What Can We Learn from Plants?

What Can We Learn from Plants?

By C. Frazier Spencer

“ “For I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Thy works” (Psalm 139:14). Some general information about plant complexity may be of interest before we get into specifics.

A book titled, The Secret Life of Plants (1) has some remarkable information. “Worm like rootlets, which Darwin likened to a brain, burrow constantly downward with thin white threads, crowding themselves firmly into the soil, tasting it as they go. Small hollow chambers in which a ball of starch can rattle indicate to the roots the direction of the pull of gravity.”

“When the earth is dry, the roots turn toward moister ground, stretching, as in the case of the lowly alfalfa plant, as far as 40 feet, developing an energy that can bore through concrete. A study of a single rye plant indicates a total of over 13 million rootlets with a combined length of 380 miles. On these rootlets of a rye plant are fine root hairs estimated to number some 14 billion with a total length of 6,600 miles.”

Can plants see? The author informs us, “A climbing plant which needs a prop will creep toward the nearest support. Should this be shifted, the vine, within a few hours, will change its course into the new direction. Can the plant see the pole? Does it sense it in some unfathomed way? If a plant is growing between obstructions and cannot see a potential support it will unerringly grow toward a hidden support, avoiding the area where none exists…”

(this article is an excerpt from the September–October 2003 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 11, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/tss/504/tss_504.pdf

Sabbath Meditation #29 – Living In the Now

Sabbath Meditation #29 – Living In the Now

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

“10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Hebrews 4:10-11).

In today’s world, we are always making plans for the future. There are deadlines, goals, events, appointments, repairs that need to be made, and the list goes on. It is important that we take care of these things. After all, they require our time and attention. We seem to be constantly planning for what is next. What about a time where we only thought about that day’s meaning?

The Sabbath is the perfect opportunity for such a day. Instead of thinking about schedules and appointments for the next day, week or further down the road, use the Sabbath to think about God, Jesus and the day’s meaning. Consider and meditate upon God’s plan for your life. Why are you alive in the here and now? Why were you born at this time? You can meditate on these items throughout the day. Think about what it really means to observe the Sabbath. What does God desire to reveal to you in that moment? Consider how you can be a blessing to others in your congregation on the Sabbath.

We can be so distracted by the cares of this age and our personal plans that we miss the special blessings of God’s rest on the Sabbath. It is the only day of the week that He blessed and made holy. If our focus is just on the Sabbath and that day’s blessings and responsibilities, then we can receive everything God has for us during that time. Sometimes we live so much in the tomorrow that we neglect what is happening in the right now.

In the first century, the Jewish people were waiting for the Messiah to appear. When Jesus came, some recognized Him as just that! Everyone else was still focused on the future. They were still waiting on the Messiah even though He was right in front of them! So many people failed to recognize the time of their visitation from God (Luke 19:44). The life, teaching, and miracles of Christ were all overlooked by many people because Jesus did not fit their mold. He did not fit their way of doing things. They had their own mindset of what tomorrow would bring, and they missed the now!

Practical tip: Consider a planning period on Thursday or Friday where you map out a list of the events for next week, including what you may need to address after Sabbath ends Saturday at sunset. You can always tell people “Can we talk about this after Sabbath ends?” However, there are times that some future events/appointments must be discussed on Sabbath, such as those which pertain to upcoming church functions (congregational input may be needed at the Sabbath gathering).

We don’t want events in the future to cause us to miss what is plainly in front of us on the Sabbath. This Sabbath, learn to live in the now.

Selah.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Bible Sabbath Association (BSA) – www.biblesabbath.org

Anabaptist Sabbatarians in 16th Century Germany (Part 2)

Anabaptist Sabbatarians in 16th Century Germany (Part 2)
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Last week, we reviewed the background events which led to a spontaneous, grass-roots revival of Sabbatarianism in sixteenth-century Germany (click here to read part 1). Revolutionary movements of the time shook the existing religious and political landscape. Amid these developments, the Anabaptists emerged in Germany as an alternative to those who did not want to join Catholicism or Lutherans.

Andreas Fischer accepted Sabbatarian Anabaptist beliefs from Oswald Glaidt in late 1527 or early 1528 in Nikolsburg, Moravia. As discussed last week, Moravia was an area which was favorable to the Anabaptist movement. As we will see, it also became a major center of Sabbatarianism for a time.

In 1528, Glaidt and Fischer worked together in Silesia, just east of Moravia, where Anabaptist beliefs were already prevalent. Their message emphasized Sabbath observance; they won many people in the city of Liegnitz to this practice. A German noble in the area named Caspar Schwenckfeld and his confidant Valentine Crautwald expressed concern over this development. They engaged Glaidt in a dialogue and debated about the Sabbath.

