What Does It Mean When God Doesn’t Intervene?

An age-old Bible story of abuse re-emerges in today’s context with full force and frankness. Will you follow up?

 

 

“’Here, let me bring out my virgin daughter and the man’s concubine now. Abuse them and do whatever you want to them. But don’t commit this outrageous thing against this man.’…the man seized his concubine and took her outside to them. They raped her and abused her all night until morning. At daybreak they let her go…When he entered his house, he picked up a knife, took hold of his concubine, cut her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and then sent her throughout the territory of Israel…Think it over, discuss it, and speak up!” Judges 19:24-25, 29, 30b

Grappling with God

Have you ever felt like God had an opportunity to show up for you and He didn’t? Have you ever felt like He had the opportunity to intervene and stop something bad from happening to you, but He didn’t? Well you aren’t alone. In Judges 19 we’re introduced to a woman from Bethlehem whose story causes us to ask that really hard question: what does it mean when God doesn’t intervene?

Many of us remember the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, but for those who are unfamiliar, Sodom and Gomorrah was a city that was known for its affinity for immorality. Homosexuality, drunkenness, and perversion was rampant throughout the city. The city had sunk so deep into degradation that God alerted Abraham that He was going to destroy it:

“And the Lord said, ‘Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know” (Genesis 18:20-21).

Risky Reconnaissance

So God sent angels disguised as men to check out the city and see if its destruction really was necessary. Lot, a resident of the city and Abraham’s nephew, encouraged the men not to stay in the square. He insisted that they stay with him instead.

It wasn’t too long after that men from the city got word there were visitors staying with Lot. Soon they surrounded the house demanding that Lot release the men so that they could have sex with them (Genesis 19:5). Lot pleaded with the men not to disgrace his guests. He even offered his two virgin daughters to the angry and aroused mob.

But they declined the girls and pressured Lot for the men. They pressed so strongly the Bible says, they “came near to break down the door” (Genesis 19:9). At that moment, the men who were really angels pulled Lot back into the house, shut the door, and struck the men outside with blindness so that they became tired trying to find the door (Genesis 19:10-11). That night the power of God stepped in and prevented the depravity of humanity from abusing and killing the men and Lot’s daughters.

Script Flipped

In Judges 19 the story is the same, but the outcome is very different. A Levite was traveling with his concubine and servant and decided to rest in the city called Gibeah. It was an Israelite territory belonging to the tribe of Benjamin. They chose to stay in Gibeah because they believed they’d be safer among their own rather than in a foreign city with unbelievers (Judges 19:12).

When they entered the city an elderly man welcomed them to stay with him. As they were enjoying their visit with the old man, the men of Gibeah surrounded the house demanding the old man give them the Levite so that they could have sex with him (Judges 19:22).

In one of the Bible’s most graphic accounts of abuse and rape, the unstated charge is unmistakably clear.

The old man pleaded with the men, “I beg you, do not act so wickedly!…do not commit this outrage” (Judges 19:23). To assuage the crowd the old man even offered the mob his own virgin daughter along with the concubine.

When the Levite saw the old man wasn’t really persuading the crowd he seized his concubine and threw her out of the house for the mob. Judges 19:25 relates the grievous details: “they raped her and abused her all night until morning. At daybreak they let her go.”

When the Levite found his concubine on the ground in front of the door, unresponsive, he picked her up, put her on his donkey, and carried her home. There he cut her body into twelve pieces and sent each piece to the twelve tribes of Israel.

God, And God’s People

In my opinion this is one of the hardest stories in the Bible. The sexual abuse is extremely hard to stomach. Her dismemberment is immensely difficult to fathom. But for me, it’s God’s inactivity that is most difficult to understand. Why is it that God intervenes and protects Lot’s daughters from evil men in the world, but He doesn’t intervene to protect this concubine from evil men in the church?
Hanging on a cross I believe Jesus was faced with the same question. With a crown of thorns pressing into his skull, I see Christ hanging from splintered wood, struggling to breath, writhing in pain as His lacerated flesh pressed against the wood; His hands and feet pounding from the nails; His body chilled as it hung naked and exposed. I see my Jesus hanging there on a cross looking up to His Father wondering if He was going to intervene.

Broken bodies that save lives. Is there another outcome? One that does not end in more suffering?

It’s such a hard truth to receive, but I believe the reason God didn’t intervene on behalf of the concubine, on behalf of Jesus, and sometimes on behalf of us is because God understands this extremely hard truth: broken bodies save nations.

