Thoughts on Loved and Loving: John’s Epistles Lesson 5

Conner Baptism 002

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.  Matthew 5:13

I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  John 17:5-17. 

In Friday’s section of this week’s SS lesson it states: “Some people, heeding the call against loving the world, isolate themselves from the world as much as they can, moving into monasteries or communities that are radically separate from the norm. Is this a good idea?” 

Some people try to take themselves out of the world to become “godly”. However Titus 2:11-12 promises us holiness in this present world. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”  

Fact is Jesus says we are the salt of the earth. In order for the salt to save or preserve the food it must be mixed with it. Here are some passages I have found in the Spirit of Prophecy that may help us be a blessing to the world without becoming “worldly”. 

Hearts that respond to the influence of the Holy Spirit are the channels through which God’s blessing flows. Were those who served God removed from the earth, and His Spirit withdrawn from among men, this world would be left to desolation and destruction, the fruit of Satan’s dominion. Though the wicked know it not, they owe even the blessings of this life to the presence, in the world, of God’s people whom they despise and oppress. But if Christians are such in name only, they are like the salt that has lost its savor. They have no influence for good in the world. Through their misrepresentation of God they are worse than unbelievers.–The Desire of Ages, p. 306. 

 

  And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. 2 Kings 2:21 

     In casting salt into the bitter spring, Elisha taught the same spiritual lesson imparted centuries later by the Saviour to His disciples when He declared, “Ye are the salt of the earth.” The salt mingling with the polluted spring purified its waters and brought life and blessing where before had been blighting and death. When God compares His children to salt, He would teach them that His purpose in making them the subjects of His grace is that they may become agents in saving others. . . . 

     Salt must be mingled with the substance to which it is added; it must penetrate, infuse it, that it may be preserved. So it is through personal contact and association that men are reached by the saving power of the gospel. They are not saved as masses, but as individuals. Personal influence is a power. It is to work with the influence of Christ, . . . and to stay the progress of the world’s corruption. . . . It is to uplift, to sweeten the lives and characters of others by the power of a pure example united with earnest faith and love. . . . 

     The polluted stream represents the soul that is separate from God. . . . Through sin, the whole human organism is deranged, the mind is perverted, the imagination corrupted; the faculties of the soul are degraded. There is an absence of pure religion, of heart holiness. The converting power of God has not wrought in transforming the character. . . .       The heart that receives the word of God is not as a pool that evaporates. . . . It is like a river constantly flowing and, as it advances, becoming deeper and wider, until its life-giving waters are spread over all the earth. . . . So it is with the true child of God. The religion of Christ reveals itself as a vitalizing, pervading principle, a living, working, spiritual energy. When the heart is opened to the heavenly influence of truth and love, these principles will flow forth again like streams in the desert, causing fruitfulness to appear where now are barrenness and dearth.  – Conflict and Courage, p. 224 

  “We as a people do not believe it our duty to go out of the world to be out of the fashion. If we have a neat, plain, modest, and comfortable plan of dress, and worldlings choose to dress as we do, shall we change this mode of dress in order to be different from the world? No, we should not be odd or singular in our dress for the sake of differing from the world, lest they despise us for so doing. Christians are the light of the world, the salt of the earth. Their dress should be neat and modest, their conversation chaste and heavenly, and their deportment blameless.  – Testimonies for the Church Vol. 1, p.424 

Now I would just like to share a thought of my own. While serving as a lay pastor in Texas I was always troubled by the several dark counties that we had there. I often prayed for opportunities to enter those dark counties and evangelize them. However, I  had so much to do in my own county I could never do that. Then a thought occurred to me. Maybe it is not my responsibility. Maybe rather than having thousands of Adventists congregate into one little Adventist community like Keene or Collegedale, God would rather have those people move out into these dark counties and plant new churches. Just a thought I would like to throw out before I go back to minding my own business now.

Thoughts on “Loved and Loving: John’s Epistles” Lesson 4

Venice 045I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.  2 John 1:5

 A while back a friend asked me, “What was the largest mountain in the world before Mt. Everest was discovered?” I don’t really know my mountains so I gave up. They said, “Mt. Everest.” Of course Mt. Everest was the largest mountain in the world even before it was discovered. The mountain was not new, it had been there the whole time before it was discovered. Likewise the command that we love one another is no new commandment even though it might be a new concept to some.

