The Fourth Watch

By Pastor Dwight K. Nelson

June 19, 2019

There has been a proliferation of shark attacks this year off the coast of North Carolina—which recorded only three attacks in 2018 and already has had three attacks this month alone. Some suggest global warming is pushing these predators of the sea beyond their familiar waters. Others say it’s the normal ebb and flow of human-meets-shark episodes.

But one story being told and retold is of 17-year-old Paige Winter, who with her family on June 2 was frolicking in the waters of Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. Here’s how one of her surgeons, Dr. Eric Toschlog, described it: "'On a picturesque afternoon at a pristine beach on the crystal coast of North Carolina, the life of a 17-year-old young woman was irrevocably changed. Paige Winter, standing with her siblings in waist-deep water, was attacked by a shark. The devastating injury to her left leg, which included the severing of the major artery and vein supplying the leg, would likely take her life. But in the ensuing minutes, Paige received the heroism of love and a simple tourniquet'" (

At a press conference along with Paige’s team of physicians, Dr. Toschlog recounted the split seconds that followed: "'Her father witnessed the attack, watching his daughter disappear beneath the surface in a swirl of bloody water. He dove into the water, found her, took her into his arms and lifted her out of the water. Still attached to her left leg was what he described as a "very big" shark. He proceeded to pummel the shark with his fists until it let go and then struggled to the beach with Paige in his arms, telling her that he loved her, bearing witness to the damage to her leg but unaware of the shark following close behind.'"

On the beach, a bystander witnessed the drama, rushed forward to assist Paige’s father and applied a tourniquet to the teen's left thigh. 9-1-1. Helicopter airlift to Vidant Medical Center. The trauma team was waiting. "'I have seen dozens of mangled extremities in my career, but this injury, suffered by a 17-year-old simply having a beach day with her family, was heartbreaking. It never gets easier. The decision to amputate is never easy, but tragically there was no decision to be made. She underwent massive blood product resuscitation and amputation of her left leg at mid-thigh,'" Toschlog recounted. "'Simultaneously, our plastic surgeons began work on her hands. In subsequent days, Paige underwent multiple additional surgeries on her hands and has done extraordinarily well. She will be discharged to rehabilitation within the next week.'"

One brave girl and a story for the ages. But of all that was spoken at the news conference, to me, the most profound was Dr. Toschlog’s observation: "'The real heroes in this story are a loving father and mother, a volunteer on a beach and a truly amazing young woman. Paige was saved by a simple piece of any trauma system, a tourniquet. But in reality, she was saved by something vastly more powerful. . . . Paige is alive as a result of one of the strongest forces that I have encountered in 20 years as a trauma surgeon, surpassing any medical technology. She was saved by love, the love of a father for his daughter'" (ibid).

"Saved by love—the love of a father for his daughter."

Paige’s story is our story, isn’t it? Ravaged by the predator of us all, nearly dead in the water, is there no one who can save us? "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). The self-sacrificing love of a Father for his children.

"The love of the Father, no less than of the Son, is the foundation of salvation for the lost race" (Great Controversy 416).

Which is why every day is Father’s Day—and every eternity will be one we owe to his love. Forever.

June 5, 2019

The western world pauses this week to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Normandy Invasion remembered today as D-Day. In June 1944, World War 2, considered by many to be the bloodiest war in history, raged on the twin fronts of Europe and Asia. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, in secret collaboration with the Allies of the United Kingdom and Canada, had crafted an air and amphibious assault along a forty-mile stretch of beaches in northern France (Operation Overlord) that became that largest naval attack ever. In the early hours of June 6 came the assault by air, by sea and by land.

“It is hard to conceive the epic scope of this decisive battle that foreshadowed the end of Hitlers [sic] dream of Nazi domination. Overlord was the largest air, land, and sea operation undertaken before or since June 6, 1944. The landing included over 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes, and over 150,000 servicemen. After years of meticulous planning and seemingly endless training, for the Allied Forces, it all came down to this: The boat ramp goes down, then jump, swim, run, and crawl to the cliffs. Many of the first young men (most not yet 20 years old) entered the surf carrying eighty pounds of equipment. They faced over 200 yards of beach before reaching the first natural feature offering any protection. Blanketed by small-arms fire and bracketed by artillery, they found themselves in hell. When it was over, the Allied Forces had suffered nearly 10,000 casualties; more than 4,000 were dead. Yet somehow, due to planning and preparation, and due to the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of the Allied Forces, Fortress Europe had been breached” (

This week the leaders of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada and the United States (along with eleven other nations) gathered on the windswept green bluff above Omaha Beach (the bloodiest of the assaults). Nearby is the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, where lie the white Latin crosses and stars of David of 9,388 American soldiers who perished.

