Cuban. American. Adventist. Dec18

Cuban. American. Adventist.

by Amy Sheppard I am a Seventh-day Adventist today because, in part, young Seventh-day Adventist colporteurs demonstrated unimpeachable character to my great-grandfather in the eastern part of Cuba. He was so impressed by these young men that he decided to send my grandmother and her brother to the young men’s school—Antillian College, when it was still in Cuba. I was born in the United States because, in part, my mother and her family fled communist rule on the island to make a new life in America. And I am an Adventist, in part, because the same diaspora brought another Cuban young woman to New York City and into my mom’s life when she was a teenager, reconnecting our family with the Adventist church. My Cubaness, Americaness, and Adventistness, you see, are inextricably linked. This manifested itself in unspeakable emotion today as the news broke that President Barak Obama is normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba, and that Pope Francis had a role in bringing my two countries back together. As a Cuban, I was overwhelmed with joy that my country of birth would no longer blacklist my country of ancestry, that possibilities long denied to those who remained may now be realized. As an American, I am proud that my country, or at least the President, recognizes that something that has never worked will never work, and it is time for a new approach. I am thrilled that this will limit the blame the Cuban government can place on the United States and their misrepresentations of who we are and what we stand for. And as an Adventist, it is not lost on me that one of the most radical changes in U.S. foreign policy in the last half century seems to have been very heavily influenced by Pope Francis. In his address to the nation, President Obama openly acknowledged “His Holiness” and his part in the process that led to today’s announcement.  How could anyone with an Adventist worldview and understanding of Scripture not think of our prophetic interpretation of Revelation 13 when hearing this news? The Pope told the U.S. and Cuba to play nice—and they listened! The convergence of my three strongest identities at this moment is overwhelming and surreal. Nonetheless, I am ecstatic. Being bicultural (tricultural?) has helped me better understand that this world is not my home, though it is where we prepare to be citizens of Heaven. See Hebrews 11:13-15 and Philippians 3:20-21. I am the child of a Cuban, living in America, who taught me about my heritage so that when I went to Cuba, I understood the culture, the food, the language—I knew how to be a Cuban. In the same way, I am a child of Heaven, still living on this earth. One day, that home will be open to me, and my learning how to live as a citizen of Heaven now requires me to depend on Jesus to learn how to have a sterling character, the same type of character that first attracted my family to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Even more than I’m longing to go back to Cuba for another visit after hearing today’s news, I’m longing to go to Heaven. Taking into consideration how things have developed, I cannot help but think that the wait will not be much longer. My sincerest hope is that this shift in U.S. policy will eventually bring broad changes to Cuba, and that this would include increasing the influence of the gospel in that land. I hope that Adventist Americans will travel there, as missionaries, on business, and eventually for vacation, and that by coming in direct contact with the Cuban people, they will influence them toward new life. Finally, seeing these developments before my very eyes, things I was not sure would ever happen in my lifetime, makes me so excited. Forget the Castro brothers. The kingdom of this world is...

The Right to Disagree Oct31

The Right to Disagree

By Daniel McGrath   For hundreds if not thousands of years the Christian church has been almost unanimously giving the same message towards current social justice issues, particularly same-sex marriage. But even from as early as a generation ago there has been a decided shift in public sentiment in favor of equal rights for homosexual unions. It seems that the church has been forced to bow to the tide of public opinion and to the demands of this new non-discriminate generation.   Those who have been at the forefront of such change have been heralded as true Christians for demonstrating genuine love and acceptance of everyone no matter their sexual orientation.  Those on the opposite side who hold a more “biblical” or traditional view have been denounced as bigots and haters because they rigorously stand for what they believe is clear and decided from the Bible.   Interestingly enough, when one looks at Scripture almost all the textual evidence presented on the subject of homosexuality suggests in no small way that homosexual practices amount to sin. Many suggest this surface reading is not what is really meant by the text. Traditionalists choose to take it as it reads, sensing that if one were to try to understand what Jesus really meant when He stated one thing while actually implying the opposite, one could come up with an excuse for any behavior needing justification.   The simple fact is this. Christianity’s message towards same-sex practices amounting to sin is not popular and never will be. Some would try to change its message by suggesting that Jesus was more open to a gay lifestyle than He let on, but this line of reasoning might only prove to discredit the rest of Scripture too.  So the problem remains, Christians who don’t conform to these new cultural interpretations are considered to be some of the most hateful people on the planet—and society’s belief is that it would be better off without such individuals.   But why should Christians or scholars be forced to jump through hoops or twist the texts through a routine of mental gymnastics to arrive at a more popular or politically correct understanding? Why does the message of the Bible have to change just because the majority show more support against its message? Christians should not be expected to change their stance of Scripture on morality. But, they should be expected to enter the dialogue with tact and kindness just as the Bible teaches (Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6; James 1:19).   It is important for Christians to embrace the entire message of Scripture, not just the parts that seems to fit a particular worldview. Those who stand on college campuses, street corners or engage in any other “hate-speech” that preaches hell fire to unrepentant sinners should stop. While they may be correct in their understanding of sin they err by not understanding the love of God.   While the Bible is clear on its definition of sin, it is also clear that God loves all of humanity. Jesus didn’t condemn in harsh tones those who lived in open sin, but He didn’t water down his message of sin either. The woman caught in adultery is a prime example of this. While Jesus didn’t condemn her he told her to go and sin no more (John 8:11).   Equally important for Christians to realize is that God has given each person the right to choose how he/she will live. His love necessitates this fact. We could not consider God to be love if He were to force people to love, worship, or follow Him. Coercion is not love. This leaves it open for some to choose not to follow God but that doesn’t negate His love towards them (Romans 8:35-39).   So if God loves sinners who don’t obey Him then Christians should also do the same. This doesn’t mean the...

