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Saturday, November 14, 2020 - 00:29

The Fourth Watch

By Pastor Dwight K. Nelson

Dec
2
December 2, 2020

When I was a sixth-grader at John Nevins Andrews Elementary School in Tacoma Park, Maryland, I can still remember traveling with my parents to a distribution point, where medical personnel was giving all of us small sugar cubes containing the polio vaccine. Subsequently, I never contracted polio, and the disease has essentially been eradicated in this country. 

According to the Center for Disease Control: “Polio was once one of the most feared diseases in the U.S. In the early 1950s, before polio vaccines were available, polio outbreaks caused more than 15,000 cases of paralysis each year. Following the introduction of vaccines—specifically, trivalent inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) in 1955 and trivalent oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV) in 1963 [when I got my vaccination]—the number of polio cases fell rapidly to less than 100 in the 1960s and fewer than 10 in the 1970s” (www.cdc.gov/polio/what-is-polio/polio-us.html).

Now comes word this morning from London that the United Kingdom has approved a mass distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine: “Britain on Wednesday became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use and said that it will be rolled out from early next week. . . . Britain has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine—enough for just under a third of the population as two shots of the jab are needed per person to gain immunity” (www.reuters.com/article/uk-health-coronavirus-britain-vaccine-fa/factbox-uk-approves-pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine-who-gets-it-first-idUSKBN28C0X8). Reports indicate the United States will approve and release COVID-19 vaccines in the next few weeks.

But why talk about vaccinations at all? Because in advance of a vaccine roll-out, we need to remember what vaccinations are. Over the last two centuries, vaccines have been the scientific fruit of the medical community’s desperate efforts to eradicate or at least halt the advance of killer diseases. Plain and simple. Are they perfect scientific medical remedies? Probably not. But is there anything perfect on this side of heaven? Although come to think of it, one of the great Bible narratives is about a vaccination antidote that offered a 100% cure to those who took it. 

The children of Israel are belly-aching against God and Moses (for the umpteenth time), but this time God honors their bitter complaints by withdrawing His guarding presence: “As the protecting hand of God was removed from Israel, great numbers of the people were attacked by these poisonous creatures [wilderness vipers God had been shielding them from]” (Patriarchs and Prophets 429).

“Piercing cries” rend the night air as these once-kept-at-bay killer vipers attack the tented masses. Humbled now by their act of rebellion, the people cry out, “‘Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’’” So at God’s direction, Moses hurriedly crafts a bronze viper and hoists it on a pole in the center of the community. God’s promise is simple: “‘Anyone who is bitten can look at it and live’” (Numbers 21:7-8).

And the story concludes, “Then when anyone who was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.” The divine vaccination worked perfectly. Those who looked, lived—healed by faith on the spot.

Jesus reminded His midnight visitor of the story and then declared: “‘Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him’” (John 3:14-15).

Everyone. One hundred percent of those who look by faith to the cross and their Savior for healing are healed of the killer disease of sin. Healed. One hundred percent. Period.

In this season of the Advent when we commemorate the coming of the Christ Child to be our Savior, let’s celebrate the Good News of His vaccine: “While we realize our helpless condition without Christ, we are not to yield to discouragement, but rely upon the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour. Look and live. Jesus has pledged His word; He will save all who come unto Him. Though millions who need to be healed will reject His offered mercy, not one who trusts in His merits will be left to perish” (Patriarchs and Prophets 432).

There it is again—100% efficacy of His vaccine. So don’t be discouraged—take hope—look to Jesus and live. “Not one who trusts in His merits will be left to perish.” Not one. This Christmas. This New Year. 

Not one.

Nov
18
November 18, 2020

Somewhere in the Bible, it is commanded, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 

Does that include the pandemic that pins this planet and nation down this Thanksgiving?

As far as I can tell, the command does not indicate an exclusion clause. Though let's be quick to recognize this is not a command to “give thanks for all circumstances”—it is a command to “give thanks in all circumstances.”

After all, how could we possibly thank God for the disease that has taken away our loved ones (1.34 million deaths globally—248,707 deaths across this nation as of three hours ago)?

No, the command is specific—“give thanks in [not for] all circumstances.” 

