It is I

This devotional thought is not meant for everybody, as a matter of fact is was really meant as a word of encouragement for me.  So if you are not going through any difficulties, if this year been just one blessing after another, if you can’t remember that last trial that drove you to your knees than this message might not resonate with you.  BUT if you have found yourself flat on your face holding onto more faith than facts, if uncertainty is your only certainty, if being led by God has lead you to what seems to be a dead end – then I want to speak to you for the next few moments on a topic I have entitled – It is I

The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.  Ps. 34:19

God does not promise that His people will not have trouble. He does not say that they will never be afflicted, but He promises to bring them out of all their afflictions. In some cases the deliverance may not be complete in this life. God did not keep those young Hebrew captives out of the fire, but  “the form of the fourth” was with them. He did not keep Daniel out of the lions’ den, but his angel delivered him there. He did not keep the apostle Paul out of the storm, but His angel was with him in the storm. Of the apostle Peter, bound with two chains in the innermost prison, it is written: “Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter.” (Acts 12:7)

It is indeed true that “upright people face many troubles” BUT the righteous cry, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their trouble (Ps. 34:17).  In observing Job’s poor state Eliphaz responses and says, in Job 5:7, People are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly up from a fire.  What a dark image of life on this earth, made darker by the fact that experience bears it out as true.  But there is something more to it than this. The old preacher, Dr. Edward Judson,  put it this way – “suffering and success go together. If you are succeeding without suffering, it is because others before you have suffered. If you are suffering without succeeding, it is that others after you may succeed.”

It was in the very midst of the storm when, to the disciples in the little boat , everything seemed lost, that Jesus appeared walking on the water and said, “It is I; be not afraid” (Matt. 14:27).

Charlotte Elliott, author of 150 hymns the most familiar of which is Just As I am without one plea, wrote in spite of being described as weak and feeble in body.  In her reflections of Matthew 14 she penned these lyrics found in our old hymnal Christ in Song (#700)…

When waves of trouble round me swell, 
My soul is not dismayed; 
I hear a voice I know full well, - 
Tis I; be not afraid. 

When black the threat'ning skies appear,
And storms my path invade,
Those accents tranquilize each fear,
"'Tis I; be not afraid."

There is a gulf that must be crossed;
Saviour, be near to aid!
Whisper, when my frail boat is tossed,
"'Tis I; be not afraid."

 

I encourage you today to claim these words of prayer by David, found in Psalm 40:13. Claim them for yourself and for your life circumstance, or for someone else in their time of need and deliverance.  The verse says – Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me: O Lord makes haste to help me (Ps. 40:13) and take comfort that God will deliver, and that he will hurry to help.

Are you an Almost Post-Christian?

The Barna Group faith and culture research organization has published its 2017 list of most post-Christian cities in America. Barna said that the “influence of Christianity in America is waning” and that the role of religion and church in public life is fading.

The group has tried to measure this change in American belief. It has created what it calls the “post-Christian metric” where individuals have to meet nine out of 16 criteria to qualify as post-Christian.

Barna feels that this set of metrics more accurately addresses the beliefs of respondents because it is based on actual practice as opposed to vague affiliation with a given faith. The organization claims that this form of measurement gives a clearer picture of belief versus unbelief.

Do not believe in God
Identify as atheist or agnostic
Disagree that faith is important in their lives
Have not prayed to God (in the last week)
Have never made a commitment to Jesus
Disagree the Bible is accurate
Have not donated money to a church (in the last year)
Have not attended a Christian church (in the last 6 months)
Agree that Jesus committed sins
Do not feel a responsibility to “share their faith”
Have not read the Bible (in the last week)
Have not volunteered at church (in the last week)
Have not attended Sunday / Sabbath school (in the last week)
Have not attended religious small group (in the last week)
Bible engagement scale: low (have not read the Bible in the past week and disagree strongly or somewhat that the Bible is accurate)
Not Born Again

 

Full article


In reflecting on the survey’s “post-Christian metric” I have to ask the question: By our practices are we what would be considered a “Post Christian”? That would mean that we identified with 9 out of the 16 criteria, and 13 out of 16 would earn us a “highly post-Christian” qualification.

But  more important what does it mean for our Christian walk if we identify with 8, 7, or 6 of the criteria? How much fading can we live with and still be a “solid” Christian – 1, 2, 3? Or is being a “solid Christian” even expected? Is watered-down well enough?

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. – Matthew 16:24-25 NASB

I suspect, after reading the list and highlighting 8 of the criteria that I have seen many consistently struggling with in the church as regular members,  that there are a lot of us who would fit snugly in what I would term  “Almost Post-Christianity”.

Another point of reflection for my fellow pastors – are we running a “Almost Post-Christian Fellowship?

Time to Pray

Image by: @FLConf

From the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists:  As we continue to aid and support those affected by natural disasters, our hearts are grieving for all who were affected by the tragedy in Las Vegas. As a church, we call everyone to unite and pray for healing and comfort. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Ps 34:18.  Let us pray for one another.  

Statement from the North American Division in response to the recent Las Vegas Shooting: 

NAD Statement on Las Vegas, Nevada, Mass Shooting


Oct. 2, 2017, Columbia, Md.: The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America is deeply saddened and troubled by the shooting that took place early in the morning on October 2, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nevada, where 58 people lost their lives and more than 500 were injured. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those killed and to the hundreds of concert goers injured in this senseless shooting. We are keeping in prayer all the first responders and medical personnel helping the injured as they deal with the aftermath of this tragic event.
    
It is in times like these when Americans must band together. There is no race, gender, ethnicity, or religion in time of need. We are all God’s children and in need of compassion and His love. We ask that all people, no matter their faith, pray for healing for the heartbroken, the injured, and those mourning the loss of their loved ones.


Below is the response from Pastor Ricardo Graham, president of the Pacific Union Conference, where about 226,000 Adventist church members live in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah. CLICK HERE to read this statement on Pacific Union’s website.
 

Pacific Union Conference President Responds to Las Vegas Shooting


Oct. 2, 2017, Westlake Village, Calif.: As a church, Seventh-day Adventists reject violence and we are appalled at the tragic loss of life last night in Las Vegas. We grieve with those who have lost family and friends, and add our voice in mourning and sorrow. We stand against anyone who causes death and injury, and are heartbroken for those who are suffering such pain and anguish.

The scriptures condemn those who use violence, saying that “those who love violence, he hates with a passion” (Ps. 11:5, NIV). He says very clearly, “Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right” (Eze. 45:9, NIV).

As believers, we are called to stand for what is good and true and right, and most of all to show the love of God in the way we live. We will help those affected in their suffering, and continue to pray for all those who mourn. Instead of returning evil, we stand with all those who wish to do good. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:17-21, NIV).

We believe that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18, NIV). May this be true for all those grieving and saddened at this time of loss.

— Ricardo Graham, D. Min, president, Pacific Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists