September 28, 2013

“It’s Time!”

span class="cap">Hebrews 11:5-6------“By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him:’ for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.  But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

It’s time to diligently seek God and His plans for reaching the millions in the urban centers of the world.  It’s time to spend focused attention together, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, planning soul winning strategy for the large cities of this globe.  It’s time this work must be done with urgency and deep humiliation on our part, with earnest supplicating prayer, with intense Bible study and with careful attention to the incredible divine plans for comprehensive urban evangelism outlined in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy.  There is no work more sacred than to link hands with heaven in proclaiming to the cities of the world God’s message for this hour------the three angels’ messages of power, hope and Christ’s righteousness.  It’s time to be filled with faith as that passage in Hebrews 11 tells us……faith that God will open the way before us in “Mission to the Cities” as we proclaim the truth-----for without faith it is impossible to please Him.  It’s time, in an unbelieving world, to stand for Biblical truth more than ever though the heavens fall.  It’s time to move beyond political correctness and maintain simple Biblical faith and belief.  It’s time to proactively believe and proclaim that God “is”-------that He was and is to come!  That He is the Creator of this earth in six literal days of recent origin, that He is the Redeemer Who came to die for us as our Substitute as II Corinthians 5:21 states, and that He is the Coming King Who is preparing a place for us.  The three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 are the messages for today!  Messages of proclamation, warning and great hope. 

This is the reason for the International Urban Mission Conference.  This is why you are here----a select group of division administrators and urban evangelism/Adventist Mission coordinators and others focused on strategic planning.  This conference is coordinated by Mike Ryan, Gary Krause, GT Ng, Adventist Mission, Secretariat and others.  We had a beautiful beginning last night with GT Ng’s review of God’s plans for reaching the cities as outlined in the Spirit of Prophecy.  We will talk more about that later in this sermon.  As we make specific plans for urban mission, we face the great controversy between Christ and Satan.  The cities have been claimed by the devil.  It’s time we claim the people of the cities for God!

This apostate world is full of cynics and devil-inspired demagogues who take every opportunity to deride and destroy anything having to do with truth.  They bend and twist Biblical truth until it denies the power of a Creator, Redeemer and all-powerful Coming King.  The cities of this world are their strongholds.  Of course, cities do have good people and good activities.  But cities have a heavy concentration of evil because of the concentration and magnitude of non-believers and the vanity of pride.  It has ever been that way since sin entered this world and concentrations of people groups began focusing on themselves rather than their Creator.  God tells us, like He did Enoch, to enter the cities with the power of God’s truth to find those who are honest of heart who will respond to the tender pleading of the Holy Spirit as Biblical truth is presented.  That is why today and in the future, we must be part of those who diligently seek God personally through revival and reformation in our own lives, leaning completely on the merits and grace of Jesus Christ for our salvation and for the salvation of others as we proclaim the central theme in the three angels’ messages-----the righteousness of Christ-----righteousness by faith in Him.  When we diligently seek Christ, believe Him and proclaim His message of righteousness, God will reward us……..reward us with an ever-closer relationship with Him and will reward us in our proclamation of this message in the cities according to the urban evangelism plan God has outlined.  This is what Enoch did and it’s time for us to follow that example.

Enoch is portrayed as the model for working with people in the cities and is our example for “Mission to the Cities.”  Essentially, there are only about four texts in Scripture that refer to Enoch.  He was always yearning to know God better and walk as closely with Him as possible.  In Genesis 5, we see the briefest insight into Enoch’s life.  Verse 24 simply states, “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”  Luke 3:37 shares the fact that Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, came from the lineage of Enoch.  Jude 14-15 shares the prophecy about Christ’s second coming and His judgment as revealed to Enoch.  However, the Spirit of Prophecy unveils much about Enoch.  Let’s briefly review some of the Spirit of Prophecy highlights that can help us become more like Enoch in our relationship to God’s mission for us in comprehensive urban evangelism:

“Communing thus with God, Enoch came more and more to reflect the divine image…..To him prayer was the breath of the soul……Enoch became a preacher of righteousness…..While still on earth, he dwelt by faith in the realms of light.”  GW 52-53.
It’s time for each of us to be prayerful leaders who preach righteousness by faith!

