• published a newsletter

    ReadYou Will Rise

    Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; When I fall, I will arise; When I sit in darkness, The Lord will be a light to me.” (Micah 7:8, NKJV) 


    Sometimes how well we rise after we fall makes the most significant difference in our lives. On April 13, 2015, men’s steeplechase race runner, Tanguy Pepiot from Oregon University thought he had the win in the bag. With the finish line in sight, he began raising his hands in excitement and got the fans in the stadium cheering. However, there was one important detail that Tanguy forgot; the race was not over. While Tanguy was celebrating, Meron Simon from the University of Washington continued running and in the final moments overtook Tanguy. To the crowd’s astonishment and Tanguy’s regret, Meron crossed the finish line first in the final seconds of the race. As my high school basketball coach once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” 


    In the book of Micah, the prophet cautioned God’s enemies about celebrating too early. Micah declared the defeat of God’s people through the destruction of Samaria and Jerusalem, however, the prophet warned the adversaries of God not to start their victory lap too soon. When Judah and Israel fell, the enemy was to resist gloating at the misfortune of God’s people, but why? The reason is God never forsakes those He loves, His chosen will rise again. Despite their defeat, the prophet expressed confidence that God would act in answer to prayer. How could Micah be so confident? He knew that God was trustworthy and faithful. God’s people who sit in sin’s darkness will experience the joy of forgiveness through the light of God’s grace. Although Judah and Israel have failed, their failure does not need to define their future; they will rise again!


    In your life, are you running a race that you believe you are losing? Have you experienced defeat in areas that you thought you would have victory? Maybe defeat from the pressure of needing to feel accepted by others, maybe the need to get it all done, maybe you recently accepted Jesus but are facing more trials than ever before. Through Christ, any defeat the enemy seeks to celebrate in your life is only short lived; God promises that you will rise again! God can turn your moments of disappointment into milestones of deliverance. Ellen White writes, “And He will not permit any soul to be disappointed who is sincere in his longing for something higher and nobler than anything the world can offer.” [1] Whatever has caused you to fall, trust in the perpetual promise that you will rise again!


    Reflect

    • When have you celebrated too quickly? 
    • Like Meron Simon, has there been a time when you were doing better than you thought you were?
    • Through God, your failure does not need to define your future. How does that make you feel?
    • Fill in the blank, “Even though             (recent failure)           , God promises I will rise again!”
    1. published a newsletter

      ReadA Better Resurrection

      “Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.” (Hebrews 11:35, NKJV)

       

      Through Christ the grave was not simply postponed, it was put away. In their book, The God Conversation, Moreland and Muehlhoff illustrate the universal desire for a story to end on a happy note. "And they lived happily ever after" is a constant refrain in fairy tales, films, and love songs. Our well-meaning friends tell us, "It's going to be all right!"[1] This desire for a “happily ever after” experience seems deeply embedded within us. This weekend Southern Adventist University and the University Church had the awe-inspiring opportunity to participate in the SonRise pageant, but what would SonRise be without Christ’s resurrection? What would SonRise be without a hopeful ending?

       

      In Hebrews, the apostle Paul alludes to women in the Bible who experienced hope on the other side of tragedy. Women who tragically lost their loved ones only to embrace them again through the miracle of resurrection. Such blessed women include the widow of Zarephath and the Shunammite woman; both experienced the sorrow of losing their sons only to experience the joy of seeing them being raised to life again through the power of God. What could be better than that? Surprisingly, Paul continues writing and makes an unexpected turn by stating “others” who were tortured and not delivered will experience a “better resurrection” - what could he possibly mean?

       

      To make sense of it all, Paul appears to be referring to two categories of faithful people. The first group of people have faith and witness a resurrection, but the “others” also have faith and their lives go in an unexpected direction. Perhaps the reason is, no matter how spectacular it was for each of the women to receive their loved one’s back to life, each of them were still subjected to pain, suffering, disease and death; the grave was put off but not yet put away. Christ’s resurrection is better because it brings victory over the eternal grave. Christ’s resurrection means no more pain, suffering, disease or death, and an eternal happily ever after.

       

      Ellen White writes, “To the afflicted ones I would say, be of good comfort in the hope of the resurrection morning…”[2] May this resurrection weekend remind us that Christ provides the better resurrection, which saves us both from both the penalty and the power of the second death.

       

      Reflect

      • Based on your current circumstances, whose experience can you relate to more and why?
      • Write a note to God expressing your feelings about Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
      • How can you focus on the “better resurrection” this resurrection weekend?


      [1] J.P. Moreland and Tim Muehlhoff, The God Conversation: Using Stories and Illustrations to Explain Your Faith (IVP Books, 2017), page 151.

       

      [2] Ellen Gould White, Selected Messages From the Writings of Ellen G. White, Book 2 (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1958), 273.

