Anaheim SDA Church

Mid-week Pastor’s Update

May 18th, 2022

“What you intended for evil, God intended for good” Genesis 50:20

Have you ever encountered a detour? More than in your car trip to a destination, but in your life? My life had a ‘detour’ that wasn’t funny at the beginning, but which I can now look back on with a smile and a chuckle. I ended-up getting a job in 2011 which I had interviewed for 7 years earlier, in 2004! Though a slightly different job description, it was at the same place, with the same boss. After the fact, I joked with her that my kids owed their existence to her! Because it was in that intervening period that I became fluent in Spanish, went to South America, and met my wife. 🙂 So both professionally & romantically, that turned out okay. 🙂

But man: as I read the scriptures, and consider our world’s history, I see that humanity has been on a series of detours, delays, setbacks, fits and starts, and changes of direction that are on the one hand depressing, but on the other hand inspire me to consider how God hasn’t given up on us time after time, though we’ve deserved it.

Our quote above comes from Joseph’s 15-ish year span of detour from the journey he & his father had intended, but things turned out fine for him & his family (for a time). Then there’s Israel’s 40-year delay in the wilderness before entering the promised land, sparked by Israel’s rebellion after the spying out of the land of Canaan (Numbers 13-14). Still, that situation ended up ‘okay’, as God did lead them to their destination of the Promised land to dwell in (book of Joshua).

But then, though the Israelites should’ve learned the lesson from their previous deviation & delay, they departed from God’s plan again when they urged Samuel to give them a king to rule them (1 Samuel 8). Though Samuel urged them not to, they insisted & pressed him, and he conceded after God gave him permission.

But then, a few generations later, God’s original plan was again thwarted when Israel split into the northern & southern kingdoms over a disagreement of leadership. The northern kingdom tobogganed pretty quickly into rebellion and eventual loss of their kingdom, while the southern kingdom of Judah held on somewhat better and had spurts of faithfulness in its history.

But even so, they were not faithful in the long-run, and had to be subjected to 70 years’ exile in Babylon (I think it’s important to note that, through this series, though many of these things were prophesied ahead of time, it doesn’t mean they were God’s will. Had they been faithful, the journey could’ve been pretty quick from Egypt to Canaan, the 12 tribes staying together, and the Messiah eventually coming to it). They needed a generation-long ‘time out’ to consider what was important regarding countryhood, and daily faith-life, and being covenanted with God.

When Jesus came some hundreds of years later, the Jewish leadership of course rejected him, and Christianity, after the first century or so, had to grow exclusively in the Gentile world. God’s “plan A” of the nation of Israel being the means by which people were educated of Him & His salvation had to be jettisoned.

Over the next several centuries, Christianity became incredibly corrupted as it experienced political success, wealth, & power, to the point that the institutional church became a persecutor of those trying to live by a simple, Biblical faith. (Once again, though this was prophesied to happen, it doesn’t mean it was God’s will for it. It serves to show us, though, that God does know what choices will be made and what eventualities will result, even as He disagrees with them. It also hugely endears us to him for continuing on, despite the numerous frustrations.)

So God raised up the Protestant Reformation to bring people back to the centrality & primacy of pure faith, dictated by scripture, rather than by the institutional church (see chapters 4 through 15 of The Great Controversy for details on this). Bibles being available, services being held in the common language, and missionaries going forth were returns to pure, primitive faith, which stood out in marked contrast to the corruptions, bloating, and power-wielding that had occurred within Catholicism.

But even Protestantism has a checkered and blotched history. Infighting, dividing into factions, and not fully giving-up man-made doctrinal errors meant that the work of reform was left only partially done.

But, praise the Lord, the scripture twice in Revelation discusses an end time group (called the ‘remnant’), who exemplify purity: including keeping the commandments of God & holding to the faith & testimony of Jesus (Rev. 12:17 & 14:12). And we believe God called up Seventh-day Adventism to spark that final, worldwide message that is represented by the 3 angels’ messages of Revelation 14.

But now, after skipping stones through history & its many detours and divergences, now that we come to ourselves, the question us begged: will another bout of unfaithfulness and backsliding necessitate another ‘detour’ either of time (as we saw twice in the Pentateuch), or direction (as we saw with Christianity going to the Gentiles & later the Protestant Reformation)? Or will we be ‘onward to glory’ sooner than later, as we cooperate with God & He works through us?

I, for one, feel for God, having been let-down, frustrated, and disappointed time and time again through history. He has been so faithful & long-suffering despite our race’s infidelities! Praise the Lord for the truth communicated in 2nd Timothy 2:13: “if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”, for without it we surely would be without hope.

