Sunday, August 28, 2005

Whatever happened to Ellen White?

We might as well admit it: our kids are not reading Ellen White.

Read the latest report from ValueGenesis or talk to an academy Bible teacher – they’ll tell you she’s neither liked or disliked by most of our students; she’s simply ignored.

And yes, it would be easy to say this was just another “sign of the times”; it would be easy to blame this on the declining spiritual values of our youth . . . if it weren't for the fact that our youth are actually doing pretty well.

In fact, our children are now more likely than ever before to say they read their Bibles, pray, and have accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior; they are doing better in almost every objective measure of spirituality except the study of Ellen White.

So what’s going on?

I suspect that some of this is a backlash . . . not so much by the kids themselves as by their teachers, pastors, and parents. It’s my generation – the “boomers” born in the Fifties and Sixties – who talk of Ellen White “being crammed down our throats.” Now we’ve swung to the opposite extreme: my generation hardly mentions her at all!

Then too, we’ve done a poor job of introducing her to the next generation. Ninety-years after she died, there’s still no good biography of Ellen White. No documentaries, dramatizations, or plays. No single-volume collection of her “greatest hits” that you can use as an introduction to her works. Not even a decent website.

(I mean, you can't even get her books on tape! How difficult would that be?)

Finally, we’ve changed our view of spiritual gifts. In the past, remember, we believed that God had poured out the Holy Spirit on His church through the Spirit of Prophecy. Now we believe that God pours out His Spirit on every Christian. Every Christian, we say, has been gifted by the Spirit. But if every single Christian has thus been gifted . . . then what makes Ellen White unique?

And if she’s not unique . . . well, you can guess where that line of reasoning will get you!

In short, there’s no single reason why Ellen White is slowly disappearing from our churches and schools – just as there’s no single solution that will bring her back.

But if we don’t act soon, then our kids will never discover Ellen White.

And that means their kids will never discover Ellen White.

And we won’t be around to tell them what they’re missing.

Pastor Greg

And remember: “The faithful discharge of today’s duties is the best preparation for tomorrow’s trials” – Ellen White, The Ministry of Healing.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Do acronymns cure cancer?

So you’ve come to that part of the Sabbath School class where you talk about just how to live a long and healthy life . . . but you’re not sure how to pull things together in a way that makes sense.

And yes, you could use the acronym NEWSTART® – i.e. nutrition, exercise, water, sunshine, temperance, air, rest, and trust in God – but it’s a trademark; it’s not something you should use unless you’re referring specifically to the lifestyle program that is offered by Weimar College.

That’s why I ask people to take care of themselves with a Dr’s Care. That means they’ve a better chance of living a long, healthy life if they are:

Drug-free: that mean no DDT (i.e. drugs, drinking, or tobacco).

Rested: 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Safe: Accidents kill more young people than anyting else, so use those seat-belts in the car, wear life-jackets on the water, and don’t run with scissors.

Clean: wash your hands, brush your teeth, and don’t forget to floss -- not only will this give you healthy gums, but it cuts your risk of dying from pneumonia!

Active: exercise 30-minutes a day, three to four days a week.

Religious: it’s true – church members do live longer!

Eating right: more fruits and vegetables, less fast-food and junk-food.

Pastor Greg

And remember: "When it comes to health, you need to check your facts carefully -- many's the man who died of a misprint" -- Mark Twain.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Student Assistance

It’s that time of year again – the time churches start shelling out money for Student Assistance i.e. financial aid for the children who attend our schools.

And yes, it’s money well spent . . . but you can prevent some of the headaches that often come with it if you:

Get help!
Check with your Home and School Association to see what it can do. This year, for instance, one of our parents’ groups took responsibility for the non-Adventist students who need financial aid – a $4500 commitment!

Set a deadline.
We don’t guarantee anything to anyone who asks for help after June 15. That gives us the time we need to look over requests and line up support.

Ask them to do their share.
People who need help should get help – but there’s no sense helping people who won’t do what they can. That’s why we make it clear that a family may lose all or part of its student assistance if:

  • their child has more than eight unexcused absences for the year,
  • and/or their child fails a class,
  • and/or the family falls behind in paying their share of tuition.

