SILVER SPRING - North American Division Vice President Alvin Kibble provided words of greeting Sabbath morning at the North American Division Year-end Meeting. He called the day one of the high Sabbaths of the year. “There’s got to be something special when you’ve got the leaders of the Church worshiping with their families,” Kibble told the audience. But then he flipped the script: “You are not the audience now, God is,” Kibble said. “You become participants in our worship, praise, adoration, and thanksgiving. We bring our gifts to God.”
The Sabbath morning worship service, punctuated with congregational singing and special musical selections, offered North American leaders an opportunity to worship together and to hear from their president.
In an offering appeal for ministries in Canada, the northernmost territories in the North American Division, NAD Treasurer Tom Evans noted that the lunch would being provided for all, and “you probably got a free lunch at your motels for breakfast, so please give your daily per diem to this ministry,” Evens said to laughter.
Introducing the speaker of the hour, North American Division President Daniel Jackson, division secretary Alex Bryant noted the unprecedented attention on the Adventist Church in North America. Bryant recalled the enthusiastic reception Jackson received when he was re-elected in San Antonio, Texas. Bryant suggested that God has called Daniel Jackson to serve as president in this territory at this time. He invited Elder Ted Wilson, president of the General Conference, to offer a dedicatory prayer for Jackson and the leaders of the North American Division.
Prayer of Dedication “The North American Division—they are part of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists as are twelve other divisions and one attached territory—part of God’s last day mouthpiece to the seven billion people on this earth,” Wilson began. He prayed that the leaders would fulfill the God’s mission for the end times.
“I present to you elder Jackson and his team,” prayed Wilson. “Without you, they will not be able to establish 1,000 churches in the next five years. But with your power, they will be able to do even greater things than that,” Wilson said. “We recognize that the coming of Jesus is soon.” Wilson asked that the leaders of the North American Division might focus upon mission. “We entrust the North American Division and its leadership into your care,” Wilson prayed.
Following a special number from vocal trio TreVoce, Dan Jackson rose to deliver the morning sermon on the theme for the NAD Year-end Meeting, the Grand Collaboration.
The Collaborators “I have long been fascinated with the picture on the screen,” Jackson said, as Emile Renouf’s The Helping Hand appeared on screen. “Look at the face of the little girl. She thinks she’s paddling the boat. If you just look at the benevolent smile and the hands of the grandfather, you discover he is the one doing the paddling,” he said.
He likened the image to he a divine-human partnership. The act of collaborating with God is not about human collaborators, Jackson told the audience. “It’s about who God is.”
“We’re the little girl,” Jackson said, “He’s the grandfather paddling the canoe, and he invites us to come along and take a ride.”
To illustrate what can happen when humans collaborate with God, Jackson drew from the story of one of Scripture’s most famous leaders, Deborah, in the book of Judges. He read her words in Judges 5:7, "Village life in Israel ceased until I, Deborah arose, arose a mother in Israel.”
“What is happening here?” Jackson asked. “What kind of song is this woman singing? Because it is a song. She’s singing a duet with a man she had to take by the ear into battle.”
Jackson noted that to our ears today, the text sound almost presumptuous, “…a little like bragging.”
“Here we find a woman singing a bold song a realistic song of triumph. She is rejoicing over the tremendous difference that her involvement, in fact, has made. She has come to understand that where she has fought, victory has taken the place of defeat, all by the grace of God.”
Calling Deborah an example of a collaborator with God, Jackson invited audience members to turn to those next to them to talk about their own instances of collaboration with God.
“In the story told in Judges 4 and 5 we discover a woman, living within the social context of a male-dominated society, leading her nation in triumph over a hated enemy who had dominated the national scene for many years,” Jackson said about Deborah.
He provided the context for Deborah’s Judges 5:7 song:
"After Ehud died, the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the Lord. So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin, a king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth Haggoyim. Because he had nine hundred iron chariots and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.”
What parallels might there be with the North American Church’s situation today, Jackson wondered. “What circumstances that may confront and challenge any conscientious
Christian sooner or later? For we have not entered into smooth waters, but we have a great captain,” he said.