About 1529/1530, Glaidt wrote a book called Buchlenn vom Sabbath, which defended Sabbath observance. This is likely the first work in modern times devoted to defending the Sabbath. This work must have had an impact beyond the region of Silesia because even Count Leonhard von Liechtenstein in Nikolsburg read it. He was concerned about the book’s implications and implored Wolfgang Capito, a theologian of the reformation, to refute it. Capito turned the job over to Caspar, who had previous dialogue with Glaidt. They both eventually composed works to refute Glaidt’s Sabbatarian teaching. Duke Friedrich II of Liegnitz also got involved in this debate and invited Valentine Crautwald to write a refutation of Glaidt’s Sabbath view. In total, three books were written to try and disprove Glaidt.

While we do not have Glaidt’s original work, his arguments for Sabbath keeping are extracted from Schwenckfeld’s work against it. In brief, he argued as follows: The Sabbath was established at Creation by God and was observed by Adam, Abraham, and the Israelites (before Sinai). Christ and the early disciples also observed the Sabbath. Moreover, he said that God gave all Ten Commandments at the same time and if one was revoked then they all were. Caspar remarked that this was his strongest argument. In all, there appears to be 34 reasons that he employed to defend the Sabbath; we may look at these in a future edition of The Sabbath Sentinel. Several of them involve prophecy. This allows us to see the old influence of Hut’s eschatology.

Glaidt’s book was well composed and followed excellent Scriptural reasoning. It was obviously problematic for opposing views, as it took three contra works to develop arguments against it. Of course, we know that no one can disprove God’s eternal Sabbath. In 1530, Glaidt wrote his work explaining the death penalty for violators of the literal Ten Commandments titled How, When and Where the Law of Blood or the Judgment of God Should be Implemented, Executed and Practiced.

To combat the contra works against his book Buchlenn vom Sabbath, Glaidt asked Fischer to intervene in this debate. Fischer wrote Scepastes Decalogi, which defended his belief in the Ten Commandments. Crautwald attempted to refute it. While we do not have an original copy of Fischer’s work, it can be reconstructed from the attempted refutation. Fischer does not emphasize prophetic implications with the Sabbath. This could have been due to the failed prophecies about Jesus’ return. He listed approximately 26 reasons for keeping the Sabbath. Next month, we will review them. This back-and-forth writing between pro-Sabbath and contra-Sabbath views went on as long as three years (approximately 1529-1532).

Glaidt and Fischer’s Evangelistic Work

Glaidt and Fischer divided their evangelistic efforts in 1529. Fischer and his wife left for a brief campaign in Slovakia; we will return to Fischer later. Glaidt stayed a little longer in Silesia until the Duke of that region ordered him out in 1532. He likely went to Bohemia to minister there and founded a Sabbatarian Anabaptist congregation which continued until at least 1538.

It is not clear whether Glaidt kept and taught the Sabbath commandment in his later years. He eventually joined the Hutterites in Jamnitz, Moravia; the Chronicles of the Hutterite Brethren record his presence there. In 1545/1546, he was arrested and drowned in the Danube as a martyr for his faith.

As aforementioned, Fischer and his wife went to Slovakia to preach the Word about 1529. His short time there was interesting to say the least. He was expelled from the town of Leutschau after a few days of preaching, then went to Neudorff, and lastly to Schwedler. In the latter town, many people received his message. Unexpectedly, people from Leutschau invited him back to their city to preach. The local authorities soon found out about his activity. He and his wife, who was also known to preach the Bible, were arrested.  

After a few months in prison, they were both condemned to death. His wife was drowned. Andreas was hung from a castle tower and left to die. It seemed as if the work of this minister was finished, but something miraculous occurred. After several hours of hanging, the rope broke! It is not known if it was cut down or just snapped on its own. After this escape, Fischer was viewed by people in a new light. Some thought this miracle was a sign of God’s approval of his message. Others thought he had come back from the dead!

He immediately went back to preaching in Slovakia; as many as 80 people were baptized in one day! Not long after this revival started, soldiers came to arrest any Anabaptists they could find. Some people were captured, but many fled. The feudal rulers only allowed people to return to Slovakia if they took an oath of allegiance to follow religious and secular authorities. Fischer and some of his followers fled into the mountains. While there, one of his disciples, Johann Balbus, was put to death. He testified at his trial that the Sabbath should be observed literally because Sunday observance was not found in the Scriptures.

