Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Kung Fu Baby


Yoko has taken Timothy home to her parents' place now, and he'll come home to our place in a few weeks. He's a funny kid, sometimes making faces that look like certain people... I'll have to put together a post of those pictures sometime. He may turn out to be a comedian.

Or, a kung fu master...

Yes, while they were still in the hospital (on Day 5), and while Yoko was sleeping, Timothy apparently forgot that I was in the room, and he started going through some kung fu, judo and karate forms. He was pretending to be asleep, but don't let that fool you.



See, he looks innocently asleep, but then the arms form...



What looks like a chin rest is in fact... ninja fingers!



And here comes the kii-yup!



From fighting stance, his dizzying fistwork throws two punches faster than the camera can capture it! (The cheap plastic wall of the crib is doomed!)



After defeating the evil plastic wall, he turns to the next foe (me?) and goes into Judo mode...



Having thrown down his second foe, he follows through, teasing,
"Oooh, was that widdle ol' me?"



Returning to form, he clenches his perfect fists...



In a blur, two more foes fall! Oooooo... uaaaaa!!!



From a "horse stance" he quickly returns to fighting readiness...



"Bring it on!" "Haaaaaaiyaaaaaaa!"



The crane arms go up, and his foes go running...



Victory! Nobody messes with Kung Fu Baby!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Our Newest Blessing!


Welcome to the world, Timothy Tsuyoshi Romero! Our baby boy was born on Tuesday March 20th, 2007, at 4:16 (or "16:16") in the afternoon, JST. Contractions started at 4:30am, Yoko woke me at 7:30, and we got to the hospital at 8:30. Serious labor lasted two hours with no drugs to boot, way to go Yoko!

'Kangaroo Care'

After a quick swabbing of the baby's nose & mouth, the first thing they do is put the baby on Mommy's chest. They call it "kangaroo care" in Japan and it really helps bond & calm both baby and Mommy. Minna gambatta! Otsukaresama!

First Family Picture

The nurse/midwife took this picture of us. You can't see Timothy's face, but that's okay because it's all scrunched up like a drunk man's face on a bar, hehe.

Papa Ramone

Then they let me hold him. With other friends' babies, I've always been a little apprehensive or extra cautious, wondering if maybe it was better that I didn't hold them! It was a little awkward or delicate, and well, you know. But with Timothy it felt good!! No problem, no worries. I wanted to hold him! (Hey, friends, it's not that I didn't want to hold your babies! It's just that I exercised some caution with yours that I wouldn't with mine...? Hey, wait a minute!)

With Aunt Michi

Yoko's younger sister Michi patiently waited outside with her ear to the door of the delivery room, and they let me go out to show her the newborn baby. I let her hold him, and she cried. (^_^) She'll be a great aunt. Especially because she can cook really good cakes! (Yumm...)

The Stats!

The stats are in!

Born: 2007 (Hesei year 19) March 20th, 4:16pm (16:16)
Weight: 3408 g (7 1/2 lbs)
Height/length: 54.5 cm (what's that in inches?)
Chest: 33.0 cm (ditto this in inches?)
Genkiness (energy/movement) 1 min. after birth: 9/10!
Genkiness (energy/movement) 5 min. after birth: 9/10!
Status: Very cute. In fact, beautiful. My boy!!!!

Kampei-chan?

After a better cleaning, they let me, Michi & Yoko's mom be with him for awhile while they tended to new mommy Yoko. We photographed him incessantly with our cellphones (and my digital camera). In this picture he looks like a Japanese comedian named Kanpei-chan! (See this picture and this picture.) "Ka-iii-no!" He kind of shed this look the next day, though. But actually, here he also looks like Yoko's father, Takayoshi. Yoko wondered, "Does this mean that my father looks like Kanpei-chan?"

Cute grip

Cute grip, don't you think? His hands were a bit wrinkled and chalky colored. And he probably didn't know what to do with his hands. Probably still doesn't, come to think of it! I think he has my long fingernails. It'll make all the girls jealous when he gets older...

Signature feet

For the first identification marking (I guess) they put the parents' family name on both feet. In our case, "Romero" which is written in katakana, not in kanji (that is, in simple characters instead of in the more complex Chinese characters). In katatana, "Romero" almost looks like "square-X-square".

First Rocking

He was very peaceful as I sat next to Yoko in the delivery room (where she recovered for two hours). He seemed to sleep while I rocked & lullabied him with a few worship songs. Actually, after a little crying at the beginning (which Michi said sounded like a cat more than a screaming baby), he got really peaceful. Not much crying that night. Good boy!

Cute yawn

Yawning! His yawns are so cute. But his forehead & brow wrinkle in such a funny way! Where are his eyes, man!

After the lullaby

Papa after the lullaby.

Name tag

Day 2! Yoko chose a little sheep sticker they had to write his name on (see this post for the meaning & history behind his names).

Day 2 with Mama

On Day 2, Timothy showed us his lung power! And what power he has! He cried & cried, and wouldn't stop. If it wasn't feeding time, he sometimes still cried. Here he starts to nibble or suckle on Yoko's pajama sleeve.

Day 2 with Papa

Day 2 lullabies with Papa! I think it worked only briefly. Later on it worked its magic again, but at this time he was doing his own vocal chord exercises! The craziness hath begun!

With Mama again

When I gave him back to Yoko, he seemed to calm again.

The cutest feet in the world

Now Yoko gets to gaze upon the cutest feet in the world... which kicked her in the ribs so much! While she or the nurses hold him, he often likes to kick, but for me he doesn't seem to do the boot-to-the-head attempts much... yet.

Somewhat calmer after sugar water

We're basically going the breast-feeding route (natural, baby!), but they gave us some sugar water to feed him and he liked it. He was a bit calmer after that.

Stuck in a wink that you can't get out of

He's got this perpetual "wink" ... well, not a wink, more like a stuck cockeye look? He isn't opening the right eye much yet. Maybe it was that suction cup thingy they put on his head to help him out, haha. But I'm sure in a few days he'll enjoy looking (or glaring) at us with both eyes.

Family!

Sweet family! (And sweet pajamas to suckle on!)

Parents!

God is wonderful. He has blessed us so much. I don't know how to describe all the things I'm feeling. I don't know how to sort it out. It all comes so fast and sometimes I just tear up soaking it all in. Even though I'm at home now (and need to go to bed!) I am overwhelmed. I'm so blessed, and my heart is bursting. Thank You, God. Thank You.

Cranky again

Probably after noticing that no actual milk came from Yoko's sleeve, Timothy resumed crying again. But isn't he cute!



"Maybe this soft white thing will give me some milk..."

Grandma Kayoko and sleeping baby

Later on just before visiting hours came to an end, Yoko's mom stopped by again and this time she got to hold him. She was a bit afraid of dropping him, but we forced her to take him, hehe. By this time he was very calm. Actually, when they put him back in the nursery and Yoko went to her room to rest for a bit, the nurse came back and told us that Timothy had been crying in there until they turned on the music! Then he got calm and sleepy. Looks like we've got another music-lover in the family!

Asleep when Papa goes home

At the end of Day 2, it was time for me to go home, and I left my beautiful wife and son together. He was peaceful, but it was approaching feeding time. Sure enough, as I went down the hall to the elevator I heard his beautiful--but oh so loud--voice cry out again, haha. I'll sleep with my digital camera again tonight. Can't wait to see them again tomorrow.

Thank You, God, and thank you all for your prayers & love.

In Jesus' love,
Ramone

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Getting Rid of the Family Altar in Adventism


by Ramone Romero
Osaka, Japan
[Revised March 13, 2007]


Progressing to Simplicity

Recently I read some comments posted by friends and by well-meaning progressive Adventists. They cover a lot of territory, and the issues seem too many to be counted. I confess it's becoming difficult for me to read these exchanges, and I must force myself through. You see, the Gospel is a very simple thing, very simple yet possessing all the beauty of the universe, the beauty of God's heart. It is simply this: Christ, not us. What He has done is the Good News. He has saved us. So recently in revisiting progressive Adventist conversations, I've found that my heart desperately wants to cut straight to the meat — to lovingly go for the jugular.

I suppose in my mind the "Adventist" issue is fairly simple, centering in mostly on historic Adventism — the root where things began. When reading progressive Adventist comments, I find it difficult to not view what they write as basically "Invent your own definition of Adventism". That vein may give some peace to progressives, but what's the greater reality of "Adventism"? Progressives may leave the "old" things untaught and they may even completely disagree with them, but in order to remain an "Adventist" church, these "old things" must be carried along and given some assent at some point.

The Japanese Family Altar

The other day I wrote about this to a friend and told him that I've found it eerily similar to the Japanese butsudan. The butsudan is a large highly-decorated family altar to one's ancestors (with a Buddha in the center). If you are the eldest in the family here, it gets passed down to you and you have to take it. If you don't, the rest of the family will get upset. You just don't dishonor your ancestors that way! Of course this has been an issue in church families in Japan... once you become Christian, what do you do with the butsudan? Some have kept it quietly, and others have thrown theirs away (often we hear testimonies of spiritual lightness and/or healing which comes right after throwing away a family butsudan). Biblically, having a giant physical altar to Buddha and one's ancestors is a rather clear issue. Incredibly clear, actually! (Let me add that there's nothing to bring the Old Testament to life like stepping into a dark temple of towering Buddhas and incense!) Yet the nature of the territorial spirit in Japan obscures and confuses such otherwise obvious things, but the characteristics of that spirit are another relevant story which will have to be written about later. For now, though, we understand that keeping a butsudan is obviously a problem.

What does this have to do with Adventism?

