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Wednesday, November 17, 2021 - 18:41

The Fourth Watch

By Pastor Dwight K. Nelson

Dec
1
December 1, 2021

In answer to the question about the Greek alphabet, there are a total of 24 letters, with Omicron (transcribed as an “o”) as #15 in the alphabet, and just eight letters away from the last letter, Omega.

Of course, nobody’s interested in the Greek alphabet—but everybody is wondering how many more variants will there be to the deadly COVID-19 virus that has crippled this planet and has (through its Delta variant) stricken our own Berrien County. The heartache of an unexpected death, the specter of a pandemic unceasing in its spread, the growing number of people we know and love becoming infected—we thought all of this was the story of last Christmas. But as it turns out, this Advent season is beginning to feel as somber as the last one we survived together.

But this is no time for fear. Pioneer, thanks to your faithful compliance to safety and health protocols, is pressing ahead in our Kingdom mission—“Love on the Move”—on Sabbaths as well as weekdays, pandemic or not. But it is only prudent that we keep a watchful eye on global and national trackings. While the Omicron variant is reportedly less severe in its symptoms but more contagious in its spread, the truth is—we simply don’t know. Then again, what is “less severe” to those who are already in at-risk categories of life?

Thus this congregation (through its Safety Committee, Church Board, and pastoral team) will continue to monitor national and local trends. And should there need to be a change in our Christmas plannings and celebrations, we will notify our members via direct email or through this eLetter.

In the meantime, the truth is—it really doesn’t matter how many more letters there are, for Jesus is the summation of the entire alphabet—its first letter and its last: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last’” (Revelation 1:8, 17). And the good news is—He is every letter in between as well. This means whether we’re at the beginning of life’s alphabet or near the end—or, for that matter, anywhere in between—His nail-scarred hand securely holds us.

“Rejoice, rejoice!” No matter how many pandemic variants scientists may yet discover, the Alpha and the Omega is our Lord and Savior. Birthed in a crude manger, crucified on that gnarly tree, returning on a fiery cloud sooner than we think—this is our Jesus of this Advent season. 

“O come, let us adore Him!” 

Nov
17
November 17, 2021

Four centuries ago this autumn—“. . . it was probably in late September or early October [1621], soon after [the Pilgrim’s] crop of corn, squash, beans, barley, and peas had been harvested” (Nathaniel Philbrick Mayflower 117)—the decimated band of immigrant refugees to these shores had by a breath barely survived that treacherous winter before.

The numbers speak volumes: “ . . . 45 of the original 102 colonists died during the first winter. There were 17 fatalities in February alone.  Many succumbed to the elements, malnutrition, and diseases such as scurvy. Frequently two or three died on the same day. Four entire families perished and there was only one family that didn’t lose at least one member. Of the 18 married women, 13 died. Only three of 13 children perished, probably because mothers were giving their share of food to the children” (www.weatherconcierge.com/the-pilgrims-barely-survived-a-harsh-first-wint...).

And yet crippled though they were by those losses, these fifty-two English trans-Atlantic survivors turned a subsequent bountiful summer crop into a three-day harvest feast for the fledgling band of Pilgrims and their benefactor guests, Chief Massasoit, and his ninety Wampanoag warriors. “O give thanks unto the Lord.”

(Although truth be told, there is no celebration in the Wampanoag Nation today. In fact, “for the Wampanoags and many other American Indians, the fourth Thursday in November is considered a day of mourning, not a day of celebration” (www.washingtonpost.com/history/2021/11/04/thanksgiving-anniversary-wampa...). Once a thriving nation between 30,000 and 100,000 in eastern Massachusetts, Wampanoags today number 2,800—their homeland gone, their own numbers decimated. “O give thanks unto the Lord”?)

Four hundred years ago, of course, William Bradford had no inkling of the subsequent history. As the elected governor of these English immigrants, he declared their time of communal gratitude to be an occasion to “[gather] the fruit of our labors” and “rejoice together . . . after a more special manner” (Philbrick 117). 

Years after that first “thanksgiving,” the aged Bradford looked back to testify: “What could now sustain them [those survivors] but the spirit of God and His grace? May not and ought not the children of these fathers rightly say: ‘Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in the wilderness; but they cried unto the Lord, and He heard their voice and looked on their adversity [see Deuteronomy 26:7]’” (Philbrick 46).

And “may not and ought not” the children of America today—we who come from every land to inhabit this same land—join that ancient chorus: “O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and His love endures forever” (Psalm 136). 

