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Visions of Hope (Zechariah) — 23 Comments

  1. I think it should be obvious that Stephen is primarily speaking to the industrialized west and the wealthier countries that support the Gospel work as foreign missions. We certainly have more responsibility in supporting God's work and I think because of that the monetary problems are greater and more visible. While that is certainly true, poorer countries have the same basic problems with what is given them, it is just that it is on a smaller scale, so what Stephen says can be applied in principle to both groups.

    What I do have a problem with is the idea that people with means should empty their coffers for the sake of the poorer classes. There have been people in the past who have given everything they had to the church and humanitarian projects but by and large God does not call us to go to that extreme. Nowhere in the Bible does God condemn wealth, in fact, there are several individuals in the Bible that God prospered to extravagance. Job, Abraham, and Solomon are the three best known and there are those that God honored with a lot of political power such as Daniel and Joseph that carried with their offices a good measure of wealth as well.

    The fact that Jesus didn't condemn the very lavish, costly temple in Jerusalem with all its marble, gold, silver, and bronze that was built by Herod should tell us something. In fact, He didn't even say anything about the synagogues throughout the country that quite often were constructed of cut stone like other public buildings rather than what was normally used for houses. What He did condemn was the greed and selfishness that all too often is associated with wealth. When wealth is handled properly it can become a huge blessing to a lot of people and to the kingdom of God.

    That also brings up the problem of the quality of church buildings we find in western societies. Certainly a good number of them are basically palatial palaces that are anything but representative of Christ where enormous sums of money were spent for pride and show and little else. One would think that I am talking about churches outside the Adventist Church but that is not the case. There are many instances within the Adventist denomination where large sums of money were spend on things that the churches didn't need, some on items of luxury involving nothing but pride. On the other side of the coin are churches that are nothing more than shacks that are below the norm for the surrounding neighborhood; those are not representative of Christ either. I think we need to have clean representative churches that will attract people. As far as I am concerned it makes no sense to neglect the home front while putting all of our efforts in foreign missions. To me there needs to be a proper balance between the two.

    Neither are we to spend every cent we have to upgrade people's lives to the total neglect of the gospel and a meeting place people can call church. Here again I think there needs to be balance in what we do. Jesus made people's physical lives better but He also preached and took care of the spiritual side of life also.

  2. To whom much is given, much is expected. Those who are financially blessed in the church need to pray fervently for God to show them how they can be a blessing to others. There’s nothing wrong with being wealthy—as long as the person has a very tight relationship with our Creator/Redeemer and is willing to walk away from the wealth at a moment’s notice from the Holy Spirit.

    • We all tend to focus on money but what about all of the other talents we have been given? For instance, I don't have much in the way of money even though I have more than a lot of people in the world but what about the time I have or the resources at my disposal or the knowledge and technology available for my use. What am I doing with those things?

      I also think we should remember that the gifts of the spirit are talents which we receive from God for the building up of His kingdom (1 Cor 12). "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills" (1 Cor. 12:11 NKJV). No two people are given exactly the same distribution of gifts but we are all accountable for what we have received. The same goes for the position we hold in the church (Mat 12:28; Eph 4:11-12).

      Another rather interesting thing is the parable of the talents (Mat 25:14-30). In that parable it isn't the person that had the most that lost Heaven but the one who had the least because he didn't use what he had. As I said it is a matter of scale. We all sin; it is just that the one who sins with the most is more visible and obvious than the one with the least. Both are held accountable for what they have been given and both will be judged on the basis of how they related to the gifts given him/her.

    • I agree with you. Asking God for total guidance on how to spend your money is needed in today's world.

  3. We tend to go to extremes when we feel our financial blessing is being threatened. No one said we have to empty our coffers to help the poor or spend every cent we have to upgrade the lives of those less fortunate. We have a tendency to hold what we have closer and exaggerate the request. I don't know exactly how to ease the minds who suffer from this, but I do know that if we are faithful in our tithing..Malachai 3:10: "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do," says the LORD of Heaven's Armies, "I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in!" And if we don't have room to take it in, perhaps we could pass it on to someone less fortunate. And let us not forget Matt.25:40, "And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'

  4. I Have Seen Christ

    Thank you all for your comments regarding those less fortunate within or without our ranks. This seems to me a question of applying the right kind of theology in our every day life. I believe in the real existence of God as creator, redeemer and judge (Hebrews 11:6). Only by faith in Christ is it possible to have a relationship to that real existence of God far removed in space and invisible to human eyes (1 Timothy 6:16). Left alone with this one sided theology, we would not only be far removed from God but also from humanity.

