, just above your ear and forward toward your eye – about where your sideburn would be . . . if you were a man with sideburns. Inside your skull, deep within the protective pocket of your cranium, is a portion of the brain called the anterior cingulate. Your hand is now positioned over that marvelous portion of your God-given intellect. It’s an amazing area of your brain and I’d like to tell you why in this week’s blog.
In last weeks I introduced you to a word that for me was brand new: neurotheology. Briefly, neurotheology examines how belief, prayer, Bible study and worship impacts the brain. It’s a relatively new area of study but is receiving a great deal of attention lately. Dr. Andrew Newberg, one of the foremost researchers in the field of neurology and spirituality, recently published a book entitled How God Changes Your Brain. Part of his study has focused on the spot you’re touching with you hand. By the way, you can stop touching your head now!
Dr. Newberg discovered that the anterior cingulate – that section of your brain you fingers located earlier - acts sort of like our “neurological heart.” That’s what he called it. In other words, when the Bible speaks about the heart as the seat of our emotions and compassion it’s actually talking about the anterior cingulate. Recent research through MRI and SPECT imaging has discovered that the anterior cingulate is responsible for things of the “heart” - like social awareness, empathy and intuition. It is the active part of your brain that is capable of understanding and empathizing with another person’s pain.
The anterior cingulate is, in a sense, the opposite of a selfie. A selfie, you recall, is the picture you take of yourself with a cell phone. A selfie says, LOOK AT ME. At the opposite is the anterior cingulate. This portion of the brain is all about empathy – understanding and empathizing with another person’s pain.
Neuroscientists – most of them agnostic and atheistic mind you - are discovering that the anterior cingulate has impressive and documentable activity when a person prays. The singular way to activate this empathy/intuition brain center is by praying. Through the act of prayer and simultaneously activating of the anterior cingulate, a person experiences greater empathy, connection to others, reduced anger, fear stress and anxiety. Additionally, neuroscientists have discovered that when you pray, the portions of your brain related to stress and anxiety also calm. Evidently the two opposing emotions cannot coexist.
There is some bad news, however. Researchers found that the anterior cingulate and other portions of the brain as well, deteriorate with age. The good news is that stimulation of this vital area of the brain appears to reverse the aging dilemma and also counters the effect of depression and other age related disorders! Scientists found that the brain’s neuroconnections are actually restored and healed through prayer. Good News!!
Long ago, two thousand years before neuroscientists were discovering the secrets of the brain, Jesus challenged us to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5: 44) It turns out that following Jesus’ counsel actually creates new neuropathways in the brain allowing even more capacity for intuition and empathy for that estranged person or problematic situation. When you pray for antagonists you actually increase your capacity to forgive and enlarge your ability for compassionate understanding. Praise God!
Prayer is God’s powerful tool to wage war against aging, anger, aggression, depression and more. It is God’s tool to heighten our empathy and sensitivity to social situations.
Here’s the problem, however. Generally speaking, very few Christians pray enough to reap the benefits that God packed into this special communication with Him. Too few of us pray, I mean really pray . . . pouring our hearts out to God, claiming His promises and receiving His strength. The benefits of prayer are being touted by atheistic and agnostic neuroscientists. It even prolongs life! Unfortunately, the casual, hasty conversation that many of us call prayer doesn’t lay claim to the amazing blessings that God built into this important spiritual practice.
When we don’t pray, we allow our brain to chase all the other voices that come crashing into our thoughts to win. But when we do pray, we allow God to change our life and the lives of those for whom we pray.
Prayer changes everything – your physiology, your spiritual health, your environment, your community and your world. So, let’s pray!
September 5, 2014
Brain Sanctification by Pastor Jeff Kinne
Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system in general and the brain in particular. The brain, of course, can be directed toward any subject. Consequently, there can be a ”neuroscience” of almost any topic. In recent years a number of researchers have been exploring what they call “neurotheology” - how belief, prayer, Bible study and worship impact the brain. Recently, Leadership Journal devoted several articles to this interesting subject. I’d like to share some gleanings in this week’s Village Blog.
