The house had just disappeared.

I couldn’t believe it. It was literally gone. My husband, Gerald, and I had often spoken about the little white house bordering on the park route we walked almost every Sunday morning. Then one day, after having been away for a few weeks, we realized that the house was gone—a little house, nestled in the middle of a grassy lot. Yes, it was just a little house and it needed some repair, but still it looked cozy.

We walked over to take a closer look. All that was left of the little house was a small driveway and a mailbox—nothing more. The demolition crew had worked quickly and thoroughly. Within a few weeks the grass had grown over the spot where the little house had stood.

Somehow, I felt sad. I wondered about the people who had worked hard to pay for that house. I imagined that it must have been someone’s dream house. I thought of all the spare time they had spent painting and repairing over the years. I thought of the many hours they had spent cutting the lawn. I wondered if they had sometimes lain awake in that little house worrying about paying the rent. Now there was nothing to show for all that investment of time, emotional energy, and money.

The disappearance of the little house made me sad because I identify with the little house or the people inside. I work, I worry, I invest time and energy, then I wonder what will last. I’d like to leave more than a grassy spot.

Time to Choose

Really leaving something that will last seems hard to do. Our schooling is for the most part preparation for the world of yesterday and not tomorrow. Things change so quickly.

Countries considered peaceful and stable can quickly erupt in riots, civil war, even genocide. Ideologies that have dominated the political landscape for decades can change overnight. A virus can leave the whole world reeling.

Countries considered peaceful and stable can quickly erupt in riots, civil war, even genocide.

I’m reminded of Baruch. He also lived in a world that was about to turn upside down and inside out. His country, Judah, found itself a pawn in the power game for world supremacy between Egypt and Babylon. As much as they would have liked to forge their own path and do their own independent thing, they were constantly being forced to take sides.

I can identify with Baruch. There are many similarities between his world and ours. We are all collectively and individually caught up in the cosmic conflict between God and Satan. In the end, there will be no neutral ground. Through the prophecies of Jeremiah, faithfully copied down and distributed by Baruch, God clearly told His people and the larger world which side to invest in. For nearly 50 years God sent detailed messages through Jeremiah, foretelling what the consequences would be for their choice of allegiance. We have much more than 50 years of prophecy to look back on. God has given us in the Bible a prophetic picture of what our future will hold, depending on where we put our priorities.

Baruch’s World—And Ours

What did this all mean for Baruch as he tried to build a life for himself?

Baruch, a talented man with good connections, made his choice for God and tried to support God’s cause by being Jeremiah’s scribe. Under the promising reforms of King Josiah, he probably hoped that he could be part of something big, make an impact on his world, and leave a lasting legacy. All around him people were striving to get ahead in life. Baruch, with his good education, may have dreamed of a distinguished career at the royal court that would bring with it a beautiful home and a high standard of living.

Soon enough, however, Baruch came to the realization that his career choice was not the dream job he had hoped for. Baruch found himself hiding as the angry ruling class turned on him and blamed him for Jeremiah’s messages (Jer. 43:2, 3).

We live in a materialistic world. We know the pressure to be more and have more. It’s easy to carry that mindset over to our spiritual lives. We begin to measure our life worth, our legacy, and even God’s favor by looking at what we have and what we can do rather than who we are. Following God doesn’t always mean that we find the perfect spouse, have a wonderful, meaningful job, and lead a sunny life that all will call “blessed.” Perhaps we all need moments like Baruch’s to bring a sense of perspective to our lives.

When the king of Babylon finally came and put Jerusalem under siege, all that people were living for suddenly became inconsequential. Of what consequence was a good career in court as Jerusalem suffered an 18-month famine? The great walls would be breached. Soon their city would be a pile of rubble. The beautifully furnished homes that had been the envy of the neighborhood would be nothing but ransacked, burnt shells. The Temple that the people regarded as their security would be destroyed. The important positions that everyone desperately wanted would soon be the most dangerous.