    Side by side with that far away removed real existence of God, there is the revealed real existence of His character in Christ Jesus (John 14:6). In Him the far away God comes very near to humanity. By beholding the glory of the character of God in Jesus Christ we become changed into His character by degrees (2 Corinthians 3:18). Christians are representatives of Christ and the Father as to character representation. We are lifted up to a divine standard, not a human standard, we would have to lift up ourselves. Nor are we removed away from peoples needs but brought into contact with them. Meeting the less fortunate we will treat them as Christ would have treated them.

    I never forget the appearance of a homeless stranger, having come from a rural area right into the city, his family shattered an broken, his hair and beard long and wild, his jacket and trousers worn out. Suddenly it dawned upon me: That is Christ! I have seen Christ! (Matthew 25:35-36). Eyes opened and illuminated by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:18) will see Christ even today to be treated accordingly (Matthew 25:45). A new vision of Christ will bring us into closer contact even with the misery and the miserables of this world.

    Winfried Stolpmann

  5. The Lord has blessed us with many possessions be it talents,wealth,kind words etc. "Love your brother as yourself" the bible says, Love can be exhibited in many ways, few of which is through money giving or wealth sharing. The whole focus is to love wholeheartedly in order to reflect Christ. If we are not loving enough then we are not reflecting Him. Though Christ does not particularly calls us to empty our coffers for the poor, He says "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" John 15:13, 1 Kings 17:12,13,15. Till these kind of love exhibited in the verses are understood we will love but not love enough to reflect Christ. Through my wealth, I will choose to love and honor the poor or needy who reflects the Image of God and whose body is The Lord's temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells before considering the church building-Temple of God aside my tithe and offering. Someone might be drawn closer to our God for an additional dollar given in the name of love, than to spend on a useless piece in a Church building. Are we saying those worshiping in tents do not have the Glory of God? Our love and character guided by the Holy Spirit is what draws souls to God and not the splendor of our Temples. I really love to worship in temples that reflects God's beauty and power but that is not our priorities as Seventh-Day Adventist Christians in these last days.
    Kwaku Opoku

  6. [Moderators note: Please use full names - it helps identify writers and enables us to eliminate spam]

    History teaches, that overall, where ever the Gospel is accepted, it changes people's lives drastically. It unfortunately a very narrow view, to allow for the sweeping inference, that the reason for conversion of the poor is due to a lust for wealth. Many wealthy Christians are responsible and down bottom good children of God. Be careful in your basic assumptions. Have you considered the gospel command that believers bodies are the temple of God. That all believers have the obligation to be healthy and live a responsible life with the resources God gives then. The gospel ultimately changes everyone it comes in contact with. Yes, there is something to say that believers have a common obligation to support one another. That is the reason why each congregation have a welfare Department. My experience is that you cannot teach the gospel to someone who has an empty stomach. But do you need to teach it in rags, because your audience is dressed in that fashion? Ultimately my contention is that the picture is much bigger than the one you published.

  7. I would like to suggest that there's more than meets the eye when we look at people who "spend thousands of dollars to jet one person to a foreign country to help build a church building for the native people." It has to do with serving in the situation we find ourselves. One organization who specializes in erecting church buildings for believers in other parts of the world who have a hard time putting up their own buildings is Maranatha International. While I have never been on a Maranatha trip, I know many who have, and I know of buildings that have been built by this ministry. What usually happens is that people with means choose to spend their vacations with Maranatha, rather than traveling for pleasure alone. And, as often as not, they do much more than build buildings. They put on Vacation Bible schools and mingle with the people. And they come back with their own lives changed and sensitized to people who do not have all their advantages. And the buildings are important. In many parts of the world, a God who does not have a building is not respected, and that makes it really difficult for believers to share. Thus a church building is even more important there than it is here.

