James R. Nix
up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from
it." Proverbs 22:6.
of us who were born into Adventist families grew up during the
years now considered by some among us—or, sadly, who formerly
were among us—as being a time of embarrassment. That's because
they view much of what our church taught and did back in the 1950s
and '60s, both in terms of theology and lifestyle, as being either
simplistic, legalistic, or outright error. For example, they claim
that during the years of our youth we were taught that salvation
was gained by what we did, not by Whom we knew. Besides, because
we saw ourselves as the remnant described in Revelation 12, and
we believed that we had a unique end-time message found in Revelation
14 to share with the world prior to Christ's return, they claim
that the church we were raised in was self-righteous, self-centered,
and bigoted. Plus, in the view of these self-avowed arbiters of
the "facts" (as least as they see them), Ellen White
was crammed down our throats, and, if not that, she certainly
was set up as some kind of final judge over almost everything
pertaining to Adventism. And on and on goes the litany of criticism
of the way the church treated (or mistreated) us. As a result,
many of the on-coming generation perceive that such was the way
things really were.
sad thing is that nowadays it is not just those outside the church who are saying
such things. Some members—even a few church employees—view our recent denominational
history in the same light. Unfortunately, for some, this may have been the Adventism
they experienced, but, fortunately, not everyone who lived during those years
looks back on them that way. So, at the risk of being considered either naive
or brainwashed, I want to state for the record why I'm glad that I was raised
in the Adventist Church when I was. Instead of focusing on the problems, I want
to celebrate Adventism. I want to share some of the many reasons why I feel blessed
for having grown up Adventist during that so-called legalistic/embarrassing era.
sharing my reasons, I want to say that I'm the product of my church. I was both
born and raised Seventh-day Adventist—in fact, I'm a sixth generation Adventist.
I attended Adventist schools from first grade through the Seminary, as well as
Sabbath school, church, and Pathfinders. Along the way, I gave my heart to Jesus
and decided that I wanted to spend my life serving Him. In short, both my conversion
and walk with Christ are linked directly to my Adventist upbringing, thanks to
God's love being modeled to me by family, teachers, pastors, and others in the
church. Now let me list ten reasons why I'm not only glad that I'm a Seventh-day
Adventist but that I grew up in the church when I did. I shall start with the
FOR GOD'S WORD, THE BIBLE
glad for the emphasis on the Bible that my church taught me. Admittedly, things
were simpler back then—we pretty much all used the same version of the Bible.
This helped unify the church. While I appreciate various versions, this proliferation
of versions has caused some problems. When I grew up, memory verses in Sabbath
school, and Bible texts in school, were still there to be learned and lived. In
Sabbath school we had "Bible sword drills"—usually between the boys
and the girls. And though more often than not we lost to the girls, still, Bible
facts that I still use were being stored in my mind.
the risk of sounding very old fashioned and "legalistic" to today's
generation, let me mention another thing I was taught—either in Sabbath school
or church school. My church taught me that I should never put anything on top
of the Bible. For me, that always placed the Bible in a category by itself. I
know that many now claim that back then Ellen White's writings were often viewed
as being superior to the Bible. But nobody ever told me not to put anything on
top of her books. Rather, my church taught me, even as a young child, that God's
Word is always uppermost, and for that I will always be grateful. I should add,
my church also taught me songs to reinforce the importance of the Bible in my
thinking. I probably first learned the following little chorus at Sabbath school
either in Kindergarten or Primary.
Yes, that's the book for me;
alone on the Word of God:
116 in Happy Songs for Boys and Girls.)
also was taught a hymn back then called:
ME THE BIBLE
Give me the Bible, star of gladness gleaming
the wanderer lone and tempest tossed,
No storm can hide that peaceful radiance
Since Jesus came to seek and save the lost.
me the Bible-holy message shining,
Thy light shall guide me in the narrow way.
and promise, law and love combining,
'Till night shall vanish in eternal day.
15 in Singing Youth; no. 655 in The Church Hymnal; and no. 272 in
the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal.)
THE SOON RETURN OF CHRIST
am glad that when I grew up in the church there was a sense of urgency about the
Second Coming of Christ. My teachers taught me that Jesus was coming—soon. They
didn't know when, but they were convinced that it was soon, very soon. Long range
plans, whether for our church, school, or my family, were always tempered with
the thought, "If Jesus hasn't come by then." Probably like me, many
can recall wondering whether you'd grow up and get married before Jesus returned.
