The Fourth Watch

By Pastor Dwight K. Nelson

Jun
8
June 8, 2022

An old song from my parents’ generation crooned about meeting in St. Louis, today the chrome-arched city along the Mississippi River that is host to the 61st General Conference Session of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Karen and I drove down on Sunday for the opening of this Covid-postponed (twice) gathering of leaders and delegates from the four corners of the earth.

Embedded in the former football stadium of the St Louis Rams, the 1800-plus delegates were spread across the now concrete stadium floor either in person or via global Zoom (provided for those delegates who for pandemic, visa-entry or personal reasons joined the session from their homelands).

The Monday morning opening service included a welcome from the three world church officers, Ted Wilson (president), Erton Köhler (secretary) and Paul Douglas (treasurer), and was followed by a ninety-minute prayer service, interspersed with singing, group praying and the preaching of Mark Finley (evangelist), Barry Black (chaplain of the United States Senate), and me (your pastor). The three of us had been assigned themes by Jerry Page, Director of the G. C. Ministerial Association, and I know I speak for the other two preachers in saying it was a honor to lead the worshiping delegates to prayerfully focus on the daily baptism of the Holy Spirit. And it felt like being home for me with Ken Logan, our Pioneer organist and minister of music, at the convention organ console (a seat he hardly ever vacated through the long business session hours morning and evening).

One of the joys of a General Conference session is the serendipitous meetings with people you haven’t seen for months or years, in our case, fellow pastors and ministers from around the world. What a special joy those reconnecting conversations were for Karen and me.

One quick scan across the assembled delegates, and you are quickly reminded that (as it should be) our church is truly a growing and growingly international body of Seventh-day Adventists. Long gone are the days when the North American delegation dominated either the discussions or the votings. Youthful faces from the two-thirds world are a reminder of the increasing influence young global Adventists will have on the future of the world church.

A highlight for our brief time at the session came in Ted Wilson’s quinquennial President’s Report, a review of major church developments over the previous five (in this case seven) years. As you can see from my third row snapshot, the pulpit stands at the side of the sprawling backdrop that proclaims, “Jesus Is Coming—Get Involved.” 

The president’s multimedia presentation, a peripatetic highlighting of stories from across the world, ended dramatically with an Adventist World Radio (AWR) report of how communist guerrillas, fighting an insurgency war against the Philippine Army, somehow connected with AWR shortwave broadcasts there in their mountain hideouts. Long story short, one by one these rebel fighters came to know Christ and began to study the Bible via their shortwave radios. Once contact was established with Adventist members in the region, these fighters began to surrender to the army, confessing their newfound faith. Through a live Skype connection, two of the transformed former rebels (masked to protect their identity) shared their testimonies (translated by their pastor, who stood before us in the stadium). One of them was a woman (masked face on the right side of the big screen picture I took), who in tears shared her testimony for Christ. Then in a dramatic ending, our eyes dropped from the big screen to a Philippine Army colonel and his wife, who stood with Ted Wilson beside a baptistry on the stadium floor, also led to Christ by the Adventists of that mountain region. The stadium burst into applause as this military husband and wife followed Jesus and joined our faith community.

Only at a General Conference session! I’m sure the week will culminate in a celebrative Sabbath of worship there in the sports stadium. 

Karen and I returned to our quiet little village, grateful for the privilege of serving this global community of faith, and thankful for the testimonies of men, women and children in this parish who (without any accompanying fanfare or big screen drama) continue to take their stands for Christ their Savior. “Jesus Is Coming—Get Involved” is a fitting call to us here at Pioneer as well. For our own mission statement, “Love on the Move,” can come true as we all get involved for Him. 

So let us press on to love lost people to Christ, for are we not all “former rebels” won to Jesus by His unrelenting love? “‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself’” (John 12:32).

Jun
1
June 1, 2022

“This is what the LORD says: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more’” (Jeremiah 31:15).

Ancient words eerily capture the numbing headlines of a heartbroken nation—mothers, fathers sobbing on camera and off camera—as America (all over again) raises mournful wails for the gun-downed, lifeless forms of her children—“because they are no more.” 

Nineteen small sod mounds dotting the barren Texas shade—“because they are no more.”

“An enemy has done this,” Jesus was right (Matthew 13:28). He ought to know. For it was because of Him “Herod . . . gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16). And with that, the Christmas story was irreparably and forever pierced, rent by the wailing cries of the Bethlehem massacre's surviving victims. “Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more’” (Matthew 2:17-18).

