Hasty, Immature and Forbidden Marriages

Marriage and the Sabbath are two of the greatest gifts given to mankind by our Loving Heavenly Father (Genesis 2). So it’s no surprise that Satan will do all he can to destroy both!

How do we avoid the pain, misunderstanding and depression that come from twisted marriages? How do we avoid hasty, immature and forbidden marriages?

That was my assigned topic when I recently participated in a series of presentations on “Christian Families in Crisis” based on the Bible and The Adventist Home by Ellen White, sponsored by the Houston United African Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Here are some key thoughts from the presentation from this time of Bible study and storytelling.

  1. Jesus loves marriage!
  2. Jesus wants you to have a happy home!
  3. Jesus can bring joy out of confusion, sadness & pain.

May the Lord help you have a wonderful Christ-centered, Bible-based home and family.

Blessings to you,

Dan Serns

Keys to a Happy Marriage

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Lockdown Victories

There is a good chance you have been in lockdown this year. Use nicer terms if you like – quarantine, shelter in place, hunker down, stay home 2 save lives – but it’s all the same. Severe limits on your activities and friendships and budget.

But what if lockdown was just what we needed to deal with unresolved emotional and spiritual issues we had long overlooked or ignored? What if lockdown, with its forced restrictions, was a God-given opportunity for victory in our life? Consider some well known Bible examples who experienced their own types of lockdowns and the victories that came as a result.

Joseph    

  1. Rejection (In the “pit” – Genesis 37:24)

Joseph was rejected by his own brothers. First they wanted to kill him but because of Ruben’s and later Judah’s intervention he was sold as a slave instead. How did he deal with rejection? As he was taken down to Egypt he wept and wept. But then his thoughts turned to his father’s God. He remembered the stories his father Jacob had told of his dream of the ladder reaching to heaven. He wondered if his own dreams might become true. He determined to prove himself faithful to God.[1] He didn’t realize at the time that being rejected was a blessing and not a curse. If he hadn’t been rejected by his wicked brothers[2] he may have been overwhelmed by their evil influence and he would not have been able to bless millions of people in Egypt and many other nations.[3]

All of us have experienced rejection at some time in our lives. Maybe it started when you were picked last for the team on the playground, or rejected by the cute girl you asked to the banquet. Perhaps it goes deeper, like when your parents divorced and dad said he would keep in touch then disappeared from your life. Or when you thought marriage was forever but the love of your life was unfaithful to you.

As with Joseph the Lord may allow a time of lockdown for you so you can deal with rejection you have experienced in your life. He may allow a quarantine to remove you from an illicit relationship, a bad environment or peer pressure that was about to make you cave in. Thank Him for lockdown and the victories He can give you.

  1. Temptation (In the “house” – Genesis 39:2)

When Joseph arrived in Egypt he was sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s elite guard. Potiphar was gone a lot and his lonely wife noticed the good looking young slave, probably in his late teens or early twenties. She became more and more bold in her advances and Joseph had a big decision to make. He was in a foreign land. Nobody knew his religious background. Nobody would ever know what he did in the house. He was a slave and was expected to obey. If he resisted he knew he would be in big trouble so why not go along with the opportunity?

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7 Areas Every Adventist Educator Should Evaluate

Seventh-day Adventists operate one of the largest Protestant school systems in the world. Why is so much time, money and creativity invested in this?

Here’s a quick quiz.

What is the most important purpose of Adventist schools?

a. To employ Adventist teachers.

b. To save our children.

c. To save the world.

How you answer will dictate what kind of school you operate, what teachers you seek to employ, what curriculum you emphasize, what type of extra-curricular activities you highlight, what kind of field trips you take and a host of other decisions.

Recently I spent an enjoyable couple of hours with Adventist School Board Chairs in Texas on zoom talking about focusing on the most important things. We went in depth on these seven action steps.

  1. Evaluate Yourself!
  2. Know Your Mission!
  3. Love Your Network!
  4. Build Your Team!
  5. Enjoy Your Meetings!
  6. Check Your Resources!
  7. Celebrate Your Successes!

If you are involved with Adventist Education I hope you find this seminar (below) challenging and rewarding. Here’s the PowerPoint outline and the manual and rules of order referred to in the discussion.

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Adventist World Radio to Support Texas Churches in Multiple 2020-2021 Evangelistic Endeavors

What a time to be alive! As uncertainty and upheaval continue to ravage our planet, God has opened so many new opportunities to reach the world with His end-time messages.

Adventist World Radio has plans to reach the 100 largest metro areas in the world over the next five years, and what better places to start than Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston?

