How to Get Around All the “Rules” in Religion – Why You Should Think Twice About Leaving the Church.

Have you ever felt like your church, friends, or family seem to govern their lives and the lives of others by rules they think should be in place?

Do you ever feel like Christianity, or religion, is all about the rules?

Well you may be on to something. There is a HUGE issue in the church today that seems to lurk behind all the reasons young people, middle aged people, and yes, even older people (you choose where you fit) leave the church.

It’s all about the rules. At least thats how mortal, human beings try to put it. Because they don’t know how to do it any other way.

And if its all about the rules, then there has to be a rule for everything.

What you can’t eat. And then when you stopped eating that, you can’t it this.

What you can’t wear. And when you changed and wear something “more modest”, you can’t wear this.

What you can’t listen to.

What you can’t watch.

Who you can’t date.

Who you can’t love — the big homosexuality issue included.

PEOPLE!!! STOP IT!!!

You know you can’t keep every single rule. And you know that when you don’t, WE ARE WATCHING! Then you become a hypocrite, and then we leave the church, because we don’t want to be around that kind of example.

Is it REALLY all about the rules?

“Whatever may be their profession, it is only those who are world servers at heart that act from policy rather than principle in religious things. We should choose the right because it is right, and leave consequences with God. To men of principle, faith, and daring, the world is indebted for its great reforms. By such men, the work of reform for this time must be carried forward.”

– E. G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 460

Principle.

What in the world is principle?

Oxford Dictionary states this:

Principle:
A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning.

Even Jesus had this one figured out.

A pharisees asked him, “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”

“He said to him, ‘ Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.’ “

– Matthew 22: 36-40 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Wait, what?

The greatest is love?

Love.

The fundamental truth behind the law. This is where all the rules are established. So, you define your own rules* in life. Except for the rules God gave, of course.

“And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.”

– 1 John 3:23

WHOA. God gave a commandment. A LAW. And that law is LOVE!

It is NOT “don’t wear this.”

It is NOT “don’t eat this.”

It is NOT “don’t listen to or watch this.”

Its LOVE.

Now don’t get me wrong, when it’s all about love, then out of love, you choose wisely what you eat, what you wear, what you watch or listen to, because of your love for God, love for others, and love for yourself.

Oh yeah. Loving yourself isn’t wrong. Jesus said to love your neighbor AS yourself, not better than yourself.

So have a little respect for God, others, AND yourself.

Have a little love.

*Note: When I say define your own rules, I mean if live by the principle, and allow the rule to be defined by your situation.

e.g. If you live in a conservative community, that has a problem with wearing a wedding ring, even though you don’t, love your neighbor by not making a big deal about it, and respond by taking it off so you don’t distract them, and cause them to major in the minors. When you are not in that situation, and in a different environment where it won’t be a distraction, then by all means, you can wear the wedding ring!


 

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I am NOT a Seventh-Day Adventist (My letter of confession)

I’m not a Seventh-Day Adventist.

Yes. You read that right.

I’m NOT a Seventh-Day Adventist.

I can pretty much read your mind right now.

If you are no longer in the church you are thinking, where is this guy going. Did he leave the church?

If you are in the church you are thinking, what happened? I need to pray for him. This is so sad!

So, before you put a label on me and declare me as a lost soul, finish reading this post.

What is a Seventh-Day Adventist?

Wikipedia has a good description:

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a Protestant Christian denomination distinguished by its observance of Saturday, the original seventh day of the Judeo-Christian week, as the Sabbath, and by its emphasis on the imminent second coming (advent) of Jesus Christ.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seventh-day_Adventist_Church

Seventh-Day Adventists are well known for their funny sounding name that reminds people of the “Church of Jesus Christ and of the Latter-Day Saints” (Mormons), a totally separate, different denomination that claims to be a Protestant Christian Church.

Once you get past that misunderstanding, people say, OH! You worship on Saturday.

Nope. THAT is why I’m NOT at Seventh-Day Adventist.

