Many people think God was dealing harshly with Uzzah when he steadied the ark of the covenant, while it was being moved. But if we look carefully we will see God’s mercy even in His justice.
So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. 2 Samuel 6:3 NKJV
Do you already see a problem here? They are moving the ark on a cart. This is not how God instructed for it to be carried. That is how the Philistines moved it when they returned it. But how did God tell Israel to move the ark?
And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders, by its poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord. 1 Chronicles 15:15 NKJV
The Israelites knew better than to carry the ark on a cart. They knew it was to be carried on two poles by the Levites. Now here is where we see God’s mercy and reasonable dealing. Earlier when the Philistines returned the ark, they put in on a cart, and let the oxen carry it back to the Israel camp. None of them were struck dead. God knew they did not know any better. God is always merciful when there is a lack of information and people are doing the best they can. The merciful God of the New Testament Who, “winked at” times of ignorance “but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent,” is the same merciful God of the Old Testament. God does not hold us accountable for things we do not know.
However Uzzah knew better and never should have agreed to move the ark on a cart to begin with.
And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. 2 Samuel 6:6-7 KJV
While God was merciful towards the Philistines who acted out of ignorance, but with good intention, God held Uzzah accountable. Uzzah made a mistake many make today. Instead of worshiping God according to God’s law, Uzzah thought he could imitate the world and worship God the way everyone else does. After all, what difference does it make if the ark is on a cart or two poles? Eve didn’t think it really mattered which tree she ate from. What was the big deal?
So many say today, what difference does a day make – Sunday or Saturday? A rest day is a rest day, right? Well apparently it did make a difference to God if it was a cart or a pole, just like it mattered which tree Eve ate from. And there is a difference between the seventh day and the first day.
Upon Uzzah rested the greater guilt of presumption. Transgression of God’s law had lessened his sense of its sacredness, and with unconfessed sins upon him he had, in face of the divine prohibition, presumed to touch the symbol of God’s presence. God can accept no partial obedience, no lax way of treating His commandments. By the judgment upon Uzzah He designed to impress upon all Israel the importance of giving strict heed to His requirements. Thus the death of that one man, by leading the people to repentance, might prevent the necessity of inflicting judgments upon thousands. –Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 706.
Now remember that, even though Moses had to die because of his sin, God was still merciful and gave him eternal life. I imagine that God’s mercy may still save Uzzah at the resurrection as well. So even this severe act of justice was a merciful act, leading many people to repentance so thousands may be saved as well.
Even when God is just, He is still merciful. In mercy God winks at the ignorance of the world. In mercy God gives us warning and opportunity to follow His instructions on how to worship Him, instead of worshiping the customs of the world.
Seventh-day Adventists often prefer to think of the gospel in terms of the second coming, the investigative judgement, the mark of the beast, or the nature of Christ, rather than social responsibility. However, reading through Matthew and the other Gospels recently, I find that Jesus was just as concerned about how we treat one another now as he was about what the future holds for us.
In fact, Hugh Mackay, a well-known Australian religious commentator went so far as to say in a recent conference; “Jesus never told anyone what to believe in. He only spoke about how to treat each other.” I disagree with his assertion, but it is a challenging statement and we need to think about it before summarily dismissing it.
Significantly, and this is where I disagree with Hugh Mackay, Jesus integrated into his teaching the notion that who you believe in, should drive how you relate to one another. Jesus emphasizes that love for God is one of the great principles, along with our love for one another. He reiterates the idea when he says that our love for each other will show that we are his disciples. And the judgement scene equates looking after the poor and needy with honoring Jesus.
Essentially our love for God should drive and motivate our love for one another. Jesus taught us about the Father by living with us, helping people to have a healthier happy life now. He combined the idea that “I and my Father are one” with healing the sick, and caring for those who were marginalized in society.
One of the enigmas of the modern world is that in spite of the insistence that we are a post-religious society, to a large part the secular world hangs on to a Christian view of ethics. While the secular world debates some of the moral issues related to marriage and sexuality, there is still a sense that we should treat one another well. We should help those who are needy and poor, look after the sick and encourage and protect the weak – the direct antithesis of the mechanistic notion of the survival of the fittest. After all, looking after the poor and sick and needy weakens the evolutionary process, prolonging the life of those who are weak.
