A Tribute to Douglas

I grew up in a Christian home with very diverse musical tastes.  My mother a north-easterner from New Jersey grew up a Roman Catholic with parents whom she said had “British” tastes, hence her love for classical music.  She gave my siblings and I a healthy appreciation for the three “B’s,” Brahms, Bach, and Beethoven.  My father on the other hand grew up in the south, with more of a Baptist leaning.  His musical tastes fell along the lines of the great Southern quartets, the Dixie Hummingbirds,  and the Golden Gate Quartet, along with the Gospel Clefs, the Gospel Keynotes, the Sensational Nightingales and the lists goes on and on.  Needless to say this cross-section of musical tastes gave me and my siblings a tremendous appreciation for all types of music from Rachmaninoff to Mantovani to Perry Como (Thanks to the annual Firestone Christmas Albums) to Aretha Franklin to Singers Unlimited…well you get the idea.

Because of this, I have always had great difficulty with the narrow limits some Christians have drawn around what is called appropriate music for church and/or worship.  My specific experience has centered around the music wars that have been waged in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and seem to never end.  I have sat on many panels and even in 2015 a question will still arise about the appropriateness of “drums” in worship.  There are some who still have not figured out that an inanimate lifeless, breathless instrument has no power to commit a sin.  It is not the instrument, it is the person on the instrument that determines what happens on or with the it.  This inability to appreciate diverse forms of music and the tendency to confuse personal preference with principal has caused the church to force all musical forms into a Eurocentric classical-anthem-hymn-dominant box.  If you attended the recent General Conference you would have experienced musical renditions throughout the session with little to no stylistic deviation.  If you closed your eyes, you would have thought the same person and/or choir was singing at each service with a mere change of gender or voice from soprano to bass.  No one even risked singing in a different language.  Does this truly represent diversity in music and worship?

Forget about the Biblical inconsistency of such a position; think about it in a universe where no two people are alike, not even siamese twins.  There are no two snowflakes, flowers, hair strands, or fingerprints that are alike.  Since this is true, why would we believe there is only one acceptable form of musical expression that is pleasing to God when He is the one who created such a diverse universe.  Does that make sense?  I won’t even mention that the acceptable musical form just happens to align itself with one culture as well.  What a coincidence.

This brings me to Douglas Leacock.  A truly gifted musician who recently passed away.  I was stunned to learn of his passing from my wife last week and unfortunately will not be able to attend his well-deserved memorial service this coming Saturday,  July 27, 2015.  I was first introduced to Douglas as a youth when he and his sisters, Rosie and Janet sang for a program at my home church.  They were called “The Gospel Chimes.”  A fitting name for their melodious music.  I can’t remember the program or occasion but I can still remember the lyrics of the song.

“Tell ’em about Jesus, and His Love.” “Tell ’em about the Savior from above.”

“Tell ’em about Jesus, and His Love.” “Tell ’em about the Savior from above.”


I don’t remember sermons that well, but I remember that song.  That was Douglas, a genius musician who used his God-given talents to lift up Jesus Christ and tell others of His love.  Is there any greater purpose for a follower of Jesus Christ to fulfill, than to tell others of Jesus’ love?  But the real tragedy was that at some level, Douglas’ church didn’t make room for the kind of music God had gifted him to share.  He joins a long list of disaffected musicians from the Seventh-day Adventist Church with rare and usual gifts who were never truly appreciated, encouraged or celebrated by their church.  They did not fit into the narrow box that those who controlled the church determined was the only acceptable musical form that God approved of.  From the Blend Wrights who dared to sing their music to the rhythmic beat of the Hammond B-3, that began a revolution of African American female trios across  North American, to those whom I have know, Darnell Crandell, Charles “Lippie” Davis, Gene Andrews Jr. & Sr., Satara Wisdom, Bobby Soverall and many, many others.  They all were never really celebrated and embraced by their own church.  Many of them found greater acceptance in other denominations and worshipping communities outside of Adventism, to the great regret of us all.

So today I want to remember and celebrate Douglas Leacock for everything he meant and means to me and all of the young people whose lives he touched with his brilliant music during our youthful years together.  I am grateful for his willingness to share his God-given gifts with us even when he was not appreciated and celebrated among his own as he should have been.  And though I cannot join Rosie,  Janet, and the rest of his family and friends who will remember his life, I want to pay tribute to him for all that he did to make Jesus more real to me in song.  Though he is resting in Jesus, he is still telling me about the Jesus and His love.  And not even death can silence his voice in my heart.

