The Fourth Watch

By Pastor Dwight K. Nelson

November 28, 2018

Amazon used to be a gargantuan river with anaconda and piranhas and scary dark forests. Not anymore! Thanks to a record setting five days of holiday sales, Amazon (the online store we all love to shop) is trumpeting new numbers to prove its global dominance.

CBS News reported on Tuesday: "Amazon said Cyber Monday and Black Friday were the biggest shopping days in its history. The online retail giant didn't disclose sales figures, but it said customers ordered more than 180 million items during the five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, adding that the latter was its biggest single shopping day ever." And by the way, Amazon wasn't the only retail winner this year. "Cyber Monday likely hit $7.9 billion in sales across all retailers, making it the biggest online shopping day yet, according to an estimate from Adobe. That represents a roughly 20 percent increase from last year. Online sales for Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday likely reached $3.7 billion and $6.2 billion, respectively, Adobe said" ( .

Did you catch that—$9.9 billion of online shopping on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, PLUS another $7.9 billion of online sales for Cyber Monday—which rounds off to a cool $17.8 billion spent online to open the Christmas shopping season. Numbers, by the way, which do not include the billions spent at retail stores over these same five days—numbers that prove what James A. K. Smith describes as "a culture whose civic religion prizes consumption as the height of human flourishing" (Desiring the Kingdom 76).

You go, Amazon and friends!

Maybe the word to be emphasizing right now is the "go" of "You go!" Because charitable gifts in this season of outsized spending on gifts hardly measure up to equivalency. Don't get me wrong—having spent my life working for an institution that is totally (completely, exclusively) dependent on charitable giving—I am a sold-out believer in the spiritual boost God gives the charitable, cheerful givers who keep the church going and growing!

But "go" goes beyond "give." "Go" is what I saw happening a couple Sundays ago when I dropped in on our Harbor of Hope church's pre-Thanksgiving dinner for the inner city of Benton Harbor. There I happened to bump into a police officer and his family who used to worship here at Pioneer but have joined Harbor of Hope in its city mission. I also chatted with a flight attendant, who with her family left Pioneer to join Harbor of Hope to become more involved in a hands-on ministry of compassion and care. That's the "go" I'm thinking about—the "go" of Jesus "into all the world" which includes our depressed inner city 12 miles up the road from this campus.

Don't get me wrong—I'm all for charitable giving (thank you for your generosity to the Boss of the institution I work for)—but I'm realizing that charitable going goes much deeper than a tithe envelope or an offering plate. Going means changing places, abandoning observer status, and plunging into hands-on compassion and caring in a very needy demographic slice of America.

If you'd like to check out this idea of charitable going, drop in on our very attractive Harbor of Hope campus (769 Pipestone St, Benton Harbor, MI 49022) some Sabbath soon, or check out their website ( , or email Pastor Taurus Montgomery who with his family of five leads the congregation and community (

"Charitable going"—two words that summarize the story line of Christmas. Because just like Jesus, charitable goers go to where action and need intersect—usually near the intersection of a city near you.

You go!

November 14, 2018

The mind-numbing speed with which the wildfire they are calling Camp Fire ravaged Paradise, California, is almost incomprehensible. At one point, observers reported, the inferno was torching the equivalent of one football field of ground every second for 90 minutes! That's 10,000 acres consumed in an hour and a half. If the fire's velocity were in a straight line, it would be traveling across the ground at 300 feet/second—or 204 miles per hour. It is no wonder the flames were almost unbeatable. In this town of 20,000, more than 6,700 structures were reduced to ash in a matter of minutes.

Mayor Jody Jones told a reporter: "'It's pretty devastating. It's huge. I would say 90 percent of our homes are gone. The entire town council lost their homes, half of our police department, most of our town administrative staff, just about every friend I know'" ( Fire chief David Hawks, who grew up in the town, described their efforts to contain the onslaught: "'I got into my firefighting gear and immediately responded to Pentz Road, which was where the fire was first reported in Paradise. As you can picture a snow blizzard, it's just an ember blizzard. And all those embers were pelting homes and pelting the ground'" (ibid).

