If Life Was Like a Marathon–A May 9th Pastoral Letter

Dear Saints,

Today is the 9th of May. Can you believe it? It’s May already in 2023. And it’s 2023! I mean, who would have ever thunk it. Time just keeps rolling on, and along the way, every now and then, you might pause for a moment just to catch your breath and take an account of where you have been, where you are now, and where you’re heading. 

For example, did you know that today is the 129th day of the year? If life was like a long distance race, imagine the human life-span as a year-long-marathon, then on the 129th day of said race, you would have completed 35% of your life, with 65% yet to be finished. You would have 236 days left to run. Based on your current estimated pace, and how far you have actually come as of today, by now you could estimate and calculate just how much distance you will be able to cross in the remaining days.

Of course there would be rest stops, where you could also take water and nutrition, and whatever else you might need. Those “needs” would have to be included within your race strategy. What would your needs be for such a race? Would they include love? Family? Friendship? Marriage? Work? Education? Religion? God?

If life was like a year-long-marathon, how would you live during the remaining 236 days? Just some food for thought from Pastor Dean. 

This past Sabbath Thomaston heard the sermon which Griffin had previously heard, “What’s In a Name?,” based on Ephesians 3:14-15, where I preached that, “Jesus died to give you a name, a name that is uniquely your own, a name that reveals who you are, and yet, a name that proves your identity as a child of God.”

Both churches have also heard, “Have You Heard About Colosse?” based on Colossians 1:3-8, and together we saw how the Apostle Paul highlights the faith, the love and the hope of the Colossians, and their need to be rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ. I concluded with a call to a special kind of prayer as even the Colossians were taught to do.

This coming Sabbath if God is willing then Griffin will hear my next sermon (Thomaston the following week) which will be based on Colossians again, this time chapter 2:11-15, for those who would like to study the passage ahead of time. To hear any of these past sermons you can access them on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@dn1957rd

Grace & Peace, Pastor Dean

Have You Heard About Colosse?

Early Friday morning at the dawn of first light I heard a male cardinal with his whistle-like cheer. Cheer-cheer-cheer! He was singing good morning to God, and announcing his presence in the trees outside my window. I heard him, but I could not see him. But I knew he was there. And when I heard, I began to whistle just like him. And I gave thanks to God who created all things, and to worship Him who gave this wonderful red bird the voice of cheer.

Pray with me. Dear Father in heaven and our Lord Jesus Christ, hear the voice of your servant and have mercy on me, that I may preach of Your word today, that all who hear may be blessed to receive renewed faith in You, renewed love for our brethren, and renewed hope for that which You have laid up for us in heaven. Amen.

My purpose in this sermon is in my prayer. Read the opening scripture and you’ll see it again.

We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.

Colossians 1:3-8

The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Colossian saints, because he heard about them. What did he hear? He heard about their faith in Jesus. And about their love for the saints. And this faith and this love that he heard about that was in them, well he knew why they had such faith. And why they had such love. The reason was because of hope. Hope in heaven to come. For their hope was in the promises of Jesus which He Himself had taught about thirty or so years earlier. Their hope was in Jesus!

And what did Paul and Timothy do when they heard about Colosse? They prayed and gave thanks for those new saints. I mean, have you heard about Colosse? There are Christians in Colosse! Who evangelized them? Yes, the Apostle was happy about them. Yet, he was also concerned for them because deceptive teachers and deceptive philosophies were threatening to undermine their faith.

And because of that, we Christians today have been blessed with a little four chapter epistle that overflows with some of the highest Christology found in the Bible. Go ahead and watch my sermon on YouTube and join in this Colossian journey. A journey to know Jesus so well that no one can take your crown.

Because Paul imagined a church where the Spirit of Christ was all in all. Where the practice of the people was such that each person, each saint welcomes the Word of Christ to dwell in him/her richly. A church where the people seek wisdom from God so they might teach one another and admonish one another with Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual songs. Even as that red cardinal sings outside my window each morning.