For some time now, Adventist World Radio—in coordination with the Southwestern Union—has been prayerfully and strategically planning to pilot a brand-new program in Texas starting this year and continuing through 2021—specifically targeting the Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston metro areas.

The plan is fourfold:

• To encourage churches and church members to share the online Unlocking Bible Prophecies 2.0 series, which will take place October 3-17 on awr.org/bible as well as on AWR’s Unlocking Bible Prophecies YouTube page. Not only will this series include additional content, but it will also be translated into 26 languages. Given that Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the United States, this will be perfect for reaching people in their mother tongues.

When the first version of this series ran in June 2020, it quickly received more than 2 million views, and many of its videos are now in the top five listed on Google and YouTube when people search for terms like “Second Coming” and “Bible Prophecy.”

As these undiluted prophetic messages are preached around the world, people are invited to connect with AWR, at which point they receive information about the Adventist church closest to them. In June, this resulted in tens of thousands of comments like:

“I wish to be baptized into the Adventist Church. Is there anything that can be done to expedite this?”

• Beginning next year, AWR will broadcast English and Spanish programming on different radio stations in order to reach the masses in Texas. These radio programs will share the distinctive Three Angels’ Messages across Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston. The goal is to prepare them for Jesus’ soon coming through baptism and discipleship and connect them with their local Seventh-day Adventist Church.

• AWR will also support the Texas-based, lay-led evangelistic efforts that will take place this winter as well as in April 2021 as people try to reach their communities for Christ.

• Then from Sept. 24 – Oct. 9, 2021, AWR will work with the Texas Conference and the Southwest Region Conference to hold 400-500 evangelistic campaigns conducted by pastors, laypeople and guest speakers. This will be one of the largest evangelistic thrusts ever embarked upon in Texas!

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Group Leaders Who Thrive and Multiply

There’s no doubt that the Bible gives us counsel on the need for groups. So why is it so hard to get them going or keep them going in a local congregation?

Recently I presented an interactive training on zoom and Facebook titled “Group Leaders Who Thrive and Multiply.” The training answers these questions…

  • What the Bible says about groups
  • Foundational Principles of groups
  • How and why to start groups for every reason under the sun!
  • Why leaders are the key to the success of groups
  • How to use the 4 connections to start groups quickly
  • How to “appoint” leaders of existing groups to give them balance and greater soul winning potential

This training is a brief introduction to the manual Group Leaders Who Thrive and Multiply.

If you’d like to hear the same material from a slightly different angle you can listen here or here.

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Evangelism Summit Opens Opportunities

On Monday, July 27, 2020 pastors from throughout the Texas and Southwest Region Conferences of the Seventh-day Adventist Church participated in an online Evangelism Summit hosted by the Texas and Southwest Regional Conferences, the Southwestern Union and Adventist World Radio. The fast-moving 60 minutes outlined opportunities for the next 18 months with special focus on this fall, including small groups, online reaping opportunities and potential baptism dates. Check with your pastor for more information.

Here are some of the highlights from the meeting.

  1. Digital Missionaries. All of our members, especially young people, can be digital missionaries using social media for God. Encourage sign ups at https://connect.adventist.org/adventistdigital.  
  2. Four Things to Remember. Baptism Dates. Group Leaders. Reaping Opportunities. Harvest Cycles.
    1. Baptism Dates. If a church hasn’t had a baptism in the past three months they are encouraged to see if they can have one August 29, then every month or two after that. Plan for baptisms even if you don’t know where they are coming from. Jesus said the harvest is great so we must approach ministry with that God-given expectation and go in search of those who are searching.
    2. Group Leaders. These are the new heroes in our churches. Each church needs to identify them and empower them. They will help minister to the church family and win new souls. We expect LOTS of interests from reaping meetings this fall (see below) and need to have as many group leaders as possible ready to follow up immediately and invite interests into existing online groups. Through a special cooperative arrangement we hope to provide a zoom account to every group leader that can be used for ministry through September of 2021. Pastors are the ones to sign up their group leaders.
    3. Reaping Opportunities. We encourage all our groups to be involved with at least one reaping opportunity this fall.
      1. Cami Oetman, Unlocking Bible PropheciesOctober 4-17, 2020 (in 10 languages!).
      2. Max Harvest Options
      3. Spanish
        1. August 22 to 29 Virtual Reaping Crusade. Professor Ismael Castillo. Every day 7:30pm
        2. September 18-20 Virtual Reaping Weekend. Every day 7:30pm
        3. October 16-24 Virtual Caravan for Youth’s Small Groups. NAD Roger Hernandez
        4. October 16-18 Virtual Reaping Weekend. Every day 7:30pm
        5. November 22-29 Virtual Reaping Crusade. Every day 7:30pm
    4. Harvest Cycles. Looking longer range here are some general plans.
      1. Fall 2020. Groups and reaping event as indicated above.
      2. Spring 2021. Groups and Lay preaching online or in person using new ASI materials. Reaping – April 10-24, 2021.
      3. Fall 2021. Groups and in person preaching everywhere with special assistance for 100 meetings in DFW area and 100 more in Houston area. Reaping – September 24 – October 9, 2021.

