“Can You Say Shibboleth?”

Learning “Christianese” isn’t always so easy. I learned the Southern Baptist vernacular, and then I became skilled at speaking the Assemblies of God dialect. After learning to speak both of these languages, I felt confident that any Charismatic communications would be easy enough, but found that it was a little harder because of the twisting of the tongue required to pronounce some strange words. I did learn to speak it, however.

But that was not the end. There was to be one more new Christianese assignment, and it would prove to be the most complicated one of them all—the inflexible enunciation of the Seventh-day Adventists denomination. 

The Baptists expected me to use street language, because that’s where I’d been most of my life. The Assemblies of God crowd was tolerant, because they figured I’d never been this deep into the “Spirit Realm.” The Charismatics didn’t really care, because there were so many denominations represented, that the Christianese spoken there sounded like the Tower of Babel.             

However, it was a different story with the Seventh-day Adventists (SDAs); I had to learn what not to say to an Adventist member. I was afraid to open my mouth for fear that everyone would realize I couldn’t speak their language, or that the language I used was of a foreign denominational descent. I still had the flavor of my previous associations with non-Seventh-day Adventist Christianity on my tongue. Alas, what to do? There was no Rosetta Stone CD on how to learn to speak “SDA!”

This may sound ridiculous to a second or third generation Adventist, but it’s not so funny when you’re outside the denominational language barrier. Even though someone has made Jesus Christ Lord of their life and served Him to the best of their ability and knowledge, they often feel their fellow members think that if they can’t say it right, then they must not have it right.

Although it really shouldn’t matter if you say you were “Born-Again, Saved or baptized into the Church,” for some reason it does matter to some people, and if we’re not careful, we can do great harm to those who fervently seek the truth our denomination has to offer.  We must be aware that they’re in a learning process. I’ve been a Seventh-day Adventist for close to twelve years now, and I still hear new terminology periodically. 

There’s a story in the Bible that speaks directly to this issue—a story of how words can wound, discourage, and even destroy lives.

“The Gileadites seized the fords of the Jordan before the Ephraimites arrived. And when any Ephraimite who escaped said, ‘Let me cross over,’ the men of Gilead would say to him, ‘Are you an Ephraimite?’ If he said, ‘No,’ then they would say to him, ‘Then say, “Shibboleth!”’ And he would say, ‘Sibboleth,’ for he could not pronounce it right. Then they would take him and kill him at the fords of the Jordan. There fell at that time forty-two thousand Ephraimites.” Judges 12:5-6.

How very careful we must be with those who are trying their best to walk our walk, but are still unable to talk our talk. They may come through our doors wearing wedding bands and dripping in diamonds and pearls, but we must be conscious of a simple but beautiful truth—at least they came through our doors! They’re looking for truth, not a lecture—they’re looking for Christ, not criticism. We must allow them the opportunity to come in just as they are, and permit the Holy Spirit time to change them. I’ve caught a lot of fish through the years, but I’ve never caught a filet. Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19), but He is the only one that can “clean” them—never us! If we’ll just catch them, and allow God to clean them, it will make it a lot easier on everyone involved—especially for those who can’t say “Shibboleth.”

  Pastor Hal Steenson

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“Can You Hear Me Now?” Part 13

The shell of 3ABN’s first building was up, but not complete, when Scientific Atlanta called Danny. They told him the satellite dish was ready to be delivered, and that the final payment was due. Danny was praising God because the money had just arrived to finalize the nearly $400,000 deal to put 3ABN’s signal on the air. However, there was nowhere to house the equipment!

By the world’s way of thinking, the proper way of building a worldwide television network like 3ABN would take perhaps six to eight years. The last thing they would purchase would be the satellite uplink dish equipment, after everything else had been completed. Normally the buildings would be built and wired, and money would be secured for several years of satellite transponder time—and then the network would go on the air. But this was not Danny Shelton’s goal. His most urgent goal was to reach the world with the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14. God had furnished the equipment and the money for it, and Danny knew it was time to begin broadcasting.

