You may have seen the story on your social media feed: “Schoolboys grabbed suicidal man and refused to let him jump” blared the UK Daily Mail. That headline accompanied a picture of a serious Shawn Young, Davonte Cafferkey, and Sammy Farah, ages 12, 13, and 14 respectively, at the time.
The boys had been “loitering” on the way home from school, recalled Young’s mother, and as they were about to cross an overpass in Hertfordshire—about 30 miles North of London—a passing adult told them to go another way because a disturbed man was on the bridge.
Their sense of mischief and curiosity aroused, they proceeded across anyway. There they found a distraught 21-year old man with a rope. His face was red and he was crying quietly, but sweating and breathing heavily. He tied the rope around part of the bridge, tossed his keys and phone to the boys and told them not to answer if anyone called. He put the rope around his neck and climbed over the railing.
This pressed the boys into smart and aggressive “textbook” action,” said Carol Young. Cafferkey and Farah clutched the man for dear life while Shawn ran for help. The young man became dead weight there on top of that bridge, over the busy highway. He slipped in and out of consciousness while the boys yelled at him: “Don’t do this! Think of your family! You’re too young to die!”
Ultimately, two other passerby assisted the boys in bringing the man to safety and averting the loss of life.
“A few weeks after,” Shawn told Message recently, “he came to Devontae’s house to meet us. He brought us flowers and cards. He said he was grateful; he wasn’t really thinking properly.”
The kernel of truth buried in this story with a happy ending is what support for people living with mental illness is all about. That’s because when you rewind, you realize that it was an adult who told the boys to avoid crossing the bridge where a “crazy man” was up there doing some strange things. Instead, like the Bible’s “Good Samaritan” who risked his life to come to the aid of a person in need—all while other, qualified and seemingly spiritual people passed by—the boys stepped in anyway.
“Shawn was brought up as a child to attend church. His belief is there. He’s had training,” said his mother who took her children to work in the community “religiously,” and taught them to look after people who need looking after.
As a Seventh-day Adventist, for whom belief in the wholistic health message of the Bible is critical, I was taught early to “Trust in Divine Power,” a helpful, hopeful approach to well-being that most certainly includes mental wellness.
“Trust in divine power boosts positive emotions and helps neutralize negative emotions, serving both to enhance life and increase coping skills as negative life events are put into proper context,” writes Lillian Kent, in an article “The Adventist “Health Message” Unpacked, www.ministrymagazine.org. “Individuals with these beliefs have greater well-being, happiness, hope, optimism, and gratefulness and are less likely to experience depression, suicide, anxiety, psychosis, substance abuse, delinquency, crime, and marital instability.”
Yet, traditionally communities of faith and the faithful struggle with incorporating psychological and psychiatric support with religious or spiritual belief and practice. Longstanding suspicions widened the gulf between science and faith. That left many to struggle alone in stigma, or in anonymity, or in abuse.
“Most services of worship are silent about the mental and emotional problems among those present,” according to an article by Clark Aist, Ph.D, a former director of Chaplain Services and Rehabilitation Services Supervisor of Clinical Pastoral Education, for Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C. “They are not lifted in prayer or sermons, nor mentioned in social hour conversations. This conspiracy of silence serves to perpetuate the stigma associated with mental health conditions.”
With mental illness affecting “tens of millions” of people in the United States, and only an estimated half of the people affected getting treatment, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, there is room for more discussion, education, and intervention. In our houses of worship, cited Aist, it is estimated that one in four families has someone living with a mental illness. At that rate, we can no longer afford to stigmatize mental illness, or simply pray it away, but actually use a hands-on effort to look after people who need looking after.
This article is part of our 2019 March / April Issue Subscribe –>
Bryan Stevenson’s Monumental Task
HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE, DEATH PENALTY ADVERSARY, BRYAN STEVENSON
Sees healing on the horizon but not before we do the hard work of remembrance and. repentance
Lord, How Come We Here?
Election night, 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama. Sports bars, restaurants and hotels flickered with scrolling results on television’s Fox News. Downtown streets were quiet except for a lounge singer covering 80s hits on a hotel patio.
