Relationship Training with Gary Parks

Greetings Riverside Community,

School has started and we are grateful for the students and teachers we have here at Riverside. We have the best teachers, families, and students. We started the school year with 29 students but we continue to pray for our empty desks and know that God is all ready to fill them. It’s all for the kids! Please continue to share with people you come in contact with what a wonderful, Christ centered school we have.

Pathfinders have started as well. We have a much larger club than we did last year. I’m excited for this Pathfinder year. Please pray that our Pathfinder ministry will also help our young people to be drawn closer to Jesus. (I only wish that we had an Adventurer program for our younger kids.)

We have also started our journey in healthy relationships with Gary Parks. We are being trained to make a real impact relationally in our homes, church, and community. Gary is sharing with us a bag of tools that we can use to be much healthier in our relationships. We are meeting each Sabbath afternoon for training from 1:30 – 4 pm. Come join us each week as we not only learn about a new tool but also learn how to use it.

In Ministry of healing we are told about Jesus’ method of reaching people and building relationships.

The world needs today what it needed nineteen hundred years ago—a revelation of Christ. A great work of reform is demanded, and it is only through the grace of Christ that the work of restoration, physical, mental, and spiritual, can be accomplished. 

Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me.”

There is need of coming close to the people by personal effort. If less time were given to sermonizing, and more time were spent in personal ministry, greater results would be seen. The poor are to be relieved, the sick cared for, the sorrowing and the bereaved comforted, the ignorant instructed, the inexperienced counseled. We are to weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice. Accompanied by the power of persuasion, the power of prayer, the power of the love of God, this work will not, cannot, be without fruit.”    Ministry of Healing pg 143

Jesus was seeking to create time and space to have meaningful relationships. His method alone will work. But we don’t know how, and neither do the majority of people in our church and community. People are looking for meaningful relationships, even if they don’t know it. “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink but if you give him some salt it will make him thirsty and then he will drink.” We must create a trust without strings attached. People need to know that we genuinely care about them and are safe to trust. People today are guarded and skeptical of Christians because they think we are there to convert them. Jesus met people and helped them with no strings attached. He did it because he genuinely loved and cared for them. It takes more than the pastor or a few elders. This is the vision Jesus has for all of his followers: to go and make disciples.

So again, I want to invite you to set aside time on Sabbath afternoon for this training and fellowship. Even if you cannot make each time, come when you can. Riverside family, I believe when we are trained to do Christ’s method, this will change our homes, church, and community.  We are looking for those who want to take this journey with us. Come join the adventure!

Next session: Sabbath, January 19, after fellowship meal till 4 pm.

Pastor Merrill

Does Christianity Still Work Today?

We are living as Christians in a time when it seems that we have a hard time with relationships, or at least healthy, non-hostile relationships. We live in a culture today with technology that is supposed to help us with communicating better. Yet we are more divided then anytime that I have seen in my lifetime. Our culture today is to shoot first listen later. My hate is more righteous than your hate. We are afraid and suspicious of each other. We think the worst instead of the best of each other. I know that there are evil people in this world and we need to stand for what is right and good. But we must be careful that we don’t label everyone who believes differently than we do as evil. This culture is not something that is created by politicians somewhere but it is the culture we create in our homes, churches, and local communities. We as followers of Jesus have an opportunity to change that culture right in our homes, churches, and local communities. Most people in America today believe that Christians are the cause of this evil culture. They believe we are irrelevant and even hostile to our society. Maybe they have a point. We have not always been the loving people we should be. It is time that we really follow Jesus. It is time to live the culture that Jesus taught. He changed the culture in his time. Think about all the different beliefs systems, sects, and races in Jesus’ day.

  • Races:
    • Romans – elite, governing class
    • Jews – politically downtrodden class
    • Samaritans – racially segregated class

How did they feel about each other? Was there racial prejudice in Jesus day?

  • Economical classes:
    • Publicans and Tax Collectors – Financial Elite and Rich
    • Slaves – Financially downtrodden
    • Panhandlers and beggars – Very Poor class, the homeless

How much time did these classes notice each other?

  • Political:
    • Sadducees – The political Left, Liberal party
    • Pharisees – The political Right, Conservative party
    • Zealots – The freedom fighters, terrorists, and violent protesters

How do you think these got along?