“A voice is heard in Uvalde.”

But the story doesn’t end there.

Read further the ancient prophet: “This is what the LORD says: ‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for . . . they will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope . . . ,' declares the LORD. ‘Your children will return to their own land’” (Jeremiah 31:16-17).

Did you think the Lord God of Heaven, who Himself once chided self-important adults for shooing the little ones away, “‘Let the little children come to Me,’” (Matthew 19:14)—did you think that God would allow the brutal AR-15 slaughter of nineteen Texas children be the terminus to their stories? Hardly! For there is a God in heaven, who—despite His enemy’s insanity-driven ravage of Creation—will have the last word for all our children. “[Your children] will return from the land of the enemy!” is the triumphant shout that rings within the covers of Holy Scripture. 

Thus Jesus’ promise: “‘Your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish’” (Matthew 18:14). Not forever. And not for long.

So through your tears, America, come to the only One who can save us now. Let the politicians count their votes and excuse their positions. In the end neither they nor their votes will matter. Because Bethlehem’s and Uvalde’s young will be returned by the One whose last word is for our slaughtered children, and for us: “‘Because I live, you shall live also’” (John 14:19).

May
11
May 11, 2022

On Tuesday afternoon it was a nightmare come true. The pilot of the Cessna Caravan (a 38-foot single-engine 14-passenger aircraft) suddenly slumped over at the controls. Moments later a passenger clicks on the radio to air traffic control: “‘I’ve got a serious situation here—my pilot has gone incoherent. I have no idea how to fly the airplane’” (nypost.com/2022/05/10/florida-passenger-with-no-idea-how-to-fly-airplane-lands-safely-after-pilot-gets-sick/). No idea! Imagine yourself gripping that microphone. 

“‘Roger. What’s your position?” the voice of a dispatcher crackles over the speaker. “‘I have no idea,’ the passenger reportedly said. ‘I can see the coast of Florida in front of me. And I have no idea’” (ibid).

“'Maintain wings level and just try to follow the coast, either north or southbound. We’re trying to locate you.’” How comforting—they’re trying to find him! Air traffic eventually spots the pilotless plane on radar, 25 miles north of its destination, Palm Beach International Airport.

The dispatcher calmly now, step by step, begins to guide the man at the controls of the Cessna. Keep the wings level. Slowly lower your altitude. Can you see the runway ahead? Steady, steady. Let it descend. Keep it level. Keep coming.

Emergency vehicles line the runway as the Cessna Caravan slowly drops out of the sky and bounces onto the concrete of Mother Earth. Can you imagine the relief of that anonymous passenger!

“‘This is the first time I’ve ever heard of one of these [Cessna Caravans] being landed by somebody that has no aeronautical experience,’ said aviation expert John Nance. ‘The person on the airplane . . . listened very carefully and obviously followed instructions with great calm. That’s what made the difference’” (ibid). 

What a recipe for life’s pilotless moments! (1) Listen very carefully. (2) Follow the instructions. (3) Maintain “great calm.”

Because it all comes down to trust, does it not? You can’t even see the Controller—but you hear His voice—and you trust His instructions—guiding instructions quietly laid out in a dusty Book few turn to anymore.

But how else are we going to maintain this “great calm” flying through space in what feels like a pilotless world? Ukraine, Russia, Europe, China, America, inflation, Wall Street, the economy, Covid still, the list goes on and on. Who doesn’t at times feel out of control, personally or collectively—flying a pilotless life with no one at the wheel?

But good news. The Voice we hear belongs to the God who sits behind the controls. “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” (The Faith I Live By 42).

There it is again, that “great calm”—“great calm” in the Voice speaking into our headphones—“great calm” in the heart obeying His instructions.

“Roger—what’s your position?” “I have no idea.” But the “blessed assurance” is He does. And if we will (1) listen very carefully, (2) follow His instructions, and (3) maintain the “great calm” of trust—the nail-scarred Flight Instructor promises to guide us onto His flight path to eternity. “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).

Apr
27
April 27, 2022

Have you heard about the brouhaha north of the border recently? Turns out Nissan Canada, the Japanese automaker, decided to tout the sound-masking properties of their new, exquisite luxury model the Infiniti. 