“Enoch’s case is before us.  Hundreds of years he walked with God.  He lived in a corrupt age, when moral pollution was teeming all around him; yet he trained his mind to devotion, to love purity……Enoch had temptations as well as we.  He was surrounded with society no more friendly to righteousness than is that which surrounds us.  The atmosphere he breathed was tainted with sin and corruption, the same as ours; yet he lived a life of holiness…….So may we remain pure and uncorrupted.  He was a representative of the saints who live amid the perils and corruptions of the last days.”  2T 122.

It’s time to place ourselves squarely in God’s hands as we face the challenges and temptations of working in the cities!

“In the midst of a life of active labor, Enoch steadfastly maintained his communion with God.  The greater and more pressing his labors, the more constant and earnest were his prayers.”  PP 86.

It’s time to maintain our communion with God in constant prayer!

 “Enoch’s walk with God was not in a trance or a vision, but in all the duties of his daily life.  He did not become a hermit shutting himself entirely from the world; for he had, in the world, a work to do for God.”  GW 51.

Although we are told that Enoch lived out of the city apart from evil influences, he did not hide from his duty to go into the cities according to God’s plan.  It’s time to plainly follow God’s plans for us and the cities.

“Enoch was a man of strong and highly cultivated mind and extensive knowledge; he was honored with special revelations from God; yet being in constant communion with Heaven, with a sense of the divine greatness and perfection ever before him, he was one of the humblest of men.  The closer the connection with God, the deeper was the sense of his own weakness and imperfection.”  PP 85.

“If ever a people needed to walk before God as did Enoch, Seventh-day Adventists need to do so now, showing their sincerity by pure words, clean words, words full of sympathy, tenderness, and love.” 7T 155.

It’s time for us to humble ourselves before God as Enoch did growing in revival and reformation as the Holy Spirit controls our lives in Mission to the Cities.

“The Cities are to be worked from outposts.  Said the messenger of God, ‘Shall not the cities be warned?  Yes, not by God’s people living in them, but by their visiting them, to warn them of what is coming upon the earth.  As God’s commandment-keeping people we must leave the cities.  As did Enoch, we must work in the cities but not dwell in them……All that Lot and his family did in Sodom could have been done by them, even if they had lived in a place some distance away from the city.  Enoch walked with God, and yet he did not live in the midst of any city polluted with every kind of violence and wickedness, as did Lot in Sodom.”  Evangelism 77-78.

Does this mean that the Spirit of Prophecy is sending mixed signals about cities?  No, not at all.  It is important to understand that there are certain qualifiers according to the Spirit of Prophecy regarding cities and comprehensive urban evangelism.  It is clear that Spirit of Prophecy counsels us that major institutions should not be located in the city.  It is better to have these institutions located in more rural areas because of the much more favorable influence on workers, students and families.   Families with small children should not generally plan to move into the cities.  The Spirit of Prophecy counsels that some should move into the city to be a witness.  However, it should also be possible for members and church workers in the city to be able to go into a more rural area at least once in a while to regain the blessings of being close to God’s second book-----nature.   The Spirit of Prophecy has a very balanced view as to how the cities are to be worked with an “in” and an “out” concept.  There are some aspects of God’s work that can be in the city and some aspects that should be just outside the city in a more rural environment.

It’s time to follow Enoch’s example of living a life in complete connection with Christ and working by faith in comprehensive urban evangelism according to Christ’s methods.  In Medical Ministry, page 304, we read, “The work in the cities is the essential work for this time.  When the cities are worked as God would have them, the result will be the setting in operation of a mighty movement such as we have not yet witnessed.”

Our “Mission to the Cities” must be based on Biblical principles and Spirit of Prophecy counsel.  This approach includes the profound and heavenly-inspired plan outlined by Ellen White which shows the “in-out” approach to the cities as we have mentioned.  Although Enoch lived outside the city, he never forgot that he was to go into the city and work.  Inside the cities we are to have “centers of influence” which can include churches, health clinics and centers, reading rooms, vegetarian restaurants, community centers, etc.  Outside the cities we are to have “outpost centers” which include training centers for evangelistic workers, lifestyle health centers, and places for urban evangelistic workers to live or visit to be refreshed in a country setting close to God’s second book of nature.  It’s time for us to take the determined steps to put into practice God’s plans for the urban centers of the world so that a “mighty movement” will result through God’s blessing. 