That we may learn to pray like the Colossians were counseled to do, and to pray like Paul and Timothy, and to give thanks to God the Father through Jesus while receiving a daily refreshment of His grace and mercy in our hearts is my prayer also. In Jesus; name, amen.

What’s In a Name?

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.”

Ephesians 3:14-15

The following is a summary of my sermon:

My first name is Dean. It means leader. It fits my character because as a pastor I am a leader. And there is so much more about our human names that I would like to share, but for the sake of time… What will God do to my name, to give me a new name? Like Abram whose name was changed to Abraham. Or Sarai his wife, whose name was changed to Sarah. Or Jacob whose name was changed to Israel. A new name designates a change in stature. A new and a better status.

Sometimes I wonder if different people might think that if they were to follow Jesus that they might lose their own identity? Could that be what holds some people back? In my own experience, I have discovered just the opposite is true. If you accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, you also will discover the person whom the Creator God meant you to be. You will discover a better destiny for yourself than if you were to go it alone. And you will discover something about your name, perhaps even a better idea of the new name which He will give to you.

God’s original intention for human beings (before sin) will be restored, what the Apostle Paul calls “the mystery of His will”. (See Ephesians chapters 1-3 for this is the main place from where I unpack my thoughts for this sermon.) This has been a great mystery to the whole world. Because the world never thought of God like this. That He would be a forgiving God. A loving God. All the false religions of the world have usually thought of God as vindictive and looking for an excuse to condemn us. But the Bible teaches just the opposite. That God has provided the most magnificent opportunity in what Jesus has done, that all sinners might be saved. And He hopes that all people might come to know Him as He really is.

Therefore, through the work of Jesus He has made known the great mystery of His will. Because it was the Father’s will to choose us and adopt us as sons to Himself. How? By Jesus Christ! The Bible says this is even according to His good pleasure. A pleasure that He purposed in Himself. Because His purpose could have been achieved no other way. What is His good pleasure? It is simply this. That God has provided a way to gather together all things to Himself. All things includes what? The things in heaven and the things on earth. All things! Through the blood of Jesus, and only through Jesus we have redemption. So that if we confess our sins, they are forgiven.

And this is called the glory of His grace, for He intends to give us His Name. 

You see, the work that Jesus did on earth, when He became human and lived as a man, without sin, and suffered and was tortured at the hands of sinners, and was crucified on the cross of Calvary… the work that Jesus did on earth has earned Him a Name. In fact the Bible calls it, “the Name above all names.” Philippians 2:9.

What did Jesus have to do to get this great Name? Because He was already equal with God the Father. He was already the Ruler in heaven. But God chose to give sinful human beings mercy. And in order for God to reclaim this planet that was conquered by Satan and lost in sin, I suppose He had some choices. He could have chosen to wipe out Satan and wipe out humanity together. Then He could remake this world again and settle it with more deserving created beings who may be residing elsewhere in His great Universe. God could have done something like that.

But God made another choice, a much more difficult choice. The Father and the Son of God chose to try to save man. This would involve sacrifice. Jesus would choose to become our Savior and pay the penalty for human sin. To do this, Jesus would have to become human. Yes it is a great mystery. But it is also what God did. Philippians chapter 2 helps us learn what was in the mind of God (2:5–11). For Jesus did not consider it robbery to step away from His equality with the Father, “but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

And that is how Jesus got this great Name. Even a new Name. For God Himself became our Savior. Jesus became the Savior for a world lost in sin.

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.” And now because of this, one day soon, “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” And this will bring glory to God the Father, because it is God’s purpose to bring all things together into one, and under One Name. Even the Name of Jesus.