Such an approach seldom finds favor among humanists and evolutionary theorists. Maybe they are still holding on to the vestiges of Christian ethics in spite of their assertion that the universe is mechanistic. Atheists of course would argue that altruistic behavior benefits society as a whole. That is debatable but for Christians, Jesus set the perspective when he said:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matt 22: 37-40
John’s version of it is:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13: 34, 35
And Matthew’s depiction of the deep issues at the judgement are eloquently explained in the parable of the sheep and the goats
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Matt 25: 34-36
We cannot get away from the fact that the way we treat one another and our interaction with our society is important in the teachings of Jesus. It is perhaps not surprising that in the only picture of the judgement that we have, we are judged not on our understanding of doctrine, or our observance of Sabbath, or our strictness of lifestyle, but on our social responsibility.
James stated this principle so well in James 1: 27.
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1: 27.
“For most of us the prayer in Gethsemane is the only model. Removing mountains can wait.” -C.S. Lewis
I was told a couple Fridays ago that my mother, my biggest champion and one of the biggest prayer warriors in my ministry had less than 30 days to live. She had been in poor health for a long while. Actually, in 2004 she was given 2-3 years to live, and here it was 12 years later.
My mother, who lived 1,200 miles away was fading in and out of consciousness, mostly out. I had to get out there to see her! Last Sabbath (I am writing this Sabbath June 18, 2016) I was crying and pleading with God to give me at least one more time to tell her that I loved her. Of course I know we will always want one more time. A million emotions and memories were flooding through my soul, as I cried out to God, “One more time God! One more time!”
That afternoon, after fellowship lunch at church, I took off by myself to one of my mother’s favorite beaches, where she visited me in Florida. While there, my sister called, and told me mother was awake if I wanted to call her. I called her hospital room, and we talked for a few minutes as I stood on mother’s favorite beach, watching the waves she loved so much. I told her I loved her a hundred times. She told me she loved me. I promised I was coming out as soon as I could. She said “I hope so.” The conversation seemed timeless if you know what I mean. It didn’t seem like it would be our last conversation. It seemed like one we would have had during any period of life.
I thank God for that answered prayer, because mom then faded back into unconsciousness, never to return. I flew out to see her, and said goodbye and that I loved her, but she could not respond. I arrived at the hospital Tuesday morning at 2 AM. By 6:30 AM she was gone. The 30 days were more like just 4.
The Sunday after the Sabbath I talked to mom, right before flying out, I had a real Gethsemane with God. I was crying. No I was wailing! I am sure my neighbors heard. I was pleading with God to save my mother! I did not want to lose her! I told God I believed He could heal her. He can move mountains! But in my Gethsemane, no mountains were moved.
I looked to Jesus in His Gethsemane. No mountains were moved there either. Jesus simply surrendered to His Father’s will. I thought about His mother, later standing at the cross, having to submit her will too. Now remember, Jesus and God the Father were in on the plan of Him being crucified from the very start, but I don’t know that poor Mary was ever given a choice. She was a willing, submissive participant the entire time. I tried to imagine what was going on through her mind and heart during her mother/son separation. Then I realized, as ugly and painful as it was, little did Mary realize at the cross, just how close the resurrection was. Just right around the corner, actually!
Life goes by so fast. Things like graduations, weddings, retirement parties, and yes the death of a loved one all come way too soon it seems. We expect these things, we just don’t expect them to come so fast, even though we have been told a thousand times how short life is and how quickly it all goes by.
Even though my mother lived over 80 years, I still can’t believe her life is already over. Yes, we have been promised the Second Coming of Jesus and the resurrection for years, maybe to the point where we get lulled to sleep by it. But I believe that, just like every other major event in life that sneaks up on us, once the Second Coming and the resurrection actually happen, we all, saved and unsaved, will be thinking, “Already?! Wow that was quick!” And of course, didn’t Jesus say,
Surely I am coming quickly. (Revelation 22:20)?
When Jesus returns, mountains will be moved out of their places. For now, I pray the prayer of Gethsemane, “Not my will, Your will be done.” I realize when Mary said goodbye to Jesus she did not realize how close she already was to seeing His resurrection. I am not a date and time setter. I realize I will have to miss my mother more than the three days Mary missed Jesus, but I do know this with all my heart – no matter the pain, no matter the sorrow, no matter the wait, when Jesus comes, we will all sigh with a great joyful, “Wow! Already?!”