These are challenging and exciting times. And the world needs to know more than ever that Jesus loves them and He’s coming soon. The Adventist message – the Three Angels’ Message of Revelation 14:6-12 – will go to every nation, tribe, language and people group before Jesus comes. And everyone who has heard and embraced it is invited to pass it on! Soon Jesus will return!

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How to Start a Movement of Soul Winning & Church Planting

What will it take to see a movement of soul winning and church planting across a conference? Here are some simple clues from a presentation at the 2019 eHuddle in San Diego, California.

https://www.adventistlearningcommunity.com/resources/14464

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My Three Great Grandpas and Ellen White

Reject, Revere, Or Respect?

By Dan Serns

How do you relate to the gift of prophecy? Jesus promised that His final church would have this gift[1] but that the devil would also provide false prophets.[2] The Bible tell us not to despise prophecy but on the other hand it tells us to test it with the Bible tests[3] and to hold on to what is good.[4] Seventh-day Adventists believe that Ellen White (1827-1915) was given the gift of prophecy.[5] There is danger in rejecting the gift and there is also danger in idolizing the one who received the gift rather than worshipping the One who gave the gift.

How do you relate to Ellen White’s life, ministry and writings? Three of my great grandfathers knew her personally and each one related to her in a different way.

Rejected her – Dr. Frank B. Moran[6]

Frank B. Moran was born in Iowa in 1866. While studying medicine at the University of Michigan he received treatments at Battle Creek Sanitarium and accepted the Adventist message. At the Sanitarium, he also met Adelaide Adams. Earlier in her life, a traveling Seventh-day Adventist evangelist had come to their Iowa town in 1882, hired her at age 15 to be his pianist and by the end of the meetings, she had accepted the Adventist message. A decade later her interest in the Adventist Health Message took her to Battle Creek, Michigan where she and Frank B. Moran met and were married in 1894.[7]

The young couple were soon in demand among Adventist church leaders looking for talented medical leaders. Elder W. C. White, Ellen White’s son, wrote Dr. Moran in March of 1897, “There is an excellent opening [for Adventist medical work] in several of the [Australian] Colonies… Queensland… Sydney… The main question is, Has the Lord called you to go to some of these needy mission fields, and are you ready to respond to his call?”[8]

A few months later another letter from W. C. White stated, “I have Mrs. Moran’s letter… telling me about… your appointment to the position in Rural Health Retreat [which soon became St. Helena Sanitarium]. I congratulate you on the appointment, and wish to express my sincere wish that you may have wisdom, grace and courage to meet the labors and the perplexities of the work…”[9]

By 1901 Dr. Moran was called to establish a sanitarium in Los Angeles, the third major Adventist sanitarium in the United States after Battle Creek and St. Helena. There were differences of opinion on how to proceed.[10] After counsel to not locate in Long Beach[11] or establish a large permanent work in Anaheim,[12] work was begun temporarily in downtown Los Angeles.

By March of 1902 Dr. Moran wrote glowingly to one of the board members of the group that oversaw Adventist medical work in California how “the [vegetarian] restaurant, city treatment rooms, etc. have already outgrown our space in the building which we now occupy.” He had made arrangements for the purchase of a three-story building in downtown Los Angeles. He wanted to open a Vegetarian Restaurant on the first floor, have his office and treatment rooms on the second floor and guest rooms on the third floor. He didn’t have adequate funding but expected church leaders to “sign some very large notes in the near future but the thing is absolutely safe” and “will never cost them a cent.”[13]

Ellen White and church leaders expressed serious concerns about putting a sanitarium on the edge of a rapidly growing city, as well as going into financial partnerships with those who were not fully committed to the Adventist message and mission.[14] She wrote “In attempting to advance the interests of the sanitarium in Los Angeles, Dr. Moran has recently made unwise movements. He has moved in accordance with his own judgment and the judgment of his immediate friends. But this hasty movement on his part is to be carefully considered, lest others should follow his example.”[15] In spite of the counsel, Moran pressed ahead with his plans. As money grew tight he justified opening his restaurant on Sabbath. Ellen White counseled him on both his financial presumption and on his Sabbath rationalization.[16] He was angry that a woman would try to tell him, a doctor and businessman, what to do.