GLOWING on Facebook Mar27

GLOWING on Facebook

More like “Exploding on Facebook.” There’s a good chance you’ve seen the “Why I Go to Church on Saturday” GLOW link on Facebook. In fact, tens of thousands have, and this isn’t hyperbole. This is impact. God can use Facebook, a social medium designed for social interaction as an evangelistic apparatus. And you know what? More creative, evangelistic-minded Adventists need to get on board. You don’t have to resist your urges for Facebook. Use it! For good. And the amazing thing is. . . it’s free. A number of weeks ago, the GLOW Sabbath issue was shared on Facebook. On day 1, exactly 66 individuals visited the site. Here’s what followed on the days after. The numbers don’t lie. Day 1: 66 visitors Day 2: 239 visitors Day 3: 3154 visitors Day 4: 6353 visitors Day 5: 15,481 visitors (notice the spike here) Day 6: 18,487 visitors Day 7: 14,680 visitors Total:  58,460 visitors (1 week)   This is quite amazing. Roughly 60,000 unique visitors read or heard about the seventh-day Sabbath. And it cost nothing. Weeks later, a group of students and ministry leaders (CAMPUS) ‘bought in’ at one of their retreats after a moving appeal by Kamil Metz. They began sharing the now popular link “Why I Go to Church on Saturday.” This was on a Saturday.  By the end of the next day (Sunday), the site had close to 8,621 visitors spanning the two days. Add to the mix, 20 individuals signed up for Bible studies. All this with just a “click” of the mouse. Here’s what followed on the days after. Saturday: 3,234 visitors Sunday: 5387 visitors Monday: 1158 visitors Tuesday: 2550 visitors Wednesday: 3509 visitors Thursday: 1356 visitors Friday: 1065 visitors Total: 18,259 visitors (1 week)   This is the kind of phenomena that’s only shared at...

Informed Adventists: News & Perspectives Mar24

Informed Adventists: News & Perspectives...

President Obama is slated to meet with Pope Francis this Thursday. Interesting to note, young Barack Obama’s drive for pro-social initiatives found its roots with Roman Catholicism (nothing conspiratorial). President Obama is scheduled to meet with Pope Francis later this week in Europe. The political left and right within the US are finding common ground with the current pope. The Supreme Court will hear the cases of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties on Tuesday (3/25). The two companies believe it’s within their right to refuse compliance with the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act.  Two editorials–one, more informative; and the other, a blog decidedly against the position of the two companies–bring up some interesting points. The United States has implemented economic sanctions (or penalties) on a number of Russia’s financial elite, government officials, and others widely considered to be a part of President Putin’s inner circle. The intent of the sanctions is to get Putin and the Russian government to backtrack from their annexation of Crimea. President Obama is also seeking to persuade Europe to follow his lead with additional punitive sanctions. Economic sanctions typically have to do with powerful nations imposing financial penalties on weaker nations. They’re often implemented to curb the undesired behavior or actions of certain states (Iran, Russia, etc.). This type of strategy–the execution of economic disincentives–has implications for Seventh-day Adventists (think Rev 13). It’s not far-fetched to think a day will arrive when a similar strategy could be imposed on persons or the general citizenry, as opposed to nation-states. No, this isn’t some grand conspiracy (I’m decidedly against conspiracy theories). Nor do the actions of the US and Russia relate directly to Adventists. Just something to think...

Arizona Anti-Gay Bill: Yay or Nay? Feb26

Arizona Anti-Gay Bill: Yay or Nay?...

A recent Arizona bill, vetoed on Wednesday (2/26/14), would have allowed businesses to refuse service to homosexuals and others on religious grounds. The measure also gained national attention. Even Apple (the makers of your iPhone) got involved. There were Superbowl ramifications.  How were Christians to position themselves on this one? On the one hand, to support the bill would be discriminatory towards homosexuals. I can understand refusing to, say, be a photographer at a gay wedding, but what about selling them a bar of soap? On the other, to not support the bill could imply a tacit support of homosexuality. Failure of the measure might also render Christians unable to act upon their consciences. Several things to consider: SDA’s have traditionally NOT supported laws that would deny certain individuals/groups purchasing power on “religious grounds.” (Revelation 13) If you owned a floral shop, would you refuse business to homosexuals who are planning their wedding? Should you get prosecuted for it? We must stand firm against legislation that deny individuals their  freedom of conscience, even if that means protecting the freedoms of non-Christians. Generally speaking. Bear in mind there aren’t always easy answers to these complex issues. By God’s grace, let’s avoid getting caught up in the rhetoric of the extreme right or left. God’s ways are ultimately not man’s ways. Or government’s ways. In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see how measures like this will pan out in other states considering similar laws.   ...

Witnessing to the WWW’s (Part 1) Jan23

Witnessing to the WWW’s (Part 1)

Witnessing to the Wealthy, Worldly, & Well Educated. By David Kim. David D. Kim is an Adventist business executive. After earning his MBA from Stanford University, he built a career in business strategy as a management consultant with Bain & Company. He is now a senior executive at the Vanguard Group, a global investment company. David has a passion for reaching the highly educated and accomplished in the corporate world. David lives with his wife, Grace, and his children, Solomon and Claire, in the Philadelphia area. David Kim presented a series of seminars at this year’s GYC (2013) on the need for witnessing to the wealthy, worldly, and well educated (WWW), and provided practical steps for witnessing to this particular demographic. Below is part 1 of his much anticipated Powerpoint slides. If you missed his intriguing presentations, you can access his seminars and plenary session at the links provided below and follow along with the slides: Seminars (5 total) Plenary (1 total)   Download (PDF, Unknown)...

Witnessing to the WWW’s (Part 2) Jan23

Witnessing to the WWW’s (Part 2)...

Witnessing to the Wealthy, Worldly, & Well Educated. By David Kim. David D. Kim is an Adventist business executive. After earning his MBA from Stanford University, he built a career in business strategy as a management consultant with Bain & Company. He is now a senior executive at the Vanguard Group, a global investment company. David has a passion for reaching the highly educated and accomplished in the corporate world. David lives with his wife, Grace, and his children, Solomon and Claire, in the Philadelphia area. David Kim presented a series of seminars at this year’s GYC (2013) on the need for witnessing to the wealthy, worldly, and well educated (WWW), and provided practical steps for witnessing to this particular demographic. Below is part 2 of his much anticipated Powerpoint slides. If you missed his intriguing presentations, you can access his seminars and plenary session at the links provided below and follow along with the slides: Seminars (5 total) Plenary (1 total)   Download (PDF,...

Top Religious Liberty Stories from 2013 Jan10

Top Religious Liberty Stories from 2013...

by Steve Allred Survey the news, and I think you’ll agree that, were he with us today, the Apostle Paul would probably conclude that we are living in the “last days”, if the passage below is any indication of what he thought. Here’s what he wrote: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2 Timothy 3:1-4, KJV). And in fact, the year 2013 was a particularly “perilous” one for people of faith in our world – most of the danger and persecution caused by people fitting the description in Paul’s epistle. Religious freedom and liberty of conscience suffered. Christians were persecuted and killed. Religious Liberty on the International Scene In an interview late last year, John Allen noted that to “the ordinary American, when you talk about religious persecution, they think it’s about whether you can pray before a football game. The global situation is something most folks never thought about before…” Is there a war on Christians in America? Allen replies, “To the extent that there is a war on religion in America, it’s a metaphorical war — in court, pop culture, on front pages. There is a lot of stuff religious believers find worrying and threatening, but no one is getting shot for their faith. What frustrates me is, there are really people being shot for their faith. In the States, a threat to your religious freedom means you might...

America’s “War on Christians”? Nov21

America’s “War on Christians”?...

By Steve Allred Should Adventists join forces with (and partake in the rhetoric of) politicized Christian groups in support of making the United States more Christian and moral? Should this be our point of emphasis as we approach the soon return of Jesus? Steve Allred explores these questions and more.   Many of my Adventist friends are concerned with what they perceive to be the increasing secularization of popular culture in the United States today. Like many other sincere Christians, they express concern that Christianity will one day become a hated and persecuted sect in America and that this will be the result of our government coming under the control of secular and atheistic politicians. Awhile back, I even had a friend hint to me that he used to believe in the end of time scenario described in Revelation 13 and The Great Controversy, but that the way things were looking now it was the secularists who were going to be the enemies of God’s end-time people, not the religious folks.  I suspect my friend had been spending more time listening to talk radio than to the word of God. Will Popular Christianity Ever Become Extinct in America? While I too am concerned that irreligion and sin are becoming more rampant and increasingly acceptable in our world, and realize that some of this is a sign of the last days (see 2 Tim. 3:1-4), I still believe that a form of false Christianity will take over American politics before the second coming of Jesus. Instead of atheistic secularists persecuting religious people at the end of time, the Bible paints a starkly different picture of the end-time protagonists. It predicts that there will be an increase in popular religiosity at the end of time – people “having a form...