It goes without saying that the brain is central to our pursuit of God. Whatever happens to us “spiritually” must be a function of and impact our brains. The Apostle Paul connected the spiritual life with changes in the believer’s mind: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, . . .” (Romans 12: 2; see also Ephesians 4: 17 - 24)
Recent studies in neuroscience reveal that the brain is malleable. In other words, it responds to change . . . continuously. You can make your brain better regardless of your age. (Something I’m increasingly grateful for!) Researchers have discovered that nerve cells in your brain are constantly growing and changing according to your activity and environment. So when your daily quiet time brings you to reflect on the amazing gift of God for you in Christ, your nerve cells change – even growing new extensions called axons capable of communicating with other parts of the brain. Contemplating something as deep and rich and magnificent as God energizes your brain, reshaping it in ways that are God-adoring and God-honoring. The Apostle Paul wrote about this divine transformation when he said that “to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8: 6)
Modern brain research has also proven helpful to better understanding our struggle with sin. Neuroscientists tell us that most of our behavior is not a plethora of choices. Most behavior is habitual. Therefore, acquiring new behavior means developing new habits. Willpower and conscious choices are important. But long-term behavior change is a consequence of acquiring new neural pathways, or habits.
Habits are essential for navigating life. When I first learned to type, the process was arduous. There were so many little things to remember that I could think of little else. Over time, however, those little steps became "chunked” into routine actions that required no conscious thought. That process is amazingly freeing. “Chunking” is what allows me to drive down the road and be engrossed in an audio book at the same time. (Please Notice: I didn’t say to drive and text!)
You could say that following Jesus is like allowing the Holy Spirit to “re-chunk” my brain according to His image. The verse I quoted previously from Romans 12 where Paul talks about being transformed by the “renewing of your mind,” is a spiritual description of what happens inside our physical brain.
The tragedy of our fallen human nature, however, is that sin has invaded and captured our brain. Sin has become a habit pattern. It’s natural for me to speak and act in self-serving ways. Self-centeredness flows naturally from my mouth . . . and my mind doesn’t recognize it even when a loving friend identifies my flaw! Neuroscience research has given us a clearer picture of how deeply imbedded sin becomes. That’s what Paul meant when he said that “sinful passions . . . were at work in our members.” (Romans 7: 5) He’s saying that sin is in the habitual patterns that direct our thoughts, our eyes and our actions.
Hallelujah, God has not consigned us to battle our fallen nature alone. Growing closer to Jesus, or what we call sanctification, is not merely human devising. It is a process that God has pledged Himself to accomplish in us and to which we are called to cooperate. It is a process that refashions our sinful “chunking” and, as modern research is demonstrating, transforms our minds. By God’s grace and guidance, He enables me to make the habits and desires of my body serve Him, not me. Sanctification, therefore, impacts not only our behavior but, likely, even the intimate arrangement of our brains. It is a work that God has pledged Himself to in our behalf. This was the gist of Paul’s prayer for the church in Thessalonica. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may you whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” (1Thessalonians 5: 23, 24)
Additionally, brain research has shown that I will not be transformed merely by correct information - by knowing the truth. The truth must be embodied, given action, allowed to become habituated into attitude, disposition and deed. That transformation occurs daily, moment by moment, as God-empowers my thought and I give action to prayer, Bible study, scripture memorization, benevolent service, loving words.
As I mentioned previously, the brain is dynamic and continuously developing. Just as exercise strengthens muscles, repeated choices and actions strengthen the brain. That’s undoubtedly why Paul encouraged us to let our minds dwell on things that are “true, . . . noble, . . . just, . . . pure, . . . lovely, . . . praiseworthy.” (Philippians 4: 8) God is using every good thought we think, to reshape our brains in His image. Praise His name!
August 29, 2014
Money Can Buy Happiness . . . . Depending On How You Spend It by Pastor Jeff Kinne
Money can’t buy happiness. Most all of us learned that saying from childhood. Experience has taught us the same. Happiness in life is not a derivative of wealth. However, recent research has shown that the way we spend our wealth does impact the personal joy factor. Let me explain.
According to behavioral scientists, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, people’s inner happiness and satisfaction skyrockets not when they acquire or invest or spend money on themselves but when they use their wealth to help others. Interesting.
Here’s one of the experiments Dunn and Norton conducted examining the relationship between money and happiness. They approached students on a university campus and gave them either $5 or $20. The students were told the money must be spent by the end of the day. Half of the participants were instructed to spend the money on themselves and half to spend the money on someone else.
