How the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of Adventism Relate to the Cross

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Ellen White writes,

“The Sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary….*

So this Easter, I attempted to do this myself. How, in fact, does our system of truth – if it does – coincide with the aforementioned statement?

Here goes nothing:

  1. The Holy Scriptures : The Bible is the grand story book, inspired by God, which reveals the story of redemption through human agency. Every story enclosed within ultimately points to the resolution of our story found at the cross. 

     

  2. The Trinity : The Trinity is God in three Persons: Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. The cross was the historical juncture where, for the first time in eternity, the Son was ripped away from the Godhead.

     

  3. The Father: God, the Father, revealed his infinite love for humanity when He permitted his only begotten Son to die for you on the cross. 

     

  4. The Son: God, the Son; the one who was nailed on the cross for you; the One who took your shame but then “shamed the shame” (Hebrews 12).

     

  5. The Holy Spirit : God, the Spirit, who was present with the Son before and during His incarnation, is now active in the world drawing all to the foot of the cross to find healing and restoration.

     

  6. Creation : God created the world in 6-literal days, imbuing it with meaning, value, and purpose. The brokenness that crept upon it was ultimately absorbed by God on the cross, ensuring the promise of its restoration.

     

  7. The Nature of Humanity : Man was made in the image of God which was then marred by sin. God, in Christ, reconciled broken humanity with perfect divinity at the cross by becoming the very thing that destroyed us.

     

  8. The Great Controversy : The very weapon Satan devised against God was the very weapon that God used to defeat him. The cross rang the death knell to Satan’s dominion on this earth. Even though the war is over, we still decide whom to crown.

     

  9. The Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ : As one of my friends mentioned, Christ was the only being who chose to be born, but only did that after He chose to die. The cross was, simultaneously, the ugliest and the most beautiful aspect of his incarnate existence.

     

  10. The Experience of Salvation : What the cross more than achieves for us.

     

  11. Growing in Christ : The process by which I am crucified with Jesus on the cross daily, through faith, so that His life becomes increasingly actualized in mine.

     

  12. The church : The community of believers which finds its mission, efficacy, and celebration at the foot of the cross. 

     

  13. The Remnant and Its Mission: The community of God which keeps the commandments of God and holds on to the testimony of Jesus Christ; both of which find their impetus at the cross. 

     

  14. Unity in the Body of Christ – The community of Christ is culturally, racially, ethnically, nationally, vocationally, and demographically diverse. The cross preserves the distinctive beauty of this community while calling it to a higher standard.

     

  15. Baptism : The symbol of your confession by faith to what the cross means to you. It’s an acknowledgment of the pre-eminence of Christ in your life and the permission of God to work through your life.

     

  16. The Lord’s Supper : The symbolic service of the body of Jesus that was broken and the blood that was spilt on the cross. It’s also a reminder that we are to be cross-bearing people in our daily existence.

     

  17. Spiritual Gifts and Ministries : God has gifted every member of the body of Christ with talents and abilities which are to be used for the sole purpose of illuminating the efficacy of the cross to those in and outside of it.

     

  18. The Gift of Prophecy : God’s gift to the remnant community to both help illuminate the beauty of the cross within Scripture and to educate it to live the life of the cross in the world.

     

  19. The Law of God : The transcript of God’s character which reveals how to love God and love others. This was perfectly lived out by Jesus, who through a perfect sacrifice on the cross, assures us that we will be made perfect by His grace through faith.

     

  20. The Sabbath : The 24-hour gift of time where God rested from his work of creation and the work of redemption. Christ honored the Sabbath not only during his life, but also subsequently after his death on the cross as He rested in the grave on Saturday.

     

  21. Stewardship : The cross is the penultimate model for stewardship given to humanity, where God leverages his highest capacities to serve the least of these.

     

  22. Christian Behavior: Christ paid the infinite cost at the cross to restore our bodies and characters to His likeness. An aspect of Christianity, then, is about dedicating the members of our being to serve others and serve God.

     

  23. Marriage and the Family : The Biblical ideal of marriage is fully realized when each one strives to manifest, through the power of God, the self-sacrificing love of Christ modeled for us on the cross. 