Matthew 9:35-36 shares Christ’s compassion on the people of the cities. “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.  But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.”

As Enoch did and as Christ did, we are go into the cities to bring encouragement, healing and spiritual blessing to those who need to hear of hope…….this is Mission to the Cities.  It’s time!

Praise God that He has called us to be a people……a church with a mission! And what a wonderful mission it is—a mission to bring hope and healing to a dying world, a mission to proclaim those messages of the three angels, a mission to share the wonderful news of Christ’s soon return! This divinely appointed mission is the reason that the Seventh-day Adventist Church exists and why we are at this International Urban Mission Conference.  It is a privilege to exchange ideas based on the Biblical mandate to go into all the world and preach the Gospel focusing on the large population centers of this globe.  We must encourage each other in wholehearted commitment to that mission.

As a focus on past attempts to work in the cities, let’s review a fascinating and tragic event that took place in Japan in 1923 that affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of city dwellers.  At that time, there were just 40 Seventh-day Adventist members and 5 church workers in all of the regions north of Tokyo… of those workers was Pastor Andrew Nelson.

One Friday evening a delayed telegram reached Pastor Nelson inviting him to a church committee meeting in Tokyo.  After Sabbath, he walked almost 10 kilometers to the nearest railroad station.  It had rained and stormed all Sabbath but providentially the sky cleared at sunset and the stars came out brightly to guide Pastor Nelson on his journey along the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean.  He later wrote in a letter: “I peered along the darkening horizon and thought of the great need of the ten million people in my two undermanned fields of Tohoku and the Island of Hokkaido . . . Our greatest need is men. Scores of large cities in Japan have no worker. Millions have never heard of our church.”[1] 

Brothers and sisters, that is why we are here!  Millions in the large cities around the world have not heard and are still waiting for the precious news of the three angels’ messages and the hope of Christ’s soon coming including Tokyo, home to almost 30 million, where the evangelistic outreach of “Tokyo13” has been taking place as we speak.  It’s time.  How long will they have to wait? It is our responsibility to tell them.  They are waiting for us!

After walking almost 10 kilometers to the railway station, Pastor Nelson was shocked to learn that he could not travel to Tokyo since the city was nearly destroyed.  The September 1, 1923 Great Japan Earthquake was one of the most destructive earthquakes in history.  The 7.9 earthquake lasting four long minutes severely shook Yokohama and Tokyo. That intense shaking was immediately followed by massive firestorms that partially destroyed over half of the houses in those great cities.  Fires continued burning for three days. A few minutes after the earthquake began, a giant tsunami swept up Sagami Bay with waves as high as 12 meters sweeping thousands of people to their deaths.

The death toll from this three-fold disaster was 142,800, including nearly 44,000 who had sought refuge near Tokyo’s Sumida River in the first few hours, only to be incinerated by a freak pillar of fire known as a “dragon twist.” [2] 