Just like the broken body of Jesus Christ saves us from sin and grants us the gift of eternal life, I believe women and men whose bodies have been broken by sexual and physical violence can save our communities from the psychological, physical, and spiritual death that abuse brings. I believe our communities can experience emotional, physical, and spiritual life from the stories of women and men whose bodies have been broken from sexual and physical violence.

The Bible says the crime at Gibeah started a war against the Benjamites because instead of burying the concubine’s body the Levite displayed and distributed it. Survivors have the same power! They too can start wars against sexual and physical violence when they refuse to let their stories be buried, and instead allow their stories to be distributed.

Righteous Rage

The story of this unnamed concubine ends by saying, “Think it over, discuss it, and speak up!” I believe it’s time we think on the stories of survivors of sexual and physical abuse and allow their stories to ignite a righteous rage within us that activates us to war against such violence.

Brittany Cooper in her book Eloquent Rage says, “we should not have to rely on supernatural acts of God to keep women safe.” The story of the concubine along with Cooper’s statement provides a plausible answer to the question: what does it mean when God doesn’t intervene?

What if God doesn’t intervene in some cases of sexual and physical violence because God is waiting for the broken bodies of the abused to send us to war? What if God is looking upon the Earth waiting for humanity to enact justice? What if God doesn’t intervene in things that He believes humanity has the power and responsibility to handle on their own? What if while we’re waiting on God to intervene, God is waiting on us to intervene? What if God is waiting on us to be the justice we’re constantly waiting for Him to provide?

 




Awkward Bedfellows

(The Church and Sex)

The Church is still really queasy about sex. This is a strange thing since the Church claims the Holy Scriptures as its foundation of faith. The Bible tells us the story of humanity’s origin, which includes human sexuality. So why would the church and sex seem so awkward?

The initial reason would have to be that the Church still has some vestiges of archaic thinking that still influences the way we see and understand sex today. In the early days of the Church, there was a great influence by Greek philosophy and ideas, one of which was the idea that all matter was inherently evil. Flesh was considered something to be abhorred. This translated to anything that brought pleasure.

This idea permeated from the Church’s theology to its practices. Sex was viewed as a necessary evil in order to produce children. The Church has long since officially abandoned this kind of view.

We have come to understand that this view is false. We understand that God created flesh. He called everything He made, “good” and when He made human beings, He called His creation, “very good.”

The entrance of evil into this world did not change the very nature of flesh. Flesh is not evil because there is evil in the world. Neither is sex evil because it has been corrupted. However, there still remain a few reasons that hinder the Church’s ability to communicate about sex.

Nothing Like The Real Thing, Baby

I think one of the reasons why the Church doesn’t like talking about sex is because sex is too human. It is too real. It is too earthy and natural. While the Christian faith talks a lot about helping people, human relationships, and communal responsibility, it also places a great deal of emphasis on the spiritual and supernatural.

One of the reasons why Christians struggle to fully embrace the beauty and duty of sex is that we are oriented in transcendent thinking when sex is rooted in the here and now. Sex reminds us that we are indeed, at the end of the day, human. Sex reminds us that while we live looking forward to eternity, we live in a natural world that requires attention to our natural needs.

This is hard to grasp for so many Christians who believe that a true pursuit of the transcendent is to minimize the duty of the present. Our inability to be real and transparent about our struggles reinforces an idea that we are not supposed to be human. But let’s be clear. Spiritual transformation is not the eradication of humanity. It is the perfection of all that it is to be human. In other words, to be spiritually transformed is to be the best human you can be. This includes your sexuality.

THE TRUTH IS

that honesty and transparency never make you look worse.

Failures and Flaws Impede Discussion

Another reason for the Church’s inability to talk about sex is the idea that due to the human failures of its leaders and membership, the Church is not able to speak with any authority about sexuality. This is an extension of the idea that Christians are superheroes.

Somehow we think that our sexual sins and struggles disqualify us because people will think we are “hypocrites.”

Christians need to be honest about our sex lives. The truth is that honesty and transparency never make you look worse. It always reveals the truth of who you are, and the truth of who you are is what helps people to be set free.

The Church has a confession to make. We sin in every way that others do. That’s the truth. So maybe the Church should stop saying “you sinners” and start saying, “we sinners” need God’s grace.

Some people don’t like to remember their past. The past reminds them of terrible decisions they made. One-night stands that led to months of pain. Hook-ups that led to break ups. Sexual passion turned into heartbreak. The Church struggles with the conversation of sexuality today because church people don’t always like to recall their own sexual histories.

