The Holy Hour

As the 62nd Chaplain of the United States Senate, Barry C. Black embodies the poetic progression of providence. Reared in urban Baltimore during the 50s and 60s, his mother, a domestic worker, once brought home goodies from work. His prize was an old record album of the 57th Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall. Inspired by Marshall’s “melodious sermons” Black memorized them and tried them out on his neighborhood friends, Scottish accent and all. Black never dreamed he would one day stand in that place as one of its longest serving chaplains, the first African American and the first Seventh-day Adventist.


The former Navy Chief of Chaplains now conducts a robust spiritual program for diverse members of the Senate, their staffers and their families. This includes four weekly Bible studies and prayer breakfasts. His central duty, however, that of opening Senate sessions with prayer, is a cornerstone of U.S. history, and one proposed by Benjamin Franklin in 1787:

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this. . . I therefore beg leave to move— that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business …

Black’s blunt prayers during a government shutdown garnered media notice, and even a 2013 Saturday Night Live spoof. However, the power in his prayers put him in the spotlight, and “Making Your Voice Heard in Heaven” was the title of his address to the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast, and the title of his fourth book (Tyndale). Black’s inspired impressions find their way into his books and sermons he preaches almost every weekend. Though he speaks without notes, he tosses one of his many ever-ready and evergreen three-ring binders full of “unpreached” sermon material into his bag when he leaves his office.

Black’s three earned master’s degrees and two earned doctorate degrees, and extensive grasp on philosophy, literature and the Word of God betray his youthful, “dapper” appearance. In what has to be a most coveted of the historic offices in the Capitol overlooking the National Mall, he insists, he is not Daniel. “I’m Barry.”

MESSAGE: In today’s political climate, with all the tensions we see on the news, do you find it more difficult to relate to people across parties, ideologies, beliefs?

BLACK: I don’t find it difficult. First of all, because my position, as you know, is non-partisan and non-sectarian, so, I don’t have to take sides. Moreover, this not taking sides does not mean I have to put my brain in neutral. I just taught a Bible study to senators at a prayer breakfast where only senators are involved. And, when they ask me about my perspective on a particular issue, I can share in a very transparent way what I think, usually using theological or philosophical principles to make my case. So, I just don’t have to publicize, where I’m coming from in terms of my political position, and I actually enjoy that because it makes it easier to work with a diverse group.

MESSAGE: What’s a good Bible study that you get together and people really get engaged in?

Black: Today we had a Bible study called “Receiving Guidance All the Way Home.” It was basically on the gift of the Holy Spirit. We talked about that fact that Jesus said in John 16:7, It’s better for you that I go away. If I don’t go away, I cannot send to you this amazing gift called the Holy Spirit. He will teach you all things. He will even tell you the future, John 13:16, alright? He will pray for you. Romans 8:26: You don’t know how to pray, or for what to pray, but the Spirit will pray for you. So, this amazing gift that God has given to the body of Christ will testify of Christ, even as Jesus testified of the Father. He said to Phillip in John 14:9 “You have seen Me; you have seen the Father.” The Holy Spirit testifies of Christ. He’s always with us.

This amazing gift, and that’s what we talked about for an hour with our lawmakers. And that’s exciting.

MESSAGE: Is there ever an Adventist—in the generic sense—thing that comes up, such as a mention that these are the last days? That the things going on right now are unprecedented?

Black: I think there are many Protestant denominations who are aware of the Second Coming of Christ, and are anticipating the Second Coming of Christ. “I go to prepare a place for you . . .” [John 14:2, 3]. That’s why even in the Apostles’ Creed it says: “From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” That’s 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.

Yes, there are people who know that there will be a second coming. Some of them are premillennialist—1000 years will come before His coming; some of them are post-millennialists—the Lord will come, and then the millennium; some are amillennialists.

Basically, they believe Jesus is coming again.

MESSAGE: I guess my question relates more to what is happening. You seem to display an extreme sense of calm right now, considering the news, the brinksmanship and different things like that.

Black: I think [of] the guidance in scripture, Philippians 4:6, 7, “have no anxiety about anything, but pray about everything, with thanksgiving. And the peace of God, that passes understanding, will guard your heart and mind, in Christ Jesus.”

