I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will proclaim my message.
Acts 2:18 GNT
Sabbath Recorder July/August 2020 A Seventh Day Baptist Publication
This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. ...if we are living in the light, as God is in the light... the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.
—1 John 5:5-7 NLT
In Every Issue
In This Issue
From Darkness Into Light By Pastor Rick Crouch 9 A Healthy Church By Andrew J. Camenga 11 A Healthy Body By Tim Smothers 12 Hope in the Fiery Furnace By Dennis Coleman 22 Statement from SDB Leadership Concerning Racism 25 Virtual Conference Week Preview and Info 5 AboutThe Authors Andrew J. Camenga serves the German SDB Church in Salemville, PA, as pastor. He is grateful to God for the bless- ing of walking through life alongside his wife, Kristin, and daughters, Elisa and Annika. Dennis Coleman— Proud to be one of God’s children, Dennis is a husband and father of two teens. A member of Shiloh SDB Church, Dennis is honored that God lets him tag along as He ministers to His saints. Rick Crouch is pastor of the Seventh Day Baptist Church of Daytona Beach, FL. He and his wife, Grace, have six children and two grandchildren, and they enjoy long walks on the beach, even in winter. Tim Smothers pastors the Seventh Day Baptist Church in Battle Creek MI. His wife Karen works in a skilled nursing facility and works with the children at the church.
Alliance in Ministry Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus by Carl Greene
Women’s Society Finding Hope by Katrina Goodrich
Young Adult The Great Commandment by Sarina Gumness FOCUS on Missions We’re All God’s Favorites by Andy Samuels President’s Page President again? Still?? by Kevin Butler
Everyday Theology The Body of Christ is Hurting and Doesn’t Even Know It by Phil Lawton
News from Churches Stonefort, IL Verona, NY North Loup, NE
Church Development and Pastoral Services Stephanie Sholtz Wellness Fund Mulitply Preview PULSE
Pastor Search by John J. Pethtel Church News Obituaries Birth
Gospel Feet 5k Running to Beat COVID-19 Information
For access to the library of current and past issues of the Sabbath Recorder , go to your App Store and download the FREE SDB LINK app.
SR • July/August 2020 3
Sabbath Recorder A Seventh Day Baptist Publication July/August 2020 Volume 242, No. 7-8 Whole No. 7,070
• salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. • the Bible as the inspired Word of God. The Bible is our authority for our faith and daily conduct. • baptism of believers, by immersion, witnessing to our acceptance of Christ as Savior and Lord. • freedom of thought under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. • the congregational form of church government. Every church member has the right to participate in the decision-making process of the church. God commanded that the seventh day (Saturday) be kept holy. Jesus agreed by keeping it as a day of worship. We observe the seventh day of the week (Saturday) as God’s Holy Day as an act of loving obedience—not as a means of salvation. Salvation is the free gift of God through Jesus our Lord. It is the joy of the Sabbath that makes SDBs a people with a difference. If you’ve never read The Sabbath Recorder before, you might be wondering who Seventh Day Baptists are. Like other Baptists, we believe in: WHO ARE SEVENTH DAY BAPTISTS? THE SEVENTH DAY
Contributing Editors: Kevin Butler, Katrina Goodrich, Barb Green, Carl Greene, Sarina Gumness, Nicholas J. Kersten, John J. Pethtel, Andy Samuels T he Sabbath Recorder (ISSN 0036-214X) (USPS 474460) is published monthly (combined July and August) by the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference’s Tract and Communication Council, 3120 Kennedy Road, PO Box 1678, Janesville, WI 53547-1678. This publication is distributed at no cost to members and friends of Seventh Day Baptist churches and is made possible by donations from its readers. Periodicals postage paid at Janesville, WI, and additional of fi ces. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to The Sabbath Recorder , 3120 Kennedy Road, PO Box 1678, Janesville, WI 53547-1678 This is the 176th year of publication for The Sabbath Recorder . First issue published July/August 13, 1844.
