Thursday, May 19, 2011

Judgment Day is . . day after tomorrow?

Regular readers of USA Today have been informed: THE day of Judgment, is this Sabbath, May 21! The 2nd full-page advertisement this week has appeared in today's edition of USA Today, easily the most-widely read daily newspaper in the U.S., and possibly, internationally as well. At least one other ad appeared several weeks ago, and I suppose if you were convinced that a great world-wide earthquake, sent from God, was to happen this Sabbath, then you might place another ad tomorrow, and, maybe even Saturday as well? The advertisement is interesting in that it doesn't give a lot of advice on what you're supposed to do, or not do, to prepare for the Day of Judgment; it simply encourages a 'humble and contrite' heart. I didn't see anything in regards to surrender to the Lord, accept Jesus now, etc., and that's good!

Why would that be good? Isn't accepting Jesus always a great thing to do? Yes, EXCEPT, under circumstances such as these. Accepting Jesus under the falsehood of failed prophecy, fear of death, 'turn or burn' theology, is not acceptance and surrender to the Lordship of Christ, it is self-preservation fueled knee-jerk reactionism. It's what animals do when they are fearful and recognize the danger: they run! The Gospel is something more, something more precious, something more transformational than a gimmick or ploy to be used as a tool of intimidation or a publicity stunt.

The truth is, I don't know the motivations of Harold Camping who is a fringe author and is credited, or blamed, for the ads announcing the end of the earth. Even the USA TODAY ads are a bit 'murky' in identifying the sponsor of this May 21 campaign as Mr. Camping. But the media has made clear, he is the self-proclaimed Doomsday prophet announcing God's prophetic time-clock will ring 'midnight' this Sabbath and this is not the first time he's made a similar prediction. I would assume he is sincere; but sincerity is really never a means by which to evaluate/determine rightness or wrongness, truth and error, fact or fiction. Some very real evil intentions and consequences, have arisen out of sincerity. Historians and biographers point out that Adolph Hitler was absolutely convinced that his divinely appointed mission was to exterminate the Jewish race, invade neighboring countries, seize lands and imprison or kill his enemies, and he did much of it, while confiding to associates, and lacing his speeches with the conviction that God had appointed him to this work. Admittedly, the May 21 Day of Judgment campaign is not the devisings of a Hitler-like mentality or convictions that are evil; but to some, it seems ego-driven, and fear mongering motivated. God knows this man's heart and I hope his motives and intentions are pure.

So; what do I believe will happen in terms of God's timetable this Sabbath? Nothing; nothing in terms of what Harold Camping believes will happen which includes the massive death of millions and the slower deaths, in the months ahead, of the unredeemed survivors of the earthquake. At least there doesn't seem to be the escapist theology of the secret rapture in this scenario, although, that's likely in the "fine print." The saved are whisked away this Saturday . . maybe? If you have interest, a good article on how Harold Camping arrived at the may 21 date is linked here:

What I can conclude is that God is aware of time and it's passage. He is aware that we long to be home with HIm. He is aware that their is much sin and suffering on this planet, and that there are many who do not know Him, and perhaps have not even heard the Good News. In other words, there is more work to do, before He comes. The signs and events that arose from the pen of a genuine Prophet, tell us that there are very specific events which will unfold just before Christ returns. Harold Camping seems oblivous not only to sound theological principles of study, and appropriate discernment of the Scriptural teaching on the 2nd coming, but also would believe that God's end-time message is focused on identifying a specific day, and 'scaring' people into a contrite, surrendered heart. That approach has never really worked; not for long that is. My regret is that once May 21 passes, and nothing on the order of what Harold Camping has said happens, we as believers in the Advent, and dedicated Christians of other churches, will be lumped together with those behind the May 21 hysteria - and viewed by some - as bizarre dreamers and fearful fanatics. These failed end-time date setting events damage the Mission. The cause of Christ is harmed, rather than advanced. In the old children's story, the Boy who cried "Wolf" was quickly written off as a foolish prankster; someone to be ignored, and when the wolf eventually did come, no one believed him, and no one wanted to hear his cries for help.
I've also considered that perhaps something DOES happen this Sabbath. Does a miracle worker arise "in the desert" performing miraculous deeds? If not in the desert, how about half-time of the NBA playoffs, or, on CNN Live? If so, even a small supposed miracle, of say, raising one dead person, or, cursing an Oak Tree and making it wither, or turning a stick into a serpent, would have all the world "wondering." We are starved for miracles and ripe for deceptive demonstrations that we are told will take place before Jesus comes.

Maybe, that will be what happens May 21. Maybe nothing will happen. AS for you and I, these are moments to study afresh what we believe, what we know, what the spokespersons of God both in Scripture, and from the Pen of inspiration have historically told us. I trust these sources; I do not trust Harold Camping's logic or conclusions. Neither should you!