But with that glad acclamation shall we not also resolve to be “Love on the Move” to the “strangers within our gates,” the refugees and immigrants who settle in our midst?  Of all people, shall we not extend the compassion of our Lord Jesus to the alienated, the disenfranchised, the marginalized residents of this land? “O give thanks unto the Lord.”

Nov
10
November 10, 2021

It was to be a simple day-trip hike in the beautiful, autumn-colored Colorado mountains last month. What’s not to like about that “Rocky Mountain high” of deep blue skies towering over rugged grey rock terrain amidst the you-can-smell-them rich conifer greens? Ahead is Mount Elbert’s peak and the South Trailhead that climbs toward it. What a day for a hike!

But at the end of the day around 8 p.m., someone called Lake County Search and Rescue, reporting the hiker was long overdue. Could they please help locate the individual?

All night long search and rescue teams combed surrounding areas to find the missing hiker. “‘Multiple attempts to contact the subject via their cell phone were unsuccessful,’” a Lake County statement later reported.

But lo and behold, more than 24 hours later the hiker returned home. Where have you been—the whole county has been searching for you!

According to the Lake County statement, the subject (whose identity and gender was being protected) lost the trail around nightfall, spent the night searching for the missing trail, finally found it, and reached their car the next morning. “‘They had no idea that SAR [search and rescue] was out looking for them.’”

But the closing to this news report (several readers sent me) is a classic. From the Lake County statement: “‘One notable take-away is that the subject ignored repeated phone calls from us because they didn’t recognize the number.’” Can you believe it? The hiker’s phone kept ringing through the night from an unrecognized phone number, but since they didn’t know who was calling, they decided not to answer. Help was one phone call away—but they wouldn’t answer the phone!

When social media turned critical of this hapless hiker, the Lake County Search and Rescue came to the hiker’s defense: “‘Please remember that what seems like common sense in hindsight is not obvious to a subject in the moment when they are lost and panicking’” (www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/hiker-lost-24-hours-ignored-rescuers-calls-because-they-didn-n1282381). 

I’m amazed at how many of us have lived through the double-header crisis of this pandemic, watched from afar the still erupting Capitol meltdown, tracked the global headlines of climate change, bemoaning the moral hemorrhaging of this culture and its collapsing values, and complaining about supply chain disruptions that threaten our Christmas gifts from China . . . and all the while our phones are ringing off the hook from an unidentified caller. Has it occurred to anybody it might be God on the other end? And that we might be more lost than even we think?

How did our Lord put it? “‘But be on your guard. Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. Otherwise, that Day is going to take you by complete surprise, spring on you suddenly like a trap, for it’s going to come on everyone, everywhere, at once. So, whatever you do, don’t fall asleep at the wheel. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that’s coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man’” (Luke 12:34-36 Message).

I.e., answer the phone!

Or in the words of the American writer Ellen White: “God of heaven, wake us up!” (Last Day Events 26)

Answer the phone.

Nov
3
November 3, 2021

All of Australia is breathing a sigh of grateful relief, now that police investigators hours ago rescued a missing four-year-old girl named Cleo. Eighteen nights ago she and her family were sleeping in a tent by a remote but popular tourist site along the west coast, Quobba Blowholes. Sometime after 1:30 AM when Cleo awakened to ask for a drink of water before falling back to sleep, police concluded she was abducted, sleeping bag and all pulled through a zippered tent flap (unzipped higher than a child would have raised it).

For eighteen days the frantic family has pleaded for her return, the anxious country tracking the “massive police search” on national news. 

Then hours ago just after midnight, Wednesday (Perth time) detectives found the proverbial needle in the haystack, when they broke into a house not far from Cleo’s home. Deputy Police Commissioner Col Blanch told 6PR radio: “When she said ‘My name is Cleo,’ I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. I have seen seasoned detectives openly crying with relief. I am speechless which is very rare . . . this is something we all hoped in our hearts, and it has come true’” (www.cnn.com/2021/11/02/americas/australian-police-cleo-smith-intl/index.html).

The rescue of a child—the whole world shares the supreme priority such an undertaking commands.

A few hours after Cleo was found in Australia, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) here in the United States announced: “‘Together, with science leading the charge, we have taken another important step forward in our nation's fight against the virus that causes COVID-19,’ CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. ‘We know millions of parents are eager to get their children vaccinated and with this decision, we now have recommended that about 28 million children receive a COVID-19 vaccine’” (www.cbsnews.com/news/kids-covid-vaccine-cdc-recommend/). 

