A family I had studied with called me late one afternoon, asking me to meet them ASAP at the hospital. Their mother was dying, and they wanted prayer. Now I believe that God can hear your prayers for your sick loved one, just as easily as He can hear an elder’s prayer. Nevertheless, I met the family in ICU. They told me they were praying for a miracle. One son told me they knew God was going to work a miracle for his mother. He explained that God was going to raise her up right now, or He would heal her, like He did Lazarus, by letting her sleep and then waking her up at the resurrection. Either way it would be a miracle.
We admire people who have the faith to heal a loved one, but what about having enough faith to just let them go to sleep? The son had faith in the miracle of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.
A few days later his mother fell asleep in Jesus, and his family is encouraging each other with the promises of the greatest miracle yet to come.
There are more Bible prophecies about the Second Coming than any other event. While many prophecies have already been fulfilled, we are certain the prophecies pertaining to the second coming are just as sure.
I understand that while we sleep, when we enter the REM (rapid eye movement) stage, we are actually very close to death. Yet each morning when we wake up, we don’t realize the miracle that has just taken place. I understand there are many mysteries about sleep that medical science is still researching. Could it be that sleep is just our “rehearsal” for the resurrection? That God is just getting us used to falling asleep and trusting Him to wake us up when it is time?
I walked into the church lobby after worship service to find a very distraught elderly lady. She has Alzheimer’s disease, and had forgotten who had driven her to church. She was afraid she was going to be left. I put my arm around her and assured her that even though she may have forgotten who had taken her to church, whoever they were, they had not forgotten her. I told her we all loved her and would not leave her alone. She began to cry like a little girl, as she told me “Thank you very much!” Sure enough her ride found her. She had forgotten them, but they remembered her.
This elderly lady felt like a little child left all alone. When we face the grave of a loved one, or even our own, do we feel like a little child left all alone? We needn’t be afraid. Our Ride to heaven will remember us even if in death we forget Him as we sleep. The same God who wakes you up every morning, the same God who remembered to create you and remembered to redeem you on the cross, is the same God responsible for waking you up when He comes again. Don’t worry, even when in death you forget Him, He won’t forget you!
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
13 years later, I still can not believe some people took some airplanes and did what they did. They day after 9-11 I wrote this poem and emailed it to some friends. Somehow a Christian radio station in Dallas Texas got a hold of it and read it on the air. In memory of 9-11 I am sharing it again here.
On 9-11-01 Satan manifested himself in the terrorists who were glad to die if they could destroy someone else. On that same day God was manifested in the rescue workers, who were glad to die if they could just save someone else.
I Am Not Afraid
I am not afraid of bigotry and hate in the terrorists’ hearts.
I am afraid of the bigotry and hate in MY heart.
I am not afraid to die as a Christian in a terrorist attack.
I am afraid to live without Jesus even in times of peace.
I am not afraid to die at the hand of a terrorist tomorrow, having shared God’s love with someone today.
I am afraid to live to be a hundred and ten, never having shared God’s love.
I am not afraid to walk through the valley of death with my Jesus.
I am afraid to walk over the highest mountain without Jesus.
I am not afraid of my loved ones dying in an explosion tomorrow.
I am afraid of my loved ones living without Jesus.
I am not afraid of a terrorist taking my life away from me.
I am afraid of me taking my life away from Jesus.
I am not afraid of terrorists exhibiting hatred.
I am afraid of Christians not exhibiting love.
1 John 4:4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
1 John 4:18 -21 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Psalms 91:5 tells us if we love God we do not need to fear terror. There were some that day who died, knowing they were saved and would see Jesus. For these precious souls the would be terrorists totally failed to terrorize.
So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation. Genesis 2:1-3 NLT
I can imagine God walking Adam and Eve through the garden that very first Sabbath. Having been created the day before, Adam and Eve didn’t have a long week where they needed a physical rest. As God showed them all His works, that first Sabbath, they rested in the fact that it was God who made them and not they themselves. See Psalms 100:3
“It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit. John 19:30 NLT
When God had finished our creation He rested and gave us the Sabbath as a sign that He created us. We mark a year by the sun. We mark a month by the moon. We mark a day by the earth’s rotation. What do we have to mark a week? The Sabbath, which takes us to creation and reminds us that we have a Creator.