“An Education” Nov16

“An Education”...

By Shauna Chung. “Ask me any question about America, and I’ll give you an answer,” I told my third grade students (9th grade US) one day.  In order to encourage more conversation practice in English, I opted for a fun class dedicated to cultural discussion rather than a standard, lecture-based lesson. “Teacher, what are pajama parties?”  “Do all Americans carry guns?”  “Tell us about American humor!” “Have you been to Las Vegas?”  “What’s the most delicious food?”  “What music is popular?”  “American dramas and TV!  Are they fun?”  “Do you drive a car?” After dispelling the notion that all Americans are gun-waving, obese, cheese burger-eating, gypsy-like hooligans, I proceeded to answer their questions in as much detail as possible, throwing the same questions back for them to answer about Korea.  My students sat spellbound as I explained the concept of teenage girls getting together just to paint their nails, eat junk food, dress in light pink flannel, and watch romantic comedies.  They roared with laughter as I demonstrated the different accents represented across the States, parodied the ridiculous slow-motion scenes of Korean dramas, and described the culture shock I felt when I first came to their country.  We continued in light conversation, discussing everything from sarcasm to bus etiquette, until we broached the subject of school. “What time school finish?” they asked in broken English repeatedly as if this question weighed the heaviest in their minds. “Typically, school finishes at 3pm,” I explained with hesitation in my voice.  I couldn’t understand why this matter was so urgent. “Then, students go to Academy?” they inquired, a look of confusion plastered on each face. “What’s Academy?” I asked. “After school, we study.  We learn English, math, science from tutors,” they said matter-of-factly.  “American students do what?” I...

Transcending Triviality Nov15

Transcending Triviality...

By Sebastien Braxton Peter Berger describes secular society as a “world without windows;” a world of repressive triviality unable to embrace the transcendent.  However, this isn’t to say that secularity necessarily impedes momentous social action. Secularists challenge all manner of social ills from oppression of human life to government corruption, from corporate exploitation to social inequality.  But their challenges fail to question the most fundamental assumption of secularity–that there is nothing but the here and now. The “world without windows” bars not only  hope of a new and better world to come, but also the possibility of assistance from a greater and more powerful Source in the world we live. The secularists’ may throw a spotlight on the most down trodden. They may even instigate the passing of legislation to restrict malevolent men and women. However, secularists’ efforts never go beyond addressing the symptoms of evil, into addressing why evil exists; they never venture beyond transient external parameters to God’s ability to transform human hearts. When Christians operate within the broader society – whether it’s on university campuses, in secular businesses, or in our interactions with government – we bring with us a worldview based on changing lives that transcend the parameters of this world, and we bring with us a source of inspiration, hope, and unimaginable power to make that change. William Wilberforce, the man credited with ending the slave trade within the British Empire was not only inspired in his quest by his God, but appealed to God’s power to achieve his goal. Similarly, Reverend Martin Luther King not only employed religious language, but the power behind it. Bono inspires the world to greater social engagement – inspired by his faith and appealing to the Author of that faith. Similarly, all over the world today, millions of Christians are engaging their societies with...

Keeping Church at Arm’s Length From State Nov07

Keeping Church at Arm’s Length From State...

By Ted N.C. Wilson. A U.S. federal appeals court right now is considering whether for-profit businesses can be exempted from a contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act — a mandate that is tantamount to a “war on Christianity” by the Obama administration, according to at least one elected official. A Christian in Pakistan was sentenced to life imprisonment in July 2013 for the crime of blasphemy. With no actual evidence presented at his trial. Earlier this year there was a proposal in North Carolina to allow the state to declare an official religion. What do these three situations have in common? They’re all current examples of things that go wrong when either the government wrongly asserts itself into religious issues or the church tries to break down barriers (or makes powerful accusations against the government) in an attempt to exert improper influence on the business of the state. While the above just scratch the surface, it’s no exaggeration to say that if you’ve paid much attention to the news during the last few decades, you can be forgiven for assuming that some religious organizations believe a primary purpose of government is to legislate more religion into public life. From prayer in public schools to religious imagery in courtrooms to national elections, some religious groups in America have repeatedly sought to influence various sectors of government to enshrine particular principles. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Seventh-day Adventist church and for each and every one of those years Adventists have been a minority voice strongly advocating for greater separation between church and state – exactly the opposite of what many have come to expect from organized religions in this country. During the Civil War, that meant taking a stand for conscientious objection...