During the time of Jesus, if you read history, it was a violent, turbulent time. The Romans put down uprisings of Zealots by killing and arresting thousands. Jews hated Romans, Romans hated Jews, Jews hated Samaritans, and Samaritans hated Jews. They segregated themselves from each other. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer. But Jesus lived a different culture than the one he was surrounded by. Jesus said of himself in Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering the sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Isaiah 61:1,2)

What happened when Jesus and his followers lived to change their culture? Now you won’t believe this, but it is recorded in the Bible that Zealots, Sadducees, Pharisees, Beggars, Slaves, Slave owners, Tax Collectors, Romans, Jews, and Samaritans became followers of Jesus and changed their culture.

The book of Acts records, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47

Does Christianity work today? I believe through the power of the Holy Spirit and living the culture that Jesus did, Christianity, can and is, relevant to our time. The world is crying out to see that the followers of Jesus can make a difference and bring people together.

We are all broken people who have a hard time building healthy relationships. But I believe with the help of the Holy Spirit we can learn to build healthy relationships at home, at church, and in our community. Over the next few months Gary Parks who has helped train many people in his churches to learn skills to build relationships that Jesus taught us to have with each other. Those of you, who would like to change our homes, church, and community to the culture of Jesus, please join us. You will hear more as we go along. But you will want to be here this Sabbath August 26th. Gary will be sharing and inviting us to take this journey together.

Jesus said, “They will know you are my followers if you love one another.”

Let’s pray that God will use us again to change our culture!

Pastor Merrill

Life is Tough. Right.

I took my family to the Happiest Place on Earth. Disneyland claims to be the happiest place on earth. We were all excited to enjoy our experience of happiness. As we started to go under the big sign at the entrance that said “Happiest Place on Earth” a scene caught our attention under the sign. There was a parent disciplining their child and the child was standing there sobbing. I guess this individual would question the message of the sign. 

Every one of us has a story to tell of heartache and loss in our lives. As a pastor, I have heard too many and have had enough of my own. It is in times like these that we wonder where is God? Doesn’t he care? I want to tell you a story about two men who felt like all their hopes and dreams had been destroyed. Their story is found in Luke 24.

These two disciples of Jesus witnessed the death of Jesus on the cross. They watched as he was buried. Realized that their hopes and dreams had been buried with him. Spending the Sabbath with others who had the same hopes didn’t help much so they decided that they would go home the next day. It was a 7-mile walk to Emmaus where they lived.

As they began their journey they left with heavy hearts and in their grief, they did not notice that someone was walking with them until he spoke. “What kind of conversation is this that you are having with each other as you walk along so sad?”

Then one of the disciples named Cleopas answered, “Where have you been these last couple of days? Haven’t you heard about the things that happened in Jerusalem?”

“What things?” questioned the stranger.

Then these two disciples shared their disappointing and sad story finishing with, “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel and this is the third day since it all happened.” They added that some of the women who went to the tomb said that an angel told them that Jesus had risen but nobody had seen him. These two men were walking in the shadow of the cross, hopeless and faithless. But this stranger they walked with was about to change all that.

It is true with us that often we cannot see because of our grief and pain. Our tears blind us to the hope that is so close. The stranger now gives them a Bible study. He tells them that all these events were supposed to happen, it was foretold in the Bible.

Jesus said that as long as we live in this world we can expect pain, sorrow, and death. So why is it when bad things happen to us we act surprised and ask God Why? We often say as these two men did, “We had hoped that He was the one to save us.” But as Jesus began to share with them their hearts began to be lifted up from their despair. Hope began to grow. As they reached their home the sun was setting and they invited this stranger to stay the night with them. He accepted their invitation. When they sat to eat their evening meal the stranger lifted his hands and blessed the food. Cleopas and his friend’s eyes were opened and they recognized whom they had been walking with! It was the one whom they had hoped would save them! It was Jesus! He was alive!

Jesus then disappeared. They looked at each other and said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He opened the Bible to us?”

Jesus never forces his way into our lives. He waits for an invitation. When we invite him into our lives our hearts will find real joy and happiness because we know that He lives.

He will bring hope back into our hearts and we will recognize that even though we will have heartache and pain in this world it is only temporary. Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled…I go to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again to receive you unto myself. So that you maybe with me where I am.” John 14:1-3

Cleopas and his friend could not keep it to themselves they had to tell their friends who had lost their hope as well. They raced back those 7 miles to Jerusalem. The trip back was a lot easier, even though it was dark and rough, because of their newfound faith.

Our journey in life can be easier even if it is dark and painful because we know Jesus lives and He promised to come and rescue us. So, there is hope in the thought it is only temporary and we never walk alone. Whenever we experience the pain of this world we should remember that this is not what God wanted for us and that we are not home yet. 

