The following article was inspired by The Adult Sabbath school lesson for Tuesday, September 19, 2017. Therefore, I thought to share with you as it is worth reading again.
Defining the Term “Burden”
The author notes that, “The Greek word translated ‘burden’ in Galatians 6:2 is baros. It literally referred to a heavy weight or load that someone had to carry a long distance. Over time, however, it became a metaphor for any type of trouble or difficulty, such as the burden of a long day’s work on a hot day (Matt. 20:12).” Additionally, the author explained, “While the immediate context of Paul’s injunction to ‘bear one another’s burdens’ certainly includes the moral lapses of the fellow believers mentioned in the preceding verse, the concept of burden bearing he has in mind is much broader. Paul’s instructions reveal several spiritual insights about the Christian life that should not be overlooked.”
All Christians Carry Burdens
As noted by Timothy George who was quoted in the lesson, “All Christians have burdens. Our burdens may differ in size and shape and will vary in kind depending on the providential order of our lives. For some it is the burden of temptation and the consequences of a moral lapse, as in verse 1 here. For others it may be a physical ailment, or a mental disorder, or a family crisis, or lack of employment, or demonic oppression, or a host of other things; but no Christian is exempt from burdens.” — Galatians, p. 413.
Additionally, the lessons point out, “God does not intend for us to bear all our burdens alone. Unfortunately, we often are far more willing to help others to carry their burdens than we are in allowing others to help us shoulder our own. Paul condemns this attitude of self-sufficiency (Gal. 6:3) as human pride, when we refuse to admit that we also have needs and weaknesses. Such pride not only robs us of the comfort of others but also prevents others from fulfilling the ministry that God has called them to perform.” This aforementioned sentence really pricked me in knowing that I could prevent someone from fulfilling the ministry God has called him/her to perform.
Bearing One Another Burdens – God’s Purpose for His People
Interestingly, the author observes, “God calls us to bear the burdens of others because it is through our actions that God’s comfort is made manifest. This concept is built on the fact that the church is the body of Christ. An illustration of this is in Paul’s words, ‘But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus’ (2 Cor. 7:6, ESV).” Additionally, he states, “God’s comfort was not given to Paul through his private prayer and waiting upon the Lord, but through the companionship of a friend and through the good news which he brought.” Quoting J. W. Stott, the author adds, “Human friendship, in which we bear one another’s burdens, is part of the purpose of God for His people.” — The Message of Galatians, p. 158.
Finally, the author concludes the lesson with the following thought provoking questions, “What keeps you from seeking help — pride, shame, lack of trust, a sense of self-sufficiency? If in need, why not seek out someone whom you trust and ask this person to share your burdens?”. This indeed a lesson worth sharing!
A recent editorial in one of the dailies, (The Nassau Guardian, Tuesday, September12, 2017) in the Bahamas, evoked a flurry of discussions regarding storms and the impact that prayers have on the outcome. The editorial noted, “the weather has nothing to do with gods, prayer, religious icons or chants. Rain falls. Earthquakes happen. Volcanoes erupt. Hurricanes pass over. Tornados ravage. If you are in the path of these natural phenomena you could be hurt or killed”. However, the editor added, “A prayer would not weaken a storm. Some are lucky not to be in the way of dangerous natural phenomena. Others are not. There is no divine hand deciding who lives or dies in hurricanes, for example, based on the diligence of prayer or religious devotion.”
Position of Some Christians
The above does raise questions especially to Christians as they believe just the opposite – that prayer, while not magical, may result in a changed course of a natural event or disaster. It is their opinion that God controls nature and as such, can determine the what, where and the impact of a hurricane, earth quake or tornado. In fact, Christians believe that one’s daily life comes under the divine control of God.
Can both be correct?
Given these the two views enunciated of luck and prayer, can the editorial and the Christians both be correct? Usually, it is believed that it is one or the other; right or wrong; black or white; either or. But not the two. However, when it comes to God and theology, there is what is referred to as “a tension” meaning that it can be both. And in this instance, there is some value to both positions. Thus, begs the question what is it?
The view that nature has laws and regulations is not unfounded. In fact, there are systems and there are laws governing nature and the weakening of those laws and a lack of adherence to can result in negative and disastrous happenings, such as global warming and land erosion. Additionally, it is anticipated that the sun will rise at a given time and set at the appropriate time. Also, depending on where one lives in the world, he or she can expect disasters of varying natures. But does that preclude the ability of God to intervene, alter or prevent the natural course of situations? The answer is absolutely “no”. God is God and as creator and sustainer, He can determine the course of situations.