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Last year before we left our old building, we discovered that there had been an unwelcome guest living underneath the church. Actually, this guest had been living underneath the platform at the front of the sanctuary and might have been for years—yet we had no clue about this unwanted guest until a terrible odor gave him away. Grace was the fi rst to pick up the scent and at fi rst we thought there might be a leak in a sewer line. But as the stench began to build and per- meate the entire building, we realized that there was a dead animal somewhere. We searched underneath the building and in walls until we fi nally pinpointed where the odor was the strongest. After cutting a hole in the platform and removing some insulation and debris, I shined a light into the darkness and saw a big mass of hair. This mass of hair was much bigger and much hairier than I expected to see or wanted to see, and so I let it sit overnight until Ewald was able to come in the next day and remove it. I will spare you the gory details, but when Ewald pulled it out, we identi fi ed our unwanted guest as a dead possum. Possums are nocturnal animals that like to live in dark, secure places. This one had found the perfect spot underneath our platform. But possums aren’t the only things that like to live in dark, secure places. That is also where sin likes to dwell. Those who are living in sin are living in darkness. There are few people who ever lived in a darker place than Saul—but in Acts 9:1-22, Saul is brought from darkness into the light and his life is changed forever. We were fi rst introduced to Saul (who is known better to us as Paul) at the end of Acts 7 as the young man who watched Stephen get stoned to death. Then in Acts 8:3, we read that he is making “havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging o ff men and women, com- mitting them to prison.” (NKJV) Now in Acts 9:1, Saul is “still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” (NKJV) He is on his way to Damascus to persecute more Christians when God puts a stop to Saul’s plans.
By Pastor Rick Crouch
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SR • July/August 2020 5
This is the question that each one of us should be asking when we get up in the morning—”Lord, what do You want me to do today?”
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God does this by introducing light into the dark- ness. Verse 3 says, “As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.” (NKJV) This light is accompanied by the voice of Jesus which says in verse 4, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (NKJV) Saul is understandably shaken by this turn of events. The light caused him to fall to the ground and then, when he fi nds out that the voice belongs to Jesus, he is trembling and astonished. It is interesting that he doesn’t put up a fi ght. From his previous behavior it seems like he had a lot of hatred for Jesus. But now that he is in the presence of Jesus, that hatred has melted away and he is immediately humbled and ready to obey. In verse 6 he asks, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” (NKJV) This is a great question. This is the question that each one of us should be asking when we get up in the morning—”Lord, what do You want me to do today?” Saul is given instructions and he follows them. If only we could hear our instructions as clearly as Saul heard his, and if only we obeyed our instruc- tions immediately and completely, who knows what we could accomplish for the Lord? Anyway, the men that are with Saul hear the voice, but they are speechless because they don’t see anyone. We don’t knowwhat happens to these men, but we do knowwhat happens to Saul. Saul is blinded, so the men who are with him lead him by the hand to Ananias, a disciple in Damascus chosen by God to minister to Saul so that Saul can receive his sight and be fi lled with the Holy Spirit. When Ananias lays his hands on
Saul, verse 18 says, “Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.” (NKJV) Saul spent some days with the disciples at Da- mascus and then he immediately began to preach Christ in the synagogues. Verse 22 says that he in- creased in strength and “confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.” (NKJV) The conversion of Saul is probably the most dramatic conversion from darkness into light that we see in Scripture. The account of it in Acts 26:12- 18 gives some more details. From this account we see that the encounter happened at midday and that the light was brighter than the sun. This makes me think of Genesis 1:3 when God said, “Let there be light” and there was light on the fi rst day and yet the sun wasn’t created until day 4. It also makes me think of Revelation 21:23 which, in describing New Jerusalem, says, “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” (NKJV) I also think of John 8:12, when Jesus said of Himself, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” So the light of Jesus is an extremely bright light, brighter than anything we can imagine. We also learn from this account in Acts 26 that Jesus tells Saul the purpose of their encounter. In verse 18, Jesus says that he is sending Saul to the Gentiles “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sancti fi ed by faith in Me.” (NKJV) And Saul did an excellent job of ful fi lling this purpose.
6 July/August 2020 • SR
Too many Christian families and churches reek of sin that has not been properly dealt with. The only remedy for sin is to confess it and to bring it out into the light of Jesus.
