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Archive for December, 2014

How God Used the Adventist Church to Affect My Life

posted on December 15, 2014, under Conference by

Dottie and I met and married at Southern Missionary College (now Southern Adventist University) in Collegedale, Tennessee, while I was studying for pastoral ministry.

Dottie and I met and married at Southern Missionary College (now Southern Adventist University) in Collegedale, Tennessee, while I was studying for pastoral ministry.

by Mike Cauley, D.Min.
Florida Conference President

I was reflecting recently about how good God has been to me. It is amazing. I love Him for picking me up from a very hard situation when I was a teenager and blessing my life in ways that I could never have dreamed. I feel that I owe everything to Jesus and how He has used the Seventh-day Adventist Church in my life. In what ways did God do this?

He sent a Florida Conference pastor and Bible worker to my home to study with me and encourage me to attend an Adventist boarding academy. He used Bible Conferences at Camp Kulaqua to lead me to an experience of deeper surrender and prepare me to accept a call to the ministry. He used Southern Missionary College (now Southern Adventist University) to help me be prepared for the gospel ministry and to introduce me to Dottie!

Later, He provided further education through the Seminary at Andrews University. He enabled me to do evangelistic work with my church members and to lead men and women to Jesus and be baptized. Finally, He has given me the privilege of serving the Church as a local conference leader; to have some part in a movement that operates the strongest missionary enterprise, including Christian education and health care, among any protestant denomination in the world. It is amazing to me how God has used the Seventh-day Adventist Church to affect my life and so many others.

A recent visit to of one of my childhood homes in Jacksonville brought back memories as I reminisced with Dottie.

A recent visit to of one of my childhood homes in Jacksonville brought back memories as I reminisced with Dottie.

This all was made possible—all of the things I mentioned above—because of the tithing system. Tithe changes lives. It changed mine, and it is still working today.

Through this system of finance, both returning tithe as well as local and global giving, Florida Conference is enabled to operate Camp Kulaqua, the most utilized Adventist Camp/Retreat facility in the Adventist world. This system of finance made possible the recent NET series and other evangelistic programs in our churches. It enables the Mission to the Cities emphasis which is resulting in training for church members and pastors for reviving their churches and carrying forth the mission. Mission to the Cities has brought scores of people to Jesus this year.

This system of finance, unique to Seventh-day Adventists, has enabled the opening of a new school in Tallahassee. It enables us to assist schools with 40% of the teacher costs so that all the expenses for operating a Christian school doesn’t have to be borne locally.

So, I want to say thank you. Thanks to those who were faithful in years past. It changed me forever. And thank you to all of our members who made possible a miracle in the lives of men, women, boys, and girls in 2014. Your faithfulness and our system of church finance is still changing lives.

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Tithe Changes Lives Through Camp Ministries

posted on December 15, 2014, under Camp Ministry, Conference, Member by

Theresa Stride is an example of a life changed because of tithe. (Photo: Aric Turlington)

Theresa Stride is an example of a life changed because of tithe. (Photo: Aric Turlington)

A portion of every tithe dollar returned by faithful church members helps support Florida Conference’s Camp Ministries. One example of a life changed through this important ministry is that of Theresa Stride.

Growing up in a Baptist home, Theresa attended camp four years in a row. During her last summer, she accepted Christ and informed her mother that, someday, she was “going to work at Camp Kulaqua.”

As a senior in high school, Theresa was hired part time in the horse barn, a job she continued through four years of college at University of Florida in Gainesville.

After graduation, she worked at the River Ranch. At summer’s end, Phil Younts, Administrative Camp Director, invited her to a full-time staff position.

Theresa learned more about the Adventist faith through personal study and from several friends among the Camp staff who walked her through Adventist beliefs. Soon, she reached the decision to be baptized.

This is a condensed version of our feature article in the Spring 2014 issue of Florida Focus. The complete article and a video of Theresa Stride’s testimony is also available.

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A Faithful Tithe to a Faithful God

posted on December 15, 2014, under Member by

by Phyllis McColister

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.”
—Malachi 3:10 NKJV

Phyllis McColister teaches a Sabbath School class at Fort Pierce Church where she serves as ministry coordinator. (Photo: Martin Butler)

Phyllis McColister teaches a Sabbath School class at Fort Pierce Church where she serves as ministry coordinator. (Photo: Martin Butler)

These words in Malachi were ringing in my ears one day in 1989. I was just beginning to learn how to walk with Jesus in obedience to His Word. I was young, immature, and a poor steward of the resources God so lovingly provided for me.

