Friday, June 8, 2018

Violating the Third Commandment

Once in a while someone pops up to take a shot at the kind of Christian witnesses who proclaim the message that we are "...saved by faith in Christ, not by works lest any should boast." Why this message makes some brethren angry, I will never understand, but it does.

We keep rejecting the message of righteousness by faith. 1888 was the first time and there has been resistance every time since to it's proclamation.
I saw it int the 60s and 70s. Righteousness by faith was always a little too loosey-goosey for some of the brethren, preferring the stick to the carrot a little too fondly I think. The authoritarian wing of the church has never quite trusted God to keep the troops in line simply through the power of a deep relationship with him. Like the Roman church, they think we need to insert some "leadership" between ourselves and the Almighty.

They need centralized power and strict rules with strict enforcement or they fear all sorts of rule-breaking horror will break out. They measure hemlines. They tell us how deep could be the water we could wade in on Sabbath. Any deeper than the knees and we'd be considered swimming which would be a sin, I was told. They had big discussions about whether it was moral or not to roller skate to music.They didn't just give a hard time to champions of righteousness by faint like Morris Venden. They tried to run Ron Halvorsen Sr. out of my little town. The same sort of folks even criticized HMS Richards Sr. for being too excited about righteousness by faith and felt he should spend more time preaching on the law. Even poor Del Delker was attacked for singing with young men with guitars and banjos. They went after anyone who placed any emphasis on righteousness by faith or who questioned church authority or encouraged young people, thereby endangering their authority.

Ron Halvorsen Sr.
What a group of Keenites from the church I grew up in did to Morris Venden was Satanic and these people believed they were doing it all for Jesus. As though Jesus needed them to act as some kind of security force. For the same "crime" of not emphasizing the law, they also went after Ron Halvorsen Sr.. Both those men filled the church to the rafters. I never left a sermon by either of them that I didn't feel that I was going home to heaven one day. This group of "saints" hated both men. Why? I believe it was because both men appealed directly to the members without deference to that good old boys network of power brokers. I fear that what one dear saint said to me once is true, "What we need in this church is a visit from the Grim Reaper." 

James and Ellen White
We have a serious problem in the church and it isn't with the likes of Morris Venden. After the manipulation by Elder Butler at 1888 GC meeting to suppress the message of righteousness by faith, James and Ellen White wrote that they no longer had confidence that the GC administration spoke with authority for God to the church. Shortly after James died the GC wrangled an invitation to Ellen to go to Australia. She did, but when she came back, she was no less the warrior for Christ. God had already burned down the GC's power base in Battle Creek and forced it to move to Silver Springs. On her return, Sr. White led a minor revolt at the 1903 GC and the members of the church created the union conferences to divest the central administration of much of its power. Ellen said angels walked the aisles at that conference. With this new "unity in diversity" model the church spread around the world like wildfire until our tiny church had the second largest parochial education system in the world, a huge medical work, a massive publishing work and the largest mission work in the Protestant world.

HMS Richards Sr.
Since then, the authoritarians keep trying to recover their power. They use manipulation, bullying, "working policies" and subterfuge to try and accomplish what they think God wants. And the membership keeps resisting. Why? Because they know Christ and they recognize the enemy when he is among them. We may love our children

I believe it's a clear violation of the second commandment that is happening here at the end of time. There's a reason God put that command early on the list. The second commandent is not about cussing. It's about thinking to speak for God when He has given you no such authorization to speak for Him. To invoke his name in vain just to justify your own ambition and lust for power, is a mighty sin. It's the very sin that brought down Lucifer.

Jesus' followers are the meek, the kind and the unassuming. That doesn't mean they won't get up on their hind legs and fight you when you seek to rule God's church or to turn it into an image of the authoritarianism of the Beast. We imitate Christ. He is our master. When you ask yourself, "What would Jesus do?", remember. That might involve flipping over the money-changers' tables and cracking a few whips. And our role model in that was NOT a member of the Sanhedrin at the time.