Forty-eight deaths from the Camp Fire are now reported, with scores of individuals still missing.

Also lost in the firestorm was the Paradise Seventh-day Adventist church, the homes of the pastoral leadership team, the kindergarten through fourth-grade section of Paradise Academy, and the lower level of the Feather River Adventist Health hospital in Paradise. Newly arrived Paradise pastor Steve Hamilton, on the church website, writes: "All our staff members and the vast majority of our church family have lost their homes. If you need to contact the church office, please understand that we may not be able to respond as quickly as we might like"

But stamped across the church's homepage in fiery letters is #ParadiseStrong. Pastor Hamilton notes: "Though the physical attributes of our earthly Paradise are destroyed, the spirit of Paradise has spread across the country and around the world, as people are moved to volunteer resources to help. Despite the loss, we recognize that we're also blessed by the kindness and generosity of others" (ibid).

What can we, a half a nation away, do to help? Hamilton again: "In fact, at this point, we have donations of material in excess of what we have resources to distribute. For the immediate future, monetary donations are more useful. You can go direct to our Giving page [on their website], if you like. And course, prayers are always welcome" (ibid).

If you would like to send a donation for the Paradise relief (and rebuilding) effort, here are two suggestions from Mark Woodham, president of the Northern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, on the conference website: (1) donate online ( or (2) text NCCSDA to 77977 to give.

My psalm for the day this Wednesday included these words: "Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap" (Psalm 113:5-7).

Truth be told, this entire civilization is on fire, metaphorically and in California literally. But the tender-hearted Creator of Earth is not unmindful of what His children suffer here below. He needs no binoculars to observe our plight. He is Immanuel, the God who is with us. "In all [your] affliction, [I] am afflicted" (Isaiah 63:9). This is the One who promises to raise the needy "from the ash heap." And while we are all yet far from Paradise (the promised home of God's friends one day)—do not fear the fires that scorch your own heart and life right now. "'When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze,'" is His promise to you spiritually (Isaiah 43:2).

Because with Jesus the best is yet to come. In the words of the English writer John Milton, we will one day move from "Paradise Lost" to "Paradise Regained." And in that penultimate move, we shall know at last the greatest Thanksgiving of all.

November 7, 2018

Guess what. Politics isn’t the only realm preoccupied with winners and losers. So is Scripture. As it turns out, on this morning after the midterm elections across the nation, my summer journey through the Apocalypse ended. Looking back now I must admit, Revelation really is all about winners and losers!

Here’s a short list of them compiled just this morning:

God wins. The triumph of the Lamb of God on Calvary (repeated and reiterated throughout this revealing) is the crimson heart of the divine forever triumph. Over and over again the strong assurance that “though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet” (Maltbie Babcock) vibrates through the book, and crescendos in the mighty Hallelujah chorus of Revelation 19: “Hallelujah! For the Lord God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory” (19:6-7). No wonder the angelic throngs shouted their praise to Christ our Savior at His inauguration: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (5:12). God wins!

Satan loses. Hands down, big time the “biggest loser” in the Apocalypse is our constant arch nemesis and foe: “. . . but he was defeated . . . the great dragon . . . that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (12:8-9). Loser! But let’s not taunt him yet. For the divine Voice warns us: “But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath [“filled with fury” NIV], because he knows that his time is short!” (12:12). Nevertheless make no mistake about it, the ending to this brutal cosmic war, “the great controversy,” is unequivocal: “. . . and the devil who had deceived them [and us] was thrown into the lake of fire” (20:10). All the heartache, pain, suffering and death he has inflicted upon us one day will be avenged (6:9-11). Satan loses!