There I was, sitting in the pew at tithe and offering time while Malachi 3:10 was being read from the pulpit. My last $50 was in my purse to carry me through to the next payday.

I remembered my vow to live in obedience to the Lord, and I wanted a genuine faith. The words “try Me now in this” somehow provided the strength I needed. I thought to myself, “I surely would like to have the windows of heaven opened and blessing poured into my life.” Yet, my last $50 was somehow hard to part with.

I began to pray and once again remind myself of my vow and how I really wanted a genuine faith and walk with the Lord. I watched the offering plate come closer and closer to my row. I took out the $50, wrote out the tithe envelope, and dropped it in the plate.

I wondered how I was going to pay for gas and lunch for myself and my child. Again, the words “try Me now in this” were comforting. I continued to worship and then returned home.

Phyllis McColister and her brother, Jesse Harris enjoying a family reunion.

Phyllis McColister and her brother, Jesse Harris enjoying a family reunion.

As I climbed the stairs to my apartment, I had no cares for how I would make it through the week. I passed my brother, Jesse, on the stairs, and he took my hand and squeezed it very hard. When he let go of my hand, there was a $100 bill in it. I exclaimed, “What is this for?” He answered, “Because I love you,” and continued to pass me down the stairs.

Surely, God’s Word is true! When we seek to live in obedience to the Lord and His Word, He will make it possible. The windows of heaven were surely opened over my life that day, and the blessing was twice what I returned in tithe and offering.

I tried God and found Him faithful. “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9)

By His grace, I have never forgotten my lesson, neither have I ever been comfortable not returning a faithful tithe to a faithful God.

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Florida Pathfinders Are Forever Faithful

posted on December 15, 2014, under Conference by

Forever Faithful Logo

At least 2,800 Florida Pathfinders representing more than 100 clubs attended the 2014 Forever Faithful Camporee---so many that it took a multiple-shot panorama and the height of a cherry picker lift to photograph them all. (Photo: Jim Harris Photography)

At least 2,800 Florida Pathfinders representing more than 100 clubs attended the 2014 Forever Faithful Camporee—so many that it took a multiple-shot panorama and the height of a cherry picker lift to photograph them all. (Photo: Jim Harris Photography)

Rolando Morgado, left, Hialeah Spanish Church pastor, takes a selfie with his Pathfinders, joined by Conference Youth Director Pedro Perez and Associate Youth Director Robert Hines at the entrance to Florida Conference's camping area. (Photo: Rolando Morgado)

Rolando Morgado, left, Hialeah Spanish Church pastor, takes a selfie with his Pathfinders, joined by Conference Youth Director Pedro Perez and Associate Youth Director Robert Hines at the entrance to Florida Conference’s camping area. (Photo: Rolando Morgado)

Only in existence 1½ years, the DeBary-Orange City Doves Club was excited to go to the Camporee and also host two girls and their counselor from Brazil. From left: Luis Jimenez, director; Jazmayra Torres, Aldean Chalwell, Cierra Stark, Jose Mendez, Sarah Johnson, Juvilee Mendez, Natanael Torres, Alyssa Johnson, and Grace Droz; and from Brazil, Fernanda, Amanda, and their counselor Edilene. (Photo: Moises Torres)

Only in existence 1½ years, the DeBary-Orange City Doves Club was excited to go to the Camporee and also host two girls and their counselor from Brazil. From left: Luis Jimenez, director; Jazmayra Torres, Aldean Chalwell, Cierra Stark, Jose Mendez, Sarah Johnson, Juvilee Mendez, Natanael Torres, Alyssa Johnson, and Grace Droz; and from Brazil, Fernanda, Amanda, and their counselor Edilene. (Photo: Moises Torres)

Gigi Shellhammer was invested as a Master Guide at the Camporee by her director, Joey Figueroa. (Photo: Rachel Figuroa)

Gigi Shellhammer was invested as a Master Guide at the Camporee by her director, Joey Figueroa. (Photo: Rachel Figuroa)

Miami Spanish Pathfinder Club in front of the grand stage. (Photo: Isaac Peña)

Miami Spanish Pathfinder Club in front of the grand stage. (Photo: Isaac Peña)

The Westchester Spanish Drill Team celebrates their 1st place award. From left: Emily Gancedo, Raquel Amich (drill commander), Eddy Chamizo, Aracely Blanco, Denysse Alvarado, and Ashley Romero. (Photo: Steven Norman)