Winning Arguments or Fulfilling Our Mission?

It was another historic vote in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and I was there to witness it first hand from beginning to end.  I have a slightly different perspective from other people about what happened, so I will express mine since I own this space.  Let me first say that I respect the process our church follows in making decisions.  Though I do not always agree with it and though fraught with many flaws, like all human processes, it is not immune to its share of foibles.  Unless you did not know before yesterday, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is as imperfect as every other church under the sun.  The enfeebled and defective portion of the quote from the Spirit of Prophecy should be in capital letters, so all members of the church will remember who we are, sinners saved by grace.

Having said that, I would like to suggest another problem that I believe hampers us as a church whenever we come to difficult and challenging decisions.  It goes to the heart of our alter-ego so to speak as a church.  It is a known fact that in our early beginnings, Seventh-day Adventists evangelists were known as great debaters.  We would challenge preachers and evangelists from other churches to defend what they taught and believed from the scriptures and prove that their position was more Biblical than ours.  As a result this has become a part of the personality of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  For better or worse we pride ourselves as being a people of the book, who truly uphold the Bible and the Bible alone as our creed of authority.  While other denominations say it, we maintain this as our benchmark.  Hence the reason we observe the Seventh-day Sabbath of the Bible, that was kept by Jesus Christ and His disciples after His resurrection and ascension, along with many other Biblical truths of the scriptures.  However, this same personality has not served us well when we have dealt with some issues of contention within the church.  Our debating personality has caused us to handle every issue as an argument to be won, instead of an issue to be examined through the lens of our mission.  Such has been the case in looking at the issue of women’s ordination.

It has been a established fact that there is no Biblical dictum for ordination in the scriptures for men or women.  At best it is a hierarchical system that developed over time some 150 years after the apostles, found in the history of the Roman Church.  This is an incontrovertible fact.  So what are we really talking about and how can we make some kind of immutable Biblical argument concerning the issue?  But when we as a church decided to examine the issue we followed the path of our personality.  We decided to settle the issue by framing the discussion in the form of an argument. We placed the issue in the form of a question to be debated, instead of seeing it as an issue of mission.  Does women’s ordination facilitate our mission?  Mission has been the theme of the entire General Conference.  It has been what the General Conference President has promoted at every turn.  He even began the discussion about the question by recognizing a group of young people representing “Share Him,” that had just finished conducting evangelism in Mexico and affirmed their fervor for mission.  But then we veered into our debating mode to decide whether or not divisions should be allowed to ordain women.

Think of how the discussion would have changed if the energies of the delegates were focused on examining how women’s ordination could facilitate the mission of the church.  Is not that the only issue that is worthy of our discussion?  If it does not facilitate mission, it is not worthy of the churches time or energies.  Stop to consider that human trafficking is a $32 billion dollar annual industry world-wide where 800,000 women and children are trafficked across international lines.  Think for a moment that one billion people are in poverty in the world today and the great majority of those people are women.  Most of those women live in developing countries, some of the same countries who voted against the resolution that was presented yesterday at the General Conference.  Do you think that perhaps if we focused on mission, by answering the questions posed by Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46, that maybe our thinking would have changed on how we should vote?  What message could it have sent to the world if we as a church had made a decision based on mission to empower each division to ordain women in ministry because of the deep sense of urgency for the worldwide crisis that women face of oppression, exploitation and poverty.  And in responding to the call of Jesus in Matthew 25: 34-40 we are empowering women in ministry to respond to that sacred call and allowed our divisions to do so as they believe God is leading their mission imperatives.

Too much of our time as a church is spent in winning arguments and not enough of time is spent reflecting on how we should best fulfill our mission.  We just received a report about our growth from the secretariat that has warned us of its dubious direction in the future and yet we spent little time discussing how to address its implications.  We have remained in the same organizational structure with little to no change, without asking ourselves whether it still facilitates our ability to best fulfill our mission as a church.  We keep winning arguments, but winning arguments does not advance the cause of Christ.  It merely brings applauds, causes animosity, opens wounds and creates distrust.  We need to try a better method.