And, I think that understanding, [should be] coupled with living in day-tight compartments—Matthew 6:34 says “Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

So, I don’t borrow from yesterday and pile it on to today. I don’t reach into the future, and pile that on to today. That’s more than I can handle. But, I can get through a day. I can get through a day very easily.

MESSAGE: That said, there are some things going on now that we haven’t seen. There’s a president who talks differently, to put that mildly. There’s probably a sense of camaraderie here that you probably see better than the rest of us. But has there ever been a time where you see something going on, a debate or a conflict, that you said to yourself, ‘I’m going to go back and pray on this?’

Black: That’s just not my style.

I’m fascinated by history. There was a time, 1857, the Supreme Court [in Dred Scott v. Sandford] said I was 3/5 human. There was a time, 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson, when Jim Crow was institutionalized for over half a century. We had two World Wars, and the second, it is estimated that between 60 and 80 million people, mostly civilians, died. We had a civil war where six to seven hundred thousand people lost their lives. Yes, these are challenging times, but hey, God has brought us through much worse than this.

I always think of James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the stanza that describes the African American experience: “Stony the road we trod, bitter the chast’ning rod, felt in the days,” and here it is, “when hope, unborn, had died.”

How do you abort hope? How do you kill hope in the womb? “When hope unborn had died,” that’s what we’ve gone through.

“Yet with a steady beat have not our weary feet, come to the place to which our forebears sighed.”

If someone had told me that I would have lived to see an African American President, let alone have him as a personal friend . . . [He showed me a small framed picture of the President Obama shaking his hand after a State of the Union address]. Here he’s speaking. Here I am, and it is obvious that we are [friends]. If someone would have told me that I would have lunch with Coretta. If someone would have told me that I would offer the prayer when Rosa Parks was lying in honor in the Capitol Rotunda. If someone would tell me—this is just one of seven of the Christmas pictures that I have [he showed me a picture of him and his wife Brenda with President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama]—you can always tell because the first lady has on a different gown.

Dickens may have had it right in the beginning of Tale of Two Cities, this is the best of times, this is the worst of times. But we need to keep things in perspective because God is still on His throne. And that old song, “This Is My Father’s World”, reminds us that “though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”

MESSAGE: What do you think about the notion that this is a Christian nation? And this very office is set up now to have prayer, and you have Bible studies, and these foundational books, whether the Bible or other religious books? Does that bother you as a Seventh-day Adventist, who is sensitive, as are many other people, to religious liberty?

Black: I believe that many of the framers, would probably, though appreciating the fact that Christianity is the dominant religion, would say that they came to this land looking for religious freedom, which means insuring that people have an opportunity to worship, according to the dictates of their consciences.

The senate chaplaincy, the legislative chaplaincy, was established in 1789, predates the Establishment Cause to the First Amendment, which states that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion or prohibiting the exercise thereof. To state that this is a Christian nation would be a breach of the Establishment Clause, I believe. And so, you know, it does not prohibit people from being Christian. We do not have a “Church of England.” We do not have a state-run church or organization.

You can see in this picture the Dali Lama who is certainly not a Christian, as a guest chaplain. I have had a Hindu priest come in as a guest chaplain. I’ve had Rabbis come in for Torah studies for Jewish staffers. Imams who come in for Ramadan and other Islamic Holy Days. So, I facilitate, and that’s the diversity that I alluded to earlier, for non-Christian staffers, as well as for Christian staffers. I call it cooperating without compromise. I don’t have to compromise who I am in order to make sure the spiritual needs of other folk are met.

So, the very act that the framers desired a spiritual dimension to government, one of the first acts was to establish a chaplaincy in the legislative branch. It does not mean that they did not want a separation of church and state. They didn’t want a separation of God and state, and there’s a distinction.

MESSAGE: Does the Spirit push you to say, something in particular?

Black: I think for a minister, you feed people what you are discovering is good nourishment for yourself. The Apostle Paul said to the church in Corinth, “for I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you,” [1 Corinthians 11:23].

When you’re flying and the flight attendants give instructions, and they say in the event of turbulence, the oxygen masks will drop. Put the mask on yourself first before putting it on someone else. So, I put the mask on myself first, and the way I do that is to spend what I call the “Holy Hour.” I spend an hour a day, praying the scriptures.

My theory is that there are three kinds of prayer: lip prayer, head prayer, and heart prayer.