Until that day came, Baruch had to live by faith with an eye to the future, even as the wicked were living around him in apparent prosperity. Perhaps God’s special message to Baruch is also a message to me when I feel discouraged: “ ‘And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,’ says the Lord. ‘But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go’ ” (Jer. 45:5, NKJV).*

Baruch learned to see his everyday life in the light of Judah’s end-time. Rather than seeking great things for himself, he made his legacy by finding and fulfilling his own small duty in supporting the larger purposes of God.

Perhaps today would be a good moment to rethink the investment portfolio of my life. Am I investing in eternity? Am I laying up for myself treasures in heaven by investing in those around me today?


*Bible texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Chantal J. Klingbeil serves as an associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate.

A very useful expression has recently taken social media by storm. “Don’t judge me” is a wonderful hashtag for that picture of you with a tub of ice cream and a spoon. This expression seems to hold the power to elicit approval over any action, because anyone who posts or comments anything other than absolute support will be judging.

Fantasy

Many recent surveys show that Millennials are more likely than the general population to reject organized Christian faith, and more than 60 percent point to Christianity as being too judgmental as one of the reasons for their exodus.1 Judging and judgment seem to touch a raw nerve.

Perhaps part of the popularity of the expression “Don’t judge me” is the unspoken meanings that come along with it. It’s a good stand-in for a whole array of painful expressions: “Please don’t think less of me”; “Don’t think that I’m a bad person”; “Please accept me”; “Please love me.”

Is it even possible?

Just imagine our world without any judgment. Everyone could be free to do what they wanted to. We could wear whatever we wanted, wherever we wanted, without raising any eyebrows. We could eat and drink whatever we wanted, and wouldn’t have to feel guilty about our Starbucks cup in certain company. Most important, we would feel confident everywhere we went, and could be certain that we would hear nothing but positive expressions coming our way. And, of course, we could sleep peacefully every night, and never have to worry about whether we are good enough. No fearsome thoughts of a final judgment would haunt us.

Reality

But even if we did manage to stay absolutely nonjudgmental and even support everyone’s efforts in everything, there would still be consequences. In other words, no matter all the likes and affirmative comments on social media, our tub of ice cream will still have calories.

And that’s where judgment comes in. We live by making decisions, i.e., judging. We have to make a judgment call each morning about what we’re going to wear. We make judgments about what we eat, what we listen to, when it is safe to cross the road.

While we are called to investigate and examine everything in our quest to find and apply truth, we are not called to condemn others.

Our imaginary world free of judgment is just that—an imaginary world.

Take, for instance, a recent social media campaign calling for an end to body shaming, which sounds really good, except that it may have made things worse for many on social media.

The campaign began with a beauty blogger photographed without makeup, revealing her acne and encouraging others to accept themselves, flaws and all. Under the hashtag #DontJudgeChallenge others then began posting photos or videos of themselves with drawn-on unibrows, acne, or other physical features that are often mocked. Then they wiped off their “flaws” to reveal their picture-perfect, beautifully made-up selves underneath. Instead of helping to end body shaming the campaign served to reinforce the notion that you have to be perfect to be loved, or at least to get some likes.2

Judging, or Not

The Bible has some fairly strong statements on judging. Jesus Himself said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matt. 7:1, 2).3

Ellen White expands on this theme of judging others when she wrote: “Consider Christ’s pity for man. He knows just how they were born; He knows just how they were surrounded in childhood. You don’t know what temptations came with their birth. You don’t know the condition of their parents. Put away all judgment.”4

This injunction is pretty tough to follow. If we were to judge ourselves half as critically as we judge others the results wouldn’t be pretty. Much better not to judge at all, and let everyone do their own thing, right?

While it is absolutely true that we should not be critical or judgmental of others because we really don’t have the ability to make correct judgments on motive and circumstance, the Bible also encourages us, even commands us, to judge. “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

So how do we both judge and not judge?

Judging

Unlike current thinking in our present culture of moral relativism, we really do live in a world of absolutes. Just as there are physical laws that govern tangible processes around us and produce measurable results when broken (e.g., jumping out of an airplane without a parachute), so there is right and wrong, good and evil (jumping from a plane without a parachute is not a good thing).