    Another ministry for which people use jets to travel to other parts of the world is the ShareHim ministry. It was envisioned not only to evangelize other parts of the world but also to instill a love for evangelism in Laodicean North American Adventists. And I have observed this happening first-hand - with speakers who spoke in the Ukraine or India, coming home and holding meetings in their own church - with a far smaller budget and better results than a professional evangelist coming in. And the people in India? The local pastors prepared them for baptism, and the Holy Spirit convicted them. But the North American speakers also played a crucial role. A foreign speaker coming in has drawing power, and the people flocked to hear the speakers, and if such speakers have a relationship with Jesus, it will show, and Christ can work through them.

    Both Maranatha and ShareHim have had a significant global impact. And there are others which God is using as well.

    It is true that we need to ask ourselves and God where He wants us to serve, but let us be slow to criticize those who serve in different ways than He has called us to serve. He uses all sorts of different individuals in His vineyard, and He calls individuals according to their abilities and means. We all have our part to play.

    It is also true that we need to recognize that often empowering local people to do the work is far better than jetting in to do a job ourselves. But it's not necessarily an either/or choice. Often it is possible to both help out and to empower the local people.

  8. Haggai 2:8  The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts. Psalms 50:10  For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. James 2:18  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Acts 20:35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
    Many more promises from God reveal that His children who sacrifice their means to enable the poor to escape their vicious circles will never go hungry. Test God - as He owns everything, including us, why worry? We don't have much time left - soon our material possessions will be destroyed. We fund our missionary projects and leave the outcome to God. Are we willing to make the first move?

  9. Yes..."what would Jesus do?"

    How about: "What DID Jesus do?"

    He gave Himself completely, and served fallen mankind however He was able to with no though of the cost to Himself. Look at the power that attended His serving, which He said His followers would surpass.

  10. Harold Gotting wrote: "We fund our missionary projects and leave the outcome to God."

    There is some truth in that statement but I think that there are other sides to this issue that need considering as well. I have sat on committees that have the responsibility of using the money that has been donated to the church. I remember one time that I moved a motion against spending about half a million dollars on a particular project because I thought that the information about the project was inadequate. I was right. I knew that there were stakeholders that had not been given a say, and that contractor's bona fides and credentials had not been fully checked. There was simply insufficient preparation to make this particular project a success.

    The church does not always make the best decisions about how to use the money we have donated to it, and very often that is our fault because we have not taken an appropriate interest in the business of our church. We are part of the family of God and God expects us to use our talents in the business of the church.

    We should make our donations, offerings, and even tithe payments intelligently, not blindly. There is nothing wrong with asking how they are used, why a decision has been made, and where the offering goes to. The church administration also has a responsibility to us as stakeholders to act transparently. I understand the need for some things to be held "in confidence" but that too should be explained.

    We can have confidence in Church projects if we are willing to be involved in the decision making processes where appropriate.

    • Where is big money there is a devil. Problem is when money is an incom of centralistic menagement. And there is also administration. You can vote to change the president but you cant deal with administration that lives several presidents. Its always there and spending. Its a buissnes. Money should be dispersivily colected only to be spend on feeld not on central administrating.

      • Goran (I hope I'm understanding your comment correctly), I'm aware that the misuse of funds can and does exist. Still, the work of God must have organization, which is not a hierarchy by design. Our counsel from the Lord has led to setting up the organization as it exists. Yes, not every soul is converted and if all God's workers were fully His, we might not still be here, but here we are. We need organization and must pray for God's leading through it. His work will triumph at last. In the meanwhile, we can each do the work appointed to us attended by the Holy Spirit, which is promised to all who ask in faith.

        The widow gave her two mites into a corrupt treasury, but was blessed by Jesus for her complete sacrifice, given from her heart to God. It was not her purpose to contribute to the 30 pieces of silver that paid for Jesus' betrayal, and God reads each heart. We give to the Lord, and yes, men may abuse their trust, but God will deal faithfully with every case and bless all who fully trust in Him.

      • Large amounts of money can be a problem if they are not managed properly. However part of the Churches mission is to provide education and health care. The cost of running even a small educational college of around say 1500 students runs into millions of dollars a year and represents a huge capital investment. If we want to be effective in the modern world we need this sort of investment.