Confederate statues and the Confederate White House sat just a block away. Gentrified buildings and swank food joints inhabit the spaces under Montgomery’s famous archways and over its tunnels that used to accommodate slave trafficking. But, in the city where Rosa Parks sat down to take a stand, and Martin Luther King, Jr. preached, the lights at Equal Justice Initiative were on.
It was an act of Congress in 1994 that propelled EJI founder Bryan Stevenson to open the organization in Montgomery, Alabama. Alabama was the only state that failed to provide legal defense for people with death sentences.
Since then the Harvard Law School graduate successfully argued before the United States Supreme Court that it is unconstitutional to give children 17 years-old and under life without parole—basically a sentence to die in prison. And, in 2016, the court decided it should apply the rule retroactively, giving more than 2000 people who grew up in prison, a chance at review and release.
The organization’s most lauded cases helped spring innocent men, at least 125 of them, from death row. He captured his life story and early work with EJI in the acclaimed 2014 bestseller, Just Mercy, which makes it to the big screen in 2020 starring Michael B. Jordan.
Like the mythical Sisyphus, Stevenson finds himself in a punishing, uphill struggle for justice. Because systemic problems such as policing bias and lack of representation result in mass incarceration, disproportionately affecting black and brown people, he has found it necessary to address the myth of racial differences, white supremacy and the enduring effects of enslavement. To do this, he sought funding for and built the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration.
The memorial’s visually arresting and massive iron monuments, suspended from the rafters, “bleed” in the rain. The museum in a small, but powerful U-shaped exhibit, hammers the point home: this isn’t over yet.
“Even in our communities we haven’t wanted to talk about it,” Stevenson said for an exclusive interview with Message. “We felt as if our survival required us to be silent in our coping with this. That’s where our fore parents made the biggest difference. They taught us to stand up, when people said sit down. Speak up when people say be quiet. You have to find the courage to tell our truths.”
From the time one walks into the Legacy museum, Stevenson’s point is easy to access. The museum starts with a short walk down a dark hallway, the end of which confronts the spirit with ghostlike figures whose eyes peer through history and whose voices sing the question on everyone’s mind: “Lord, How Come We Here?”
Stevenson draws a straight line from genocide of Native peoples to our history of enslavement, racial terror, Jim Crow, voter suppression, the “war on drugs” to today’s racial profiling and racially imbalanced mass incarceration. We’re here because we haven’t dealt with the consuming disease and public health threat of racism.
“We gotta talk about the fact that we live in a post-genocide society: that what happened to native people when Europeans came to this continent was a genocide. And we didn’t deal with it as if it was genocide. We said ‘no, those Native people are savages.’ We used this rhetoric, that’s rooted in race, to justify that violence. And that’s why, for me, the great evil of American slavery wasn’t involuntary servitude. It wasn’t forced labor. It was this ideology that we created that black people weren’t like white people. It was this myth, this narrative of racial difference.”
Old South Romanticism
The corrupt narrative makes romanticizing Old South history possible, while ignoring the effects of domestic terror, and the Great Migration of black people away from it. The narrative ignores the trauma and humiliation of “White” and “Colored” iconography that cemented the ideas of racial differences in the psyche.
“And today, we still live in a country [where] this infection, this disorder, this disease continues to manifest itself,” said Stevenson. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a person of faith, doesn’t matter whether you’re a bishop, minister or elder, a kind person. [It] doesn’t matter if you’re a great student; doesn’t matter if you’re an architect; doesn’t matter if you’re a lawyer or doctor. If you’re black or brown, you go places in this country, and you’re going to have to navigate presumptions of danger and guilt. We unconsciously are doing things all the time to manage these presumptions that we have to overcome, and it’s exhausting.”
Observe the 59 markers to the confederacy in Montgomery, two high schools named for Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, and a holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr., shared with Lee. This is a far cry from the remembrance and attempts at healing, visible across the landscapes in South Africa, Rwanda, and Germany. One cannot be there without being confronted by chilling, shameful results of hatred.
“There are no Adolf Hitler statues in Germany. There are no swastikas. But, in this country, we haven’t talked about slavery. We haven’t talked about lynching. We haven’t talked about segregation. We have confederate symbols everywhere.”
Confession—not punishment, not guilt-mongering—leads to repentance and redemption.