I found it eerie that no matter how "progressive" one gets in Adventism, in order to stay Adventist, you have to keep the early Adventist things somewhere "in the house", just like a Japanese family needs to keep the family butsudan to avoid offending the family or being cut off. The "old things" in Adventism have to be brought along and given a place. And just like a real butsudan, you can somewhat neglect them. Japanese families can worship other gods or even the real God. They can even say they don't believe in everything the butsudan represents. But they must keep it. The Adventist foundational beliefs demand the same reverenced position. You have to keep them; they must have a place in the "house of God". You can disagree with them and neglect them, just as progressives do. But to directly call them into question and suggest throwing them out produces the same effect in the Adventist "family" that it does in the Japanese family when you get rid of a butsudan: the family gets highly upset. You could find yourself basically "kicked out".

Doing the Unthinkable

However, by the time a butsudan is passed down to the eldest in a family, often there aren't so many elder family members left to get upset. Yet still it is nearly unthinkable to throw it away. The reason for this is because the notion that one's ancestors continue on is deeply embedded in Japanese culture, and the butsudan is the place to honor them. Understood at this deeper level, a butsudan becomes much more than an idol, altar or a family heirloom; after the family is gone, in a way it the representation of your family. To throw out the butsudan is to throw out your family. To discard the butsudan is to insult and disown your family. It is a complete and tragic confusion of identity.

In the same way, the Adventist "identity" cannot seem to exist without its historical foundation — the historical beliefs, writings, and the claims of the early Adventists to a unique calling, a special message, a special truth, etc. The Adventist identity is tied to these things like a Japanese family to a butsudan. The "unique messages" of Adventism (what we have that everyone else doesn't) become what defines us. We can't let them go completely. If we do, then who are we? Our identity seems to be inseparably tied to our forefathers' claims. The Adventist heritage "altar" is passed down from one generation to the next.

And just as Japanese take it theologically for granted that their ancestors continue to exist as spirits, in Adventism we seemed to have taken it theologically for granted that our history was divine. We never questioned whether or not the Spirit was in our foundation. To suggest such a thing is like telling traditional Japanese that their ancestors are actually not still existing as disembodied spirits — they just wouldn't be able to believe it or comprehend anything other than what they've always believed.

Keeping it Quietly

For a Japanese family to become Christian and completely sever ties with demonic powers and strongholds, it means throwing out the butsudan, risking the anger of your family, and letting go of a comforting belief you've always had. I can't completely imagine how that must feel. They likely had never before realized how their identity previously was tied up in their family's ancestors. They grew up believing that their ancestors continued on as disembodied spirits, and that the butsudan was the place to show them your respect and love for them. They might have felt that keeping the butsudan brought them good fortune, blessing and protection. It's a big shock to let go of all of these things. That is why many Japanese Christians quietly keep their butsudan. They may want to continue honoring their family, or they may think it is merely "cultural" and not "religious". They don't notice that for one reason or another, they are unable to throw away the altar — it has a power over them.

Many Christian pastors in Japan shy away from addressing the butsudan problem, perhaps figuring that it's better not to offend or disturb. After all, "church" looks the same, members give support, and maybe it's just not that important. Better not to risk offending members; after all, if you harp on it too much, they might leave. Many pastors and members simply see no problem with keeping a butsudan, and perhaps can cite theological reasons why there is no problem. But these reasons are rooted in the desire to harmonize with the culture and avoid offending people by taking the Bible too literally. (Interestingly, my wife informed me that the "no problem" view of keeping a butsudan is very common among members in Japanese Seventh-day Adventism, even among "conservative" Adventists.)

Similarly, don't most liberal and progressive Adventist churches "quietly keep the altar"? Aren't many pastors afraid of saying what they believe about it for fear of losing their jobs or losing their members? If we disagree with the early Adventist beliefs, aren't we still afraid of letting them go because then we won't have any more special claim about who we are? Isn't our identity tied to them?

As I talked about these things with my wife, she considered what her parents might do if they had to take a butsudan into their house (my wife's parents are not the eldest in their families, so they don't have to keep a butsudan). Although my in-laws are less religious than the least religious of Japanese people, my wife believed that they would certainly take the butsudan into their home. They might put it aside somewhere and leave it there with its doors closed. They might open it and clean it if relatives were to come over or if special occasions arose. Later they would put it back in its place of neglect, but they would still keep it. Even if my wife protested that she felt uncomfortable with it, they would not be able to even consider getting rid of it, even though they don't really believe in it. "We just don't have that idea of getting rid of it," my wife said. "Leaving it closed, putting it away somewhere, or even replacing it is okay, but not getting rid of it."

As she spoke, my wife suddenly remembered how when she took SDA baptismal classes, the pastor pulled out a large blue file book. He explained a lot of things from it about the "sanctuary" — few of which my wife understood, thank God. Before this she had never heard of these things (and afterward seldom heard them again, except from foreign missionaries). These beliefs can be neglected like a butsudan, but on special occasions they get brought out. Or perhaps when more zealous Adventists or conference officials stop by to visit?

I also thought it was interesting that she said that it is okay to replace the altar. It is fine to throw out the old altar provided that you get a new one to replace it. Immediately I remembered how many reform-minded and progressive Adventist friends are very comfortable talking about updating the old beliefs. The problem, they believe, is that the old beliefs are outdated, old, and no longer relevant. It is completely permissable to re-interpret them, update them, or even alter them to an extent, but like a butsudan, it is unthinkable to throw the old things away.

