CAMPING OUT VS WORKING OUT — LESSONS LEARNED IN A GYM

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The motivation for walking in the door of a gym is to work out and tone up the different body muscle groups. At least, ostensibly that is what people say.

However, I have discovered a unique reason for paying an annual gym membership fee, getting into a car, driving to the location of the gym, going into the locker room and changing into “workout” clothes. All of this is done so some people can don their ear buds, listen to their mp3/iPod and wander to various pieces of gymnastic equipment and just camp out there, blissfully resting still, no motion, no working the biceps, the quads, the deltoids or anything else except the iPod. I guess they like to say that they are going to the gym, they like to have the appearance that they are improving their life. But mostly they sit and occupy space that someone else who is serious about their personal progress would like to utilize.

It kind of made me think, “Why pay the money to go the gym, why show up and then just tune out without working out?” The more I noticed that, it started a little nagging question, “Have I ever showed up at church or a worship service, and just tuned out?” When did I drive to the worship center/church, wear worship clothes, and take up a seat, without fully engaging in the action of embracing God and having the joy of exercising a full heart connection with the King of the universe.

I see people who come to church, but did they come to worship? They walk in wearing worship appropriate clothing, but have they “…Put on the Lord Jesus Christ…” as the apostle Paul would say in Romans 13:14? Is it possible to come because I like the atmosphere and sort of think it is a good idea, and yet I take up the time and space there, while missing the potential of truly growing in my spiritual life.

To join in worship is to experience connecting with a personal God in a holy and majestic way. To engage with Him. To bring Him praise, glory, blessing, honor and full attention. And in return we find a reciprocal action. That great God of the universe loves to enter into our life, to build us up, to strengthen us, to transform us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

But it doesn’t happen if we just come to camp out.

LESSONS LEARNED AT THE GYM – “I AM A LEGALIST”

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It came as a shock to recently discover in the gym, that I am a legalist. I mean, I thought that after years of growing in an understanding of grace, and inviting Christ to completely be my Lord and Savior, I had experienced what it meant to live a grace-filled life and have a grace motivation to growing in holy obedience to my Savior.

Gyms come in all sizes and with various options. Some are straight weight lifting. Others have the amenities of an indoor pool, whirlpool and racquetball courts, while the premier ones have indoor tennis and an indoor running track.

The gym I chose has two features that appealed to me:  a low monthly rate (even lower if paid annually) and a section set aside for those wanting to concentrate on an express fitness workout. This section has 10 machines and 10 step platforms. The concept is that only those gym members wanting to do the full circuit of all 10 machines and step platforms are to use this section. A traffic light blinks green or red to indicate when you switch from one activity to the next, through all the 20 steps and you can do all the activities from one to the next as directed by the green and red traffic light, in 30 minutes.

There is a breed of gym users that either can’t read, or don’t care. They come to this section and plop their body on just one of the machines, and then just stay there through various cycles of the green and red traffic signal. They don’t even shift to the step platforms, but tie up their favorite exercise machine. So the rest of those doing the Express cycle have to by-pass the tied up machine when it comes time for them to do that part of their routine.  For someone who might be OCD (which I am not), I am sure it can be frustrating.  I came to resent the chronic abusers of the gym rules.  They were getting in “my” way, using “my” machine when it was clearly “my” turn to advance to that machine.  I was down-right  indignant.  They weren’t “following the rules!”  It was clear that the gym management needed to come and enforce the regulations or throw them out.

Besides my physic, my mental self-righteousness was getting a work-out.

Gradually, as my anger built up, there came a still small voice, that began to whisper alternatives to the pent-up emotions.

“Yes, they are not following the rules.  Yes, this is an inconvenience to you. Yes, you are following the rules and should not have to accommodate those members.”  I liked that part of the still small voice!  However, it continued on. “You can be angry. You can even give them disgusted glances. But have you ever listened to the “rules” but then decided the rules didn’t apply to you and you went ahead and followed your own plans?”  Ouch!  “And did the Lord gently work with you and encourage you to a different choice, one more in line with His will?”  Yes, the Lord has been very good in teaching me the folly of my own choices, while extending grace to lead me back within His will.

I am still frustrated by the gym hogs that get into the express section. But the Lord is teaching me to take a breath, plan an alternate route to finish my routine.  Think some “grace thoughts” instead of dwelling on the inconvenience, and remember that Someone else could have written off the entire planet earth over the inconvenience of sin. But instead, Jesus choose the way of the cross for someone like me, who got the entire righteous life routine entirely wrong.