     

  24. Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary : Christ is coronated as king in the heavens, initiated as priest for his children on earth today, but these are only made possible because he was crucified as a criminal on the cross for you and me.

     

  25. The Second Coming of Christ : Christ won the victory as our substitute on the cross, paving way for Him to parade through our atmosphere as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, to take us to our eternal home.

     

  26. Death and Resurrection : At the cross, Christ laid death in its grave. So that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

     

  27. The Millennium and the End of Sin : The time period between the first and second resurrection where the righteous and the unrighteous will be sensitized to the magnitude of the cross. 

     

  28. The New Earth : The ultimate existential paradigm where the science of salvation will be taught through the text-book of the cross, the song of salvation sung in the key of the cross, the substance of salvation lived out through the way of the cross, among the community of the cross, forever, and ever more.

    …I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption,–the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers.”*
May it be so today, and every moment hereafter.

*Gospel Workers, 315.
What are your thoughts? What other relations do you see between SDA Theology and the Cross? Leave a Comment below!
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The Gospel According to Pulse

pulse-shooting-orlandoMy heart is heavy as I reflect on what is considered the worst terrorist mass shooting of U.S history.

The shooting at Pulse hit many pressure points eliciting various responses. Gun control, the 2nd amendment, Islamophobia, homophobia, and terrorism were some of the various issues which were re-sensitized and brought to the fore.

And caught right in the middle of this cacophony is the state of individuals. The victimized, the affected, and the sympathizers.

As I reflected on this event and the shootings of the recent past, I felt the need to explore better ways to respond to these heinous crimes, particularly to the individuals under consideration.

The question that I strove to answer can be framed like this:

Within the framework of my worldview, what’s the best possible way to respond to the affected individuals?

Here’s a 5-worded summary of what I have so far:

In love and in truth.

The more I explored this dual concept, the more I was amazed at how a seemingly obscure portion of the Bible gave me more than I was looking for.

Bear with me as I unpack this.

2 John is a small letter written by the apostle John to a dysfunctional church. Most of the struggles, as evidenced by this document, can be boiled down to two major issues:

  • The church was struggling with identifying truth.
  • The church was struggling with loving its members.

John, therefore, targets these issues head-on and offers one of the most beautiful and comprehensive juxtapositions of love and truth found in Scripture.

In this letter, John defines love as “walking according to God’s commandments” and truth as a personal experience with the teachings of Jesus that pervades and influences all areas of one’s life.

This is radical. For in a pluralistic society where worldviews jousted each other for supremacy and subjugation, John pins down two misunderstood and misused concepts and redefines them within the framework of his Judaeo-Christian worldview.

But he goes a step further.

John also shows that love and truth are inextricably connected to each other.

John reveals that one cannot genuinely love apart from knowing the truth, and one does not truly know truth until one loves.

 John is consistent with how Scripture fits in these two concepts throughout its pages. As notable evangelist John Piper puts it, according to Scripture, “Love shapes how to speak truth and truth shapes how to show love.”

So we step out of Scripture into our time. In a society that predominantly looks with its eyes and thinks with its feelings, the concepts of ‘love’ and ‘truth’ are in dire need of re-investigation and reflection.*

The zeitgeist of our time frames love and truth as mutually exclusive concepts. “Love” is usually described within the purview and vocabulary of emotions, oftentimes relegated to feelings accompanied by a visceral sense of acceptance. “Truth”, on the other hand, is usually explained within the framework of empirically verifiable data. American Philosopher, Richard Rorty captures this notion best when he says that “truth is made, not found.”

Considering all this, an unsurprising outcome of our precarious moral landscape is the inconspicuous, yet lethal, severing of love and truth.

What does this look like?

Here’s what happens when love and truth are severed.

1) Love without Truth is Blind

A physician’s primary responsibility is not to calm the patient as much as it is to find an effective treatment based on truthful analysis. When the physician, then, prioritizes receptivity of opinion over the longevity of the patient, a great deal of damage is done to both the patient and to those around him.

In the same way, when our love for others is not motivated by truth, we intentionally become “blind” to their faults and mistakes even if they can cause damage to others in their circles of influence.  The inevitable end for a “truthless love” is at best, a self-preserving bestowal of acceptance, or at worst, a blinded infatuation.