The Bible says, “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory”. None of us are perfect. Neither our past mistakes nor our present struggles should silence us about the truth of our human pursuit of spiritual redemption.

The Church Must Speak About Sex

You might wonder why we need the Church to speak up about sex. Don’t we hear enough about sex in the media, music, and every kind of communication format? We need the church’s voice because we need to hear a different perspective. No society is healthy by simply hearing one perspective on a subject.

The Church needs to share why monogamy is an achievable and viable option. The Church needs to share why sexuality should be viewed as sacred and not hedonistic.

Society may not always know it, but we need the Church’s voice. The problem is not that the Church does not have anything meaningful to add to the conversation on sex. The problem is the church’s tone as it relates to sex.

The Christian Church has had a lot to say about sex and sexuality in the last decade. The Church has led campaigns against alternative sexual lifestyles. The Church has been vocal on issues of abortion and the choice of a woman. The Church has spoken out against marriage equality efforts.

THE REALITY IS

THAT EMPATHY SHOILD BE OUR DEFAULT.

Use Your Inside Voice

The problem I have with the Church is our tone. We can sound so hateful. We seem so angry. Where is all the rage coming from? Why can’t the Church share its views without being so condescending and judgmental? We are told to “speak the truth in love”.

The truth is that the Church has not always been “loving” about its views on sexuality. This negative tone has caused the message to be lost in translation. While I believe that the Church’s biblical message of sexuality will never be popular, we cannot blame its lack of acceptance solely on cultural hedonism.

What Good Love Looks Like

Finally, the Church must begin to talk about sexuality not only changing the tone but by speaking in a different way. The Church has talked too much without truly communicating its message. Let me explain. Most people don’t want to hear another sermon about some Biblical ideal. They want to see it lived out in practical ways.

One of the greatest enemies to the message of monogamy is the rate of infidelity in the Church. Why would I want to listen to a group of people who espouse one thing and practice the opposite? The Church talks about marriage between a man and a woman, and yet the rate of divorce among heterosexual Christian couples is the same as those outside the Church. The Christian Church does not necessarily need to speak out more on these crucial issues. The Church does need to communicate more effectively, however.

Through Example: Jesus said, “Let them see your good works and they will glorify your Father which is in Heaven.” Our good works are God’s best marketing tool to share His message with the world. People will not believe us if they cannot see that monogamy works. There is no validity to the Church’s biblical message if we don’t stop covering up sexual abuse in the Church.

Through Empathy: We all deal with sexual temptations and sin. Therefore, Christians need to be more empathetic. The reality is that empathy should be our default. Arrogance or delusion blinds so many Christians to the fact that they are guilty of the same sins they point out in other people’s lives. If the Church would stop seeking to be understood and seek to understand then we would be in a position to partner with people to deal with their issues because their issues are our issues.

Our common recognition of our humanity is what builds bridges of trust. The Church is made of flawed, finite people. The Church has to look in the mirror and recognize that we are just as human as everyone else.

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C. Wesley Knight, D.Min. is author of Thirst: Quenching Your Deepest Desire.




Drama Files: Shattered Ministry

In polishing their ministry, their businesses, their school, their community, this successful couple missed a spot.

Alvin and Ava co-pastored a vibrant and highly successful church ministry. Family and friends loved and respected them. Their commitment resulted in 27 years of marriage and four children.

The family had several other business, such as schools, building and construction companies, and their church. Yet, with their avid attention to the details of creating these successful ventures, they shortchanged each other.

Hard to Reach

When Ava could not reach Alvin on his cell phone one afternoon, she contacted her children. They had not heard from their father all that day. Later that evening Alvin came home and told Ava his phone was not working. He needed to get that checked, she said, this problem had occurred several other times over the past few months.

A few months later as they grocery shopped together, Ava and Alvin ran into a female church member. Ava spoke to the woman, but her husband never acknowledged her and the woman never spoke to her Pastor. “Strange,” Ava thought. Why would a church member not even acknowledge her pastor? When they finished shopping they went to their car and Ava confronted her husband.

“Something was not right about the two of you not greeting one another. Did you have an affair with that woman?”

“I would never would do that” Alvin replied.

“Why did you not speak to her?” asked Ava.

“You both were talking and I was getting the bags,” her husband explained.

Courage to Confront

Ava had no peace, and the during the next few months their marriage became strained because she was convinced that something was going on behind her back. Ava broke down and finally called the woman who then admitted the whole thing.

“He felt so ashamed and ended the affair soon after,” the woman told her. “I told him that I would never speak on the matter because I knew he loved his family and his work for the Lord.”

