Message: Thank You
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Japhet De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Jessyka Dooley
Live Adventure: Jessyka Dooley
Live Purpose: Kyle Smith
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Hebrews 12:18-29 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: I spent some time in Europe over the past couple of months at two different events that allowed me to connect with people I haven’t seen for a long time. I found a mixture of commitment to God and disengagement, and heard stories from people desperate to find ways to help their loved ones—often adult children—reconnect with a life of faith.
In September, when I was in England speaking for the Newbold College Week of Spiritual Emphasis, a parent approached me to share how their young adult child was now openly agnostic. Later on that same day, I met this young adult—a super sharp individual who explained that they had explored the idea of God extensively and found no plausible reason to be a believer. When I laid down a challenge for them to consider, to give God just one more shot, they agreed at first but later declined the challenge. I think this is because they felt they had moved too dramatically in a different direction—perhaps too far to return to God. Honestly, I felt like I was talking with the rich young ruler (Matthew 19). This young adult has so much potential. If only they would be open to engaging with God. What could that parent—or any of us—do?
While at breakfast with an acquaintance in Spain last week, he reminded me that the last time we had seen each other was when I was leading my final YLC (Youth Leadership Convention) at the same site more than 12 years ago. He had since left England and immigrated to Spain. When he heard I would be speaking at the weekend, he decided to attend. As we spoke, catching up on all the various aspects of our lives since we’d last talked, he shared that one of his kids was now an atheist. What could he do?
It made me think about the time we’d last seen each other in Spain all those years ago. It had been an emotional convention since it was my final one with leaders from all over England whom I loved. I was inspired by their ability to persevere against all odds. What motivated them to dedicate a week of their year to Youth Leadership training? Sure, the site in Spain was an incentive, but we did not do any shopping or touring. We did not spend any extra time in Madrid. We had seminars and training from dawn to dusk every day. The Spanish cuisine was amazing, but we did not hang out in cafés or have sumptuous late-night dinners.
These men and women were motivated by a desire to belong to one another. Their openness to friendship, their sense of responsibility, their eagerness to learn and to connect with other like-minded people brought them from England to Spain every year for a whole week of training. They left overflowing with new ideas and dreams.
In spite of the discouragement we often face, we need to persevere in sharing God with others—our own children, for instance, and other people who have decided they don’t need God in their lives. We need dedication, creativity, and love. God will continue to work in their lives, as He does for all of us.
Recalibrate: What story or aspect about God do we need to improve in sharing with others?
Respond: Pray for the wisdom to know what to share and when to share.
Research: What is the difference between an atheist and an agnostic?
Remember: “Let us be grateful and worship God in a way that will please Him, with reverence and awe . . .” (Hebrews 12:28, GNB).
Japhet is senior pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, and is co-founder of the One project. Originally from southeast London, he served in the South England Conference for nine years—as a pastor and later as conference youth director—before moving to the United States in 2006. He and his wife Becky have two sons, one at university and one in high school.
Hebrews reminds us what life looks like when the law and grace collide. Talk with your child about some of the rules that you have in your home. Why do you have them? Do you make rules just because you are the adult and can do so? No way! You make rules to keep you kid safe and to have a happy home. Turn to Exodus 20 with your child and tell them that these are some of the rules that God gave His people to allow them to live happy lives. Rules are like the law in the Bible, and Jesus came to fulfill the law, to make it whole. When Jesus and the law collide, we get grace. Show your child one hand that is the law and one hand that is grace and clap them together. When your hands are clapped together, fold them and spend a moment in prayer.
Sometimes we have to go backwards in the Bible to understand what we’re reading. Turn in your Bible all the way back to Exodus 19:20. What does that verse say? God called Moses to the top of a mountain to tell him some very important things. Do you know what those important things were? He was getting ready to tell him about the 10 Commandments. What do the 10 Commandments say? Let’s read them in the International Children’s Bible Version (Exodus 20:1-17). God gave the 10 Commandments to the Israelites because they needed help with living their lives in a happy way. What are some rules at home that help you live in a happy way? In Exodus, we learn about Moses climbing Mount Sinai. Moses was scared when he went up there. In Hebrews, we learn about another mountain, Mount Zion! What do you think we will learn about Mount Zion this week?
In Hebrews 12:18-20, we see a vivid picture of a mountain. There is darkness, gloom, fire, a trumpet call. Crazy stuff is going on! I live in Kansas City, Missouri. There are no mountains anywhere close to me, yet even I know that this isn’t an ordinary mountain being described. The mountain Paul is talking about is Mount Sinai. Something very special happened on Mount Sinai. It is the mountain where God delivered the 10 Commandments to Moses. Mount Sinai represents the law of God. Often the Old Testament seems to imply that people were saved (or not) by keeping the law. Paul explains, “For they could not endure the order that was given.” In other words, people failed at keeping the law! Have you ever tried to keep the 10 Commandments and failed? The reality for people in the Old Testament was that they failed just like we do, but the good news is that Jesus was always there. The very fact that people could bring sacrifices to the temple was an act of grace. Before you get discouraged, I want to point you to an amazing fact: Jesus is with you right now just as much as He was at Sinai back then.