November 8, 2014

December 11, 2014

Hard Questions

I appreciated the article by Onaolopo Ajibade, “Who Knows Why?” (Nov. 27, 2014).

I’m sure many people ask, “Why God, why me?” But God is silent; the question is almost never answered. I have asked this question many times because of things that have caused sorrowful rejection, disappointments, and depressing trials.

We are told that the trials in our lives build faith and character. Yet I still ask “Why?” I have often gone back to reread the story of Job. The trials he endured help strengthen my own faith. I’m sure it does strengthen faith, because each time I have said, “It can’t get worse than this.”

Yet, even as I write this I am dealing with a matter that, for me, has been the hardest of all to suffer. Yet I still ask: “Why?” It is a matter faith to believe that God is still in charge. I had a friend who once said to me: “If I had to endure the trials you have, I think I would lose faith.”

Ellen White wrote: “If our faith is fixed upon God, through Christ, it will prove ‘as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; whither the Forerunner is for us entered” [Heb. 6:19, 20]. It is true, disappointments will come; tribulation we must expect; but we are to commit everything, great and small, to God. He does not become perplexed by the multiplicity of our grievances nor overpowered by the weight of our burdens. His watchcare extends to every household and encircles every individual; He is concerned in all our business and our sorrows. He marks every tear; He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. All the afflictions and trials that befall us here are permitted, to work out His purposes of love toward us, ‘that we might be partakers of His holiness’ [Heb. 12:10] and thus become participants in that fullness of joy which is found in His presence” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 742).

—Wayne Surls
Arvada, Colorado

God’s Promises Today

Regarding the article “Biblical Hermeneutics 101” by Michael Zwaagstra (Dec. 11, 2014): We should read the Bible contextually. But if God’s promises, including Jeremiah 29:11, are only for the Israelites, then the Bible becomes only a history book.

—Frances Unger
Nampa, Idaho

Ordination Matters

I read with consternation the article, “Women’s Ordination Goes to San Antonio” (Nov. 20, 2014). Our church’s preoccupation with this subject reminds me of Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13: “But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat and went his way. . . . ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in the field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this’” (verses 25, 27, 28).

While our leaders have spent months and years debating women’s ordination (important as it is) in the big picture it is minor, given that God alone blesses and validates a person’s ministry. The enemy has invaded our church, introducing false theology at the highest levels of our educational institutions. Pantheism, mysticism, and doctrines refuted by the Reformers are being reintroduced into our beloved church. . . .

How could this happen among a people blessed with a unique understanding of the Bible and the blessing of the Spirit of Prophecy? Answer: an enemy has done this. While we were sleeping the devil has taken advantage of this lapse of watchfulness.

Let us wake up to the dangers lurking in every corner of our beloved church, realizing that the devil is going about as a roaring lion seeking to deceive, if possible, the very elect (1 Peter 5:8; Matt. 24:24).

—Gery P. Friesen
Loma Linda, California

In 1958 I was informed that I would be ordained. It came as a surprise because ordination was not something I had been thinking about.

Six of us were ordained at that year’s camp meeting. My ordination text was 1 Corinthians 1:26-30. Ordination meant that I could baptize people and perform weddings. Other than that I sensed no change in my life. Ordination does not add anything to a person’s character. No “indelible character” comes upon a person. Only later did I understand the meaning and purpose of ordination.

“But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Cor. 14:40). Ordination is an act of the church that serves to keep the unity of the church. For there are those who “draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30); who look out “for their own interests, not those of Christ” (Phil. 2:21). The Bible warns against demanding positions of recognition for ourselves (Num. 12:1, 2; 16; Acts 8:18-21).

Ordained individuals have been judged by the church as trustworthy and authorized with full authority to teach the truth and to baptize (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 161). Ordination sets one apart and results in members and the public viewing people differently. Because of this, ordained persons bear a larger responsibility to Christ, the Head of the church, than do others. This is why an elder must say with Paul, “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5).