God bless us all. Unity in diversity is the way forward! We follow Christ, not jumped up middle managers. No one must place themselves between us and Him. I would not want to answer for that before the judgment throne of God.

Yours in Christ,

Tom King

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Agape - Transformative Love

There is a Youtube channel called "CS Lewis Doodle".
  It offers essays by Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis with accompanying illustrative drawings. It's a fascinating way of presenting Lewis' many essays on Christian theology, history and ethics.  The site recently released the final chapter of Lewis' broadcast on "The Four Loves". I sat down this afternoon and watched the presentation on "Agape", the Christian kind of love - the kind God wants to give you.

I realize that CS Lewis disagrees with me on some points of theology. Be that as it may, I do believe he was a brilliant man and had an incredible ability to make sense of the Christian faith, even for atheists, agnostics and backslidden Christians.

If you haven't seen them, you should listen to all four in order, but the one I saw today on "Agape" or God's love, was stunning. A lot of things I have picked up in my lifelong study of scripture came together in this essay by Lewis. It was one of those rare things where a window to the Divine is opened up. It explained so much about how the natural loves (storge, philios, and eros as Lewis labels them) are incomplete unless transformed by God's love (agape) which is freely given to us if we will accept. 

Turns out what prevents us from receiving it is our own pride. We think we need to deserve it and therefore we think that we must also deserve the other kinds of love and that intern, those upon whom we bestow natural love must deserve our love. This makes love a business transaction and if we don't feel the transaction was to our benefit, then we become angry because we didn't get what we deserved.

Equipped by God with Agape (Godly love), we no longer need to get our money's worth from love. I highly recommend you see the whole series of four broadcasts and pay close attention to the last one on Agape. It's the payoff and it's transformative.

© 2018 by Tom King

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Are Adventists Racists?

My Daughter (top left) with some of her Adventist Youth Group

Once in a while some well-meaning college student (usually white but not always), raises the charge that the SDA church is racist.
They're often already on their way out of the church for other reasons (dress, diet, the Sabbath cramps their style, someone's bony finger, etc.), but on their way out they fire a Parthian shot at the Region Conferences. Region Conferences are a remnant of the Jim Crow South at a time when mixed congregations could find their churches burned down around them by the Klan. It seemed safer to give our black members their own churches. After all, there were a lot of black SDAs in the South since one of the first mission fields Adventist saturated was the antebellum South. We got into a lot of trouble for it. We were teaching black children to read and training black teachers and nurses and Nathan Bedford Forrest and his ilk didn't like it.

So, I'd like to 'splain about Region Conferences as best as I know what happened!  Now, I know I'm going to probably get hammered here but here goes. I grew up in the South in the 60s and early 70s. I went to schools with kids of all races, many from the far side of the world. I went to college in my home town. My former college president at Southwestern Adventist University, the inimitable Leroy Leiske, had come from a conference president's job in one of the Southern Conferences. While there he attempted to integrate the administration. Sadly, there was some serious racial discomfort among the white brethren with that idea back then. The Klan was still active then and the SDA church was already in enough trouble with its Bible Belt neighbors. The powers that be feared change. Months into his administration, Elder Leiske got run off for his hiring policies. He then came to Texas to become president of what was then Southwestern Union College. He wasn't an academic. He was a reformer and Texas was apparently ready for some reformation. And even if they weren't, Uncle Leroy was bringing it. In just a few years he almost seamlessly integrated the school. Because the denominations only predominantly black school, Oakwood, was far off in the deep South, Leiske convinced some brave black students to give Southwestern a try. He recruited quite a few black, Asian and Hispanic students and I don't remember any real racial problems on campus. No riots. No cross-burnings. A friend of mine who was half black and half white told me he felt like he didn't quite fit in either the white or black groups on campus, but that was more an artifact of unfamiliarity than of any overt racism. And he was the perfect guy to cross the racial divide, since white, black and Hispanic girls all thought he was awfully handsome. There may have been some hard core racism, but if so I never heard about it and would have been against it if I had.  Much more I remember the student body in general embraced the new students.