When the business venture failed Moran blamed Ellen White and the Adventist church leaders. He left Los Angeles a bitter and discouraged man. In time, he settled with his wife and infant son in the Dallas, Texas area where he opened a Doctor’s Office.

Adelaide Adams Moran as Preceptress (Dean of Women) for what is now Southwestern Adventist University. Original photo on wall of Pechero Hall.

Over the next twenty years he became harder to live with so his still deeply committed wife found safety and refuge as Dean of Women on the campus of what is now Southwestern Adventist University where their son had gone to study.

Still practicing medicine at age of 80, Frank bought a 55-acre farm out in the country where he lived, walking a mile each way daily to catch the bus to and from his medical practice. Till the end, he let his pride keep him from admitting he might be wrong.

Fortunately, his son, Elder Frank A. Moran, accepted the counsel that his father had rejected, and was associated with Adventist medical work in California and Texas throughout much of his pastoral ministry.[17]

Revered her – Benjamin House[18]

Benjamin House had a very difficult childhood. His mother had become pregnant with him due to an affair while her husband was away from home on an extended trip. When her husband returned he kicked his pregnant wife out of the house where she and little Benjamin struggled financially over the next few years.

Benjamin L. House

But Benjamin determined to make something of his life. He did well in school, studied for the ministry and later served as chair of the religion department and senior pastor of the college church at what is today Southwestern Adventist University (Keene, Texas), then Pacific Union College (Angwin, California) and finally Union College (Lincoln, Nebraska).

He was a widely respected Bible scholar and participated in the 1919 Bible Conference where, among many other theological issues, church leaders tried to grapple with how to relate to the writings of Ellen White after her death four years earlier.[19] Some at the Conference said that Ellen White, like the Bible writers, had plenary, or thought, inspiration, that the Holy Spirit inspired the writer but the writer used their own words to express what they heard and saw.[20] Others, including Benjamin House, countered that Ellen White, like the Bible writers, was verbally inspired, that the Holy Spirit often if not always dictated to them the words to write. The verbal inspiration group prevailed at the Bible conference. A few years later Benjamin House wrote a textbook for college Bible classes that promoted their viewpoint.[21] Unfortunately, he saw the prophet as someone to revere rather than as a humble human being used by God to communicate His messages in her own words.

Several years later, while serving in Lincoln, Nebraska, Benjamin was called into the office of church leaders and asked about an unwise relationship that might be developing between him and one of his young female students. During the meeting he lost his temper, said “If you don’t have any more faith in me than that, then just forget it, I’m done” and stormed out. His pride wouldn’t allow him to try to make things right. He found himself out of a job during the depression.

He went to Ohio, lived with one of his sisters, found a job and tried unsuccessfully to repair his strained marriage. Near the end of his life he returned to the Lord, reconnected with the Adventist church and was re-baptized.

Respected her – Harry Shafer[22]

Harry and his family lived in Wichita, Kansas where he served as first elder of the Adventist congregation. A big topic of discussion in the early 1900s was if there was any special significance to the fact that Adventist membership worldwide was rapidly approaching 144,000. When Ellen White stopped by the Wichita congregation on her last trip across the county Harry asked for her counsel. She said, “Brother Shafer, on this topic, at this time, silence is golden.” He accepted that, respected her, and continued to encourage the congregation to do their part in taking the Adventist message to all the world.

How we relate to the counsel and encouragement given in the writings of Ellen White can made a big difference in a person’s life. Why not read some of her writings and see how the Holy Spirit that inspired her can bless and guide you?[23] “Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.” 2 Chronicles 20:20.

#####

An edited version of this article was published in Adventist World (July 2020) and Adventist Review (July 18, 2020) magazines.


[1] Revelation 12:17; 19:10.

[2] Matthew 24:11, 24.

[3] Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Isaiah 8:20; Jeremiah 28:9; Matthew 7:15-20; 1 John 4:1-3.

[4] 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21.

[5] https://www.adventist.org/en/beliefs/church/the-gift-of-prophecy/. Accessed 5/18/18.

[6] My mother’s father’s father.

[7] Frank was 28; Adelaide was 27.

[8] Unpublished letter LB-011A-26 W. C. White to F. B. Moran 1897-03-25. This and other unpublished letters provided by the Ellen G. White Research Center at Southwestern Adventist University, Keene, TX

[9] Unpublished letter LB-011-349 W. C. White to F. B. Moran 1897-05-18.