Fischer then traveled to Zeben, Poland for refuge. While there, he publicly debated Anton Philadelphus, who was a local Pastor. Fischer easily bested him. Anton was defeated so badly that he actually left the town! The town rulers made the city a safe place for previously beleaguered Anabaptists.

Scholars place Andreas whereabouts next in Moravia (1530). It was about this time that the Sabbath books described earlier were composed. He seemed to travel between this area and Slovakia. In about 1532/1533, he had success in the latter until his old foe Anton Philadelphus publicly charged him with heresy. He then fled back to a city under the protection of von Lichtenstien near Nikolsburg. Unfortunately, this place of refuge did not last long.

In 1535, King Ferdinand I of Austria commanded all feudal lords in his domain, which included Moravia, to formally end their religious toleration. Some Sabbatarians submitted a formal request to move to Prussia, along with a written statement of their beliefs. Their request was denied. They fled with only what they could carry; some of them returned to Moravia later.

Fischer likely spent his last few years traveling between Moravia, Bohemia, and Slovakia. Desiderius Erasmus complained about Sabbatarians in the 1530s. Multiple times Martin Luther complained about the number of Sabbatarians in Moravia and Bohemia (in the years 1532, 1535, and 1538). In 1538, he composed an entire letter repudiating them entitled “Against the Sabbatarians: Letter to a Good Friend.” We discussed Luther and the Sabbath in a previous article. To read it, CLICK HERE.

In 1536, Fischer was invited to pastor a congregation in a small town in Slovakia, but he also traveled to other areas. Upon one sojourn to Slovakia, he was captured by a robber knight and put to death for the faith in 1540/1541.

One question which remains is this: did this Sabbatarian movement continue after Fischer’s death? There is a school of thought that says the group ended after his execution. However, recent research has shown that to not be the case. We will briefly review the evidence for continued Sabbatarian activity in the area.

In 1554, Ferdinand I issued multiple decrees expelling Sabbatarians from the city of Auspitz, Moravia. In 1555, Johannes Weisenkircher discussed the Sabbatarians as a numerous body that existed in his day. In the 1560s, Marcantionio Varotto was a traveler who visited parts of Southern and Eastern Europe. While in Moravia, he observed many different sects of believers. Seven of them were Anabaptists and Sabbatarians were listed as one of the groups. Two primary sources from 1571 discuss Sabbatarians in Moravia and Bohemia (The Chronicles of Joachim Cureus and the testimony of Jan Okurka).

In 1575, the region of Moravia was sold to Adam Von Dietrichstein, who was devoted to the Roman Catholic cause. He employed Jesuits to help bring Catholicism back into the area; all other groups were expelled. Despite these efforts, traces of Sabbatarians are found in Moravia and Bohemia as late as 1600. The original Sabbath movement started by Glaidt and Fischer faded from the historical record around this date.

How are we to view these brave Anabaptist Sabbatarians and their roughly seventy-year movement? These men and women took Luther’s concept of Sola Scriptora to its logical conclusion in their obedience to the Sabbath. They used such reasoning to their advantage to win people to their cause. While their efforts may seem small, this group made a mighty impact. Their work caught the attention of major theologians of the day, such as Luther and Erasmus, and temporal rulers, such as Count von Liechtenstein, Duke Friedrich II, and King Ferdinand I.

Thus concluded a fascinating chapter in Sabbath history. Let us always remember the lives of these brave men and women of God. Next month, we will honor the life of Andreas Fischer and review his 26 reasons for keeping the Sabbath.

Bibliography
Encyclopedia of the Reformation: Andreas Fischer, Oswald Glaidt, Valentin Crautwald, Wolfgang Capito
Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO – accessed through gameo.org): Andreas Fischer, Oswald Glait, Caspar von Schwenckfeld, Valentin Crautwald, Leonhard von Liechtenstien
Liechty, Daniel. Andreas Fischer and the Sabbatarian Anabaptists. Herald Press; Scottdale, PA. 1988.
Liechty, Daniel. Sabbatarianism in the Sixteenth Century. Andrews University Press, Berrien Springs, Michigan. 1993. pp 1-41.
Hasel, Gerhard F.. “Sabbatarian Anabaptists of the Sixteenth Century: Part I.” Andrews University Seminary Studies (AUSS) 5.2 (1967): 101-121.
Hasel, Gerhard F.. “Sabbatarian Anabaptists of the Sixteenth Century: Part 2.” Andrews University Seminary Studies (AUSS) 6.1 (1968): 19-28.
Rothkegel, Martin. “Anabaptist Sabbatarianism in Sixteenth-Century Moravia.” Mennonite Quarterly Review, vol. 87, no. 4, 2013: 519-573.