I am a legalist – saved by grace.  So now I am letting the Lord extend His grace through me and my attitude.

THE JOY OF YOUR FIRST TIME

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My oldest sister went sky-diving in her late 60s. It was something she had always wanted to do so family members gave her the experience as a birthday gift. The price included receiving a film of your entire experience, however, the camera failed and there were no pictures, so they gave her a second, “free” sky-dive jump the same day. (Better the camera failing than the parachute!)

Can you remember looking forward to something for your first time?
Your first motorcycle ride.
Your first roller coaster ride
Getting engaged and married.
The birth of a child.
Getting in the first car you ever owned or drove.
Your first trip to a foreign county.
The purchase of your first house.

Just imagine what it will be like when you see Jesus for the very first time. When in the darkest moment of earth’s history and the world seems to be falling apart, the sky begins to open up with the glory of millions of angels bringing the brilliance of heaven. Then Jesus appears, calling the dead in Christ to rise back to life and He sends His angels to gather the faithful family of God.

When we hear of the latest terrorist attack, a massive natural disaster or an outbreak of a serious infection like Ebola or Zika virus, it reminds us of the promise of a world free from sin, disease, destruction and death. So our hearts are drawn to the coming of Christ, when these things will not harm us or anyone else ever again. But the second coming of Jesus is so much more than just finally having safety and security.

The joy of the second coming of Christ is that we finally get to be with Jesus in the face-to-face, eye-to-eye, voice-to-ear, hand-to-shoulder, upfront and personal way like never before. That is the joy to look forward to. Just imagine, this will be the first time in our whole life we will get to see Jesus, talk with Him personally and walk with Him (Revelation 14:1-5). And it won’t stop, we will get to stay with Him.

Having a beautiful home in the new earth, walking on streets of gold, seeing the dazzling glory of the New Jerusalem, never experiencing death is just the coloring in the “icing on the cake,” as it were. The real joy is to be united with our Lord and Savior. Just think, of all the places in the vast reaches of space that God could locate His presence, He will make the restored earth the center of the universe. And you and I get to live with Him here on the new earth.

That is why we can look with great joy for the soon return of Jesus. He is coming for us! God wants us to be with him! The promise of John 14:3 rings in our hearts as Adventists, where Jesus said, “…I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

Jesus Himself is longing for the day when He can come and take us home. Hebrews 12:2 shares that when Jesus was enduring the agony of the cross, it was “for the joy that was set before Him” that carried Him through. I believe that joy was the anticipation of coming to welcome us to the home of the redeemed. By His grace, keep looking with joy for the second coming of Jesus.

THE GREATEST GIFT

Beyond all the lights, decorations, holiday music and retail shopping madness, what a joy to step back and contemplate the great gift of God to the human family at this time of year. Immanuel, God with us. Just think that the very Creator God, the One who holds and guide the entire universe. The One who is loved by unfallen created beings and who experience the glory of heaven, choose to come to this earth, be born as a helpless, dependent baby. That mighty God choose to experience all the difficulties and issues of life, . . . in order that He might lift us up and restore us to a place in the heavenly family. Jesus is God’s gift to us. He came, right on time, and the angels filled the night sky over Bethlehem with just a small fraction of the glory of eternity to announce His coming to some sincere shepherds.

Today, I invite the Pennsylvania Adventist family, to be revived in the memory of Christ’s coming some 2000 years ago. And to also be excited as we eagerly anticipate His soon return. Just as certainly as Jesus came and entered the world in Bethlehem that night, so He has promised to come again. And this time, just when the condition of the world may seem very dark, He will come with the glory of all His angels, and all His glory, and all the glory of His Father. That is what each of us joyfully looks for. Let us join as an Adventist family across Pennsylvania, in sharing that joy, and reminding everyone who lives here, that there is another coming to be ready for.

The Only Effective Ban that Answers Gun Violence and Terrorism

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Paris, Columbine, Sandy Hook and now San Bernardino. Images of terror, destruction and death are becoming way too common in our present experience. We tremble to hear where it devastates families and neighborhoods next. Helpless is not the answer we want. Lowering flags to half-mast and offering prayers and thoughts doesn’t seem to solve the pervasive epidemic that only seems to be growing.

In the urge to feel like we as a society can do something that will solve this wave of senseless violence before it comes to my neighborhood, my workplace, my family, we desperately think that before another person gets caught in innocent murderous rampages, surely we can do something that will prevent this from ever happening again!