I for one want to be part of a generation and a movement that makes him proud. We have all received this faith and this narrative from the generations who’ve gone before, but it is up to us & our generation if we will treasure it & pass it on to the next.

You have likely, as I have, suffered losses of some beloved family members, who we hope to see at the glorious resurrection. But imagine how we’d feel at the resurrection if we rose to learn it took 500 more years and three more movements on the part of God to finish the work!

I really believe, and want, this to be the last movement, and indeed the last one or two generations that exist on earth before Jesus comes. I want everything & everyone to be renewed, restored, and recreated to glorious perfection! And I don’t want to be like 50 generations before me that have compromised in some fashion or other.

I pray that our response to this historical truth would be two-fold: firstly, that we would marvel at God for His enduring faithfulness through all our ficklenesses & frailties, and secondly, that we would resolve in our hearts to, with God’s help, stop the trend of sliding toward compromise & corruption. That we could be a generation God is truly proud to call his own. May He brag over us in the heavenly courts as he did over Job! But may we learn those lessons & character developments without the suffering & discipline so many have needed before us.

May God bless you and your families the remainder of this week and beyond.

Sincerely,

Pr. Mark Tatum

Anaheim SDA Church

Mid-week Pastor’s Update

May 11th, 2022

“As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you; And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” Isaiah 66:13

Well, we’ve just come through Mother’s Day, and I hope it was a lovely one for you and your loved ones. If you are a mother, I hope you know (not just this past recognition day) how treasured, valued, and essential you are for the rest of us.

Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t speak of mothers as often as it does Fathers (surely a reflection of the patriarchal society it was a part of), but in prophecy, there are a couple of crucial ‘mothers’ that are discussed. These contrasting mothers are found in Revelation chapters 12 and 17, respectively, and each represents a system to which people can choose to belong.

Revelation Chapter 12 describes a resplendent woman dressed in white, giving birth to Christ, then being pursued by a dragon who is revealed to be Satan. Satan is continually thwarted in his attempts to catch her, so he turns her attention to ‘the rest of her offspring’ or ‘descendants’, who are described as “Keeping the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (v. 14). While the idea of being pursued/persecuted isn’t pleasant, the Bible makes clear that it’s better than being a descendant of the other woman.

Contrastedly, Revelation 17 shows a luxurious ‘harlot’, or ‘prostitute’, riding a seven-headed beast, which represents corrupted earthly powers. She is getting drunk, imbibing the blood of martyrs as she joyously rules and persecutes. She has the title “Mother of harlots” written on her forehead, as well as mysterious blasphemies & abominations. The scripture further describes in chapter 18 that merchants, seafarers, and kings are united with her for international trade and profit.

On the surface, and in the short-term, it would seem more advantageous to belong to the second woman, living luxuriously and selfishly, than to be a descendant of the persecuted yet pure woman. Each of these represent a body that is either aligned or opposed to the principles of God, and, we see in daily life where people put their priorities to belong to.

We who choose God’s community, to belong to God’s virtuous woman as our ‘mother’, are in it for the long-term, having confidence that the promises which are prophesied will come true.

What are those promises? Well, firstly, the harlot of Revelation 17 has a great fall in chapter 18, so stunning and shocking to her allies that they mourn and wail. But the pure woman of Revelation 12 becomes “The bride of Christ”, whom he comes to rescue, marry, and take home in glory (kind of like a ‘prince charming’ from a Disney move, but much grander, truer, and more glorious!). (See Ephesians 5:25-27, and Revelation 21:2, 9).

So we are called to put off immediate eases, comforts, and rewards for the sake of latter, greater ones. This doesn’t mean God wants us to suffer in the meantime, by no means! Jesus speaks of the “abundant life” in John 10 as current, but it must be understood on more than a surface, material level.

In all areas of life, it is tough to put off gratification for the sake of the future, but it is always the wiser course. This is true with economics, education, relationships, etc. But it is also true with Spiritual matters, and with God.

“Patient Endurance” is another of the characteristics of the woman’s offspring, the faithful remnant of the last days. We must exercise it now as much as ever. As I’ve often seen students “check out” and more-or-less give up in the last moth of school, and their grades suffer for it, we must remain firm and steady now, to not negate all we’ve worked for and invested in thus far. As the Apostle Paul says: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Cor. 9:24-25

So make your decision. “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve” Joshua 24:15. As for me, as for my house, as for my community of faith, we will choose the Lord, and his faithful body, his bride, striving and perseverant for the culmination of prophecy.