When he called the satellite company, he found out that the transponder time would cost $50,000 a month, and they wanted him to sign a three-year contract! Even though he didn’t have any money, Danny knew God would supply. And sure enough, He did!

May Chung called and offered to put up a plot of land she owned as collateral for 3ABN’s monthly payments. (May still owns her property. 3ABN never missed a payment—thanks to faithful financial supporters like you!)

Okay, Father, Danny thought. You’ve given us the land, cleared all the interferences, built the building, and provided $400,000 worth of network equipment—and three years of satellite transponder time! I’m going to take that as a green light!

Immediately his modest crew started work on the transmitter shack—a 12- by 16-foot building about the size of an average bedroom. It was just large enough to hold the transmitting equipment.

Then 3ABN’s volunteer engineer, Clarence Larson, installed the equipment which hummed and buzzed—in fact it made so much noise one could barely hear the phone ring!

It was 8:00 p.m. on November 23, 1986. Clarence took one of the tapes Danny had borrowed from It is Written and slid it into the tape deck—which sat on cardboard boxes. As he threw the switch to begin broadcasting, everyone cheered. However, when the noise died down, Danny had a question.

“How will we know if anyone is watching us?”

“That’s easy,” Clarence replied. “I’ve inserted our phone number across the screen periodically, saying, ‘Call for our free offer.’ ”

Just then, the phone rang.

“3ABN, may I help you?”

“Yes, I would like to order a copy of your free offer. Let me give you my name and address.”

Danny was shocked and elated, all at the same time. They’d been on the air for only a minute or two and someone had already called! Now he faced a new problem. There was so much noise inside that transmitter room that he had trouble hearing the caller. He was pretty sure the caller was having trouble, too, so he grabbed a pen and stepped outside into the cold air.

“Can you hear me now?”

That first broadcast lasted two hours, and so did those first phone calls. God had confirmed His promise, His dream, and His vision: from those humble, two-hour broadcasts to one satellite from a tiny shack in southern Illinois, to a network that now broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, covering 99% of the inhabited world with internet, 11 satellites, 131 TV stations around the world, and many hundreds of cable companies. I wonder if God is asking, “Can you hear Me now?”

  Pastor Hal Steenson

“The GPS of God”

Romans 8:14 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

Although she had been asking him for years, he had just now given in and for the first time attended his mother’s church. He couldn’t believe he was actually there, to him this Christianity thing was an archaic expression of times, fables and myths. Religion had no place in his modern society when weighed against all the latest technology and achievements in science. The technology present in his cell phone alone allowed him to advance into the future with no need of digging up the past. His phone alone could connect him to almost anywhere in the world. Even the Global Positioning System in his car had more power than this church service or his mother’s worn-out Bible or diligent prayers. He proved that this morning when he didn’t know the location of her church. So he programmed the address into the Global Positioning System and followed directions. His GPS asked him if he wanted the shortest route or the scenic one. He choose the shortest one, hoping to get there, make his mother happy and get out.

As the church service progressed, he nervously glanced at his watch in anticipation of the close of the service. However, this edginess slowed down as something unexpected began to happen. As the minister shared the love of Christ and God’s plan of salvation, a peace started to surround him. As the appeal song proclaimed the words of “I Surrender All,” he felt as if someone had put their hand on his shoulder—he figured his mother must have known that something was happening inside him and was comforting him. However, as he turned, he saw his mother on her knees praying and there was no one else close to him. He still felt the hand and now sensed a presence there with him.

He heard soundless words turn over in his mind saying, “God, I don’t know what’s happening to me and I don’t have a clue what direction you’re taking me—why don’t you have a heavenly GPS so I can get my bearings?” That’s when he heard a still small voice saying, “Oh but I do have one, however; there are no shortest routes and sometimes the road gets rough and rocky. Here are my spiritual GPS directions for you.”