Lip prayer is a prayer you pray by rote: “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep.” That’s a lip prayer. “God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food.” That’s a lip prayer.

Head prayer is when you pray the scriptures, because you give God the courtesy of starting the conversation. So, what I do is, I pray before I open the Bible, and the things that stop and inspire me, I talk to God about for at least an hour every day.

Heart prayer is when out of the dialogue with God from praying the Scriptures, you come up with something you just can’t shake, like a jingle, and you nurse that thing, sometimes. Well, I’ve been working on one for about nine days, now, and you say it, like probably 25, 30, 40 times a day, like a mantra, because it’s inspirational and so describes the desires of your heart.

So, you do that an hour a day, and then the overflow, the results of that, you never run out of material to teach or preach.

MESSAGE: How do you keep your spiritual fervor alive?

Black: John 17:17 says: “sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth”, so that kind of quality exposure to the Word of God, will almost guarantee sanctification. David said in Psalm 119:99, “I have more wisdom than all of my teachers.” That robust devotional life is critical to staying connected to the Vine. The Lord said, “I am the Vine, ye are the branches” John 15:5. You sever the branch from the Vine and there is no flow of life.

Matthew 4:4, “[We] do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.” I find that it gives you strength through temptation. Again, the 119th Psalm, verse 11, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You.” It’s just a wonderful way of staying spiritually fit.

I think it’s also critical to remember that truth is progressive. So, He doesn’t drop a load on us. He said in John 16:12, “I have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now.” And so, we have Proverbs 4:18, “the path to justice is a shining light,” and so, that’s the way I roll, as the young people say.

During my holy hour, I preach my sermons to the Lord. There’s nothing that helps you see where the duds are, than to speak them to the Lord in prayer when you’re praying Scriptures.

2018 May June Issue

The Holy Hour

US Senate Chaplain Barry Black Talks About…



by Carmela Monk Crawford
/ Message Interview with United States Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black

The Need-to-Know-Briefing If You Want to Go

12 Hidden In Plain Sight / by Bryant Taylor

14 Fearless Focus / by Ainsworth Morris

16 The Players / by Pete Palmer

18 Fear of Flying / by Omar Miranda

19 Deliverance and Pickup / by Anita Jenkins

20 40 Years Since Jonestown, and Still Drinking the Kool-Aid? / by Malcolm Luther

22 Putting It All Together, Again / by Wintley Phipps

24 No Ordinary Angel / by Donald McPhaull

25 Lightning Rod in the Controversy / by Roger Larsen

30 Jerusalem: A Prophetic Challenge / by Keith A. Burton


by Phillip McGuire Wesley
/ Media That Takes You Higher

by Carmela Monk Crawford
/ Inadvertent oversights and the end of time

by Pat Sparks Harris
/ Where the least of these find help

by Carlton Byrd
/ “Ask, seek and knock”

by Ellen G. White
/ “It is finished”

by Rashad Burden
/ Is it really done?

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How Your Awareness of the Times Should Strengthen Your Faith, Not Your Vulnerability

And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh, Luke 21:28.

In Luke 21:20, Jesus outlined both a parallel and a contrast of the two significant events: 1. The destruction of Jerusalem; 2. His second coming. From verse 20-25 He warns of the local signs that would occur when Roman armies would attack Jerusalem in the first century.

“Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled” (vs. 21-23). This event took place in 70 AD under the leadership of Emperor Titus.

After presenting Jesus’ portrayal of Jerusalem’s demolition, Luke describes in a literary reverse parallelism the occurrences to take place during the time of the end. He catalogs approximately 20 distinctive, universal events or global signs of the last day that would be seen in the natural, social and political realm.

However, there is a dramatic contrast in the “command response” for Jerusalem’s destruction as against the “command response” to the signs of His coming. Upon the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus told them to run for their lives. Upon seeing the signs of His coming, He said: “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near”(NASB).

The signs forecasting the destruction of Jerusalem were to make them fearful enough to escape or run for their lives. But the signs of the end time were designed to create hopefulness, and eliminate fear, knowing that God is getting ready to redeem us from the earth.

As we see the signs Jesus spoke about taking place currently, we know it’s time to observe His directive for fearless focus.


Over the past few decades the world has witnessed an increase in the intensity of natural and unnatural disasters worldwide. These events, significant in magnitude, have caused unprecedented devastation and great loss of life.