God has a plan and purpose for each of us. We may not be called to do all of the things that Paul did, but we are called to live the way that Jesus taught us to live and the way that Paul and the apostles, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, taught us to live. We are repeatedly instructed to come out of the darkness and into the light. Jesus teaches us this in John 3:19-21, which says, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every- one practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” As a kid, I never understood why businesses with the big glass storefronts left lights on inside when they were closed. I thought that it would just make it easier for criminals to see what they wanted to steal. But then I realized that the threat of being seen by people was what kept the criminals away. They don’t want to be seen just like possums don’t want to be seen. If our platform had been made of clear glass or plastic and was not covered by any- thing, that possum never would have made his home where he did. The light would have shone in and he would have had no place to hide. We have a window to the nursery and security cameras in the kids’ classroom to let the light shine in so that evil wouldn’t have a place to hide. What kind of precautions do we take in our personal lives to keep the darkness out and to let the light shine in? We are quick to complain about the lack of transparency in our government and in business dealings, but shouldn’t we start by being personally transparent with God? And shouldn’t we have
Continued on next page... More recently I have become convicted about the damaging e ff ects of ignoring sin or covering over sin. When I got out of the army and couldn’t fi nd work, Grace and I started a cleaning business. The majority of what we did was clean rentals after tenants moved out to get them ready to rent out again. Barracks inspections in the army had taught me to clean every nook and cranny of a place and now I had the opportunity to put what I learned into practice in apartments and houses. We cleaned some disgusting places, but I’ll just share one exam- ple with you. transparency in our marriages and in our churches? If we love Jesus the way that we say we do, then we should have no problem letting the light of Jesus shine in so that our deeds can be clearly seen. Paul reiterates the teaching of Jesus in Ephesians 5:8-14. Verse 8 says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (NKJV) Paul goes on to say in verse 11 that we should “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” (NKJV) How many of us actually do this? In my early days as a Christian I did not follow these instructions at all. I thought that I could have one foot in the light and one foot in the darkness. However, light and darkness cannot coexist. It wasn’t until Grace and I got married that I really began the process of sancti fi cation that I should have started years earlier. For me this process began with being convicted about the music that I listened to, and then the movies and TV shows that I watched. These were unfruitful works of darkness that I had to give up. Then I became convicted about how poorly I kept the Sabbath—and I gave up some more things. The light of Jesus has continued to spread from there into other areas of my life.
SR • July/August 2020 7
Continued from previous page... From Darkness Into Light
1 John 1:5-10 says, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in dark- ness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (NKJV) Jesus forgave Saul for his sins and Saul had done some terrible things. Jesus will forgive you and me also, but we need to confess our sins and repent. Jesus loved Saul so much that He called him out of the darkness into the light. Jesus loves us and is calling each one of us as well. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen genera- tion, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (NKJV) Don’t be a possum and hide in the darkness. That is the path that leads to death. Come into the light where there is love, forgiveness, healing, redemption and salvation—and then share the light of Jesus with others. SR
It was a house that overall didn’t seem too bad. It had some obvious dirt, like sliding glass doors that were fi lthy from their dogs putting muddy paws on them, but everything else seemed to be fairly clean. But when we moved the refrigerator to clean underneath it, we discovered a puddle of grease and who knows what else that was so thick that a mouse was stuck in it. The mouse was still alive, but it couldn’t get itself out. What would have happened if we had just moved the refrigerator back and pretended that the puddle of goop and the mouse weren’t there? The house would have looked spotless, but there would have been a secret hidden in the darkness that had the potential to ruin our business. Eventually that mouse would have died, someone would have smelled it, and our secret would have been discov- ered. We could have tried to talk our way out of it and claim that we just forgot to clean there, but that would have just compounded our sin. Turning a blind eye to sin or hiding it under a re- frigerator doesn’t help anyone. That sin will just rot and contaminate everything around it. If sin had an odor it would smell like death and no amount of air freshener could hide it. Too many Christian families and churches reek of sin that has not been properly dealt with. The only remedy for sin is to confess it and to bring it out into the light of Jesus.
Share the light of Jesus with others.
8 July/August 2020 • SR
A Healthy Church
By Andrew J. Camenga
God has big plans for his church. These plans include us. He is actively working in the world to make one people out of many groups—to bring together individ- uals from every tribe, language, people, and nation. I can’t tell you why he chose to include us beyond the basic reality that he loves us and wants what is best for us. When he called us to repent, to believe, and to follow, he called us to be part of his church and part of his big plans. From the very beginning, God designed his church to display his wisdom in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 3:9-10). He calls us to demonstrate his love on earth (John 13:34-35). He expects us to announce to people everywhere God’s call to be reconciled to him in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). Then, when the time is right, he will give us a role in his reign on earth (Rev- elation 5:10). The church is not an accident of history; it is the gath- ering God created to craft a people in the name of Jesus who are transformed by his Spirit to embody the character and will of God (Ephesians 3:11). While he has made the church to be an organization of humans with all the confusion that brings, God makes clear throughout the New Testament that the church is much more than a simple system for organ- izing people—God calls the church the very “Body of Christ” (Ephesians 1:23). This image of the body is used to explain why people in the church are not all the same. For a body to func- tion well, all parts need to do what they were designed
to do, wholly value the contributions of the other parts, and coordinate their activity for fl uid motion. God’s church functions like that. Each person must serve in the way they can, value the service others provide, and be willing to coordinate activity (1 Corinthians 12). God wants his church, the body of Christ, to work well. Consider this description of how the church works: “But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ. From him the whole body, fi tted and knit together by every support- ing ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part” (Ephesians 4:15-16). God is working to make his church match that de- scription—to be a healthy body. When we speak of healthy churches, this image from Ephesians should spring to mind—a group of people who speak God’s truth, love each other deeply, and mutually pursue God’s call to maturity in Christ. Embedded in this image of God’s healthy church are human leaders, placed there by God to equip be- lievers in their walk together (Ephesians 4:11-14). We can see an example of this equipping in Timothy’s ministry. After one of his trips to Ephesus, Paul left Timothy behind to help the church through a variety of issues. Paul wrote back to Timothy several times to encourage him and to help him stay the course. While Paul provided a lot of advice to Timothy in the letters we have, he provided a very simple summary of the work of the leaders God places in the church: “The
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SR • July/August 2020 9
Love, heart, conscience, and faith are great ways to describe healthy Christians and healthy churches.