  • First, start your trip by kneeling at the foot of the cross.
  • Next, surrender your life at the crossroads of the shed blood of Christ and conversion.
  • Then, you must stop at the first sign of sin, admit that you’ve sinned and ask for forgiveness.
  • Now, make the right turn at the corner of Spirit and truth.
  • As you proceed, Truth will begin to merge into commitment.
  • Once on commitment, prepare to go over bridges of adversity by trusting in God’s GPS (God’s Plan of Salvation)
  • Next, make the right turn onto the highway of Holiness, which will lead you to eternal life in Christ.
  • This highway of Holiness will take you through the valley of decision where you must take a leap of faith, hold on to your anchor of hope and spread His unconditional love.
  • If you’ve followed God’s GPS (God’s Plan of Salvation) and gone the right direction, then you will arrive at your destinations, first salvation and finally the portals of heaven and the eternal presence of God.

When you arrive you comprehend that Jesus didn’t say “I’ll show you the way, I’ll tell you the truth or I’ll teach you about life.” He said, “I am the way the truth and the life. He didn’t tell Mary and Martha, “I’m here to resurrect Lazarus.” “He said I am the resurrection.”

You can’t use a Tom Tom GPS to get to heaven, however you can use God’s GPS (God’s Plan of Salvation) by allowing Him to lead, guide and direct you every step of the way.

  Pastor Hal Steenson

“Aren’t You The One?”

Matthew 10:32 NKJV [Confess Christ before Men] “Therefore whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.

She had been eagerly preparing for the yearly celebration of Passover. She was overjoyed with thoughts of the peace and serenity involved in every phase of the upcoming feast. She was awed with the huge crowds from all over the country coming together with one common purpose. She, as a doorkeeper of the temple would see people of great importance pass as they were ushered into the temple.

Many tumultuous things had been happening in town for the last couple of days. She had even seen some of the so-called rebels near the temple with large crowds following them. There was one man in particular that had been causing most of the problems. However, this was about to stop because he and another man had just been ushered through her door and into the courtyard. He was to be tried this night before the leaders and it didn’t look too good for him.

There was another man, a big burley man that didn’t go in with them, he just stood outside the door and waited. Then the man accompanying the one that was to be tried came back and asked if the big man could also come in—she allowed him to enter. That was when she recognized him. He was one of the men that had been with the man they called Jesus, the one causing all the problems. She asked him, Wasn’t it you that I saw earlier with this Jesus?” “Aren’t you the one? He dropped his head and said, “No, I am not,” but she knew it really was him. Why would he lie?

The credit card machine was on the blink and only worked about half the time, but everyone in line was being patient with her. That is, with the exception of one man. He was very irritated and it was obvious, he twisted, turned and mumbled under his breath. She hurried as fast as she could because he was making the other customers uncomfortable with his bad actions and attitude. Finally, he was next in line and he was boiling. She humbley apologized for the inconvenience but that was not enough for him. He had to make a statement; he had to prove a point for all to hear. He said, “Lady, you have no idea the trouble you’ve caused me; I’m going to be late for a very important meeting.” Once again, she said, “I’m so sorry sir,” but all she heard was a, “yea, I bet you are.”

She told him that she would be praying that he would make it to his meeting on time. He gave her a strange and shameful look. She asked him, “Aren’t you the one, the minister that shared at the high school graduation services last May?” I was there with my daughter. I remember because you talked about love and how it would never fail, never misbehave or get aggravated. Aren’t you the one? He dropped his head and said, “No, it wasn’t me.” Nevertheless, she knew it was him. Why would he lie?

Luke 12:8 NKJV [ Confess Christ Before Men ] “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.

  Pastor Hal Steenson

“Moving From Prayer To Praise”

Mark 11: 23 King James Version reads, “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.”