Jackson suggested three ways in which Deborah’s context mirrors that of society in North America today:
Widespread Rejection of God. Jackson pointed to a lack of civility and a lack of moral compass in our day.
An Era of Personal Liberty. “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes,” Jackson said, quoting the biblical text. He quoted Chuck Colson’s “Against the Night”: "Today's radical individualism, which tends in most people to be a mixture of the expressive and utilitarian, has changed our public ethos. No longer are we guided by virtue or tradition. Selfish passions breed freely, unrestrained by communities of memory…Gone are any notions of duty to our fellow man and to the Creator. As a result, there is no straight edge of truth by which one can measure one's life. Truth is pliable and relative; it can take whatever shape we want. Indeed, many simply look within to find it" (Colson, Against the Night, p. 41).
An Era of Oppression. Like society today, Jackson suggested that Israel’s oppression under the Canaanites was of their own doing, because “they played with evil and evil had won the game.”
Jackson also noted suggested that Deborah’s responses, which he characterized in three points, might serve as a model as well.
Deborah took the oppression of her people—God’s people—personally. He suggested an important truth to be drawn from Deborah: “If the church is in trouble today then you and I have trouble. If there is a problem in our home, our office, or our constituency, then you and I have a problem. If we are realistic in our understanding of the world around us then we will not deny our interdependence. We are all a part of one another. We need each other.”
Deborah made the trouble a matter of prayer. He stated that Deborah was fully aware of the fact that she had no resources which could withstand her enemy. “In the NAD we have been viewed as the land of milk and money,” he said to laughter. “We don’t have much milk and we don’t have much money.” Jackson suggested that the devil has “pulled out all the stops,” and no available resources can match the devil’s power anyway, he said. He turned to the ongoing World Series to illustrate his point. “Can you imagine the arrogance of the Kansas City Royals: ‘We’re going to win the World Series,’ and they come to play game 4 without bats…stand at the plate without bats. We would say they are idiots,” Jackson said. “What is a Christian without prayer? When we see overwhelming odds against us, without prayer, we’re like baseball players without a bat.” Deborah prayed until she found courage and wisdom, Jackson said. She began to pray. She acknowledged that her task was humanly impossible. The result of her prayer? He referred to the Judges 5:13 text: “The Lord Came down for me against the mighty.”
Deborah became the backbone of the nation by the grace of God. He noted that the men of Israel would not go to war without Deborah. “Mommy, go with me to talk to the teacher,” he joked. Jackson drew from the words of President Theodore Roosevelt to illustrate: “It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out where the strong man stumbled, or where a doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs, and who comes up short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows the triumph of high achievement and who, at worst, if he fails, fails while daring greatly, so that his place will never be with those cold timid souls who never knew victory or defeat.”
“Can God use anyone?” Jackson asked rhetorically? “Can God use someone who is 99 years old? Can God use someone who is 9 years old?” It wasn’t rhetorical this time. He called up Willy Benzaquen, the pastor of Spanish congregations in Silver Spring, Wheaton, and Bethesda, Maryland.
Benzaquen introduced the Reyes family from Oaxaca, Mexico, who now live near the Wheaton Adventist Church. Juan and Terian Reyes’ nine-year-old daughter Ariana decided that she wanted to be baptized. “What did you do after that,” Jackson asked her. “I did a small group,” she said shyly. Jackson asked her how many people attend it. 25-30, she replied. “Were they old people like me?” Jackson asked. “No, I invited my friends,” Ariana responded. Several of them began attending the Adventurer club as a result. “We have churches with less than 30 people, sweetheart,” Jackson told her to laughter and applause. He noted that Ariana’s parents were also baptized into the Adventist Church.
“Can God use someone who is nine years old?” Jackson asked again. “Ariana, thanks for letting Jesus use you. What else is there to say?”
Benzaquen and the Reyes family left the stage amid amens from the audience. “Christianity is found in the crucible of time and space,” Jackson said in closing. “In North American Division, we need outpouring of the authority and power of the Holy Spirit, and praise God, a little child shall lead them. Amen.”
Photo Credit: Daniel Weber / North American Division
Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
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