The Westchester Spanish Drill Team celebrates their 1st place award. From left: Emily Gancedo, Raquel Amich (drill commander), Eddy Chamizo, Aracely Blanco, Denysse Alvarado, and Ashley Romero. (Photo: Steven Norman)

In spite of rain, 81 drummers from Florida, directed by Darrell Edwards, performed at the close of the Forever Faithful Camporee. (Photo: Darrell Edwards)

In spite of rain, 81 drummers from Florida, directed by Darrell Edwards, performed at the close of the Forever Faithful Camporee. (Photo: Darrell Edwards)

Forest Lake Pathfinders surround Camporee Keynote Speaker Sam Leonor, campus pastor at La Sierra University, Riverside, California. (Photo: David Figueroa)

Forest Lake Pathfinders surround Camporee Keynote Speaker Sam Leonor, campus pastor at La Sierra University, Riverside, California. (Photo: David Figueroa)

The Miami Spanish Pathfinder Club made new friends in a group of Pathfinders from Korea and shared some of their club tee shirts with them. (Photo: Isaac Peña)

The Miami Spanish Pathfinder Club made new friends in a group of Pathfinders from Korea and shared some of their club tee shirts with them. (Photo: Isaac Peña)

Zaida González from the West Palm Beach Spanish Pathfinder Club was baptized by Pedro Perez, Florida Conference Youth Director. She was among more than 600 young people baptized during the Camporee. (Photo: Camporee Photographer)

Zaida González from the West Palm Beach Spanish Pathfinder Club was baptized by Pedro Perez, Florida Conference Youth Director. She was among more than 600 young people baptized during the Camporee. (Photo: Camporee Photographer)

Statistics

What
2014 International Pathfinder Camporee—the largest Adventist youth event in the world.

When
August 11-16, 2014.

Where
704 acres on the grounds of the Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Theme
Forever Faithful.

Purpose
To claim, reclaim, and retain youth for Christ and His Church.

Numbers
47,000 Pathfinders from more than 50 countries.

Quotes

“I come to Camporees to meet new people, get honors, and explore. Most importantly, I want to gain a better connection with God.”
—Ruth Bellevue, Immokalee Spanish Club

“The story of Daniel actually touched my heart. It made me think about second choices and how to be faithful to God in everything you do.”
—Katherine Trujillo, Pilgrims Pathfinder Club, Miami

Florida Drill & Drum Competition Rankings

Basic Drill
Carol City Spanish—3rd place
DeBary-Orange City—2nd place

Advanced Drill
Coral Springs—1st place
Miami Spanish—2nd place
Miami Springs—1st place
Westchester Spanish—1st place

Fancy Drill
Coral Springs—2nd place
Hollywood Spanish—3rd place
Naples Spanish—1st place
North Miami Beach—1st place
Plantation—3rd place

Drum Corps—all seven clubs competing from Florida Conference received 1st place ranking!
ACE (Ambassador/Coral Springs/Eliathah combined corps)
All Nations
Forest City Spanish
Miami Spanish
Naples Spanish
Plantation
Westchester Spanish

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Will I Leave a Legacy?

posted on December 15, 2014, under Conference by

by Phil Bond, director of Florida Conference Development and Planned Giving

Money in wagonChristian Estate Planning is the act of arranging your assets in a way that provides for yourself, your family, and the Lord’s work—while you are alive and when you are gone. It is good stewardship.

“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Timothy 5:8 KJV)

To encourage this good stewardship, Florida Conference will pay the costs of having the following documents professionally prepared for constituent members:

  • Last Will and Testament—This is a legal document stating what you want to have happen at your demise:
    • Who will finish raising your minor children?
    • Who will receive your money and possessions?
    • Who will be in charge of making sure your wishes are carried out?
  • Durable Power of Attorney—This document gives the person you appoint the right to manage financial matters should you become incapacitated.
  • Health Care Surrogate—This document gives the person you appoint the right to make health care decisions for you should you be unable to do so.
  • Living Will—This document outlines your wishes in regard to end-of-life health care.

House planningThree Frequently Asked Questions About Establishing a Basic Estate Plan:

  • Isn’t this expensive? No. This is free to you. Why? Florida Conference believes this is a part of stewardship (see 1 Timothy 5:8).
  • If I establish a plan with the Conference’s Planned Giving department, do I have to leave everything to the Church? No. While it is a reflection of Christian stewardship for a will to remember some phase of the Lord’s work, there is no requirement for you to do so.
  • I don’t own very much. Do I really need a will? Yes. How do you know what your assets will be on the day you die? You could inherit or be awarded by the courts money you never expected.