In the realm of the cosmic war (“the great controversy”) still raging across the earth, could D-Day be a theological metaphor? If so what would it represent? Would D-Day be the birth of our Lord Jesus, as C. S. Lewis (during WW2) described it: “Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage” (Mere Christianity 51)?

Or would D-Day more fittingly represent the triumphant death of Jesus on the cross? Describing that moment, Ellen White wrote: “In the Saviour's expiring cry, 'It is finished,’ the death knell of Satan was rung. The great controversy which had been so long in progress was then decided, and the final eradication of evil was made certain” (Great Controversy 503).

Or yet what about his resurrection or his soon return to earth as King of kings and Lord of Lords? How could either glorious triumph not fulfill the mighty D-Day metaphor for the universe! Here is Jesus’ own description of his return: “'Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other’” (Matthew 24:30-31). D-Day for the human race—but of course!

The truth is, every critical phase of God’s warfare to save the embattled human race is but another chapter out of the playbook of Heaven’s Supreme Commander, Jesus Christ. And who can’t notice that every advancing battle escalates the war and in fact advances the divine victory? First Bethlehem. Then Nazareth. Then Calvary. Then the empty tomb. Then the heavenly Sanctuary. And then the spectacular fiery theophany of the returning Christ witnessed by every eye in the universe! D-Day climax, D-Day supreme—call it what we will—the truth is that every hope within the human heart is but a longing (more often a sobbing) for the ultimate we have yet to experience.

How can we sit on such gloriously glad tidings? Rhetorical question. We can’t! Jesus is coming soon! And we have a world to warn and friends and neighbors to reach. We laud the ultimate sacrifice that tens of thousands of soldiers paid for freedom. But we bow most deeply before the crimson sacrifice our Lord and God himself paid to storm the enemy’s last bastions, to liberate the prisoners of war. 

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

D-Day—because the best is yet to come!

May 15, 2019

A couple of my story scouts spotted this piece out of St. Augustine, Florida—and I think it’s a perfect one for the big people (i.e., older than children). Two 17-year-olds—Tyler Smith and Heather Brown—were enjoying senior skip-day to the max a week ago. Students at Christ’s Church Academy and soaking up the sun, the two teens lazily floated just offshore at Vilano Beach.

Well, you know how it goes—two kids happily caught up in each other’s company with sea and sun surrounding them—who’s keeping track of where they’re drifting? Turns out strong undercurrents were pulling the two out to sea. By the time they realized their danger, they were too far from shore to be heard.

Try as they might, they couldn’t reverse course against the stiff current that hurried them further out. And so the teens held on to each other. And prayed. And prayed. And God bless them, somehow they managed to not panic and stay afloat, even as the swirling undertow dragged them farther and farther. By now they are two miles out to sea!

Did I mention they were praying? Who wouldn’t be?

That’s when Eric Wagner and his boat crew spotted the teens in the distance, bobbing atop the waves. As his vessel motored closer, crew members leaned over the side and strong arms pulled the swimmers to safety.

Oh, what a relief it is! Two young lives saved. Their prayers answered. By a boat called the Amen—no kidding—Amen.

“Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you; and you will glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15). Amen.

Wesley Duewel observes: “The most important measure of prayer is not its length but its depth; not its beautiful words but its intensity. It is not necessarily a matter of how many hours you pray, but how intensely you pray when you do pray. There is a dynamic of perseverance—prayer must often be continued at some length, but whether short or long, let your prayer be fervent.” (Mighty Prevailing Prayer 76) Amen.

And what catalyzes intense, fervent prayer? A sense of imminent danger, the recognition of desperate need. How do you suppose those teens prayed?