“There’s something that comes after that—that is cleansing, that is emerging. That’s how redemption happens. And we haven’t done that as a society. So yes, we want to talk honestly, directly, about the pain, shame, and the heartache and the brutality of enslavement. We want people to see these monuments and understand the trauma and terror and the taunting and the menacing that people of color had to go through. And then we want them to tell the truth. I really do believe after truth comes redemption, comes reconciliation.”
Old Rugged Cross
Speaking of a “come to Jesus moment,” it is time for the faithful to revisit the “fixation and fascination with the death penalty.” And, though the Bible permitted capital punishment, Stevenson argues, Biblical principles of fairness and humility must also be applied, and in doing so, people of conscience cannot support the death penalty today.
“For me, it’s not about the morality of the death penalty, the propriety of the death penalty. I think, at least in this country, the threshold question is not do people deserve to die for the crimes they’ve committed; I think the threshold question is do we deserve to kill?”
Fact: for every 10 people sentenced to die in the United States, one of them is innocent, Stevenson said. The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty clarified this statistic a few years ago. “As of October 2015, we have executed over 1,414 individuals in this country since 1976. 156 individuals have been exonerated from death row—that is, found to be innocent and released —since 1973. In other words, for every 10 people who have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S., one person has been set free.” ( http://www.ncadp.org/pages/innocence )
What Does The Lord Require?
Such a high error rate leading to death would not be tolerated in any other setting. Further, the historical track record of racially motivated policing and prosecutions, and a lack of access to sound representation also creates unfairness. “And,” said Stevenson, “we have a criminal justice system that treats you better if you’re rich and guilty, then if you’re poor and innocent.”
What does the Lord require? Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God, (Micah 6:8). Yet, in a system of justice that fails so often, it is arrogance to continue to exact life as a penalty, Stevenson argues.
Of Hymns and Hypocrites
Further, and better, the prophet’s message supports lives of the vulnerable and at-risk populations if the faithful internalized it. That’s what Stevenson thought while listening to strains of the hymn “The Old Rugged Cross,” while sitting across the table from a condemned man. The man was completely shaved and prepared for the electric chair.
I couldn’t help but think, ‘yeah, where were they when you were three and your mom died? Where were they when you were six and you were being abused? Where were they when you were nine and you were being sexually assaulted? Where were they when you were 13 and you were experimenting with drugs? Where were they when you came back from Vietnam and were traumatized from that injury? I know where they were when you were accused—they were lined up to execute you.
Not only does mercy say, ‘No,” mercy understands that each individual—including those condemned in the system—is worth more than the worst thing he or she has ever done.
Bryan Stevenson doesn’t look like what he’s been through. Fit and trim, youthful and well-rested just isn’t how one pictures a tireless, overworked CEO and legal advocate. It is not how one imagines a person burdened with the task of saving people from death row, and uplifting humanity. As Rosa Parks once told him, “You’re going to be tired, tired, tired.”
Stevenson grew up in poor, rural Delaware, and attended “colored” schools until Brown v. Board of Education made it possible for him to access public school education. He excelled in his academics and sports, even playing the organ and singing with the church choir. Yet, to Stevenson, his social consciousness—developed partly through hearing the constant struggle of the men and women during testimony time at their African Methodist Episcopal Church—found no outlet in his Harvard Law School experience.
Stevenson turned to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and resigned himself to being a policy wonk, or, yet another unfulfilled dreamer in a dreary law career. It was when he worked as an intern for the Georgia Southern Prisoners Defense Committee that Stevenson met a man condemned to die. Nervous, and fearing he could only disappoint his client with his inexperience, he sat down for what would have been an hour interview. That hour turned into a three-hour life-changing experience.
Seeing himself in that young black man, Stevenson bonded over the conversation, learning about the case, the man’s family, and his life. When guards burst in to end the session, angry because it had gone on so long, they grabbed his client. They pushed and shoved, chained and shackled, and pinched his flesh with handcuffs, leaving Stevenson stunned at the violence.
“Bryan,” said his client, “don’t worry about this. You just come back.”
“And that young man closed his eyes, just put his head back and started singing: “I’m pressing on, the upward way, new heights I’m gaining every day, still praying as I’m onward bound, and he said, Lord, plant my feet on higher ground. . .”
Stevenson knew then he found his mission, one he says now animates his life and engages his heart, and that is to help condemned people to find higher ground.