Money to groupGuardianship
Not long ago, an Adventist couple and their small child went out of state on vacation. Tragedy struck when they were involved in a head-on collision. Although the baby was fine, the parents were hospitalized and unable to care for him. When relatives arrived at the hospital to take custody of the child, the hospital informed them that because there were no official documents appointing them as guardians for the child, the child would have to be remanded to the care of the Department of Children and Families. Can you imagine how panicked these folks felt. Fortunately, the father regained consciousness and was able to sign documents allowing the relatives to have custody of the baby.

Many do not know that a Last Will and Testament is the document in which you appoint whom you would want to care for your minor children or other dependents should you become incapacitated. As the parent of young children, I feel a particular burden for this aspect of estate planning.

Should I or Should I Not Speak with a Brother or Sister in Christ About Their Estate Plan?
Megaphone money“There are aged ones among us who are nearing the close of their probation; but for the want of wide-awake men to secure to the cause of God the means in their possession, it passes into the hands of those who are serving Satan. This means was only lent them of God to be returned to Him; but in nine cases out of ten these brethren, when passing from the stage of action, appropriate God’s property in a way that cannot glorify Him, for not one dollar of it will ever flow into the Lord’s treasury.” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 478)

Wow. This quote never resonated so clearly with me as when I was speaking with a pastor friend recently. We were discussing when I might present a check to his congregation from a bequest the Conference had received on their behalf. The deceased member had been a good steward during life, and my friend was anticipating the wonderful things this bequest might accomplish for the Lord’s work.

Unfortunately, his excitement turned to disappointment when he learned that the majority of this member’s estate had been left to distant, nonbelieving family members. Only a pittance had been left for the Lord’s work.

The End of Probation (not the kind to which adventists are generally referring)
I was recently talking with a friend named Ellen who had lost both parents in the past few months. She said, “Although they were up in years, and several months have gone by, the loss is still so palpable. But, you know, the biggest headache has been the probate process. I know it is supposed to help with settling their final affairs, but truthfully, it has just been a big pain.”

I hear comments like this often. So, what is probate? Why is it so arduous? Is there a way to avoid or, at least, minimize it?

Probate—the process of establishing the validity of a will—is a necessary evil. In some cultures, the guy with the biggest club who shows up first will “inherit” everything. However, in our country, the courts oversee who receives a decedent’s assets.

Probating a will can become arduous because the courts want to be sure all potential creditors have an opportunity to make a claim against a decedent’s estate and that the process is consistent and fair to all concerned. This translates into a lot of time (an average of one year) and the need to hire an attorney who understands how the process works.

There are many ways to minimize the probate process. The simplest ones include making sure property you own is titled correctly and that beneficiaries are named on all accounts. Another option may be to establish a trust.

Your Development and Planned Giving team at Florida Conference has helpful information that can reduce the headaches of the probate process for you and your loved ones.

Bags of moneyCharitable Gift Annuities
A Charitable Gift Annuity is a contract between you and Florida Conference. You transfer cash or an asset that has increased in value (such as land or stock) to the Conference in exchange for our promise to pay you a fixed income for the rest of your and/or your spouse’s life. Sample Gift Annuity rates for an individual are as follows:

Age | Rate
75 | 5.8%
80 | 6.8%
85 | 7.8%

Southern Union Revolving Fund (SURF)
Money seminarPerhaps one of the best personal investments you can make is in the Southern Union Revolving Fund (SURF). Deposits earn about triple the interest paid on a one-year Certificate of Deposit (CD). SURF deposits currently earn 1.25% The funds are loaned to Adventist schools and churches for their building projects at a lower interest rate than what they would pay through a commercial bank. It is truly a win-win for everyone.

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The Tithe—God’s Gift to His People

posted on December 09, 2014, under Conference by

by Conrad Duncan

Your Tithe Changes LivesPersonal Testimony
How could I ever give to God if He did not give to me first? Did not I come into His world empty-handed? (Job 1:20-21)

In this article, I will share some of the wonderful lessons God is teaching me about personal stewardship.