 Many believe that the Old Testament is all about “the law” while the New Testament is all about grace. Fact is in Genesis 3 we find Jesus giving Adam and Eve love and grace when He promised them a Savior hundreds of years before the Ten Commandments were given in Exodus 20. Love has been there all along. In Romans 13:10, Paul says, “therefore love [is] the fulfilling of the law.” In Galatians 5:14 Paul says, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, [even] in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”  James says in James 2:8, “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Friday’s section of this week’s SS lesson says, “It’s one thing to keep the Ten Commandments; it’s another thing to love other people. What’s the difference? Which is easier to do, and why?” 

Many  say we don’t need the Ten Commandments; we just need to love each other. Well what does it mean to love each other? The Ten Commandments define love for us. Love is honoring your parents and being true to your spouse. Love is being honest with your neighbor and not harming them or their character by slander. Love is simply putting others first, and the Ten Commandments tell us how to put God first in the first four commands and then how to put our neighbor first in the last six commands. In Ephesians 5 Paul tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. The principle here is others first. You don’t have to feel butterflies in your stomach and get all gooey and emotional when you see your spouse, but you do need to put their needs before your needs. Putting the needs of others first is what love is. Over the years I have had people ask me if it is okay to have sex on the Sabbath. I always tell them, if you are doing it to please your spouse then it is okay, if you are doing it to please yourself then it is wrong any day of the week. This has blown a couple of men away. But the only way to make love is put the other person first. When you are having relations with your spouse to please yourself, you are not making love, you are making lust! When Jesus says if you lust after a woman you have committed adultery that woman can be your own wife! Because when you lust after her you have just put yourself and your needs before her needs. You are not thinking about what you can do for her, but by lusting you are thinking of what she can do for you and you have just made yourself first. Love is others first. Lust is putting self first. Now here is something the world does not understand, including the two men who were blown away by my answer, lust is the same thing as hate. In 2 Samuel 13:15 Amnon forces a woman and the Bible says he hated her. Why? Because lust is self first, which means others last which is the opposite of love. 

The Ten Commandments teach us how to avoid lust and hate by following one simple rule, others first, which is love. Again when Jesus tells us to love our enemies He is not telling us we must have some emotional bond with them and go golfing or fishing with them every Sunday morning. We love our enemies by praying for their blessings and putting their welfare before our own. The Ten Commandments again define that love for us. The Commandments define how to put God, family and others first. 

So both the Ten Commandments and love have been around all along just like Mt. Everest. Now here is another parting thought that may blow you away. I heard it from Whitley Phipps, a famous singer. He said and I believe, “The love we have for God is no stronger than the love we have for the person we love the least.” Think about it.

Thoughts on “Loved and Loving: John’s Epistles, Lesson 3

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thursday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks a very powerful question, “How can we learn to live with the tension of being sinners, and yet being admonished—very strongly in the Bible—not to sin?”

 

Many people will say the correct answer is to strive and try real hard knowing you still will never make it. Just do the best you can. That is pure legalism! At the same time victory can be ours.  The reality of God’s grace literally justifies us. Justification is our freedom from the penalty of sin which is death. It is my title to heaven. Justification is also, “me in Jesus”.  I was in Jesus when He lived a perfect life, so I am saved by His life. Romans 5;10. God also literally sanctifies us. Sanctification is my freedom from the power of sin, which is Christ in me. Colossians 1:26. This is my fitness for heaven.

 

Satan is full of lies on every side. He tells us if we sin too many times we cannot be forgiven. That is a lie! A broken and a contrite heart the Lord will not despise no matter how many times sin has broken that heart before. He also tells us that there will be no victory over sin this side of heaven. That too is a lie! Nothing is too hard for the Lord and with God all things are possible! Hebrews 4 is very clear that we have a Savior who can give us the grace in time of temptation so we can overcome. If we sin, we have a Savior who can give us mercy and forgiveness. This is why Paul in Hebrews exclaims, ‘How can we neglect so great a salvation!”

 

Many will say that legalism is trying to keep the law to very letter. That is not legalism, that is the gospel! Legalism is trying to keep the law in your own power for your own glory. The gospel is keeping God’s law by His power for His glory.

 

This is a lesson God has been trying to teach us from the very beginning. When Adam and Eve sinned they tried covering themselves by making their own clothes out of fig leaves. Notice in Genesis 3, after they made themselves fig leaves and aprons they still felt naked when God approached them. God then made coats of skin for them. This means a totally innocent animal had to die to truly cover their nakedness. Likewise our efforts will never cover our spiritual nakedness but the death of Jesus on the cross will literally cover our shame.