Now children as young as five may receive the Pfizer vaccine, to the relief of parents—as once again the rescue of a child (or in this case millions of children) rightfully occupies the center stage of adult attention.

No wonder Jesus uses the figure of “a little one” to get our attention in words often overlooked: “‘And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward’” (Matthew 10:42). While commentators suggest these “little ones” aren’t actually biological children—Frederick Dale Bruner suggests this verse means “giving even the tiniest social help to less significant Christians” (Matthew: A Commentary 1:497)—Jesus could very well be including children as young as five in calling us to show loving attention to the littlest among us.

Consider the Pioneer Sabbath Schools that faithfully open to our children (from a day old to the hoary-haired eldest among us) Sabbath after Sabbath, in spite of the pandemic still lingering across the land. Consider the masked Pioneer adults and teenagers who are staffing these Sabbath Schools simply because they care for children and love Jesus. What a compelling witness to the value of reaching one “little one” for the Savior. God bless our Pioneer children. And God abundantly rewards our Pioneer volunteers who serve up Jesus’ love for children in a simple cup of refreshing water. 

The rescue of a child—the whole world shares the supreme priority such an undertaking commands.

Oct
27
October 27, 2021

I am pleased and grateful to share with you the good news that Pacific Press Publishing Association has just released the book I wrote this last winter, American Apocalypse. Based on what we shared last fall—but with new chapters and material added—this book is a candid, earnest biblical examination of where America stands in the stream of apocalyptic history. One of the editors of the PPPA happened to listen in on some of that pulpit series and asked me to write the manuscript. 

I wrote American Apocalypse with the humble prayer that those not of my faith community would find it both intriguing and convincing. In fact, a few days ago I sent the book to two out-of-town friends of mine—one a physician and the other a pastor.

I don’t mind sharing with you, who are part of my own spiritual family, my prayer that politicians in America would have the chance to examine the case presented in this book. I wish the president would have an opportunity to read the book. I wish the former president the same. Every judge, every mayor, every county commissioner—is that too great an ambition? I think not. After all, Paul himself—the focus of our current pulpit series—lived with one aspiration: “Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, 'Those who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard of him shall understand’” (Romans 5:20-21). 

And so I am praying this fresh examination of the prophetic Word will ignite for American readers an intellectual paradigm shift, along with a deepening spiritual conviction that life as we know it in this country and even globally is crumbling. 

Jon Meacham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, and historian, in his book The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels recognizes: “There is, in fact, no struggle more important, and none nobler, than the one we wage in service of those better angels who, however, besieged, are always ready for battle” (272). “Angels always ready for battle”? If he only knew!

But you and I do know. And so please join me in praying that the Spirit of Christ will attend this book and send it to inquiring minds, perplexed souls that wonder what could possibly happen next. Knowing what you and I know, is this not an opportune moment to speak up for Jesus?

Oct
20
October 20, 2021

We live in a world where debate over collective decisions, ostensibly connected to science, has become our daily news fare. Two of this nation’s largest cities (New York and Chicago) are hotly debating municipal mandates to require Covid vaccinations of city employees. And both the Yay-sayers and the Nay-sayers are loudly trumpeting their opinions, both conflicting conclusions appealing to science for support. Decisions, decisions.

It really isn’t any different with climate change. Nearly everyone who prognosticates about what this planet is facing has staked out a position on greenhouse gasses and rising global temperatures—from dire warnings on the one hand to dismissive “this has happened throughout Earth history without catastrophic consequences” reasoning on the other hand. And once again, both conflicting conclusions appeal to science for support. Decisions, decisions.

I suppose we ought to be used to it by now, this world of ours so radically divided—over science, politics, economics, morality, race, health care, or even caring at all. It is probably fair to say we really haven’t seen anything yet, given where all this division appears to be headed.

But there is one science over which many of us are agreed—the science the great apostle Paul described: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:10). The American writer Ellen White called it the “science of salvation”: “The foundation of all true science is contained in the Bible. Every branch of knowledge may be found by searching the word of God. And above all else, it contains the science of all sciences, the science of salvation. The Bible is the mine of the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Christ’s Object Lessons 107, emphasis supplied).

“The science of salvation”—it is what we were blessed to witness evening after evening as Richie Halversen preached his heart out in our recent revival series—“The Darkness Will Not Overcome”—appealing to every listener to make a decision for Jesus and His salvation. (The edited series will soon be posted on our website.)