How does God respond to such intensity? “When a man [or woman] breathes an intensely earnest prayer to God (Jesus Christ is the only name given under heaven whereby we can be saved), there is in that intensity and earnestness a pledge from God that He is about to answer that prayer exceeding abundantly, above all that we can ask or think. . . . Unwearyingly persist in prayer. God does not say, Pray once, and I will answer you. His word is pray, be instant in prayer, believing you have the things you ask, and you shall receive them; I will answer you.” (Ellen White Prayer 72) Amen.

But whatever you do, don’t reserve prayer for trouble! If prayer is talking to God as a friend, then let your day flow with mini-conversations—in the midst of hectic life, in the middle of a dark night—pray. And let the benediction of God be your Amen! day and night.

Pray. And pray. And guess what—your Rescuer will be named Amen, too (Revelation 3:14)!

May 8, 2019

So who was your father? “A wandering Aramean”? Most of our forefathers (if you go back far enough in our family trees) were “wandering Arameans” of sorts, weren’t they? Exiles, nomads, immigrants, transnationals, wanders, et al. Until today we are a world of wanderers’ children.

Days before his death, Moses instructed the children of Israel proper protocol once they occupied the Promised Land (without him): “When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance and have taken possession of it and live in it, . . . you shall make response before the Lord your God [in worship at the sanctuary], ‘A wandering Aramean was my father. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous’” (Deuteronomy 26:1-50). 

“A wandering Aramean was my father [and my mother]."

Not so an inappropriate a confession to articulate in worship before God. “I am a wander and the child of wanderers.” 

Truth is—thanks to sin’s fracturing we are a race of wanders—rudely cut off from one another—not only fragmented geographically, but technologically isolated from each other in existentially empty cyberspace—wandering electronically from relationship to relationship, unfulfilled and sadly too often unloved, exiled at times from even our own biological kin and more like strangers to even our dearest friends. We are wanderers—all—through our allotted days, seeking for a remedy (of what who can be sure?), healing perhaps for our peripatetic spirits.

James A. K. Smith, the Calvin College philosopher, rattles off the dispirited lyrics of Fleet Foxes’ “Helplessness Blues” (quoted in How Not to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor 66-67):

I was raised up believing
I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake, distinct among snowflakes,
Unique in each way you can see.
And now, after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery
Serving something beyond me.
But I don’t, I don’t know what that will be.
I’ll get back to you someday soon, you will see.
What’s my name; what’s my station?
Oh just tell me what I should do. 

“A wandering Aramean was my father.” But that's no reason for angst.

For the God of some of our fathers and mothers is the same God who promises their wandering children: “And the LORD has declared this day that you are His people, His treasured possession as He promised” (Deuteronomy 26:18). “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10).

Mercy for the wanderers. A community for the people-less, the dispossessed. Exiles once. And still, wanderers to be sure. Yet embedded in our deepest intuitions, in promises ancient but fresh, remains the premonition that one day we will cross over—into Promised Land—and at last, discover Home. Next door to God.

“A wandering Aramean was my father.” No more.

May 1, 2019

In front of this church where graduation exercises transpire stands a bronze statue of the university namesake, John Nevins Andrews. The skilled work of sculptor Allan Collins, this replica of the Seventh-day Adventist church's first scholar and missionary is shaped with extended arm and hand pointing outward to a world beyond the church.

For years now pinned to the wall of my study is this quotation from J. N. Andrews: "I know of but one way: find a field of labor, ask God to help, take off your coat, and pitch into the work." What is compelling about his personal mission statement is its tacit recognition that most of life (if not all of it) is simply a series of personal choices that reflect opinions and aspirations that are uniquely yours. What someone else considers a fantastic opportunity for career fulfillment or professional advancement might to you seem pedestrian and unappealing. Conversely, an opportunity others might declare unimaginative or so-dead-end might, in fact, be the high voltage that ignites your imagination and compels you to go.

But where does God want me to go? Note carefully the sequence in Andrews' lifework mantra: first, you find a place on earth where a great need matches your life quest; then ask the God who has already gifted you to help you serve Him there (in that village, that city, that wherever).