NWhy Speaking Out on Church-Related Sexual Abuse Is Actually Witnessing
Recently I have had three conversations going – one on Facebook, two on text – that involve clergy sexual misconduct. Cindy . . . Chelsea . . . Kirsten . . . I’m so sorry. These women are hurt, frustrated, angry, and lost, and they feel they have nowhere to turn but me. 1
Probably because of a mix of my job as a Christian counselor and my history as a survivor of church-related sexual abuse, my name has gotten out as someone who helps victims in Seventh-day Adventist circles. When I refer to victims of church-related sexual abuse, I mean anyone who has been sexually preyed upon by a spiritual leader. Even if the victim is an adult, the power advantage of the leader makes it abuse. Unfortunately, such things happen in the Seventh-day Adventist church. Trying to right these wrongs is a volunteer job with a mix of sweet emotional rewards and hefty price tags to my reputation and inner peace.
I’ve spoken out on this issue many times before and hope to continue. Cindy, Chelsea, Kirsten, this one’s for you.
The Compassion/Justice Link
Helping victims of church-related sexual abuse, sometimes called clergy sexual misconduct or CSM, involves two basic functions – compassion and justice. The two connect like links in the chain of God’s character. We pour out compassion on the victim and seek justice for the wrong they suffered. Don’t think of this as split personality, because justice drips with compassion, even to the wrongdoer. Why let them go on in their wayward path unhindered, when it leads to hell? Sometimes we must do what we can to stop them in their tracks. Sometimes, with careful consideration, counsel and prayer, we must follow in the footsteps of the prophets and “blow the whistle.”
The whistleblower Isaiah said, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter; which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him” (Isa 5:20, 23). Notice that this passage begins with “woe.” Isaiah is not in “comfort my people” mode here; he’s issuing a rebuke, essentially pointing his finger at our flawed dealings with wickedness among us. By extension, he’s telling us that in our silence on church-related abuse we wordlessly call evil good, and passively justify the wicked for the reward of being spared the consequences of speaking up. And is it not so? In our fear of the messiness of such situations, we often “pray about it” when we should speak up about it. But the sin of silence and passivity in the face of evil will find us out. Unless something changes, woe unto us.
Could We Bear the Spotlight?
Even the world is disgusted by abuse enabling. The 2016 film Spotlight2 chronicles the work of the Boston Globe investigative journalism team as they methodically uncovered the 2002 scandal of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in Massachusetts and the even more reprehensible cover-up by the Boston Archdiocese. By the time the Archdiocese resigned under a cloud of shame, thousands of cases of molestation and rape by Catholic priests had been exposed. More shocking than the actual abuse were the actions of Catholic bishops to keep the crimes secret and reassign the accused to other parishes where they had continued unsupervised contact with youth.
The apostle said of such things, “Let it not once be named among you,” (Ephesians 5:3). I wish I could say that our own Seventh-day Adventist Church bears no resemblance to the Roman Catholic Church in these matters, but at times clergy sexual misconduct, with its attendant authoritarianism, careerism, and sensuality under a garb of sanctity, raises its beastly head in our ranks. I feel a little squeamish admitting this. My inner people-pleaser cringes in fear of being blackballed as a troublemaker and disloyal to the organization. My inner evangelist wants to put forth the best impression of our church. But upon reflection, I realize that by admitting the truth, and doing something about it, I actually witness to the world.
Whistleblowers Can Be Witnesses
I witness to the world because I show that Adventism is truly a religion based on the priesthood of believers. Most of our heroes, including Ellen White and William Miller, weren’t ordained clergy. In Adventist thinking, laity can hold clergy accountable for their actions. Our confidence in doing so reveals that our church organization, while allowing for biblical authority, doesn’t cross the line into ungodly authoritarianism. Leaders do not control the consciences of the people they lead. More than this, we bare the Adventist soul that, even pressured by corrupt and coercive power, would engage in civil disobedience. Just as we claim to be true Protestants in regard to rejecting the unbiblical Sabbath, we protest any moral compromise, especially within our ranks. In addressing clergy sexual misconduct as an Adventist lay person, I shouldn’t fear being discounted due to my status. In theory at least, Adventists respect the voice of the loyal but challenging member.