Some now look back on that age and laugh about how naïve people were then,
but I'm thankful I was raised by a church that was excited about Christ's return
and that believed it would happen during my lifetime. To this day the influence
of this belief prevents me from settling down and becoming enamored with this
world and its allurements. I was taught clearly that there's a better place being
prepared for me, and that Jesus plans to return soon to take me there. This belief
helps me keep my earthly possessions in perspective. Although I am a junk collector
par excellence (by the way, spell that "junque"—not "junk"—collector!
Thank you!), knowing that it all will be destroyed when Jesus comes helps me keep
in balance the value of earthly things in contrast to eternal realities.
song we used to sing enthusiastically in Sabbath school reinforced what my church
taught me about soon being in my heavenly home:
ARE NEARING HOME!
Just over the mountains in the Promised Land,
the Holy City built by God's own hand;
As our weary footsteps gain the mountain's
We can view our homeland of eternal rest.
nearing home! We are nearing home!
See the splendor gleaming from the domes
See the glory streaming thro' the gates ajar!
There we soon will enter,
never more to roam,
Hear the angels singing! We are nearing home!
142 in Singing Youth; no. 642 in The Church Hymnal, where the hymn
is titled "Just Over the Mountains.")
I still often say regarding long-range plans, "Let's do such and such—'if
Jesus hasn't come by then,'" or "'if we are still here,'" yet as
I have grown older I also have adopted some of William Miller's thinking as my
own. One of his most famous statements, written shortly after the great disappointment
of October 22, 1844, was,
have fixed my mind on another time, and here I mean to stand until God gives me
more light, and that is to-day, to-day, and to-day until he comes."
a quotation from a letter that Miller wrote to a friend a few months earlier,
after the spring disappointment in 1844, also has influenced my thinking about
the nearness of Christ's return. It's in addition to my realization that I should
be living each day as though it were my last. Let me give you the setting for
this statement from Miller. Were you to go back in time and read any of the newspapers
leading up to the spring expectation of Christ's return (and, I might add, the
same is true leading up to the October 22 date), you will find the newspapers
full of ridicule, not only for Millerites in general, but in particular for William
Miller himself. He was the object of scorn in newspapers, both in editorials and
the scurrilous stories printed about him and his followers. He was the butt of
jokes told throughout the land. He was the object of verbal attacks from the popular
pulpits of the day. In short, if anyone humanly speaking ever had a right to be
angry with God because Jesus didn't return as expected, it would be William Miller.
But listen to what he wrote to Elon Galusha on April 5, 1844, just a few weeks
after the March 21 date that Miller first thought would be the end of the 2300-year
prophecy of Daniel 8:14. After acknowledging all the abuse being heaped upon him,
and telling his friend not to worry about him, Miller then described why Galusha
shouldn't worry about him. He wrote,
then should I complain if God should give a few days or even
months as a probation time for some to find salvation. . . .
It is my Saviour's will and I rejoice that he will do things
as if Miller is saying, "Let them print cartoons about me in the newspapers;
let them ridicule me in their editorials; let them tell jokes about me; let them
attack me verbally from a thousand pulpits—what's all that to me if even one more
sinner for whom Christ died can be saved?" For me today, yes, I still believe
with all my heart that Jesus will return soon. But if He chooses not to come during
my lifetime because He wants to save a few more of those for whom He died, what's
it to me! Like Miller, I believe that Jesus will do all things right. As I was
growing up, it seems to me that we used to sing about the second coming a lot
more than we do now. Back then, no hymn could stir an Adventist audience quite
like "Lift Up the Trumpet." When someone like Brad Braley at a General
Conference session, Youth Congress, or camp meeting would strike the first chord
on the large organ, the congregation in unison would fill the hall with the glad
anthem. The excitement seemed literally to make the rafters vibrate!
UP THE TRUMPET
Lift up the trumpet, and loud let it ring:
is coming again!
Cheer up, ye pilgrims, be joyful and sing;
Jesus is coming
Coming again, Coming again,
Jesus is coming again!
40 in Happy Songs for Boys and Girls; no. 141 in Singing Youth;
no. 541 in The Church Hymnal; and no. 213 in the Seventh-day Adventist
my heart still thrill with excitement at the thought that Jesus is coming soon?
