Thanks for joining us in our new Devotional Corner! We hope you can come here and feel inspired and energized. If you have a devotional thought you’d like to share, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
For God So Loved...
posted 3/24/2016 (by Pastor Heather Crews, Williamsburg, Yale, Newport News)
Make This Easter Different
posted 3/24/2016 (by Pastor Dean Waterman, Courthouse Road SDA Church)
Easter. One of two times in a year where people who haven’t been in church the rest of the year will finally attend. Universally, the Christian world pauses to reflect on Christ’s death and resurrection, and what it means to us. Then, predictably, we pick up on Monday, pursuing our primary interest in life, and allow Easter to be seen in the rear-view mirror of lost priorities.
This year, make it different. Stop, reflect, and rejoice on what Christ’s death really means to you. It’s a new start, a death to a life of sin, and renewal in Christ, for “when you were dead in your sins… God made you alive with Christ!” (Colossians 2:13) That is the power of the cross. Reflect on it, celebrate it, and praise God for the cross and Christ’s sacrifice for you. He deemed you’re worth the price Jesus paid, and He believes you’re worth it for eternity.
As a side note, take the opportunity this weekend provides to share God’s love with someone you know. If it’s just a conversation, great. Perhaps it’s an invite to church this weekend or, even more radical, attending with someone at their church on Sunday morning. Use the opportunity Easter provides to have conversations and connections with eternal consequences.
Have a blessed Easter!
The Center of Attention
posted 12/15/2015 (by Pastor Joseph Khabbaz, Sligo SDA Church)
Because of his arthritis, Roger could no longer handle the winters of Illinois, so he moved to tropical Bangkok, Thailand. One day he remembered his grandmother’s favorite song, “What You Are”: What you are speaks so loud that the world can’t hear what you say; they’re looking at your walk, not listening to your talk; they’re judging from your actions every day.
This song prompted Roger to feed the homeless who stayed along a half-mile stretch of road. Every morning, he served hot food to more than 45 families. Years later, one of the homeless women came to know Jesus as Savior and sought out Roger to thank him for introducing her to the love of Christ.
In James, we are clearly told that faith without works is dead (2:17). It does not mean that works will result in faith, but that good works will affirm that our faith is real. It is easy to say we believe in God, but only our works can prove the truthfulness of our words. Abraham was an example of this. He didn’t just talk about his faith; he demonstrated it by his willingness to give up his only son in obedience to God (James 2:21-24; see Gen. 22:1-18). And Isaac was spared.
Today, how can we actively demonstrate our love for God and trust in Him?
And give to the hungering, bread—
Faith means much more than a doctrine or two,
For faith without works is dead. —Woodrum
The Center of Attention
posted 12/15/2015 (by Pastor Joseph Khabbaz, Sligo SDA Church)
The first pets we had in our home were a pair of graceful goldfish. They were the center of attention, or at least for my sister and me. We couldn’t wait to come home after school each day and see the new additions to the family. My sister and I would sometimes fight over who got to feed the goldfish as we competed for their affection. I was sure the goldfish loved me more; I could see it in their large eyes; it was like they remembered exactly who I was. Well, some of you may have already guessed how the story goes. As a child, I was horrified to learn that goldfish only have a nine second attention span and poor memory. Not only did they not know who I was, I spent all that time loving them and feeding them, but within a few seconds they would not remember anything I did for them. Needless to say, I let my sister feed them from then on.
Even though I was upset with my goldfish as a child, I have discovered that there are times when I am no different to those inattentive vertebrae. In fact a recent Time Magazine article proves it. Did you know that our attention spans have decreased from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to eight seconds in 2015, that is one second less than a goldfish, now that is scary. In a world where we can have thousands of songs on our iPods, over 500 channels on our televisions and an Internet connection that gives us access to over 30 billion web pages, how can the Creator of the Universe capture our attention? Could it be we sometimes forget the goodness of God because of our short attention span?
Our Senior Pastor last Sabbath launched the Jesus Project, an exciting opportunity for our church to read a chapter of the classic Desire of Ages each week. In a commentary on the dedication of Jesus at the temple the author writes:
“Joseph and Mary were poor; and when they came with their child, the priests saw only a man and woman dressed as Galileans, and in the humblest garments. There was nothing in their appearance to attract attention, and they presented only the offering made by the poorer classes.”
The priest’s attention was captured by outward appearance rather than inward faith as he missed the fact that the baby he held in his arms would one day outstretch His arms on a cross to bring Salvation to the world. This baby was the Son of God, the source of forgiveness, hope and eternal life for all who believe in Him. The priest missed who Jesus was because insignificant things caught his attention.
May our humble Jesus capture our attention this holiday season. May we not just acknowledge the Christ of history but also recognize the living Christ who lives to make intercession for us. This same Jesus calls us to self-sacrificing service, to help the cause of those who die innocently in our neighborhoods and streets, to show mercy to those displaced from their homes and hear the cry of the hurting.
The apostle Paul said, “I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.” (Philippians 3:7 NLT) Paying attention to Jesus will give us power to focus on the things that are truly important. May Jesus be the center of our attention this Advent!
