“God is so good; He's so good to me!”
The words of this chorus certainly apply to me. I obviously had no choice in who my parents were, but God chose the perfect parents for me. Oh, they weren’t perfect parents, but they were perfect for me because they introduced me to the One who is perfect.
My dad came from a Methodist home, while my mom came from a Catholic background. They were both Seventh-day Adventists when I came on the scene. I believe the Adventist lifestyle provided the absolute best framework for me to grow spiritually, as well as physically, mentally, socially and emotionally.
As I look at how God progressively revealed truth through the reformers, I can't help seeing how my church has been so blessed to uncover and share some unique truths with others. While some tell us that we need to be a little humble about feeling that we have "the truth,” I am humbled because God has chosen to reveal some special truths to the Seventh-day Adventist church.
I do believe that various Christian faiths have "the truth" to some degree. As Seventh-day Adventists, we have certainly adopted many of these truths into our belief system. So, I praise God for the truth that He has progressively revealed through many Christian faiths, including my church. Will more truth be revealed? Maybe. But rest assured that previously revealed truth will not be replaced by newly revealed truth.
Some consider our church to be "the remnant.” Others within our church feel that this is arrogant. Is it possible that God has a remnant in all church groups, rather than any one church claiming the total market? And isn’t it God who identifies, blesses, and then expects much of this remnant? So while it may be a privileged group, it is only privileged because of the One they know, the One they follow, the One they emulate, and the One they share with the world. And, with privilege comes responsibility. So, our church has no arrogance in regard to the remnant, only responsibility, as we join with the remnant from other faiths to share God’s message in the end time.
My church is not a perfect church. Inspiration tells us that it will be rocked so hard that it almost falls. Almost. I believe that the "accuser of the brethren" attacks my church and other Christian churches relentlessly. I believe that he does all he can to destroy our individual faith as well. Since this is my story about growing up Adventist, you need to know that my faith has been tested. But you also need to know that my faith has never wavered. As a teacher, I have had students pass away so very prematurely. One of my precious granddaughters was born with a genetic disorder. My brother-in-law dropped dead while he and my sister were talking one morning. These experiences have rocked my world, and I don't have neatly packaged, satisfactory explanations for any of these occurrences. But my church, my pastors, my family and my Christian friends point me to the One who is the Answer. One day, hopefully soon, all questions will be answered, forever!
I have also experienced conflict within my church from those with very conservative and very liberal views. It seems that the devil works hard to get us off track, causing us to adopt extreme views of God and His word. Early in my life I was confronted with very conservative views, and now later in my journey, I am confronted more frequently with very liberal views. The conservatives seem to feel that the liberals distort, disregard or do away with scripture written by “the ancients.” Liberals seem to feel that the conservatives actually add things to scripture and place Ellen White above scripture. Is it possible that each is right in what they allege, and each is wrong in how they use, abuse and misuse inspired writing? Liberals also tend to feel that there is no yardstick by which God will measure us, since God is only a God of love. Conservatives have invented the yardstick by which they, and their wrathful God, will measure us. I believe our church has a correct understanding of scripture, that God is love, He really does have a yardstick, He is the One who made that yardstick, and best of all, Jesus is the one who will be measured by it if our faith is firmly in Him! Praise God!
One aspect of my church that I really love is the fact that I have “family” all over the world. This connectedness is invaluable to me and to my spiritual growth. There is obviously a social aspect to this connectedness, but for now, I want to focus on the spiritual. So, here are some things that I have learned from my church family and from my immediate family.
From my Dad I learned to follow Jesus’ example and to approach my God with reverence, respect and awe. From my Mom I learned the importance having a passion for God while maintaining unwavering trust in Him. From my sister I learned that my faith in God can also be maintained through extreme adversity. From my wife I learned how important it is to share an amazingly compatible view of God and his Word with your spouse. From one son I have learned that it is important to treat all humankind with love and respect, as well as knowing what I believe about God and His Word, and why I believe it. From my other son I have learned that a calm demeanor really does glorify God. From my daughter I have learned that a happy, positive attitude also glorifies God. From my grandchildren I have learned that my faith in God should be like the faith that they place in their parents. From my pastors, teachers and other leaders in the church, I have learned to appreciate the amazing Great Controversy theme. This theme answers questions about the past, provides direction for the present, and foretells what the future will be. From traveling around the world I have learned how special it is to experience the love of previously unknown brothers and sisters. We are bound together by the love of God that we all experience through the Seventh-day Adventist church.
One more group I must mention as an extended family would be my Christian friends who belong to other faith groups. God has blessed me in a special way through this group of friends, and they help my love for God grow as I see their love for Him. We pray together for our families, for our spiritual health and for our physical health and wellbeing. Occasionally differences are considered. One Church of God friend asked me to tell him why we keep Saturday as our Sabbath. After my response, he said, “That is impressive! I guess most of us just keep nine commandments while you guys keep all ten.” I am so pleased that my church does not just choose the popular path but always attempts to follow a Biblical, Christ-centered one.
In closing, I would encourage my church with the following: Be positive Christians who uplift Christ and all of God’s children. Be on fire for God, which will solve any lukewarm tendencies. Learn from those who are liberal to really love and care for the downtrodden and the marginalized. Learn from those who are conservative that scripture and doctrine really are important. Learn that Jesus Christ is the reason why we do what we do, and why we believe what we believe, and then follow His example in all things!
While I love my church for so many reasons, the most important one is that it introduced me to a God who loves me supremely and unconditionally! Yes, “God is so good, He’s so good to me!”
Ron Reading is a very proud parent and grandparent who is retired from 31 years of teaching Physical Education and Health. He is currently working as a massage therapist, realtor and adjunct professor. He is an avid golfer, runner and Senior Olympic basketball player, and also enjoys reading and watching spiritually-enriching material.
Join us at this year's Spectrum/Adventist Forum conference in San Diego, California, this weekend, October 3-5, to hear more Great Adventist Stories.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6288