A New Identity

Throwing out the altar means truly starting over. For Adventism, it is basically the same deal. Throwing out the old things means starting over from ground zero. It means letting go of your old identity, even if your family becomes upset.

But you find a new identity — you are in the family of God. Your new identity is not defined by your ancestors or forefathers anymore, by who they were, nor even is your identity defined by who you are. Rather, your identity is defined by who Christ is. He switched identities with you! Through the cross, He received your sins and punishment, and you receive His name and inheritance. Through the cross, His inheritance and position before Father becomes your inheritance and position before Father. And His perfect life becomes your heritage. You find Him to be the "unique" and "special" One.

Progression or Regression?

One progressive Adventist friend (a friend whom I love as a brother in Christ) once took issue with me about how I continually addressed of the old things of Adventism. Because he had re-defined "Adventism" to himself, he felt like my statements implied that progressives were "marginal Adventists", and he felt that such sentiments were more at home in the expressions of "regressive Adventists". It should be noted that "regress" is indeed the opposite of "progress". Where the old things are not taught, the Gospel is given more room to breathe. Where the old things are taught more, the Gospel of God's grace is given less room to breathe (if I could write in Greek, I would say "pneuma" for "breathe", also meaning spirit or Spirit... i.e., the Spirit is given less room when the Gospel is given less room). The inversion is proportional. The further we move away from the family altar, the better. Why not let it completely go? Is such a thought truly "regressive"? Why do we hold onto it—if not for the same reasons that a Japanese family holds onto a butsudan? Aren't we afraid of the backlash we might receive from our spiritual family if we throw out the family altar? Aren't we unable to imagine our own identity in Christ without the family altar? The writings & beliefs of early Adventism are kept on the altar, so to speak, in a sacred place, and our identity is tied to them.

I do understand and sympathize with how progressive Adventists feel when they discover the things that formed Adventism in the beginning — "This is not my Adventism!" When they go outside of the Southern California area, for example, into other areas (or in particular, when they go to less industrialized countries and see Adventist "evangelism" — mind you, I'm not talking about ADRA). Adventism holds a different meaning to them.

It reminds me of what I learned from reading a book by Kang Chol-Hwan. He used to live with his family in Pyongyang in relative luxury, completely unaware of the harsh conditions & famine across the country, unaware of the thousands of political prisoners kept in concentration camps across North Korea. If an escapee had somehow met him in Pyongyang, Kang & his family might have understandably felt that the escapee was just a bitter person who hated the nation for no reason. However, the first exposure to life outside of Pyongyang that Kang knew was when his family was imprisoned in the Yodok concentration camp. Sadly, after being released and escaping the country to South Korea, Kang encountered people at university who did not believe what he told them about the North. Most people there have not grown up with anything near that kind of difficulty, so some did not believe that Kang was telling the truth. They thought he was just bitter and that his was a rare experience. They told him to keep his comments to himself and stop making trouble.

I understand that progressives may have grown up with or adopted a nicer Adventism, a healthier theology, less extremism, etc. They may have settled in more Gospel-friendly areas. For them, that is what "Adventism" has come to represent. Yet for others, it's been North Korea (figuratively speaking). Is this chance? Or is there something to be learned by noticing the directly inverse proportion of the teaching of the Gospel and the foundational Adventist things? When you look at the historical literature and events of the founding of Adventism, was it Gospel-friendly or not? It was clearly Gospel-hostile.

How Dare I Make This Comparison in the First Place?

Where do I get off saying this? How dare I compare the early Adventist beliefs to a Buddhist ancestral altar? I do so by simply comparing the Gospel—even as progressive Adventists know it—with the early beliefs of Adventism. The central truth of the Gospel of God's grace (justification by faith) was missing for the first forty years of Adventism—the time in which all of Adventism's "unique truths" were completely formed. The "good news" of the early Adventists was knowing the scripturally unsound Shut Door & Sanctuary teachings, and later keeping the law correctly (particularly the correct "Sabbath day"). If you disagreed with these things (in other words, if you were non-Adventist Christian), you were in "Babylon", "apostate" and "fallen churches", and were worshiping "Satan impersonating Christ." Such beliefs and teachings as these were given divine credentials because they were supported by Ellen White's visions. Let's look at this soberly and reflect on it:

#1 - The Gospel was missing from the first 40+ years of Adventism

#2 - Anti-Gospel beliefs were confirmed by a "prophet" who had visions and received instruction from "angel guides"

#3 - The "angel", "prophet" and teachings condemned those who clung to the Gospel instead of to their new teachings


This simply adds up to the working of a different spirit than the Holy Spirit. An anti-Christ spirit that actively opposed the Gospel of Jesus Christ's righteousness and salvation by faith in His finished work. If any of you had a friend today who exhibited such traits — if they taught a different gospel based on visions and condemned people who stuck to Scripture — wouldn't you pray for your friend's deliverance? Wouldn't you pray for spiritual warfare so that your friend could be free of the confusion? When Marian Catholics pray to Mary and get answers back from her, wouldn't you pray for their deliverance, too, and desire to help them lovingly learn discernment? When Japanese children and adults are choked at night by spirits, don't they need deliverance? Yes, of course.