When Jesus slowly floated away from the disciples and gradually disappeared from their view on the Mount of Olives after His resurrection, He left them with one final message.  They were still wondering when He would establish their earthly kingdom.  And we like them often try to establish our earthly kingdoms.  We become sidetracked with earthly power and authority not realizing that everything on this earth is temporary.  He told them, “It is not for you to know the times and dates the Father has set by His own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”  When they left the mountain it interesting that their first test was a church election.  They had to replace Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus.  Interesting how life repeats itself.  The one elected really was not the issue.  What was the issue was how they would select his replacement.  Would they politic their way to a selection?  Would they use collegiality or favoritism or power positioning to advance their own careers.  Peter responds in verse in Acts 1:21.  He says, “It is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time Jesus was taken up from us.  For one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”  Their sole criterion was the replace had to be someone who they were sure had an experienced relationship with Jesus for himself.   Then after narrowing the selections down to two candidates, they left the final choice to prayer.  Listen to their prayer in verse 24.  Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart.  Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.”  It was this process that gave them Matthias.  Knowing Jesus for yourself and prayer.  No Urim and Thummim, no debates and arguments, just Jesus and prayer.  And it was this process that brought their unity and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.

So what can we learn from this.  We just had an election.  Could it have brought the same results among us?  And if it did not why not?  It is a question for all of us to answer.  When we had our discussion about women in ministry should we have taken a different course?  I believe we should have.  And I believe because we chose the wrong method, we came to the wrong conclusion.  This was not an issue to be argued, this was a process to be examined.  Instead of pushing us apart, this issue should have pulled us together, causing us to examine whether or not the ordination of women helped to advance the mission of our church.  I believe we missed a sacred opportunity and in the process caused greater harm than good.  But I am one person and my opinion is not God’s.  I would not presume to be the divine.

There is one thing I am convinced of.  Everything that happens is an opportunity for us to learn.  God is trying to teach all us an important lesson through this experience and in time He will reveal what that lesson is.  It may not be the same lesson for all of us, but if we all have a teachable spirit we will learn the lesson He has for each of us.  I am still in the learning process so teach me Lord.  Are you?

Who Are We?

Who Are We?  An interesting question raised in the sermon of the re-elected secretary of the General Conference, G.T. NG.  He was right to suggest that we must derive our identity from God.  Much of the world has become obsessed with the notion of self-awareness and self-identity.  People believe today that the way to find ones true self is by looking inward.  But the wiseman who went through the endless search for meaning, identity and purpose through self-exploration and self-discovery, came to the conclusion that it was a “meaningless search.”  At every turn he would end with the words, it was like “chasing after the wind.”  He concluded in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that “God has set eternity in the human heart; and yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  In other words, there is a God-shaped void in all of us that only He can fill.  So human identity can only be discovered when a person finds God.  And when we understand who God is, we can begin to understand who we truly are.  Jesus said in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

So who is God?  This was the question posed by Pastor NG on Sabbath, July 4, 2015.  He suggested, that God was a “God of Revelation.”  An interesting proposition, for the Bible does say that when the disciples misunderstood the meaning of Christ’s crucifixion and thought it was the tragic failed end of another false messiah, Jesus revealed to them, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets…what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27).  And while God does reveal Himself to us through the scriptures, He is very clear in telling us who He is.  God tells us who He is in 1 John 4:8.  And in the same verse He reveals the identity of His followers based on His own identity.  He says, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”  Who is God?  God IS Love.  And those who profess to belong to Him must be lovers as an extension of Him.  This is how closely connected God’s love is with those who profess to be His followers. “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” 1 John 4:15,16.  Who is God?  God is love.  Who are we as Christians?  We are supposed to be living God’s love because we are from God.  But is that the picture most people have of Christians?  Does the average person associate God’s love with Christianity today?  Do they associate it with the Seventh-day Adventist Church?  Let’s make it more personal, do my friends, neighbors, co-workers and strangers associate love with me as a Christian?  What about among fellow believers?  Do we share God’s love with each other?  1 John 4:20,21 says, “If we say we love God yet hate a brother or sister, we are liars.  For if we do not love a fellow believer, whom we have seen, we cannot love God, whom we have not seen.  And he has given us this command: those who love God must also love one another.”  God challenges us to love deeply and unconditionally just as He does, and does not waver in His expectation of us.  So what does this mean when we think about who we are?