Last Sabbath I spoke about the Seal of God. Revelation 7 speaks of the sealing of the 144,000.  12,000 from each tribe of the 12 tribes of Israel. This term is a metaphor for God’s saints in the time of the end. That is the final group of saints who will be alive and remain to see the coming of the Lord Jesus in Glory. And Verse 9 speaks of a “great multitude which no one could number.” Perhaps the great multitude is also a metaphor for the end time saints. Or, perhaps the great multitude is a larger sphere, the redeemed all through time. Certainly, this is spiritual Israel, and not the literal biological descendants of Abraham, though even they have the same opportunity as anyone else to be included in the number. For the Apostle Paul affirms, that “Not all Israel are of Israel. And he is a Jew who is one inwardly.” Meaning that when we come to Jesus and believe in Him, we become members of His body, children of Abraham according to the promise, and therefore spiritual Israel. And I think that God looks at us altogether as “literal Israel.”Because the Lord is the One who says what is, and He defines His terms for us in the scriptures for our benefit.

Now Revelation 7:3 says they are sealed “on their foreheads.” And Revelation 14:1 reveals this same group are seen standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion, “having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” Therefore, having the seal of God here means that they most certainly have the Father’s Name. And this Name is in their minds and hearts. They are of one accord with Jesus and the Father, and with one another. And they have no deceit in them. No guile. For they have been cleansed of their sins. And they are found with the character of God reproduced in them. 

Now to have the name of God, is to have the character of God. For His name represents His character. Who He Is! And this is also true of His saints. For He had determined ahead of time, by virtue of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ which was shed on Calvary’s cross “once for all,” for all who believe, for all who come to Him to be saved, to give unto each saint, “a new name.” Revelation 2:17 reveals a promise given to the overcomer during the period known as the church of Pergamos: “And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” 

Add to that this promise to the overcomers during the period known as the church of Philadelphia: “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” Revelation 3:12.

What is this new name? Must be a name of character. Even the very character of Jesus.  For we must grow “from faith to faith.” Romans 1:16-17. From glory to glory. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18. We are being transformed into His image. Think about this. This is huge. How does this happen? This transformation? By the work of the Spirit of the Lord. Can you deny Him this opportunity? Sure you have a choice. But if you cooperate with Him, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, then you will be transformed. And you will have a new name which no one else knows except you. And yet, everyone will know your name. I unpack that more in the sermon. But for now, consider the fact that each saint will have His own name, which name is a testimony of your individuality, your character. A character that is uniquely your own. Yet a character that is found in Christ, formed and formatted into His image. 

Jesus died to give you a name, a name that is uniquely your own, a name that reveals who you are, and yet, a name that proves your identity as a child of God.

Dean Read,
From my sermon, “What’s In A Name?” preached on April 22, 2023, and now written in this blog dated April 25, 2023.

Wonderful Worship vs. Wounded Building

Yesterday, the Griffin and Thomaston Seventh-Day Adventist churches came together for worship. Thomaston hosted. Why did we worship together at Thomaston? Because the Griffin building got wounded sometime during the past week. The roof must have sprung some leaks… We only discovered the damage late Friday, which made the church building somewhat unsafe for worship the next morning, which was the Sabbath of April 1, 2023. This year there have been frequent onslaughts of violent storms which have brought fierce winds, pounding rain and hail, yes and even tornadoes (January 12 they went through the heart of a Griffin). Must be some serious leakage in our roof structure to cause this:

Yet, we could have been unprepared. We could have showed up Sabbath morning for worship and then discovered it. But God does in fact send His angels to watch out for us troubled humans. You see, the First Elder showed up on Friday (which he usually does not do) because he wanted to prepare to preach the next day, since I would not be there. I was scheduled to preach at the Thomaston Church. It was Mort who discovered the damage. He called me to come over and check it out. Then we counseled together along with Missy, the church Treasurer. She was already there working in her office, but had not seen the damage to the sanctuary room. So, we decided it was not a safe situation for bringing people together for worship. My ministerial director Richard concurred by phone.