Indeed it does! Thanks, church, for teaching me about the Blessed Hope and for
giving me such a wonderful future to look forward to!
leaving this topic, I want to share a very unexpected experience involving one
of my academy Bible teachers. Shortly before his retirement, this man was in Loma
Linda for some meetings. The day before his committee began, he stopped by to
visit me in the Heritage Room in the university library where I was working. Part
way through our visit he said that he owed me an apology. In fact, he went on
to say that with retirement just ahead of him he was trying to find as many of
his former students as he could in order to apologize to all of us. For the life
of me, I couldn't figure out what in the world my favorite academy Bible teacher
would need to apologize for. But I didn't have to wait long to find out. He said
that he wanted to apologize to me because Jesus hadn't already returned. He explained
that when he taught my class he was so positive that Christ was about to return
that by teaching me that the second coming was almost here he had obviously taught
me a falsehood, so he now wanted to ask my forgiveness. I looked at him in shock
and amazement! "Elder ________," I blurted out, "you don't have
anything to apologize for! That's one of the most important things you taught
me!" I meant it then, and I mean it today. I repeat, I am glad that when
I was growing up I had Adventist teachers and pastors who believed strongly in
the soon coming of Christ, and were genuinely excited about it. They also were
the people who helped me to fall in love with Jesus, so why shouldn't I be excited
about His soon return! I hope that today's pastors and teachers are as enthusiastic
about the Second Advent as were those when I was in school, but I confess to sometimes
wondering. I remember my surprise several years ago when my daughter, at the end
of her junior year in academy, was talking with me about our church. Among other
things, she mentioned the soon return of Christ. She wanted to know if our church
really still believes it. I asked her why she wondered. She replied, "I know
you believe it, Dad, but if the church still believes it, why don't we ever hear
about it in church?" After all, we are Seventh-day Adventists. Does
our belief in the soon return of Christ still come alive in our classrooms? Do
the young people in our churches still catch the sense of excitement that Jesus
is about to return? I hope so.
THE SANCTITY OF THE SABBATH
I'm glad that I grew up in a time when the Sabbath was carefully observed by Adventists,
from sundown Friday evening to sundown Sabbath evening. By sunset on Friday, our
house had been cleaned, our baths had been taken, the Sabbath meal had been prepared,
and we were ready to welcome the hours of the Sabbath.
few years ago I was visiting another division as a guest camp meeting speaker.
During one of our meals in the workers' dining room, I couldn't help but overhear
a conversation going on among several local pastors sitting at the next table.
They were saying how glad they were to have lived long enough to see the church
get over its legalistic view of Sabbathkeeping. And they were laughing about some
of our past "rules" such as that it was all right to get your feet wet
in the ocean on Sabbath, but not to swim, etc. Finally, I had taken about all
I could, and I turned and said to them, "But we still face the challenge
of helping our members understand the concept of holiness in time." Abruptly
their conversation changed as they admitted that the concept of holiness in time
is something that we as a church are losing.
recognize that what you decide is appropriate to do on Sabbath may sometimes differ
from what I feel comfortable doing. This was forcibly impressed upon my young
mind when a missionary couple, home on furlough, visited my family. During the
conversation the minister commented upon several changes he had observed in the
church after being out of the United States for six years. One thing in particular
was regarding Adventists riding their bicycles on Sabbath. To me, that had never
been an issue. I was raised knowing that on Sabbath I shouldn't be riding my bicycle
up and down the street with the neighbor kids like on other days, but the fact
that merely riding a bicycle on Sabbath was viewed by some as being inappropriate
was a new thought to me. You see, I was raised by my grandparents. My grandfather
was a busy, old fashioned family doctor who still made house calls at night. Often
when I was young he would be gone before I got up in the morning and would get
home at night after I had gone to bed. But Sabbath mornings were different. He
and I usually took a leisurely bike ride before breakfast. Consequently, that
was my once-a-week chance to spend time with him. So, obviously, the simple riding
of my bike didn't seem wrong to me. Despite such differences of opinion in terms
of what constitutes proper Sabbath observance, still I am glad to have been raised
when the concept was taught me that the hours of the Sabbath are holy—they are
different from the hours in the other days of the week. If anecdotal information
has any factual basis to it at all, what I hear now is that a growing number of
Adventist young people—even dare I say it, some families—see nothing wrong with
going to the mall on Friday night or Sabbath afternoons, eating out in restaurants,
teachers running in marathons and getting others to cheer them on, etc. If the
trend continues, I fear that Sabbath for Adventists will become like Sunday is
for most Protestants. When I was young, even the songs they taught me to sing
reinforced what my church was trying to help me learn:
Holy Sabbath day of rest,
By our Master richly blest,
created and divine,
Set aside for holy time.
holy Sabbath rest,
By our God divinely blest,
It to us a sign shall be
Throughout all eternity.