I pray that you have a good week, and if you haven’t yet expressed appreciation to the mother(s) in your life, be sure to do so! And live to be worthy of their (and God’s) love and appreciation.

Sincerely,

Pr. Mark Tatum

Anaheim SDA Church

Mid-week Pastor’s Update

May 4th, 2022

“Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways, and be wise.” Proverbs 6:6

This past weekend, I had a wonderful time at the Pathfinder campout, worshipping, learning, hiking, and playing with several dozen (perhaps a hundred?) young people from around Orange county. Our church members Joel, Cledy, and Allyson Milla, along with Jenny Hastings, really did a wonderful job with the organization of it! And local club leader Margarito Gonzales and his crew of cooks & volunteers deserve recognition as well. Praise the Lord, it all came together in a beautiful weekend of nature, togetherness, fun and faith in a community context. It will be a highlight in my memory for some time (even as my forehead sunburn fades :-p)

After finishing our last meeting on Sunday morning, our group packed up its tents and the kitchen provisions and pulled-out. I decided to stay for about an extra hour, just enjoying the serenity of the place, now that my speaking responsibilities were through. The campsite was really lovely – though Caspers Wilderness park is struggling with dryness (none of the plumbing was working, because the water table has dropped and their wells had gone dry), the hills and trees were quite green. So I enjoyed the tranquility of the place as I prayed and recapped the weekend in my mind.

As I sat there being still for some time, I saw that nature was really coming alive around me. I saw the wingspans of large birds circling overhead, and heard little ones chirping in the trees above and behind me. I saw a gopher sticking his head up out of its hole periodically to survey what was around, and saw a lizard darting to and fro, doing its little push-ups. I saw rabbits scampering in the underbrush of some bushes, and had heard coyotes howling in the early morning, but what really impressed me was the ants.

Though we’d seen some ants at our campsite during the weekend, they hadn’t been a significant bother. But now that the place was emptier, the ants really came out in force! And not just one kind of ant- I saw ants that were as tiny as a pinpoint, and others that might have been a half-centimeter long – something like 5x the size of the small ones! But they were all bustling by each-other, each hurriedly on their way somewhere without giving much notice to the others. The very surface of the dirt seemed to come alive with them, and it was really something to observe – kind of like how freeways & side-streets must look from helicopters. And some of them had bits in their mouths – the large bits being as big as some of the small ants – and I remembered how I’ve heard it said that ants can carry many times their own weight. Amazing!

The whole lively community of nature really fascinated me: here in this serene and oft ignored place, was a veritable metropolis of nature! Various species bustling to and fro, all scampering for food, or seeking to find a mate, etc. Obviously I knew it wasn’t a ‘utopia’, as there were certainly violent and deadly altercations on a daily basis out there, but observing the whole thing as a silent observer fascinated me. Here was a whole world of activity, existing independently of humanity and its concerns: they had no concept of wealth or poverty, trade-wars, macroeconomics or climate change or warfare or political bickering (which has since raised to a fever pitch with the recent news out of the supreme court), and I just thought it incredible. I was marveling!

It almost felt like this stuff was more ‘real life’ than the constructed realities we make for ourselves as humans. I remember that it was this natural world that characters of Bible times more lived in, rather than the ‘cement jungles’ we’ve created for ourselves in the past couple hundred years. I remembered how so many illustrations and lessons, including Jesus’ parables, came from nature’s rhythms, and how those lessons can be largely lost to our modern generation in its constructed framework.

And I just thought about how nature still reveals God’s character. Though it’s corrupted, though evidences of sin are there too, just what I beheld there for that hour or so was incredible. Hustle and bustle, organization, home-making, diverse creatures living in a structured community.

I really love reading the sections of books like Isaiah which describe some of what nature will be like on the New Earth. I’ll finish today with an some quotes from chapters 11 and 65:

Isaiah 11:6-9:

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,

The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,

The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;

And a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze;

Their young ones shall lie down together;

And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,

And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,

For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord

As the waters cover the sea.”

Isaiah 65:21-25:

“They shall build houses and inhabit them;

They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

They shall not build and another inhabit;

They shall not plant and another eat;

For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people,

And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.

They shall not labor in vain,

Nor bring forth children for trouble;

For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord,

And their offspring with them.

“It shall come to pass

That before they call, I will answer;

And while they are still speaking, I will hear.

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,

The lion shall eat straw like the ox,

And dust shall be the serpent’s food.

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,”

Says the Lord.

I pray that you get a chance to enjoy the tranquility, yet fascination, of God’s creation sometime soon. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20, nature reveals God’s attributes, so that people are without excuse regarding knowing about Him or His principles.

