If we are to enjoy the promised land here and now, it starts with the certainty that God's love is unconditional. That His grace is sufficiency. A church that encourages all to come as they are. A church that values each member, regardless of their flaws. If beliefs are the endpoint, then we are lost. Teachings are a starting point, but a Spirit-filled life of love and service is a journey. It's not what we know, but Who we know, that counts. Each of us suffers a time of trouble when circumstances don't go our way, but the time of trouble that Jesus warns of is when the community that should protect us turns against us--when dogma rules over love. When my plea for us to see the good in everyone is met with grave concern, I am concerned. I believe that our true nature is love. God is love. We are created in His image. That is the Eden that will be restored. The good news is that God is found in every nation, tribe, people and language. The Holy Spirit is working on every heart. The judgment isn't about doctrine, but character. It's about whether our love and kindness reflects the divine. What separates God from us is that He never misses the chance to demonstrate love. The righteous love unconditionally; the wicked, not so much. I love the Adventist church, even with my grave concerns. I want to see each person through the eyes of Jesus--as brothers and sisters in Christ. My commitment to Adventism and my flawed church have grown and been softened by the message of unconditional love expressed by our spiritual forefathers throughout all the ages. Sure, they may not have nailed every doctrine, but let him with a perfect understanding of God and love cast the first stone. Here is my vision of what it means to be an Adventist: Adventists have a history of upholding the Bible and its teachings as the guidebook for knowing and loving God. We have a history of commandment-keeping, and Jesus summed up the law as loving God completely and treating others the way we would like to be treated. The Bible teaches that love cannot exist without freedom. Let every man be persuaded in his own mind. Ellen White proclaimed: "Every human being, created in the image of God, is endowed with a power akin to that of the Creator--individuality, power to think and to do. . . to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men's thoughts." God has given each of us a mind. To proxy it to another is to set aside the divine. The image of God is complete when all of use our minds to the best of our ability to grasp the eternal. Our differences form a mosaic that reveals in miniature the infinity of God. His affection for us regardless of our behavior is limitless. Adventists believe that the remnant are those in any belief structure who remain faithful to the core teaching of Jesus: that we love one another unconditionally. Adventists, therefore, are just a small part of the much larger body of the spiritually-minded who embrace truth, regardless of the source. Adventists are a progressive people. Like Luther, we are protesters. Our Adventist forefathers were forced from their previous because they refused to submit blindly to the interpretations of others. We honor those who went before us who had the courage of Jesus to stand up to the status quo and question the authority of any creed that put the dogma of man over the liberating word of God. Religious liberty is defended, both in and out of the church. Our church is a safe haven where the misfit thrives and personal choice is honored. Mutual respect guides us as we forge bonds while never surrendering our individuality. Our affirmation of the priesthood of every believer means that salvation is worked out with fear and trembling between the sinner and his Savior. The authority for our beliefs comes from God's word, filtered by His spirit working on each heart, not the collective. Community serves best when it broadens our understanding of God, rather than forcing followers to limit their thoughts to a prescribed set of beliefs. The church should be a place where the free exchange of ideas tempered by grace is valued, not shackled by doctrine cast in stone. Our Adventist founders used the phrase present truth to signify that we are on a journey to reveal the heart and mind of God. They had the humility to remember our humanity. Adventists are united over the belief in a loving, personal God, a Trinity that is one best understood in the light of the incarnation. Jesus, lover of the disenfranchised, proclaimed, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." During His first advent, He died to demonstrate that His wayward children are more important than the moral law. Better sill, we have hope beyond the tomb. We look forward to the return of Jesus, the time when we get to share in His resurrection. Those we love will be returned to us when Jesus comes again. This second advent will be the end of sin and suffering and vindication of love over selfishness. Adventists delight in the Sabbath, a day that memorialized the creative power of God and the liberation of the oppressed. Grace and reconciliation demonstrated by our God are cherished attributes that Adventists wish to reflect. our mission is the ministry of redemption, open to all. Adventists want to join God's kingdom here and now to share the good news that God loves all and serves all. More than anything, Adventists want to be known as friends of God and to share our admiration of Him with the whole world.
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Gratitude? Some people have said that gratitude = great + attitude, or grat-titude! Have you thought about your attitude lately? Do you bring others sunshine or rain, joy or cynicism, healing or pain? If you think about it, God has always had a great attitude toward us. When He made us He said, VERY good. When He declared His feelings toward the world He said: For God soooo...loved the world! The Bible has much to say about having a great attitude. One of the best Scriptures I cherish are the words of the apostle Paul where he refers to the attitude of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-8. Jesus' loving attitude led Him to forsake all of heaven's glory to save us from our sins. Having a great attitude comes from many sources--but Jesus, the Father and Holy Spirit are the best examples for us all. So how about it? Have you thought about your gratitude (great attitude) lately? Start each day with gratitude so that your day will be brighter and your presence a blessing to others! Gerard