But something else happens when they are severed:

2) Truth without Love is Lame

John describes love as “walking.”

Logically, then, when all I have is truth and I don’t have love, I am simply lame.

And when I am disabled and handicapped while I have truth, all I can do is stay fixed on one location, point my proverbial fingers at everyone around me, and with calculated logic and coherent theology prove why they are wrong.

As someone mentioned, “right + rude = wrong.”

In other words, the truths we subscribe to within our worldview are unblushingly invalidated when they are not accompanied with love.

So what does all this have to do with the shootings?

I have heard two extremes. On the one end, honest discussions regarding the truths about human life, sexuality, moral rights, and governance have been jettisoned for the sake of love and acceptance. Moralists who want to have a serious conversation about these truths based on their respective worldviews have often been dismissed as primitive, insensitive, or divisive. Love without truth.

On the other end, truths have been used as weapons of mass destruction to inconsiderately obliterate all those who oppose them. Judgments have been mercilessly cast on the affected individuals and dehumanized them.  Dogma valued over dignity. Orthodoxy over empathy. Truth without love.

My worldview teaches that Jesus Christ is the perfect embodiment of both love and truth. Through his life, death, and resurrection, He has not only provided the logical and moral grounding for truth, but has also provided the manual for love.
As a follower of Christ, the best way I can respond to the affected individuals, their families, and the country that is mourning is in love and in truth.

I realize that when I don’t confront the truth about human life, the truth about human nature, the truth about how we regulate our laws, I cannot love as deeply as I want to. The extent to which I can recognize these truths is the extent to which I can actualize my love.

And consequently, when I don’t approach these individuals with a love that is not restricted by differences, preferences, or worldviews, I would know that I am not truly practicing the truths that I claim to be true. All my truths are irrelevant if they don’t make me a better lover of the affected.

My heart goes out to the affected. Cannot wait for that day when the sufferings of this life are no more and we truly see Love face-to-face.

*quote inspired by Ravi Zacharias
Pic courtesy: http://www.nydailynews.com

What Christians Do That is Worse Than Rejecting God

lady backI recently read a quote last week that messed me up.

“The darkness of the evil one encloses those who neglect to pray.”
– Ellen White in “Steps to Christ.”

“Yep. Heard that before. Nothing new there. Obviously when I refuse to pray then…”

And that’s when it hit me.

She doesn’t say refuse to pray; She says neglect to pray.

Major difference.

One implies obstinance. The other indicates abeyance.
One is willful, the other is mindless.
One refers to a dismissal, while the other refers to a disinterest.

The author then goes on to make some piercing points regarding the sad reality of many Christians who don’t tap into the riches of God’s grace because they are not intentional about their spirituality.

Joshua seemed to get this towards the end of his life:

“Choose you this day whom you will serve” he said. “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

The more I thought about this, the more I’m led to believe the following:

A major reason why many Christians don’t experience growth isn’t so much because of a refusal of growth as much as a lack of intention towards it. 

And this is worse than an outright rejection of God. How? Bear with me as I work up to a hopefully compelling answer.

The Bible has a recurring theme of God honoring the intentionality of his children. God has always been a Divine Gentleman – one who is decidedly anti-coercive yet hyper-sensitive to the choices of his people. God is an intentional God who functions within the parameters of our choices.
That’s why I like to think that the most powerful force in the universe isn’t God, but choice; Even God doesn’t mess with it.

So when I choose to act in favor of God, when I choose to be intentional about my spiritual growth, and when I choose to be aware of His presence, God honors my choice and I grow.

Conversely, when I choose to desecrate the Sabbath, when I choose to abuse the helpless and downtrodden, and when I choose to lust, God honors that choice, and I backslide.

But we tend to think there’s another choice – a “non-choice” –  that comes from a place where all choices that are not chosen sadly congregate like last picks in a pickup ball game waiting to be chosen. They are usually remembered after the game is played, usually accompanied by a feeling of sharp regret. They look like this:

“man, I forgot to pray today..”

“shoot, I didn’t give tithe last month.”