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goal of our instruction is love, fl owing from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). The sincere faith described people who were not pretending—people who truly trusted God. The good conscience de- scribed people who could make good moral decisions—decision-making informed by the revealed will of God. The pure heart referenced people whose inner drive had been attuned to the Spirit’s call—people who want what God wants. But the heart, conscience, and faith were not the fi nal goal of teaching; that fi nal goal was bringing people into the fullness of God’s love. Unsurprisingly, this goal for individual instruc- tion produces the kind of people needed for God’s healthy church. Love, heart, conscience, and faith are great ways to describe healthy Christians and healthy churches. Yet, sometimes we have a hard time moving from those small but packed words into what they really look like in life. Years ago, Robert Fulghum wrote a best-seller entitled All I Really Needed to Know, I Learned In Kindergarten. The book was based on a series of simple maxims you might hear in Kindergarten and stories to illustrate how those applied to adult life. People were thrilled to be reminded of the simple things that sometimes get lost in a complex world. After describing the healthy church in majestic language through the fi rst few chapters of Ephesians, Paul turned to simpler language to help people see how they could play their part in making the church be what God designed it to be. He was encouraging the people in the church toward love, fl owing from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. His style wasn’t quite as pithy as Robert Fulghum’s (that wasn’t his goal), but he gave us a list well worth considering. Paul wrote, in essence, if you want to do your part in the church God is creating, do these things:
• Don’t copy bad examples. God has given you a good one. (4:17-24)
• Speak truth. Don’t lie. (4:25)
• Control your anger. Don’t let it eat you alive. (4:26-27)
• Work hard. Don’t steal. (4:28)
• Give stu ff away. (4:28)
• Use your words to encourage people to become better. (4:29-30) • Don’t hold on to bitterness, wrath, anger, shouting, slander, or malice. God will take them away if you’ll let go. (4:31)
• Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving. (4:32)
• Love people as God loves people. (5:1-2)
• Avoid all forms of impurity. (5:3-5)
• Know God’s truth and hold on to it. (5:6-14)
• Pay attention to life and use time well. (5:15-17)
• Develop healthy relationships. (5:18-6:9)
• And, don’t try this alone. Rely on God. (6:10-18)
The list Paul wrote isn’t just for you, it is for all of us—working together. God has big plans for his church. He has given it an incredible role in this creation. He’s given us an image of his healthy church and called us to participate in what he is creating. Listen for this call to health. Listen for his call in your life. Listen for his call in your church. Listen for the language of healthy leaders and healthy churches. And, when the time comes, dive head fi rst into the coordinated activity to which Christ has called us as his body. SR
10 July/August 2020 • SR
A Healthy Body
By Tim Smothers
My mind goes back to when I was 39 years old. I was young and felt that I could do it all—I was invincible. Then I turned 40 and those feelings of invincibility ceased, and I found myself praying that I would just have the strength to make it through the day. Back then I could eat what I wanted when I wanted, I could go on very li tt le sleep, and I could do it all and please everyone while I was doing it—or so I thought. My doctor had warned me that I was a heart a tt ack just looking for a place to happen. I did not pay a tt en ti on and con ti nued to do as I had always done. It turns out that he was right, and I was wrong. Good health is something that I seemingly took for granted. Why is that? I was surrounded by people who cared for me and wanted what was best for me. I think back to those ti mes and wish that I had listened to my wife, to my doctor, and to those who loved me. They observed in me things that needed to change for me to become healthy. My doctor con ti nuously shared informa ti on with me on the importance of good diet, exercise, and rest. I did not listen then, but I am listening more now. I cannot help but think that we approach church the same way. For many people, the thought that their local body of believers may be unhealthy is something that has never crossed their minds. We will go to church for several hours on Sabbath, we will greet each other, sing to ‐ gether, listen to the pastor as he preaches the Word, and then we will go home. We will do the things that we have always done and not give any thought to the actual health of the body of believers that we assemble with week in and week out. We need to pray about and think about our health as God’s church. Mark Dever, the author of “What is a Healthy Church?” gives a great de fi ni ti on of what a healthy church is. He writes: “A healthy church is a congrega ti on that increas ‐ ingly re fl ects God’s character as his character has been revealed in his Word.” 1 Sounds simple, right? There is much that he packs into this short de fi ni ti on. We need to understand what the character of God is and then we can rightly re fl ect that to those who are around us. A healthy church will be the church that re fl ects the character of God as we realize and live out the purposes