Thanks For Nothing
In All Circumstances
posted 11/30/2015 (by Pastor Richard Castillo, Sligo SDA Church)
At a young age I remember stepping out of my bedroom to a strange situation. My family lived in an apartment building in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Our apartment’s door was very much like you’d find at what many of us were used to if you ever spent a night at an older Motel 6. As you open your front door you are greeted by a makeshift sidewalk and usually your car is staring you down just a few feet from your doorway. It just so happened that on this strange morning our family found that our small blue Subaru had been the victim of a hit and run.
My father was a new pastor and my mother was still in school, so our finances were to the point where our little Subaru was a very important part of my father’s ministry and our ability to live in a commuter’s world. I remember feeling as though they had killed a member of my family. I felt very close to that Subaru. It seemed to have its own personality at that point in my childhood and someone had callously destroyed it while we slept and then drove away without a word. I was ready for my father to become the grand avenger, to stomp the ground and call out to God to bring vengeance upon whoever would dare to hamper my father’s ministry as a pastor. Instead I learned a valuable lesson and one I still carry heavily to this day.
My father took us all back into the apartment, got on his knees and instructed us that we should thank God for taking care of us. He prayed for the person who hit our car and thanked God for the blessings he had in store for our family. My small mind was blown and a bit annoyed to be honest. I wanted justice for our lost blue Subaru and my father was thanking his heavenly father for the loss. It took a while for me to grasp the greatness and faith that my father was exemplifying for me at that moment.
The bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
My father on his knees with our blue Subaru smashed outside was my father’s perfect example of this biblical truth. I carry the lesson daily. It is not an easy approach to take in life and believe me, just because someone sets the example, it doesn’t mean you will instantly be able to apply it. I’ve made the wrong choice many times. The moment that I was able to fully realize the beauty in this level of faith and trust in Christ was a major moment in my Christian walk. It is the moment when we realize that there is very little that our bully, the devil, can do to us that is going to make us react in any other way than to turn directly to Christ and ask him to take care of it.
This is the season of Thankfulness, and the challenge that has been set before us is to stand strong in the power of the Lord and give thanks in all circumstances. Are you up for the challenge?
posted 11/23/2015 (by Pastor Franklin David, Southern Asian SDA Church)
There is no place like home, the bed is comfortable, the shower is refreshing and everything else fits right in place to make home sweet home. Yes, home is a place where the small are great and the great are small. The place where we grumble the most and are treated the best. The only place where our faults are as familiar as the furniture, but hidden under the mantle of love.
A lesson learned on my recent trip is never to schedule myself so tightly — as I am not young anymore. But the fruits of labor among the un-entered areas are very encouraging and rewarding. After spending a few days with our brothers and sisters in Qatar and worshiping with them in the government allotted space of worship with limited freedom of worship, one cannot but be thankful for this great land of the free and the home of the brave.
The local district pastor came to bid us farewell at the airport and kept apologizing that he could not pray for us in a public place. I was also informed that in Saudi Arabia a Christian could be deported or put to death for worshipping in public. I heard of a man who was complaining that he did not have shoes until he found a man without any feet.
This season, let us be thankful for what we have and give praise, glory and honor to God and never forget to pray for the ones whose lives are still in danger, are denied freedom of worship, and in many places, go through severe persecution. In a very special way, may we all unite our hearts in prayer for the people of Paris who have lost their loved ones in the barbaric attack. May the Prince of Peace come to reign in our hearts and in our world and may His coming be hastened to put an end to these satanic acts.
It's a Miracle!
posted 11/23/2015 (by Dr. L. Roo McKenzie, Prinicpal, Sligo School)
“God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform…” are the opening words of a hymn that I learned as a child. Every now and then I find myself singing these words in praise to God for His marvelous and miraculous ways. You may have reasons to sing this hymn too, because of God’s interventions in your affairs and because of what you have witnessed in the lives of people whom you know personally.
God came through for Daniel and his companions, for Bartimaeus and Jairus’ daughter and a host of other people in the Bible. But those are all yesteryear. Is He still intervening in the lives of ordinary people today in ways that defy the rules of nature and the expectations of “experts?” The answer is a resounding YES!
Fifteen years ago, while serving in California, I met a fellow Christian from China. Her family, including her children were all Buddhists. As principal of the school attended by her son and daughter, we developed a close Christian relationship and soon discovered that we had many things in common – born the same day, month, and year; married the same day, month, and year; had two children who were about the same age; had a great love for gardening; both struck with a life threatening illness in the same year. We did a lot of praying together. We were twins in spirit!
After surgery for our life-threatening illness, my friend struggled and eventually went to sleep in Jesus in 2003. As I held her hand on her death bed, she made one request: “Brother Roo, don’t forget my children. Take care of them for me.” Within minutes of saying those words, Esther closed her eyes for the last time. Her son progressed through college and university and I attended his graduation from medical school and a few years later his wedding.
Fast forward to the birth of Esther’s two granddaughters and recently, a grandson, called Isaac, on July 1, 2015. Sadly, this precious little boy developed a viral infection a week after birth that shut down his kidneys, liver, and heart. While on life support, family and friends activated a life-giving power – prayer -for Isaac’s recovery.