 

Later God tells Abraham I will make you the father of many nations. Even though God has promised, Abraham thinks he is the one who is going to make it happen. So he goes and takes Hagar as his wife. God says, no, that’s not what I was talking about Abraham. I promised and I am going to make it happen. God has Abraham circumcised. Now, to many, circumcision is nothing more than a barbaric ritual. That is because they don’t understand what God was telling Abraham by having him circumcised. God was basically telling Abraham, cast away your flesh. Your flesh and your strength and effort will never accomplish what I have promised to do Myself. By being circumcised Abraham was casting away his confidence in his own flesh and put his confidence in God. Abraham had to circumcise the part of his body he was putting his faith in. Philippians 3:3. God provided the child He had promised in the way He had promised.

 

Adam and Eve were not justified by their own works or even faith. Their faith did not save them. After all they were running from God when He justified them. Romans 5 tells us God justified us when we were still His enemies. Adam and Eve as well as everyone else has been justified by the faith of Jesus and not by their faith. We are justified not by our faithfulness to Him but by His faithfulness to us.

 

Abraham was being sanctified not by his promises but by the promises God made with him. Abraham had to get rid of self so God could literally sanctify him. Abraham was not sanctified by his faith in God but by God’s faithfulness to him.

 

Now we go to Mount Sinai. What we call a lesson on the Ten Commandments is actually God’s biggest lesson on grace! In Exodus 19 God tells the Hebrews I delivered you from Egypt and bare you on eagle’s wings. God is telling them your salvation from bondage is real and literal but you did nothing to make it happen, I did it all! You were totally helpless and I came down and delivered you. It is the same today. Our salvation from the bondage of sin is real and literal but we do nothing to make it happen. God does all the work for us and in us!

 

Properly understanding Exodus 19:5 is the key. “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.” That word “obey” in the Hebrew is the word “shawmah” which means to be attentive and listen. That makes more sense than just obey, as we don’t obey a voice, we listen to it. The word “keep” is the Hebrew word “shawmar” which means to cherish and tenderly regard. It is the same word in Geneses 2 when Adam is told to keep the garden. Now a covenant in the Bible is a one way promise. Today it may be a two party agreement, but in the Bible it was a promise. So what God is telling the Hebrews and the rest of us in verse 5 is this, “Listen carefully (obey) to my voice, and cherish (keep) my promises (covenant) so that I can make you something very special. Something you could never make for yourself.”  God then goes on and explains through chapter 20 that just as the Hebrews were saved from Egyptian bondage not by their efforts, but by the grace of God, likewise God promises that He will save them from the bondage of other gods, and from the bondage of false worship (commandments or ‘promises” 1-4). God promises them that just as he brought them out of the house of bondage (Exodus 20:2) that He will also free them from the bondage of unhealthy relationships in our homes and our communities (promises 6-10).

 

All of this is accomplished not by our works but by Christ working in and through us. See Romans 8:4, Colossians 1:26-29, Philippians 1:6, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 3:14-21.

 

Even in the Greek and New Testament the word “keep” means the same when speaking of the Commandments. In John 14:15 where Jesus says, “If you love me keep my Commandments”, and in Revelation 14:12 where John writes, “Here is the patience of the saints: here [are] they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” the Greek word “keep” is “tereo” which means to cherish and regard. The grace we find in the New Testament was actually there all along in the Old Testament. Jesus is telling us again in the New Testament what He was telling us Adam and Eve, Abraham, the Hebrews and all the world, “Cherish My promises and I will set you free. And in Revelation 14:12 we see that it is those who cherish His commandments that also Cherish His faith! Those who are kept pure and not defiled by anything other than the pure gospel found in the first 11 verses of Revelation 14 are not even saved by their own faith. They are saved by cherishing Jesus’ promises to be faithful to them!

 

Please let me share a solution for striving against sin. Don’t argue with yourself or anyone else as to if it can be done or not. I don’t debate theology anymore. I am in love with God and my love life is not up for debate! Let’s cherish the promises of Jesus and cling to His faith and not our own. He who has promised is faithful! See Hebrews 10:23 and Hebrews 11:11. It is Jesus who promises and it is Jesus who is faithful to make us just what He wants us to be, whatever that is! All I need to do is look to the Cross and fall in love with Jesus!

