By Glenda Maxson Davidson
Daniel 3:5,13 & 16-18, NIV “’As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace’…. Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king,… Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’”
In my devotions this morning, I was reading Daniel 3 in my Andrews Study Bible along with the commentary written there. I was stopped short as the similarity hit me with what is happening in my denomination today.
I am purposefully not calling it my church, for right now, I need to differentiate the difference in order to keep attending my church.
I am going to quote the commentary here, changing a name. “The fact that” the leadership of the SDA denomination “threatened such punishment could imply that” they doubt “whether everyone” is “sufficiently loyal to” them. Notice, I am not talking about loyalty to Jesus, my Creator, my Saviour, my Redeemer or my God, my Father, or to my churches mission to bring others to Jesus and encourage a growing dynamic relationship with Him, I am simply talking about loyalty to a denominational leadership that is trying to become the leadership of my church and not allowing God to remain as leader. I will continue with the quoting with this is “Understandable because” the leadership is “trying to stage a 100 percent show of absolute personal loyalty to” the leadership “from” their “subjects” (i.e. governing structure of the denomination.)
I find this very disturbing, that divisions, unions, conferences, and even individuals are being threatened to accomplish only a show of loyalty, and not a show of unity. There is a difference here. I am loyal to my God! I am loyal to the mission of my church “making disciples” I am loyal to my Jesus! I accept Mrs. White’s spiritual gift of prophecy. I cannot accept or be loyal to a person, persons nor my denomination when it violates how God is leading me in my discipleship journey and Holy Spirit guided understanding of what is written.
Looking through different messages from Mrs. White about the supremacy of the General Conference, I find much to consider as I look at how my denomination is currently looking to function in the future. I find much to bring me concern about the actions of the executive committee’s decisions on loyalty and censorship for those being led by God to do differently to meet the needs of their people than as dictated by the General Conference.
“The power vested in the Conference is not to be centered in one man, or two men, or six men’ there is to be a council of men over the separate divisions.” CHL 26.1
“I have been shown that human beings desire too much power. They desire to control, and the Lord God, the mighty worker is left out of their work. The workmen feel qualified to hold the highest place. Let no man attempt to manage that work which should be left in the hands of the great I AM, and who is in His own way planning how the work shall be done. Know that God is the Instructor of His servants, and He will work through whom He will.” Manuscript 143, 1899
“To no man has been appointed the work of being a ruler over his fellow men. Every man is to bear his own burden. He may speak words of encouragement, faith, and hope to his fellow-workers; he may help them to bear their special burdens by suggesting to them improved methods of labor; but in no case is he to discourage and enfeeble them, lest the enemy shall obtain an advantage over their minds, — and advantage that in time would react upon himself.” Manuscript 29, 1907 pg. 9 & 10
“State conferences may depend upon the General Conference for light and knowledge and wisdom; but is it safe for them to do this? Battle Creek is not to be the center of God’s work. God alone can fill this place. When our people in different places have their special convocations, teach them, for Christ’s sake and for their own soul’s sake, not to make flesh their arm. There is no power in men to read the hearts of their fellowmen. The Lord is the only one upon whom we can with safety depend, and He is accessible in every place and to every church in the Union. To place men where God should be placed does not honor or glorify God. Is the president of the General Conference to be the God of the people? Are the men at Battle Creek to be regarded as infinite in wisdom? When the Lord shall work upon human hearts and human intellects, principles and practices different from this will be set before the people. ‘Cease ye from man.’” TM 375.2
“We are to be courteous toward all men, tenderhearted and sympathetic; for this was the character Christ manifested when on earth. The more closely we are united with Jesus Christ, the more tender affectionate will be our conduct toward one another.” TM 377.2
“Those who are on the ground must decide … It is not consistent to prescribe how much time shall be given to work in certain localities. The decision of this point must be left to the judgment of the workers. They must not be confined to certain places, or directed as children as to how or when the work shall be done. Mistakes have been made in this line. Those who do the work know better concerning these matters than anyone outside. God moves upon human minds to work according to His will and according to His purpose. Works for God are to look to a higher Source for direction than to human minds.” 9MR 178.5
I grew up in different countries and therefore was exposed to different cultures and locations. I have lived all the way from Alaska to Zambia, including Central, North and South America, and I can tell you from experience that the way I needed to interact in the different locations to fit into their expectations was different. I can tell you from my personal experience as a mother, friend, nurse, college professor and, a reluctant until God gave me no choice, ordained elder, that when I can get myself out of the picture and pay attention to the individual I am interacting with, I am much more successful in developing a strategy and actually communicating with them in a manner they can relate to and understand.
I don’t claim to be a theologian, nor do I claim to be an Ellen White expert, but I do claim to be a child of God who does her best to allow the Holy Spirit to lead, to allow God to be in control, to allow Jesus to fill my heart. It has been with dismay, and yes even anger, that I have watched the incivility practiced by “the leadership” to those who are adjusting to the needs of the area they are living and working in to fulfill the gospel commission of making disciples. What is the most important aspect of our unity, that we all do it similarly being under the General Conference or that we allow God to lead the workers in each area of the world to adapt the how we meet the great commission to make disciples? Personally, I will continue to put God first and foremost in guidance, wisdom, discernment as I continue to grow and work to fulfill my part of the great commission to make disciples, to help others learn and begin to comprehend the extravagant love of my Creator, Lord and Saviour.
With a father who was a second-generation missionary to Inter and South America, Glenda Maxson Davidson grew up with a strong commitment to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and the gospel commission of making disciples. She was born in Venezuela she spent her childhood in Inter-America, and as an adult has lived from Alaska to Zambia while her husband worked for the church as an educator. A passion for caring for children led her into pediatric nursing. She retired from teaching nursing at the Indiana University South Bend, and lives in the Berrien Springs area.