In order to survive physically as well as spiritually we have to make informed judgments. We have to observe well and carefully our own motives, thought processes, and actions and make moral calls. We must never let cultural trends replace the authority of God’s Word for making judgment calls between right and wrong and forming moral opinions.

Ah, but there’s the challenge! While we are called to investigate and examine everything in our quest to find and apply truth, we are not called to condemn others. God is the only true judge, and only He can judge humanity (Rev. 20:12). So how does this relate to the “Don’t judge me” movement?

Salad in Your Teeth

Imagine that you are having dinner with your friend and you notice that your friend has some green salad stuck between her front teeth. What kind of friend would you be if you let her go off to her job interview like that? Would you be judging her if you told her about the salad?

It may be awkward, or even a little uncomfortable, to point out the salad, but if you really cared about her, you would take the risk. The relationship makes all the difference. You would not be pointing this out to make yourself look better, or to appease your own guilty conscience— you would be doing this only out of a desire for her happiness.

Only in the context of an unselfish love for others can we point out actions and behaviors that may well inhibit their eternal happiness.

Judgment Coming

Most often when someone says “Don’t judge me” their conscience is already at work, and they feel a sense of guilt and alienation that they are trying to drown out with a plea for affirmation.

We all have different ways of running, but in the end we know instinctively that there is no place to hide. There will be a calling to accounts. There will be a final judgment.

Strangely enough, part of the good news of the “everlasting gospel” is that “the hour of His judgment has come” (Rev. 14:7). How can judgment be good news?

Judgment can be good news if we know the Judge and we know the verdict. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1).

If we truly understand that the Judge is completely on our side, and we know that He was prepared to die rather than live without us, then we can face judgment without fear. While we are not trying to gloss over the enormity of our sin and guilt that separate us from a holy God, in faith we have claimed His gift.  We have died to the old sinful life and our lives are now “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).

The final judgment, rather than exposing to all our pitiful state, will be the public affirmation that we are loved and accepted, no matter where we come from, no matter what our flaws and deficiencies, no matter the mess of unwise choices and destructive decisions.

When we are truly in love with our Ju
dge and Advocate, when we know what the verdict will be, rather than saying “Don’t judge me,” we will eagerly say, “Please, judge me.”


  1. According to the Millennial values survey more than six in 10 (62 percent) believe that present-day Christianity is “judgmental,” while 58 percent agree that “hypocritical (saying one thing, doing another)” describes present-day Christianity well. Other surveys by Pew Research and the Barna Group show the same tendencies. www.prri.org/research/millennial-values-survey-2012/
  2. Time.com/3948968/dont-judge-challenge/3 Bible Texts in this article are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Ellen G. White, manuscript 174, 1901, in Ellen G. White, The Upward Look (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1982), p. 332.

Chantal J. Klingbeil serves as an associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate at the General Conference. In her work she focuses on children, youth, and young adults.

For many of us who have grown up with great stories of our church founders, the beginnings of Adventism seem blurred into unreal, mythic proportions. Living your faith in everyday life seemed to be easier back then, but was it really?

Early Adventists did not live in a vacuum. Life was filled with many social changes and thorny political issues. Things were changing rapidly. The United States was moving fast from a farm-based, rural society to an industrial, urban-centered society. These changes came with nasty side effects. Urbanization brought congestion, poverty, and pollution.

Then there was the slavery question that was tearing at the fabric of the nation. This was followed by women’s rights, temperance, and race relations, all controversial topics that were discussed in newspapers and fought over in the streets; topics that made or broke political careers, and even found their way into Adventist churches, schools, and pulpits.

Adventist Engagement

So how did early Adventists engage with the issues of their day? Some became passionate advocates for different causes, while many others tried to ignore what was going on and concentrate exclusively on in-house Adventist issues. Others, such as Ellen White, chose another route.

Even a cursory reading of Ellen White’s books, letters, and diaries shows that she was aware of and engaged in current issues. She was a strong supporter of the temperance movement,1 and very vocal about the abolition of slavery.2 She was not afraid to disturb the status quo and make a stand in these causes that were stirring the nation and dividing communities in the nineteenth century.