 

So while many people want to debate if we can stop sinning or not, I just want to fall in love with Jesus! Instead of wondering if I can be perfect or not I just fall in love with Jesus and cherish His promises that He can make me literally into something very special. Even more special than I even imagine possible! Ephesians 3:14-21.

 

 

I also want to share a quote concerning 1 John 2:1-2 that I believe to be very inspired and encouraging to me personally.

 

“If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” How careful is the Lord Jesus to give no occasion for a soul to despair. How he fences about the soul from Satan’s fierce attacks. If through manifold temptations we are surprised or deceived into sin, he does not turn from us, and leave us to perish. No, no, that is not like our Saviour. Christ prays for us. He was tempted in all points like as we are; and having been tempted, he knows how to succor those who are tempted. Our crucified Lord is pleading for us in the presence of his Father at the throne of grace. His atoning sacrifice we may plead for our pardon, our justification, and our sanctification. The Lamb slain is our only hope. Our faith looks upon him, grasps him as the one who can save to the uttermost, and the fragrance of the all-sufficient offering is accepted of the Father. Unto Christ is committed all power in heaven and in earth, and all things are possible to him that believeth. Christ’s glory is concerned in our success. He has a common interest with all humanity. He is our sympathizing Saviour.  {RH, September 1, 1891 par. 2}  

I Have not Missed a Church Service in Twenty years!

The beautiful Tampa First SDA Church in beautiful Tampa Florida.RB5

Thursday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks a question, “What has been your own experience regarding Christian fellowship?” This question comes as close as I am going to get for an opportunity to share something. As of this Summer I have not missed a church service in twenty years! Sorry if it sounds like I am tooting my own horn, but I thought it was pretty cool and just wanted to share it. 

Back in the mid 1990s Cal Ripken Jr. broke baseball’s record for most consecutive games played.  His streak lasted 2,632 games from 1982 to 1998. Back when Ripken was breaking this record people were talking about other streaks that people had going in all facets of life. It got me to wondering what streak I might have going, and that’s when I realized I had not missed a church service since some time in the summer of 1989. I remember I was a Sabbath School teacher at the Owasso Seventh-day Adventist Church in Oklahoma. I was sick and had to call to have someone cover my class. That is the last time I have missed a church service. The closest I came to missing a church service since then was in 2000 or so when I was invited to Tulsa to speak for a vespers service at the First Tulsa Seventh-day Adventist Church. After I got to Tulsa on Friday from Fort Worth, a snow storm hit and First Tulsa cancelled their services for that Sabbath. Fortunately the South Tulsa Adventist Church was having services so I went there.

While serving as a Lay Pastor in Fort Worth I would often preach at two or three churches on the same Sabbath, which means I have actually attended more church services than there are Sabbaths for this time period. For example in 1995 I preached 73 times in 52 Sabbaths. It is also why I say I have not missed a church service in twenty years, because I have missed several Sabbath School classes due to the fact that I would be preaching at one church while the other church was having Sabbath School, thus getting two worship services but no Sabbath School for that Sabbath. Also I have preached in and attended both first and second church services at Tampa First on numerous occasions. 

I am a statistics buff, so just for the sake of sharing useless trivial statistics, during this streak I have attended over 50 different churches in two countries and six different states. In addition to Adventists churches, I have also preached in and attended Seventh-day Baptist and Seventh-day Pentecostal churches during this period. 

I praise God for my health. I rarely get sick and can count on one hand the number of sick days I have used in my entire work life. I thank God that He has always been there to cheer me and give me a good attitude. I seldom get discouraged. In 1998 my fiancé dumped me and the following Sabbath I did not feel like going to church, but made myself go anyway because I knew I needed Christian fellowship. That is the only Sabbath I ever remember not wanting to go to church because of discouragement. 

I realize this streak does not make me a better Christian or person than anyone else. It’s just a piece of trivia I thought would be fun to share! Thanks for letting me share this with you.

Thouhgts on “Loved and Loving: John’s Epistles” Lesson 1

Shayne's Party 002

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Note: Sorry for the misspelling of the word ‘thoughts” in the title. Since the misspelling is in the title if I corrected it it would change the whole URL and the original link would not work. So I have to leave it.

This week’s SS Lesson asks the question, “Though not downplaying the seriousness of these false teachings, John deals with them by emphasizing the positive. There is an important principle here for us. How easy it is to get so caught up in fighting error that we focus on it instead of truth. What’s your own way of dealing with what you deem wrong: Do you focus on the error at the expense of truth? How can you start training yourself to deal with problems in a more positive manner?” 