May God bless you and your loved ones this week and beyond.

Sincerely,

Pr. Mark Tatum

Anaheim SDA Church

Mid-week Pastor’s Update

April 27th, 2022

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but this past Sunday Easter was observed in the Eastern Orthodox Churches*. And, I couldn’t believe it when I heard it, apparently Vladimir Putin attended a Midnight Mass in Moscow. The hypocrisy seemed so obvious, so biting to me, like a slap on the face. Here is one who is currently urging his military forces to bombard, destroy, deny exit, and refuse to extend any mercy to innocent civilians in Ukraine, who is simultaneously feigning piety and virtue in a religious service commemorating both Jesus’ sacrificial death for our sins, as well as his glorious resurrection from the grave?!

Upon hearing this, I was filled with disgust. The whole thing made me want to spit for the bad taste in my mouth. I couldn’t help but huff in repulsion at such a hideous display (between bouts of tearfulness).

The apparent acceptance of such evident hypocrisy comes from a misunderstanding, and ultimately a bad theology, of what taking the Mass actually does. Sacramentalists (which both Catholics and Orthodox Christians are, nearly 2/3 of Christians around the world) believe that the Mass (and other sacraments) are exclusive avenues of God’s grace. While they would certainly agree with principles like praying being authentic communication with God, and mercy being extended out of God’s heart of love, they would say the sacraments are the way grace is conferred. So, perhaps an extreme example of a distorted conclusion one could come to is: I can kill and maim during the week (or command others to (who will of course bear their own sin as well for following those orders)), but if I bow my head to the church authority and accept the Mass, I’m good before God.

Though that exact form of hypocrisy didn’t exist in Jesus’ day, another form did which Jesus addressed. You likely remember the story of the Good Samaritan recorded in Luke 10: in the first two examples, pious people compartmentalized their religion, not permitting it to stretch out/blend into real-life compassion and mercy. They thought their ceremonial/ritual purity was what kept them right with God. Jesus emphatically emphasized in his conclusion: no it doesn’t! True, authentic religion permeates, pervades life, touching all aspects. An authentic faith is a helping faith, a healing faith, a compassionate faith. If it’s not these things, it is just a hollow shell, or a clanging gong (see 1st Corinthians 13).

Though the forms of hypocrisy have changed, the root of it is absolutely with us today, as evidently exampled by the show of piety by Russia’s war criminal of a leader (blechh.)

But: how are we to respond? How are we to act? Are we to only point the finger outwardly? Obvious cases of hypocrisy & religious falsehood are out there, but what is going on in my own life that I might be blinded to, in self-rationalization?

What does Jesus say? Don’t point out the speck in your brother’s eye: examine yourself first. You very well may have a plank of wood in there! (See Matthew 7:3-5).

So yes: though there are definitely worse cases out there that we need to be clear-eyed about, we also need to be self-examining and humble, and resist that temptation to get up on our high-horses of self-righteousness as we condemn others.

Do I, in smaller ways, commit rationalized sins throughout the week, then come to church to put on my ‘happy Christian face’ and pretend that everything is good between me and God? Do I continue to practice this week after week, year after year? To angelic observers, do I look more similar to how Putin looks going to church this last weekend, or different?

I pray that every one of our church services would be a place for authentic searching, repenting, purifying, and resultant joy in the Lord for being so gracious to us.

Let’s let there be no hint of falsehood in our religion. “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27

I pray that we would permit God’s Kingdom principles to permeate us so thoroughly that it oozes out of our pores! “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is Near”, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” Philippians 4:5, Matthew 5:14

May God bless you & your loved ones this week and beyond.

Sincerely,

Pr. Mark Tatum

* As a remnant of the “schism” between the eastern and western churches over a millennia ago, there is, interestingly, a continued disagreement on how to determine the date for Easter. About 2/3 of the years the two sides disagree. A chart of dates can be found here (about halfway down) : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter

Hello dear Anaheim SDA Church members, This is Pastor Mark, writing you to give you the link to livestream our sister church, Orange SDA church’s program of "The Serpentine Prophecy" From Pastor Shawn Boonstra.

Here it is: https://youtu.be/y0Wn7d1ui6k

Schedule is as follows:
Thursday 4/21 7:00 p.m.
Friday 4/22 7:00 p.m.
Sabbath 4/23 11:00 a.m. & 7:00 p.m.

We’d love to see some of you there, if not in person, via technology!

Sincerely,
Pr. Mark Tatum

Be sure to read (or at least scroll) to the bottom of this document for important prayer requests and announcements, including a baptismal service & church potluck this Sabbath!