“When you are mission-aligned, when you actually get to do the thing that fulfills you and makes you feel like you’re serving the way you’re supposed to serve, you wrestle, but you don’t wrestle with God. You wrestle with the challenges, the obstacles and complexities of what it means to be as effective as you possibly can.”
Remembrance: bring a marker and memorial to a county near you.
Watch for the movie Just Mercy starring Michael B. Jordan
Carmela Monk Crawford, editor of Message, with David Person the owner of David Person Media, LLC. Since 1986, he has been working as a broadcaster, journalist, documentary director, and media consultant.
2019 January / February Issue
BRYAN STEVENSON’S MONUMENTAL TASK
BRYAN STEVENSON BELIEVES IN TRUTH, REDEMPTION, AND RECONCILIATION IN THAT ORDER.
13 Grab Hold of Your God, Your Provider
by Ruthven Philip / Work this program of faith and financial freedom.
14 Monumental Task
by Carmela Monk Crawford and David Person / Author of Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson on remembrance and repentence.
17 Racial Facts and Fictions
by Jean Emmanuel Nlo Nlo / Celebrate the truth that sets us free from myth of colonial Christianity.
20 1619 Redux
by Malcolm Luther / It’s 2019; are you really free?
22 Sabbath Rest
by Alicia Jones / When your spirit is weary as the mother of a newborn, a good Sabbath rest is what you need.
Six Times Jesus Challenged His Hearers (Are You One of Them?)
On another Sabbath day, a man with a deformed right hand was in the synagogue while Jesus was teaching. The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees watched Jesus closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.
But Jesus knew their thoughts. He said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” So, the man came forward. Then Jesus said to his critics, “I have a question for you. Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?”
He looked around at them one by one and then said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored!At this, the enemies of Jesus were wild with rage and began to discuss what to do with him” (Luke 6:6-11, NLT)
Think and Grow
Dimensions and Demonstrations in The Sabbath
From Ellen G. White’s The Desire of Ages, the chapter entitled “The Sabbath.”
When questioned, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days?” Jesus answered, “What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days” Matthew 12:10-12.
The spies dared not answer Christ in the presence of the multitude, for fear of involving themselves in difficulty. They knew that He had spoken the truth. Rather than violate their traditions, they would leave a man to suffer, while they would relieve a brute because of the loss to the owner if it were neglected. Thus greater care was shown for a dumb animal than for man, who is made in the image of God. This illustrates the working of all false religions. They originate in man’s desire to exalt himself above God, but they result in degrading man below the brute. Every religion that wars against the sovereignty of God defrauds man of the glory which was his at the creation, and which is to be restored to him in Christ. Every false religion teaches its adherents to be careless of human needs, sufferings, and rights. The gospel places a high value upon humanity as the purchase of the blood of Christ, and it teaches a tender regard for the wants and woes of man. The Lord says, “I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir” Isaiah 13:12.
When Jesus turned upon the Pharisees with the question whether it was lawful on the Sabbath day to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill, He confronted them with their own wicked purposes. They were hunting His life with bitter hatred, while He was saving life and bringing happiness to multitudes. Was it better to slay upon the Sabbath, as they were planning to do, than to heal the afflicted, as He had done? Was it more righteous to have murder in the heart upon God’s holy day than love to all men, which finds expression in deeds of mercy?
In the healing of the withered hand, Jesus condemned the custom of the Jews, and left the fourth commandment standing as God had given it. “It is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days,” He declared. By sweeping away the senseless restrictions of the Jews, Christ honored the Sabbath, while those who complained of Him were dishonoring God’s holy day.
Those who hold that Christ abolished the law teach that He broke the Sabbath and justified His disciples in doing the same. Thus, they are really taking the same ground as did the caviling Jews. In this they contradict the testimony of Christ Himself, who declared, “I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.” John 15:10. Neither the Saviour nor His followers broke the law of the Sabbath. Christ was a living representative of the law. No violation of its holy precepts was found in His life. Looking upon a nation of witnesses who were seeking occasion to condemn Him, He could say unchallenged, “Which of you convicteth Me of sin?” John 8:46, R.V.