Little Isaac coded not once but twice, and the doctors told his parents to say their final goodbyes for the end was near. But our matchless God who moves in a mysterious way said: “Not so fast doctors.” While the parents were saying their final goodbyes and hoping and crying and praying, Isaac opened one eye and looked at them and that was the start of something special, something miraculous! Isaac not only fully recovered, but his most recent MRI showed that all his organs are functioning normally. After more than two months in hospital, he has been released and is now at home in San Francisco. God works in mysterious, miraculous, and marvelous ways!
On October 28, 2015, I had the privilege of embracing the miracle child, little Isaac, whose name means– “he laughs, miracle child, child of promise”! God is being glorified through this miraculous divine act, for Isaac’s family has confessed to me, “We will serve your God for He brought our son back from death. It’s a miracle!” Let us take time during this Thanksgiving season to recall with gratitude God’s intervention in our own lives. He is still in the miracle business!
These are the Days
posted 11/19/2015 (from Petersburg Church)
“Be Thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for all who belong to Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT).
Have you spent this “Thanksgiving month” thinking of things to be thankful for? I’d like to suggest some new things to think about. I suggest that you read these at the Thanksgiving dinner table as we think of reasons to be grateful.
We should be thankful for things that we may not always be thankful for! Like:
- Not having everything you want—it gives you things to look forward to and work for.
- For not knowing or understanding some things—it gives you an opportunity to learn.
- For difficult times—they help you to grow.
- For limitations—it gives you opportunities for improvement.
- For each new challenge—because it builds strength and character.
- For making mistakes—they teach us valuable lessons.
- For all the traveling and traffic—it allows us to be with loved ones.
- For a spouse who complains about dinner being on time—it means your beloved is there with you.
- For the mess that has to be cleaned up after a Holiday meal—it means you have been surrounded with family and friends.
- For the teens and young who complain about doing the dishes—it means they are here and not out on the street.
- For the clothes that fit too snug (especially after the Thanksgiving meal)—it means you have plenty to eat.
- For the shadows in your life—it means you can see the sunshine.
- For a lawn that needs mowing, leaves to be raked or gutters to be cleaned—it means you have a home.
- For all the complaining you hear about the government—it means you live in a country that has freedom of speech.
- For feeling tired and weary after work—it means you were productive and made a difference.
- For all the noise and conversations going on at once at the Holiday meal—it means you are together and blessed with friends and family.
You see, gratitude turns negatives into positives. If you will be thankful for all your troubles and trials it will turn them into blessings. An ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE makes all the difference in how we view the world and can give us peace.
PRAYER—Dear Lord, Again, for all we have and all we are and all our blessings– even the ones we don’t recognize—help us to be truly grateful. In His name, Amen
In the 86,400 seconds you are given in this day, be sure to take at least one to say “thank you!”
These are the Days
posted 11/18/2015 (Pastor Randy Davis)
This next week my family, like many, will be traveling for Thanksgiving. These next few days are going to be a blur. But, this Thanks Living concept has me stopping to count my blessings. Throughout the day I am pausing, finding moments to take time to praise God for the blessings that are causing me to be busy. Each day, I pause to pray for and thank God for the family that I am anxious to see. I’m able to be thankful for the journey that each member of my family is on, even if it is sometimes bumpy. Quite often it is the challenges of life that make us stronger, and prepare us for the next leg of our journey. So as you prepare for Thanksgiving, I challenge you to pause throughout your day for moments of Thanks Living. Giving thanks to God at various points throughout your day for what you’re encountering right then. Phil. 4:6-7.
Let’s take the time to pause, look back and praise God for His blessings upon our churches this past year.
Happy Thanks Living!
These are the Days
posted 11/17/2015 (Pastor Dean Waterman)
Bottom of the ninth, two outs remaining, losing by one run to the Mets in game one of the World Series. Alex Gordon, for the Kansas City Royals, steps up to the plate and blasts a home run that ties the game, sending it into extra innings. Everything is tied up until the fourteenth inning, when Eric Hosmer hits a sacrifice fly that brings home Alcides Escobar to end the game, 5-4. What a game, and perhaps an indication of what a “fall classic” this series could become.
In life we can be faced with what seems like insurmountable odds. Never give up. Ever.
Keep this in mind also; Alex Gordon’s home run to tie the game wasn’t a fluke, it came from lots of batting practice, daily exercise and hours of workouts. It wasn’t just luck, it was persevering at the mundane, to be ready to dig deep for the moment that counted most. Such also is life. We can strive, and never give up, but our success depends much on what we put in previous to that moment. What are you doing today to ensure success for tomorrow? Even when the odds are against you, God can give you all you need to pull through. But, if the time hasn’t been spent previously in daily exercise of prayer, study, and service to others (discipleship), you may never know that success.
Preparation today, prepared for tomorrow.
The Impostor Syndrome
posted 11/16/2015 (Becky Barker)
Do you suffer from procrastination, indecision and fear of failure? Do you have a million excuses to not start the project? Do you have a ton of great ideas but cannot focus on one? Do you worry that no matter how hard you work at something it will never be good enough? Every day we all go through some form or level of all of these issues. Most of us can quickly talk ourselves out of these fears and get the job done, but that is not always easy. There is a name for these fears and even a syndrome identified that these paralyzing thoughts are a symptom of. It is called Impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome is a feeling and a fear that someone or everyone will discover that you are a fraud and not at all the person others thought you were, that you are not competent, capable or intelligent.