“You’re a coward,” Ava went in on her husband that night. And, yes, Alvin who confirmed the sad fact, was indeed now very fearful for his family.

Shortly thereafter, the couple started marital counseling to discuss the direction for their marriage. Ava’s anger, and embarrassment just would not subside. Every time she attended church, she felt as if everyone knew but her. By our fifth session she said she wanted a divorce.

“What about our family and the church?” Alvin pleaded.

Ava turned to him “Did you think about all you had to lose when you committed adultery?”

You Better Think

Alvin acknowledged his weakness. He had allowed himself to begin an emotional affair because Ava was always so busy. He felt neglected. Ava, too, remembered feeling neglected due to his schedule. Likewise, she remembered her own opportunities to fall into temptation. But, she insisted, she would never have considered it. Her God and family were more important than a brief sexual fling.

Of course, the fatal consequence of adultery is broken trust and loss of closeness. Many affairs begin with an emotional interest or contact. On the other hand, too many times individuals are lured into affairs for the opposite reason. They see the opportunity to be disconnected and free from their spouses. It’s important to identify and recognize the missing components in the relationship, before it’s too late and may cost you everything.

New Path

As their marriage therapist I spent hours trying to help Ava and Alvin recognize their individual concerns and the turmoil within the marriage. It was just too late. So, within a few months, a tremendous marriage, family, and ministry had been shattered by one selfish act.

Alvin shared with Ava on their last session together that it was never his intention to destroy his family and hurt her. He asked once again for her forgiveness.

“I forgave you in the supermarket, even when you lied and denied it several times to me,” Ava said bravely. “God has given me peace, and I hope you can someday find peace in your life.”

Ava hugged him, walked out, and left Alvin in my office where he cried.

 

I prayed with him, but, I reminded Alvin it will be a long hard journey ahead for both of them and their children. His focus would now center on his ability to forgive himself and recommitment to his relationship with God and his children.

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*The names have been changed to protect the innocent.




2018 November / December

THE STATE OF CHURCH AND SEX


 


FEATURES

13 Five Fine-Tuning Tips for Your Finances
by Ruthven Philip /
Everyday course corrections and strategies to protect your bottom line.

14 Awkward Bedfellows
by C. Wesley Knight /
Why the Church must get cozy with human sexuality for our own good.

17 Who do men say that I AM?
by Dion and Dilyn Henry /
Fluid gender identity and sexual identity confuse the faithful. Here’s how to respond.

20 What does it mean when god doesn’t intervene?
by Claudia Marion Allen /
A woman from Bethlehem whose story causes us to ask that really hard question.

22 When Church Unfriended me
by Kimberly Bulgin /
Three ways to reconnect a powerless worship experience.

28 The best book you’ve never read
by Donald L. McPhaull /
Give the Bible a second look, a first read!

FAVORITES

4 ELEVATION
by Phillip McGuire Wesley /
Media That Takes You Higher

5 EDITORIAL
by Carmela Monk Crawford /
A CHOICE IN THE MATTER

6 EYE ON THE TIMES
by Carl McRoy /
2018 CONSCIENCE CALENDAR

8 OPTIMAL HEALTH
by Donna Green Goodman /
REVOLUTIONIZE YOUR DIET

11 RELATIONSHIP Rx
by Willie and Elaine Oliver /
IT’S OUR TURN NOW

12 BOUNCE BACK
by Kim Login-Nowlin /
Shattered ministry

24 FUTURECAST
by Carlton P. Byrd /
NO LIMBO! NO PURGATORY!ion

26 THE EXPERIENCE
by Ellen G. White /
“I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS”

27 THE EXPERIENCE BIBLE STUDY
by Rashad Burden /
NEVER ALONE

30 POWER PLAYLIST
by Oral Semple /
FORGIVE THE WAY JESUS DID


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Elevation 2018 November / December

Media That Takes You Higher

God’s purpose for our lives is to be in a consistent state of elevation. Through His wisdom, power, and grace He continues to lift us up each day. Stay elevated with us as we bring to you encouragement through books, music, and apps. 

BOOKS

In the Trenches: 10 Reasons To Stay In Ministry

by Pastor Joshua C. Nelson

As a pastor I was in the trenches with Pastor Nelson throughout this book. This book is encouraging and captivating as he seeks to shine light at the end of the dark tunnels of our journey. This book is for leaders and provides the tools for staying in ministry through the doubts, criticism, and depression. Nelson’s experience with prayer, dedication, and perseverance will motivate readers to keep digging in their trenches and find the purpose to which God has called them. In The Trenches might have listed 10 reasons not to quit ministry, however, I believe we will find many more!