It is our tendency, when the catastrophe is exceedingly gruesome, to inquire about the presence of the divine or supplicate the intervention of God. After the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, churches filled to capacity for a few months (Uecker, 2008). Katie E. Cherry editorialized this in the book: Traumatic Stress and Long-Term Recovery: Coping with Disasters and Other Negative Life Events. A national survey about stress reactions to the September 11, 2011, terrorist attacks found that 90% of American adults reportedly turned to “prayer, religion, or spiritual feelings” in order to cope during the week after the attacks (Cherry, 2015, p. 350).

This is because when trouble comes, it is the predisposition to seek hope. However, the good news is: We do not need to wait until there is a tragedy to seek God. Isaiah 55: 6 invites us to “Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.”

God’s Wisdom in the Face of Opposition

The summons of the Old Testament prophet is instructive and restraining because this quest for God, during calamitous and catastrophic seasons, sometimes prompts people to go into a mode of overcompensation, and gravitate to severe rigidity. There must be caution because when a person is traumatized or troubled, that person becomes vulnerable and susceptible to accept just about anything. That is why after the events of September 11, 2001, it is reported that people were willing to allow for violations of their civil liberties in order to have the government make them safe. Why? They were vulnerable and susceptible.

Jesus was very careful to talk about what we should and should not do. (see Luke 21):

  • In verse 8 he spoke about “False Christs” and warned: “Do not go after them.”
  • In verse 9 he spoke about “Wars and Rumors of Wars” to that he said: “Do not be terrified.”
  • In verses 12-15 he said: “When they lay hands on you because of your faith, Don’t worry about what you will sayI will give you the words to say.”

However, our response tends to be the opposite of Christ’s command. When earth-shattering events take place and disastrous times come, we have a tendency to gravitate to new teachings; make old peeves become doctrine; put prophetic meanings to every event and become frightened into false creeds.

Jesus says: “When these things begin to come to pass” or, “When you see these things begin to come to pass.” This is a call to awareness, as much as it is a call to focus.

Do Not Sit Back. Do Not Relax.

Our Christianity does not preclude us from being aware of and thoughtfully speaking against injustice and discrimination rampant in our society.

There is a final vulnerability that must be acknowledged. The same human mind that is drawn to the divine in times of catastrophe can be lulled into ease when it becomes familiar to the challenge it faced. So, the same person, who ran to God in times of crisis, becomes lulled into the old way of living.

As Govender (Govender, 2010) puts it: “Spirituality was a moderator rather than a real change in the way of life. We then go on as if life is normal. We even push ourselves to the limit and edge.

Signs Along the Way

The signs are markers to tell us where we are in relation to our destination. They are like exit signs on a highway.

So, if we see counterfeit “Christs” masquerading as the Messiah and claiming to be the Savior of the world;

  • If we see false prophets using religious words to deceive gullible people, then it’s time to use fearless focus.
  • If we see the steadily increasing incidence of natural disasters worldwide—intensified and calamitous tsunamis, cyclones and storms, floods and fires, earthquakes and droughts, it is time to use fearless focus.
  • If we see the increase of social depravity, inequality, cruelty, violence, segregation, and bigotry;
  • If we see affluent arrogance, careless ease, no regard by the rich to help the poor and needy;
  • If we see over 20 million people suffering famine in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and northeastern Nigeria;
  • If we see war in Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Israel/Palestine, Ukraine, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and many other places;
  • If we see increased unconventional cases of terrorism;
  • If we see abominations, child molestation, spousal abuse, pornography and public nudity;
  • If we see the constitutional, yet unbiblical accommodation for the free display of unnatural affection;
  • If we see the signals reminiscent of Noah’s day–eating and drinking – partying and reveling, rather than focusing on the things of God, it is time to use fearless focus.
  • If we see the new normal of politics that intensifies racial divisions for political purposes, it’s time to observe the directive for fearless focus.

“…when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh,” Luke 21:28.


Ainsworth Morris, is the Senior Pastor of the Kansas Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Church in Riverside, California.


Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible® (NASB), Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Cherry, K. E. (2015). Traumatic Stress and Long-Term Recovery: Coping with Disasters and Other Negative


This article is part of our 2018 May / June Issue
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Is it Really Done?