Several times in Texas it was proposed that the Region Conference be blended into the Texas Conference. The conference already had a group of Hispanic churches within the Texas Conference and specific conference secretaries who were designated to care for the Hispanic churches. The Region Conferences, however, have resisted blending with the regular conferences, largely for cultural reasons. Also, there was some feeling that blacks, especially during the Civil Rights movement, might lose some control over their churches. Since then blacks have moved freely between black churches and white churches. Whites often attend black churches and lots of Adventist couples intermarry now that racism has let up so much in the South.

When I went to school back then in the late 60s and 70s bunches of us used to go to the black churches pretty regularly - easier to stay awake if you'd been in the middle of mid-terms and not been getting much sleep. We were welcomed in black churches when we came to visit. They used to tease us white kids about not expecting to get out of service at noon. And black people were welcomed in the so-called "white" churches. I'm sure there were some jerks in the white congregations, but mostly there was love. I know a pastor who was a neighbor of mine who had serious racial prejudice all of his life. He lost his minister's license in part because of it. He lived in Keene and ever once in a while, if a black minister preached in the Keene Church pulpit, he would pop up in some meeting to express his outrage. There were always plenty of people of all colors, including me, who stood up and told him he was out of line. Ex-Voice of Prophecy Quartet member John Thurber fully integrated his Adventist Youth in Action teams and nobody said a word. If they did they were marginalized pretty quickly by the rest of us..

Today in the Texas Conference there are Hispanic Adventist Churches, Black Adventist Churches and "Regular" Adventist Churches. I haven't seen a "White" SDA church in 40 years. My 2 home churches in Tyler and Keene are veritable rainbows when you look out across the congregations. The college draws kids from every corner of the Earth to Keene and I grew up in the 60s not knowing how to be racist. My grandmother used to make little comments, but my sister and I didn't let her get away with it. Even she opened up to the idea that black people were okay. As a nurse she had many black co-workers she was friendly with despite her firm non-Adventist racist upbringing.

In Tyler, we had some white people but they were becoming a minority. We had a whole lot of Filipinos, black people, Hispanic folk, and Asians. The rest of us were mutts of one sort or another. We Adventists have astonishingly little racism in our blood, even in the South. It didn't last long when openly challenged. We know better. We were brought up better than that. We sang "Red and Yellow, Black and White" we sang every Sabbath in Kindergarten and Cradle Roll and we believed it. Anything else was a shock to us as we grew up.

As a people, we Adventists flock to do mission work. My Uncle ran mission schools in Hawaii and Thailand for most of his career. I went to SWAU with some of his former students. We watch mission updates every month showing work we are doing in every corner of the work.Retired missionaries occupy honored seats in most of our North American churches, a living witness against racism. Church boards usually look quite colorful. In Tyler we had a black church, a Hispanic church and the Tyler church which took in the overflow from both of our sister churches and folk from cultures not covered by either. Our Hispanic churches are about language mostly. Our Black churches are mostly about culture and worship style. Racism has nothing to do with it. That Jim Crow influenced generation is long gone. It's so rare to find an SDA racist that we tend to swarm them like a righteously indignant flock of Guinea Hens on a rattlesnake.

My church is not in the least racist. It's against everything that we are as a people who expect the soon coming of Christ.

© 2018 by Tom King

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Debating the Sabbath - Doug and Steve Go At It Politely!

On March 30, Amazing Facts hosted a debate about the Sabbath between Pastor Doug Batchelor and Pastor Steve Gregg, a radio pastor there in California.
Adventists used to do this kind of thing a lot back in the late 19th century. It usually didn't result in a lot of conversion since the sides were pretty well drawn among the audiences who showed up for those things. Eventually, SDA ministers gave up doing it, because, though they buried their opponents in scripture, not a lot of hearts seemed to respond to seeing their preacher suffer a theological beat-down. I was curious as to how Pastor Doug was going to handle the debate format.