Can we truly understand God’s revelation without first understanding who God is?  The greatest miscalculation that Satan made in the Garden of Eden when humanity sinned was how much God loved us.  He thought he had won when he deceived Eve and caused Adam to deliberately sin against God.  But He could not anticipate the depth of God’s love and the lengths He would go to gain our salvation.  Satan did not believe Jesus would actually allow Himself to be humiliated in the manner that He was, in order to save us.  And when Jesus Christ arose triumphantly on the third day, it was then that Satan understood the true character of God.  He thought God was about power, authority, position and hierarchy but it was then that he realized that God is LOVE.  It is truly the mystery of Godliness.  Do we really understand the power of God’s love?  If we did, we would not regard it so lightly and handle it so casually and carelessly.  We would see it as the powerful weapon that it is in winning humanity and transforming the world.  And we would not believe that beasts, prophecies and doctrines are more powerful and convincing than love.

It is most fitting that the message Jesus gave Nicodemus, a learned Jewish theologian who was versed in the scriptures and doctrine and prophecy, was John 3:16.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.  That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Who is God…God is Love…Who are We…

A Call To Prayer…

…When I arrived at the dome, I got there just in time for the fireworks…so to speak.  The end of the secretariat’s report on church membership was wrapping up and the nominating committee was about to present its first recommendation to the delegates.  When the final comments from the floor were made and the vote to end discussion was approved, the chair and secretary of the nominating committee presented the name of Dr. Ted Wilson for the position of President of the General Conference.  There were thunderous applauds.  His name was promptly moved by the secretary of the nominating committee for acceptance, it was seconded from the floor…and then the fireworks began.  Something unexpected took place.  A delegate requested that the name be referred back to the nominating committee.  This was unprecedented.  It was commented that this had never happened to a General Conference nominee for president before.  How accurate that is, I cannot say, but because of its rarity, the chair of the session was somewhat flustered in knowing how to handle such a motion.  His immediate reaction was to have the entire delegation vote on the motion to refer the name back to the nominating committee.  However, it was pointed out to the chair that according to the rules of order, voted for the General Conference session, that was not how such motions should be handled.  The chair was bound by the rules the session had invoked on the previous day, so the objection was heard privately by the chair and secretary of the nominating committee to determine its credibility.  After some deliberation, the chair and secretary returned to inform the delegation that the objections raised had already been heard and responded to by the nominating committee and were not of a level to change the nomination.  They presented the name of Elder Wilson a second time, but another delegate came to the mic with another motion to refer the name back to the nominating committee.  More discussion from the chair in opposition that finally led to another conference between the objector and the nominating committee chair and secretary with the same result as the first objection.  And then a third attempt with the same result…Do you see a pattern here…

There was one moment of civility in the midst of the polity and rancor.  It came when one of the delegates at the mic commented on his experience in previous meetings that had contentious situations like this.  His comment was, when impasses like this occurred we would pause in our meeting and call for prayer.  “Perhaps this is a time for us to pray,” he said.  A break in the tension.  A much needed spiritual break that reminded me of the only leader in recent memory who has instituted such a process as a regular part of the meetings he chairs.  If you have ever attended a meeting chaired by Elder Dan Jackson, then you know one of the first things he does is designate an intercessor who is authorized to interrupt the meeting at any time and whenever impressed, to call the assembly to prayer.  It is something I had never witnessed by any chair before Elder Jackson, and have seen many adopted since.  In many ways it has changed the way business has been conducted in the North American Division.  It seemed as if this delegate’s suggestion was appealing to the kind of spiritual solution that has been modeled by Elder Jackson.  But then for whatever reason, the delegate did not call us to prayer, instead he called question on the previous motion.  The chair seized the opportunity to cease discussion on all previous questions and call for a vote on the original motion, the nomination of Dr. Ted Wilson for President.  “All in favor please indicate by raising your voting cards.”  “All opposed by the same sign.”  The vote was overwhelming for the election of Elder Ted Wilson for President of the General Conference.  And so Elder Wilson was re-elected in a tense and somewhat turbulent atmosphere.  Not what anyone expected and a bit uncharacteristic for a General Conference Session.  But why are we so surprised.  How spiritual are General Conference Sessions?  Is that even an expectation?