Anaheim SDA Church

Mid-week Pastor’s Update

April 20th, 2022

“Jesus… for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

I hope you and your families had a blessed Easter weekend. After our special church service on Sabbath*, we had an early Sunday morning hike with about 20 of us, which was lovely, despite the fact that the sunrise was obscured by cloud cover to the east. But we sang some songs, and discussed the contrast of our happy hiking vs. the dreadful task the women (thought they) were on their way to do that early Sunday morning so many centuries ago. We talked about how Christ conquered in victory over the grave & the tomb, and promises to share that victory with everyone who allies themselves with Him, believing in His name. (John 3:16)

Then, this week, we hosted a choral group for a choral workshop at the Anaheim church one evening, and the same group sang for our Orangewood sister school the following morning. And I was so blessed, in both circumstances, with both the aesthetic beauty of what I was perceiving, and also the concept of young people building their talents, developing their abilities for the glory of God. I couldn’t help, in contrast, thinking of all the darkness, tragedy, shame, and ugliness in the world: dysfunctional & broken families, crime & vice, and of course, as we’re currently seeing going on in Ukraine, the horrors and tragedies of war.

And I couldn’t help but be wrapped up in the thought of: look what beauty and loveliness we can aspire to, yet what depravity & debauchery we can descend to! And I thought: truly this reveals our dualistic nature: we come from the hand of Divinity, purity, and perfection, yet are corrupted by sin with selfishness, vice, and destructive capabilities. Truly the Great Controversy is being played out societally, as well as in each of us!

Now, secularists would deny that either source of that which I mentioned above really exist: they would say the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ we exhibit are just flip-sides of the coin of reality, and should not be seen as anything special or strange. Perhaps, even more extremely, they would posit that ‘good and bad’ don’t really exist at all (perhaps being mental, social constructs), and therefore shouldn’t even be reflected or remarked on.

Such a view begins getting close to the ‘yin & yang’ concept of eastern philosophy, which states that good and evil are locked in a perpetual cycle around each-other, and that even the good has a little bad in it, and the bad has a little good in it. While such a philosophy may be a way to make some sense of what we see in the world, it is in the end utterly depressing, in that it jettisons hope for any resolution, any solution, or even any improvement in the overall situation. If you try to maximize the good, the evil will rise to be right there beside it. Under such a belief, one could even call ‘heroic’ those who maximize evil, because good would also necessarily arise to counterbalance it! One can see that this leads to relativism, fatalism, and ultimately lack of hope for anything ever fundamentally good and lasting happening.

But we are called to actively resist & protest any such philosophy and its conclusions. I for one am so glad that we believe one of these is older than the other, more the ‘default position of the universe’ than the other, and will ultimately outlast and outcompete the other. I am obviously talking about the “good” being original in God from everlasting, being the ‘equilibrium state’ of the universe, and being that which will outlast all other distractions and detours, and even of any material creation itself. Meanwhile, the “bad”, though being a horrible scourge of devastation, is at root a foreign invader, a detour from God’s will, but one that will eventually be defeated.

From the first Messianic prophecy in the Garden of Eden, of Adam & Eve’s offspring crushing the head of the serpent, even as the serpent strikes a blow to the heel of the descendant (Genesis 3:15), it was told firmly & reliably that the power of the serpent would have an end. We should rejoice in this!

I cannot think of any better news, friends, than that sin will have its final day, its promised destruction, and its eventual nonexistence. And all the beauty, all the loveliness, all the excellence and wonder that we experience will be maximized to the utter extreme! And so it will be for all time. “Affliction will not rise up a second time” Nahum 1:9 promises us.

So let’s never give in to the pessimism that is the resignation to evil as a perpetual part of reality (perhaps even one that shouldn’t be striven against, but rather accepted & possibly embraced). Let’s hold out hope that Ultimate Good will come and conquer, obliterating evil & sin into the rear-view mirror of existence, fading in the rear distance as we continue forward. May such a hope ever motivate and spurn us to good actions, words, and motives in all we do.

May God bless you & your families this week and beyond.

Sincerely,

Pr. Mark Tatum

* Last week’s Easter church service is available on video here in case you missed it: https://youtu.be/LNHq4ip0_WE

Anaheim SDA Church

Mid-week Pastor’s Update

April 13th, 2022

Oh, how the mighty have fallen! 2nd Samuel 1:25, 27

I don’t know if you have heard about the factors I am going to be discussing today: while both of them are related, and have been in the news recent weeks, neither of them rose to the prominence of ‘first-line headlines’.