We watched the debate twice yesterday. My wife had no trouble understanding what Pastor Doug presented, but she got really lost listening to Pastor Gregg. Was he really saying there is no law for "New Testament" Christians, only what they feel the law is in their hearts? She had to listen to it twice and still couldn't follow the intricacies of his argument. I generally find that subtlety of argument is not a common feature of Scripture. Stuff tends to be pretty plain and straightforward. The prophet Habakkuk (Hab. 2:2) was told by God to "Write the vision, and make it plain on tablets, that he who runs may read it." In other words, simple enough for a billboard. While I do enjoy deep theology, at the same time I find it difficult to accept the kind of theological gymnastics that results in it being okay for us to not be "these are they who keep the commandments and have the faith of Jesus," but to just decide whether or not I can skip over commandments I don't care for.

Pastor Gregg pointed out that the ten commandments weren't exactly original and that some version of the law had been enacted by Hammurabi and other ancient rulers.  Pastor Steve seemed that this somehow made the ten commandments less an eternal law and more of a temporary thing God laid on the Jews for a while. The fact that Hammurabi or other ancients were aware of some of the other commandments doesn't mean the ten on stone were derivative.

Of course people were aware of the laws of God prior to Mt. Sinai. We are built as human beings to know that we should not steal, lie, kill or be greedy. It's that God-shaped hole in us that keeps man trying to fill it with gods of His own making. Even the first four commandments can be found in religions pre-dating Sinai, though some of them are arguably much more severe in the penalty phase than the Exodus version. Lately in our culture, we've been trying to shove gods who look like us into that empty space. Many even try to fill that God-shaped hole with themselves. "I am god!" is even used in some of the more ineffective forms of psychotherapy.

Pastor Gregg's concept of the new covenant seems like part and parcel of the original deception in Eden - that our souls are immortal and if we know about good and evil, that's all we need to become little gods ourselves. It follows then that we can make up our own laws if there is no law except some nebulous personal extrapolation of "treat others the way you want to be treated." Reminds me of the 60s when the theme was "If it feels good, do it!"

The law, someone has said, is a teacher. Do we kill the teacher and put the children in charge of the classroom? Pastor Gregg also conflates the law of Moses and the Ten Commandments with the covenants old and new. The covenants were a separate thing from the law. The old covenant was the agreement between the Israelites and God where they agreed to obey the law in their own strength. That covenant was proposed by Israel, not by God. Even then, God meant for them to be bound by the new covenant which was basically, trust me and I will help you obey the law through My strength. The new covenant is restated repeatedly in the Old Testament, but it took Jesus' sacrifice to seal it with his people. It took the death of the Son of God for us to believe what God was offering to us.

I don't believe in magic - that God waves a wand and suddenly we know right from wrong and can think to change times and laws based on our own feelings. People aren't made like that. I do believe in the supernatural - God above nature, outside of time and space and encompassing our physical universe and existence. I believe a relationship with the creator of the universe will change our hearts. It works because we are connected to Him who is beyond nature who draws us upward to Himself. We're just now in the past few decades learning how the human mind works. New therapy techniques look more and more like the kind of things Christians have been doing for two millenia in order to have peace within and to become better people. Jesus, because He is the Creator, understood how our minds work and how to build his church so that what we do helps us become one with the Father and suited to live forever without messing up the universe again.

The law is a critical part of that sanctification process. The ten commandments obviously were in effect prior to Mt. Sinai and remind us of what should have been had we not rebelled in Eden. The Mosaic Law pointed forward to Christ in every detail of its services. When Christ came, he brought us back to the original natural law of God as spelled out in the commandments.

When John said "These are they who keep the commandments," he could have meant no other commandments than the Decalogue, that was written on stone. What is different now is that God has written those commandments upon our hearts this time. We must agree to the terms of the New Covenant in order for that to happen. God says he changes not. I seriously doubt He is going to revise his commandments or revoke them.

