It’s Not About You (by Sikhu Hlatshwayo)

It’s Not About You (by Sikhu Hlatshwayo)

Job’s story gives us a glimpse behind the scenes of the great controversy as it plays out in our lives. The man was simply living his holy life when the devil randomly, it would seem, picks on him. The first two chapters of the book of Job draw back the curtain, showing clearly that Job’s experience of hardship is tied to a larger metanarrative involving the entire universe. A metanarrative in which God’s character is on the line.

Clearly, not everything bad that happens to us falls within the paradigm of Job’s experience. Sometimes bad things result from our own poor decisions (dare I say, most times?). But in Job’s life we see the principle that how believers live has ramifications in the universal question of whether God is trustworthy. The way we handle trials and temptations casts a vote either for or against the trustworthiness of God. So this controversy really isn’t about you—it’s about Him!

But let’s flip the coin for a minute and look at the great controversy from God’s perspective.

Sin enters the universe through a process summarized by the Bible as a mystery. The omnipotent Creator God could simply wipe out His creation and just start from scratch, but that’s not the God He is. Instead, He chooses to risk His own life to redeem His fallen creatures. So unfolds human history as it is revealed in Scripture: the story of God’s fight to restore communion between Him and His creation.

You see, from God’s perspective, this is all about you. Think about Jesus’ mission statement as articulated in His name: He came to save His people from their sins. It does not say that He came to vindicate His character before the universe. Even though His life actually did reveal something about His character, His purpose in coming was actually focused on us, not on Himself.

A common thread runs through these two perspectives of the great controversy. From the human perspective, this controversy is not about us, it’s about vindicating God’s character; from the divine perspective, it’s about reconciling the world to Himself.Whichever angle you look at it from, it’s not about yourself; it’s about someone else.

God’s life is others-focused. As His children, so should our lives be. Thus, even when facing temptation, our motivation to live victoriously ought to come from a desire to honor God (and not, for example, from fear of losing our good reputation). My college major, my choice of employment, who to marry, when to marry, how many children to have, where to live, what to eat, what to do for recreation…All of life’s decisions should be motivated by a desire to honor God!

The focus on living for others is a principle that governs the actions of all those on the winning side of this great controversy. So it’s not about you. The moment it becomes about you, you’ve crossed over to the losing side.

Witnessing to the Wealthy, Worldly, and Well-Educated (by David Kim)

Witnessing to the Wealthy, Worldly, and Well-Educated (by David Kim)

There is a group of, by some estimates, over 60 million people who need the Gospel, yet are evangelistically neglected. They are among the most difficult to reach, and “traditional” methods tend not to work well with this group. Ellen White describes the situation:

We talk and write much of the neglected poor; should not some attention be given also to the neglected rich? Many look upon this class as hopeless…Thousands of wealthy men have gone to their graves unwarned because they have been judged by appearance and passed by as hopeless subjects. But, indifferent as they may appear, I have been shown that most of this class are soul-burdened. There are thousands of rich men who are starving for spiritual food. Many in official life feel their need of something which they have not. Few among them go to church, for they feel that they receive no benefit. The teaching they hear does not touch the soul. Shall we make no personal effort in their behalf? (6T 78.3)

 At GYC 2013, I presented a seminar entitled “Witnessing to the Wealthy, Worldly, and Well-Educated (W3s),” based on my experiences sharing Christ with MBAs, PhDs, JDs, and other highly successful professionals by engaging in spiritual conversations on a daily basis, some of which turned into personal Bible studies.

I was surprised and gratified by the groundswell of interest that people had in witnessing to this neglected group. It seemed that many of us have W3s in our lives, yet find it very difficult and even intimidating to talk with them about spiritual things.

In response to this need, a small group of us started the Nicodemus Society. We are a fellowship of committed Seventh-day Adventists who have a heart for reaching the W3s in our lives. We take our inspiration from Christ’s example of conversing with and ministering to Nicodemus, “a ruler of the Jews” and member of the Sanhedrin, who first came to Him by night.

Like W3s in our modern society, Nicodemus felt a need for what Jesus had, but was initially ashamed to approach him openly. Yet, Jesus ministered to him personally, and Nicodemus ultimately boldly came forward to bear the expenses of His burial and became a pillar of the early church, exerting his considerable means and influence to help spread the Gospel.

We are just getting started. Our intent is to build a community of SDAs who share this passion, and develop resources, programs, and opportunities to fellowship, learn, and become equipped to be powerful soul winners in the W3 community.

If you also have a heart for winning the Wealthy, Worldly, and Well-Educated, sign up for email updates at our website, visit our booth at GYC this year, and pray for God’s blessing and leading as we develop this ministry.

Nicodemus started out coming to Jesus in secret, but was transformed into a leader of the early church. It is our prayer that we would see this transformation in our own lives, and in the lives of the W3s around us.