19 in Singing Youth; and no. 381 in the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal.)
I have said, I am glad that I was raised in a time when the sanctity and holiness
of the Sabbath were strongly emphasized. My life has been the richer as a result
of recognizing the specialness of these 24 hours of time each week. Probably for
this reason I still feel uncomfortable every time I read in one of our church
bulletins or some church publication directed specifically to Adventists that
such-and-such an activity is going to be held next "Saturday." Every
fiber of my being wants to cry out. "No. It's God's Holy Sabbath that
we're talking about, not Saturday!" I am fearful that as a church we
are in grave danger of losing a sense of the uniqueness and holiness of the Sabbath.
If ever that happens, we truly will have lost much.
REVERENCE IN CHURCH
today it may seem a bit quaint, I'm also glad that my church taught me reverence
and respect in the house of God. I've heard the argument by some that what I was
taught was merely cultural, and that the culture has changed. That may be debated.
But what I am sharing are reasons why I feel fortunate to have been raised in
our church when I was. View it however one wants, I'm glad that I was taught not
to talk out loud in church, or to applaud, or make other loud noises, and that
when I came to church I did so in my clean "Sabbath clothes" that generally
were not worn on any other day of the week. Learning that has been a blessing
for me because to this day all those practices continue to remind me that the
church sanctuary is special—it is the house of God. I have come there to worship,
not to be entertained. Yes, when I was growing up I was taught that the church
sanctuary was for worshiping in, while the foyer was reserved for greeting one's
friends, and the fellowship hall and/or the school gymnasium were reserved for
secular activities. Keeping that distinction in my thinking has been helpful to
me through the years. I still know that when I arrive at church I am there to
worship. This knowledge guides how I enter into the entire worship event. Thanks
to what I was taught, church for me is not a social club designed to meet the
needs of what some today call "cultural Adventists" or "pew warmers."
Rather, I know that I have come there to worship God, my Savior and Friend. For
that, my life has been the richer. And again, my church reinforced its teaching
through music. My church taught me to sing:
SILENT, BE SILENT
Be silent, be silent, A whisper is heard;
and listen, Oh, treasure each word.
Tread softly, tread softly, The Master
Tread softly, tread softly, He bids us draw near.
28 in Happy Songs for Boys and Girls; no. 601 in The Church Hymnal;
and no. 479 in the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal where it is titled "Tread
THE BAPTISMAL SERVICE
I am as thrilled as the next person about the explosive growth of our church in
recent years, I can't help but feel a bit nostalgic for the baptisms in my small
church as I was growing up. To this day, they bring back warm memories. Baptisms
were not squeezed in between the offering and hymn of meditation just before the
sermon. In the old adobe church where I worshiped as a child, baptisms took as
long as they needed to take. Especially on such occasions, the Holy Spirit was
matter whether it was one or two students from the church school who were being
baptized, or a sizeable group resulting from an evangelistic series, the program
was the same. The candidates for baptism were called to the front of the church
where they were introduced, asked if they accepted Christ as their Savior and
believed the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. They were then voted
into fellowship, subject to their baptism. Next, while the candidates and the
minister retired to back rooms to prepare for the baptism, one of the church elders
led the congregation in singing hymns. By the time the participants were ready,
several hymns had been sung. Then, between each individual baptism, an additional
stanza of some hymn was sung. Even now, in my mind's ear I can hear the soft sounds
of the water lapping at the four sides of the baptismal tank resulting from the
candidate having just been immersed, and the soft, reverent sobs coming from the
congregation, coupled with the heartfelt "amen's" after each individual
came up after being baptized. And the memory of the old hymns we sang on such
sacred occasions still tugs at my heart and bring a tear to my eye. One of those
hymns that we sang in my little church was:
THE WORLD, BUT GIVE ME JESUS
Take the world, but give me Jesus;
its joys are but a name,
But His love abideth ever,
Through eternal years
Oh, the height and depth of mercy!
length and breadth of love!