The seven-headed sea beast, the two-horned earth beast, the seven-headed scarlet beast, the prostitute who rides the scarlet beast, and Babylon lose. I.e., the satanic trinity’s reign of terror just before the collapse of history will be crushed by the returning Christ—defeated, obliterated forever and ever. As the Apocalypse loudly pronounces: “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (17:14). And who are these who conquer with the Lamb?

The Bride wins. The wildly glad tidings that peal through Revelation is that the Bride of Christ—and in this book the church of Jesus is distinguished through a series of monikers: the servants of Jesus Christ (1:1), those who overcome (chapters 2-3), the 144,000 (7:1-8), the innumerable “great multitude” of the saved (7:9-10), the remnant of the woman’s offspring (12:17), the saints (13:10), those who “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (14:12), “those who had conquered the beast and its image” (15:2), the “called and chosen and faithful” (17:14), “My people” (18:4), the Bride of the Lamb (19:7), the priests and kings of God (1:6, 5:10, 20:6), and the New Jerusalem (21:9-10)—at long last the Bride of Christ wins! And to “roar of many waters and the sound of mighty peals of thunder”, the Bride—the people of God robed in “fine linen, bright and pure” (19:8)—takes her place at the marriage supper table of the Lamb (19:6-9). She wins because He won!

I plan to be there—how about you? Too preposterous, too prideful an ambition and prayer? Not at all. Never forget this Book of winners and losers ends with the divine secret to winning: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (22:20-21).

The Bible’s last words: Lord Jesus . . . grace . . . Amen. You win!

October 31, 2018

Like all tragedies these days (so it seems), the slaughter of eleven worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh last Sabbath is already dimming in the national consciousness—drowned out by the cacophony of political rhetoric in advance of next week’s midterm elections.

And that is sad. Sad, because the virulent anti-Semitism that condemned these worshiping Jews to execution by firing squad is a tragic morality tale of what is yet ahead for America. For as fellow Sabbatarians, we Seventh-day Adventists with our Jewish neighbors know very well the countercultural contradistinction our choice to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8) creates with the rest of America. While the public bows at the shrine of national sports on Saturdays or the temple of mega-mall shopping, Sabbatarians quietly attend their places of worship to bow before the Creator God of the universe. It was at that moment these eleven Jews were murdered in the refuge of their Tree of Life temple—what a heart-breaking irony!

Will it happen again? If you read the apocalyptic warning embedded in Revelation 13 as my faith community does, the calculus is certain—it will happen again. To Sabbatarians. Not only on a national scale, but globally as well. Is that somber recognition fearmongering? Hardly. It is rather the facing of truth even members of my own faith community have attempted to mitigate or at least minimize by forgetting.

Wake up! What was once unthinkable in this “land of the free and the home of the brave” has become the daily fare of this nation’s moral and ethical retrograding. And it doesn’t take high-powered optics to decide it really can happen here.

How then shall we respond? (1) Let us be proactive in seeking to build bridges to our fellow Sabbatarian Jews. We are the closest spiritual cousins they have within Christianity. It is more than an aside to observe that we Adventists are Jews with the Messiah. And the Messiah notwithstanding, we share a kindred spirit with Jews who revere the Torah of the Old Testament and the ethics of Christ in the New Testament. Be a friend to these who daily live with the anti-Semitism of other neighbors.

And (2) let us pray for God in mercy to hold back the apocalyptic winds that threaten the United States. The American writer, Ellen White, noted: “The Lord has done more for the United States than for any other country upon which the sun shines” (Maranatha 193). It is time for this faith community to seriously engage/reengage the people of this land in acts of compassion, deeds of unselfish service, bold advocacy for the marginalized and disenfranchised—in short, to live out the life of Jesus. Only when they see His love will they hear His truth. But we have become distracted by our own debates, we are complacent because our own wealth, we are disengaged from the very neighborhoods in which we dwell—all to our own loss and the loss of the apocalyptic mission we once embraced.