Come up with a standardized form.
In our church, every family who needs student assistance must answer seven questions:
1. What is your total family income from all sources?
2. Do you have any unusual expenses that make it especially difficult to pay your child’s tuition?
3. Which children need scholarships, and what grades will they be in?
4. Will any of your children be working in order to help pay their own tuition?
5. Please list the names of other sources (such as relatives and friends) that you have already asked for financial assistance.
6. If your child will be in grades 9-12, have you applied for YES money?
7. How much financial help do you need?

Maintain confidentiality
We’ve a Student Assistance Committee – four church members who look over requests and decide what to do with them. They’re the only ones who know who’s asked for help . . . and when they’ve made their decision, the only thing they take to the Board is the total amount of student assistance that’s been requested for that year.

Keep it legal.
Remember: church members cannot “sponsor” a specific child (even if they’re not related); they can only give money to the student assistance fund that’s been established by your church.

One last point – we’ve found it helpful to take student assistance out of the Combined Budget and run it as a separate fund.

  • First, some people will give to student assistance who won’t give to Combined Budget (and vice versa).
  • Second, it makes it easier to keep track of just how your Student Assistance fund is doing.
  • And this way, when our student assistance fund goes into the red (as it does on a regular basis), it doesn’t foul up all the other accounts that are run out of Combined Budget.


And remember: “If you want to know what God thinks of money, look at who [He] gives it to” – Anne Lamott.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Thoughts of Chairman Ellen

Read much of Ellen White, and one thing becomes clear: she was really bugged by the middle-class.

Take her advice on jewelry, for instance. Or music. Or even bicycles.

In each case, her chief concern was the effect of new-found wealth on the mission of our church.

And yes, this was a problem. (Still is!) Join the church, after all, and you stop drinking (which makes you a better employee). You start paying tithe (which forces you to keep track of your money). And you send your kids to an Adventist school (which almost guarantees that they’ll have a better job than you do).

As a result, the church becomes an economic escalator – one that picks up farmers and mechanics, gives them kids who are pastors and teachers, and eventually produces grand-kids who are doctors and lawyers.

So what happens when a “church of the poor” becomes a “church of the middle-class”?

Well . . . for one thing, the poor stop coming to church. They stop coming, because it’s no longer “their” kind of place!

That’s one reason Ellen White wrote against jewelry; she didn’t want the poor to feel out of place in our churches. That’s why she wrote against classical music; she wanted a church where anyone could feel at home. That’s why she wrote against bicycles; at the time, they were an outrageous example of conspicuous consumption (kind of like Hummers today).

In short, Ellen White was smart enough to know that money talks . . . and sometimes, what it really tells people is, “Go away!”

So how do we avoid that?

And what do we do when the "economic escalator" has done its work, and we've become solid members of the middle-class?

That's what this week's lesson is all about.

Pastor Greg

And remember: “Anytime somebody says, ‘it’s not the money – it’s the principle of the thing,’ it’s really the money” – Anonymous.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The DaVinci Cartoon

Walt Disney movies are part of an international conspiracy — a conspiracy that is nearly 2,000-years-old.

At least, that’s what Dan Brown wants you to believe. In his best-selling book, The Da Vinci Code, Brown argues that the Jesus of the Gospels is a fake — a literary fraud concocted by Emperor Constantine back in AD 325.

But Brown believes he has discovered the truth — a truth kept alive by a small band of heroes such as Leonardo da Vinci. Isaac Newton. Victor Hugo.

And yes, Walt Disney.

As a result, many people who’ve read Brown’s book have been left wondering if maybe — just maybe — Brown might be on to something?

Maybe Jesus did get married?

Maybe his descendants did go on to become the kings of France?

And maybe Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs really does symbolize “the incarceration of the sacred feminine”?

Maybe.

Though the character that really comes to mind here is Goofy.

Take Brown’s statement that our New Testament was more or less “invented” by the Emperor Constantine.

Thanks to letters and sermons from the second-century — and that’s almost two hundred years before Constantine — we know that believers back then were using the same four Gospels that we do today.

They were using the same 13 letters of Paul that we do today.

And they were using all the other books in the New Testament that we do today — even though it did take awhile before every church agreed to use books such as Hebrews and Revelation.

What’s more, we have manuscripts of these New Testament books that go back to the second-century — and there’s no appreciable difference between them and the books you’ll find in your Bible today.

In short, The Da Vinci Code may be a best-seller.

But when it comes to church history, it’s purely Mickey Mouse.

Pastor Greg

And remember: When people doubt God, they don't believe in nothing; they'll believe in anything" -- G. K. Chesteron.

