Priority 1 Transmission

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The following is Ray’s rebuttal to several text messages I sent him which are discussed in the previous entry. I follow his rebuttal with a reply of my own.

From Ray:

Hey –
I hope you don’t mind me emailing you a response to your last text.  It seems more appropriate to write long messages here.  I’m not a fan of long texts, I use those for short messages that I can both send and respond to quickly.  I prefer emails for the long stuff.  When I get a long one, sometimes I forget to take the time to respond because I don’t use text messages that way.  When I sit down at a computer, I’m in a better position to respond to a long message, and I have my keyboard which also helps.

So, in regards to your last long text –
Yes, according to Jesus, the first of all the commandments is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind”, and the second is to “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mark 12:29-31).  The motives of the heart are the emphasis here, and these should be a focus of everyone who would follow Jesus.
With that in mind, Jesus said a lot about a lot of things.  When He was among His disciples, they asked about the signs of the end, and when His second coming would be.  Jesus then starts off by saying, “take heed that no man deceive you”, and goes on to describe the conditions at the end.  Now, keeping the first of all the commandments in mind, why would Jesus answer them with a description of the end of things?  Why not just say, ‘keep loving God and in each other and I’ll take care of the rest’?  It was because that same love described in the commandment prompted Him to warn them about things to come, so that when they came, they would neither be deceived nor dismayed.  They could keep their heads up high and rest assured that a time of trouble would take place, but that it would end one day and they would reunite with Him when it was all over.

Of course they died long ago, and so the warning is now to the descendants of the disciples.  But the message is still the same.  The allegorical comparisons of Jesus’ words and their accuracy and relevance today would astound the most astute Bible student.  And just as the first commandment, as you referenced, is ‘what we should be doing’, let’s keep the entire Bible in focus.  I fear that the bigger picture may be missed if the pleasant words of Jesus are ingested to the neglect or overlooking of the entirety of His message, a sort of buffet-style approach to scripture.


You mentioned that, “what rubs me wrong about SDAs is this constant worry and emphasis about the papacy, the gays, other sin and the world.  It’s very tribal, very alarmist…”  My experience has been that the messages you will hear from an Adventist preacher are more comprehensive than just those things.  I haven’t heard those things emphasized often.  They may be mentioned within a message, but not necessarily a point of emphasis.  I’m sorry if this has been your experience.  I imagine that your identity/orientation may be a sensitive spot that gets poked in sermons at times, and you may be hyper-aware when it happens, especially when attending a church that you know holds an opposing view to it (correct me if I’m wrong).


Studying the Bible together would be great.  I agree with you!  I used to hold Bible studies at my house weekly and invite many people over for food and fellowship, and for study.  It would be nice to have something where we could all get together to connect and get to know each other better.  This suggestion should become an action item, hopefully soon.

Let me touch on Doug’s platform for a bit –
At the beginning of the year, he held a weekend seminar that was focused on getting back to Bible study and he emphasized the need for personal Bible study.  He shared about his study habits and the need for everyone to study for themselves, not just take what the preacher tells them.


A couple of months later, he held another weeklong series about the sanctuary in the Bible, and its ties to salvation.  He was one of several speakers on the subject, and as he usually does he held space for questions and answers for the panel.  If you haven’t studied the sanctuary and how it relates to Jesus’ life, you’re missing out on some BIG lessons that weave their way throughout the scripture and tie in to us today.
A couple of months later, a young adult conference was held that had messages geared toward young people and the challenges they face in their lives.  Guest speakers came from various places around the globe and energized the young adults.  This is where my sister-in-law and her cousin were inspired to attend AFCOE, aka Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism.


At AFCOE, a group of evangelism students learn how to study the Bible, how to minister in different capacities, how to go door-to-door sharing the gospel with others, all under the direction of Doug and his crew.  One part of their class is to participate in the evangelistic series that you and I went to (that was the opening night).  When they graduate, they will have earned a certificate they can use for work in ministry in other churches, and they will have earned college credits that they can use towards an Adventist college.  Many graduates become bible workers in churches, helping them to grow, put on programs, connect with their communities, and so forth.  They go on to become lay pastors, health ministry leaders, medical missionaries, youth directors… the list goes on.  This is one of the bigger efforts that Doug does yearly for the past couple of decades.


This is what I mean when I say the messages I hear are comprehensive.  I think I told you I don’t attend Granite Bay Hilltop SDA Church because of its size.  But to their credit, the work they do reaches far and wide, the messages focus on a multitude of topics, and they offer opportunities for growth to those who are dedicated.  Some of the people who attended the night we did were church regulars.  Some of them were students, working in various capacities.  And some were invited by those same students to come and learn about things they’ve never studied or looked at in-depth.  And some of those people will be baptized and will learn even more as Doug continues to put on series after series, touching on different topics and answering questions from these new people.