Okay, yes, I worship on Saturday. I go to church on that day, and don’t work, and celebrate the day God set aside for all man kind. But the problem is, I don’t ONLY worship on that day.

I worship on every day of the week! Worshipping God is an ALL-THE-TIME thing.

Did you ever notice when reading the book of Daniel, he worshipped God in everything he did, AND, he prayed three times a day! Every day was set aside for God in his life.

So this is my confession to you.

I am NOT a Seventh-Day Adventist. I’m a Seven-Day Adventist and I fully approve the message of the Seventh-Day Adventist church.

The SDA church’s website says this:

Seventh-day Adventist beliefs are meant to permeate your whole life. Growing out of scriptures that paint a compelling portrait of God, you are invited to explore, experience and know the One who desires to make us whole.

http://www.adventist.org

Note: It said SDA believes are meant to permeate your WHOLE life. Not your Saturday life. Not your church life. Your WHOLE life.

So, are you a Seventh-Day Adventist?

Bless and Be Blessed

Our school planted a little church in Arvika, Sweden, a couple years ago, by the help of a generous family with roots in that area. The wife of the Union president where I live was was given a project from her grandfather, who wished that the money would be used to start a church and do mission work in what happens to be one of the darkest, most satanic part of Sweden (Sweden is well-known for its witchcraft and sorcery), where he lived.

When the president and his wife met Matteson at ASI in the US, the couple asked Matteson to help get this project going, and the fruits are wonderful. There have been a couple baptisms, and several community members are attending regularly, we have our own Bible-worker there, and there is another family doing amazing work there as well.

This Sabbath was a special one, because the newly born daughter of this family was to be dedicated. They had invited Elder Torkelsen to do the dedication, and since he was visiting here in Scandinavia to see family, and the ministries he supports, he was able to do it.

The dedication was beautiful, the family has two gorgeous children, and everything is wonderful. But that is just one of my blessings. My biggest blessing has its own beginnings that go back to my early teen years, when I was 14.

When I was 14, I was sent to a school called Advent Home, a school for troubled, at-risk youth. Yes, to answer the question that just entered your mind, I was a troubled youth. I was not the polite, friendly, nice person I try to be today. I had many issues with my parents, probably having to do with my identity as an adopted child, among other things. I was in a depression, some-what bipolar. One minute I would be a sweet, homeschool child, and the next moment, I would be screaming out at my parents in anger, yelling hurtful words and destroying things. This is a long story, which has many details, and I am not proud of this past, but, I am thankful to God for this intervention.

When I went to this school, I found out quickly that the only way for me to be able to leave the school was to finish the “Maturation Therapy” program in use there. It meant that I had to genuinely become a well-behaved, mature youth, and I would be there until I did so. After resisting this plan for about five months, I decided I had to do what it takes, and six months later I was graduating from the program, and moving on to regular high school. The program was really good, and even though I did not enjoy any of it (it was made not to enjoy, but to learn), I learned so much, and it turned my life around. I learned to be the nice, friendly person I strive to be today. And so much more. But that is a personal testimony for another time.

Fast-forward a few years, I was in Honduras, during my internship with Matteson. My classmate, Annie, was telling me about a dream she had. She wanted to start a school for troubled youth. When I heard this, I remembered my days at Advent Home, and I told her if she wanted to do something like this, my family owns a large piece of property in the mountains of Washington State, and she could possibly use it. She thought about it, but decided she wanted to do it in Canada, where she lives.

When I heard this, I started thinking. What if I did it anyways, on my property. What if I opened a school of my own for troubled youth, and used this piece of heaven that I call home as a safe plays for youth to turn their lives around, and learn to have the relationship with God that I have today.

I called a staff member from Advent Home, and asked her what she thought. She quickly responded, “Advent Home has just closed. You MUST do this. There are youth all over the US that need a program like this, and we cannot do it anymore.”

I then called the director, and asked him about my idea. He said, “You may use my program. You may even have my donor list, and any information you may need. I will even advise you on your board.”

I quickly got on my knees and praised God, and also asked, “Lord, what shall I do? I am only 20 years old, with no experience being a parent, or a director of any ministry, and I certainly do not have a qualifying education.”