Cities around the world in the past and today are affected by terrible natural and man-made disasters.  The end of time is upon us.  It’s time.  With over three billion people living in the large metropolitan areas of the world, God is impressing us with the immense task of proclaiming the Advent message before it is too late………that’s why this International Urban Mission Conference is so crucial.  That’s why the intense planning many of you have been making to implement “Mission to the Cities” in your divisions is so important. Millions upon millions are going through life and down to the grave without any hope of eternal life.
How are we going to reach them? As you know, this is a tremendous challenge, and if we look at the current membership ratio of one Seventh-day Adventists to every 396 persons in this world, half of whom live in the urbanized areas of the world, this challenge can seem almost overwhelming!
But we must remember that the ability to accomplish this work is not found in human beings, in programs, in policies or in strategic planning conferences. The power and truth is found in the Word of God, in the Spirit of Prophecy, in earnest prayer, and in the Holy Spirit.  Zech. 4:6 tells us, “’Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
What wonderful opportunities present themselves in the great cities of your divisions.  Cities that need the life-giving power of Jesus and His righteousness………Cities that should be heavy on our hearts as we weep with Jesus for the people of the cities as He did for the people of Jerusalem recorded in Luke 19:41, “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it…...”  God knows and cares for the people in every city in your division……Do you?  Let’s take a little time for you to call out the names of cities that you carry a burden for.  I’m going to call out the name of a division and I want representatives from that division to participate by just calling out the names of cities that are on your hearts.  We’re not going by alphabetical order for divisions so just think for a moment and ask the Lord to help you to name those cities on your heart.  We’re going to start out with a division with perhaps some of the largest cities of the world----many of which have very few Seventh-day Adventists……the Northern Asia-Pacific Division.  It was a great privilege to recently attend the NSD International Mission Congress on Jeju Island in Korea along with about 3500 other attendees including over 700 from China.  What an inspiring congress as we focused on lifting up Jesus and the three angels’ messages-----presenting truth to be given through every means possible----personal witnessing, publications, integrated media evangelism, small group evangelism, comprehensive health ministry, community services, public evangelism and so many more methods-----following Christ’s method of working.  What a thrill it was as we stood in commitment to the mission of the Lord after listening to Pastor JaiRyong Lee make an appeal to each of us to say to God, “Lord, here am I, send me!”  We wore special scarves and carried lights as we committed ourselves to go into all the world including the great cities.  Northern Asia-Pacific Division representatives, what cities are on your hearts today…………….let me hear them! ……..Inter-American Division………Trans-European Division………North American Division……….Middle East-North Africa Union………..East Central Africa Division……. Euro-Asia Division……….South American Division…………Southern Asia-Pacific Division………..Israel Field…………Southern Asia Division………West-Central Africa Division……..South Pacific Division………Inter-European Division……….and Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division.

All these great cities of the world represent fields ready for harvest! It’s time!!!

This year the Lord is richly blessing the metro New York area through the massive and coordinated Mission to the Cities evangelistic outreach known as “NY13”  under the supervision of a coordinating committee chaired by Don King, president of the Atlantic Union.  NY13 involves two unions and five local conferences.  During June, approximately 100 evangelistic series were held simultaneously throughout the metropolitan New York area. Since the beginning of this year, over 3,000 people have been baptized as a direct result of NY13.  It was a great privilege to hold one of those 100 evangelistic meetings in lower Manhattan in Greenwich Village preaching five nights a week for three weeks.  When you preach the great Seventh-day Adventist Biblical and prophetic messages through the power of the Holy Spirit, those messages not only affect the listeners, they affect your own heart!  You are convinced even more of this precious Advent message!  What a thrill to see people come to the front of the church for baptism and then to participate in a large baptism at the end of the month at a huge combined camp meeting of the Northeastern and Greater New York conferences.  God blessed our meetings enormously and we give Him all the glory.  What a humbling and exciting privilege…….I miss our brothers and sisters and those meetings in New York.  The work is continuing with over 400 evangelistic meetings planned in metro New York for this year.  NY13 has been blessed by God and will continue into the future. 

The many metro New York evangelistic meetings followed months of various outreach events sponsored by prayer ministries, community services, women’s ministries, youth ministries, and health ministries.  Comprehensive health ministry plays an especially important role and is an integral, vital part of urban outreach. Earlier this year more than 1,500 health workers in New York were trained to conduct wellness seminars, home visitations, cooking schools, small-group health meetings, health expos, and fitness events in conjunction with the evangelistic meetings.  Comprehensive health ministry, in which all of us can be involved, is the right arm of the gospel as we follow Christ’s footsteps by helping people physically, mentally, socially and spiritually and pointing them to the Master Physician and Savior.

In conjunction with many of the evangelistic meetings, Pastors Mark Finley and Robert Costa conducted an International Field School of Evangelism. More than 300 leaders, evangelists, and young adults from all 13 divisions attended this training and participated in the evening meetings. It was my privilege to also attend these meetings. The purpose of this school was to equip the participants with the tools necessary to launch a comprehensive evangelistic approach in the cities of your territories. In spite of their sophisticated worldly exterior, the people of these cities are searching for meaning in their lives.