The Saviour had not come to set aside what patriarchs and prophets had spoken; for He Himself had spoken through these representative men. All the truths of God’s word came from Him. But these priceless gems had been placed in false settings. Their precious light had been made to minister to error. God desired them to be removed from their settings of error and replaced in the framework of truth. This work only a divine hand could accomplish. By its connection with error, the truth had been serving the cause of the enemy of God and man. Christ had come to place it where it would glorify God, and work the salvation of humanity.
This article is part of our 2019 January / February Subscribe –>
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.
The title of this article is derived from a movie written, directed, and produced by filmmaker Spike Lee in 1989. The film, “Do the Right Thing,” examined violence and its harmful effects, challenging viewers to engage in honorable behavior reminding them in its final clip that “the time is always right to do the right thing.”
To “do the right thing” is rooted in the fact that each and every day we’re faced with decisions whose outcomes should reflect sound judgment, positive character, moral decency, and equitable justice. Hence, our treatment of others, management of the environment, responses to social issues, and daily life choices ranging from “Who should I vote for?” to “How should I relate to others” should always reflect “doing the right thing.”
The Biblical admonition to “do the right thing” can be found in the words of Micah 6:8, “Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” Let’s examine these three directives.
1) Do Justly.
Put simply, to do justly is to do things right, and do the right things. God cares about fairness. God cares about equity. God cares about women being treated with the same dignity and respect as men. God cares about people being judged by the content of their character as opposed to the color of their skin. God cares about those who have no medical insurance and can’t afford to get medical care. God cares about the economically disadvantaged. God cares about domestic abuse and violence. God cares about the disabled and the disenfranchised. God cares about all the people who are adversely affected in our broken world. God cares about social justice. God cares about black lives, white lives, red lives, yellow lives, blue lives, and all lives.
So in harmony with God’s will and way, act with fairness, integrity, and honesty. Love and treat everyone right. Do justly.
2) Love mercy.
Micah 6:8 doesn’t say, “have mercy,” but rather it says “love mercy.” There’s a difference between having mercy and loving mercy. And one way of describing this difference is that we shouldn’t perform acts of kindness from a sense of compulsion, which is having mercy. But, we should do them out of love, which means you love mercy.
Loving mercy is seen in the actions of the Good Samaritan.1 Loving mercy is seen in the parable of the Prodigal Son.2 Loving mercy is seen in the women caught in the very act of adultery.3 Jesus said “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.”4
Mercy is favor, kindness, and compassion. When we love mercy, we love kindness. When we love mercy, we love compassion.
God expects us to love and get along with one another. He expects us to “do the right thing” and love mercy by demonstrating it towards others.
3) Walk humbly with God.
The first two directives in Micah 6:8, “do justly and love mercy,” deal primarily with how we treat one another, but the third directive, “walk humbly with God,” reveals our relationship with God. And the right relationship with God always begins with humility not arrogance.
God expects us to walk humbly with Him. Now that may sound easy, but it’s hard because we’re arrogant, prideful, legends in our own minds, and have big egos. Too often, we think it is God’s role to make us happy, do our bidding, and answer our prayers in the way we want. But we are to serve and glorify God.5 The apostle Paul says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. It is a gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.”6
Whenever you walk with someone, three things must be true. Number one, you must be going in the same direction. You can’t walk with someone and be going in the opposite direction. And you will never learn to walk with God until you know which way God’s going and then you change your course to match His.
Number two, when you walk with someone you’ve got to be going at the same pace. In order to walk humbly with God, you must match God’s pace, God’s speed, and God’s tempo. Stop getting ahead of God and stop falling behind God. Walk with God.
Number three, whenever you walk with someone, you always have to be headed to the same destination, which means, if you want true fellowship with God, make sure you’re going where He’s going. Make sure you reach the ultimate destination where He will be, and that’s eternal life with Him.
May our lives, both now and in the future, always reflect these three directives, and may we always “do the right thing!”
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.
51 Samuel 12:24, Psalm 86:12, and Revelation 14:7.
This article is part of our 2019 January / February Issue Subscribe –>
A Real Rest
No matter how much sleep you try to get, there seems to be chasm that cannot be filled. Weary is an understatement in comparison to feeling that resonates in your soul. Let’s try something. Let’s confront Jesus about this need for restoration we need and ask Him for “A Real Rest”
1) Read Luke 6:6-11; Matthew 6:6-13; Luke 7:11-15
As we attempt to confront Jesus, we find him confronting others. Not only is He confronting people, He’s doing it on the Sabbath in the synagogue. There seems to be no place that Jesus isn’t willing to be confrontational. Do you remember a time when Jesus called you out? Pointed out something at an inopportune time? Tell us about is here at Message on social media using #MessageMag.
