With Friends Like These . . .

Our Bible study this year recalls the details of the days leading up to the trial, death and resurrection of Jesus. In meditating upon His sacrifice for us in this “thoughtful hour”, we pray that you will sense your connection with all of heaven. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemag. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.


P eter wiped drool from his sleeve, stretched and glared at his Friend. Peter tried ignoring Him and turned over, but that didn’t work. His friend just wouldn’t leave him alone.

“Why you sleep’, man?” This time Peter played dead and waited. In a minute He was gone again until he felt another nudge – harder this time.

Again? “What?” Peter snapped. “Can’t a man have a moment’s peace around here?

“Man I need you. I’ve gotta do this. Can’t you stay awake for a few minutes, man?” Jesus sounded disappointed, so Peter sat up. Grouchy, he muttered something about coffee. Everyone knew when it came to sleep, he needed his. He rolled his eyes, then focused to where Jesus was praying. Now what was so important at this time of night anyway? He scratched his head. A few minutes later, Peter was snoring.

Was that another nudge? A few days earlier, we see the silhouette of a man as he walks down an empty, cobblestone street in the late evening. It is obvious the man is distinguished—note his dress and poise. Streets are empty and it’s late, sunset perhaps. He walks fast, glancing furtively left and right. Finally, he disappears into the temple. To pray? No. To make a deal.

Several priests are at a conference table talking, joking, eating. Judas enters. “Judas, come in!” One of the high priests with a playful smile on his lips says, “What can we do for you, Brother?”

Judas hesitates noting the sarcasm. “I need to make a trade!” he snaps. “For?,” a man seated at the head of the table seems interested. “For what?,” the guy blurts out. All attention turns to Judas. After what seems like forever, Judas timidly responds, “Jesus!”

Mark 14:32-42; 66-72; Matthew 27:5-10

Fast forward to the loft of a local home. Jesus is surrounded by His friends– twelve of them. You know the names. They eat, have bread and wine, but before that, they do the cultural stuff—foot washing. Jesus, towel in hand brings a pan to Peter, who doesn’t want it. Jesus pressures him and washes Peter’s feet anyway, and water trickles down Peter’s feet. Judas watching and the expression on his face could be anger, or guilt, already knowing he had made a deal that was about to go down. Why were Peter’s feet being washed first?

It’s Passover, family time, a special time for Jewish families. Jesus had decided to have a Passover supper with just His guys. Right time, right place. Everyone’s bonding, eating together. Then, Jesus drops it: “One of you guys is going to let me down!”

Jaws drop, eyebrows raise as everyone’s eyes and fingers scan the room. But according to the Apostles, it was loud-mouthed Peter, who just had to ask the question.

Mic on: “You’re talking about me, right?” Me? They will”, he says pointing. “Not me. I would never betray you! Who do you think I am?”

Shake your head and smile, because in a few hours, he does just that– not once, but three times. On the other hand, there’s Judas sitting, eating, and saying little. He can’t, because he knows Jesus knows. Jesus always knows. Just a couple of days ago he made a deal with the priests. He was smart, see: his friend for half a year’s salary. Well, that didn’t sound right, but yes, he sold his friend out. So yes, he probably squirms a little (actually a lot) when Jesus makes His remarks. Finally, not able to take the guilt anymore, he says: “Hey guys, I cant’ stay; gotta go!” His exit is quick, leaving the rest of the disciples to wander had just happened.

Hours later in the wee hours of the morning Peter and Judas—these friends of Jesus—faceoff in a charming, little garden nearby. Jesus is in His usual spot. He likes to pray there because there in solitude He can finally talk to His Father, without all the noise of the people, Pharisees, or disciples. It’s a perfect retreat for a busy time, and as mentioned in the Desire of Ages, the Passover always had wall-to-wall people. It was spring and the Garden of Gethsemane was blooming and fragrant. Most of all, it was midnight and quiet. No one is there but them, and so as Jesus meditates, the plot thickened.

Two characters, one night of joy, pain, anticipation, conflict, denial, and guilt.