While she spoke and wrote about these issues, she did not wholeheartedly endorse or support everything these reforms advocated. Many women involved in the temperance and abolition movements went on to fight for the right of women to vote. Surprisingly, Ellen White did not endorse or use her influence to promote the women’s suffrage movement. Although she herself had broken the mold by preaching and speaking in public, and though she encouraged and affirmed women in their work for God, she did not embrace this seemingly important cause. Why?3

To Engage, or Not to Engage?

Ellen White used causes to further God’s agenda and never let herself be used by a cause to further its agendas. The Great Controversy theme was always at the back of her mind. For her, this theme was so much more than a theory, or a way of organizing her writings. It helped her to identify the areas in her society in which she could choose sides and promote God’s agenda.

Her understanding of humanity’s creation in the image of God with the freedom of choice made her vocal in her support of slaves being freed and having the freedom to choose their own eternal destiny.4 She believed that alcohol destroyed people and deprived them of their freedom of choice, so she supported the temperance movement. As far as women’s suffrage went, she personally supported the treatment of women as equals but she saw no reason to spend her time, effort, and personal influence in a cause that would not directly build God’s kingdom.5

Even though times have changed, her writings show a timeless relevance in finding our way through the maze of being involved in the issues of our communities and country without letting causes force us to take on agendas that are not kingdom-building.


  1. Ellen White wrote strong denunciations of alcohol use. For some examples, see Counsels for the Church (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1991), pp. 101-103.
  2. For an overview of Ellen White’s stance on slavery and race relations see Ronald D. Graybill, E. G. White and Church Race Relations (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1970).
  3. In an article in the influential church paper she points out that a woman has more important work to do than trying to gain the vote: “I do not recommend that woman should seek to become a voter or an officer-holder; but as a missionary, teaching the truth by epistolary correspondence, distributing tracts and soliciting subscribers for periodicals containing the solemn truth for this time, she may do very much. In conversing with families, in praying with the mother and children, she will be a blessing”(in Review and Herald,Dec. 19, 1878).
  4. Ellen White made no concessions for the practice and writes, “The whole system of slavery was originated by Satan, who delights in tyrannizing over human beings” (The Southern Work [J. E. White, 1898, 1901], p. 61.
  5. While some women suffragettes claimed that the world would be a better, more peaceful place if women had the vote, Ellen White had no such illusions: “There are inborn tendencies in men and women that are not developed until some temptation assails them, when, instead of resisting the temptation, they fall. They do not preserve truthfulness, strict, straight dealing” (Counsels to Physicians and Medical Students [pamphlet 167,1885],p. 41.

Chantal J. Klingbeil serves as an associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate at the General Conference.

Love is in the air around Valentine’s Day. Red hearts, plentiful chocolate, and attractive and creative cards are the day’s staple. Our journeys into love, however, go beyond chocolates and cards. Here are two surprising journeys into love. Wherever you are in your relationships, enjoy God’s great love story today.

Is There Someone for Me? {Gerald}

I was 24 when I met the love of my life. Over the years, like any teenager and young adult, I had dated a number of girls. I was healthy, reasonably good-looking, sporty, played guitar in a Christian band that had toured Europe for eight years and had recorded a number of albums. Yet somehow I often wondered if there was a special woman waiting for me—somewhere.

Some years earlier I had started to pray about this important area of my life. After God called me to prepare for ministry, I told Him that I needed Him to help me find the “right one.” As a child of divorce, I wanted to avoid the pain and hurt that divorces bring. I also asked some of my spiritual mentors to pray for my future wife.

Then I moved from Europe to South Africa. I had planned to finish my theology degree at Helderberg College, located close to Capetown. With my girlfriend studying in Germany, I was in for a long-distance relationship, in a pre-e-mail, pre-text, pre-Facetime and pre-Skype era. I wrote my letters faithfully and celebrated every week when I got another one from Germany. We had both saved money so that my girlfriend could come to South Africa during our winter break (June-July in the Southern Hemisphere). Excitedly I traveled nearly 870 miles (1,400 kilometers) from Capetown to Johannesburg to surprise her at the airport.