But is that modus operandi the way God really operates? It is precisely what He promised a new leader on graduation day long ago: "'Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go'" (Joshua 1:9 emphasis supplied). When God promises "wherever you go," He means—"you choose, I bless . . . you go, I accompany."

Stunning, isn't it? Andrews was right. I.e., you pick the opportunity, you choose the field—and then asking God to help you, you pitch in to alleviate the human need in front of you. The graduate who spends her days calculating her move and choreographing her future will be of little help in a world so desperately in need right now.

So as you march out of this church for the last time, do yourself and God a favor. Glance one more time at the statue. It still speaks. And its hand is still pointing you to the way.

April 24, 2019

Just in time to conclude our mini-series, "How to Survive the Coming Economic Crisis," comes a headline warning of the mounting student loan crisis. (Spoiler alert—before you despair, practical counsel for managing those educational debts follows below.)

According to NBC News, the total student loan debt in this country now stands at $1.47 trillion (more than credit card and auto debt), with one in 5 Americans carrying student loan debt. Notice though a new shift in demographics: "Most Americans with student debt are young. But adults 60 and older — who either struggled to pay off their own loans or took on debt for their children or grandchildren — are the fastest-growing age cohort among student loan borrowers. The number of Americans over the age of 60 with student loan debt has more than doubled in the last decade" (

How big are the loans?

• The average monthly payments on student loans range from $200 to $300 (according to the Federal Reserve).

• More than 75% of borrowers owe less than $50,000.

• "The national default rate, a U.S. Department of Education measurement of the number of borrowers who start repayment, then default in the next two to three years, was 10.8 percent among those who started repayment in 2015, the most recent data available" (ibid).

So is defaulting on a student loan the answer? Hardly. Penalties for defaulting are steep and include garnished wages and tax refunds taken. But there's "good" news. "For borrowers who can't afford to make their regular payment, the government offers payment plans that are tied to their household income" (ibid). Unfortunately fewer than 20 percent of borrowers participate in these plans.

To paraphrase Paul, "Who will deliver me from this body of [debt]?" (Romans 7:24). But do not despair!

Instead, check out the practical strategies NerdWallet offers for paying off student loans, including their student loan payoff calculator ( Good Financial Cents promises help: "Here are 9 of the best strategies from recent grads you can use to pay off your student debts sooner and move on with your life!" ( Help is out there—you don't have to drag this ball and chain forever—so seek help now.

But the most significant financial principle of all isn't listed in most website debt solutions. Jesus offers this divine counsel: "'But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well'" (Matthew 6:33).

Who more than God desires our financial peace? Then surely the One "who's got the whole world in His hands" already has a solution in mind to take care of you, too . . . if you'll seek Him first. "Make Me the C-suite leader (CEO and CFO) of your life, and let Me open for you 'the floodgates of heaven' (Malachi 3:10)!" What an offer! Cheerfully make Him your first financial priority, "and all these things will be given to you as well."

A century and a half ago John D. Rockefeller, the oil tycoon, and philanthropist remarked: "I never would have been able to tithe the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 a week." The best time to begin making God first in your life is not when your debts are paid, when your finances are strong, when your needs have been met—the best time to make God first is right now!

April 17, 2019

Perhaps we should call this Passion Week a snapshot of fragments. But what a mixed up mosaic it turns out to be:

• The week begins on Sunday with Tiger Woods making what one commentator declared “the greatest comeback in all of sports history!” as he won the coveted Masters green jacket for the 5th time, his first major golf championship in eleven years—a comeback feat phenomenal considering his 2010 on-camera live confession of a moral meltdown and a series of back surgeries that precipitated a wilderness-wandering dearth of golfing and personal success—all of it erased in the glory of the Masters—yup, phenomenal!

• Also on Sunday South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg formally announced his candidacy for U.S. president, becoming the first Millennial and first LGBT candidate in the race for the White House. His on-camera kiss with his husband choreographed new parameters for presidential politics.

• The tragic fire in the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris galvanized the world on Monday, as flames engulfed this 850 year old iconic Roman Catholic church, ravaging the roof and inner sanctuary, collapsing the famed spire, but somehow sparing its twin towers and adjoining cathedral structures—while cordoned crowds mourned and sang and prayed—and billionaires stepped forward to raise (in the two days since) over €1 billion for its renovation.