Oh, the fullness of redemption,
Pledge of endless
596 in The Church Hymnal; and no. 329 in the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal.)
one we used to sing at baptisms was
IS A FOUNTAIN
There is a fountain filled with blood,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their
Lose all their guilty stains,
Lose all their guilty stains;
sinners plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
163 in The Church Hymnal; and no. 336 in the current Seventh-day Adventist
EMPHASIS ON HEALTH AND TEMPERANCE
I was growing up in the church, we had temperance oratorical and poster contests
in school, and it was considered taboo to serve drinks at church functions that
contained caffeine, such as caffeinated tea, coffee, and cola drinks. Nothing
containing meat, black pepper, or mustard was served at church potlucks or other
church-related functions that I attended. And most certainly, alcoholic drinks
were not served at Adventist weddings. In my family, I was even taught not to
eat between meals.
today consider all this to be legalistic, or at least out-of-date, but I want
to thank my church for teaching me that my body is the temple of God, so how I
treat it is important. I'm glad I was taught that God isn't merely trying to give
me a few extra years of healthy life here on earth; He is trying to prepare me
for an eternity with Him. As a result, I was never tempted to smoke, drink alcohol,
or do drugs. In addition to the above, I was taught moderation in whatever I ate,
something that admittedly I don't always practice as well as I might, but thanks
to my church, at least I understand the concept. Consequently, whenever some new
diet plan or teaching comes along in society, I still check the latest fad against
what God showed Ellen White. If there seems to be no agreement, I don't give the
new claim another thought. Of course, I realize that not everything Ellen White
wrote about diet and health has yet been confirmed by medical science. But even
during my lifetime, watching medical science flip this way and flop that—including
even regarding vegetarianism—I never cease to be amazed at how often when all
the dust settles, the final conclusion agrees with what God showed a woman with
a very limited formal education more than 140 years ago.
I am grateful to my church not only for teaching me that my body is the temple
of God, but that there is one demonstrably reliable source in the area of health
and temperance against which I can gauge current health claims and fads as I attempt
to determine which to adopt and which to ignore. And, yes, my church also taught
me a song that reinforced what it was trying to teach me regarding the importance
of health and temperance.
TO BE A DANIEL
Standing by a purpose true,
Heeding God's command,
them the faithful few!
All hail to Daniel's band!
to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone,
Dare to have a purpose firm!
to make it known!
179 in Singing Youth.)
ADVENTISM'S PROPHETIC IDENTITY AND MESSAGE
I was growing up, I was taught that Seventh-day Adventists have "the truth."
I realize that with many today this concept is out of vogue, but, frankly, I'm
glad I grew up believing in the prophetic identity and message of the Seventh-day
Adventist Church—including the fact that what our church teaches and preaches
is "truth." I was taught that the history of our movement was predicted
centuries in advance in Revelation 10, that God's end-time remnant are identified
in Revelation 12, and that our prophetic assignment, including the message God
wants preached just before Christ returns, is given to us in Revelation 14.
some may have seen in our claim a kind of exclusivity or something to boast about,
but I don't recall ever being taught that. On the contrary, I was taught that
joining the Seventh-day Adventist Church was both a privilege and a solemn responsibility.
In fact, the MV Society taught me a motto back then that both challenged and excited
me: "The Advent message to all the world in this generation." God was
counting on me as part of His remnant people to do my part to help warn the world
of Christ's soon return. That was an awesome concept for a young person to ponder!
And of course, we sang about it.
SHARE MY FAITH
share my faith with others on life's way.
I'll share my faith; there's no time
When Jesus calls for volunteers,
I'll hasten to obey.
share, share, share my faith Ev'ry day.
3 in Singing Youth.)
know that to some I may sound extreme with this one, but I'm thankful that when
I grew up in the church I was taught not to go to the theater, dance, listen to
popular-type music, read novels, wear jewelry, play cards, bowl, play pool, or
even be enamored with professional sports. Were we too rigid back then? Probably
so! Would my guardian angel really leave me at the door were I to venture into
a theater? Even though young, it didn't take me very long to figure out that if
anything, rather than leaving me at the door to the theater, the Holy Spirit,
or my guardian angel—someone—stuck right with me, working on me even harder.
why am I glad that my church tried to teach me about the potential dangers posed
by these and other lifestyle issues? Because, for the rest of my life I will always
stop to think whether doing whatever activity that was once on the taboo list
is really the best way I can use my time and money. By not reading, watching,
and doing a lot of things that others in our society read, watch, and do, I don't
have my mind cluttered with a lot of things that others must unclutter their minds
of when they decide to follow Christ. Those things that I never learned to do,
which later I discovered I shouldn't be doing anyway, I didn't then have to unlearn.