I told my parents the plans, and they said they would share it with a couple church members that have experience working with troubled youth. (My parents used to work at Advent Home before I was born, and are very supportive of this idea). When they told me what the church members had said, I knew the Lord wanted this to happen. Both said that they would give everything to help this ministry happen. I already had two staff, a curriculum/program, and 30 hectares of land to use.

So, the blessings kept pouring in, people were getting interested, and doors kept opening. It seemed as though The Lord was saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it.”

Then, I started getting discouraged. What is a young adult like me doing something like this. I would be giving up my dreams of becoming a missionary pilot, marrying a nurse and living somewhere like Papua New Guinea serving God through in the jungle, risking my life for the salvation of souls. (Or would I?)

Finally, this Sabbath arrives. The Union president and I are chatting about life back home in Washington State, and I decided, why not ask him about this idea of starting such a school.

So I asked, and his response blew me away. “There is a HUGE need for such a school. The one we used to have(Project Patch) is no longer Adventist and they are teaching and using dangerous psychology practices.”

It gets even better. I told him I want to work in close union with the Church, and establish a relationship of trust. He said, “Then I am the guy you need to talk to. I’m all for it. Let’s MAKE it happen.”

WHAT??? Make it happen? He didn’t even say, “Well, I would need to talk with my board, and you would need to get legal documentation and so on and so forth, in order for us to consider your proposal*.”

If there was ever a prayer answered, it was this one. I have my Seventh Day Adventist church union on my side!! God is so good.

a name of character

It was Sunday, June 6, 2004. Anya Stevens was going to be marrying the man of her dreams, today. “Joshua Eleazar.” She didn’t even realize she was saying it out loud, but she loved the sound of it. It was music to her ears. In only a few short hours she would bear the name Mrs. Joshua Eleazar. She quietly practiced introducing herself to people as Mrs. Eleazar.

It wasn’t that her own last name wasn’t nice. Actually, she quite liked her maiden name, but it didn’t have much meaning to it. Eleazar, however, meant so much in only one little word. Eleazar–God is my helper. And God really was her helper. She had seen Him work in her life in so many ways, and she was blessed.

Like Anya, we (God’s people) are preparing for a big name change. Yes, a wedding!

“Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory,
because the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and His wife has prepared herself.”
Revelation 19:7 (HCSB)

This bride is very special. This same bride was symbolized by a prostitute (Hosea 1:2), a harlot (Jeremiah 3:1) and an adulterer. This bride is not innocent. In fact, some of her own children were born from her promiscuity.

Essentially, we are that bride. We have committed adultery against God. We have not lived a life wholly dedicated to God, to live in Him, for better or worse, in sickness and in health. But here is something interesting:
“She was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure.
For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints.”
Revelation 19:8

This bride is given clothes of white. And white represents righteousness, purity, something that does not match me, a horrible sinner! What business do we, the bride, have wearing a white gown? Right now we certainly aren’t.
“But we are all as an unclean thing,
and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;”
Isaiah 64:6

So why then will be given these white clothes of righteousness? The answer is very interesting. But before I answer, I want to point out something. Clothing has always been a form of identification. You recognize different people by their clothing. You know when you see a police because he is wearing his uniform. A doctor is usually identified by his white lab coat. A nurse by her scrubs. A pilot by his black and white suit, cap, and epaulettes on his shoulders. A soldier by his camouflage battle-dress uniform.
When a couple get married, the bride gives up her last name and takes the name of her husband, “Mr. Right”. In this way, she becomes identified as “Mrs. Right”. Its like putting on the uniform of her profession. She is taking the profession of being the wife of “Mr. Right”.

So when we are at this marriage of the Lamb, we as His bride, had on horrible, filthy rags for our clothing. We were identified with sin and the world. But God’s church was instructed to be clothed in “white raiment” (Revelation 3:18). When we are clothed in this new, clean, white garment of Christ’s righteousness, we will be identified with Christ, and our sinfulness, our dirtiness, will be covered by His blood, and it will be as though we are clean.