“ wow, how did I not…”

“I didn’t even realize…”

In case you are sarcasm-challenged, let me be plain:

There is no such thing as a “non-choice.” We always choose. Even if it’s mindlessness.

In the final estimate, heaven is for those who chose to be there. The citizens of the heavenly kingdom are not going to be there by accident or mere happenstance. On the flipside, even heaven will be hell for those who don’t choose to be there.

“But bro, are you talking about working your way into spiritual maturity? What about grace? Isn’t God’s grace going to grow us?

Good question. Here’s what I’ll tell you:

God’s grace is not conditional upon my growth in Christ, but my growth in Christ is conditional upon my intentional choice to receive and act upon his grace.

If this weren’t true, then everyone who calls themselves a “Born again Christian” would be walking, talking replicas of our Lord Jesus. But we know that’s far from the truth.

Moreover, there also seems to be a confusion between desiring growth and deciding to grow. Many well-intentioned Christians have confused wanting to grow with choosing to grow and it is significantly, yet subtly, stunting their spirituality.

I love how Karl Haffner puts it:

“We don’t grow by trying; we grow by eating.”

The Bible says that it is God who works in us to give us both the desire and the provision to act according to His good pleasure. However, if we are not intentional about choosing to respond to this work by inviting Him in and making some decided changes in our life, we are not going to grow.

You can’t work it out unless He works it in. But He can’t work it in unless you choose to let Him in.

Let’s also not forget that we have an enemy who is literally hell-bent on making sure that we are unaware of the choices we need to make. It’s been said that if the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy. He’d rather keep you occupied in temporal matters and forget God than force you to reject God. The great deceiver usually comes in the form of things that we already love and cherish to distract us from the things that are timeless and eternal.

But here is the good news:

Your choice can be the difference between being deceived by Satan and being enlightened by God.
Your choice can be the difference between failure and victory.
Your choice can be the difference between spiritual decline and spiritual growth.

Passive spirituality is worse than active rebellion. In other words, neglecting God is worse than rejecting God, for even God cannot work in a person who won’t pick a side.

So choose. Choose to be intentional about your growth. Choose where you need to place the scalpel. Choose whom you will serve.

For when you don’t choose, you’ve already chosen.

Why Bible Reading is Difficult and What you Can Do About It.

Bible

“ It’s too boring…”

“It’s too hard…”

“It’s not relevant…”

“I don’t get it…”

“It’s too old…”

And they go on. I’ve heard them, you’ve heard them.

Let’s face it: Reading the Bible can sometimes be a slow death experience. Maybe it hasn’t for you. But it surely has been for me.

Pastors, teachers, and well-intentioned Christians have portrayed reading the Bible as a joyous search for Mickey Mouse in Disneyland. But for me, more often than not, it has instead been a painfully cruel game of “Where’s Waldo” in Jurassic Park.

It’s been a journey, but I’ve learnt to appreciate the Bible quite a bit. It’s actually been a joyful experience! But why has reading the Bible been, and, can be such a difficult experience for many?

My dude Peter has something to say about that:

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
(1 Peter 2:1-3).

The word that had me pause is “if” in v.3.

In the Greek, this word is used as a conditional clause. That means that the facts of verse 1 and 2 are assumed to be true IF the condition for it to be true in verse 3 is valid. In other words, my dude Peter is saying that you’ll grow through the word of God IF you have experienced who God is for yourself.

This makes more sense when you see how Peter introduces the letter in chapter 1. The disciple spends a significant portion of the chapter explaining to his hearers who God is and what He has done on for, and, behalf of them. He then makes a brief appeal to the read the word of God and then introduces his next thought cluster with the verse above.

Let me put into Kevinese what Peter was maybe trying to say few centuries ago:

Reading the Bible can be so difficult for many people because they are trying to figure out WHAT God is trying to tell them before trying to figure out WHO God is to them.

The Bible is a love letter from a Father revealing His heart to His kids. Inspired by my buddy Richard Martin who shared this thought with me, if I can add something to Scripture (which I can if I want to get stoned), I would add just two words before Genesis 1:1:

Dear Kevin..”

Because that’s what the Bible is! From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is a beautifully syncopated symphony of a Master Conductor leading the instrumentalists to compose this single line of melody that has been reverberating through the chambers of human history since the beginning of time:

“God…is…love.”