I witness to the world because I show Adventism’s fundamental opposition to the abuse of power. The meta apocalyptic vision of our faith entails unprecedented, mass-scale oppression mobilized by a league of religious and political entities conglomerating into “the beast.” Over and over, Adventist evangelists show the persecutions historically perpetrated by this beast, pointing forward to its prophesied resurgence. We decry the gradual capitulation of Protestantism to Rome and count ourselves as unique in our continued protest because we do not bow the knee to one who “thinks to change” God’s “times and laws.” At the core of our true-blue Protestantism lies an aversion to human authority gone out of bounds. In theory at least, Adventism should be extra-scrupulous in its efforts to keep clergy accountable, knowing how threatening apostate clergy will eventually become.
I witness to the world because I show Adventism’s fundamental regard for the vulnerable. Out of respect for our heritage as a small, obscure faith often misrepresented as a cult, we have empathy for the marginalized and misunderstood. Because of both our history and our theology, the spirit of biblical social justice cannot be excised from the soul of our church. Just as our beliefs instill caution toward the abuse of power, they nurture a tender regard for the little guy. Of all the people on earth who should put truth above expedience, Adventists should. Theoretically at least, we dispense with even the most resourceful and popular leaders if they use their power to harm the vulnerable. By the same token, we should be willing to believe and vindicate the poorest and weakest of God’s children. We should love truth above convenience, principle above policy, and people above politics.
The Lingering Impression
“We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings,” (1 Corinthians 4:9). The world is watching, the angels are watching, and God is watching. Will we talk big about our theological differences with Rome and apostate Protestantism, but show no actual differences in our way of handling church-related sexual abuse? No! “We are His witnesses!” (Acts 5:32) When we take the issue of church-related sexual abuse seriously, following the lead of the Holy Spirit, the world will forget about the clergy who act out, and remember the individuals who spoke out. The lingering impression, and ultimately our witness, will be that we are a people who speak the truth regardless of the cost.
So, now what? Blow whistles indiscriminately, assume there’s a perpetrating pastor behind every bush, and call fire and brimstone down upon the guilty? Clearly we want to approach this delicate situation . . . delicately, as if dancing through a fire. Imbalanced and wicked individuals sometimes make false allegations. How do we walk with the Spirit through these mazes? To address that question comprehensively is beyond the scope of this article, but I propose the following action steps as a beginning of the process:
- Pray. “The physicians in our sanitariums, the ministers of the gospel, those in charge of our publishing houses and schools, need your prayers. They are tempted and tried. As you plead with God to bless them, your own hearts will be subdued and softened by His grace. We are living amid the perils of the last days, and we are to cleanse ourselves from all defilement and put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness.”3
We should pray for our leaders! God has promised that, “He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness,” (Malachi 3:3). Because of our leaders’ privileges and power, they become Satan’s special targets. How essential that we hold them up before the God of all grace!
- Educate. I’m convinced that the Seventh-day Adventist Church needs reform in the area of clergy sexual misconduct allegation handling (Did you notice?). Too many times I’ve seen perpetrators passed from conference to conference while those aware of their crimes remain silent under gag orders, fear of lawsuit, or a desire to be “good Christians.” Situations in which spiritual leaders clearly use their power edge to take advantage of congregants, some of whom are minors, are construed as “affairs” rather than abuse. These and other misconceptions abound, influencing our policies and practices toward the principles of the world.
But to try to change a whole system by authoritarian fiat would fail and even add to the problem. What will tip the scales in the right direct is education. Particularly those who wrestle with these problems day after day, counseling and helping victims, should be given opportunity to present their experience and wisdom. “We must educate, educate, educate, pleasantly and intelligently.”4 Rather than bury this problem under a cover of shame, let’s admit it exists among us, begin to make an effort to eradicate it, and show the world our commitment to integrity.
- Advocate. Often, out of a desire to conform to the letter of the Matthew 18 counsel, well-meaning church members advise alleged victims to talk directly to alleged abusers. This approach resembles advising a chicken with all its feathers plucked out to “Go back to Mr. Fox and confront him about what he did!”
Many don’t understand the nuances of Jesus’ teaching. Notice first of all that Jesus prefaces his teaching of “If your brother sins . . . go and tell him,” (Matthew 18:15) with a treatise on “little ones,” (Matthew 18:3-6). He bluntly informs us that one who offends “little ones” is worthy of capital punishment by drowning. “Little ones,” from the Greek micros, means someone smaller. Thus, before Jesus ever advises confrontation of conflict between equals, He establishes that in some cases sin occurs in a power-imbalanced relationship, implying that “little ones” need an advocate to mediate between them and the perpetrator.