So the chorus is becoming louder and louder to ban assault rifles and automatic types of weapons. I will be among the first to agree that the general populace does not need keep and bear the arms of assault weapons. What we need to do is keep and hold safe in our arms our children and our neighbors. But then after banning certain types of weapons, where else will the ban go? Once assault weapons are legislated to be illegal, will that prevent the terror assault on innocent Americans? Other weapons will be chosen since the desire to harm and destroy is so strong in the minds of the enemies of those who disagree with the American values and cultures and those mentally unbalanced , that they think they have enemies to remove, or that they need to seek notoriety. What do we ban next, when we find that evil marches on in the hearts and actions of men and women determined to destroy the peace and lives of everyday citizens?

Timothy McVeigh used a Ryder rental truck for the Oklahoma bombing of the Federal Building. Do we ban Ryder Rental Trucks? He used basic fertilizer products to produce the explosion. Do we ban agricultural fertilizer? The middle east terrorists of 9-11 used airliners. Do we ban jet airplanes? The Palestinians right now in Jerusalem and parts of Israel are stabbing innocent Israelis on the streets with kitchen knives and scissors. Do we ban sharp kitchen knifes and household scissors? The Boston Marathon Bombers used a kitchen pressure cooker—no guns. For heaven’s sake, should we ban kitchen pressure cookers? The San Bernardino terrorists had also constructed pipe bombs from basic materials readily available. Shall we ban pipes?

No matter what we ban, either terrorists or criminals or the mentally unbalanced will find something to continue their evil actions to destroy life, create mayhem, and call attention to their cause.

There is only one ban that will work. You won’t find it being mentioned in the halls of congress or governmental leaders. It will be scoffed at by the secular media. The only ban that will ever counteract this growing terror and loss of life, will be a lifetime ban on evil.

As long as there is evil in the hearts of men, there will be new and innovative methods to continue to take life in order to advance a group cause or a personal agenda. The issue is the very basic evil resident or chosen, in the human heart. And the only antidote to that, is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Receiving Christ into one’s heart and choosing to be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven is the only answer to this present world.

Until that happens, more acts of brutal murder and terror will increase. No matter what you ban, a method, a tool and a weapon will arise to fill the hand of those to determined to bring evil on the world.

The government can legislate a ban on weapons, assault rifles and automatic guns. But legalism never has purified the human heart and ultimately changed behavior for the better. It only happens when we choose to have Jesus Christ completely take over our hearts, minds and actions. Only when we surrender our will and our desires to that of Jesus Christ. Only when we become sons and daughters of God and enter right now into the kingdom of Heaven, then and only then, is evil itself banned from our life, our hearts and our motives. With Jesus at the center of our life, the world is then safe from us. And then we are safe for eternity.

“Lord, create in me a clean heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

THE BIG TOPIC, Wednesday, July 8, 2015 GC

The morning session started about 9:30 a.m. and for the first two hours, the time was spent in sharing the theology of ordination, the history of the topic over the years in the Adventist Church, and three reports from the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC). We in the Pennsylvania Conference had two pastors serving on the TOSC and providing contributions, Pastor John Peters and Pastor Tara VinCross.
Two of the three reports recommended the ordination of women to the gospel ministry in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Although that was classified as not being enough for a consensus of 90% of the TOSC, it was classified as being a super-majority. (66.6.%)

About 11:30 a.m. the GC Secretary read the motion coming from the 2014 GC Annual Council that would allow Divisions through their Executive Committees whether or not to ordain women pastors in their divisions.

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By the glory of God, I was able to be the first delegate to speak to the motion, and speak in favor of the motion. Just so that there is no mis-understanding of my words or my motives in speaking, my words are listed here:
“Mr. Chairman:
I respectfully ask all of us in God’s world church, how we should relate to the following questions:
If in 1911 Ellen White in Review and Herald May 18, writes “In the city of Portland the Lord ordained me as His messenger, and here my first labors were given to the cause of present truth.”
And–
If in 6 T p. 322 Ellen White writes:
It is the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit of God that prepares workers, both men and women, to become pastors to the flock of God.
And–
If in Acts of the Apostles p. 161, 162 Ellen White writes:
Both Paul and Barnabas had already received their commission from God Himself, and the ceremony of the laying on of hands added no new grace or virtual qualification. It was an acknowledged form of designation to an appointed office and a recognition of one’s authority in that office. By it the seal of the church was set upon the work of God. p. 161,162
And–
If in Joel 2:28,29 God’s word states And it shall come to pass afterward, [that] I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
2:29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
Then–
We must ask ourselves, is it possible God would have us recognize He is working through the daughters of the Adventist church?