Past, present, and future. We all know that they have influence and matter. We learn from our past so that we can do better in the present, to hopefully enjoy a better future. So how can the death of a Jewish man over a thousand years ago impact us now? Christian churches make so much of this Man from a place called Galilee having died on a piece of wood. When He (Jesus) was about to die, He uttered these words, “It is finished.”

I invite you to investigate for yourself whether it is really done?

1) Read Isaiah 53:7-10; Psalm 22:15;
John 19:1-28

What did Jesus know? How could He be thinking about anything other than the pain that He’s currently dealing with? Why not think about the betrayal or abandonment He’s experienced? For some reason Jesus insists on remembering that He is on a mission and there are still prophetic passages in the Bible He has to listen to. Have you ever read a text that came to your mind in a rough time and you knew you had to obey? Tell us what it was on social media using the #MessageMag.

2) Read John 19:28

The humanity of God in this moment is striking. Jesus the one who fed the five thousand with barely a basket of fish and chips, needed a drink. The same One who spoke to drink and made the composition of drink change dramatically, now needs drink. It is worth noting that it is ok to need in life. If Jesus needed from time to time, how much will we need? Take time to define what is a need for you. Then evaluate if you are ok asking for what you need and what stops you from doing so.

3) Read John 19:28-29; Psalm 69:21

It turns out that this cry for His thirst to be quenched was not just out of bodily necessity, but of divine mission. Jesus was so in-tune with His Father and the Word that He knew that there was something that needed to be handled. A distant whisper from a king long ago who held a special place in His heart. Have the old stories with old words in this old book we call the Bible ever whispered to you in hard times? Do you believe the Bible still matters in 2018?

Let us know what you think on social media using #MessageMag.

4) Read John 19:30

Before we dive into anything remotely deep, let me just pass on to you a thought worth pondering. Is it possible that the reason Jesus asked for drink wasn’t just because He was thirsty or wanted to fulfill the words of His friend David from years ago, but rather He had something important to say and wanted to clear his throat so he could say it clearly? Just a thought.

5) Read John 19:30; Matthew 27:50-51; Mark 15:37-38

The words that are spoken are an interesting choice. The writer, John, was himself at the cross. So, to read what he heard, and then see that other writers were only able to record that Jesus made a loud cry, makes the words even more compelling. Jesus said “It is Finished” and hung his head and died. If that’s all that happened, maybe we could say it wasn’t that significant. We find that there was a ripping of a veil that wasn’t even near the site of Jesus’ death, an earthquake, and the splitting of rocks. It is as if the very earth knew something had happened. What do you make of this? Let us know on social media using #MessageMag.

6) Read John 19:30; Matthew 27:27-31; Genesis 3:15; Psalm 22:16; Psalm 31:5; Isaiah 50:3-6

This moment was the culmination of years of preparation, prophecy, and providence. Jesus, the Son of God was on a tree dying for the sins of the world and cries out “It is finished!”  We must continually absorb the fact that what was finished, what was laid to rest, what was settled was the question: Is God really love? Could He, can He, truly love an un-loving people? Now the conversation was rendered mute, the disagreement became null and void. It was finished. Jesus’ cry wasn’t one of desperation, but rather of firm declaration. It is finished.

7) Read John 3:16-17

Is it really done? Well, what that means for you is that you can be done wondering if your addiction has more power than God in your life. It is finished. The guilt of the bad decision you made all that time ago that still weighs you down? It is finished. The anger that fills your thoughts because of what that person did? It is finished. The stress that greets you in the morning before you even show up at your job? In Jesus, it is finished. All of this was handled once and for all on the cross for those that believe. So the question now is are you really done trying to do it yourself? 


Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Mount Olive and Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Southern Alabama.

New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


This article is part of our 2018 May / June Issue
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It Is Finished

After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. —John 19:28-30

It was because the law was changeless, because man could be saved only through obedience to its precepts, that Jesus was lifted up on the cross. Yet the very means by which Christ established the law Satan represented as destroying it. Here will come the last conflict of the great controversy between Christ and Satan.

