Thursday, May 15, 2008

That no man might buy or sell...

I awoke in the early hours of the morning, thinking of Sabbath-keeping in the context of Revelation 13. As I meditated, the phrase "...that no man might buy or sell..." (verse 17) came to the forefront of my mind.

From my Bible study, I believe that Revelation 13 describes religious persecution which will be implemented just before Jesus returns. While not wishing to judge any man's relationship with God, I believe that the Roman Papacy fulfills the criteria of the first beast of Revelation 13. I believe that the "image to the beast" formed in Revelation 13 will be a combination of church and state government much like the Papacy had during the Dark Ages. So far, this is nothing different than the reformers believed in the 16th century.

Revelation 13:15 describes enforced image worship, if we take the language literally. We can find Bible precedent for enforced breaking of God's law, however it might be implemented. Daniel 3 and 6 dealt with the second and first commandments respectively. No government is likely to enforce breaking of the last six commandments (they are common sense by any reasonable human standard). However, the first four commandments would be likely targets for governments to attack. While the language of Revelation 13 literally sounds like enforced image worship (2nd commandment), knowing that the Beast is not an animal should tell us the "worship" is more than bowing down to a statue.

Reading Revelation 14:7, I see a reference to the Sabbath commandment of Exodus 20:8-11. Knowing that the Papacy considers the change from a Saturday-Sabbath to Sunday-worship to be a mark of it's authority, I expect that when religious people gain control of government, they will try to implement Sunday legislation. And in fact, there are people today pushing for that (including the Pope). The Sabbath is the main commandment that people have a hard time seeing a reason for. It is the only one that begins with "Remember..." and yet it's the one that most people want to forget!

However, simply enforcing Sunday-worship would not cause my conscience any worries-- I'd be happy to worship God on any day of the week. The more pressing issue will be, what about the Sabbath of God, given in Eden, written in stone (Ex. 31 and 34), kept throughout history (including by Jesus and the Apostles), and that will be celebrated in the New Earth (Is. 66:23)?

I've heard much speculation about how the Beast of Revelation 13 might bring persecution to bear and prevent buying and selling-- everything from bar codes to computer chips or credit cards. And I'm not ruling those out. However, if Sabbath-keeping is the issue here, perhaps the most effective way the Beast could force allegiance would simply be to try to force Sabbath-breaking. One way I've heard suggested that could be done would be switching to a 6-day week (Sabbath being a work day). And anybody not complying would lose their job, and thus their income. However, I had in the past thought in the back of my mind that this would not affect me if I was self-employed.

Now, back to my early morning meditation. As I considered the words, "...that no man might buy or sell..." (Rev. 13:17), a startling thought suddenly struck me. What more direct way could there be than to force "buying and selling" to be done on Sabbath? What if even self-employed people would have to break Sabbath in order to survive economically? There would be no need to identify people who had or did not have the mark in a vast government database. Those who were true to God's command would be unable to purchase needed supplies. And what if self-employed people were unable to make business transactions needed to gain their income, on any day but Sabbath?

Now, I can see how even many Seventh-day Adventists might rationalize doing a little Sabbath buying and selling. After all, many of us must admit to having done it "in emergencies only". And what if our daily lives were emergencies? (See Jer. 17:24, Neh. 13:15-22 regarding Sabbath buying and selling).

There are major hurdles to this kind of enforcement (one being that merchants wouldn't like having only one day to sell). I don't really know how the end time events will unfold, but I believe God can impress us with things important to know. I would be interested in hearing feedback and Bible study regarding this subject.

Perhaps it is time we started keeping the Sabbath more faithfully. Not because we think we'll be saved that way-- no-- but as a faithful commitment to the God we love and serve. How can we witness to others if we are inconsistent in any area of our lives? It's time we start developing strength of character that will stand the test. Will we be true to God though all the world stand against us? Perhaps it's time for us to be more faithful in speaking often to one another and thinking upon His name.

"Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serves him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serves God and him that serves him not." (Malachi 3:16-18)

- Warren

God works in mysterious ways

Last Friday, while our family was enjoying a stroll back from the mail, we came across a loud argument in progress. It turned out to be a young intoxicated man threatening himself and others, while the others were trying to get him to go home and sleep it off. When my initial efforts to help were rejected, we went on home and finished our Sabbath preparations. However, I couldn't get the young man off my mind, and wondered and prayed about if I should have tried harder to intervene.

Later that evening, after the kids were in bed, Verity and I were enjoying the evening air outside when we again heard loud voices. The same young man had been going at it all afternoon with anyone who passed by, it seemed. Verity and I decided to see what we could do this time, so we went back to the scene, stopping to pray as we went. On arrival, another young man who was trying to calm the guy down, said something like "Here comes the pastor, talk to him". So I was in the "hot seat". I offered to take a walk with the guy, while Verity offered to talk with his girlfriend, who was still trying to calm him down.

The entire stroll was punctuated with angry outbursts (not at me, fortunately). Talking to him about Jesus calmed him down though. To make a long story short, while returning from our stroll, my friend became unable to walk. I offered him a place to sleep it off, since nobody else wanted to take him in. Another friend of his offered to ride him home on a 4 wheeler, but he kept trying to jump off while it was going. Finally, we got him to our parsonage, where after half an hour or more of agitated talk and some shouting, he finally went to sleep in my arms. When I finally got to bed myself, it was 2:30 am.

The next morning, having sobered up somewhat, my new friend was very embarrassed at what he had done. However, we have been happy to have him visit three times since then. He has resolved to "stay dry" and has begun reading a Bible and Steps to Christ. Please pray for him that he will continue to grow more attracted to Jesus and desire to have a relationship with Him.

This has been a breakthrough for us, as we have made our first spiritual-minded contact in this age range (21). Pray that it will bear fruit with this young man sharing with his friends.

- Warren

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Historic Meetings in Selawik

Last month we had a very special native campmeeting. It began with a health fair on Thursday afternoon following by the first of three days of meeting based on the Power of the Cross Revealed Series. If you have watched or attended the Revelation Now series hosted by the O'Malley church in Anchorage, you may have noticed our speaker, Darlene Heckler. She led the children in singing “Jesus Loves Me” in Inupiaq to open the second meeting. She is a Selawik native, so we were all excited to have her present Jesus to her friends and relatives. The health fair went well with the whole school attending, yet we wish had had more adults and been more prepared for the younger grades. Though we prepared for a larger group by meeting at the school,we were encouraged by the small group who attended. (We would have had less if we had met in our church.) And there was power there. We all agreed that this only the beginning; next year may be better.

Darlene is an exciting person to be around. She is passionate about how God has touched her life. It was hard to her to come, since she has a lot of bad memories here. When her mother died about eight years ago, she said she would not come back. (She had been a teacher here, but had moved two years before.) We first met her last December at her sister's wedding, for which Warren was asked to help with the music. We were mutually encouraged when we discovered each other. Darlene has a dream of traveling to the villages and sharing what she has learned as she follows Jesus. Please pray that she will be empowered in her desire to share.