Keeping a butsudan—a Buddhist ancestral altar—in the house cannot fail to have an effect on a Japanese family. In the same way, would keeping the 40+ years of teachings from an anti-Gospel spirit (that deceived our forefathers) in the Adventist "house" be without effect? Think about it: Is it any wonder that Adventists have such trouble letting these old things go? Is it any wonder that there is such confusion about the Gospel when people read the old literature? Is it any wonder that Gospel understanding is proportionally higher the less that foundational Adventist things are taught? Is it any wonder that progressives who disagree with the old things still have difficultly clearly saying the early things were simply wrong? Is it any wonder that Adventists have trouble envisioning their identity in Christ apart from the "unique" heritage of Adventist beliefs? It is not enough to simply embrace a partial teaching of Christ's righteousness while keeping a different altar in the house — because the altar isn't empty. It still holds a power over the household, and the family cannot throw it away.

What Kind of "Reform" is Needed?

What shall we do? Yes, we can "reform" our modern churches and teach people how to read the "Spirit of prophecy" with one eye closed, how to re-interpret it, take the good, leave the bad, etc. We can try to grow Southern California & other liberal spots to encapsulate all of the Adventist world! But the problems that we know of in extreme Adventism (or rather, historical Adventism) continue popping up like a many-headed snake. Even though you cut off one head, and another pops up elsewhere. This happens because the root is left untouched. The ministry of early Adventism (a Gospel-hostile spirit) is able to re-emerge simply because the family has kept an altar for it in the house and staked their identity on it, like a butsudan in a sacred place.

This is why I say that for myself, the issue has become very simple. Just as some Japanese families attempt to hold onto a butsudan and Christianity, trying to keep both identities, so many progressives may be trying to do the same thing (and perhaps calling it "diversity"). But by letting go of the butsudan, you can discover your heritage solely in the family of God. Yes, you can keep your name. The Suzuki family as Buddhist/Shinto can still be named the Suzuki family when they become Christian and toss out the old family altar. Adventism can still be called Adventist, but the family altar needs to be thrown out, or many lives will still be kept in confusion, and snake heads will continue appearing even though progressives themselves may not want them to.

The family's testimony can become a Gospel story of transformation: "I once was lost, but now am found; I was blind, but now I see." Progressive Adventism can become even more truly "progressive" by continuing to "progress" away from the Gospel-hostile spirit that shaped the beliefs of the denomination for 40+ years. Yes, many can easily disagree with the old things, but few are able to even think of throwing out the altar. The old writings do not want to be removed from the sacred place they occupy. Though we may disagree with early Adventism privately, few of us dare to say openly, "We were once blind, but now we see." Early Adventism couldn't be called "blind" because saying that would damage our identity, and deep inside we know that the institution as a whole is still deeply attached to these things; they're written in the charter and in our manuals. The butsudan demands a place and must be given it, even in progressive churches.

Yet for those who have dared to let it go, they have indeed found awesome rest in a new identity, found in the unique specialness of the Lord rather than in their name or their church history. And not a few have experienced greater spiritual joy and lightness. Here in Japan, families who've thrown out the butsudan for Christ can tell you that it is difficult at first. But finding their identity in Christ alone has been worth it all. They learned the truth of His words, that "whoever loses himself for My sake will find himself."


Cross-posted with discussion at Forthegospel.org
Published (abridged) in Proclamation! magazine, May-June 2007 issue


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Why I Left Adventism

This is the letter I sent to my family, friends, former students and everyone I knew when I left Adventism officially on September 17, 2002. I'm posting it now (I should've thought of it earlier!) for a friend and for anyone who's interested. The first part is an introduction in simple English for former students in Japan. Blessings in Jesus! -RR (8/20/2006)
_____________________________________

Hi,

This is Ramone Romero. I was a missionary at SDA for one year. But I have left SDA now.

I wrote a long email below that explains why, but maybe the English will be a little too difficult.

I love Jesus very much. I have learned many things while I was back in California. And I am getting to know Jesus more and more. I am TOO excited! I can't stop smiling! He gives me so much joy!

I learned many of the basic ideas of Adventism (SDA) and I don't agree with these ideas anymore. SDA teaches about Jesus, but they also teach other things. They add things to Jesus like the "law" and a lot of rules. But Jesus says that He is FREEDOM and JOY. He is REST. :)

So now I am not Adventist (SDA) anymore. I am happy to be a regular Christian now. I belong to Jesus! I belong ONLY to Jesus! And I am soooo happy! I want you to know Him! I want you to know His joy, His love, His rest!

