Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 21 (Beyond the Manger, Jesus’ Giving)

I am writing tonight from beautiful Panama City Beach, Florida.

I am writing tonight from beautiful Panama City Beach, Florida.

When I was in the 3rd and 4th grades at Tulsa Adventist Academy, we had our classes in the church building as the school was being remodeled, including the cafeteria. For those two years we had to bring our own lunch to school each day as there were no warm lunches. Occasionally, one of my classmates would forget their lunch. When this happened, the rest of us would share a portion of our lunch, maybe an apple or two, and part of a sandwich and some chips, so that with our combined offerings, they would have a complete lunch. However, I don’t remember any of us giving all of our lunch away, but look at what Jesus did, as a child growing up with his step brothers, when he found someone without a lunch.

Jesus sought out these very ones, and spoke to them words of encouragement. To those who were in need He would give a cup of cold water, and would quietly place His own meal in their hands. As He relieved their sufferings, the truths He taught were associated with His acts of mercy, and were thus riveted in the memory. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 87

Jesus gave all, and because of His acts of mercy people listened to what He taught. His acts of mercy gave to merit to what He taught. Later in His life it was said of Jesus,

“No man ever spoke like this Man!” John 7:46 NKJV 

The reason that Christ spoke as no other man spoke was that He lived as no other man lived. If He had not lived as He did, He could not have spoken as He did. His words bore with them convincing power, because they came from a heart pure and holy, burdened with love and sympathy, beneficence and truth. . . .Ellen White, Heavenly Places, Page 237

Are your teachings accompanied  by acts of mercy and sympathy?

“If The President Does it, Then it is not Illegal.” Really?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson states, “In some cultures, there is a tendency to distrust and challenge leadership; in others, to blindly submit to it. How has your own culture’s attitude toward authority impacted the church in your area?”

In an interview with David Frost, Richard Nixon, a former United States President, forced to resign due to a scandal, defended himself by saying, “If the President does it, then it is not illegal.” This bold statement shocked David Frost, and every other competent thinker! I believe, in the United States, people really started to question their leaders after Nixon’s downfall.

I believe we keep a healthy balance of respect for leadership, without blind submission, when we ask for accountability and checks and balances. In the United States we have a constitution the President must hold to. The Constitution also declares who ultimately has the authority. It reads, “We the people.” Not “me the president” or “me Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison, or Ronald Regan or Barak Obama.” The power and authority of the constitution comes from ‘The People!” Therefore our president is not above the law.

In the church we have the Scriptures as our sole authority, and our leaders must be held accountable. Also the church as a body has authority,

”God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority.” –Last Day Events, page 56.

Just like in the United States, the President is not above the people, likewise church leaders are not above the church.

“The church is built upon Christ as its foundation; it is to obey Christ as its head. It is not to depend upon man, or be controlled by man. Many claim that a position of trust in the church gives them authority to dictate what other men shall believe and what they shall do. This claim God does not sanction. …. Upon no finite being can we depend for guidance. The Rock of faith is the living presence of Christ in the church. Upon this the weakest may depend, and those who think themselves the strongest will prove to be the weakest, unless they make Christ their efficiency. “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” The Lord “is the Rock, His work is perfect.” “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” Jeremiah 17:5; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 2:12.- Desire of Ages, Page 414.

Many years ago, I heard the testimony of a church leader, defending himself for some shady deals, saying his boss told him to do it, therefore he had no choice but to obey his boss who had “authority.” I am sure Joab was thinking the same thing when King David told him to put Uriah on the front lines of the war. Please read what God’s messenger has to say about Joab’s rationale.

“And Joab, whose allegiance had been given to the king rather than to God, transgressed God’s law because the king commanded it.  David’s power had been given him by God, but to be exercised only in harmony with the divine law. When he commanded that which was contrary to God’s law, it became sin to obey. “The powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1), but we are not to obey them contrary to God’s law. The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, sets forth the principle by which we should be governed. He says, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1.  –Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 719.

We need to be respectful of authority, but remember where authority ultimately comes from. And while respecting those in leadership, and even being in leadership, we must remember we are accountable to the Scriptures and God’s church, of which Christ is the Head.

I would also like to share a parting thought. In my years of Gospel Work around the country, I have met people who are afraid to speak up in board meetings or Church business meetings, because they feel they are too young or poor, and their influence would not be felt. I have also observed people abusing their age or money to hurt others. So this is what I say to all. No matter how young, old, rich or poor you are, you need to speak your mind in these meetings. And, no matter how young, old rich or poor you are, you need to be nice when you do. Everyone has a right to speak, and everyone has a responsibility to be nice when they do so.

Matthew 7; Moral Authority

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:  For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.  Matthew 7:28-29

 

 

This verse makes it clear, that while the scribes were all full of themselves because of their supposedly exalted positions, that in reality they had no authority or influence over the people. Why? Because, while an organization had given them a title of authority, they still had no moral authority. I like the way The Message Bible translates this verse. “When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying—quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.”

 

 

I remember growing up as a teen, wanting to follow Jesus, that there were older people that I looked up to and had spiritual relationships with, not because they had a title or position in the community, but because I sensed they truly walked with God. I also remember I chose them as my mentors, they did not choose me. I was not alone. A few years ago, I went to a youth leadership workshop. I am sorry I don’t remember the name of the man giving the workshop, but he confirmed that even today, children choose their own mentors. A child may belong to a church with three pastors and a youth director, but may feel more comfortable sharing their burdens with the church janitor. Chances are the janitor has an intimate relationship with God that the youth want to find. The janitor has moral authority when his or her life is harmony with God’s Word.

 

Last week I was in a youth evangelism council meeting, where a video by Andy Stanley was shown, where he talked about moral authority. He put a label on a concept that the Holy Spirit had been revealing to me for some time. Stanley calls it “moral authority.” I had never thought of that label before. Authority does not come from a title or position, it comes from character. In heaven, Lucifer wanted God’s authority but did not want His character. Problem is, the authority comes from the character. While Lucifer, like the rest of us can never be God nor should we seek to be God, we should be seeking His character instead of his power. Where there is no morality there is no authority. Your authority is limited to your morality, regardless of any position or title you may or may not have. In other words there are people with influence that have no position, and there are people with positions that have no influence. This is why many of them seek to use force and manipulation when they can’t lead naturally. Meanwhile there are others who lead, while using no titles, positions, force or manipulation, but are quite successful, because, they have moral authority.

 

Position does not give holiness of character. It is by honoring God and obeying His commands that a man is made truly great.  {Conflict and Courage, p. 189}