“The hardest thing about trench digging is that it forces you to go deeper into the trench…”

Walking by Faith and Not by Sight

by Kaysian C. Gordon

Do you have regular appointments with your Heavenly Father? Do you ever feel like you are running on empty? How do you cope? These are some of the questions that Kaysian Gordon answers in this journal. This 45-day journal explores stories from her life as well as stories to impact yours. This is an excellent devotional to start or end your day.

“These pages are filled with some of the lessons that I have seen Him teaching me. Some of these lessons have come from the most random places, but there is a whisper to my heart.”

Music

Kara Nichole

Kara Nichole Robinson’s music is an eclectic blend of contemporary, jazz, rhythm and blues, calypso, and acoustic styles. Songs like “Happy,” “Jesus,” and “He’s Coming Back” inspire us to love and cherish a relationship with God. Robinson’s Stellar Award-winning producer Levester White adds a great professional sound as she represents God to the streets!

Apps

Send your information for review to: info@mcguireent.com


The greatest thing you can do every day is to seek elevation in your relationship with Christ. The Holy Bible, will help lift you closer to Jesus. Whether you use an app, a music player, or a paperback book to draw closer to God, know that He is waiting to meet you.




A Choice in the Matter

When comedian Bill Cosby went away for three years media played up the meal for his first night in the Collegeville, Pennsylvania SCI Phoenix. With great interest we learned that the man America once considered its favorite dad was served mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, meatballs and rice for dinner. Make no mistake. One of the richest and celebrated men in the world, didn’t order from a menu. He had no choice.

The Cos taught us so much about family, responsibility, success and achievement. Yet he apparently missed the transcendent value and moral absolute of choice. For that, a stint in a place with no choices, is more than appropriate.

The overarching and underpinning critical value of personal choice, and the ability to determine one’s destiny is a spiritual non-negotiable. God respects our choices. Why shouldn’t we?

As painful as it was to watch and hear, respect for personal choice is why now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s background and experience had to be examined. No family name, prep school access, or stellar performance should cancel out disrespect for personal choice.

This is why a 30 year-old accusation of attempted and unwanted sexual contact was relevant. Any credible account would place him at fatal odds with claims of loyalty and adherence to the moral law. It even goes against the American value of self-determination that cries defiantly “Don’t tread on me!”

This would provide an attack on “a woman’s choice” in more ways than one.

Question authority when you find that your choice, your choices, are curtailed in the name of morality and goodness.

Closer to home, we read, with great disappointment of a loved and trusted church school teacher, who made a devastating choice to start a sexual relationship with his teenaged student. In his case, what appeared as a consensual (albeit ill-advised and adulterous) liaison will be forbidden by law. That’s called statutory rape. The law provides protection for people, who can’t really choose. Whether because of a mental disability, or because of youth, the overmastering influence of a teacher, a priest, or a family friend (as examples), would be too much to resist. We, therefore, deem them unable to give consent. They cannot, by law, make that choice.

While it is not my intent to create a treatise entry here for the concept of consent and choice, I do want to highlight a spiritual dimension we should examine. Bible believers remember that God thought so much of choice, that even in the face of devastation, He made provision for it.

The Eden account shows an Omniscient God creating perfection, harmony, beauty and communion with Him. Yet, this same Omniscient God, left the window open, the back door ajar. Humanity could, and did, walk right through it (Genesis 3:2-6). We’ve had to pay the price ever since.

Since, Jesus died on the cross that is. But, read how Jesus honored choice in His death. “One of you is going to betray Me,” He said while dining with His closest companions. Some were introspective. One, Judas, determined to make his choice anyway, and was left to his own devices (Matthew 26:25).

Then, look at what Jesus did while hanging upon the cross. He, who was at the fulcrum of faith and destiny, in the crosshairs of Satan’s devising, when offered the comfort of a sip of sour wine, small as it was, refused it (Matthew 27:34). His capacity to choose and His ultimate destiny could not be compromised.

Knowing that He endured this torture, with a clear head, to make a way for me to choose Him and choose life makes my heart beat. It sends a life-syncing probe into the richness of His supply where I am filled with His love and security. That is my choice.