This syndrome is common among people who have worked hard and been recognized as successful. The symptoms of procrastination, indecision and fear of being found a phony by all around makes the starting of a project harder. Fear that when you have done your best it will expose how inadequate you are is a stumbling-block to getting things done. The internal fight to overcome these fears forces the feelings to grow and the battle to live up to expectations causes a person to work harder, only to have the thoughts of being a phony swirling louder and faster.
Do you ever feel this way about your walk with Christ? Do you hesitate to talk to strangers about Jesus, fearing that your life and your words will show you as an imposter? Do you overcompensate by taking on too many jobs at church, only to worry that you are not good enough to serve the congregation? Do you have ideas about a new ministry you would like to see at the church but do not mention it to anyone because you think they will see it as a bad idea? Are you feeling like an imposter sitting in your seat on Sabbath morning? Is it hard to go to Jesus because you think He knows how phony you are?
The Imposter Syndrome can stop one from being productive, from reaching out, from being a blessing to others. So how do we stop feeling like a phony? Well, in the therapy world a client would be asked to write it down, to focus their accomplishments and their fears into one list. We can do the same in our Christian walk. We can write it down. We can write about our example, Jesus, on the one hand, and about our actions on the other, and then bring them into one list. The therapist would try to help the person understand that they are achieving what others see and that they are not inadequate.
Jesus sees us through His eyes. Our procrastination, our indecision, our fear of failure are all covered by His grace. Our worry that nothing is good enough is lost to His divine understanding and every fear is covered with His strength. He is the therapist needed to bring our actions and our feelings into one image. As we spend time telling Jesus that we feel like an imposter, He will help us understand that He covers our every fear with Grace that is far from phony or fake! Just as the therapist works to help the client focus on the reality they have accomplished, Christ is there to give the strength and insight needed to have our lives be the reality He has envisioned for us.
posted 11/12/2015 (from the Petersburg SDA Church)
“Give Thanks to the Lord for He is Good! His faithful Love endures forever!” Psalm 107:1
This is our Thankful Month. Each night, members of the Petersburg church are writing down five things for which we are thankful. Or, right before we go to bed, are focusing on and saying thanks to God for all the ways He showed us love throughout the day.
I’ve been looking at my blessings a little differently this week. How do you view your blessings? Do you thank God for all the gifts that He has given you? We must be careful not to be like the Pharisees and believe that our privileges are something we have earned or as our “right” because of who we are (His children). Nor does God want you to keep your blessings to yourself.
I have been thinking about the fact that when God gives us blessings and gifts, He wants us to recognize them and thank Him–but He also gives us the responsibility of sharing these gifts. Just like we share the Good News of God’s Grace. I believe He means for us to share ALL our gifts. If we have means, He expects us to share our money with others. If we have understanding, He expects us to share that in teaching others what we have come to know and understand. Do you have the gift of prayer? You should be praying for others. Our gifts of food and abundance, we should share in our hospitality to others. What ARE the things you are thankful for? A good family? Share the love you have been given. I believe that I was given the gift of encouragement and so I share with each week in our church’s Prayer Connection.
As you think of all your blessings and what you are thankful for, ask the Lord how He would have you share your blessings. I was remembering the pastor who told his congregation, “The good news is we have more than enough money for all our church’s needs and programs. The bad news it’s still in your pockets!” Never forget that what you give in Jesus name will be returned to you. In full and then shaken and pressed together to make room for more (Luke 6:38).
PRAYER—Thank you for every good gift from above. Help us to see these gifts as you do. Not just as presents for your children but as blessings to be shared. Open our hearts to love as you love and help us to ever be grateful. In Jesus name, Amen
Beauty in Service
posted 11/11/2015 (by Pastor Heather Crews)
With a face covered in scars from a childhood accident, she often felt out of place or watched. She limited that time she must move about in common society, choosing to move quickly and quietly before retreating. Yet she found a place that made the thoughts of her scars sink deep into the back of her mind: when she served.
The civil war raged, and those with nursing skills were in high demand. And so she went, first hesitantly, and then confidently. Moving among the wounded soldiers she found her place. Here her face wasn’t the first thing people noticed. It was her hands and compassion and caring that were noted.
When asked why she volunteered to work among so much death and carnage, she replied, “The wounded soldiers don’t notice my scars as much as the others. To them, I’m beautiful.”
In service our scars fade into the background and what is seen is Christ’s character of compassion. Matthew 9 describes Jesus walking through the crowds, and at sight of the sick His heart moved with compassion. Our choice to serve is motivated by our love for Christ and how He sees them. Our hearts move with compassion, and so we serve.
My challenge to you this week is to find a place to serve. And in that place of service, let others know it is Christ living in you that motivates your service.
I Press Towards the Mark
posted 11/09/2015 (by Cheryl Wilson-Bridges)
When I was young I liked to play darts. In the game of darts, the players stand at a distance and throw darts at a board. Each player begins the game with high points. The goal of the game is to reduce your points by hitting the mark or bull’s-eye in the center of the board. In darts you begin the game with points, but to win you must end up with nothing. In order to win the game, you must bring your score down to zero. You have to lose to win. The game of darts can teach us some valuable life lessons.