After all, how could we possibly thank God for the disease that has stripped away our personal economic security? 

“A new Pew Research Center survey finds that, overall, one-in-four adults have had trouble paying their bills since the coronavirus outbreak started, a third have dipped into savings or retirement accounts to make ends meet, and about one-in-six have borrowed money from friends or family or gotten food from a food bank. As was the case earlier this year, these types of experiences continue to be more common among adults with lower incomes, those without a college degree and Black and Hispanic Americans” (www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/).

The apostle Paul, himself no stranger to economic deprivation and intense personal suffering, is clear in his apostolic command: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

But really—we’re supposed to find a reason for thanksgiving in the midst of this Covid-19 onslaught—are you serious?

May I make a humble effort to suggest a small list of possible gratitudes this Thanksgiving? Perhaps your own list will look quite different:

  • I am grateful for the technology that enables me to worship remotely with people I can’t see—somehow knowing, in a divine sort of way, we are actually connected to one another, though very much physically distanced.
  • I’m also thankful for the people who put up with the bother of wearing a face mask when they’re around me—what an “I care about you” kind of gift!
  • I’m grateful for the cell phone that lets me reach out to people I otherwise wouldn't have been able to reach during this pandemic.
  • I realize more and more the simple truth embedded in that old saw, “I complained to God about having no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”
  • I’m grateful for the lesson this pandemic is trying to teach me—that what really matters most in life—more than professional success, more than economic comfort, more than even religious or theological correctness—what really matters most of all is relationships—and I want to treasure the ones I have all the more—especially the one with God.
  • I’m thankful that as a result of this pandemic Karen has become a first-class, homemade-bread specialist.
  • I’m also grateful that my Covid-19 test a couple of weeks ago came back negative.

Perhaps there is more truth than poetry to an “attitude of gratitude.” Consider these three one-liners I found in the chapter “Mind Cure” in Ministry of Healing:

  • “Nothing tends more to promote health of body and of soul than does a spirit of gratitude and praise” (251).
  • “When you open your eyes in the morning, thank God that He has kept you through the night. Thank Him for His peace in your heart. Morning, noon, and night, let gratitude as a sweet perfume ascend to heaven” (253).
  • “This command [1 Thessalonians 5:18—see above] is an assurance that even the things which appear to be against us will work for our good” (255).

Did you catch that? What appears to be against us “will work for our own good.” That’s what God did at the cross—took the enemy’s absolute worst and transformed it into salvation’s absolute best—as only Jesus can do. Gratitude? Are you kidding? A blessed Thanksgiving, indeed!

Nov
4
November 4, 2020

Here are three pithy word pictures for our brooding, as we seek to preoccupy ourselves with that which is not electoral:

A portrait from the Word of God:

“The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.” (Psalm 29:3)

A poem from Sir William Watson:

He sits above the clang and dust of Time,
With the world's secret trembling on his lip.
He asks not converse or companionship
In the cold starlight where thou canst not climb.

The undelivered tidings in his breast
Suffer him not to rest.
He sees afar the immemorable throng,
And binds the scattered ages with a song.

The glorious riddle of his rhythmic breath,
His might, his spell, we know not what they be;
We only feel, whate'er he uttereth,
This savors not of death,
This hath a relish of eternity. (“The Sovereign Poet”)

A promise from Ellen White:

"Above the distractions of the earth He sits enthroned; all things are open to His divine survey; and from His great and calm eternity He orders that which His providence sees best.” (Ministry of Healing 417)

All three collections of words depict the divine and sovereign One who sits high above earth’s “clang and dust of Time.”

All three crafted glimpses are of Him who from that vantage point “orders that which His providence sees best.”

And all three portrayals capture the unspoken credo: “I will put my trust in Him” (Hebrews 2:13).

Is there a better way for us to survive these roiling waters—political or even personal—than to trust the One who sits above their chaos? Life goes on. But I say we go on together—no matter the outcome—with Him whose promise “. . . savors not of death . . . [but] hath a relish of eternity.”