With just that information, most of us would expect two things: People would be much happier spending more money ($20 vs. $5) and that the greatest satisfaction would come when the money was spent on themselves. Double wrong!
That same evening the participants were interviewed. Those who had spent the money on someone else reported happier moods than those who spent it on themselves. And, interestingly, the amount of money spent had no bearing on happiness. Those who spent $20 on someone else were just as happy as the $5 dollar participants.
In another study, they gave students $10 and told them they could donate as much as they wished to another student in the class who had not been given any money. The researchers discovered that the more money the students gave away, the happier their moods afterwards. Interestingly, those students who kept more money for themselves, felt ashamed.
Shame, according to the researchers, is associated with higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone associated with a number of health problems. Consequently, Dunn and Norton concluded that ordinary spending decisions even influence personal physical health. Over time, giving decisions impact our overall health in dramatic ways. Research suggests that older adults who are bigger givers and contributors have better overall health, from hearing to general body strength.
Dunn and Norton took their research global. They wondered whether people in other cultures and continents, irrespective of wealth or status, would express similar convictions. The correlation between giving and happiness was studied in 136 countries. The results suggest that virtually everyone experiences happiness from giving to others, even young children!
No, money can’t buy happiness. But, as researchers suggest, there is a deep joy and satisfaction in investing it in others.
Long before there was such a thing as behavioral science, Jesus expressed this same truth. “It is,” said Jesus, “more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20: 35) In other words, happiness is more a factor of personal generosity than it is a matter of acquiring means or possessions. The most satisfying way to use our wealth is to invest it in others.
Why is it that people feel happier, more satisfied, experience deep soul-level joy and contentment when they give? Could it be the result of placing our feet in, and following the path of God, Who is the by far, hands down, no comparison, the biggest Giver of all. God gave His best, His all, Himself, for us and our salvation, when He gave Jesus. And He’s promised us that He will spare no expense in His efforts to get us from that saving act, through life, . . . and into heaven. It’s no wonder that we are blessed when we give. Such generosity is a shape that resembles and reflects our Creator. He is joy unending. To be like Him, to allow Him to live out His life and ways in us, is to experience that same deep, satisfying, unending joy.
Money can buy happiness . . . when you spend it on others!
August 22, 2014
The Ice Bucket Challenge by Pastor Jeff Kinne
The other evening my daughter asked if we owned any big buckets.
“You bet cha!” I said, directing her to a stack of five gallon plastic containers. (They used to hold paint) While attempting to pull them apart - UGG! – I asked about her quest. “Why two five gallon buckets?”
“A friend challenged me.”
Huh? Challenged you to what? Run with buckets on your feet?
“I’ve got to pour a bucket of ice water on my head, or give $100 to a charity.”
Wow! I know a great place where you can give money and they’ll never pour water on you!!
“Why two buckets?”
“I’ve been challenged twice.”
It turns out that Elise was doused only once . . . which is beyond what I’d be willing to bear.
At first I was inclined to dismiss this ice water thing without much thought. My daughter has an adventurous spirit and loves a challenge. Once a couple swallows of Jalapeno juice resulted in a $10 dollar gain. Then there was a spoonful of butter. I think that swallow netted $4 bucks! Now a bucket of ice water . . . and still out $10 dollars?! What’s this about?
“Haven’t you heard, dad? There’s an Internet charity contest that EVERYBODY is doing. It’s the Ice Bucket Challenge. You either donate $100 to the ALS Association (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease) or record yourself dumping a bucket of water on your head and pay $10 dollars . . . or any amount you wish.”
It sounded crazy then. It still sounds crazy now.
“So a friend challenged you . . . and you have to supply the buckets? Do you also have to buy the ice?”
“Challenge me,” I solicited. “I’ll say no to the $100 donation and to the ice water!”
I’m such a killjoy.
The Ice Bucket Challenge. If you’ve been on Facebook recently, or even tuned in to the national news, you’ve likely heard all about it. The campaign that aims to raise awareness concerning this horrible neurodegenerative disorder has literally gone viral. Former President George W. Bush was doused and gave. So have numerous other famous personalities . . . like Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Fallon and Bill Gates. A multitude of others have followed suit. It’s a craze! Amazingly, more than $41.8 million dollars has been raised compared with $2.1 million donated during the same period last year.