Doing away with the Law would seem to me a surrender to Satan's original proposal - that there be no law and everyone gets to be a god and decide for himself what laws to obey. I do not hold to that. And as this philosophy takes hold and the Christian world comes together around the idea that we can change the law and our behavior to suit our own feelings, I aim to misbehave. Already in Europe you can be fined and/or jailed for mowing your grass on Sunday or washing your car. The Protestant churches are beginning to run home to Rome. Meanwhile an "I'm okay/you're okay" theology is gaining ground, while the spiritualists and earth worshippers are infiltrating every corner of our culture and religion.

Do you see it coming?

© 2018 by Tom King

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Lyin' For the Lord - Does Politics "Trump" Religion

I got a post with this copy of a supposed official email the other day. Not sure who sent it, but several friends passed it along asking me to pray because apparently, the Pope had got together with President Trump and the Republican Congress and they were going to pass a National Sunday Law this month. It said that President Ted Wilson was asking all Adventists to pray and have a revival at 7am or 7pm to pray for the latter rain.

It's a fake. Wilson never said such a thing. Praying twice a day might well be a good thing for all Christians, it's sort of a waste if you're praying about something that's not real. It would be like praying God end the famine in America. What would be the point. Our poor people are fat.

I suspect that this post was created by one of our dear Democrat church members who have been losing their minds over Donald Trump's election since 2016.  Now I do know that the Pope is urging all Catholics, Unions, Protestants and Evangelicals to work to pass Sunday Laws in their own countries. They've been doing that for a century now. And he's made headway in places like Europe where you can be arrested for mowing your grass on Sunday in Germany, but then who would actually be surprised that Germany would be the first to fall?  But writing fake stories like the one up there at the top of the page, kind of reminds me of the tactics one of the disciples used to help Jesus along. That did not end well.

I sent word to my friends after I got the post that it was a fake, because I knew they'd want to know. Most of the guys I know are good guys. They are sweet and trusting people that unscrupulous people like to take advantage of to promote whatever religious or political agenda they think isn't being promoted well enough. But none of them ever want to pass along fake stories. We remember the story of Judas too well. I remember the pastor some of the good church members made up lies about because they figured God needed them to get rid of a pastor who preached about righteousness by faith and not enough about the law. Same deal.

I write religious and political weblogs, so I check sources before I pass the info along by habit. I never have figured out how people can make up a lie like that and think it forwards the cause of spreading the gospel. It's very like those hell fire and damnation preachers who think that frightening people into the pews is a good method of winning souls for Jesus. 

These guys seem to think God needs a better propaganda machine or something is all I can figure. Either that or they are working for the father of lies directly. Anyway, when I see this stuff pass through my friends and land in my email or on my timeline, I tell them its a hoax. I try not to hurt their feelings, but I'm certain they would want to know if what they were sending their friends and loved ones was a falsehood.  I almost added "however well-intentioned they might be". The trouble is that the act of making that sort of thing up, thinking to control the narrative on behalf of God, is not well-intentioned.  Judas tried to manipulate events to speed up Jesus' coronation as Israel's king and look how badly that turned out.

My friends usually get this stuff from a dear friend themselves; one who has also been fooled because they got it from a trusted friend and that trusted friend got it from a trusted friend and so on and so on. It's cruel to lie to someone who trusts you and whoever starts these things is the one who is to blame, not those who trusted him. I don't think badly of trusting souls who get fooled by these kinds of holy hoaxes. I try to let them know if they've been taken in by a fake. I actually have a lot of friends who message me once in a while asking if some post they received is legit. I'm happy to tell them. Now if I just could figure out how to gey paid to do that, I'd have a full time job. As it is, I just count it as my good deed for the day. I would have checked the story for myself anyway had it come directly to me.

And I admit, It does give me a little satisfaction to disrupt these people's deceptions. I consider myself and my work as a kind of antibiotic for hoaxes. The disease is an old one, from the first Sunday Law by Constantine to Jonathan Edwards' sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" (which I was forced to read in high school literature class) to the 1888 and 2015 General Conferences where data was manipulated "for our own good". Church power brokers have not been above massaging the data and telling stories to manipulate the brethren to do what they want. It's usually about power. 