And as a result, we are rejoicing over the many decisions made for Christ, decisions made not just privately in our hearts, but openly through texted responses. Pastor Rodlie reports 35 of those in attendance texted in their decision and desire to begin a relationship with Jesus. Thirty-two individuals texted in their wish to study the Bible with someone. Seven people made the decision to follow Jesus in baptism. And 43 individuals indicated their wish to talk with someone about a matter on their hearts. God be praised! (We are now following up on these texted requests.) 

Decisions, decisions—it is the stuff of gospel preaching and the reality of “the science of salvation” manifested through the work of the Holy Spirit on listening hearts.

Let’s face it. This civilization may never agree on the most vital scientific decisions humanity faces. But it is surely clear to us all that the most critical decision of all—to come to the Savior of the world while there is still time to freely choose Him—is the one invitation, the one decision we must be most passionate about and proactive in extending to all. Because ultimately “Love on the Move” at Pioneer is simply the friends and disciples of Jesus loving lost men, women, and children to the Savior. On that, we can all be agreed.

Sep
22
September 22, 2021

Bruce Wilkinson tells the story (perhaps it was a dream) about a Mr. Jones who was enjoying a personal tour of heaven. Eyes wide with wonder, he couldn’t get enough! But then he and his guide passed a large warehouse, which the guide ignored. Perplexed Mr. Jones asked why they weren’t stopping. “Oh, it’s nothing you’d be interested in.” “But yes I am interested—please show me what’s inside.”

The guide relents, prepares for the disappointment, and opens the door. Turns out “the enormous building is filled with row after row of shelves, floor to ceiling, each stacked neatly with white boxes tied in red ribbons.” Mr. Jones begins to walk the aisles and quickly notices each box has a name on it. “Is there a box here for me?” he eagerly asks. The guide reluctantly nods but before he can explain, Mr. Jones races toward the J section of the warehouse, quickly locating the box with his name on it.

Slipping off the ribbon and popping off the lid, Mr. Jones peers inside and lets out a deep sigh, as he recognizes the contents of the box. “Because there in Mr. Jones' white box are all the blessings God wanted to give to him while he was on earth . . . but Mr. Jones had never asked” (The Prayer of Jabez 25-27).

“You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2).

Makes you wonder what is in your box, doesn’t it? What are the gifts we could have had, had we asked?

Could there be a box marked “Pioneer Memorial Church” and another for “Andrews University”?

I think of “The Darkness Will Not Overcome” series with Richie Halversen beginning a few days from now (October 1 - 9). Could it be Heaven is primed and eagerly waiting for us to plead with God for the saving of lost people we know? Might it be God and His angels are standing by, unwilling to force themselves on us, but thoroughly prepared to supernaturally intervene in the life of this campus and this congregation, if we would “but for the showers we plead” (to quote the familiar hymn).

Steps to Christ wonders: “Why should the sons and daughters of God be reluctant to pray, when prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven's storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence?” (94-95).

Regarding the upcoming series, your pastors and chaplains have each taken a day of prayer to cover the days between now and opening evening, Friday, October 1. Your House of Prayer communities (AM and PM) are taking the 24 hours from Thursday 7:00 PM to Friday 7:00 PM (at both the beginning and the ending of this series) to earnestly intercede before God on behalf of Pastor Richie and all who will attend this event.

And you, too, can join us in these prayers. (1) Pray for people you know who need to meet Jesus, their Savior. (2) Pray for God’s timing to guide your simple and short invitation for some of them to join you. (3) Pray for an unusual, supernatural moving across this campus, a divine turning these young hearts and minds toward the soon-coming Christ. Why not be praying prayers like these at this critical juncture in Earth history?

What was that line? “Prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven’s storehouse”—what are its contents?—“where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence.” It surely is the right time to empty Heaven’s warehouse. And it surely must be right for us to pray and pray for God’s boundless resources. Why leave a single box unemptied?

Sep
15
September 15, 2021

This evening at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, if all goes as carefully planned, the youngest American ever will fly into space. Hayley Arceneaux, 29 years old, joins the first all-civilian crew (not a single professional astronaut onboard) to orbit the earth, thanks to the largess of billionaire entrepreneur Jared Isaacman. And what’s not to like about her story?

At ten years of age, doctors discovered she had cancer of the bone. “‘When I got that bone cancer diagnosis I was so scared. After the doctor told me I had cancer I just kept saying “I don't wanna die. I don't wanna die.” And at age 10, everyone I knew with cancer had passed away,’ Arceneaux said” (www.wbrz.com/news/baton-rouge-local-to-become-youngest-american-in-space-wednesday/). 