When Jesus finished the work of our redemption He again rested on the Sabbath, this time in a tomb. The Sabbath is not only a sign of God’s power to create, but also a sign of His power to redeem and make us holy.
Be careful to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy. Exodus 31:13 NLT
The story* goes of a little boy who had built a wooden sailboat and took it down to a creek by his home. He had tied a string to it so he could watch it float, and then reel it back in, but the string broke. His boat went sailing down the rapids and out of sight.
After doing several chores the boy earned the money to buy his boat back. He walked out of the story, clutching the boat to his heart, and was overheard saying, “Little boat you are twice mine. First I made you. Then I bought you.”A few days later the boy went window shopping with his father downtown, and he saw his boat in a toy store window. “That’s my boat!” The boy exclaimed. He went inside and told the store keeper, who informed him, that since he had no way to verify the boy’s story, if the boy wanted the boat back, he would have to buy it.
Today the Sabbath is a sign from God that we are twice His. Once, at creation He made us, then on the cross He bought us.
There was much rejoicing in heaven and at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church today when Triniti and Destini both gave their entire lives to Jesus. Instead of waiting till they got old, and just give Jesus what is left of their lives, both Triniti and Destini have been taught in their home and church about Jesus giving all of Himself for them, and so they chose to give all of themselves to Him.
Rachelle, was the Bible Worker who studied with Triniti and Destini’s mother, Gail, when she got baptized, and so it was a wonderful privilege for Rachelle to also get to study with Triniti and Destini as they prepared for their baptism.
Pastor Brad went over the baptismal vows with Tiniti and Destini, as well as with Alexander who was already baptized at the pathfinder camp in Oshkosh, but was welcomed into membership today with the girls.
Triniti writes: The main reason why I want to get baptized is that I finally came to realize, I don’t live forever. Also it’s not guaranteed I’m going to wake up tomorrow. It’s a gift. So I want to live my life in honor of the man who died for me and helps me wake up every morning. I’m glad I’m getting baptized. I know it’s time. I also know it is the kingdom of the bronze and clay and when the boulder strikes the statue I want to go with God to heaven.
Right before Triniti’s baptism we prayed a special prayer for her, and asked God to baptize her with the Holy Spirit as I baptized her with water.
Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him.I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.” John 1:32-34 NLT
Destini writes: I wanna get baptized because I want to start a fresh new life. I want to start a new life with my Savior so when He comes He’ll take me with Him.
Right before Destini’s baptism we prayed that God would always be with her, drawing her close to Him each and every day. Today Destini chose to follow Jesus, but God never turns us into a robot, so every day we are free to choose who we want to serve. Our prayer is that Destini will always choose to follow Jesus, just like she did today, and every day while preparing for this moment.
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23 NLT
We had a special fellowship lunch today, where we prayed for those being baptized and awarded them with their baptism certificates. Liam, who was baptized in Camp Kulaqua, received his certificate as well today.
Please don’t let the sun set on you today before you too make your decision to follow the only One who died to save you. Maybe you chose a long time ago to follow Jesus but have not been making that choice lately. I invite you to make that choice again today. Maybe you have never made that choice but would like to make it now, or would like to learn more about Jesus before you make that choice. I would love to hear from you. You can reach me at laypastor@TampaAdventist.net
When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said, “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.” Luke 7:2-5 NLT
This story illustrates the difference between the gospel and legalism. Legalism tells us the officer has given so much that he deserves special treatment from Jesus. Meanwhile the gospel teaches us that Jesus helps those who need His help, regardless of who they are.
So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. Luke 7:6 NLT
While the Jewish elders thought the officer had earned special favors, the officer himself understood the gospel. The officer had no sense of entitlement because of his works. You may read on how Jesus heals his servant, but my point is that the officer was not giving for the sake of a reward or special treatment, but out of love.
Notice Jesus does not say, “If you don’t want to go to hell, keep my commandments!” or “If you want to go to heaven, keep my commandments.” He says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”
Keeping God’s commandments to get a reward does not make you a good person. Many people disobey God’s commands to get rewards. They cheat on their income tax reports to get a larger refund. They lie about achievements they have never attained to get praise from man. People who obey God for the sake of a reward will also just as easily disobey God if they could achieve a greater reward. Being motivated by the hope of a reward does not make you a good person fitted for the unselfish society of heaven.