What should we do about worship scheduled for the next day? Well, we have a sister church in the city of Thomaston. Being a district pastor, I serve both churches. So we made the appropriate calls, texts and emails with the help of Judi, our church clerk. I knew not everyone would make the drive due to the extra 23 mile distance to Thomaston; however, we decided to join the Thomaston congregation and worship together with them, in their building. Which building recently received a new roof! And we are thankful.

But, with the Griffin building closed, how would the livestream be able to go out to those members who watch online? Fortunately, I own two Mevo cameras which worked out well for me to handle the livestream and preach my sermon. Without those Mevo’s I could not have live-streamed the service from Thomaston. And I used Griffin’s YouTube channel to stream the service.

Below is the link to the worship service. My sermon topic is from the “Hebrew Shema,” Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” And also from the first angel’s message of Revelation 14:6, “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the EVERLASTING GOSPEL to preach to those who dwell on the earth…”

Clarifying My Message

Scripture: Genesis 2:4 “This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.”

I want to clarify my message that the Sabbath day was instituted and established by the Creator and never changed… And I pray that I may adequately share the Everlasting Gospel.

But remember this point: In my humble opinion, sermons never settle a matter. There must be a humble interest and desire to know truth. Then to prayerfully seek for understanding through Bible study. Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit as you allow Him to impress your heart and mind from the actual words and doctrines of scripture.

The three angels’ messages are found in Revelation chapter 14 verses six through 12. The second angel’s message, “Babylon is fallen,” and  the encouragement from the call of God to His people, to come out of Babylon (Revelation 18:4), because she has committed spiritual fornication, and she has misled and deceived the nations through the “wrath of her fornication.”

The third angel’s message, the warning against receiving the mark of the beast, the warning against being deceived and participating in false worship… The encouragement of the first angel’s message to worship God, in spirit and truth, and to understand the reason why God’s people should keep the Seventh day Sabbath…Because the three angels’ messages remind us that God is the Creator, “who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (Revelation14:7). These words reflect back to the authority of God, as found in the Fourth Commandment, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:11.

Is God the authority? If you believe that He is, that He is the Authority, wouldn’t it be right to respect and honor Him? How should we show respect and honor to Him? Jesus answers, “If you love me, keep My Commandments.” John answers, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”

Wondering About the Equinox

Dear Folks,

Happy Midweek! Yes, it is still cold, though the calendar says Spring has arrived. Officially, the astronomical first day of Spring happens at the Equinox. No, I don’t mean it happens in a chevy, lol. The spring equinox occurs when the earth and the Sun are aligned in such a way, that results in an equal amount of day and night. This phenomena is due to the tilt of the earth, as it orbits the Sun over the course of a year, the angle of the Sun’s rays that strike the earth are ever changing, causing the amount of actual daylight to increase during the Winter and Spring months, and then decrease during the Summer and Fall months.

But, on the days of an Equinox, and there are only two each year, the second being the Autumn Equinox which usually occurs on September 21, the Sun’s rays strike the earth evenly from top to bottom, pole-to-pole, causing the whole planet to simultaneously experience twelve hours of day and twelve hours of night. 

Genesis records the Creator’s spoken words when He made the two great lights, the Sun and the Moon to rule over Day and Night, and “to divide the light from the darkness.” Before that fourth day, it was God Himself who on the first day of creation divided the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:18, 4). 

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day. Genesis 1:14-19

For those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest “day” occurs at the Winter Solstice, usually December 21st, and the longest “day” occurs during the Summer Solstice, usually June 20. If you happen to find yourself visiting somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, that is to say below the Equator like a trip to Australia (aka “The Land Down Under”), the two Equinoxes and Solstices are in the opposite configuration. 

Have you ever wondered how the New Earth will be arranged when it comes to day and night, springtime and harvest? Will the earth still have its tilt of 23 and 1/2 degrees which is responsible for the most part for our four seasons? I look forward to finding out the answer to that and the many other questions about God’s creation and how He made things work. Until then, I pray that if you do not know Jesus, that you may come to know Him. And if you do know Him, that you, like me, will be faithful to walk with Jesus and thus to continue to learn and receive Bible truth until He returns in Glory! 