That the law which was spoken by God’s own voice is faulty, that some specification has been set aside, is the claim which Satan now puts forward. It is the last great deception that he will bring upon the world. He needs not to assail the whole law; if he can lead men to disregard one precept, his purpose is gained. For “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” James 2:10. By consenting to break one precept, men are brought under Satan’s power. By substituting human law for God’s law, Satan will seek to control the world. This work is foretold in prophecy. Of the great apostate power which is the representative of Satan, it is declared, “He shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand” Daniel 7:25.

Men will surely set up their laws to counterwork the laws of God. They will seek to compel the consciences of others, and in their zeal to enforce these laws they will oppress their fellow men.

The warfare against God’s law, which was begun in heaven, will be continued until the end of time. Every man will be tested. Obedience or disobedience is the question to be decided by the whole world. All will be called to choose between the law of God and the laws of men. Here the dividing line will be drawn. There will be but two classes. Every character will be fully developed; and all will show whether they have chosen the side of loyalty or that of rebellion.

Then the end will come. God will vindicate His law and deliver His people. Satan and all who have joined him in rebellion will be cut off. Sin and sinners will perish, root and branch, (Malachi 4:1),—Satan the root, and his followers the branches. The word will be fulfilled to the prince of evil, “Because thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God; . . . I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. . . . Thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.” Then “the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be;” “they shall be as though they had not been.” Ezekiel 28:6-19; Psalm 37:10; Obadiah 16.

At the beginning of the great controversy, the angels did not understand this. Had Satan and his host then been left to reap the full result of their sin, they would have perished; but it would not have been apparent to heavenly beings that this was the inevitable result of sin. A doubt of God’s goodness would have remained in their minds as evil seed, to produce its deadly fruit of sin and woe.

But not so when the great controversy shall be ended. Then, the plan of redemption having been completed, the character of God is revealed to all created intelligences. The precepts of His law are seen to be perfect and immutable. Then sin has made manifest its nature, Satan his character. Then the extermination of sin will vindicate God’s love and establish His honor before a universe of beings who delight to do His will, and in whose heart is His law.

Well, then, might the angels rejoice as they looked upon the Savior’s cross; for though they did not then understand all, they knew that the destruction of sin and Satan was forever made certain, that the redemption of man was assured, and that the universe was made eternally secure. Christ Himself fully comprehended the results of the sacrifice made upon Calvary. To all these He looked forward when upon the cross He cried out, “It is finished.”

This article is part of our 2018 May / June Issue
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ELLEN G. WHITE (1827-1915), one of the most published authors in the world, 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

Ask, Seek, and Knock

The intent of prayer is not to inform God of something because if the intent of prayer were to inform God of something, it would suggest that God isn’t all knowing. Moreover, the Bible is clear that God knows what you need before you even ask.1 Yet, if God knows what I need before I ask, why pray?

We pray for many reasons including the fact that God’s Word commands us to pray. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”2 So although God knows what we need before we ask, God still tells us to pray, and in obedience we do so. Jesus says in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”3

Your Part in Prayer, a Must

Notice in the text that all three verbs, “ask, seek, and knock” are imperative commands. These necessary directives clearly imply that Christ expects every believer to be active in prayer. So, while our Lord knows what we need, we still must ask.

When you study the original Greek in the New Testament, there are two basic kinds of imperatives. There’s an aorist imperative, and a present imperative. The aorist imperative is a command to do a particular thing at one specific time. In contrast, the present imperative is a command not only to do something, but to keep on doing it indefinitely. Hence, the present tense implies continuous, persistent action. What Jesus is saying then in this text is not only that we must ask, but we also must ask and keep on asking; seek and keep on seeking; and knock and keep on knocking.

Put Your Prayers into Action

Additionally, these present tense imperative verbs, “ask, seek, and knock,” have a natural progression of action from least aggressive to most aggressive. In other words, there’s a reason Jesus put these words in this order. Jesus is saying not only must we engage in continuous, persistent action, but He’s also saying that the very words, “ask, seek, and knock,” suggest an ever increasing intensity in prayer.

Step 1 ask. When you ask someone something, you’re making a request of them. Asking in prayer is to make a request of God. We ask something of God when we have a need, and we ask something of God because He can provide for all of our needs. If we want to receive, we must ask.

Step 2 seek. Seeking is asking, plus action. We seek when we need something of value to us. There are times when we need to take an active role in the prayer process. If we want to find, we must seek. While you must ask, you also must act.