Love Carved on a Tree

Love Carved on a Tree

by John Conrod

“ “He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets.” –Deuteronomy 4:13

Back when I was a young teen-ager I had some friends that would carve their love on a tree. “Billy loves Judy” or “TR + LJ.” (That was before the days of ecological awareness.)

The Ten Commandments are the heart of God’s love and they are just as applicable today as they were thousands of years ago when a loving God carved them into stone because they proclaim a lifestyle endorsed by God. They are the perfect expression of who God is and how he wants the people who love Him in return to show their love by the way they live. These words of God’s love free us, protect us, make us wise, and bring His love, joy and light to our lives. God’s laws of love are guidelines and lights on our path, rather than chains on our hands and feet. They point at harm and warn us, then point at success and guide us, all because of God’s love for us.

The Ten Commandments restrict us from doing those things that will cripple us and keep us from being our best….”

(this article is an excerpt from the January–February 2004 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 9, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/tss/505/tss_505.pdf

Anabaptist Sabbatarians in 16th Century Germany (Part 1)

Sabbatarians in 16th Century Germany (Part 1)

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

This article begins a two-part series on Sabbatarians in 16th century Germany. It is a fascinating page out of Sabbatarian history as these Sabbath keepers had no known connections to any pre-existing Sabbath group. Through a series of events, including a failed prophecy about Jesus’ return, a small group of reformers would obey and teach the seventh-day Sabbath.

Sixteenth century Germany was a country ripe for change. The invention of the printing press in the prior century had enabled ideas of all kinds to be spread faster than ever before. Religious and political revolts contributed to a very unstable situation.

In 1517, Martin Luther initiated a reformation of church practices that he deemed as non-Scriptural with his 95 Theses. It started a religious revolution that questioned and threatened the traditional establishment, which was the Roman Catholic Church. Several years later, wary rural commoners of Germany rallied together to protest their treatment by feudal lords; they desired more freedom. In 1524, these protests devolved into violence and a formal revolt began which is historically called “The Peasant’s War” (this was the name it was given by German princes; people who were non-peasants participated).

One ardent defender of this revolt was Thomas Muntzer. He proclaimed that Jesus was coming soon and that the peasants needed to overthrow the existing rulers to hasten His return. Among the men who heard him was Hans Hut; he was an Evangelical Lutheran who sold books by trade. He was inspired by Muntzer’s message and ensured that one of his books was published. Hut fought in the peasant’s army.

People in this rebellion hoped that Martin Luther would side with them in their quest for political freedom. They saw their movement and Luther’s reforms as complimentary and contributing to the same overall goal of overthrowing a corrupt establishment power structure. Things did not turn out the way they desired; Luther encouraged the princes of Germany to crush the rebellion with maximum force, even calling for the revolters to be killed like mad dogs. Within a year of fighting, at least 100,000 peasants died in this revolt.

Just before or perhaps during the events of the 1524-1525 Peasant’s War, a separate movement emerged in Germany called Anabaptists. Among their core beliefs was the rejection of infant baptism in favor of adult baptism upon a personal conversion experience. After Luther’s rejection of the commoner’s rebellion, people looked for a Christian religious ethic that promoted individual religious freedom. For many, the Anabaptist movement was the answer. They promoted local leadership in congregations and a personal relationship with God.

Among the first Anabaptist ministers in Germany and Austria were Balthasar Humbaier, Hans Denck, and Hans Hut. The instability of the period seemed to create opportunities and obstacles that did not exist years beforehand. These Anabaptist leaders often did not have long ministry careers because they were usually martyred. Despite the brevity of their service times, they made a tremendous impact. The printing press allowed their influence to spread far and wide.

Hubmaier started preaching Reformation doctrine in the early 1520s, but he also participated to some degree in the Peasant’s War. In 1525, he was baptized and composed a very influential tract on the importance of Christian baptism. The next year, he moved to Nikolsburg, Moravia where religious toleration was allowed. He found success and turned the local Lutheran congregation into an Anabaptist group. This included prominent persons such as the feudal ruler of that area – Count Leonhard von Liechtenstein.

For a time, Hubmaier led a congregation of as many as 12,000 people. One of his assistants was Oswald Glaidt, who had previously been a Franciscan monk and Lutheran. He composed works to help Hubmaier’s cause, including a fourteen-point tract explaining Anabaptist beliefs and a song written in 1526 or 1527 entitled “The Ten Commandments.” In the song, we can see the importance that German Anabaptists placed on the Decalogue. At that time, Glaidt still only thought of the Sabbath as something to be spiritually observed.