      1. Amen Pastor Joseph. I like the reality of the opening statement "Through Christ the grave was not simply postponed, it was put away." May the LORD bless your ministry.
    2. “Even If” Faith

      “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10, NIV)  


      “But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”” (Daniel 3:18, NIV) 


      God may not always save us from the fire, but He will be with us through the fire. Last week our campus heard the remarkable story of Kechi Okwuchi at Convocation. As shared in the Southern Accent, Kechi was one of two passengers who survived a plane crash that took the lives of 107 individuals in 2005. She tragically suffered third-degree burns on 65 percent of her body due to that accident, yet she refused to allow her pain to limit her purpose. Kechi currently advocates for several organizations including the United Nations Foundation #TOGETHERBAND project. 


      Do not be surprised if a trial is kindled while you are in the midst of trusting in God. In Daniel 3, King Nebuchadnezzar tests the faith of three Hebrew young adults. The King commands Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to bow down to his golden image or pay the ultimate price and be thrown into the fire. Their response to the King was immediate. They knew God had the power to save, but they continued and said, “even if He does not.” You see, it is easy to be faithful when God answers our prayers according to our expectations, but what happens when He doesn’t? An even if faith says, “I am going to trust anyway, I am going to be faithful anyway, and I am going to believe anyway.” Even when we are facing the furnace, we can choose to have an even if faith!


      As you experience your faith being tested your sorrows can also be a catalyst that turns your face from the fiery trial to the caring face of the Savior. “True virtue never appears so lovely as when it is most oppressed, and the divine excellency of real Christianity is never exhibited with such advantage as when under the greatest trials.”1] During times of great trial our desire is for God to save us from the fire, but He sometimes wants to reveal that He can also save us through the fire.


      Reflect

      • Is there any area of your life where you feel you faith is being tested? It could be your studies, family, finances, health or relationships.
      • How may God be calling you to have an “even if” kind of faith in your situation?
      • Complete this sentence, “Even if _____________, I will still trust God!” 
      1. Rescue Me, O God

        “I am suffering and in pain. Rescue me, O God, by your saving power. Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honor him with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 69:29–30, NLT) 

         

        Praying in times of pain is as important as praising God in times of deliverance. In her book Troubled Minds, Amy Simpson reveals the following highlights from her survey about dealing with mental illness in the church. Simpson reveals nearly half (44.5 Percent) of church leaders are approached two to five times per year for help in dealing with mental illness. She also emphasizes when Christians are on medication or diagnosed with a mental illness, over a third of Christians keep the matter very private. Unfortunately, there is an unbiblical belief held by some churches which equates emotional distress with a lack of faith.


        In Psalm 69, we find David praying while experiencing intense suffering. Instead of keeping his pain private, David describes his stress to God in painstaking detail. He declares how he cried out so intensely that his “throat” feels like it is burning; he mentions that his inner being is ablaze; he feels he cannot go on because his eyes are “failing” after shedding so many tears. Yet even though David is in emotional distress, He is still holding onto faith by seeking God. For David, emotional pain did not lead to distrust in God - it gloriously pointed him to God. It appears Christians can shed tears and hold onto God at the same time.


        Even though David’s tears made it difficult to see how God was going to rescue him, he was still filled with hope by looking forward to the day that God would act. By commenting on this chapter Ellen White writes, “Let His [God’s] love take possession of mind and heart. Guard against becoming overwearied, careworn, depressed. Bear an uplifting testimony. Turn your eyes away from that which is dark and discouraging, and behold Jesus…” Seeking God in times of pain also prepares our hearts to praise Him during times of rescue. “The humble shall see this and be glad; And you who seek God, your hearts shall live.” (Psalm 69:32, NKJV)


        Reflect

        • Have you ever felt the emotional intensity that David described? A burning throat, fever-like symptoms or the inability to control tears? When? What was this like?
        • If you are in a season of suffering or pain, find someone with whom you can share your struggles with. Choose someone who will listen well and pray for you.
        • If you are in a fruitful season, you may know someone to whom you can reach out with a listening ear and a heartfelt prayer.


        Ellen Gould White, Maranatha, The Lord Is Coming (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1976), 159.

        1. published a newsletter

          ReadClothe Yourself

          “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12, NIV


          This week students, faculty and staff at Southern Adventist University have been gathering each night for Student Week of Prayer. From the heartfelt responses of students, the presence of the Holy Spirit has been evident as students have led in song, prayer and preaching centered around the theme of clothing ourselves with the character of Christ based on Colossians 3:12.


          In this verse, Paul reminds believers that even though God originally chose the nation of Israel to be His people, being chosen in Christ is not based on what they are ethnically but whose they are spiritually. The believers in Colossae are to consider themselves holy and dearly loved by God, practicing virtues that are countercultural to the world around them.


          Today, many accomplished athletes sign lucrative sports deals with well-known companies. Basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan has made over $1 billion from his deal with Nike (that is nine zeros.) Large companies have famous athletes wear their shoes, clothing, gloves, and hats. What is the goal? To have their chosen athlete covered by their brand from head-to-toe. 


          As God’s chosen, Paul urges us to dress "head-to-toe" in Christ's wardrobe. His clothes are made of the finest materials known as compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Ellen White writes, “The Saviour longs to save the young. He would rejoice to see them around His throne, clothed in the spotless robes of His righteousness.”