Keeping God’s commandments out of fear of punishment does not make you a good person either. Remember in Daniel 3 the three Hebrew children were threatened with punishment if they did obey God! While they told the king that God would protect them, they also made it clear that was not the point.
He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”Daniel 3:17-18 NLT
The Hebrew children were obeying God out of love, no matter what. They were not motivated by hope of reward or fear of punishment. In the same way,
It is not the fear of punishment, or the hope of everlasting reward, that leads the disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour’s matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary’s cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders. They hear His voice, and they follow Him. -Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, Page 480.
Once, I was in a literature evangelist meeting with our conference president. We were discussing which book to promote. The Great Controversy or the Desire of Ages? Some people said the Great Controversy because it warns us about last-day events. I suggested the Desire of Ages because it helps us fall in love with Jesus, so that when last-day events occur, we will make the right choices for the right reasons – because we love Jesus. Unless we are in love with Jesus, knowledge about last-day events will avail nothing.
A couple of years ago I had the privilege of conducting my “In Light of the Cross” gospel seminar in New England. While there, a kind and gracious member of the Adventist Church I was speaking in, gave me a tour of the region and several old New England churches. Being a history buff, and realizing that the religious awakening, which spawned the Advent movement began in New England, created in my heart a deep appreciation for these old churches, some built in the early 1700′s or before.
I walked into one sanctuary, built in 1732,and sat on a pew deep in thought, contemplating the hundreds of people who had sat in that sanctuary over the last 280 years! I admired the pulpit from where the gospel was preached to weary sinners for centuries. Yes, I realize these churches were not Adventist churches, but they still preached the cross to sinners, and I imagine over the centuries many a sin weary pilgrim has laid his burden down on the altar and taken up the cross of Jesus. For that I am very thankful for these churches of various denominations. Each of these churches of various denominations were fulfilling the prophecy of Jesus that,
..this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, in [into] witnessing to all folks; and then the end shall come.Matthew 24:14 WYC (In my previous posts I often used the NLT Bible translation. However, writing about old churches and the religious awakening has me in a Wycliffe version frame of mind.)
When we think of the gospel we think of “good news.” Paul defines the gospel more specifically as the good news of the cross. The gospel is the cross.
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel; not in wisdom of word, that the cross of Christ be not voided away. 1 Corinthians 1:17 WYC
Protestant churches rose out of the dark ages with the light of the gospel. John Wycliffe is remembered as “the morning star of the reformation.” If the sun rose up all at once it would blind us. God first sends the morning star to pierce the darkness so we become accustomed to a little light, and the sun gradually rises until noonday when the darkness is gone and
So while many think there are many different church denominations because everyone interprets the Bible differently, truth is, each Protestant church has discovered different points of light about the gospel, leading us gradually out of the Dark Ages. It is not so much about interpreting things differently as it is about progressing as we have more light, with each ray of light leading us farther and farther out of darkness into the full light of the cross.
God has always had a people in every church, and the Protestant reformers were a light in the their time, leading to the Protestant Reformation, which brought us to the religious awakening and Advent Movement.
So the question is, what new light has the Advent Movement shined on the gospel of the cross?
1. The Gospel saves us from death instead of eternal torment.
The wages of sin is death and not eternal torment. As we study the doctrine ofthe punishment of the wicked, in the light of the cross, we get new light not only on doctrine but more importantly on the character of God. God is not a psychopath wanting to torture people because they did not love Him, and make them wish they had. He is a God of love. The purpose of hell is not to torment sinners (Though there will be torment and weeping and gnashing of teeth for a time) but rather to put sinners out of their misery.
For God loved so the world [Forsooth God so loved the world], that he gave his one begotten Son, that each man that believeth in him perish not, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 WYC
The most popular verse of the Gospel tells us Jesus saves us from perishing and not eternal torment in hell.