        I am passionate about Adventist education. We are not perfect but we are effective. And we need good management practices so that "big money" is not a problem. That is where the intelligent involvement of the community of believers can help ensure that our money is used wisely to promote the Gospel. I want to do my part in ensuring that our offerings are used wisely and will happily be part of the management process.

        • Maurice, when you say "effective" concerning SDA education, what do you mean? In the past, when I attended reunions my experience was like many others who after attending reunion were left saddened by the results of SDA education in general. There have been a few encouraging results, but for each one there should be 100 more.

          Yes, many are successful in this world due to their education, but what is in this world that is worth this "success"? Churches with many successful members are falling further into debt while the parking lot and the "red carpet" reveal more than enough to cover the needs begging for means, while large gyms and competitive sports programs are given all the support needed, along with the annual trips to amusement parks. But for what? How many sacrifice for God's work and deny themselves luxury and worldly possessions and pleasures? From PP, pg 95 "All that [Noah] possessed, he invested in the ark."

          This is not to judge, but to assess the effectiveness of the school system we were given counsel to build up as a means for preparing an "army of workers" to witnesses for the Truth. One generation will finish the work, yet we are 8-9 generations since 1844, with at least the last 6-7 of those having had the benefit of SDA schools all their lives. How effective have we been?

          Some will say, "the schools must have support of family and church", and they are correct. So we can't evaluate one without the others.

        • Robert, I do agree that our system of education has failed in some ways but I will never condemn the system as a whole. Like the ancient schools of the prophets our institutions were originally ordained by God. Unfortunately like those schools corrupt elements soon get in and destroy a lot of what God wished to be established in them.

          As Ellen White said of those ancient schools so I believe concerning a lot of the things that happen in our schools today:
          The angels from heaven did not come to the school of the prophets and sing their anthems over the Temple or synagogues, but they went to those who were humble enough to receive the message. They sang the glad tidings of a Saviour over Bethlehem’s plains while the great, the rulers, and the honorable were left in darkness because they were perfectly satisfied with their position and felt no need of a piety greater than that which they possessed. Teachers in the schools of the prophets, the scribes and priests and rulers, were the worst persecutors of Christ. Those who made the highest pretensions to spiritual light were the very ones who slighted and rejected and crucified Christ. (Christ Triumphant, p 78.4)

          HOWEVER, within the corruption that is often present there are very dedicated people who have not bowed the knee to Baal. One such person that I had the privilege to meet was the head of the biology department at what was then Walla Walla College. Dr. Rigby was to me a very real, very dedicated Christian who knew what persecution was all about. While I was a student of his for a very short time in one of his classes I found out that he was denied his doctorates degree only because he was a creationist and had to retake the program. I believe that there are many in our schools with the same dedication to God that he had that are among the 7000 of Elijah's time who have not bowed down to foreign gods. They are the Daniels, the Shadrachs, Meshachs, and Abed-Negos who buck the system in favor of worshipping God and Him alone.

          Furthermore, I still think that our schools, as bad as they may seem, are still better than the schools of the world. At least there is religious education there that is far less corrupted than what is found elsewhere. To me our job as Christian leaders and dedicated lay people should be to oversee the direction that our schools go in but I have to be honest; when the campus church holds graduation ceremonies on the Sabbath in place of the regular Sabbath services then I question if the necessary guidance is really there or if anyone even cares.

        • Tyler, it's not about pointing fingers, condemnation or judgement, it's about assessment and evaluation. Any corporation that is failing to achieve it's goals must evaluate to find the reasons for the failures if success is to be found. We have our Guiding Light and should simply follow it. When Haggai was sent to Israel, it was not for condemnation, but that they would "consider your ways." God explained the reasons for their loses and does the same for us.

          Just as a point of interest: Jesus did not attend the schools of His day, even when urged to do so by the leaders and His family. No, He didn't go to public school either. (Yes, there were no public schools, but had there been He would not have attended them) Same goes for John the baptist.

          There are some very sobering councils written concerning our schools at the time of the living messenger that have greater relevance today. We must consider our ways to find the solution. There has to be change for the better and it should be a subject of earnest prayer and close study by all. Our need is greater than we acknowledge, and the results speak clearly.

          Yes, God has His faithful in all places.