“We seem to sit as though we were paralyzed. God of heaven, wake us up!” (2SM 52)

The great Jewish lament of Psalm 137 must become our lament, too: “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1). Lament and pray, weep and work for America—before Babylon rises once more . . . before the deliverance of Zion shall come.

October 24, 2018

May I share a story with you. Last Sabbath afternoon our Board of Elders enjoyed a delectable Sabbath dinner with our friend, Joe Kidder (seminary professor here on campus). After our meal, Joe stood and told a story, a very personal story about a time he and his wife were pastoring a small congregation out west. Once a thriving large congregation, it had been shrinking over the years—a church tussle had led to families leaving until there were just 40 members left. When he moved to that congregation, Joe had high hopes that new church growth strategies would reverse the decline. Instead, after a year the number had dropped to 35.

Joe and his wife were discouraged. One evening he sat down at his computer to write a resignation letter. He had once been an engineer, and now his former career seemed a way out of this disappointment. The doorbell rang, and when Joe was at the door, his wife happened to walk by the computer and saw the letter of resignation. “Are you quitting?” she asked in surprise. Joe nodded. “Shouldn’t we talk to God about this?” He agreed, and so they determined to take the next day, Monday, and spend it in prayer and fasting.

Monday morning Joe went to the church. Knowing where each member was used to sitting, Joe began to move from place to place to pray. Worn down by fatigue and stress, however, he fell asleep on the floor of the church and slept for eight hours. He went home that evening. “How did it go?” He mumbled, “Fine.”

And so began a Monday journey into prayer and fasting for the Kidders. Fifty-two Mondays went by. Little appeared to change. What Joe later testified is that unbeknown to him the changes were transpiring inside his own soul, as day after day and week after week he cried out to God to do something to turn the story around.

One Sabbath some strangers were sitting near the front, parents with their young daughter. Turns out they lived down the street from the church. The wife had begun to sense her need for God and suggested to her husband that they attend church, specifically the Roman Catholic church, the church of her childhood. But the husband remembered his employer (not a Christian) once telling his employees that if they were ever looking for a church to join, it should be the Seventh-day Adventist church. And so the husband suggested the Adventist church down the block. She agreed.

After a series of Bible studies, Joe stood with the young couple in the baptistery. He told about how this couple was a godsend to his own spiritual struggle, how he and his wife had been fasting and praying every Monday for over a year. In tears, he testified that he now realized it was his own heart that had been changed through those weeks of praying. No sooner had he concluded his testimony, then a longtime church member walked to the front from the back of the sanctuary. “I need to be praying for my children away from Jesus and the church.” A woman up near the front rose and confessed her need for her kids and their salvation. Others stood. Before the morning was over, the small congregation covenanted to pray and fast one day a week for their families, their unreached community.

Today there is a vibrant congregation of 600 members. And it all began with “earnest prayer.” When Joe Kidder ended his testimony to the room full of Pioneer leaders last Sabbath afternoon, Bryan von Dorpowski, who with his wife Becky are Pioneer’s head elders, stood. And in a matter of minutes, the leaders agreed to set aside the first Tuesday of every month for a day of prayer and fasting. Sure, people have to work, students have to study, life goes on every Tuesday. But we covenanted to keep that Tuesday day of prayer special and sacred within our hearts, whatever each Tuesday may bring.

As it turned out, Andrea Luxton, Andrews University president, had been thinking since last Thursday about the need for our campus to pray. The challenges that face the church across this continent and around the world, the need to reach a secular culture with the gospel of Jesus and His soon-coming—our spiritual needs are many. And then, in one of those synchronicity moments that only the Holy Spirit can engineer, her conviction and the elder’s decision were joined. And now both the campus and the Pioneer congregation are being invited to set aside the first Tuesday of each month for a day of prayer (and fasting, for those who wish).

It is the right time for our congregation to join forces in prayer. Our own families and children, our mission to connect with campus students and community residents, our soon-to-be-launched “Renovate: Heart & House” initiative, our nation and world struggling through the headlines, our national church and our world church wrestling over God’s vision for the journey ahead—we as a people have every reason to join in calling on God. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you; and you will glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15) is His promise.

