New Beginnings


New Beginnings

Our God is a big fan of new beginnings. I mean it’s all over the Bible. New hearts, new wineskins,

new covenants, and even a new world!? He LOVES new! In fact, it’s who He is. And I’ll prove it to you!

But first check out these lyrics from an Owl City song that I’m really fond of: “How close to the ending? Well, nobody knows. The future’s a mystery and anything goes. Love is confusing and life is hard. You fight to survive ‘cause you’ve made it this far. It’s all too astounding to comprehend. It’s just the beginning, this isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning, this isn’t the end.”

It’s just the beginning, this isn’t the end. Do you ever feel like you’re coming to the end of yourself, with all the negative news, media, and daily battle of survival? Do you ever look out into the world and think, how much longer can this go on? From the Christian worldview of the Great Controversy, how do you see and justify this crazy life around you?

I mean it can all be a little much when you have to deal with life, death, the great beyond AND taxes, right? If God is such a big fan of beginnings, why do we see so many endings in the world? The end of the Amazon, the end of immigrants, the end of our childhoods, the end of our loved ones. I mean there is a stark contrast; so what gives?

Now, normally I would put a couple of Bible verses here and conclude something like, “Everything will be alright because the Bible says this.” However, I want to take a different approach. I want to conclude something using a form of logic/reasoning and then reference the Bible for possible validation. It’s fun. Scout’s honor! I call it the Pure Concepts Exercise.

The idea of the exercise is to take a concept/idea and everything that describes that thing and apply it to itself. Life and Death; a beginning and an end.

Life lives; It exists, begins, continues, and perpetuates. Death dies; it ceases, decays, ends, and stops. If we were to apply these concepts to themselves, we would see a result appear.

Life exists; I mean you’re breathing and reading this right now, right? The point is it started, it exists. Life, because of what it is lives and because of its nature continues; it keeps on keeping on. Death, on the other hand, because of what it is dies, and because of its nature ends.

Recap: Life lives, death dies.

So to make a comparison, if Life were a color, we’ll say blue, all life could do is be blue. It could do nothing but be blue, in this case meaning – continue.

And death, let’s say red, could do nothing but be red, in this case meaning – end.

Logical Conclusion?

Life will ALWAYS exist because it is LIFE, it is its nature. And death will eventually die because it is DEATH, it is its nature.

What does the Bible have to say about this conclusion? Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” and “I am the way, the truth, and the Life”. And in Revelation, “Oh death where is your sting?” How do you make sense of these verses now? It almost sounds as if Jesus was pronouncing a real-life reality whenever He was speaking these words.

So how would we apply this to our lives? The contrast between life and death, beginnings and endings? Well with this exercise in mind, one day there will come a point when death will fully run its course. It will end. And when it does, Life will also fully run its course, which will continue into eternity. The Bible also says that God IS love. When you feel loved, or are in love, isn’t it just the best!? Life and Love…. for eternity?

I don’t know about you, but you can sign me up any day of the week for the next million years, I can’t wait! And I know for one thing, that when it does happen – it will be a new start that never ends.

- Ben Williams graduated from Southern Adventist University with a degree in Business Administration. He lives in Dallas, Texas and enjoys spending time with family.


A New Old Idea


A New Old Idea

You remember the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus tells this story to help explain a question about how to receive eternal life. A man tells Jesus that he knows the way to receive eternal life is to “love your neighbor as yourself” but he goes on to ask “who is my neighbor?” He wanted to narrowly define the term neighbor. The command would be so much easier if we could exclude certain people from the definition of neighbor. 

What group of people might we want to exclude today? I’m sure you can easily think of a couple of groups of people that are marginalized. Go ahead and substitute neighbor for something else, illegal immigrant, LGBTQ, Christian, Muslim, White, Black, really whatever group you don’t want around will suffice. Because, as we are about to find out, the real travesty in this story is a sin of omission. 

Jesus illustrates his answer to the man by telling him the now popular story. 

He tells him, a man was walking from Jerusalem to Jericho. The man was attacked by robbers and left to die on the side of the road. We are never told whether the man deserved his fate or not. We know the road was famous for being dangerous but his guilt or lack thereof doesn’t play into the importance of the story. In other words, the man that got beat up may have been at fault but that doesn’t stop him from being a neighbor.   

Later the man was approached by a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan but only the Samaritan stops to help. To underscore, the man attacked was a Jew and the man helping him was a Samaritan. These two groups hated each other, it’s even been told that some Rabbis would instruct Jews not help a Samaritan woman in labor because if they succeeded all they would have done is helped bring another Samaritain into the world. 