When an advocate becomes aware of an allegation, the road to justice can seem risky. That’s because it is. But take it anyway. Some excellent resources to guide the process are listed below.
The Hope of Survivors ministers to victims of clergy sexual misconduct of all denominations, but it is run by a Seventh-day Adventist couple with their own survival story. Their website offers a wealth of reading material, including testimonies, Bible studies, and spirit of prophecy quotations. They distribute excellent educational videos and will take speaking appointments.
G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment) offers educational resources, including written material and videos. They also do legal consulting and in large cases will conduct investigations.
Postscript: I began this article over a month ago and was just finishing it when I received a threatening email from the lawyer of a perpetrator. For the first time in my life, I’m being threatened with a lawsuit. I admit my blood pressure went up as I read this aggressive, hateful letter. But I cried out to God, and His Spirit comforted me. I prayed with my fellow advocates and their supportive words calmed my frayed nerves. Then I received an email from one of the victims of this man. After detailing the devastation she’d experienced, she said, “Thank you for championing this issue and making sure to protect others.” So in this moment, as I wait for a call from my lawyer, I’m thankful to be a whistleblower. Will you join me?
- Also see previous posts, “Pastors Who Prey” and “Loving One Another in Purity” as well as Simon Says: “You Can Prevent Clergy Sexual Abuse!” ↩
- You can rent or buy the movie Spotlight on Amazon.com, buy it on Amazon.ca, but Amazon.co.uk only provides an option to put it on “your watch list.” ↩
- Ellen White, Review and Herald, December 31, 1901 ↩
- Ellen White, Evangelism, p. 528 ↩
Memory Text: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them’” (Luke 15:1-2, NIV).
A deacon in a local church drove a van that took the youth to an old-age home to hold a worship service every month. In the first week, while the youth were leading out, an old man in a wheelchair grabbed the deacon’s hand and held it during the service. This happened month after month. One time, when the youth group came, the man in the wheelchair was not there. The staff said that he would not likely live through the night. The deacon went to his room, and he was lying there, obviously unconscious. Taking the old man’s hand, the deacon prayed that the Lord would grant him eternal life. The seemingly unconscious man squeezed the deacon’s hand tightly, and the deacon knew that his prayer had been heard. With tears in his eyes, he stumbled out of the room, bumping into a woman who said, “I’m his daughter. He’s been waiting for you. My father said, ‘Once a month Jesus comes and holds my hand. And I don’t want to die until I have a chance to hold the hand of Jesus one more time.’”-Adapted from The Least of These, a video produced by Old Fashioned Pictures (2004). Used by permission.
Christianity is about becoming “Jesus” for somebody. The next several lessons will focus on aspects of Jesus’ ministry method and how His church can live out His ministry.
* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, August 6.
Read other teachings of Jesus that inform you and your church’s role in the community: Matthew 7:12, Matthew 23:23, Matthew 25:31-46, Mark 4:1-34, Mark 6:1-13, Luke 6:36, Luke 11:42, Luke 12:13-21, Luke 14:16-24, Luke 16:13, Luke 18:18-27, Luke 19:1-10, John 10:10, John 12:8, John 17:13-18. Read Ellen G. White, “ ‘The Least of These My Brethren,’ ” pp. 637-641, in The Desire of Ages; “The Missionary’s Pattern,” in Signs of the Times, March 19, 1894.
“Unless the church is the light of the world, it is darkness.” – Ellen G. White, in Signs of the Times, September 11, 1893. That’s a powerful thought. It reminds us of Jesus’ words, “ ‘He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad’ ” (Matt. 12:30, NKJV). Jesus is making it plain: there is no neutral territory in the great controversy. We are on Christ’s side or the devil’s. To have been given great light and to do nothing with it is, really, to be working against it. We have been called to be lights in the world; if we aren’t light, then we are darkness. Though the immediate context is different, the principle is the same: “ ‘If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!’ ” (Matt. 6:23, NIV). Perhaps all this could be summed up with the words: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48).
Key Thought: God longs for His church to be a “going” community – reaching people where they live, work, and play with the good news of salvation.
