When I became a Seventh-day Adventist back in 1968, I was spiritually confident of, and was never ashamed of this very special message given me by our Heavenly Father to give to our neighbor without any excuse. Unfortunately, today there are many voices who are declaring that the standards and teaching back in the 60’s was legalistic and totally out of step with modern theology and culture. We are told by many today that calling ourselves the “Remnant” of Revelation 12, with a unique end time message of the three angels of Revelation 14 that we are self-righteous and bigoted. It was a time when Ellen White was crammed down our throats. As a result, many of the present generation actually believe that this was the way things really were.
At the risk of being considered naïve or brainwashed, I’m glad that I came into this message when I did. There are many reasons that I feel really blessed to discover this church back when I did in 1968. Some now feel embarrassed to remember those times.
I am a first generation Adventist. I never had the experience of attending any Adventist educational institutions, but what I learned from this church strengthened my walk with Jesus. And I am thankful for the pastors and the Conference Administrators who were a model of God’s love for me.
I’m blessed beyond description to be a Seventh day Adventist. When I studied and found this Church, I discovered that most Adventists used the same version of the Bible; the King James edition. There was a great unity and respect regarding God’s Word from the pulpit to the home. Today there is such a smorgasbord of Bible versions that we are experiencing a plethora of confusing religious concepts and a united commitment to our great cause.
There was a great sense of urgency concerning the soon coming of Christ. We were excited about the possibility of His return in my lifetime. It helped me to keep my earthly life and possessions in the right perspective, and recognize there is a better place prepared for me. If Jesus chooses not to come in my lifetime, then I wait patiently for Him to use me in the great mission of preparing other precious souls for His coming.
Back then, no other hymn could stir me like “Lift Up the Trumpet” played with gusto by Brad Braley before hundreds of inspired and reverent souls. It was so exciting to me that it seemed to shake to rafters of my very soul.
The Hymnal we used when I joined the church was the 1941 edition. That stirring hymn, “We are Nearing Home”, I remember singing with such enthusiasm. That hymn was #642. Sad to say, it is not even in today’s hymnal.
In my earlier years as a pastor, I well remember sitting around a lunch table with other ministers while attending a ministerial retreat. I recall some of the pastors around my table were rejoicing over the fact that “Ingathering” was finally done away with. They were actually laughing about what they considered legalistic activities and beliefs of some, and about some of the past “Rules” that inhibited them and their liberal efforts. I even overheard one pastor speak disparagingly about those so-called legalistic, old-fashioned Adventist by stating… “They strut around in their de-caffeinated, smoke-free, vegan souls, thinking they have a corner on God.”
I wish not to condemn any person of which I am speaking, on the contrary, I pray that they will recognize their misguided ways. For this reason, I will not name any individuals.
I also recognized the sacredness of God’s holy 7th day Sabbath. However, there is a rapidly growing number of Adventists today who see nothing wrong with going to the local Friday night football game, or eating out in a restaurant on Sabbath afternoon. If today’s Adventist church continues in this vein, they will be treating God’s Holy Day like other faiths treat their Sunday.
Also, no one in my earlier years with the church, would be baptized while working on Sabbath. Today, I have witnessed first hand this very thing taking place. This is doing a terrible dis-service to the baptismal candidate, leading him/her to believe that Sabbath observance isn’t really all that important.
When I came into the church, the church related functions never served meat, or alcoholic beverages, or many other things for which we have strong counsel in both the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. Some today consider this out-of-date, or legalistic. But I want to thank my church for teaching me these powerful
Biblical principles as a babe in the faith in those early years, and how my body is the Temple of God and that it’s important how I treat it.
It may seem quite old-fashioned and out of touch today, but I’m glad my church taught me reverence and respect when in the house of God. There were a couple of dear people in one of my churches who would come quietly into the Sanctuary on Sabbath morning and kneel in the pew for a time of prayerful devotion. That was precious and inspiring to me. I’ve had some tell me that it was simply cultural and all that has now changed. I wonder what would happen if we would all come quietly into the sanctuary and kneel down in the presence of our precious Lord?
I have to admit that I fail many times in this respect, but I’m glad that I have been encouraged by my church not to talk out loud in the church, or to applaud.