of His church. One of my joys last year was to be able to take the Applied Ecclesiology course through SDBU. In this course we were shredded and stretched in our un ‐ derstanding of why we are here as God’s church! The church has a fi ve ‐ fold purpose as we assemble as His church. When we are prac ti cing these purposes, our spiritual temperature as the church will increase. Worship : We focus solely on who God is and what He has done for us! Jesus Christ was born as a baby for us, lived for us, died for us, and lives again for us! We have great cause to rejoice! Fellowship : We partner together in life and ministry with the local church. It is more than a meal—it is all about following the command to love one another (John 13:34). Service : We serve God because we love Him and we love others. Serving involves crossing any barriers (religious, racial, or geographical) to show the love of God to whomever we meet. Prac ti cing what we believe : We as God’s church are to re fl ect God’s character not just as we meet together, but wherever we may be. We live out the truths of God’s Word 24/7 and are to be that example to others of what being a child of God is all about. Proclaiming what we believe : It is one thing to live our faith and quite another to tell others about our faith. Reaching people for Christ is the de fi ni ti on of the Great Commission! How do we accomplish these things as God’s church? We pray, we pray, and then we pray more. We submit ourselves to God and be obedient to Him. We pray more. We meet to worship together, fellowship, serve, prac ti ce what we believe and proclaim it boldly. We pray more. When we have completed this list, we start all over again! God’s desire for His church is for us to be a church that re fl ects His character. My prayer for all of us is that we do not take our church health for granted, but that we commit each and every day to re fl ect His character as we, the church, live out His purpose for us! SR
1 Dever, M. (2007). What is a Healthy Church? (p. 40). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
SR • July/August 2020 11
Hope in the Fiery Furnace
By Dennis Coleman
Odd. Strange. They call it, “The new normal,” but a pandemic and stay at home orders are anything but normal. I’ve obeyed the order from the government, as I suspect most, if not all, of you have done as well. I’ve pretty much only left my property to buy gro- ceries, wearing my bandana mask as I go. I did sneak out once to replace the TV in our family room, order- ing it fi rst and doing in-store pickup (avoiding a very long line at Sam’s Club). I’ve washed my hands so often that I think I’m getting some sort of dry skin burn. We’ve done everything and yet, COVID-19 still found a way to hit close to home. Because of health issues, my 92-year-old grandma has been in a nursing home for the last few years. A few days ago my dad sent a message saying the nursing home was sending grandma to the hospital with symptoms of COVID-19. Later the test came back positive. Before we could really process that news, grandma passed away. Adding insult to injury, because of “stay at home,” no one from the family was there with her. None of us got to say goodbye. We prayed before her death, but it was her time. As I mourn I hear an echo: a question I’ve heard time and again. It is a good question, one for which I do not know the answer. I wonder if many earth dwellers (if any earth dwellers) know the answer. It’s a powerful
question, one asked by many and given as a reason to reject the faith. I’ve even heard it asked by some who at one time professed faith but turned their back because they couldn’t fi nd the answers they wanted. The question? “Why didn’t God save ____________ when I prayed for him/her?” “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fi ery fur- nace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” —Daniel 3:16-18 (NKJV) This is an amazing and well-known statement of faith by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I want to focus on the last sentence. While they trusted God to deliver them out of the king’s hands, they declared that they would not turn away from God even if He chose not to act. Even if God had allowed them to su ff er in the fl ames, they would not have let go of their faith. They don’t tell us why they refused to leave their faith, even in the face of the fl ames—but based on what we know, I think we can come to at least three conclusions.
