Are We There Yet?

Have you ever been annoyed with the kid in the backseat yelling, “Are we there yet?” We forget that we were once that kid. We are built to be concerned about our destiny. People spend billions each year to get insight to their future, from church (needing a prophetic word), to astrology, tarot cards, and psychics. What makes us obsessed with destiny? 

Four character traits we all possess create a drive to determine our destiny. We are made to live with purpose; we are rational; we are imaginative, and we have the power of choice. Humanity is concerned with destiny on a personal and cosmic level. To live with purpose is to live believing your life has meaning. To live rationally is to live grounded within a reality that makes sense –logically and sensibly. To be imaginative means that you can investigate future that does not yet exist. That which is not yet future, can become a future because humans have the power of choice.

Your Choice, then there’s God’s Choice

Your destiny is ultimately linked to your choices. The quality of your choices is dependent on your knowledge and emotional health. Partial knowledge, even when your motives are positive, can lead to negative outcomes. Before making a major decision, it is very important to do your research. Also evaluate your emotional health or state at the moment you are contemplating making a major decision. Try to avoid making major decisions during times of grief and even times of euphoria. 

In the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, God demonstrates that He does not force a person’s will. One can find such an example in the story of the prophet Balaam (Numbers 22-25). When a foreign king, Balak, contracted with Balaam to curse Israel, God told Balaam not to. Balaam, desiring the bounty Balak was offering, tried everything he could. However when he tried to curse Israel only blessings came out of his mouth. While Balaam could not audibly curse Israel, his will was not changed, so he cursed them in his heart.

Free Will

Another story that most church-going kids know, is the story of Jonah. God told him to go and preach to the people of Nineveh. Jonah refused and decided to go in the opposite direction. God, however, arranged a three night stay in the Big Fish Motel, which gave Jonah time to reflect over his decision. Jonah changed his mind and at the end of the three days, he decided going to Nineveh wasn’t so bad after all.

If God, who gave us free will, does not force our will, what is His role in our lives? First, we should be clear why we have free will. God desires to have a loving relationship with humanity based on trust freely given. Love can only be given freely if we have a free will. While God can be coercive in matters of universal concern, He will not coerce individuals to love Him. God expresses his love and care in so many ways. Some of those ways are inscrutable, the things that cause grief and sadness. God yearns to guide us to paths that lead us into closer relation with Him and fellow humans. He died to make a way for our ultimate destiny –a life eternal where things that cause us hurt, pain, and grief will no longer exist. As our relationship with God deepens and matures, so too does our trust and ability to discern God’s will for our lives.

Joseph’s Dynamic Destiny

The Bible story of Joseph (Genesis 37—50), the son that Jacob had with Rachael, can be a helpful parable to illustrate the dynamic relationship between God’s will and our will. Joseph was the eleventh and favorite son of Jacob. This favoritism bred jealously among his brothers. To make matters worse, Joseph shared two dreams that God had given him to forecast his destiny. Those dreams essentially meant that one day Joseph was destined to be the leader of his family. 

When Joseph’s brothers plotted to kill him, it would seem as though they made sure his dreams would not come to pass. They threw him into a pit, selling him to a band of merchants who sold him into slavery in a foreign land—Egypt. Then his owner’s wife falsely accused him and had him thrown in jail. Jail had to be the place from which he could never imagine being elevated into the cabinet of Pharaoh, yet, this former slave and felon became the secretary of Agriculture. Famine overspread the land, and Joseph’s family traveled to Egypt for grain, eventually appealing to the secretary of Agriculture, Joseph. Though he recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Finally, when he pressured his brothers to bring their father on their next trip for grain, and they did, Joseph’s destiny was fulfilled.

Joseph’s faith in God’s will guided him through each turn. God only gave him his destiny; not details relative to its path. The path is not always smooth or easy. Your faith must focus on God with each step and turning point. I am sure when Joseph must have asked “am I there yet?” that he trusted His God. He refused to get off the path until God said, “We’re here!” 

God has a plan for your life. God has promised, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11 KJV).




Get Justice for Me – When Heaven Has Enough

“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying:

“There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying,  ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’

Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?’” 

Luke 18:1-8


A Reflection

Selected from Christ’s Object Lessons, by Ellen G. White, “Shall Not God Avenge His Own?”

The Scriptures describe the condition of the world just before Christ’s second coming. James the apostle pictures the greed and oppression that will prevail. He says, “Go to now, ye rich men, . . . ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton. Ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you” James 5:1-6. This is a picture of what exists today. By every species of oppression and extortion, men are piling up colossal fortunes, while the cries of starving humanity are coming up before God” (p. 170).

The world has become bold in transgression of God’s law. Because of His long forbearance, men have trampled upon His authority. They have strengthened one another in oppression and cruelty toward His heritage, saying, “How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the Most High?” Psalm 73:11. But there is a line beyond which they cannot pass. The time is near when they will have reached the prescribed limit. Even now they have almost exceeded the bounds of the long-suffering of God, the limits of His grace, the limits of His mercy. The Lord will interpose to vindicate His own honor, to deliver His people, and to repress the swellings of unrighteousness” (p. 177).