Oct
28
October 28, 2020

Let me be an echo chamber for a moment—there hasn’t been an election like this in modern memory. So they tell us. And who could disagree? By some estimates, 69 million early voters have already exercised their prized right. That represents over half of the total votes cast in the 2016 presidential election! And Election Day is still a week off. Go figure.

But the pundits cannot figure it out—because there’s no way to predict the outcome of what will likely be the most contentious and divisive presidential race in U.S. history. And given the record mail-in voting (thanks to the pandemic), this season of uncertainty may linger long past the last ballot cast next Tuesday night.

How should we as Seventh-day Adventist Christians approach next Tuesday? 

Church historian Douglas Morgan, in his fascinating entry “Politics and Voting” in the new Ellen G. White Encyclopedia, describes how the initial “sentiment against voting and political involvement” in the early years of this apocalyptic movement shifted with the advent of the Civil War. In 1865 the General Conference session resolved “that it could well be ‘highly proper’ for a Second Advent believer to exercise the influence of his vote ‘in behalf of justice, humanity, and right’” (1037). Ellen White “shared this consensus,” and reacted strongly to an effort by “men of intemperance” to encourage Battle Creek Adventists “into continuing their avoidance of the polls.” To not vote “in this context would be to abet evil by default” (1037).

But hers was not a blanket endorsement of politics. “If the political realm presented opportunity, even obligation, for Christian service, it also presented dangerous influences that threatened to mold those involved, rather than vice versa” (1038). She was clear and “impressed on believers the principle that citizenship in Christ’s kingdom must animate and control their interaction with the political powers of earth” (ibid). As a consequence of a populist surge across the nation in 1896, one political party “made central a proposal for coinage of silver currency as a panacea for the economic injustices suffered by the nation’s rural and working classes.” Ellen White, while supportive of economic justice for the poor, warned this plan would have a very opposite effect. “The direction from the voice of the Son of God, she declared, is ‘ye will not give your voice or influence to any policy to enrich a few, to bring oppression and suffering to the poorer class of humanity’” (1038). 

As for competing political parties, in 1897 she boldly wrote, “‘there is fraud on both sides,’” and urged instead “those for whom the Lord Jesus is ’the Captain’ to ‘file under His banner’ and avoid ‘linking up with either party’” (ibid). Vote? Of course. She even counseled young college students: “‘Have you thoughts that you dare not express . . . that you may sit in deliberative and legislative councils, and help to enact laws for the nation? There is nothing wrong in these aspirations. You may every one of you make your mark’” (1038 emphasis supplied). But Adventists, she reminds us, “are to stand as subjects of Christ’s kingdom, bearing the banner on which is inscribed, ‘The commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus’ [Revelation 14:12]” (1038).

Wise counsel for us in the twenty-first century. Yes, we exercise our right to vote as citizens of this land or any other land. We express our voice and convictions for a myriad of issues at the ballot box. But let us do so with two abiding realizations. First, we await no human savior. Politics at its best is the act of legislative compromise in order to satisfy a majority of citizens. But sadly the very times and technologies of our social media driven world have shaped us into combative, argumentative adversaries with anyone or everyone who sees life differently. And we quickly coalesce with other loud voices from whom we draw strength. Any one who emerges from this raucous process can hardly be an adequate savior. That sad reality will not be undone.

Second, we are blood-bought citizens of Christ’s eternal kingdom. And “the politics of Jesus” (as John Howard Yoder expressed it) preclude a “winner take all” mentality. In fact Christ Himself infuses us with His own “loser take all” spirit: “‘For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it’” (Mark 8:35). Supreme love for God and impartial love of our neighbors can only thrive through a spirit of self-emptying, a spirit sadly AWOL in this season of American politics. But you and I can be different—must be different. Without compromising deeply held convictions, it is still possible to be loving, compassionate and kind citizens—men, women and young who value the heart more than the vote, who walk along side rather than always taking sides.

So go ahead vote, if you haven’t already. But let your face tell the truth: “For God made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of his glory displayed in the face of Christ” (see 2 Corinthians 4:6).

Oct
21
October 21, 2020

"When you're weary, feeling small—when tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all—I’m on your side, when times get rough—and friends just can't be found—like a bridge over troubled water—I will lay me down.”