It is my hope that in our rush to undo our alleged legalistic past, our church
doesn't go so far the other way in terms of lifestyle issues that basically we
leave no standards in place to teach our young people. I would have been robbed
of many valuable insights had that been true when I was growing up in the church.
not going to go through these issues one by one, but whether it is the extremely
competitive nature of sports, which is the exact opposite of Christ's teachings
about how to treat others, or the vivid portrayals of sex and violence on the
Internet, cable television, and in the theater, not to mention novels that one
can read, I am so grateful that my church taught me to be very careful about what
I put into my mind. There are some places that an Adventist Christian just shouldn't
go, and some things that we simply shouldn't do. Thanks, church, for teaching
me that! Although I've slipped at times in my life, thank you for holding the
standard high by teaching me that there really is a line out there that the Adventist
Christian shouldn't cross. My life has been the better, and my Christian experience
the richer, because you taught me that.
you also reminded me of this in the songs you taught me:
WOULD BE LIKE JESUS
Earthly pleasures vainly call me;
I would be
Nothing worldly shall enthrall me;
I would be like Jesus.
like Jesus, this my song,
In the home and in the throng;
Be like Jesus
all day long!
I would be like Jesus.
70 in Singing Youth; no. 311 in the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal.)
was also a little chorus that my church taught me:
WANT TO BE READY WHEN JESUS COMES
I want to be ready when Jesus comes;
want to be ready when Jesus comes.
Earth's pleasures grow dim
waiting for Him;
Lord, keep me till Jesus comes.
124 in Singing Youth.)
THE WORLDWIDE ADVENT MOVEMENT
am glad that I grew up in a church where worldwide outreach and mission were stressed.
As I child, I saw that I was part of something much bigger than the little local
church where my family worshiped Sabbath by Sabbath. Whether it was the solicitation
of funds for the "poor and needy" through the annual Ingathering campaign,
the Pathfinder fairs that I went to year by year, the camp meetings that my family
went to nearly every summer, or even the occasional Youth Congress or General
Conference session that I attended, through various means my church helped me
remember that there is more to the Advent movement than just my local church.
And yes, when I was growing up, we still viewed ourselves as a movement, not just
a church in the formal sense of the word.
Sabbath someone read the Mission Story during Sabbath school. Today's "Mission
Spotlight" is informative, but as a young person it did me good occasionally
to have to wrestle with pronouncing names of persons and places that sounded foreign
to my American English-speaking ears when my church asked me to read the Mission
Story. No doubt we sometimes murdered the pronunciation, but we were excited to
be part of a church that was carrying the Three Angels' messages to far-flung
places that otherwise almost none of us would ever have heard about. It gave us
a broader world perspective than most of our neighbors had.
I noted earlier, I was raised by my grandparents. My grandfather, a busy physician,
had an activity that he and I often did on Sabbath afternoons. Back in those days,
most so-called developing countries were struggling to get medications of any
kind for their citizens. Consequently, my grandfather decided that he could do
his part in a small way to alleviate the situation. He would ask representatives
of pharmaceutical companies to give him samples of various medicines, surgical
gloves, and other items that were in short supply at our medical clinics and hospitals
around the world. Then he and I carefully wrapped the packages in heavy paper
on Sabbath afternoons, meticulously tying the packages with string, with each
place where the strings crossed being double-tied with square knots in order to
make certain that our packages survived the trip to intended destinations. Most
of those packages went to Adventist institutions where Grandpa knew the physician
in charge, but not always. Many years later when I was in Papua New Guinea, I
asked to be taken to our Sopas Hospital (now, unfortunately, closed) in the highlands.
Why did I want to go there? I wanted to see where some of the boxes of medications
had gone that I as a kid helped my grandfather pack. More recently, I was in Nigeria.
When asked what I wanted to see while in that country, I replied, "Ile Ife
Hospital." Nobody could understand why, but for me it was quite simple. It
was another place for which we had wrapped and sent packages when I was a kid.
This concept of volunteerism was also reinforced in my mind through singing.