• On Tuesday the FBI announced they were seeking a young Florida woman of interest, purportedly fascinated by the Columbine massacre (that left fifteen dead) 20 years ago this weekend—and because her whereabouts in the Denver area are still unknown authorities shut down more than 130 schools.

• And on Wednesday a Russian company announced plans “to build gigantic billboards in space, lighting up the night sky with advertisements for companies like Coke, McDonald’s, and KFC” by placing "dozens of tiny CubeSats into orbit roughly 280 miles above the ground in a single rocket,” tiny boxes that would fly in formation "and deploy giant reflective sails to send the sun’s light to Earth” (each sail independently controlled to behave “like programmable pixels”)—all of which could come to a night sky near you by 2021! (

What a world this is this Passion Week (and the half hasn’t been told)!

But how far away and long ago—in muted contrast to our headlines—is the eyewitness story of an innocent Man who was crucified on Friday and who rose triumphant as God Almighty early Sunday morning. How far away and how long ago.

Yet every story recounted in this Passion Week’s headlines is mysteriously bound up in the saga of the living Christ:

• Who for Buddhist adherent Tiger Woods surely longs for the day when He will be the only winning Master Woods seeks (Acts 4:12).

• Who for Pete Buttigieg offers the highest position in the universe—a seat beside Him on the throne of God (Revelation 3:21).

• Who for the parishioners of Notre Dame cathedral promises an even more glorious temple unrivaled, awaiting the arrival of us all (Revelation 21:22-24).

• Who for the young woman and the inhabitants of Denver and the survivors of Columbine offers a no-fear peace that can never be taken away even now (John 14:27).

• Who for the Russian promoters—and the rest of civilization staring into the heavens for some sign of security, of hope—promises to set those heavens ablaze with the only ever full-sky marketing on the day He returns for every friend He’s ever had (Titus 2:11-14).

“'Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades’” (Revelation 1:17-18). Christ promises.

In the words of the poet Christian Wiman: “Christ is not alive now because he rose from the dead two thousand years ago. He rose from the dead two thousand years ago because he is alive right now” (My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer 165). In the midst of a week of fragments and harbingers we call life, He lives. Right now.


April 3, 2019

Has anybody on this side of the Pond (Atlantic) been able to figure out this United Kingdom brouhaha called Brexit? Since the mission of this Fourth Watch blog is to track the headlines in order to examine events or trends confirming time running out for our civilization, let’s see if the big story preoccupying Europe these days is an indicator of the diminishing times.

The European Union (EU) is a group of 28 countries that operates as a cohesive economic and political block, with nineteen of the countries using the euro as their official currency ( That much we know. For years the United Kingdom has been a card-carrying member of the EU. But three years ago, bemoaning the political, currency and economic bonds that EU membership required and nostalgic for the days when Britain stood alone as a nation empire, a majority of the British electorate voted to exit the EU (hence the moniker Brexit).

But trouble boiled over when the members of the British Parliament could not agree on just how that exit would best be accomplished. And the ensuing three years under Prime Minister Theresa May have been an unfolding saga of national deadlock.

A deadlock painfully evidenced this March in the repeated attempts of the Prime Minister to negotiate an orderly exit and the repeated rejections of Parliament to those efforts. But the onus now apparently is on the House of Commons which while rejecting the PM’s proposals has been unable to offer a majority-supported alternative. Deadlock.

And the clock is ticking down on April 12’s deadline for a decision. Google the story for the details—the bottom line is wincingly clear: confusion. Nobody in the UK, nobody in the EU, no government leader or political hack has been able to resolve the confusion and rather chaotic uncertainty (not in the press, the financial markets, or the electorate—nobody).

But speaking of the Fourth Watch (in the Roman reckoning, the darkest hour before night’s end), should followers of the soon-coming Christ be surprised? The ancient Babel narrative is a morality tale writ large for this civilization today: "But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, 'If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other’" (Genesis 11:5-7).