2) Read Luke 6:6-11
This confrontation seems to be rooted in what can and can’t be done on the Sabbath. Jesus makes it a one-sided affair in posing a rhetorical question. Why was it such a big deal to help or heal someone on the Sabbath? Jesus could have avoided the situation by walking out or holding His peace, but obviously there was a point God wanted to show that day. Jesus shows doing good is keeping the Sabbath. How can doing anything for anyone else be a way to rest? Tell us your thoughts using #MessageMag.
3) Read Luke 6:6-11; Leviticus 25:1-7; Genesis 2:1-3
We know that the Creator finished His work, then rested on and blessed the seventh-day, making it holy. As such, this Sabbath thing is so much bigger than a day of the week. If we read Leviticus there is an element of trust that is necessary to keep the Sabbath. The people were asked to go a whole year of their life without putting any effort into providing for themselves. It’s comparable to God asking you to quit your job at the end of every sixth year and not worry about rent, food, or utilities. Is it possible that you can “break” the Sabbath by not trusting God to take care of you? What do you think? Share using #MessageMag.
4) Read Deuteronomy 15:1-11
If you’ve never read this before, or don’t remember it don’t feel bad. This relatively obscure passage is striking in comparison to today’s prevailing mindset, and gives an inkling of God’s practicality, and concern with the total person. No one who was His could be in debt for an extended amount of time. What if I told you that one of the best ways to keep the Sabbath—a profound rest in Him—is by making sure that none of your family is in debt? What if I told you that you honor the Sabbath by letting go of that debt they owe you? How does this make you look at Sabbath-keeping? I would love to hear from you personally if this resonates with you. Send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
5) Read Luke 5:16; Luke 6:1-5
From the passages we’ve read, you may be beginning to realize that the Sabbath is also a lifestyle in that you recognize you are God’s steward. Therefore you rest so that you can be the best version of yourself for others. Therefore, I challenge anyone’s spirituality that doesn’t take some form of a vacation on a regular basis. Everything in this world that God has made has an ebb and flow. What is yours? Do you have a God given self-care plan? What do you do to make sure you’re fit for heavenly use? Share using #MessageMag.
6) Sabbath-keeping is personified in this moment of Jesus bringing the rest He is to someone who’s been restless. You can’t just sleep and experience Sabbath in its fullness. You can’t just have a self-care plan, devotion schedule, and attend church regularly. You must get what God has given you (Trust, Peace, Vigor, etc.) to someone who’s been kept from resting. How will you do this? Pray about it and let us know what the Spirit brings to your mind. #MessageMag.
7) How do you know you’ve entered into “A Real Rest” that God has for you? Look at Chapter 26 of Leviticus. What you put into life you will get more out of it. Though calamity be all around you, it doesn’t touch your family. Whatever you’re inspired to do, prospers when you strike out and do it. You will defy the odds in many facets of your life. You’ll have good health and God will walk with you.
Let this confrontation with Jesus inspire you to trust irrationally, give liberally, and believe vehemently. Why? Because that’s what Sabbath keepers do.
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.
Rashad Burden is the pastor of the Mount Olive and Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Southern Alabama.
This article is part of our 2019 January / February Issue Subscribe –>
Heaven’s court docket
One of the cornerstones of the American legal system is the promise of “due process.” Due process guarantees citizens that government will conduct the people’s business with procedures that are legal and fair.
One can find this constitutional protection of due process in the Fifth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendments. It says: “No one shall be … deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” In a world teeming with injustice, for citizens of the United States, how comforting to know that justice is promised through due process.
That observation made, here’s a question for believers: are the redeemed correct in our expectation that Heaven’s government would afford its citizens protections comparable to those offered by the Constitution’s due process?
What You May Have Missed
I believe the answer is yes. And, it is based on the doctrine of the investigative judgment, a doctrine viewed by many as erroneous, and is uniquely Adventist. Conflicting views notwithstanding, careful review of scripture reveals an implicit guarantee of due process for every child of God.