There comes a time in every believer’s prayer life when we must move from “prayer to praise.” This will only happen when we understand that prayer is a two-sided coin. It is not the will of God or in the Word of God that we continually pray the same prayer repeatedly. Matthew 6:7 states “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” Some may say, what about the woman that continued to beseech the judge—please remember he was an unjust judge. Our God and judge is a just God and hears us the first time we pray.

The two-sided coin of prayer and praise is like someone going into a supermarket and saying, “I believe there is enough food in this store to feed me and my family for twenty years.” However if they only believe, they will sit there and starve to death. Believing is prayer—faith is praise.

You may believe (prayer) that there is enough food for you, but it is only when you move into faith (praise) that you can open a can of peaches or eat some fruit. It is faith-praise that is the fruit of believing-prayer. So many people pray the problem over and over and never get they’re prayers answered. Mark 11:23 does not tell us to pray the problem; it tells us to pray the solution—mountain be moved. This text goes on to tell us to not doubt in our heart, which amounts to faith and praise. The next step is to believe that the prayer we said is a done deal when it lines up with God’s will. We should pray the prayer, thank God for hearing it and then praise God with our lips (whatsoever we say) for answering it. Hebrews 13:15 “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.”

Mark 11:24 (AMP) “For this reason I am telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (trust and be confident) that it is granted to you, and you will [get it].” This text plainly tells us that when we pray we must believe and receive what is granted to us by faith (praise.) Why is it that we can ask someone to do us a favor and before it’s even done; we thank them for doing it? We may ask them to get us a drink of water and thank them for doing it before they even leave the room. Yet, when we pray to our Father, we don’t thank him until we see it done. Moving from prayer to praise is when we understand that in God’s kingdom it is not that seeing is believing; it is believing is seeing. Pray and believe it, praise and receive it.

  Pastor Hal Steenson

“Read The Rules”

In the winter, Mollie and I always stay at a hotel when visiting our kids in Missouri. It has an indoor pool, hot tub, beds the grandkids can bounce on for hours on end and a nice complimentary breakfast. However, four years ago, on this particular Sunday morning, our “sleep-over grandkids” wanted Burger King© French toast for breakfast or at least my ten-year-old granddaughter, Savannah did. Max, my four-year-old grandson was in total agreement only because of their wonderful play land.

We entered the restaurant and those two immediately hit on their Papa Hal for the action toys and the “Burger King Crown” which Max pushed down around his ears. The French toast was picked at and the play land lasted longer than Papa Hal really wanted to stay—finally off we go to our daughter’s house to deliver the kids and spend the rest of the day being lazy. On the way, in the rear view mirror, I noticed Savanna reading something to Max. It was something written on the inside of the crown, but I didn’t catch what was being said.

We walked into the house, sat down all the kid’s junk, then watched Max as he approached his dad and pull the remote control from his hand. He then changed the channel from a fishing show (my son-in-law is the reason all those boring fishing shows are on television) to his favorite program. He proceeded to sit down in the floor and watch Sponge Bob Square Pants. My son-in-law, Roger, told him to give the remote back and without hesitation, Max told him “NO.” When my daughter, Dee Dee told Max to give it back–again, he declared very emphatically, “NO, I’m watching cartoons.” This attitude of course called for a visit to the bathroom (better known as the “woodshed”) for an adamant little boy name Max. He needed an attitude adjustment.

Realizing he was in trouble, Max began to tear up. When Dee Dee asked him why he was acting so disrespectfully to his dad, he pointed to the crown on his head and said, “Read the rules Mom.” “Read what,” She asked him.” Again, he pointed to the “Burger King Crown” and with tears in his eyes cried, “Read the rules Mom.” She removed the crown from his head and in shock, slowly read the message on the inside of the crown.

It read:

  • There can only be one king.
  • The King always gets his way.
  • The king makes all the important decisions governing the selection of TV channels, movies, radio stations, as well as popular activities like snowboarding, pool hopping and cow tipping.
  • The king determines who gets the remote, who rides shotgun and of course who has to pay for everything.