As I think about other major denominations and their church elections, those that I have watched on the WORD Network or TBN, all of them seem to be very intentional about making them highly spiritual experiences.  Most of their time, energy and planning seems to be spent in organizing the most spiritual worship experiences, with the best music and preaching.  They seem to spare no expense in inviting special guest artist, preachers and presenters to minister to their delegates in achieving the spiritual goals they are hoping to accomplish.  The worship services are spirit-filled and power-packed.  The people seem to come expecting a powerful spiritual experience and leave fulfilled and satisfied.

But can we say that about our experience at General Conference.  How memorable are the spiritual experiences here?  What spiritual highlight have we come to this General Conference in anticipation of?  Most of our time has been focused on issues that we have come to battles over, already entrenched in our positions.  Our factions are already lined up and our alleys are already in place.  Our session is more like a political convention than a spiritual one.  We are more versed in procedure and policy than vision and purpose.  How serious are we as a church about seeking God’s will for us?  Really, how serious?  Serious enough to change our plans for His plan.

If Jesus came to our General Conference session without fanfare, as an ordinary person.  If he came without a delegates badge, no name, status, social standing or recognition, would we receive Him?  What if He told us all of our plans did not fit with His plans for the church.  Would we abandon them to follow His plan or would we abandon Him.  The next time someone calls us to prayer, will we pray, or will we call for a vote…

Have I Been a Neighbor Lately?

It was an interesting first day of the General Conference Session.  As always there were the pleasantries, the preliminaries, the working out of kinks in the the technical machinery as the voting devices were being tested.  There were the procedural formalities that sometimes can go unnoticed and undervalued for their importance.  And then came the first major report.  At least the first report of importance in my mind.  It was the addition of several new unions that were being added to the Seventh-day Adventist denomination since the last General Conference Session.  The first of several came from the continent of Africa.  All of the unions had memberships of 100,000 or more.  Some between 250,000 – 500,000 members.  I could not up keep with and did not record the exact figures, but at one point I noticed that three consecutive unions had a combined membership that was larger than the entire present membership of the North American Division; the division where the Seventh-day Adventist Church was founded in 1863.  Amazing when you stop to think that they had just been formed within the past five years since the last General Conference in 2010. There was one brief interruption before the vote, but they were unanimously voted into the sisterhood of organizations with hundreds of amens and applauds, etc.

Then came the next major event of the morning session.  The President of the General Conference introduced a gentleman(whose name I failed to remember-my humble apologies) who then introduced an idea of a video that was to be shown to the assembly.  It was presented as a solemn historic moment for us to watch and ponder in prayerful contemplation.  It was a dramatic scene from the past of the early Advent movement preparing for the 34th General Conference session in 1901.  In essence it portrayed what might have happened at that General Conference, had the attendees come together and unified.  Had they set aside their differences, confessed their sins and faults to each other, put aside their petty jealousies, envy, strife, back biting, etc. and come together, their unity would have ushered in the second return of Jesus Christ.  At least that is what was suggested by the video.  At the end of the video, the actor portraying Ellen White hears a voice who tells her what she is seeing did not actually happen.  The apologies she saw and the confessions made by the delegates to each other did not actually occur and the voice, (which I presume represented the voice of God) tells her, “this ‘might’ have been.”  The actor portraying Ellen then dramatically drops her head in tears realizing the great opportunity our church missed because its leaders were unwilling to confess their sins and faults to one another.  The screen went dark and then a phrase appeared reading…”What might have been…can still be…”  The President of the General Conference, joined by the officers of the General Conference, presented a typed statement with a message of unity that he and the General Conference officers had previously agreed to.  The message said that no matter what decisions or what the outcome of this General Conference, that we as members should not allow anything to divide us.  We should remain unified.  We were then asked to join in groups of two or three and kneel to pray.

As I reflected on these two high points of the morning session, I had many mixed feelings.  As one who is passionate about seeing new believers accepting Jesus Christ and joining His Kingdom I was excited and amazed by the phenomenal growth of our church on the continent of Africa.  We in the so-called “civilized western world” have much to learn about winning people to Jesus Christ from our so-called “third-world” brothers and sisters.  We get excited seeing three to five people baptized, while they are adding to the church the kind of numbers reminiscent of Pentecost.  But then the film depiction of the 1901 General Conference and the suggestion that the church was one “confession session” away from heaven.  Did I miss something?  Was that really what was being suggested?