Red flags have to go up when people minimize personal consent, or such violations because of one’s record, standing, or religious orientation. We didn’t do it for Cosby. It won’t happen for that church school teacher. When a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll reported that forty-eight percent of the white evangelical Christians polled thought that Kavanaugh should be confirmed, even if the allegations against him were true, we remembered another interest at play, however. The longstanding desire to overturn Roe v. Wade, and the ability of a woman to choose an abortion, tipped the scale. Kavanaugh would presumably vote to do so. How much were we willing to compromise? Ironically, many would be willing to negate the critical value of personal consent to overturn “choice.” It’s consistent, at least.

We challenge believers to critically examine their positions of morality. Question authority when you find that your choice, your choices, are curtailed in the name of morality and goodness. Seems to me, to choose is Divine, and a place with no choice is hell.


This article is part of our 2018 November/December
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Never alone

“You are not alone, I am here with you. Though you’re far away, I am here to stay.” Touching are the words sang by Michael Jackson years ago. They could almost be mistaken for verses picked out of the Psalms or Isaiah. I believe that is because there is a recurring theme in the Bible of God wanting to be close to his children. One of God’s highest values is communion. Can He make good on His promise to never leave us alone? Join us as we explore and experience the promise of being “Never Alone.”

1) Read Matthew 28:16-20

Did you see what I saw? We are in the last chapter of Matthew. Jesus is saying His goodbyes, and the Bible tells us that “some doubted.” They have seen miracle after miracle yet they doubted. Jesus still finds it within His heart to say “I am with you.” Have you ever felt God with you, even while you doubted Him? Tell us about it here at Message using #MessageMag on Social Media. 

2) Read Joshua 1:1-9

The disciples were not the first to doubt. Can you imagine becoming the CEO of a company that has been in turmoil for more than 400 years, and the previous CEO turned things around only to be forced to pass it to you. Can you feel the pressure? Do you think you can do it? What would God’s words have meant to you in a time like that? Tell us about it here at Message using #MessageMag.

3) Read Isaiah 41:10; Deuteronomy 31:6; Zephaniah 3:17

The most common command in the Bible is some form of “do not be afraid.” Without fail this command is accompanied by the assurance that God will be with you. Have you finally come to the place in your relationship with God that His presence is enough to get rid of stress and anxiety? To what can God’s presence give peace in your life? Share it with us here at #MessageMag so we can pray for and with you.   

4) If you have children, you may know that getting them to sleep in their own bed when they are young can be a struggle. I believe it is because they sense the security of being in close proximity to their parents. It’s natural. We are God’s children, and I want you to take a moment, wherever you are to close your eyes and imagine being in the presence of God. Little do you know, you are!

5) May I give you a homework assignment? When was the last time you had a memory verse? We at Message would love to see a video of you reciting Romans 8:38-39. It’s fitting to know that nothing keep you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Post it to Social Media and tag  #MessageMag.

6) Matthew 28:16-20; John 14:18;
John 20:17; Romans 8:34

Yes, the disciples doubted, but that didn’t stop Jesus from letting them know that they wouldn’t be alone. Jesus was going to the Father on our behalf, and He ensured that God would not just be with us, but in us. The disciples would face much but they would face it all with God. Do you really believe that you face every day with God? Don’t share. Just meditate on the promise that you can face the world with The Most High on your side.

7) The disciples would set off a chain reaction that resulted in countless people over the next 2000 years believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Amid the peaks and valleys, suffering or success, for those who chose to follow Christ, one thing always rang through and true. It was the promise that His children were never alone. 

Call us if you find you have questions, want to talk, or want to pray with someone: 1-855-463-2273, or, 1-855-God Cares.

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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.

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This article is part of our 2018 November/December Issue
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“I Am With You, Always”

Thus Christ gave His disciples their commission. He made full provision for the prosecution of the work, and took upon Himself the responsibility for its success. So long as they obeyed His word, and worked in connection with Him, they could not fail. Go to all nations, He bade them. Go to the farthest part of the habitable globe, but know that My presence will be there. Labor in faith and confidence, for the time will never come when I will forsake you.

The Saviour’s commission to the disciples included all the believers. It includes all believers in Christ to the end of time. It is a fatal mistake to suppose that the work of saving souls depends alone on the ordained minister. All to whom the heavenly inspiration has come are put in trust with the gospel. All who receive the life of Christ are ordained to work for the salvation of their fellow men. For this work the church was established, and all who take upon themselves its sacred vows are thereby pledged to be co-workers with Christ.

“The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come” (Revelation 22:17). Everyone who hears is to repeat the invitation. Whatever one’s calling in life, his first interest should be to win souls for Christ. He may not be able to speak to congregations, but he can work for individuals. To them he can communicate the instruction received from his Lord.