1. Have a volunteer read Luke 10:25-28.
a. Ask class members to share a thought on what is the most important point in this text is.
b. How do we love our neighbor as ourselves?
c. Personal Application : What factors might be hindering you from seeing and helping other people in need? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : One of your relatives states: “How does your community view Seventh-day Adventists? Are we known as a people who love and care for others?” How would you respond to your relative?
2. Have a volunteer read Matthew 5:13.
a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
b. Since salt is a flavoring and preservative to be “sprinkled” on other things, how then do we apply Jesus’ statement about us being the salt of the earth?
c. Personal Application : Does your presence and interaction with others influence them in any ways? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : One of your friends states, “If your church would close down tomorrow, would the community notice or miss it in any way?” How would you respond to your friend?
3. Have a volunteer read John 4:34-38.
a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. What are the different steps needed in reaching souls indicated here?
c. Personal Application: What can we do to remove rocks and thorns and soften hard ground in presenting the gospel? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : One of your neighbors states, “Many in the church think that God will send people to them, when the commission is not to stay and sit, but to go. What is your church doing to reach out into the community and help those in need? How would you respond to your neighbor?
4. Have a volunteer read Matthew 10:5-10.
a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. Why did Jesus send the disciples into the towns and villages without any resources?
c. Personal Application : How do we mingle with the world to do them good without being caught up in the world and become part of the problem? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.
(Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.”Ministry of Healing, p. 148).
Read Matthew 10:5-10. Why would Jesus send His disciples out into the surrounding towns and villages without any resources?
It seems strange that Jesus’ disciples would have direct orders to enter their ministry territory with little to sustain themselves. Apparently, Jesus placed His disciples in this situation to teach them dependence on God and also the importance of creating friendships through service to the local residents. These local residents would then value their service enough to provide support for the ministry.
Pastor Frank’s local conference asked him to plant a church in a section of a large city that had virtually no Adventist presence. Initially, he had no budget to do so. He consulted a map and determined the boundaries of that section of the city and studied the demographics of the people there. Then he parked his car in the busiest part of the neighborhood and began going from business to business asking questions about life in that area. He visited with political, business, and social agency leaders, asking questions about the greatest needs in that community. He made friends with some of the local residents, who invited him to join a local civic club. In that setting he discovered other leaders who opened the way to rent the annex of a local Presbyterian church. The civic club members provided seed money to buy paint and cleaning supplies to refurbish the annex to use for community services. Interviews with community leaders indicated that health care was an important felt need in the community. Therefore, Pastor Frank brought together a team of volunteers who ran various health-screening programs and follow-up meetings in the annex for community residents. Those who benefited from the screenings and programs paid a modest fee, which helped pay the expenses. Soon a branch Sabbath School was started, and some of the residents began to attend.
Pastor Frank soon learned that one of the best ways to plant a church is to first plant a ministry that meets the needs of the community-and then grow a church through that ministry. This community-based ministry spawned a Seventh-day Adventist church of more than 140 members.
Pastor Frank’s story illustrates what can happen when we follow Jesus’ teachings about reaching our community. How did Jesus live out His own teachings about ministry? Next week we will begin exploring Christ’s ministry method, which “will give true success in reaching the people.” – Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 143.
Read John 4:35-38. What is Jesus telling us here about the different steps needed in reaching souls?
The work of a farmer is multifaceted. Other types of farming work must be done before a harvest can be plentiful (Matt. 9:35-38). Not only reapers are needed in the Lord’s harvest field. Can you imagine a farmer at harvesttime saying to his farmhands, “Harvesttime is here, so we must start planting seeds”? Reaping is best done after you have been farming all along.
Farming includes preparing the soil, for not all ground is good ground at first. (Read Matt. 13:3-9.) What can your church do in your community to soften “hard ground” and remove “rocks” and “thorns”?
Workers have done the hard farming work before the harvest, and other workers reap the benefits of their labor. Sometimes evangelistic outreach strategies have emphasized reaping more than they do the preparatory farming. This is not how it should be done. The soil should be prepared long before the evangelist just shows up and starts preaching in hopes of reaping a harvest.
We should look at working in the harvest field as a process: testing the soil, preparing/cultivating the soil, planting, watering, fertilizing, fighting pests, waiting, reaping, and preserving the harvest.