A Lopsided Understanding
For most of my life, growing up in the Adventist Church, I returned God’s tithe for two reasons:

First, I returned 10% of all my income in order to consider myself in good standing with my church. I wanted to be recognized as a model member who was loyal and faithful to my church. That way, I could have a seat at the communion table, have a vote at the member’s meeting, be elected to church office, and gain the approval of everyone in the church.

Second, I returned 10% of all my income so that God would bless me more. After all, doesn’t the Bible say in many places that when we return to God what belongs to Him (the tithe and generous offerings) He will bless us even more? (Malachi 3:10)

While my two reasons for returning God’s tithe may seem right, they are not the best reasons for me, or anyone else, to do so. In the first place, my giving practice is informed and inspired by my relationship with God.

It is God who brought me, through my parents, into this world. I never had to be born, but God brought me here. Also, God began blessing me even before I was born. He knew exactly what I would need to have a fruitful and happy life, so He provided those things ahead of my arrival:

  • Healthy and loving parents
  • Safe and free country
  • Educational opportunities
  • Church family
  • Productive career
  • Great friends
  • Health, etc.

As He did for Adam and Eve, God provided for me before He created me.

Conrad Duncan, Florida Conference vice president for general administration and director of stewardship, writes from the heart when he reflects on the bountiful blessings from God. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

Conrad Duncan, Florida Conference vice president for general administration and director of stewardship, writes from the heart when he reflects on the bountiful blessings from God. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

Furthermore, God has not stopped blessing me. Since my birth, He has blessed me beyond my ability to calculate those blessings. Now, He asks me to return 10% of everything—my time, my talent, my energy, and my material resources to His church. God first loved me; then He made me; finally, He has given to me. My only reasonable response is to love Him in return and return to Him the small (1/10) portion that He requires.

In the second place, I don’t have to originate or invent something new to offer to God. To invent or create a gift to God would be hard at least, and impossible at best, for me to do. God has made it easy for me to obey His tithe and offering requirement. All I have to do is subtract from what He has already given me, the meager portion of 10%, a generous free will offering, and return it to Him. (Genesis 28:22) This is not hard for me to do. Thank God!

Myth
It is a myth that when we give our money to God, via His church (the storehouse), He will give us more money. The truth is that God rewards obedience, but not only in monetary form. The greatest blessings of life are worth more than money. The blessings of life, health, peace of mind, good friends, a church family, a job that satisfies, road protection, salvation, and the prospect of eternal life in a better place cannot be paid for; yet, God gives them to us abundantly and unconditionally.

A Recent Enlightenment
About seven years ago, I learned something in the Bible that changed my life. The text says:

“‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.'” (Malachi 3:10)

All I could picture in this passage was a God who wants to take from me. Was I so wrong? Yes!

Now, all I can picture is a God who wants nothing from me but to give everything to me. Note that God requires one act from me in this passage, and that act is to return 1/10 of His blessings back to Him.

This one act of mine, when done with the correct motive, results in seven acts of God to me:

  1. He will fill His house (the church) with resoures for all my needs. (Malachi 3:10)
  2. He will throw open Heaven’s windows for me. (Malachi 3:10)
  3. He will pour me out more blessing than I can contain. (Malachi 3:10)
  4. He will prevent destructive elements from my life and property. (Malachi 3:11)
  5. He will make me fruitful. (Malachi 3:11)
  6. He will cause even entire nations to approve of me and recognize my blessings. (Malachi 3:12)
  7. He will give me a happy and fulfilled life, even upon this planet. (Malachi 3:12)

WOW! God does not take my tithes and offerings for His personal use. He places it into His Church (storehouse) in order to satisfy all the needs of His people:

  • Our spiritual needs
  • Our physical and physiological needs
  • Our educational needs
  • Our church social needs

At the end of the day, the tithe and offerings that I return to God become His gifts and blessings to me and the other members of His Church (globally and locally). God keeps nothing for Himself. He transfers it all into His Church in order to supply the needs of His work. (2 Corinthians 9:10-12)

Conclusion
God is a giver. His greatest pleasure is to bless and do us good, even when we don’t deserve it. God is not a taker. It all belongs to Him anyway. It was His before Adam and Eve were ever created, and it will still be His after we are all gone from here.

And the greatest of God’s gifts to me (eternal life in a better place) is still to come. What I give to God could never compare to His gifts to me.

So, my brothers and sisters, as we approach the end of another calendar year, let us count God’s gifts to us and demonstrate our gratitude to Him in generous ways. And, remember that even the tithe and offering we submit to God, He gives it back to us to bless and do us good.

Man! What a God!

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