For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.  2 Corinthians 13:8

While those who have the seal of God in Ezekiel 9 cry and sigh for all the abominations being done, Paul tells us not to despair. “We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” After Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, the Jews decide to kill Lazarus. What good would that do? God would just raise him to life again making it an even greater miracle than before. There is really no reason to debate God’s word. Noah said it would rain and it rained. He did not have to win any debates or arguments. When the rain came everybody knew. 

Here are some relevant passages I have found in the Spirit of Prophecy: 

The way to dispel darkness is to admit light. The best way to deal with error is to present truth. It is the revelation of God’s love that makes manifest the deformity and sin of the heart centered in self.  {Desire of Ages, p. 498.5}  

The time has come when those who are rooted and grounded in the truth may manifest their firmness and decision, may make known the fact that they are unmoved by the sophistry, maxims, or fables of the ignorant and wavering. Without foundation men will make statements with all the positiveness of truth; but it is of no use to argue with them concerning their spurious assertions. The best way to deal with error is to present the truth, and leave wild ideas to die out for want of notice. Contrasted with truth, the weakness of error is made apparent to every intelligent mind. The more the erroneous assertions of opposers, and of those who rise up among us to deceive souls, are repeated, the better the cause of error is served. The more publicity is given to the suggestions of Satan, the better pleased is his satanic majesty; for unsanctified hearts will be prepared to receive the chaff that he provides for them. We shall have to meet difficulties of this order even in the church. Men will make a world of an atom and an atom of a world.  {Testimonies to Ministers, p. 165.1}

 Often, as you seek to present the truth, opposition will be aroused; but if you seek to meet the opposition with argument, you will only multiply it, and this you cannot afford to do. Hold to the affirmative. Angels of God are watching you, and they understand how to impress those whose opposition you refuse to meet with arguments. Dwell not on the negative points of questions that arise, but gather to your minds affirmative truths, and fasten them there by much study, earnest prayer, and heart consecration. Keep your lamps trimmed and burning, and let bright rays shine forth, that men, beholding your good works, may be led to glorify your Father who is in heaven.  {Evangelism, p. 302.2}  

    It is not the best policy to be so very explicit and say all upon a point that can be said, when a few arguments will cover the ground and be sufficient for all practical purposes to convince or silence opponents. You may remove every prop today and close the mouths of objectors so that they can say nothing, and tomorrow they will go over the same ground again. Thus it will be, over and over, because they do not love the light and will not come to the light, lest their darkness and error should be removed from them. It is a better plan to keep a reserve of arguments than to pour out a depth of knowledge upon a subject which would be taken for granted without labored argument. Christ’s ministry lasted only three years, and a great work was done in that short period. In these last days there is a great work to be done in a short time. While many are getting ready to do something, souls will perish for the light and knowledge. 

     If men who are engaged in presenting and defending the truth of the Bible undertake to investigate and show the fallacy and inconsistency of men who dishonestly turn the truth of God into a lie, Satan will stir up opponents enough to keep their pens constantly employed, while other branches of the work will be left to suffer. 

     We must have more of the spirit of those men who were engaged in building the walls of Jerusalem. We are doing a great work, and we cannot come down. If Satan sees that he can keep men answering the objections of opponents, and thus keep their voices silent, and hinder them from doing the most important work for the present time, his object is accomplished.  {Testimonies to the Church Vol. 3, p. 38.2}  

It is not only by preaching the truth, not only by distributing literature, that we are to witness for God. Let us remember that a Christlike life is the most powerful argument that can be advanced in favor of Christianity, and that a cheap Christian character works more harm in the world than the character of a worldling. Not all the books written can serve the purpose of a holy life. Men will believe, not what the minister preaches, but what the church lives. {Testimonies to the Church Vol. 9, p. 21} 

If the Christian life and character were always a faithful representation of Jesus, the world’s Redeemer, the good work of grace wrought in the heart would flow out in the life, and would reflect a clear, steady, precious light upon the pathway of others. Such a confession of faith to the world would be a most powerful sermon in favor of Christianity.  {Review and Hearld, October 28, 1884 par. 21} 

The strongest argument in favor of the Gospel is a loving and lovable Christian.  {Signs of the Times, August 12, 1908 par. 10}