From Baton Rouge, Louisiana, young Haley plunged into the fight of her life, spending a year at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Her regimen was a grueling series of chemotherapy treatments and surgeries. But they saved her life and her leg, most of it. 

Two decades later now, Haley Arceneaux is working “her dream job” in the very place where a ten-year-old found hope. “‘Ever since I was a patient at St. Jude, I knew I wanted to grow up and work there. I just felt so close, part of the St. Jude family, and I was given so much hope that I wanted to share that hope with other kids going through the same thing’” (ibid).

But her dream job soared to new heights a few months ago when an unexpected phone call from St. Jude announced she had been selected to join this first all civilian mission to space “to bring awareness and fundraising to St. Jude” (ibid).

Turns out she is not only going to inspire young Americans battling cancer, she is set to inspire prosthesis wearers as she becomes the first person wearing a prosthesis to be rocketed into space.

By the way, her preparation has not been for the faint of heart. “Training was primarily academic, but the crew also spent a lot of time in a spacecraft simulator, spent a weekend training in fighter jets, and underwent traditional astronaut training exercises, including centrifuge, water-survival, and hypoxia training” (www.wbrz.com).

Haley’s motivation? “‘What I’m most excited about is being the first pediatric cancer survivor to go to space, because I’m thinking about all these kids that are gonna come after me . . . just like me going through something difficult and then knowing that they can do big things’” (ibid).

A story to inspire us all, wouldn’t you agree? Turns out there is no limit to what the young of the world, the young of the church, can accomplish with support from people like the rest of us—who though not so young anymore, are young at heart enough to invest our lives in helping the youngest reach the farthest.

Our mission? To mentor them to: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). 

There’s a line I’ve scribbled in my Bible to help me remember these intrepid young: “With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour might be carried to the whole world! How soon might the end come—the end of suffering and sorrow and sin!” (Education 271)

This campus congregation exists to raise up, to inspire, to equip this young army of workers for Christ. That’s why we’ve set a goal for a quarter of every ministry team to be young Adventists. That’s why our exemplary children’s and youth Sabbath Schools exist, along with our Pathfinder and Adventurer clubs. That’s why we provide significant financial support (thanks to your faithful generosity) for Ruth Murdoch Elementary School and Andrews Academy. That’s why our Grow Group strategy targets university students, both as group leaders and members. That’s why we’ve invited Richie Halversen to join us (October 1 - October 9) to connect with the campus young through his “The Darkness Will Not Overcome” series at Pioneer. 

Why all this? I repeat—we exist to inspire, to equip, to mobilize the young for our Lord Jesus. After all, our praying, our volunteering, our mentoring, our giving on behalf of our young will ensure we join them on the one space flight that matters most—with Jesus.

Sep
8
September 8, 2021

It was a sun-bathed gorgeous Tuesday morning. I was in my study reading when colleague and friend Skip MacCarty called. “Turn on your TV!” “Why?” “Just turn on your TV” was all he would say. So I switched on a black and white 12-inch television (anybody remember those?) in the family room. NBC. As the small screen popped on, there was Tom Brokaw instructing, “Let’s reroll that video clip of the plane again.” I thought he might be referring to a small Cessna. In disbelief, I watched as a jetliner slammed into the side of the World Trade Center. An orange ball of flame. And the rest is history.

For all of us living outside New York City and Washington, D.C. and later Shanksville, Pennsylvania—the day was a nonstop vicarious blur of suffering. Here in our little village, televisions on and off campus were running continuous loops of video clips, as somber-faced newscasters intoned a stream of new updates for what became a trifecta of unfathomable news. And sometime during that broken morning came the nation’s realization somebody somewhere had perpetrated it all.

September 11, 2001.

A few hours later, Tuesday noon, the phone rang in our Pioneer church office, a call from Danny Shelton, executive director of 3 Angels Broadcasting network. “We’d like to bring our satellite truck up there to Andrews University—would you help us host a live national prayer hour from Pioneer?” Of course. How do you put a program together in the face of such a national tragedy, the toll of the dead and missing climbing toward 3000 in what would become “the deadliest terrorist act in world history” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_September_11_attacks)?

September 11, 2001.