Hans Denck was also baptized by Hubmaier and led an Anabaptist congregation of 1,100 people in Augsburg (1526). He taught that Luther’s view of justification was too flaccid and that it allowed one to live as they wished. He wanted people to focus on living like Jesus. Hans Hut was among those he baptized.

After Hut’s baptism, he diverged from some earlier views, such as those of Muntzer, about the Peasant’s War. Instead, he began to teach that God would have to bring about revolution and change by His own power and authority. As a result, his teachings had an eschatological tone which echoed Muntzer minus the militancy. Scholars debate whether the failure or the Peasant’s War or Baptism caused him to have a different perspective on the subject.

Hut traveled to Nikolsburg and conflicted with Hubmaier. The two had several points of difference, including the use of the sword by secular authorities and Hut’s prophetic views. Hubmaier tried to have Hut arrested, but Hut fled the area and traveled to Austria. Glaidt followed Hut and the two worked together to spread the message. Hut preached the gospel and Glaidt followed his efforts by baptizing and instructing the new converts. Among their new followers was Andreas Fischer.

Hut taught that God was gathering an elect Body of believers. When Christ publicly returned, this elect group would fight in the spiritual army of God to defeat their enemies (based on Rev. 17:14 and Rev. 19:11-18). Moreover, he taught his followers that they were to suffer for the cause without picking up arms to fight back. He thought that these events would happen very soon and predicted that Christ would return on the day of Pentecost 1528.

In 1527, Oswald wrote a song called “Awake You People In These Final Days.” Fortunately, this writing has survived the centuries. The heavy eschatological focus provides precious insight into the eschatological teachings of Hut and Glaidt.

The song promoted the idea that the return of Jesus was imminent. The Anabaptist followers of Hans Hut viewed themselves as living in the last days prophesied in the book of Daniel; they put together a medley of prophecies from this book (mainly from chapters 8, 9, and 11). They viewed the Anabaptist water baptism and the taking of communion as the restoration of True Temple sacrifices described in Daniel. The martyrdom of their people resulted in Temple sacrifices ceasing. They viewed the Pope as the man of lawlessness from 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 and the originator of worldliness and false doctrine in the Christian world.

From 1527 onward, Ferdinand I, the King of Austria, issued edicts against Anabaptists which hindered their evangelistic efforts. Bounty hunters and others were commissioned by the king to hunt down Anabaptists and arrest or kill them on sight. Beheading was their favored form of execution against these Christians (Liechty, Andreas Fischer and the Sabbatarian Anabaptists, pp 36-38).

Hut was arrested and died in prison in 1527. He only preached for about a year but had a tremendous impact for Anabaptists, especially in Austria. Jesus did not appear in 1528 as he had predicted. Despite this failure, many of his followers continued with the Anabaptist movement in one way or another. Oswald Glaidt was one of their leaders.

What About the Sabbath?
Oswald Glaidt was the first of these Anabaptist ministers to teach the literal observance of the seventh-day Sabbath. How and when he came to understand the Sabbath is still debated. The theory espoused by contemporary authors such as Luther and Erasmus was that the Jewish people convinced them to keep the Sabbath. Modern scholarship has definitively proven this to be false. In modern times, two very credible ideas on this subject have been developed. The first comes from Daniel Liechty in his work Andreas Fischer and the Sabbatarian Anabaptists. In it, he borrowed material from Werner Packull’s work.

Apparently, Hans Hut had a concordance of the seven judgments found in Revelation. In it, he employed the Sabbath in an allegorical sense. One of his early disciples was questioned about the seven judgments and testified that “[As] Christ had labored six days, and [then] celebrated the seventh, so God’s Word had been persecuted six times and now for the seventh time, [but] it would be brought into rest through the Anabaptists after they experience the same [persecution]” (idem, page 62). Liechty argued that from this allegorical focus on the Sabbath, Oswald derived a need to literally observe the seventh day.

The second view comes from Martin Rothkegel, who wrote about 20 years later. His approach and material greatly impacted this subject. He discussed one of the issues which divided Anabaptists, which was the issue called “The Sword.” Should a Christian hold positions in government, and, if so, to what degree should they use violence as part of their judgments against law breakers? 

In 1527, Hubmaier wrote a work called On the Sword. He advocated the idea that Christians could hold secular government positions and use violence to punish evildoers. He also believed that God mandated the use of the sword in these situations. Hans Hut took the opposite view on this subject. He claimed Christians should never serve in government and advocated for non-resistance against violence.

Rothkegel introduces a piece of evidence not previously explored on this subject. In 1530, Glaidt composed a book where he advocated the sword. He explained that the Ten Commandments were required for all Christians to follow in the literal sense. This included the Sabbath. This was a departure from his previous view in 1527. He went on to say that it was the duty of Christian rulers to put to death people who violated one of the commandments requiring that penalty.