With some hoaxes, however, it's about feeling superior to the rubes who fall for it. There's a so-called Adventist satire website called "Barely Adventist"* that serves as a source for many of these rumors. They claim to be satire, but unlike actual satire, the stories they write are often more like "gotcha" pieces to see how gullible you are. True satire is broad farce and it's easy to figure out whether or not the information in the story is factual or not. These guys seem to be laughing at any trusting soul who falls for the gag.

I figure I'd hate to be in the shoes of the people who create lies about God at the judgment. The Third Commandment is not about using curse words. It's entirely about taking God's name and place for yourself. Lying to "help" yourself feel powerful or (worse) to improve God's image is what "Take not the name of the Lord thy God in vain," is talking about.

I can hear the dialogue when these guys stand before the throne of God. I figure a lot of them will say something like, "But God, I made up lies to prove your prophecies were right. I made up miracles to prove you were powerful and do miracles. I made up sappy stories to prove you were a loving God. I made up stories to prove that if you just ask, You will make us rich. I made up stories to reveal the gullibility of your sheep that we might laugh at them and they might learn to be as wise as serpents."

And I expect God will say something like, "Depart from me ye workers of iniquity. I don't remember ever hiring a PR guy or a comedian to do evil in My name!"

© 2018 by Tom King

* I deliberately did not include the link to "Barely Adventist". You'll have to Google it yourself. Occasionally, they have something actually funny, but most of the time they merely mock the longing of God's people for His coming and for signs that it is soon. They are in my view the SDA equivalent of the "satire" site Babylon Bee which is also not an actual satire. Both are more like prank sites and I find pranks a cruel kind of humor.

** I went to check on the Barely Adventist site just now and the site was offline. I did not weep.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

A Threefold Deception

The Devil's Divide and Conquer Strategy for Taking Down the SDA Church

Every issue of the Adventist Review of late seems to have an article about church unity lately. Either that or they are advertising another conference to talk about church unity. To an outside observer the Adventist church would appear to have a unity problem. Already observers in the religious community are gleefully predicting that Adventism will fracture into two or even three factions. I've heard numbers as high as five groups.

I'm not going to dignify that bit of wishful thinking with an answer. Are we having a unity problem. Well, duh!  What organization of people doesn't face "unity" problems. Adventism has had unity problems from it's founding. The church is, itself, and offshoot of the Millerite movement of the early 1800s. We fought to achieve unity through Bible study conferences and with the guidance of God's messenger throughout our formative years.

We faced our first unity crisis in the years between 1888 and 1903 when the message of righteousness by faith was emphasized at the 1888 General Conference. Ellen and James White supported the message as coming from God. Then GC president G.I. Butler, however, resisted the emphasis, believing that emphasizing the law was the correct approach to evangelism. He manipulated the 1888 conference so as to suppress the righteousness by faith message. Sister White was harsh in her criticism of the GC administration warning Butler and his successors against attempting to wield the power of kings and princes over the little flock.  The General Conference asked her to go to Australia as a missionary.

It's interesting that Sister White prayed about the call and never could get an answer from God one way or another. Despite her age, she accepted the call and wound up spending nearly a decade in the land down under, far from the General Conference and it's operations much to their relief. But when she returned, she returned in full voice. At the 1903 General Conference she came out in support of creating Union Conference as a way to decentralize church authority. At one point in the lead up to the conference she publicly stated that she no longer had confidence that the General Conference spoke as the voice of God to the church.

The measure carried in 1903 and the GC administration was placed in a much less powerful position. The new principle from 1903 on was "unity in diversity" and authority was distributed to the unions that had belonged to the GC administration.  The GC has long been uncomfortable operating in that fashion and has steadily attempted to regain some of it's power over the past century. Since the Union Conferences were responsible to the local conferences, the GC created divisions which report to the GC. The GC Working Policy attempted to restore power to Silver Springs. In the San Antonio Conference we saw a repeat of the 1888 General Conference with the proceedings being manipulated to achieve an outcome with which the GC administration was comfortable. More authority was transferred back to the GC. Since San Antonio, we've had a Unity Conference at which retired SDA historian George Knight delivered his memorable paper on church authority and which closed with the issue of unity still not resolved to GC president Ted Wilson's satisfaction. More unity meetings have followed to little effect.