“Mental Health America (MHA) today released data . . . showing that the number of people reporting signs of anxiety and depression since the start of the pandemic hit an all-time high in September. The new data accompanies the release of the annual State of Mental Health in America report, showing that nationwide, 19% (47.1 million) of people in the U.S. are living with a mental health condition, a 1.5 million increase over last year’s report” (www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/10/20/2111263/0/en/Number-of-people-reporting-anxiety-and-depression-nationwide-since-start-of-pandemic-hit-all-time-high-in-September-hitting-young-people-hardest.html).

Welcome to our world.

“Gen-Z adults, those ages 18 to 23, reported the highest levels of stress compared to other generations and were the most likely age group to report symptoms of depression, according to the APA’s 2020 Stress in America survey. More than seven in 10 Gen-Z adults surveyed said they experienced common symptoms of depression in the prior two weeks, such as: feeling so tired they sat around and did nothing, having trouble thinking and concentrating and feeling very restless, lonely, miserable or unhappy” (www.cnbc.com/2020/10/21/survey-more-than-7-in-10-gen-zers-report-depression-during-pandemic.html).

Welcome to our campus.

“Fear and anxiety [as a result of the pandemic] tend to run hand-in-hand, Kevin Antshel, clinical psychologist and director of the clinical psychology program at Syracuse University previously told CNBC Make It. ‘'The more things are uncertain, the more we’re going to fear, and the more we fear things, the more we are anxious,’ he said. And prolonged anxiety can lead to depression” (ibid).
Maybe it’s your world, too.

I came across a single line in my psalm for the day that in its own way seems to breathe some hope into the shadows of this Covid-19 thing that won’t leave. “The day is Yours, and Yours also the night” (Psalm 74:16). I get the part about God ruling the day—makes sense to me. But I need the part about Him ruling the night. Because it is in the night the darkness inside is most oppressive. That’s when I need Him most. So do you.

Does He show up in the dark? Keep reading. “. . . when care, perplexity, and darkness seem to surround your soul, look to the place where you last saw the light. Rest in Christ's love and under His protecting care” (Ministry of Healing 250).

How? Here are a few simple ways you can deal with the darkness right now:

  1. Be willing to be vulnerable and tell someone else about the darkness—you’re not alone, you’ll discover—and you'll be surprised the kind of comfort and strength their active listening will bring you. People who care for you are glad to be there for you.
  2. Try something new—look back to a time you remember before the darkness came—because looking back reminds us there was a season not so long ago when we lived with peace and a sense of quiet joy. Gifts like those do come back, I promise.
  3. Open up your heart to Jesus through someone else’s language. David (of David and Goliath fame) knew more about depressive darkness than perhaps any other Bible writer. So read one of his psalms every day—and turn his words of sorrow or anger or despair into your own prayer for help. You’ll be surprised at how much Jesus (the Son of David) responds to the familiar language of darkness. He, too, has been there.

"When you're weary, feeling small—when tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all—I’m on your side, when times get rough—and friends just can't be found—like a bridge over troubled water—I will lay me down.”
This is why Jesus is the one Bridge you and I have that can span this pandemic night and cross us over into the light of a new day. Because as the psalmist reminds us, He owns them both:  “The day is Yours, and Yours also the night.” 

Oct
7
October 7, 2020

With all the finger-pointing going on, I’d like to share a piece one of our viewers sent me a few days ago. In my humble opinion, it is a point of view that deserves a hearing. So, with a few tweaks for spacing purposes, here is a fresh perspective from D. Bryan White:

The COVID virus has produced its share of finger-pointing over the last few months. Some good, God-fearing "saints" see God's judgment in all that has transpired, particularly in the last few days. So, In light of these heated arguments from the Right and Left, perhaps it would be well to refer back to the quintessential commentary on the wisdom or foolishness of construing everything as God's will, found in the book of Job.

The rain was believed by the devout of old to be a blessing, famine a curse—this idea extrapolated from Deuteronomy. Yet Job's rejoinder in his own defense was the observation: rain fell on the just and the unjust. The 3 visiting theologians at that impromptu Ash Heap Summit were sure Job's troubles were a divine sign of God's open displeasure over his secret sins but had no answer to Job's paradoxical observation—except to double down and insist his misfortune was a heaven directed curse.