Then it happened. As soon as I saw her coming toward me, I knew that she was
not the one. I had never felt anything like this and struggled to understand this emotion. I was not usually prone to emotional ups and downs. Yet it felt as if somebody had just flipped a switch. It was extremely painful for both of us as we talked about our feelings and sought help from pastors, counselors, and friends.

By the time she finally left South Africa, gloom had settled all around me.
There was no one for me; the dating game was just too painful. The next months were dark, full of work, and no social life.

Then one day I decided to reenter life. That’s when I saw, for the first time, Chantal, my future wife. I had known her for more than six months, and we had often spoken. However, only then did I really
see her. There was no lightning flash or divine voice. Rather, we enjoyed many good conversations, shared study times, precious walks, and other group activities.

We officially started dating on a date that is rife with meaning for Adventists, October 23, the day after the Great Disappointment. For us, however, it was a new beginning following a number of disappointments. Thirteen months later we got married and began a lifelong journey of growth and discovery. Some months ago we celebrated our silver wedding anniversary. What would I do without the love of my life?

The Love Thing {Chantal}

My roommate found me in bed with the covers drawn over my head in the middle of a beautiful sunny day. My boyfriend had just broken up with me, and I was devastated. As my roommate tried to console me over a large jar of mixed nuts I vowed that I was through. This dating game just wasn’t for me. In the aftermath of the painful breakup I did something strange: I gave my romance life (or lack thereof) to God.

I had been rather susceptible to the unstated college pressure of needing to have a boyfriend. Everyone seemed to be in a relationship. But after this latest heartbreak I realized that I just didn’t want to be a part of this extremely painful game anymore. I decided on a new strategy: Whenever someone caught my eye or I felt vaguely attracted to someone, I would pray about him. I would not try to get his attention in any way; I’d just pray.

I found this strange strategy amazingly effective. Again and again, whenever I began praying about some eligible young man, within the space of two to three weeks he would have a girlfriend, and it wouldn’t be me. Now, this exact model of looking for Mr. Right is definitely not the only way to go about things, and I would not recommend this “do nothing and pray” method to everyone, but it did work for me.

I found myself looking more carefully at my “guy selections.” More than once I instinctively knew that I couldn’t pray for any attachment to certain popular men. And, strangely, as I left this part of my life in God’s capable hands it took the pressure off. Instead of being out there looking for my soul mate, I could focus more on becoming the person that God wanted me to be, with or without a man.

Then, when Gerald did arrive, there were no fireworks. I mean, he was a nice enough person and all, but he did have a girlfriend in Germany, and to be honest, I was praying about someone else at the time. We were just friends, with no agendas or schemes. Quietly the friendship grew, until one day I realized with a start that this was someone I really did want to pray about. And the rest, as they say, is history.

What We Have Learned

Relationships are very complex. This does not change in marriage. They require constant fine-tuning and conscious attention and commitment. Here are a number of insights we have learned about love, life, and relationships as we look back at a quarter century of marriage. In fact, having three female teenagers at home has made these insights even more relevant.

Aim high: Don’t let current culture tell you that love means instant gratification. It pays to wait and find the person God has made for you to love. By the way, looks aren’t everything, and beauty is more than skin-deep. Don’t let advertizers determine your sense of beauty.

Don’t get discouraged: When you see dysfunctional relationships around you, don’t give up on God’s ideal for love. His grace is sufficient to overcome any mess we may have created. When we make mistakes, His compassionate and transformational grace can shine even more.

Keep talking: Love’s ability to make us swoon is wonderful. However, love goes beyond emotions and requires constant care—and conversation. Growth usually happens when we listen to and talk with one another.

Be willing to cross canyons: In our cross-cultural marriage (bringing together German and South African cultures, prejudices, stereotypes, likes, and dislikes) we often find it necessary to go the extra mile in order to understand each other.

Keep God in the center: If God is not in the center of a relationship, somebody or something else will be. Things, other people, our egos, or even our children all can make a run for the center. If God has already occupied this sweet spot, we are ready for true growth with one another.

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Chantal J. Klingbeil serves as an associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate at the General Conference. Gerald A. Klingbeil is an associate editor of the Adventist Review and enjoys walking, talking, and team-working with the love of his life.