Bless you!
In Jesus' love,
Ramone Romero

***my chotto muzukashii email, gomen-ne**
_____________________________________

"Why I Left Adventism"

Hi,

I imagine that if you read the subject line, the title of this email, then perhaps you are a little confused, worried, or concerned.

I've been Adventist all of my life. But I am leaving now.

If you know me, then you probably know that I love Jesus very much. I'm a Jesus-freak. I can't get enough of Him. So why am I leaving "the church?"

Over my years growing up in Adventism, I was taught many things. I learned that SDA was the "true church" and that we had an important message to tell to the world and to the rest of Christianity. I learned that we had a special day of rest, and that keeping that day of rest would become very important at the end of the earth's history.

I was taught about Jesus, and I was told that we are saved by Him, by faith. But there was very little joy from this. Most of our joy came from being the "true church," from being right. The "truth" was the special things that our church taught. And really, knowing Jesus wasn’t quite enough--you had to know the "truth," too. Because the "truth" was going to be a special test for all people at the end of time, and if you didn't know the truth, then you would be deceived.

These teachings vary in Adventism depending on where you are. There are many "liberal" and "conservative" areas. Some places teach Ellen G. White, some places don't. Some places teach the traditional things that the church was founded on, some places are more interested in Jesus' grace. Most places have a mix of all these things. But in all of the places, we can agree that we have a special, unique "truth."

I didn't receive the gospel (the good news of Jesus' grace) really until after I finished 12 years of Adventist education and entered college. Then I began hearing some of the gospel. It wasn't very loud and clear, but it seemed like it was supposed to be the center of our faith. Yet in my previous 12 years of Adventist education, I only remember the Law, the Remnant, the Health Message, the Mark of the Beast, the Sabbath, and that we had to stay away from "worldly" things. I grew up believing that everything SDA taught was from the Bible, that these were the important teachings God wanted us to know.

While I was a missionary here in Osaka, Japan, I began learning the foundation of Adventism. I studied the "proof-texts" in the Bible and began to learn how we developed our unique doctrines. When I returned to LaSierra University, I began my own research into Ellen White and parts of Adventist history. While I was studying, I discovered 1888.

This will probably not be familiar to many Adventists, especially in liberal areas. In 1888, two ministers began saying that the Jesus' righteousness was the most important thing. Most of the leaders at that time rejected that message because it seemed to threaten the special, unique truths that Adventism was based on.

When I found this, I was excited. Here was something in our history that we had missed, a place that we had messed up when God was trying to speak to us. All we had to do was go back and find what we missed, and repent for resisting God. I wondered why the institution had made so much effort to ignore this mistake in our history?

While I was researching, a friend of mine found a prophecy on the internet written by a lady named Hazel Holland in 1997. But just before I read her dream, I had a shaking.

One night at the LaSierra computer lab, I read an investigative website on Ellen White. In the 90's, I began hearing things once in awhile about plagiarism--about Ellen White copying someone else's work and printing it as her own. Like most good Adventists, I kept my faith in what we taught and I decided that people who said those things were usually bitter or angry at SDA for some other reason. But when I finally looked at one particular website, the information was just too much to ignore. I couldn't rationalize it away any more. There was much more than plagiarism. And the most disturbing part was that over the years, the institution tried to keep it hidden. When people in the institution tried to expose it, they were usually told that they had to leave their jobs.

The evidence was too much for me. I left the computer lab and fell down on some stairs outside. I wanted to run away and disappear in the woods. You see, I had just finished my year as a missionary in Japan. I had taught the Bible, SDA truths, and Ellen White. I taught honest people that these things were the truth, that this was what God wanted them to know. And now, it all looked like it was a lie. The worst part was that for that moment, "Jesus" fell with Adventism. Like most Adventists, I believed that everything we taught was from God, and that Ellen White was God's prophet, writing God's words. If she was false, and everything she wrote was Biblical, then the Bible must be false. I can't describe the sickening fear that I experienced at that time.

So I prayed. I wasn't sure if God was real, but I prayed anyway and tried to forget about what I'd read. Then I began to read Hazel's prophecy. At first, I was cautious about what I was reading. But then my heart began to pound. I began seeing my whole experience in Adventism from a new perspective--God's perspective! He knew that things had been hidden. He knew that when I was growing up, I saw many things inside the church that didn't seem right, but that I wasn't able to talk about it because I was told that nobody was perfect and that it was wrong to criticize God's church. But as I was reading, I began to know that God's heart cries for His children! He loves us, and He knows all the things we go through! He sees all the hidden pains that we often are not able to recognize and cry about. He hears all of His children's cries.

I was so excited, I printed out Hazel's dreams and their interpretation and I stayed awake all night reading it. Then I emailed the director of that website for her email. Then she emailed me back and told me she lived five minutes away from LSU! So I went to go visit. I was more than a little cautious and nervous. I was taught to fear deception. I was told that the very elect would be deceived (in other words, making them "non-elect"). So I did what any Adventist trained in the doctrines would do: I asked her about the Sabbath. After all, it was going to be the test of our loyalty to God in the end, right? She said something I never heard before. She answered with the Gospel. "If Sabbath is the test at the time of the end, then we are saved by works, not faith. Keeping Saturday is a good work, but we're not saved by works, we're saved by faith in Jesus alone." And Jesus' salvation is the same today, yesterday, and forever. He doesn't change. We're not saved by our works. We can trust Jesus to save us, to protect us, to take care of us, and to shield us from deception. Well, this gave me something to think about!