This is the story of Jesus and his friends in the garden. However, focus in on a few of His “true-blue” friends. Peter, James, and John are supposed to stand by Him, but they just sleep by him. Jesus has one desperate need—a quiet moment alone to pray. But like us, He needed the support of His people. This time is crucial. It is time to agonize, to plead: “God, please, I don’t want to do this, but if you really want this, then . . .” He checks on his buddies, begs them to stay awake, but they are asleep. One, Two, Three times. Asleep every time.

Finally, for the last time, Jesus states that poignant line: “It’s time!” This loaded statement, a nagging reality that they blew their last chance to stand by Jesus, the ultimate fail. For our star guys, Peter and Judas, it will be a long night to make a complete fool of their friendship with Jesus, and ultimately themselves.

So many comparisons between these two leading men:

Both were quick thinkers: Judas makes the deal to betray Jesus and give a secret signal so as not to give himself away. At Jesus’ arrest Peter chops off a guy’s ear in a impulsive show of support.

Both were disloyal: Judas’ trade with the priests, and the signal kiss to Jesus both speak of bad intentions. Peter’s not much better, with his colorful display of expletives to prove he wasn’t one of the disciples.

Both showed remorse: Judas couldn’t deal with the fact that his kiss led to Jesus’ death, so he returned the cash. He eventually committed suicide after he realized it was a done deal. Peter fell apart when Jesus looked at him after he had denied Him for the third time. He had no peace until he saw Jesus again.

Yet, they were from vastly different backgrounds: Judas seemed to be white-collar, educated, reserved, and a calculating accountant; Peter, was a streetwise fisherman, brash, foul, impulsive, excitable, warm, expressive.

The paradox: Jesus was rabbi, but the lesson was taught by these two guys; not by priests, the mob, or even the rest of the disciples. Two men, two very different encounters with Jesus. One driven to suicide. The other to Martyrdom. Both touched by Jesus. Like Judas and Peter, Jesus will come to you. But at the end of the show, lights off. It will be your choice, your story.


HILARY CAMPBELL, writes from Beltsville, Maryland.


ELLEN G. WHITE (1827-1915), the most translated female author in history and recently named one of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time” by the Smithsonian Institution in 2014, was a co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

*You can read The Desire of Ages in its entirety online at www.whiteestate.org/onlinebooks.

With Me or Against Me?

How blind is love? Is it blind at all? What about its other senses? If God is love and Jesus is God, what was Jesus looking at as He reclined at the table with His disciples, at what has come to be called the last supper? Brothers looking for upward mobility and tension that could be cut with a butter knife was the atmosphere with which we find Jesus before He takes the walk that would secure our journey in this life. Join us as we explore how the Lover of our souls dealt with those who were both with Him and against Him.

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Day 1 - Read Matthew 25:1- 26:19

Before we get to the last supper it is important to get the context of the conversation. Jesus has just told some of the sharpest and most divisive parables, relaying the message that those who think they’re making it in the Kingdom need to reevaluate what is giving them assurance of their place in glory. What do you think Jesus meant by the parables he told? Tweet us about it here at Message using the hashtag, #MessageMag


Day 2 - Read Matthew 26:20-21

Some awkward things can happen at a dinner table. I don’t know if anyone can begin an evening with a more disconcerting statement. “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” Can you imagine what went through the disciples’ minds? Can anyone stand being accused of being something that you are not? Has anyone ever thought something about you that was completely wrong? Has there ever been a rumor spread about you that was fully false? Tell us about it here on social media using the hashtag #MessageMag


Day 3 - Read Matthew 26:22-23

One of the hardest things for some people to do is admit when they are wrong. I submit to you that there is spiritual maturity in being able to point out your own shortcomings. It’s completely normal to mess up, but a little extraordinary to be “fess up” to it. The disciples shared this struggle, as each of them had “dipped his hand in the bowl” with Jesus. Has there ever been a time where you realized you were wrong, knew you should admit but just couldn’t? If you are willing tell us about it, use the hashtag #MessageMag