Grace and Peace, for our confidence is in Him, and in Him, alone


Friday, May 6, 2011

Creation Evolution Seminar

Wow . . tonight is the 3rd presentation in the five-part series 'In the Beginning: Making Sense of the Creation Evolution debate.' My 'wow' is over the incredibly fascinating content of these presentations, being offered by Ron Clouzet and Tim Standish. The seminar is broadcast live, each evening, from the Madison Campus Church, and I have been serving in the role of program host, a job that has turned out to be far more complicated and stressful than I would have imagined. The stress factor is a consequence of the live TV broadcast aspect of the seminar. Timing each segment of my introduction, which actually has three components - address the Madison Campus group - then welcome the live TV Broadcast audience, then 'cue' to the broadcast audience for about sixty seconds where I speak to them only, before returning to the Madison audience AND the North American broadcast audience. Every transition including closing comments that I give, must be carefully orchestrated according to time, and very specific content that must be shared . . in terms of speaking to audiences, I much prefer the freedom and joy of pulpit preaching!

Happy to help, but I don't see a career in live TV moderation/hosting in my future. Hope some of you are tuning in each night, either via Direct TV, or Internet, to the seminar. It's a great series, striking at the heart of a very important debate within the circles of society, and even the church.

Have a great Sabbath. Tomorrow, I have the delightful privilege of participating in the ordination service of Angel Ogando, at Madison Campus Church. Wherever you are today, and will be tomorrow, Grace, Mercy and Peace . . from the only one who can give it; Jesus Christ our Lord.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pastors Trip to Europe

A long time since I posted and one of the delays was the result of a wonderful trip to Europe with a number of our pastors and some of the staff from the Conference Office. About 42 of us, including spouses, landed in Berlin, the morning of March 24 and spent the next ten days visiting some incredible places in Germany, Austria, Bavaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovokia.

I won't bore those of you who hate travelogs but the purpose of our trip was to visit the lands of the Reformation and the highlight of that focus was our day and a half in the village of Wittenburg, where Martin Luther lived and ministered most of his life.

The Bavarian town of Salzburg, the village where the 'Sound of Music' events took place and where much of the movie was filmed, was also a favorite, surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks and an enormous mountaintop castle that overlooks the town.

One of the impressions which was very vivid to me throughout our tour was the age and history of the places, buildings, and events that define these countries. In the U.S., we think of history in terms of 2 to 3 hundred years and only a very few buildings and sites remain from our colonial birth. In Budapest Hungary, we traveled streets where buildings dating from the 16th century are still occupied and I marveled at the ancient stone chapel on the Bavarian Island of Herrinchiemmsse. This chapel, pictured above, is adjacent to the site of a very old monastery which now houses a museum. The Augustinian monastery itself dates to the 1500's and the chapel was built in 1462! The presence of Christian missionaries on the island dates to the first third of the 7th century! Clearly, the Gospel had gone far and wide within a few short centuries after Christ ascended.

Tragically, the presence of Christianity in much of Europe today is evidenced only in beautiful, old, but empty churches. In most countries, only 2 to 3% of the population are identified as Christians with growing populations of Islam. For most of the populace, there is no formal commitment to Religion.

As we left the city of Prague, David Hartman and I prayed with our group as we drove away, asking God to work in and through his people, however small their presence, to win the lost to Christ. What a challenge!

I'm linking some pictures of our trip for those interested; take a look, you may see someone you know, or some sites you've never visited, but will enjoy!

Heres a link to a few pictures contributed by my wife, as well as Latonya Schmidt and perhaps others: you'll have to copy and paste . . .

Grace in the day . . .


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Presidents Retreat Pine Springs Ranch

My first visit to Pine Springs Ranch draws to a close today. The Ranch is the retreat center of the S.E. California Conference and is located in the mountains of Southern California, just above Hemet. Maybe an hours drive from Loma Linda. The occasion to be here is the annual Presidents Retreat,which sounds rather nice and relaxing, and in some ways it is, but the agenda is pretty full from breakfast and into the evening. The setting is quite beautiful, as the desert mountains can be, and while down in the valley, it was 70 degrees, by the time I drove to the ranch which is about 5,000 ft. elevation, the temperature that evening was 40 degrees, with wind of probably 35 to 40 mph all night! The result was it felt quite cold . . .

This meeting is one of my favorite experiences in the role of the presidency in that you have opportunity to connect with other presidents across the NAD, share ideas, stories, and maybe most importantly, talk about some issues of great importance that concern all of us.