The company hired the mandatorily attractive female model, placed her behind the Infiniti steering wheel, and her window rolled down. Nothing unusual so far. But the car sits on a sound stage, and surrounding the model inside her Infiniti is a youth orchestra playing their instruments. “However, the children seen in the video are in fact not playing, but miming along to a performance by an adult orchestra [off camera] who had purposely been playing the piece [Richard Strauss’ tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra] badly” (www.classicfm.com/music-news/videos/youth-orchestra-trolls-car-company/). 

The viewer of the television ad naturally assumes the off-tune squeaking and squawking come from those ill-prepared children. Meanwhile, the model, with a look of displeasure over the poorly performed music, rolls her electric window up, banishing the noise, even as her driver’s side seat slowly and quietly reclines into a position of perfect peace. Nissan’s point is obvious—purchase our Inifiniti and you can wipe away the noise of everyday life in your own soundproof luxury.

Unfortunately for Nissan, that wasn’t the message many viewers heard. Instead, a hue and cry went up across our neighbor to the north: “Confused viewers, many of whom find the advert[isement] unnecessarily ‘mean’ . . . jumped immediately to the young musicians’ defense saying, 'I want to hug every one of those kids and encourage them any way possible.’ Another commented, “Ouch! It’s not the kids playing the music that’s intolerable, but the attitude of the adults that feel the need to insult beginner instrumentalists. How disappointing!” (ibid).

But in a masterful rejoinder, the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra won the hearts of the Internet and public opinion by recording their own ad, picturing the Orchestra’s CEO, Ken MacLeod, jumping out of his own luxury car (a BMW) and “opening a door to a concert hall, where the orchestra’s [youth] musicians are playing Strauss’ [same piece as in the commercial].” While the young musicians soar in their performance, MacLeod turns to the viewer: “‘Have you seen the new Nissan-Infiniti ad? Can you imagine? A big company like that couldn't find a youth orchestra to play the music. They should have called us. The New Brunswick Youth Orchestra.’” Pause. “‘In our experience, all kids have talent and can shine on any stage,’” (ibid). Touché! (Click on the link above and you can watch both advertisements and judge for yourself.)

Don’t underestimate our young! While it is a sad mistake to caricature any group of humans (irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, et al), it is particularly ill-conceived to suggest the young are incapable of rising to the occasion and delivering a life (or live) performance worthy of our applause.

The biblical role models are legion—Joseph, Miriam, Moses, David, Namaan’s slave girl, Esther, Daniel, and his young friends, Jesus, to name a few. Add to that list all the young eighth-grader preachers that will stand before their evangelistic audience in a few days to preach in the upcoming The Tent event (beginning Friday evening, May 13). The young have been God’s modus operandi from the beginning: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).  

I carry these words taped in my Bible: “With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour might be carried to the whole world! How soon might the end come—the end of suffering and sorrow and sin!” (Education 271).

The Pioneer church exists for these young on all three campuses. They are our mission. And we can do better than Nissan. Our spring worship theme—“Sign Me Up!”—calls us to volunteer our time, and our services, for the sake of training and mobilizing a new generation of disciples for Jesus. Just text “Signup5” to 269-281-2345 and let our Volunteer Engagement Committee you’re available to become Love on the Move for our young.

In a classic PR mea culpa a spokesperson for Nissan “said they had seen the orchestra’s response and thought it was ‘amazing’” (ibid). Those are our kids—amazing to the core—with an infinity in their future—with Jesus.

Apr
20
April 20, 2022

What’s not to like about this “headline” yesterday from the U.S. Department of Education? In an April 19 tweet the department “announced steps to address historical federal student loan program failures, helping at least 3.6 million federal student loan borrowers move closer to forgiveness—including immediate forgiveness for ~40,000 borrowers” (go.usa.gov/xuZXM). 

Did you catch that? “Immediate forgiveness for ~40,000 borrowers.”

Anybody with a student loan these days knows the surprise good news embedded in that headline! Kirk and Chelsea, our son and daughter-in-law, are fondly reminded of their happy days at Andrews University (where they met) every time another student loan payment comes due. I can imagine this headline has already triggered a huge sigh of relief across the land.

“Immediate forgiveness for at least 40,000 borrowers”—sounds like a headline from Heaven, doesn’t it?

What sinner wouldn’t love to receive a press release from God announcing “immediate forgiveness” for their sorry record of unimaginable indebtedness to purity and morality and kindness and honesty and other integrity challenged, unloving ways of sinful living?