Let me add a quick note about the extravagance of that particular church – you’re not the only one who looks at it and questions whether funds could be spent more prudently.  But before we start counting the church’s money, consider this: they didn’t count yours.  When you came in, there was no admission fee or a charge for the materials.  They made it a point to say at the beginning that they would not ask for money throughout the presentations.  And, consider this: as far as the rules on how non-profit funds are spent, whenever a person marks their tithe/offering envelope and designates an area in which they want their donation to go, that non-profit is legally bound to spend that money for that particular purpose.  For example, if I give to a church and indicate on my offering envelope that I want the money I’m giving to go towards supplies for the children’s programs, they can’t spend that money on the potluck meal.  They are audited by an outside entity every few years and must give an account of all of their receipts.  If there is any foul play here, it will be caught sooner or later.  With that being said, I don’t know how many people give or where they are designating their funds to go towards, but it would appear that there is a good amount going towards the evangelism budget. 

If there is anyone to blame for this, it wouldn’t be Doug – it would be the donors.  And I don’t know what the strategy is for a church reaching out to an affluent community such as Rocklin where the church is located, but I think it’s better simply to question their strategy than to pass some type of judgment on it and ask questions later.

Ok, now my quick view on Adventism – when it first started, it was people from different faiths, coming together and trying their best to wrestle with the Scriptures to know the truth about the Bible.  It was ex-Catholics, ex-Lutherans, ex-Baptists, etc sharing their views on scripture and coming to some consensus on what the Bible actually says.  There were some arguments and disagreements, for sure, but there was sincerity in searching for the truth.  Their religion became the religion they found in the Bible, not the religion of their forefathers or what was handed to them.  I’d like to think that Adventism is what you get when you take the Bible for what it really says, and that may mean that you don’t necessarily agree with everyone around you, even within your own church.  And much of that comes from painstaking effort on the part of every true searcher for truth, having an open mind and being able to adjust your views on a subject when biblically warranted.


I have more to write, but I think that’s enough for now.  If you’ve gotten down this far, thanks for hanging in there with me!  I appreciate the space to write.  I wish we could get together more, maybe we wouldn’t need to write so much.  My Mondays are still open for us to get together.
Later,
Ray

My response: (Ray’s texts in italics)

Correspondence via email is fine. 

With that in mind, Jesus said a lot about a lot of things.  When He was among His disciples, they asked about the signs of the end, and when His second coming would be.  Jesus then starts off by saying, “take heed that no man deceive you”, and goes on to describe the conditions at the end.  Now, keeping the first of all the commandments in mind, why would Jesus answer them with a description of the end of things?  Why not just say, ‘keep loving God and in each other and I’ll take care of the rest’?  It was because that same love described in the commandment prompted Him to warn them about things to come, so that when they came, they would neither be deceived nor dismayed.  They could keep their heads up high and rest assured that a time of trouble would take place, but that it would end one day and they would reunite with Him when it was all over.


Of course they died long ago, and so the warning is now to the descendants of the disciples.  But the message is still the same.  The allegorical comparisons of Jesus’ words and their accuracy and relevance today would astound the most astute Bible student.  And just as the first commandment, as you referenced, is ‘what we should be doing’, let’s keep the entire Bible in focus.  I fear that the bigger picture may be missed if the pleasant words of Jesus are ingested to the neglect or overlooking of the entirety of His message, a sort of buffet-style approach to scripture.

In Matthew 24, the disciples initiated a conversation because they were curious about when the end times would occur and what the signs of Jesus returning would entail.  Jesus then tells them to take heed not to be deceived by false Christs (people claiming to be Jesus), he was not warning them to take heed of the end times.  A subtle distinction.   Then Jesus describes various things to come but tells them, hey, if you hear about wars or famine etc that isn’t the sign of me coming.  Wars, famines, pestilence, etc have been going on but dont look at that and say “its a sign of Jesus returning”

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.  That hasn’t happened yet.   But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  Here he’s encouraging endurance in the face of difficulty.  He then caps it off with a condition necessary for the end to come.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world.  I think its rather debatable that the gospel has been preached everywhere.

There is certainly an effort, but there’s massive swaths of individuals in the middle east, India, China, North Korea etc that it hasn’t arguably reached.  The time of tribulation described subsequently has not occurred.

Jesus then caps this off with the parable of the fig tree saying  Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.  Jesus is talking about one generation having to endure the great tribulation that is to come.  It’s unlikely that we are that future generation.