Now this is not to say that we are to come in with sad faces and sorrowful demeanor. Not at all. There is to be pleasantries, joyful expressions and smiles, representative of a people full of happiness and joy. My clothes were to be the very best when I come into the presence of the Spirit of God. Jeans and T-shirts would not be appropriate when I know that I can dress more appropriately.
These practices remind me that the Sanctuary is special – It is the HOUSE of God.
I have come to church to worship, not to be entertained. Visiting with friends was done in the foyer, though quietly then, or in the fellowship hall. My life has been richer because of the distinctiveness that I have learned between Worship and fellowship. I think of that beautiful Fanny Crosby hymn “Be silent; Tread softly, the Master is here”. Fanny Crosby was born in 1920, just 7yrs before the birth of Sr. White. And she died in 1927, the very yr. of Mrs. White’s death. Thankfully that hymn is still in our hymnal. #479. (Read the words from the hymnal)
When I joined this wonderful movement I realized that SDAs have the “Truth”. Many today who are not solidly grounded in that Truth find this concept to be offensive. I’ve heard it said…. “Who are we to say we are the Remnant”?
I found and believed in our prophetic identity. I believed that our church held and preached “Present Truth”. I believed that I had been chosen to do my part
in warning the world of the looming crisis and the soon coming of our blessed Lord Jesus. Were we too rigid regarding lifestyle and standards? I don’t think so. Today we seem to be in a mad dash to sweep under the rug our alleged legalistic past. I’m so glad that I learned to be careful what I put into my mind. I realize that I have slipped many times in my life, but the things that I have learned pricked my conscience when I failed. And my life has been all the better and my Christian experience much richer because of it.
I also recognize that this is not just a church, among thousands of other denominations. I’ll never forget the very first camp meeting I attended before I was baptized. It was like a ten day vacation trip to heaven. Speakers like H.M.S. Richards, Sr.; Music as from a heavenly choir; modest and respectful dress on both sides of the “gender” aisle; Children were instructed in their little tents about humble Christian living and a missionary spirit, instead of being taken to the world’s amusements and “Outrageous” music. There was unity of preaching and teaching of “Present Truth” messages instead of poking criticism of those of us who may still believe there is such a thing as “Present Truth” or the status of the “Remnant”.
Our great Adventist heritage is precious to me. I had the privilege of traveling to the New England states in 1971 with a group of Literature Evangelists and toured the many wonderful sights of our early pioneers. We worshiped on Sabbath in the very first Seventh-day Adventist Church in Washington, New Hampshire. What a thrilling and sacred experience that was! We were also blessed to have Elder Virgil Robinson as our tour guide. What a blessing to spend that time tracing the “Footprints of the Pioneers”.
I did not have the privilege of growing up as an Adventist. I was 24 years of age when I married my lovely bride and was baptized into the church at the age of 27; over a year after her baptism. The Lord blessed us with two (2) children. We were determined to raise our children to appreciate and cherish good wholesome music that would be endorsed by God. Unfortunately it soon become clearly evident that many of our churches had embraced the world’s music, much like the kind I provided in a band with my guitar in the days of my youth. God’s music led me away from the world’s music, and I was sorely disappointed when I realized it has now been adopted by my church. If we care for and are concerned about our young people, we owe it to them to write and use choruses that are distinctly “Adventist”, that emphasize our beliefs.
I’m also thankful that I understood and accepted the wonderful fact that Ellen G. White is a genuine last day prophet of the Lord. I consider her writings and insights authoritative and her ministry has enriched my life and our family’s lives immeasurably.
I make no apologies for that which I heard, learned, accepted, and believed since before my baptism. I know that I and my precious family have been chosen for a soul-saving work, and that that is to be the main focus of our lives as long there is breath in us.
I will always be grateful for those Pastors and Administrators, the likes of Pastor George Gainer (now deceased), who by precept and example, and by being distinctively “Adventist”, challenged me to a God-like way of thinking and living.
I’m so glad that my church taught me how to live my life for Him, without guilt, anxiety, despair, or embarrassment of any kind. And for this I am eternally grateful.
Pastor Dan Shafer
Highway for the Remnant Ministries