As you might expect, the campaigned has created its share of critics. Some say that disproportionate contributions to the ALS Association will inevitably result in less giving to other, important and well-deserving charities. After all, the reasoning goes, there’s only so much money earmarked “contribution” out there. Empty the bucket (pardon the pun!) on finding a drug to combat ALS and the income stream to a multitude of other non-profit organizations reduces to a trickle. A dire . . . but likely inflammatory warning. It turns out that critics even have a name for this disproportionate giving slide: “funding cannibalism.” The ALS, they say, is effectively “stealing” donations that were intended elsewhere!
Naysayers also complain about the methodology. People are giving, they complain, merely because the challenge has gone viral. Giving to the ALS Association is momentarily popular. It’s the result of a genius marketing campaign, they say. Which also suggests, according to the critics, that the bar is being raised for every non-profit. I mean, who has the advertising virtuosity to create something that goes viral? How does that happen? How often can it?
Faultfinders, furthermore, claim that the ice bucket challenge is potentially deceitful. Those who take the challenge feel like they’ve done something very good . . . when all they’ve done is gotten cold and wet. Then, having done something considered really good, they think their “good” quota has been met, and are thus less likely to do good things in the future. This slippery slope is called “moral licensing.” Studies have shown that it does happen. And when it does, that person who thinks they’re so good because of their good deed subsequently becomes more likely to be bad. Interesting!
Anyway, I’m not interested in making anybody feel bad about participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge. It would indeed be wonderful to find a cure for this horrible disease. And I’m glad for the influx of funds which will certainly advance ideas that may lead to a successful treatment for ALS. However, I’m not interested in receiving the challenge that has raised so much cash. If you’re thinking of extending one my way right now, don’t think twice. I’ll not take you up on it. Nor will I extend it to anyone else. I find nothing captivating about the whole idea of buckets of ice water raising money for even a very good cause.
The whole episode has given me pause for reflection and thankfulness. I’m very grateful that Village finances don’t work anything like the Ice Bucket Challenge. Forty-three million dollars would be helpful. But I much prefer God’s stewardship program. He blesses every one of us with health, strength, talent, time, resources, relationships and, among a multitude of other good things, salvation. Everything we call “ours” is actually a heavenly gift. Our financial acknowledgement of that reality is called tithe. God invites us to return 10% of our financial increase to His church.(Malachi 3: 10) He also bids us contribute free-will offerings “not grudgingly or of necessity; for God’s loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9: 7) Then, of course, He adds an incentive. It’s a divine challenge that dwarfs the ALS charity scheme that gone viral. “’Try Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.’” (Malachi 3: 10b) Unbelievable! Generosity!! Good fortune!!! No water, or ice, or threats, or embarrassment, or chagrin. No alloy. Just undiminishing favor. I gladly return tithe and freely give additional, systematic financial gifts because, as David confessed, I know that “all things come from You [God].” (1 Chronicles 29: 14) Every good thing that comes my way is a divine gift.
Maybe, like my daughter Elise, you’ve taken the Ice Bucket Challenge. Good for you! Your contributions will be a blessing. But in a week, a month, a season, . . . the challenge will be over. All too soon another scheme will go viral and millions will be donated to another, hopefully good, cause. All the while, God is the One who deserves all the credit, gives every good blessing, and gratefully receives the tokens of our appreciation and acknowledgment of His Sovereignty through the tithes and offerings contributed to His church. This divine plan is secure, steady, perpetuating, proportionate. Consequently, His work in the world is sustained . . . and His people witness heavenly windows thrown open and blessings poured out. Praise God!!
July 25, 2014
How to Read and Understand Ellen G. White by Pastor Jeff Kinne
Just this week Dan, Matt, Steve and I enjoyed the annual Pastor’s Family Retreat at Camp MiVoden. Along with encouraging messages and inspirational worships we were privileged to be instructed by William Fagal, Associate Director of the Ellen G. White Estate. With thirty years of experience in this important field, Elder Fagal’s presentations were both informative and faith-building. In this week’s Village Blog I’d like to share a bit of what I gleaned from Fagal’s lecture on how to read and understand the writings of Ellen White. His points were clarifying and helpful. I hope you find my summary to be useful as well.