As with many of those living in the cities of your divisions, people living in New York have a very secular mindset. For example, Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan is one of the most secular, sophisticated, expensive places to live in the United States. It is also one of the most difficult areas to evangelize. However, the Northeast Evangelism Training School (NETS) sent 9 student Bible workers to help  prepare the way for the evangelistic meetings that we held in Historic Manhattan Church, a Seventh-day Adventist church in Greenwich Village. These lay workers went door to door in this very sophisticated neighborhood looking for people interested in taking Bible studies.  In two four-hour sessions with four teams knocking on doors, they came back with 106 requests for Bible studies! Even in the most secular places, there are many people just waiting for God’s truth and a knowledge of the three angels’ messages pointing to Christ’s soon coming.

Fellow leaders, truly Jesus is coming soon!  It’s time!  The story I shared with you earlier about Andrew Nelson who, in 1923, was unaware of the great earthquake and fire that had taken place in Tokyo is even more striking when one considers that it was along that very same shoreline that the most powerful earthquake to ever hit Japan struck just two years ago—Friday, March 11, 2011. Known as the “Great Tohoku Earthquake,” this 9.0 quake was the fifth most powerful to hit the world since recordkeeping began in 1900. It triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached heights of over 40 meters. The earthquake moved the island of Honshu 2.4 meters east and shifted the Earth on its axis by up to 25 cm. The disaster swept 15,883 people into eternity—more than 92% of whom drowned. Others were crushed to death, died from internal injuries, or perished from burns.[3]

This represents what can happen anywhere----in any city------and what will happen as the winds of strife increase and the mercy of the Lord is withdrawn from this earth.  It’s time to move forward.  It’s time to reach the millions living in the great cities of this world. It’s time for Mission to the Cities and Comprehensive Health Ministry.  It’s time to present the Three Angels’ Messages with urgency.  It’s time to dedicate our time and talents to Mission to the Cities.  By God’s grace, in 2014, I plan to hold a major evangelistic series in the Makati section of Manila which will be part of many other simultaneous evangelistic meetings in that great city.  It will also be a privilege to hold some shorter city evangelistic reaping meetings in two other countries next year.  In 2015, before the General Conference Session, there are plans for me to participate in two major evangelistic meetings in large cities.  My brothers and sisters, it’s time for us to make room in our busy administrative schedules for the work of Enoch------going into the cities through the power of the Holy Spirit to lift up Jesus, to proclaim the three angels’ messages and to reach the hearts of people with every method outlined in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy.  It’s time!

In Luke 21:28, Jesus told His disciples, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” What a day to be alive as we approach Christ’s soon coming!  Our Biblical message to the cities will unite us as a worldwide people and, like Enoch, guard us from isolating ourselves from society and from each other. God is calling each one of us to be His messengers of light in this dark world as Enoch was to the cities of his day.  As with that dedicated city worker, Enoch, let us have faith in God.  Let us believe “that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” and will obey His commands to proclaim truth using Christ’s method alone.  God promises the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to all who will sincerely ask for heavenly power.

He has promised in Christ’s Object Lessons, page 419: “It is the privilege of every soul to be a living channel through which God can communicate to the world the treasures of His grace, the unsearchable riches of Christ. There is nothing that Christ desires so much as agents who will represent to the world His Spirit and character. There is nothing that the world needs so much as the manifestation through humanity of the Saviour’s love. All heaven is waiting for channels through which can be poured the holy oil to be a joy and blessing to human hearts.”[4]

All heaven is waiting!  Are you willing to dedicate yourself fully to the Lord and allow Him to work through in comprehensive urban evangelism?  My brothers and sisters of this world church----IT IS TIME!  It’s time to move forward in the power of the Holy Spirit to fully reach the vast metropolitan centers of the world.  It’s time for Mission to the Cities!  Are you ready to answer heaven’s call and be an Enoch for such a time as this?  If so, would you stand with me in complete commitment to God’s call to carry this Advent message to the people of the cities?  (Prayer together in groups).



[1] “Foreign and Japanese Workers Needed” by A.N. Nelson, in Missions Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 2, Second Quarter, 1924, pp. 21, 22.
[2] “The Great Japan Earthquake of 1923” by Joshua Hammer in Smithsonian magazine, May 2011.
[3] “2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami,” Wikipedia.ōhoku_earthquake_and_tsunami
[4] Christ’s Object Lessons, by Ellen G. White, Review & Herald Pub. Assoc.:Hagerstown, MD, 2003, p. 419.