Just a few days after Easter as we are now, turns out there is a loan-forgiveness you can take to the Bank of Heaven! Remember that stunning Good Friday prayer Jesus breathed aloud for His executioners? “‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing'” (Luke 23:34). Let’s be honest—it hardly seems plausible, much less possible to buy the suggestion that those who were nailing Jesus to the cross, who had already scourged Him with that brutal flogging, did not know what they were doing. Of course they knew! Some of them no doubt even relished the chance to torture the Prisoner the way they did. “Father, forgive them?”

Talking about an “immediate forgiveness” news flash. But actually, the headline gets even more stunning and expansive. Brood over this line from Desire of Ages: “That prayer of Christ for His enemies embraced the world. It took in every sinner that had lived or should live, from the beginning of the world to the end of time. Upon all rests the guilt of crucifying the Son of God. To all, forgiveness is freely offered. 'Whosoever will' may have peace with God, and inherit eternal life” (745, emphasis supplied). Read it one more time just to make sure you read it right.

“[Jesus’ prayer of forgiveness] took in every sinner that had lived [our ancestors] or should live [us], from the beginning of the world [Adam and Eve] to the end of time [sinners yet to be born].”

Almost unbelievable! “Immediate forgiveness” not just for 40,000—but forgiveness for billions and billions of sinners past, present and future! I’m not making this up. All because of that suffering prayer from the Man on the center cross.

But of course—reality-check-time means that just like the student loan borrowers, everyone of us has the choice to believe the headline or to dismiss it. The Department of Education can announce the student loan forgiveness provision, but every borrower is still free to choose whether to believe and receive the forgiveness or to go on month after month after month trying to pay off a loan that seems forever. 

How sad not believing and receiving turns out to be. Which is why I invite you to breathe the prayer right now that claims this promise of “immediate forgiveness”: “Dear Savior—I bow before the profound recognition that Your prayer on Calvary was breathed for me, too. And so I cry out, ‘Me, too!’ I gratefully receive Your immediate forgiveness of my awful debt from my terrible sins—past, present and future. May the peace of your grace now sweep over my grateful and forgiven heart. May the strength of Your courage enable me to seek forgiveness from those I’ve wronged. And as I have freely received from You, even so let me freely give to those who need my forgiveness, too. I love You back, Jesus. Every day. Forever. Amen."

Apr
13
April 13, 2022

In a world already irreparably fractured, Russia’s attacks on Ukraine over the last one month and three weeks—chronicled across the earth through live video feeds—have diminished any hope of global healing. 

And yet many, who regard the pope as the most widely recognized religious leader in the world, harbor the hope Pope Francis might even yet this Easter spark a miracle of peace for the war in Ukraine, or at least a ceasefire.

After all, in his weekly audience on April 13, the pope admonished: “The peace that Jesus brings 'does not overpower others . . . It is not an armed peace.’ Instead, ‘The weapons of the Gospel are prayer, tenderness, forgiveness, and freely-given love for one’s neighbour, to any neighbour.' This, he said, ‘is how God’s peace is brought into the world’” (www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2022-04/pope-at-audience-war-is-an-outrage-and-a-blasphemy.html).

However, this papal homily on peace notwithstanding, the Vatican’s decision to have a woman from Ukraine and a woman from Russia walk side by side through the traditional stations of the cross on Good Friday this week did not sit well with Ukrainian Catholics or their archbishop leader: “‘I consider such an idea inopportune, ambiguous and such that it does not take into account the context of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine,' said Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of Ukraine’s Byzantine-rite Catholic Church” (www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/pope-francis-vatican-russia-ukraine-good-friday-b2057137.html).

But “Reverend Antonio Spadaro, a close aide of Pope Francis, has defended the decision, telling the Italian state broadcaster Rai that the pope is 'a pastor, not a politician’” (ibid).

Leaving that observation aside, one must admit the pope faces both a pastoral and a political challenge. Political because he is considered the head of the Vatican state, and pastoral because ostensibly he is the shepherd of all his flock which includes both Russia and Ukraine. 

So what would the Good Shepherd Himself do, what would He say? “‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’” (Luke 12:14). Jesus usually remained above the fray and resisted being drawn into internecine squabbles. Or, “‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword’” (Matthew 10:34)? Here He specifically addresses family fractures that will turn members of the same household against each other. Or, “‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’” (Matthew 5:9).