If our Adventist daughters are being called by the Holy Spirit in these last days to serve the cause of God through the gospel ministry — Is it possible we are NOT honoring God, by refusing to recognize the calling of God to the daughters of the Adventist Church and permit Divisions to ordain?”

Since the floor was open for delegates to begin speaking about 11:30 a.m. delegates began lining up, until there were scores of delegates at many microphones. At 12 noon, we broke for lunch and very few delegates had been able to speak by then. The Chair of the session, Mike Ryan, assured delegates that those who had registered to speak by having their name tags scanned at the microphones could return in the order that they had been registered in. The chairman also followed a policy of alternating between those standing in favor of the motion and those opposed to the motion. The chair had declared at the beginning of the session, that discussion on the motion would cease at 4:30 and a vote would be taken at that time.

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What became interesting through the time of the session, was that although a large number of delegates were lined up to speak to the motion, there were a number of delegates that came to the microphone to raise a point of order, which enables a delegate to speak ahead of those in line. At the end of the day, only 40 delegates were enabled to speak to the motion either for or against, while 35 delegates came to the microphone to raise points of order. Since everyone only had 2 minutes to speak, including those raising points of order, then the 35 raising points of order used up quite a bit of time that the delegates waiting in line to speak to the motion, either for or against, ended up not being able to speak at all. My sympathies were for Mike Cauley, our former PA Conference President, now president of the Florida Conference, who stood at the microphone at 11:40 a.m. We dismissed for lunch, and then he retook his place at the microphone for the afternoon session, and stood there until 4:30 p.m. Due to so many raising points of order, he never received a chance to make his point at the microphone.

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At 4:30 p.m., the session ceased discussion. We were dismissed by rows within our seating sections of Divisions, and received a paper ballot with two options: “Yes” or “No” and each was listed by the 5 languages that the entire General Conference Session is being translated into. Only those with “delegate” badges that were scanned into floor scanners used to know who could speak at microphones as official delegates, were issued ballots. We were to mark them, and this file to the front of the auditorium where large plastic bins were place and employees of the General Conference Auditing Service were tasked with overseeing the collecting of the ballots.

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It took about an hour to collect the ballots and then to hand count them.

The vote results were:
Yes – 977
No – 1,381
Abstain – 5
Total – 2,363

The motion lost, by a margin of 404 votes. Interestingly, this was the largest number of delegates voting at any time during this entire session, up to this date.

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Of interest, were two General Conference Statesmen, Elder Jan Paulsen, former General Conference president, and Lowell Cooper, retired (as of the previous day) General Conference Vice-President both gave heartfelt appeals for the delegates to vote in favor of the motion.

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After the business session, Elder Dan Jackson invited the entire NAD delegation, special guests and guests, to conference room 103, where we had caucused on Friday for recommending our Nominating Committee members, to have a time to pray and to encourage the NAD to be a gracious supporter of the World-Church at large at this time.

Whatever way you may feel about the outcome of this vote, I am proud of our church for taking up this issue, giving it world-wide study, bringing the results of that study to the world church and that the world church took this seriously enough to provide a wealth of information, and then devote specific time for all the delegates to carefully consider it and vote on it. We have a world-church that is willing to consider things “together.” What a blessing! I am thankful for being a part of such a church where items can be raise, considered, prayed over and then processed together.

TUESDAY’S ACTIVITIES – JULY 7, 2015 GC SESSION.

Today, the delegates more time on the wording of our Fundamental Beliefs. We have had quite a long discussion on the exact wording regarding inspiration of scripture and whether it was “men” who were inspired or “authors.” Some urged that only masculine language be used. The committee shared with the delegates that the reason for using “authors,” was that there were times that the scriptures quote female prophets within the scripture record, and their words should be held as inspired also.

Then more discussion was conducted on the word on the record of creation. The main issue was to include the idea that God created the universe. Then in a “recent 6 day creation” God created this world. This generated several comments back and forth over “minor” (my emphasis) issues and perspectives. At one point, Bill Knott, Adventist Review Editor, and recent speaker at our PA Conference camp meeting was invited to come to the podium and share with the delegates how some of these statements were formed and why they were used. By the end of the discussion the suggested Fundamental Belief, as amended and brought back from the Fundamental Belief Committee after being referred back to the committee yesterday, was voted. You can read the entire amended Fundamental Belief number 6 on “Creation” in the reports of the Adventist Review.

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