I know that in my life I would not have been able to cope with the sorrow and loss in this journey without Jesus walking with me. Jesus desires to walk with you. Will you not invite him to walk with you? He can make your journey a lot easier. Walking with Jesus is the Happiest Place on Earth!

In His Peace,

Pastor Merrill

St. Patrick

March is the month of Saint Patrick’s Day. Who was Saint Patrick? Saint Patrick was a Priest who God called to Ireland to share the Gospel during the 5th century AD.

Here’s a little of his history. Saint Patrick was born as a Scottish Celt, was enslaved by pirates, and taken to Ireland. After six years, he was able to escape and made the journey home where his family said he was never to leave again. However, he went to France to become a priest. While in France he had a dream. In the dream, there was a man from Ireland that gave him letters from Ireland that read, “Come walk with us again.” Patrick took this as a call from God and made his way back to Ireland.

Now, you should know there was difference between the Celtic Christians and the Roman Christians. The Celtic Christians believed in the Bible and the Bible alone was their rule of faith. The Roman Christians based their beliefs on tradition and councils. Patrick faithfully shared the Bible teachings with the Emerald Isle. In 432 AD Ireland was considered a Christian Island.

St. Patrick is honored today as the patron saint of Ireland. He was faithful in his service to God and to the people of Ireland, teaching them to follow the Bible and the Christ of the Bible. It has been said that he also kept and taught the faithful keeping of God’s ten commandments, including the 4th commandment to remember the seventh-day Sabbath. His followers continued this for many years. His famous prayer is called “Patrick’s Breastplate”. It has been a comfort to many over the years. Here is an excerpt from that prayer that I found very relevant in my life…

May Christ protect me today:
Against poison and burning,
Against drowning and wounding,
So that I may have abundant reward;
Christ within me, Christ before me, Christ behind me;
Christ to the right of me, Christ to left of me;
Christ in my laying, Christ in my sitting, Christ in my rising;
Christ in the heart of all who think of me,
Christ on the tongue of all who speak to me,
Christ in the eye of all who see me,
Christ in the ear of all who hear me.

I see in this man a love for Jesus that made him pray that Jesus would be the center of his life. That is my prayer! I want Jesus to be the center of my life and that others would fall in love with Him! May we this month think about this man who dedicated his whole life to Jesus; that we may also find this kind of service to God and service to others.

Oh, by the way, did you know that the rainbow around the throne of God is an emerald rainbow? (Revelation 4:3) So if you’re Irish you maybe closer to God than you think!

May your walk with Jesus grow more amazing every day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Pastor Merrill

Desmond Doss

Happy and Blessed 2017!

This holiday season I was able to see the movie “Hacksaw Ridge," the story of an American hero during WWII. The story of Pfc Desmond Doss is truly amazing and inspirational. When Desmond was a young boy there was a picture on the wall in his home of the Ten Commandments. Beside the sixth commandment there was a picture of the story of Cain killing his brother Abel. This picture made a strong impression on this young man, and on his commitment to God. One evening Desmond’s father was in a drunken state when he pulled a gun and threatened to kill his uncle. Desmond’s mother talked his father into giving up the gun and she gave the gun to Desmond and told him to go hide the gun. From that moment on he decided he would never carry a gun again. So, how does a war hero become a war hero without carrying a gun? By trusting his God and what He says.

Desmond wanted to help during WWII. He felt that others should not go and do the fighting for him. But how could he help without carrying a gun? He decided he would join as 1-AO or Conscientious Objector, which means he would be a non-combatant. He considered himself not a Conscientious Objector but a Conscientious Contributor. He signed on as a field medic. He was made fun of for his beliefs and was almost court marshaled. But through all this he was faithful to his convictions.

As a field medic the men of Desmond’s company who had made fun of him soon learned that they could depend on him with their lives. They were sent to the Pacific Theatre and the island of Okinawa. The battle for the island of Okinawa was one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific. The Japanese had heavily fortified the island. On the southern end of the island was an escarpment called Madea. This was a forty-foot cliff that had been fortified with heavy guns by the Japanese. These guns could fire down on any enemy forces coming onto the island. American forces made several attempts to capture the escarpment only to fail. Desmond’s company was commanded to make another assault on what now was known as Hacksaw Ridge. They had put up ship netting on the cliff to be able to scale up it. When his company got to the top there was heavy fighting. The Japanese had dug tunnels all over the top so they could come up behind any enemy forces that would attack. Desmond’s company was pinned down and cut to pieces so they called for a retreat back down the face. When those who could made it down they realized that only a third of those who went up had come down. One of those who stayed on top was Desmond Doss. All through the night he would go and find a wounded soldier and bring him to the edge of the cliff and lower him down. Then he would whisper a prayer, “Lord, help me get one more!” Before he came down he had lowered over 75 men down that cliff to safety. Even some of the Japanese soldiers were rescued.