CAPTAIN CALLS FOR YOU
There's another task to do,
There's a battle
And the Captain calls for you,
to the throbbing drum!
Shout the word, "We come, we come!"
Christ before us, Christ behind,
Christ on every side!
For the rescue of mankind, On to glory ride!
4 in Singing Youth.)
this day, I see myself as part of a worldwide movement—one that is marching to
ultimate victory—thanks to what my church taught me when I was growing up.
HYMNS AND DISTINCTLY ADVENTIST-ORIENTED CHORUSES
glad that when I was growing up, my church taught me to sing hymns and distinctly
Adventist-oriented choruses. The songs I was taught in church, school, and Pathfinders
reinforced the beliefs of my church. In saying this I am not downing the currently
popular evangelical Praise Choruses, but every time I hear them it strikes me
that many are quite superficial. All I'm saying is that I'm glad that as I was
growing up we sang hymns and choruses that had theological or doctrinal content,
and that were distinctly Adventist-oriented.
all candor, as a small child there were a couple of hymns we occasionally sang
that I had no idea at all what they meant. Still, something about them fascinated
me. One was:
ARE LIVING, WE ARE DWELLING
We are living, we are dwelling,
grand and awful time,
In an age on ages telling—
To be living is sublime.
the waking up of nations,
Gog and Magog to the fray;
Hark? what soundeth?
creation Groaning for her latter day?
359 in The Church Hymnal, and no. 617 in the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal.)
a child, I didn't have the slightest idea who or what Gog and Magog were, nevertheless
my young mind was put to the stretch singing about them. Another hymn that similarly
challenged my young understanding was the second stanza of:
THOU FOUNT OF EVERY BLESSING
Here I raise my Ebenezer,
Thy help I've come,
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood.
291 in The Church Hymnal; and no. 334 in the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal.)
I didn't have a clue as to what an Ebenezer was, but the thought of raising one
intrigued my young mind.
I was growing up, hymns like Del Delker's theme song, "The Love of God,"
spoke to my soul while at the same time stretching my mind—especially the last
LOVE OF GOD
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies
of parchment made;
Were ev'ry stalk on earth a quill,
And ev'ry man a scribe
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
could the scroll contain the whole,
Tho' stretched from sky to sky.
love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore
The saints and angels' song.
7 in Singing Youth.)
a youngster, I could resonate to that kind of love, even if today I still can't
fully comprehend it.
not going to list the hymns that I learned as a child that blessed me, but to
this day as I go about my work I find myself humming or softly singing the hymns
I was taught. And why do these hymns mean so much to me? because they are part
and parcel of who I am as an Adventist—they almost express better even than the
spoken word who and what I am.
am fearful that in this regard we as a church may be shortchanging our young people.
After all, what they learn to sing when young is pretty much what they will sing
the rest of their lives. Sometime back I was leading an academy denominational
history tour in New England. Usually when we get to William Miller's grave—the
last stop on our visit to the Miller sites—I ask tour groups to join me in singing
a stanza or two of "Lift Up the Trumpet." Figuring that possibly these
academy sophomores might not know that hymn, I asked them. My hunch was confirmed;
not one of them did. So I asked, "Do you know 'We Have This Hope'"?
Again, not one of the students did. I then asked if there was a Praise Chorus
about the second coming of Christ that we could sing there by Miller's grave.
Neither students nor sponsors could come up with one (I have since been told that
there is at least one, but no one remembered it that day.)
point simply is, if we are going to teach young people to sing Praise Choruses,
then as a church we owe it to them to write some that are distinctly Adventist—that
emphasize our beliefs. What young people learn now is what they will continue
to sing the rest of their lives. That's what my church taught me as I was growing
WORDS OF LIFE
Sing them over again to me,
Wonderful words of life;
me more of their beauty see,
Wonderful words of life.
Words of life and
Teach me faith and duty;
Beautiful words, wonderful
Wonderful words of life,
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
words of life.
574 in The Church Hymnal; and no. 286 in the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal.)
glad my church taught me hymns and gospel songs in addition to the choruses I
learned. That reinforced my Adventist beliefs.
addition to the above, I could also briefly add several more things for which
I am glad my church taught me. Among these would be,
My obligation to return the tithe and to give offerings, that my possessions are
not my own, but have all been loaned to me by God. By doing so, my church has
taught me stewardship, not only of my funds but also of my time.