2. Jesus really died for us.
The Biblical teaching of the state of the dead changes how we view the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. If we believe in the immortality of the soul, and that one does not really die, then Jesus never died and we are still without a Savior. However, the Bible teaches us that Jesus did not only truly die, but He died the second death for us. He faced not only death but the death of the wicked, which meant He loved us so much He was willing to go into total oblivion and be totally separated from God. He did not save us from the death of the righteous. He experienced and saved us from the death of the wicked – being totally separated from God, which has the effect of eternal oblivion.
..all the heathen shall busily drink, and they shall drink, and they shall swallow it all down; and then they shall be as if they had never been. Obadiah 1:16 WYC
3. Jesus saves us from our sin, not in our sin.
I once heard a Protestant preacher on the radio say, “In order for you to be able to call Jesus your Savior He has to actually save you from something.” The preacher went on to talk about how Jesus saves us from sinful addictions. Seventh-day Adventists understand that on the cross Jesus freed us from both the penalty of sin and the power of sin.
God the Father made him sin for us, which knew not sin, that we should be made [the] rightwiseness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 WYC
And he himself bare our sins in his body on a tree [Which he himself suffered, or bare, our sins in his body on the tree], that we be dead to sins, and live to rightwiseness, by whose wan wound ye be healed. 1 peter 2:24 WYC
Okay I think that last one needs a little help from the NLT!
He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 1 Peter 2:24 NLT
The gospel that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is taking into all the world not only gives us a clearer vision of the cross, but an even clearer vision of the the character of God.
God is a loving God who is not going to torment the wicked for all eternity because they did not love Him. He is a God of love who does not wish for us to perish. By understanding the Bible truth about death we understand the depths of Christ’s sacrifice and what great depths he was willing to go to in order to save us. We understand that He saves us from the penalty of sin, and from the power of sin, so that we don’t have to be slaves to the sinful addictions that hurt us over and over.
This is the gospel that pierced the dark ages until it will one day be preached all over the world and then the world will be lightened with His glory. May we engage in the work of spreading this Good News!
You may study this week’s Sabbath School less here.
This is a picture of Alexander several years ago in our neighborhood Bible study group. Alexander and his family have always been very active in sharing Jesus with their friends and neighbors. Several years ago, while we were all studying the Bible, Alexander told me he wanted to be baptized one day.
Now, several years later, his parents were using the In Light of the Cross Bible Study Guides, to help prepare him for his baptism. Years before, Alexander was already in love with God. One day when he was little the family had been saving up their spare coins in a huge jar. As the jar got full the family realized they now had quite a bit of money in there. One night at dinner they started discussing ideas of how they could spend their hard earned and saved money. Disney World? A vacation to the beach? An expensive video game? As they sat at the table discussing ideas, Alexander and his sister Ailyn came up with an idea. “Let’s give it all to the church to help others learn about Jesus” they said. And that is just what they did! Alexander knew that God had given everything He had when He gave us Jesus, so Alexander wanted to give God everything that he had!
Last Week at Oshkosh Pathfinders camp in Wisconsin, Alexander once again gave all of himself to Jesus because Jesus had given all of Himself for Alexander.
Alexander writes: “The reason I wanted to get baptized was because at Oshkosh the preacher on the third night said something very powerful that moved me. Near the end he said, “If you would like to give your life to God, tell your director and come to the front at the end. We did but nobody was there, so we prayed with this kind guy that was standing there.
After that everyone went back to camp. Everyone was tired but I was excited to give my life to God! So I went to the charging station to charge my I-pod so I could get pictures for the baptism that started at 7:30 to 9:30 in the morning. So we woke up I was excited. We all left we got there and there were so many people giving their life to God I was surprised we went in line again when you get up there they ask where you’re from and your name and I go into the water feeling and thinking of all the wrong things I have done in my life, and thinking that God gave His life for me that we would one day see Him that one day He will come to pick His children and I want to go with God. I want to live an eternal life with Him that I want to go to heaven. Then I go to the pastor, look around , and there under the water I saw the sun shining directly on top of me and I heard that God said, “Welcome my son I have been waiting.”
God’s love is shining on you just like it is shining on Alexander! If you too, would like to give all of yourself to Jesus, because He has given all of Himself to you, I would love to hear from you. You can reach me at Laypastor@TampaAdventist.net