To be successful in this materialistic world, we need to acquire things. We believe the more I have the better my life will be. Our culture tells us the more we gain, the less we lose. So our goal is to constantly gain. We center our lives around popularity and possession points. We distance ourselves from the items that have true meaning, and we target our efforts on acquiring more. We aim our daily darts at targets like: status, careers, education, cars, nice homes, etc. We believe that in gaining we have hit the bull’s-eye. But when we focus on acquiring more, do we win or do we lose?
The apostle Paul also pondered this dilemma. He understood after years of focusing on his status and career achievement of chief executioner of Christians, that he hadn’t gained anything. When Jesus Christ came into Paul’s life, he learned a valuable lesson: In order to gain what mattered most, he first had to lose. Paul lost his status as a Pharisee. Instead of persecuting others, he was now the persecuted. All that he had gained was lost to the cause of Christ. Yet Paul shared his experience like this,
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3: 7-9 (NIV)
So instead of seeking for worldly pleasure, Paul understood the principle of loss and pressed toward the mark. Paul hit the spiritual bull’s-eye.
In the game of life, we are often faced with loss. We lose loved ones, status, careers, marriages, homes, reputations etc. Yet in Christ, our losses can become gains. When we lose we can win! The real prize is not the comforts of this world; but eternal life in God’s Kingdom. This is our spiritual bull’s-eye. So when trials surround us like darts, remember Jesus Christ suffered. He understands your pain. You can go to Him with all your problems and lose yourself in His love. The process of losing is not easy. It is our nature to hold on to what we have. But knowing Jesus Christ is a game changer. Jesus Christ surrendered his life so that we can live eternally. He suffered so we can be saved. We must learn that suffering in this world has saving power. We have to lose in order to truly gain.
At times we may feel as if our lives are off target. Positions and circumstances may change but the mark remains. Like Paul, we have to forget the things behind and reach towards the things ahead. When we press toward the mark, we win the prize. The game of life becomes eternal and our present sufferings forgotten.
Ready or Not!
posted 11/05/2015 (by Pastor Charles Tapp)
If you have been keeping up with the campaign for president of the United States, then I’m sure that you are aware that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has recently received a great deal of national attention. Dr. Ben Carson, retired world renown pediatric neurosurgeon, author and now leading candidate for the 2016 presidential nomination, and yes, Seventh-day Adventist, has brought the church a great deal of attention, whether we want it or not and whether we are ready for it or not. It’s not that Dr. Carson actively sought to bring attention to the fact that he is a Seventh-day Adventist, but it was made part of the national debate because Donald Trump, also a republican candidate for the office of president, made it an issue. Many believe that Trump’s motive was to draw attention to Dr. Carson’s religion in the hope that it would somehow bring down his rising poll numbers, but it hasn’t. Instead, Dr. Carson’s numbers actually began to rise to the point that he has now assumed Trump’s former position as front runner for the republican nomination.
Now, before you get the idea that the focus of this piece is politics or a particular candidate, let me assure it is not. But what I would like to mention is that I find it interesting that due to Trump’s failed alleged ploy, so many in our country are now curious as to who or what constitutes a Seventh-day Adventist. On many of the television and radio media outlets, leaders of our denomination are being asked to explain who we are as a church and as a people: whether we are “ready or not!” And I’m sure that many of you in your work areas are now being asked to explain what it means for you to be a Seventh-day Adventist: whether you are ready for them to ask or not!” When I was a child and we would play the game of hide and seek. Before the person who had been designated to find those of us who were hiding came looking for us, he or she would say in a loud voice, for all of us to hear, “Ready or not, here I come!”
Well, ready or not, the world wants to know who we are as a church and what makes us different from all the other groups on the religious landscape. But isn’t this what we have been praying for, an opportunity to finally “Tell the World” who we are and why we believe what we believe? Well, for whatever reason, it appears as though they are now ready, but the question that we must now be prepared to answer is, are we ready? My prayer is that as individual members and as the corporate body we will take what I truly believe to be a God-given opportunity and make the best of it; that we not run from it, or be content to once more stick our heads in the proverbial sand, but embrace it as a chance to share not only what we believe, but more important, why we believe it. It’s our chance to share with a world that is now ready to listen to us as we have been brought front and center in order that we might share with them the reason for the hope that is in us. Yes, the time is ours and the time is now, whether we are ready or not! I’m ready, or you?
posted 11/04/2015 (by Pastor Dean Waterman)
Noted author, Henry Blackaby, wrote a compelling book a number of years ago, entitled Experiencing God. It became a fascinating read for millions of Christians, myself included. There are many Biblical truths contained in this book, but one of the most fascinating ones was this: God is always at work around us, we simply need to be connected to Him so we can serve where He places us. Do you realize the power of this statement? At your work, your home, your neighborhood, God is working in the lives of people around you. But the true significance in Henry Blackaby’s statement is God is waiting for us to be connected with Him, so He can connect us with the people He is already working with around us.
I often say, “You are already a witness, the question is what are you witnessing to?” God wants you to be more than a “silent” witness, He wants to connect you purposefully with people who are searching for Him. You are the conduit God wants to use to accomplish this. I mean, the rocks could “cry out,” but why should they when God has you! The question is simply this for you: am I asking God to give me His ears, His heart, to see the needs of people around me, who He is already working with? If you add this simple question to your prayer life, you will be amazed at what God will reveal to you.