Day 4 - Read Matthew 26:24-26

Now that we’ve looked at our own wrongs, I know we that all of us have had others do us wrong as well. Herein lies the challenge. Jesus ate with the one who was going to hand Him over! If Jesus is the epitome of love, then His actions challenge us to be willing to not only tolerate whos who harm us, but to be hospitable to them? Tell us your thoughts: Do you think it’s in you to do this? #MessageMag

Day 5 - Read Matthew 26:27-28

Jesus has overstepped His boundaries at this point. Not only is He at the table with the one who will betray him, but He’s sharing with him the representation of the sacrifice He is about to make. In other words, He knows that Judas is about to betray him but in response He is still willing to give everything for him. How hard is it be around the people who don’t have your best interest at heart? How hard is it to go out of your way to look out for them? Have you ever had family, “friends,” or even co-workers who had ill-intent concerning you, yet something in you kept you positive? Share that with us, using #MessageMag.

Day 6 - Read Matthew 26:30

What a way to end a tension-filled evening—singing a hymn. Just from a surface look at this we can see that even when things are about to come to a boiling point Jesus is still the Prince of Peace. Does anyone desire to be able to have peace even when you cannot tell who is for or against you? The fact is that eventually all the disciples would betray and abandon Jesus, but in spite of this Jesus took joy in being able to sit down and eat with them one more time. I pray that you, as you navigate the maze of personalities this life can throw at you, are able to be at peace whether they are with or against you.

 

 

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Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Shiloh Seventh-day
Adventist Church in Ozark, Alabama. He also pastors the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dothan, Alabama.

 





Who Has Your Vote?

The year 2016 will be very intriguing on the political campaign trail since this is a presidential election year for the nation’s highest office. Campaign speeches, candidate debates, politician promises, and television advertisements are the order of the day. From reduced taxes to national security, each candidate has a promise for a better future with the pledged intent to be the best individual to lead arguably the most powerful nation on earth.

Political parties, campaign workers, political action committees, labor unions, and caucus groups alike are lobbying on behalf of their selected candidate to secure votes. The question, “Who has your vote?” will be asked throughout this period in efforts to ascertain candidates’ standing with voters. Voters will research candidates’ platforms, review their congressional voting records, listen to presidential debates, study political agendas, read media blogs, evaluate candidate pros and cons, and then make a decision to support their preferred candidate.

As a minister of the gospel, I dare not mix church and state issues, but juxtapose the aforementioned question, “Who has your vote?” to a greater reality that affects not one’s political penchants or likings, but one’s eternal life.

While an American leader can only keep a campaign promise for a maximum of eight years, let me remind you of a leader who has made an eternal promise to us.1 This leader is King of Kings and Lord of Lords,2 and His platform has forever been one of love.3 His track record has always embodied teaching the Word, preaching the good news, healing the sick, caring for the poor, and setting people free.4 His passion for people has been centered in giving them life.6 Moreover, with Him, there are no property taxes, because He paid it all for us on Calvary.6 This leader is none other than Jesus Christ! Jesus has my vote! He has my support! He’s not a Democrat, Republican, or Independent. He’s just my Savior!

A vote is defined as “a formal opinion or choice.”7 So, to cast a vote for Jesus is to formally choose Him. You’re letting everyone officially and overtly know that Jesus is your choice! While this vote is not cast in a voting terminal, booth, or cubicle, I’d like to suggest four ways in which you can cast your vote for Jesus:

1) Through love – Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”8 We are further admonished, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth, not knoweth not God; for God is love.”9

2) Through obedience – Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments,”10 and what a joy it is to obey Him knowing that great peace is afforded to those that love His law!11

3) Through worship – Again, Jesus declares, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.12 The great psalmist exhorted, “Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in His sanctuary: praise Him in the firmament of his power. Praise Him for His mighty acts: praise Him according to his excellent greatness. Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet: praise Him with the psaltery and harp. Praise Him with the timbrel and dance: praise Him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise Him upon the loud cymbals: praise Him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.”13

4) Through service – Let us “serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing.” The apostle Paul added, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”14

Jesus made us a promise. He promised that one day soon He is coming back to redeem His supporters!15 We show our support and express our vote for Him through love, obedience, worship, and service! Jesus has my vote! Can He count on yours?       