“First Tuesdays”—I hope you will prayerfully consider joining this prayer force for the Kingdom of God. Be watching our eLetter and worship bulletins for specific themes and needs over the next 12 months. And in the power of the Holy Spirit, let’s move “forward on our knees” with Jesus.

October 17, 2018

A friend of mine bought a new Tesla and took me for a spin this week. "Spin," did you say? Actually the more appropriate, accurate word is "G-force." I wasn't prepared for this new electric car's phenomenal acceleration. He (the owner) waited to get a clear straight stretch of road—and then without warning slammed the "pedal to the metal." In that split second my stomach was pinned to my spine! No kidding. We're talking—accelerate! One G is the force of earth's gravity. "At 5 Gs, a driver experiences a force equal to five times his weight. For instance, during a 5-G turn, there are 60 to 70 pounds of force pulling his head to the side" ( We must have been at 100 Gs. Just kidding.

But when he pulled off the road so I could drive, I decided "pedal to the metal" is the motto of the day! His nervous laugh a few seconds later indicated I had found the sweet spot as we flew back onto the highway. I've never ridden in a car with so rapid an acceleration. What a feeling! No sound to the engine—nothing but the quiet whir of an electric motor with no gears to shift through—just continuous, pure acceleration.

Kind of like the rather stunning acceleration we've been witnesses to these last few weeks. Acceleration of headlines, of trends, of reversals, of sudden swerves to the right, to the left, to the who knows where. Somebody clearly has his "pedal to the metal."

"'But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short'" (Revelation 12:12).

How many spiritual G-forces are wrapped up in that terse declaration? Dark, evil acceleration.

"While people are saying, 'Peace and safety,' destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape" (1 Thessalonians 5:3).

Just a friendly reminder that life as we know it long ago fled the scene. What we're left with is what we're living right now. Which means you and I do well to live with an attitude of continual expectation. Our friend Noah couldn't offer the scoffers a calendar of endgame moves. All he had was the word of God echoing in his soul. And an accelerating sense in his gut that life as they knew it was nearing its end. With little warning. Catastrophically.

"But don't be afraid" is the quiet assurance of the Christ who walks ahead of His followers, who leads the accelerating way of His friends. "'When all this starts to happen, up on your feet. Stand tall with your heads high. Help is on the way!'" (Luke 21:28 Message)

Help—not just for the endgame—but help for the G-forces of life that pin us to uncertainty. Given the acceleration of late, every day is a good day to pull off to the side of the road with Him: "When every other voice is hushed, and in quietness we wait before Him, the silence of the soul makes more distinct the voice of God. He bids us, 'Be still, and know that I am God.' Psalm 46:10" (Desire of Ages 363).

Not sure how to connect? Find your  simple how-to at And let Jesus be the One to "put the pedal to the metal" for you.

October 10, 2018

In a few hours, the leaders of our faith community will gather in historic Battle Creek, Michigan, for the Annual Council of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. For months both the official and unofficial church websites have been hotly debating the matter of unity and administrative control within this faith community. Far-reaching decisions will be made at Battle Creek.

But could it be that Heaven itself awaits an even more critical decision—the decision of spiritual leaders to demonstrate to an on-looking church and world the nature of Christ-like leadership at every level of the church?

On January 5, 1903, around noon in St Helena, California, Ellen White, one of the founders of this church and a divinely appointed and inspired messenger of God, sat down at her desk to write. Below in its entirety is a letter she wrote to the leadership in Battle Creek. Could it be what she was shown was in fact what might even yet transpire in Battle Creek right now?

To the Battle Creek Church
One day at noon I was writing of the work that might have been done at the last General Conference if the men in positions of trust had followed the will and way of God. Those who have had great light have not walked in the light. The meeting was closed, and the break was not made. Men did not humble themselves before the Lord as they should have done, and the Holy Spirit was not imparted.