As discussed earlier, Glaidt spent time under Hubmaier’s leadership. While Glaidt joined Hans Hut’s group, he seems to have held onto Hubmaier’s view of the sword.

I consider both authors to have a valid point and it is likely that both Hans Hut’s eschatological focus on sevens in the Bible, including the Sabbath, and Hubmaier’s view on the sword contributed to Glaidt’s conclusion. As Liechty pointed out, Hubmaier was anti-Jewish and thought that Sunday was the Sabbath (p 61). Hubmaier focused on the literal observance of the Ten Commandments, except the Sabbath. Hans Hut was using the Sabbath in an allegorical sense. In a way, Glaidt merged these two ideals into a new way of thinking about the subject. As we will see in the next article on this subject, Glaidt used eschatological arguments in other works (which shows continued influence from Hans Hut).

While conducting the evangelism campaigns with Hans Hut, Oswald met a man named Andreas Fischer. Next week, we will examine the lives of these Sabbatarians and their work for the Lord.

Bibliography

Encyclopedia of the Reformation (1996, hardcopy): Anabaptists, Hans Denck, Balthasar Hubmaier, Thomas Muntzer, Oswald Glaidt, Sabbatarians.
Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO – accessed through gameo.org): Anabaptism, Hans Denck, Balthasar Hubmaier, Oswald Glaidt, Martin Luther, Thomas Muntzer, Peasant’s War (1524-1525), Sabbatarian Anabaptists.
Hasel, Gerhard F.. “Sabbatarian Anabaptists of the Sixteenth Century: Part I.” Andrews University Seminary Studies (AUSS) 5.2 (1967): 101-121.
Hasel, Gerhard F.. “Sabbatarian Anabaptists of the Sixteenth Century: Part 2.” Andrews University Seminary Studies (AUSS) 6.1 (1968): 19-28.
Liechty, Daniel. Andreas Fischer and the Sabbatarian Anabaptists. Herald Press; Scottdale, PA. 1988.
Liechty, Daniel. Sabbatarianism in the Sixteenth Century. Andrews University Press, Berrien Springs, Michigan. 1993. pp 1-41.
Rothkegel, Martin. “Anabaptist Sabbatarianism in Sixteenth-Century Moravia.” Mennonite Quarterly Review, vol. 87, no. 4, 2013: 519-573.

Life in the Balance

Life in the Balance

by BRUCE NICOLA, JR.

When the battle between good and evil becomes inescapable

Burned into my mind’s eye is a haunting, disturbing image that will remain with me until Jesus comes and removes it.

The setting is night. The place is San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts. On this particular night a lone figure approaches. He has been here many times before. It is a place of solitude and peace. He is searching one last time for something that has eluded him.

Slowly the young man (25 years old—and young) approachesthe spot where the meaning of life has many times been thought about, analyzed, and processed. At times his mind is clear, though at other times clouded by mental struggles and drugs.

Tonight his mind is unclouded by either. Rather, he is struggling with an intensity of powerful feelings that are consuming him. The midnight darkness of depression envelopes him. Failure. Futility. Hopelessness. Loneliness. Tonight he hopes to achieve peace, find answers to questions about life, God, and all that other stuff.

He climbs about 10 feet into one of the four large concrete basins that surround the massive columned dome and methodically begins to organize various items that will shortly end his life. By morning he will have been successful, if that’s the right word. The last sentence of his suicide note reads, “I need to go home.”

Why?

This is where my mind’s eye pictures another Person. He walks with this young man whose parents had such high hopes for him; who was loved and valued by his family; a young man who had been prayed for every day of his life. His parents, family, friends, and prayer partners had all been praying for this Person to guide, protect, and care for him. Their prayers had an urgency of needing a miracle to change the desperate situation in this young life.

But the picture in my mind’s eye does not see a last-minute miracle. This story will not have that testimonial, evangelistic ending that everyone likes. Perfect love and sin don’t always make sense in the great controversy.

I see that Person standing—no, He’s kneeling beside the young man. Hot tears stream down His face. Sin is about to claim the life of another of God’s children. A father’s son, whom another Father’s Son died for centuries ago, is about to die.

The process of slowly snuffing out a life begins. The Person feels the life force return to Him as He chooses not to intervene; a decision only He, the Lifegiver, can make; a decision over which I have no control or comprehension. God the Father and God the Son understand perfectly what is happening at this moment of human incomprehension to this young man so dearly loved by his earthly parents and infinitely loved by the Creator of this human being.