Therefore, Christians are not wrong in advocating that prayer was a determining factor in saving lives in the Bahamas from the recent passage of Hurricane Irma. To explain, the Bible is replete with examples of such happenings. For instance, the turning of the sun 10 degrees backward (Isa. 38:8); introducing rain when it had never rained before (Gen.7:4); allowing a huge fish to swallow a human being and that and being regurgitated alive (Jonah 1:17) ; being thrown into a fiery furnace and coming out unscathed or touched by the fire (Daniel 3:20-29); going into a den of ferocious lions and not being touched (Daniel 6:23-27); walking on water (Matt. 14:29) etc. Without question, the aforementioned all go against the various laws of nature, clearly underscoring that God can do exactly what He chooses to do and when and where He determines. It is this reality that Christians live with each day mindful that the God they serve is alive and very much in control.
A Mystery Remains
However, there is a major question that has been implied in the editorial and it is this, “Why would God spare inhabitants of the Bahamas by diverting a storm from many of its major islands, but did not do the same for the people in St. Martin, Cuba, Anguilla, Barbuda, Puerto Rico, Florida and Georgia?” This is indeed a mystery and only God can ultimately answer. However, what can be known is that,God does not always intervene in situations and sometimes He does. At times, He may choose to save one person out of a crowd. We can recall stories of a plane crashing and most the people surviving. For someone not fully aware of how God works may interpret that as being luck for the survivor/s whereas a Christian would see that as a direct divine intervention. Quite frankly, that is how I see it and thus both outlooks have some merit in their positions. When one encounters God in a dramatic sense of a rescue or deliverance, the normal objective statement may transition to one of subjectivity. By that I mean a position changes because of a personal experience and encounter with the Lord. And therefore, such person may say “I know that God is a prayer answering God, and I know that He can do anything He chooses to do.” The Hymnologist Fanny Crosby fully understood that as implied in the lyrics of one of her favorite hymns, “This is my story, this is my song praising my Savior all the day long.” Therefore, again I wish to note that the diversion of Irma was not a matter of luck but an act of God. And as for the unfortunate experience of persons elsewhere we will understand it better by and by. But until then, the child of God will keep on trusting in Jesus. According to Romans 8:28, nothing happens by chance in the life of one who loves God even if he can explain it.
EIGHT OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT STRUGGLES PASTORS FACE
The following article was written by Thom Rainer on March 1, 2014. Thom is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, which relate to pastoral concerns and issues. I believe that you will find the article relevant.
Says Thom, “Before me are handwritten notes that I took over a few weeks from various social media interactions, emails, and a few phone calls. The total is nearly 200 separate communications to me. I kept a record of them for one simple reason: I wanted to identify the greatest pain points of pastors today.”
He adds, “In many ways, there are no surprises. Indeed, I doubt most of you will be surprised at my findings. If nothing else, it is a good reminder of how we can help our pastors, and how we can pray for them. Of course, you will quickly see that they are not mutually exclusive. They are listed in the order of frequency I noted.”
- Criticism and conflict. “I do have a few observations about this number one issue. First, it seems to be growing, and pastors seem to be experiencing greater challenges. Second, most of the issues of conflict are not doctrinal issues. Indeed, most are trivial issues. Finally, very few pastors are equipped and trained to deal with the steady stream of critics and crises.”
- Family problems. “Many pastors struggle with expectations by church members of their spouses or children. Others struggle with finding time for their families. Many pastors’ families struggle with the ‘glass house’ syndrome.”
- Stress. “The pastor’s life is one of emotional highs and lows. It includes critics and adoring fans. Expectations from church members can be unreasonable. The very nature of a pastor’s call into ministry can lend itself to seemingly unending stress.”
- Depression. “Every time I write about this topic, I hear from countless pastors and staff. Depression is pervasive in pastoral ministry. And it is often the ‘secret’ problem.”
- Burnout. “Local church ministry can attract two broad types of persons: the lazy and the workaholic. Accountability is often low, and it can be easy to get away with little work, or to work 70 plus hours a week. I see more of the latter than the former.”
- Sexual problems. “These problems are most often in one of two categories: pornography or marital unfaithfulness.”
- Financial problems. “Most of the world hears about the few pastors who make huge salaries. The reality is that the majority of pastors struggle financially.”
- Time management. “Expectations of pastors can be unrealistic. Pastors are often expected to attend multiple meetings, to visit countless congregants, to prepare sermons with excellence, to provide ongoing strategic leadership, to conduct weddings and funerals, and to be involved in the community. Many pastors don’t know how or when to say ‘no.’ And many are not good at delegating, or they really don’t have anyone who can handle some of their responsibilities.”
Proposed Resolution of 8th World Congress (draft)
Having attended The International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA) in its Eighth World Congress, August 24, 2017, in Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood, Florida, I thought to share with you the summary draft resolution as a result of the congress. Feel free to pass on to your members.