The help the Samaritan offered wasn’t a struggle to overcome weakness but struggle to overcome strength. The sin in this story doesn’t address where people are weak and are trying but where they are strong and not bothering. We are so concerned about the sins we commit while struggling that we forget the sins we commit without even bothering. 

Who have you overlooked lately? What person that needs your help are you withholding it from? Who do you wish you could exclude from the definition of neighbor? If the way to eternal life is loving your neighbor as yourself, then maybe it’s time to stop avoiding them. After all, it’s pretty hard to love someone you don’t know. 

Johnathan Coker is one of the founders of Enspire Productions.


One of Mine


One of Mine

A New Start Part 2

Unless you have been to the Middle East you have only received a glimpse of what true hospitality is. Yes, there may be “Southern Hospitality” but it falls eons short in comparison to Middle Eastern hospitality. Let me explain. A few years back several of my friends, classmates, and I had the privilege of going to the Lebanon. We went for 2 weeks to help on a service/learning trip. We were providing medical care to Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and also painting a mural on the Beirut streets. To say it was amazing comes short – it was the best trip I have ever had in my life.

One day we were invited to eat by one of our translators. She was a 12-year-old Syrian refugee and insisted that we go and eat at her family’s house. I was hesitant to say yes because we were briefed earlier that feeding us for one meal would mean not feeding the family for a week. She continued to insist throughout the rest of the morning and said that she would bring her mom to ask what we wanted to eat. I continued to ask our leader if we could go and he folded and said it was going to be the experience of a lifetime, to be able to eat in the home of someone was a high honor. He gave us a few rules and said he would be able to go. 

We were ecstatic, running around to see who was able to go, and we were off. Seven girls in a taxi that was meant for 5, all squished in the back and front seat on our way to this new experience. This family was a family of 6 but there were an additional 3 people that were living in the home. They had a delicious middle eastern meal prepared, with tabbouleh and hummus. We all gathered around and sat on the floor, we ate and chatted becoming familiarized with this family that invited us into their home. After that course came another, and then another, and then a hot drink and desert afterward, we were left so humbled and FULL.

Whenever I am in large groups of people laughing, or in church, I always like to stop and look around and see the faces and emotions. I like hearing their conversations and looking at their mannerisms, I am a class-A people watcher. But when I see these emotions of joy, happiness, and love I am overwhelmed with a sense of belonging. Seeing other people happy makes me happy. As I looked around the room that day of people having side conversations my eyes fell upon the couple sitting across from me leaning on the wall. A woman wearing a hijab, side sitting, looking regally outside and her husband sitting beside her looking out the window as well. Their expressions were normal but in that instant looking outside their eyes spoke so much more. They spoke of uncertainty of what would happen here in a new country and looked towards hope. I prayed and fought back tears in that moment. I’ve never had to run away from my country for my safety and these individuals had invited me into their humble home, given me more that I could ever eat and showed me what loving a neighbor, what loving a stranger truly meant. I uttered these words in my heart “God, never let me forget this moment.”

The pinnacle of it all was when we finished and were returning home. We gathered in a circle to pray and before we did the father asked us “Do you all have a mother?” we answered yes, he followed that question with another “And do you have a father?” and we said yes, he then stated “We are also your mother and father.” We prayed and with that we left, feeling full in our stomachs and even more full in our hearts.

However, the story does not end there. Two years after this encounter I returned to Lebanon, this time with a different group of people with the same mission in mind: making friends, learning, and creating connections. I went to the location where we had practiced 2 years prior on Sabbath morning and found many of the friends that I had made. I was able to worship with them in Arabic and hear a beautiful sermon. One of the stories was given by the same man whose house I had eaten. His eyes were lively now, there wasn’t the sadness I had seen before, he smiled and laughed as he interacted with the others. At the end of the story the pastor brought me over to introduce me to several of the members of this small group. He said my name and where I was from. This man looked at him and said, “Yes, I know, she is one of ours.”

My heart felt belonging, I felt loved and accepted I thought for sure I was forgotten. My Syrian father that I had received 2 years ago called me one of their own. Two years ago, I was a complete stranger that became a daughter and have never been forgotten. 

Many years ago, Jesus gave us the ultimate example of loving your neighbor. He went to poor neighborhoods, hung around the rejected and the oppressed and told them time and time again, they were not forgotten by the father—no--He looked at each of them in the eye and told them the words that their hearts needed to hear, “You are not abandoned, the Father does not reject you. You are mine.”

Chantal Williams recently graduated from Andrews University as a doctor of physical therapy, and has been involved with Enspire Productions since 2011.