They “shall have judgment without mercy” that have “showed no mercy” (James 2:13.) Not long hence they will stand before the Judge of all the earth, to render an account for the pain they have caused to the bodies and souls of His heritage. They may now indulge in false accusations; they may deride those whom God has appointed to do His work; they may consign His believing ones to prison, to the chain gang, to banishment, to death; but for every pang of anguish, every tear shed, they must answer. God will reward them double for their sins” ( p. 179).

From India, from Africa, from China, from the islands of the sea, from the downtrodden millions of so-called Christian lands, the cry of human woe is ascending to God. That cry will not long be unanswered. God will cleanse the earth from it moral corruption, not by a sea of water as in Noah’s day, but by a sea of fire that cannot be quenched by any human devising”  (p. 179).

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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 www.whiteestate.org/onlinebooks.

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What is Love? Who is love? How do you love? Maybe you’ve asked one of those questions. At least, you have heard them asked at some point or another. What if I told you that justice and love in the Bible are the same? Would you believe me? Let us journey through this experience as we find out how God’s love in you can bring justice and save life.

 

(1) Read Mark 3:1; Isaiah 1:17; Micah 6:8

We are introduced to a man in Mark 3 who has a visible difference that alienates and marginalizes him in society. In his time, he had no business being in the synagogue, and his exclusion stemmed not from his actions, but because of something over which he had no control. Can you imagine being pushed to the sidelines of society because of some outward thing that you can’t help? Talk to us about it on Social Media using  #MessageMag.

(2) Read Mark 3:2; Mark 2:23-27; Psalm 37:27-29

While this man with a withered hand stands there, others in the synagogue are wondering if Jesus will heal him on the Sabbath. What they don’t realize is that Jesus uses the Sabbath to give people who are weary, rest. Who is more weary than individuals like this marginalized man? Do you know of any? How do they fall into this category?

(3) Read Mark 3:3; Prov. 28:5; Psalm 33:5

Jesus then does the unthinkable. He asks the man who isn’t even supposed to be in the room to stand up, front and center. How loving it is to give attention to the ignored, a voice to the silenced, and a platform to the underserved. Jesus empowering someone to stand in a place he should be, but policy forbids, is justice.

(4)

I must say that it intrigues me to no end that this man had his life changed by following the simple directions of Jesus. It wasn’t a series of positive actions. It wasn’t a history of good behavior. It wasn’t credit for some good deed. It was simply doing what Jesus told him to do. Be like this man. Don’t let your condition dictate your actions. Jesus is a professional at looking beyond our faults and seeing our needs. #RighteousnessByFaith

(5) Read Mark 3:4; Deuteronomy 27:19; Jeremiah 22:3

Jesus then asks them about justice. They have no reply. If Jesus asked you about justice would you have a response? What would it be? Share what you would tell Jesus about love on Social Media using #MessageMag. We’d love to hear from you!

(6) Read Mark 3:5; Job 12:22; Psalm 140:12

The passion of Christ reaches a fever pitch, and the Bible describes Him as distressed and angry! Why? Because these church people refuse to acknowledge that this alienated and marginalized individual is the one who has been excluded from the privilege of accessing a good life like everyone else. There is no way this still happens in 2020, is there? If so, how? Share your thoughts with us on Social Media using #MessageMag

(7) Read Mark 3:5-6; Isaiah 61:8-9; Zechariah 7:9-10

Jesus empowers this man to lift his hand and be healed. The saving of this man’s life put Jesus’ life in danger. The same can happen for those who wish to love as Jesus did. When your love steps out in public and is exposed as justice, know that you need not worry about your life because Jesus is saving for you.

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

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I Dream a World Where We Can Make It Stop

I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!
—Langston Hughes

Back to back Black bodies building up in the streets have our communities triaging men downed in the coronavirus, racism and poverty pandemics. One hundred years on from Langston Hughes’ dreaming, this nightmare is still going.

I recently discovered the work of Kareem Lucas, who Kickstarted a theatrical event around his observational poetry. His “Rated Black: An American Requiem” sits on an unusual, dramatic device: a young man preemptively administering his own “homegoing” ahead of what he expects to be his inevitable, tragic demise.

“After consuming all this violence upon and death of Black people I decided to tell my own story on my own terms in my own way, before I become a trending hashtag that’s an unwilling martyr, or a super predator instantly shamed and blamed,” Lucas wrote in a petition for funds for “Rated Black.” “Death is not a distant thought. Death is a fast approaching inevitability that must be accepted and appropriately planned for.”

God, where am I going?
The lines in front of me
use references that lie,
and the truth is not a direction.
I need to inspect my expectation.
I wish I could talk to my destiny
and ask it ‘What will I be?