A few days ago PBS television ran a new documentary, “Generation 9/11.” It consists of a string of on-camera interviews with children who were conceived before but born after September 11, 2001—children whose fathers perished in the mayhem of that single morning—parents they never knew but only heard about when they became old enough to understand. PBS’s own promo explains: “‘Generation 9/11' is an intimate film driven by the stories and personalities of its protagonists, who were born in the wake of a global tragedy which, for them, was also deeply personal. But it is also the story an entire generation that has been shaped by the attacks and their aftermath” (www.pbs.org/video/generation-911-9pozv4/).

September 11, 2021. 

Truth is, most of the university and high school students in our parish today have no recollection of that fateful day two decades ago. September 11, 2001, for GenZers, is what December 7, 1941, is for Baby Boomers—a “day of infamy” to be sure, but a day we know very little about, except for our high school history classes.

So how should we live—all of us—irrespective of when we were born? The same Jesus who warned of smug complacency—“Those who died when the tower fell on them, do you think they were more guilty than all the others living? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (see Luke 13:4-5)—this same Jesus went on to tell a parable only Luke records. About a vineyard owner who had a fig tree that “refused” to bloom three years in a row. Totally frustrated, the owner commanded the vineyard keeper to cut the fruitless tree down. But the servant urged the owner to give him one more year with super-duper fertilizer. “‘If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down’” (Luke 13:9). The End.

Jesus’ point? Anniversaries of tragedies only remind us we live on a planet running out of time. One of these days “the big one” will strike, and then it’s curtains for everyone. “So repent!” is Jesus’ clear appeal. What shall we repent of? That which separates us from God, “the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1). Why? Because divine compassion, though more than long-suffering, is not interminable. Nor is the life we have been given. Anniversaries of such sudden, unexpected tragedies are somber divine calls: “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). 

Because the truth is, now is the best time any of us has left with Jesus. And Jesus is the best news any of us needs right now.

Sep
1
September 1, 2021

What if you were living somewhere in Afghanistan, racing across the dusty wilderness toward Kabul, desperate to catch the last flight out of that beleaguered city, only to arrive in time to see the aircraft's jet trail vanish into the ether? In two conversations last weekend I talked with individuals who have been apprised of the actual situation on the ground and who have assured me there still are many who for legitimate reasons hoped against hope to be on that last plane out. But alas, it was a not-to-be.
 

In a fete of prescient timing, the latest issue of Christianity Today arrived two days ago—cover story, “The Other Story of Afghanistan” (September, 2021). The author Rebecca Hopkins reports on the backstory behind the humanitarian aid of nongovernment organizations in the country, about 140 of them (according to the US Agency for International Development), many of them Christian organizations. While the Afghan record of aid workers suffering violent deaths over the past twenty years is somber, nevertheless workers of these charitable agencies continue to serve Afghanistan’s predominantly Sunni Muslim populace.
 

An author and aid worker, who for safety reasons uses the pseudonym Anna Hampton, says that while some will leave the country “because of security concerns,” the fact is “others will find ways to stay.” She went on, “‘There is a 100-year modern history of the Christian foreigner in Afghanistan. . . . It’ll get small again, but it’ll be there.’” Why do such workers remain? “‘We love Jesus and we love the Afghan people’” (39).
 

But in a biblically correct though perhaps (in this case) unexpected interpretation, Anna Hampton defends those who have chosen to leave the country: “‘Both Jesus and Paul fled risky situations,’ she said. ‘Workers need to see where God is speaking and guiding and leading them either to continue to move into a higher risk situation, or to retreat for a time’” (39-40).
 

In last week’s blog, we reminded ourselves we can still have an important part in helping meet the needs of Afghanis through our prayers, our donations to the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (www.adra.org), and our choice to serve the needy who live here in our own community.
 

But if you wish to specifically partner with an effort to assist those who missed the last plane out of Kabul, “a diverse group of all-volunteer NGO workers, pilots, and concerned citizens with extensive cumulative experience in Afghanistan and other international conflict contexts” has formed Operation Rescue. Under the auspices of nPraxis International ("a US-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit registered with the Internal Revenue Service and the Tennessee Secretary of State”—www.npraxisinternational.org), you may help Operation Rescue with your support (www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=4PD5KLKLYZY7C).
 

The truth is we live in a civilization—unwary and unsaved—awaiting the last flight out. The Second Coming of Jesus, by its very promise, adds to the gospel appeal of Holy Scripture an urgency we must not ignore. August 31 was was the deadline in Kabul. Who knows the deadline for Earth? What we know is clear enough: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:27-28 emphasis added).

 

Have your friends, family members, neighbors and colleagues secured their place on the last flight out? What are we waiting for?