Ministry does not consist alone in preaching. Those minister who relieve the sick and suffering, helping the needy, speaking words of comfort to the desponding and those of little faith. Nigh and afar off are souls weighed down by a sense of guilt. It is not hardship, toil, or poverty that degrades humanity. It is guilt, wrongdoing. This brings unrest and dissatisfaction. Christ would have His servants minister to sin-sick souls.

The disciples were to begin their work where they were. The hardest and most unpromising field was not to be passed by. So every one of Christ’s workers is to begin where he is. In our own families may be souls hungry for sympathy, starving for the bread of life. There may be children to be trained for Christ. There are heathen at our very doors. Let us do faithfully the work that is nearest. Then let our efforts be extended as far as God’s hand may lead the way. The work of many may appear to be restricted by circumstances; but, wherever it is, if performed with faith and diligence it will be felt to the uttermost parts of the earth. Christ’s work when upon earth appeared to be confined to a narrow field, but multitudes from all lands heard His message. God often uses the simplest means to accomplish the greatest results. It is His plan that every part of His work shall depend on every other part, as a wheel within a wheel, all acting in harmony. The humblest worker, moved by the Holy Spirit, will touch invisible chords, whose vibrations will ring to the ends of the earth, and make melody through eternal ages.


This article is part of our 2018 November/December
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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.

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




There Is No Limbo Or Purgatory!

Limbo” or “purgatory” have long been advocated in some Christian circles as future intermediate states where souls exist after their earthly death. There, according to some, these souls await entrance into heaven or hell. Some believe loved ones who are already in heaven can pray for these souls. Or, they believe that these souls go through a purification process in order to gain entrance into heaven.1

This stunning revelation means our decisions now count most.

Neither limbo or purgatory, however, are advocated, condoned, or even mentioned in the Bible. Instead, the Bible is clear that at one’s earthly death, the deceased body returns to dust, the spirit returns to God, and hence, the soul ceases to exist.2

Moreover, prior to death, one will make a decision to follow Christ. And, if one is living at the time of Christ’s Second Coming, one would have needed to make a decision to follow Christ prior to His advent.

Jesus Calls It

But after death, there is no limbo or purgatory to impact one’s eternity. Jesus says, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”3

Christ’s Second Coming will reveal the decisions that humanity has made to follow Him. When He returns, the righteous dead will rise first. Then the righteous living will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.4 Each resurrected and caught up righteous person will then reside in heaven with Jesus. Contrarily, the wicked living will die at the brightness of Christ’s Second Coming. The wicked dead will remain dead for 1,000 years.5

This period is known to many as the millennium, derived from the Latin words mille (“thousand”) and annus (“years”).6 During the millennium, the righteous will reign in heaven with Christ, while the wicked will be dead here on this earth, and as such, there will be no opportunity for limbo or purgatory. While reigning with Christ, the righteous will not plead and pray their loved ones into heaven. However, they will participate in the millennial judgment.7 This judgment affords them the opportunity to review humanity’s decisions, and God’s every effort to save and restore His people.8

So Much Time, So Little to Do

Satan, during this 1,000 year period, will be unable to engage in his primary works of deception or temptation. After all, the righteous reside in heaven then, and the wicked are all dead on earth.

If Satan has resurrection power, Satan has 1,000 years to prove it. The reality is he doesn’t have this life-giving power. Only God has the power to give life. Jesus made it clear, “I am the resurrection and the life.”9

At the end of the millennium, the wicked will be resurrected.10 Jesus Christ, accompanied by the righteous, will begin descent from heaven to this earth.11 Satan will deceive the wicked one last time into the belief that they can defeat our God by surrounding the Holy City as it descends from heaven to earth. But, God will rain down fire destroying Satan and sin forever!12

Decision Point

No, there is no limbo, and no purgatory! We are all now being given the opportunity to make a decision for or against Christ. The Bible makes it plain, “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”13

Your future is in your hands. Your eternity is decided by you. Christ loves you, died to save you, and is coming back to get you! Be sure of your future and choose Christ today! 