The Great Controversy theme—that although I can't explain the whys and wherefores
of everything that happens in this world, I know that there is a larger cosmic
struggle going on in the universe between Christ and His angels and Satan and
his angels—and that God has a plan to put an end to the sin problem throughout
That Ellen White was a genuine prophet of the Lord and that His counsels through
her on all sorts of topics have authority—including even her depiction of the
events leading up to Christ's return that help me as I wait and watch for it.
Despite protests by some to the contrary, her insights into the role of the papacy,
church unity between Protestants, Catholics, and Spiritualists, wars and financial
uncertainties, crime and pollution in the cities—all of these, and much more,
have never been contradicted by events themselves. Consequently, I continue to
have faith in other things she says God showed her about any number of topics.
I'm glad my church taught me to accept her prophetic messages as being valid;
doing so has in many, many ways enriched my life.
That the history of my church is important. My well-marked academy denominational
history textbook attests to the fact that I was taught Adventist history. Apparently
my teacher did a good a job, since that was my first introduction to what eventually
became my life work—the preservation and promotion of the history of our church.5.
Most importantly, I was taught by my church that Jesus not only forgives my sins,
He also empowers me to overcome them. I was also taught that Jesus is preparing
a people who are safe to save—to live with Him throughout eternity. And that through
accepting His freely offered robe of righteousness, Jesus is inviting me to be
among those saved saints. In short, in my opinion Adventism is the best thing
going. No apologies are needed for that. After all, my church gave me cogent answers
to the really big questions in life:
Where I came from.
b. Why I am here.
c. Where I am going.
I to live up to everything my church taught me as I was growing up, I cannot think
of any better way to live. Because of my love for Christ, I would try to emulate
Him in all I do. I would be genuinely interested in helping my neighbors and those
less fortunate in our world. I would love and respect my family. I would do only
those things that would keep my body healthy. I would be honest in all my business
dealings. And at the end of each day when it is time to go to sleep, I'd ask for
forgiveness for my failings, knowing that it would be eagerly granted, and I'd
awake the next morning asking for grace and wisdom to help me through another
day. In short, my church taught me how to live my life to the fullest without
guilt, anxiety, or despair. For that I am most grateful.
consider carefully this question: If we listen to the voices out there that call
for the church to abandon many of its distinctive teachings, thus discarding many
of the things it taught me, what will we give the next generation to replace them?
What legacy will they receive in their place?
we improve here and there on how we package what I was taught? Very likely!
some people in the past take some of the church's teachings to extremes? Yes,
overall, should we change the best package for living that God has ever devised
for His people?
all my heart I hope not! In short, I disagree with those who say that I was mistreated,
misinformed, and outright misled by my church. To my way of thinking, the Devil
has stolen a march on some of us by getting us to buy into this false picture.
As for me, I will forever be glad that I was raised at a time when my church clearly
enunciated what it believed and stood for. With all the distorted charges made
by today's critics, no wonder many of our young people find it difficult to accept
Adventism. With such a cloud of dust being stirred up, how can they ever be expected
to see what they will be missing if they reject what the church offers?
White opens her book Education with this classic statement:
ideas of education take too narrow and too low a range. There is need of a broader
scope, a higher aim. True education means more than the pursual of a certain course
of study. It means more than a preparation for the life that now is. It has to
do with the whole being, and with the whole period of existence possible to man.
It is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual
powers. It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and for the
higher joy of wider service in the world to come." Education, p. 13.
few pages later she wrote,
than the highest human thought can reach is God's ideal for His children. Godliness—godlikeness—is
the goal to be reached." Education, p. 18.
challenging me to that kind of thinking and living, I will ever be grateful to
my church—to God's last-day inspired messenger, to my pastors, teachers, Sabbath
school and Pathfinder leaders, and to my family—who by both precept and example
introduced me to the rich and rewarding Seventh-day Adventist lifestyle. For having
done so, no apologies will ever be needed! But if they had not exposed me to all
these advantages—had they kept them from me—they would most certainly now owe
me an apology. Thank you, church, for being so distinctly Adventist!
© 2006, James R. Nix. Permission to reproduce this talk must be obtained
from James R. Nix, 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
William Miller letter to Joshua V. Himes, November 10, 1844; quoted in Sylvester
Bliss, Memoirs of William Miller, 1853, p. 278.
William Miller letter to Elon Galusha, April 5, 1844; quoted in George Knight,
Millennial Fever, 1993, p. 162.