Ninety-Nine in the Open
posted 11/03/2015 (by Kymberly Mayes, Deputy Principal, Sligo School)
It was in Tampa, Florida several years ago that I was inspired to add another item to my bucket list: Work at a school during year 100 of its existence. Odd as it may be, that was literally an established goal of mine. The school I was employed at was at roughly year ninety-three, and I was sure that I could hang in there for a few more years just to be to place a check mark beside this item on my list. As the Lord always does, He ordered my steps, and it was not to be at that time. I have yet to realize this dream.
This year I find myself at Sligo, a school that is in its ninety-ninth year of operation. Funny enough, I have to talk my excitement down from time to time. Being in the moment, the moment of year ninety-nine is difficult. Ninety-nine seems to automatically suggest ‘a nearing of the finish line’. I think this happens largely due to early childhood experiences. When learning how to count, it seemed as if the goal was to just make it to the number 100. Eager little voices could be heard in concert belting in enthusiastic syncopation, “97..98..99…(insert a breath)”.
The child in me still pauses before the number 100. As we close out the beginning of this first quarter, I feel the ‘big breath’ building. However, the adult in me recognizes that stopping at ninety-nine is falling short.
In Matthew 18 and Luke 15, Jesus shares a parable of the wandering sheep with his inquisitive disciples. “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4). Here I find Jesus sharing that ninety-nine is not the goal. Yes, it is good to have this number; yes, it is good that the heritage is largely safe. Yet, I find Jesus saying, reaching the one more is imperative.
As an educator, finding lessons in the Word that apply to the school setting is a constant practice. Sligo Adventist School has been a beacon in this community for quite some time. This fact, without question, is worthy of mention and appreciation. However, the call to go on and do more is evident in the Shepherd’s quest to find the one. I believe this is the call we have before us today. The world is still in need of educated Christian young believers. The need for a school that will reach out and love the children of the community and create lasting memories of connecting to Christ is critical. Now is not the time to pause in the mission to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4) As we celebrate this accomplishment made possible by God’s grace, let’s press on and see the necessity and mission beyond the ninety-nine in the open.
Unkept Promises to God
posted 11/02/2015 (by Pastor Vince MacIsaac)
Have you ever watched the movie Stand By Me? It is my favorite movie of all time. It’s basically a feel good movie about growing up with your best friends. Ironically, it’s based on a short story by Stephen King, who is not known for his charming heart-warming novellas about growing up with your pals, hurtful loss of your old school age chums as you grow up and move away from from or lose touch with over the years. Still, this movie remains my favorite for a reason. When I was 14 years old and my family was breaking up. It was hard for me to face the reality that I was going to lose my best friends, forever. I had known them all my life. I am not great at making friends, and I already had way too much loss in my life. I needed to feel some control, some ability to forge my own reality. So, on our last fishing outing together, I promised my friends I’d be back after lunch. But I knew I was moving away, literally, that day. I knew I would go home, get in a truck, and drive away forever. And I did just exactly that. I never went back. They waited for me, for who knows how long, but I never showed up.
Have you ever made a promise you have not kept? We all have — it’s human nature. God’s people are no different. Israel made a promise. It was a promise there was no way they could keep! It was a promise made at the base of Mount Sinai. It is found in Exodus 24:7 “All that the Lord as spoken we will do and be obedient.”
They promised the impossible – and before God! Does God really expect us to keep a promise we had no business making in the first place? Our forefathers promised a 100% obedience to the law of Sinai, but they promised something that was beyond their ability; they promised something that would only lead to full-fledged legalism and ergo they would miss the whole point of the Law.
The whole story of the Old Testament is that man cannot keep the commandments of God in man’s own might. Yes, God wants the law to be kept, it is after all His express will for the whole universe, yet God, unlike us humans, is not deluded about the abilities of fallen human nature. God knows that if this job is going to be finished it is going to be with ability that surpasses humanity.
But I want to you to understand this, the first covenant with all its laws, ceremonies, and the sacrificial system was God’s way of seeking to help Israel keep the impossible. Since God knew they could not keep their promise on their own, He sought every way possible to aide them. Perhaps they were like another movie — a Mission Impossible plan and the more God tried to help the more they in action said, “Thank you for the ritual, but we got this!”
In fact, that whole system was to lead the whole nation of Israel to the TRUE LAMB OF GOD; the true source of victory and the true power of God, yet all they saw was ritual, deed, action, and self cleansing. You see it is by JESUS alone that we will have victory. Is there victory over sin? Yes! But that victory is only found at the Cross; and only found because of Jesus and the things He did; not us and the things we do.
They promised at the base of Mount Sinai, but God wanted to live in the hearts of His people. They thought they could do it alone. They went on a solo mission that was not God’s intention.The whole sanctuary service and system with all it’s services, rituals, and festivals, was set up to lead Israel to JESUS!
- JESUS – Who is our Promise
- JESUS – Who is our Power
- JESUS – Who is the Answer
- JESUS – Who is the Might of God
- JESUS – Who is the Way
- JESUS – Who is the Truth
- JESUS – Who is Life.