The prayer group I lead meets on Zoom, Tuesdays at 6:30pm. The theme tonight for week 8 is, “Worship and the Three Angels’ Messages.” For those who would like me to pray for you, leave me a message in the comment section. Or if you would like to join in our prayer meeting just ask.

Grace & Peace, 

Pastor Dean

Christ’s Righteousness & the Sabbath Controversy

Dear Folks,

Happy Midweek! Though we had a cold night here in the heart of Georgia, and it was below freezing even as the sun was rising, yet the sun did rise. And as I look out my window, the sky is a beautiful blue and the deciduous trees are reviving with an emerging, living foliage of green. Spring is on the way. Even nature testifies that God is still at work and therefore, there is hope. 

I also want to remind you of that hope from the word of God. The scriptures truly are the safeguard to our faith and our hope. All things must be tested through that standard, for the Bible is our “only standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms”1. Seventh-day Adventists are called to be reformers even as Wycliffe, Tyndale, Luther, Calvin and later the Wesleys were called to be reformers. When skeptics and unbelievers question, “What is truth?” and when there are so many opposing opinions and traditions of men that contradict the Word of God, our safety is to follow the Bible and not merely opinions or traditions. 

This is why I have been preaching my current series, “Righteousness, Peace, and the Law.” This past Sabbath I gave the seventh sermon, “Christ’s Righteousness and the Sabbath Controversy.” And I had wanted to complete the series with seven, just because I like that number. However, God had other plans and His Spirit impressed me greatly for the need of another. And so there will be a second part to that seventh sermon, if you want to call it an eighth. 

And remember this point: In my humble opinion, sermons never settle a matter. There must be a humble interest and desire to know truth. Then to prayerfully seek for understanding through Bible study. Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit as you allow Him to impress your heart and mind from the actual words and doctrines of scripture.

Now I would like to make a little clearer the following:

Does the creation story reveal what righteousness has to do with the the Sabbath Day? Yes, I believe it does. You see, the Genesis account declares that God actually spoke things into existence for six literal days, with one exception. On the sixth day of creation, the Creator formed the first man with His own hands from earthly clay, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and Adam became a living soul. 

The first man and woman, created in the image of God, spent their first day of life learning about God’s creation. In fact, Genesis chapter 2 reveals that Adam named all the animals. Can you imagine the original conversation that he was having with God as he was trying to figure out an appropriate name for each kind of creature? 

What did the first human couple learn about God? They saw His creative power. They saw the wonders of all His works in nature. They saw the beauty of the earth made new, fresh from the Creator’s hands. They saw themselves… and Adam said of Eve, “she is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” And together, this holy couple participated in the first ever Sabbath Day on this earth. They worshipped their Creator and talked with Him, and He with them on that first Sabbath. 

This is when the Sabbath day was inaugurated and instituted by the Creator God. Therefore, when the Bible says, “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” Genesis 2:1-3. And the very next verse testifies, “This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,” Genesis 2:4. 

And four thousand years later, Jesus still affirms that same creative act of establishing the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week when He declares, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”

Well I ask you, what could be holier than what God made holy in the beginning? What more evidence does anyone need? And yet, I will followup with a second part to show where, when and how Sunday worship began to replace and usurp the Seventh-day Sabbath. Here is the link to the sermon if you would like to watch and hear it again or share it. https://youtu.be/SSKOC7acTHE

I am preparing the followup sermon and my current plan is to present it to Thomaston this coming Sabbath and then at Griffin the last Sabbath in March.

Grace & Peace, 

Pastor Dean

1The Great Controversy page 595.

Where Do You Find Knowledge?