A month ago, I was ready to chuck the silly dreams for a collective destiny of co-existence. No trigger warning could have prepared my spirit for the murderous aggression we saw against Ahmad Arbery by a white former police investigator and his son. Nothing could rouse us from the nightmare of knowing Breonna Taylor perished when police shot her in her sleep. I couldn’t stomach the evil of police officer Derek Chauvin’s barbarism toward George Floyd. Nothing steals your optimism more than hearing of white Christian brothers wonder why George Floyd has been made a martyr. This has been a rape of our fragile peace.

Except, then, the people took to the streets. Now Congress is pushing through a bill—likely to face hurdles in the Senate, and risk of veto—that renounces brutish practices such as chokeholds, and “no-knock” warrants. When the people took to the streets, we see District Attorneys bringing their case against murderers, and securing indictments, and exacting justice for the depravity with which these people treat life. When the people took to the streets they mounted attacks on the symbolism of racist regimes. They turned their sights to monuments to the civil war, the confederacy and slavery worldwide. This included that of ole’ Jefferson Davis, the president of the confederacy, who fell with a crunch on Richmond, Virginia’s Monument Avenue. Pennsylvania Avenue, with one of the world’s most famous addresses, is now our yellow brick road, for it declares that “Black Lives Matter.” And who knew that Martin Luther King Jr.’s often repeated dream would see fulfillment, not in child’s play, but in the coming together of little children of all races to fight the power.

Can I dare to dream that this will change anything? My personal piece ‘d resistance came in the observation of a grainy image of hope, when police vehicles clustered in my neighborhood. While the lights swirled and officers worked, off on a side street sat a little red hatchback. Its young, white, male driver—sealed inside—trained his cell phone camera on their every move.

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So Many Churches, How Do I Choose One?

We have churches everywhere today. We have churches on every corner. Big churches. Little churches. Urban churches. Rural churches. Some churches clap their hands. Some churches don’t. Some churches say, “Amen.” Some churches don’t. Some churches have musical bands. Some churches don’t. Some churches have long services. Some churches don’t. We have churches everywhere.

Every church preaches love. Every church preaches forgiveness. Every church preaches salvation. We have churches everywhere preaching everything.

Now let me be clear that there are good people in all churches. There are good Christians in all denominations. But, when I consider a church, it’s not about who has the nicest building. It’s not about how many members you have. It’s not whether you have a television ministry or not. It’s not about how many choirs or praise teams you have. While all of these things may be good, I’ve learned in my life that that’s not why you should become a member of a church. Rather, you should become a member of a church where God’s unadulterated Word is being preached.

You must be where the people, though they may be imperfect, are pursuing a perfect message. There are too many churches where anything goes. In these types of churches, you can do anything you want. If it feels good, do it. But Jesus is coming back soon for a church “without spot or wrinkle;” one that is “holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

The signs pointing to the imminence of Christ’s return are increasing every day. Jesus foretold us in Matthew 24 that there would be wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, and so much more just before His second coming. We can clearly see that the Coronavirus, the current modern-day pestilence, has ravaged our world, and people are still dying.

Sadly, the world is not going to get better, but it’s going to get worse. We don’t have time to play around with the idea of a church! We shouldn’t attend a church simply because of its popularity. But we’ve got to be where God’s truth is being preached and taught.

Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23, NIV:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Today, I’m happy to say that I’m a Seventh-day Adventist Christian! It is not the name, or the denomination that is as important as the indicators, or the signs of a truth-telling and truth-seeking body of believers. So, in seeking a church, make a decision based on Bible-based reasons. Here are factors that I believe rightfully inform a decision to join a church:

1. Its teachings are in harmony with the Word of God. Isaiah 8:20 speaks about our responsibility to live according to the principles as taught in God’s Word. Hence, it should be our desire to belong to a church that advocates biblical teaching and fosters a biblical lifestyle.

2. It keeps all Ten Commandments of God including the Fourth Commandment to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Revelation 12:17 says that those who follow God and keep His commandments are God’s remnant people.

3. It has the Testimony of Jesus. Revelation 12:17 also states that having the “testimony of Jesus” is a characteristic of God’s remnant. Revelation 19:10 defines “the testimony of Jesus” as “the Spirit of Prophecy,” which demonstrates the abiding witness of God’s saving power through a human vessel.

4. It preaches the everlasting gospel in all the world. Revelation 14:6 reminds us that God’s church will spread the good news of the gospel all around the world, not just locally.

5. It preaches the final three point message of Revelation 14:6-12. These three messages remind us to “fear God,” flee the fallen, rebellious system of Babylon, and to reject the Mark of the Beast.

6. It believes that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12 and John 3:16 are abiding reminders that Jesus came to save sinners, and there’s no other way to be saved but through Him.

Perhaps you’re looking for a church. Maybe you’ve become interested in attending church. In your decision process, be sure to consider the list above. And remember, God does care which church I choose, because He’s coming back, not for just any woman, but for His special bride.

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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.

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