The work of correctly interpreting inspired writings is called “hermeneutics.” The word comes from a Greek word that means “to interpret.” Hermeneutics, therefore, is the work of interpreting the Bible and the writings of Ellen White correctly. Elder Fagel presented three simple rules important to understanding texts that I thought you’d appreciate knowing. They are as follows:
1. Study the general teaching.
2. Consider time and place.
3. Discover the basic principles.
I’ll describe each briefly.
As Elder Fagel said, Rule #1 seems quite obvious: study the general teaching. However, many of our disagreements about the essential meaning of a quote from scripture or Ellen White can often be traced to a violation of this important factor. We read one verse or one sentence and think we grasp the entire picture. Then we argue with anyone who presents a different interpretation. To be fair with the Bible or with Mrs. White, Fagal pointed out that we need to try to find all that is said on that topic. When we get this “big picture,” said Fagal, we will be better able to tell how any one statement fits with the rest. An illustration of this principle from my own experience may be helpful. On several occasions sincere believers have insisted that we must always kneel to pray. They quote Mrs. White as their proof. She does say that “it is indeed our duty to bow down upon our knees before God” when we pray. (2SM, p. 311) Does that mean, however, that Ellen White taught that no prayer should be offered unless we’re kneeling? Not at all! Other statements from Mrs. White show that kneeling in prayer is appropriate but not obligatory.
Heeding this first hermeneutical rule is helpful when dealing with any controversial topic.
Consider time and place is Fagel’s second rule. This means that the literary and historical context of a statement must be considered. Almost every public figure has been misunderstood at one time or another by having his/her words taken out of context. A message must be understood within its specific application. Following this important principle would remedy a host of misunderstandings. Fagel illustrated the significance of this rule by highlighting the confusion some people have created over Ellen White’s admonition that people “should never be taught to say, or feel, that they are saved.”(COL, p. 155) The larger context of this warning involves Peter’s bravado that ultimately led to his denial of Jesus. It is an important and valid caution. Our only safety, Ellen White says in that same context, “is in constant distrust of self, and dependence on Christ.” Mrs. White had a solid understanding of Christian assurance. It doesn’t come from self-confidence but from a living, abiding relationship with the Savior. If you can say that He is Lord of your life, “rejoice.”
Elder Fagel mentioned that time and place also make an important difference our understanding of a verse or quote. Customs may be different. The situation may be unique. We must pay attention to the context.
Elder Fagel’s third rule was Discover the basic principles. In other words “search for the principle underlying each statement of counsel or instruction in order to understand its relevance for people in different times or places.” An example of this rule may be found in Ellen White’s counsel that girls be taught to harness and drive horses. Here’s the quote: “If girls . . . could learn to harness and drive a horse, and to use the saw and the hammer, as well as the rake and the hoe, they would be better fitted to meet the emergencies of life.”(Ed, p. 216, 217) The practical principle that Mrs. White is driving home is that both genders need to receive practical training in order to be prepared to meet the necessities of life. The problem comes when readers today mistakenly make specific policies from instruction that should generate general principles. This counsel can be helpfully applied to such issues as health reform, dress, diet, and more.
Elder Fagel surprised us by adding a fourth hermeneutic principle: Use Common Sense. “We must use common sense and sanctified reason as we analyze the difference between principles and policies.” This, said Fagel, should keep us from going to extremes.
Will these principles solve all our disagreements? Of course not! Even a thorough study of the Bible and Ellen White will leave us with differences. We should not try to force an interpretation. “Neither should we reject things because we do not fully understand them yet,” said Fagel. The Apostle Paul’s advice in this regard seems paramount: “Above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” (Colossians 3: 14)
July 25, 2014
The Truth About You . . .
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
I have a strange problem. So do you. We all suffer from a kind of spiritual blind spot.
An illustration may be helpful.
In a group, if someone sings off key just a bit, . . . if someone has an irritating mannerism, . . . if someone talks too much, . . . or if someone is emotionally needy and people cringe in their presence because they know that that person is going to suck the life out of them, . . . if someone has a problem, who is the last person to know? It’s the someone who has the problem! Right?
The truth about you is . . . that you do not know what the truth about you is. Other people know. They talk about it under their breath.
