October 13, 2010

Web Letters 9-27-10

Another Avenue of Witness

Thank you for the article “Adventist Professor to Enter C. S. Lewis’ World” (Sept. 16, 2010) about Debbie Higgens, who will oversee “The Kilns,” the historic residence of C. S. Lewis.
In view of the many influences trying to redirect and subvert Christianity, I would say that Seventh-day Adventists, through Higgins, have gained yet another opportunity to encourage believers through the works of C. S. Lewis.
Recently, while on a mission to isolated villages along the Congo River and its tributaries, I discovered a weathered copy of C. S. Lewis’ book The Pilgrim’s Regress from 1931 at the Yakusu mission station.
Similar in the secular yet serious guidance provided by John Bunyan’s book The Pilgrim’s Progress, I found The Pilgrims Regress of value to help believers discern between spirituality, religion, God, their faith community, and the sensual pleasures that divert us--such as reason and luxury—among the many life influences that weaken Christians.
--Abraham J. Meintjes
Pretoria, South Africa
Looking for Answers
In the article "Why Did This Happen to Me?" by James J. Londis (Sept. 16, 2010), the author writes: “I suspect that in a similar way it’s easier to think that God ‘sends’ suffering because either we deserve it or it’s part of God’s ‘plan’ for our lives, than to think we are at the mercy of a somewhat random existence. We want to feel God is always responsible for whatever happens in our lives.”
The book of Job tells a different story. We are not “at the mercy of a somewhat random existence,”rather we are in the middle of the great controversy between God and Satan. God allowed Satan to bring destruction and suffering to Job’s life, yet God never lost control. God even set limits as to what Satan could or couldn’t do to Job when He said: “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life” (Job 2:6, NIV).
In addition Londis writes: “Should we then conclude that God sent [Michael] Fox his disease in order to change his life and improve the prospects for a cure? Fox does not believe that. He believes (as I do) that he was a victim of forces that did not target him personally.”

However, we find in the New Testament Jesus telling Peter: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31). Clearly, there is nothing random about this battle. Satan targets us all very personally according to whatever plans he has for us. But God allows, or does not allow, those plans to be fulfilled according to His own plan for our lives. In this sense, I agree with Londis: “God’s wisdom and power will transform the messes in our lives in ways that will restore our confidence that everything is in His hands.”
If we are ever in doubt about whether or not God is involved in our destiny, we just have to look at the cross: God had a plan; but He also allowed Satan to carry out his own wicked plan against Jesus. In the end Jesus’ choices determined the results. The same is true with us. By exercising our free will we determine the results of the trials and tribulations we go through.
--Irma Y. Montoya
Thank you for James Londis’ article, “Why Did This Happen to Me?” While the topic of suffering is never easy to unpack neatly, his perspective was so refreshing. I underlined several thoughts and also scanned and e-mailed it to family and friends; it was that good.
Londis was one of my favorite professors at Atlantic Union College in the 1970’s. I can still remember specific sentences from some of his lectures because they “hit home” so dramatically and answered questions that had been lurking in the back of my mind.
I appreciate the variety in the Review, especially appreciate thoughtful articles like this one.
--Ruth Bettle Harms
Pasco, Washington
God’s Timing, and Ours
In Gerald Klingbeil’s essay “Timing” (Sept. 16, 2010), he suggests that God is “waiting for His church to get her act together.” I wonder if that might mean a long winter of wait.
The Bible says the Lord will “finish the work” (see Rom. 9:28). We are too prone to think we can, or should, finish it with some grand stratagem or program. That’s unlikely in light of Ephesians 2:9, 10, which warns us of seeking too much credit. It seems that our part is chiefly to be born again, fitting us to be a part of that work. What part did we play in our natural births? We were there, but the “work” belonged to someone else.
Overcoming self is the remaining task. Even that will not be a feather in our caps, for Philippians 2:12, 13 shows it to be the work of God in us. The “act” will come together, but it will be His act.
--Richard Burns
Cleveland, Tennessee

The Good Fight
Regarding “Beaten Down by the Culture” (Sept. 16, 2010): If Roy Adams feels he is in danger of being beaten down by the prevailing culture, he should really give up.
Jesus never called us to fight culture wars. But it seems that many of our North American believers are caught up in this never-ending battle. Abortionists, atheists, evolutionists, and libertines are not the “enemy”; they are the people we’re supposed to be fighting for!
Let’s drop out of the culture wars and start fighting for people. I, too, like a good debate; but that’s certainly not what the Great Commission is all about. The real work of making disciples is in urgent need of attention, especially in the West, where the gospel is being shouted down by indifference.
--Evron Legall

Member Ministers
Regarding “Recapturing the Passion” (Aug. 12, 2010): What a beautiful article explaining how far the Christian church has fallen from the biblical ideal! The medieval distinction between clergy and laity was carefully explained. Through the ministry of Martin Luther and other reformers God brought the Christian church back to the biblical concept of the priesthood of all believers. The Adventist church adopted this truth, as well as others, from the reformers. God can work through each one of our spiritual gifts as we dedicate ourselves to the ministry of Jesus Christ.
But I’m disappointed. Mark Finley wrote: “I pray that as Seventh-day Adventists we will do much more than pay lip service to the priesthood of all believers.” Then a little farther down comes this sentence: “I pray that each layperson will sense anew the call of God to witness.”
He built this beautiful article showing that we should not make a distinction between clergy and laity; yet he continued to make that distinction in his article. Without practical suggestions about how we can change on a fundamental level and no longer treat some people as less important, our church will continue to give only lip service to this truth.
Most people will not rise above our expectations for them. If leadership labels and stereotypes people into one category, it’s difficult for them to rise above it. If we want to make real change in the Adventist church so that members who are not pastors, evangelists, administrators, etc. will take significant ministry leadership roles, we must place them on a level, spiritually speaking, equal to denominationally employed leaders. It begins by losing the label that keeps them powerless and calling them what they really are: member ministers.
Until denominational leadership changes the way it relates to church members, no change can come; because no one empowers members. Every Seventh-day Adventist is a member minister with a real ministry. Some of us may be labeled “pastor ministers,” “teacher ministers,” or “member ministers,” but we all are ministers for the Master.
--Gary J. Tolbert
Charlotte, North Carolina