I had written thus far when I lost consciousness, and I seemed to be witnessing a scene in Battle Creek.

We were assembled in the auditorium of the Tabernacle. Prayer was offered, a hymn was sung, and prayer was again offered. Most earnest supplication was made to God. The meeting was marked by the presence of the Holy Spirit. The work went deep, and some present were weeping aloud.

One arose from his bowed position and said that in the past he had not been in union with certain ones and had felt no love for them, but that now he saw himself as he was. With great solemnity he repeated the message to the Laodicean church: “‘Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.’ In my self-sufficiency this is just the way I felt,” he said. “‘And knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.’ I now see that this is my condition. My eyes are opened. My spirit has been hard and unjust. I thought myself righteous, but my heart is broken, and I see my need of the precious counsel of the One who has searched me through and through. Oh, how gracious and compassionate and loving are the words, ‘I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.’” Revelation 3:17, 18.

The speaker turned to those who had been praying, and said: “We have something to do. We must confess our sins, and humble our hearts before God.” He made heartbroken confessions and then stepped up to several of the brethren, one after another, and extended his hand, asking forgiveness. Those to whom he spoke sprang to their feet, making confession and asking forgiveness, and they fell upon one another’s necks, weeping. The spirit of confession spread through the entire congregation. It was a Pentecostal season. God’s praises were sung, and far into the night, until nearly morning, the work was carried on.

The following words were often repeated, with clear distinctness: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” Verses 19, 20.

No one seemed to be too proud to make heartfelt confession, and those who led in this work were the ones who had influence, but had not before had courage to confess their sins.

There was rejoicing such as never before had been heard in the Tabernacle.

Then I aroused from my unconsciousness, and for a while could not think where I was. My pen was still in my hand. The words were spoken to me: “This might have been. All this the Lord was waiting to do for His people. All heaven was waiting to be gracious.” I thought of where we might have been had thorough work been done at the last General Conference, and agony of disappointment came over me as I realized that what I had witnessed was not a reality. (Testimonies to the Church 8:104-106)

Could it be what she was shown was in fact what might even yet transpire in Battle Creek right now? Could it be that what “might have been” might even yet become what is now?

Then let us join with brothers and sisters across the face of this earth to earnestly petition God to turn this “might have been” into the very spiritual transformation every leader and member longs for. For without such revival, how can this remnant community ever fulfill her apocalyptic mission?

September 26, 2018

I'm no sociologist, but I was intrigued by newly released numbers this week describing the state of marriage with Millennials, GenXers, and Boomers. And everybody's been weighing in on them!

USA Today proclaimed: "Red Lobster, bras, top sheets, sleeping with clothes and now ... divorce. Millennials get blamed for 'killing' many trends, and the latest example might mean everyone's favorite generation to hate is in it for the long haul after tying the knot, according to a new study" ( Bloomberg News trumpeted: "Americans under the age of 45 have found a novel way to rebel against their elders: They're staying married" (

What triggered these media responses? A new study by Philip Cohen, University of Maryland sociology professor, released this week for presentation at the 2019 Population Association of America meeting (read the paper

So what are the numbers? The statistic that caught my eye is the 18% drop in the US divorce rate between 2008 and 2016. The question is Why? "One theory is that divorce rates are falling largely because of other demographic changes—especially an aging population. Older people are less likely to get divorced, so maybe mellowing boomers were enough to explain the trend. Cohen's analysis of U.S. Census Bureau survey data, however, suggests something more fundamental is at work. Even when he controls for factors such as age, the divorce rate over the same period still dropped 8 percent" (Bloomberg).