Step 3 knock. Knocking is asking plus action, plus attitude. This implies our petition in asking, our purpose in seeking, and our persistence in knocking. For example, we knock when we are shut out from what we need and desire entrance. Therefore, when attempting to enter a door, we continually knock until we gain entrance.

If God knows what I need before I ask, why pray?

Again, Jesus says, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”4

This is continuous action, and it’s intensified, aggressive action until we get what we need!

So, don’t grow weary in asking God for what you need! Ask and keep on asking. Seek and keep on seeking. Knock and keep on knocking. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”5 


CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.

*All scriptural texts are taken from the King James Version unless otherwise indicated.

1  Matthew 6:8

2  Philippians 4:6

3  Matthew 7:7

4  Matthew 7:7-8

5  Galatians 6:9

This article is part of our 2018 May / June Issue
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Inadvertent Oversights and the End of Time

stood at the check-out line on Easter, or as I prefer to call it: Resurrection Sunday. It was in that Spirit that I noticed the woman behind me in line. She was petite, a senior, and white. Her faded print dress once was rich with hues in blues, greens and purples. Her crocheted turquoise shrug and matching fingerless gloves, let me know she had been somewhere special.

“Did you have a good day today?” I asked her, smiling. “Yes, I went to church this morning. I’m an usher, and usually have to wear black, but today we could wear anything we wanted.”

Her keys were on a tattered “US Army” lanyard around her wrist. My eyes flitted over the items she placed on the conveyor belt—a stalk of broccoli, a couple of lemons and tomatoes, a package of chocolate meal replacement drinks, and a Red Bull.

“That’s my one sin,” she said, pointing to the energy drink.

“Wooo, don’t hurt yourself,” I said jokingly. She laughed with me, and it was time for us to move on. Just then, she put her hand on my shoulder and told the cashier, “My granddaughter here is going to pay for mine.”

My eyes must have glazed over. Did this woman in Huntsville, Alabama just call me her granddaughter? Funny. Wow, I thought. I laughed and walked away.

Missed Opportunities and Shirked Responsibilities

The Spirit pricked my conscience ever so slightly. But, I sadly confess, I was too preoccupied, too selfish, and too disconnected to pay for her. It certainly wasn’t too much for me. I just wasn’t plugged in, and my natural inclination was to keep walking. The fact that I did not recognize the opportunity to extend a little grace, was a substantial mistake. It was not willful, but inadvertent. And, that is what haunts.

Well done?

In an extensive discourse about the end times Jesus tried to explain to His disciples, the signs of the end, in Matthew 24. He discussed the preparation needed to make it through this life  (Matthew 25), in which the “wise virgins” prepared by having enough oil to last the night—the oil being interpreted to mean the Holy Spirit to guide us through to the end.

Then, in His parable of the talents, Jesus taught His people to work until He returns, using whatever means and ability they had. He ended by painting a word picture of the judgment.

To the right, He motioned for His blessed people. “Come with me, because when I was hungry, and poor and was in prison, you fed me, clothed me, and visited Me.”

“Oh?” the blessed must smile in surprise, “we didn’t know that was You, Jesus! That’s just what we do!”

“Because you did that to the least of these, you did it to Me. Enter!”

Their pattern had been ingrained; it was the substance of their characters, and by then, an unnatural tendency in a world so selfishly inclined. (See Matthew 25:34-40 instead of my personal paraphrase.)

But, it is with the same sense of surprise that the wicked, the ones bound for destruction, wonder, “Where were You, Jesus? Certainly, our oversight was inadvertent.”

“I was right there, the person you didn’t help, didn’t feed, didn’t love on, didn’t visit, didn’t care for, the one you cursed, and disrespected. You didn’t help them; thus, you didn’t help Me” (See Matthew 25:41-46 ).

Reflexive and Automatic

We draw closer to that day. We have the witness of God’s Word to remind us, and the prophetic voices behind us. During the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination, we celebrated the life of one who advocated the recognition of personhood for everyone. How much of our lifestyle and collective practice comport with our reflexive and automatic, selfish inclinations?

I think we can find the answers as we examine everything from immigration, taxation, militarization and nationalism, to mass incarceration, and church participation.

We may revisit Memphis and that fateful day when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took a bullet for the oppressed and disrespected, but this Golden Anniversary must not overshadow the golden opportunity to change.