The European Union arguably is a throwback to what some consider the halcyon days of the Holy Roman Empire, the Dark and Middle Ages union of European nations under the rulership of Rome. But the story of Babel and the towering image of Daniel 2 are biblical evidence of the divine "check" God has placed upon human/government unification. "Thus far and no further." The history of earth heretofore is one of the repeated attempts at global unification and repeated failures. "Thus far and no further."

The American writer Ellen White observed: "Henceforth in our day, the nations are to be in a very uncertain state. Kings and rulers [prime ministers and presidents] will be involved in greater perplexities than they ever thought possible." Sound familiar? Babel, Brexit. Chaos, confusion. Why? She goes on: ". . . this is because they are disobedient to the Word of the Lord and work entirely contrary to His principles" (Letter 12, 1897).

It is the lesson King Nebuchadnezzar had to learn, a lesson so few rulers over the millennia have ever learned: "In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever" (Daniel 2:44).

As for Brexit and the EU, there is one power quietly waiting for the vacuum of leadership to become so strong that its offer to lead the nations once again will be heartily accepted. One day.

And thus we live—all of us—in "the fourth watch" of history. And we know how the story ends.

March 27, 2019

Would you fly on a Boeing 737 Max 8 today? Given the two recent deadly 737 Max 8 crashes in a span of five months (Lion Air last fall and Ethiopian Airlines this month) and the subsequent global grounding of all of Boeing's 737 Max fleet, you can understand why passengers are rethinking their travel plans. To the place, Southwest Airline (which only flies Boeing 737s) reported declining ticket sales this week.

(To answer my own question—sure, I'd fly a 737 Max 8 today. Because there isn't a 737 pilot alive who isn't now thoroughly updated and practiced on the precise safety measures to be taken should the plane "go erratic" again. In fact, this is probably the safest time ever to be a passenger on one of those 737 Max's. But that's just me.)

Naturally, the immense human tragedy of 346 deaths from these two crashes rightfully overshadows all the chatter about the aircraft's future. But could it be that in the unfolding story of the ill-fated 737 Max 8 there are life lessons for the rest of us?

Life Lesson #1—one very small malfunction is still a very big deal. The faulty sensor that mistakenly reported the planes were climbing into stall speed (when in fact they weren't) and thus automatically sought to correct the stall by repeatedly pushing the aircraft nose downward is a tiny piece of technology. But how devastating its misguided response! One "tiny" sin, harbored in a single angelic heart, crashed an entire universe into "civil war" (see Ezekiel 28:15-17). The eventual death toll is beyond emotional calculation! Even so, one "tiny" personal sin (one habit, one indulgence unresisted) can bring down an entire life and lifetime. We all know the sad truth. Personally.

Life Lesson #2sometimes the creator has to ground his creation while a remedy is sought. Boeing had no choice, given the global outcry against its 737 Max 8 aircraft. Everybody on the planet—laymen and specialists alike—could tell something was dreadfully wrong with its newly released 737 Max model. So, until the plane's maker designs a "fix" for the problem, the aircraft meant to spend its days and nights in the heavens is grounded. Just like the human race these days. Grounded soon after the Garden of Eden, because the rebel angel with the fallen heart tricked the humans into joining his civil war against the Throne. The Creator had no choice but to ground the fledgling race. Grounded until an emergency plan (shaped in eternity past—Revelation 13:8) could save the ill-fated planet. "'Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John 1:29) Only then would they ever fly again.

Life Lesson #3how quickly life's fortunes and future can change! Not just for the 346 victims of the two crashes, but for every family member—spouse, parent, child, friend, loved one—and the web of lives that spread away from this disaster. As the result of one split and tragic second, life will never, can never be the same again. Why even for a proud and mighty corporation that controls much of the airspace above our planet, for Boeing how the fortunes have instantly altered—"riding high in April, shot down in May" as the old song crooned. It's a somber life lesson for our civilization, caught in the frenzied mix of life and work and play and pleasure and the unceasing quest to accumulate more and more when we need less and less. Crazy sad really. Because just when we think Earth, at last, has its act together, what does the Bible predict? "Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, 'Peace and safety,' destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not [Greek double negative "no not"] escape" (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3).

Wasn't that Jesus' sobering point? As the days of Noah, so the end of the world will be: people "eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage" until the very last day when the heavens and earth exploded with water "and took them all away" (Matthew 24:36-39). And only a handful saved? God help us!