- JESUS- Who is better than all their Human effort!
Israel missed the boat! They missed the meaning because they missed Jesus! Understand that missing Jesus is always DISASTER! The story of the Old Testament is Israel failing, going it alone, while God is calling them to get on board. Throughout the old covenant God kept calling, calling, and calling, them to Jesus. Jesus is better, Jesus is better, come to Jesus… The reality is, you can’t keep going it alone and making it work. Israel would not enter into the rest of Jesus (Hebrews 4) and thus they rejected the Messiah. Look at the way the author of Hebrews puts it:
But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
What is his point?
- JESUS IS BETTER!
- Better ministry
- Better Covenant
- Better Promises
- NO FAULT or no blame
The Old had been replaced? Why? Because the Law was bad? No, the problem was not the law, but rather that the people sought to misuse it. They did not keep their promise. Because like me, at age 14, when my family was in shambles, they simply did not have the ability to keep their promise. How dare I promise my friends I’d be back, when I knew it was beyond my ability for I would no longer live there! Israel could no more go back to Sinai and keep the law perfectly then I could return to a fishing pond years after the fact when my friends were no longer there. The purpose of God’s law, God’s instruction, God’s sanctuary system is not to PERFECT us … but to LEAD US TO PERFECTION:
- Do you know how to spell PERFECTION: J.E.S.U.S
- Do you know how to spell Victory: J.E.S.U.S
- DO YOU KNOW How to Spell Overcomer: J.E.S.U.S
- Do you know how to spell Forgiven: J.E.S.U.S
- Do you know how to spell Character: J.E.S.U.S
- Are you getting the point yet? JESUS IS BETTER!
“For he finds fault with them when he says:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.”
Jesus brings victory on a whole new level. Jesus changes the name of the game. Jesus makes a NEW promise, a new deal, a new way, that does not in the least undo the Law, but rather, changes the doer. It is no longer me trying to keep a promise I just can’t keep. It is Jesus in me healing me, and building me into a more whole and holy being; even down to my very “desire” level!
I want to tell you and I want to affirm to you that I believe in victory over sin. I believe in having my character changed. I believe in transformation. I believe in being a new creature in Christ. Oh, the joy! Yes, the sweet, sweet joy, of knowing, I believe, I don’t have to stay in my sins! Oh, the power, and confidence I find in knowing I don’t have to lay and play victim to my own sin. It does not, because it cannot, hold me captive for it is not me it now faces, but Jesus, in my heart, and Jesus in my mind! Oh yes, once it could defeat me, but it can’t even get close to Him!
In contrast, I remember once I was visiting a former church of mine with a group of students I was mentoring, when to my horror, an older lady got up in front of the Sabbath School and told the people with all sincerity and self- deluded belief: “I am six days without sin! I mean it. I have no sin, in any way at all, in the past six days. I stand before you to testify — it is possible to stand before a Holy God without sin and you too can do it. You really can if you just try hard like I did, you can be perfect!” But here is the problem with perfectionism, it is easy to tear down. Suddenly a hand went up from a young person I was mentoring and he simply said, “Dear sister, six days without sin is massive. I am impressed, but I am sorry that you had to stand up and brag about your perfection because you were a shoe- in for the 7th day until you did!”
posted 10/29/2015 (by Pastor Heather Crews)
Experience prayer this week. Pray on another’s behalf. Choose someone in your life who will be your prayer focus. This type of prayer is also known as intercessory prayer, interceding with God on their behalf.
Do you now the person’s needs? Is there a health concern, or a challenge at work that needs to be presented to the Lord? If so, pray specifically that God carry and encourage. Or perhaps it is a time of joy to celebrate a life event or milestone. In this case, praise God and recognize God’s work and concern.
You may even desire to learn your prayer person’s favorite scripture text. Knowing a person’s favorite text is a special way to pray. As an example, if the favorite text is Romans 8:28, a promise that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purposes you can be specific in your prayers. You might choose to repeat the scripture text in your prayers, you could choose to pray for God to lead and bring things to a positive resolution.
As you pray, recognize the great value God places on the person you are praying for. If you are brave, you may even choose to pray for one who wronged you and needs your forgiveness.
At the end of the week evaluate your experience with a few questions: How did it go? Did you feel God’s presence during the exercise? Would you repeat the exercise? What would you differently?
Each Season Carries Its Own Beauty
posted 10/28/2015 (by Pastor Randy Davis)
What beautiful fall weather we are having! The trees are supposed to be nearing their peak colors. What a beautiful time of year – I hope you will be able to get out and enjoy the fall colors.
Each season carries its own beauty. In Genesis 1:14 we get a hint, that at creation God had the beauty of all the seasons in mind. We have a wonderful God who has a master plan. A plan for nature – and a plan for our lives. Praise God for His plan of salvation that was in place before the “fall of sin” took place. Praise God that even though we may die – we have hope in the resurrection.
As you look at the fall colors this year, remember to thank God for Jesus, and His master plan of salvation.
Tell Your Story
posted 10/27/2015 (by Pastor Heather Crews)
There’s a phrase in the book of Acts that I love, “It became known, and many believed on the Lord.” You see it after the early Christian church deals with a challenge and finds a resolution that is fitting to God’s work. You see it after Dorcas is raised to life as an answer to prayer. This phrase shows the power of testimony. It is the power of a story that can compel people to believe on the Lord.