13 Quotables from GYC 2014

13 Quotables from GYC 2014

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We collected some of the most quotable/tweetable/bloggable lines from the main meetings at this year’s GYC in Phoenix, Arizona.  It was hard to choose only thirteen—there are so many more we could have included!  

13.  “Jesus was not loaned, He was given.” (Pr. Kameron Devasher)

12.  “Today’s mantra is freedom, but it is Jesus Who offers ultimate freedom.” (Dr. Michael Hasel)

11.  “When Protestant leaders are going back to Catholicism, God is calling for a generation of young people to go back to the Bible.” (Pr. David Shin)

10.  “In this culture it is very popular to search and search and search.  But it is very unpopular to find the answer.” (Dr. Michael Hasel)

9.  “Lean hard.” (Natasha Nebblett)

8.  “It’s about time to put your faith into action.” (Esther Caukill)

7.  “It is only through connecting to the Bible that we can be fruitful and faithful in this age of faithlessness.” (Elder Ted Wilson)

6.  “Obedience has nothing to do with legalism and everything to do with loyalty.” (Pr. Kameron Devasher)

5.  “The DNA of our Adventist message is prophetic, not pathetic.” (Dr. Ingo Sorke)

4.  “…nevertheless.” (Pr. Adam Ramdin)

3.  “But God did the opposite of Adam.  He was willing to give up His most prized possession.” (Pr. Stephen Bohr)

2.  “The sanctuary is more than a doctrine.  It is to be a roadmap for doing theology.” (Pr. David Shin)

And perhaps the pithiest of them all:

1.  “It is OK to be SDA.” (Dr. Ingo Sorke)

 

Sacrificial Saving

Sacrificial Saving

As part of the closing charge at GYC 2014, I challenged attendees to give funds for mission work, from $1 and upward per week. I am absolutely convinced that the amount of money raised by young people through sacrificial saving, creative earning, or personal influence would be staggering if everyone were to do faithfully what they can.

In this post we’ll focus on the first of those three ways of funding God’s work: sacrificial saving.

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The prophet asks rhetorically in Isaiah 55:2, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?”

In our focus on its broader intent, we should not overlook the tremendous practical concern this question raises. How do we, as Seventh-day Adventists tasked with giving the Third Angel’s Message to the world, use our money? Are we making special efforts to economize and give liberally to the work of God or do we merely give sporadically of whatever is left after both our needs and wants have been satiated?

“There is altogether too much self-indulgence among us. Money is spent for that which is not bread. Let those who would please the Master listen to his words, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.’ Let us willingly practice these words, and we shall be blessed. If all that has been invested in self-gratification were counted up, the amount would astonish every church in the land.” (Review and Herald, November 14, 1899)

“We are all members of the Lord’s family, and the Lord would have His children, young and old, determine to deny appetite, and to save the means needed for the building of meetinghouses and the support of missionaries…Many would be surprised to see how much could be saved for the cause of God by acts of self-denial. The small sums saved by deeds of sacrifice will do more for the upbuilding of the cause of God than larger gifts will accomplish that have not called for denial of self.”  (Review and Herald, February 24, 1910)

To help ease you in to a life of sacrificial living, for one month try a few of the following and add up the money saved for Jesus.

1. Next time you go out to eat, do with just a tiny bit less. If you go to Taco Bell, get one less burrito; if you order a pizza, get one less topping. Combine those with an exchange of water for soda and you’ve got several dollars saved right there.

2. Also, drop coffee altogether. Not only is it physically and morally destructive, but in today’s caffeinated culture it isn’t even cheap! For example, eliminating just one drink from Starbucks a week would save you over $15 a month. (For a handy calculator for how much you spend on coffee, click here. Wouldn’t you rather give your money to the Lord instead of to big caffeine?)

3. While we’re on the subject of young people and saving money, let’s not forget entertainment.  If you simply must stream something to watch, swap out Netflix and Hulu for PBS. While public television definitely has shows to avoid, there are far more informative and edifying things there and without that pesky price tag. Of course, HOPE Channel, 3ABN, and many other Adventist media ministries stream and archive content free of charge, all of it positively helpful to your Christian walk.

4. And finally, since movie theaters are just as good for your character as coffee is for your heart, brain, stomach, and nerves, stop wasting your precious time and money there altogether, too.

1013619_10152726889697809_8905546408287417077_nAs you take steps toward a life of greater sacrifice, keep in mind the following promise: “The one who is a faithful steward is constantly giving, and God is constantly supplying that the channel shall not become dried up. But it is not the rich alone that are to sustain the cause of God in our world; those who have been blessed with the light of truth can learn to practice self-denial, and have something to give. All the little rivulets made to flow into the channel of doing good, blessing humanity, will keep the treasury supplied with means.” (Review and Herald, March 8, 1887)