12 July/August 2020 • SR
1. They loved and feared God more than they feared Nebuchadnezzar or his furnace. The Book of Daniel shows that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were devoted to God from very early on in the captivity, and likely were even before. What drove this devotion? Based on what we know of the people of God in the Bible, they likely were driven by some combination of love, fear, and respect. They had seen God’s faithfulness, choosing Him over the riches of the king’s table from day one. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to be the focus of everyone’s love and devo- tion. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose God and the furnace instead. We are fi rst introduced to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when they, along with Daniel, refused food from the king’s table. I suspect Nebuchadnezzar’s chefs were some of the best in the land, o ff ering a large selection of very tasty foods. But Daniel and our three heroes said, “Thanks but no thanks.” They asked for a vegetarian diet where they would not have to de fi le themselves with foods that violated their dietary requirements. The three valued the knowledge and skill given by God (Daniel 1:17) more than the empty calories of the king’s food. From this they learned that the rewards of obedience to God are more valuable than the empty promises o ff ered by the world. At its core this was the choice given to these young men: will you live to honor God as your LORD or is the big “I” your lord? Is it more important that “I” live or that God’s will be done? Like it or not, when we say that we can no longer follow God because we think He didn’t answer some prayer, we are saying that God must not exist if He doesn’t do what “I” want Him to do. These men from Israel understood that this is not how it works. Thus, they would worship God and no one else, even if doing so cost them their lives. We prayed for God to heal my grandma. He called her home instead, healing her not just from COVID-19 but from her other ailments as well. You may have had (or likely will have) prayers where you don’t like how God answers. When it happens you will feel dis- appointed or sad or maybe even angry. Naturally you 2. They knew that the alternatives bring empty de fi lement. 3. Living for God’s glory was more important than their own lives.
will wonder why God chose something di ff erent from what you would have chosen. When that happens remember one very important fact: God is not fake just because “I” can’t tell Him what to do. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were convinced of certain truths long before Nebuchadnezzar began construction on his statue. They had already decided that nothing, not food (Daniel 1) nor threat of death (Daniel 3), would come between them and their Lord. This is not a spur-of-the-moment decision. This is a conviction that comes as a result of spending time meditating on Scripture, time spent in praying to God and time spent worshipping our Lord. I believe it also takes time spent prayerfully examining your own heart; honestly asking yourself what you believe and howwell you know God. Do you really believe that God loves you and was motivated by love to send His only begotten Son (John 3:16)? Do you know that nothing can separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39)? Do you know God well enough that you know this is true even when the world around you (or even your own heart) tells you otherwise? Do you know God well enough that you trust that His every decision is just and right even when you don’t understand (Proverbs 3:5-6)? Do you know God well enough that even when you doubt Him your fi rst move is towards and not away from God? That’s a tough call isn’t it? We’d all like to think we are there: at that point where nothing can shake our faith. For those who are there, prayerfully make sure God agrees with you. For those of us who aren’t there, what are you going to do about it? Don’t wait for the fi ery furnace to make your decision.
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the LORD.
—Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NKJV) SR
SR • July/August 2020 13
I was probably 8 years old when I asked my grandfather how he plowed a straight line across the fi eld. The fi eld was covered in sod and had no rows to follow to know a straight path. I was amazed by how he could do this—was it some sort of internal compass that develops when you get old? You probably notice that this story is ancient history—I was young and it was enough years ago where it was a moldboard plow hitched to a tractor not equipped with GPS navigation. My grandfather said that he chose a tall tree on the other side of the fi eld and kept his eyes on it. In fact, he kept his eyes fi xed on the tree and steadied the tractor straight toward it to maintain the right path across the fi eld. The key was to stay focused on the same tree—to not get distracted and lose track of which tree he was aiming for. We have spent a year with the Conference theme of “Fix Your Eyes on Jesus.” Let’s think about this through the lens of a key focus of the SDB Conference: to develop and support new and existing leaders who will work through healthy local churches. We are passionate about healthy churches and healthy leaders—but how are we getting there while our eyes are collectively fi xed on Jesus? Over this past year, we have been “plowing the fi eld” with four key emphases: church revital- ization, gospel saturation, church planting, and leadership development. Church Revitalization: Over this past ministry year, Conference Directors have intentionally leaned into this space. The PULSE process, our SDB church revital- ization initiative, continues to be utilized by an increasing number of churches. We have also sought to increase our communication with pastors, especially amidst the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have instituted virtual Pastor Forums and virtual visits to churches. Another key portion of church revitalization is utilizing partnerships to leverage opportunities to equip churches to actively advance God’s Kingdom. The General Conference and the SDB Memorial Fund have partnered together to provide church revitalization grants to churches as they adapt to the opportunities of this changing ministry context. In addition, we secured grants from the National Association of Evangelicals and the Lilly Founda- tion as well as the Baptist World Alliance to match funds from the SDB Stephanie Sholtz Wellness Fund for pastor grants that bene fi t fi nancial, emotional, spiritual, and/or physical health. We keep our eyes fi xed on Jesus by bathing this in prayer: the Coordinating Leadership Team of Directors pray for three churches weekly while pastors, pastors’ spouses, and their families are consistently lifted up in prayer.
Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus
By Carl Greene Executive Director
14 July/August 2020 • SR
Gospel Saturation: We are increasingly passionate about our public witness of faith through Word and Deed. The recent Amplify Conference, virtually hosted by the Billy Graham Center, provided a lever- aging point for us as nearly 60 Seventh Day Baptists participated in large group presentations, break-out sessions, Zoom discussion forums, and ongoing dialog throughout the three-day event (May 19–21). What is important about gospel saturation is that it is not simply an event, it is a way of life for us as Seventh Day Baptists. This requires considering what we communicate and howwe communicate it. This has been evident in a dramatic shift that the Conference Directors have undertaken in communication— increasing our presence in digital formats. From routine blog posts to Facebook Live interviews to short video segments to providing online resources, we have intentionally sought ways to “saturate” communication with an increased presence coupled with a focus on gospel communication as an identi- fi er of who we are as Seventh Day Baptists. After all, if our eyes are fi xed on Him, we cannot help but talk about Him—healthy leaders working through healthy churches requires gospel communication. Church Planting: We are anxious to see increasing tangible fruit of church planting training and e ff orts. We hunger to see plants growing into churches seeking Conference membership. We are simulta- neously passionate about healthy leaders being sent into church planting, while church plants are being nurtured by healthy sponsoring churches. Hence, we are patient for health, but increasingly aggressive in prioritizing the ground work of church planting. The ground work of church planting re- quires resources, and we have been reallocating our human and fi nancial resources to truly empower the church planting that we give signi fi cant lip service to. Through partnering with the SDB Memorial Board along with the Missionary Society, resources have been allocated to fund a Church Planting Coordinator position. We are super excited that Patty Petersen serves in this role where she assists in the work of cultivating new contacts and is also a catalyst in starting new SDB churches through a ministry coordinating role. Simultaneously, we have been directly investing in church planting. The General
Conference partnered with the Memorial Board in providing signi fi cant grants to church planting e ff orts during this ministry year. All of these e ff orts are fruit- less, however, without fi xing our eyes on Jesus. Church planting remains rooted in prayer through the Team 21 initiative, especially our quarterly 21-day prayer focus to join God in His work. A key culture change underway as SDBs is recognizing that an indicator of church health is involvement at some level in church planting. Leadership Development: The SDBU education initia- tive is a key means to measure the impact being made in leadership development. 45 students have used the online classes of SDBU. There are currently 25 students who have applied for admission to the SDB Ministry Leadership Certi fi cate program or have started classes. One student has already graduated from this certi fi cate program, with another round of graduates coming soon. A certi fi cate opportunity through SDBU that is now being expanded is the Pastoral Leadership Certi fi cate Program. 22 students have taken a class in this certi fi cate program, which will be o ff ering expanded course opportunities in coming semesters. Once again, the key here is keeping our eyes fi xed on Jesus—leadership devel- opment is not simply about pragmatics and how-to skills. Our leadership development is fi rmly rooted in Scriptural truth that simultaneously cultivates our own spiritual, emotional, fi nancial, and physical health. This is something that we have purposefully incorporated as Conference Directors as well. Through the support of the General Council, core Conference Directors are able to utilize coaching and counseling as a part of developing and growing as an overall healthy leader. Plowing the Field: When I began working alongside Rob Appel in the SDB Executive Director role a year ago, he encouraged me to think about his retirement and my new role as a transition in ministry season. That has been sage advice as we have partnered together as churches and a General Conference throughout this tumultuous ministry year—full of uncertainty, disruption, and yet gospel opportunity. Blessings as we plow ahead, partnered together, with our eyes fi xed on Jesus. SR
SR • July/August 2020 15
Tragic circumstances tend to make me introspective. This year there’s been plenty of tragedy to go around the entire world affecting its over 7 billion inhabitants. Life, this year, is turning out quite differently than ex- pected—but maybe the interruption to our regularly scheduled lives can teach us something if we listen. Right now the world is in a period of mass trial and tribulation—and it looks ugly. This isn’t a particularly heartening time to be paying attention to the news. However, if I’m being honest, the world being ugly isn’t really a new concept. Sure the ugly is awfully highlighted right now but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there before lurking under the creature comforts and entitlement provided by first world living. After the first six months of this year, I find it extremely diffi- cult to ignore mortality and fear of illness and death, selfishness of humans, racism and division. It isn’t that I didn’t know these issues were there but it was easier to ignore. To some degree I’ve been living in the land of confirmation bias and denial, but mild indifference has become extremely difficult of late. The title of Romans chapter 5