Recently I came across an insightful quote by Fyodor Dostoevsky, a Russian journalist who lived 150 years ago. Chew on this for a few moments: "Every man has some reminiscences which he would not tell to everyone, but only to his friends. He has others which he would not reveal even to his friends, but only to himself, and that in secret. But finally there are still others which a man is even afraid to tell himself, and every decent man has a considerable number of such things stored away."
In other words, the truth about you is that you do not know what the truth about you is.
The Bible has quite a lot to say about this human condition and what causes it. It’s worth thinking about . . . because you don’t know what the truth about you is. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”, says Jeremiah. (17:9) No one, scripture says, is so well spiritually formed, so spiritually mature, that they are immune to this.
David was a man so serious about his own spiritual life that he became known as a man after God’s own heart. But the truth about David . . . is that he did not know what the truth about him was. You recall the David’s story. This rich, powerful, “many-wived” man-after-God’s-heart saw the only wife of an ordinary citizen. He was so attracted that he took her, just because he could. Then he abused his wealth and power to cover up what he had done. Crime on top of crime. At least nine months passes. Meanwhile King David leads, sings, worships, administrates, composes as if he’s a man of integrity and devotion, while in his heart he’s got to know better. He does, but he doesn’t want to.
Eventually Prophet Nathan is instructed to intervene. He approaches the king and tells him about a rich man and a poor man. The rich man absconds the one and only sheep of a poor man . . . just because he could. He slaughters the poor man’s sheep to feed a guest - as if he was being generous.
Nathan tells David about this man and then waits for his response. David appears clueless . . . about himself. He doesn’t look guilty, or caught, or embarrassed. In fact, David is incensed. The text says that David’s heart burned with anger.(2 Samuel 12: 5) David is not putting on a show. “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die.” (vs. 5) That man whose sin is exponentially less severe than David’s. That man deserves to die.
But you’re the man, David. I’m the man. So are you.
The truth about you is . . . that you do not know what the truth about you is.
Tony Schwartz, founder and CEO of The Energy Project, wrote a blog for the Huffington Post recently called “Our Infinite Capacity for Self Deception.” In it he referred to an article published 25 years earlier about a tobacco lobbyist, Victor Crawford, who helped to defeat a series of anti-smoking bills. Crawford was a life-long smoker himself. At 59 he was diagnosed with throat cancer. In four years he was dead. After being diagnosed with cancer, this is what Crawford admitted about his career choice as a tobacco lobbyist: “In a way, I think I got my just desserts, because, in my heart, I knew better. But I rationalized and denied, because the money was so good and because I could always rationalize it. That’s how you make a living, by rationalizing that black is not black, it’s white, it’s green, it’s yellow.”
Crawford knew better. But because the money was good . . . he sacrificed his integrity, his health, . . . his life.
Jesus used a metaphor to describe this situation: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness.” (Matthew 6: 22)
“If your eye is bad”, said Jesus, you cannot see the truth about you. Unfortunatly, all of us have bad eyes. We don’t even want to know the truth about you . . . because it hurts. Bad.
The truth about me is that even my religious ways can keep me from seeing the truth about me. That’s why James writes, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.” (James 1: 22 – 24)
James says that the Bible is an indispensable mirror for self-awareness. Scripture miraculously presents us with more than mere personal introspection. It's not just a book of good sayings. The Bible is the “living and powerful” Word of God, that pierces “even to the division of soul and spirit, . . . and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4: 12) The Spirit of God speaks deep things to me through the Word of God about who I am.
The truth about me is that only God knows the truth about me. The truth about the truth is if I face the truth about me with Jesus it will hurt me. In fact, it will kill me. But then it will bring me life. As Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8: 32) But first it will make you miserable.
The chapter entitled “Repentance” in Steps to Christ, speaks to this matter: “Many accept an intellectual religion, a form of godliness,"says Ellen White, "when the heart is not cleansed. Let it be your prayer, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.’ Psalm 51: 10 Deal truly with you own soul. Be as earnest, as persistent, as you would be if your mortal life were at stake. . . . David saw the enormity of his transgression; he saw the defilement of his soul; he loathed his sin. It was not for pardon only that he prayed, but for purity of heart. He longed for the joy of holiness – to be restored to harmony and communion with God.” (Steps to Christ, p. 35, 25)
Tomorrow, when you wake up and go look in a mirror, would you say, “God, just as that mirror tells me the truth about my physical body, God would you reveal to me the truth about my character, my habits, my speech, my ego, as much as I can bear.”