Reaping the harvest is only one part of the process. In the church, the “farming” process could include soil-testing activities, such as community needs assessment surveys, demographics, and interviews with community leaders. There can be soil preparing/cultivating activities, such as meeting needs in the community which are revealed by the community assessment; seed-planting activities, such as seminars, Bible studies, and small groups; and praying for the rain-the Holy Spirit. Few people are won to Christ with only one exposure. We need to nurture them with a process of multiple exposures, increasing the likelihood that they will be ready for harvesting. If we rely only on scattered events, it is unlikely that the new plants will survive until the harvest.
|What role should you be playing in the whole process of winning souls, as opposed to the role, if any, that you are now in?|
You can view an in-depth discussion of “Jesus on Community Outreach” in the Hope Sabbath School class led by Pastor Derek Morris. (Adobe Flash Player version.) A Youtube version of this week’s lesson at Hope Sabbath School is below.
“ ‘You are the salt of the earth’ ” (Matthew 5:13, NIV).
In this passage, Jesus is calling His followers to be “salt,” which is a transforming agent. The church is a “saltshaker,” which contains the “salt of the earth.” With what or whom should we, this “salt,” mix? Only with ourselves, or with ingredients different from us?
You can better understand the answer to this question if you fill one loaf pan with only salt and another loaf pan with bread that has salt as one of its ingredients. In the first pan, salt is the whole recipe; it would hardly be tasty, much less edible. In the second pan, salt is part of the recipe and is mixed with ingredients different from itself. And, as such, it transforms a loaf of bread from bland to delicious. Salt does more good when it mixes with elements unlike itself. The same is true of Christians. This won’t happen if we stay comfortably in the church “saltshaker.”
Thus, there’s a point here we shouldn’t miss. We can, in every which way, be moral in that we don’t smoke or drink or carouse or gamble or engage in crime. All that is important. But the question isn’t just what we don’t do. Rather, it is What do we do?That is, what do we do to help our community and those who are in need?
Read Matthew 5:13 again, concentrating on the rest of the verse. How can the salt lose its savor?
“But if the salt has lost its savor; if there is only a profession of godliness, without the love of Christ, there is no power for good. The life can exert no saving influence upon the world.” – Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 439.
Go back to the recipe symbol. As we saw, if all we have is salt, it is no good. In fact, too much salt in the diet can be toxic. Salt has to be mixed with what is different from it. Thus, if we are just like the world, we won’t make a difference in it. We will have nothing to offer. The salt becomes good for nothing. And what does Jesus say happens to it then?
However, permeated with the savor of the love of Christ, we will desire to become “insiders” with the “outsiders,” mixing with others in order to be a transforming agent, to be something that will make a positive difference in their lives and, by extension, leading others to what really matters in life: salvation in Jesus.
|Read Deuteronomy 12:30, Deut. 31:20, Isaiah 2:8. What danger do these texts warn about, and how can we be careful not to fall into that trap?|
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself” (Luke 10:27).
Read Luke 10:25-37. What message is given here to us in regard to the whole question of helping those in need?
The expert in the law understood that all the commandments revolve around loving God with all you have and loving your neighbor as yourself. The question that remained to be answered was “Who is my neighbor?”
Given that the prevailing thought among the people of Israel in Christ’s time was to favor their own kind as neighbors and relegate all others as outsiders, this expert in the law sought to have Jesus clarify the issue. The parable that Jesus tells reveals a totally different perspective. Our neighbor is anyone we encounter who is in need. Being a neighbor is meeting the needs of a neighbor. The priest and the Levite were more concerned about defiling themselves and protecting their godly duties from contamination. What a convenient way to use their religion as an excuse not to have to die to self in order to help someone who, most likely, could never pay them back.
In contrast, the Samaritan saw this wounded “outsider” and “enemy” as his neighbor, mercifully meeting his needs rather than his own. The point is that instead of asking “Who is my neighbor?” we need to be asking, “Who will be a neighbor to the downtrodden and oppressed?” It doesn’t matter who a person is: The one in need is the one whom we should help-period.
“No distinction on account of nationality, race, or caste, is recognized by God. He is the Maker of all mankind. All men are of one family by creation, and all are one through redemption. Christ came to demolish every wall of partition, to throw open every compartment of the temple, that every soul may have free access to God. His love is so broad, so deep, so full, that it penetrates everywhere.” – Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 386.
|What prejudices might be hindering you from being the neighbor you must be?|
Jesus, the young rabbi from Nazareth, had become very popular in the region of Galilee (Luke 4:15). When He spoke, “the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:28-29, NKJV).