The next test came for Desmond was when his commanding officer came to him a few days later and said that they had orders to make another assault on Hacksaw Ridge. The commanding officer knew that it was scheduled for the next Saturday, which was the Sabbath, the fourth commandment. He knew how Desmond put his relationship with God first. So he asked Desmond instead of ordering him. He told Desmond that he was the only medic available and that the men in his company would not make the assault without him. Desmond quoted Jesus and said that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath and that he would go, but not before he had his time with God. So the battle was on hold until Desmond was ready. This time they took that hill from the Japanese. But Desmond was wounded when he kicked a grenade away to save the life of several men. For his service on Okinawa Pfc Desmond Doss is the only non-combatant to receive the Medal of Honor, the United States of America’s highest military honor; awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.

On January 19th, at 6:30 pm, Riverside will be showing the documentary about Desmond Doss called “The Conscientious Objector”. When Desmond was asked if he was a hero he said, “No, the real heroes were those who gave their lives that day; the ultimate sacrifice.” He never condemned others for carrying a weapon; he just wanted to save lives rather than take them. It reminds me of what Jesus said, “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:17.

Desmond learned to trust the One who came to this world and made the ultimate sacrifice to save many lives. One day this war will be over but until then keep trusting Jesus and he will see you through.

I want to thank all of our military personnel who sacrifice so that we might be free to worship and know Jesus.

With a Grateful heart,

Pastor Merrill

Staying in Touch

I am one who has a hard time staying in touch with family and friends at a distance. Anyone who knows me very well would agree especially those at a long distance. I wish I were better at it because I do treasure the relationships that I have. It is just hard for me to use methods such as the telephone and emails. I do appreciate social media and that has helped, but I still would prefer to be face to face.

That is why I like the holidays, because it gives me time to really make the effort to be in the presence of family and friends. Maybe it is easier because they are making the effort as well. My sister invited us all to her house in Sacramento, CA for Thanksgiving. We all have busy schedules but we all made the effort to connect and it was a wonderful time. When we make the effort to be with each other even when we think we can’t because of our busyness, we usually find great joy.

God created us for relationships. He knew that our greatest joy would be in relationships.That is why when sin separated us from him; he made the effort to be with us. “They shall call his name Emmanuel, meaning God with us.” Matthew 1:23. Jesus made the effort to bring us into God’s presence where he knew we would find joy.

God’s greatest joy is to be with us. So why is it so hard for us to make time for him when he has made such an effort to be with us? When Jesus left, he left us with the Holy Spirit who continually can bring us into God’s presence. So, the greatest gift that God has given is His presence with us. Each day we can have the joy of God with us if we make the time to seek Him.

So, when you are enjoying that face to face time with family and friends this holiday season, remember that God has made the effort to have that time with you everyday. Take the time and seek Him and you will find that all through the year you can have Joy in His presence. His greatest joy is to be with you, is it yours as well?

Pastor Merrill

Going Home


Greetings Riverside Family,


I was impressed to write you a message of encouragement and hope. We have believed, some of us for many years, that Jesus is soon to return. Many of us who are older have lived long enough to know the pain of this world, and we long for His coming. It is now 2016! Who would have thought that we would still be here? But we believe His promise, so think of it as one year closer. Keep looking for Him to come! 


I remember times when I would travel long distances from home, and would be gone for a week
or so. I remember how anxious I would be to get home to my family. Finally it would be the day that I could start driving home. No matter how late it was, I would push on because I wanted to
get home. It seemed like the last few miles took longer to cover then when I left. But I would
keep going. What kept me going? The desire to be home, and knowing that if I just kept driving, 
I would arrive. 


We at Riverside still have work to do. We are not home yet.

We at Riverside still have work to do. We are not home yet.

We are on our way home but we aren't there yet. If we keep going, we will eventually see Jesus come. We are almost home, and it may seem like it is dragging on, but now is not the time to lose heart and give up hope. Now is not the time to sit back and be a spectator. Now is the time to make going home a priority in our lives. Now is the time to get involved. Now is the time to pick up speed and work for those around us who have no hope. Now is the time to think of how close we really are, and pray for those around us. Jesus promised he would return so keep looking and holding on to this hope. 


We will soon be home. Let's pick up the pace and work together! 


Looking to Jesus,


Pastor Merrill