When God finally gets his chance to comment, he ups the ante by observing—rain falls in the desert too—desert to be seen here as a metaphor for a place where neither the righteous nor wicked live.

Hmmm . . . So rain can be simply the product of a wandering thunderstorm, nothing more!

Perhaps we can use this to point out that the COVID virus travels on the wind, and lands wherever. Heaven has nothing to do with wind direction nor its ill effects. I say this for I have heard some good Adventist friends in California pointing to the Napa Valley fires as God's clear judgment against wineries. But I note as well, the Adventist Review is reporting several Adventists pastors have lost homes in St. Helena and Angwin! Were they too under some pointed wrath of Heaven?

Was the fact so many Republicans tested positive for COVID over the last 48 hours a divine punishment? Or, was another more predictable law in play—“as you sow, so shall you reap.” Plant squash seed and you get . . . squash. Build a house on a dry brushy hillside, and the fire is a natural risk. Put a bunch of people, Republican or Democrat, in close quarters without precautions, and you get a COVID outbreak. God is inserting into the din of “words without knowledge" a reminder of another law—cause, and effect.

The only judgment threatened by heaven in Job's story was against the "friends" whose self-righteous finger-pointing was offensive to God.

A little more prayer for our enemies and a little less finger-pointing does seem to be a far more bankable, God-sanctioned moral during times of crisis—then—and now.

Sep
30
September 30, 2020

Ever hear of the Crater of Diamonds State Park? Me neither, until Melchi Ponniah shared a Washington Post piece with me. This unique park in Arkansas “allows visitors to hand-sift 37 acres of plowed earth for the chance to take home a natural diamond — usually around a quarter of a carat and often found daily” (apple.news/A5UsShzMUTe-o5c8nn2q8eA). 

What’s not to like about a park like that!

On Labor Day Kevin Kinard, who has been coming to the park since he was a kid, went with a group of friends to this ancient volcanic field in hopes of finding some gemstones. When the expedition was over the 33-year-old and his companions exited the park, stopping by the visitor’s pavilion. One of his friends went inside hoping she had found a genuine stone. Kevin decided to wait outside since all he was taking home was what was obviously just a piece of glass. But curiosity got the best of him and he stepped into the pavilion. “What about this one?” he asked an attendant.

“This one” turned out to be the second-largest diamond find in the state park’s history—a 9.07-carat brown diamond the size of a marble. “‘I honestly teared up when they told me,' he said. ‘I was in complete shock!’” (ibid). 

What is it worth? Back in 2015, a smaller “8.52-carat diamond found at the park was valued at around $1,000,000 after it was cut into a 4.63-carat triolette.” Kevin’s gem is bigger! 

“Lucky visitors who do find diamonds are typically asked to name the stones, and Kinard named his in honor of friends who visited the park with him on Labor Day — the Kinard Friendship Diamond” (ibid). 

A diamond in the rough—turns out to be the truth of Calvary as well. That fateful Friday as sunset neared, who there at the dusty foot of Jesus’ cross could possibly have fathomed the value of the One hanging there dying? By far the vast majority of gawkers and gapers returned home that Sabbath eve, unmoved and untouched by Him who was “God in the rough.”

This Friday evening and Sabbath morning we will share the joy of Calvary’s Crown Jewel, known and adored by the universe now as King of kings and Lord of lords. So why not gather with those you love Friday evening as the Sabbath draws near—sing or play the songs of the cross on your phone or laptop—read again the story of Jesus’ kneeling by our feet to bathe our souls clean (John 13)—grab a pan or bucket of warm water and wash the feet of your family, your visiting friends—and as you towel those feet dear to you, breathe out a prayer for God’s outpoured blessing upon his or her life.

Then on the morning of the Sabbath (9/11:45 AM) let us join together with our sealed packets of communion emblems (the bread and the cup), that we might partake with each other (whether in person or online). We will eat and drink in adoration of the blessed Savior who promised, “‘Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me and I in them’” (John 6:56). We will eat and drink with our Lord Himself at His table. And like Kevin Kinard, our eyes will tear up with the realization that we have held “the Calvary Friendship Diamond” in our hands and heart for a while.