But that's good news. He promises to. "For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you" (Isaiah 41:13). Wow! Divine help for every life lesson. Divine Helper for every day and night until grounded no longer we will fly with Him forever and ever. Amen.

March 20, 2019

Can you believe it! We are counting down at the same time for both Renovate projects––Heart and House.

(1) Renovate: House. Let's start with the most immediately obvious renovation. In a few days, we will witness scaffolding begin to surround our sanctuary, as workers prepare to replace nearly an acre of roofing. They begin earlier than we'd anticipated because our electricians now calculate needing more time to lay the electrical conduits beneath the roof for our new sanctuary light fixtures. Which also means that at some point before May graduation temporary lights will need to replace our chandelier lighting—but we'll be fine, knowing what we'll have once the project is through.

Monday, May 6, the day after university graduation, we will bid our many pews farewell. Latest plans are to ship the pews to a church in Africa that has requested them.

And Sabbath, May 11, will find us worshiping—thanks to the generous kindness of the university—in the Howard Performing Arts Center until our renovation project is completed in August. What a season awaits us! Thank you for your own generosity with our $2 million Renovate: Heart & House campaign. We're just over halfway there—praise God and thank you.

That's the word on the House, but how about the Heart?

(2) Renovate: Heart. I've been surprised (maybe it's not so surprising) that I've been hearing from people who are suggesting the next pulpit series after this one on Laodicea needs to be one on the second coming (or soon coming) of Jesus. No question that would be a valuable and heart-stirring theme for us to journey through in a worship series.

But the truth is "The Last Letter" has been very much a series on the second-coming of Christ. After all, Laodicea means "people judged," and scholars agree this letter describes the seventh and final period of church history before the return of Jesus—a people living in the great pre-advent judgment hour of human history. That's why Jesus depicts Himself in "The Last Letter" as standing "at the door"—a motif He used in the gospels to describe the nearness of His return (see Mark 13:29 et al).

But more critical than enumerating the signs of our Lord's return is the need for the signs of our Lord's reviving to be demonstrated in our daily living. Renovate: Heart. "By this will all people know you are My disciples" Jesus taught us (John 13:34-35). "Those who abide in Me and I in them will bring forth much fruit," He admonished us (John 15:5).

That's the point of "The Last Letter." And we got it, we get it. And we're embarrassed for Laodicea that considers herself to be fit as a fiddle and "in need of nothing," when it turns out she is in quite the opposite state and in need of profound spiritual renovation. Poor Laodicea—mouthing her hope in Jesus' soon return, all the while living untransformed lives that belie that hope—celebrating the overcoming Jesus achieved on the cross two thousand years ago while ignoring or even rejecting the overcoming Jesus longs to achieve in their own personal lives right now.

But all is not lost for Laodicea! The Desire of Ages promises: "The plan of redemption contemplates our complete recovery from the power of Satan. Christ always separates the contrite soul from sin. He came to destroy the works of the devil, and He has made provision that the Holy Spirit shall be imparted to every repentant soul, to keep him from sinning." But it gets even better. "Christ reaches us where we are. He took our nature and overcame, that we through taking His nature might overcome." Did you catch that? So that we might overcome—what a promise for Laodicea! "Made 'in the likeness of sinful flesh' (Romans 8:3), [Christ] lived a sinless life. Now by His divinity, He lays hold upon the throne of heaven, while by His humanity He reaches us. He bids us by faith in Him attain to the glory of the character of God" (311-312).

Wow! "The glory of the character of God" in the likes of you and me. No question—the intent of "The Last Letter" is: "to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17). Talking about renovating our hearts—that's it.

Which is why our biggest move is not exiting our church for the summer—our biggest move is to open the door of our hearts to the Lord Jesus and with grateful humility invite Him to take up residence within us right now. In fact, the Lord's Supper we share with Him today is the fulfillment of His promise, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and sup [KJV] with him, with her, and they with me" (Revelation 3:20). Sup—the first three letters of supper. Supper—the joyful privilege Laodicea can share with the Lord of Laodicea right now. Does it get any better than that?