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AMERICHRISTIANS

There is a perception among many Americans that ours is a Christian nation. As usual, this belief resonated throughout the 2016 Presidential election cycle, as it has in many others. Not only did candidates offer their positions on various issues, they could be heard regularly emphasizing the fundamentals of their Christian faith. Sadly, in politics, as elsewhere, a religious label has become nearly as meaningless as the labels advertisers use on their products—Organic, Natural, New and Improved.

It’s often difficult to distinguish any difference in the actual conduct of politicians who have embraced the label Christian. Even the media has joined in the chorus of religious affirmation. Throughout the electoral process, media pundits have kept an eye on how evangelicals, especially those in southern states, were viewing respective candidates. The clear suggestion being made is that religion is important in every aspect of American life, even politics. But is that true? The question of the nation’s Christian stature is perhaps a topic for another time. However, the current state of religion in America certainly should draw our attention.

pewpoll religion trend

Data from a 2015 Pew Research Center study shows that in this professed Christian nation, the percentage of the population who claim some religious affiliation is is declining. A sampling of some 35,000 adults across the country has revealed that the number of Americans who maintain belief in God, have a daily prayer life, and engage in regular church attendance, has dropped over the past few years. Additionally, while the percentage of American adults professing belief in God has dipped slightly from 92% to 89%, the number of Americans who declare with absolute certainty that God exists has plunged from 71% to 63%. Which raises an interesting question: Are believing, praying and attending church weekly the markers of authentic Christianity? It may be that rather than question whether America is a Christian nation, perhaps the central question should be:

Are Christians in America, Christians at all?

A study of God’s Word reveals that self-professed labels, a legalistic approach to serving God, is hardly adequate to qualify one as a Christian. Yet, there is no mystery as to the characteristics that define what it means to be a Christian. The Bible provides us with an enormous amount of information.

Certainly, John 3:16 is one important indicator. Those who believe on Jesus “shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” However, it’s important for us to understand that belief in Jesus is more than mere admiration of the sacrificial life and death of the Lamb of God. Such belief needs to translate into action. Christians take action to respond to the words of Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3:3. They seek the “new birth.” For Christians being born again means taking the steps Peter outlined in Acts 2:38 as he called believers to repentance, baptism, and acceptance of the gift of the Holy Spirit. The importance of the Holy Spirit’s arrival is found in the work of transforming the hearts of believers, so as to bring alive the words of 2 Corinthians 5:17 that to be in Christ is to be “a new creation.”  Further, 1 Corinthians 11:1 counsels that Christians should be followers of the example of Christ, just as Paul was.

For those who are redeemed by Jesus, Christianity is much more than the wearing of a religious label. To be a Christian is to model the life of Christ, a victorious life lived not one day a week, but every moment of every day. To live each day as led by the Spirit of God enables believers to move beyond the religious labels of our society, while projecting the reality of Philippians 1:21, “for me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”




Spiritual Rehab

Pastor and evangelist Charles D. Brooks preached a powerful sermon. An eminent, beloved, and trusted man of God, Brooks wailed convincingly at the podium and sent Bible pages fluttering with every gesture. Seekers assembled under the big green tent—me included—hung on every word as he told faith-stirring stories, like the one where the mailbox contained the rent money, or the neighbor brought food, or the trigger didn’t fire, or the doctor’s report came back negative.

I don’t remember everything Brooks referenced as my spirit rode high, but I do remember glancing down at the man sitting just beyond where Brooks was preaching. He was another beloved and trusted man of God. His short, soft curls had only recently become prematurely gray; his normal chestnut brown complexion was also a flat gray. His face was gaunt, and the suit he wore bore the hallmarks of a pre-occupied mind. This was my dad, in his fourth year of a five-year battle with cancer.

This was the night my faith collided head-on with life. That night I sustained a broken heart and have been in spiritual rehab ever since.