[10] Ellen G. White: Volume 5—The Early Elmshaven Years: 1900-1905, By Arthur L. White, p. 125.

[11] Letter 143, 1901. Quoted in Ellen G. White: Volume 5—The Early Elmshaven Years: 1900-1905, By Arthur L. White, p. 125.

[12] Unpublished letter LB-018-110 W. C. White to F. B. Moran 1901-11-27.

[13] Unpublished letter IN-032-039 F.B. Moran to E.E. Parlin 1902-03-10.

[14] Manuscript Releases Volume Ten, p. 248-252. See also Unpublished letter S-046-1902 Ellen G. White to C. Santee and F. B. Moran 1902-03-22.

[15] Manuscript Releases Volume 17, p. 357 (MR No. 1299—Locating Sanitariums Away from the Cities; Health-Care Workers to be Deeply Spiritual, p. 348-361)

[16] Letter 157, 1902, pp. 1-14. (To the directors of the Los Angeles County Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association, October 13, 1902) in Manuscript Releases Volume Four, p. 288-289.

See also Unpublished letter M-183-1902 Ellen G. White to Brother and Sister Moran 1902-09-02.

[17] Frank A. Moran talked frequently with his boyhood friend Herbert T. Huguley about the need of Seventh-day Adventist medical work in Texas. At his death Huguley left his estate for the purpose of establishing what has become known as Texas Health Huguley Medical Center in Ft. Worth, Texas. See http://www.texashealthhuguley.org/about-us/history-of-texas-health-huguley-hospital. Accessed 5/24/18.

Frank A. Moran later sold the family farm and gave most of the proceeds to establish the nursing program at what is now Southwestern Adventist University. See Southwestern Union Record/Review June 15, 1978, p. 12D. http://www.adventistarchives.org/docs/SUR/SUR19780615-V77-12__C.pdf#view=fit p. 12D. Accessed 5/23/18. Frank A. Moran served as a Chaplain and taught Bible to medical, dental and nursing students for many years at what has become Loma Linda University Medical Center. He suggested LLUMC’s 50th Anniversary motto “To Make Man Whole.”

[18] My mother’s mother’s father.

[19] http://archives.adventistreview.org/issue.php?issue=2010-1503&page=16, Accessed 5/23/18.

[20] This was Ellen White’s position. “The Bible points to God as its author; yet it was written by human hands; and in the varied style of its different books it presents the characteristics of the several writers. The truths revealed are all “given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16); yet they are expressed in the words of men. The Infinite One by His Holy Spirit has shed light into the minds and hearts of His servants. He has given dreams and visions, symbols and figures; and those to whom the truth was thus revealed have themselves embodied the thought in human language.” The Great Controversy, Introduction, page v. paragraph 3.

[21] Alberto R. Trimm, A History of Seventh-day Adventist Views on Biblical and Prophetic

Inspiration (1844–2000), Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, 10/1-2 (1999): 486–542. See pages 503-504. Found online at http://www.atsjats.org/publication/view/156 Accessed March 18, 2018.

[22] My father’s mother’s father.

[23] You can find all her published writings at https://egwwritings.org.  

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Looking for Mission-Minded Volunteers for Dark Areas

I found this chart very interesting. Adventists as a percentage of the population for every county in the US. Gray means we have no presence and dark green means we have almost no presence. We still have a big mission in Texas! This Google Map is another way of seeing the need throughout the United States.

If you live in an area of the Texas Conference where there is limited or no Adventist presence we would love to help you and another family or two start a mission group. Contact Robin Lopez in our Church Planting Ministry here.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:14

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Connect…

June 16, 2020 was a wonderful day for our Adventist mission in Texas!

Through a Presidential Evangelism Think Tank we were able to identify top priorities for this fall (and beyond) and a theme for the public.

Top Priorities/Takeaways…

* Theme for public: Connect…
* Small Groups in Every Church
* Baptismal Class in Every School
* The new heroes in Texas Conference will be soul winning small group leaders and soul winning baptismal class leaders!

These items are nothing unusual. But what is unusual is the unified consensus that this is where we need to put our best energies across our field. There is still room for lots of input on implementation. (Send it to evangelism@txsda.org).

Next Steps…
*   Executive Committee – Thu June 25
*   Survey all Pastors and Teachers
*   All Teachers – Teachers Convention – Aug 2-6
*   All Pastors – Zoom Meeting – Tue Aug 11
*   Church Boards by Pastors; School Boards by Teachers/Admin in Aug
*   All Church Members – Sab Aug 29; Fill Baptistry Sabbath

We can never strategize our way into heaven so let’s be in prayer as this is unpacked and developed across our conference and beyond.

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