Perhaps that line more than any other defines His disciples in this broken world. Even in our own church Ukrainians and Russians, Croats and Serbs, Muslims and Jews, Taiwanese and Chinese, Japanese and Koreans, Blacks and Whites indeed do kneel side by side in worshiping the Creator of us all. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” because while war is inevitable, peace is not. Peace is hard-won, hard-lived, hard-fought, hard sought. But peace is the high calling of the Risen Christ for all His followers. 

“Christ is 'the Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6), and it is His mission to restore to earth and heaven the peace that sin has broken. . . . The heart that is in harmony with God is a partaker of the peace of heaven and will diffuse its blessed influence on all around. The spirit of peace will rest like dew upon hearts weary and troubled with worldly strife. Christ's followers are sent to the world with the message of peace” (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing 27-28).

Then let that peace be what the “children of God” pray for and work for beyond this Easter. Thus truly blessed will we be.

Mar
30
March 30, 2022

The conflagration they are calling the Russia-Ukraine war (now five weeks long) has introduced to global humanity the power of a united economic embargo. Simply put—what we are witnessing is the strategic punitive enforcement of no-buy/no-sell prohibitions slapped on a nation-state and its leaders, deemed by global powers to be out of harmony with the group-think of the enforcing alliance(s). 

For the sake of argument consider for a moment these economic embargoes levied against Russia and some of its leaders.

What has become evident (very quickly) is the punishing effect these recent embargoes are having on both the political apparatus and social calculus of Russia. No matter how strong the punished nation may have deemed itself to be, the net effect has been the collapse of the nation’s currency and economic stability. The long-range effects of these punitive actions I will leave to the economists to assess.

My point is simple. A careful reading of the Apocalypse reveals a predicted global embargo shortly before the return of Christ. Not an embargo against a member state or nation of the world community, but rather an economic embargo levied against a category of people. 

“The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name” (Revelation 13:15-17).
Most people in the faith community I belong to immediately recognize this apocalyptic prediction. Unmistakably it reveals a universal no buy/no sell embargo on a class of people obviously deemed to be enemies of global peace and unity, enemies of the state, if you please. The reason for this international embargo appears to be this community’s refusal to obey a universal decree to worship some sort of idolatrous counterfeit to the Creator. Because of their conscientious civil disobedience, they are slapped not only with a no-buy/no sell embargo but eventually are threatened with capital punishment for such disobedience.

For the first time in a lifetime, we are witnessing the stunning and crippling effect united economic embargoes can have on a people, once leaders of ruling powers unite in imposing punitive action. Suddenly the apocalyptic prediction of another such global embargo becomes entirely plausible. In this electronic age of high-tech buying and selling, all it takes is the flipping of a switch, so to speak, to freeze a person’s or a people’s assets. Locked out by a no-buy/no sell electronic command? Piece of cake.

While God doesn’t promise cake, His quiet assurance is still good news: “They [the obedient] are the ones who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. Their bread will be supplied, and water will not fail them” (Isaiah 33:16). 

Which being interpreted means the friends of Jesus have nothing to fear for the future. “Bread and water” may seem humble fare, but it has been the diet of the faithful throughout the ages. With a God like Him and a promise like this, we have every reason to sing, “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow . . . Great is Thy faithfulness! Lord unto me!” (Hymn 100).

Mar
23
March 23, 2022

Have you noticed? Life doesn’t always happen this dreadfully slow (the waning pandemic) or this dangerously fast (the Russia-Ukraine war)—but life keeps happening. And so to celebrate the good-news, upside of life this springtime comes a new worship series—“Sign Me Up!”—a fresh invitation to find new life in volunteer service. 

The pandemic effectively pinned down the church and the nation, keeping many of us from social involvement and volunteer engagement. But now with a diminishing health threat, new opportunities for renewed service come cheerfully knocking at our door. 

“Sign Me Up!” explores a host of ways you and I can re-immerse ourselves (as disciples of Jesus) in our post-pandemic world of burgeoning needs and re-emerge from the shadows of the pandemic into the sunnier spring Sabbaths ahead. Welcome to you, welcome to new life, welcome to Pioneer!

March 26        “Good-bye Pandemic, Hello Refugees—Sign Me Up!” (Celebration of His Cross)

April 2             “Why Some of Your Friends Are Flourishing in a Languishing World—Sign Me Up!”