I began studying on my own. I began to learn that I could trust Jesus. I could take Him at His Word.

"No one can snatch My sheep out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father's hand." (John 10:28-29)

"I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." (John 5:24)

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? ...neither angles nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers... nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39)

"You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." (1st John 4:4)

"There is no fear in [His] love. Perfect love [agape-God's love] drives out fear..." (1st John 4:18)

"I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (1st John 5:13)

And then I read Psalm 91! The whole psalm talks about the time of the end and how we will be safe resting in Jesus! But didn't I need a special truth? Didn't I need a special teaching? No! Salvation even in the end is still by faith in Him! I can trust in the power of His hand to protect me!

So I continued reading the Bible and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach me all over again. And He really began to show me some things I had never read before!

There were things about the Ten Commandments and the Sabbath in the Bible that I was never shown in the Adventist way of reading the Bible. Adventism taught me that the Ten Commandments were the character of God, eternal moral principles (including the Sabbath) that would be forever, even in heaven.

To defend these ideas, the favorite text was Matthew 5:17--

[Jesus said] "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."

Well, first I began to see that the "Law and the Prophets" didn’t just mean the Ten Commandments, but it meant the whole Old Testament! (Sometimes it was called "Moses and the Prophets"--see Matthew 11:13, Luke 24:44, etc.)

Second, I learned that heaven and earth will pass away!

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away!" (Revelation 21:1)

Third, Jesus said that He came to "fulfill" the Law and the Prophets. Usually in English we think of this like He is saying that He came to "keep" the Law. However, that's not what 'fulfill' means in this text! It's the same Greek word that the New Testament uses when Jesus 'fulfilled' a prophecy. For example:

"This happened so that the Scripture might be fulfilled which said: 'They divided My garments among them and cast lots for My clothing.'" (John 19:24)

The Law was not only something that Jesus 'kept,' but it was something He fulfilled! Fulfilled? What could that mean?

I ran across a most peculiar text in Exodus 34:28.

"Moses was with the Lord forty days and forty nights... and He wrote on the tablets the words of the Covenant--the Ten Commandments."

The Bible actually calls the Law--the Ten Commandments--the "Covenant" that God had made with Israel when He brought them out of Egypt. (See also Exodus 19:1-6, Deuteronomy 4:13, 5:3, 9:9, 9:11, 9:15, etc.)

I remembered reading in the New Testament and in Jeremiah about God giving us a "a New Covenant... NOT like the one He made with Israel when He brought them out of Egypt." (Jeremiah 31:31, Hebrews 8, 9 & 10, 2 Corinthians 3:6-18)

What did this mean? Adventism taught me that the Old Covenant was only the sacrifices, not the Ten Commandments. But the Bible says clearly that the Ten Commandments are the very foundation of the Old Covenant itself!

I couldn't rationalize away these Biblical passages that clashed with Adventist doctrine. So I let the Bible speak for itself, and passage after passage began opening up. Where I used to read cautiously in Paul's writings about the Law, the confusion now disappeared in the face of Jesus. I didn't have to rationalize and carefully explain away large portions of the New Testament anymore. I could take the Word at its word. The Ten Commandments simply aren't forever, just like heaven and earth--which will pass away and be remade. The purpose of the Law, as Paul wrote in Romans 3:20, was to reveal the knowledge of sin, not the character of God or the way of life in the time of the end. The Law of sin and death is not forever. But Jesus Christ is forever!

My whole life has changed since the Holy Spirit entered my life and began to bring me closer to Jesus Himself. I have looked at Jesus and I have compared the Adventist distinctive doctrines with the Bible, and I have seen the differences. And I want Jesus.

When I used to have a "revival" time in my life as an Adventist, often I would try to start reading an Ellen White book. Or I would try to read the whole Bible. Basically, I would study very hard. I would try wake up early and read every morning. That was how I unconsciously thought I could get closer to God and be more like Him.

Now, things are much different. I am full of more joy than I have ever known in my life. Jesus is wonderful. He never stopped sending His Spirit to talk with His children, just like He spoke to them in the book of Acts. The gifts don't come to perfect people. Instead, they come to people who trust in the grace of Jesus alone! They come to those who are daring enough to ask Jesus for them and wait like He directed! (Galatians 3:2, Acts 1:4)

I had spent so much time as an Adventist studying and studying, as if trying to gain favor with God. Now, I rest in Jesus. The Father is well-pleased with Jesus. And Jesus has given me His favor! I can ask Him and I know He will answer. He's promised.

He has been revealing His love for me and the Father's love for me. He has been healing places in my life that I never thought He was able to heal. He calls me His bride, beloved of the Father. He says "You have stolen My heart" (Song of Songs 4:9).