The Devil has initiated a three prong attack on the church designed to divide the faithful.

1. The Orthodox SDA Position
- This group opposes women's ordination and firmly believes the position is Biblical.

2. The Liberal SDA Position - This group thinks the last three SDA Bible Conferences on women's ordination were correct and that women's ordination is not against the teaching of the Bible.

3. The GC Administration Position - This group sees the needs to centralize authority in the General Conference administration in order to maintain church unity.
There is a way to bring the church back to a powerful unity in diversity as was intended and approved by the 1903 GC and Ellen White. 

1.  We need to return authority to local churches, local conferences and union conferences. This will give the church body greater flexibility to address both problems and opportunities. Centralized authority creates an organization that is easier to behead. We are approaching a time when the church will need to be able to operate without a General Conference administration. We need to learn how to do that.

2.  We should redefine the role of the pastor. In the early church, pastors were local elders, chosen by the church and responsible for teaching and with deacons and elders whose job it was to take care of their little flocks.  We call our pastors "elders" for a reason. They might be lay pastors trained to handle administrative issues and to care for their congregations. This can even be a job done by a team of local members. In fact, if you want a fully engaged congregation, what better way than to leave them in charge of their own affairs.

3. We should use our trained ministers the way the apostles were used in the beginning.
They should travel and preach and train the local church pastoral teachers. They might cover a large area of churches and provide guidance and expertise. Our ministers spend too much time sitting in on board meetings and handling the payment of the electric bills.

We need to restructure our system to promote greater autonomy, not less. If a local church wants a woman pastor/teacher, let them choose one. The traveling ministers can travel to churches and preach the word. Let the local pastor/teacher act as administrator. Actually, that could be the job of the head elder. Let our ministers train them in their duties and support them when they need it.

We are to be evangelizing the world in these last days, not squabbling among ourselves about who is permitted to do what. Let God call those to ministry, to deaconship, to church elder, church secretary, music ministry, or youth ministry who He wants to call.

We should be looking to God to lead our local congregations anyway instead of relying on a new pastor every five years. We need to be planting churches and engaging new generations of young people in the ministry of the church. Instead of settled pastors, why not visiting apostles and strong local congregations.

Some worry that local churches with too much authority to care for themselves, might go off the rails. That's when the minister/apostles could step in and provide guidance. Then, when the threefold union is fully accomplished and the church faces persecution, our strong independent churches will be ready to survive, even as authorities seek to take our larger church organization down.

Our leaders will have to trust that God will take care of his church and protect her from evil. It's tempting to think that you personally are holding the church together if you're one of the top guys. We had a prominent church leader throw a temper tantrum in the hall, when he was replaced about thirty years ago. He loudly complained about the church's disloyalty and predicted that things would fall apart without him. He even acted like a recent US president and immediately began to undermine his successor. It was an unworthy exhibition and one I'm sure Sister White would have had a stern message for that leader.

It takes courage for leaders who have worked their way to the top for years to let go of their new-found power and trust the members. Unity through diversity frightens people who believe in strong central authority. They forget that we do have a strong central authority. God our Father is the head of the church. Everyone else serves the church. We need to give up our kings and princes and return to the simpler style of governance that God keeps showing to us - in early Israel and in the early Christian Church.

© 2018 by Tom King


Saturday, February 24, 2018

When the World Cries, "WHY?" How Does the Church Answer

In the wake of events like the mass shooting in Florida last week, everyone always asks, "Why?" This is especially so when there have been children killed and wounded.  What can the church say in the face of such horrors. Is it enough to send up "thoughts and prayers." How do we comfort families who, like Job, cry to God asking "Why?"

First of all, we cannot explain why God allowed such a thing to happen. We don't know why. After all, God sees the end from the beginning. We cannot. So there are always larger issues at play that we cannot even fathom. We have families to protect. God has an entire universe to make safe and secure. Of course we do not understand. How can we?