While the news for Millennials is encouraging, not so for Boomers: "Young people get the credit for fewer divorces because boomers have continued to divorce at unusually high rates, all the way into their 60s and 70s. From 1990 to 2015, according to Bowling Green's National Center for Family and Marriage Research, the divorce rate doubled for people aged 55 to 64, and even tripled for Americans 65 and older. Cohen's results suggest this trend, called 'grey divorce,' may have leveled out in the past decade, but boomers are still divorcing at much higher rates than previous generations did at similar ages" (ibid, emphasis supplied).

And the Millennials? "Today's young couples don't seem to be following the same path. 'One of the reasons for the decline is that the married population is getting older and more highly educated,' Cohen said. Fewer people are getting married, and those who do are the sort of people who are least likely to get divorced, he said. 'Marriage is more and more an achievement of status, rather than something that people do regardless of how they're doing.' Many poorer and less educated Americans are opting not to get married at all. They're living together, and often raising kids together, but deciding not to tie the knot. And studies have shown these cohabiting relationships are less stable than they used to be" (ibid).

Talking about a mixed marital bag! The US divorce rate is down (but up among Boomers). Millennials are sticking together longer (but getting married later in upper socio-economic groups). As Philip Cohen observed: "Marriage is become more selective, and more stable, even as attitudes toward divorce are becoming more permissive, and cohabitation has grown less stable" (Cohen paper). Mixed bag indeed.

All of which simply means the church, the faith community, has much work to do to portray and protect for both young and old the attractive and enduring beauty God intended marriage to reflect. "May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth . . . may you ever be intoxicated with her love" (Proverbs 5:18-19).

Marital love, the gift of our Creator, was once intended to be forever. The poet Christian Wiman suggests perhaps it still is: "Human love has an end, which is God, who makes it endless" (My Bright Abyss 29).

September 19, 2018

The Google dictionary defines “synchronicity” as, “the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.” Someone taught me the word twelve months ago, and it has opened my eyes to a dimension of life I never really gave much thought to before.

With my new friend Vincent Dehm preaching his heart out each morning this week for our university Week of Prayer—his theme, “Residence: The Holy Spirit Inside”—it seems the right moment to invite you to brood with me over this notion of synchronicity.

Here’s how Douglas Cooper describes it: “Synchronicity is experienced. Once you have placed yourself in oneness with God and He is living in you by His Spirit, you are connected everywhere you go and everywhere you are (think broadband, Wi-Fi, DSL, 4G cellular network!) with the same great creative super-intelligent [Being] that created and sustains the world and continues to expand the very dimensions of the unfathomably immense universe. ‘Meaningful coincidences’ begin to happen. (A coincidence is God’s way of working a miracle anonymously!).” (Gentle Dove: The Holy Spirit, God’s Greatest Gift 17). What’s that have to do with the Holy Spirit? Much—let me explain.

A year ago God used Helmut Haubeil’s little book, Steps to Personal Revival: Being Filled with the Holy Spirit, to change my life—simply because it introduced me to a Bible teaching I had never heard or been taught before. The daily baptism of the Holy Spirit. Oh yes, I knew all about the “early rain” and the “latter rain” of the Holy Spirit, even preached a series of sermons on it years ago. But nobody ever told me that the Bible in fact repeatedly teaches the daily baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Himself taught it: “‘If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who [Greek—continually, daily] ask Him!” (Luke 11:13). Paul himself taught the same: “Be filled [Greek—continually, daily] with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). And “Walk [Greek—continually, daily] in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:18). But did they practice what they preached? “Morning by morning [Jesus] communicated with His Father in heaven, receiving from Him daily a fresh baptism of the Holy Spirit” (Signs of the Times 11-21-1895).

So a year ago I decided to take these verses seriously and pray each morning for a fresh baptism of the mighty Third Person of the Godhead. And as I just said, my life has not been the same since.