But some tend to focus on the melody at the expense of forgetting the heart behind it – much like a student who is at an orchestra to write a report for credit rather than to listen to the music for enjoyment.

I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I’ve heard the muted groans of many well-intentioned people when it comes to reading the Bible. For many, it’s been a textbook rather than a love-letter. For some, it’s been a cutlass to cut others rather than a scalpel to surgically restore their own hearts. For the longest time, The Bible has been a manual for my spiritual growth. Nothing more. Nothing less. Because of this perspective, reading the Bible became more of a chore rather than a joy for me. I may have trusted His words, but I didn’t trust the Author.

The Bible is the only book in the world where the key to unlocking it’s meaning lies in the heart of its Author. 

That being said, if you’re struggling to read the Bible as I used to, here are a few things you can start doing right away:

1) Don’t be too hard on yourself 

Sin has jacked up all of us since the fall. Our first parents’ innate orientation towards God and his laws has been completely and irreparably reversed by sin. While Adam and Eve enjoyed floating on the streams of God’s love prior to the Fall, we have been swimming upstream. So the reason why things of God tend to be difficult and amorphous is because our sinful human nature defies Him at every.single.level. It’s not your fault. There is an enemy. And you better give credit where credit’s due.

2) Change your perspective

The good news is that even though we have been wrecked by sin, by grace through faith, we have already moved from death into life. Christ has begun his good work in us, creating in us the desire to both will and to act according to His good pleasure. Since His work in you is conditional upon your choice to permit Him, you can now choose to change your perspective about Scripture.

How?

Start looking for Him before looking for what He’s trying to tell you. Search for the Planner before seeking His plans. Look at Him in the face of Jesus, before hearing what he’s trying to tell you.

And the more you do this, the more you begin to see Him. The more you see him, the more you want to see him. The more you want to see Him, the more you want to spend more time with Him in Scripture.

You’ll then begin to realize that information about God will lead you to intimacy with God, and your intimacy with God will then lead you to learn more information about God.

Who’s with me?

 

The Really, Great, Fantastic, News about… Guilt!

guilt pic

Guilt sucks.

Nobody likes to feel guilty.

Maybe you’re still holding on to guilt from something you’ve done in the past.

Maybe you are expecting someone to feel guilty for something they did.

Maybe you’re sick and tired feeling it every.single.time you choose to do “it.”

No matter who you are, and what you’ve done, let me be the first one to tell you this:

Guilt is good.

Guilt is liberating.

Guilt is awesome.

Now I didn’t think like this till I read the following sentence by Ellen White in her book, Steps to Christ, which shoved me down a rabbit hole from whence cometh the following thoughts. If you struggle with me during the first part of this post, I assure you’ll breathe in the next.

There are way too many people holding on to guilt or chained by it. If that is you, please keep reading. If not, still keep reading. 🙂

Here we go:

The Father loved us, not because of the great propitiation, but he provided the propitiation because He loved us” ( SC, 14).

As rhymy and cool sounding as this sentence was, I couldn’t help but wonder:

What on earth is a “propitiation?”

Looked it up. This is how Webster’s Dictionary defines it: To propitiate means to “gain or regain the favor or goodwill of.”

The context points out that Jesus Christ is the great propitiation given to man. The Son of God was given to gain the favor of God for fallen man. This is utterly profound. Let’s consider what this really means lest we gloss over this quickly.

In all fairness, the one who initiates and makes propitiation for the other is the abuser or perpetrator, not the abused or the victim. It is the abuser’s responsibility to take the blame squarely on his/her shoulders and propitiate. But according to the above sentence (and Scripture), God provided his only son – innocent, blameless, and sinless- as a propitiation to us.

But how can the innocent, blameless, sinless Son of God be made unto a “propitiation” for wicked, shameful, blameworthy lives?

The apostle Paul comes in clutch in 2 Corinthians 5:21:

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

In short, Jesus was made a sin offering for us by God. Jesus chose to take up the shame, blame, and pain that was mine, onto Him.
As one of my friends once mentioned, Jesus is the only being who chose to be born, but did that only after choosing to die.