They both have to do with the falling of once inspirational leaders: those of Tony Hsieh, the head of the “Zappos” shoe corporation, and of Carl Lentz and Brian Houston, 2 prominent pastors and leaders of the “Hillsong” Pentecostal church, largely known for their wide dissemination of praise & worship music.

While I hadn’t heard of Tony Hsieh before, apparently he was known in the business world as a hero of both profitability and positive corporate culture. He founded the internet advertising company “LinkExchange”, rocketed the “Zappos” online shoe company to huge profitability, revitalized Las Vegas’ downtown area (where the company is located) via investments from his own finances, and wrote an award-winning corporate culture book called “Delivering Happiness”.

But, while Tony exuded happiness and success externally, the pressures apparently began to mount, and the image began to be more of a brand to keep maintained externally than actually lived and maintained healthfully. Toxicity crept in among leadership of the company, drugs and alcohol increasingly entered Tony’s personal life, and he sadly ended his life in suicide in late 2020 (with the pandemic and its secondary effects likely exacerbating Hsieh’s mental state, as it was surely difficult for all of us). His death was a shock to the business world.

Then there’s the recent ‘implosion’ of Hillsong’s network of churches amid scandals & resignations among two of its prominent leaders. Carl Lentz, the lead pastor of the New York Hillsong church, and Brian Houston, the CEO of the International network headquartered in Australia, have both recently been publicly stained in admitting to financial and sexual scandals. In the past several weeks, the group has lost the majority of its branch churches here in the U.S., and the viability of the continuation of Hillsong as a whole is in question.

Both of these situations left me saddened (obviously particularly the religious one), because I often want to be an optimist and have inspirational leadership examples to look up to as well! But the Bible’s phrase “oh how the mighty have fallen (2nd Samuel 1:25, 27) seems to continue to be repeated time and time again.

And it got me thinking: I wonder if pedestalization, and the elevating of the mythical hero-leader figure could be a big part of these downfalls. Obviously, not everyone who gets elevated to national or semi-national attention ends-up falling, but a significant proportion of them do.

Obviously the temptations of success are real, and are just as lethal as the temptations that surround the ‘gutters’ of failure and poverty in society. Having nearly unlimited wealth, fame, and respect and responsibility can warp one’s view of the world, including what is and is not possible. Sex, drugs, and corruption offer themselves tantalizingly before the successful, and these figures, figuring they can continue handling their leadership roles while dabbling in indulgence, often find it knocks them from their pedestal.

While I, personally, of course want to be successful in ministry, and have my work valued & appreciated, I’m personally glad to not be ‘pedestalized’ & spotlighted’ like that. I take it as an extension of the ‘do not covet’ commandment (Exodus 20:17): be happy with where God has placed you/permitted you to be. Don’t long for greater positions than you’ve been given.

I for one am glad to be part of a religious system that doesn’t include glorification of the individual over a unifying message (of theology and destiny in eternity with God). Obviously we have some pastors who get more ‘known’ and influential than others, but in terms of pay-scale and employment expectations, they are the same. I’m glad there’s an overseeing organization keeping the reigns on pastors getting rich and exposed to risk through success.

I think, whether being in ‘plenty or in want’ (Philippians 4:12), the key is to remain level-headed, with Jesus as the focus. It is only to our own peril that we take our eyes off Him, and inevitably falter (as Peter frightfully learned in Matthew 20:29-31).

May God bless you and your families this week and beyond.

Sincerely,

Pastor Mark Tatum

* For articles on both of these organizations’ leaders and their downfall, check out the following links.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-death-of-zappos-tony-hsieh-a-spiral-of-alcohol-drugs-and-extreme-behavior-11607264719

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/29/us/hillsong-church-scandals.html

* Interestingly, though I’d heard about both of these cases separately before, there was a single morning talk news program that discussed them both in the same hour. Here is the link to a recording of that:

https://www.npr.org/podcasts/381444294/air-talk

(go down the list and click on April 4th)

Anaheim SDA Church

Mid-week Pastor’s Update

April 6th, 2022

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease.” Genesis 8:22

Well, we are in springtime, when it is said the elements of summer and winter battle against each-other. This week, we are experiencing one of the biggest temperature swings I can recall in recent memory, with days having been gray and cool Sabbath-Monday, but then hot and in the 90s here in the latter half of the week!

But even this temperature disparity is small within the range of our planet. The coldest temperature ever recorded on earth was -128.6°F (-89.2°C) in Antarctica in 1983, whereas the hottest was 131.4 °F (56.7 °C) in death valley in 1913. That’s a span of 260 degrees Farenheit (or 146° C)!