          Reflect

          • In what ways are you clothing yourself with the characteristics of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience? 
          • In what ways do you fall short in putting on the character of Christ? 
          • If you were totally honest with yourself, are you more concerned about what you wear outwardly than how you clothe yourself inwardly? Genuinely talk to God about the things you wish you could understand about being more like Christ.


           Ellen Gould White, God’s Amazing Grace (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1973), 287.

          1. Clothe Yourself

            “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12, NIV) 


            This week students, faculty and staff at Southern Adventist University have been gathering each night for Student Week of Prayer. From the heartfelt responses of students, the presence of the Holy Spirit has been evident as students have led in song, prayer and preaching centered around the theme of clothing ourselves with the character of Christ based on Colossians 3:12.


            In this verse, Paul reminds believers that even though God originally chose the nation of Israel to be His people, being chosen in Christ is not based on what they are ethnically but whose they are spiritually. The believers in Colossae are to consider themselves holy and dearly loved by God, practicing virtues that are countercultural to the world around them.


            Today, many accomplished athletes sign lucrative sports deals with well-known companies. Basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan has made over $1 billion from his deal with Nike (that is nine zeros.) Large companies have famous athletes wear their shoes, clothing, gloves, and hats. What is the goal? To have their chosen athlete covered by their brand from head-to-toe. 


            As God’s chosen, Paul urges us to dress "head-to-toe" in Christ's wardrobe. His clothes are made of the finest materials known as compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Ellen White writes, “The Saviour longs to save the young. He would rejoice to see them around His throne, clothed in the spotless robes of His righteousness.”


            Reflect

            • In what ways are you clothing yourself with the characteristics of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience? 
            • In what ways do you fall short in putting on the character of Christ? 
            • If you were totally honest with yourself, are you more concerned about what you wear outwardly than how you clothe yourself inwardly? Genuinely talk to God about the things you wish you could understand about being more like Christ.


             Ellen Gould White, God’s Amazing Grace (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1973), 287.

            1. Agape Love

              “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16, NLT


              Love is tested by our ability to show it without seeking anything in return. On September 16, 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached one of the greatest sermons on counter-cultural love at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. The sermon is titled, “Levels of Love” whereby he sets a thesis on one of the most misunderstood expressions today, love. Dr. King preached that the highest form of love both displayed and described in the Bible is agape. During his sermon he provided a contemporary application by stating, “The person may be tall, or the person may be short. The person may be light, or the person may be dark. The person may be rich, or the person may be poor. The person may be up and in; the person may be down and out. The person may be white; the person may be black. The person may be Jew; the person may be Gentile…[but] you come to the point of loving every man and becomes an all-inclusive love. It is the love of God operating in the human heart.” 


              Dr. King was often attacked for his nonviolent approach, his incorporation of agape during the Civil Rights movement was frequently labeled as weak and sentimental. However, Dr. King believed that agape love was not at all weak, but one of the strongest powers that could be experienced, “It is a very stern love that would organize itself into collective action to right a wrong by taking on itself suffering.” The apostle John also describes “real love” as being strong through the ultimate act of self-sacrifice demonstrated by Jesus on the cross. Such love, real agape love, does something that no other love can do; it causes us to love others without seeking anything in return.


              REFLECT

              • What does the apostle John mean when he says, “So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters?”
              • What opportunities can you take to love your neighbor as yourself?
              • How can you help foster a community not just for the hurt and mistreated, but a community of the hurt and mistreated?


              1. published a newsletter

                ReadAgape Love

                “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16, NLT) 


                Love is tested by our ability to show it without seeking anything in return. On September 16, 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached one of the greatest sermons on counter-cultural love at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA. The sermon is titled, “Levels of Love” whereby he sets a thesis on one of the most misunderstood expressions today, love. Dr. King preached that the highest form of love both displayed and described in the Bible is agape. During his sermon he provided a contemporary application by stating, “The person may be tall, or the person may be short. The person may be light, or the person may be dark. The person may be rich, or the person may be poor. The person may be up and in; the person may be down and out. The person may be white; the person may be black. The person may be Jew; the person may be Gentile…[but] you come to the point of loving every man and becomes an all-inclusive love. It is the love of God operating in the human heart.” 


                Dr. King was often attacked for his nonviolent approach, his incorporation of agape during the Civil Rights movement was frequently labeled as weak and sentimental. However, Dr. King believed that agape love was not at all weak, but one of the strongest powers that could be experienced, “It is a very stern love that would organize itself into collective action to right a wrong by taking on itself suffering.”[1] The apostle John also describes “real love” as being strong through the ultimate act of self-sacrifice demonstrated by Jesus on the cross. Such love, real agape love, does something that no other love can do; it causes us to love others without seeking anything in return.


                REFLECT

                • What does the apostle John mean when he says, “So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters?”
                • What opportunities can you take to love your neighbor as yourself?
                • How can you help foster a community not just for the hurt and mistreated, but a community of the hurt and mistreated?