  11. I think we are being drawn away from the issue that was under discussion, namely that we do need to care about how our offerings are used and that we should think intelligently about our giving.

    However I will take the bait, and give a response. I have been an educator in Adventist institutions for the whole of my life and I resist the description of my work as ineffective. I wish at times I could have been more effective, and yes I freely admit that in hindsight I could have done some things better. Not all my students have remained Adventist, or even Christian. I have not been there to brainwash them, just to give them tools to think and develop their minds. A student today faces many challenges and I do not know how to answer them all. My aim has simply been to remain a credible Christian in a modern world. And while I am disappointed that some students decide to turn away from Christianity, I am encouraged by those who have gone into both church and secular employment and who have served effectively.

    I do not think that we affect the timing of the second coming (that is God's decision alone), but we take to heart the instruction to "occupy till I come". If my colleagues and I did not care about this, who else is going to take up the challenge?

    • Yes, we must consider our giving, but trust in God's leading where we have no control over others. But this subject also concerns our schools which are evaluated by the results of their effectiveness. No bait was intended Maurice. You made a statement and I replied directly to it. It's not really an issue to debate, but a very real need to address, and just as in the days of Haggai and Zechariah, we have our directions and need only to follow them to receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit which is promised. But like every promise, there are conditions that must be met, and God cannot prosper any who depart from His clear instructions. He has not changed since the days of Moses, the judges, the kings, prophets or apostles. He is still the same, and cannot bless any who willingly turn away from following His leading.

      I believe the evaluation of effectiveness was in general, and not personal. I have come up through our schools and in those schools, there were Godly teachers/administrators and students to be found. But the overall results speak of a departure from our mandate as a whole. Prophets are only sent to call a people back to God, and if they are following Him closely, prophets are not needed. Not one of the prophets in all of the Bible was sent with only a message of; "great job folks, keep it up!" We are sinners and tend to be sinful. God wants to save and prosper us as a Church so we can be His witnesses to those in darkness. That is His purpose since the fall in Eden and will remain His purpose until Jesus restores this earth to it's original state with even greater glory.

      If you do not think we affect the timing of Jesus' return, I would invite you to consider why we have been told we have delayed His coming "because of insubordination".(EV 696) Why we are told we may hasten that day.(8T 22,23) Why are the angels still holing the 4 winds? (Rev 7:3) I only address your statement and have no desire to argue the point further. Haggai, Zechariah and all the prophets speak directly to us today. God is waiting for us while we think we are waiting on Him.

  12. Dear Brother Maurice - I was referring to "individual" sacrifices in areas of money, talent, time etc, not "Church Funds, Tithes or Offerings" - some examples: Asian Aid Child Sponsorship, Medical Assistance, Funding Church Buildings etc. Hope this sheds more light on my comment.

  13. Thanks Harold, I appreciate where you are coming from, and yes there is a difference. At the same time, I think we need to choose carefully from among these projects as well. There is a need for intelligent giving. A lot of donations do not end up where they were intended. We need to be diligent in checking the bona fides of those who are processing our donations.

  14. I met a lovely Hispanic man in the Walmart in Independence, Missouri. I was so impressed with his positive and strong Christian attitude that I asked him which church he attended and he told me 7th Day Adventist. I then was dismayed thinking that I could not believe he attended such a church and was such a shining example of everything a Christian should be. Well, after a few weeks I started reading about the 7th Day Adventist. I have attended almost every other denomination out there incl the Catholic Church. I was surprised to see that this church embraces almost every belief that I have regarding the way Christianity should be.

    I was discouraged, believing that most church denominations play church and just don't focus on what Jesus wanted us to be and to do for Him and others on this earth. I still can't understand the loss of consciousness at death concept but I am studying the church's beliefs. This belief of helping those in need and that we are our brother's keeper in the full sense of the instruction is something that is lacking in most churches today. I fully believe in this and that Jesus meant what He said when He stated -- I never knew you -- to those who did NOT feed and clothe the poor, protect the weak, visit those in hospitals and prisons and help whenever we can. I do not have a lot of money but I do try to help others whenever I can -- daily life, my family, my job, just put others first and He will bring those to you that He wants us to help.

    The hispanic gentleman who works for Walmart? He helps all of us with his smile, encouraging words, his joy in living and his gratitude to God.


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