Among the issues that came up the last two days was the value of Regional Conferences and whether the time has come to dissolve the regional/state conference arrangement in favor of conferences which do not exist along racial/ethnic lines. I am told by many who were present that this year represented the first time in anyones memory where the issues were discussed frankly, openly, with all parties participating in the conversation, both regional presidents and state presidents. My sole contribution to the discussion, but I think a critical one, was after lengthy discussion and a presentation by Dr. Leslie Pollard, President of Oakwood University, on the history and benefit of regional conferences, followed by a bit of a tense rebuttal on the "perceived value" by one of the presidents, I asked why we were not encouraging and giving opportunity for the several regional presidents who were present to be heard? I don't think anyone intended anything negative in this respect, but I grew increasingly uncomfortable as State Presidents debated back and forth and asked questions and posed theories and were doing so as if the three regional presidents were not even there . . .

It was a turning point, and I think my question helped make a transition that needed to happen,from a discussion/debate entirely limited to State Presidents, to a request to hear from those who have the greatest personal stake in the matter. I suggested that my friend and colleague Elder Dana Edmond, S.C.C. President headquartered here in Nashville,had some comments to make on the subject. He did!

Another topic of great discussion, and significant prayer, was last nights board meeting at LaSierra University, a meeting which continues into this afternoon. The topic at hand is the issue of seven-day literal creation vs. creation that spans perhaps thousands of years . . and so I'm told, "academic freedom" vs the obligation to teach and profess those tenets of faith that we adhere to which includes a 7-day literal creation.

The board at LaSierra has been divided on the issue, and several of our NAD pastors who were preparing to attend the meeting made clear that they would, as God so led, make their personal convictions, and those shared by many of us, known at the appropriate time. It is prayerfully hoped that their will be a positive outcome to what will become a difficult decision for the LaSierra board to make (I do not know exactly WHAT that decision is, as appropriately, we were not told those details) but apparently, today, represents a very important decision that rests upon this University Board to make . . .

Our prayers join those of many, that the outcome of all of this will glorify God, unify rather than divide, and that the Cause of Christ and the Mission of His Church will be advanced, rather than hindered or harmed.

Finally, we had several hours this morning to dialog with our new NAD President, Elder Dan Jackson. I have heard and observed Elder Jackson twice now; one this past November at Year End Meeting, and today, and I am enormously impressed with his authenticity, his kindness, his wisdom on a variety of challenging issues, but perhaps as important as anything, his humility. Without question his feet are grounded in the miry clay while his confidence is clearly in the grace of Christ to discharge the significant responsibilities of his office. He has made a great positive impression on the Presidents and I believe some very good things will result from his leadership . . .

Blessings in the day

Friday, January 21, 2011

Spiritual Retreat

I'm a bit late posting to the blog. Holidays, bad winter weather - at least by Tennessee standards - and finally, my twice-a-year week-long study/sabbatical assignment in Colorado for my doctoral program. The class this week was "Developing Leadership Teams through Spiritual Retreats" and was convened at St. Malo retreat center near Estes Park, and Long's Peak in the mountains N.W. of Boulder, CO. It was an awesome experience, even though I arrived sick and left sick. Much of the class was focused around exploring methods/means by which believers can experience the potentially very rewarding experience of a spiritual retreat. Interestingly, one assignment in the class was to study the examples of Christ in his own spiritual retreats. Of course, he didn't call them that; Scripture simply records that Jesus would "go away" for a period of time, and this could be as short as a period of hours, or as long as "all night" and in the case of the Wilderness Temptation, 40days/nights.

These occasions were settings for deep reflective contemplation and conversation with his Father. The enjoyable experience of this class was to re-create the setting of a retreat, while teaching methods and offering tools to conduct spiritual retreats. One day during the week, the class was asked to not speak, at all, for a 24-hour period. So, we ate together in silence, passed each other in the hallways in silence, and sat in the classroom in silence, while the professor read Scripture, shared lessons from Church history on retreats, and actually conducted worship as we listened, prayed, all in the setting of the wind-whipped, snow-covered Rocky Mountains.

One evening, as the teacher was reading the story of Elijah and God's visitation and presence through "a still, small voice" at the cave when the prophet is despondent, the specific passage read was as God sends "a Great wind that breaks the rocks" .. .
and at that moment, the howling wind, with gusts of 35 mph, blasted the building and windows with driving snow, so hard that the window panes trembled . .. in the quiet, candle lit classroom, it was a powerful moment, whether orchestrated by God, or the unpredictable currents of wind at high altitude in the mountain, I know not; but the affect was quite moving.

I concluded the class this week with understanding this reality: if God's Son found it necessary, in order to succeed in his mission/ministry, to isolate himself for extended time of prayer and reflection . . . to retreat for physical, emotional, and spiritual rejuvenation, why would any of us "sinners" believe we can get by just fine without doing the same? Something to think about . . .

I've posted a few pictures of St. Malo where the class was held. The pic's are courtesy of my friend Pastor Craig Carr, who is Sr. Pastor at the Boulder SDA Church, and a fellow student with me at Denver Seminary. I took a few pics myself, but they're not as good as his!

Sabbath blessings,