The chapter ends with the parable of the faithful and evil servant.  In that parable, the message is about being faithful and regulating our behaviors.  Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing In this context “wise” means judicious, prudent, sensible, showing sound loving judgment. It suggests an understanding of people and situations, showing unusual discernment and judgment in dealing with them. In short, Christ once again circles back to needing to be faithful in your behavior by showing love and not being indulgent. 

The focus is about what you can do in the here and now.  Its about being ready but not for the end times but to be judged by how you conduct yourself for you won’t know when he’s coming.  Be it in the sky or if you suddenly see him after dying.

You mentioned that, “what rubs me wrong about SDAs is this constant worry and emphasis about the papacy, the gays, other sin and the world.  It’s very tribal, very alarmist…”  My experience has been that the messages you will hear from an Adventist preacher are more comprehensive than just those things.  I haven’t heard those things emphasized often.  They may be mentioned within a message, but not necessarily a point of emphasis.  I’m sorry if this has been your experience.  I imagine that your identity/orientation may be a sensitive spot that gets poked in sermons at times, and you may be hyper-aware when it happens, especially when attending a church that you know holds an opposing view to it (correct me if I’m wrong).
I know the message is comprehensive.  It’s why I still attended other SDA sermons.  As I’ve told you, I enjoy and believe many aspects of the SDA belief system.  I know it isn’t always an emphasis but the anti-gay, papacy stuff, admonishing is interwoven into many of the sermons as touchstones.  So frequently I hear being trans or sexual orientation as the go-to proof of modern day immorality and depravity and sign of the end.  I have always wanted to ask you, “Do you think that regardless of what I do/feel, because I’m trans/bi, that I will be deemed as living in sin and punished with the second death?”  You may not say it cuz you’re a bit coy but I think you believe it is a sin and if I don’t change then I’m going to be cast into the fire.   Am I just depriving myself not further indulging in sin cuz I know I am going to die anyway? 

I was looking up the etymology of the word sin.  I looked at the Hebrew and other origins and the word has to do with archery, to miss the mark (bullseye).  It also has some connection with going off the intended path.  I argue that everyone misses the mark.  Romans 3:19-25.  We ALL fall short, gone off the path, missed the mark.  We are only redeemed by the grace of Jesus.  Everyone has their own thing.  Just because mines is visible, it gets picked at.  I think because most sin, those hidden away in one’s heart, can’t be seen, that no one should start throwing aspersions at certain segments of the population. 

The anti-LGBT rhetoric isolates LGBT individuals and creates a segment of hateful and discriminatory Christians under the guise of justifiably repudiating immorality.  It’s absolutely divisive and pushes people away from the otherwise encouraging words in the bible.  The true remnant, they embrace the outcasts, much as Jesus did.  Ephesians 4:1-6. The anti-Catholic rhetoric goes directly against that passage.  

Let me touch on Doug’s platform for a bit – 


I can objectively acknowledge the good he’s done.  I know he isn’t just an end-times preacher.  I’m sure he has assisted a great many with his Amazing Facts series and other activities.

Let me add a quick note about the extravagance of that particular church – you’re not the only one who looks at it and questions whether funds could be spent more prudently.  But before we start counting the church’s money, consider this: they didn’t count yours.  When you came in, there was no admission fee or a charge for the materials.  They made it a point to say at the beginning that they would not ask for money throughout the presentations.  And, consider this: as far as the rules on how non-profit funds are spent, whenever a person marks their tithe/offering envelope and designates an area in which they want their donation to go, that non-profit is legally bound to spend that money for that particular purpose.  For example, if I give to a church and indicate on my offering envelope that I want the money I’m giving to go towards supplies for the children’s programs, they can’t spend that money on the potluck meal.  They are audited by an outside entity every few years and must give an account of all of their receipts.  If there is any foul play here, it will be caught sooner or later.  With that being said, I don’t know how many people give or where they are designating their funds to go towards, but it would appear that there is a good amount going towards the evangelism budget.  If there is anyone to blame for this, it wouldn’t be Doug – it would be the donors.  And I don’t know what the strategy is for a church reaching out to an affluent community such as Rocklin where the church is located, but I think it’s better simply to question their strategy than to pass some type of judgment on it and ask questions later.


I know there are logistical costs/resources required and of course someone has to provide for those who receive the services for free. I do not bemoan them for having a venue. I was grateful for being hosted.  What I did have an issue with was the additional extravagance of high gloss materials, stars on the walls, the opulent facility (and expensive location), the props, the prizes.  Seriously Ray, prizes?!  All that was unnecessary and could’ve been allocated to God’s people.  Heck, in my opinion, that prime real estate should be sold off for something more humble with the rest given to God’s people.  There is a great need in the community.  I know they already do that too, you don’t have to tell me.  My point is that when managing God’s money, it should be on an absolutely need to spend basis. 