Essentially, at this wedding, we will be surrendering our name of sin and worldliness, our horrible character, and recieving a new name of righteousness, the character of Christ. I want my name changed to the righteousness of Christ instead of wearing the name of sinfulness of the world. What about you?

In upcoming articles i will be revealing my study into the Character Complex, the process of changing our names to the righteousness of Christ.

New Year, New Life

March 4, 2014
Wow. Its been two months since I wrote. And there is two months worth of stuff to write! I’ll begin with where I left off.

I didn’t go to GYC in Orlando this year. Bummer, but its okay, I’ve had a wonderful past two months in Honduras to make up for it! On the 9th of January, my class from Matteson Mission School showed up to complete our mission internship, and take some leadership classes offered here at Instituto Biblico Centroamericano.

And thats where things started happening:

1.We were told that our practical work assignment while we are here is to make ten thousand bricks for a building project.
-Bricks. Ha. Your mind is going right to those red 3x5x10 bricks that you built your chimney out of. Nope. We are talking 1 foot by 2 feet by 6 inches.
-Ten thousand. We found we could make an average of 70 of these bricks a day. This includes going into a weed covered field, mow everything down to the bare dirt with machetes and hoes, using a pick-hoe to dig down four inches into the dirt, using a hoe to break the clumps into fine soft dirt, pile it up and soak it with water, stick our feet in and mix it with pine needles until its ready to put into wooden forms that make eighty pound bricks.
-The number was later revised, and we only have to make three thousand to complete the building.

2. As a class we decided to go through the “40 Days Prayer and Devotions” book, and unite as a class to pray.
-We split up into pairs, and each chose five people to pray for, either within our group, or others that we knew back home. We started praying, and if a book were to be written about all the answers to prayer each person experienced, it would be larger than the “40 Days” book.
-Through this prayer time, I personally experienced a wonderful new relationship with my Savior, Jesus Christ. Because of the prayer times, I chose to face some personal issues in my life and leave them at the cross of Jesus. I have never felt so free and clear.

3. Leadership classes are a unique characteristic of Instituto Biblico Centroamericano, and Matteson utilizes the time we spend here to take the basic Leadership course. Matteson seeks to prepare its students to go out and start ministries to finish the work of God, and this is our jump-start and ministry building. We had a week for each class.
-Leadership Principles took us through biblical and logical principles of servant leadership, and how one has to step down to step up. I have never had such a practical, useful class before. Joseph Nally, former director of IBC, has spent much time studying and learning what Christian Leadership is all about, and it has been a humbling, but edifying experience for him, which he can now use to teach others.
-Human Resource Management was a very interesting, practical class that showed us how to apply Christian principles in managing people in a ministry. Different people taught each day, using their own experience and knowledge to give examples of how to best provide for, and support the human resources of a ministry.
-Total Quality, a unique study/class developed by José Suazo, the director and founder of VIDA internacional and Instituto Biblico Centroamericano, focuses on the need for excellence and high standards in operating and managing ministries. It shows how previous ministries have succeeded and failed, and explains why, then uses those examples to help design the best environment for a ministry that honors and glorifies God.
-Financial Management goes through a very basic overview of accounting, remuneration, and expenses in a ministry. This was taught by Eliazar Moro, the business manager of VIDA internacional.

4. Mission Excursions are a neat way to experience the local culture, and do frontline mission work.
-Part of the Matteson group hiked up a tall mountain behind the village of El Suyatal, where VIDA internacional is located. When we reached the top, we found a small community where people from El Suyatal move to for three months to harvest coffee, which is then cleaned and sent to large industries to be processed and exported. There, we camped out in a house made of wood and mud, and shared our worship service with the community people, and also went and visited individual families to give out free literature, sing, and pray with them.
-Three weeks later, the other half of the group went up the mountain to again share with the community, and both occasions were a wonderful blessing to the people and to us.
5. Mission Internships gave each of us to serve in different areas of VIDA’s ministry. Some worked in the community teaching English, one helped a girl with Spina bifida, another helped to teach in the bilingual elementary school operated by VIDA, some helped prepare and teach a Kid’s Health Week in town for the public elementary school, and I and one other person worked in Public Relations, designing a promotional video IBC, and designing and preparing other ministry documents.