The first situation was a crisis over caring equally for the widows of the community. A problem with the ability to divide and bring out the worst in people. But through prayer a solution came, and many believed on the Lord. The second situation was the loss of a dearly loved and gifted lady. Even as the church in Joppa mourned, they turned to prayer and as a result God raised her to life. The result is described with the same phrase, many believed on the Lord. Stories are needed! Your story is needed that many may believe on the Lord.
Will you risk to tell your story? Will you be the testimony that is needed for a friend to see the value of God in their lives? Will you be the voice that causes many to believe on the Lord?
Prayer for Educational Environments in Tragic Times
posted 10/26/2015 (by Chris Daley and Dawn Reynolds)
This week, as we continue our prayer ministry for 20 schools (universities, a college, high schools, middle schools and elementary schools) in the Greater Takoma Park area, we want to push past our regional borders and embrace additional prayer needs. Tragedy has targeted the NAD church family with three high profile incidents during the past six weeks. These include a plane crash, a mass shooting and most recently, a deadly automobile accident caused by a driver who apparently ran a red light.
The plane crash in Michigan took the life of an SDA pastor and leaves behind two teenagers in high school – William, III, and Jaissa. The victims of the mass shooting on the college campus in Oregon included Sarena Dawn Moore, a SDA mother of three sons. The automobile accident in Indiana took the life of Norris Ncube, an SDA principal and his 5-year old niece, first-grader, Malia Sizba. At the time of this writing, several other children who were in the car are hospitalized.
The survivors of these sudden tragedies are faced with many challenges as they attempt to adjust their lives to a new normal. For those who are in school, the difficulty in concentrating, focusing, processing and managing the grief can be overwhelming.
Some may find themselves questioning God in a time of great loss. But, Ellen White writes: “. . . Could you hear His voice it would be in tones of compassion to you who are prostrate with suffering and affliction. Stand fast in His strength. “ In Heavenly Places 272.5
As we search for words in a time of sadness, let’s remember the wives, parents, siblings, and other relatives; church families, school campus families and friends who are affected by these losses.
Pray for effective counseling in school settings; for support from communities of faith; for wisdom in helping to provide for various needs; for gracious words as many attempt to comfort those left behind.
We are linked with others, saddened by these tragedies, but holding onto the Blessed Hope and to God’s unchanging hand. Holding onto the certainty that He will make it right one day.” Holding onto the Bible promises that we will see our Lord face-to-face, soon and very soon.
“For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” I Thessalonians 4:16-17 NIV
Prosper and be in Good Health
posted 10/22/2015 (by Sharon Ford)
The Apostle John connects our physical health with a prosperous soul in 3 John 2. Seventh-day Adventists believe the Bible repeatedly expresses the idea that we are whole persons with body, mind and spirit in balance and in connection within our being. God desires our well-being and wholeness. He designed and made our bodies in a marvelous way and gave us our “owners’ manual,” the Bible. Science has endorsed the benefits of what Adventists know as the “divine remedies” for health, easily remembered by the acronym New Start: Nutrition, exercise, water, sunlight, temperance, (fresh) air, rest/sleep, and trust in His divine power.
To the extent Adventists and others have embraced these “remedies” God has given us, we and others have shown a level of health higher than the general population. (See Blue Zones by Dan Buettner.) Studies indicate that Seventh-day Adventists live at least an average of 7 years longer than the general population. The Adventist lifestyle has repeatedly shown positive benefits.
Trends in nutrition and lifestyle in the last 30 years, such as increased restaurant eating, lengthy work commutes, long work days, super-sized meals, fast food, and increased computer time and other sedentary activities have contributed to increased rates of overweight and obesity. We live in a country where large numbers of our population struggle with many health challenges, including widespread obesity. In the US only 33% of the population is at “normal weight”, 34% are overweight and 33% are obese. Related to obesity is Diabetes Mellitus, a disease which significantly raises our risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease and other ills.
We are not without hope. Our bodies are responsive to positive health changes and are very forgiving. A plant-based diet coupled with proven strategies have been shown to promote weight loss. Several times we have held the Full Plate Living program, which features a plant based diet and proven strategies for weight loss. Also, there is NO weighing in or questions about how much weight one has lost!
Authors of Full Plate Living (FPL) have created a simple easy-to-follow plan which is built on an abundance of grains, fruits, and vegetables. The high fiber content of these foods and high nutrient value promote our feeling full and satisfied rather than craving more food which is often devoid of nutrients, high in simple carbohydrates, fats, and sugar.
The program also involves well known strategies that we can use in forming better eating habits, such as having a weight loss “buddy” for support on the weight loss journey. Goal setting for positive change is key, especially when goals are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time limited. In setting goals and working on positive health changes, we have access to God’s immeasurable power, His “resurrection power” that Sligo’s senior pastor, Charles Tapp, has repeatedly mentioned. His mercies indeed are new every day! Each day we can start over, forge new habits, and leave the old behind. We can be of great support to one another in small groups. Small changes made over time do add up and multiply our efforts and ensure success.
I wish you good health and wholeness through and by Him! To God be the glory!