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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  www.urbandictionary.com  and www.wikipedia.com

2  Ecclesiastes 12:7 and Job 27:3

3  Revelation 22:11-12

4  1 Thessalonians 4:16

5  2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 and Revelation 20:5-6

6  www.en.wiktionary.org/wiki/millennium

7  Revelation 20:12-13

8  2 Peter 3:9

9  1 John 11:25

10  Revelation 20:5-6

11  Revelation 21:2-4

12  Revelation 20:7-10

13  2 Corinthians 6:2



This article is part of our 2018 November/Decemer Issue
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The Best Book You’ve Never Read

Curious, this book called The Bible. Curious, because while believers claim it as God’s Word, most of us don’t actually read it. Jennifer Polland, writing in Business Insider1, has pointed out that during the last half century, sales figures for the Bible are a massive 3.9 billion copies sold.

Still, although the Bible remains the most published book, as time goes by, fewer of us are reading it. A Pew Research Study has found that among American adults, only 35% report reading the Bible at least once per week. Remarkably, those who claim to read the Bible once a week are outnumbered by those say they seldom, or never, read the Word. That number stands at 45%.3

One explanation as to why we don’t read the Bible is offered by Jeff Anderson in crosswalk.com. Among the reasons, he offered were: It’s an optional book; church leaders don’t expect us to read it; or our parents didn’t read it. However, it is Anderson’s reason number seven that stands out for me: “Bible Bullies.”4 According to Anderson, Bible Bullies are those who repeatedly tell believers, in both direct, and subtle ways, that we possess neither the intelligence nor the educational training to understand the Bible. In other words, we’re not smart enough.

For some of us, this is all the motivation needed for avoiding the reading of God’s Word. You can imagine how much traction this excuse would gain if students told their teachers that the reason the class reading assignment was not completed, was because they had been told they were not smart enough to read Moby Dick, To Kill A Mockingbird, or Of Mice and Men.

To be in the know

The prospects of becoming a Christian, or continuing to live as one, are very remote if we read God’s Word sparingly. We can know no more about God and His plan of redemption than He reveals in His Word. Revelation 1:1 declares that God the Father gave the revelation of the Messiah to His Son, Jesus, who presented the revelation of the plan of redemption to the angels, who gave it to John the Revelator on Patmos. And, John passed this revelation of hope, through the Lamb of God, to us. If we’re not reading the Word, how might we, in Paul’s words of 2 Tim 2:15 show ourselves approved unto God?

To Know Jesus

Our only true source of information on the living and dying and living again of the Jesus, our Savior, is the Bible. Jesus, Himself, said in John 5:39 that we are to “Search the Scriptures … they are they which testify of me.” We learn in Acts 17:11 that the believers in Berea were more receptive to the gospel preached by Paul, because they searched the Scriptures for themselves on a daily basis.

To Make it Today

As to the question, is reading the Bible essential to the development of our Christian character, we’re best advised to allow the Bible to speak to our need of a daily portion of God’s Word. If we had but one passage of Scripture to offer clarity on the essential nature of the Bible to our growth in Christian faith, Psalm 119 is replete with insights.

• Psalm 119:9 tells us that a young man cleanses his way, by heeding God’s word.

• In verse eleven, we’re reminded that the word of God in our hearts will aid against sinning.

• Verse twenty-eight notes that God’s word will strengthen us.

  According to verse fifty, the word of God provides us with life.

  Those in need of a lamp to guide the way in a world of darkness can easily find their light in God’s word, we are told by Psalm 119:105.

  God’s word can direct our victorious steps, says verse one hundred, thirty-three.

  And, we have the assurance from Psalm 119:160 that the whole of God’s word is truth.

As He taught the disciples how to pray, Jesus said in “the Lord’s prayer,” “…give us this day our daily bread.” We know, based on our study of the word, that Jesus is the Word of God (See John 1:1). We are further aware, from John 6:35, that Jesus is the “Bread of life.” Since Jesus is the Word, and He is the Bread, it is a fact of life eternal that our daily bread is the word of God. Therefore, we must eat the bread from heaven, God’s Word, on a daily basis.

The nourishment needed to fuel our transformation from what we once were, to what we are becoming in Christ Jesus is found in the Bible.

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DONALD L. McPHAULL, M.S.W., has enjoyed 30 years of ministry and is currently the senior pastor of the Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, California.

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1 Polland, J. (2012). The ten most read books in the world, infographic. BusinessInsider.com 

2 ibid

3 Geiger, A. (2017). 5 facts on how Americans view the bible and other religious texts. Pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/14/5

4 Anderson, J. (2017). 8 reasons we don’t read the bible. Crosswalk.com

5 Geiger, A. (2017). 5 facts on how americans view the bible and other religious texts. Pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/14/5



This article is part of our 2018 November / December Issue
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DONALD L. McPHAULL, M.S.W., has enjoyed 30 years of ministry and is currently the senior pastor of the Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, California.