Overall, the two months, which are coming to a close this week, have been a fulfilling missionary experience, and encourage me to continue in the Lord’s work.

Getting Settled

It’s been almost two weeks since we arrived. It feels weird. I’m more like staff here than student, even though I’m still a student through Matteson Mission School. I am always working, in one way or another.

I finished the project proposal, we got it sent to the Fresno SDA church representative, and after a few content corrections, he liked it!

This week on Monday I had to get up at 3:00 am to start filming by 3:45. We are making a promo video for Instituto Biblico Centroamericana (IBC), the Bible School that falls under VIDA internacional. The point is to follow a student around throughout his life in a day. That was fun. The challenge for me was that he spoke no English, and I didn’t know enough Spanish to communicate with him what I was looking for.

I have to redesign the staff and student manuals, and have them done by Thursday evening. Oh yeah, Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy the tofurkey for me!

This Sunday, VIDA is hosting the wedding of someone who used to be a part of VIDA somehow, not sure in what way. I think this campus is quite multi-purpose.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Holiday! Pray for the work here at VIDA!

Inspiration, Motivation, Action, Movement

Inspiration. No, not like prophetic inspiration. Inspiration from the experiences of life around you. Thats what keeps you going some times. Motivation. The force, either intrinsic or extrinsic, that drives you to do something. Action. Yes, the act of doing what that you were inspired and motivated to do.

Movement. Where am I going? Am I moving? Am I doing anything?

Yes. The answer is yes. This year at Matteson has made me think. And when I think, I get inspired. Inspired to work for God. Then I’m motivated to do something, and I do it. So on the 13th of November, I got on a plane and flew to Honduras. That was action, and movement. So, here I am. What am I doing here? I’ll get to that. First, I’ll tell you what I was actually doing in Norway.

Well these past couple months have been exciting. I went to Oslo with some of my classmates, Thierry, Christian, Johannes, Katie, Annie, and we spent some time with Ida. That was a blast, I best remember seeing Holmenkollen Ski Jump, the Opera House, and walking around downtown.

I went to Arvika, Sweden, our church plant, several times, once to do a health expo, some other times to visit the church, and the last time to also help with ADRA’s ingathering.

Just last weekend, we visited another church about 3 hours away in Kongsberg, Norway, where we did the church service, and I taught the Sabbath school. The topic was the Day of Atonement.

We had an Alumni weekend at the beginning of October, and an Inspiration Weekend at the end. Ernst Zwiker spoke about Jesus and Emotional Intelligence.

We have had Christian Home classes, learning about courtship and marriage, its been rather interesting. But it will be something to put all these skills to the test, which by now I have already done a lot of.

There was a concert by a well known Opera singer here in Norway, which we actually participated in. It was a benefit for ADRA, and we had the opportunity to sing in the choir, and do some of our own pieces. I played the guitar and sang Captivate Us. I really need to learn new music.

I was walking to the Granheim building one morning along the forrest path, and there is a new path that someone cut a couple years ago, by cutting down the young trees. However, when they cut them down, they left the stumps, these tiny little quarter’s width stumps all over the place. I thought, if I walk here at night, I won’t be able to see these, and I will stumble and fall over them. Thats kind of like if we try to navigate this world without Jesus’ light. We will just stumble fall. But it gets even better. If the person who cut the path had cut these trees out by their roots, it would have taken care of the whole problem. So if we let Jesus cut our sins and shortcomings out by the roots, we won’t have the same problems.

Well, I’m finishing this journal entry here in Honduras, because I haven’t gotten to write much between then and now. But here I have quite a bit of free time because when it gets dark, life pretty much comes to a stop. Thankfully, because of my job, I can charge my iPad and write in the evenings and mornings, after my devotions.

More later,

Seth