Due process comes into play whenever the government takes any action that can potentially affect a citizen. The government must first give notice, and provide an opportunity for the citizen to respond to the proposal, or an “opportunity to be heard.”1 Properly understood, the investigative judgment can rightly be recognized as God’s promise of due process.
Most Christians agree that eternal life awaits all who choose to be saved by Jesus. Conversely, many Christians accept the teaching that hellfire awaits those who’ve rejected Jesus. What many Christians overlook, however, is this factor that determines the final disposition of each child of God. The doctrine of the investigative judgment provides clarity on this topic.
Answers in Exodus
May I suggest that the primary reason most Christians have difficulty understanding and accepting the investigative judgment is a lack of understanding regarding the Sanctuary Service God gave Moses. “…[L]et them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle…” Exodus 25:8.
The Sanctuary Service served as God’s kindergarten lesson of salvation. Repentant sinners learned the reality of the words: “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). Likewise, the Sanctuary was a primer for learning the reality that “… without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).
The Blood Applied
Through the Sanctuary, sinners became intimately acquainted with the deadly consequences of sin. Sinners took their sacrifices—usually a lamb, without blemish to represent Jesus, the Lamb of God—to the sanctuary.
With the help of the priests at the Sanctuary, the sinner would place his hands upon the head of the animal, and then confess his sins against God. Symbolically, the sins then transferred to the animal, which the sinner slayed by his own hand. The blood of that sacrifice was collected, then sprinkled by the priests before the veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. The Most Holy Place housed the Ark of the Covenant with the Mercy Seat.
My reward is with me to give everyone according to his work.
Shedding and sprinkling of blood was a daily function of the Sanctuary. However, one day each year, on the day of Atonement, the High Priest would go beyond the veil and enter the Most Holy Place. His role on that day was to cleanse the sanctuary of the sins, represented by the sprinkled blood, that had accumulated over the course of a year.
As God told Moses, the earthly Sanctuary was patterned after the heavenly. The services of the earthly Sanctuary were likewise symbolic of the ministry taking place on our behalf in the heavenly.
With Daniel 7:9-10 as our backdrop, we’re granted a glimpse of what most Biblical scholars agree is a snapshot of a heavenly judgment scene. Daniel sees the Ancient of Days (God the Father) seated on His throne, as the court was seated and the books were opened. Then in Daniel 8:14 the prophetic word declares emphatically that the Sanctuary would be cleansed by our High Priest, Jesus. Biblical reckoning placed the time of that cleansing in the year 1844, marking the beginning of the investigative judgment period. Remember, the Sanctuary on earth like the Sanctuary in heaven, was about judgment and redemption.
Judicial Review of Your Probation
Many reject the investigative judgment as simply unbelievable. Which prompts this question, why would belief in the mediatorial work of the Lamb of God on behalf of fallen man in the Holy of Holies in the heavenly Sanctuary, be any less believable than the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb on the altar of the Cross.
Some reject the investigative judgment because those words are not found in Scripture. A true point, indeed. However, equally undeniable is that we do find in the mercy of God due process.
Shakespeare reminds us that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”2 So, call it a judicial review. The Sanctuary motif provides that prior to God granting each of His children their reward, there shall be a judicial review of each life.
Since 1844 this review has been underway. The time frame—or the long probation—is long, not for God’s sake, but ours. Evidence of this Divine due process is found in John 5:28, 29 which speaks of rewards for those who’ve done good and for those who’ve done evil. We find due process in Revelation 22:12 reminding us that He comes quickly and, “… my reward is with me to give every one according to his work.”
There must have been a review of each case. In the absence of a judicial review, there would be no justification for the saints declaration of Revelation 15:3 “… just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints.”
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.
http://www.lincoln.edu/criminaljustice/hr/Dueprocess.htm, Sociology and Criminal Justice Department, Lincoln University,
2 Shakespeare, William, Romeo and Juliet
This article is part of our 2019 January / February Issue Subscribe –>
I Am a Friend of God
In 2018 Alabamians voted decisively to change their state Constitution to allow for the display of the Bible’s Ten Commandments in its schools and courthouses. Not since their Constitution was put in place in 1901, has there been this kind of push for something that seems so, unconstitutional.