He says that I am the temple of God. "Church" isn't a building or a membership in an organization. It is an identity. If you believe in Jesus, *you are* the "Church." This is not something that people can always see. We live by faith, not by sight. What people think isn't what's important. If a group of people say they are the "remnant" and try to prove it, who are they trying to prove it to? Whose opinion is the one that counts? God's!

"God's foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: 'The Lord knows who are His.'" (2 Timothy 2:19)

God's opinion is the one that matters. The whole "sealing" is not something that *we* see, because we live by faith. We can trust Jesus that He has sealed us by His blood and given us the Spirit of son-ship (Ephesians 1:13, Romans 8:15-16, etc.).

Many Adventists continue keeping the Sabbath as if it is an insurance policy for the time of the end, just in case Jesus' name isn't enough to save you. I realized that's how it was for me. Adventist theology taught it to me that way. That's how our church started, and that's where it built its foundation. Not on Jesus, but on the Sabbath (and the sanctuary, and the shut door, and the health message, and the state of the dead, etc. ... all of these things being the saving characteristics of the "true remnant church").

Most liberal Adventists don't know these things very well. Or if they do know them, then they often ignore them. They'll keep the Sabbath and maybe the vegetarianism, but leave the other things behind. However, these teachings are never very far away, because without these special "truths," the foundation of Adventist identity can't survive. Perhaps that is why the institution has carefully guarded its doctrines from scholars over the years? Maybe that's why so many of our own pastors and professors have been fired or have chosen to leave after the institution refused to let its foundation change after Biblical tests showed it to be faulty?

Yes, Adventism is changing, and often for the better. The Gospel is getting preached more and more, especially in the liberal areas. But following Jesus means leaving things behind, particularly "self." We're still trying to take the Adventist unique foundation with us. We want to bring our uniqueness with us, our special truth. Yes, we're teaching the Gospel more, but we aren't willing to let go of our foundation. And we don't realize that our foundation actually hinders and opposes the Gospel. It always has. The tension continues constantly, even today.

Over the years Adventism has taught that its special truths were Biblical. I have looked and learned, and I've found the "truths" not to be so true after all. I have looked at Adventist history, and I have seen how the institution has continued to cover-up these things in order to preserve its identity. For years we've been studying and studying, trying to attain the peace that really just comes from resting in the grace of Jesus. We've been working very hard. But if we give up our pride and rest in Jesus' own "right-ness," we will find that He Himself is our uniqueness. He is our special-ness. He is everything that we need! The Son is the character of God, not the Law! He is the fullness of the Godhead, and you have fullness in Him! (Hebrews 1:1-3, Colossians 2:9-10)

Sadly, it appears that way back at the beginning of Adventism, our forefathers were unable to make the sacrifice of their right-ness and trust in Jesus alone. So over the years, generation after generation has been raised believing that they needed more than the grace of Jesus, that the gospel itself was insufficient to save them, because that's what the "other churches" preached. We've been tired and burdened by the guilt of never being able to measure up to our own standards. That is because we've returned to the Old Covenant and fallen under the curses of the Law all over again. In returning to the Old Covenant weekly "rest," we've missed the true Sabbath-rest that comes in Jesus' salvation.

Many "keep the Sabbath" in our modern way, thinking that it pleases God. Many think that they will make Jesus unhappy if they don't keep the Sabbath.

But the Bible says that God doesn't judge us by the Law (the Old Covenant) because we are under a New Covenant. A covenant made between the Father and the Son. He loves us so much that He took our sin and has given us credit for His perfect life. The Father looks at us and sees Jesus! He has given us a New Covenant of grace. We aren't under the Old Covenant (the Law) anymore. Instead, we rest in Jesus. The Sabbath was a ceremony that He introduced to Israel to let them know about the rest from their works that they were going to have in the coming Messiah. He gives us rest from trying to please the Father, because the Father is pleased with the Son.

Jesus is rest!

"Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

So yes, I have left Adventism. I am having joy learning more about the covenants and the love of the Father in the Son. I don't want to hide anymore. I have tried talking about this in a subtle and sensitive way, but life is too short for me to be shy. And I don't want to hide my joy! I want you to know His joy, I want you to be filled with His Spirit, I want you to know the smile that comes from resting in Jesus!

Bless you as you rest in Jesus, the Father's love.

Joyfully in Jesus' rest,
Ramone


P.S. If you have ANY questions, if you couldn't read the whole letter, if you want to talk, anything, PLEASE email me. I will answer any question and I will be happy to pray with you. I just want to say that I still love everybody in Adventism and I will never stop praying for them. If you've related to or understood any of what I've talked about in this letter, or even if you disagree, please email me and let me know. If you've been shy of "going public" like I have, or if you've suffered under the many stresses of Adventist doctrine over the years, please email me. I may not have all the answers, but I promise to pray with you and cry with you. Our God is love, and He knows us and our hearts. There is no condemnation in my Jesus. :)
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