We can, however, make a pretty good guess as to why young people have taken to shooting up their schools. That used to be pretty rare. Nowadays, not so much. Since the shooting at Parkland High, there have been at least two other planned attacks foiled in just the short time since it happened. They were foiled because people started to pay attention to the signs. One grandmother simply opened up the journal her grandson left sitting out on his desk. He'd been trying to get someone's attention all along, but everyone was too wrapped up in their own problems to notice his distress.

I can offer a two part answer to the question of "Why?"  Not as to why God allowed this terrible tragedy, but as to why it's happening more frequently.
  1. Our young people too often have no spiritual anchor and, let's face it the teen and young adult years of a person's life are emotionally trying. We all remember how hard it was from our own youth. It's why teens and young adults have such an appallingly high suicide rate. Suicide is almost always a cry for attention by a child who is overwhelmed by it all. Suicide says "I am in pain and you aren't fixing it for me!" Kids commit suicide in part to stop their own pain, but also in part to inflict pain on those they see as responsible. They hope by this act to make sure people know they are to blame and feel bad about it.
  2. In our 24 hour media environment, every time a kid shoots up a school he becomes famous for a few weeks. The news media, in effect, broadcasts the shooter's suicide note to millions upon millions of people. It's why such things often happen in clusters. One unbalanced soul sees that another equally unbalanced soul has got a huge amount of attention simply by shooting the people he blames for his trouble.  So, it suggests a way to go out in a big way and make lots of people feel bad for not fixing his problems for him.

The cure is for parents and schools to pay better attention to their children; to give the kids an anchor to hold them steady through the storms of adolescence. The church is uniquely qualified to offer such an anchor.  In our churches we secure the safety of our children by giving them real things to do in the church. We should listen to them sing, let them pass the offering plate, do special music, talk to the elders about what could be done to improve the youth program. We can take them camping, go to the lake for Sabbath School and potluck. Above all, we MUST spend time with them. We must give them a real stake in the life of the church and thus give them an opportunity to meet God and hang out with Godly people.

Rudderless kids often sink into despair. They feel ignored and mistreated and lash out. The difference between now and when kids used to drive to high school with a gun in the gun rack of their pickups without starting a random massacre, is that back in the olden days, such a thing would NOT have got you worldwide attention and your name splashed all over the television, radio and Internet.

Remember Satan's second lie. "Thou shalt be like gods." His first was "Thou shalt not surely die." The media provides both immortality and a godlike ability to wreak vengeance upon your enemies, both at the time of the killings and then over and over and over again for weeks afterward.

Until we stop giving fame to mass shooters, most of whom are trying to commit suicide anyway, this isn't going to stop and the devil knows it. He will use political wrangling over how to stop such shootings to further divide us. One of his favorite tactics is to make us think that somehow there is something we ourselves can do to stop horrors like this. Are we not gods after all? Write a law. Take away all guns. Force people to be good somehow and to stop murdering each other. In all the long history of the world, no law, no disarming of the people, no incentive ever offered has stopped the slaughter. Too often it is the ones writing the laws and taking away the arms that end up committing mass murder. More than 252 million people died in the twentieth century alone, at the hands of governments whose purpose was to make everyone good. No one but God can make everyone good and even He must allow evil men to die in the billions in order to do it.

While we cannot guarantee there will be no further shootings, we can make sure fewer of our children feel so lost and desperate that they feel like killing themselves and others. The truth is, only God can end this and sadly, because of the nature of sin and God's having given us the free will to choose whether or not to sin, we must wait until Jesus comes to fix it.

In the meantime, let us hold our children and young people close. Let us bind them with cords of love. Let us show them, by example, how to make their lives better by focusing their energies and attention on others. 

That's the answer the Church has when the world asks, "Why?"  Love your children better. Stop rewarding despair with publicity. Thoughts and prayers should come before something like this happens, not afterward.

© 2018 by Tom King