My daughter came out of the woodshed/bathroom in tears, trying not to laugh, knowing that she could not spank her son or even harshly correct him when his little four-year-old heart had simply been following the rules.

Isaiah 59:19 says, “…When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.” I believe the standard that is raised is the Word of God and God’s Words are the “rules of life.”

This caused me to ponder how much better off we would be if we didn’t argue with Satan, but just told him to read the rules. Let’s read together, some of the rules on the crown of our King.

Matthew 4:1-11 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

But he answered and said, (Read the rules Satan) It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,

And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Jesus said unto him, (Read the rules Satan) It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

Then saith Jesus unto him, (I’m telling you for the last time Satan, read the rules) Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.

Although Max was acting according to the rules, I still think I may write Burger King a nice little letter about their RULES!

  Pastor Hal Steenson

“A Letter Of Credit” Part 12

The phone call came from Scientific Atlanta with the estimate for the equipment needed to put 3ABN on satellite. Sue, who was in charge of their finance department, informed Danny that it would cost $350,000 to have the satellite uplink dish and transmitter built and installed. Then she told him she would need a deposit of $70,000 to begin the work.

“All I have is $10,000,” Danny replied, “and that seemed like a lot of money just a few minutes ago!”

“Do you have a letter of credit?” Sue asked.

Danny thought for a moment. A letter of credit? I don’t even have a credit card! However, I believe what God impressed on me is true—that I would not have to borrow money to build this station. It’s His vision, and He will always supply, if I will always obey.

“No, I don’t,” he replied honestly.

Just a few days earlier, Danny had been praising God for his encounter with the district sales representative for this very company. As he’d shared the miracles God had already performed, the man had seemed impressed. It must have been orchestrated by God, but now everything seemed to come to a standstill.

A few days later, he received another call from that sales rep. After hearing about their conversation, he encouraged Danny to call Sue again, and tell her about the miracles.

“Sue, I wonder if I could take a moment to tell you how this station has come about,” Danny began. After telling her the miraculous stories, he didn’t ask her to make an exception to the company’s policies; he just told her the Lord had impressed him that He would supply all his needs. He also told her he believed the money would be there when the equipment was ready to be delivered.

She asked if he really thought that he could come up with $350,000 in three months.

“Yes,” Danny replied.

Then came the surprise. “I’m a Christian too, and I don’t know why I’m doing this, but I believe you, and I’m going to trust you,” Sue said. “We’ll start immediately on the equipment—but don’t forget—three hundred and fifty thousand dollars!” Then she made arrangements to set up the cost of the equipment on installments until the project was completed.

Danny reflected back to a conversation with a lady he’d met at the laymen’s convention in Colorado. As May Chung listened to him, she seemed impatient.

“We need to get this up and going now, Danny,” she’d said. “What is the problem?”

When he told her that Scientific Atlanta was working on an estimate, and that the equipment would probably cost around  $400,000, she’d had a grand plan.

“Danny, she said, “I’m so impressed that this network needs to be up quickly that I’ll loan you the money at a very low interest rate, and you can pay it back as the donations come in.”

He had been overwhelmed, but felt that was not what God wanted him to do, so he told May that God would not allow him to go in debt.

Now the first payment was fast approaching, and he was surprised to hear from May again. She told him that he could have the money interest-free, and that he could pay it back whenever he could. Again he said no.

Danny prayed earnestly, knowing that any day Sue would call again.

When the phone rang again, it was May. But this time she told Danny she would give him $100,000 toward the equipment. “Oh yes,” she added, “I called Ellsworth McKee, a dedicated Adventist, and owner of Little Debbie Snack Cakes. He’s also giving you $100,000.”

Danny had good news for Sue when she called. He didn’t need a letter of credit—he had a letter from the King of kings!

  Pastor Hal Steenson