Dear Folks,

What have you been reading lately? Perhaps some do not read, or do not read too much. Then I might ask, what have you been watching lately? Or hearing? Or doing? In today’s post-modern milieu, it’s probably true that more people gain the majority of their knowledge and insights from watching video or film rather than from reading books or print. Both video and the printed word are powerful tools for learning. Contrarily, both can be equally misappropriated for immoral or unethical purposes. Also, both can be misused, for example, where much time that could have been spent being productive, doing!, instead is consumed and generally wasted. However, if you take a moment to consider God’s purpose, and His will to reveal Himself to you, then in regard to that, how do you answer any of those four questions above?

Before books were readily available and certainly before the advent of radio, film, video or social media, ancient cultures used live storytelling to guide the growth and development of their people. Live storytelling is still a powerful means of teaching and learning, yes, even entertaining. And certainly storytelling is easily incorporated within video or the printed word. Certainly, the greatest storyteller of all was Jesus Himself, and through the pages of the Bible we can “hear” His voice perhaps a little more clearly, gleaning a little more knowledge and understanding with each new reading.

Yes, God, the infinite, omnipotent, omniscient God who has revealed Himself through nature and more certainly and more directly through His Word is ever working to reveal the knowledge of Himself to you. Take that word, “milieu.” Yes that is a good word for you to understand. It really is about “the totality of surrounding conditions and circumstances affecting growth or development.”1 That includes your’s and your children’s and children’s children’s growth and development.

Does it matter to God that you are able to gain more knowledge of Him? And His will for you? Yes! It matters that you can and it matters that you do! And that you might continually do. For this reason He has given His Holy Law as a standard to guide those who seek to know Him. A standard to guide you! Through the Printed Word, otherwise known as the Bible, He has testified through the Law and the Prophets of what is good, what is truth, and even what is to come. The Psalmist declares about this same God that “You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” Psalm 138:2. Therefore, we can trust the Bible as surely as we can trust the God of the Bible, that by reading it regularly, even daily, we may understand and know Him who created us in His own image (Jeremiah 9:24; Genesis 1:26).

For it is God’s will that we may know Him, therefore, God has clearly revealed the Savior of the World, Jesus, the Son of God through that Word. It was this same Jesus who was arrested for no crime except righteousness, who was falsely arraigned and abused before He was crucified, who bravely stood before the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, and said, “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

Do you hear His voice? For this same Jesus has manifested more clearly who God is, as the Apostle John testifies to the fact that, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” John 1:18.

Yes, God does in fact desire to reveal more and still more of Himself to you. Therefore, it is my prayer that each one should take a moment, long or short it’s up to you, and consider what you have been hearing, reading, watching or doing lately to help you “grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18.

1 (definition from iPhone app, The Free Dictionary by Farlex).

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Dean

A Pastoral Letter after the Tornados

Dear Folks,

Thanks be to God who watches over us and provides help in time of need. In Spalding County we have been witnessing many who are helping with the aftermath of the tornados. FOX 5 Atlanta reports, “More than 360 volunteers have registered to help, with many more just rolling up their sleeves in an effort to clear it all.” The Spalding County Sheriff’s Office “reports that a total of five tornadoes touched down last Thursday.” The most severe was an EF-3, where winds are strong enough to lift mobile homes and snap trees. Our own Missy had reported over twenty trees had been felled across their family’s property blocking their driveway access to the road. The family had been working since Friday to clear the fallen trees, and seven volunteers aided them this past Sunday to finish the job. Praise God! 

As I drove through the area, the destruction is heartbreaking. But the evidence of the Spirit of God is abundant through the many who are helping out. There are power lineman trucks with as many as 150 lineman, many from other states who are working to restore electrical service. There are several groups, like Colliers, City Church, and First Methodist who are providing food, blankets and other needed supplies. Various local restaurants are feeding workers. And there are several individuals who are delivering food and supplies to those in need. 

Yet the need is so great. Many still without power. Many lines still down. Many homes destroyed. FEMA is now in town and beginning to better coordinate relief efforts, and that’s a good thing. Spalding County is perhaps the worst hit, with Butts, Henry, Jasper, Meriwether and Troop counties all now officially declared disaster areas, which qualifies them for federal assistance. And then there are other areas of the Nation like Selma, Alabama where tornados caused even more devastation, or California where an “atmospheric river” of eight consecutive storms has caused unprecedented flooding and destruction, homelessness and loss of life.