PS—if you wish to celebrate that Friendship Diamond on live stream at home, please pick up as the sealed communion packets at the church office before Friday noon.

Sep
23
September 23, 2020

I don’t know about you, but lately, I’ve been noticing the repeated appearance of the simple word, “unprecedented”—defined as “never done or known before,” i.e., unparalleled, unequaled, unmatched, unrivaled. And it seems to be on everybody’s lips these days.

“Unprecedented.” Here’s a googled list of headlines in which the word appears: “Wildfires 2020: The California, Washington, Oregon fires are unprecedented” (Vox); “Covid-19 drives leaders to make unprecedented interventions but what next” (The Guardian); “Climate Change: ‘Unprecedented’ ice loss as Greenland breaks record” (BBC); “Belarus massive and unprecedented protests” (NPR); “Arkady Dvorkovich: 'It is clear that today the world is facing an unprecedented crisis’” (RealNoevremya); and one more from among dozens, this one the understatement of the day, “San Francisco prepares for unprecedented November election” (SFBay).

“Unprecedented”—what’s up with this word’s popularity? Just a news media fascination—you know, the flavor of the month kind? Or is it humankind’s attempt to condense into a single word our angst over the stunning magnitude of upheaval and change scrolling across our 24/7 news feeds?

“Unprecedented.” Turns out Holy Scripture resorts to it, too. Without even using the word, Daniel describes it: “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then [unprecedented]” (Daniel 12:1). Unprecedented end times—unequaled by anything in history. Jesus Himself builds off of Daniel’s endgame description: “‘For then there will be great distress, unequaled [unprecedented] from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again’”—so unprecedented will be those times that Jesus goes on—“‘If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened’” (Matthew 24:21-22). Reads a bit like the googled list of headlines, doesn’t it?

Ever get the idea God is trying to tell you something? Well if you haven’t, this would a good time to get that idea. The escalating headlines with their litany of “unprecedented” events are hardly surprising to the student of God’s Word. Daniel, Revelation, Jesus’ mini-apocalypse (Matthew 24/Mark 13/Luke 21) clamor for our careful investigation. Why? So we can log on to one more depressing headline and burden our already anxious spirits? Not at all.

Jesus cuts to the point: “‘I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe’” (John 14:29). Did you catch that? The point of prophecy, the point of Jesus’ embedded predictions is to make believers out of us! The growing list of “unprecedented’s” swirling around us these uncertain days is simply the Spirit’s call to believe in Him who is the Lord of both history and prophecy (history in advance). “I am telling you all of this, so that when you suddenly realize you have entered a time of ‘unprecedented’ upheaval and change, you will not fear—you will instead believe in Me even more confidently!” 

In fact, that’s exactly how Jesus put it at the end of His predictions: “‘When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near’” (Luke 21:28). There it is—the very best news of all—Jesus is coming soon! Unprecedented? Are you kidding? It will be the one headline with no precedent—before, after, or ever. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

Sep
2
September 2, 2020

A friend of mine, who is a citizen of another nation far from here, contacted me with earnest concern about corrupt officials who apparently are trying to wrest family lands away from his family. Which being interpreted means, his family is running into unwanted intrusion by officials higher up. My friend wanted prayer right away—so I looked up a Bible promise to claim on his and his family’s behalf.

It is a dynamite promise—I’m surprised I haven’t claimed it more often! It's the kind of promise God’s friends can claim when powers that be push for actions that should not be—local or state or national actions that seem to run contrary to the will of God, to the detriment of those loyal to Him.

So I share the promise with you. Because you never know when in your daily living as a faithful citizen of both earth and heaven, you might encounter official efforts to harm you or your people or the cause you fervently defend.

Here’s the promise—from the wise king Solomon: “In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that He channels toward all who please Him” (Proverbs 21:1)

In other words, in our Lord Jesus’ nail-scarred hand lies the heart of any ruler (just or unjust, benevolent or malevolent). And holding tightly to that leader’s heart, God can turn that mind any direction He wishes. But the promise is even better than that. Christ can rechannel any human leader’s intentions or decisions for the sake of “all who please Him”—i.e., His friends. Amazing promise! In fact, why not jot it down and tuck it away—for that rainy day yet ahead.