The Land of Battered Women

Click on the title, and read the article in Thursday's New York Times.

Now that you’ve read the article, imagine that you’re a pastor in Africa. Several women in your church have asked you for advice on how to deal with this problem. What kind of advice would you give – both short-term and long-term?

How might this advice differ from that given to a woman living in the United States? Why?

How would the advice you gave your African church members differ from that given by Paul in Ephesians 5:21-6:9? How would it be the same? Why?

How might you apply Paul’s advice to American families today – or is our situation so different that it is simply irrelevant?

In short, how to you follow Jesus in a family that is not ideal?

Pastor Greg

And remember: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” – Leo Tolstoi, in Anna Karenina.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Goodies from the new health plan

Check out ibxpress.com to find out about all the new goodies that come with our new health plan -- goodies such as:
  • $150 reimbursement on your health club membership.
  • $200 reimbursement on Weight Watchers or a hospital weight-loss program.
  • $25 reimbursement on CPR training.
  • And up to 40% off on alternative health care products (such as massage therapy or nutritional counseling).

And yes, you could also get up to $200 back for the costs of giving up smoking!

Pastor Greg

And remember: "When it comes to health, you need to check your facts carefully -- many's the man who died of a misprint" -- Mark Twain.

Friday, August 05, 2005

And by the way . . .

The companion book to this lesson is Robert Johnston's The Spiritual Life: Experiencing Jesus Christ as Lord. It's not too late to get a copy from the ABC -- and it's well worth it!

Who listens when God prays?

And his disciples came unto him and said, “Teach us to pray.”

And he said, “Why?”

And they said, “Well . . . uh . . . all the other rabbis are teaching their disciples how to pray.”

“So go ask them – and besides, you have 150 psalms, not to mention the Eighteen Benedictions that you recite in the synagogue every Sabbath. It’s not as though you lack for examples!”

“Yes, but when you pray, things happen. We want to pray so that things happen too!”

And he did close his eyes, and sigh – and after he had done so, he did begin teaching his disciples to pray as follows: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

And his disciples did stop him and say, “Excuse me? Does it have to be all about Him?”

“No,” he said, “there’s more. ‘Give us today our daily bread.’”

“That’s it?”

“You want more?”

“Let’s be honest,” said his disciples unto him. “You’re not going to sell many books on prayer if all it gets you is the bare minimum to survive. No, we’re looking for something more; we’re looking for a little something extra. You know – a little jam on the bread.”

“Okay, how about ‘Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors’?”

“Love the first part; hate the second. Try again.”

“Maybe something along the lines of, ‘And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’?”

“There’s no need to be sarcastic – and besides, this whole prayer is just way too negative.”

“Negative?”

“You know what I mean. ‘God, it’s all about you – not me. I don’t ask for much, but I do need a break; right now, in fact, I could use all the help I can get.’ I mean, what kind of a prayer is that?!? ”

And he did smile and say, “the same kind I pray every day.”

Pastor Greg

And remember: "You can do more than pray after you have prayed. But you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed" -- John Bunyan.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A Dr's Care

So you’ve come to that part of the baptismal class where you talk about health . . . but you’re not sure how to pull things together in a way that makes sense.

And yes, you could use the acronym NEWSTART® – i.e. nutrition, exercise, water, sunshine, temperance, air, rest, and trust in God – but it’s a trademark; it’s not something you should use unless you’re referring specifically to the lifestyle program that is offered by Weimar College.

That’s why I ask people to take care of themselves with a Dr’s Care. That means they’ve a better chance of living a long, healthy life if they are:

Drug-free: that mean no DDT (i.e. drugs, drinking, or tobacco).
Rested: 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
Safe: use seat-belts in the car, life-jackets on the water, and don’t run with scissors.

Clean: wash your hands, brush your teeth, and don’t forget to floss.
Active: exercise 30-minutes a day, three to four days a week.
Religious: it’s true – church members do live longer!
Eating right: more fruits and vegetables, less fast-food and junk-food . . . and yes, this is where we talk about “clean and unclean.”

I’ve been using a Dr’s Care in my baptismal classes for five-years now; I’ve found it works well with kids and adults. Try it, and see if it doesn’t work for you!

Pastor Greg

And remember: “No one ever changes their mind about anything; there are just more people who think the new way” – Adam Gopnik.