Finally, there is no longer any breath, no heartbeat, no life, no personality for the one I once knew as my son, Garrett. Sin has claimed another of God’s children. What resurrection morning will be his?

This is where the ironies, paradoxes, and questions come into play. If the Lifegiver is present, why isn’t there life? It worked 2,000 years ago; why not now? Is there some cosmic, significant part to an ongoing story I don’t understand? Something only infinite divine wisdom and love can discern? If not, why even bother with the idea of this God-man holding gently my lifeless son in His arms?

We Want Answers, Not Questions

My mind’s eye leaves this scene. I need to see a little of what God already sees in the future. I want to grasp the hope and reality that there is a moment when death will cease; when broken lives will be mended. I go to all the promises I’ve read again and again, running the words across the pictures in my mind like subtitles in a movie. I superimpose these promises over the horrific images that remain vividly burned into my mind.

I imagine Job. He wanted answers. He lost his material possessions; then his children were killed in a moment of horror. Then, while he was racked with physical suffering, his marital problems surged, along with misguided support from his friends. Answers from God would have been helpful. Except, like us, Job didn’t get answers. Just a series of statements and questions from God.

The problems of sin, pain, suffering, and death do not offer satisfactory answers in this miserable, sin-polluted world we temporarily call home.

His Son for Our Children

A number of years ago I had the privilege of being prayed for by a group of prayer intercessors on the one-year anniversary of our son’s suicide. Spirit-filled people lovingly lifted me up in prayer for God’s healing touch on my broken heart. One of them prayed this sentence: “Your Son for his son.”

God gave His Son, Jesus, for my son, Garrett. Does this mean that I will hold my son again? I know where sin abounds, grace abounds infinitely more (Rom. 5:2021).

The only hope my eye of faith can see and try to understand is the significance of a rough, wooden cross on a hill outside Jerusalem. On it hangs the God-man, Jesus Christ. God the Father joins me in my sin-filled pain and suffering. He understands; He knows the end from the beginning. I must either reject or accept one of the choices before me.

If I reject God’s perfect wisdom, I run the terrible risk of never finding out why.

So I choose to accept God’s view. But I realize I must be patient and satisfied with God’s mercy and justice while I wait for answers in the world called heaven. I am hanging on to a verse that promises “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).

So does my son’s suicide make sense now? No. The taking of one’s own life should never “make sense.”

Can I understand why it happened? Not really. All the answers I’ve heard are only trite, empty cliches.

Do I feel better? Somewhat, but not always; not in this lifetime.

Until then, my mind’s eye of faith will struggle each day to keep the picture, the words, and the person of Jesus Christ clearly in my heart. God is love. God is fair. God is good and merciful. God has been where I am, a heavenly Father losing a Son in death. The good news is that He got His Son back!

“Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).

If you, or someone you know, is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Hotline, 800-273-8255, or visit SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.

Bruce Nicola, Jr., is retired after a career serving as a pastor and hospital chaplain.

This article was originally published on the Adventist Review Online website on Jan. 4, 2021. Re-published with permission. To read the original article and learn more about the Adventist review, please click this link: Adventist Review Online | ​Life in the Balance

New Free Booklet: How Do We Know God Exists?

New Free Booklet: How Do We Know God Exists?
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Consider the world around you. Did it come about by chance or by divine intervention? This work will examine the question of origins—how did everything that is come to be? In other words, how do we know God exists?

In this free booklet, we examine a profound proof of God’s existence. We experience it every week, but many of us do not stop to think about its eternal implications.

Click on the picture below to download this free booklet!


WARNING: Anger May Cause Cracks in Your Armor of God

WARNING: Anger May Cause Cracks in Your Armor of God

By Julia Benson

“I have a secret that a lot of people wouldn’t think could be possible about me. Sometimes I become quite angry (I’m fairly sure I’m not alone in this phenomenon.) But, usually, I find a way to get over it. However, sometimes I don’t let go of the anger and it is still there under the surface. BEWARE!

What starts out as irritation quickly works its way into frustration and soon becomes full-blown anger that rages into a spirit of disobedience to God. I can think of a time when I was angry at my husband for three days, and for three days I was so consumed by my anger I barely prayed or thought about Christ, let alone read the Bible. If I did pray, it was really chintzy, and I prayed out of obligation, not because I wanted to.

At the time when this happened, I thought I was out of that mode of not praying or praying without heart. Here I thought I was in this great “spiritual renewal.” Then boom. It was gone….”

(this article is an excerpt from the September–October 2005 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 9, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/tss/515/tss_515.pdf

Living in Anticipation of Christ’s Return

Living in Anticipation of Christ’s Return

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

In this article, we want to continue the discussion we started sometime ago. We live in the last days of this age, which started with Christ’s first coming. We know He will come back because His promises are sure. But exactly when is not for us to know; “no man knows the day or the hour” (Matthew 24:36-37).