Paul have some words to speak to followers of Christ in these times. Many times I’ve heard/read these passages and felt humbled because, at the time of suffering, I have definitely not found much hope in the situation nor even soon afterward. Suffering doesn’t feel good and I don’t think either author is saying it should. But I think we sometimes read these passages and think it means we should have a grin and bear it, just lie back and think of how all this is going to the glory of God attitude— that’s not pure joy. So how? How did Job get up and in his mourning and suffering praise God in moments when his grief had to be monumental? How can you not be heartbroken given everything that’s happening in the world right now? Perhaps I’m beginning to understand a little. Right now I feel heartbroken and so much grief but there is also a sense of hope, bittersweet hope. I can’t ignore the problems, wounds we’ve been putting band-aids on for years trying to staunch hemorrhaging of pol- itics, race, religion, and economic divisions—all are spilling over and there is very little chance that alone I can change anything. I have a desperate hope that change happens. Hope that this suffering is the audible “groaning of creation” described in Romans 8 and that adoption and redemption await—hope in knowing that redemption exists because of the sacrifice of Christ. Jesus is the transformer of culture and the redeemer of humanity and He can do it—with or without our help. If we claim to be a Christian, a follower of Christ, how can we want to do anything but help the transformation? Right now we are on the precipice of transformation. The future could differ drastically because of this time of trial and tribulation—we could develop perseverance, character, hope, wisdom and humility because of Christ and help others find that same redemption. Maybe this is the last wake-up call because I can’t hit the snooze button anymore. SR
is peace and hope. In this particular passage, Paul speaks of our reconciliation to God the Father through the sacrifice of Jesus; how we can boast in the hope of the Glory of God and not only that but glory in our suffer- ings. Glory in our sufferings is a concept that is echoed in James chapter one; he says to consider it pure joy when we face trials. Both passages go on to speak of hardship producing perseverance. Then they diverge on the same path and James speaks of asking for wisdom and Paul describes how suffering leads to hope. James and
Women’s Society By Katrina Goodrich
16 July/August 2020 • SR
President again? Still??
Earlier this spring, déjà vu happened all over again. I was asked to be Conference President. This was after I spent a whole year assuring people at the church I serve that the presidency was a “one-and- done” assignment, that NO ONE ever serves for two years, and that by the end of this July my tasks and traveling would be done. Then COVID-19 put a halt to all that, canceling Conference 2020. Deciding to stay on meant checking with the Lord, checking with the President-elect, checking with the church, and checking with my wife (not necessarily in that order). Getting the green light from all involved, we moved ahead to prepare a limited virtual Conference for this year, then started making plans for 2021. Executive Director Carl Greene decided to interview me and posted the following on the SDB Blog. He said I could repeat it here: It’s déjà vu happening all over again! The Seventh Day Baptist General Council is pleased to announce that Rev. Kevin Butler has agreed to serve as SDB Conference President and Charlotte Chroniger as President-elect for the 2021 General Conference session. In light of the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 General Conference session, the willingness of Kevin and Charlotte to provide consistency going into the 2020-2021 ministry year is deeply appreciated— and a wonderful blessing. As we celebrate these opportunities in the midst of change and disruption, we also want to pause and take this opportunity to reintroduce President Butler. While he is a familiar face and has been consistently engaged in the work of the Conference, there is always more we can get to know about Kevin. Hope that you enjoy his reintroduction bio that follows. Hometown: I grew up in Vernon, NY, right next to Verona. Favorite childhood memory: Besides all of the goodies I got being the only boy (two sisters), I really cherish having had loving, faithful, respected, church- going parents. How you were introduced to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord: His Word opened my eyes. After a frightening spiritual confrontation in high school, I was driven to ask questions of my mom and pastor,
then searched the Bible and prayed. All those years of Sunday School classes and VBS and children’s sermons about Jesus and His free gift of salvation came together and made absolute sense! The scales fell off! First date with Janet: We went mini-golfing and got rained out halfway through the course. On the way to “Plan B” (seeing the movie “Earthquake” at the mall) we saw a perfect double rainbow. We’ve taken that as a sign for us ever since—the rainbow, not the shaky movie theater. What is Moxie?: Only the official drink for the state of Maine! If you enjoy a good carbonated soft drink, you probably wouldn’t like Moxie. It’s like a bitter root beer. This character (who I met in Maine) captures it so well: https://youtu.be/D6heTaAxOEY . Memorable Conference Week Memory: So many! Sharing belly laughs and tears with friends from all over, being lovingly prayed for… Our kids still call the drive across the northern U.S. to the 1996 Conference in Washington state “the best family trip ever.” How has God been at work in and through you amidst the disruption and disappoint- ment of Conference Week 2020 needing to be canceled?: Lessons learned during my complete calendar overhaul and times of isolation while battling cancer in 2018 have certainly prepared me to go with the flow of this year. I am disappointed for those who were looking forward to serving the Lord in Grand Rapids, and I thank them for their willing spirits. There is a greater pur- pose in all this.
What is something that you are looking forward to as Con- ference President across the months ahead?: Continuing to encourage SDBs to fix our eyes on Jesus, and trusting His plans for what He has next for us.