April 9             “Sleep in Heavenly Peace in the Inner City—Sign Me Up!” (Taurus Montgomery) 

April 16           “Albert Einstein’s Secret to Happiness—Sign Me Up!” (Celebration of His Resurrection)

April 23           “Mr. Bingle’s Old Coat—Sign Me Up!” 

April 30           “Do Justice—Sign Me Up!”

Mar
9
March 9, 2022

Our team is headed this week to the Republic of Palau (a small archipelago nation of 340 islands—southeast of Guam and west of the Philippines—population 18,000+). Its president, Surangel Whipps, Jr., is an active Seventh-day Adventist and has assisted Ann Hamel, psychologist and team leader for this mission, as she and the team have planned for the world premiere of the documentary “Return to Palau” on Wednesday, March 16, 7 PM GMT (13 hours ahead of EST) in Koror.

“Return to Palau” is the tragic story of the December 21, 2003, brutal late-night murder of three members of the DePaiva missionary family (father, mother, and son), pastoring the Koror Seventh-day Adventist church. The lone survivor, ten-year-old Melissa, was abducted by the killer and later tossed down a ravine.

Shaken by this unprecedented tragedy, the island nation faced a time of national soul-searching. Days later word spread throughout Palau of the in-person forgiveness extended to the murderer by the mother and grandmother of the victims. More recently Melissa has also extended the same in-person forgiveness to the one who robbed her of her family. 

Now, nearly twenty years later, this profound documentary narrative of supernatural forgiveness is the theme for the world premiere on March 16. 

Please pray the Spirit of Jesus will ignite this public moment of remembrance. Young Melissa Gibson, now a nursing professor at Southwestern Adventist University, along with her husband Michael, one of the pastors of the campus church, will be part of the premiere event. For three evenings following the showing, my assignment is to preach in the convention center the forgiveness all can find in Christ our Lord. Join us in earnestly praying that out of this unspeakable heartache, God will—as only He can—turn such terrible loss into an eternal harvest for His Kingdom.

Follow Return to Palau on Facebook | Instagram

Mar
2
March 2, 2022

For seven days now the world has looked on with handwringing concern as an aggressor nation has invaded a neighboring country. It is our human (and Christian) tendency to identify the villain, take sides in the conflict and pray (usually) for the underdog. 

The stunning real-time coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the horrific footage of war’s exploding carnage, and the consequent flight of tens of thousands of wives, mothers, and children have tugged at all our hearts. Their bitter tears are soul-churning. Will these families be reunited?

But we do well to remember on the other side of the border are countless Russian mothers and wives somewhere worrying, somewhere praying for the deliverance of their boys (literally cadet youth pressed into service for the Motherland). Where is the heart of our maternal God in war between the children?

“A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Jeremiah 31:15).

“War is hell”—words originally attributed to Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman—remains undisputed. After only seven days of it who in Ukraine or Russia would disagree?

But we must be reminded—behind the miasma of human wartime suffering is a single dark mind. “Satan delights in war, for it excites the worst passions of the soul and then sweeps into eternity its victims steeped in vice and blood. It is his object to incite the nations to war against one another, for he can thus divert the minds of the people from the work of preparation to stand in the day of God” (Great Controversy 589).

Who is surprised at this prophetic disclosure? From the beginning, the evil genius of the fallen covering cherub—his first taste of human blood spilled from the battered Abel—has masterminded the deadly art of war in order to rush human beings into Christless graves. “And there was war in heaven” . . . and there is war on earth.

But in a war between Christian nations how does Heaven respond? How should we pray? Remember the truth about God: “The Lord is . . . not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV). Or as Eugene Peterson paraphrased it: “He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change” (Message).

The truth today is He is giving all of us—Russians, Ukrainians, Americans alike—“space and time to change.” This is why it is both right and essential for the friends of Jesus to cry out on behalf of any deadly war: “O Savior, hold back the winds of strife that all might yet come to know You.” Let every video clip of fighting become a call to seek the victims' salvation.

And if your heart is moved with the plight of the fleeing refugees, why not go to www.adra.org (Adventist Development Relief Agency) to make a donation to their refugee emergency interventions on both sides of the borders.

Because the good news for “Rachel weeping for her children” is this response from Heaven: “‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,' declares the Lord. 'They will return from the land of the enemy. . . . Your children will return to their own land’” (Jeremiah 31:16-17).

It may be a wartime promise fulfilled only in eternity—but it is still a promise we must claim for all.