Ironically, just before the tornado warnings were issued on Thursday past, I had just finished taking an online course through FEMA to get trained for Incident Command System (ICS), which helps prepare volunteers to work with various government and private sector teams when they respond to any crisis or disaster. In fact, all of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference pastors were together last week for our annual ministers meetings to begin this training in association with Adventist Community Services. The Griffin church heard my sermon this past Sabbath which began with that story/illustration. The Thomaston church will hear that sermon this coming Sabbath. 

If you missed the service, here is the YouTube link: 

I am thankful for the elders of these two churches, Richard, Mort and Norm, who have taken up the mantle to preach when I am away, for I cannot be at both churches every Sabbath. And yet I pray…

Tonight, Tuesday at 6:30pm the Griffin prayer group will meet on Zoom. Tomorrow afternoon, Wednesday at 1:00pm the Thomaston prayer group will meet in their fellowship hall.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Dean

My Resolve

Dear Folks,

Here we find ourselves in 2023, a New Year has launched itself upon us, ready or not. I know that there are those who make resolutions every New Year. This can be a good time to rethink the path you’ve been following and reset yourself. Some may make new goals, perhaps even embark on a new course. Yes, there could be a total reset. Others will remain on the same path by choice while making slight corrections as needed to find success. And then there are those that are just stuck, unable to make any significant improvement to their lot.

Of course, I’m just generalizing here. But, what if there was a way to not only survive, but to thrive? No matter your circumstances. No matter whether you’re rich or poor, slave or free. No matter whether you come from a successful family or have no family. And the answer is not what most people might think. For in this world too many are trying to base their ideas of success on the Hollywood model.

What do I mean by the Hollywood model? In the 20th century the Hollywood model would have been mainly limited to movies and television, for that is where people were looking for entertainment and news. And for meaning.

We are now twenty-three years into the 21st Century, and the influence of the Hollywood model is stronger than ever, for now anyone with a smart phone and a twitter account can be a social media influencer. I do not need to make a case to prove this, for you all know what you follow and who you follow. Whether it’s on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or Instagram, etc., etc., what’s app with that? Pun intended!

The thing is that much, even most of what is “followed” is what I am calling the “Hollywood Model.” Yes, I include sports within that paradigm. It’s the ways of the world to want to be rich, to want to be famous, to want to be “followed” and adored by others. But are the ways of the world, the world’s ideas of success, the world’s ideas of what it means to thrive, are those ways the only ways to thrive? Or could it be that is a false narrative that was laid out long ago to divert humans away from God’s plan of salvation?

What if God has a better plan than Hollywood? What if He has a better plan than most of what the world has to offer. Better than being rich? Better than being a famous actor or sports star. Better than having thousands of followers on social media. Better than… You name it.

So, what is my resolve? My resolve is to thrive. How can I do that, you ask? I follow Jesus. If you accept Jesus and follow His teachings and His laws you will not only survive, you, like me, will learn what it really means to thrive. For I know that the only way to really thrive, no matter your lot in life, rich or poor, slave or free, young or old, healthy or sick, yes, and no matter your family circumstances, there is way that you, like me, can thrive.

Think about this for a moment. When someone becomes a champion athlete, even a world record holder, they may thrive in their sport. They may be at the top of their game. But, how long does that last? Only for a short period of time. Then as the champion ages, and is removed from his prime, someone else, another champion comes to take their place. The star athletes of yesterday are no longer in the spotlight. This is also true of famous actors, famous models, famous rich people, and famous social media influencers. To thrive according to the Hollywood model only lasts for a brief moment in the grand scheme of eternity.

“But the path of the just is like the shining sun, That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.”

Proverbs 4:18

To be continued…