So if Jesus chose to take the pain, shame, and blame of my sin on the cross, I don’t have to take it anymore! Because, according to Paul, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ – those who have chosen themselves over to be molded and restored to the likeness of Christ.

I am in Christ by grace through faith. He lives in me through the Holy Spirit. But I am not exempt from the weaknesses of my flesh as long as I’m in this side of heaven. I can still choose to sin if I want to. So when you and I choose to do something that is contrary to the will of God? The immediate response is guilt. And it sucks. Right?

Wrong.

It doesn’t suck.

Guilt is great.

Here’s where I connect the “what” of the first part to the “so what” in the second.

I hope it’s clear that Jesus ALREADY took my pain, shame, and blame onto himself at the cross. I have chosen to be IN Christ. When I choose to sin, therefore, even though it’s my responsibility, I don’t take the blame for it anymore.

Jesus does. Jesus takes the blame, shame, and pain.

The Christ in me takes the blame for my action. The Christ in me feels the hurt, the shame, and the blame. We kid ourselves when we think that the guilt we feel is our guilt. If we really felt our guilt in all its severity and substance, we couldn’t handle it. We would be dead.

Don’t believe me? Look at the cross. My guilt crushed Him. My guilt killed Him.  Not His.

This leads to the seminal point of this post:

Guilt is the apology of Christ in me.

When I am in Christ, The “feeling” of guilt I feel is actually not my guilt at all; what I feel is actually the guilt of Christ in me. The “guilt” I feel, is my guilt that Christ took on himself, blaring from the megaphone of the cross and echoing in the chambers of my heart with a soft whisper:  “I… am.. sorry..”

Jesus Christ, our Eternal Elder Brother, came not just to save us, but to identify with us. As our forever Pastor in heaven, he relates to us – not just in our holiness but also in our brokenness. The guilt I feel is him identifying with me – the voice of Him who was treated as we deserve so that we can treated as he deserves.

The more I am connected to the Christ in me, the more I hear his apology. Conversely, the less I am connected to Him, the less I feel his pain.

That’s why guilt is good. Because the intensity of your guilt is proportional to your connectivity to Christ. The more guilt you feel, the less you need to be concerned about your standing with God.

But Satan knows that too. Therefore, he has a single item on his to-do list every single day:

Misrepresent God.

This is his Modus Operandi, game plan, and reason for existence. When you choose to sin, he capitalizes on our culpability and downloads into our system a series of lies:

This is your fault”

“You should be ashamed of yourself.”

“You are worthless.”

“God can’t forgive you. This is too much.”

“How many times can you fall? God is tired of you.”

Do you think God can ever love you after what you did?”

When you choose to believe these lies, you begin to act according to them. Your attitudes towards yourself and God are fueled by your thoughts. The focus is on self. Another one bites the dust.

But guilt is good news! It is the voice of Jesus inviting you to come back to his arms open wide. It is the voice of a loving father who is waiting to embrace you, not condemn you. It is the voice of an elder brother who is waiting to give you a high-five and encourage you for getting back up.

Guilt provides you the opportunity to glorify God by returning back to him.

So dear reader, I don’t what you have gone through. I don’t know what you have done. I don’t know how you feel. But I do know that God has already paid the price for you and his grace is ever present for those who are willing to receive it. As Jerry Bridges puts it, your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the need of God’s grace, and your best days are never so good that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace.

In Christ, you are so connected to him; So much so that you literally feel his aching heart longing for you.

Still feel guilty? Good. Run to him. He is waiting for you.

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Post #GCSA15: 5 things Adventist Millenials can do after the General Conference

GCSA2015

It. Is. Finished.

Now what?

These are 5 things that you and I can do in light of, and in response to, what has happened.

1) Speak up.

Even Twitter didn’t see it coming – the interactive contribution of SDA millennials across the globe displaying the most effective use of a hashtag I’ve seen till date.

If Twitterverse has told me anything during the past week, it’s this:
Millenials have a voice. And we want to be heard.

So speak up. Raise your voice. Do whatever it takes to shake up the status quo, either in your local congregation or community. Do so in a manner that shows the clearest picture of Jesus.