In every congregation I have pastored, members have been active in witnessing for Christ and His church. Some are effective soul-winners. They have no concern about being ordained. They want to share Jesus with others. This is the spirit Christ puts in us. Ellen White wrote: “Long has God waited for the spirit of service to take possession of the whole church so that everyone shall be working for Him according to his [or her] ability. When the members of the church of God do their appointed work in the needy fields at home and abroad, in fulfillment of the gospel commission, the whole world will soon be warned and the Lord Jesus will return to this earth with power and great glory” (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 111).

No matter what policy we as a church vote regarding ordaining women at the 2015 General Conference session, I know Christ brought our church movement into existence, and I will continue to support it.

—David Manzano
Harriman, Tennessee

Thinking About Legacies

I read with interest the article “God Is . . .” (May 15, 2014), and the many comments it has elicited. While the article and most of the comments have been thoughtful and insightful, I do not believe that either the theological positions or the legacies of Graham Maxwell and Jack Provonsha have been adequately served. . . .

Their legacy is found in Seventh-day Adventist hospitals, clinics, and healthcare professional offices around the world. For more than 30 years they had a profound influence on the medical and dental students of Loma Linda University. Like me, many of these students came to Loma Linda with confused but strongly held theological beliefs that simply did not make sense either spiritually or intellectually. Maxwell and Provonsha spoke in a language that was familiar to those of us who had been immersed in scientific literature, and were able to make sense out of our bewildering beliefs and bring us to a new appreciation and respect for the evidence found in all 66 books of the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White.

I do not believe I am overstating my position to say that the true legacy of Maxwell and Provonsha is the fact that there is still a strong and faithful healthcare presence in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

—Mark B. Johnson
Louisville, Colorado

By What Standard?

Referring to “The Tent Event” (Oct. 9, 2014), a letter that appeared in “Inbox: Letters from Our Reader” (Oct. 23, 2014) said that tent meetings are an “outmoded for
m of evangelism.”

The letter also insinuated that satellite evangelism is ineffective with few “results.”

How does one measure “results?” There may be few or no baptisms after any type of evangelistic effort. But if the seed has been planted, one never knows when it will sprout. Are there any newer, more effective methods?

I applaud our youth for their willingness to participate in any form of evangelism. We have to encourage our youth if we hope to keep them in our church. When young people present Bible truths their own faith is reinforced, if nothing else comes of it.

—Beth Nelson
Clear Lake, Wisconsin

Just Curious

Regarding “What Is It?” (Page 7, Aug. 28, 2014), the story of manna falling in Angola, I wonder if this has been verified. If it turns out to be a hoax, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church publicizes it widely, it could make the church look silly.

I watched the YouTube video, but I saw on it no one I recognized. Could they be actors? Has any responsible church official seen the manna fall, or at least seen large quantities of it on the ground and tasted it? It wouldn’t be difficult for someone to make a large batch of cake frosting and scatter lumps of it on the ground, then claim that it was manna that fell during the night.

Some Web sites already have people opining that this is a hoax. And it does seem strange that it has fallen for some 60 years and this is the first we have heard of it. If it does turn out to not be false, we would do well to admit it before the story spreads further. And if it is true, we would do well to make known how the church has confirmed it.

—Ray Cress
Eagle River, Wisconsin

It is sad that our first reaction is to doubt something attributed to a miraculous occurrence or heavenly origin. However, the writer makes a valid point. Sometimes people create surreptitious events to dupe the unsuspecting, and we naturally wonder whether we are the latest victims.

Witnesses documented the manna that fell in Angola at that time, both expatriates and natives alike. It was documented further in 1947 in Signs of the Times and the Milwaukee JournalGreen Sheet. Samples of the substance were tested at various times in a laboratory in South America. The results reported the substance to be primarily sugar. We are unaware of anyone who witnessed the actual “falling” of the manna, only those who witnessed its presence on many occasions.

Whether to believe this to be an actual sign from God must be left to each individual. Those who live at the mission station in Angola believe it to be so. We will not presume to question their faith, or how it affects their lives and witness for Jesus. We simply deliver the story.—Editors