Because it doesn’t matter who doesn’t matter when. It could be the nefarious mercurial king Nebuchadnezzar. In God’s hand that pagan heart was like a stream of water rechanneled, redirected until the ruler’s decision matched the saving will of the Almighty. Over and over, Nebuchadnezzar kept running into the God who holds the king’s heart in His hand like water—totally pliable, directionable, adaptable to divine providence, and yet ever free to choose.

Esther discovered the veracity of this promise when she pleaded for her people, the Jews. Lo and behold, the king’s heart was turned toward God’s will. Ditto for the Apostle Paul standing before the corrupt emperor Nero—who surprisingly dropped the charges and let this Christ-following disciple go free. But to remind us that the ruler is free to override what we are sure must be God’s will, Paul was later called back before the same Nero to defend himself. This time the evil ruler summarily ordered his beheading. 

Promises are not magic—they are “the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven's storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence” (Steps to Christ 94). We appeal, God decides. But every decision He makes is for the very best “of those who please Him,” and for the ultimate triumph of His Kingdom on earth.

So relax—be at peace—claim the promise—appeal to God (“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”)—and leave the results of the election to One who will not make a mistake. Promise.

Aug
26
August 26, 2020

I’ve been brooding over that two-word phrase we shared last Sabbath in the opening of “American Apocalypse." Here’s the quotation: “When we as a people understand what this book [Revelation] means to us, there will be seen among us a great revival” (TM 113). So what would such a “great revival” look like?

Acts 2 is the dynamite narrative of Holy Spirit’s Day of Pentecost outpouring. For ten days 120 followers of Jesus have been gathered in the Upper Room praying together, confessing together, bonding in the Spirit together—earnestly claiming the promise Jesus made to them days before He returned to heaven: “‘. . . wait for the gift My Father promised, which you have heard Me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 1:4-5). 

And so they waited. When one early morning as they were  praying, the heavens blew open with the roar of “a violent wind” while a fiery ball of flame descended, darting tongues of flame over the heads of the stunned disciples. “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4).

Is that what “great revival” from the study of Revelation will look like? Maybe. But let’s press deeper into the Apocalypse. 

What is the theme of the book? “The revelation [apocalupsis] from Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants what must soon take place” (Revelation 1:1). Of course, Jesus is the theme. From cover to cover Revelation reveals the truth from, the truth of, the truth about our Lord Jesus. Thus any “great revival” sparked by the study of Revelation must be some sort of Jesus-saturated, Christ-centered spiritual reformation (revolution even), ignited by the Holy Spirit in direct response to the earnest prayers and pleadings of God’s people.

Why would they be pleading? Because from their deepening study of the book, the magnitude of the impending conflict with the dragon (the raging Satan) dawns on the people of God. Crushed though he was by the Lamb of God at the cross, the dragon, with retaliating ruthless fury, has through the intervening centuries turned on the followers of Christ. And through his evil consort, described by the Apocalypse as “drunk with the blood of God’s holy people” (Revelation 17:6), the dragon will yet turn the past into prologue and with rage set out to annihilate God’s last friends on earth. No wonder they plead before God!

All of which means impending crisis can be an effective catalyst for such earnest pleading. And such earnest pleading can be the catalyst for “great revival.” And “great revival” can be the catalyst for the greatest spiritual movement ever on Earth. 

“Servants of God, with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven. By thousands of voices, all over the earth, the warning will be given. Miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and signs and wonders will follow the believers. Satan also works, with lying wonders, even bringing down fire from heaven in the sight of men. Revelation 13:13. Thus the inhabitants of the earth will be brought to take their stand” (The Great Controversy 612).

And that is how a deepening study of Revelation will help us “understand what this book means to us” as a people—by igniting fresh passion for Jesus, by illuminating apocalyptic prophecy (and history) in advance, by instilling a longing to be all or nothing for our Savior, by inspiring us to our knees in pleadings before God. This is what “great revival” will look like. For this will you join me in earnestly praying?