All that I was taught and all that I knew to do in faith—the prayers, the fasting, the waiting, the staying busy and faithful, the relationship-building with God, the obedience—seemed not to matter. Before I knew what “Word Of Faith” meant, I used Bible verses as precedents in my prayers. I pleaded my case to God day after day, but this way of “case-making” ceased to make sense to me. Why? I wanted God to move and answer in a different way, and when He didn’t I didn’t go away angry. I slipped into faith arrest. To borrow a medical term, I “coded.”

I share this difficult moment in my life with you for two reasons. You should know that if God could breathe life into my faith again—and He did—He could certainly do the same for you. My “faith rehab” included acute care, counseling, and the healing balm of His unwavering concern for me. I “work out” each week in a group of brothers and sisters in varying stages of brokenness and wholeness.

After painful, faith-stretching exercises, I put on the warm rub or the cold blasgirl on bicycle with training wheelst—that is, the warm realization of His nearness to me, or the cold understanding that for now we live in a world of conflict and decay that touches my life. God knows when to let me experience each. I, in turn, am learning to trust His treatment plan. Though I’m pretty sure my nickname in heaven is “Training Wheels,” I’m back on my feet, thank God.

I tell you this for another reason. One of the most astounding promises the Bible makes is that God “is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all that we can ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). This Scripture specifically refers to the miraculous way in which God helps us to know know all about Him—the height, length, breadth and width of love that would be incomprehensible otherwise. It’s something like that delicate flower that manages to catch a fleeting ray of sun and a drop of rain, yet pushes its petals through a crack in the pavement. While I want to give you the reasons for the faith that He has given me (and given me again), let me assure you that the faith planted in you by God will respond to His pulse in His time.

Pray as you seek God in His Word. Research Him with an open mind. Wait to hear from Him, and when you do, follow His lead. God is going to do something in you and for you.  




2016 May / June Issue

Special Issue

TRUTH ALWAYS WINS


“And you will know the truth, and  the truth will set you free.

John 8:32 (NLT)

16 TRUTH ALWAYS WINS

17 God’s Text Messages
by Melvyn Hayden III

18 One God
by Stephen A. L. Richardson

19 The Father In Your Life
by Debra Mckinney Banks

20 Who Jesus Is
by Carol Barron

21 Holy Spirit
by Craig Newborn

22 God, Creator
by Rashad Burden

24 I’m Only Human
by Donald L. McPhaull

25 All-Time Conflict
by Washington Johnson II

26 He Fixed It!
by Jason Francis

27 The Experience of Salvation
by Jeremy J. Anderson

28 How Do I Love Thee…
by Omar Miranda

30 Growing In Christ
by Geoffrey Marshall

31 Walk Like a Believer
by Will Smith

32 Where to Find God’s People
by Ira L. Lake

33 Together At Last?
by Linda R. Anderson

34 Thinking About Taking the Plunge?
by Marc Swearingen

35 Sw eet Communion
by J. D. Chaffin

36 God’s
by Joanne Cortes

37 Truth vs. Fiction
by Carmela Monk Crawford

38 Law of Love
by Melissa Reid

39 Sabbath Reservation
by Richard D. Martin

40 Full Surrender
by Gary L. Wimbish

41 The Makings of A Family
by Derrick and Sonya Mccollum

42 The Defense Rests
by L. David Harris

44 The Best Thing Since the Second Coming of Christ
By Ivan L. Williams, Sr.

46 The Last Enemy
by Ganoune Diop

47 Millennium Bound
by Mark A. McLeary

48 The End of the Story
by Keith S. Goodman

4 ELEVATION
by Phillip McGuire Wesley / MUSIC, BOOKS, AND APPS TO TAKE YOU HIGHER

5 EDITORIAL
by Carmela Monk Crawford / Spiritual Rehab

6 Optimal health
by Donna Green Goodman / Soup’s On!
by Shelem Flemons / Glow Girl

9 Myth busters
by Donald L. McPhaull / Americhristians

10 futurecast
by Carlton Byrd / Who Has Your Vote

12 The experience
by Hilary Campbell / With Friends Like These…

The experience BIBLE study
by Rashad Burden / With Me or Against Me

15 RELATIONSHIP Rx
by Willie and Elaine Oliver / Marriage Material

 

   

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