I walked into the La Sierra University Church and almost took a worship credit slip from the student at the door. (We had a nice visit--she is a theology senior who I will be interviewing along with other local conference leaders on March 8 when I return to the campus.) I recalled years earlier the need for worship credit as a student at Andrews University.
I wasn't getting worship credit but I certainly was enjoying my seat at the front of church for the Week of Spiritual Emphasis at La Sierra University. The students took their seats, sang with gusto as the student life department led the praise songs, and listened attentively as the two professors gave their testimony about "What I Believe..."
Both of the faculty speakers were scientists (one from biology and the other from physics) and each gave a personally compelling sermonette about God's direction in our lives as Creator. I thought that either one would do very well as a revival speaker for a local church or camp meeting.
Amidst my meetings with faculty, student life staff, and Board of Trustees, this event was a reminder of why Seventh-day Adventist higher education makes a unique difference in the spiritual formation of young adult learners.
My life changed in 1999 when I was called to serve as Government Relations Director for the Pacific Union. Our office in Sacramento became my base of operations and a staging point for some of the most amazing ministry I had experienced to that point in my life.
Today, there are two special people who are leading the work of the Church State Council office (the separately designated entity of the Pacific Union's work for religious liberty) located at 1228 N Street, Suite 1, Sacramento, CA. At the end of this posting you can see on the map what an ideal location this is for our work in the State Capitol.
Ed Fargusson is the newly elected director of this office. Together we visited about the work at the Council office and the opportunities that God is opening up for our work in this pivotal place. From his rich background as a pastor and church administrator, Elder Fargusson shared, "I feel that I am exactly where God wants me to be." Indeed, this is a calling to a special work.
Ed and I walked through the State Capitol building and talked over the strategy we use to meet and reach people with the message of religious liberty. Rather than be embroiled in the culture war battles of the day, we are focused upon the great Gospel principles that have guided this Church's work since the pioneering days of Ellen G. White and A.T. Jones (our church's first congressional representative in the 1880's).
Our message focuses upon the bedrock foundation signified by proclamations such as:
"God does not coerce the conscience",
"In matters of conscience the majority has no power",
"Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's."
Pat Silvia is the administrative assistant that helps carry out the essential support service work that keeps the office working smoothly. She provides a kind voice on the phone to members who are having Sabbath work problems as well as helping carry out the coordinating functions that allows the Council office to successfully carry out its mission.
As we prayed together and I departed the Thayer Building I thought of the 5 years I had devoted to the work of religious liberty in this very spot. I began to hum as I walked down the street, "To God be the Glory" and thought, "We're in good hands in Sacramento."
By the way, if you have any need of help to have Sabbath hours off of work or any other religious liberty question don't hesitate to call the office at 916-446-2552 or visit the website at www.churchstate.org.
Jennifer and I enjoyed seeing our friends (and former pastor when we attended Carmichael Church) Dave and Judy Osborne. Walking onto the campus of the Chico church (http://chico.adventistfaith.org) one immediately notices the care and concern that is given to the physical plant--landscaping, buildings, and the school. The congregation takes special efforts to have the worship facility be a quality one which is attractive to the community. This fits quite well with Pastor Osborne's friendly and open spirit that makes everyone feel welcome.
During the worship service we were especially blessed by the double-piano duet that lifted my spirits as I prepared to preach. (So much so that I forgot myself and bounded to the pulpit before the local elder could read the Scripture reading! He fulfilled his duty as I stood by his side). You can hear my sermon thanks to the church at http://chico.adventistfaith.org/podcasts.
It is a wonderful thing to talk with the members at the door which in the case of the Chico church included Elder Larry Caviness' uncles. Potluck dinner included an interesting conversation with a member who became a Seventh-day Adventist after some years of spiritual searching. "God led me" was his witness.