Doug absolutely shares some responsibility for the allocation of funds because he is one of the main voices within Adventism.  If he bemoaned the setting, saying, hey, we’re gonna be downsizing things and people will have to bring their own materials but we’re gonna use the extra funds to put shoes on those attending SDA services to those that are barefoot or something, it would have a massive impact.  I hate to bring up the old idiom but “What would Jesus do?”  Would he be prancing around in a fancy suit, in an opulent facility with props in a high-end neighborhood?!  I think not.  Just because the location is affluent doesn’t mean the so-called remnant have to reflect that.  And the fact that no one was encouraged to follow the laws of the land “masks indoors” seems hypocritical and reckless. 

Ok, now my quick view on Adventism – when it first started, it was people from different faiths, coming together and trying their best to wrestle with the Scriptures to know the truth about the Bible.  It was ex-Catholics, ex-Lutherans, ex-Baptists, etc sharing their views on scripture and coming to some consensus on what the Bible actually says.  There were some arguments and disagreements, for sure, but there was sincerity in searching for the truth.  Their religion became the religion they found in the Bible, not the religion of their forefathers or what was handed to them.  I’d like to think that Adventism is what you get when you take the Bible for what it really says, and that may mean that you don’t necessarily agree with everyone around you, even within your own church.  And much of that comes from painstaking effort on the part of every true searcher for truth, having an open mind and being able to adjust your views on a subject when biblically warranted.


Maybe at some point it was a search for Truth by a variety of people but at this point it seems like reinforcing entrenched beliefs.  I love our talks and though I don’t question your sincerity, I have come to doubt your open-mindedness.  I believe that for the most part that you believe that I am just misguided or misinformed and you have the answers. 

I wonder how seriously you have undertaken your own exploration of Truth outside the confines of seventh day Adventism.  You were heavily guided to it by your mom, have an entire community of friends that reinforce your beliefs and I have yet to see you even seriously question the possibility that you could be wrong.  I know you went through your own period of doubt and exploration before…but…at this point I do question your objectivity to some degree.  And the thing is, you are so much more objective and relatively open-minded compared to most of your peers…which quite frankly is disturbing.  I sometimes wish you knew what it was like for someone like me. 

You know much of my upbringing and how I feel about many subjects so I won’t go too much into specifics.  But for me, I have always been on the outside left to observe.  It was very painful.  I used to very much envy people like you that had a close relationship with their parent, had a good amount of friends and knew what you believed.  I don’t think you ever wrestled with your gender or orientation.  Do you know what its like to feel like not only does everyone not like you but even God himself hates you for something you just keep trying to change but can’t.  To not even be sure there is a God.  To believe all of existence is some random accident and that your destiny is to die slowly and fade into nothingness forever.  To be constantly unsure.  That has been me for a looong time. 

In my time wandering about mostly alone and unsure, I have come to embrace my experience.  I have no allegiance to anything and I have come to think it has helped me be objective.  Being an outsider, as painful as it has been, I’m not entrenched in groupthink, close-mindedness or a strong disposition to one viewpoint.  You may think I look at the bible “buffet style”, but I believe that when it comes to texts relating to the Truth of reality, that you haven’t quite opened up your palette.  You may’ve sampled a few small bites of Buddhism or atheism or Islam or Hinduism etc, but I am inclined to believe that you didn’t actually examine them as an objective examiner.

 It seems most sample other doctrines already with a bias assuming what they believe is the best and come away reinforcing a preconceived notion that their belief system, in your case Adventism, is the best.  And so it is…most in Western society will either come to Christianity or atheism.  In the rest of the world, they may dabble in looking at the bible but almost without fail, go back to the holy text of their upbringing. 

I’ll study the bible with you.  Ill listen to whatever sermons but will you really listen to me?  Just to me..I’ve really come away that God is too grand for his Truth to be relegated to a small segment.  It doesn’t make sense.  I’m far more inclined to believe that God will spread his Truth in whatever way you’ll take it and given that most require it to be culturally appropriate, that is the mechanism he (which why would he need a gender but anyways) uses to communicate the basic Truths.  I think God is a bit different than what you think…I think he gives free will to all and likes our diversity so long as we aren’t hurting each other and ourselves.  And if we call to God, God will help in a way we will accept, not necessarily constrained to what is said in the bible, Quran, or any other belief system. 

2 thoughts on “Priority 1 Transmission

  1. Bravo as a SDA I have to say that I agree with your approach to the sensible and away from the dogmatic closeminded views held by the most strict of any religion. Reason and colon sense will in the end prevail and I believe Gods grace and compassion for all of his chidren is far more then we can comprehend. Thank you for your wisdom, Caz OShanahan

    Liked by 1 person

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