And lest we forget: Few millennials with a relevant message spoke up once with a passion fueled by the fire in their bones.

Now they are 18 million strong. And growing.

2) Get connected to your local church.

Our current demographics within the Adventist church reveal that we are not the church of tomorrow, but the church of today.  In light of that fact, the gross under-representation of young adult delegation at the GC could evoke in us one of two responses:

1- Express angst and continue to find reasons as to why we should have been better represented, or

2-Ensure our representation in #GCI2020 by getting plugged in now.

This is what Elder Gilbert Cangy, the youth director for the General Conference, had to say when interviewed about the process of becoming a delegate at the General Conference session:

“The General Conference, as an entity, does not choose delegates. The delegates are chosen as close as possible to the local churches. It only makes sense to trust the leaders closest to the local churches to know the individuals who can contribute in a significant way to the (future and direction) of the church (at large). Each division of the world church ensures the credibility of its delegates by “screening” them through the responses of union presidents and local church pastors.”

He later went on to say that when a young adult is faithful to the principles of our faith and is an affirming, empowering voice at the local church level, chances are that he or she will be noticed by other local leaders as someone who has the best interest of the church at heart. After that, it’s only a matter of time till their name is referred for nomination.

All this tells me that the surest path to becoming a delegate at the GC session always starts at the doors of your local church.

Get involved at your church. Lead a ministry. Be proactive.

3) Be informed

The GC session can be a cure for “denominational myopia.”

 Let me unpack that.

As millennials, we have a high-functioning radar which detects anything from an ugly logo to an inefficient system. Scrutiny and critique can oftentimes be effortless.

So let me be the first to admit that it’s easy for me to get distracted by something that happens to me at church and indiscriminately color my perception of the church at large with a large, hairy, brush – all the while not realizing that I’ve haphazardly colored over some other things as well.

Myopia is simply being hyper-focused on what lies nearest to you that you fail to include the larger context. And I was myopic about my denomination.

Experiencing the GC, albeit for two days, significantly lessened this myopia by exposing me to the larger context of the world church.

Listening to the division reports, interacting with those from other cultures and nations, and seeing God’s activity among them showed me that the ‘church’ is more than just what happens to me in my local church.

The GC reminded me that the ‘church’ is bigger than its issues.  The more I was informed, the less myopic I became. The more I got to know the larger context, the less I reacted to the smaller ones.

What we do is greatly impacted by what we are up against. Therefore the more we are informed about what’s happening in our local congregation, community, and the global Adventist community, the better we are suited to be game changers for the Kingdom.

4) Find a Christ-centered mentor who has your best interest at heart.

Nuff said.

5) Dig deeper into Scripture.

As I was scrolling through my twitter feed on the day of the big vote, I couldn’t help but wonder:

What if millennials were half as engaged and committed to spending time in Scripture as they were on their Twitter feeds?

What would that look like? How would that look like in their personal lives and in the lives of their communities?

Iconic theologian and author A.W Tozer once made this provocative statement:

“Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified.”

Boom. *drops mic*

Friends, we are not just millennials but Seventh-Day Adventist millennials: a special group of people who have been entrusted with the end-time message of a living Savior to be shared with a dying world.
For us to be bold in the world, we need to first be humble before God in the prayer closet. The more we dig deeper into Scripture, the more leverage and arsenal we have along with the adults and leaders of our church.

Our cultural relevancy is largely dependent on our Scriptural fluency. When we are well-versed in Scripture, not only are we able to speak the language of other demographics within our denomination, but we become better influencers of those outside of it.

A lot of hurt and frustration has understandably ensued in light of Wednesday’s vote. I am right there with those who are disappointed. I’m sure those who are at the brink of leaving have legitimate reasons for doing so. If that’s you, my friend, I appeal to you sincerely – We need you and your pain. Some of the biggest turnarounds and movements in history occurred when a small group of people harnessed their collective dissatisfaction in effective and constructive ways. If you want to move forward, these 5 steps maybe a start. If not, hit me up. Let me listen.

These are just 5 things. What are YOU going to do after this session? Please leave a comment in the spaces below!