This week when someone says something critical, instead of defending, dismissing or rationalizing, will you humbly, eagerly, see if there’s something there to learn?
June 27, 2014
The Shortest Line
by Pastor Jeff Kinne
While reading an interesting article by broadcast journalist Jane Pauley, I came across a quote worth repeating: “The shortest line between two points can be a crooked line.”
It’s counterintuitive . . . but true to life! I’ve followed that sort of “short” route before. Sometimes the crooked line is the only way I seem to be able to progress. The good part is that although the path I choose, or God allows, may be circuitous, it need not be without benefit.The wilderness wandering for Israel is a good case in point. The barren wilderness that separated Egypt from Canaan wasn’t meant to be their final destination. It was a desert wasteland . . . but it wasn’t meant to be a waste. It wasn’t a straight line, but it was a path that God could use to shape, mold and refine Israel into a community that loved Him, honored His word and trusted Him completely. In everything that happened during the exodus and wilderness journey, God intended to draw His people close to Himself. The plagues, the Red Sea passage, His miraculous provision of water in the desert for 1.5 million people and even more flocks and herds, and daily manna, all said, “I will be your God, and you will be My people. Watch Me, know Me, and learn to trust Me.”
It’s easy to point the finger at Israel, rag on their ungratefulness and chastise them for their unfaithfulness. Their attitude toward God did get pretty ugly. But honestly, I’m really not that much different. I know what it means to complain and be ungrateful. It’s so easy to see this kind of rebellion in Scripture and put myself above the fray . . . thinking of myself as superior, like I would never react like that. But I can do the same . . . and much too easily.
At one time or another we’ve all traveled the “crooked line.” Some of us feel like we’re there now. Maybe you’re living in a relative’s basement, and you’re sick of it! Maybe you’re fed up with work but have nowhere else to go. You may be sick of enduring wave after wave of medical tests without a clear diagnosis. Maybe depression and discouragement have made your future appear bleak. You may be sick of visiting your mother or your spouse in a nursing home and hear them repeatedly ask who you are. You’re sick of this manna!
I may despair that nothing could grow in this barren desert. But make no mistake; the “crooked line” is fertile ground for bad or good. It can provide us with our greatest opportunity for transformational growth, or enormous opportunity for bitter resentments to flourish, for faith to shrivel. It all depends how we react to the “crooked line.”
Unfortunately for Israel, as they traveled through the desert they had one entrenched, habitual response to hardships – they murmured. Every time they encountered difficult conditions they murmured. And by choosing to complain, they forfeited the opportunity to grow as people of faith. God, on the other hand, intended to use the harsh conditions of the wilderness to prove His faithfulness. Thus, Israel would be molded into a people of trust, prepared to enter the land promised to their ancestors.
It’s the same for you and me. The question before us is this: Will I endure this trial (fill in the blank - unemployment, aching dissatisfaction with my job, infertility, a runaway teenager or spouse, unexplained depression, humiliating financial setback, etc.) and still have faith and be faithful, allowing the hardship to train me toward greater dependence on God? Will I pass through this vast “crooked line” and still cling to the belief that God is good, that He is wise and loving and worthy of my trust?
Remember James’ encouragement? “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials . . . knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” (James 1: 2) God is preparing me and building things into me through every experience His providence allows. He’s taking me through the desert, the “crooked line”, to prepare me for the Promised Land. He may provide badly needed money. But He may provide contentment to live with joy while living without extras. I think God loves providing exactly what we need at exactly the right moment. He may provide a timely email of encouragement. Or in the absence of a friend, He may speak into our hearts through an inspirational article that addresses our situation with clarity and hope. God may provide strength to patiently care for our children one more hour when we find ourselves at an emotional breaking point. Or He may provide a friend to watch the kids for an afternoon so that we can sit and read as we recharge. Whatever it is, God loves to provide for us. And He does it with intimate knowledge of who we are and what we need.
Remember the words of Peter who walked with Jesus for 3 years, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
For blog entries from previous weeks, click here.