But even this range is small compared to known temperature disparaties in the universe. From “absolute zero” of -273.6°C (-460°F) to the hottest star (“Sirius”) at 18,000° F (9,400°C), nearly twice as hot as our own sun. The universe experiences temperature a disparity of nearly 18,500 degrees Farenheit (nearly 9,500° C). So, we experience just a tiny percentage range of that fluctuation here on earth (a mere 1.4%, if my math is right).

Why? Two reasons: first of all, our atmosphere and the oceans regulate (“even-out”) the earth’s temperatures. Without them, the sunny areas would soar in heat, and the dark areas would plunge to sub-zero temperatures constantly. Secondly, we are in the “goldilocks zone”, or ‘ring of survivability’ in our solar system. To be more than a few %s closer would too hot for life to survive (think Mercury or Venus), and to be more than a few %s farther would be too cold (with Mars and the further planets getting progressively less hospitable).

Now: some would just call these factors to be fabulously fortuitous or incredibly lucky; but we as believers believe this is all because life was intentionally placed here. Indeed, we are in the ‘goldilocks zone’ of physical factors in dozens if not hundreds of areas. I’ve heard it said that if the gravitational constant of the universe was either 1% stronger or weaker, life would not be able to exist anywhere. If the moon were either 1% closer or farther from earth, life wouldn’t be able to continue on earth. If water’s solid form (ice) were denser than its liquid form (as is true for almost all other liquids), life would not be sustainable for us. This and countless other factors of density, friction, viscosity, etc. would eliminate life if just slightly different.

So what do we chalk it up to? Incredible coincidence and fortuitousness on both the universal and local (solar system) levels? Or do we affirm that a superintelligent designer (God) was behind it all? For me, it is far easier to believe the latter. To quote tongue-in-cheek believer, Norman Geisler: “I don’t have enough faith to be an Atheist”*.

Just late last week we had “April Fools” day, and the Bible says “the fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no god’” (Psalm 14:1). We’ve obviously got lots of highly intelligent people who say there’s good reason to deny God’s existence, but do they still look like ‘fools’ to the heavenly intelligences? I believe they do: I frankly believe that a cosmology that excludes God is one that is made out of a primary motive, a desperation really, to deny the existence of God, and therefore to excuse oneself from a source that we would be accountable to.

The Apostle Paul put it well in Romans 1 (and I’m so glad he did), saying: “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (v.20)

I, for one, am greatly interested to see how atheistic scientists will attempt to defend themselves on Judgment Day: I don’t wish them ill (would much rather they would repent, believe, and find eternal life), but, according to the scriptures, they will have to give account for having violated conscience by ignoring overwhelming evidence of God’s existence, and promoting such perspective to others, to (partially) soothe their consciences in negating God as well.

In the meantime, let’s praise God for having given us a protected zone in the extremely hot/cold universe in which we can live and thrive!

I pray you and your families are blessed the rest of the week and beyond.

Sincerely,

Pr. Mark Tatum

In fact, Geisler wrote a book called “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist”. You can check it out here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Have-Enough-Faith-Atheist/dp/1433580756/ref=asc_df_1433580756/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=525188730924&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=7164407384995709916&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9031592&hvtargid=pla-1296189864614&psc=1

Anaheim SDA Church

Mid-week Pastor’s Update

March 30th, 2022

“[God] causes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends His rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:45

We had a pretty sizable storm come through on Monday! As I was driving, I saw water streaming off rooftops, filling the curbs, and rushing down culverts. I had heard on the radio that, though getting 1 – 1½ inches of rain was good, it wasn’t going to make much of a dent in our water needs with the current drought. I thought: “What a shame that this water is spread so broadly, so much of it ‘wasted’ in going down storm drains and out to the sea! If only this could all be concentrated in our snowpack & reservoirs!

Then I imagined a hypothetical conversation between local & state leaders and God. And the governmental leaders were asking God: “Couldn’t we get the rain to fall just where it can be captured and reclaimed? We could really use it over here, but not so much over there… and while we’re at it, the sun shines so broadly… couldn’t we have it just shine more concentratedly on the solar panels, where its energy could be captured & utilized for clean energy?”

And I actually feel we have a similar desire about the Bible: “Couldn’t we pack down the doctrinal information more densely? Couldn’t we get, like, bullet-point format, or, principles diagrammed out, rather than having to glean out principles that are peppered so widely throughout various stories, proverbs, & parables?”

And to all of these hypothetical requests, I imagine God responding “No, I apply my blessings just as I intend to: broadly and liberally, to everyone equally. You are more than welcome to move them around, collect them and whatnot once they’re amply delivered, but, consider the benefits of my method of dispersion!”