(pic courtesy of http://www.nadsecretariat.org)

How to Abuse Your Relationship With God.

girl-hair-meadow-403I have to admit.

Sometimes I think God is in an abusive relationship with me.

I get it. “Abuse” is a word loaded with paper trails, court appeals, and restraining orders. It does have baggage. But when taken at face value, to abuse simply means to misuse, or use improperly.

In that vein of thought, here are three ways in which you and I can ab-use our relationship with God.

Hopefully you don’t resonate.

1) Talk to him only when you need something.

Dr.Allan Walshe, my professor from my youth and young adult class, laid this gem on us:

“Requests are a part of prayer, but they are not the heart of prayer.”

He further explained that the heart of prayer is a relationship – a sincere, singular commitment to a personal God who knows you and longs to be known.

This was paradigm-shifting because prayer, for the most part, had been nothing but a calling bell for my Cosmic Butler.
It’s usually my 911 line for a bruise all the way to a breakup. Yes, I do season my communication with the occasional pre-meal grace. Yes, I do thank him for that miraculous A.  But prayer is still optional communication. I need it when I need God.

Yes. God does want us to come to Him with our requests and desires. As a matter of fact, he’d rather have us to come to Him than anywhere else. But we diminish the function of prayer when we relegate it to a mere transaction. Check out what Aunty White had to say about prayer:

Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him” (SC, 93).

God doesn’t want to be used. He longs to be loved. I’ll do well in trying to remind myself of that daily. Today, did I talk to him when there was nothing for me to ask him? Did I take some time today to tell him how great He is just because? Did I talk to him as I do to a close friend?

I wonder how our marriages and relationships would fair if we only talked to our partners only when we need something from them.

2) Enjoy the privileges of the commitment while ignoring the responsibilities of it.

When I join a company, I am made privy to two things: My membership privileges and the company contract. I can enjoy these privileges as long as I’m a member of the company, but the moment my choices conflict with the company contract, I may potentially lose my privileges as well as my membership.

Enjoying the privileges of my company while ignoring its responsibilities is a sure way to get fired. Yet when it comes to my company and commitment to God, the same rules remarkably do not seem to apply.

The privileges of Christianity are many. We are called to enjoy gifts like grace, peace, community, purpose, strength, joy and eternal life among others. But while we do that, we are concurrently called to uphold the responsibilities of Christianity such as discipleship, love, sacrifice, service, and join in with the missio dei of seeking and saving the lost.

Unfortunately many of us want to enjoy the crown without bearing the cross.
We let Jesus do all the dirty work while we get to enjoy his spoils. The German theologian and activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer, referring to this as “cheap grace”, galvanized his sentiments with the following definition found in his epoch-making book, the cost of discipleship:

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” 

Have mercy.

Have I enjoyed the privileges of salvation while ignoring the responsibility to my Savior? How have I done that done that today?

Salvation is free but not cheap. The price tag is still high. What then should be our response to the One who paid it all?

3) Ask him to modify your behavior without transforming your life.

The overarching meta-narrative of scripture begins with man created in the image of God and ends with the complete restoration of that image in man where the old order of things has been replaced and transformed into a new one.

The apostle Paul mentions this new order in his letter to the Corinthians:

“if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. The old things passed away, behold, new things have come.”

In order to effectuate this, he exhorts the church in Rome not to conform to the patterns of this world, but instead be transformed by the renewing of their minds.

Scripture is replete with references which convey the necessity of a total soul transformation. God seems to be asking more of his people because he wants to do more. And yet I still find myself asking him to change certain parts of my life not realizing that God is more interested in transforming all of it.

But is it wrong to ask God to give me more patience? Is it wrong to consult him for my weaknesses? I think not.  However, I think I’m missing the point when behavior modification takes precedence over a desire for life transformation.

The ultimate end of a relationship with God is God Himself. He wants us to see him face to face and to enjoy Him in an unadulterated atmosphere of holiness. This requires us to be changed and transformed into His likeness in order for us to withstand His glory in eternity.

Then what about our behaviors? When God transforms the life, behaviors are more than modified – they are repurposed.

These are three of the many ways I think I have abused my relationship with God. What about you? Have you found yourself in a similar or different situation? If you care to share, leave a comment below!