“Displaying the Ten Commandments on public property, like Christmas Nativity Scenes, is constitutional when it has a secular context only and/or when it is joined in a display of secular patriotic symbols or objects,” says Greg Hamilton, President of the Northwest Religious Liberty Association. “But it is not constitutional as a stand-alone display or symbol on public property.”
Don’t misunderstand me. I still believe in the Word of God. I still believe in His commandments. In His law, is the way of life (see Proverbs 6:23, and compare with Romans 8:2 and Galatians 3:21). But, with this vote, the damage has already been done.
Dean Young, a long-time supporter of former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy E. Moore, and recalcitrant advocate of the Ten Commandments display, was the single highest donor for the Ten Commandments Amendment. Young contributed $27,000 to continue the fight. He, though, erroneously implicated the conscience on two fronts.
First, he characterized the addition of the Constitutional Amendment as a vote for God, and by implication and conversely, a vote against this amendment as a vote against God.
Second, Young also mischaracterized the very people who fight to preserve religious freedom.
“The bad guys are coming: Southern Poverty Law Center, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the ACLU,” Moore said in a video advertisement released last spring before the vote. “Fake teachers, fake preachers, because they don’t want our children being taught that there is a right and there is a wrong. They don’t want our children being taught that the 10 Commandments were given to us by God, the creator, the same God that’s acknowledged four times in our Declaration of Independence.”
Will our records in heaven reflect our support of this issue? What is the balance required of our consciences, while allowing others who may believe differently to do the same?
Get straight. “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men[.]” Isaiah 29:13.
God’s word is so on point: 1. Follow Him more than just with words. Let your dedication be seen in your life according to His word. 2. Mere humans don’t prescribe what it means to honor God. He does. If you believe in His commandments, follow them. All of them, including the seventh-day Sabbath, the only commandment humans substituted out.
As Democratic Representative Berry Forte told Al.com, “It’s not important to display the Ten Commandments, but to live by them. The devil can display the Ten Commandments.”
Give Caesar what is his, and to God what belongs to Him. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar? The religious teachers sought to define the parameters between church and state in Jesus’ day. Unfortunately, their inquiry was not for information sake, but to set a trap for Jesus. Three of the gospels capture the moment in which Jesus skillfully neutralizes them. His answer still stands. Decide: is this a heart and mind area reserved for God’s direction, or is this an area of life, governed by the laws of the land? Is there a conflict between the two? How will you resolve it? (Acts 5:29)
Are you helping God by using methods in contravention of His will?
The Bible tracks the stories of two people who thought they could help God. Uzzah tried to catch the ark of the covenant as it almost tumbled to the ground. For that, he was summarily killed. Harsh? God allowed no one to touch the ark of the covenant. Judas thought he would advance the kingdom of God by selling out Jesus. Why didn’t the three years of Jesus’ teaching arrest his own ambitions?
Religious freedom will be a central issue in the hearts and consciences of God’s people before the Second Advent. Take your stand now, and always, by being and reaching.
This article is part of our 2019 January/February Subscribe –>
Elevation 2019 January / February
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.
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
by Angela Duckworth
Angela Duckworth delivers a powerful book with thorough research on what it takes to be successful. Is it talent? Is it effort? Her lessons learned combined with psychological data inspires each reader to show some grit in their purpose. This book reveals how talent sometimes outshines the person who is giving true effort to succeed. This is a great read for those who want to improve personally, professionally and can be applied spiritually.
“Talent—how fast we improve in skill—absolutely matters. But effort factors into the calculations twice, not once. Effort builds skill. At the very same time, effort makes skill productive.”
Phil Thompson “My Worship”
Thompson’s music can be found on all digital platforms. This is a great way to start your day!
“No one can worship you for me, here’s my worship all of my worship, receive my worship all of my worship.”
Joshua Rogers “Returning”
I met Joshua a few years ago. He had just won BET’s Sunday Best and was on tour in New York through Maestro Productions. His humility and worshipful attitude is what stood out to me right away. After some years he is back with a new album “Returning,” and I love how he uses a Bebe and CeCe Winans’ sample in the Returning track. His first single off of this project is “Pour Your Oil,” emphasizing our need for the Holy Spirit.
“Let it fall down on me… from the top of my head to my feet… Pour your oil on me…Let it fall down on me….I want your glory…Want your glory”
Send your information for review to:email@example.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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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?