One Sabbath, when handed the scroll of Isaiah, Jesus read the first two verses of Isaiah 61, stopping in midsentence just before the phrase “and the day of vengeance of our God” (Isa. 61:2, NIV).
As we already saw, the phrase “the year of the LORD’s favor” is identified as the year of jubilee (see Leviticus 25:1-55). In this visit to Nazareth, Jesus quotes a messianic passage from Scripture and assures His hearers that “ ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’ ” (Luke 4:21, NIV). In this sermon He reveals Himself as the Anointed One who preaches good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, sight for the blind, release for the oppressed, and jubilee restoration. This list well describes His earthly ministry, which was focused on teaching, healing, and ministering, especially to those in need.
Why would Jesus stop short of completing the sentence in Isaiah 61:2?
Perhaps Jesus stopped short of the phrase “the day of vengeance of our God” because Jesus did not want His ministry to be associated with the prevailing concept that the Messiah would come to lead armies to vanquish the oppressors of Israel and bring them under Israel’s power. That was a false conception that would, unfortunately, keep many of His fellow countrymen from seeing Him and His ministry for what it really was. Instead, He focused on what He would do for those who needed what He had to offer right then and there, regardless of the political situation of the time.
|What should it say to us that Jesus announces His ministry in this way; that is, what should we take away for ourselves by His emphasizing here the practical work that we would be doing?|
Memory Text: “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people” (Matthew 4:23, NKJV).
Robert Louis Stevenson, best known for his adventure story Treasure Island, had been a sickly boy who couldn’t go to school regularly. Finally his parents hired a teacher to teach him and a nanny to help with his personal needs. One night when his nanny came to check on him before he went to bed, he was out of bed, and his hands and nose were pressed against the window. His nanny firmly told him to get back in bed before he got a chill.
Robert said to her, “Come to the window, and see what I’m seeing.”
The nanny came to see. Down below, on the street, there was a lamplighter lighting the streetlights. “Look,” said Robert, “a man is poking holes in the darkness!”-Margaret Davis, Fear Not! Is There Anything Too Hard for God? (Aspect Books, 2011), p. 332.
We’ve seen a bit of what the Old Testament said about helping those in need. We are now going to look at what the New Testament says, and what better place to start than with Jesus? And one of Jesus’ well-known teachings is that we are to be “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14). In so doing, we reflect Jesus, the True Light of the world (John 8:12). Jesus’ teachings, which He modeled in His own earthly ministry, provide powerful instructions concerning how we, through Him, can poke holes in the darkness.
* Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, July 30.
Read Jeremiah 22:1-16; Ezekiel 16:49; Zechariah 7:9-10. Read Ellen G. White Comments, pp. 1165, 1166, in The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4; “God’s Design in Our Sanitariums,” pp. 227, 228, in Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8, NIV). How much clearer could the Lord be in regard to what He asks of His people? God has shown us what is “good,” and this “good” is the same word used again and again in Genesis 1:1-31, referring to the pre-Fall Creation. Thus, implicitly we are pointed back to the ideal, to what God originally had for us and, ultimately, what He will restore to us after Jesus returns. The phrase translated “require of you” could also be (and perhaps more accurately) translated as “seek from you.” That is, what does God “seek from” us, we, His redeemed people covered by the grace of Christ? The answer is shown in how we are to relate to others and to God. First, we are to act justly. This is so appropriate given the topic of this quarter, which is on how we can help those who are often helpless victims of injustice. Second, we are to love mercy. We live in a world that, at times, can be so unmerciful. What a powerful witness we could be were we to love mercy and show that love by revealing mercy in our lives toward others. Third, we are to walk humbly before God.If the Lord in Micah 6:4 referred them back to their deliverance from Egypt as a reason for them to be humble and faithful before Him, how much more so should that apply to us, we who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus? The reality of the Cross, and what it cost to redeem us, should always keep us humble before our God.
You can view an in-depth discussion of “Justice & Mercy in the Old Testament – Part 2” in the Hope Sabbath School class led by Pastor Derek Morris. (Adobe Flash Player version.) A Youtube version of this week’s lesson at Hope Sabbath School is below.