"The proposal Congress participants recognized that concerns such as in the areas of safety, security, or other competing rights or interests are often invoked in a way that unduly limits freedom of religion and belief. Too often these interests can be used as a pretext to discriminate against disfavored religious groups or individuals. It was agreed that greater focus needs to be paid to balancing these needs and avoiding stereotypes regarding any religion.
"Concern was also expressed that religion has often been coopted for destructive purposes. This instrumentalization of religion tends to undermine the legitimacy of and support for freedom of religion and belief. Congress participants discussed methods by which to reduce incidents of such misuse of religion.
"Consequently, Through this Resolution, the Eighth IRLA World Congress:
"1.Calls upon the nations of the world to promote actively the principles of freedom of religion or belief as elaborated in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the body of related international and regional human rights instruments through their constitutions, laws, and through practical implementation of these globally shared ideals.
"2.Calls upon the people of the world to reacquaint themselves with the foundational human rights documents and first principles in order to emphasize the importance of freedom of religion or belief in the broader constellation of rights.
"3.Encourages clergy, educators, and others--in addition to legal experts -- to emphasize and teach that freedom of religion or belief is, both an important legal right, and a crucial societal value that is to be protected in all aspects of civic life.
"4.Requests the IRLA to continue to identify concrete ways for individuals and its local chapters to engage in religious freedom advocacy, ensuring that such advocacy is sensitive to both context and situation.
"5.Encourages national and international actors to avoid stereotyping of any groups or individuals based on prejudices, preconceptions, or assumptions.
"6.Recognizes that while violence is sometimes perpetrated in the name of religion, such violence should be countered by punishing those directly responsible, and should not be used as an excuse to oppress wider religious communities with which the perpetrators assert ties; blaming an entire community for the actions of a few strengthens and emboldens those who perpetuate violence in the name of religion.
"7.Encourages religious and other leaders to recognize the danger of religion being hijacked and misused for non-religious goals, and encourages religious leaders and believers to take steps to prevent this happening within their own communities.
"8.Authorizes the broad distribution of this resolution to international institutions, religious and civil society organizations, and to supporters of freedom of religion or belief worldwide.
"ADOPTED BY CONSENSUS OF THOSE ATTENDING THE EIGHTH WORLD CONGRESS OF THE INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS LIBERTY ASSOCIATION IN HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA ON AUGUST 24, 2017."
It is no secret that some members of our faith are uncomfortable when leaders, local and worldwide, engage in conversations with other religious groups. A suspicious spirit tends to manifest itself, but is there really a need to be overly concerned? Research and observations would seem to suggest that there could be some benefits to engaging others of various religious faiths. Accordingly, I share some suggestions that may prove beneficial when meeting with such persons.
Be Prepared to Give a Reason for the Faith
The Apostle Peter encouraged believers of his day to "always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3:15, NKJV). If our doctrines and position statements are biblical, then shouldn’t they withstand scrutiny and examination? I would think so.
For the most part, we share many doctrines in common with evangelicals, according to William Johnson in his book Embracing the Impossible. These are the Inspiration of the Scriptures, the Incarnation, Virgin Birth, Atoning Death, Resurrection of Jesus, the Second Coming, Evangelism, the New Birth, and the Life of Piety Manifested in Prayer, Bible study, and Christian Witness. So for starts, it would be good when conversing with other groups to start with commonality, or where we agree. It allows for exploring areas such as the Sabbath, Ellen White, the State of the Dead and the Sanctuary -- areas where there are noticeable differences.
Unafraid to Mix
It is said of Ellen White that she addressed temperance movements often during her time. Certainly, we have valuable knowledge, especially on health and family life that need to be shared more widely and aggressively. I confess to you that I was rebuked, though gently by a prominent Baptist preacher, for the local Seventh-day Adventist Church for being too silent on what he termed as valuable health information. Quite frankly, we can do more. Accordingly, let's get involved in community activities and be willing to share this knowledge in less judgmental and condemning manners.
Having the opportunity to share my conviction on the Sabbath and diet, among other areas, has been informative to persons I have had to relate to on boards and in influential places. In the book Embracing the Impossible, William Johnson shares a full chapter on discussions with other religious faiths such as Lutherans, Evangelicals, and Church of God Seventh-day. In fact, you should know that because of such meetings, Walter Martin and Donald Barnhouse, editors of Eternity magazine, have changed their earlier position on Seventh-day Adventists, no longer regarding them as a cult but as genuine Christians. God wants us to be His ambassadors daily, always ready to give a reason for the faith that lies within. It is my prayer that you and I will prove faithful.