Never mind the poor quality of screen play and acting, (when are we going to unleash the giftedness and talents of the millennial generation to help us with projects like this), but as I reflected on the content, without analyzing whether or not Ellen White’s statements were taken out of context and/or misrepresented.  As I looked at the film content itself at face value, it showed no semblance, no hint of racial, cultural, ethnic or even gender diversity among the attendees of the 34th General Conference.  The only visible female attendee, who was a character with any role in the film, was the one who portrayed Ellen White, the prophet.  There wasn’t any visible generational diversity depicted in the film.  The confessions that were made were only made among the attendees about themselves to each other.  There were no confessions about sins they may have committed because of their corporate ills.  No confessions about their lack of commitment to the world at large, or their lack of involvement in the social ills of the day.  No confession for their racial prejudices, or gender biases.  No confessions about any sins of omission about anything they failed to do in any area of life beyond their own private circle.  Is this the world we see ourselves as living in as a church?  Are these the only people we are responsible to?  And if we are in right relationship with our small narrow circle of friends and colleagues who look just like us, of the same race, age, socio-economic status as us; if we remain in right relationship them, is our salvation assured? Is THIS what delays the return of Jesus Christ?  REALLY???

Jesus was confronted by an expert lawyer who asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus astutely responded, “What is written in the law?”  The lawyer knows law.  He responds, “Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.”  “Correct,”  Jesus responds.  “Do this and you will live.”  But then the lawyer asks the seminal question of life, “Who is my neighbor?” It is the question that confronts all of us.  A question that is uncomfortable for us to truly answer.  It confronts us in parking lots and malls, when a beggar walks up to us asking for a hand out or walks by our car window with a dirty squeegee trying to clean our windshield.  We can never truly side step it or get around it and as Christians Jesus never makes it easy for us to answer.  And Jesus just had to tell a parable like the Good Samaritan to illustrate it, and make it impossible for us to escape.  Think about the victim for a moment.  The only descriptor Jesus gives us is that the person is a male.  We don’t know his race, culture, nationality, language, religious affiliation and because he is stripped naked we have no way of knowing his socio-economic status.  We don’t even know his sexual orientation, uh oh…That really makes it difficult doesn’t it.  But Jesus doesn’t make being His follower an easy proposition, because to LIVE is Christ and to die is GAIN.  In the end, Jesus answers the lawyers question with a question, and in doing so, changes the original question.  He asks, “Who WAS a neighbor to the man who fell in the hands of the robbers?”  The stuttering lawyer responds, “the one who had mercy(grace) on him.”  Jesus responds, “Go and do likewise!”

Do we really believe as a church that in 1901 we were only one confession session away from ushering in the return of Christ without answering the haunting question Jesus posed to the lawyer in Luke 10?  If the members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1901 understood their prophetic calling as preaching the everlasting gospel of Revelation 14:6-12 to every nation, how could they have believed Christ’s return was imminent when they had not presented the gospel to all of America, let alone the entire world.  The delay in Christ’s return has little to do with our inability to confess our faults to one another, as important as that is.  And please do not misunderstand me, I do not want to minimize the importance of what was done by the General Conference President and the officers.  We DO need to set aside all of our petty jealousies and differences and envies and ego striving and the like.  And we DO need to come together as a church regardless of what decisions are made at this General Conference.  But 2 Peter 3:9 is clear that God is delaying His return because He is long-suffering, not willing that any should perish but that ALL should come to repentance.  And how long will that delay be?  Only God in His mercy knows for sure.

So what must we do in the mean time?  We must continue to be faithful in presenting the everlasting gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.  And while we are fulfilling that prophetic call from God, we must continue to answer the seminal Christian question that Jesus asked the lawyer.  Not just, “who is my neighbor?”  That’s a little too inwardly focused and exclusive.  Jesus’ question is more outwardly focused and inclusive.  It still challenges us all, and He’s still asking it of us.  And so I leave you with the question that I live with me each day…”Have I Been A Neighbor Lately?”