While Jesus is certainly coming back, we don’t want to use His return as an excuse for inaction. The attitudes of “He’s coming back so it doesn’t matter” will lead to apathy and spiritual discontentment. There are prophecies in the New Testament that people would get weary of waiting for Jesus return. I have some examples below:

“The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep” (Matthew 25:5).

“Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Every since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation…” (2 Peter 3:3-5)

We want to avoid falling asleep spiritually and being lulled by the cares and desires of this world. We also don’t want to lose heart or become bitter about not seeing His return in the time frame that we thought it would happen (see also Mark 13:35-37, Matthew 24:48). As mentioned last week, we also don’t want to set dates.

We should look forward to the return of Jesus! “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life” (Rev. 22:17). We want our Savior to return and should always want this event to happen.

However, we have duties to carry out as we long for His coming.

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

While we certainly have been in the last days of this age for nearly 2,000 years, we live even closer to Christ’s return than the earliest disciples. As we see the day drawing closer, we are supposed to meet together even more and encourage each other. This means isolationism is not God’s will for the Christian. Even in the time of quarantines and other restrictions, we can still communicate and keep in touch with each other (we have tools such as online media).

Later in Hebrews 10:35-36, Paul wrote: “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God you will receive what He has promised.”

Another key as we anticipate the return of the Lord is not to lose confidence. While we anticipate His return, our enemy, satan, will try to discourage us about this event. He will use attitudes, other people and the world as instruments to suppress your hope.

Third, we need to stay busy for the Kingdom of God. In Luke chapter 19, Jesus taught the parable of the minas. In the parable, the man of noble birth gave minas to ten of his servants. When He gave the minas, He said, “occupy until I come.” The goal of this story was to teach us about working for the Kingdom as we await Christ’s return. The Greek word translated as ‘occupy’ means to transact official Kingdom business. We should be busy carrying out acts of service for the Kingdom of God during this time. We want to be found doing so when He returns (see also Matthew 24:39-51).

Fourth, learn to think trans-generational. We should not look down on the young (I Timothy 4:12), but we should also respect the older (I Tim. 5:1-5, I Peter 5:5). If we live long enough, we will experience both! We cannot neglect to remember the old or to train the young.

As discussed in the article “Are We Living in the Last Days?” (click here), there have been certain groups and individuals that tried to predict the coming of Jesus. This was a problematic approach. A significant number of people in these groups didn’t get necessary medical work done for their own health. Some people quit their jobs and/or sold all their possessions. They neglected to teach their children the basics of the faith. In a sense, the concept of ‘Jesus is coming back, so it does not matter’ became the answer for everything.

In John 14:12, Jesus said to His disciples: “You shall do greater works.” It is the duty of every generation to want the upcoming generation to accomplish more, go further, and reach higher than they did.

In this article, we have reviewed definite actions we can take as we anticipate the Second Coming. In summary: Live in holiness and humility before God as if Christ was coming back any moment, but plan your life like Christ is not coming back for 100 years. Don’t stop contributing to your retirement plan and managing your money wisely and responsibly. Take care of your health. Don’t stop believing in His promises!

Our love for Him and to be with Him should drive us to keep going forward.

The idea that our Lord could return any moment is part of our hope! Paul called it the blessed hope! “…while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ..” (Titus 2:13). Let’s run the race and seek His face like never before as we keep these things in mind. Let’s continue the work begun almost 2,000 years ago by those who started to labor in the last days.

Kelly McDonald, Jr

BSA President www.biblesabbath.org

Quiet, Personal Faith

Quiet, Personal Faith

by Brian Knowles

“When you reach a certain point in your own spiritual development, you begin to take certain things as axiomatic. You realize, for example, the futility of arguing doctrine with anyone. You can’t change people’s basic ideas. Once they’ve internalized them, they’re ensconced for life. The more you want someone to “see” your point of view, the less likely they are to see it.

You realize that you can’t re-engineer people to conform to your own ideas of how they should be – and that includes your children, your husband, your wife or even your parents, friends and employees. We are who we are, and that’s that. Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit on the inside of us, the dye is pretty much cast from an early age. Once you get to know people, they tend to act predictably.

We all tend to hunker down in comfort zones. Once there, we flood the moat, pull up the drawbridge and try to insulate ourselves from the chaos that’s going on in the world around us. Change is threatening, so we resist it….”

(this article is an excerpt from the January–February 2006 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 17, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/tss/517/tss_517.pdf