Synchronicity? It began happening everywhere. Little and not so little “coincidences” (God’s anonymous miracles, as Cooper put it) that not only caught me by surprise, but were direct responses it seemed to the very prayers I was praying. Synchronicity—what God Himself promises: “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24). Amazing—God is so engaged in the very details of your life (and mine) that He anticipates our prayers and before we even breathe them (sometimes even days before), He initiates a chain of events/circumstances that synchronize themselves to the very moment we petition His throne . . . or the very moment we pick up the phone . . . or the very moment we get an email . . . or the very moment we bump into a stranger . . . or the very moment we look in our wallets . . . or the very moment we are broadsided by a crisis! Synchronicity, “the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.” Only you and I now know better—for by faith we can perceive the “discernable causal connection” of the Holy Spirit!

So every morning I invite you to join me with the humble prayer: “Lord Jesus, please abide with me today, and let me abide with you.” Which, of course, is a prayer for the daily baptism of the Holy Spirit, since the Bible is clear: “And this is how we know that He [Jesus] abides in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us” (1 John 3:24).

September 12, 2018

All this talk about vineyards and grapes hopefully is stirring up a hunger for the fruit of the vine! Turns out it's a beneficial hunger—especially since an article from my friend Robin Paquette heralds "42 amazing benefits" that accrue from eating the popular small round succulent fruit. The article pronounces: "Grapes are a storehouse of health. . . . They are rich in vitamins A, C, B6, phosphorus, magnesium folate, potassium, calcium, iron, and selenium" (enough to make you a walking chemistry lab, it appears). Conclusion? "Grapes have high nutrient content that ensures a healthy and active life" (  And what 's not to like about that?

So what are these 42 benefits? Here's the list—(1) migraine, (2) Alzheimer's disease, (3) indigestion, (4) breast cancer, (5) for vision, (6) blood cholesterol, (7) kidney disorders, (8) asthma, (9) antibacterial activity, (10) constipation, (11) protection against sunburns, (12) anti-ageing benefits, (13) skin softener, (14) rejuvenates the skin, (15) cures uneven skin tone, (16) lightens scars, (17) youthful appearance, (18) encourages hair growth, (19) treatment of dandruff, (20) treatment of hair loss, (21) aromatherapy, (22) power up your weight loss, (23) protect your heart, (24) mop up brain damaging plaques, (25) cancer radiation, (26) improve brain power, (27) longevity gene, (28) fight diabetes, (29) turn down inflammation, (30) supports muscle recovery, (31) bone health, (32) LDL cholesterol, (33) digestive aid, (34) fatigue, (35-38 omitted in this article list), (39) macular degeneration, (40) immune system, and (42) the benefits of raisins. Check out the article for specific explanations included with each of these listed benefits (see link above).

"The tiny grape packs in a bundle of health benefits! So, the next time you feel like snacking on something tasty, try grapes. Not only are they tasty, but they give your body all the goodness of nature" (ibid).

Oh, and don't forget that this nutritious fruit comes in an assortment of colors (white, green, red, blue/black) and varieties (among which are Thompson seedless, Sugarone, Calmeria, Niagara, Cardinal, Emperor, Flame, Concord and Zinfandel). As they say, Have a grape day!

No wonder the ancient Scripture makes such a big deal about vineyards and grapes—strewing them along the pathway from Genesis to Revelation. Why God Himself must love grapes! Why else would He choose the vineyard to be His favorite metaphor for His people Israel (see Isaiah 5:1-7)? Why else would the Creator incarnate select the vine and the branches to become a living visualization of His personal relationship with His friends (John 15:1-16)? And why else would the same Jesus declare, not only the juice of the grape to be a lasting symbol of His shed blood for the human family, but that He Himself would "fast" from enjoying the fruit of the vine until His disciples are home one day with Him "in My Father's kingdom" (Matthew 26:28,29)?

Forty-two benefits of the grape? Turns out there are 43! And the last one is the greatest one: a place and cup at the table in Heaven when Jesus raises His goblet and for the first time since Calvary drinks the sweetest and freshest grape juice in the universe—with His friends come Home—"this is to My Father's glory" (John 15:8). And I am sure that as we raise our cups with Him, there will be a very loud Amen!