And this is where we have to humble ourselves and admit that, yes, God’s ways are better than man’s ways (Isaiah 55:9).

Just what do we get from God’s methodology of broad blessing dispersion? We get lavish, green hills, arrayed with flowers (I’m considering the breathtaking beauty of Santa Ana Canyon in the weeks following a good rain: also the poppy fields in the high desert (which are currently blooming, as I saw a few friends posting pics from up there this past weekend!)), we get cheerful meadows and stunning sunsets lighting up the sky. Regarding the scriptural teachings: we get God’s truth communicated through gripping accounts of how He’s led in the past, and we also get a reward for the diligent (Hebrews 11:6), in that “seeking, you will find” (Matthew 7:7) and “You will find me when you seek with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

In all this, I see that God lavishes his blessings broadly, insinuating that He gives out of His abundance, when we too often are concerned with managing scarcity. I don’t doubt that things like the drought are tough, and we need to be diligent in managing our water use, but we can also use this as an opportunity to trust God, rather than despair or wish things were different.

Above all, I pray that we’d all a) have the patience and trust to recognize that God’s way is the best way, and b) look for the blessings in the broad distributing that God provides. I believe that in doing so, we will find our hearts overflowing like an abundant fountain in joy & thankfulness. (see Psalm 23:5 & John 7:38).

May God’s blessings be abundant in your lives, and may you have the perception to recognize & accept them with gratitude!

I pray a good remainder of the week for you and your families.

Sincerely,

Pr. Mark Tatum

Anaheim SDA Church

Mid-week Pastor’s Update

March 23rd, 2022

“Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever. For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.” Psalm 37:27-29 ESV

In light of the recent war in Ukraine, with its heart- and gut-wrenching images of death, destruction, and devastation, I have been appreciating anew the stability, the peace and prosperity, in which we live. While so many of these things can be taken for granted, while ‘first world problems’ of reputation, career advancement, and life satisfaction can come to the forefront of our minds, it is important to stop and be appreciative that our attention can even be occupied with these secondary- or tertiary concerns, rather than “will I have food tomorrow?” or “will my house even be standing tomorrow?”

It is so easy to lose sight of it, but we are truly blessed. While it can certainly be an irksome or concerning difficulty to pay the higher gas prices recently, compared to the scope of struggle & trauma others are having, I hope we can gain some perspective in what constitutes a “life well-lived”.

We have been hugely blessed in this country, under, among other things, our government & constitution, in which “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are held to be basic, guaranteed rights. But those principles take effort to maintain, and no small amount of public debate as to just how those rights are best effectuated to as many as possible.

Over the past couple of days, as I’ve been driving around & doing my errands, I’ve been listening to the congressional hearings for the new Supreme Court Nominee, Katanji Brown Jackson. It has been interesting and enlightening to say the least. Members of opposing parties take turns questioning the prospective justice, but often speak well over her head to either members of the opposing party, or to constituents at large in their home districts, knowing they have a large microphone for several minutes. I’ve heard very broad political and societal assertions being made, and it makes me realize that principles of freedom and democracy are sometimes (even often?) in tension with each-other.

Societal concerns are not foreign to the Bible. Particularly in the minor prophets, God repeatedly urges Israel to pursue social justice, liberty for the oppressed, etc. For example, the prophet Isaiah asserts, in chapter 58 of his book, that the reason the Israelites receive no response from God, despite fasting and making sacrifices, is because they ignore social justice issues and disregard the poor and oppressed. Similarly, Amos exclaims “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (5:24)

So, bringing this to our current day, we have a perpetual 2-party system, who both affirm the general phrase “liberty and justice for all”, but have very different priorities as to how, when, and to whom those principles should be applied!

I, for one, prefer the internal, word-based debates to the external, forced-based ones like we see in warfare. Though at times it’s difficult to know which ‘side’ one should be on politically/socially, I pray we would have strong resolution Spiritually to be on God’s side. Let’s remember that whereas “the thief does not come except to kill and destroy”, Jesus has come “that they may have life, and that they may have it to the fullest” (John 10:10). Therefore, any policy that leads to life, liberty, and freedom is in agreement with Christ, whereas any policy or implementation that limits or harms it is against.

I pray that we would all be “wise as serpents, yet innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16) in discerning how to navigate societal issues personally. We occasionally get to vote in a local, state, or federal election, which we should take seriously, but in the meantime between those times, we should be lifting up “…petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” 1 Timothy 2:1-4.

I pray you and your families have a blessed rest of the week.

Sincerely,

Pr. Mark Tatum